Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sisters Are Doin' It...

We all have our Proust moments, don't we?

Not all of us eat madeleines everyday, so perhaps our Proustian recollections have become less frequent, stymied by the inability to find time to vacate our brains and relive the beyond.

Madeleines, as tasty as they are (especially those at our favorite tea shop in the Brandywine Valley), are not a prerequisite, a ticket to remembrance of things past. That's not the point, is it?

All we need is the faint wafting of an odor, a reminiscent taste, an evocative sound to hurtle us back into a moment of time.

I've had several Proustian moments today.
A major accident on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway this morning forced us all to stop, and there along the roadside I noticed Carolina Allspice, and inhaled its sweet aroma. I do have a dwarf Carolina allspice in my garden, and for a brief time I was transported from my traffic-induced irritation (and the knowledge I would most certainly be late to my Florida nieces' band performance in Washington, DC) back to the tranquility of my garden. I felt myself leaning in somewhere between the Buddhas to inhale the aromas emanating from the profusion of crown or lotus-like flowers on its stems earlier this spring.

Later, I had lunch with my nieces (they had but little free time in a very busy weekend schedule). We walked into an establishment and the yeasty wafts of baking bread transformed me into a little guy, waking to the smells of the bread my mother used to bake.

After another trying drive home, I meandered the gardens to unwind. One peony bud on the Ben Franklin Double Red caught my attention.

Two little ants were working their magic, "orbiting around [the] bud like satellites."

And I heard the music.

I remembered one remarkable evening in Denver, with my dear Elizabeth. It had been exceedingly hot that day, but, as is usual during evenings in the Mile High, the air thinned and cooled after the sun fell behind the mountains. We climbed into her car, sped down the highway.

She opened the sunroof, the wind whipping our hair.

And on the radio played the Eurythimcs' Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves. Up the volume went. She sang and I listened, feeling the intermixing of pockets of heat radiating from the highway with the cooling air.

Her work keeps her abroad, and we don't see each other as often as we did. Recently, she returned for briefings in Washington and her home leave before her new posting begins--this one in a rather unstable, and, more alarming, dangerous, country. I went to see her; we picked up where we left off as if we were together the previous weekend (that's really the sign of the depth of friendship, I think).

I can't fathom that I won't see her for two years. I worry about her. Mind you, Elizabeth is a tough gal. She climbs mountains (as in Everest, high peaks in the Andes, etc.; yes, there are mountains that are not high enough for her). She runs. She excels. But physical strength can be no match for those determined to hate you.

(But who can hate Elizabeth? Impossible. Yet she is American.)

There were those two ants, orbiting, helping the peony bud begin its final journey. Sisters doin' it, really.

I remembered our visit, yet my mind did not go farther back in time to recollect all of the memories we created. Instead, it hurtled forward into an abyss of missing her. Can we have Proustian moments steeped not in the past but in anticipation of the future?

I watched the ants.

And then I wept.

Be safe, my dear Elizabeth.

And know you are loved.

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