I sit down at the table to work on the 500-piece puzzle of a winter cardinal, that is almost finished. All the pieces are done, save the ten that would fill in the middle of his red body. I stroke slow circles with my fingers outside the empty belly of the cardinal and pause. I feel reluctant to finish. I leave him with this dark hole in the center and walk away.
A few days ago, I was sorting through boxes and found an old photo of my ex-boyfriend. He was sitting outside a camper in nature and staring wistfully at the sky. On a whim, I emailed a snapshot of it to him. A few hours later I got an email telling me that he had died over the holidays. I was stunned, the wind got knocked out of me, and I had to lie down. But the winds gathered and got loud, pushing me around with intrusive thoughts. Unable to get grounded in my own space, I take a walk outdoors in the darkening night. At the end of the block, I look over the still canyon and grip the metal fence. Above me, ghosts appear, dominating the sky, carving cobalt blue circles, like in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. Then memories, both beautiful and terrible, flash like photos in the sky. Pieces from the puzzle of our rocky relationship fill my brain, not fitting together, and I shake my head. “Where are you now?... What am I supposed to make of our time together?” As I wait for answers, my gut tightens. All turns dead quiet. Behind me from the distant hills, I hear a coyote howl. I howl just like him, which opens my throat and makes me cry.
I read today that when there is loss, our creativity is reassigned to adapting to change. Today, I write to paint the sky a softer color, to help the ghosts fly away, and to try and regain my own center.
I go back to the puzzle and slowly place the final ten pieces in the cardinal’s red belly and gently place my hand over his middle.