Sunday, February 2, 2014

Accept the Fluster

Sky at the Museum of Life and Science, Durham. There is so much amazing sky here.

Elizabeth Bishop writes, in "One Art":
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster. 
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master. 
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster. 
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
This morning, as I was awakened at 5:45 by a whiny toddler, I lay in bed thinking about this poem. I have loved this poem for years, with its acknowledgement of how easily we lose things, how deeply we mourn them. I've been fortunate in that most of my losses have been of the "what-if" nature—and I am not one to dwell on things that didn't happen. I've watched friends suffer far greater, much more incomprehensible losses than I have.

Sometimes the art of losing means finding that some dear friends have been broken. Sometimes it's about the things gained in return for the loss. And sometimes (usually?) you find that something important has been left behind. 

I'm not talking about "the fluster / of lost door keys, the hour badly spent."

"Losing farther." That one's hard. Six months into our life here in Durham, most of what I miss the most is farther away than I would like it to be. Some of my friends, to my regret, I am "losing faster" than others. There is only so much time in the day to write and to daydream and the time change is a bitch. I have not yet mastered that art, particularly when I don't have that network here (yet, I keep telling myself, not yet).

Lost Garden

But my sorrow for them hasn't stopped the thrum of grief for what we've left behind. We're getting settled, have almost unpacked all the boxes. 

Sometimes, part of unpacking has been finding old, dear friends, ones we boxed up almost a year ago.

Books! We have missed you.

Back to Bishop:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

She's right. None of those will bring disaster. I've traveled some, enough to know that not traveling right now does not mean regret. I've lost some names (though Facebook keeps bringing them back).

I've lost "two cities, lovely ones" and that actually doesn't seem so bad—Durham has plenty to recommend it as a city.

It's the other stuff—the three Huichol pieces and two evil eyes we somehow left behind in the fluster, that didn't reappear as we tore through box after box.

Our realtor told us to take the little pieces down while we were showing the house, lest someone steal them. We tucked them in a drawer.

Those little things are gone.

I have taken those evil eyes to every home I've lived in since college, when I brought them home from a trip to Turkey with my best friend from high school. They've been in shared flats, studio apartments, my mom's house, upstairs and downstairs in the old house in California. Maybe I'm a bit superstitious, but I always felt like my home was safe and mine once I hung them up.

I don't even have pictures of the Huichol artworks; they show up in passing. They were some of the first things Geoff and I bought together, on a trip to Puerto Vallarta and Yelapa about six years ago. In fact (as Geoff reminds me), we came back from that trip on Superbowl Sunday—the one where Eli Manning won in the final play.

They're in a photo of the kitchen downstairs after we painted it.

Those tiny things between the shelves. Why am I so sad about these?

Over and over, blurry spots of color in the series of photos we took while I was pregnant.

Waaaaay back in the back. Yep.

This attachment to such small objects is grinding away at me, most obviously as a synecdoche for the loss I am still feeling for our old life. Possibly, too, it's on my mind after reading Donna Tartt's hypnotic novel, The Goldfinch:

And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.

Those little pieces of art, with the story about how we looked all over town for them, a story about my kids' parents; the evil eyes, with a story about comfort, security, stability—those are stories my kids won't hear or take with them.

...It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Yep. It's not disaster. It's an art. Sometimes it's hard to master.


Gerry said...

Beautiful, Larissa. Absolutely beautiful.

Larissa said...

Thanks so much, Gerry!