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, June 9, 2013

Life goes on, whether I notice or not

How old was I? Maybe ten?
When I look at this picture of myself, taken long ago, several things catch my eye right away. The first is that dress. Do you have clothes that were so special to you that you can almost feel the texture, even if that piece of clothing hasn't existed in decades? This pink dotted swiss was an Easter outfit that both my sister and I were dressed in, a tiny one for her, this one for me. It's funny to think of Easter, since we didn't go to church, so I guess it was only for dressing up and taking pictures, maybe going to a family gathering. I just don't remember, but I sure remember the dress.

I also notice that Mama must have fixed my hair, which was pulled back with barrettes and obviously had been curled, as my hair barely had any natural waves. That would have meant bobby-pin discomfort the night before, then brushed and styled for more discomfort. Mama would have been proud of her little girls (three of them by the time this was taken; PJ was born when I was seven). She was not a patient mother, but she sewed many of our dresses and made sure we were well dressed when we went to school. How times have changed! I see the way kids dress today and wonder what Mama would think.

It was a much better week, since I was able to get many of the activities in that make me feel exercised and not too tired. After I wrote last Sunday's post, I drove down to Snohomish and spent the day with my friends and made a couple of skydives. Although the drive home was longer than usual because of the I-5 bridge collapse, it was worth it. I also got the story about the young skydiver who died at Snohomish the week before. He was jumping a very small canopy and made some very bad choices. Many people had tried to talk him out of the path he was following, but he wouldn't listen to anybody. Usually a person will make hundreds of jumps on a canopy before going to a smaller size, but he went to smaller and smaller ones way too early. It's equivalent to moving from a car that has plenty of safety features but little pizzazz, to a top-of-the-line Lamborghini, with no idea how to handle it.

I finished several books this week, since it seems that when you put them on hold at the library, there is no way to tell when they will show up, and I have an abundance of reading materials. Another two arrived yesterday, so I'll continue this week to spend time sitting in my favorite chair with a book. Many of the books that show up were recommended by fellow bloggers, and I head over to the library website and add them to my stack. Sometimes I don't even remember what the book is about, or who suggested it. Yesterday I finished Wave, a memoir written by Sonali Deraniyagala, which is one of those books.

Although last week when I wrote this post I was reading Picoult's book about the Holocaust,  and this week a memoir about Sonali's loss of her entire family in the 2004 tsunami, I am no longer feeling depressed. Sonali has written a book about the experience that brings her family back to life.  From the book review linked above (William Dalrymple):
This is possibly the most moving book I have ever read about grief, but it is also a very, very fine book about love. ... And while in Wave love reveals itself by the bleak intensity of the pain of absolute, irreplaceable loss, it is in the end a love story, and a book about the importance of love.
In between these two books, I read Proof of Heaven, a story of the journey that Dr. Eben Alexander took when he was in a coma with a deadly virus that pretty much gave him no chance of survival. He not only survived, but he felt it important to share the journey of his NDE (near death experience). The book is riveting. In it, he says he has learned that consciousness is the most profound mystery in the universe. It was also a perfect counterpart for the other books and life events that threw me for a loop last week.

It also made me feel that perhaps it's true that my loved ones who have passed beyond the veil really DO visit me in my dreams. The mystery of consciousness has fascinated me all my life, and the passage of time that is distorted in dreams takes on a different meaning after having read his book. That young girl in the picture above is still here; her body looks different, but her consciousness is the same one she's carried with her all through this life. In my dreams my son Chris is always a young adult, and my parents are always young and vital. I think I'd like to believe that is who they really are. The truth of the matter is that none of us will ever know for certain in this life if anything of our consciousness remains after we leave our bodies behind.

But I can dream, can't I?


Anonymous said...

Yes, I, too, read Eben Alexander's book as well as countless others regarding Near Death Experiences. And you know what? I no longer fear death. I sometimes wonder why so many patients go through such extraordinary lengths to remain alive. Don't they realize that there is a better life ahead? For me, doctors and medicines are there for me to prevent pain, not to lengthen life. Having experienced pain because of an umbilical hernia, I never want to go through that again. But, death? Nothing to fear.

Teresa Evangeline said...

I absolutely Love this post and am on board with you, wholeheartedly, in your last paragraph. I have also been fascinated all my life with consciousness and how it creates our sense of reality.

My sister and I had lavender dotted swiss dresses our mother made and I can still feel the fabric. I also had an Easter bonnet (still have it, actually)that would have matched your dress perfectly. :) Time changes nothing, really. Man, I love this post... everything about it...

Jackie said...

I love all your posts, Jan...and this one is no exception.
The feel (and smell) of dotted swiss is so fresh in my memory, and especially after reading this post. Yes...I remember the texture...as if it was yesterday.
Your Chris will always be with you. This post makes my eyes water as I read it...knowing how you miss your son, and I wish I could take away some of that hurt.
I'm glad that your week was better...that the newest books you've read have helped abate some of the depressing thoughts you carried after reading Picoult's book. When I taught the Holocaust (to my gifted students,) I remember carrying a guilt and burden with me...even though I wasn't a part of the horrendous acts, as a human being, I hurt, knowing that humans could and would do such horrible things to fellow humans. Unthinkable. I'm so glad that the books that you read this week have lifted the spirit of bleakness that one feels after reading about the holocaust.
Sending you great big hugs and even bigger smiles....because I can!! :)))

June said...

I'm going to read about the books you've mentioned. They sound very interesting. Thanks.

amanda said...

A wonderful post of a week come full circle in a few ways. And the dress does look like it would be an unforgettable one. We didn't dress up all that often as kids, but there are a few fancy things that remain vivid in my memory, too. Great picture!

Gigi said...

I think dressing for Easter was a big deal, whether or not you went to church. Sadly it doesn't seem to be the norm anymore...for any reason.

Red said...

That's a very interesting photo of you as a young girl. she looks confident or has just achieved something that she is very proud of.
My reading has trailed off to nothing lately. You sound like you're tearing up the books right now.

Sally Wessely said...

These books both sound very interesting. I just finished a book last night and have nothing to read tonight. I guess I will have to check these out.

I love how you describe the dress you are wearing. I remember details about my childhood clothing also. I can almost smell the new fabric since, like your mother, my mother made my clothes. She also pin curled my hair. Ouch. I hated that on my tender head at night. You awakened many memories with this post.

Glad you are feeling better and more resolved.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Love the old photo..I think I am visited often in my dreams..by people and dogs..I love those visits:)

Arkansas Patti said...

You look so much like the young you. A lot of people don't stick to the pattern given them at birth but you obviously did.
I will have to check out Proof of Heaven. Near death experiences fascinate me. My father, who was an atheist, had one and it changed him.

Rita said...

That's why we feel the same even though our bodies may change over the years--our consciousness remains the one constant. Our essence. Soul. Whatever people want to label it. I had an out of body experience 38 years ago. Never forgotten.

These books sound fascinating! And you look pleased as punch in your pretty dress. I don't recall clothing much, but I can remember the smell of my first dog's panting breath, the sounds of my first hamster's squeaky wheel, the difference between the fur in our two chihuahuas, the weight of the wild rabbit I saved as she cuddled under my chin, everything about hiding on a hot summer's day in the field watching dargonflies land on the tall waving prairie grass...embedded in my consciousness, I guess. ;)

This post touched my soul, Djan. :)

Lorna said...

I fear suffering through death.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

After reading this terrific post, I'm sure you're going to love Flipside!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I've taken down the titles of the three books you mentioned in this posting and the one from the Sunday before. I'll see if the library has them available.

I'm glad to learn that your mood has lifted. I suspect that you are seldom "down" for a long time. Your natural bent seems to be optimistic. Of course, the death of your son must have pierced your whole life.

Like you, I find consciousness mysterious. Life simply is. Peace.

Linda Reeder said...

I do agree that the consciousness of the little girl is still inside the mature woman. I was reminded of that when I was with my sister on Sunday. After this life, I don't know. I just know that it is up to me to make the most of this one life I do know I have.

Glenda Beall said...

I want to read the book on near death experience as I am very curious. Having been there when my husband, my sister, and my aunt died, I had conflicting ideas for a long time. Now, I feel that death is a welcome visitor when one is suffering. It is not death I fear, but living with indignity, with pain, with nothing to look forward to. When life has nothing new and interesting for me, I hope I can transition to the other world,.
I love all your posts, Djan.