Our youngest daughter, Bella, left for college this Fall. Our oldest daughter, Rose, graduated college and has been living in Seattle for the past year. Last week I nursed and loved one of our old cats while he transitioned out of this lifetime. This felt like a loss upon loss; the ending of a chapter; a deep invitation into melancholy and nostalgia. Jack Gilbert’s beautiful poem, “The Lost Hotels of Paris,” in which he lists many of life’s losses and impermanences, contains a line in which he says, “But it’s the having Not the keeping that is the treasure.” It is this line that is bringing me back to life- to the energy of life, the flow of it, to appreciation and gratitude for the having of every experience- the blessing of it all.
Earlier this Fall, I began to pepper a few of my favorite photographs of the girls’ childhood about our house. You know, we had a wonderful time of it. The picture above is of Bella who was a delightful Buddha Baby, and Rose tasting her first Christmas tree. Pictures such as these fill me with joy.
Here is a big sister, little sister angel costume portrait…
And here we are on a very small and silly roller coaster somewhere in New Hampshire… the scariest ride we ever took.
My sister, Heather, took the above photograph of the cousins combined. Hannah and Gordon are also away in college now. I keep this photo in the kitchen where it reminds me of the enchanted childhood our children (for the most part) had.
Rose has asked me to send her the album we made of her sweet sixteen costume birthday party, and I must remind myself as I let it go, “It’s the having, not the keeping that is the treasure.”
I’m grateful for all of it. So grateful I can weep at the slightest breeze. And I’ll confess, also, to feelings of loss and lostness… to both the excitement of “what next?”, and the hesitation. How is it that Mystery’s emptiness can hold both qualities of luminosity and of looming? I must consider all the past ways, and perhaps find new ways in which to greet and enchant and experience- for my soul to savor and to love the gift of being in this world.