Warmth

Our small yard doesn’t get much light this time of year. Despite some warm days, full of grace (as all warm days in March are full of grace and gratitude), our yard is stubbornly covered in mounds of snow and ice. But the last two days have been so warm I could take a chair out of its winter home in our shed and sit outside to drink my tea and play my cards. Everything is coming to life, everything is talking. Not to me, I know, but I was listening anyway–and the speaking things don’t care, they don’t mind that I’m eavesdropping, because I mean nothing to them. The tree next door, whose branches spread over all the little interconnected yards, has bark like loose paper, and the wind this morning rustled through it with such busy-ness and importance, such a stirring I could feel in my heart. The birds in the bushes make their own small bright important noise. You can almost hear the snow melting, you can almost hear the springtime slant of the sun reclaiming the towpath, struggling to reclaim even our stubborn backyard.

I was thinking about this, all day, and then I got a text from Malcolm, away at college, “Wanna know a fun game?” He’s 18, and fearless, and sometimes the things he finds fun a mother does not want to hear about. But I said, “yes?” And he said, “If you go for a walk look at things and notice that you know what they feel like.”

And I asked if he meant to hold in your hand, and he said, “yes, and it’s crazy. I think memory is strongest in feeling.” And I countered with taste and smell, because…c’mon! And he said he likes to know what everything feels like. And I had such a strong memory of walking with him when he was little, and we’d put our hands on the stone wall, warmed by the sun, that stayed warm even after the sun went down. Then I told him about listening to the paper bark and leaves and dried grass, and he said, “Nature is far quieter in the city, but it speaks a lot louder.”

It’s strange to me how love for my boys is something I can hear like the changing light and the wet earth and feel like a sun-warmed stone in my hands.

And then weirdly, I just watched a video today of a man who’d had a strange illness and been in a coma for 2 months, and in his dream his grandmother told him to start a restaurant. So when he miraculously woke up, he did open a restaurant. And he makes everyone eat with their hands, because taste, sight, hearing and smell are spiritual to him, but touch is what makes sense of it all — your five fingers combine the other senses.

Over the years the boys have dropped stuff on my desk as they walk by. Stones, bits of paper, tiny boats carved out of crayons, more stones, sticks, stickers, more stones. Sometimes I’ll just sit and hold the smooth stones in my hand, where they become warm and fit perfectly. It means a lot. It is important to look at things and notice what they feel like, in so many ways. It’s important to look at things and notice.

Me, right now:

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