After loss, there is silence. Always, a huge, gaping silence which fills one’s soul completely, eclipsing all other sounds. The silence comes, as a friend, a balm, the beginning of healing. There are a thousand ways to experience loss during our lives; through obvious doors such as death, and less obvious, in guises like moving, leaving one situation for another, one partner for the next (or to be alone), the particulars change, but the result is the same. Through the process itself, we are changed. We become different, somehow, from how we were before the loss. Loss includes grief, it is inevitable. But it also includes joy, often in unexpected and unasked for ways. Joy surprises us in the middle of loss as a kind of grace.
Deep within this mysterious summer lies profound loss, profound change. Within my own circle of family and friends, many are experiencing loss, the grief of the loss, and finding the ways to cope. As humans, we become so attached to what we love, whether a person, pet, place or even certain things.
Some examples: One of the saddest losses of my adult life was the day I spun my little Saturn into a snowbank, effectively destroying it. After ten years, my beloved car was gone. It was an inanimate object, and yet I really loved it. I grieved its loss. I have also grieved the loss of place more than once. After I moved from the west coast to Wisconsin several years ago, I remember driving out to a pretty, peaceful reservoir, walking around a bit in a daze, and finally sitting on a picnic table, staring into the meandering stream before me, unable to fully understand where I was or what I had done. I had lost the home I had shared with my family, packed us all up and moved us 2000 miles away from the life we had known and loved, in hopes of something better. In that moment, however, I wasn’t sure of anything, not anything at all. The ground of our lives had given way, and we were once again floating in the unknown.
And so it is again now, this summer. This week I am packing up, cleaning and saying goodbye to all the places here which I have loved: the lakes, each one which I’ve walked around so many times the past two years; the green, mysterious forest with its various, enchanting paths; the garden in back of our apartment house which has given me so much pleasure with its wild, overgrown charm and many beautiful trees; the library, where I spent countless hours in the dark of winter; the cafe where I enjoyed many cups of very strong Danish coffee with my good friend, having interesting, heartfelt conversations; and lastly, our sweet and lovely apartment with its light-filled, airy rooms, its windows gracing me with views of trees, clouds and skies in every season and kind of weather, the stars and moon at night, and beautiful sunsets in the western sky in the evenings. This place, this home and town, with its special woods and pathways, more than any other, has afforded me the great luxury of silence, contemplation, and much pondering of life’s perpetual questions. It is here that I made the decision to write my novel, to begin this blog, and to become brave enough to call myself a writer and believe it. I have treasured the days and nights of living here even as I have embraced all the emotions which have accompanied them.
There is an old song, a beautiful one to sing in a round, with the following lyrics (in English, though I think it must be sung in several languages, it’s so pretty):
All things must perish from under the skies
Music alone shall live, music alone shall live,
Music alone shall live, never to die.
Melancholic as I am off and on this week, I also have come to understand that I am simply a traveller through this life. That all these possessions I am carefully placing into cardboard boxes, all the places I have lived and loved, and all the people who I have known and loved (some I still do) are all temporary, and that no matter how attached to them I am in the moment, I own none of it. Even my body, as dear as it is, will one day also be lost to me. There is simply nothing permanent in this life, and this realization strikes my soul like a great bell ringing out clearly on a summer’s day. And I can see that it is all right, it is supposed to be like this, life is a great and amazing mystery that we cannot ever truly know as long as we are alive. I am under no illusions that I will somehow, someday, become as the Buddha and simply understand life and its meaning. And that’s okay too, I don’t need to in order to be fully alive. Just breathing is enough, watching the gulls just now as they suddenly rose up and flew in a great flock outside the window, calling to each other in a gull chorus. I accept my life, with its losses, grief, beauty and joy, just as it is, so grateful for it all.
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
~ Mary Oliver ~
- The Kind of Grief You Get Used To (workingsandbox.com)
- Grieving life’s losses and finding your new normal (journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com)
- From Happiness to Grief (michelewhitney.wordpress.com)