I haven’t been writing because something has come up and I wasn’t sure when to tell you, but I want you to know that my husband Bill was diagnosed in January with cancer.
It’s been quite the clarifying process as I’m sure you can imagine, and I am going to try to limit myself to saying just a few things about it, with special respect for people who have been through something like this themselves, and who already know everything that I could possibly say about it.
It’s like someone said, “In three weeks, we’re going to give you both a million dollars or else we’re going to blow your heads off. We haven’t decided. And in any case we lost your file (because that actually happened). But, oh wait. We changed our minds. In five weeks, or maybe in seven weeks we’ll tell you - a few weeks won’t make any difference.”
So what could we do with news like that? What could we do after we had done everything we could do to affect where that most important ball in that giant pinball machine might fall? After there was nothing left inside of me, sometimes, except for silence? Well then, I listened to that silence - that is all that I could do, all I wanted to do.
I don’t think that ever in my life before, when faced with anything, I have ever said, in quite this way, “I really can’t do this.” Well, I can’t do this. But I have found that there are people who have gathered, weaving themselves into a net. And some have been through things like this themselves and they are wise and very strong. It makes me proud, Donald Trump notwithstanding, to be a human being. Because I see how this is an instinct, how people want to be there for us, how they feel with us, how they actually need to help. It gives me hope for all of us.
I look at my life and my marriage with Bill and I realize that someday, one of us will bury the other. And this might be trite, but you know all that stuff that I thought was important? It’s not important. Then other stuff is very important, like the ways in which we protect and carry each other, how we both have needed that in very different and specific ways, and how we fit together like pieces in a puzzle. I think we have been gifts for each other, and we have both become more ourselves in the years we have been together.
And I like to remember that everything that has ever happened between us, everything that’s happening now will always be true forever.
I go around like everything is fine, even when there is a lot to deal with, especially when there is a lot to deal with. But I was at the fish hatchery and for some reason I just felt like I wanted to see the river, even though I really didn’t have the time. So I thought, “OK, just for a minute,” and I went down. And as soon as I saw the river, I started to cry. Because there it was. And I was so glad for the many times I have gone to take its picture because I realized that we have gotten to know each other, and that it has become my friend. And I set an intention right then for taking my pictures. I said I would never think that anything was an object to be taken, even to show its beauty. I said that pictures are a way to be in a relationship. I said that nature deserves this and that a picture taken any other way, at least for me, is porn.
While we were at my mother’s house in Moosup, we had a blizzard and the power went out. It was getting cold in the house and I had to get Bill to some place warm. So our niece came to get us with her four-wheel drive just as the snow was ending and we were getting into her car. And I saw the sun break through and I asked if they minded if I ran and got my camera. And so I took some pictures of the trees in our yard. You know, they are just trees. They aren’t in Block Island where everything is widely known to be gorgeous. But I used to climb one particular tree when I was a child. I used to sit on one particular branch and lean my head and feel the rough bark and see the green leaves and I just loved to sit there because it was my place and my refuge. I realized it had been so long, almost 50 years, since I had spent any time with that tree. But I saw that the tree was still there and that I still had a chance to thank it and love it properly.
And when I got into the car I was worried that I had taken too long but both Bill and our niece said, “Oh, we didn’t mind. We didn’t mind at all. Aren’t they beautiful?” And they were, and especially so because they had put on their diamonds for us. Then I thought how I never have to be in an officially beautiful place to take a beautiful picture, because the beauty is everywhere and it is also inside of us because that’s how we are able to see it.