Close to Forever

Hello, Dear Ones,

Today, January 29, 2014, around 10:30 AM, Mountain Time, will mark the first anniversary of the moment the spirit of Anselm Hollo, poet, translator, polymath, father, husband, uncle, friend, slipped out of his body and away, into the mysterious beyond – through the front door of our home, which his daughter Tamsin sadly, but graciously held open for him.

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Perfect projections at the Hotel President

For me, it has been a year of realignment. And, I have discovered, with some bemusement, that transformation of the psyche takes place largely beneath the conscious surface. Life continues. The clock ticks. Memories shift, I gratefully notice, from the largely traumatic and deeply sad, to the majestically deep, and then, gradually, to something actually comforting, less confusing, and more accommodating to new life — “snapshots” of quotidian moments, “out of nowhere,” with no particular significance, except to remind me of the great gift of having shared more than half of my life, up until one year ago today, with Anselm Hollo.

I use things that connect me with the past every day, and I sometimes wonder about the possibility of wormholes to other dimensions. For instance, could Anselm’s paternal aunt, Aino Hollo, have ever guessed that her nephew, little Anselm, would, years into the future, take as his second wife, an American, who has now, for over twenty years, used and cherished, a white linen dish towel she, Aunt Aino, embroidered with elegantly spaced red threads across the top and bottom, and cross-stitched, in a Finnish version of Gothic script, her initials, “AH?”  Or do those connections only point in one direction? Did Anselm have some sense that our time together was getting short, even though the doctors assured him otherwise – and he believed them, as did I – when he decided that the trip across the Atlantic Ocean he had always wanted to take, with me, should happen sooner, rather than later? If either of us had such premonitions, our daily lives were still so filled with “busyness” that we both kept any hint of them carefully separated from conscious acknowledgement. I think this was also, in part, one of the ways in which we tried to protect one another.

Anselm made the travel arrangements in January, asking only if I would agree to go, and if the particular date of the “embarkation” would work for me. The Queen Victoria would leave New York Harbor on March 16th, 2012, and arrive in Southampton, England eight days later, on March 24th.  It was a marvelous adventure, and there are many pictures, though I find it difficult to look at many of them now because, in hindsight, they foreshadow the inevitable. After our “disembarkation” from the Queen Victoria, we spent three very special weeks in England before flying back to Denver and discovering, ten days later, that this wretched meningioma had recurred. But those weeks in England seem, especially now, to have been uncannily connected to Anselm’s past, in which London played a major role, as if customized to provide a coda to the story of his life. I can think of several subtle examples of this, but the most striking was Anselm’s final reading, at a venue called The Horse Hospital, in London, just off Russell Square, on the last day of our last trip together, the evening before we flew back to Colorado. Dubbed “A Joyful Summit of Old Savages” by Andrei Codrescu, it reunited four poets from four different countries: Andrei (Romania), Anselm (Finland), Tom Raworth (England), and Gunnar Harding (Sweden), all of whom, with the exception of Andrei and Gunnar, had shared deep friendships of poetic camaraderie for up to five decades!

But something more celestially premonitory happened in the privacy of our room at the Hotel President, just a few steps from the Horse Hospital, where all the poets who read that night were staying. I woke up to bright vertical streaks of light on the wall across from the window. I had never seen a light effect like that before, so I instinctively got out my digital camera and took a photograph of it. And it was only then that I realized what I was seeing – a perfect projection, upside down, of the buildings across the street. Morning light reflected from a window pane was entering our room through an aperture between the two curtains, turning our room into a camera lucida! Anselm and I were both completely enchanted, and the same effect even happened again the next day.

Anselm was always distrustful of metaphor, and I “get it,” but, still, the whole concept of “aperture” feels obviously metaphorical to me, and light effects are even beyond that —  they are ethereal. Strangely, I am sure I asked Anselm, probably more than once, if he had ever seen the Aurora Borealis when he was growing up in Finland, because I hope to see that phenomenon someday, before I die. But, oddly, and sadly, I can’t remember his answer. (Isn’t that just the hardest thing about losing someone you love? That you can’t ask them questions anymore.) A few weeks ago, there was a solar storm that led to predictions that the Northern Lights could possibly be seen from as far south as Boulder. However, cloudy skies were predicted, making it less likely. Around midnight, when I was ready to go to bed, I checked outside and the northern sky was indeed cloudy, so I thought, “Oh well.” But I woke up inexplicably around 3:00 AM, and decided to check again – finding, this time, a clear view of the Big Dipper, guiding my eyes to Polaris, the North Star. Maybe I could see the Northern Lights! I had read that the more likely views would be close to the horizon, and I can’t see the northern horizon from my house. So I put on socks, bedroom slippers, and, over my pajamas, the cozy green chenille bathrobe I bought from a thrift store that used to be next to the Walnut Café, where Anselm and I would meet for mid-afternoon breakfast after my yoga class almost every Sunday for probably ten years. I felt slightly silly for being thus dressed, or rather, not dressed, but I went outside, got in the car, and drove northward, about halfway to Lyons. (Anselm would have howled in protest!) I didn’t see the Northern Lights that night – no one did. But I did turn off on a side road and park the car. Thankfully, it wasn’t very cold, so I got out, bedroom slippers notwithstanding, and looked up into the sky. What I saw was a zillion stars. I thought of Anselm, and of where in the Universe he might be, and of the fact that those stars will still be there for as close to forever as we can imagine. What else can we be but grateful?  For all of it.

– Jane Dalrymple-Hollo