I am in Washington state on a pilgrimage, of sorts. I am staying at the home of my very dear friend Madelyn, who lost her husband John to a stroke on October 28. We three have been close friends—like family-close—for many, many years. They have lived on this farm on the Olympic Peninsula since the mid-seventies when John designed and built the house I’m sitting in as I write. I mean John truly designed and built this house by himself. He’d never built a house but, as he told Madelyn, “There are books.” He built the structure slowly and she has spent her life filling it with beauty. It is like a magnificent, epic poem of love with walls, a roof and windows that provide views of some twenty-eight acres of trees, meadows and a meandering creek.
When I look up from my laptop I see birds vying for a spot at the suet feeder outside the windows. All kinds of birds come and go, stellar jays, chickadees, juncos and lots more whose names I don’t know and who I’ve not seen in California. Music plays softly and reverberates through this vaulted wooden structure the way notes emanate from the sound box of a well-made acoustic guitar. Outside, the sun transforms the powdered sugar snow to a field a brilliant diamonds, carelessly strewn about as though they were of little value—an abundance of riches here so immense that everything, and nothing, is precious at once.
Tears flow easily. Sadness mixed with such love and joy that it cannot be contained. The tapestry of love woven here fills me up and pours out unchecked.
The story of the three of us is intertwined like the grapevines that climb the deck outside. I have been here for so many pivotal events. We have made many stories together—many memories. A part of me lives here and walks the land even when I’m back home in California. And yet I’ve never lived here. What I experience must be powerfully magnified for John. Even though he is off somewhere on a new ethereal adventure, I am certain he walks the land and inhabits this house in very tangible ways. It is impossible not to feel him.
I have to wonder, is this how it feels when you brush against the wings of an angel?