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  • Elaine Fletcher Chapman

The Last Day

Yesterday was the Last Day. Not the first, not the third but the last day. My husband wrote and delivered his final sermon at this church on The Eastern Shore of Virginia. Full of spirit and grace upon grace. Grounded in the scripture taken from the Common Lectionary  that began, On the last day. I read from the Song of Songs, The Winter is Over. And indeed, it was the last day and the winter has passed. This morning on my drive through Onley, I noticed the wheat harvested over the weekend. I could finally see around the curve again. The windows in the car rolled halfway down: cool air and the scent of freshly cut grain. I’ve spent weeks packing the house. I count over 50 boxes of books alone. My great grandmother’s china, safely packed. My mother’s Delta Airline wings and photos safely stored. The family quilts gently wrapped for safe keeping. Bennington dishes, Lila’s mother’s hand painted dishes from France, Bob’s white C and B dishes, all wraped, labelel and boxed. The only framed pictures still hanging in the house are the Copper Canyon Press Poetry Poster above my writing desk and the Angel of Happiness my best friend gave me for my birthday several years ago. No accident: Poetry and happiness remain lastly. It is were I want to begin. These last days have been wrought with frustration, hurt, and dissapointment for all things ending: time on and near the creek, mornings at the field, walks to the wharf, the rose window at the back of the church,  poetry readings in the old historic church. Friendships that have sustained me; June and Jerry, Gerald, Glenwood and Waltha, Linda and her softshell crabs, Pat Mapp and her beloved oysters, the Williams family, Sherry and Patrick, Dawn and her dress shop, Janet, Gary and Charlotte…my clients, my sweet little office above the consighnment shop.  Is it possible to begin with happiness and poetry?

One of the few books not packed, Eliot’s Four Quartets, my handbook for leaving. Yesterday morning I stood in the bedroom and read the passage from East Cocker I almost know by heart. In my beginning is my end…In order to arrive there, / To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not, / you must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy…Home is where one starts from…We must be still and still moving / Into another intensity…In my end is my beginning. 

We are traveling west, as the watermen say. To the other side of the bay.  We must drive through three tunnels and countless bridges to arrive at this new place. Under and over, under and over, under and over. And my passage diverted by first traveling North to Vermont, a complication of timing. So I arrive at the new place by different passage than my husband who will follow the moving trucks on the last day.  We arrive seperately at different times. He first, me following. Our pattern. We look to the unknown and known. I turn to Eliot again: …And to make an end is to make a beginning. / The end is where we start from…

#FourQuartets #TSEliot

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