Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow*

Shadows of white loom outside my window, wispy specters in the dawn light filtering through the trees. Closer inspection reveals them to be not early Halloween ghosts but a protection of sheets over the vegetable garden. A frost warning last night prompted us to abruptly change gears and burst into a flurry of activity to save the last gasps of our produce: the goodness of warm sunshine wrapped in tiny cherry tomatoes, slender string beans and the most prolific pepper harvest of recent memory. We want to enjoy it all before we let it go.

Like most people I always have a to-do list or, more truthfully, multiple lists. Making the list is never a problem, it’s the crossing items off where I get bogged down. Take for example my office reorganization. I have a plan, a checklist of actions, and then there is reality. Inside my office are files and piles, the recordings of complete project work from start to finish, the inklings and images of work yet to do and the supplies and research materials needed for that work. They lay there mute a lot of the time and I can just close the door on them and turn my attention to the more vocal of life’s pressing responsibilities, at least until a deadline calls. Living matter over inert! Often this is the broadest brush spurring me to action, a nurturer’s triage of choices.
Cleaning the closet is another of the to-do items that frosty mornings force into awareness. The prospect of changing over the closet contents from warm weather to cold can prompt the filtering of good intentions through the dictates of those who vigilantly guard against clutter turning into hoarding.

We can choose to “Discard it, donate it or take a picture of it if you can’t completely let go.” Maybe these exhortations are an act of contrition for excess, and of course that’s ok. How do you feel about ownership of things? Are you more of a sentimentalist? Do you like symbolism and feel comforted by things that hold memories? Can a fraying sweater be something that keeps you warm and represents your honeymoon destination, a symbol of love and commitment? Pragmatism is ok, too. It’s a luxury anyone can indulge in. Working to put food on the table and provide necessities doesn’t rule it out. By all means go minimal if that’s your desire. Or maybe a windblown bird’s nest brought indoors by a child can sit on the porch until it crumbles, representing the joy of discovery and the impulse to lovingly share. Conversely the item that reminds you of a friendship gone down in flames should not torment you any further!!
Inundated as we all are with advice and marketing strategies for everything from dish soap to political positions, often the wisdom of keeping one’s own counsel goes by the wayside. Step away from the newsletters and broadcasts and even your list-making and instead take a moment or two to listen to the sound of your own breathing. Pause to feel the ground under your feet. Visualize the sights and sounds of a favorite destination, recall a particularly stirring piece of music or the soaring feeling of mastering a jump shot or a tennis serve. Take comfort in the intangible, it will lead you to your roots.


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All photos Claire Mauro


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