Awash

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Lately I've been scraping by: logistically, emotionally, physically. Pushing and pressing and waking up every day like a bag of bowling balls upended onto a crooked floor, with sore, old-person feet and a furrowed brow.

There's just a lot to do. We all have a lot to do, don't we? The list shrinks and grows, shrinks and grows, endlessly, and we must chug along, regardless of our capacity or our suffering. Pick up that thing. Cook that thing. Call that person. Buy that thing. Find the tack cloth; one more coat of varathane; tighten that set screw; loosen that bolt. Pick up the other thing. Cook that other thing. (repeat)

I look at stars and look for stars. Gord Downie is dead and I've cried several times. We all have. In the car, the kitchen, my bed. I paint the hallway of yet another house that brings me further from my lost son, several chapters beyond him, and I think about death. I think about being 44 and the inevitable gauntlet of loss that comes with life. I can't help it. Our loves and our icons, all of them life-defining in large and peripheral ways. I think about that time I almost couldn't swim fast enough to yank my blown-about, exhausted eldest son out of the middle of a lake last year — a replay-loop of a nightmare that still haunts me. I might have lost another one.

I hit play on YouTube, shaking. Neil deGrasse Tyson is talking about Pluto.

Get over it, he says, and the audience chuckles. Pluto is not a planet.

During our brief stay on planet Earth, we owe ourselves and our descendants the opportunity to explore — in part because it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us.

I dip the roller into the tray again. Just get something done, Kate. Keep doing.

My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.

I smile and reach up to sand uneven plaster.

Life is too short for me to worry about something I have no control over that I don’t even know will happen. People ask if Earth is going to be swallowed by a black hole or if there is some disturbance in the spacetime continuum we should worry about. My answer is no, because you won’t know about it until it crosses your place in space-time. Your beats come to you when nature decides it’s the right time. Be it at the speed of sound, the speed of light, or the speed of electrical impulses, we will forever be victims of the time delay between information around us and our capacity to receive it.

It took me so long to feel steady after Liam died. I spent years unravelling. Could it be that the moment I am settled, reconciled, integrated, someone else's soft machine of a body will fail — someone I love, need, adore — and the stars will take someone else from me?

Of course they will.

 Gord Downie by  Jeff Lemire

Gord Downie by Jeff Lemire

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Recent days have bumbled along punctuated by dust, wrenches, and bleach. I tried to avoid the news and couldn't. I tried to avoid the outrage and couldn't. I am deeply content and deeply discontented, powerful and powerless.

Gord Downie is dead. He knew he had limited days left. He sang for us for one last summer and off he went, and Canada is immeasurably smaller. He teaches us how to die, says ... everyone. Poets, brothers, pundits, critics, friends. Off he goes, somehow less of an abstraction in his absence than he was in his fame.

Rattled, I listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson as others might listen to a preacher. Science in the face of the fear that comes with being human is the only thing that calms me. And not just science for its own sake, but the joy in science. The marvel at all we don't know. That we feed on flora and fauna, and then die to feed flora and fauna. That we are, actually, made of stardust, and so is everything, right down to every grain of sand on Hirtle's Beach.

And so: what to do? We watch people we love recede. Off they go. More will join them, and then someday, we will, too. We will mourn big and in pauses, in fits and spurts, abstractly and with an explosion of impossible, unacceptable nearness.

There's only one thing. To love, to love, to love. To say thank you for the love we share, regardless of how it unfolds. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I always like to have a glimmer of hopefulness, even in collapse.
—Gord Downie

I'm sorry I let the overwhelm trip up our usual schedule of posting. It was my turn, and then a rash of tragic news both distant and personal, and sometimes this gets to me, too, the exquisite hurt of being alive in loss. Can you just respond with a nod, a hello, and tell me how you're doing these days?
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Kate

Author, photographer, founder of Glow. Mother of three boys, one of whom died at six weeks old nine years ago. Nine years ago, I was someone else. Love and sorcery and poetry and terrible luck and wonderful luck.