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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Picture This: Bleeding Some Thoughts on Life and Death

Blink. Blink. Blink blink blinkblinkblink.... the cursor mocks my writer's block.

I feel it in me - the voice; but the words have jumbled and choked up at the door. If you're an innate writer, you know this agony. We have a need to write. It keeps us sane; connected. If I don't expel the thoughts they churn in my mind, creating more confusion and disorder in a space that is already infested by madness. I've waited too long and now all the thoughts and experiences have contaminated each other, bleeding out unintelligibly. So, forgive this rambling, as it is as much a practice in therapeutics as creative expression.

In March we moved to a neglected farmhouse perched on a christmas tree farm in Oregon. We were offered this opportunity through the workings of the ever-resourceful hands of my friend, Liz, who, upon our move, also became our neighbor. The entire experience has been surreal, and seemingly universe-directed. At the same time, the months since our arrival have been a near-constant tutorial in the rawness of life and death. I've read that many cutters cut themselves in an attempt to feel and know they are alive. Well, we have bled and felt that we are alive, and have been made excruciatingly aware that it is fleeting.

Since March:
  • Oliver, our pekepug, was kicked in the head by a horse, he survived (to the tune of $$$ that we didn't have, so we now owe our first born - sorry Kinsey). He lost an eye in the ordeal, so is now #piratedog. 
  • Annabelle, our Boston terrier, injured her eye and, due to her condition of congestive heart failure, had poor odds of surviving an eye-removal surgery. We chose to put her to sleep and end her pain.
  • Our beloved Frida, the hen, was taken by a hawk... I think. She just disappeared. I spent weeks looking for her. Her death was followed by that of about 12 others (honestly, I've lost count, there were numerous baby chick losses). 
  • Despite valiant efforts to predator-proof my animal enclosures, I've lost two beloved bunnies. A third, Moose, is now lonely and depressed. I'm looking to rehome him in a safer environment. Just can't sacrifice any more. 
And then there was the day that I was outside installing a fence in the rain (in attempt to keep my dog from sadistically visiting the neighbor's horses). Klee walked down to where I was working, speaking to someone on the phone. He covered the mouthpiece and said, "Cherie, Liz is in the hospital and they don't have any phone numbers for her family." I had just been talking to Liz a few hours earlier. She was comforting me about the loss of my dog, Annabelle, who I had put to sleep two days prior. I dropped my tools in the mud and drove my frazzled (and dirty) body to her side. I called her parents on my way. I texted her that I would be there soon. I didn't know we had already shared our last conversation. 

I have one picture of Liz and me together. It was taken while I held her in my arms and cried into her ear, trying with futility to tell her how grateful I was to her; that I loved her; that I would miss her. She moved her hand when I spoke. They said it was most likely just reflexes. I don't know. Maybe she heard me somewhere in her mind. Somewhere that was still aware. Who can know? Later, as she labored to take her last few breaths, I whispered that it was ok to let go. And, she let go.

I have one picture with my friend, Liz, because she had strict rules about not taking her picture. While she had made peace with who she was, flaws and triumphs, she was ashamed of her weight. She was heavy and it made her life difficult. I spent a lot of time with her in the months before her death, even lived with her for about a month, while trying to get our house to a livable condition. I never saw her overeat. In fact, I ate more than she did on more than one occasion. I'm not saying she had a great diet, just that it was not marked by unusually excessive caloric intake. She had dieted a lot over the years, which I'm sure impaired her metabolism. But really, her habits were not that atypical. I believe she was struggling with metabolic issues, making weight control unusually difficult for her. But, regardless of why she was obese, she hated the prison her body had become, and she didn't want photographic evidence of it. I miss my friend. I see her everywhere on this farm. I wish I had a picture I could look at to see that our friendship was real. That we shared space together at one time.

I'm 43. 40 seems to be the magic age for shutting the metabolism down. I eat well; not even eating the nightly ice-cream anymore. I'm pretty active, building fences, chasing chickens and dogs and a 5-year old. Doesn't matter. The combination of a slowing metabolism, a geriatric pregnancy (don't even get me started), and a medication (with a side of weight gain), has resulted in the addition of about 40 unwelcome pounds. I am very. unhappy. about this. It doesn't even feel like I'm looking at me in the mirror. I hate shopping for clothes. The self-loathing is at an all-time high. And, I am guilty of disallowing the taking of photos. (I mean, who really wants extra documentation of this shit?) 

Here's the thing; TAKE THE PICTURES. All the pictures. Wrinkles, fat, grey hairs... none of it matters. Not at all. We are so distracted by this temporary packaging of our souls. But these vessels we live in, they allow us this life. These bodies give us the opportunity to connect with everything around us. We touch, see, hear, feel, breath in and out; we experience love and life through the skin and bones we're in. And we are lucky enough to live at a point in history where we have the ability to record these experiences, and the beautiful bodies that carry us, with photographs. So, for those that love me, my new rule is, take the pictures. And, if someday you're holding the memory of me in your hands, and my body is no longer here, please know that it was real. I was there. I lived. I loved you. And, if at all possible, I love you still.
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