|January 16, 2022: the last picture taken of us together|
I’ve been compiling mental lists of “lasts” lately, for instance, the last photograph taken of the two of us (above), smiling happily, blissfully ignorant of what the near future had in store. A last finished painting, last visit to the coffee house, our last good day at the cabin, and last hopeful day in the hospital. Since much of our life together, from the very start, had to do with books, naturally I see around me the last books the Artist was reading in his final days.
Last Books He Was Reading
The Book of Unusual Knowledge was a Christmas gift from one of my sisters and just the kind of compilation of esoterica that the Artist loved. (Bettie, I hope it pleases you to know that your gift pleased David!) Italy Fever was something I picked up for David in Tucson when he was recovering from his January surgery. (He had always wanted to go to Italy.) Paris Was Ours, a book he loved, is a collection of nonfiction essays, one or two of which he read aloud to me and at least one I read aloud to him. Naturally, the title speaks to my heart, also, because although we never got to Italy, we had a glorious time together in France, so we will always have Paris.
David and I have always been happy to re-read Jim Harrison’s books, and Off to the Side traveled to several Arizona hospitals with the Artist in January and February. Peter Matthiessen was another writer who was an acquaintance (it would be too much to claim him as a friend), and we had – I have – two copies of The Snow Leopard here in the cabin, a hardcover and a paperback. Born to Kvetch was something David acquired very recently (maybe on our last visit to the FOL bookstore in Sunsites?), and since he kept insisting that it was a book I would really enjoy, I have now begun to read it. As he assured me, it is much more serious than the title suggests.
Born to Kvetch and Italy Fever he had not finished when he set them aside at the time of his final hospitalization, and the same was true of The Little Prince, though I was gratified by his appreciation of the opening pages of that book I love so much. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, on the other hand, he had been carrying around for years, dipping into it on frequent occasions. When I took it to him in the hospital and apologized for bringing only one small book on that particular day, he protested that it was more than enough: “It’s a whole world!” A day or two later I took him two more books, which he set aside to open on his birthday -- and then he inscribed the Tao Te Ching to me. It was the last book he gave me. His birthday turned out to be one of the five days he was in a coma, and on the following three days (his last), when he was fully present to Maiya and me, none of us gave the slightest thought to birthday presents.
Latest Books I Have Read Since Last Listing
27. Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (fiction – YA)
28. Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia (nonfiction)
29. Siegal, Mordecai & Matthew Margolis. I Just Got a Puppy. What Do I Do? (nonfiction)
30. Charles, Janet Skeslien. The Paris Library (fiction)
31. Fraser, Laura. An Italian Affair (nonfiction)
32. Muir, John. All the World Over: Notes From Alaska (nonfiction)
33. Portes, Andrea. The Fall of Butterflies (fiction - YA)
34. Tweed, William C. King Sequoia (nonfiction)
35. Shafak, Elif. The Bastard of Istanbul (fiction)
36. Howard, Maureen. Expensive Habits (fiction)
37. Howard, Maureen. Facts of Life (nonfiction)
38. Rowlands, Penelope, ed. Paris Was Ours (nonfiction)
The Watsons and In Patagonia are books I read in Chandler, Arizona, to distract myself, first from dread, later from sorrow. I thought I would never finish the Chatwin (and that those hours would never crawl by), then wondered if I would ever be able to finish another book again in my life. Well, you see that I have, and yet there are stacks everywhere around me with bookmarks showing where I stopped before laying them aside. In at least two cases, they were books the Artist hadn’t finished reading, either. Somehow it is difficult for me to read past the point where he left off.
I always told David that he and Sarah were my most popular blog topics, much more appealing to my readers than any of my musings on books or philosophy or politics or even nature. A nature walk was fine, as long as Sarah was in it, too, but the best outdoor posts were those in which the Artist’s presence also figured. Sarah, then Peasy (“Give Pease a chance!” was the cry from my readers), but always, any chance image or utterance of my husband was guaranteed to be a hit.
|Labor Day 2021 - walking in the meadow - a beautiful day|
Now there is Sunny, one of the Artist’s last gifts to me. (There – another “last” or, in this case, “almost last,” as those squeezes of the hand during his last days were really the last and most precious gifts he gave me.) “Leave the gun, take the cannoli!” became “Forget the motorcycle, get the puppy!” So I am not absolutely alone, because Sunny Juliet is here with me, night and day.
|The puppy and I visited a friend in Tucson last week.|
|Every day is an outdoor day.|
Whether or not Sunny will be a bookstore dog remains to be seen, as she has a lot to learn and is not at all the “easy” puppy that Sarah was, by any means. For starters, unlike my last three dogs, she is a barker, with a very sharp, insistent little yap. I am hoping to train her out of the barking but have my work cut out for me and only hope the nipping and chewing is a teething stage and will, with continued encouragement, cease and desist as she grows up. And right now I have to be on the alert every minute she is awake and not crated, because the books on my shelves draw her like a magnet!
She is smart. She has almost unlimited energy. She is not a cuddler but does greet each day and each reunion with me or friends, after a night’s sleep or a quarter-hour’s separation, with happy, wiggling, kissy enthusiasm. She is a good dog. And come what may, she is my dog, for keeps. We are a pack of two. One other thing is certain: a puppy does not let a person live exclusively in the past. However tempting the memories of happy days gone by, a puppy has needs that must be met now! Yes, Sunny, mama sees you!