At Shakespeare's knee did I rest for a time during one of these past precious days of respite and ease. I cannot remember the last time I merely sat and read and stared off into the gardens in search of a simile to summer. Memories bubbled up and popped with the effervescence of joy recovered from a day long ago when I first introduced my love to Sonnet 18. Under a weeping-willowed spot I recited the lines to him and he blinked back at me with a silly grin. That engineered education had escaped Shakespeare's grasp. And so I continued on, unfolding each line and nuanced message. His smile grew satisfied. And though I never saw him pluck Shakespeare for a spare moment's read, he spent many an hour woven tightly into the fabric of poetry spoken out to him from true love's heart.
Even now, passing the 24th year of marriage (which followed 5 years of lead-in to marriage), I still think of him when I reflect on those immortal words -- words penned from the heart to last as long as someone remembers them. I, being a hopelessly joyful romantic, shall carry them in my heart and be certain to etch them into as many willing hearts as will agree to carry them. For love never dies; yet when a lover fades and the memory follows something beautiful has vanished from our world. Thus I stretch out handfuls of family tales to line my children's hearts. Bouquets of details carry the essence of love from our past: Happy unions, ardent pursuits, the slog of working for years to create a place for love to grow, along with blessed births, heartbreaking events, and many, many more facets of life lived day-to-day, moment-by-moment, heartbeat-by-heartbeat.
Woven in love, these histories bear the fruit of life that fairy tales only simulate. I enjoy a good fairytale, but I soar on the wings of a true-life adventure -- messiness included. Perfection cannot stand in the stead of true love, but I select to savor the perfectly wonderful and let the rest blow away to collect and decay quietly with the promise of nourishing more beauty. Like the spent leaves of summer which protect the budding bulbs from frosty harm, these drained vessels eventually experience the metamorphosis to life-giving dust. No pain can endure when love springs forth from its midst.
Those darling buds of May selected to remain in our hearts maintain youthful exuberance despite the marching of time. Coming across old photos, the children chimed in and laughed at how "young" we looked. Gary and I looked at each other in astonishment. "Looked?" we mouthed, trusting eyes that still see those darling buds. Our eyes may have grown mature, yet the lover's vantage remains fixed on the first youthful exchange. I even came across a pic of me wearing the very outfit I sported on our first encounter: a red and black polka-dotted swing-ey skirt (of course) and a slim-fitting leotard top -- looking every bit the dancer. Long flowing locks spilled over shoulders holding a face punctuated with deep, dark eyes. The eyes of a two-left-footed young man came to rest on those dark eyes and history hiccuped. I continued to dance, read sonnets, and pen long love letters; he continued to smile. I gazed into his deep green eyes with those fabulous lashes and began a free-fall that continues to this day. What can those children mean, younger? I echo Shakespeare, "But thy eternal summer shall not fade," and keep swimming in the eyes that keep me steady in his smiling gaze.
The gentle breeze hints at summer's end. The first dried leaf to skip across the freshly-laid deck has captured the playful fancy of Mr. Bingley. He scampers, pounces, and flips as he chases the quixotic entertainment. Falling into a panting heap he watches the once-green flag of summer crisply skitter away on the winds. A cooling wind has bathed us in the most refreshing promise that we will not desiccate here in August's heat; but, it also portends of the waning of the season and all the dying to come. Yet, in those moments of melancholy when I imagine the oak tree stripped bare, I remember the icing of white that arrives so unexpectedly each year at fall's end. How we stop in awe as the fluffy iridescence coats each barren branch with splendor. Then my mind races ahead remembering the silky catkins that burst forth overnight and carpet the gardens with chenille softness that cries "Spring."
Today a whirlwind of summer's breath swirls the early falling leaves and ignites my anticipatory joy at scraping the barren soil and placing the bulging bulbs of promise deep within the earth on a warm fall afternoon. I shall breathe deeply the woodsmoke in the air and the hint of rain that I pray covers my newly bedded beauties. Spring looms far in the future beyond a chasm of quiet in the gardens, but the memories I nourish sustain me as I await the first yellow flags of the forsythia and narcissus, the initial purpled appearance of a crocus carpet, and on the menu continues of swelling buds of spring.
A life of hope lifts the dreariest day and infuses it with a magical sparkle. All those years ago I saw that same sparkle in the green-eyed gaze of a fellow sojourner. We stepped together and set off. We had no destination marked out, for we knew instinctively that the journey held the joy. I know not how far we have come along the finite path, but I do know that as long as the memory of those darling dancing buds cascades down upon me our eternal summer shall not fade. And though we dance in the shadow of death, our steps shall not lag. The music will play on ...
* * * * * * * * * * *
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.