I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yellow noise of dandelions

Ray Bradbury's book, Dandelion Wine, which I quoted from last week, was a perfect book for me to be reading this week. I talked about Mrs. Bentley, who couldn't convince Jane and Alice that she had ever been young. Mrs. Bentley was a saver, she kept every souvenir from her past and believed that she could keep her youth through her memorabilia.

But of course we know better, right? I have a drawer full of those things, and I could never part with them. I try once in a while. But Mrs. Bentley was so shaken by the girls' disbelief that she wondered what her dead husband would say to her.
"You're saving cocoons." That's what he'd say. "Corsets, in a way, you can never fit in again. So why save them? You can't really prove you were ever young. ... You're not the dates, or the ink, or the paper. You're not these these trunks of junk and dust. You're only you, here, now -- the present you."
So Mrs. Bentley gave the girls some things she thought they might like and then burned the rest in a big bonfire in her backyard. The girls and Mrs. Bentley spent quite a bit of time together that summer and became good friends.
"How old are you, Ms. Bentley?"
"How old were you fifty years ago?"
"You weren't ever young, were you, and never wore ribbons or dresses like these?"
"Have you got a first name?"
"My name is Mrs. Bentley."
"And you've always lived in this house?"
"And never were pretty?"
"Never in a million trillion years?" The two girls would bend toward the old lady, and wait in the pressed silence of four o'clock on a summer afternoon.
"Never," said Mrs. Bentley, "in a million trillion years."
 I've been mourning the death of a beautiful eaglet that I watched on the Hornby Eagle cam since March, when the parents began brooding two eggs. He (or she) hatched on April 29, named Phoenix by the cam owners, and on July 14, for some unknown reason, Phoenix died in the nest. The first night was particularly difficult for me, I cried a lot, and I think perhaps the unexpected loss of this life I'd come to care so passionately about has triggered some unfinished grief that I still carry around.

Maybe grief actually never goes away completely, it just fades into the background and adds a certain poignancy to life. I know that I have moments of complete happiness and contentment, and other moments when the slightest thing will open some wellspring and I'm in tears. And the tears don't always feel inappropriate or filled with sadness, just a filling up and emptying out of some unseen reservoir.

I have always loved Emily Dickinson's poetry, and one of her poems has been wafting through my mind during the week. She wrote it in 1864.
Ample make this Bed -
Make this Bed with awe -
In it wait till Judgment break
Excellent and Fair.
Be its Mattress straight -
Be its Pillow round -
Let no Sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this Ground -
I don't think I'm going to watch any more eagle cams, because I just cannot do anything about the vicissitudes of nature. It's a little amazing to me that thousands of us who peeked into the nest are brokenhearted because we loved this little creature and could do nothing to help. My friend Nancy wrote a wonderful post about this on her blog that she calls "Blissed-Out Grandma."

I am truly enriched by the time I spend on the Internet, surfing around and spying into the nest of wild creatures, listening to the ups and downs of my blogging friends, but it's not without thorns, hidden there among the roses of experience.


The Retired One said...

I agree that grief is like this...it just hides in hidden corners and one little trigger can bring it out in glory. But it does "cleanse" to cry and let some of it out like air out of a balloon and it shrinks its power again for a while when you do this.

TechnoBabe said...

I was thinking of you when the eaglet died, if it would bring some grief for you that must still be there. I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing because of the death of Phoenix. If it helps, there were many of us crying that first day and having to deal with feelings over the loss and wondering why.

#1Nana said...

I go through periods where I want to clear out all the little souvenirs of my life...but in the process of sorting through them, I have such a lovely time remembering the past that I just can't bring myself to get rid of anything. I'm a lost cause! The experiences, the memories are what made us who we are and
I guess I'll be content to celebrate that.

I enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

Jan, have you considered writing and self-publishing your memoirs? I did with three of them. It would be a wonderful, absorbing project for you. Do think about it seriously. You write extremely well and have led an interesting life.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

DJan, I think we are most vulnerable to those sad things that parallel our own experiences. For you it was the young eaglet. For me it's usually when I'm reminded of my mother. My hubby, whose holiday-loving father died when he was 14, wells up at sentimental Christmas commercials. I guess grief is a process that can be interrupted, but not escaped. Hugs.

Donna B said...

I was engaged to a narcotic detective 36 years ago. He lead a raid on a heroin drug bust, October 28, 1974. For years, October through Christmas was horrible for me. Every year for several years it was like a raw nerve exposure.

I am better now, but I never forget that date, or his birthday, or other significant dates and memories we shared. Roberta Flack's song,KILLING ME SOFTLY really shoots an arrow into my heart when I hear it, because we used to listen to her album when we first met.

We never forget those we lose. They stay in our hearts and minds and we just grow more comfortable living with it.

I am sorry for the loss of your eaglet. I watched a documentary on a mother lioness protecting her cubs. The hyenas would constantly get too close for the mother's comfort, so she would move them.

While she was moving the cubs, one was biten by a snake and lay dying when the mother returned. I was absolutely hysterical and could not listen to the sounds that came from that grieving lioness. I turned off the TV and was inconsolable the rest of the night. I have never forgotten that program, and am very cautious in watching any more documenttries, despite my love for them...I wish I would have never seen that program.

Whitney Lee said...

I think you are right about grief never going away completely. I think it must be something we get used to carrying and which we live with, not through. I imagine the death of Phoenix so closely mirrors your own experience that it brought your past grief to the surface to mingle with the present grief.

I also believe that there are times when one should embrace, even wallow in their emotions. It keeps a person from repressing emotions which can cause an untold number of physical problems.

I'm one of those people who keeps a great deal of stuff-cards, letters, journals, pictures. I go through them every so often and remember who I used to be. It's a nice gauge. I get to see how much I've grown, or I decide to re-embrace qualities that I've somehow let go (like helping others). It also serves as a reminder of how many people I have in my life that love me and believe in me. When this memorabilia no longer serves that purpose I suppose I'll be ready to let it go...

Far Side of Fifty said...

Grief is a process, sometimes the process is long and painful. Was the joy you got from watching Phoenix worth the grief..if the answer is no, then stay away from the Eagle cam. If the answer is yes, that he taught you something about Eagles that you will share with others and remember him fondly..then I hope you watch again.
We have to accept that life is a bitch sometimes and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.
I met a wonderful blogger one day, her name was Flydragon. She was so stinking funny..she loved her flowers and her daughters and her sisters. She died quietly in hospice last December, I was so sad, really sad. In the blogging world you invest yourself with people..I am ever so glad that I was able to enjoy her humor..sometimes I miss her and go back and read her blog...and leave a comment. Now is that sick or what? It is OK to grieve and we all do it differently and about different things that we encounter throughout our lives:)

Linda Reeder said...

I am fortunate to have had little interaction with grief. And yet just the poignancy of lost times, of youth departed, of memories of good times gone can bring me to tears. We all experience passages'
DJan, you are such a poetic soul. I love your title,borrowed from the poem, "yellow noise". These are golden days as we enter high summer.

Nancy said...

You and Nancy are in the flow. Wow, beautiful writing, DJan.

Star said...

I think we can learn a lot from our animal friends. Just take the eagles for example. If it wasn't for the webcam, we wouldn't even know what was going on in that nest, would we? and next year the eagles will back again to have another try. They don't complain, they just get on with it. Amazing animals, just amazing.
Blessings, Star