After a summer of chaos and bitter heartbreak, tears, the Vermont state police, too many times through the county courthouse’s metal detectors, I crashed my car yesterday. The impact came at slow speed, and when I got out of the car, I knew instantly I was uninjured. The woman in the car I hit also assured me she was fine.
I stood on the road, my vision caught for some reason at the sun shining in the canopy of an immense maple nearby. I stood staring upward for a moment, admiring the brilliant September afternoon. In every sense of the word, I had been driving blind, the inside windshield of my car smeared greasily, never tended to, and I had been crying. I hadn’t seen the woman who was at a standstill, until after I hit her. By sheer grace of luck, I had managed not to hurt this stranger, and then she spent three hours sitting in the grass with me, infinitely patient. This morning, an apple pie bakes in my oven as a meager gesture of my gratitude.
My publisher, Dede Cummings, describes herself as a glass-half-full woman, a feature I’ve tried to emulate. That afternoon, my glass foamed over. All the things I had held coiled so tightly within me – my daughters’ well-being, lack of childcare, too many demands for money and too little lucre – released from me when I stepped out of that crumpled car. Standing on the road, I felt strong, resilient as a birch sapling, and immensely calm, expansively alive as the nearby hayfield. Oddly, I had been returned to whom I was once, soles on the ground, my eyes sparkling and full of sunlight.
It had been a very long time since I had hoped for more than that my daughters and I accept and endure their father’s apparently unbreakable descent into a place where we cannot reach him. In that brief moment, I realized we would thrive, too, that our lives would unfold further in a vibrant tapestry, and the goodness of the world was, truly, yet at my hands, there for the taking. The world hadn’t turned its familiar back to me.
In my novel, the moon in all her various faces – crescent, gibbous, cloud-strewn – appears repeatedly as a talisman to my main character. Yesterday’s geometry of sunlight descending scattershot through leaves, dusty road beneath my clogs, and the September afternoon with its darting dragonflies wound together as my own unbidden talisman.
I never accomplished what I intended that afternoon. That evening, the moon rose full, the hue of spring-grass-tinged cream. O, sweet lady moon, traversing her patient path across the heavens. We slept with the windows open to the night, moonbeams moving across our cheeks as we slept.
Come, see the true
of this pained world.
Bashō, On Love and Barley