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Moonrise On the Beach

Moonrise On the Beach
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As I was leaving the beach, a man approached me in the parking lot. “Excuse me,” he said, “but what is the occasion? A wedding?” I told him that it was a memorial service. “A memorial service?” he asked, somewhat incredulous. I was slow to catch on. He somehow thought that the people standing on the cliff and the revelers below on the sand were of one celebration. “And you hired a band for a memorial service?”

I quickly straightened him out. When I was trying to listen to the poetry being read in honor of our friend, I felt it was too bad that the band had to be playing at that particular moment but later I thought about the two events going on simultaneously, the celebration of a life lost and the spontaneous celebration of life and the sea. It seems to me Arturo would have enjoyed watching the revelry below us. I can just see him smiling. His life was like a beautiful sonata, softly crescendoing, quietly receding, his words still with us after he has left.


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6 Responses to Moonrise On the Beach

  1. Barbara Fitzgerald July 24, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    Thank you for that beautiful quote,”I wrote to know the mystery even a small moment holds.” That may be why many of us write. And thank you for your “blogs”. Your writing is so thoughtful. Have you read May Sarton’s journal, At Seventy? Barbara F.

  2. Susan Cole July 26, 2008 at 8:22 am #

    Another inspiring column…Mary’s Farm is always the 1st. page I turn to in Yankee.

    I can never thank you enough for the exceptionally heart-warming special column of last Thanksgiving. I have never read anything that has come as close to my own thoughts…awakened by the holidays….as that one column. I have read and re-read over an over. It is a one-of-a-kind classic.


  3. Doris Matthews August 1, 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    Isn’t that the way of life-comings and goings (as Mary Elizabeth McClellan would write), one ending and one beginning, a memorial which is really a celebration of life. Don’t you just love that! Thanks, Edie. Doris

  4. Denise Barbin August 1, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    I just love your work and hoping you write a second edition to “The View From Mary’s Farm”
    Susan Cole said it perfectly…. exceptionally heartwarming stories… Thank You

  5. Lou E Shellenberger August 8, 2008 at 11:00 pm #

    Mary, What a treat to find your column each issue of the magazine. I also have two of your books. I made rhubarb soup from your recipe and loved it. Some of my friends have asked for the recipe.
    It is great to find a writer that can put into words so many of my feelings. I feel as if I am a part of your New England life even though in fact I am across the country in the central part of Washington state. Thank you for using your talent is such a way that we readers can feel uplifted. Lou

  6. Merrill Gerber August 21, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    In 1970, I met Arturo at his family villa in Siena, Italy. Over the years, we corresponded, and in the last years of his life, we were in touch very often by letter (and even by e mail, when he finally agreed to learn to use it). I helped him a bit with the mss of his last novel, Truelove Knot, and was honored to review his book of stories, Solitude, for the LA Times on July 24, 2005. For those of you who haven’t yet read those wonderful stories, I urge you to read them. My review is below.

    Thanks, Merrill Joan Gerber

    Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 24, 2005

    Solitude And Other Stories by Arturo Vivante University of Notre Dame Press: 202 pp., $35 cloth, $16.50 paper

    By Merrill Joan Gerber, Merrill Joan Gerber is the author of “This Is a Voice From Your Past: New and Selected Stories” and “Glimmering Girls: A Novel of the Fifties.”

    Unlike Chekhov, who called medicine his lawful wife and literature his mistress, Arturo Vivante gave up medicine entirely when, as a young doctor in Rome, he began to sell his stories to the New Yorker and decided writing was his true calling. Both professions require attention to the dimensions of suffering and pain, although Vivante seems to have been drawn more to the pain of the psyche than to the pain of the body. In “Solitude, and Other Stories,” Vivante muses on the essential loneliness of our human existence and our yearning for connection. He describes with delicacy and passion those precious moments when we reach out to another person, or, in some cases, to another creature of nature, and there is a vivid response.

    Many of the tales in “Solitude” are narrated by an itinerant professor who, like Vivante himself, travels far from home to teach at colleges across the United States. In “The Cricket,” the professor is alone in a college-owned house where there is no other creature but a cricket. He is attuned to the cricket’s noises; he comes to depend on the sound and its variations. “The shrill, piercing note had a ubiquitous quality. It filled the room the way its companions outdoors filled the night. The only difference was that outside a choir was playing; this was a solo. And his only company. Playing for him.” When another professor arrives and in total indifference stomps on the cricket, the narrator is horrified.

    In “Reflection,” a middle-aged man admires the beautiful hair of a young woman sitting in front of him on a train. He recalls how his wife has criticized him for his interest in young women, and his daughter once called him a fool for admiring, at a funeral, a girl with “a magnificent shock of red hair.” He thinks: “Why should one ignore beauty at whatever age, of whatever age, and anywhere, anytime, even at a funeral service?”

    “Crosscurrents” describes a man who is low in spirits and without energy but longs to engage in life. Set in Cape Cod, where Vivante has lived for many years, the man lies in bed and feels the wind beckon him to go sailing. “But still he lay, anchored by a sense of inertia and dejection to the bed.” When finally he goes out to sail, “[h]e felt more alive in this shaky old boat than in the safety of his bed. Did speed, instability, danger make one more aware of life than stillness, security, safety? If so … sail out into the open sea. Yes, leave all sluggishness behind.”

    Vivante is a master of capturing the essence of a moment. In “Doves” he describes the courtship of two pigeons, “their iridescent plumage glorious in the sun … their beaks joined as in a kiss…. Then she stood still and crouched while he hopped behind her …. The union lasted no more than a few seconds, but in that time, hidden by the softness of their plumes, in momentary darkness, the fluid of love and life was duly transmitted.”

    Love is a primary force in these stories, although not necessarily the love of a man and his wife. Often, the man, far from home, seeks the comfort of an available woman. In “Osage Orange,” the narrator thinks of a line from a novel: “I’ve never had anything approaching a successful love affair,” and he remembers a night he spent with a woman

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