Yesterday improved. And then again, it didn’t.
All my metaphors and similies end up being about water.
It’s like a well. You can empty it, but it fills back up again. And when it does, you’ve GOT to empty it. Or it’ll overflow. Flood the place.
Had a giggling fit or two with the two younger girls in the office. A much pleasanter way off letting of steam than crying. Felt drained afterwards, the way you do after a good cry. But it was still there. I could feel it.
I went to Emma’s for dinner. Bus ride there was uneventful. Got off the bus, started walking down the street ot her house. It was dark and cold. To the right of me the sky was pitch black. On my left, there was a thin strip of orange, quickly fading to deep blue. The stars were pinpricks of light, startlingly clear and bright. I looked up at the moon (on my right), and it had a halo around it, shining through the cold.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had a memory. Something I’d forgotten. My honours year, I’m living at home with my parents (let’s not discuss what a poor idea that was). There’s a comet. I think it must have been comet McNaught, which would pin this date to Sunday January 14, 2007. It’s right near the sun, so you can only see it right at sunset. The problem? My childhood home is in a valley, nesteld between rolling hills. The sun sets there a good hour before actual sunset. In fact, the whole area is in a dip. Finding somewhere to comet watch will be a challenge. My dad’s up for it – he loves astronomy and comets are, of course, particularly cool. He mentions going to go look for it. My sister is disinterested. My mother expresses disdain for the idea. My curiousity and sense of history is tickled, but I am feeling lazy. It’s been a hot day, and I’m disinclined to go anywhere. But I can see he wants to go, doesn’t want to go alone. So I throw my hat in the ring. Mad rush to get ready, grab shoes, quick! The sun’s setting! The comet will be gone soon!
We jump in the car. My dad drives us North, suddenly veers off onto a dirt road I’d never seen before. This is my dad, who always drives exactly 7 k/h below the speed limit, who pulls over every chance he gets to let the more impatient drivers past. Sometimes trucks overtake him. He’s driving down this dirt road, bumping up the hills, trees whipping the windows, full tilt. It’s single lane, and once we see another car whipping along the other way, dust blooming behind it. We both have to creep up the edge of the road to get past. Then my dad FLOORS it again.
We find a hill. It’s some sort of relay tower. It’s fenced off, but we climb over, or under, as our fancy takes us. Almost certainly tresspassing. My dad never breaks the rules. Ever. We have a clear, spread out view of the valleys around us. We can see fields and houses. Nothing familiar. I don’t really know where we are. I don’t think I could find this place again. I can see Lobethal and Gumeracha sparkling in the distance. One to the left, one to the right. But they look a long way off in the clear air.
And we made it in time, too. the sun is just dipping below the horizon. It’s lighting up the sky with that deep orange glow. Then gradients of blues stripe the sky above it.
And there, right next to the sun, is the comet.
Its tail is streaming behind it like a train. It stretches out what must be miles behind it. It’s a good two centimetres to my human eye, from my earthly viewpoint. Two centimetres of dramatic tail on a mere speck of a comet – the size of a pin prick. What a show off! Or perhaps it’s a drag queen. Very Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
I look at it and switch between seeing it as I see it – a bright point of light with a streamer of white behind it – and as it is – a block of dust and ice, roaring through lonely space, shedding bits of itself in a blazing tail.
My dad and I don’t talk much. We watch as the sun sets and it gets clearer. We swap the binoculars between us. We sit on the fence and contemplate it. It looks ominous. I can understand why people used to think they were harbringers of doom. But sitting up here on the hill with my dad, with the green of my homeland spread around me like a skirt, like a blanket that some child is playing make-believe on, I feel nothing but peace.
Eventually the sun sets, the comet disappears beneath the horizon too, and we trudge back to the car and drive slowly home.
I remembered this last night and it stopped me in my tracks. Literally. It burst into my brain, the whole experience unfolding in a second, and I stopped dead. I said ‘shit’. And I burst into tears, there on the footpath. I stood there for a good five minutes, sobbing, before I blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and walked towards the glowing light in front of Emma’s house, where I had a wonderful dinner with friends that went a long way towards restoring my equilibrium.
What shocked me was the suddeness of it. This forgotten memory just burst in on me, unannounced. How many more are waiting to do this? I have felt that trivial memories are suddenly more weighted – remembering times that were normal and every day, but now take on the significance of a thunderstorm. Because I am the only one who remembers them, now? This memory is so clear, so crystaline. I can SEE the dirt track, I can SMELL the dust, I can FEEL the rough wood I sat on to watch the comet. My memory, and my dad’s. Shared between two. Now carried only by one.
I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I keep forgetting that, though. I am FINE. Right up until I am not, and then it all takes so much energy to hold together that I have to go into survivial mode.
I feel so out of control! None of it is anything I can do anything about. I’m not good at my emotions at the best of times, but this is ridiculous. Even my memories are doing their own thing. Who’s driving this thing, I’d like to know!
I didn’t expect was the physicality of grief. I didn’t know about this, but apparently it’s very common. I’m tired, my body is tired, I literally feel shaky. And it’s so forceful. There’s no denying it when it comes, the very best I can do it ward it off until a more appropriate time. But the more I do that, the harder it gets. So I have to pick the times, use it sparingly.
I guess I’m learning to respect my grief, if that makes any sense. It’s like the sea. You play by the rules, you know how to act in a storm, you take precautions, and you’ll be ok. Probably. If you think that just because it’s blue skies and smooth sailing now that you don’t need your life jacket, then you’re in for a rude shock!
I just sort of wish I could see land from here.