This Morning by Raymond Carver
The old house is still on my mind. Mostly what lingers is my reaction to a place where I didn’t even live. I mean—I’ve visited countless times. I am thinking: each time I go, I probably leave a part of myself behind. Maybe that’s why it hurts. Knowing I’ll never return.
Later that day, I found myself laughing with my sisters over a small thing. I thought, look at us: how we manage to recover from a harrowing morning, how we can move on from sadness and memory, to laughter—that resilience, and what it means. How our hearts work, how it lives.
To realise that I’ve grown up and that I can’t always protect the ones I love, nor preserve things just the way are—the incredible ache of that.
This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarcely a ripple. Calm. I dressed and went
for a walk — determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent-over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted. Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely. All bathed in a pure
cold light. But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander. I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else. I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other. (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong — duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife. All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day. What
I’ve trampled on in order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else. I know I did.
For when I turned back i didn’t know
where I was. Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees. And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.