As a child I was obsessed with the moment where wakefulness becomes sleep. I would lay in bed, feel each breath, the long slide into the rich and fertile darkness of dreams, and yearn to retain some conscious recollection of that moment. To pause on the border, look both ways, to cross by choice.
There was, in this, some interior recollection – a gathering, an organizing – of death. What I would later turn to Emily Dickinson (and Sylvia Plath too, though differently) for, a brave and deliberate consideration of death, a shrugging off of both gloss and pith.
I recall all this because talking with Andrew last week he casually if abruptly described death as “a last wall we all have to break through,” in the same spirit as a dancer will struggle to attain a difficult pose, hold it briefly in perfection, and then, having done so once, be effectively relieved of the struggle. As if we might in life strike some essential timbre by which dying becomes . . . what? Merely another dream, merely another drawn breath. A thing we know, have always known.
And blah blah blah, as Art Garfunkel (I think it was Art, not Paul) says in Save The Life Of My Child. I always loved the refrain at the end, humming it at the bus stop even – “Oh my grace, I got no hiding place.”
That moment – that point of crossing – is discernible when I watch my own children fall to sleep. It is as if a huge breath outside of us is slowly released, a small breeze stirring the curtains. Faint scent of rosemary, of gardens after rain. Their little bodies soften and settle and you can almost feel the rhythm of the dream as it rises off them like mist, pale luminaries on a yet-unfinished path.
Oh and yesterday, driving home at dusk, I slowed to watch a single crow hop along a pasture’s edge, its head drooping as if searching for something it knew had been lost forever. “Crow grief,” I thought, and held that thought, despite believing that I know better.