End of year 2021
End of year 2021
Reading punctuates my life. I read quickly, voraciously, often a dozen books a month. But this year has been different. And in the past few months, I’ve been restrained, tied to “life on the pad” as my husband calls it, flat on my back nursing an injury that makes the ceiling my view for hours every day. Turns out I can’t read that way.
I remember the adaptive equipment we rigged for spinal cord patients, tied to their rotating frames for months, grateful for the page that floated above their faces, letting them read or try to, while their bodies decided whether walking was ever going to happen again.
My injury is nothing that dramatic. Simple patience, and conservative treatment will likely be my cures. But when I close my eyes I imagine those frames, and envy the distraction I cannot seem to find in other ways. I want to lose myself in a book.
Just before this happened, I began The Sentence, drawn by a review that set the story in a bookstore, and raved that every book discussed there was listed in a glossary at the end of the novel. Brilliant, I thought. And so thoughtful, for those of us who read with a pencil, and are constantly losing the notes we make of other books to investigate.
And so I have been reading this in chunks. Small beautiful bites of poetry, and story and myth and madness. It is a fitting end to this year. A year that gave me a child I thought might never exist, a suicide even more unthinkable, a drilled- down battle with a cancer too close to home, and the sudden death of friends whose covid- cancelled lunch dates are still on my calendar. Sudden extraordinary beauty, framed in tragedy and pain.
Last night I read one page. It was enough.
It’s my lesson, and my wish for 2022.
May the beauty of slow and small be yours.
May singular joys outshine the losses.
May writers who can do this with words hold us here, in awesome gratitude, for the gift of life.
The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Sometimes as I am waking, between sleep and consciousness, I am afflicted with a wave of crashing sorrow. Where this wave comes from, or why this moment is so bitter and deep, I don’t know. It just happens to me. I stay still as though I have a knife in me, afraid to jostle this feeling and make it worse. But I know that it won’t go away unless I submit to it. And so I feel it.
This happened to me the morning after Pollux hypnotized me with the ceiling fan. I woke in the grip of sadness and as always I let the dark fill me. Slowly, as it receded, I peered out of my cave of pillows. Pollux was sitting at a little table next to the window. It was one of his workstations, which are scattered through the house and garage. He’d brought this table into our room when Hetta began to inhabit his office. It was the place he worked with the eagle feathers. They were beautiful mottled white and brown feathers, wing feathers, so they curved slightly. Pollux was straightening them out by stroking the spines on a hot lightbulb. He was wearing sunglasses against the glare. Over and over he drew the feather over the glass. This would only be normal in a Native person’s house. The feather gradually straightened. It took a long time. I watched him from under my pillows. The light lay on his hair, picking out silver, black and white strands. The patience of him, the way he was devoted to that feather, worked on me. Again and again he warmed the feather, bent it the opposite direction, pulled it straight, warmed it again. He seemed the picture of human love. I knew the fan was for me. I knew the feathers actually were me—Tookie—straightened by warmth applied a thousand times.