more than one way to mourn (shaping, weighing, testing. . .)

Really struggling this week.

Don’t know if it’s the grass-is-always-greener syndrome, or something I should actually pay attention to, but am finding the seemingly constant and often frustrating nature of much of my professional life to be particularly difficult to deal with.

After mom died I quit most of my adjunct work (life’s too short to be an indentured servant), and have been all the happier for it. I don’t know if all of this is telling me I should reevaluate my professional choices thus far, the options I could pursue going forward; or if I should just sigh and realize that this is life and just deal with it.

Anyway, I have this beautiful book by Ann Carson called Nox that I find myself re-reading bits and pieces (or all of it — it only takes about 20 minutes) of over the past couple of years. It’s written as an elegy to her brother, who died mysteriously in Denmark after something like 20 years of estrangement from his family.

It’s very lovely.

Ann is a Greek scholar and author, of a particularly epigraphic and poetic bent.

Ran across this last night:

He makes out of myrrh an egg as big as he can carry. Then he tests it to see if he can carry it. After that he hollows out the egg and lays his father inside and plugs up the hollow. With father inside the egg weighs the same as before. Having plugged it up he carries the egg to Egypt to the temple of the sun. (Hekataios)  

Hekataios is describing the sacred phoenix which lived in Arabia but came to Heliopolis in Egypt once every five hundred years to bury a father there. The phoenix mourns by shaping, weighing, testing, hollowing, plugging and carrying toward the light. He seems to take a clear view of necessity. And in the shadows that flash over him as he makes his way from Arabia to Egypt maybe he comes to see the immensity of the mechanism in which he is caught, the immense fragility of his own flying – composed as it is of these ceaselessly passing shadows carried backward by the very motion that devours them, his motion, his asking.

I can’t decide if I want to, or even can, carry anything “toward the light.”

I am trying very hard to take a clear view of necessity.

I feel very, very fragile.

I wish I could stop asking.


I posted this on our private family blog last night, and one of my sisters wrote a really nice note back (thanks, C). We are all feeling it (alas, I am not original; only sad), which I am sure helps. The world is so quick to forget what you’ve lost, or doesn’t have time to care all that much.

Your parents knew you first, so I think you will always feel that, in some ways, they loved you best. They may not have been the parents you thought you needed, but they were your parents, and knew you first. . .

I feel I’ve come unmoored, even though I have lots of people in my life who probably know me better than they did.

It’s so hard to explain — like I’m made of paper, and the strings that held me up have been cut, but I haven’t started to fall yet, but I know I will.

Or something.




2 Responses to “more than one way to mourn (shaping, weighing, testing. . .)”

  1. April 13, 2013 at 6:07 am

    I can’t make any useful comment on what you’re going through. I spent a while drafting a response but deleted it. I can say, however, that although I’m not an optimistic person, I am optimistic that you’re not going to crash to the ground, even if you do fall.

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