Thursday, March 26, 2009

Before and After

November 25, 2007, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia. My husband and I travelled as we usually do to visit my parents for Thanksgiving that weekend. The evening of November 25 we took off from where my dad had a photography art show winding down for the day and set off on our own. It was spectacularly cold for a November evening and we had the heat cranking in the car as we drove the road to the beach, just me and Michael, while my parents headed on home. Michael wanted to take a few photos and the stars aligned just right in our lives together to provide us with one of those extra special nights where the scenery on both sides of the road and over the Atlantic was so beautiful that we hardly knew where to look next for a breathtaking shot. I remember feeling safe and happy.

Michael ventured down the road on foot to shoot the moon rising photos. I leaned on the car until it was too cold for anything but retreat into the heated car. There I watched both the scenery and my husband's figure, small in the distance, crouched low against the marsh, getting these lovely pictures that forever remind us both of the dividing line of life- before, and after... for it was at this very moment, although we had no inkling whatsoever, that my husband's oldest brother lay in his bedroom in rural Pennsylvania, dying of a heart attack, surrounded by his faithful animal friends. These pictures depict scenery and atmosphere that are amongst my most treasured memories in life but also often bring me to tears to look at them, for what came the day after.

I am thinking of the "befores" and "afters" in life because we are moving to a new apartment in three weeks. It is an older building, still in the museum district of Richmond, and not as modern by any stretch, but much larger than our current apartment. It is full of windows and light and trees outside, birds and squirrels and people for Mango the cat to look outside and watch for the first time since he came into our lives eighteen months ago. It has wood floors and a dining room, two bedrooms where we can finally have a dedicated workshop and art room for us both instead of our entire dwelling serving as workshop. We are so looking forward to moving forward in our lives, to making this a very positive "after" in our lives together.

I am sure I am not alone in compartmentalizing life into many befores and afters (there are some crazy people out there like me, right?), some of them good, some of them tragic and most of them life changing. Before school and after... before marriage and after... before when I lived at home and after... before we lived in Richmond and after... before this person and this one and that one and this one died and after.. those are the most poignant, of course, but the list goes on.

In the midst of the sorting and packing, I can't help but wonder, what kind of "after" will this move be? What will happen while we live in this new dwelling?

Projecting positive thoughts is honorable but I do believe most people ignore the huge role that luck plays in our lives. How many people out there can honestly say they did it all themselves without any help or luck in the journey? I know I can't. My parents have helped me and helped me and helped me, both emotionally and financially, for which I am forever grateful. My husband has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time and he fully acknowledges it. Certainly I feel very fortunate and lucky that at this time in my life, we both have found creative outlets that make us happy and fulfilled and make others happy, too, or at least that is my goal when I create something. All I can hope for is to worry less about the "afters" (is that possible?) and focus on the here and now, while cherishing all the "befores."

Now I am going to take a hot bubble bath, banish all worries, and relax while indulging in a book (The Daily Coyote) and an ice cold diet coke. *sigh*. It'll all work out.


karengberger said...

You are both thoughtful and wise. I love the honor that you give to the passing of your brother-in-law, as well as the honor you give to the beautiful images that capture that awful moment. It's such a paradox. Living with those mysteries is what life offers to me, now, and I think the expectation that there will be answers is gone. What is left is awe at life's beauty and its pain - awe about life itself and all that it contains.
When I look at the lovely rosary that you made for me, I marvel that we met, through our blogs, from opposite sides of this beautiful country. I marvel at the understanding and compassion that moved you to make such a meaningful and comforting gift for a "stranger." And those gifts came through experiencing great sorrow...isn't it amazing? Thank you for your words, friendship and your thoughts. God bless you as you pack, think and move.

Anonymous said...

NOBODY can say the did it all themselves! No one is truly self-taught or self-reliant. We all depend on each it should be. We were created for relationship...with each other and with our Creator. Without it, where would we be? Dis-connected, alone and lonely. Great post, Jennifer!