Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Problem With Clever

An indeterminate gray spread out against the sky, providing relief from the record highs of the week prior. It wasn't a perfect reading day; that would require even cooler temperatures and the caress of raindrops against a half-opened window. But it was close enough, and I spent the workday longing for the embrace of my sofa and to lose myself in a good book. Thanks to a friendly tip that my local library makes home deliveries, I had stacks of books and CDs waiting when I finally escaped.

I stretched out on the sofa, a piano piece played on the stereo. I drank a cold beer, savoring its spicy hoppiness. And, as planned, I read. It was Merwin's "The Shadow of Sirius." Something about the moment and the way his words blend light and dark, and past and present, put me in a reflective mood. And a thought came to me, too familiar to lament its melancholy, its pages dog-eared, its spine bent and haggard, but proud enough in the truth it held.

I hope that I die before my wife.

And for some reason I remembered a photo taken on our honeymoon. We'd awakened early that morning to watch the sun come up over Machu Picchu. We arrived just in time, and I held her hand as the rising sun slaughtered the morning mist. Perhaps it was the proximity to the clouds, but I understood an ancient magic in those moments. We snapped a few photos. We were thankful for what we'd witnessed. And then we left to hike a nearby path that doesn't seem to exist in the guidebooks.

In hindsight, it's easy to pluck the metaphor collected on the mountain. I carried the heavy pack with our water and equipment. She encouraged me when my head reeled and the heights conspired to drain the last of my courage. I steadied her as her footing gave way on the loose rocks. At the top, we were rewarded with visions of the snow-capped Andes challenging the heavens. Solitude was ours. And it was somewhere on this climb that I took the picture of my recollection.

When my wife came home, I put my book away, and we discussed our day. There was nothing particularly intriguing about the conversation. Just the humdrum of life. And then she looked at me in this way that she has, a look that says she's taking careful measure of things. She waited a beat and said, "I hope you outlive me. I don't think I could bear to lose you."

"We'll get drunk and drive off of a cliff on our seventy-fifth wedding anniversary," I said. I didn't tell her that I'd had her exact same thought only moments before. Sometimes it's easier to be clever.

The problem with clever is that it cannot explain love.

She fell asleep before me that night. And I thought of the future again, of our aged skin like crinkled origami paper, of loss and loneliness. I imagined a life without her, and I thought of the photograph once more. I have no expectations of eternal reward, but if there is something after this life, I hope it looks an awful lot like the photo. 

Her silhouette only a few short steps ahead, a radiant light bleaching away the sins of the world...


  1. Wow... very beautifully written!

    "The problem with clever is that it cannot explain love."

    Love this!

  2. What a beautiful post! While my husband was alive, we thought that we would have years stretching out before us. I never realised that it would be so short. So you just cherish every day that you have, because you can never tell the future. I always wanted the one to go first because I wanted to keep my husbands place! I hope that he is doing the same for me!

  3. I like you even better now I know you're also capable of writing like this.

  4. Hunter, this is beautiful and very moving writing.

  5. Hi, San. Clever can do a lot, but not everything.

    Hi, Alice. I hope so too.

    Hi, MLS. I've been mixing things up of late. Glad you enjoyed this one.

    Hi, Judearoo. Thank you kindly.

    Hi, Tina. Welcome. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

  6. Hunter, very moving an revealing,the inner sanctum oh Hunter touched,very clever too.

  7. Hunter, I love that I have no idea of what I am about to read when I come visit. Will it be funny, a haiku, daring, romantic or plain daffy. What I do know is that it will always be great.

  8. i hope your reward is being able to bring your wonderful memories with you where ever you go.

  9. Beautiful. Those of us who feel, or have felt that about someone else are the lucky ones in life.

  10. Hi, Bob. I suppose it is more revealing that most of the other stuff here.

    Hi, Mike. I'm glad you put up with my posting whims.

    Hi, Lana. One thing is for sure, I'll take a memory over a material thing every time.

    Hi, Melissa. I know exactly what you mean.

  11. You never disappoint. The clever line for sure is a stroke of genius. Truly, probably one of the most profound statements I have ever read. AND I READ A LOT.

  12. What a beautiful post really moving.

    Kate x

  13. I am crying, Hunter. Actual tears, running down my cheeks. You put into words something I dared not.

  14. Hi, adrienzgirl. I guess there's some truth in that line.

    Hi, Kate. Thanks.

    Hi, Leah. I'm flattered that something I wrote would move you that way. BTW, it was the "Goldberg Variations" I was listening to. I checked it out based on one of your posts. Truly lovely.

  15. it's so romantic i could cry...i think i am going to cry now.

  16. I LOVE this! An absolutely wonderful perspective of a man in love. It's posts like these that really shake the soul and awaken it from the mundanity of the day. Thanks!

  17. Are you married, Hunter? I forget.

    I've already thought about this, I'm sure most married people do. I have to go first because I just would not function without him. Normally they say it's harder for men but in our case I think he'd be fine.

  18. Hi, PMFOOW. Muchas gracias.

    Hi, Sarah. They call me gringo romantico.

    Hi, Harmony. Thanks so much. I'm glad you liked it.

    Hi, S&C. Very married. It's interesting to see how many other people have that same thought.

  19. Yeah, my wife and I have both decided that we're going together. She'd better NOT go before me. I'll kill her if she does.

  20. What an inspirational piece. I thought my parents were the only people that intertwined, sharing something deeper than love. Your story gives me hope. Some day, the Gods willing, I hope to find someone that I want to die before.



  21. Aw shit, Hunter, what a romantic dog you are.

    I fell, hook, line and sinker, for your love affair. Sounds like heaven, glad you are both enjoying it.

  22. Check my blog out. You've won something.

  23. as someone who frequently cries during 'touching' commercials and over unicef christams cards, i should not really be allowed near posts like this. its just too moving for me, i cant handle it. that said, i am so pleased to have found your blog, it is wonderful. You are a great writer.

  24. Crying now, goddammit. Very beautiful.

    Mr LS sent me over - very glad he did.

  25. So beautiful. I was thinking I would love to write a song about this very thing. The simplicity of the thought just increases its magnitude.

  26. Hunter, are you buckled down, take care, hopr the storm passes you.

  27. This post made me fall in love with your blog all over again. I adore your light-hearted funny posts, but this was truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing. "The problem with clever is that it cannot explain love." I loved this line!

  28. Hi, Tennyson. Exactly!

    Hi, Xena. Judging from the comments on this post, there are more of those people out there than you might think.

    Hi, Sass. I'll take "romantic dog."

    Hi, MLS. That's awesome. Thanks!

    Hi, Kristine. Thank you so much. I'm really glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post.

    Hi, Natalie. Thanks for popping by.

    Hi, Leonie. I could see the idea working well in song. Good luck!

    Hi, Bob. We're far enough away that I don't think the storm will be bothering us much.

    Hi, Lola. Thanks. I'm glad that the more serious stuff is well received when I post it...