24 October 2008

Seven years and a lifetime

Pheasant

When someone you love dies, the world becomes very beautiful.

You see the light—you see it through leaves; sliding through cloud to slip over ridgetops; flickering on water.

You hear air through the wings of kereru and watch them swoop high over the forest, to hang, tip, and fall.

Driving up the valley in the early morning you see a pheasant run across the road; you slow down and as you pass by you see its brilliant, frightened head staring at you from the long wet weeds.

Alone in the mountains you feel the wind on your skin. The same wind carries the sound of the river to you from far below; it fades and the sun goes behind a cloud.

These things become the most important things in the world. You wonder what they mean and decide you can’t make sense of anything.

This is what happens when someone you love dies.


Photo:
1. Pheasant trying to hide. Countryside near Bristol, UK, 2007. I only got one chance for the photo, at ISO 1600, and ended up with a blurry and overexposed image. After some heavy post-processing I decided this would do. Sometimes technical quality isn't crucial.


Photo and words © 2008 Pete McGregor

28 comments:

Zhoen said...

(o)

Anne-Marie said...

Thinking of you today and wishing you peace and good memories.

Aroha-nui.

pohanginapete said...

Zhoen; Anne-Marie: Thank you both.

Emma said...

You're in my thoughts, friend.

bev said...

These things become the most important things in the world.

For me, they seem to have become the only things in the world. My thoughts are with you.

Relatively Retiring said...

Spring in New Zealand, autumn in England - equally poignant times. Live each day to the full, with loving memories of those who can no longer do so.

pohanginapete said...

Thank you Emma. Although it was seven years ago, sometimes it seems far more immediate. But, the concern of friends never seems any the less just because the event continues to recede into the past.

Ah, Bev, I hope and trust you have friends to support you the way I had (and have). What I've written about here is something most of us get only a very few opportunities to experience. It's as if the intense grief has to be somehow compensated, at least partly, by great awareness of how precious and beautiful so much of our world really is. This might sound strange, or even a little callous (though it's most definitely not meant that way), but as far as you can manage it, do pay it as much attention as you can, because eventually the intensity begins to fade — and I don't know whether that's a comfort or not. I only know Don through your words and photos, but I'd guess that along with his concern for your grief he'd love to know you could appreciate even more intensely the things you shared together — and continue to share so beautifully with us. Kia kaha, e hoa.

R.R. that's such a good principle. I do indeed try to live each day well, not just with memories of those who can't, but also with thoughts of those who still can, but from whom I'm separated at least temporarily by the tyranny of distance.

peregrina said...

Pete, this brought tears to my eyes, for you as well as for myself.

butuki said...

It is not only when someone you love dies (I still talk to my grandfather, who passed away 13 years ago, about the hill walks in Germany we took together when I was a child), but when you yourself are informed of your imminent death. Back in 1994 I was having internal problems and when I went to see the doctor in the small town I was living in back then he informed me that I had pancreatic cancer and that I had about two months to live. You can imagine the shell shock.

My wife and I left the hospital and went walking along the beach nearby, a beach horribly strewn with every imaginable type of garbage. The water was oily and cloudy with pollution. Normally I would have turned away in disgust, but that day everything in the world, as you said, was incredibly beautiful and precious. Even the garbage was full of magic in that evening light.

I went for a second opinion the following week and was informed I had no pancreatic cancer.

This December I have to go in for a CAT scan of my pancreas... to see if I might very well have pancreatic cancer after all... It might be another sublime week to look forward to, but still, I'd much prefer to see the beauty of the world without the "benefit" of technology! ;-P

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
"Alone in the mountains you fell the wind on your skin. The same wind carries the sound of the river to you from far below;it fades and the sun goes behind a cloud"
Beautiful Pete. Thank you for recognizing these moments. My thoughts are with you.
Rangimarie,
Robb

Theriomorph said...

Yes, this is what happens.

Thank you for saying it.

Bob McKerrow said...

Beautful, poignant words.

Bob

mm said...

A poignant gift.

Thank you.

pohanginapete said...

Miguel, I can indeed imagine the shock of being told I had two months to live (fortunately, it hasn't happened, touch wood); however, I don't know whether what I imagine would rely reflect it adequately. I wish you the very best for your forthcoming test, and trust you'll be able to enjoy the sublime experience as a result of some wonderful, rather than terrible, news.

Peregrina, Robb, Theriomorph, Bob, mm — thankyou all. It's good to have friends who understand these things.

Beth said...

All I can say is "yes." Thank you for writing this, and I'm sorry that such beauty comes to any of us through such loss.

pohanginapete said...

Beth, maybe it's possible to see things this way without having to suffer these kinds of losses? Perhaps it's akin to the kind of ecstasy sometimes achieved through deep meditation or religious fervour — and if so, perhaps it's attainable in other ways (non-chemical, I hasten to add)? I'd like to believe this, but don't know whether it's possible.

Lucy said...

I've been meaning to come and read this since seeing the first line over at Dave's, and it has been lingering with me.

I've felt this, but hesitated to speak of it for fear, as you say, it might sound callous.

But the people I lost were my parents, who were elderly and passed peacefully when the time was right. Losing someone more painfully, too soon, and I think that beauty would simply be unbearable...

Thanks for this.

pohanginapete said...

Lucy, I think anyone who would consider this callous could not have experienced it; those of us who have lived through it know the truth of it. We each have to find our own ways of dealing with loss, but knowing we're not alone, that others have gone through this — and are going through it — must surely help. I hope what I've written will, in some small way, prove both consolation and encouragement, even if only to a very small degree.
Thanks for visiting and for the comment.

vegetablej said...

Sometimes it doesn't fade at all, but becomes the only real thing. You keep looking at the light, the shadows, the patterns in the leaves as if they hold the answers. But after awhile you realize that they ARE the answers, or the only ones that make sense.

Greg Brave said...

After reading the word, the photograph looks very different...

MB said...

(o)

pohanginapete said...

Greg, I guess it does...

MB, thanks.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

I'm sorry to hear about someone you love dying. I'd like to imagine that the kereru swooping and the pheasant running is symbolic of the mystery of death for you. Perhaps you are still struggling with a way to understand and accept this death in your life so that you can move on.

On another note, yes, I pray that you guys will be alright through the election of such vicious individuals. The best you can do is go on and keep supporting the things close to your own heart.

pohanginapete said...

VJ — oops! Sorry for missing your comment. I appreciate it, and think there's a great deal of truth in what you say. It's tacit knowledge — what one knows, but can't say.

Samurai, thank you. One learns to deal with losses; one does move on, but moving on is not the same as forgetting, and if it could be called acceptance then it's in a particular sense that doesn't lessen the love. And about the kereru and pheasant, I think VJ put her finger on it or at least came very close. There's solace in these things; they seem to epitomise the nature of life — mysterious, beautiful, and ephemeral.
(Thanks for the election day support, too. I don't think many are truly vicious, although despite their rhetoric many seem compassionless. For true viciousness, look to their supporters — I hope it's only a tiny, vociferous proportion, but dishearteningly nasty. And I will indeed follow your advice; rest assured I'll support what's close to my heart. Thanks.)

La Traductora said...

Yours was one of the loveliest on losing a loved one that I have ever read.

pohanginapete said...

La Traductora, thank you. I hope it's some small comfort for others.

Vickie said...

What a beautiful memorial...to see the world more deeply because of the treasure carried in your heart.

pohanginapete said...

Thank you, Vickie.