Peggy had me promise to say that word, die, when the time came. She didn’t pass on or slip away or go to a better place on the other shore. This was the grounded poet, Peggy, who abhorred euphemisms. She was, at the same time, a poet of risky leaps and flight, author of a children's album, a novelist and artist of collages and constructions in the manner of Joseph Cornell.
Then there was the romantic Peggy who dwelled on an image of a white horse in a library which she recently saw in the T.V series, Pursuit of Love. Her life was all about seeking love and finding it. Love and beauty. If it wasn’t there, she created it. The white horse was her totem. We managed to find one on every trip, even if the horse turned out to be a llama.
Our apartment has long been a library of signed first editions, contemporary and 19th century literature, letters and bios of poets and their work, pop-up books, crazy illustrated ones, heavy-duty philosophy (Wittgenstein) which she gobbled up, physics and astronomy which fascinated her. She loved books for their physicality, their smell and their paper. Our rooms contained running conversations among the shelves.
When Peggy and I met she was sixty and I, forty-eight yet I knew she was younger than I with more juice, more buoyancy and capaciousness for life. Of course we had no offspring but I console myself knowing we did bring something new into this world which sprung out of our union.
She did indeed live in the moment but it was a most elongated one which defied calendars and clocks. She had little regard for the date or year something happened, as I do, because she thought in terms of eternal verities which gave the finger to time itself. It can take a lifetime to become a child. She lived her wisdom with astonished eyes.
We traveled abroad over a dozen times and always took wrong turns or missed spokes on roundabouts. Yet we never got lost because everywhere was a destination with her. She made the unexpected her habitat.
Peggy was a world-class finder. She was a founder of the Valley Center of Art. She spotted art in a discarded key chain, a hard-boiled egg, the way a tube of toothpaste was squeezed or the juxtaposition of a pencil with peach. She found me and we founded a wondrous life. Peggy ennobled the overlooked.
I suppose we all have our own dark forest we either ignore or enter. Peggy was intrepid and she somehow transformed that mysterious place into a safe unknown for me.
Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety. Shakespeare had a way with words. I think he had Peggy in mind. Her life could have gone off the rails, many times. Six months in a convent, then orphaned at eight, unmarried with a baby, and many times rescued. With each fraught situation she licked around the thorn to find the rose.
Her mantra was, No Resistance. And so, she found her river’s current and all its tributaries. There was in her an inner alignment with the flow and a trust in her boat and its rudder.
Our life together has been a sumptuous rowing in Eden, oar to oar, making a banquet of forbidden fruit, lips to nectar, squeezing from life all its yield and cheering the garden to overthrow its walls.
Peggy’s life as a poet was much more than pages of Thursday words. That was just the trace of it. It was in her being. How she met the day and seeded so many of us in ways that affirm, without end, our brief candle.