Leaving Darien, up and over the bridge that minds the shrimp boats, I ease my foot off the accelerator and let gravity pull me down toward sea level. The marsh spreads out on either side, at once embracing the river and wooing the ocean. What had been — not many weeks earlier — a rolling lawn, an endless swath of greenest green, has gone gold. Wispy grain heads waving in the winter wind, it is now a field unto harvest.
I note to myself that, despite heartstrings that need the tuning fork of ocean song to set their pitch, I am a country girl, and it is images of sowing and reaping that most easily come to mind. I also remind myself that it is said that the ability to use and recognize metaphor is what makes us uniquely human. I am glad to be human.
On Monday, I notice that the fields around home are filling up with bales of hay, huge barrels pushed over on their sides. The whole world has gone gold. I notice, and then I forget. On Thursday, the telephone call comes. And the whole world goes the color of nothing. The light goes out, the prism breaks.
My friend has died. Died. I feel an explosion inside my chest — a real one. There is heat and pressure spreading from the place where my heart is cradled, where my friend has been cradled for 19 years. Words are coming out of my mouth. I hear them, but I don’t know who is saying them.
They, his family, want me to speak of him. They want me to stand up — on my own two feet, no doubt — and remember him. I say yes, even though I have no idea that I actually can. Later, when I am alone, I sit staring at the computer screen, the cursor flashing rhythmically, inviting me to begin. Where?
I glance around the room and my eyes fall on my faded and tattered copy of "The Little Prince." Jim didn’t know "The Little Prince" when I met him, but it didn’t take long for me to share. And over the years, most of our conversations included some reference to or quotation from that story. I put my thumbs to the page edges, and the book falls open to the conversation between the fox and the little prince.
As I read the words I can almost quote, words I’ve been reading since I was 16 and discovered that truth isn’t necessarily factual, my breath begins to slow. My fingers begin to move over the keys. I can do this.
It is Sunday. I am standing up, on my own two feet. I open the book and I read.
“If you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world. … If you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat.”
It is Tuesday. It is Wednesday. The world is white. Snow, infrequent and puzzling, makes an appearance, and we are gawking and fumbling and behaving in unseemly ways as though she were a movie star showing up unexpectedly at a family reunion or tailgate party. I am embarrassed a little until I am reminded that in the white are all the other colors. Somewhere in there is gold — the gold of wheat fields.
It will be a while — not Thursday or Friday or even next week — but the color will return. Gold will reappear. The winter sunrise, the spring daffodils, the summer corn, the autumn leaves will bring me back the thought of my friend. And, having been tamed, I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat.