Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Beast With the Wide Mouth...

It snowed today, this morning. Snow marks, for me, the true beginning of winter. The end, at last, of autumn, that liminal season of dying (although I was taken to task today, for suggesting the liminality of autumn). With the year finally dead, with winter here, I feel relieved. I am one step closer to that joy of joys, spring. I was told by someone today that they would not miss 2010, and I concur. It is a year that has past its prime, a year that deserves the long cold sleep of death, of winter.
Drawn this afternoon, as always, to my dear Ville-Marie, I thought it fitting, as my heart was overwhelmed, to seek a place of comfort, even if that comfort would be cold. I went, as I do in these moments, to that greystone wall that figures so prominently in my mind these days, that cold monument to memory constructed largely in my own mind.  When I visit that wall, I usually sit, occasionally with a slice of pizza, and I think, of all that has past, and sometimes of what may yet come. Of late, I think of one thing more than others. I think of loss, sitting on that wall, and I remember. But I could not sit today, on my wall.  There was a layer of snow atop the wall, even and perfect, and I could not find the heart to disturb it.
Autumn this year has been marked heavily by loss. I have spent long hours, thinking, obsessed with death, obsessed with loss and the nature of memories. Even the need to write, best expressed here (and least well expressed in my academic life) is founded in large measure on my obsession with the memories of the dead, and of those no longer part of my life; my memories of losses, new and old.
Death has been very much present, stalking me in the streets of Ville-Marie.  I hear the lonely call of crows, looking up to see them grimly silhouetted against the morning sun, flying away to some terrible, imagined destination.
I recognize now, after long contemplation, the role of memory in my own approach to death, to loss. It is the memory of the dead, the gone, that constitutes their continued presence in my life. It is the memories of the dead that make them meaningful, that allow me access to them. It is because I can remember my father that I do not have to mourn so heavily his passing. I can uphold a relationship with him, in my memories, and in the shared memories of others. I can tell stories of him, and the pain of his loss is lessened.  And there are others whom have died or whom I have lost for whom I can do the same.
Luckily, the past is mutable, as are memories. Some losses are more painful than others, some more fresh. Remembering is not enough, it is too soon, and simply reminds me that I will share no new memories with those now missing. But, I can weave a narrative of memories, I can remake the past. A narrative that is less painful, one that tells a story of sharing meaningful words, of books, perhaps, and of nights and mornings. Happy memories. And even though the pain of loss is fresh, I can round off the sharpest corners.
I visit that greystone wall, alone with the snow and the crows, and the ghosts of Ville-Marie, and in my mind, I piece together little bits of story, snippets of narrative, true or not, to lay softly over the pain of my losses, until I can accept the story I weave. Until that pain becomes bearable. Until I can remember those I have lost without wanting to forget.


  1. Are birth and death liminal states because they bookend life, or is life the liminal phase between pre-existence and post-existence, which seem, the both, to be very much the same? This, I present for argument's sake, but in terms of the seasons, I find it hard to see threshold in continuum. Spring fades into Summer and Summer into Fall. One is each a threshold for the passing into the other.

  2. These are relavant observations, of course. There is no threshold in continuum. My reading on death these days has led me to the life as liminal between pre- post- existence, which I found to be useful, and interesting as a thought experiment. But, honestly, my use of liminal as a descriptor for autumn is really about a personal point of view concerning the passage of time and the role of the 4 seasons as symbolic. It is clearly an artificial framework, but so is the very concept of seasons anyway, especially in Montreal, with almost no good sweater weather at all.