Monday, February 2, 2015

The Monk's Room

Perhaps it is the frozen weather that has me frozen in my grief. I am not certain of the reason. I only know that, this week, I have felt the full weight of his absence. In 8 days, it will be eight months since my husband died. It feels like a whole lifetime has passed, since he left us. It feels like it happened yesterday. I sit with both realities.

I have not altered much in this house that belonged to him. I don’t have the heart to do it. The living room looks virtually the same as the day he walked out that door. 

But I did redo the room where he spent most of his time, when he was alive. I made it into a guest room, should anyone from America decide to visit.

 I never liked that room. It was always so messy, with his software and hardware strewn about, with its overgrown furniture, too big for the tiny space it inhabited. Now, it is tastefully furnished and everything fits. But it feels like a sterile place, without him in it.

I call it the monk’s room, because it is small, with little space for possessions or frivolities. It is a simple room, and free from distractions. I have made a small shrine, in there, where I sit in meditation, some days, while the morning light streams through the window.

When we first met, Stan would sit at his computer and write emails to me, describing what he saw from that window. He loved the overgrown plants in the garden below, the vines growing over the sheds, creeping into the trees, providing a haven for birds and squirrels. Here is one of the emails he sent me, written on a sunny, spring day in 2012:

     Yet another beautiful day here in Glossop, where all around me new life is unfolding--birds attending to nests for their future fledglings, catkins on the silver birch being visited by bees, unfurling leaves revealing their true identity, and the sun caressing the earth to energise all these wondrous and mystical things.”

He loved sunny days, but he appreciated the rain, too. He understood the need for it. Here is an email he wrote me, earlier that spring, describing the rain:

     The rain is pitter pattering on the windowpane, creating an interesting beat. The rain will also wash all the salt and sand from my car, whilst building reserves to refresh living things, as the long hot sunny days arrive. This truly wondrous web of life we share.”

I feel his presence in that room, more than anywhere else in the house. Sometimes I lie on the bed, in there, and talk to him. I can almost see him, in his dressing gown, his blue eyes fixed on the intricacies of the natural world that he saw and described so clearly.

I like to look out the window, too, peering over the rooftops of the other terrace houses, toward the hills in the distance. Today those hills are blanketed in snow. He would have loved that.

The plants that he cared for in that room are dying. I don't know why. I have never been good with plants. He was a gardener. Growing plants came naturally to him. 

I repotted one of them, thinking that perhaps the leaves were wilting because the pot was too small, but no. The leaves are still yellowing and turning crisp, then falling away.

I hate to look at those dying leaves. It makes me feel like I can't nourish new life, that maybe I am just a killer, not a nurturer. Maybe things and people can't grow in my presence. Maybe I can only watch them die.


  1. Tricia-
    I have tried to save the plants we had when my husband was alive, and am failing miserably. I can’t stand watching them die either, it was like watching him die all over again.
    I let the garden go when he died last summer, and it developed a bad case of mildew. All I could think was how disappointed he would be to see it in that state.
    I did save some seeds, and will plant them this spring and try to grow his favorites again. I guess all I can do is start over.

    1. Thanks for sharing this. It is hard, isn't it? I wish I had a green thumb, like him. But I don't. It is more than just a plant dying, though, like you say. It just brings you in touch with the death of your love. Hope your seeds bear fruit. xx