Everything orbits something. Everyone orbits someone. The moon orbits the Earth, the Earth orbits the sun, the solar system orbits something bigger. Our lives orbit the day, the week, the year, the seasons. These orbits are all fixed, except the things our lives rotate around. We mark dates, and events and seem to gravitate around them. It starts with our birthday. Each year, like a giant elliptical orbit it approaches and makes its pass and continues out into unknown spaces, until the gravity pulls back closer as that same birth date approaches again, and again. Then we add other dates to our orbits. In the Old Testament they would mark these events with piles of stones or by planting a tree. The more gravity around the event, the stronger it’s pull. Soon our orbits revolve around the beginning and end of a school year. Holidays. Breaks. Weekends. We grow, we drop some orbits and we pick up new ones. Our jobs, our anniversaries, and ultimately a death.
For me and my house, everything revolves around October 27th – 31st, 2005 – the birth and death of my second daughter, Kellan Victoria Cowan – much like the way our planet revolves around the sun. For six months Earth ventures farther and farther away, then reaching the Summer Solstice it marks the farthest point it can get from the Sun before it’s time to drift back until it is at its closest point. Our lives revolve around Kellan this way. The farther we get from October 27-31, the farther she drifts from us. The easier it is to remember or to not. The farther we are from this date the fewer the dreams, thoughts, longings. But then it turns cool and we find October quickly approaching once again. Another orbit around this lovely little girl who we knew for only 4 days. With her comes pain and joy, loss and thankfulness. Her gravity is so strong that it becomes impossible for emotions to stay tucked away. There is no hiding from her. Like the sun, she rises and brings all these things to light. All of these places and feelings must be dealt with until her gravity subsides and we are allowed to drift back out into space for another year.
So now, we are one day from spinning past her once again, on her fourth birthday. People who went through similar losses tried to tell me how things would never be same, how it would never go away. In my ignorance I nodded and thanked them and presumed that I had it figured out. But I didn’t. She grows every year. I can’t explain it. I never expected to see a four year old in my mind when I think of her now. When I thought of her then, she was a baby. Then a toddler. Now a four year old with long straight hair and inquisitive eyes and bare feet. Those pitter-pattering footsteps across a kitchen floor that she has never touched grow louder. Bigger feet making more noise. During most of the year, while I spin as far away from her as I can, I don’t think these thoughts. I don’t have these visions. I don’t feel the loss. But now, another revolution comes full circle and she is there, another year older and another year farther away. And I have to deal with the loss of her, again.
And I can’t help but find a little dismay and a lot of comfort in the fact that with each passing revolution of the moon around the earth, the earth around the sun, the sun around the heavens; Kellan keeps getting a year older, too. And although I will drift farther and farther away from her as the months roll on, I will always have this lovely, bittersweet sting of shorter days, longer shadows, turning leaves and misty evenings returning every Fall to pull me back into her.