A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


That sense of loss is exactly what we must anticipate, prepare for, and cherish to the last of our days; for it is only our heartbreak that finally refutes all that is ephemeral in love. p 184

Lately my life has become a series of inadequacies. I’m figuring out, for surely the ten millionth time, my place in the world. My book recommendations seem hollow and waking in the morning to go to work doesn’t have the spark it once did. Thanksgiving was a much-needed break and the walk on the beach was restorative as always. I sat on a rock and let the sound of the waves wash over me and fill me up. In my bones I knew that I would be calling upon that moment in the future. That there would come a difficult time when I would need to envision myself sitting there in awe of my beloved ocean.

What I do know is that I want to be the lady who bakes cookies for all of her son’s friends. Earlier this month I sent them care packages with Leonard Cohen’s Anthem lyrics and a copy of Emily Dickinson’s Hope is a Thing with Feathers. Thinking of the kids I see everyday, when I was at the beach last week I grabbed a few striped rocks for my desk at work. It’s tradition that I bring at least one home with me and add it to the growing collection. Over the years many children have come to put their hands upon a rock and make a solemn wish. It’s my fondest hope that these children grow up and revisit the memory of my library. That years from now they say to a friend, there used to be this librarian and her desk was covered in wishing rocks. Maybe they talk about hopes they held in the past and maybe they discuss dreams for the future.

My hopes and dreams have scattered to the winds. Lately I’ve been turning to my computer, (perhaps you have too?) trying to learn from others’ experiences and to make sense of recent happenings. This week I read these raw, honest blog posts. In the midst of their paragraphs, I  felt steeped in their emotions, wants and desires. The need to be connected to the outside world by sharing their truths was so strong. I was envious of their writing, wishing the words flowed for me as they seemed to bend and shape to their will. I realized that the writing came from a place of loss and heartache. And though they were moving past it, it was the empty space that made them the writers they are. A tarnished silver lining of sorts.

M and I have had our share of loss this year, as has most everyone we know. We’re all wishing it would stop so that we could move on to January and hit the reset button. But looking at him this evening I had this whoosh of an idea. That our marriage truly is my support system and my guidance for moving in the world. He’s my comfort and my comic relief. I would gladly drop everything to sit and hold hands with him at the movies, companionably read in bed or sort laundry in anticipation of a trip to the laundromat. It became so clear to me that I keep piling on my expectations for all the ways I need our marriage to be. I began to fear, if, like so many others, it might implode from all that weight. But what if the secret—or at least one of the secrets—meant that even as we piled things on top we were also fortifying the foundation from underneath. Maybe all those big rocks I grab from the beach serve another purpose.

All I really know is that it is not easy. I want to be certain that he will absolutely love me forever and spare me from any unnecessary pain and heartache. As if our marriage came with some sort of guarantee. When all I really can hope for is that we will be kind to each other, that we will try. I will be the wife who bakes cookies, who collects rocks, who loves everyone near her fiercely and with careless abandon. Maybe the world could use a little more of my brand of kindness right now.  I am a gatherer: people, stories, words, rocks, yarn, books, pens, thoughts, idea… I hold them all close and when need be I open my arms and let them all rain down like confetti.

I have this idea that someday when it’s my turn to leave this world people I know and love will come and talk and reminisce. They will take a rock home with them and someday return it to the sea; remembering a moment that passed between us, a memory they hold close and dear to their hearts.

For now that thought of love is enough to sustain me.

3 thoughts on “A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

  1. This is so beautiful. I just love reading your posts. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.
    Oh and I love the desk with wishing rocks! It’s a lovely mental picture 🙂

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