All posts by Sunny Bridge

I love travel, seeing and photographing new places, meeting new people, learning languages (focusing on French for the past few years).

A New Year

I almost let January get away from me, but here I am.  I haven’t forgotten you, my dear ones! I/we had a number of significant anniversaries and firsts to get through on the wretched grief calendar, but they’re all done now, at least the first anniversaries of all the hard stuff. I’m officially into my second year of widowhood. Yippee.

Happier days: David and Sunny — On our way to France for the first time — September 2011

It turned out the 26th of December was the hardest one-year anniversary, surprisingly. Neither Christmas nor the 27th was as tough, I think mostly because both those days were spent with plenty of dear ones close at hand. The 26th was quiet and I spent possibly too much time alone, remembering David’s last full day with us, the last time he spoke, the last time he told me he loved me–in person anyway. I still hear him so clearly sometimes.

Then the first couple weeks of January I was kind of in a funk, not that I ever love January. Once the anniversary of the celebration of David’s life (January 19) was past, I started to come out of it. I really think that was the last of the “firsts.” I’ve heard from a number of widowed people that the second year for them was even harder than the first. That the first went by in a blur, and the pain really set in the second year. Yikes. I don’t know if these were people who suffered very sudden, unexpected losses, so had that also to deal with, but the first year for me was plenty painful, and not really a blur, not from this vantage point at least.

So I’m cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind me, not including the occasional stab out of nowhere. Those still happen. I still sometimes weep all over friends at church, and the other day, I felt ambushed at the doctor’s office when I had to update my emergency contact info. That was emotional enough. Who is 100% available to me in an emergency, like David was? No one.  Everyone else has things to do. Places to be. Then I was faced with David’s name in the spouse blank, which I was NOT emotionally prepared to erase, so I didn’t. I did delete the phone number for him, but then the system wouldn’t let me go on without his phone number.  The receptionist was understandably startled when I stumbled back up to the front desk, sobbing, and basically hurled the tablet at her and said, “I am NOT doing this now! And probably not next time either!” At least she offered me a box of tissues. That was kind.

Mostly since Christmas I’ve been spending a lot of time writing for the eight-week workshop I’m doing in Denver, and at the moment I’m working on a memoir of my life and adventures with David, so we’ll see how that goes. It feels right and good to write it, no matter what I eventually do with it.

It has me reminiscing about so many of our adventures. Since I haven’t been out with my camera in a while, I thought I’d share a few photos of other winter days, other places. Remember this?

Sunset on Folly Beach – January 2015
Foggy Folly Beach

Folly Beach! How we loved walking that beach! We would get back to the condo with pockets full of shells, all sizes. I still have them all over the house, reminders of our grand year of adventure.

This January, I’m soothed by warm fires and beautiful sunsets, although Fort Collins doesn’t offer anything quite like this.

Sunset over the Sound — Outer Banks, North Carolina — November 2014

Or this:

Key West Sunset Cruise — February 2015

I offer them to you here as a mini-break from winter, which is truly horrendous in many places at the moment. May they soothe you as well. But if you can manage it, GO! Folly Beach is fabulous and Key West is wonderful, weird and WARM!

Here’s wishing you many wonderful adventures of your own! I promise mine are not over yet!

A Bit of Celebrating

David and Courtney – March 1983

Courtney’s birthday was yesterday, so that calls for celebration! I remember well the arrival of our firstborn, like our very own early Christmas present. So glad she came into our lives! Plus, she’s coming for a nice long stay over the holidays, which is more reason for celebration. Here are a couple of my favorite photos of David and Courtney, plus one of Courtney and me, where we are looking scary-good — Thanks, Clayton! You’re a genius!

David and Courtney, Thanksgiving 2016
Sunny and Courtney – September 2016

In addition to Courtney, recent birthday girl, Brittany will be with us most, if not all the time Courtney’s here, plus Bailey and Felicity arrive the 27th. Chelsea and Brian will be in and out, I’m sure, but will certainly spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here. So I celebrate my beloved family. We plan to watch David’s favorite movie, Field of Dreams, on the 27th, armed with plenty of tissues, I promise you.

I’m also celebrating passing the DELF B2 French exam, the one I was obsessing about in the last post. Woohoo! My total score was higher than I expected (but lower than I’d hoped — let’s be honest). Always did love high scores! My individual scores in the four areas of competence were weirdly almost the opposite of what I expected,  highest in oral expression, and lowest in written comprehension. Um . . . what? Strange. The director of Alliance Française Denver has agreed to meet with me to help me understand what I did right, and more importantly my mistakes.  You can’t learn if you don’t know what you did wrong! Meanwhile, I’m celebrating earning the diplôme. 

Also, I’ve taken the plunge and signed up for a more serious writing workshop, one I actually had to pay for and that presumably has higher expectations of me. So I’m celebrating my bravery!

The days are flying by, as they are wont to do, especially at Christmas. I love the lights, the music, and especially, of course, the reason for the season, sweet baby Jesus, come to conquer death and give us hope. Let’s not forget to celebrate that! I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’ve nearly made it through this one, and with enough evidence of thriving that I think David would be proud. One day at a time.

Thanks so much for all the kind comments on the last post. I send these words out into the void, so it means a lot to me to hear when they resonate with you. You are my treasured dear ones, even those of you I haven’t met, so of course I am also celebrating you!

Warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday!

 

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the season . . . to be jolly, the song advises, but of course it’s not that simple.  There certainly has been some jollity . . .

Christmas lights near The Berkshire Restaurant — Brittany’s birthday dinner
David and Brittany — July 1986, I think

Brittany had a birthday on November 12th. I didn’t mention it in the last post, because we hadn’t celebrated yet. Following the pattern I started with Chelsea’s birthday, here are two of my favorite shots of David and Brittany.

David and Brittany 30 September 2016

For her birthday gift, Brittany wanted me to join her for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert in Denver, which was quite an experience — very cool laser-light-show flashing about the place, plus lots of old-school headbanging by the lead guitarist and choreographed hair-tossing by the women backup singers, all equally Rapunzel-tressed, gently swaying, while whipping their heads back and forth in sharp synchronicity between the lead guitarist and the keyboard player like they were watching a tennis match. Too funny. Then to dinner at The Berkshire Restaurant, where bacon is the featured menu item. Just say yes.

Then, just in case the normal stresses of the season were not enough, I decided to sit for a French level certification exam, the  DELF B2, on December 5th, which definitely does NOT qualify as jollity. I prepped several hours a day for eight weeks or so and suffered way more angst than a completely optional exam, having no bearing whatsoever on my future prospects in any arena, should have been allowed to cause me. Oh well. It may have provided much-needed focus for my attention and it did give my French a bit of a turbo boost. In fact, I’ve been spending so much time thinking in French, I just spelled “season” as saison, without even noticing until the red squiggly line protested that saison was not English. I don’t know yet if I passed, but I’m optimistic. On verra (We’ll see).

In a bit of excellent timing, the day before the exam, I learned that a poem I had written for my second Lighthouse Writers Workshop has been included in a new community anthology they’re publishing called All the Lives We Ever Lived. An advance copy was being held for me (in Denver, of course), so after the exam, to distract myself from rehashing all the errors I already realized I had committed on the exam (not to mention those that would occur to me later), I went over and picked up my copy. They will eventually be available in stores like Tattered Cover (April, I think). How cool is that? To see my work in print, even on such a small scale (a page and a half out of 200 or so). Still. Feeling rather jolly about it!

Then taking further advantage of being in Denver, I went to the Denver Art Museum to see the Dior exhibit. Gorgeous! Here’s a tiny peek . . .

So I’m still pretty busy. I’ve continued my fused glass fun, so that qualifies as jolly, even though my results are never quite what I hope they’ll be. I’m still very much a beginner. Here’s the final version of the first one I made . . .

The busyness, at least the creativity, the push to learn more, the appreciation of beauty, fun with friends and family — all are good things. Even the busyness to a point. But when I slow down long enough to listen to the lyrics of a Christmas carol or watch a Christmas movie or even to stop and think, as David was so fond of doing, I’m finding the tears come pretty easily.  This season has been harder than I expected, although I had been warned it likely would be. And of course, the news contributes its share of tragic natural disasters, seemingly inescapable hardships, and increasingly frequent senseless violence. Plus, we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary. By 4:00 p.m. December 27th last year, David’s struggle was over. Mine was beginning a new phase.

Sometimes jolly is hard to find. But maybe I don’t have to. Maybe hope is a better goal. I heard a wonderful sermon recently about hope in the midst of struggle, hope in spite of grief. Hope is not an emotion, she said.* Hope is a choice. . . . don’t let our circumstances define our hope. Usually, it’s easier for me to have hope in the ultimate future, however distant that may be, God eventually redeeming all things, making all things right. But hope here, now, and for however many years I have left on earth, that’s the challenge for me these days. I can’t really imagine my life ever again being as good as it was with David. And yet, here I am. So I’m praying for strength to choose hope for the days ahead, and I’m clinging to hope for our ultimate future. Wishing the same for you, dear ones!

Any words of hope you have to offer in the comments will be very welcome!

I will stand my ground where hope can be found. ∼Lauren Daigle

*Mehgan Castor, 2 December 2018, Council Tree Covenant Church

Portraits

I’m still stretching my creative wings as much as possible. It seems to be how God is leading me most fully into engagement with life. I’m doing a bit of piano improv (sort of). It’s really more writing music over a given chord progression, which I don’t think is quite the same thing. Improvisation, in my opinion, should be natural and spur-of-the-moment. And what I’m doing is only spur-of-the-moment for a hot second; then I figure out what part of it I like and write it down. Lexi says this is completely acceptable and in fact is how you learn patterns and motifs you’d like to use and build on. I’m choosing to believe her!

On the fused glass front, my second version of the fall trees piece was slightly improved, but not enough, so I’ve added a bit more and it will go in for another firing this week. After that, no matter what, I’m calling it done. It is only my first effort, after all. I have also put together my Ile de Ré inspired piece, so here it is with all the frit (smashed glass bits) piled on approximately where I want it . . .

Ile de Ré inspired glass piece ready for firing — the colors don’t seem quite right in this photo!

. . . so that will also be fired this week. This one is much more a mixture of opaques and translucents, so guess we’ll see. It’s all a learning process. I’ll take a photo with the light behind it when it’s done.

I haven’t done a lot of writing lately, but thought I’d share with you one of the final assignments for the last session of the writers workshop, the end of September.  We were instructed to write a portrait, or rather to describe an actual portrait or self-portrait, so I decided to do both. You can probably guess what I chose first:

David 4 June 2013 at the Anchorage, Lake Sunapee

David at the Anchorage

              It was a quick snap across the table as we waited for our drinks at the Anchorage bar in the harbor. He’s grinning, flashing his dimples, looking off to the side, out at the boats, maybe, so you can’t quite see the changeable blue of his deep-set eyes, but fish are teeming across his shirt in shades of aqua and azure, cobalt and cerulean. There’s a chunky silver chain at his neck that gleams against his sun-kissed skin, echoed by tiny highlights in his eyes and on his slightly uneven top teeth. His hair is still mostly dark, but there are hints of grey at his temples and on his unshaven chin.

            He is completely still and sharp, caught in this moment of perfect contentment, but the background is strangely distorted, not out of focus exactly, more like a double exposure, giving a sense of movement to everything but him. And if you look closely, you can see the faintly golden reflection of a Windsor chair just above and to the left of his head, oddly seeming almost a sort of Byzantine halo, and beyond that the dim red glow of the word EXIT. If this were an album cover, there would be endless discussions of the symbolism of these images, in light of his death a few years later, but there was no awareness of any of this at the time.   

              When I took this shot, I had no idea how important it would be, how ubiquitous it would be. He’s not even looking at the camera, and yet it turned out to be everyone’s favorite shot of David. It was first on public view in my blog post wishing him a happy 64th birthday. Less than a month later his cancer was diagnosed, and I chose it as his profile picture for the CaringBridge website updates. Since I was on the site so often, Google kept a thumbnail photo icon on my Chrome homepage, that I saw every day until suddenly new graphic icons replaced the screen shots a few days ago. I felt strangely robbed and maddeningly impotent in the face of this unwanted update. But I also used this photo for the celebration of David’s life and I have a stack of extra programs on his bedside table and the 18 x 24 foamboard poster on an easel in the vestibule, so it’s not as if I can’t see it whenever I want. 

              But he’s looking away. He’s happy, but he’s not quite with me completely. At the time he was, but now forevermore he’s looking away, beyond the blue.

And this:

Sunny at the Rio

              Of course, it’s not an actual self-portrait. These were the days before selfies were hourly occurrences. David took this shot, trying out my new phone’s camera. A quick snap and it has been my favorite picture of myself for years. I love the way the afternoon light is streaming down at just the right angle, make Sunny seem even sunnier somehow. And although I am not especially happy to have my picture taken, I’m obviously happy to be with David, happy with my new phone, happy with the margarita almost out of frame, but ready and waiting.

              If you look closely, you can sort of see the large graft on the side of my nose where the cancer was removed, and you can certainly see that my nose is a bit cockeyed as a result. “Picasso-esque” David and I called it. But that’s not what draws my eye. I see the glint in the green eyes and a smile so big, I can almost pretend I have dimples.

             Mostly I see joy. And sunshine. And I know I am still that person.

********

True. I absolutely do know that, but by this time last year, David was on hospice, so those memories are a bit more on my mind than usual. Also, tomorrow (Sunday the 18th) is the 40th anniversary of the day we were wed, so that’s got some emotional weight as well. I’m trying to learn to let go of random markers like that, at least as a source of regret. I’m choosing instead to be grateful that we did have almost 40 years together, even if it was almost. 

And I’m looking forward to lots of time with family and friends coming up over the holidays. We ALL miss David so much, but he is a part of all of us, so when we’re together and reminiscing, somehow he’s present and it is good.

Helen, Thanksgiving 2016

Also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HELEN! Forty years ago, she let us co-opt her birthday for our wedding day. Thanks again, Helen! She turns 91 tomorrow and is still going strong. The rest of us can barely keep up! If you don’t have her contact info to send a birthday wish, leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure she sees them.

Wishing all of you rich times with your dear ones! Bless you!

Living in Color

A few weeks ago, there was an artists’ studio tour here in Fort Collins, and I definitely took advantage of it. I visited three on Friday afternoon, another ten or twelve on Saturday, plus a few more on Sunday. What a treat. I’ll leave a few links for you at the bottom. If I give them to you now, you may never come back to finish reading this post!

One of the studios I visited was that of Cole Thompson, a photographer working entirely in black and white. His work is stunning and he very kindly talked with me, rank amateur that I am, about various aspects of how he produces his images. I love his work and he has inspired me to learn more about photography. One of these days, I may even do a post with black and white images, but not just yet. Although I love the drama and the artistry of black and white, I have to admit color feeds my soul in a way I seem to need right now. So for the moment, I’ll take my black with a splash of vibrant color. Like this . . .

One of the rare sunrises I actually was awake to see out my back door! And yes, I’m sure I went back to bed right after taking this shot!

During the studio tour weekend, I also stopped by to see Sibyl Stork, whose work I have loved for years. She’s the artist who taught the watercolor class I took (and LOVED) just before our 2016 road trip out to Portland, right before David’s cancer was discovered. It was good to talk with her again and to check out all her fabulous new work.  She doesn’t have a class available for me right now, but I’ve got a lot going on at the moment anyway. Another possibility for the days ahead.

Today is ten months since David’s been gone, and I’ve had a few rough moments recently, times when the irrational questions resurface. Questions like, What?! Really?! Forever?! (here on earth, anyway). But as I wrote in the last post, I’m making a concerted effort to be present in the here and now and to let the day’s own troubles be enough for the day.

In fact, I’ve been so open to trying various creative things, in my efforts to come back to life, that I’ve gone a bit overboard and now have to reevaluate and maybe scale back a bit. Pro Tip: You know you’re not listening quite well enough to the still small voice of God when you have to get life advice from a Dove chocolate wrapper: “You can do anything,” it said, “but you can’t do everything.” Hahaha. Okay. Got it.

One of the activities I’m keeping for now is Kathi Dougherty’s fused glass open studio on Thursday afternoons. Hers was another studio I visited, and her work is an absolute celebration of color. For my first project, I wanted to play with the hues of fall foliage, since that has always been one of my favorite things. Kathi has done some gorgeous pieces on this theme, but of course I didn’t want to copy hers, so was a bit paralyzed at the start until she directed me to begin by collecting my colors. THAT I could do. I definitely also wanted sky and water. You know how much I love blue, even aside from how it reminds me of David.

Love those blues!

Since for this first project I wanted to work primarily with crushed glass, called “frit,” I then smashed larger pieces to create a pallet of colors with which to work.

I could have made a plate or bowl, but I chose to do a flat art piece (using the term “art” VERY loosely). Mostly the point for me was to play, experiment, create. I read this yesterday in Girl, Wash Your Face:

Creating is the greatest expression of reverence I can think of because I recognize that the desire to make something is a gift from God.                                                                                                                                 — Rachel Hollis

First version of first fused glass project

I agree and I am grateful for that gift. And as much as I would love to effortlessly produce truly beautiful things, the chance to try is enough, and the learning that comes from mistakes is a bonus. Here’s version one of my first piece →

Not horrifying, but not fabulous. I love how the light comes through, but I didn’t realize the small black “branches” would be as prominent as they are, showing through the translucent glass, as you can see. That was not what I intended and they bug me. Fortunately, it’s possible to add glass and fuse?/fire?/heat? it again. I don’t really know the lingo yet. But onward — and hopefully upward — to version two. I’ve added some opaques and I’ll see next Thursday if it’s improved or not. Here it is awaiting a second turn in the kiln:

Note the added rocks in the stream. Not sure how that will go!

My next project is inspired by this photo looking west from Île de Ré, the beautiful island just across a bridge from La Rochelle.  This is possibly my favorite photo from our various trips to France, so I don’t expect to improve on the photo, but I’m super inspired by the colors.

Île de Ré, France

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

Collecting colors and smashing the glass into variously sized frit

I think it’s therapeutic for me because there are no rules, except reasonable caution for the sake of safety, and there’s no hurry. Kathi and the other regulars I’ve met are kind, so that’s a welcome change from the news, anyway. And I do think there’s something transcendent about the simple act of creating, that somehow taps into the image of our Creator God, put in each one of us.

Here’s a bit more from Rachel Hollis:

The freedom to carve out the time and have a safe place to create art is a blessing of the highest level in a world where so many people are unable to have either.  

I am grateful for both the urge and the opportunity to create. Wishing you both as well!

I’ll leave you with a colorful October family photo from thirty years ago. Yikes. Half my life!

One of our annual trips to the pumpkin farm — 1988

Please leave a comment if you have a minute, even if it’s to tease me about the enormous eighties red bow in my hair! I love hearing from you.

And don’t forget to check out these websites:

Cole Thompson — Sibyl Stork — Kathi Dougherty

Enjoy!

Things are Different

David and Chelsea – 1988

We’re all trying to adjust to life’s milestones continuing on without David. It’s Chelsea’s birthday tomorrow, so I thought I’d include this adorable photo of Chelsea and David from MANY years ago. →

And here’s one more that I love from a little more recently, back when she was in school at GW. ↓

Happy Birthday, Chelsea!

Chelsea and David 2011

It was right about this time every year that David and I would head back to Sunapee to enjoy the fall foliage . . .

Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire 2013

. . . and help close up the lake house for the winter. I could have gone this year, of course, and almost did, but after all my travels this summer, it felt a bit overwhelming. So I’m enjoying a Colorado fall this year and working on my writing, as well as trying a few arty things. More about that another time.

Sometimes thinking of the future without David is as disorienting as looking down over the edge of the Quechee Gorge . . . ↓

Over the Rail at Quechee Gorge, Vermont

. . . but I’m doing better overall, apart from the occasional stab. Those aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon, I’m told, but I promise you, the privilege of having him in my life was worth the pain of now.  Here’s another piece I wanted to share with you from my writers workshop:

A New Kind of Different

              Things are different now, and they’re a new kind of different than they were during the months that followed David’s cancer diagnosis. In some ways those sixteen months were not only different, but weirdly better: more tender, more intentional, more together. For a while we couldn’t stand to be in separate rooms, but then we were lulled by the efficacy of the first rounds of treatment, and we began to believe we’d have more time.

With the illusion of more time, we were afraid we couldn’t sustain that level of intimacy. We decided we needed to continue our lives as before, certainly with time together but also time for our individual interests. David wanted that for me to prepare me for life without him. I wanted that for him, because I would have granted any of his wishes if I’d had the power, and I did have the power to release him from constant attendance on my emotional state, to free him to watch a little golf or college football on TV if that appealed to him. Sometimes I couldn’t stay away, though, and I found myself heading down to be with him, no matter how limited my interest in televised sports. My interest in David was unlimited in those days.

One evening he had gone downstairs to watch TV, leaving me upstairs scanning through photos of our travels on my laptop, only to return hours later to find me distraught at finding fewer photos of him than I had expected. He was always in the way, I’d thought. He was usually out ahead of me as we walked, since I stopped so often to take pictures, but then he’d be right in the middle of what I wanted to photograph, so I’d make him move out of the shot. But once time got short, I’d have traded every single beautiful postcard shot of France for more of him. I’m better now, since at the end I dragged boxes of photos out from storage and scanned a hundred or so shots from our nearly forty years together, and a few more of the rest of his sixty-five years. So I’ve now got a slideshow and some videos our girls took, but of course, I don’t have him, my favorite companion in all things.

We used to go out for dinner or drinks and tapas all the time, nice places always, and regular Saturday morning breakfast walks. After he started chemo and the doctor advised him to try to keep his weight up, we were at the mercy of whatever highly-caloric thing he thought he could eat: Big Macs, pizzas, several versions of chicken pot pie for a few days, one regrettable Dunkin Donuts episode, where neither of us felt good for hours afterwards. He could never finish any of it. I, on the other hand, gained twenty pounds. Now I rarely go out, except with my Denver daughter on the occasional evenings I’m in town. On the plus side, the twenty extra pounds melted away, although now they’re creeping back a bit. There’s no one to make comments about how quickly the ice cream is disappearing. And I’m still way too sedentary.

We had all these plans to get more active. We were regular walkers, but we wanted to diversify, so we bought bikes that we rode exactly four times before his diagnosis, and now I’m finding it hard to get going again. Everything was in slow motion for so long: walking from the car into the Cancer Center and back out to the car again, even driving. It hurt him if he was jostled too much, and he’d say, “Easy there, Mario,” if I took a corner too fast. Then grief put a sort of fog over everything that still has the power to keep me in the slow lane, definitely not when I’m driving anymore, but in other everyday activities, like getting up, or going to bed, or trying to drag myself out for a walk.

I know I probably have years more of my life to live, not that any of us knows that for certain, but dreaming of the future has changed drastically. David had a way of asking provocative questions, like, “What would you change in your life if you could change anything?” or “If money were no object where in the world would you go and what would you do?” And I always knew to dream big, partly because it was more fun that way, but also because there was a very real possibility he’d figure out a way to make those dreams come true, so why not aim high?

But I’m not dreaming as much these days; I’ve lost confidence in the unlimited possibilities of the future. I am exploring the present, though. I’m trying new things to see if they resonate. I’m offering, when I can, encouragement to others who are also hurting. And I’m learning for the first time how to be alone without being lonely. But I’m also signing up and showing up, for whatever strikes me. Maybe that will turn out to be the first step in making new dreams come true.

*****

Wishing you peace, joy and love in the present and hope for the future. Bless you, dear ones.

Sunapee Summer

I spent a lot of time at Sunapee this summer. . .

Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire

. . . not as much as David and I did in 2014 during our grand adventure, but several weeks beyond the usual. (Thanks, Helen, for your gracious hospitality!)

It was the summer of weddings, so there were lots of opportunities to spend time with family, both at weddings and at the lake . . .

Felicity, Courtney, Bailey
Brian, Brittany, Chelsea on what they dubbed the “Chill Station 3000”

. . . but also some good quiet alone time to process this first summer at Sunapee without David. Not easy. Here are two of my favorite David pictures from the stairway wall . . .

I’m back in a new writing workshop at Lighthouse Writers in Denver, and here’s something I wrote for it that seems appropriate to include here:

*****

Tube for One?

There’s no one on the dock when I go down there, and the bay is quiet, but the paddle board is gone, so I walk carefully through the boathouse, watching for dock spiders and rotting boards, out the other door and around back to where the old inner tubes are stacked. I slide one out from under the collection of random inflatables, gingerly wipe off the webs, and roll it back through and out onto the broad side of the dock, shucking my flip-flops at the top of the steps leading into the water. The lake is cold and clear as vodka. Making sure the long inflation stem is facing down, I ease myself into the tube, bracing for the shock of cold, and push off and away from the shallows, only then realizing how enormous it is, really better for two people than one. It must have been an inner tube just like this that David and I used forty years ago when we’d float together out into the bay, newly engaged, planning our future. And suddenly, I have to decide. Can I do this? Or do I get out? Go back up to the house. It was only that first summer that we floated together in a shared inner tube. Decades of summers followed where I’d laze in a tube on the rippling, undulating water, watching the clouds drifting overhead, the water-bugs skittering across the surface, the dragonflies tickling my knees, while David hauled brush from the woods or stacked firewood or tamed Virginia Creeper, both of us doing what we loved most. So why is the memory of that first summer so sharp?

I’d already been clothes-lined a few days before by the hot, musty, woodsy scent of the family room and the sight of Ebenezer, the retired carousel horse, his proud head thrown back, on his rockers in the corner, awaiting the next generation of children. David had told me about him before I ever saw Sunapee. And that smell. The balsa pine of the long drive, the unfinished wood of the interior walls and that unforgettable scent of an ancient lake house slowly rotting in unsuspected corners. Soon there were other Sunapee scents for me, like fresh-cut lime for my gin and tonic, but that one doesn’t have the power to wound. I’ve long-since adopted it for other places and other times. But the family room, closed as it usually is, holds the purest essence of Sunapee and it rocked me. I delivered what I’d come up to put away, turned and reached a hand out to caress the snout of Ebenezer, although I didn’t get on him this time. He’s big enough for an adult, and I’ve been on him before, for a laugh, but it wasn’t laughter I was feeling. I turned and went back down the stairs to the kitchen, suddenly disoriented by the hubbub of the family at cocktail hour. My brother-in-law sensed something and ask if I was okay, and the tears came. He put an arm around me and my mother-in-law, watching from the next room, blew me a kiss. I am loved here, and I belong, even without David, but this is the first summer without him, and oh, how he is missed.

There is no safe-haven from grief I’m discovering. No place where it cannot touch you. In this year of firsts, I’m just trying to get through them all, experimenting with doing things the same as always, or maybe with a slight twist, something a little new, like music on the radio on the drive to the lake-house from the airport. It worked for a while, but the stations kept fading away. The woods are too dense. Which is probably why we never bothered with the radio before.  Maybe the way we’ve always done things is the best way, but surely there are new possibilities. Which hurts less, I wonder? Which helps most? The old way or something new? The only answer I’ve found so far is there is no one right answer.

*****

It’s been nine months today, since he’s been gone, and he is still so deeply missed.

Wishing you grace and peace like this moon-rise in the midst of whatever challenge you may be facing. I know I’m not the only one.

Moon over Lake Sunapee

God be with you.