The Conversation Went Like This…

‘I need some severed body parts.’

‘I know a couple people I can ask.’

‘Okay, I’ve got a leg, a foot, and two hands.’

‘Daaannnggg…did they struggle much?’

‘No, but they won’t be late on their bill again.’

This was the conversation between myself and a friend recently, with some work-related humor at the end. Obviously I’m not collecting real body parts. I was looking for props for the upcoming filming of a book trailer.

It got me thinking, though, of other similar situations where things could be misconstrued if overheard.

I have a friend who used to be in a mystery writer’s group called ‘Women Who Kill’. I thought they should make tee-shirts.

There was the time, as I’ve posted about before, when a friend popped into a meeting at work, to say, thoroughly disgusted, ‘I can’t believe you killed Kelly!’ and then left without explaining that Kelly was a character in a book.

There was the time I sent an email to a forensic scientist asking what a body would look like if left in a cave in the Pacific Northwest for a month in the winter.

There was a writer’s resource group that had guest speakers talk about how to poison people, how to use a knife in a fight, how to have a gun not be traced back to you…and they met in a corner of a large bookstore. I’m sure they were overheard regularly.

And of course there’s always the gleeful conversations at coffee shops and restaurants when writers get together to brainstorm plot ideas and what awful things they can do to their characters to create conflict and tension. I bet those are fun for others to listen in on. Or at least, fun once they figure out what is going on.

In the meantime, I’m now on the hunt for blood…

On The Nature Of Tears

(There is a link at the bottom of this blog for a song called ‘On the Nature of Daylight’ by Max Richter. I paraphrased that title for the title of this post, and it is a perfect background music to read this by.)

As most of you know, this blog started out years ago as a way to engage my radiation-fried brain with words again. I thought if I wrote about writing, stories would come to rest on my shoulder, would begin to whisper to me.

So I started a blog about writing and those early posts were self-conscious and stilted. When I relaxed, words relaxed. When I just chatted about day to day things, friends settled around and joined their words to mine. When I told funny stories about my life, people came closer. I never paid attention to numbers of ‘likes’ or numbers of followers as that wasn’t what the blog was about. I chose to pay extra to keep the blog free of ads because it also wasn’t about making money.

It was about me, rebuilding a loving and respectful relationship with stories and with anyone who wanted to tell me a story.

But then I was hit hard, slammed into broadside, by loss and it came out in posts about grief. I didn’t mean it to be that way; I was just writing what had to come out.

Those posts, for some reason, resonated with people to the point where I was getting almost two hundred emails a day.

Today, I’m thinking about a recent loss of a friend and how the family is hurting and how this damn virus doesn’t allow us to come together to grieve.

This newest loss also has me thinking about the nature of loss. What is it about sadness that so resonates with us? Why do more people respond to grieving than to laughter? Yes, we’ve all been touched by grief, but we have also been touched by laughter and kindness and caring.

And why is it that those things like caring, reaching out, feel-good-stories, bring tears to our eyes and feel like tiny pieces of grief?

Why do we laugh until we cry?

Why do I get teary watching the underdog come from behind?

Why do I feel teary sitting here writing about being teary?

Obviously I’m no psychiatrist. I don’t know anything about how all this works.

But I want to know why, sometimes, deep grief feels sacred.

I want to know why sadness and loss pull people together, bring strangers out to help each other, even more so than celebrations.

I want to know why those stories make us bend closer to reach out and touch, partake, share.

There’s got to be something deeper going on than the simple glib answers about loss making us realize what’s important, or showing us our own mortality.

There’s something ancient here, something maybe genetic, that makes grief so incredibly powerful.

I don’t understand, but when I feel it, or when I see it in others, I recognize it.

Whatever ‘it’ is.

And I feel part of it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVN1B-tUpgs

Continuity

Several years ago I was invited to a fire circle led by Chief Beavertail. His goal was to bring people together through story and song. As we arrived he welcomed us and all our ancestors who came with us and stood behind us.

That image has stayed with me all these years. That image of connection to the millions of ancestors stretching out behind us.

In the 1970s I took a course on how to do bobbin lace because I’d heard it was a dying art. Bobbin lace has a fascinating history if you’re interested, and I feel connected to that long history as I weave the bobbins.

Growing up, we sisters helped mom can and put up food. We hated it. Now I can willingly, following the traditions of generations. Putting up, stocking up, preparing for winter.

Continuity, tradition, ties to the past. To family. I love that feeling of connection to land and people. But not all ties are so easy to talk about.

Last night I watched a movie called The Last Full Measure. Being honest here, I watched it because Sebastian Stan was in it and because I like a good action film. But this wasn’t an action film, as I quickly found out. I’m glad my husband, ex-Army, elected to not watch it because these kinds of movies deeply bother him.

The husband

If you haven’t heard of the movie, it’s about William H. Pitsenbarger, a US Air Force Pararescueman who, during the Vietnam War, chose to stay behind to help soldiers on the ground. Before dying in battle, he saved over sixty men. He chose to stay. He was twenty-two years old. Younger than my son. Thirty-two years after his death he was awarded the medal of honor.

Where is my continuity here? As a child, I was oblivious to the Vietnam War. The news didn’t come on the television until 11:00 pm, well past our bedtimes. But still, I’ve wondered before how such a huge thing, that impacted countless lives, wasn’t even a blip in my little-kid-world.

But I do have an uncle. And one of the things I see in his poetry is how the time spent fighting in Vietnam bored so deeply into his heart and soul.

My uncle. Before.

I have ancestors and relatives who have fought in wars, including my father who was in the Korean War. But dad didn’t see what my uncle did. And dad didn’t live long enough to tell us kids war stories or choose to keep silent. So I don’t know what impact that war had on him.

Dad on the right

This uncle, though, this man tied to me by DNA and family and generations of ancestors, walked through hell, and I only see the briefest, tiniest, glimpses of what that did to him through his words.

I cried during the movie last night, and I’m not one who cries during movies. But those tears were more for what my uncle went through than for the story itself.

Those tears were for the paths many still walk and the stories that can’t be told, but that still bind us.