O were my love yon Lilac fair…

Bonnie and Me Lilacs

Bonnie and me looking younger and thinner…

By now I assume that anyone reading this already knows that Bonnie passed away ten days ago. We had the funeral Wednesday, and I still feel like I’m trying to process everything. I expect that feeling will persist for months or even years. I had a long time to plan and prepare for this, but it’s still totally devastating and life-altering.

It’s what I imagine losing a limb would be like. You keep expecting it to be there. If you’re not thinking about it you sometimes forget that it’s gone. I’ve heard of people having a phantom pain in a missing limb, and I think they might have some idea what it’s like to wake up and look over to Bonnie’s side of the bed and remember that she’s not there anymore–that she won’t be there ever again. A part of me is gone, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel completely whole again.

I do believe in the resurrection. Life would be too pointless and cruel without it. However, that belief doesn’t seem to mean that I’m spared from the pain of loss. As with most things in my life, art and music seem to be the most readily available sources of comfort. I’ve been thinking a lot about this poem by Robert Burns, so I thought I’d share it:

O were my love yon Lilac fair,
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring,
And I, a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing!
How I wad mourn when it was torn
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing,
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d.

That’s only the first stanza, but it’s the one I like the best. I don’t actually know if Robert Burns was religious or not, but if my excessive time in academia has taught me anything, it’s that any one thing can mean any other thing if you want it to. So for me this makes me think of the resurrection. I love the imagery of separation and reunion in the poem. I can identify with the bird being cut off from its shelter through the rude winter, and, like the bird, singing will be high up on my list when I see my fair lilac once again.

Thankful Thursday 8 – Song of Myself

Grasses_in_the_Valles_Caldera_2014-06-26

Picture from wikipedia. ‘Cause that’s where I find everything.

I was reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” today. When I studied Whitman a little bit in high school and undergrad I remember not liking him. I don’t have any good reasons for that (at least not any that I remember), but a distaste for his work has stuck with me. Regardless, I was looking for a quote that I remembered, (which might appear in another post if I get it edited to my liking) and I found that it was from this poem.

The work isn’t something that I’d give to a kid, since it gets a little erotic in places, but I found the piece incredibly moving.

His meditation on grass in section six (I put the text at the bottom of this post) was particularly striking, perhaps because mortality is something I think about a lot these days. I love all the meanings he ascribes to something so simple: a remembrance of the creator, a symbol of the basic equality of all people, or the words of the dead communicating with us.

The whole tone of the poem is so hopeful. It embraces the potential and the nobility of humanity, and I’m always a sucker for stuff like that. It’s worth taking some time to┬áread it. I found the whole thing online here.

Today I’m grateful that I could steal a few moments to think and reflect about my life, and I’m grateful for Whitman’s inspired and inspiring words.

6

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;

How could I answer the child? . . . . I do not know what it is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child . . . . the produced babe of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and from offspring taken soon out of their mothers’ laps,
And here you are the mothers’ laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward . . . . and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.