Here on the frontier
There are falling leaves.
Although all my neighbors are barbarians
And you, You are a thousand miles away,
There are always two cups upon my table.
Tang Dynasty, Anonymous
This beloved poem, the one I carried around in the front pocket of my memory for so many years, resurfaced this evening. Standing in the kitchen, having just fed and watered the dogs, I was getting myself some water and while looking out at the dusk, I thought of it.
It’s always floating around in my mind, but it’s been a long time since I traced the words out loud and linked them to you. Tonight, there was no reason. Like cobwebs, memories have a way of coming into focus, and momentarily, my senses were inundated. I wanted a “do over.”
I haven’t thought of you for so long, not truly, anyway. On a recent occasion, when I said your name, it rang hollow—not sad, not painful, but empty. Mention of you had become like a place I’d once visited but couldn’t exactly remember why I’d loved it so much, only that in my memory, I had.
Tonight, I paused, ran my finger across the photo on the fridge, and smiled. I thought perhaps it’s time to take the photo down and put it away. I’ve had this thought a few times in the last year, but much like the other items that retain their position on the fridge—newspaper clippings, old band flyers, and out-of-business menus—you’ve faded into the background. For a few seconds, though, your memory was vibrant, shimmering somewhere between the kitchen and the backyard. It gave me pause…
Here on the frontier, a woman is living a good life, came home with her dogs, opened the front door, and it took her a moment to remember a time that wasn’t this—-morning doves coo’ing, cat on the front stair, watching plants grow, sitting out back, feeling the cool breezes coming through the doors and windows.
I wonder if you remember. Just tonight, I’ll allow myself to wonder.
Peace be with you, kiwi, wherever you may be. I know you’re never coming back; I’m no longer sure I’d recognize you or myself from all those years ago. Time has blurred the memory of what I lost, what we lost. I don’t believe in regret, individuals make choices and then move forward—-or they don’t. You chose for us both and after a long while, I began to accept your choice; after all these years, I still can’t say that I’ve adopted it as my own.
Having said that, I am softened tonight and while unsure of my available emotional real estate, I can offer this—there’s a smoke and a beer, or a strong coffee, sitting opposite me, if you should find yourself wandering this way. Godspeed.
Indeed—we all fall down, sometimes. Avett Brothers, April 27, 2010 at Sacramento Crest Theatre