Happy New Year, dear friends and strangers. Up here in the north country, the clouds are grim and low. A fire sputters indecisively in the woodstove, and the kitchen faucet has a drip. But the beds are full of sleeping boys, and a bouquet of parsley sits in a glass of water on my counter. What could be more comforting? In pet news: Anna has accidentally fallen asleep on Ruckus's catnip mouse, and Ruckus is busily trying to learn how to turn a doorknob. In writing news: I opened my email this morning to discover one rejection letter and one acceptance letter. Balance has been maintained.
Yesterday I almost hit a deer with my car. The day before, my sons were almost sideswiped by a log truck making an illegal turn. Lives are candles.
I have been reading Margaret Drabble's The Peppered Moth, a novel I have never read before. It is full of sadness: a daughter's distress at a mother's defeat, a mother's anger at a daughter's distress, a marriage doomed to misery from the start. "Sexual attraction and pity do not mix well," warns the novelist. Her words are an ominous adage for the new year.
The clock ticks. The faucet drips. The fire in the woodstove clicks and snaps. This is the first new year of my fiftieth decade. So forgive me: let me frame the banal question. What am I doing with the candle that is my life?
I could burden you with a crowing list of accomplishments, a sentimental list of affections, a self-mutilating list of failures. But you have your own lists. You don't need mine.
What am I doing with the candle that is my life? I am watching it flicker and smoke in the draft, watching the red wax drip down the sides and pool on the white table. The scent of sulphur mixes with the clean fragrance of flame. A blue heart lurks at the root of the golden flare. Shadows caper on the wall.
A single candle; a small circle of light . . . but enough to read by. Enough to see a version of your face, and for you to see the ghost of mine.