House of Glass and Copper.


I sit between two strangers in the stratosphere between Newark and Denver. In the plane’s window seat, a young man reads The Habits of Seven Highly Effective People and encourages me to read it, too. He tells me he’s twenty-one and has begun reading books. Then he offers to adjust the window shade in whatever way I prefer. He asks how I can knit and read. I demonstrate how to do a knit stitch.

On my other side, a man is headed to visit his son. The three of us share pieces of why we’re flying, little scraps of our complicated stories. As we begin the long descent into Denver, the man to my left shares that this date is the third anniversary of his wife’s passing. He shows my seat companion and me photos of the slate and copper memorial he made for his wife. As his camera roll unfurls, glass conservatories appear. He builds these custom houses of copper and glass across the country.

The plane lands, and we exchange good wishes for our different journeys. The Colorado sunlight streams in through the window. Tired, I lean on the setback in front of me. We’re in a vessel of metal and glass, too, not so pretty as the stranger’s creations, but just as miraculous.

The Denver airport is suffused with sunlight from overhead skylights, too. I stand beside a potted tree, talking with my daughter about her plans for giving blood for the first time the following morning. Crowds part around me, looking up at the timetable on a screen, parents herding their little children. The line for my next flight forms. All of us are coming and going, joining and separating. I say goodbye to my daughter, walk to my gate, and head back up into the sky in that metal craft.

Small Things.

With a teenage daughter and another grown daughter, I’ve long ago sunk ruggedly into a mantra of and life goes on that has ferried me through plenty of turbulent waters into smoother waters, always determined to seek calmness to keep my head together and keep working. Life and work have so long been synonymous for me, with brief forays into the pleasantness of family, of friends, of just life itself.

But I woke this morning thinking how impossible that mantra really is. Life is “going on” for so many people in such harder ways, so far away from me.

This week, I’ve been with my own family, sorting out the challenges of aging. Meanwhile, ordinariness reigns around me, with people coming and going to work, maybe buying bread and sausages for dinner, a bouquet of sunflowers for the table. How dear family life is, mine, yours, the families in bombed apartments in Ukraine.

In the end, of course, how much do our small thoughts and complicated opinions matter, anyway? Here I am, a small woman in a small Vermont village. In the face of bleak nihilism and despair, I return to the things that have made the truest sense to me — the sky that exquisitely changes from sunup to sundown, the liturgy of human language, laughter. There’s no answers here, only a reminder to myself that the wind brushes over my cheeks, and the wisdom that turns the globe is wider than my own imagination.