1/12/2018

Dear Stuart,

When I woke up this morning it was close to 50 degrees outside and the grass was fully exposed. Now it's 17 degrees and there's a thick blanket of snow covering everything. If we hadn't been talking on the phone around 5pm today, I wouldn't have seen the metamorphosis. So thank you.

Today Nonno and I engaged in a film, which automatically makes it a good day. We watched The Good Earth, a 1937 epic. It cost $2.8 million to produce... in 1937! It is a spectacle. The film is about Wang Lung, a Chinese farmer, and his family's struggle to survive in pre-World War I northern China. Wang Lung begins as a poor farmer who is given a slave, O-lan, as his wife. O-lan turns out to be an extremely loyal, smart, resilient, and steadfast partner. Throughout the film we see Wang Lung as fickle, greedy, loud, and impulsive. He puts all his faith and care in his land. As a brief synopsis: he, O-lan, and their three children struggle when famine hits, and when Wang Lung comes close to selling his prized land, O-lan will not let him. Instead they travel south to find work. O-lan risks her life, after coming upon precious jewels, to bring them back to Wang Lung. With the riches, the family travels back north to their beloved land and they prosper. Soon, Wang Lung becomes caught up in greed, pleasures, and appearance and the family begins to fall apart. During this time, O-lan becomes ill, but remains strong and supportive. She is meek and quiet but knowing and forgiving. She says nothing of her illness. In the end, (spoiler alert), Wang Lung and his estranged sons, along with the help of the entire community, come together to fight off a plague of locusts coming to destroy all their crops. The return of Wang Lung and his boys to the field, along with their (spoiler!) victory, ends in reunion and celebration. Wang Lung shamefully realizes all he has done out of avarice and goes to O-lan's bedside to apologize, and to acknowledge that she has been the best, most dutiful wife he could ever ask for. She smiles, then (spoiler!) dies. Wang Lung somberly realizes that all along, "O-lan, you are the earth". She was the wealth.

Phew. Ok, it is an epic, so that actually is as brief as I can get for you. It's a heart-wrenching film. Nonno says to me, after the film has ended and we settle in for a late dinner, "There are three battles we all face: Humankind vs. Humankind, Humankind vs. Nature, and Humankind vs. Self. This movie goes into all three, quite well and quite deeply."

It's so true. The people in our lives are our riches. And yet it can be hard to hold that mindset in this society full of stuff, ideas of success, and solutions for a faster, richer, more beautiful world. It turns us against each other, ourselves, and the universe to compete for Best. "Est", in Latin, means "to be". Nonno taught me that today. Perhaps to be our best is just to be.

I think of you. I experience you as honest, true, modest, and loving. It seems like you just have all these qualities, but they are things you have picked and practiced and prioritized over your lifetime, whether you did it intentionally or not. Every day I am humbled by you, by the glowing ways you show your love for me, the way you listen and care. I love the way you be, Stuart. You are my earth! You are my wealth!

Let us not stray from all those in our life that surround and love us, and we will be forever rich!

So much love,

Emily