We drove north on Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Ojai yesterday. Passing through the familiar stretch above the Ventura county line. The mottled cloud cover turned the ocean a flat leaden gray, and drained all the color out of the landscape. The hills dry and sere, clumps of brown and grey grasses dotted the rocky slopes. The only color was the deep green of the toyon bushes, but even they looked drained and tired. Blackened, twisted skeletons of Manzanita testified to recent fires, ashes and chunks of charcoal spread across the ground gave everything a surreal quality. This is what Mordor must look like. The stark bleakness of the vista matched the bleakness of my thoughts. We are spending a few days at the house of a friend, trying to eke out a bit of solace amidst the maelstrom of recent weeks. But we take our sorrow with us. There is no escape. Last night, at dinner, tears flowed suddenly as we talked about how best to honor Jake’s memory. A scholarship? Fruit trees in Israel? A reading program somewhere? Books? Perhaps all of them. His interests were so diverse and passionate.
This morning as I write, we sit outside in the warm winter sun. Huge old oaks tower overhead, a citrus orchard lies just beyond the weathered chain-link fence, blue sky overhead streaked with wispy high cirrus clouds. Rufous-sided Towhees scratch in the litter beneath the grapefruit tree, Acorn Woodpeckers hammer at the tall palms by the edge of the property. Little flycatchers, titmouse, wrens, and white-crowned sparrows go about their business unconcerned for the greater cares of the world. A hummingbird flits by, iridescent crimson at its throat and crown. Is that you Jake?
We now try to take whatever minute pleasures wherever and whenever we can. We are able to smile for a moment here and there. We can even laugh from time to time, but underneath it all is that bewilderment. Is this all real? Is this really happening? And of course, to our immense sorrow, it is. I have read some writings recently of people who have also lost children. Last night from a woman who lost her son 10 years ago. I got a glimpse of what is in store for us. She used a similar analogy to one I have written about.
It’s like smashing a priceless china teacup to smithereens on a stone floor. (She used a crystal vase.) Thousands of minuscule fragments lie scattered across the floor, some dust, some jagged shards with bits of colored glaze barely recognizable. Try to put it back together. An impossible task. Some of the pieces are missing, how do you glue dust back together? And even if you can get it reassembled into a semblance of a teacup, it will never hold tea again. There are holes where you couldn’t find the missing piece and the tea leaks out. The glue fails, and the cup falls apart again and again. But for whatever reason, you persist in putting it back together as best you can. This simplest of acts becomes a Herculean task. We must learn to drink whatever we can from this damaged cup. It will never be full, never be the same.