I feel my pores open soaking up particles of light. Above me on the hill, the tiny newly greening leaves are making chlorophyll. Each one, still small and delicate, fluttering, transparent in the slanting afternoon sun. I am pulling nails from boards, my body becoming familiar with the weight of the hammer, the torque of the rusted nails coming out through old holes. For the first time since the house was officially ours, I am here alone, surrounded by calling cardinals, nuthatches, bluebirds, chickadees. The air I full of song and silence. Wind rushes up through the valley, circling the house. Every time I come here, every single time, my heart sings. I know this sounds clichÃ©, and maybe it isâ€”for donâ€™t all clichÃ©â€™s originate in some utterly profound truth? My love for this land has saturated my lungs, my muscles, my soul.
Each day is a choreography of patience and longing. Every minute we can get, one of us is at the house, and the push to finish is almost unbearable. Inside our heads the jangle of other desires: to mountain bike with the onset of warmer weather, to lie about on the lawn, soaking up the soporific sunlight, to wake up in our own house. Instead, our small apartment always feels like the walls are folding in on us; the counters in the kitchen too narrow and always full with things that donâ€™t belong there: mail, pens, an odd wrench or screwdriver, a bottle full of bubbles. We wake up at night to the sound of the neighbor going or coming late, crashing up the stairs, her small dog yipping in the shrill way that small dogs do; or to the pulse of red and blue lights of a cop car or ambulance.
As I pull nails, my skin grows hot, and my thoughts wander. Iâ€™m still sifting through my impressions from my motherâ€™s visit. Trying to locate the source of my emotions: anger zinging up like a hornet bite, loss, frustration, gladness. Our relationship has never been easy. Always thereâ€™s been an undercurrent of some unvocalized tension. When I think back over her days here, my heart fingers moments like Braille, trying to find words for the things that might have occurred, or didnâ€™t.
Hereâ€™s the thing: for whatever reason, my mother doesnâ€™t know the language of celebration. She cannot simply say: â€˜this is so beautiful!â€™ or â€˜I am so happy you are happy.â€™ Instead joy is always burried under other words, like a vein of iron running through a in stone. Also: I always feel like there is comparison in her words: â€œIâ€™d never do it this way,â€ she said a dozen times; and I'm not sure what to do with this at all.
I make progress with the stack of boards. 150 year old six-inch wide planks, faded to gray, originally from a barn in Addision County. Weâ€™re not sure what weâ€™ll do with themâ€”but for now weâ€™re keeping them: removing the nails and stacking them in the garage where theyâ€™ll be dry. I try to do the same with the granules of confusion, resentment, frustration that I feel now, a handful of days after my mother left. There were bright moments, and her love is evident, but her pessimism has this way of tangling everything inside me. Her answer: Iâ€™ll see it differently when Iâ€™m her age. And I'm sure will, but it that doesn't change how I feel right now.
With each nail I pull, I consciously allow myself to release whatever unnamed, unsaid tumult has been lurking below the surface, and replace it with sunlight.