Last January my friends Edie and Deb and I made a plan to ski out to the cabin on the South Fork of the Wood River and spend the night, and in February we actually did it, which is more than I can say for many of the plans I make. Deb took many great pictures, and one of these days I’ll post some of them. The snow was a little bit slushy when we went out — Edie and I skiied and Deb snowshoed, and we each went at our own pace — but the moon that night was beautiful. Edie kept running out and then running back in and saying, “It’s good moon! It’s good moon!” and then we’d go out to look, too. Overnight it snowed, and so we woke up in the morning two miles from the nearest road, with the snow all over everything and no tracks in it at all, and Deb got the woodstove roaring again and I made eggs and coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and later Edie did the dishes and we packed up our things and skiied and snowshowed back through the snow, which went all the way over our skis.
I didn’t start out to write about this, but it’s where I’ve ended up. Deb died just before Christmas. I don’t think I have quite taken that in yet. 2008 had its good parts, but it was also a year in which far too many people that I knew died far before their time. My godson Phelim; Ashton, the daughter of our superintendent; Deb; and then, New Year’s Eve day, Jim Pusack, a friend who was a last-minute member of my MFA thesis committee.
I hope that 2009 holds fewer such events for me and for any of you who may be reading this.
I lost my father and my grandfather within a few months of each other when I was five years old, and then for a long time nobody I knew died. One does not get such a reprieve forever.
One thing I am thinking about in 2009 is how to go about both mourning and remembering the people I care about who have died. The only useful thing I know about grief is that it does not end, and that it isn’t necessary for it to end. You can be a little bit sad every day for the rest of your life. You don’t have to get over it. This year I’m going to be thinking about how to recognize those little bits of sadness and honor them. (I sort of can’t believe that I just used honor as a verb with feelings as the object, but that’s what this world does to you.)
I first read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway when I was seventeen years old, and I was stunned, simply stunned, by the book. If you don’t know it, it’s the story of one day in the life of a woman in her fifties, but in the course of that day, when she has a big party, she remembers all these other various people and places in her life, and there’s a good bit that has to do with the summer she was eighteen. Until that moment I had no idea that grown ups dwelt in the past as well as in the present and future. I was so used to adolescence being dismissed by grown ups that I figured none of them ever thought about the past. I suppose there are grown ups who don’t, but I am not one of them, nor do I wish to be. The things you remember are, in some ways, all you have. I strive to remember as much as I can.