Monday, August 30, 2010

Letting Go

When the weight of the past turns out not to be so heavy ...

One of the few things I wanted to collect from my sister's house after her death was a stone sculpture that had been sitting in the yard for over 30 years. A seated Buddha, it represented an ambition of peace and calm that my mother, who commissioned it, had always aspired to but never achieved.

The artist is also long gone. My friend Richard Sevigny gave it up to heart failure in the back of an emergency vehicle while he was preparing to move from what turned out to be his last home. He was just a few years into his 50's, but had lived hard and with scant regard to his health for most of his life.

He left behind a significant body of work including many drawings and paintings, and a number of other sculptures in wood, marble, and feather rock, but this was his only piece in limestone. The Buddha measured only about 20" tall but weighed a lot. I could still remember grunting as I lifted it out of my car to deliver it into my mom's yard when I was a lot younger and stronger than I am now. I was not looking forward to wrestling with it again, but it was important enough to me that I felt I had to try.

The more I thought about it, the heavier it got. I looked for my back support belt so I could protect my troublesome L4 and L5 vertebrae. I wondered if I should take some long boards so I could try to roll it up into the car if I couldn't lift it. In the end I imagined I wouldn't be able to budge it at all, that it would rest embedded in the earth as if permanently attached.

Then when I got there ... it was gone.

Not just gone as in recently stolen, but long gone. I found where it used to be, but there was not even an impression in the undergrowth to mark the spot. There was nothing to do but let it go. Just like that, the imagined weight was lifted. The only trace of it was a few photographs, as light as feathers.

In its place I brought back a whole trunk full of stuff that weighed just a few pounds: Two paintings by my grandmother, one by my sister, one by my ex-wife, a stack of family photo albums, and a metal file box full of documents.

Among these treasures were the manuscript to my dad's poetry book with his hand-written edits, a lock of my sister's hair from the age of 4, a US flag saved by my great-grandfather from the day he became a citizen, and a long manuscript in my mom's hand (she belonged to the age of beautiful penmanship) dated 1975 and titled "Who Am I?" in which she set down all her thoughts about life, identity, and religion.

Quite a trove. You never know what you'll find when you let go of the weight, real or imagined, of the past.

1 comment:

  1. Steve -- I cherish your thoughts and memories and reflections. And the fact that you are a beautiful, beautiful writer. laura