what if...

this journal will not be about flogging the ways in which I think I failed my daughter, the guilt that twists me and sometimes clouds my second marriage, the endless what if.. what if... what if... that afflicts me in the oddest ways. I will never change my home phone number, because someday she might call. I will never sell my house, because someday she might come home. I worry that I do not have the financial cushion that I should have at this stage of my life, because someday she might need me in some part of the world. No, it will not be about that. Instead, I will remember the patience of my spouse, the way Ariane sparkled, the texture of the days that we shared. The hardest part of loss is losing the hope for the future, and I refuse to give that up.


When my children were young, one of most sacred traditions was the Bedtime Story. We favored classic adventure stories: Treasure Island, The Lord of the Rings, The Three Musketeers, the entire first Amber series where we waited for each new book to come out. As older teens, the bedtime story faded away, and then the kids went out on their own. Ariane came back home in those last days. It was (and is) my desire that as long as I lived, my kids would have some shelter against the storm and I was happy to have her. Admittedly, it is difficult to live together on new terms, both as adults, when one of you used to change the other's diapers. But one of the pleasures that we rediscovered was Reading Aloud, only this time we read to each other. We continued to favor adventure stories; the Phoenix Guard now resonates with her characterizations. She had an amazing ability to sketch a person with her voice and some mannerisms. She had a sense of humor as dry as vermouth and as sharp as a honed knife. An end-of-the-day story about a bus ride would be achingly funny and bitterly true. Her ability to observe people and get inside their skin meant that sometimes their emotions and beings assaulted her with their intenstity, and she would raise a shield to the world that looked like indifference. But it was never so.

Note: this photo, and others I will probably post in the course of this journal, is among the last pictures that I have of Ariane. They were taken by my friend Ritu, who did a photo shoot with Ariane as a model. They are not the whole story of Ariane, but they are part of it.


Of necessity, this journal is about me as much as it is about Ariane...

Autumn has always been my favorite season -- the cool relief after summer heat, the rare but perfect New England days with their crystalline air, lapis skies, and that golden slant of light spreading like grace over everything it touches. As I get older, the autumn resonates more profoundly with my own stage of life. In the galenic system, the humor of the season is melancholy -- it is cold and dry. As so it has indelibly become. I am more likely to awake from my dreams with my heart so full of grief it feels like it would stop. Sometimes a profile caught on the street, a way of walking, a toss of the head will remind me of her and I will be forced to stop until I can pick up and go on as I was. I find myself replaying the last few months that Ariane was with me in my mind. Being a gardener, I am acutely aware of the cyclic nature of time, and this has become as woven into the cycle as picking the last roses or mulching for winter. And yet in spite of their cycles, no season is ever the same one, the arrow of time flies only in one direction. The moments missed will not return, the things unsaid will never be said, the things that should never have been said cannot be recalled. Life does not always give you a second chance. I know now why people hope for granchildren -- another chance to brave the cycle more purely, more wise, more hopefully...

I do indeed have a second life with a loving spouse, and I do not want to disparage the joy I feel in it. When the well of grief runs over I do not want it to drown the love I have now -- a love that cannot redeem the loss no matter how it tries. We have learned the hard way to accomodate this cycle, to honor the loss, to observe our little rituals, to tie our prayers to the trees together, to make our pilgrimages together, to stand together in the dark and the rain, appealing to somone full of grace...


More than anything, Ariane was a dancer. From her earliest childhood, spinning in her special dress with the big round skirt was her delight. She was always performing; her body, her self, her movement were all of a piece. I did the best I could to support her and never urged her to do anything more practical, even when my friends advised me not to encourage her, lest she be disappointed, performing arts being such a hard way to live. To me, creating Art and Beauty are sufficient justifications for a life, and the details will eventually take care of themselves. As someone whose youth was side-tracked off the path I had originally sought for myself, I felt that she had decades to settle for something else and if she never reached for the stars when she was young and without obligations she would certainly never achieve them. Like all children of all parents, she was a piece of me that never lived, and that I hoped to set free to twinkle among the stars, listening to her own special music and dancing her own dance.