gratitude

“She was thankful for her life. She had the thought that she didn’t regret anything she’d ever done, because the course of her life had brought her to this moment. She was grateful for everything, even grateful for her mistakes” (165).
This is Nora from A Window Across The River, which was feeding some sadnesses the other day. She is describing a transcendental moment, flying with friends in a small plane, passing from the city “beyond the bridge [when] it was like being ripped backward through the time barrier: the buildings fell away, and out her window, on the west side of the river, she saw nothing but lush green cliffs, everything looking as it must have looked a thousand years ago” (165). I have had a few experiences like that: I try to recall and grasp them tightly when their recurrence feels most improbable.
The story is about two artists, a writer and a photographer, and the nuances of their intimacy. Isaac’s idealism about going into photography as a means of saving people had been amputated by experience: “it turns out you can’t save anyone. You can only bear witness to their suffering” (153). Isn’t this always true? Doesn’t it always apply? Except in those literal situations when an action keeps someone from dying, everyone suffers their own way through this life. Meanwhile, despite the impossibility of salvation, we affect each other deeply: “If you as much as walk outside your home,” Nora muses, “you find yourself with someone’s life in your hands” (151).
I value my friends more than ever. Even those who bang me up during soccer (my wrist really hurts again after last night’s spree!) It is good to be around friends who don’t take your problems as seriously as you do, paraphrasing Nora’s response (145) to a friend who mocks her problem of needing real people to inspire her creativity as a writer.
Then there is forgiveness. Nora has to forgive an Aunt who simply wasn’t capable of taking care of Nora when her parents both died within a couple of years of each other while she was a teenager. She justifies her anger with a line from T.S. Eliot: “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” As she matures, however, “Forgiveness brings knowledge of its own” (143).
Did Nora find forgiveness through the act of writing? Or was the relationship necessary enough that she would have arrived there regardless? For me, I know writing has helped me construct a consistency in my life’s timeline, including expanding capacity for emotions I’ve at times thought could never arrive:

The diary gave her a way to link each day to the days that had come before, to link her life with the life she’d had when her mother was alive. Writing was the only way to join the days. (138)

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