Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Ninety-Eight Candles

There is a certain elegance about numbers particularly when your checkbook balances or your four digit pin opens the vault at the ATM machine. However we also know that numbers are a fiction. As for Peggy’s 98th birthday coming up on Thursday, May 2nd, it is the supreme fiction.

When we became a number she was a few months away from age sixty. I was forty-eight but never imagined how she would knock off a year every birthday while I have entered my late innings. It’s the difference between wine and cheese.

True, her architecture has bent, hair thinned, sound muffled but this is all superficial wrapping. Her spirit has never left the mind of summer. It charges the air, bursts like bulbs of wildflowers, communes with horses, purples her hair, and flabbergasts the page. Her daily poems articulate that wide embrace of life with an insistence of hope piercing the dread.

Six years ago when Peggy broke her hip she spend a couple of months in a rehab facility. Most people would count the days till they scale the walls and blow the joint. Peggy regarded it as a cruise ship to nowhere and wrote poems for all the care-givers and physical therapists. 

I think it was on our first weekend together we were driving around Santa Monica when Peggy told me about a favorite book she had read by Aldo Leopold called, Sand County Almanac. We came upon a yard sale and she suggested we take a look. Maybe they have that book, she said. I silently scoffed but sure enough there it was as if only eleven books had ever been written and why wouldn’t it be there. I knew then I was blessed with a mysterious woman who expands possibilities, who conjures what she calls to mind.

Peggy repairs a fractured, cacophonous world. In her Joseph Cornell-like boxes, in her collages, in her poems she brings together the often disparate pieces. The operative word is connectivity. She drags in palm fronds and bamboo bark, pods and stones, shards and shells. She keeps what she calls commonplace books (now up to number twelve) containing anything on paper which has captured her gaze… ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, business cards, menus, quotes, magazine images, faces, etc… However there is much more than her resumé.

Her Art is on a continuum with her Self. Put her in an elevator and she’s made connections with fellow passengers in the space of three floors. Find her in a waiting room and the woman in the next chair becomes her newest dear friend. Relationship comes with its risk of rejection, one that Peggy willingly takes. There is a safe harbor in her welcoming eyes. 

All this doesn’t quite capture her essence which eludes words. She enthuses life as it shows up and returns to those within reach her touch, her generosity.

If on a dark night a ship has lost its way let it navigate by the light coming from the room where Peggy's poetry shines with the incandescence of ninety-eight candles. 

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