For roughly 20 minutes, during twilight, which can happen in the morning or the evening, red light passes through space while blue light is scattered into the atmosphere, creating a soft light of deep blue in the sky. The sun dips down between 4 and 8 degrees on the horizon allowing this indirect light to take on a kind of melancholy shade. Photographers love this light. They call it the “blue hour”. Atmospheric scattering. A transitional short period of natural beauty, saturated in colors. A calm, mysterious moody time.
My blue hour lasts two days.
I like the work ‘roughly’. It leaves room for the seeping out of time to the edge of the landscape. Two days can spill over into three, five, a weekend, or be compressed into, say 20 minutes, a twilight of sadness that clouds, softens and dims the light. Morning or night.
The light today is definitely soft, dim and drab here in Tennessee. In the middle of February, the cold snap has passed, leaving us in the middle of everything: the middle of winter, the middle of the country and, at 50 degrees, the middle of hot and cold. Neither one nor the other. It’s raining. The cloudy sky darkens the late morning, matching how I feel inside. Neither here nor there.
I think of that song, the four-note repeated motif of minor melody that rises then falls, unfolding then folding back in on itself, a wheel inside a wheel:
Everybody’s saying that hell’s the hippest way to go
I don’t think so
But I’m gonna take a look around it though
I love my blue, like a blanky, like the piece of my old blanky I found stapled to my babybook and rubbed between my fingers to see if it still worked like a drug. I brought out the book last evening to show my husband, to see if there was any possible resemblance between our son at this age and me in that photo, me at one sitting in front of a pink birthday cake, red cheeks, puffy eyes. I’d been crying. Alone in the photo with a stained bib in front of a bright pink cake, brownish blondish hair sticking up, tear-stained cheeks, eyes that begged to be held, and a downturned bottom lip right above the red nose.
There – I see it. I thought I’d see it in the eyes. But his eyes are almonds, sly and sneaky at the outer edges. Mine were gumballs, marbles, round and direct with no secrets yet, too wide open without protection of the lid.
My son and I do not have the same eyes at all.
But the nose. There it is. In the shape of the brow that slopes down to his nose, a small button, a round curve of a slope, there is my one-year old brow and nose. We share a forehead and a nose slope.
Or I can make myself believe we do.
In truth, we probably don’t. I am stretching the photos to match, expanding the edges of truth to embrace a dim wish. I am willing him to match me, somewhere, anywhere.
He won’t look like me. I shouldn’t say it like that. I shouldn’t grieve it. I should be happy and grateful and not look at the four photos I keep contained in a Russian Doll of a filing system on my computer (a file inside a file inside a file) so that I even forget where it is, which is the point, so that I don’t look. She is Romanian. Not Irish/Welsh/Dutch like me. She is Eastern, with slanted sloped almond eyes. His eyes. She has high cheekbones. Like his. I stop looking at her to look for him to take me out of my own picture, to banish myself from my own son. If I stay too long in this locked inner file I may lose my motherness. Despite the fact that it was I who carried him in a pouch in my belly for 9 months, it was my blood he lived on, my milk he drinks, my skin he slipped out of. Despite the fact that I absolutely 100% without a doubt know that I am his mother. True blue mother.
But in the innermost file there is the smallest doll that does not open, the solid doll, the one that always gets lost, where I keep the wish that he wasallmine and that somehow, by dragging my feet during my own fertile era, I missed the chance of it being myskin that wrapped him, my DNA embedded in his hair, his eyes, his saliva so that he is mine and I am his and scientifically it is so.
Some people say he has my eyes but I know the truth.
The blue hour lies to me with her hazy foglike hues. With her seduction of slipping quietly into sadness, below the surface of the horizon. As if this dreaming is soft and romantic. It is anything but romantic. It is not the shallow end at all, with lovely women making breaststroke waves symmetrically lapping the shoreline.
This is the dangerous shallows. This is the violent undertow.
This is a haze that creeps like the fog over the Mission, stealing the air. It is a deep muscle ache, a piriformis pain far inside the hip flexor that no massage will reach, where the only relief is holding pigeon pose until the sharp hurt can only ease into a dull ache. This is not a disconnected detaching sadness. This is the opposite. This the kind of terror where I don’t want to leave him for work, for daycare, for a nap, where I need to breathe in his baby skin, lick his tears. This is a deep inner longing to put him back inside me for a few minutes where he is just mine, only mine, not of the world yet, still a vague idea of a melody not even a song.
I am weaning. My milk is waning. And I am in a darkness that comes in like a tornado rain, lightening shards of rage that flash and punch.
ink on a pin
underneath your skin
an empty place to fill in
My milk slows and my son stays on the nipple for only a moment until everything distracts him. He bites me with new teeth. But still, we are not done with each other. In the early morning, he rolls toward me and nuzzles up against my nipple. When he’s tired in the afternoon, he’ll lay his head against my chest for a minute then, as if on a scent, he’ll push himself up, look directly at my breasts and pat his palm against one, as If to demand his feed. At night, if he’s restless, I’ll rock him and let him sip a bit from me. He doesn’t drink much, but it’s enough that I know. We are not ready to let this go.
The blue hour set in on my birthday last week. I turned 51, definitely well past the average middle, and I can’t deny that I’d like the years to slow down. I’d like more time. The days used to drawl by like a Mississippi accent, a winding muddy river, a falling feather on a muggy day. Now they zip and speed like a racecar and one day blends into the next and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do tomorrow but more of the same. I lose track of To Dos while I listen to my son napping in the room next to me as I write. An hour can go by while we build paper blocks up to a tall tower momentarily before he swats at it and giggles into spitting as it falls down around him.
I have a long keening cry inside me that I’m afraid to let out because I’m afraid it will never end and I will collapse into a deep sleep and be unable to play blocks with my son or speak coherently to my husband and none of my friends would understand this as they don’t have babies and as much as they are supportive and love me they hold me at arms-length and call me brave. I am alone here on my island. And it feels at times like there is nobody that can lean into the blue hour with me and rock me back to the sunlight. Nobody human, that is.
Here is a shell for you
Inside you’ll hear a sigh
A foggy lullaby*
*Joni Mitchell, “Blue” from the 1971 album “Blue”. My first introduction to Joni, to folk music, to where poetry and melody tangled and created a world that expanded all musical possibilities in form and formless sound and made me cry for 2 days straight when I was 19.
Photo: Laura Schneider, Nashville