Postcards from Home #3: Sidewalk Shadows

Sometimes when my heart is too broken and I believe I will die, the shadows themselves bend over me to comfort me…

I hold on to trees, like hugging them, as if to encourage them to always stay there. I think nothing will ever take them away from me. Yet this July a freak wind storm blew away some of my best tree friends. I was devastated. What made home familiar was destroyed in a matter of seconds. Before I sought shelter during that storm, I quick took a look out the window and saw the trees flying. Branches danced and tilted down to the ground and my heart raced like it does when it breaks.

It was hard to let go of the trees. Some of the fallen ones today still lie like discarded lincoln logs along the creek. I still run my fingers along their trunks, remembering how they felt when alive and humming. Even after the fall, the trees have a new life, their trunks are crawling with all sorts of tiny creatures. Now that we are in November, just the other day I could hear insects crunching inside the fallen wood and rodents leap along the dry leaves, darting in and out of the dead branches. The dead will provide a lot of shelter for them all when the snow comes.

I used to call the trees “mine” but they never were. This is how it is with friends as well. I can call someone I love “my” someone but really they can’t belong to me. I can’t hold them or keep them, that’s not how relationship is meant to be. Even if they submit to my embraces, the togetherness does not last and only seems it can turn into forever. Perhaps in my imagination, but not…

No thing lasts. Everything changes. All things that live must die. Even this photograph will fade. I will disappear. You will be gone. Nothing, not even dust, will someday remain. And so, while I am alive, I hurry to get things done, but I am not satisfied. I still haven’t lived or done enough yet. Especially haven’t loved like I’ve wanted to yet. Yet there are no guarantees I will have tomorrow like I have today.

I love my friends so intensely, when I let them go it feels like bits and pieces of myself have been launched out into space. I never know how far these dear little lovers will go or if they will come back or even think of me while they are gone. I feel so small while they do their grand things up there among the stars. In my eyes they shine, or they are the very light in my eyes shining when I smile, and I cannot stop loving them, even when it hurts me to the point of wishing death. Yet is this really separation? I realize that can be an illusion. No one has left me for outer space.

I liken loving a friend to loving a wild animal. To keep them caged will only lead them to resent you. I must love them from a distance. Let them roam the world and read about them in magazines, watch them in the news, and write poems about them. Even when I want to feed them, care for them, tuck them into bed, pinch their cheeks and kiss them, I can’t. It’s not good for them. Not good for me. They are most happy with me letting them go free. And maybe, just maybe, when I least expect it, they will drift back into my area and pay me a visit…

But friends aren’t wild animals! They are people. Having an emotional attachment should be a life-affirming thing and not a death-inducing burden. We can’t rely on them to always be “there” but when they are not, there are always echoes and shadows — the traces of them they have left behind that we can hold on to that can comfort and remind us that while they are gone, their love never leaves.

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2 comments on “Postcards from Home #3: Sidewalk Shadows

  1. Victoria Porter says:

    I like to believe that everyone enters our lives with a purpose. There is something to learn even from the stranger that gives you a smile, or the idiot who cuts you off while driving. Those closest to us teach us the most. Unfortunately all too often we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.

    • Very true, indeed. I cannot help but think deeply upon all who cross paths with me. I may not remember names, but I never forget a face or an experience. Sometimes I have to sigh and let out a breath in poetry, that’s how I let people go, I let them live and somehow I live, too, because they touched me and made my life more interesting! Thank you, once again, Victoria, for your kind comments. Welcome back anytime. 🙂

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