Every morning I drove past her house on my way to work, and again in the afternoon on my way home. In winter, her front door usually stood open to let in the sun. In spring or fall I’d often see her sitting on her stoop, gathering light.
I am old enough to wish that I could forget certain parts of my life. Old enough to grieve certain losses, to mourn the demise of unfulfilled dreams, and to lament life’s inescapable disappointments. But what if the erasure of someone’s life is due not to avoidance but to a failing memory? Such is the case in Linda MacKillop’s thought provoking debut novel, The Forgotten Life of Eva Gordon, which releases this week.
Several months ago I found myself in the unenviable position of needing to buy a vehicle. After nearly 210,000 miles, my reliable Dodge Caravan (affectionately dubbed “The Rust Bucket”) had failed an inspection. To repair it would have cost twice what my van was worth. So with only a few options, I bought a used Subaru for nearly the same price that it had originally retailed for five years before.
Late last November, I stood over a frozen mound of soil in my garden, holding a long wooden stake. Beside me on the snow-crusted ground lay several blue mesh bags full of garlic bulbs, each tied with a curl of white ribbon – the kind for wrapping gifts.
One of my greatest joys as a parent is daily reading aloud to my children – a practice I’ve maintained for more than 25 years. As eager, wide-eyed parents, my husband, Dana, and I began reading Winnie-the- Pooh to our oldest son, Judah, when he was just two months old, not because we thought he’d enjoy it, but because we did.
“The outer world is only an expression of an inner, spiritual world,” the theologian Eugene Peterson wrote in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. In other words, the violence and strife erupting around us are a produced by the violence and strife raging within us. If our spiritual world is broken, then our physical world will be as well.
It happened again this week. I glimpsed my reflection in the mirror – silvering hair braided down my back, creased eyes rimmed by glasses – and thought, I look like my mother. I sound like my mother too. One night, chatting with my daughter, who was visiting from college, I mentioned an article I’d read about the eruption of an Indonesian volcano in the early 1800s.
I am clearly trying to juggle too many things: Lord of the Flies, driving the squirrels from my attic (which are chirping as I write), completing my M.Ed. in Literacy, getting dressed, walking the dog, overseeing the endless cycle of laundry-meals-and-household mayhem and writing this blog, which I turned in late to my local newspaper.
The book of Job is likely the oldest recorded text in the Bible. It takes the form of a traditional three-act play. Whether it was written as a piece of performance art meant to reveal deeper truths about God, or whether it records an actual event, theologians disagree.
‘Return to Sender,’ read the yellow sticker plastered over my friend’s name on the envelope I’d addressed and mailed a couple of weeks before Christmas, ‘Insufficient Address, Unable to Forward.’
How my mother paid for the old piano is somewhat of a mystery. With a fresh leg of lamb? A pair of newborn kids? In trade for my pony? One thing is certain, I started playing piano around age nine – later than my farm-country peers whose fingers zipped up and down the keys at recitals in our Oregon church’s airy sanctuary while mine trembled.
I was late, rushing home from a local store after doing a little Christmas shopping, when I stashed my bags in the back of my clunky minivan and pulled into traffic. Ahead, an SUV was turning in the same direction I was at a four-way intersection. As the vehicle pulled down the brick-lined street, I noticed how its right rear tire smooshed against the pavement like a puddle.
If you really want to discover how much (or how little) you understand a subject, try teaching it to middle-schoolers. Like the three different ways verbals can be used in a sentence. Or first-person, second-person and third-person point of view. Or the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
This past week brought fresh waves of grief to our nation and to our local community. Even as many families gathered around candle-lit tables and held hands to give thanks, other families were in darkest mourning for those whose hands they will never hold around a holiday table again. And what do we do with the weight of all this sorrow?
When I saw boxes of candy canes and foil-wrapped Santas lining the shelves of my grocery store one week before Halloween, I wasn’t surprised. There are many signs of how far society has fallen from what was once considered sensible. And yet, I thought, have we really come to this? Blitzing through our days so fast that we barely have time to celebrate one holiday before marketers are ram-rodding another down our throats?
A news story on NPR this week featured Kitty Eisele, the host of Demented, a podcast about caring for her elderly father. She mentioned that one in five American adults currently provides unpaid care for an elderly or disabled family member. Having been in that position once before, I found myself temporarily in it again this past week when, despite those of us who were eligible being fully vaccinated, my family and I came down with COVID-19.
I am no expert on sorrow, although I’ve lived long enough to know that none of us is exempt. There are no detours wide enough to navigate your way around suffering. No bank account big enough to buffer those you love. No life untouched by loss.
Ever found that the more familiar you are with something, the less likely you are to notice it? Like the earth turning each day to catch the first bright rays of the sun. Or the liquidy feel of water as it rolls over your tongue. Or the shifting swoosh of sound that fills our days – from morning bird songs to the evening breeze?
September has long been my favorite month, and not just because I get to celebrate my birthday. But because it feels like the climax of the year, as if every seed and limb and leaf has been working together for just this moment to release its fruit before ceding to fall.
I have long admired Tessa Afshar, a romance novelist who crafts historical fiction set around the time of Christ. As a kid lit fan, I’m not a big reader of adult fiction. And I confess that I stopped reading romance novels about the time I realized that lasting love involves more laundry than long walks on the beach.