Fifty Times Around the Sun


Itís just after seven in the morning, and Iím writing this in a spare room in my motherís house. Iíve been up since five. A few minutes ago, as I was passing down the hall, I noticed her light was on. I looked in on her: she was wearing her old blue robe and standing beside the bed. Gently so I wouldnít startle her, I asked if she was getting up. She said no, she wanted to sleep some more, or at least to try. Iíd been wondering if sheíd remember Iíd spent the night in the room across the hall, and was glad when she wasnít surprised to see me or hear my voice.

Sunday morning, gray and still. The day after my fiftieth birthday. Fifty times around the sun: imagine. Those who boast of their worldly travels would be wise to remember the great distance we all travel in a year ó as well as in a moment or in a thought. In truth, we are celestial travelers through untamed space.

It feels strange to be working at a different table, in a different room, in a different house. At a little more than armís length, two of my fatherís old hats are hanging on the hat rack that was in our house near the back door when I was growing up. One is a sweat-stained straw work hat in the round Italian style, the other is a small rain hat that never looked right on him. His head was too large and his features too rugged to be framed by such a mundane article. But now that I think of it, the hat was something he bought later in life, and he didnít wear it very often. More than anything, it was something handy to put on if it happened to be raining when he went out to get the morning paper or the mail. It kept his scalp dry ó not that he was bald, but his scalp did show through what little was left of his soft gray hair.

I just checked on my mother. She is sound asleep, and it is the best sleep she has had in several days. While I was standing by her door, I could hear the birds in the bushes by her window. The sound reminded me of a poem I started the other day but didnít have time to finish, and the lines of which I discarded when the day was done. I canít remember just how it went, and of course it isnít really important that I do. But it was something of a wish: I wished that she could sleep by her old bedroom window back home instead of the one she has now. I made the wish because, to feel safe, she usually keeps her window closed, whereas she and my father liked to sleep with the old one open, to the sounds of the night and of water running in the vineyard, gurgling up from the valves nearby at the ends of the rows. It didnít matter how tired my parents were at the end of the day, because they were sure to be healed by the magic drifting in through the window. There is magic here, too, but try as it might, it canít come in. I suppose thatís why, last night, I slept with my window open ó one way or the other, to let the magic in.

May 21, 2006







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