What we talk about when we talk about love.
I get a picture in my mind every time I see this sentence. Two couples talking about life and love as ” light was draining out of the room”. Raymond Carver always wrote about what he knew. Drinking, loss, heartbreak, the ordinary and the subtle fade of light.
As I approach my 28th sober anniversary it occurs to me I’ve been sober exactly half of my life. Something about these anniversaries always stirs something up in me. Last night I decided to spend today visiting with Ray. I figured I could talk to him. He knows what it takes to keep a good life from falling off the tracks. I talked. I’m pretty sure he listened. And I went about having a lovely day. I’m not troubled about anything in particular. I think I just have those times when I realize I am ready for a new chapter and I haven’t yet closed the book on this one. Retirement will not come a day too soon.
His grave is in Port Angeles in a cemetery that overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s a beautiful area on the bluff but the road in would never suggest you are heading anywhere that lovely. It feels very much like the perfect place for him. I suppose you’d have to know of him and to make that drive to know how true that is.
There is a bench at his marker and a small black box with a fat little notebook started by Tess. You can write them both there and many have and do. I signed it and left a small beach stone near the poem “Gravy” engraved in the marble. I met him in May of 88. I gave him a card I had made. He was so grateful, even flustered. So much so, he signed my book twice. He died the first of August that year at age 50. Fifty. My God.
by Raymond Carver.
No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”
That woman was Tess Gallagher. Their story is beautiful.
I had expected to be deluged by rain today. Instead I found a delicious wind and blue sky. I wore sunglasses and walked that beach like I owned it. My day inevitably took me to places I’ve never been. I walked about halfway out the Dungeness Spit. So incredibly beautiful. I don’t feel steady enough to make the return trip over the shifting weight of driftwood at high tide alone so I didn’t go all the way to the lighthouse. I’ll be back. With company I hope ! Seems like a good place to make an annual pilgrimage.
Here is my day in the ONP :
The lesson in these hours is to ignore the forecast and follow your heart. The heart will lead you to places you have yet to even imagine. And good God, it’s beautiful there !