27 November, 2013
The other night I did a reading at Elliot Bay Books and read from Alchemy of Loss with two other authors, Lisa Borders and Ron MacLean who have both written fictional stories themed around grief and loss. Both are from Boston and when they decided to do a West Coast book tour together, they put out a call for an author in Seattle who’s written about loss and my name came up. Go figure.
The common thread linking the three of us together was obviously grief and loss, but also individual, creative responses to grief. Each of our readings was entirely different. I was able to speak directly to my own response to grief, since I am my own character in my book. Ron’s book, Headlong, is a thriller whose protagonist comes back to town to care for his father who’s had a stroke. The excerpts he read were witty and poignant, two men in a complicated relationship facing pre-grief. Ron said that of all the sections in the book, these scenes were the most difficult to write.
Lisa had everyone riveted as she read the prologue and first chapter of her book, The Fifty First State chronicling two siblings as they cope after the sudden death of their parents in a car accident. He story was seeded by the death of several people close to her over a short period of time.
What struck me was the depth of emotion that all three works elicited as a group. I have been so removed lately from the world of grief and loss, that I have forgotten the magic that hides there. The raw authenticity that can’t help leaking out whenever anyone is able to unmask those raw emotions we all work so hard to hide from one another.
It’s that magic that I love about grief.
OK, so now, I’ll do what I can to link all this to Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite holidays. I like a holiday where the entire focus is on what you are grateful for, with no complication of having to give gifts and go crazy decorating. And being grateful is part of the magic of grief. When you’re split wide open by death, it’s amazing how much more you are able to appreciate life.
I’d love to add that the traditional feast on this holiday is also one of simplicity, but as anyone who has had to cook an entire turkey dinner for 25 knows, it’s not. But whatever. It gets everyone into the kitchen for an entire day, where all the best conversations happen, and tears can be hidden in the guise of chopping onions.
I look forward to laughing at comedy night with my best-friend-with-brain-cancer; shedding tears as I chop onions with my sister-cousin; equipping my cute-heroic-wonderful boyfriend to wrangle otters; doting on my awesome-surly-awesome son who will pout and beg to leave the island, and, of course reading two amazing books with grief as a theme.
Happy Thanksgiving all! May you all weep with grief and joy (while chopping onions, of course).