Thursday, April 8, 2010

Natural Inspiration

Where we live in Western Massachusetts our property butts up to conservancy land with oak and pine and scrub brush providing a wonderful habitat for the local wildlife. In particular, a huge old pine tree houses a hawk’s nest about 8 feet wide. We can sit in our living room and watch the hawk preen on its perch in the higher branches, and it has done wonders in keeping the chipmunk and squirrel population under control. It is a magnificent animal and I have been sketching it and planning new works. Now that the spring is bringing the buds out on the trees, the privacy is increasing and the deer are getting harder to see among the boles and brush. The red tailed fox still cross the yard as if she owns it all, looking well fed and glossy, crossing the ridge line over the stream. It is a wonderful calm space, perfect for contemplation. Natural Inspiration.

Mortality is weighing on me this week: A friend of 27 years died this past weekend. He was my age, a fellow musician and was on hand to celebrate my daughter’s birth and my first published article. When we were young he was a “fun friend,” quick to laugh and joke, and always ready for a good time. Once he took an old lion’s claw table that my Father-in-law had given us and refinished it into a beautiful cherry piece we still have in our living room today. Somehow life led him from fun times to daily drinking to a reliance on the bottle for solace, and over the years he faded into an unhappy shell of his former self. His marriage went sour and he lost the will for steady work, constantly nursing a back he injured as a young man. Over the last few years he grew into the quiet drunk who sat in the corner at the annual New Year’s celebration, and always seemed incoherently inebriated whenever one called. Friends who were able to visit him in the hospital near the end tell me he looked ancient, like a 90 year old man, badly shaved, starved and shriveled and pained from bleeding stomach ulcers. The social network has been buzzing about him the past few days, people remembering, finding old pictures of a happier time, praising his good qualities, mourning the loss. How can we measure the life? He has left only memories, an estranged ex-wife, a sister struggling to make sense of the loss and a deeply wounded Mother who has seen both her sons die early deaths.

Inevitably at times like these, one dwells on our own mortality. What will I leave behind? What is my legacy? What are my accomplishments?

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