Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Archaeology of Grief

"The archaeology of grief is not ordered. It is more like earth under a spade, turning up things you had forgotten."

I'm more than halfway through Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk and the dogeared pages are growing. More and more often I find myself holding her phrases in mind, turning them over, searching for the invisible strings that tether them to the page, so light are they, so deft at plumbing the dusky chambers of the human heart.

This one today came after a description of a dying rabbit and how adept Macdonald became at the coup de grace, at putting the bunnies her hawk, Mabel, killed out of their misery. "The serious, everything puzzle that was death and going away."

Macdonald was grieving her father's abrupt passing as she tamed her hawk; she was learning to be a participant in life rather than just an observer. That's what gave her the "momentary shouldering of responsibility" that allowed her to kill the rabbit.

And she was ruminating, always ruminating. She didn't feel regret for the killing but for the animal itself. "It wasn't a promising sorrow," she says. "It was the sorrow of all deaths."

I bought this book because I thought it would be a companion in grief. It has become just that. It is  the spade, but it is also the salve.

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