I wrote some thoughts on death a few weeks ago, and I wanted this to go hand-in-hand with that post.
We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as microscopic swarm, the lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks late, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us. -from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I love this description of the beginning of life. Job knew all about life and death. Oh to be like Job; to learn how to accept when the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like “if.”
But we are always optimists when it comes to time: we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.
We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
That last quote about fearing that death will take someone else is so true. I know I will die one day, and I don’t want it to be anytime soon. But, I also don’t like the thought of outliving all my loved ones. I have watched my mother lately as she has lost several longtime friends. I guess when you get to be 80 that is bound to happen. But, it still doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it probably makes you think about death just a little too much.
John (the author’s husband) shrugs his shoulders… “Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop…You control so little. Really. It’s God who decides it all. Not us. It’s all good.” – from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Today I’m going to share some lovely sentences – just for your enjoyment.
“The slightly porky man on the other side of the Plexiglas has back-combed hair and arms covered in tattoos…Is that something an adult person in a healthy state of mind would consent to? Going about with his arms looking like a pair of pajamas?” from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
“She expects fustiness, an elder funk, but the room smells mildly of soap and books and dried seaweed.” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“It is because people are mostly layers of violence and tenderness…” from One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
“I mourn for the loss of dreams and the presence of nightmare.” from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
“It’s the things we don’t expect that just rip the scab off,” – said Grandpa from Stand Tall by Joan Bauer
“Every lavish home contains people who have seen disease. Every lawn that must be maintained is attached to a marriage that also must be maintained.” from God of the Mundane by Matt Redmond
“…soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees…” from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“He was a mean little runt. The two of them together benasties the mind.” from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
“… I could see how quickly I might become a woman gnawing on a chicken leg over the kitchen sink for her dinner,…” from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
“She’s wearing a green cardigan with a neat zigzag pattern and dusty blue mom-jeans…” from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
“… shriveled like a chickpea with the cold.” from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
“…that’ll be about as profitable as trying to pick feathers out of molasses.” – Madame Manec – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
We southerners have our quaint sayings for sure, Stuff about having a hissy fit or being in high cotton or fixin’ to do something.
pic – the movie db
But, I digress. Back to the quote above. I just love it. It reminds me of O’ Brother Where Art Thou? where the language was a big part of the charm of the movie. Especially the words of Ulysses Everett McGill, such as, “Say, any of you boys smithies? Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin’?” or “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Two weeks from everywhere!” Then there is the oft quoted line that my family has taken to use on numerous occasions – “You two are just dumber than a bag of hammers!”
I guess I’ll always love words and wordplay. Maybe that’s why I play Words with Friends on my phone and I love the hashtag games on Twitter.
Just remember, our words are like those feathers. Once spoken, taking them back is like trying to pick them out of molasses.
I have always admitted that I just can’t grasp the simple concept of beautiful music coming out of a vinyl record, much less a cassette tape or a cd or via the internet. It boggles my mind how the music can be played over and over. It is fascinating to think of all the sounds passing across the air 24/7. Werner and Marie-Laure, in All the Light We Cannot See, thought along the same lines.
Werner like to crouch in his dormer and imagine radio waves like mile-long harp strings, bending and vibrating over Zollverein, flying through forests, through cities, through walls.
Marie-Laure imagines their electromagnetic waves traveling into and out of Michel’s machine, bending around them, just as Etienne used to describe, except now a thousand times more crisscross the air than when he lived – maybe a million times more. Torrents of text conversations, tides of cell conversations, of television programs, of email, vast networks of fiber and wire interlaced above and beneath the city, passing through buildings, arcing between transmitters in Metro tunnels, between antennas atop building, from lampposts with cellular transmitters in them, commercials for Carrefour and Evian and prebaked toaster pastries flashing into space and back to earth again, I’m going to be late and Maybe we should get reservations? and Pick up avocados and What did he say? and ten thousand I miss yous, fifty thousands I love yous, hate mail and appointment reminders…
Recently I was telling my husband that I think sometimes about how we are walking around every day – in and out of all kinds of wifi waves and radio and TV and I don’t understand it at all. Right now I might be walking through a jazz song or an I Love Lucy rerun or somebody’s email. Ever think about that?
When I was pregnant with my last child, I had to lay in bed on occasion to rest on my left side. I could swear I’d hear jumbled voices – like the muffled voices of newscasters. Yet, when I sat up they disappeared. I wondered if I was picking up sound waves via my silver fillings. I’m sure it was just the air swishing through the vents, but it drove me mad. Yet, it also sparked my imagination. Years later, I developed an interest in stories involving time/space travel. Some of my favorites are Michael Crichton’s Timeline and Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time and the movie Frequency. This fascination spills over to old buildings. I love to imagine what went on in buildings that have been around a long time. When my son was renovating the kitchen of a 1940’s home, he knocked out a wall and discovered some items that had been hiding inside. Among his findings were silver serving spoons and some toy cars circa the late 50s/early 60s. I imagine some little kids dropping them inside the wall when it was opened for some sort of repair.
Though Werner and Marie-Laure are fictional characters, I know that at least the author, Anthony Doerr, thought about things the way I do sometimes. That’s comforting to know; I’m not alone in the allure of invisible sounds or in the enchantment of historical buildings.
It (the ocean) is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometime I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel. – from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Jacksonville Beach from the Pier
The following is a poem I wrote this past April. I’ll always remember the wonder of the starfish in the ocean and my kids’ enjoyment of the experience.
One of my favorite chapters in All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is the one titled “Old Ladies’ Resistance Club”. These women were so much more the than the Red Hat Society.
“Seventy-six years old,” she whispers (Madame Manec), “and I can still feel like this? Like a little girl with stars in my eyes?”
With a birthday in my very near future and a husband who just hit 60, I have thought a little about age this week. Some say it’s just a number. You’re as young as you feel and all that. I think Madame Manec felt like a girl with stars in her eyes because she had a purpose, a renewed reason to keep going.
I hope that when I’m seventy-six I will still have a purpose; a reason to joyfully greet the day.