Fall used to be my favorite time of the year; a new year of teaching and meeting students, my birthday, our anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas and my late husband’s birthday all in succession. Now Fall has become my saddest, heaviest part of the year for the same reasons—none of these celebrations seem right without him. I haven’t just mourned the loss of his presence, but I’ve realized how deeply I feel the loss of who we were together in those moments. This fall has been especially tough as I try to shake this heavy melancholy which is juxtaposed with a strange sense of an uncertain future and being untethered. I’m weighed down but not weighed down at the same time—a bizarre uneasiness.
This weekend my daughter played alto sax in her school’s winter concert; she especially misses her dad on occasions like this when he isn’t there to see her perform. But she was so happy to be surrounded by our family and friends whom she invited to the concert and eagerly showed up to lend their support. This got me thinking about all of the people, from around the world, who have offered me comfort and love and hope. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten a card from a retired colleague living in Florida, texts from Alan’s former administrators, a package of coffee from a friend in Maine, an invitation to dinner from family friends, a DM from a friend in France who is himself very sick, a Google chat exchanging poems from a friend living in Canada, and a book from a translator in Prague who knows my love for Hungarian literature. Each of these gestures was done with the utmost care and concern. I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude that every time I reach out for support, literary Twitter is always there with kind messages and encouragement.
And so I’ve been slowing digging myself out of this slump, fighting on with every ounce of strength I have, feeling very fortunate and grateful to be surrounded by so many generous people. Poetry has also been a solace to me. I haven’t been able to focus on reading anything of great length but I have been able to concentrate on poetry. I would normally feel chagrined about the number of books I order, but it feels good to be collecting books again and sharing them on Twitter. So I thought I would do a series of posts on poetry and share my latest reading. In addition I’ve been slowly making my way through Paul Valéry Cahiers, which itself reads like poetry. His definition of beauty reminds me why I find such comfort in poetry:
The more I see you, the more I want you. The more I want you, the more I create you—the more I create you, the less I know how to—Your impossibility, your necessity, your presence, struggle over my state of being.
If one of those factors is absent, the work is a failure—or non-existent. It has to create the need and satisfy it. And what is more, make it felt that neither the need nor the satisfaction were within our powers. Hence the endless renewal of desire.
Valéry is accurate about the necessity of poetry. And the necessity of all the people who love me and check in on me is also a thing of beauty. So I continue to fight that heaviness, some days better than others, but fight on I do. Writing and sharing these lines helps. More soon…