Sunday, March 7, 2010


eventually i'll finish "the writing life" and stop quoting dillard...but for now:

"There was no continental shelf; the island beach dropped to the deep and sandless ocean floor. The water was so cold throughout the year that a man overboard died in ten minutes. Once I saw two twenty-four-man war canoes race across a passage. Forty-eight bare-chested Lummi Indians paddled them, singing. Once I saw phosphorescent seas in a winter storm in front of the cabin; in the black night black seas broke in wild lines to the horizon and spilled green foam that glowed when the wind's pitch rose, so I wept on the shore in fear.
I lived on the beach with one foot in fatal salt water and one foot on a billion grains of sand. The brink of the infinite there was too like writing's solitude. Each sentence hung over an abyssal ocean or sky which held all possibilities, as well as the possibility of nothing. In June and July, the twilight lingered till dawn. Our latitude was north of Nova Scotia; the sun never dropped low enough below the horizon to achieve what is called astronomical night. The wide days split life open like an ax. When I sketched or painted the island shore, even with the most literal intentions, the work twined into the infinite again and dissolved, or the infinite assaulted the page again and required me to represent it. My pen piled the page with changing clouds, multiple suns, circles, spirals, and rays. I used the pages at night to light fires.
'I have been doing some skying,' Constable wrote a friend. I have been doing some scrolling, here and elsewhere, scrolling up and down beaches and blank monitor screens scrying for signs: dipping papers into vats of color, dipping paddles into seas, and bearing God knows where. The green line of photons forms words at the shore of darkness. Darkness empties behind the screen in an illimitable cone. Shall we go rowing again, we who believe we may indeed row off the edge and fall? Shall we launch again into the deep and row up the skies?"
The Writing Life, Dillard [pg. 89-90]

Shall we?

Evocative. I have never encountered a writer who can stimulate the senses and stir up such wordless emotions all in one breath-taking passage.

And to spice things up; a poem from a Canadian Christian magazine, WindsorReview:

The Saddening Green, by John. B. Lee
~inspired by a U.E.L McQueen graveyard in Port Dover

Sometimes in the earth
there exists
such a saddening green
on a grave in the rain
with a sorrowful sun
gone grey as a shadow on stone
in the drab of the land
with the name on the stone
worn away [are we meant to be remembered beyond the grave?]*
as it leans in the fading of moss
and is blackened
by lichening life
and the withering weather of spring

see how
they've sunk in the yard
these heroes of time
these tablets of yesterday's love
this oldening loss
this reverent vanish of bones
like the burning of branches to ash
a streak on the marl
or a mark on the sand
where the hand
holds death to its breath
or a face
wore the dust as a mask
as it slept in the language of prayer

who went on this journey
of souls
with the nesting of roots
through the mind
once kissed
with the fever of touch
once held
to the warming of dark
once dreamed
and remembered in youth
such a fathering mothering blue
from the promise of dawn
to the dimming of dusk
to the startling brilliance of stars
how the mystery comes
to us all [it truly is a mystery, death... who can explain lack of existence? is that why we fight so hard to be remembered? because we are afraid of the unknown? of being unknown..]*
when we carry the light
like the lake, like the moon
like the well
too deep for the cup

*my words.

I was actually thinking about death lately. I guess being human forces us to face our mortality at least on occasion. I was more specifically thinking about cremation. My mom wanted to be cremated, for a few reasons. But one of them was that she wanted her funeral to be less hard on us; without a casket and pall bearers and a grave-side service. However in some ways, I think having someone cremated, as much as it seems like the logical thing to do (ashes to ashes, dust to dust), is a lot harder to cope with. When I think of a loved one who has been buried in a casket; I can picture them lying there as an entire body. But with mom we took hand-fulls of what used to be her, and spread them into the wind. So it's strangely final. Her human life being over. I know that when you're dead you're not going to be whole on earth ever again; but I guess there's a small comfort in one being still intact when they're dead. I don't think I would have thought much about this if I hadn't faced it myself.  I don't know why it ends up being so hard coming to terms with death and loss, but I guess it's because it's the opposite of what we fight so hard to do and be all our lives. Alive. Vibrant. Thoughts?

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