A Flood, A Poem, and Interpreting Grief

7 May

Last night, I dreamt that my parents’ bathroom was flooding.  I had to alert my parents to the fact that there was 8 inches of water on their bathroom floor.  Using the “how to get out of a door without allowing a cat/dog/small child to escape” method, I sidestepped out, slammed the door, and ran for help. Sometimes, Dads do know best.

In the dream, my Dad, entirely unfazed by the disastrous flood account, opened the door only to see that the waters had receded. By closing the door on the flood, I’d managed to contain and dissipate it.  It felt good.  It also felt wrong.  I thought “This does not happen in real life. Oh….Right…This is a dream.”  (That is normally how my dreams end, with the understanding that they are dreams.)

I thought about the dream all morning while biking and at the gym. Exercising after a long week is always a very introspective time for me. And although I don’t put much stock into interpreting dreams, this one felt important.

And then I read this.

Picnic, Lightning by Billy Collins
It is possible to be struck by a meteor
or a single-engine plane
while reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians
are flattened by safes falling from
rooftops mostly within the panels of
the comics, but still, we know it is
possible, as well as the flash of
summer lightning, the thermos toppling
over, spilling out on the grass.
And we know the message can be
delivered from within. The heart, no
valentine, decides to quit after
lunch, the power shut off like a
switch, or a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body’s
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.

This is
what I think about when I shovel
compost into a wheelbarrow, and when
I fill the long flower boxes, then
press into rows the limp roots of red
impatiens – the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth from the
sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then
the soil is full of marvels, bits of
leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam.

Then
the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the
clouds a brighter white, and all I
hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone, the small
plants singing with lifted faces, and
the click of the sundial as one hour
sweeps into the next.

I now understand what the dream was about. Grief. I am an advocate for locking emotions up – closing the door and losing the key. And I always hope that I will come back, open wide the door to the floods of emotion and find them – vanished.  But I know that is a dream.  And when it happened, just like that, in my dream, I knew it was fake. And instead of delighting in finally getting what I wanted, I realized it was wrong, it didn’t make sense, it was not the normal process.

Grief finds you – in the words of a song, in the rhythm of a poem. In my case – in the thought of ultramarathons, listening to WolfMother, dinners at Catahoula, and a million other completely unrelated and tiny moments. I find things categorized into “my first ___ without him” and “the last time we ____” and I can only pause astonished by those who handle the deaths of spouses and children and seem more resilient than I am, grieving the loss of a friend. I feel unworthy to grieve with those who have lost more and managed to live with it.

When the power is shut off like a switch, we can embrace the floods now, or hold them at bay until later. But they will need to be dealt with because grief does not dissipate.

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One Response to “A Flood, A Poem, and Interpreting Grief”

  1. sharon May 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    You make me cry. Somehow I see some of me in you, and I get it.

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