Sunday, December 10, 2023

a moment in the day: shore

(I wrote this back in the summer, sort of as a way to help process what had happened, but I didn't feel comfortable sharing it, so it just sat in the queue. Stephen and I were talking about this time and I remembered the post, mentioned it to him. He said, why don't you share it. So I am.)

It's a Sunday, not our normal day, but my writing group, the Gong Show, is meeting in my backyard to do a little special critique work on one friend's pages. We call ourselves the Gong Show because we always start the session with a strike of a gong or singing bowl, a sacred musical object, and Brad has brought a gong with him. It's small, the size of a dinner plate (you should see the size of the one in his basement), and it has a loop of chain through it, which he uses to hang it from the slats of a small side table not far from the big table we're all sitting around. 

Brad has also brought along a copy of the book The Remnants, by our friend Robert Hill. To add a little extra bit of the sacred to our opening ritual, before we start in on our workshopping.

It's been just one day since we learned that Robert has left this earth. It's been nine days since my good friend Mara, who I knew since I was six and she was four, left this earth.

Left this earth, a convoluted phrase. But I can't say died. Not right up close to their names like that.

Our way of talking about death is often about traveling through space: left this earth, passed on, departed.

When Mara was in the hospital and we were spending every day there, going back and forth from home to walk Nicholas, Stephen and I would walk the long hospital corridors mostly in silence. One time, he asked me, "By now, if you were alone, would you be able to find your way?" 

Through the maze of hospital halls to the tiny waiting area where our group of family and friends routinely camped out at the edge of the ICU, going in and out of Mara's room, visiting, sitting while she slept, bearing witness, keeping vigil.

Short answer: "No." Not with my horrendous sense of direction. But then, walking, Stephen and I came toward yet another intersection in the pathway, and I tested myself like always: do we turn left? And getting closer, I saw that left led to a doorway, so no, we don't go left, we go right.

We turned right and kept going.

"Actually," I said, "maybe. Because every time we come to a crossing, it seems like there's a short way and a long way, and we have to take the long way."

That phrase stuck in my mind as we walked: we have to take the long way. It seemed to really be saying we have to do the hard thing. But it could also be saying we all have our own particular journeys to take, however lost we feel.

Now, in our backyard, the Gong Show writers sitting around our backyard table, Brad is flipping through his copy of our friend Robert's book, looking for the passage he wanted to read to us. A crow swoops over the lawn and lands on the birdbath, dunking its beak in the water. 

"OK," Brad says, and clears his throat that way he does that sounds like a small, sudden explosion. He reads:

"There is a shore we see from the distance when we are young and we think we are the first to see it and we are the only ones who know it is there, yet as we near it closer and closer it gives way to a shore more distant that is the real shore we are born to want to reach. It is the shore that made the first cave dweller leave the comfort of his cave and his cousin the spear wielder find in the air a reason to do more than just live; it is the far shore that drew to this spot, this New Eden, the men and women who made what they could of the time they had here, and who traveled from here to an even more distant shore that no one will be left to recall."

Traveling, moving, going forward.

Brad closes and sets down the book, hits the gong.


  1. Thanks for this, Gigi.

  2. I remember, that crow, that moment, that gong. And that distant shore.

  3. It is the long way, isn’t it?