Don’t touch pigeon feathers either. Like the feathers you wanted for bookmarks from the over-sized pigeons on Hayden Avenue that lurked atop the fourth-floor Victorian peaks. The ones that fascinated you despite the three-inch nails your father implemented, sticking straight up, to send them away–that didn’t deter. The gray and blue dusty birds you watched for hours—there in your pre-school childhood–where you hide.
Don’t look for long silver hair to excommunicate from the village of brown, red and blonde long hair—finally sun-kissed. Well, maybe five to ten strands per day, so you have that sense of accomplishment of doing something– and in this case, uprooting old age and death. You know the strands will resurface in the same spot like tenacious silver-green weeds in the garden. That sea grass that cost so much money you purchased to line the patio crab-bisque color pavers– but jumps underground through the cracks and sends shoots also through your embarrassment of lawn. Keep resisting the neighborhood pressure to use chemicals and don’t look across the street at the neighbor’s emerald sea of golf-quality, expensive variety that chokes out the dandelions, clover, violets, buttercups, and more.
Carry the sea from Saturday, from last year, five summers ago, twenty, thirty, forty-five–from kindergarten (even though sea glass sliced your left pinky toe—but your father carried you on his shoulders that whole week (so your stitches wouldn’t get wet) to and from the blanket on the sand where he sat with you). Yes, carry the sea, the shoreline, the energy of the little-legged wind plovers, the washed up dead spider crabs that you reassembled like a bizarre puzzle that will have pieces missing–bleached corners of worn away clam and oyster shells, mermaid purses, razor shells that look like fragile, long angel wings or the still-hinged blue wings of mussels that have shed their home. Remember what he wrote in the sand for you, the one who loves you so perfectly—before high tide took everything.
Forgive yourself. For shunning the cubicle, the annual six figures that don’t ca-ching in your bank account. For sensing the sadness behind your father’s suits and ties that he wore for thirty-eight years. For jettisoning his actuarial plans for you. Yes, forgive yourself. For the children you don’t have. For your impatience with your elderly mother. Your cultural fatigue, chronic spiritual malaise, social ennui. The unfinished book that grew and grew larger than your shadow. You swam two thirds to the island, he said. Why would you turn back? All of it, forget.
Differentiate the dead from the living. Gardening, dreaming, and such. Keep hearing, however– the voice, accent, tone and words of your deceased father, all the lost bits of wisdom, metaphors—his drop-everything-else happiness when he heard you on the other end of the phone. Listen to his voice in the future– from so far away– where you miss the necessary ablation. The wound you try not to pick. That the dog licks as he is drawn to the chronic avalanche inside.
Don’t go to the store for cigarettes in your water-logged, black velvet slippers with the faux jewels that make you happy. The neighbors are whispering behind their curtains. Don’t metaphorically slap the others in the face, nor you—the hardest of all.
Don’t imagine yourself crippled, riddled with cities of lost tissue, lost immunity, thinning bones, swelling kidneys and heart. Nor should you imagine being wheeled out to finally see the sea again. Being carried when you want to walk in lost solitude. That the car and you will blow up when you pump gas. That the vehicle following too close behind you will send you through the windshield. That the fall will render you useless. Radical acceptance–of only some of it, you are told. Accept the entropy, the dilapidating House, and the tiredness that brings the rest in nesting Chinese Boxes of lost imaginings.
Let the sudden fireflies of this June find you at night when you are stalking the ghosts in the house at the cellar windows—their tiny, phosphorescent, blinking green lights. Go, go, you must–through all the traffic lights you have created.
Don’t forget to water the plants from your deceased aunt—the anemones that have spread so nicely around the lamppost, the tiger lilies that shrink their petals back at night, the gray-silver-blue ornamental grass that reseeds itself in a circle around the trunk left from the fifty-year-plus crab apple tree your father paid to cut down–the peach tree an unknown resident bird of your woods has delivered.
Remember how your mother’s father loved to wander in the over-sized yard of the house on Hayden Avenue (since he and your grandmother never owned a house), tending to the tomatoes with his wizened, shaking hands—his old black studebaker parked for two weeks every summer in the long driveway the entire family had to shovel–to the garage and its chicken coops, club house, and loft for drying harvest.
You must keep focus on what will really matter. That one Book you are writing. Don’t be bitter—hide, delete, erase too much. You must love the sequence[s] themselves, Rilkean lists of unanswerable questions. The rooms perpetually opening where you are.