by my friend Eileen.

It’s actually a piece of a poem called Last letter to my son.

“Don’t live in the world as if you were renting
Or here only for the summer,
But act as if it were your father’s house.
Believe in seeds, earth, the sea
But people above all.
Grieve for the withering branch,
The dying star,
And the hurt animal.
But feel for people above all.
Rejoice in all the earth’s blessings –
Darkness and light,
The four seasons,
But people above all.”

-Nazim Hikmet

People above all

About a month ago, at the beginning of spring break, a boy from M’s school and his friend, who had graduated from her school, were killed in a car accident. It’s such a tragedy, of course. It also turns out that the first boy was the nephew of a fairly good friend of ours, so when the school had a memorial service on Tuesday night we went.

It turned out that M’s friend R drew the portrait on the cover of the program, and her friend S was there videotaping the service.

His stepmother read a beautiful poem, but I’m only able to finds bits of it online. Sometimes you can’t find everything online. So I’m off to the public library this afternoon to see if it’s available in a book. Here’s the bit I can find online:

. . Don’t live in the world as if you were renting or here only for the summer, but act as if it was your father’s house. . .
Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea, but people above all.
Love clouds, machines, and books, but people above all.

Nazim Hikmet

And his aunt, our friend, read a beautiful section from the Kaddish, which I also can’t find.

The family seems to be doing all right, although I doubt they will ever really recover — it’s been a month, now, and I think that one thing that’s been amazing for them has been finding out about the wider world their son inhabited. This is true for any kid, of course — you think they belong to you, but they have a life outside, too, and people out in the world know and love them, too, and know them as both the same and different people that you know them as. You could tell that they were comforted by knowing that their grief was not only personal.

We went out for dinner after the service with some other friends who were there, including P, who has moved to DC. It was great to see them, even though the occasion was so sad.

It’s always like this —

The week that M’s school has some kind of testing that she doesn’t have to take, mixed in with finals that she does have to take is the week that I imagine life will be so much easier, because I can just leave in the morning while she is studying or painting or something productive. In fact, it’s the week that seems to involve driving back and forth and picking people up at odd hours. It’s the week I can get nothing done.

I’m addictively reading Elspeth Thompson’s A Tale of Two Gardens. It’s a collection of columns and I’m going through them like candy. It’s kind of like a flip book of a garden: seeds are sown, then planted out, the plants mature, it’s fall — over and over and over. Somehow it makes me feel like my garden is a process — if it’s not perfect this year, I’ll have next year, too, and the year after. And its not really too late to think about putting some peas in, or thinking about raspberry canes for fall.

Oh dear, the day is over again — hoping for better luck tomorrow.

Just —

I’m just about to leave work to go pick up M to take her to school for her math final.

And I just got off the phone after talking to N, who sounds very cheery. Spring term IS cheery, I think. And her trip down south sounded great — they stopped in New jersey and Baltimore, stayed on the barrier islands in North Carolina. They also went to see Duke and the Shenandoah Mountains and stopped in NYC on the way back. They were clever about finding people to visit here and there.

She’s sounding very grown up and capable. She liked NY.

She may stay in Maine for the summer, which I think would be a lot of fun. She wants M to come visit, which would be a great idea.

Summer is coming, and bringing with it the feeling of possibilities for travel and swimming and sailing and fun.

Just a few math finals and a few more paintings to finish and we’ll be there.


So, I read Henning Mankell’s The Man from Beijing, which was good. It struck me as I was finishing it that he has written a book that is more a thriller than a mystery. It starts with a crime in northern Sweden but then roams all over the world. It reminded me of Le Carre’s The Constant Gardener, actually. But that’s not a complaint.

And now I’m reading the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, except I’ve made a brief detour into A Tale of Two Gardens, by Elspeth Thompson, an English garden writer who recently, sadly, committed suicide. But this book is full of little essays written for the Sunday Telegraph from an earlier period in her life when she’s just starting to build things up — a backyard garden, an allotment, and soon, I think, a garden in a little house by the sea. It’s making me feel better about my garden, which is still a mess, although getting better year by year. It’s making me realize that what I really need is an allotment — a little plot somewhere else to grown vegetables. There are a few in town, actually. It would be nice to have room for this flat of asparagus I’ve inherited but have nowhere to plant. I thought I’d found a corner, but underneath all the nasturtiums I found a rosebush, which I suppose I could rip out. But wouldn’t it be great to have room for potatoes and beets and pumpkins? It would, and I don’t, unless I get rid of a lot of flowers. And I like flowers.

I know — I need an allotment like I need a hole in my head. But what if I did it with someone, which would actually be more fun anyway.


Anyway. M is entering the week before exams, which means she has all kinds of other exams and things due. It’s kind of hell, although it will be great once she’s on the other side. I think I am experiencing sympathetic grumpiness. And N is back from her travels and apparently had a great time. An elementary school friend of M’s is visiting to see if she wants to go to B, N’s school. Apparently N’s room is a total disaster, although her laundry is clean. The fact that she actually thought it was bad is either a sign of a developing maturity or else a sign that it is a mess beyond all human comprehension. Probably the latter. Anyway, I am missing her.

And my head hurts.


Just finished The Thoreau you don’t know : what the prophet of environmentalism really meant, by Robert Sullivan. I’m not sure it’s the best book. It’s a lot harder to write about a person than a place, I think. (I remember really loving his book on the meadowlands.) Especially if that person is himself a writer. I feel somewhat frustrated, as in “what is he trying to say, here?” Mostly I guess I feel like I have to go back and read Thoreau. And also I guess I also feel sad about Thoreau dying so young, having been sick most of his life, having the reputation of being a crank, not really having been a success in his life although you get the feeling that if he had lived another 40 years he would have been. Which seems so unfair. I guess especially because he did not have much else going on in his life — he never married or had children and sort of lived on the edge of financial insolvency for most of his life.

If you think of it differently, though — he was skilled with his hands and could dig basements, cut wood, build houses and garden. He wrote many things, at least one of which is still widely read. He had many friends. He was known — he gave readings here and there. He lived life on his own terms, I guess — if you discount the sadness of his brother’s death and the fact of his being so ill.

Still feels sad, though. Think I have to read some Thoreau.