The best thing I read about the stars was in a quote, when I was searching for information on environmental matters, to help save the world, which as you know, cannot be saved anymore. I am sorry to break this news. Go and have your cup of coffee anyway, the coffee is still good, still fragrant, still hot and bitterly delicious. Like life, someone told my mother a long time ago, and she thought he was brilliant for having uttered such a common thing.
It was sometime in the nineteenth century I think, a man in France was given a glass of champagne, perhaps by Madame Clicquot, and raised it to his lips, a beautiful, tall, elegant flute with a very delicate rim. He took one icy sip and shouted to his wife, “Marie, Marie, come quick, I have just tasted stars!”
I would like to meet that man who knew, what it was to taste the infinite, the undefinable, the miraculous. After you died I looked up one night at the sky… though what we have left of the night sky would make Galileo weep… And, perhaps he is weeping still, because we have lit up the world for all to see, every tiny last hollow and dry crevice, every pockmarked street and scarred mountain. A few stars were still struggling to make their appearance, and I thought I saw you smiling down at me. No it did not feel like champagne, but smelled like roses, violets and lilies, jasmine, lemons, and pure water. Those are the things I miss, that I like to breathe instead of gasoline streets.
I woke up very early, turned on the lights and promptly turned them off, then wandered in the garden that is cold and dry and almost cracked in places though the front is drowning. The hyacinths are coming up and the daffodils and some tulips that the rabbits have already started gnawing. I would say “nibble” to make them sound more delicate, gentle and sweet, but then you know how I feel about rabbits. They are devils and I am not fooled by cuteness.
But these stars, yes, I see how champagne might taste like stars, perhaps even vodka or gin. Though gin would be like stuffing your mouth full of Christmas trees. Mine is still leaning against the fence covering up the clematis. I just carried out that tree last month, dreading to get rid of it and keeping it in the house long after Christmas. It was the last thing I remember about you… being there and sighing at that tree….. It stayed green and fresh and fragrant all of late December, January and into February. Yes, I know, but some of us truly love our Christmas trees. The garden is a memory of that festive season and there is no sign of the coming Easter joy, and I am sorry, but that is the way it is.
Easter comes so soon… I can’t explain but it always feels like someone slapping me in the face, over and over and over again…Nothing makes sense, nothing is on time, early or late. It is fifty one day then twenty the next. All the flowers start to come up and then it rains and then it gets very cold like now and then it snows again, and then we have a flood. Tomorrow I hear it will rain and snow and thunder and hail and we may have a few flashes of lightning, just to let us know who is in charge, just enough to terrorize us again in our beds, our kitchens, and bathrooms. Remember do not use the phone or turn on the faucets, stand near the windows, go outside, run the washer or dryer, do the dishes…. cook… clean.. just sit quietly and watch, or if you care, run to the basement and sit in the middle of the room, but don’t let the piano or bookcase from above crash down on you.
One day it was enough, this affair with a cyclone, and I walked out into the garden hoping the lightning would evaporate me then and there. I see the rolling of your eyes. Instead of words you send me meaningless images–little colored faces on the screen– your emojis– I still don’t know what they mean. How could I explain this feeling to you, phone in hand, as I waited and waited and waited and watched and smelled and listened to the deeply frightening, heart stopping, crackling electricity, bolting out in terrifying mile long swords from the ground or was it the sky. Then suddenly it was over and I was alone, in the garden, foolish, wet, and cold, beaten down once again by the air, the void, the abyss. I ran inside, as if the inside was safe.
I started reading that book about perfumes –you told me to try to read about happy things and perfume has always been a happy thing. And,who does not want to smell delicious? Remember Calandre by Paco Rabanne? How I would like just one more sniff. It was that pre kind of smell, that it kind of smell, the young I will never die kind of smell. Like an Edie Sedgwick girl you can’t forget. It was rain, metal, coriander and grass, and made me think, I don’t know why, of Cleopatra’s skin. The lightning smelled a bit like that. I used to know a Calandre girl but she disappeared one day without a trace. Like Paco Rabanne who took her with him.
I should understand by now, that you don’t want to hear about it anymore. The weather. I must promise not to mention it again. Ever. He who makes the stars is toying with us. Testing us. Outsmarting us. Confounding us. Making us travel through veils of tears and pain and what? Like the woman from Moldavia told me yesterday…. “we all have our troubles….” when I walked into the research room looking sad and glum, my eyes swollen from crying. Yes, I am still crying over you, more than over stars.
Yes the house is warm, there is a roof over my head (but today I think it may get blown off….the weather you know…..), the refrigerator is full of food. But how little I cook these days, or bake, or stir anything in a pot. I understand why Jason just drank alcohol for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe a glass of champagne, because he wanted to taste stars. I remember how he sometimes spent all day listening to “White Bird” by It’s a Beautiful Day, and how he loved it with all his heart. It almost sounds like stars, makes my head reel as though I am in space with you, flying finally to the moon. I still hear them in my head, and remember us sitting on the couch, listening to music all night long and the next day hundreds of CD’s were out of their covers and strewn all over the living room and basement floors. And when we finished with the CD’s we went through almost all the books on the shelves, trying to remember something… I even smoked one of those Cuban cigars.
Jason is gone. I remember getting the phone call. Alone, desolate and poverty stricken, on a kitchen floor in Mexico somewhere. I forgot to ask if he had a glass in his hand, like Paul, like you, like everyone I know really they all died, glass in hand trying to taste stars.
I didn’t think this would be about champagne, or gin or vodka or music. I thought it was about the stars and the sun and the moon. Waking up happy. What is that? Sometimes I wish I was a farmer and had to get up every morning to feed the cows and the pigs and the horses.. go and till or sow the crops… Then, perhaps….. I could sleep at night.
I walked in the garden with coffee and tried to find the stars but the snow covered them up. I walked around and around and it started to get cold and probably the neighbors were up and noticed me walking mindlessly in that green robe you gave me what twenty years ago? I have to write and thank you again. It has stood the test of time and is still quite warm, but maybe not. I can’t tell anymore if it’s cold or hot. I should hang it outside instead of putting it in the dryer, but no one uses clotheslines anymore, but maybe we should all start again. Oh mother…… where art thou?! She never answers anymore. She came the morning after she died and I saw her there, in the garden, walking around in a long white night gown… yes I know …, but really when a woman is trying to tell you something she is often wandering around at night in a garden in her nightgown.
My garden has white lilacs, and white viburnum and white daffodils and white Serviceberries and white Hawthorne that someone else planted here decades ago and the idea was to get them to blossom at the same time. April or early May, but it never works because April is not April anymore and May is not May. The yellow rose comes out in May, but only if I am good– really– or it wants to. It is about ten feet tall now and has decided to become a tree. There is a lot of yellow and gold in the garden especially later in the year. A sea of gold and yellow even though I wanted an all white garden –breathtakingly beautiful, silent and serene…. like a pure soul. Pardon my mediocrity and cliches’, but yes, I am thinking about souls a lot lately. I am sorry I know you find that offensive. Yes, I know, why should a soul be white and not blue? I can see blue but not red. Do you see? A red soul would be positively frightening, not to mention ghoulish. But it makes perfect sense in the dining room.
What is it I am searching for in this garden? I don’t know anymore. But I hear you saying “yes, you do.” It’s the sky really. I don’t search the garden anymore, it often feels dead to me like you. The iron trellis has rusted now to a sort of Miss Havisham state. Can I say that? Because she was in an old and dusty room but the trellis is in an old disheveled garden. Now, even after all the cleanup there are hundreds of long snaky pieces of porcupine grasses lying there like after a deluge, after a forest fire… shreds of clothing, dried shards of something like skins of alligators or leopards or wild tigers or swans fallen from the sky. All those environmentally friendly grasses you gave me have become monsters, giant haystacks taking up all the space and smothering the crocuses, tulips and daffodils. Sometimes it looks like an abandoned wheat field. That mop head cypress is very large and a startling Chartreuse color. Whenever you come over you always ask me if it’s dead. When oh when oh when will you learn that Chartreuse does not mean you are dead!
If you don’t understand Chartreuse I will never be able to explain stars. I have tried. I even begged the neighbors to shut off some of their outdoor lights…. nicely, very very nicely I asked them to please give us (but I really meant me.. me.. me….) the night. Please give me back the night!
Speaking of Chartreuse…. I would love a glass about now, because really sometimes I don’t see the need for food anymore. If there was ever such a thing as magical drinking surely Chartreuse, made by Carthusian monks in a valley in France, under pure air and pure skies… from 130 flowers, barks, roots and herbs….was one. Our sad old uncle knew– he used to drink whole tumblers of it while listening to “If You Go Away” in that unfinished house by the water in Michigan. I still remember him sitting there in a semi coma……the pale green liquid in a tall thin glass, sitting on the table next to him….how sometimes the sun lit it up like the northern lights… he let us take a few sips…. He swore it was pure and holy intoxication because monks made it.
I was told I need a vacation and that is true. From everyone and everything. But you can’t escape everyone and everything instead you have to be bombarded by everyone and everything. Like that movie “Everything, Everywhere All at Once”. It left me wanting to spin off into space or fall back deep into the black earth and become a worm. I did like the part about the two rocks talking to each other.
There is no travel agent to go to if you want to see or taste the stars, ride on them, dissolve into them. Be like them. But I heard that if you have an extra $200,000 or so to spare, there are some people, maybe Branson or Musk, who can take you there. They will take you far away on a ride for only the precious few. I dreamed for years about escaping and living in that monastery in France deep in the valley. Searching for that one lonely monk who created elixirs. They made a movie about that too. If someone made a movie about it you know you can’t go there. But the geese can. I see them now in the spring, winter, summer and fall. Just last month I saw them heading back up north and then south again. They changed direction in the middle of their flight. They too cannot make up their minds.
I am lost. I feel encapsulated like a bug in amber trying to get out. I have lost my eyes and ears and tongue and mouth— my throat and stomach and toes and fingers– they are all begging to be released to be rendered numb to see the void to smell and feel and hear nothing but that is impossible because even the void is being extracted by the little chemists in their laboratories. They have created perfumes that smell like nothingness, perfumes that smell like certain kinds of human flesh. I read there is a perfume that smelled of “a young teenage girl’s sweat.” One perfume house requested their chemist to create a fragrance that smells of…a room on a winter’s day in a palazzo in Venice after all the beeswax candles burned down after a dinner party. Luca once said that the perfume Angel was “genius” but the top notes smell like vomit.
I like the one that smells like metal, plastic, rubbing alcohol and ozone, you might think you are smelling creation itself, the shuffling and redistribution of molecules the infinitesimal things that only astrophysicists or cosmologists know. I remember “Metal” and it did indeed smell like some kind of futuristic, clean, and antiseptic voided place, a place where you can smell the nothing in your mind. It was delicious and cold like steel, slightly acrid, slightly astringent, then sweet smoke and sugar to fool you, then fire as though a ghost pepper had eaten half your brains and you could now smell things that are not really there, a beautiful gaseous non substance, atomic like bombs made for human consumption having just enough slightly toxic compounds to make you feel new and clean and fresh as though you have new lungs and hearts and brains and you don’t care that they no longer belong to you. “Doctors and nurses love this” said the perfumer handing me the bottle.
If only I could see the stars. Everything would be normal again. If you and I could just have one more glass of champagne and I could hear you sigh again like that evening over the ruby red tree right there in the living room like a rose bush in winter lit up by the falling sun. Just before you walked up the stairs to go to sleep forever. Had I known you would never walk down those stairs again, I would have offered you a glass of champagne. Yes, icy cold champagne from razor thin flutes chilled in a silver bucket. And we would raise our sparkling flutes and take a sip and it would feel as though we had just been born, just broken through a frozen river with our metallic heads. Just you and me and our numbing icy thoughts, our self-made anesthesia, whirling through our heads like tempests.
I wish there was someone to talk to, to ask, to see, to learn, to drink, to breathe with and pray again wisely, sanely, yes yes yes voraciously…with total, pure, veracity. I wish there was someone here like that solitary someone who lived light years away, perfecting a pale icy elixir made with one hundred and thirty herbs, roots, barks and leaves, and flowers. I think I see him sometimes, in a dream, in a book, in a song, or when I am staring at the sky…. Oh dear holy denizen of the dark and fragrant valleys, the hidden forests, the misty mountains of my dreams, you who dwell in the silence from the most holy and unknown deep, to whom did you cry out — where was your mother or sister or brother or father, where was He——to whom did you run weeping with joy with ecstasy with every bone of your worn out body “Marie Marie come quick, I have just tasted stars!”