Here's an old post I never got around to publishing, due to the storm clouds of depression, and confusion that follow the death of a loved one. In some ways it seems a sort of premonition, in another, it's the sort of thing I've been writing this whole period of living at home, helping tend to him. I sit here in Austin, simultaneously living in two selves. In two different time periods. I can see clearly, but I have become nearsighted.
Am I in love with this city? Our past together? My friend's beautiful apartment? I listen to the doves and mockingbirds as the light shinnies through the window. A cat pads in the periphery of the room. I haven't sneezed once since I've been here. I remember things. Topo Chico. The fear of DWI's. See with clearness the blurry faces of the past. Chisel them from soft, vague rock of the deep brain. Everything is different. Austin is fractured too. Caught between many different presents. Sculpted by many hands. Controlled by many animal brains. People come and go. Pulled by California sometimes and sometimes New York. And a part of me is already in the desert. And a part of me is in the underworld. Sewing the cremains in the white sandy soil. Doing the blind work of mourning.
Here's the post: look out for more updates from the road
Telling someone to take a hike is a pretty nice suggestion, really. Unfortunately it's the implication that the person doing the telling doesn't want to come along, that stings. Who doesn't want a hiking buddy? To whom will you point out birds? But don't worry, nature heals all wounds (provided you stop picking at them). And if you let your curiosity guide you, you'll have made Cinderella-style friends before you know it. Which leads me to something I've been thinking and dreaming about recently. Why are we so resistant when we die, to the idea of decomposition? To become a part of the natural world, isn't that its own sort of heaven? Sure it looks a little grisly at first, and you can never unsee a cute little critter gnawing the flesh from a carcass. But honestly, I can't think of anything more beautiful than becoming a maggot, who becomes a bird, who fertilizes the soil bed, and feeds millions of micro-organisms that filter the water and runoff that pass through it.
I went on a walk with my good friend Wallace (and his human, Rush) and we happened upon a skeleton picked mostly clean. And I was filled with nothing but wonder. Wonder at the irrepressible machine that is the natural order (a phrase that has somehow separated from nature itself). At the design, the shapes. The bones forming such strong banked curves, the clavicle, made to brace and absorb shock, the infinite permutations of the skull. And the way the whole thing is a frame for holding up the body. I can't help but think about how fragile the individual and how powerful the system that contains it.
As I go through the many stages of grief over my father, while he is still alive, I cannot help but have the same thoughts. Over and over I wonder what I can do for him, the fragile individual, while feeling an unwavering respect for the system of life and death and the meaning they give to each other. I often wish we were closer, my father and I, but all this time watching his body weaken has given me cause to understand the simple truth that we are one and the same, my father and I. His life is mine, and his lessons widening my footsteps.
Sometimes I ask the birds what to say. Ask the Carolina wren. Who speaks succinctly, purposefully. Who sings a song of being. What does my song sound like? How to hear your own song, singing.
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