Five good things, I tell my daughter as she leaves for school. Because the weight of Twelve drags heavy on her shoulders lately, especially in the mornings, more of a burden than the overladen backpack middle school requires. See if you can see five good things as you walk to school this morning.
Earlier, I had a few free seconds with my cup of coffee before everyone woke up, so I glanced at the newspaper. Before I even realized what I’d started, I was halfway through an article about the Family Room set aside for private mourning in a building across the street from Ground Zero, about how, over time, it organically grew to be a sort of shrine: grief made tangible. The photograph of that room, full of objects and images of loved ones, was unbearable.
I realized that this morning I might need that quest for five good things as much as my daughter, who’d told me her Instagram feed when she woke up was a succession of burning buildings. I shut the laptop and went for a walk.
A smattering of dried leaves in a brushstroke on the sidewalk: fall is coming.
The clump of beauty berries at the side of a neighbor’s house, so hazardous in its purpleness — how can any animal dream of consuming them, how could nature come up with them? They’d be more at home with the brightly-colored plastic flotsam in the aisles at ToysRUs.
Three pears balanced on the overpass railing. Left there — why? By whom?
The usual suspects, the walkers I always see at this time of morning, when I myself am walking: the smiling young man who often sports a t-shirt silkscreened to look like a tuxedo, a dapper fancy-dress that celebrates the day. Is it is favorite shirt? What is he always listening to, through those earphones?
His smile — beautiful.
The lean saturnine man who used to just walk a Great Dane but now walks Great Dane and Baby, his slow amble mainly just to allow his dog time to nose the curb, even though I like to think it says time, time, I have nothing but time, I am home every morning with a three-month old baby.
The jogger I call the Victorian Strongman, with his drooping handlebar mustache and sideburns and his springy lope.
The spent-handkerchief crumple of the moonflower blooms along the fence; the snail meandering through the wet grass; the strength of my shadow as it travels the pavement.
Five good things, the leavening, life’s sweet.
… Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people…any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallize and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsey, sitting on the floor cutting out pages from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy.
—To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf