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Grief Is The Thing With Feathers

Monday, August 15, 2016


I recently found a newly published book at my local library.  The title of the book caught my eye- Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter.  It is a short book and I thought it would probably be some sort of parable or something.  It is a very unusual book, but there were several parts that really spoke to me.  I thought when I first started reading that the crow would be a terrible thing to everyone in the book.  I thought it would portray grief and this horrible thing that come into our lives to reek havoc and enjoy every minute of it in the process, but that isn't really the case.  I discovered that crow in the book much like grief in our lives simple enters, causes problems, and is there to stay.  He becomes a fixture that we really don't want in our lives, but we have to learn to live with.

I'm not really sure what I think of the book overall, but there were parts that were very powerful to me.

P. 3 (beginning of book)
"Boys
There's a feather on my pillow.

Pillows are made of feathers, go to sleep.

It's a big, black feather.

Come and sleep in my bed.

There's a feather on your pillow too.

Let's leave the feathers where they are and sleep on the floor."

Oh have I been there.  Don't deal with what you don't have to deal with.  Find another way besides facing the reality of what is happening at the moment.

P. 20
"She was not busy dying, and there is no detritus of care, she was simply busy living, and then she was gone.

She won't ever us (make-up, turmeric, hairbrush, thesaurus.)

She will never finish (Patricia Highsmith novel, peanut butter, lip balm.)

And I will never shop for green Birago Classics for her birthday.

I will stop finding her hairs.

I will stop hearing her breathing."

I remember facing all of these realizations- all the I will never agains... it's a hard reality to accept, but I know that I must.  R has missed so many things and it breaks my heart to think about it.

P. 24

"(I do this, perform some unbound crow stuff, for him.  I think he thinks he's a little bit Stonehenge shamanic, hearing the bird spirit.  Fine by me, whatever gets him through.)"

I love the last line- "whatever gets him through."  Crow is crow- just doing his thing--just like grief just does its thing.  Grief doesn't care how you handle it, it just does what it wants.

P. 94

"About two year afterwards, far too soon but perfectly timed, I brought home a woman, a Plath scholor I met at a symposium.

She was funny and bright and did her best with a fucked- up situation.  We had to be quiet because the boys were asleep upstairs.

She was soft and pretty and her naked body was dissimilar to my wife's and her breath smelt of melon.  But we were on the sofa my wife bought, drinking wine from glasses my wife was given, beneath the painting my wife painted, in the flat where my wife died.

I haven't had sex with many women, and I only got good at it with my wife, doing things my wife liked.  I didn't want to do those things, or think about whether I should be doing those things or thinking about the thinking, which meant I bashed her teeth, then knelt on her thigh, then apologised too much, then came too quickly, then tried too hard, then not hard enough.

But it was good, and she was lovely, and we sat up smoking her strong cigarettes out of the window and talking about everything we'd ever read that wasn't by or about Sylvia or Ted.

She left and I felt nervous about feeling cheerful.  I walked around the flat as if I'd only just met it, long strides and over-determined checking of surfaces.  I looked in on the boys."

Finding any kind of relationship after the loss of a spouse is extremely hard.  One becomes so used to the way the other feels- the hands, the touch, the way it feels to hug them, kiss them.  It feels like you are being unfaithful to even think about wanting another man in your life.  The guilt that has to be overcome in order pursue a new relationship is gigantic.  I always told myself that R would be so hurt if he were still alive, but the fact was that he wasn't alive.  As a Christian I believe when he died he was in his glorified body which is very different from our bodies here on earth.  He also was in heaven so he saw the big picture.  Because of those beliefs as a Christian, I was able to work through the guilt associated with a relationship with Dr T.

P. 99
Dad
"Moving on, as a concept, was mooted, a year or two after, by friently men on behalf of their well-intentioned wives.  Women who loved us.  Women who knew me as a child.

"Oh, I said, we move.  WE FUCKING HURTLE THROUGH SPACE LIKE THREE MAGNIFICENT BRAKE-FAILED BANGERS, thank you, Geoffrey, and send my love to Jean.

Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project.  I refuse to rush.  The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.

So I walked into their room in the navy blue middle of the night in the summertime and listened to them breathing.  Duvets smashed and tangled, little soft limbs emerging from robot and pirate print cotton and assorted soft toys.  My wife and I used to come and tuck them in and marvel at how perfect they were asleep.  We laughed at how beautiful they were- 'it's insane!' we said.  It was, insane.

And I stood and breathed their air and considered -as always- things like fragility, danger, luck, imperfection, chance, being kind, being funny being honest, eyes, hair, bones, the impossible hectic silent epidermis rejuvenating itself, never nervous, always kissable, even when scabbed, even so salty I made it, and I felt so many nights utterly, totally yanked apart by how much I loved these children, and I asked them, loudly:

Do you want to MOVE ON?
No reply.
Should we think about MOVING ON?
The swish and ruffle of air in nostrils, clacking tongues, sighs, the gentle invisible concentrated upper air of a room in the top of a flat where young people are dreaming.

No, I said, I agree, we are doing just fine,

Crow joined me as I left, shutting the door, and got me in a cosy headlock.

You're not alone, kid."

Oh "Moving ON."  The reality is that there is no such thing as moving on.  You move forward in life.  You learn how to live with the loss.  You have to accept the reality of you situation and find a way to live with it every single day for the rest of your life.  But moving on is not possible.  Moving on is a myth created by people who have never experience an unbelievable loss.  Moving on sounds so great and wonderful and so we chase it until we can't take another step and finally realize that there is no On in which to Move.  That special place where everything is OK does not exist.

And eventually you become OK with knowing that.  You move forward and can be happy again, but it is not a complete happiness because someone will forever be missing.





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