Today I finished a lovely book by Nancy Horan titled, Under the Wide and Starry Sky. It is the story of the life and marriage of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wild and wonderful wife, Fanny. What a story! Though not a false and touched-up story; a real-life adventure full of wild creativity alongside the crush of recurring illness. There are daring, spontaneous sea voyages, travels across the Continent, late night drinking sprees with friends, harsh words, love poems, and beautiful words.
Included is one of my favorite poems of his, which I first met as a break-my-heart lyrical choir piece. I believe the title was And This Shall Be For Music. (click the link to listen)
Louis wrote this poem for Fanny while she was recovering from a mental break while they were living on the island of Samoa. Remember, R.L.Stevenson was a Scotsman so that first noun, brooches, would have had the rolled r.
"I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me,
Of green days in forest and blue days at sea..
And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear,
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire."
Fanny did manage to come almost all of the way back from that break, and in the process Louis was able to begin to identify with what she had had to do so many times during their years together, as she dragged him back from the edge of the cliff, due to his terrible lung problems. He realized she had given her whole life to keeping him alive, so that he could write, the one thing he longed and loved to do. There is this final paragraph in that chapter that is so moving.
"In trying to nurse Fanny back from her netherworld, he'd rediscovered something within himself. It had done him good to know an essential decency still resided there. That much had not changed. In the end, what really matters? Only kindness. Only making somebody a little happier for your presence."
That is so true, so true. Making someone a little happier for your presence. Some will be remembered for feats of valor, or for for acts of evil, or for great creative endeavors, but most of us will be remembered, if only by a few, for our small acts of kindness, day after day.
When I read that line I was reminded of my mom, making her rounds in the small town in which we lived, visiting the shut-ins, touching the hands of the old women who were all alone, visiting those who were ill or forgotten; taking them flowers from her gardens, listening to their stories, and gifting them with her beautiful smile.
She gave so much to that little town; gave it her whole heart. I hope they remember her many acts of kindness. She gave away flowers and plants by the boxful, to anyone who wanted them, and they continue to bloom all around town, every spring...still brightening those streets with beauty.
But it wasn't just small kindnesses that she gave, there were some huge ones as well. For instance: She wanted the town to have a public library, so she made it happen; found someone with the money to back it, and talked them into climbing aboard her dream. She made the plans, bought the books, picked out the carpet, set the thing up and opened the doors. It is still there today, bigger and better than ever, one of the best small town libraries in the state.
Thoughts of Mom always bring to mind this quote:
Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. (And I might add...and don't whine about it.)