Sunday, September 09, 2012

On Writing and Death

On Writing: 
Last night, Indigo Bridge Bookstore (in Lincoln, Nebraska), celebrated Joy Castro’s publication of Island of Bones, a collection of powerful and gorgeously written essays. Judith Ortiz Cofer, (Regents and Franklin Professor of English & Creative Writing at University of Georgia in Athens), wrote, “The power of these personal narratives resides in Castro’s ability to invest every telling detail of every sorrow and every joy with her piercing attention, until each scene reaches a transcendental clarity . . . Castro has achieved in these essays what Emily Dickinson called ‘the Truth that must dazzle gradually.’” 

Poets and Writers Magazine showcased a choice paragraph from the book and highlighted it in their online "Lines We Live By."  A copy of the page is here.  Castro says of writing:  “Writing provides a way to make sense.”  Indeed it does because in this increasingly complex, fascinating, painful, and joyous world, writing allows one to meditate, process, to sit in the “puzzling, wild, beautiful moments” Castro describes.  

From August/September issue of Poets and Writers 
Writing provides a way to make sense, in language, of the puzzling, wild, beautiful moments our lives keep delivering to us:  "Here," whispers Life.  "Figure this one out."  Offering us psychic space, privacy, and slowness in a rushed and noisy world, writing gives us the chance to tell our secrets, ovice our own perceptions.  It's the psychological equivalent of having the house to yourself for a whole evening and playing whatever music you want, with no one to see you dance around.

Felicidades Joy Castro!  Now, Dear La Bloga reader, get your copy: (Click here!)

Joy Castro & Amelia Montes (at Indigo Bridge Books celebrating Island of Bones)
On Death: 
Perhaps, dear La Bloga reader, you experienced a loss this summer:  the death of a family member, a friend, an acquaintance?  Maybe someone you know is dying.  Two weeks ago, I attended a funeral for a loved one who had died at 89 years of age.  The memorial was one of celebration and loving memories.  She had led a rich, full life, and the many friends and familia who were at the service gathered to tell stories, stories of various moments of humor, bravery, sadness, respect, jubilation. 

Earlier this summer our La Bloga familia lost one of our own:  Tatiana de la Tierra.  I did not attend the memorial but I heard that it was also one of joy, one of many loved ones gathering to tell stories. 

In both memorials, people gathered around pictures, personal objects, ashes.  They gathered to be close, to honor, to witness. 

Years ago I read a fascinating article about elephants and their own rituals with their dead.  An elephant herd will surround its dead and each one will take turns smelling it, touching it, walking around it.  
Elephant herd surrounding dead member
This will go on for days.  And years later, when they pass a certain spot, they will remember the fallen member or if they come upon its bones, they will stop and take time to touch it, smell it, walk in circles around it.  The giraffes do the same.  
Western Scrub Jay
This week there was an article in the BBC regarding the scrub jay also paying keen attention to its dead. (Click here for story)

About a week and a half ago, I was riding my bike down the Bison Trail and suddenly I felt enveloped in Tatiana’s memory.  I opened my arms and repeated her name several times.  It felt like each cloud hovering above the Bison Trail was an aspect of her presence.  She was always a more than one-dimensional being.  Tatiana was an alive being just as Joy Castro’s Island of Bones reveals a being keenly alive, just as my 89 year-old loved one was eulogized as one who celebrated life. 

Bison Trail, Lincoln, Nebraska
The Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, writes about the importance of living a fully alive and complex life in his poem, "You Start Dying Slowly."  I send it to you here, dearest Bloga reader because I kept thinking about his poem while writing this blog for you. There are different kinds of living and dying and Neruda deftly enumerates the differences in this cautionary poem.  

Wishing you a full and rich week with both eyes open, fearless, and ready to embrace every rich moment. 

You Start Dying Slowly
By Pablo Neruda

You start dying slowly
if you do not travel,
if you do not read,
if you do not listen to the sounds of life,
if you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly
when you kill your self-esteem;
when you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly
if you become a slave of your habits,
walking every day on the same paths . . .
if you do not change your routine,
if you do not wear different colors,
or if you do not speak to those you do not know.

You start dying slowly
if you avoid feeling passion
and its turbulent emotions;
those which make your eyes glisten,
and your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly
if you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,
if you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,
if you do not go after a dream, 
if you do not allow yourself,
at least once in your lifetime,
to run away from sensible advice . . . 

Joy Kreves "Dandelion Twilight"
A Reminder-- if you are in Denver Colorado on September 16th-- Don't miss meeting another one of our La Bloga writers, Rudy Ch. Garcia.  He will sign a copy of his newly released book, The Closet of Discarded Dreams at 
Su Teatro's Denver Civic Theater
on Sunday, Sept. 16th
at 5:00pm, 721 Santa Fe Drive


Unknown said...

I brought in Judith Ortiz Cofer to speak at Kentucky when I was Chair and she was an Instructor of English at Georgia whose career I wanted to foster. Glad to see now her many titles. Most importantly, that she is fostering other writers and their work openly.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Lovely commentary on dying and on celebrating a life, Amelia. Mil gracias!

Nancy Wolff said...

Thank you for these reminders of what to do with our "one precious life".