by Nexis Pas
And I said, Let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day.
–Patrick Kavanaugh, ‘Raglan Road,’ 1946
(sung to the tune of the classic Irish
song ‘Fáinne Gael an Lae’)
In the early morning light, the cold ocean stretched grey to the north horizon. On that autumn day, the long waves rolling past me toward the head of Sheephaven Bay barely lifted the water, as if the sea were too thick and heavy to move. The bus taking the children to school in Letterkenny had awakened me while it was still dark. Their voices as they waited in the old market square and then the protest of the engine as the driver shifted gears and eased the bus up the winding road out of Dunfanaghy carried clear and distinct across the harbour that separates our house from the village. Sounds that I would not notice amid the noise outside my home in Brighton disquiet my sleep here, where the bleating of a solitary sheep against the background of the waves is enough to perturb the night. A short time later, when a group of hikers chattering about birds walked past the house along the road to Horn Head, I abandoned all hope of sleep and got out of bed. Without turning on the lights, I made coffee for myself. I pulled on one of the heavy woollen coats that always hang from pegs in the passageway and then carried my cup outside to stand by the low wall behind the house. The steam from the cup mingled with the mist in the air.
Fáinne geal an lae, the ‘bright ring of the day’, the ancient Irish kenning for the dawn, was apt that morning. The low clouds closed off the sky except in the east, and the first hint of the sunrise was a narrow crown of light along the tops of the hills on the east side of Sheephaven Bay. Shapes slowly emerged from the darkness as the daylight grew around me. I wedged the cup into a hollow in the top of the uneven stone wall and looked down the hill toward the shore. A lone razorbill skimmed the surface of the sea below me and then merged with the water.
I seldom visit Dunfanaghy any more. My sister and her husband and their children and now their grandchildren use the house as their summer home, and I find them too much company. Once, perhaps twice, each summer, I yield and spend a weekend with them. The phone will ring, and that voice that sounds so eerily like my mother’s will entreat, ‘It is after all your house too, Ross, and family is important. The children deserve a chance to know you.’ And so I take the car ferry from Holyhead and then drive to Donegal, and for two days observe the formalities of affection. I listen sympathetically to my sister’s fond tales of her irritating students and nod sagely at my brother-in-law’s accounts of his business. I pretend an interest in the lives of my nieces and nephews. I chaperone their young children on walks along Killahoey Strand and then ooh and aah at the treasures they find on the sand. I accompany my sister and her husband as they play a round of golf. I like the exercise if not the game, and it gets me away from the house. The air in the house on those weekend visits is dense with noise. It feels like a pressure surrounding my head and pushing into me. Someone is always talking, and the radio or television or the children’s CD players are always on–occasionally all of them at once. I am glad to flee on Monday morning into the silence of my car and the drive back to Brighton.
This stone house with its slate roof has been in my family for generations now. Over time, it grew from a crofter’s hovel to its present dimensions as my family moved up in the world. It is the usual Irish country box, with a door in the centre of the ground floor, three windows to each side of the door matched by a roughly parallel row of windows on the floor above, and chimneys in the centre of both ends. My great-grandparents were the last to live in it permanently. My grandparents and then my parents used it as a summer retreat, leaving it in the hands of a caretaker the rest of the year. My parents had the builders in when they retired in the mid-1970s and modernised the place. Before that the accommodations were still fairly primitive.
We spent every summer there when I was growing up. The house stands a mile or so north of Dunfanaghy above the long beach of the Strand, facing eastward with an unobstructed view across Sheephaven Bay to the opposite shore. I loved the freedom of the place when I was young but grew to resent those visits mightily when I became a teenager. In my view, I was being kidnapped from what I was learning to see as the delights of London and forced to spend my holidays in the ‘back of beyond’, a deserted land with more sheep than people, and no one my age except a few ignorant children who qualified as teenagers only by virtue of their years, spoke in an impenetrable accent and giggled whenever I said anything.
Inevitably, every spring, my father or mother would mention that ‘soon we will be in Dunfanaghy and breathing clean air again’. For my parents, the village was a welcome haven from the modern world and its confusions, a simpler, purer place that allowed them to renew themselves. I dreaded those summers as endless weeks of boredom with nothing to do except watch the days creep by. In retaliation I buried myself in books and pointedly ignored their enthusiastic advice to commune with nature. As far as I was concerned, the ‘fresh air’ I was always being counselled to enjoy was a danger to my well being, and it would require weeks of London pollution to restore my lungs to their natural state. I think I owed my success on the A levels to all the hours I stubbornly spent lying on my bed reading instead of improving myself by hiking and bird watching.
Now that I am older, I have learned to love the place again. But I prefer to stay there when I can be alone, in the spring or autumn, when the only sounds are those that come from a distance and my only company is the past and faded words spoken years ago and surviving only in my memory.
‘If you want birds, you should visit Horn Head in Donegal. There are thousands of them there.’
Andrew and Damian turned to look at me from where they sat farther down the table in our college hall. They had been noisily discussing their plans for the break at the end of Lent Term and speculating whether they would be able to find birds in sufficient numbers and varieties to justify the trouble of getting to the different spots that had been proposed. Damian’s voice irritated me, and his self-assured statements always grated on me. I had had plenty of opportunities to hear them during the three years we had been in the same college. He was fond of braying his opinions loudly and decisively.
Damian slowly turned his head to face in my general direction as if trying to locate the source of the comment, a look of disdain on his face. ‘Good lord, perhaps I am only imagining it, but I do believe I heard Kennaleigh speak. He so seldom violates the vow of silence he has so wisely imposed upon himself that one almost forgets that he is capable of speech. And in something approaching English. One has to wonder, however, on what ornithological experience he might draw to make such an assertion. Did he perhaps see a budgerigar in a cage on a trip to the ancestral bog?’ Damian’s friends rewarded his sarcasms with raucous laughter.
‘I can assure you that there are indeed millions of birds on Horn Head, including some very rarae aves indeed. I have spent many fascinating hours watching them when the family has been visiting my uncle’s estate on Inishowen. We once spotted a Greater Seidenberg Plumed Goshawk at Horn Head. You would be wise to pay more attention to Mr Kennaleigh. It has been my experience that although he seldom speaks, he always does so to great purpose–a habit you would be wise to cultivate, Mr Abbot.’ Damian’s head swivelled to respond to the speaker, but whatever retort he may have planned died on his lips when he saw who was speaking. David FitzHugh Saint-John ignored him and addressed his next comments to me.‘I wonder, Ross, if I can persuade you to take a break from your studies and join me in my room for a drink. It will just be a few of our friends.’ The mellifluous voice floated above the table, silencing all the after-dinner noise.
The ‘our’ was stretching it. David Saint-John and I rarely spoke to each other outside class discussions. Certainly we had no acquaintances in common that could be referred to as ‘our friends’. David stood on the other side of the table looking at me with the warmest of smiles.
I answered in kind. ‘Of course, David, it is always a pleasure.’ I closed the book I had been reading and pushed my chair back. I must admit that I found no small pleasure in the satisfying snap with which the book shut. Sometimes I surprise myself by rising to an occasion with élan. As David strolled beside me out of the hall, he began reminiscing in his clear, carrying voice about the Greater Seidenberg Plumed Goshawk. Both of us contained our laughter until the doors to the hall had closed behind us and we were standing in the quad.
‘And what is a Greater Seidenberg Plumed Goshawk?’
‘I haven’t the slightest idea. It does sound impressive, though, doesn’t it? I hope it takes Damian and Andrew several hours of consulting bird guides to find out that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. It would serve them right. I was once taken as a child to see the bird colonies on Horn Head and that experience convinced me that it was wiser to avoid the messy creatures entirely. And where are you going?’
I turned back from the walkway that led to the annex where I lived. ‘To my room.’
‘Nonsense. You have agreed to have a drink with me. Our friends will never forgive me if I fail to deliver you.’
‘But I need to finish this.’ I held up the book I had been reading.
‘Then you can finish it in my rooms. I will sit quietly and watch you as you read, occasionally replenishing your glass as you peruse that tome and heedlessly and unappreciatively swallow the moderately good plonk I am about to pour you.’
‘Plonk of any quality is wasted on me. And you will get tired of watching me. And your friends will get bored.’
‘The wine will not be wasted on me, and even you, my rustic and ignorant bog dweller, will like it. And I never tire of watching beauty. And I have already dismissed my friends. They are unworthy of your company.’ And with a grand flourish of an arm, David indicated the path to his staircase.
I raised my eyes to his. ‘You don’t have to do this.’
‘Indeed, I do not. But it pleases me to do it. I’ve been trying to get up the courage to speak to you for three years. And now that I have rescued you from that petty snob, you can hardly be so churlish as to refuse to grant me the reward I desire.’
‘The courage to speak to me?’
‘Yes. You are a devilishly hard person to meet, Ross Kennaleigh. You are so seldom without a book in front of your face. I have tried ever so many stratagems to attract your attention and draw your eyes away from the words that seem to engross you so totally. I have even contemplated the study of . . .’–David bent over to look at the title of the book I was reading–‘Good lord. I never knew people read such books. The Linen Tax and the Formation of the Merchant Taylors’ Company? You would prefer the company of the merchant taylorsto the pleasures of a bottle of my most excellent claret and my sparkling conversation? Nay, nay, gentle scholar. Do not shrug your shoulders at me and look as if you want to escape. It is your duty to lift the veil of ignorance that surrounds my knowledge of the role of the linen tax in English history. If only you allow me to gaze upon your comely face as you help repair my sinful neglect of the subject, I promise to attend upon every word that issues from those wonderfully full, firm, masculine lips of yours. Besides we must not disappoint Damian. I am looking forward to regaling the breakfast table with my newly acquired knowledge of the linen tax. I shall relate how you kept us all enthralled with your account of the subject.’
‘But I’m not at all entertaining.’
‘It is not necessary for Adonis to be entertaining. All he has to do is be. Come, make a mortal happy. It is the only worthy gift a god can bestow.’
‘But I don’t qualify for that name. You do, but not me.’
‘Well, yes, it is true that I am an Adonis, and, being one, Ican recognise others of my ilk. And you are one.’
‘By that argument, if I were one, then I, too, would be able to recognise myself as one.’
‘Hmm, very clever.’ David tapped a finger across his mouth. ‘I am sure that there is a flaw in your logic. We shall have to discuss this question. Need a beautiful object know that it is beautiful in order to be beautiful? Now, you must join me in my room so that we can debate the issue.’
I ignored David’s last comments and returned to a discussion that gave me firmer grounds for avoiding his invitation. ‘Adonis wasn’t a god. He was naught but an up an’ cummin’ lad wot made good and boffed the boss god’s dau’ter and sis.’ When I was younger, I often resorted to broad dialect to cover the shyness that overcame me when I felt uncomfortable.I needed the mask of another personality as a shield. The reasons for David’s interest had become apparent to me. It wasn’t that I hadn’t occasionally let my thoughts drift in the same direction and looked upon people like David with a sort of speculative curiosity, a ‘What if he were interested too?’ But I wasn’t sure how serious David was, and I didn’t want to risk a rebuff by revealing by revealing my growing hunger for him. I was also worried that if we did end up in bed together, my lack of experience would result in a disaster and that he would dismiss me with scorn and derision.
‘Classics and economic history.’ David gave a theatrical sigh. ‘I have so much to learn. It will take years of constant tutoring. We shall begin tonight. And you are wrong about not being Adonis. If there is one thing I do know, it is . . .’ He stopped and looked at me soberly. ‘‘I’m babbling like a character in bad schooldays novel. I only do that when I am nervous. I’m sorry. Look, I won’t pressure you but, please, come have a glass of wine with me. I promise I won’t be foolish. Just one glass and some conversation. When you finish, you can leave if you like, and I’ll stop hinting that I want to tear your clothes off and ravish you. I’m really quite harmless.’ He grinned at me and tried to look innocent.
‘I don’t have many clothes, so please don’t rip them off me.’
‘What if I promise to remove them carefully and drape them neatly over a chair?’
‘As long as you don’t think me insensitive if I read in bed while you ravish me.’
‘Oh, Ross, do not toy with me.’
‘What if I take you very seriously?’
‘Then all will be well. It’s time that someone began taking me seriously. I am tired of playing the clown.’ David put his hand on the small of my back and with a light pressure began guiding me to his rooms. He turned his head to look at me. ‘You surprise me, Mr Kennaleigh. It’s another thing to like about you.’
David and I talked for hours that night about ourselves and our lives and our hopes. We were still young enough to think that words alone are enough to give castles in the air a solid footing on the ground. I never opened the book on the Merchant Taylors’ Company. We actually didn’t even drink that much. We sat on the floor with our backs against his bed and our legs extended across the rug. After a few hours he turned out the light. The noise of the traffic in the street outside his back window gradually died. Until midnight or so the sound of a someone’s footsteps on the staircase would occasionally interrupt our murmurings. After that we had the world to ourselves.
At one point, I confessed my lack of sexual experience and my worries about that.
‘We will find you a book to read on the subject.’
‘I don’t think there are any books for men alone, maybe for men and women but not for just men.’
‘Then we shall have to write one. We will study the topic closely and thoroughly. I think for now we should leave the chapter on approaching one’s prospective partner to me. “The Initial Contact” we shall entitle it. You will write the next chapter, “The Seduction: Tips for the Beginner”. I suspect you will do quite well with that.’ David continued on that vein, outlining the contents of the book. I joined the game and began proposing other chapters. We chortled with glee, each trying to invent an even more ridiculous subject.
When we had exhausted the topic, we sat there quietly for a while. Eventually David broke the silence. ‘I don’t have much experience either. At least not the type of experience that counts.’
‘Any experience would be more than I have.’
‘Oh, I’ve had sex a few times. I’m not talking about that. I meant experience with a more serious relationship. The kind where your partner does read in bed. I think I’m ready for that.’ He floated that idea rather tentatively, as if trying it out on me.
‘What else would one do in bed except read or sleep?’
‘Hmmm. I can see that the book will require a lot of research.’
Later he put an arm across my shoulders and drew closer to me. Very late in the night, I drifted off to sleep, with my head on David’s shoulder. I awoke as David was gently easing me off his body so that he could stand up. And that is how the morning found us. Stiff from sitting on the floor, resting against each other. I was the happiest I have ever been in my life. I think David felt the same way, but I was afraid to ask him then for fear that he might not regard me in the same light I was beginning to regard him.
‘I didn’t take your clothes off and ravish you.’ He reached a hand down to help me stand. ‘I do apologise for failing in myduties as a host. This is what happens when someone takes me seriously. I talk too much.’
‘Oh you ravished me. Many many times.’
David looked at me sardonically. ‘Was it as good for you as it was for me? I suppose now that you’ve had your way with me, you’ll lose all respect for me.’
‘I . . .’ Then I did something I had never done to anyone. I gathered David into my arms and kissed him. And following that we did take our clothes off, and we didn’t waste any time draping them neatly over a chair.
Later that day, David sought out Damian Abbot and shook his hand while thanking him effusively. David’s arch and elliptical expressions of gratitude must have mystified Damian.
Our lives depend so much on chance. The most important thing that ever happened to me started because I broke into a conversation and was snubbed. If David had left the hall a minute earlier or later, he wouldn’t have been walking past and overheard the exchange between Damian and me. We probably would have finished out our third year without speaking and then never seen each other again. But David’s behaviour that evening was typical. He hated cruelty of any sort, and he never lacked the courage to be kind.
‘I do believe that is the elusive Greater Seidenberg Plumed Goshawk.’ David pointed at the small bird pecking at the flagstones in the small yard behind our house in Dunfanaghy. We had decided to spend the break between terms in Ireland. Since his uncle’s house had more amenities, we were sleeping and eating there. But we frequently stopped by my parents’ house and opened the shutters and camped out there for the day. That afternoon was warm for the time of year, and I had pulled one of the lawn chairs from the garage and set it up so that I could read outside. David had wandered down to the beach to make some sketches. From time to time, I stood up and looked over the stone wall and watched him as he ambled about, stopping every few feet to examine the pools of water along the shore. Occasionally he would open his sketchbook and draw something. Even from the distance, I could see the wind ruffling his hair. The light caught at it and turned it russet. When he returned, he stopped beside me and ran his thumb along the line of my jaw.
‘I’m almost certain it’s a sparrow,’ I said.
‘Not a Goshawk?’
The two of us examined the bird closely. In turn, it tilted its head and eyed us suspiciously, appraising us for any possible danger to itself before it returned to its hunt for seeds. ‘Now that I look more closely, I think it may be a Spitzenberg Plumed Goshawk. In fact, I’m sure it is. It’s a close relative of the Greater Seidenberg Plumed Goshawk and is often mistaken for it.’ The bird decided it had enough of our speculations and flew away.
David laughed and then leaned against the wall and looked out over the bay. ‘This place is so special. I wish we didn’t have to leave on Wednesday and go back. I could stay here forever.’
‘You will have your sketches to remember it by. How did your drawings turn out by the way?’
He picked up the pad of drawing paper from the top of the wall. It was held together by a spiral of wire at the top. He flipped back the bright yellow cover and paged through the sheets until he found the one he wanted and then handed the open booklet to me. I examined the meticulous pencil drawings filling the page. He had recorded a tuft of sea grass blowing in the breeze, an outcropping of shale, a chipped and broken shell half buried in the sand. The village was rendered in an abstract panorama of lines that somehow captured how it looked better than a more realistic drawing might have. ‘I envy you this ability.’ I held a finger over an image of the backside of a wave and, without touching the paper, traced its outline in the air. Because of the shape of Sheephaven Bay, the waves sweep in from the North Atlantic. On most days, they pass almost perpendicular to anyone standing on the shore on the long sides of the bay. Looking southward from our house, you can see the backsides of the waves rolling away from you and then cresting and breaking on the beach to the east of Dunfanaghy.
‘Those waves are so magnificent. The way they stretch across the bay and only break along the ends until they hit that beach there. It’s as if there is this tremendous energy in the sea, and every hundred feet or so, it rolls through the water.’
‘Those are the swells.’ He lifted an eyebrow to query me. ‘The little waves are called the seas. They’re formed locally. The swells are the long-distance waves. They travel across the ocean.’
‘God moving over the face of the waters.’
‘Ah, at last I have found something I know and you don’t. In the Bible, before the creation, it is written that the breath of god moved over the face of the waters. You can see how those waves, those “swells” as you would have it, could serve as an image of the power of god. It’s an ancient mystery, the force in the waters.’
‘My grandfather once told me that the waves come all the way from the North Pole and that Donegal is the first land they encounter. They become so large because the wind has so much distance to work on them and build them up.’
‘Mr Kennaleigh, you are the most unpoetic Irishman I have ever met. You are determined to be rational. I offer you a gift of poetry and you hand me prose. “Mad Ireland” will apparently never “hurt you into poetry”.’ He faced the bay and, arms flung wide, declaimed, ‘Say rather that the waves are fortunate to break on the shores of Ireland. But none so fortunate as I to have found this blessed land and a man who knows the difference between a swell and a sea.’ He embraced the entire scene before us and hugged it to himself. Then he turned to smile at me.
‘Argh, what a tongue yon daft laddie has on him. It’s enough to addle a man’s heart.’ I started to hand the tablet back to him when a puff of wind briefly lifted the topmost sheet. I could see that the next sheet held another drawing. I turned the page and found a picture of myself sitting in the lawn chair reading, with a few faint lines suggesting the wall of the house behind me. ‘When did you do this?’ I was filled with a sudden great fierce overwhelming joy at the discovery that David had drawn a picture of me.
‘Just now. When I was walking along the beach.’
‘But you couldn’t see me. How could you draw a picture of me?’
‘When I started down the hill, I turned back to look at you. And when I was walking, I thought about you, and the image of you sitting here reading came to me. I had to draw it. It was so strong in my mind. I felt I had to record it.’
‘May I have it? Please.’
‘But it’s just a sketch. You can see a more accurate image of yourself in the mirror.’
‘It isn’t that. It’s, it’s that it’s something by you. Will you sign it for me?’
David found a pencil in a pocket and took the tablet from me. He set it atop the stone wall and began writing.
‘What are you writing? It shouldn’t take this long to sign your name.’ I sat up higher in the chair in an attempt to see what David was doing. He turned the pad away from me so that I couldn’t watch him write.
‘Patience, Mr Kennaleigh, patience. I have a very long name. It took ever so long to christen me.’ He finished with a flourish and handed the pad back to me so that I could read the inscription.
‘To a constant reader from his constant lover, John Michael David Lionel FitzHugh Kennaleigh Saint-John.’
‘It is a recent addition. It is a name I have chosen for myself. “Kennaleigh Saint-John” has a pleasing rhythm, don’t you think? But perhaps you prefer “Saint-John Kennaleigh”?’
I couldn’t speak. We stared at each other. After a minute David spoke:‘You’re crying.’
I suddenly became aware that tears were running down my face. They felt both hot and cold in the wind as they furrowed my face. I nodded my head yes and started to wipe them away. David reached over and grasped my hand to stop me.
‘Don’t. Let them be. They are beautiful. You are beautiful.’
I finally found my voice although my throat was closed tight with emotion. ‘You make me feel beautiful.’
That conversation took place forty-eight years ago. David died two years ago last month. In the measured words of his obituary in the papers, he ‘passed away after a long and valiant struggle’, the customary euphemism of his tribe for a death from cancer or some other debilitating disease. A record of his accomplishments and honours followed. The only departure from the conventions came in the listing of the names of his survivors. At his mother’s insistence, the first person named was ‘his long-time and much-loved partner, Ross Kennaleigh.’
I was with David when he died. The hospital had tried to exclude me because I wasn’t ‘family’ only to be met with an imperious ‘Don’t be ridiculous’ from his older brother. ‘Of course, Ross is family.’ David’s last words to me were ‘thank you’. I had performed some trifling service for him as he lay in the hospital bed, and he grasped my hand in his and squeezed it briefly. He had to manoeuvre his arm through all the tubes attached to him to reach me.
I can still feel the touch of his fingers. He was so weak by that point, and his hand was dry and thin. The touch of the husk of someone I loved, someone I wanted desperately to be a stranger. I try to remember him as he looked that day when he stood where I am standing now, leaning against the wall behind the house in Dunfanaghy. When he was young and alive and vibrant and I first knew that he was as in love with me as I was with him. But that memory is often overwritten by the old man he became in hospital, his face drawn taut, the shiny pink scalp with large spots of brown showing through his sparse and brittle hair, the brightness falling from his eyes.
And I mourned.
David’s death made me a stranger even to myself. An automaton took over my body and went through the motions of life. It attended his funeral and spoke one of the eulogies. It helped David’s family sort through his things. After a week, it returned to work. It endured and accepted with as much dignity as it could muster the inarticulate expressions of regret that were hurriedly cast toward it, the swiftly spoken and embarrassed reactions of those who felt they had to say something but didn’t quite know what form of sympathy to offer the ‘long-time partner’.
But nothing anyone says can ever help. No words could fill the enormous blank vacant emptiness at the middle of my life. Nor did I want them to. I cherished my soundless grief and held it to myself. It was as if my sorrow were the only thing left to me of David.
Inside, silence, complete and total silence. The ancient poetry ended, prose splintered,words floundered, stripped of the possibility of meaning. Time stopped in anguish and regret at the futility of it all. Sorrow became my old friend. I feared that if I let it go, nothing of me would remain. If I let my grief go, David and I would disappear and no one would remember us.
But once the inadequate words of consolation have been spoken, one is expected to move on and not burden others with the necessity of sympathising. The proprieties had been observed, and the survivor was supposed to get on with his life and restore our common pretence that there is no death. And the person who inhabited my body when I was with others mastered my emotions and kept them locked inside. I quickly relearned the amiable habits of sociability. In public, David became someone I could speak of again and refer to in the past tense, without the threat of unsettling tears. But I would awake alone in the middle of the night raging with mindless anger, at David’s death, at his betrayal, at his desertion. Everything reminded me of his absence. Better never to have loved than to have loved like this.
And then David healed me, as he had so many times during our life together. Last Wednesday, for the first time since his death, I awoke feeling calm and, if not content, at least aware that contentment was again a possibility. I lay there in my bed watching the wind stir the curtains in the open window. I could smell the ocean. It was such a strange feeling, something that I hadn’t felt in so long, that I was at a loss to account for it. And then came the memory, vague at first but growing stronger and stronger, that I had been dreaming of David, David standing against a wall overlooking the sea and stopping me from wiping away my tears. And I knew I had to return to Dunfanaghy once more and finally bury David. Not to forget him, but to let go and let him be dead. To remember him, and to honour those memories, all of them, both good and bad. But to stop disfiguring his memory with my wanton, selfish grief. He deserves more, much more from me. He deserves someone brave enough to tell him ‘thank you’ for everything he gave and to, at last, cease wanting more.
And so I stand by an ancient stone wall, as waves that began with a wind blowing over distant waters roll past me and break upon the land. And I do not grieve. The joy that I was privileged to share for so many years swells inside me and lifts me up, into the bright ring of the day, into the uncreated light.