But before this: The day we left we got up at 5 a.m. and drove to Holkham Beach, the wide, bowl-shaped beach of Edward's childhood, and of our summer. On the way there, hares jumped along the edge of the roads—early risers? Going home to their burrows after a night of hell-raising?—and I prayed I wouldn't hit one, that this wouldn't be the first day I struck something living with a car. I didn't believe in omens anymore but still. We worried that someone else would have beat us to the beach. But we walked through the scrub pines to the sand and then over the great expanse of sand to the water's edge all alone.
The sky was peach and gold, a teacup of a morning, just enough clouds so as not to mock us. Why isn't there a dawnish equivalent for the word dusky? That's what the light was, beautiful and dawnish. We found a spit created by the receding tide. A spit curl, really. It spiraled around. We walked to the end of it. Edward had already removed the screw that kept the wooden urn shut. He took off the lid. The ashes were in a small white container like a film canister. We opened it up, and then we cast the ashes upon the water, hoping they would—what? He wouldn't return to us but someone would. It was tremendously comforting. Fingertip after fingertip, we let him fly.
It probably sounds ridiculous to observe that I was at that moment already a day or two pregnant, as nearly as I can reckon it. If this morning appeared in a movie, I would spit on it for its nauseating symbolism, the author taking liberties with probability to Give Hope to the Audience. I'm a cynic. I've had to go back to the e-mails I wrote that afternoon, to Ann and Lib and my parents, to make sure that it all really happened.
So: I will report now that when it was done we turned back and walked to the car, and passed by the first birder of the morning, a man in his 60s, and his grizzled dog. And that we got in the car, and then we decided to drive through the miles of parkland around Holkham Hall. We drove through the gates, past the pub we'd liked, and into the grounds.
Then Edward said, "Look!"
Huddled together under a nearby tree were about 30 does. In my memory they look slightly worried, twisting their heads over their shoulders—to look at us? Wondering where everyone else had gone to? All our married life, Edward will say, "Look," and point, and it will take me several moments: He has spotted the heron, the big brown hare, the cardinal so red it can only be called cardinal red. He grew up in the country. He sees the wildlife. I reflected on this truth as I watched the beautiful kaffeeklatsch of does worry beneath their tree. Then I looked to my right.
In the wide open, in a dip in the land, were hundreds of deer. Hundreds. Fawns, does, stags, everyone, in a giant herd, the stags marshalling the edges.
"Look," I said.
The deer moved around each other. They shifted but they didn't flee. We could see another car stopped on the other side of the pack, and two people on foot. We bipeds held still.
"I've never seen a stag in the wild before," Edward said. I said, "Well, then."
Finally we drove away. We had to get on the road; it was time for the rest of our lives. On the other side of Holkham Hall, the mawkish entity orchestrating all of this threw in for good measure a clump of stags—15 stood behind a knoll, and when we passed by they ducked down like juvenile delinquents as though to hide, though their antlers still forked up.
I don't believe in omens. Still, it's nice to see nature try her best to persuade you.
But if you ask me whether this felt like closure, I'll tell you what I've come to believe:
Closure is bullshit.
We Hear You!