Going to photograph this bed of tulips I had seen earlier in the day, I noticed that many of the delicate tulip blossoms had been battered by the rain — some were broken, others laid down, still others were cradled against one another. I could not help but draw an emotional correlation with some scenes from the tragic bombings in Boston just a day earlier. And yet the flowers, broken and beaten down though they were, were still imbued with beauty and dignity–infinitely more so the wounded and mourning in Boston. May God bless and keep you and all who mourn throughout the world.
The still above is from one of my favorite shots from a movie packed with hundreds of stunning shots. In the most recent issue of Catapult Magazine entitled “The Dying of the Light,” I present a piece touching on the theme of grief in Terrence Malick’s movie The Tree of Life. It is more of an essay than a review. If you have not seen the film, this piece could serve as a useful guide to help you navigate its beautiful but challenging waters or else it might serve as a prompt for post-viewing reflection.
Thank you for your patience with a spate of posts on grief. Perhaps that is not what you expect from The Dassler Effect. I cannot promise that this is the absolute end of such posts–I am a melancholy fellow–but as the first anniversary of my father’s death passes, they will certainly not be so concentrated.
I was quite surprised by this collection myself, though, as I went through the blog over the last year to find these. If not a exactly a narrative, some thematic threads do seem to pop out of these disparate vignettes–weather, light and dark. I should also note that the bookend pieces on the November 7ths were deliberately created for this piece, the remainder were more organically produced as the reflections of feelings on the day they were written.
A house of mourning
Or of mirth? Enter both. It
Will be the same door.
I am putting together a collection of haiku from the blog about grieving for my father for an upcoming issue of Catapult. I needed one more, penned on this day one year after my father passed away, to complete the piece which will appear on Friday. But needing to or wanting to produce a haiku does not usually work well for me–usually, either an image will present itself or else a short phrase, which I will then shuffle around in my mind or on a piece of paper until something satisfactory appears.
Nonetheless, I am pleased with this rather less visceral, less personal, but more philosophical piece about how to live together with one another through life and death. Indeed, it reminds me of a Punjabi proverb that Dad, himself, would often remind us about which says that it is better, if one must miss either, to be with a family in sorrow than in celebration, at their funerals rather than than at their wedding celebrations, which is perhaps itself an echo of a far more ancient bit of wisdom literature.
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
The concern of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes is more existential; the Punjabi proverb’s more social. I hope my half-wise “piece of wisdom literature” splits the difference. I am thankful to be amongst family and friends who have taken this to heart–who are there for one another in rejoicing and in sorrow, and in the mundane times in between.
Well, here, as promised, is the first blog entry from “The Long Way Around.”
My father passed away last November 7th and even now I am not really prepared to write prose about him. The emotion flows at times in little rivulets in haiku, in larger streams in some conversations, and in deep rivers when I am alone. So, for the time being, this video will have to suffice. Those who know will understand.
I tried to work it out a little bit in my head, and so I am pleased, even as I am sad, with how the timing on this video worked out with images matching words.
my gas bills lower
patching through winter doing
without you to warm
I miss you. Eager.
Hello Kitty, horses, cars.
Target dollar aisle.
Like roadside bombs, you know they are coming, these emotional landmines, you just never know quite when.
coming home at dusk
leaves sunk into dimness; my
father’s weary voice
coming home at dusk
incandescent greeting; my
father’s cheery voice
Dusk, time in between times, is always a difficulty, especially in the winter months. The sureties of the daylight have sunk and the lights in our homes are struggling to make a beachhead in the dimness. And it is often in this time when we arrive at home, transitions jostling in our souls, as we bump into our dear ones.
The readers of this blog perhaps do not know what my friends and family already do, that this past Sunday night my father, who lived with me, passed away somewhat suddenly. Driving home today, reflecting on the feelings that dusk often brings to me, I thought of the times Dad and I met after long days. Sometimes he would have arrived home ahead of me; sometimes me ahead of him. Sometimes he was worn out and low, walking slowly up my creaking stairs. Sometimes he was still energetic. Almost always, though, at some point he would lift up his head, his face glowing with a broad smile, reach his head up to cup the side of my face and say, “Hello, sonaay betai! How are you doing?” These are the things I’ll miss.
In writing for Catapult magazine, I have written about pornography, grieving, conflict, and race, but seldom has the prospect of articulating my thoughts and feelings about a topic been harder than writing about weight. My interior landscape as it reflects on my own external form and also how we talk about such issues with one another in community-or rather don’t talk about such issues-are so complex, involving such depth of feeling, that the task seemed too hard, principally because of the wounding it might cause others. And, consequently, I did not manage to write an article this time. After several failed attempts at an essay,though, I did manage to write a sort of poem which gets at some of what I was after. It is not much, but if it precipitates any thoughts which you would like to talk to me about, please do not hesitate to email me.
This issue entitled “Weight,” is not only about the weight of bodies, but also reflects on other conceptual notions of weightiness, with some very personal writing. I especially commend to you the editor’s piece which encourages us who live in privileged Western contexts to ask God for more, not less, weight in life.