His words came trickling toward her through the thicket of sound that separated her from the world. His face was anxious that was clear. She had no idea why. He seemed to be very determined that she do something. She didn’t know what. She wasn’t even sure that she cared.
Actually, as she looked at him with focused effort, all that she was sure of was that she didn’t know who he was at all. The sounds that hummed and swam became brambles that swallowed her. She gave herself up to them.
In this place it is not really dark nor is it light. It is an always-twilight. Definitely not dawn. The topography is shapeless, colorless, flat. It isn’t foggy or smokey, nor like the moonscapes we all imagine. For this lone traveller (because you never meet another being in this place – each traveler is in their own world entirely) it is as if she has been placed inside a colorless map, one that is shut inside the glove box of the car. There is nothing to see and even if there was, with no vantage point, there is no perspective.
The ground is a different matter altogether. It is full of holes, like the child’s toy where you have to put the right shaped block into the right shaped hole. These are islands surrounded by rushing creeks that come up out of the ground and then as abruptly disappear. There are tiny footpaths along which you step with great care and even these are sometimes smothered by rolling dunes of sand.
It is here that you can get Lost. Lost isn’t falling into the shapes, or being carried away by the creek. Lost is when the path vanishes altogether and there is no way back for forward, and the light never changes and there are no landmarks by which to even guess your way home.
And all around you, like a vibration that comes and goes as if someone is irregularly striking a gong, are waves of sound. Sometimes, and more and more often the longer you stay there, the gong-ringer forgets to strike and there are passages of absolute silence. Not a clean, clear, ringing silence, but one that is stuffed with cotton wool so that not a single breath of air leaks through and reaches your plugged ears.
Slowly through the cotton wool, the bramble of sound returns. You can’t push it away. You have to wait for it to lift and when it does? You are back in the regular world again. Sometimes even there the topography is foreign, the shapes lack familiarity and the creeks rise with no warning.
The days that she made the little treks through the world as we know it, became fewer, shorter and more and more difficult. The thicket grew thicker, and brambles of sound more and more invasive, until one day she just didn’t come back out.
Her son tried to find her, he really did. So did the doctors, the kind ladies volunteering at the rest home and her grandchildren. But she was lost to them all, to the world and to herself.
by Kate Hawks
By Kate Hawkes
Sept. 11, 2011
The diagnosis arrived like a feather
Floated down upon us all
Touched us lightly on the way past our
This is not a random metaphor – my father was a bird-man.
He loved them all – little as finches, big as geese.
Birds native to his Australian landscape,
From afar as Africa and Europe
He’d come in from the aviaries,
Feathers perched on his black wavy hair,
Singing out the adventures of that day.
After the words stopped vibrating
After we all agreed the meds
The diagnosis became a boulder.
It wrapped itself around our ankles like a ball and chain,
Sat up on our shoulders until, Atlas like, we couldn’t even shrug.
It pressed on our chests like gravestones.
The diagnosis labeled us all.
The hardest part of the journey,
(Full of dread)
Was not the food that couldn’t be swallowed,
The bathroom that promised humiliation and pain
The bed that became a prison even as it was
The only haven.
The hardest part of all was the
I felt the ghosts of fear and grief and desire
That came and perched like ravens around his bed
On the days that I sat there as he breathed
Slow and hard or fast and shallow.
One day he asked why the door was open
- it wasn’t.
One day he asked who had left the hall light on
-we didn’t have one.
I saw that his soul was getting ready to let him leave.
My heart broke for his leaving me
But I knew
He had worked so hard.
Worked so long and deep
This last 4 weeks
On things he didn’t even know
Were there to work.
The boulder slowly lifted from his heart
He started to fly, further and further away from us.
For longer and longer flights.
He’d return to visit, perched briefly, full of pain, in this world.
One time he didn’t come back.
And the boulder that rested up on those of us still here,
Pressed in harder, more dreadfully, one more time.
Then it slowly began to weather away.
Right after he was gone I tried to go to the aviaries.
But the birds called his name,
Looked at me as brightly as he did,
Feathers drifted slowly with nowhere to land.
Today, 3 years on,
The boulder is just occasional gravel in my shoes,
A small stone that presses on my shoulder.
It is also, oddly, in the collection of heart-stones I gather still.
My father gave me one last gift.
He showed me, through his fear and his struggle
That we have to live as completely
As everything gives us opportunity to do.
It may be the boulder that catches your toe
Or bows your back.
It may be birds that call and sprinkle you with feathers.
You have to do it all.
Before the soul can leave
You will do the work you need to do.
You do it ultimately alone.
Then you can fly.