Linda’s Writing: Healing from grief
Kirsten died November 1996. This is a writing from September 1998. SEPTEMBER SUNSETS
In recent weeks, I have found myself arranging my life so that I can see the sunset. Every night. In the middle of the city. On the eastern shore of Lake Calhoun. Like a date. Like having an affair. It has felt urgent. No it is more than urgent. It feels like I’m going under. That there is nothing to live for. Nothing seems to matter. Except to see the sunset. What difference does it make if I miss it? A voice inside me says “IT MATTERS. See it every day that you can.” Something deep inside has gotten my attention. I listen
So I notice the time, starting around 5:30, and when I decide that it is about half an hour before sunset, I drop what I’m doing, get the dog’s leash, put on my tennis shoes, and get in the car. I feel an anticipation when I see this angle of the sun on the trees, a certain brilliance and aliveness. I feel relieved to arrive at the lake in time before the sun has set. The sun throws a glow on the trees on the eastern shore that allow them, for those few minutes, the awesome quality of a burning bush. The sun, if it is not behind clouds, sends its long golden gown over the open expanse of water, and as I walk along, it follows me, this glimmering trail. I have discovered that it follows everyone. Each one of us has our own private procession as we walk the eastern shore. Sometimes I stop and stand in line with the slowly disappearing orb, to bask, for these few moments, in its radiance. I hear the lapping of the water, gently tugging at my memory. It is important for me to be by the water.
Just as it sets every night, there is a celebration of the ending of the day, led by the honking geese, who fly low from who knows where just in the minutes after sunset, every night, and skid into the water, home. At first I was surprised and delighted by the arrival of the geese, sometimes up to 30 of them, honking their way over the trees and slooping down to the water. Now I have come to expect and anticipate it, as I do the ending of the yellow light. In those moments, the air itself seems illuminated with color. In those moments, I do not notice the pollution, the foam that meets the shore as the waves lap, I only hear the waves meeting my heartbeat. I do not notice the traffic, or the boxy offfice and apartment buildings on the other side of the lake. I only notice the moon growing fuller in the east, and the streaks of red and purple in the west, flowing out from the forever sky. In those moments, the fullness of this daily miracle blots out the city, even the voices of the passersby talking finance, hot tubs and relationships.
At a time in my life when the present is confusing and haunting, there is no confusion here. I am fully engaged in this relationship of the moment of change between night and day. Each day I feel a little stronger somewhere inside.
Recently I was re-reading my journal of the time that Kirsten died. I couldn’t write for 8 weeks because my arm was in a cast. The first entry – Jan. 22,l997 – was made when I was sitting at the kitchen counter watching a sunset. I had just arrived home from the hospital a few days before. :
“I sit at my kitchen counter with one eye gone, the other tearing so I can hardly write. Kirsten, my love, you are gone. I do not want to write the words. I do not want to believe it. Your smile, your laugh, your whimsical, powerful mind, your soul of gold compassion gone from this world. I didn’t know you were a brilliant sunset, salmon and aquamarine, edged with gold, only to last a brief time before shifting to gray and nighttime. I thought you were an open blue sky to look at and enjoy for my lifetime.
I love you more than the sun loves the moon. Help me dearest heart, you and your beloved father, to find my way without you here on earth. I cannot see the way.”
As I read this now, it feels like it was written underwater, slow, in shock, without a sense of the reality. Even two months after her death, it hadn’t begun to connect. Even almost two years after, it sometimes seems like it just happened, like I can’t make sense of it.
I don’t begin to know the connection between that first writing and my current obsession. I do know that I feel a relationship with the lake and the sunset at that moment and it nurtures me. Tonight I found myself saying the last two lines of one of Kirsten’s poems:
”And when evening descended
We watched the sun go down
Together, the ocean and I.”
Healing is not something that makes sense. It is about following the heart. So, for now, I’ll be there at the lake, at sunset.. Maybe, like the honking geese, I’m finding my way over the trees for a place where I can skid down and land. Home.