My late husband’s drawing about September 11 was a memory of what a beautiful day it was, you know, otherwise. So clear and bright, mild, touched by a fresh breeze. His piece captures also the mystery, the gradual entry of that smoke and fog we couldn’t place or understand, not any piece of it. The sense that our whole world was about to change but we didn’t quite wish to believe it even as we grasped to know something. To know anything. To be included somehow and to be back in the world.
September 11 started as a quiet day, with birds chirping. We couldn’t hear birds after around 9, depending on where we were, but after some chatter then the aday was quiet and calm again as we all hoped the state of knowing nothing, feeling only jumbled wouldn’t last. As we scrambled to compute how many and who while we had no information and while so many parts were moving.
So yeah, like you all, I remember.
9/11 wasn’t my first loss, my primal one, but it was a sort of entry into adulthood, a turning point, like becoming a parent. 9/11 was most like the shock of Gavin’s diagnosis of terminal cancer and only a little like losing the man himself and grief and all the adaptation and transformation that we call widowhood.
So it’s an apt drawing, I think, that tells me many stories. Gavin hid this drawing, a bit, and I just discovered It last week, as I said goodbye to the last parts of “his” part of our home. (Forgive the crappy photo.) Unlike his sea drawings, I didn’t have any negative feelings — this event and loss are so much larger than his cancer and death, injuries I can remember in great detail still, and so much more “healed” (how can a nation SAY that?).
Seeing them reminded me how big that day was, how specific, and really, how beautiful our world, even one corner of polluted sky.
I was thinking about this as I drove home, bloodied a bit by bureaucracy, after handling the last bit of home sale business, something particularly thorny and so deeply entangled with Gavin’s time of illness and my worst breaks. It was a flood of feelings but I took care of every bit, pinned it down with numbers and maps, and connected people to solutions. As I left, relieved, I was remembering that distant day and the drawing, and I left the garage: there was the sun in a big clear sky, innocent and present like a child.
That sunlight was fresh and blinding after a week of solid drubbing, of oppressive wet, of trees destabilizing and bridges sinking, a week or more when nothing could be done easily, at least 8 days of crying for the WORLD AROUND ME TO CHANGE DAMMIT, of praying over nearby thunderclaps at 3 a.m., the few good moments in the week were pure gratitude when I remembered how close I had once been to moving to Seattle.
Today's sun was a message to me to keep my eye on the bright that you can’t see behind the sky.