The launch party for The Fifth Season was great fun. My only regret of the evening is that I was so engaged in conversations that I didn't get a chance to really listen to the live music by my favorite local singer, Marj Snyder Hegeman.
Marj's songs complement the content of the book, and she included lots of spirituals and folk songs expressing a sense of longing for release from a season of suffering. Although I wasn't able to listen attentively to Marj the night of the launch, I know what she sang because two weeks ago we sat together over coffee and Marj went through her set list with me, singing a line or two from each song, low and sweet under the ambient noise of the coffeehouse, while I felt my heart grow more and more full. Marj's voice is wonderfully earthy and somehow honest. She offers her heart in every note.
My best friend of thirty years catered a gorgeous (and delicious) spread for the launch party. Laurie unexpectedly lost her eldest brother less than a year ago, just months after Laurie moved in with her mother in anticipation of becoming a caregiver as the years go on. Hardship surrounds my dear friend on all sides, and yet she reaches out to embrace those around her as one who knows the deepest suffering and who is not afraid of what lies ahead.
In fact, all my guests carried suffering under their smiles and laughter. A friend whose husband is going through cancer treatment handed me a gorgeous orchid to brighten my signing table. Another friend, betrayed by her husband and now trudging the path through divorce and single parenting, offered a hug and sincere congratulations. We are learning together how to embrace all of life—including death—and how to best rejoice in the good and do battle with injustice and bear up under the suffering that permeates this bruised and broken yet beautiful world.