Sunday, February 27, 2011

Good Grief! When Does It End?

To grieve, or not to grieve.

I’m not sure we have a choice. It either happens or it doesn’t.

Trouble is, I’ve experienced so many rounds of loss in the last few years that I can no longer discern whether I’m in or out of grief mode. So I picked up one of the latest books on the subject by Ron Marasco and Brian Shuff—About Grief: Insights, Setbacks, Grace Notes, Taboos.

Years ago when I knew I was suffering from grief and needed to read about it, there was hardly a book to be found on the topic. Now it’s a genre with its own section head in bookstores and libraries. You can find books categorized according to the age of the deceased, your relationship to the deceased, the way the deceased left this world (murder, suicide, accident, illness), and the species of the deceased. You can find various approaches to understanding grief—through a lens of psychology, neurology, spirituality, or, as is the case with About Grief, through the tad flippant view of a literature/film buff.

One passage that gave me pause was this excerpt from C. S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed:

I once read the sentence, “I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about toothaches and lying awake.” That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

I started pondering how often I pondered my grief. I wanted to know how normal I was. I also wanted to be like C. S. Lewis. But the truth is I’m neither.

Grief and I have been together so long that I don’t have to think about it anymore—it’s permeated me. Clings to my body, oozes into my marrow, reminds me of its presence through tensions and pain and overall blueness.

Case in point: Every November, no matter what’s going right for me, I wear a whiff of melancholy. And every November, I’m perplexed by this fragrance until I remember—once again—that this was the season of great loss for my family: a grandfather and a sister within a two-week period.

My brain no longer tallies the dead; the numbers entwine with my physical well-being.

So the real choice seems to be, To grieve mindfully, or to grieve without awareness.

The right decision may be obvious, but it’s not easy.

[Thinking About Death by Frida Kahlo.]

The Church of a Poet

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –

And an Orchard, for a Dome –

excerpt from a poem by Emily Dickinson

[Photo by Michael and Diane Porter.]

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Space People Take One Small Step

ne of the books I recently released from my library was Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook for Visionaries with Their Feet on the Ground by Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman. In it, I noticed this quote from mythologist Joseph Campbell, which further encourages me to seek a quiet space:

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspaper that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you.

This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.”

As I write this, my husband is setting up just such a space for himself in the basement of our apartment building. His space includes tools and molds and various materials necessary to create artworks. I’m delighted and relieved, for it means he’s beginning to separate himself from our many losses and look toward a future. It’s a wise and healthy move for anyone burdened by grief and hardships.

[Drop cap designed by Jessica Hische.]

Friday, February 18, 2011

Seeking Quiet Midst Chaos

I started reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet largely because I’ve been searching for a pocket of quiet in my own life. Figured I might pick up a few pointers from am author of 50+ books, mother and caregiver to a fluctuating number of people, wife to a Broadway actor, and resident of a town in which she would always be regarded as a newcomer. Plus, Jean Kerr’s testimonial on the back cover spoke to me: “I know it will give great consolation to ordinary people who sometimes wonder why they bother to get out of bed in the morning.”

Those of you familiar with A Circle of Quiet know that it was first published a lifetime ago—in 1972. But I have to tell you that it holds up. Sure, there are some words that reference the era—kids glued to their transistor radios, for instance, and people fighting for change by fighting the Establishment—but substitute today’s versions of those words and the writing remains fresh and relevant.

Readers learn on the first page of the book that L’Engle’s home contains more than 3,000 books. Of course, this draws my interest. But it’s on the second page that I get really hooked:

“Vacuum cleaners are simply something more for me to trip over … . The sight of a meal’s worth of dirty dishes, pots, and pans makes me want to run in the other direction. Every so often I need OUT; something will throw me into total disproportion, and I have to get away from everybody—away from all these people I love most in the world—in order to regain a sense of proportion.”

Ah. Here was someone like me. L’Engle wrote Circle after logging 50+ years of life. Having reached that point myself, Circle offers more to me now, I believe, than it would have 20 years ago.

I’m more than halfway through the book and have flagged one passage after another that holds meaning for me. Even when I don’t share the same view as L’Engle, I do puzzle over the same subject. This is more than I expected to get out of A Circle of Quiet, which may exempt it from my Read-and-Release program. At least for a while, anyway.

[Art: The Intruder by Andrew Wyeth.]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I’m (Almost) Back

friend e-mailed me yesterday and asked whether I’d been out of the country. She hadn’t heard from me nor had she seen much on Lull lately. Perhaps you were wondering the same thing.

I wish I could say that my husband and I spent January abroad on a much-needed sabbatical, but we were here—in the Horse Capital of the World, yet nowhere near the horses.

After my father died, it took me some time to get his eulogy written and the final arrangements made for his funeral service. Then we spent January doing exactly what we’d been doing for months prior to moving to the Bluegrass State: dusting items, washing items, wrapping items, selling items, and hauling items to charities. In fact, about the only break we’ve had in the last year from such dreary tasks has been caregiving for my father. (Now it’s not just my thumb that hurts; I hurt all over.)

Once we emptied his house—including 500+ hardcover books—and prepped it for painters to freshen it up, we began emptying his barn. More dust, more decisions (sell it? toss it? give it away?). Every day may be a new day for some people, but we typically know what’s in store for us. (Except for that one day when a surprise awaited us: Someone ran into our parked car and totaled it.) Makes getting out of bed a Sisyphean chore.

What’s more, we had no computer
at hand for most of January (we were living at my father’s house) and when we did have a computer (when we visited our own home), we had only intermittent Internet access. Some of you may remember that the Net issue has been a problem since we moved here.

However, FINALLY our cable provider sent someone who figured out the problem—though only after he’d deemed everything fine and started off in his truck. I chased him down. Asked him how he knew it was fine.

“I checked it on my computer,” he said.

“Well, do me a favor and check it on my computer,” I said.

And guess what? It didn’t work.

Turns out, the culprit had nothing to do with routers or Macs or operators or anything else the cable company had been blaming it on. The problem was a tiny piece of metal on the cable in the basement that had corroded and couldn’t hold its connection. Once it was replaced, all was well. I still have to discuss getting a credit from said company, but at least I don’t have to look for a new provider.

Oh, other things have been brewing. But for now, I just need to finish emptying a barn and then I hope to bring Lull (and my life) back into full swing.

Another friend reminded me this week of a Winston Churchill quip that may well become my new mantra: “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

[Drop cap designed by Jessica Hische.]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mark the Day with Poetry

Late Fragment
by Raymond Carver

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Looking for Answers?

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
—Albert Einstein

[Pic from the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources.]

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coming to Grips with the Age of Snark

Generally, I’m not fond of snarky writing. I know I’m in the minority when I admit this; I realize snark is popular today—defines our culture. And I don’t dismiss it out of hand: I’ve been known to laugh at well-written snarkiness. But when such writing is used for good, then I’m a fan.

Case in point: the Fugly Horse of the Day! blog.

As you might have imagined, my move to the Horse Capital of the World has influenced my Web reading and expanded my awareness of equine racing and rescue. I happened upon Fugly one day and have continued to follow it.

The Californian behind Fugly gets the word out about abuse (in training, in breeding, in care) and horses in need while giving the abusers a well-deserved slap of snarkiness. But more than that, she rallies horsepeople across the country to DO something on behalf of the creatures she profiles. Readers share information with one another, research lineage, call someone who knows someone else who can get the media involved in a situation or who can get the facts about an alleged crisis, help find new homes for ponies destined to become some
one’s dinner. She presses readers to press their local politicians to add teeth to animal welfare laws and enforce those laws—not just sometimes but all the time. (All too often, authorities give abusers a pass in order to remove the animals without a fight. This does not prevent the abusers from acquiring more animals, nor does it change the abusers’ behavior.)

Yeah, I know. It’s not like this blogger is mobilizing an entire nation to fight for justice as we recently witnessed in Egypt. But she’s shouting out for one creature on our planet who has no voice (or isn’t listened to). She’s doing what she can where she is. And that MATTERS.

[Pics from Save A Forgotten Equine are Dexter upon rescue (top) and a year later after receiving appropriate care.]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Read-and-Release Program

Today I reread most of a book I stopped reading some years ago—Jon Katz’s The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An Adventure with Sixteen Sheep, Three Dogs, Two Donkeys, and Me. The author’s approach with animals had made me uncomfortable. (Apparently, I’m not the only dog lover or reader who felt that way.)

Because I need to cull some more books—need the space, thinking ahead to the next move—this one seemed a good prospect for “release.” Of course, I felt compelled to finish it before saying goodbye to it. Here’s my favorite passage, uttered by trainer Carolyn Wilki when she reprimanded Katz for his behavior with his Border Collie:

“Face it: if you want to have a better dog, you will just have to be a better goddamned human.”

Ain’t that the truth—no matter the animal?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Friend Crosses the Bridge

“I guess you don’t really own a dog, you rent them, and you have to be thankful that you had a long lease.”
—Joe Garagiola

Sometimes genetics call the shots on the terms of the lease. And sometimes, as in the case of this fellow, the guardians get to set their own terms.

Burt was rescued as a pup from a park in Los Angeles. He was nearly feral—hence quirky—and would require an especially understanding human to care for him. He got that and more.

When he was diagnosed with cancer and an immediate death sentence three years ago, his humans refused to buy into it. They tried everything possible (acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies) to extend his days and keep him free from pain. And they succeeded for several years.

Burt knew it. And he managed to reach the average old age for large dogs, in spite of the vet’s prognosis. But two days ago, he couldn’t go on. He hid in the garden beneath a palm and waited for his main human to drive through two hours of Los Angeles traffic to
get home to him. When he heard her car, he struggled to sit up one last time—to receive her affections and to communicate all that they had meant to one another over the years.

And then Burt crossed into a different time and space, leaving his humans and their friends with this stark reality from Marjorie Garber: “If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.”

But the timeline from joy to heartbreak is always worth it. I’m pretty sure Burt would agree.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...