I awake at first light, the world outside a soft gray blue. The window is open, the air is cool. I pull up the blanket. I am lying still, breathing deeply and slowly.
I see car lights coming down the driveway from the house up the hill. This is Mark and Kiran, on their way to Mt. Mitchell to run the Black Mountain Crest Trail. They invited me, but I knew yesterday that what I needed today would not be to push myself across mountains.
I rise slowly and stretch slowly. I do five minutes of yoga, also slowly. I never do yoga, but this morning my body asks for it. Many mornings, most mornings, it is the other way around, me asking my body for things, telling my body to do things. But this morning, I am following, not leading, moving without force.
I remember that it is Fathers Day, and I think of my dad. I see him in my boyhood, on the floor wrestling with my brothers and me, telling us stories from his own boyhood, playing ping-pong, working in the garden. I see him now, talking history and politics, enjoying his grandchildren, showing off tomatoes. He has always been a good man, a dad to be proud of, but in the last year, it feels somehow that he has sweetened. His brother Jack died last March. My dad was with him, and sometimes I wonder if Jack left some sweetness behind that night and my dad absorbed it.
Jeanine was gone when I awoke, and I go downstairs to see her. We share a hug. “Happy Fathers Day.” “Thanks for making me a father.” We talk a few minutes more, and then she leaves for town, to walk with a friend.
I feel a desire to tidy things up. I have been reading a Lydia Davis story, and a sentence from that story and the woman it describes are living in me: “She works steadily, but she does not hurry.” I shelve some books from the nightstand that have finished with me. I pick up clothes from the floor and pens from multiple surfaces across the house. I rinse coffee cups and fold laundry. I work steadily, but I do not hurry.
I am imagining a carpenter’s level in my chest, and I move and breathe in such a way that the bubble stays between the lines.
So many days require efficiency, speed, lists, and will. Or I allow them to. Require attention focused so precisely I do not hear the crows talking, or see the hydrangea quiver when a breeze breathes out, or feel my own chest soften when I breathe out. But today I am moving softly, without will, and noticing.
I eat breakfast – fruit, yogurt, almonds – and read yesterday’s paper, which is about the day before’s news, which is about Donald Trump, which is about the shadow risen from the collective unconscious of all of us.
I pick up my phone to text my cousin and a friend whose father died this year. I tell them I am thinking of them and their dads and that I hope whatever sadness they are feeling today will be held by even more sweetness. I wanted to do this, am glad I did, but just holding that phone in my hand makes my mind quicken, makes my will rise to alert, so I put the phone in a drawer, go to the window, and watch the trees. They are working steadily, but they do not hurry. I do some more tidying.
I am tired (from the week, not the morning), so I go back to bed and sleep for two hours. I dream that I am awake, in this bed, looking at Jeanine in an adjoining room. She is wearing her red batik pullover robe, the one she bought in Bangkok the year before we met. It is threadbare, held together in places by safety pins, but she loves it, and so do I. She walks towards me, only now she is 30 years younger, wearing a pink leotard. But as she does, the Jeanine in the other room is still there, too, wearing the robe. There are two of them, a younger Jeanine in front of me, a now Jeanine in the other room. I look back and forth, feeling disoriented, trying to work it out. I keep expecting one or the other to dissolve, but they both remain. Then young Jeanine turns and walks away, but she is also still there in front of me. Now there are three of them. Jeanine in a red robe, Jeanine in a leotard, and Jeanine walking away. The third Jeanine enters another room. She is once again her current age, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, standing before a table, picking something up, working with it. I am seeing all three, but now I am not fighting to understand it or expecting one of them to go away. I am accepting this world where the one I love is not bound by space or time.
I am awake again.