last night, well after midnight, roy and i fumbled through a darkened house with flashlights and slowly made our way out to the deck, glass of wine and and beer in hand, so that we could sit in chairs with necks craned upward and stare into the vast, dark heavenly skies and watch for the beginnings of the annual perseid meteor shower; i'm lucky out here, in the middle of nowhere, as the night sky is unaffected by such annoying pollutants as other house lights or those detestable mercury lights that take away the soft, velvet blanket that falls after dusk; we were fortunate - the stars were indeed falling, and some left blazing trails that stretched far across the sky, from the roofline on past our viewing range. roy has always been my willing child - the one who would get up without complaint in the middle of the night and go out with me to lie in wet grass, winter or not, and watch for falling stars and comets. he, one of my two shining stars, leaves this wednesday, (and i as well) to "shift" him, as my new zealand pal wendy says, from here to the east coast of this state; there is an apartment's worth of furniture to move, that we've managed to gather in these last few weeks, and his dad will thankfully be driving up from alabama to help us with the process.
i went over to my "special" books this morning - the ones on the shelves that i've made, that i shelter with love - and pulled out the piece of art that i call my favorite of all the things i've ever, ever made (all photos can be clicked for greater detail). if you'll look at the date - with the upside down 8, mind you, and i didn't notice that ever, until today - the silver front panel was hammered six years ago, tomorrow. i'd been working on an art piece that morning for another book, using some words from a letter from my friend lynne perrella, and set the little rectangle aside for the day. that evening, roy had a horrific bicycle accident that made time temporarily stand still. i wrote an essay about the experience, and the following june, built this little brass, silver, and mica house book to contain the words as a gift for roy. it seems fitting for me to share the words, and images of the artwork, with you today, with him preparing to leave on yet another journey - one that will become a journey of my own, one that takes us both in two completely different, parting directions. pardon the length, and don't feel an obligation to read it. but if you so desire, then perhaps you'll want to put the kettle on, and grab a tissue or two. and maybe your reading glasses, as i could not, for the life of me, get the font to correct itself (i've been working on this post for nearly five hours, transferring the words with great and inexplicable difficulty from one file to this blog):
As I sit at my computer here beside the open kitchen window to write these words, I hear the rhythmic, rising and falling songs of the summer cicadas, whose calls hint of bittersweet sighs and the sounds of a gently rolling sea. Another summer has managed to slip by and catch me off-guard with its imminent plans for departure, whispering its travel itinerary with quiet, subtle signs of earlier dusks and cooler dawns. In recent weeks, I had been calling this particularly sweet season my Summer of Incredible Adventures, a time that had both amazed and pleased me with its magnitude of occurrences and revelations. There seemed to be a continual thread or theme of water; many days found me submerged in its body either floating or wading or stepping in sandaled feet across rocky stream beds searching for treasures of nature.
Embracing this frequent state of immersion with childlike joy, I realized it was the first summer in three years that – other than my daily baths – I’d been in any body of water. While climbing in late June straight up six miles to the summit of Mt. LeCont in Sokey Mountain National Park, I experienced both thunderstorms and showers of thick hail that left the trail blanketed with white icy beads mixed with the bright fuchsia of felled rhododendron blossoms. For most of the two days’ hiking, both up and down, I walked in a continual downpour, water flowing down the trail in currents so deep and swift that I felt as if I were forging a stream. During those soaking walks, I thought of several new designs for art books that eventually revolved around pieces of smooth, worn glass which I began to gather weeks later on the beaches of Jamaica and along the banks of the beloved Tuckaseegee River not three minutes from my house. The tumbled shards started showing up with growing frequency in my artwork, wrapped with wire, affixed to book covers, dangling before the windows like jewels sparkling in the sun. There was no limit to the ideas springing forth as I laid the glass on the worktable before me, and in a week’s time I began and completed an altered Water Babies book, from the turn of last century, which I embellished with a variety of glass and vintage water images. This book inspired me to begin another, into which I have wired coveted “treasures” given to me by the boys – carved sticks, heart rocks, an old watch piece – to the edges of its pages. The title for this book? A Summer of Treasures, hammered into a strip of silver and attached on the front of the book, above a worn piece of frosty clear glass, formed by mishap and the elements of nature into the recognizable shape of a heart.
At the first of this week, as early evening thunder rumbled in the distance, my two boys Robin and Roy darted out of the back door for a neighborhood bike ride, donning their helmets and promising to be back in time for dinner and homework by 8pm
. Company had just arrived, and the first glass of wine barely poured, when the phone rang. I detest the phone, and will avoid answering it if at all possible; but something urgent in the sound of that ring made me quickly pick it up. Robin had called, from a stranger’s cellular phone just down the road, to breathlessly report that Roy had wrecked his bike, was bleeding profusely, and that I needed to come quickly. There is nothing worse than a mother’s fear of injury. The moments between my reception of bad news and the instant I opened the car door to Roy seemed stretched nightmarishly into a frozen state, with reality twisted and distorted into something unrecognizable. My beautiful son was sitting on the ground, stunned, speechless, face ripped and scraped and covered in red. Maintaining my standard “calm mother’s composure in the moments of crisis”, I began to talk in pseudo-soothing tones, hoping that my false front of calm would quell his rising panic. Roy couldn’t remember what had happened; and because Robin had gone ahead around a bend in the road, he didn’t see that Roy’s bike had hit a small bump in the sidewalk and lost its front wheel, sending him catapulting into what he would later foggily recollect as an “upside down world”. Roy’s helmet valiantly suffered the massive blow, slamming into concrete at its frontal right forehead and breaking apart from the impact into three separate pieces. We spent the next three hours in the local emergency room, checking with cat scans for any severe head injuries and having the wounds flushed out as best we could. I wish I could properly describe the tender mercies of Robin for his broken younger brother; that tall, gangly, goateed fifteen year old son of mine stood beside Roy the entire time and gently stroked his arm or leg, dabbed at tears and blood running down Roy’s face, and encouraged him to be strong. I was thanked over and over for “helping” him – imagine! – and upon our return home, I received several left-sided hugs for tending to his fragile needs. A concussion plays odd tricks with one’s manner of thinking: thoughts are turned upside down, memory eludes, time twists back upon itself. Robin and I passed the night taking turns waking a very foggy and confused Roy to ensure that the concussion hadn’t taken more hold than would be expected; and in the morning, blessedly, a bit of his memory seemed to well up from deeper recesses with awkward hesitancy. He apologizes often for the “sketchiness” of his memory, and we do our part to tap and entice the flow of recollections.
This accident has brought us even closer together as a tight little family of three, and we each have offered our humble, astounded thanks to the Powers that Be for guarding Roy’s lovely life and keeping it going in the same bright, chaotic, free-spirited manner it has always maintained. I cannot imagine a life without him – nor can his brother – and we have all become militant advocates for mandatory bicycle helmet use. I walked outside to the back deck this afternoon, exhausted from a trip with my wounded boy an hour’s drive from here to a reputable plastic surgeon in Asheville, and ran my fingers across the eclectic collection of worn pieces of glass piled high across a table. At that instant I recognized and acknowledged an amazing correlation between the assortment of tumbled glass scattered throughout the house and Roy’s damaged, broken condition. His face and neck are a war zone of holes and gouges, scrapes and swollen bruises. One side of his mouth is currently unwilling to operate in sync with the other side due to its purple, puffy state and proximity to a very raw patch of skin; the entire right profile of his slender neck is raw; his right eye is swollen and slightly crimson along the lash line of the lid; below the thankfully intact beautiful full lips lies a deep, deep scrape that will leave a bad scar, as well as the angry gouge and cut at the bottom corner of his right eye. This luminous, feisty 14 year old son of mine, pistol to the core, looked askance at me this morning as we gathered blanket and pillow for the trip to the surgeon’s office, and said in his best muffled Quasimoto voice, “She gave me medical attention…”, smiling coyly at me as much as possible through all of the soreness and injury. In the golden light of late afternoon, we decided with fits of cautious laughter to snap some photos of him posing as a monster straight out of a vintage horror film. I realize that, in looking back, it was at this lightened moment when the tumbling of the waters of days in our lives began to make its magic: the sharp, raw edges, with treatment and time, will assuredly begin to heal over and assume a welcome, new smoothness, even if what we see may not be a mirrored reflection of the original surface.
But there will, without question, be greater depth of character, wisdom and grace that comes from having survived and conquered a difficult and painful misfortune. I see my child before me, his composure solid, self-assured and calm, with head held high as he walks through a grocery store for his first public appearance since the accident and endures the stares of small children and averted glances of adults. In watching this grand example of noble dignity, I feel my heart beginning to swell so tightly with pride and love that I believe the sound of exploding emotion will surely be heard by anyone within close proximity. On the drive back home from the plastic surgeon’s office through western mountains opaque as beach glass with afternoon humidity, Roy gingerly laid the “good” side of his head down across my forearm in a blatant display of tender endearment and blurted out how much he loves me; and as I held my hand tightly on his knee, he allowed it to linger there, amazingly, for most of our journey home.
We pass through these days, whether summer, autumn, winter or spring, and sometimes neglect to take note of the small details that wrap themselves around us as we walk and swim and ride the hours away. Time rushes past, and more often than not, we feel cheated somehow of whole sections of seasons and years, so hurried we are in our swaying and jumping from chore to chore, from project and career deadlines to any number of the typical obligations and errands that consume our days. Inevitably, though, we are all at some point subjected to an event or occurrence so starting in its suddenness, so shocking in its interruptive, unpredictable nature, that time truly seems to screech to a halt until we can sort through the variety of feelings, both physical and mental, endured in moments of crisis. Only then do we finally stop to take a deep long breath and check ourselves over for any nicks or scrapes of the heart and soul that may have been inflicted when our world was briefly turned upside down. We look around us, glance down and pick up the random pieces of our lives that have fallen out of our pockets, brush ourselves off, and then focus our vision with renewed conviction straight ahead to the days that wait for us. I feel completely, acutely, keenly alive today with my two able-bodied, clear-minded sons sitting next to me here in our safe little home up on Heart Rock Hill. The world begins again to turn, our edges seem smoother with experience, and the love that we share for one another feels impossibly deeper, somehow bolder and fierce, as deep and as strong as the currents of the river that are tumbling those frosted shards of glass on their path toward the distant and beautiful rolling aqua sea.