Wednesday, April 7, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 96

Taken: April 6, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

My rabbit returned tonight. I hadn't seen him in more than a week and I was starting to worry. After all, this is country and it's heavy with dogs running around off leash, coyotes and all sorts of other rabbit predators, including those deadly four-wheeled creatures. I don't want to make too much of the timing of his disappearance, but I'm glad he's back.

I'm trying not to get overly morbid with y'all but I can't help it. I'm still fighting the reality of loss. I know I'm not alone. My friends who knew David Mills have been as stunned and sad and lost as me. It has just left a huge void in our world. Hell, I know we're not the only people suffering either. The line is long, it never ends. Everybody knows that.

But it doesn't feel like that when you're in the middle of dealing. Just trying to process reality is strange, like looking in the mirror and seeing somebody else looking back at you. There's a part of you that totally gets it but the rest of you, well making the leap seems impossible, like there's a bottomless pit in between you and the Other Side. And the other side is, well, it's tomorrow.

The questions I've been dwelling upon in my quietest moments these days have stumped smarter people then me for as long as there's been people at all. Nobody is ever going to solve them either, so why, I ask yourself, am I even trying to find answers?

There's that 'A' word again.

It is very human to want to explain everything. Isn't that why we started believing in "other forces" and "higher beings" in the first place?

Here's the crazy part: I'm not usually one of those people that likes to contemplate the big questions of life, not as they pertain to me. I much rather have my characters dwell on them, to explore the philosophies of the world in story and character -- let them roll around in the primordial muck while I stand back and watch thank you very much. But sometimes I think I've grown numb to feeling things. I spend most of my days writing about tragedy and tragic events, about murder and mayhem, death, crimes, criminals. I'm drawn to oddballs and killers, to the maccab, the weird, the unexplainable shit that people do to other people to get their ya-yas. Ask any writer of crime stories and they will tell you pretty much the same thing.

But the thing is I've been starting to worry my morbid fascination with this stuff has desensitized me to the suffering of others, to the personal cost of these crimes. The first thing I think when I see some front-page horror is wonder how I can use it, what was going on in the killer's brain, what led this person to do such a horrible thing? Only later do I consider the awfulness, the victims, their suffering.  Sure, I empathize but do I really care?

Of course, it doesn't take much to remind you of the fragile nature of life or how delicate is the human heart, how easily it can break (literally and figuratively) in to more pieces than a person knows what to do with. Everybody knows the feeling of dread in one's gut. It happens in a flash mostly. Those moments when life interrupts your every day, flips your world with the subtly of a high-speed car accident, throws a high, hard one inside and tight, hitting you square in the part of your stomach that doubles you over on your knees and robs you of your breath.

There's a certain self-pity required to go through this kind of pain. But then again, there's nothing like being reminded of the absolute certainty of death -- yours and everyone you know and don't know -- to kick start one's personal survival mechanism. When the dust clears, you're still standing and breathing, you are alive, at least for one more day. Does it really matter what it all means?

But isn't that when the hard part really begins? We are here and we're not alone but there are pieces missing, gaps in our lives - friends, loved ones, pets that are gone forever. Forever, it turns out, is a long ass time. The longest.  This is exactly what makes life so cruel and also so precious. Death -- loss -- is part of the whole ball of wax. You live therefore you die but you can't die if you don't ... well you get it.

We can get over anything because there's no other choice. We fight off the dull ache of loss, we fill the empty spaces with remembrances of things that makes us laugh and cry, we tell tall tales, we keep the love alive inside. The dead are gone forever but not from our hearts, never from our hearts.

I imagine over time you discover you can laugh at something funny again, you can quell the urge to cry, think about your friend and not be unbelievably sad anymore, maybe you can even get past the regret, the what-ifs, the lingering survivor's guilt. I don't exactly know when this happens. I'm still navigating down this one-way road.

Which is why I'm trying real hard to be charitable about the world. I'm trying not to think about how cruelly unfair it is, how bad things happen to the best and most decent people, how rhyme and reason is for make-believe, how trying to explain the ways of the universe, of fate, of any of it, is well, like trying to hold air in the palm of your hand.

But then I can stretch out my arm right now and turn my palm up and grab a hunk of air. I don't see it or feel it but I know it's there. That's the part of me that keeps the faith, that reminds me that trying to find answers is a fool's game, that surviving is living and that living is the only way to keep the flame of memory alive.

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