A step at a time

For Michèle

I.

We load the car with your grief and mine

Two suitcases and the guitar

Destination: far from here

Far from the loss, far from her fur, her smell, her unsustainable sad gaze

Far from her ashes, far from the agony of playing God by putting her to sleep

“Drive fast,” I plead

Let’s outpace the pain

I open the windows, let the sorrow fly out

II.

We arrive in Tuscany

Beauty restores the broken souls, consoles the dismayed

I take hold of the region’s distinctive palette

A colour at a time, we add life to your canvas and mine

We borrow gold from sunset vineyards

And add a brushstroke of olive green from the hanging fruit in the grove

We take a splash of blue from the swimming pool’s dancing waters

We play with the cherry red, the yellow lemon and the tangerine

The finished canvases delight us

III.

We abandon ourselves to the company of long-time friends, where we know we are safe

Safe to be vulnerable, to laugh, to share, to reminisce

Let their warmth comfort us

Safe to let go

Every night we gather around dinner to see the moon come out

Michèle adds love to every fine meal

Philippe, the grand provider, pours the wine

Wouter teaches us to recognize Saturn and Jupiter, it’s about time

Francis plays Bach preludes on his guitar, and Manuel de Falla and Albéniz

Margreet tells us how in 1943, at age five, she walked with her father through Nazi-occupied Amsterdam,

She held tight to her Dad’s hand, as he struggled to explain the inexplicable

Fanny and Charlotte remind us how beautiful it is to have your life ahead of you, and how scary

IV.

After a few days, not yet ready to drive home, we make a detour to Cinque Terre

Vernazza, a God-created town so beautiful it feels like a slap in the face, a wakeup call

We swim in the sea and make love to the rhythm of the waves

Through our open bedroom’s windows, we hear joy, insouciance, and laughter, the clinking of wine glasses late into the night

At dawn, we wake up ready to move on

V.

We return to our dogless home

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