Sometimes it’s the littlest things: the soft click of the spoon against my mug as I stir sugar in my coffee. C. kissing my cheek before leaving the house. Music filling up all twenty square meters of a room. Forgetting to turn off the bedside lamp and waking up to extra light. A quiet breakfast. Some sunshine, despite a prediction of heavy rain.

The world changes, from day to day. Whether I want it or not. Whether I’m prepared for it or not. Whether I pay attention or not.

I exist. Now, to live

How does one begin again?

There’s starting over from scratch. Throwing away what has been, to make room for what will be. There’s turning to a new page. Starting again. With reminders of what was in the background. (A memory? A ghost?) There’s continuance. Just keeping at it. It goes on. Same page, same haunting. But you go on.

What does it take to rebuild a life?

“Sleeping on the floor makes you closest to the earth.”

Yes. There’s dust, too, and caterpillars that wake me up at two in the morning. Phantom itches. The thought of spiders finding my bed.

I think about these creatures, wrestling with the idea that the world is fleeting and cruel. They go out anyway.

When you live in the dark for so long, you begin to love it. And it loves you back, and isn’t that the point? You think, the face turns to the shadows, and just as well. It accepts, it heals, it allows.

But it also devours.

There was a deep sea; I was drowning, and I let it embrace me. I was floating and not breathing, and calling it a life.

But now there is light. I can see it. It’s time to swim towards it.

Late Fragment
Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

The old house is still on my mind. Mostly what lingers is my reaction to a place where I didn’t even live. I mean—I’ve visited countless times. I am thinking: each time I go, I probably leave a part of myself behind. Maybe that’s why it hurts. Knowing I’ll never return.

Later that day, I found myself laughing with my sisters over a small thing. I thought, look at us: how we manage to recover from a harrowing morning, how we can move on from sadness and memory, to laughter—that resilience, and what it means. How our hearts work, how it lives.

To realise that I’ve grown up and that I can’t always protect the ones I love, nor preserve things just the way are—the incredible ache of that.

This Morning
Raymond Carver

This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarcely a ripple. Calm. I dressed and went
for a walk — determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent-over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted. Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely. All bathed in a pure
cold light. But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander. I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else. I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other. (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong — duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife. All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day. What
I’ve trampled on in order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else. I know I did.
For when I turned back i didn’t know
where I was. Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees. And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.

The year is ending. Some things are destroyed: a city, plans, relationships. Yet some things are also being rebuilt: this house. My life.

Raymond Carver

Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.

Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.

Would I live my life over again?
Make the same unforgiveable mistakes?
Yes, given half a chance. Yes.

A fraught mind, tonight. My feelings raw, too. Crying while smoking, thinking if I should go to bed, or keep on reading. And it’s not what you think. This book — I have given my heart away to characters again, have been emotionally invested since the cover page, and now one by one they are being taken away from me. For the past few days I have been living in this world and now I am shocked and grieved. Why why why. I don’t think I am ever really prepared for someone’s death, that is, someone I love, real or not. Have you ever felt this way?

Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In
Raymond Carver

You simply go out and shut the door
without thinking. And when you look back
at what you’ve done
it’s too late. If this sounds
like the story of a life, okay.

It was raining. The neighbors who had
a key were away. I tried and tried
the lower windows. Stared
inside at the sofa, plants, the table
and chairs, the stereo set-up.
My coffee cup and ashtray waited for me
on the glass-topped table, and my heart
went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,
or something like that. After all,
this wasn’t so bad.
Worse things had happened. This
was even a little funny. I found the ladder.
Took that and leaned it against the house.
Then climbed in the rain to the deck,
swung myself over the railing
and tried the door. Which was locked,
of course. But I looked in just the same
at my desk, some papers, and my chair.
This was the window on the other side
of the desk where I’d raise my eyes
and stare out when I sat at that desk.
This is not like downstairs, I thought.
This is something else.

And it was something to look in like that, unseen,
from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.
I don’t even think I can talk about it.
I brought my face close to the glass
and imagined myself inside,
sitting at the desk. Looking up
from my work now and again.
Thinking about some other place
and some other time.
The people I had loved then.

I stood there for a minute in the rain.
Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
Even though I felt violently ashamed
of the injury I’d done back then.
I bashed that beautiful window.
And stepped back in.

Monday would be awesome if Carol Channing is here, shouting, “RAAAASPBERRIES!

Raymond Carver

A break in the clouds. The blue
outline of the mountains.
Dark yellow of the fields.
Black river. What am I doing here,
lonely and filled with remorse?

I go on casually eating from the bowl
of raspberries. If I were dead,
I remind myself, I wouldn’t
be eating them. It’s not so simple.
It is that simple.

Raymond Carver was a poet before he became popular for writing short stories. Wow. I’ve been reading his poems for a long time now but had no idea.

Still Looking Out for Number One
Raymond Carver

Now that you’ve gone away for five days,
I’ll smoke all the cigarettes I want,
where I want. Make biscuits and eat them
with jam and fat bacon. Loaf. Indulge
myself. Walk on the beach if I feel
like it. And I feel like it, alone and
thinking about when I was young. The people
then who loved me beyond reason.
And how I loved them above all others.
Except one. I’m saying I’ll do everything
I want here while you’re away!
But there’s one thing I won’t do.
I won’t sleep in our bed without you.
No. It doesn’t please me to do so.
I’ll sleep where I damn well feel like it –
where I sleep best when you’re away
and I can’t hold you the way I do.
On the broken sofa in my study.

A. is bugging me to read Raymond Carver’s fiction. He’s good, he’s good, he says, he’s damn good. There’s something about his name that sounds so familiar so I looked among my things — I have a box full of random scraps of paper with lots of stuff written on them — and found this poem. A-ha! Something to talk about tonight.

At Least
Raymond Carver

I want to get up early one more morning,
before sunrise. Before the birds, even.
I want to throw cold water on my face
and be at my work table
when the sky lightens and smoke
begins to rise from the chimneys
of the other houses.
I want to see the waves break
on this rocky beach, not just hear them
break as I did all night in my sleep.
I want to see again the ships
that pass through the Strait from every
seafaring country in the world—
old, dirty freighters just barely moving along,
and the swift new cargo vessels
painted every color under the sun
that cut the water as they pass.
I want to keep an eye out for them.
And for the little boat that plies
the water between the ships
and the pilot station near the lighthouse.
I want to see them take a man off the ship
and put another up on board.
I want to spend the day watching this happen
and reach my own conclusions.
I hate to seem greedy—I have so much
to be thankful for already.
But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.
And go to my place with some coffee and wait.
Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.