Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘light’

The Ancestor Tree

The Ancestor Tree

I made this as a gift. It consists of a large sanded and polished piece of red granite, with a tree carved from Italian white ice alabaster. The tree is placed on top of the granite and can be turned in various directions, depending on one’s preference. The tree began as an attempt at an angel, but part of it broke off and revealed its true essence.

The rainbow light from the sun hitting the stone has a beautiful effect. You can see clearly through the stone when held up, though it was difficult to get such a shot without it being too bright.

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The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier

Review of The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier for the New York Journal of Books.

It is an intriguing idea: How would we live if all of our wounds were made visible by an illuminating light that shone from every cut, bruise, malady, or illness? This premise is thoughtfully rendered in The Illumination.

All around the world “we are receiving continuing reports of this strange occurrence: light, pouring from the injuries of the sick and wounded.” Nobody is immune. Everything is out on the table for all to see. What were once private scars and suffering are now public. Some are drawn to pain’s light, while others try to hide from it. The characters in this book live with conflicting feelings of curiosity and despair. They believe their individual suffering sets them apart, but also find pain (at times) to be a unifying experience of shared humanity. One man in the story states, “Compassion. A cultivated interest in suffering.”

Intermix this new worldwide reality of illuminated pain with an intensely intimate and private journal of love notes from a husband to his wife, and you will find a story that keeps your eyes moving to discover into whose lap and life the journal lands next.

It all begins when Carol Ann Page accidentally cuts off the end of her thumb and is recovering from surgery in the hospital. Just before the injuries from a car accident take her life, the woman in the bed next to Carol tells her to take her journal. She says she knows that her husband died in the same accident, and she wants someone to keep the journal of love notes that he left for her every day they were together. Carol reluctantly holds onto the journal, which is soon passed on or falls into the possession of a number of unique individuals who are each experiencing their own losses and realizations in the midst of “The Illumination.”

Each of the characters who possess the journal (young and old) is living with a great sense of isolation and loneliness. The words in the journal are the only words of love, affirmation, and support that most of them have or experience in their daily lives. Thus the journal is a symbol of the hope, acceptance, and affirmation which they lack and, consciously or unconsciously, seek. This is eloquently written when it is said about one of those in possession of the journal, “No matter where he looked, he saw nothing but pain.” Another possessor of the journal’s thoughts are portrayed as, “She didn’t want adulation anymore. She didn’t want love. She only wanted to carve a small path of painlessness and blunted feeling through her life until she came out the other side.”

Mr. Brockmeier has skillfully written about the intimate interior lives of a variety of distinct individuals with depth, understanding, and realism. While learning about each character and the threads that bind them (the most obvious being the journal), the author also explores more universal questions and considerations. Why does suffering exist? Does it have a purpose and if so what is it? Why care about others suffering? Do all beings and inanimate objects suffer? Is it all a play? Is all life connected?

CONTINUED

Laughing At Death

A famous comedian once said that, “Life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease.” And as far as I know, it still happens to ten out of ten of us. So, is it OK to laugh about this solemn reality? Is it OK to poke a little fun at the Grim Reaper and not offend or upset anybody? I think so. In fact, I believe it is our ability to step back and take a lighter look at death, dying and grief that can, on occasion, help us get through some of the most painful moments in our lives.

I recall an incident many years ago when a family and I were all keeping a bedside vigil with a woman in her seventies, who we’ll call Martha. Martha was going in and out of consciousness and talking out loud to and about people we couldn’t see. One evening she kept looking up by the ceiling in one corner of the room and saying, “The light. The light.”

Her daughter replied, “Yes, Mama. Go towards the light.”

Martha became more agitated and repeated, “The light. The light.”

We all smiled, believing she was speaking about the light at the end of the tunnel that some people describe in near-death experiences. I said, “Yes, Martha. It’s OK. Go towards the light.”

Finally, out of total exasperation, Martha forced herself to sit up. She opened her eyes, pointed at the corner of the room and said, “The light bulb. It needs a new light bulb.” Then she lay back down and continued her dialogue with family members who had already died.

Embarrassingly, we all realized that she had been talking about the lamp in the corner all along. I went to check it and discovered that it did indeed need a new light bulb.

A woman whose husband of thirty years had died just six months previous to our meeting had been talking for quite some time about the deep pain and sadness that had enveloped her since his death, when she suddenly burst out laughing. She laughed uncontrollably for a few minutes and after blowing her noise and wiping her face said, “He could be the biggest pain in the butt when it came to doing the dishes. If he ever did them at all, I had to do them again. His idea of clean wouldn’t have passed mustard at the city dump,” she grinned. “He’d die laughing if he saw the sink now. I haven’t done the plates or silverware in a week. The food’s so caked on it will probably take a chisel to get it off.” She paused, then said, “I never thought I’d miss his dirty dishes.”

Then there was Cliff, a retired schoolteacher. Cliff told me this story about his deceased friend Barney with a very somber, straight face.

“You know,” he said. “Barney and I were best friends for over thirty years. I remember a couple of times before he died when we talked about reincarnation and all that stuff. Neither of us have ever been very religious and didn’t think much about it, but
we agreed that if it was real, that whoever died first would come back and let the other know what it was like.”

Cliff paused, to make sure he had my attention.

“Well,” he continued. “After Barney passed on I went to the same little bench on West Cliff Drive where he and I used to sit and shoot the breeze for hours. You know, that one by the lighthouse?” I nodded. “I went there every day and waited, just in case, by some fluke, this reincarnation thing was legit. Well, wouldn’t you know it, last Saturday I was sitting on our bench when I hear someone whisper, ‘Cliff. Cliff.’”

I sat back a little and raised my eyebrows at Cliff, with some suspicion, but he continued with so much sincerity that I couldn’t dismiss it altogether.

“I’m not making this up,” he said adamantly. “So, I look around and don’t see anybody. Then I here it again.”

‘Cliff. It’s me, Barney.’

“Barney?” I say. “Is that really you?”

‘Yep.’

“Well I’ll be,” I exclaimed. “Where are you? I can’t see you.”

‘Naw,’ Barney replied. ‘They let me come like this for a little bit to let you know what’s up with this reincarnation thing.’

“What do you mean?” I said.

‘Well, it’s the funniest thing,’ Barney explained. ‘All I do nowadays is sleep, make love and eat.’

“What?” I said.

‘Yeah. That’s all we do,’ Barney reiterated. ‘Sleep, eat, make love, go back to sleep, then wake up and do it all over again.’

“Well, I finally had enough of this nonsense,” Cliff explained, “so I asked him straight out, “So, old friend. Who are you now and where are you?”

“And you know what he says?” I shook my head no. “He says, ‘I’m a rabbit on a breeding ranch in Idaho.’”

I’d been had by one of the best. Cliff and I both chuckled over his story. He said it felt good to be able to laugh. “Barney and I used to say, if you can’t laugh at yourself now and then, then you’re taking life much to seriously.”

Cliff was on to something. It shows no disrespect towards those who have died to have a good laugh, even if it relates to them. In fact, most deceased friends and family would want nothing more than our happiness if they were still here to tell us so. As the centurion George Burns used to say, “If I look in the morning paper at the obits and see that my name isn’t there, I know it’s a good day.”

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