When I heard that a friend from my writing group had died, I decided to write a tribute for The Anchorage Press, where she had published a few of her lovely essays.
What resulted, however, was more of a creative nonfiction piece that was just as much about me than it was about her. I think she would have liked that. I think she would have much appreciated the irony.
Here’s the beginning. I hope you enjoy.
Upon hearing that a writing friend had died
What I wanted to say
Oh, honey. Oh, sweetie, why, dammit—why?
What I was doing
The night Louise Freeman died I was visiting my sister in the Philadelphia suburbs. The moon was fat that night, not full but still fat. I pointed it out to my sister as we walked back from the gym, the sky dark and clear, the moon hanging like a pregnant belly, round and luminous and filled with its own importance. Later that night the moon floated in through the window blinds as I stayed up reading, the ceiling fan whirling above me, the comforter pulled across my shoulders—and I felt secure and safe, nestled inside that sense of home we always feel when we visit families and the people we love.
How could I have known that a few thousands of miles away, Louise would soon be taking her last breaths?
What the moon said
She died during the waning of the moon, a time that folklore says is ripe for change, for releasing old habits and breaking off unhealthy relationships. A time of thought and meditation, of healing and renewal.
She killed herself, did I mention that?
What we talked about when we walked
Last spring we took a walk along Turnagain Arm Trail. The trees beginning to bud, the green ready to sprout. It was one of those holding-your-breath days, with winter stubbornly clinging on but spring pushing through. We talked in the disjointed language of women, each of us instinctively finishing the other’s sentences. The dog running ahead as we shared stories of our writing and our children, of the choices we’d made, the mistakes we’d left behind, and how those mistakes had shaped and defined us. Laughing and crying, unselfconsciously wiping tears from our faces because we were alone on the trail, in the woods, the mountain nestled on one side, the inlet on the other.
We both had sons; she had two and I had one, and they were grown and out of the house, they were living their lives and moving forward in the world and yet still we worried and wondered, hoped and dreamed. For them, and also for ourselves.
Walking down the long hill at the end of the trail, I thought of Richard Siken’s poem “Scheherazade,” those thin lines in the middle so fat with meaning that a person could spend her life reciting them and still not understand every nuance, every lost chance: “Look at the light through the windowpane. That means it’s noon, that means we’re inconsolable.”
You can read the rest in this week’s Anchorage Press.