by Laura Crum
So sometimes I walk in darkness. I am endlessly sad and I miss the form of my happy life that used to be. My husband has been dead for six months and in many ways it is harder now. The friends who gathered round and made great efforts to support me initially have less time for this (I know this is inevitable—I’m not complaining or bitter—just saying what is happening), and are busy with their own lives. My good friends try very hard to be there for me. But I feel so deeply the loss of my companion and partner. It is hard to face each new day without his physical presence here in our home.
I have done my best to put our finances and the garden/property/household in order, and have gotten this done. There is a lull—in which I am so very weary of being sad. I had a very happy life for the last seventeen years with Andy. I accept the sadness—I try to open my heart to it. But I am unused to this form of life. It feels like walking in the dark.
I try to trust. Trust in love, trust that Andy is with me, trust that I am being led down the path where I am meant to go. Trust that this is true, even when I can’t see or feel it. It is sort of like riding a horse in the pitch black.
I remember doing this with Gunner. Riding him up a hill under some big trees on a moonless night. I could not see a thing. I held up my hand—six inches from my face—and I could not see it at all. It was the strangest feeling. I could not see Gunner’s neck or head in front of me. But I could feel him underneath me, carrying me through the utter dark. I had to trust that he could see, that we would not run into a tree, or plunge off a bank. And sure enough, eventually we came out from under the trees and I saw the lights of the barn up ahead (for those who are interested, I worked that experience into my novel, ROPED).
So now it is the same. I try to trust that Andy is with me, carrying me along, even though I can’t feel or see his arms around me. I have to trust in signs and messages. I have to trust in what is here now. It’s not an easy task. At least not for me. I’m not good at trust.
And yes, this is another weird story of the insights that come to me about life and death and magic. I’ve noticed that some friends seem to shy away from the notion that Andy is still with me and that magical stuff happens to show me this is true. There is a pronounced silence when I bring such things up, and I can hear the inward rolling of the eyes. The friend tries to change the subject and assures me things will get better in time. This does nothing but make me aware that the person and I are not on the same page. You don’t have to believe any of the things I believe—I don’t care in the least—so if you don’t care for this stuff, please click on the “x.”
The thing about magic, which I always understood, is that it is always present. We just aren’t aware of it. My son said that he wanted magic like flying broomsticks in the Harry Potter books, and the funny thing is, I think I’ve experienced things just as magical. (The totem animal dream I had at Burgson Lake comes to mind.)
But magic doesn’t look like what you expect it to look like. That’s where my life and Harry Potter’s life are different. His life is obviously magical. (He exists in a magical novel, of course.) My life looks like anybody else’s life. Just normal, my son would say. But I don’t think normal exists at all. Magic happens—and its up to you to choose. Will you see this or not? Will you choose to see the magic happening or will you dismiss it as coincidence…etc.
The story of the statue is a good example.
The little statue by our pond—I call her the madonna—has been there many years. Andy and I picked her out of a catalog not long after we got together. She is a copy of a Frank Lloyd Wright statue and her actual name is “Garden Sprite.” Andy and I liked her and we put her by the pond and there she has been for almost twenty years—but not without changes.
One year the deer knocked her over and she broke in half. I put her head in a flower bed for awhile—her bottom half lay toppled and concealed by a huge bush. Things were like that for a few years. But the bush died and was cut down and we found the statue and set her back up again, gluing her head back on. And there she stood.
Her head is downcast and she looks serene, but pensive.
So the other day I was walking up the driveway feeling very sad—and worn down with feeling sad. Just so tired… What am I supposed to do, I asked Andy. I had reached the little goldfish pond and I glanced over at the statue. Something was different.
I stared, wondering if I was imagining things. Because the statue was looking right at me, her head tilted slightly back; her expression—in this pose—appeared calm and confident, rather than tranquilly sad. It was a very slight change—no one who didn’t live with her would ever have noticed. But it jumped out at me.
I stared and stared. And it dawned on me that she had been shifted slightly—probably due to a deer bumping into her—and the broken top half was tipped back a little. I could see the crack. But how odd, I thought. She hadn’t been knocked over (which had happened several times) or had her head knocked off. She had merely been posed differently. Serene and regal—looking out at the world, rather than down.
In this moment I felt my question was being answered. Andy wants me to be OK, to be serene and confident, to enjoy my life here in my garden. He wants me to make the same shift as the statue has made. From downcast and sad to calm and looking outward. She even seemed to be smiling—perhaps a trick of the angle and the light. But the message came through to me.
Is this magic?
I think it all depends on how you choose to see it. For instance, like the truck…
The other day I pulled onto Highway 1 to take my kid to his nine o’clock class—and the stop-and-go traffic was in full commute mode. I happened to end up behind a truck—a very odd truck. I had been crying all morning and was just trying to drive through my tears, but this truck was bizarre enough to cause me to stare. My son stared, too. “Look at that,” he said.
The truck was some sort of tank truck—perhaps used to pump out septics or porta potties. It was not new—it was nothing regal or glamorous. But the back of it was painted with a very intricate and elaborate design. There were no words and no obvious connection between the design on the back and the purpose of the truck. The more we stared at it, the more puzzling it was.
The background was golden yellow and there was a round mandala shape with various symbols. They were nothing that I understood—I had no idea what system of thinking they might belong to. In the center was a painting of a god-like looking male figure with a golden headdress carrying a female figure who appeared to be asleep or passed out. The male figure looked powerful, his head was up and looking out, he was bathed in light and wore some sort of ceremonial clothes. The female figure wore a long white dress and lay in his arms, her eyes closed, her body limp. But she did not look dead.
The more I stared at this—we were behind the truck in stop-and-go traffic for at least twenty minutes—the more I wondered what it was meant to represent. Nothing really made any sense to me. And then (it was a cold gray day), the sun came briefly out of the clouds and lit the male figure’s face with radiant white light. A thought came to me, and stuck with me.
I had been battling so much sadness that morning, feeling so alone. I could not feel Andy’s presence, though I tried to trust it was there. I was so sad. Maybe this odd painting was here to show me something. The woman doesn’t know she is being carried. She is asleep or unconscious, moving through darkness, not knowing the male figure is there. But he IS there—he is in fact carrying her towards the light, though she is clearly unaware of him or of being carried. Maybe it is like that for me?
As I feel I’m moving through darkness in a confused way, I am really being carried by my loved husband, who is taking me towards the light. I may not be able to perceive him directly as I live in my human body with its limitations, but he is there, carrying me in his arms. For a moment it all seemed so clear.
I stared at the bizarre truck. Was this what magic was like? Getting stuck behind odd trucks on the highway?
In the end, magic is about what you choose to believe. My son complained that he thought our life was “normal,” like other people—not magical. I said that many of the people that he regarded as “normal” adamantly believe that a certain man died and that his body came back to life three days later. How “normal” is that? Surely that’s as magical as anything I can come up with?
So I persist in seeing the magic—or magik—and I put my trust out there in love. Even though I am walking in the dark.