Jul 31, 2009

In that first garden that spring

They had a glow, in those early years. Before kids and worries overwhelmed them. It showed in the photos. She took his photo while he was digging in the garden. His foot was up on the shovel for that first garden, that first spring they were married, when his finger was still molding to the form to the ring and when everything was new and surprising and good.

She wound the camera for him, then, and he took her photo. She smiled as he concentrated really hard to take the picture, even though he only had to look through the view finder and push the button on the top. But he pressed his lips together in concentration and she smiled and looked down. In the picture she looked enigmatic, in love and like the keeper of the mystery of love, like she could make this last forever by looking down, hiding this happiness in her eyes.

Light leaked in on the end of the roll of 35 mm film, and so there was a picture of her laughing where half the 3x5 was bright off-white, like the foreground was an out-of-focus light bulb. There was a photo of him that only showed his eyes, the bottom half of the photo burned a weird neon orange. But in the top half, in his eyes, he was smiling.

They were happy. The photos showed it. He wore shirts the colors of dirt and harvest time and he let his beard grow. She wore sundresses, peasant skirts and wraps. He was going to seminary, and the extra room was his office and he had leather-bound Bibles, a Greek lexicon, commentaries on John, Philippians and Philemon, and books about Christians and community and giving and poverty. She took classes at the community college. She learned the names of the parts of flowers and how to throw a pot on a wheel. She grew the garden he dug for her.

It was new and strange and it was good. Sometimes she was surprised, when she woke up at night, that there was this foreign body in her bed, but then she would remember she was married and she would smile in the dark and she would sleep again. Sometimes he would watch her and wonder why she loved him, and sometimes he wouldn't be watching her and he would slip back into the gloom, like he always had before, but then she would say, "hey, come back to me," and he would see her again and smile.

This was before they had any children and before the world seemed to be broken with worry, before the debt and the bankruptcy and the business that failed, before the church seemed so asleep, before the miscarriage, before the slip-ups, before the ache and the longing that didn't have a name, before the fights and the lawsuit and the son caught shoplifting and the daughter whose boyfriend yelled, before the pain set in their faces and before everything seemed old, unchangeable, intractable, bourn by not knowing what else to do, endured like life dragging on. This was before. This was the early years. It was the first few months when they were first married, and they glowed.

It showed in the photos she kept in this box in the closet. There was a glow, there really was, a tone in the photos that might be mistaken for one of the hues of the late 70s, a glow of love in the palette of rust and brick and sand, orange and brown, green and harvest gold.