Tag Archives: love

“Dear John…”

At the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Jack and I looked at clay tablets bearing letters from 1200 or so BC, and gravestones from sometime between then and 300 BC.

There is nothing new under the sun. One letter informed a man that the woman writing it was marrying “the farmer” instead of him. One stipulated that the wages for performing an exorcism were two sheep: one male, one female. Another extolled the virtues of Hypodia’s parties and invited the recipient to one. A gravestone erected by one Olympios suggested that, although he died a civil servant, he SHOULD have been elected provincial leader, and would have been had it not been for the jealousy of others, and he hoped the guy who’d gotten it rotted in hell. Hades, actually, but you get the point.

There is nothing new under the sun. From the time we’ve been able to write, we’ve focused on just a few things. People want love. We want a life that we feel fulfills the talents we believe ourselves to posses.  And we want good stories.

Beside the gravestones–some of them very sweet and touching, actually, like the one from the woman who said she was “weeping, wailing, and mourning for her dear departed”–each sarcophagus in the museum had a tale told in figures around it: Psyche and Eros; how Apollo got married; the death of some guy I’d never heard of in a drunken brawl.

Then and now, 2000 BC or AD or whatever system you use, there is nothing new under the sun. The names change from Mahmud to Matthew, the hats morph from turbans to ball caps, and the women’s dresses get shorter or longer, but we people go on, chasing love, money, and a good job. And telling stories about ourselves and each other.

Kinda reassuring, ain’t it? Although I think exorcisms cost more like twelve sheep now.

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, publishing, Uncategorized

His White, Square Heart

My 71-year-old husband built me a downstairs office. From a musty dugout basement lined with concrete he created white walls and a safe ceiling (no asbestos) plus a floor made of durable earth-friendly wood and windows that let in all the light a basement can get. He used bright-white materials so the light would be stronger.

He left the central wall’s original brickwork, even though he didn’t like it much, because he knows I think brickwork is cool and funky. He removed all the spiders he found because he has seen me run, shrieking in terror, from Daddy Long Legs.

It took him three months and something well above a thousand dollars, and he did it all himself—except when he had to determine which wires were live, which dead, running over the copper water pipes. For that he called in our friend X, a covert plumber here in town masquerading as a mine safety engineer. (X must not be outed; there aren’t many plumbers around here and his golf weekends would be crushed.)

Jack sealed cracks and underpinned flooring and shaved off door edges and cut special angles to cover protruding pipes. My husband did all that for me, because he wanted me to have a cozy space that I could call my own. Upstairs on the second floor, our private home is full of mind-grabbing, endless chores, while the bookstore is replete with people and noise and sales and inventory–not that we don’t like those things. They are the heartbeat of the bookstore.

But downstairs, with a comfy chair from a thrift store and a mantelpiece donated by a friend and an electric fire Jack hunted down on clearance, there’s a different kind of heartbeat. A quiet one. A steady one. An enduring one.

Jack said, out of the blue the other day as we doctored our respective morning coffees, “I built that space for you as comfortably and as carefully as I could, so you would have it forever.”

“I know,” I said, and kissed him on the cheek.

There are things couples don’t say, and then there are things couples don’t use words to say. When I sit downstairs in the white space that my husband’s hands created for me, I know, and he knows I know, that I’m sitting inside his heart. Cozy and warm, underpinning everything, letting the light in.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA