Within the Embrace of Entropy and The Arrow of Time

There is a row of spruce trees at the back of the yard. The tallest was struck by lightning. I was two rooms deep into the house and the light that came in was the most incredible thing to see. There was a wash of the coldest white and blue. And though there were no shadows everything was eerily defined. The noise that followed was felt as much as it was heard. The tree still stands but almost four years on it hasn’t healed. The strike left a scar that runs down the length of the trunk to the ground. With every season the crack gets deeper.

I had a lovely thought last week. I was driving in the car and just out of the blue it came to me. It was a wonderful memory – well two sort of but they were connected. The memory was of my youngest nephew, Matthew, when he was small.  We had rented a hockey rink for a birthday party and Matthew was so excited to come and get on the ice. He must have been around 4 maybe…I’m not sure… but I do remember how happy he was. The second part also had to do with an arena. My sister brought her boys to see my stepson play and as he came out of the dressing room he said hello to Matthew. Matthew’s whole face lit up because he’d been acknowledged by this older boy heading out to the ice to play. I honestly don’t think he could have been happier that day. He would have loved to play hockey. I’m sure of it. He never got the chance. He was born with an adorable sideways smile and a progressive neuromuscular disease.

Picture time as a hallway broken up by consecutive doors. Each door represents a unit of time. The doors are sheer enough to look back through but there are layers and layers of them. Each one takes you further away from where you have been and try though you may you can never bridge that space between now and then. No matter how much you may long for the “before”, just thin doors of time away, there is only what comes after. We say things like “I would give anything if I could have just one more day…one more hour” but the truth is one more hour or one more day wouldn’t be enough.

The night that Matthew died always comes back to me in sound bites and still pictures – the phone call – the car ride – standing on the porch as they return from the hospital – my sister opening the car door – her face as she tells me and it’s like that flash of lightning filling everything up with something alien and terrifying as I move in slow motion to take her into my arms. The rest of the night, the weeks, the months, the years, are marked by moments of awful clarity distinct as pale figures caught naked in the stark flickering of a strobe light.

Matthew lived 16 years. The brevity of his life along with much of what he endured and what has come to pass since he left us is beyond difficult to fully grasp. I am grateful for the things that offer a counter balance to the downright unfairness of it all. I need those things; like those days in the arena, or any moment I’m called to mind the good things that were a part of his life and what good things he brought to all of ours.

I like to watch the birds in the garden. I can see them as I gaze out the kitchen window. The blue jays scream and argue. The woodpeckers and nuthatches are a circus of acrobats as they negotiate the expanse of tree trunks. There are different kinds of sparrows, cardinal couples, and flocks of dark-eyed juncos. In the summer there’ll be hummingbirds and orioles. Several times a day the birds will suddenly scatter. I don’t know why. Perhaps there’s a noise, a movement, or a falling shadow that sets them off. Often it’s nothing and they quickly return. Sometimes though, that shadow will be a hunting hawk. Maybe a red tail but more likely a Cooper’s hawk. There will be a flash of darkness and then silence as a few stray feathers float to the ground.

The garden will be silent then, sometimes for hours.  I watch to see if the birds return. And they do but I can never tell if they’re the same ones that were here before.  At dawn and dusk there’s always the call of the mourning doves. A storm might blow in and I’ll watch as a curtain of rain sweeps across the fields before it engulfs the house.

I wonder how long it will be until the spruce tree finally falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music for this post –Noah Gundersen & The Forest Rangers- Day is Gone 

 

 

Storm Spell

 

The firmament divides somewhere overhead. The eastern sky is a cherub’s blue, tonsured in cumulus white. The western sky is a mutinous grey, fallen wings cast out from above. The house sits below the split. The facing windows hang out over the precipice, both in front of and then inside the quickening storm.  

 

The wind is a dog that shakes the trees, throttling the tops, jerking them back and forth. Across the fields the lightning flares, silent at first but then it kisses the ground. Burnt air flinches back and the music of the universe spills out of the light. The thunder is a work calloused hand that scrapes and rasps across the skin. A drop slaps hard on the windowsill, and then a second, and then a third. Petals fall from the apple trees chasing the storm to the ground. The rain is an airborne river and the small windows of mesh that pattern the screens fill up and hide the garden and the yard.

 

A door slams shut overhead and the sudden realization that the bedroom windows are open sends us running up the stairs. We hurry from room to room, forcing down the sashes, wiping the windowsills, laying towels down on the wet carpets, grumbling and laughing a little. Laughing not because it was funny, but because the wind was so strong, the lightning was so wild and the gunshot cracks and black rumble that sang accompaniment as it split the air had held us frozen and made us forget that we were safe inside.  The sky flickers with diamond fire. An alto chord tears free to grind along the spine and we shiver within the embrace of the windows and the roof and the walls.

 

The tulip heads are bent and heavy with the remnants of rain. The wind has died down and the sun has returned to warm the air. The green bite of the garden after the rain comes in through the newly opened windows. The back end of the storm hangs in the eastern sky, a clear line drawn across the horizon. It sends back a parting roll of thunder that fades into the drip, drip, drip of sodden trees.