How far?

Scan 13

My mother’s pencil sketch of her cottage and the bay at Hadlock, Washington, leaves me thinking about the uncertainty of human distance, how far we will travel.

A question lingers in the moment of the drawing, sent to me after her death in 1979.

“12 miles?” my mother asked in her neat hand, maybe wondering on a sunny day on her porch at the shore’s edge about the distance to Port Townsend.

It’s less than 10 miles by road. But did she think of other distances that day? I am left with the question.

“12 miles?”

She died just a few years later after a move to Montana, age 49.

Her journeys were long and complex, but the time still seems short.

A friend lost a daughter last week, suddenly and too soon. He has sent friends a poem and a eulogy but I cannot fathom his loss. How can this be?

Word came of two former colleagues hospitalized, one with dementia. Another friend wrote of the death of her husband’s son.

I am awaiting more evaluations of my lung cancer. Over the weekend, I re-read John McPhee’s Basin and Range after coming across an interview in which he said cancer patients had found his discussion of geologic time helpful. Today, I started reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, which she wrote after the sudden death of her husband and her daughter falling critically ill.

I am more in awe than afraid. But the road seems so fragile, I am surprised to be a witness.

clouds, 05-11

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