Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day after Thanksgiving

I love this photo of a Wild Turkey feasting at someone's backyard feeding station.  It came from Project Feederwatch:

Truly, a noble bird, as Benjamin Franklin said.

And here is one in flight - photo by Russell Joseph Reynolds:

They are huge birds.  I saw one stuffed ( not with dressing!) with wings extended,and mounted in a local brewery recently.  The wingspan must have been six feet.

Thanksgiving and the Facebook photos of some of my former students, or young relatives, or younger colleagues, and their families around the table, make me happy for them, but also make me feel my losses.

I’m teaching Wendell Berry’s novel Hannah Coulter again… second time.  I like talking with/to the first year students about it.  Clearly there are ideas they have never had; for example, wondering how their parents feel about their departure from home to go to college…and, even more, the good possibility that they will never live in their home towns again ( as they did in their first eighteen years).

 Different passages strike me this year. For example, in the passage where Hannah talks about her daughter Margaret’s wedding:

“Ghosts attend such events… You know the ghosts are there when you see as they see, not as they saw , but as they see.You feel them with you, not as they were but as they are. I never shed a tear that day, but all day long I saw Margaret as her father and her grandfather saw her. I loved her that day with my love but also with theirs.”

I felt that way at my cousin Jared’s funeral recently. 

At another place, after her husband dies, she reflects:

“Even old, your husband is the young man you remember now. Even dead, he is the man you remember, not as he was but as he is, alive still in your love. Death is a sort of lens, though I used to think of it as a wall or a shut door. It changes things and makes them clear.”

Lately I’ve been thinking of all the friends and family members who have “passed on.”  The image keeps being of them on a boat, moving out into the ocean… or in some way receding from my sight.  I’ve been feeling sad lately, but somehow these words help me. 

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