Over the course of my entire life I have been fortunate in my associations.
|Focus on the lamp.|
You either get it, or you don't.
So on this, a day we Americans set aside every year to take a moment and give thanks for what we have and for what we've managed to avoid, is it any wonder that being thankful is going to be the core today's post?
Me, I got lots to be thankful for. My family, my friends, my health, a day gig which I still find rewarding and challenging, and a writing career which still manages to lift me up a hell of a lot more than it gets me down.
And I'm grateful for all of it. Not just the highs, but the lows as well. You know, taking the good with the bad, your experiences shaping you, and how coming through negative stuff can make you better, healthier, wiser, etc. That kind of thing.
Or, as the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke once famously put it:
If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.
And isn't it amazing how one single thing can serve as a touchstone for different phases of your life, carrying with it multiple meanings, freighted with experience which has rendered you a person transformed?
Like the reading lamp in the photo at the top of this post.
That lamp was a wedding present from my dear, long-time friend, Jane. My wife and I got engaged on a January trip to New York, right in front of the Alice statue in Central Park back in 2010–and Jane and her husband Bob were there to witness the whole thing. Robyn and I were married nine years ago this past October. And this coming December 27th will mark nine years since we took possession of, and moved in to, our house.
The lamp above came with us. Since the day we brought it through the door, that lamp has never left the room where I photographed it earlier this evening.
Which is ironic, because, aside from the carpet and the paint, that lamp has been the only constant in this room. It has anchored every permutation, every set-up, every furniture lay-out since we moved in.
The room itself is an upstairs bonus room, with lots of light, big windows facing the street, and a half wall which allows it to overlook the entry hall directly below it. All in all a well laid out, profoundly interesting room.
For while there we didn't quite know what to do with it: I had bookshelves (the ones you get at Target, put together yourself, you know the type) in there, and we put a television, couch, love seat, etc., in there for a while. But we were never really satisfied with the lay out. Not to get all "Feng Shui" on you, my readers (BOTH of you!*rimshot*), but keeping it a TV room where I also stored books just didn't really match its energy.
What did definitely work, from day one, was keeping the lamp above in that room's window.
Our work schedules are staggered, so I nearly always get home before my wife, and one of the things I have done since our first day in this house was to go in to the upstairs bonus room and turn on Jane's lamp. Literally leaving a lamp burning in the window for Robyn.
And every time I've turned on that lamp, I've thought of Jane. And I've been grateful all over again for this thoughtful gift.
Jane and I bonded over our shared loves of both history and literature. She's the person who convinced me to give The Great Gatsby another chance, after I decided in high school that I didn't like it (I know, I know...). I introduced her to Yeats and other poets she had never really taken time with. I could go on and on. But I think you get the picture.
Now, Jane and I lived on opposite ends of the continent. Her in New York, with her family, and me in Seattle, with mine. And I always looked forward to the day that she and Bob would visit Robyn and I here and see her lamp, and its prominent placement within our home.
But, that didn't happen.
Jane passed away a few years back, without ever getting to see her gift put to such on-going and continual use in our house. Last year, Robyn and I put permanent shelves into the bonus room which Jane's lamp has for so long anchored, thus turning it into a proper home library.
And finally, the energy of the room matched the energy of that lamp.
There is even a smaller room, a cubby hole, actually, directly off of our now "library," which Robyn had the terrific idea of making in to a library for our son. He never met Jane, and never will. But he knows about her. And he knows how, in a weird way, our library, and his are both products of his dad's friendship with this wonderful, caring, classy lady.
|Our son's library. Can you see the reflection of Jane's lamp?|
After all, in this world what do we have, except for each other? And if the lamp that lights my wife's way home, the reading lamp whose very energy demanded we build an entire room around it, can spark in me the memory of a dear friend every time I turn it on, how could I be anything but grateful for it, for the experience, for the friendship, for the memories?
And in all of that, is there not, a variety of immortality?
I'd like to think so. And I'm grateful for that, too.
So Happy Thanksgiving, one and all. I'm thankful for all of the above, and for my marriage to the best wife a guy could ask for, the funniest, kindest, smartest, most delightful son a man could wish for, and for so much more.
How about you? Please feel free to leave a comment and let us all know what you're thankful for this year.
And on that note, I've got to go turn out Jane's lamp.