Just End It Write Now

Writing After

Holy Surmounting

Writing after a long time of not doing so is like biking with a flat tire, uphill in a Chinook, loaded with too many groceries in the basket.   That much dread in the legs.  Some pyrotechnic, autogenic inspiration, or at least a mule-deer genie of the place, ought to help one surmount the landfill, crammed with non-expressive detritus of thoughts, between the last time you wrote, and this moment of articulation.

Instead, just a few curses now and then, which the wind handily tosses back in your face.  And then it starts to rain, as if Nature strives to impress Noah, one-upping his last watery debacle.  It rains so hard the foothills disappear.  You wonder about that elusive magic of the sentence, and why it has no refuge for you now.

I have been reading excessively beautiful material on grief, and it inspires me to return to the object of my own grief, a writing project I started and abandoned, because I couldn’t make it breathe.  I think of an herbalist I know, trying a third time to resuscitate a newborn, whose limpness is clear, because its mother is watching warily from the corner, the way she would watch a rabbit nearing the scarcity of her vegetable garden.

The project, now dormant, was a book I was to write on the life of my beloved friend Liz, who appeared in this blog as mortal and ghost alike and who died at 103 years-old, two Septembers past.   The time after someone dies is tracked like the time just after they are born: in months.

I send this missive up as a postmortem salutation, aiming for a respectful love as full as a full moon, which can’t get bigger, more itself, than it is at that moment– like the moon Liz died beneath, and like the being she was while she lived.

These missives are engineered by Imagination’s slight-of-hand: Undertakers loving the loads that they have undertaken. A rumination on the preposterousness of endings.

Your Terminal

Endings Perplex

Even though it can be hard to discern a person’s last true breath, the End that follows is usually impossible to miss—because, unlike all of the life that came before it, the End is unwavering itself.  Its status doesn’t change.  Facebook would cringe at the thought.

“THE END” is usually impossible to miss

When she was young, my little sister penned “THE END” on everything she created with MORBID FINALITY.  Even if her story was only two sentences in length, “THE END” took up the rest of the page—much like our END will supersede our existence in its infinite duration, compared with our brief presence.

Not only did she make clear where the end was, she sometimes pressed so hard with the pen that she ripped the paper—a penetrating finale.    The end could be like that, too, like a club smashed over whatever came before, the narrative adventure that led up to it.   As my sister wrote, her thick blonde hair spilled over the page like a magician’s curtain.  Her little girl fingers clutched the BIC pen (mightier-than-the-sword indeed) and spelled these two words more meticulously than any of the others, with the same kind of pen her Daddy used when he did things that looked Important.

Looking Important

And then she would hold out the story for someone to read.  “The End” hardly ever felt comfortable where it was, like a tundra overtaking the little word gardens above it.  No panning out with cinematographic flare, no red-ribbon’d sunsets, no rump of a horse riding off into the pastoral numb arms of nature, two riders atop:  just the short thread of a life—or lives—of mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, which, as soon as possible, wound up cut.  At this juncture in her orthography, my sister still wrote many of her letters backwards. The direction of  a “b” or “d” was negotiable.  But “The End” never suffered from any adulteration: “The Enb” just wouldn’t carry the same authority.  I’ll try some Hemingway-esque shorties, in her style:

All “The Ends” are False– Except Maybe This One

The undertaker, enamored, carried her out of the room.  The End.

Some are more False than Others

The undertaker, enamored, carried her out of the room.  She walked right back in. The End.

Or, mitigating the blow

The undertaker, enamored, carried Liz out of the room.  But she didn’t go along completely.

When he came into her bedroom where she had died, he looked at her like he recognized her—little old lady, truth is beauty, beauty truth sort of thing—as if she resonated with the heroine of a verse he’d read as a child, something death could be, but never actually was.  She looked fresh as a daisy, as the saying goes, like she had actually rejuvenated, rather than stiffened and dried, in the hours since she went from creature to corpse.  Only the corners of her mouth looked suspiciously caked.

What is a dead person, really?  Traces of being alive and the suffering that is its hallmark remain on the body.  You want to see the bed-sore on her bottom?  It’s hard to move into stillness.  I want to know if the undertaker wills himself to forget that what is in front of him is a (former) person, or if he is content with matter as matter.

Flowering Conclusions

She’s got her last date with you: The End. That’s who waltzes her into the Grand Ballroom. We tucked the roses into the bed-sheet as he wrapped it around her.   She’d like the idea of two men taking her out; one tall, one short, it’s like the rhymes we had to memorize, the ditties.

When the pair comes to claim our dead—and I’ve only seen it happen twice– there is a tall one and a short one, evoking balance for those who say goodbye to the body.  See?  Some humans are big, some are small; some live on, some die and are done.

Liz didn’t think there was a God “upstairs”, but I had the feeling God’s Proxy was in the apartment on the floor above hers, tinkering, attaching her spirit to the Cosmic Pulley and hauling her up through the ether.  Even her spirit had heft, waited around the apartment like a drone of bees.  I heard the undertaker rattling out through the front doors, and suddenly the apartment was no place to be, like the monkey house at the zoo without any monkeys in it.  What is this strange smell? What once happened here?

What if the undertaker fell in love with her, like the rest of us had?  Maybe he would sing to her from the street, late September wind rustling about in the garbage, as he loaded her, wrapped up like a burrito, into the back of his dark car.  At that time, not one leaf had fallen, though Fall was just around the bend, hiding in the doorways, ready to surprise you with a temperature drop any morning now, any morning now.  Liz had been the first leaf on the Great Tree to go.  What is this pain so deep in my chest I feel some organ is trying to tie itself into a forget-me-knot?

The undertaker put her into the sleek trunk, meant for human equipage.  He crowed—just like the real crows, alighting on the benches, pinions flapping as poems do in the sky of grief, triumphing over the toppled ice cream cups in the dusty Champ De Mars.   Look at this bounty, fallen, mine.

Yes, she agreed, pragmatic more than romantic.  Very well. Get on with it.

He got on with it.

That-a-way

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7 Responses to “Just End It Write Now”

  1. Ann Says:

    As always, an absolute pleasure to read. Keep those writing muscles fit and trim with more posts!

  2. rafia Says:

    yes (!) to more words from sara nolan. you so wonderfully balance simplicity with references beyond my knowing. only a brief comment for now . . . a threesome awaits: equipage, Webster, and me.

    • saraknowsyou Says:

      Webster has a fair share of equipage. Which ultimately equips the rest of us. Nothing like an actual dictionary on an actual desk. Come back, Rafia.

  3. erin Says:

    I spent the morning thinking about beginnings; you’ve been working on an end. Somehow you made them both make sense. Thank you, as always.

    • saraknowsyou Says:

      I want to know about beginnings; they’re so intimately related to endings. Twins separated at birth. Share your ruminations here….we need your articulateness like a freshman writing a Nietzsche paper needs black coffee by the pint.

  4. Thomas Says:

    Sara,

    Beautiful. Grief with love is the only, the only, the absolutely only way to respect the love and the loved while being whole heartedly in the realm of grief.

    What a Heart you have,
    Thomas

    • saraknowsyou Says:

      Yes, Thomas. And you can tell us about the flavor of this, can’t you. You are an Olympian of lovingheart.

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