The Angle of Incidence: A Recovering Widower’s Reflections on Love, Life and Loss

The following is a post submitted by one of our long-time readers, whose wife of 22 years passed away of an aggressive form of cancer in 2014. He has since started a blog entitled the “Love Everblooming Tour“, based on an acrostic poem by his late wife and serving as a travelogue of the sojourns he’s undertaken in the wake of her passing. As he reconnects with friends and family and learns to see the world in a new and different light, things like these come to the surface. Enjoy.

I’m lucky to live near the salt marsh. And lucky too to work just a mile or so from my house. When I’m home I travel a causeway through the marsh and over the Parker River. It’s where the woods open up to space. The pin oaks, pines, cedars and little hills give way to the flat of the marsh and river. It’s a dramatic change. The marsh becomes the lowest common denominator. The base. Everything flows into it. Everything flows out of it. When I walked through a few days ago I was met by two (always two, never one) red winged blackbirds. A heron crossed my path. Fish made ripples (when there is no pebble tossed …) and fuzzy caterpillars – dozens of them – were crossing the road. (All were heading east to west which I found curious). Crossing the marsh triggers a lot of good thoughts so I decided to write some down.

At this time in summer the cattails are getting tall. Close to 6 feet I’d say. Every day the marsh looks a little different. It is a meaningful metaphor. There’s no other place I’ve been that so suggests that each day is unique, it’s own daily gift of wonder.  To be opened, experienced, then put away only to open a new one on a new next day. The seasonal imagery here suggests this on a gradual basis. But the sunsets say it loud and clear every single day. This spring, snow banks lined the narrow marsh road. Thick ice sheets jammed up in the narrows under Thurlow’s bridge and clanged into each other making a groaning noise. Sometimes on a moon tide the ice sheets would end up in the road serving as a reminder of a hard winter. Late spring the cattails and plants start their annual growth up and out of the peat. Birds show up, and evidence of fish. By June it’s all green and the cattails are maybe a foot high. And the river flows.

“And we walked the pagan streams in meditation and contemplation. And we didn’t need anybody, or anything.” – Van Morrison, Pagan Streams.

I start to notice that the colors of the marsh, the green and brown cattails, the blue-brown River, the mud, gets deeper and richer around now. Like a Hopper painting. Stark, defined, deep. I think this has to do with the post solstice waning angle of the sun, and the longer atmospheric run that the rays have to travel, but I am not altogether sure on that. I do know that I see a richness that comes to colors beginning about now. It triggers a melancholy feeling as it suggests a mortality to this vivacious season, a beauty abounding in color and light that foreshadows fall, the harvest, the end of this abundant season. Perhaps this too is an apt life metaphor.

“Everything dies, baby that’s a fact, but everything that dies, someday comes back” – Springsteen, Atlantic City.

And when I walk north across the causeway, toward my house, I always see Molly, walking towards me up near the bridge on the west side of the road. Bouncing in her steps as our two goldens, eager to get along the marsh themselves, pull her along on their way. And I reflexively look away and quickly contemplate  And when I look again two red winged blackbirds flicker past. Thus the river flows along this old road. And it’s OK.

I said this “Love Everblooming” tour is “all about the people” and it is. Life is. Earlier this week, a pal from college sent a few photos he found from 1986. Goofing around. Living life, with so much out there on the horizon to be chased, to be found. A sense of wonder in our eyes. Optimistic hearts. Kenny Gramas is in a few pics. The bandleader himself. We lost him to an avalanche many years ago. And we’ve lost others. We lose each other. People don’t get replaced. But their spirits walk with us. I’ve heard from and seen many good friends lately – in California, Vail, at the Darius Rucker show, Marion, Squirrel Island and places in between. So many, many good friends. Lots of laughs. And some tears. And some wistful shared but unspoken truths we have learned. We carry each other along on this wild ride we are on. Arm in arm. Shoulder to shoulder. So keep living. Let your heart dance. Maybe the angle of incidence these days makes us all seem a little richer to each other. That’s what I’m going with anyway.  I hope to see you soon.

Springsteen performed this on July 1 2000. It’s an alternate verse to end Blood Brothers, a song he wrote when he decided to reach out and get the band back together.

Now out here on this road

Out on this road tonight

I close my eyes and feel so many friends around me

In the early evening light

And the miles we have come

And the battles won and lost

Are just so many roads travelled

So many rivers crossed

And I ask God for the strength

And faith in one another

‘Cause it’s a good night for a ride

Cross this river to the other side

My blood brothers (and sisters)

About The Author

Peter Bidstrup enjoys observing and commenting on life. He writes for fun and to share his insights and questions about our world and the people and creatures that are part of it. He lives in coastal Massachusetts with his two college aged kids, Brett and Larsen and his dogs Simba and Bear. He maintains a website mollysgarden.org as well.

Image: Farrington Point, by Molly Bidstrup

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