A la recherche du temps perdu

I have always been very sensitive to the passage of time.  As a child, I often began a long, golden summer season grieving in advance for its end.

I remember how, during long car rides with my family—my mother, my father, my brother, my dog and cat—I was aware of a sense of perfect contentment, thinking ‘if only this moment could go on forever, for here we all are, everyone I love, complete and whole and happy.’

Now, looking into the future and knowing how close our planet is to a major realignment of living systems, it seems there is always a part of me that is engaged in the long, drawn-out process of grieving in advance.

No moment can last forever.  Grief is inevitable for those of us who open our hearts to attachment.

These thoughts are at the forefront of my mind today because this weekend I am having the odd experience of participating in my 30-year college reunion, seeing people with whom I shared some of my most formative, impressionable teenage moments, now grown older, grayer, wider, hopefully wiser too.

At the start of the weekend, I attended a play written and directed by Simon’s Rock alum Pooja Roo Prema, featuring a cast composed mostly of different generations of Simon’s Rock graduates.  Called “Isis-Chernobyl: A Tale of Uncertain Fruit,” the play is impossible to summarize in a nutshell, other than to say that it is an extended allegory of grief.

Pooja describes it as more a ritual enactment than an entertainment, which is certainly true; it has elements of high Greek tragedy, as well as Shakespearian clowning, but the thread that runs through it all is the resilience of the human spirit in the face of the unimaginable desolation of a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Isis, wandering the earth seeking the lost, dismembered parts of her beloved Osiris, could be any one of us wandering the haunted landscapes of our own memories, seeing people, places and events that once were woven into the warp of our being, but have become lost in the forward rush of life’s unfolding.

Reuniting now with generations of Simon’s Rock alumni, my own cohort past midlife and facing a future likely to be shorter than our past, I am reminded once again of how important it is to seize each moment, make the most of each day, appreciate one’s friends and family before they are torn from us by the relentless cyclical forces of life and death.

Isis can never be satisfied in her quest to feel again the smooth living skin and warm kisses of her lover, but she can reanimate his spirit in her own grieving flesh and mind.

Just as every car ride of my childhood came inevitably to an end, these days too shall pass, living on only in our memories.

This Memorial Day, I celebrate memory: the living memories of past happiness that glow within us like shining stars as well as the dark, grieving memories of people and places lost to us forever.

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  1. Martin Lack

     /  May 27, 2012

    Thanks for that Jennifer. I think I can empathise with the central thought of a history of struggling to live in the moment. It is something I have yet to resolve; and being unemployed is not helping. Although I had been warned about it, I never quite got up the courage to make an audio recording of my Dad and, since he died just in late 2009, the hardest thing has been the inevitable fading of the ability to hear his voice in my head. It now really annoys me that I cannot remember it or imagine it.

    If you have not read it, I would recommend reading Clive Hamilton’s book, Requiem for a Species, he discusses the necessity for us all to go through a grieving process but, rather than sinking into a pit of despair, he believes it is a necessary pre-requisite for an intellectually honest approach to adapting to the changes that are coming… I guess it is a bit like checking into a hotel, asking not to be given a room on a floor beyond the reach of fire truck ladders, and making sure you memorise the route to the nearest fire escape before you go to bed. You know: “Failing to plan is planning to fail” kind of thing!

  2. Back when the long rides were just Mon and Dad and I….

    Exactly. And each trip, each moment, we know is that it can never come again. So we juggle the loss of something beloved with the delight at discovery of something new.

    It’s always shifting.

  3. anni crofut

     /  June 9, 2012

    …I can so relate to that bitter-sweet beauty of living a harmonious moment soon to be lost. For you, it was that harmony and love in that moment in the car with your parents. For me, right now, that sense of splendor as I stand on a clear sunny June day in my garden, surrounded by flowers, knowing it is temporal – the sun, the blossoms, the summer, the warmth, the relative equanimity of the climate which is so rapidly shifting towards unknown instability, the peace and lack of conflict in my immediate community. I can almost hear this elusive half-truth of perfection in my moment, like the sound of one hand clapping. And the fact of there being just one hand, of my knowledge that the sound is etherial, inaudible, perceived, makes it untrustworthy, and therefore in some ways even more tenuous, yet still beautiful. Would I rather hear the sound of one hand clapping, and feel this pain and beauty, or stay in that layer of not hearing, because there is no sound? I think I will choose the former.

    Thank you for writing Jenny. xo Anni

  1. Speak, memory (apologies to V. Nabokov) « Audrey Kalman: Writing of Many Kinds

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