Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Margaret, are you grieving?

 Spring and Fall: to a Young Child
   Margaret, are you grieving
   Over Goldengrove unleaving?
   Leaves, like the things of man, you
   With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
   Ah! as the heart grows older
   It will come to such sights colder
   By and by, nor spare a sigh
   Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
   And yet you will weep and know why.
   Now no matter, child, the name:
   Sorrow's springs are the same.
   Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
   What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
   It is the blight man was born for,
   It is Margaret you mourn for.

--gerard manley hopkins.

Even I am surprised by how regularly this poem comes to mind. It seems so often that when I am trying to pinpoint the root of a particular sadness that the line "It is Margaret you mourn for" clearly pops into my head as if to say, while I grieve for others, and I grieve for situations, invariably I am also mourning for myself, for past, present, and future events that have happened or that now will not happen (usually love). One of my best friends is losing a parent. Obviously I am sad for her because I love her so much, but I also find that part of me is preparing the grief I will feel when my own parents pass away. I see in her children the children I don't have, and that if ever I do have them, inevitably some of the most formative and beloved people in my life will be described through pictures and stories "your great grandpa held the record for piloting and surviving the world's highest plane crash, made nurses laugh on his deathbed, and drank whiskey the second he got home from open heart surgery," "your step grandpa was a police-scanner-listening, hard-liquor-drinking curmudgeon who was also a dog whisperer." I can't really bear to think of what I'll say about everyone else, and it probably isn't healthy to do so except to highlight for myself how much I care for them now. And of course, my life will also be summarized. Hopefully. But thinking about that probably is a very healthy thing.

I also find it interesting that when I recognize this feeling, particularly by this line of poetry, it's like a light at the end of the emotional tunnel, a cognizance and structure for me to get out and through, piecing together my coping and understanding. Seasons are changing, the cycle of life and death continues, the feeling of hope and loss of hope is made tangible.

I don't remember when I first read this poem and why it became so powerfully linked to my feelings of empathy (it's fairly obvious how it became linked to my feelings of mourning), but it resonates, and I wanted to save it and my associations in writing, because it's an ephemeral thought that floats in and out of my mind mostly when I'm gloomy, and sometimes when I have nothing to do but sit on hold with Chase bank. So I decided to catch it. There are many other poems that speak this emotional language to me. If I hold long enough I'll probably find them. Apparently the other plight I was born for was to be born in an era of automated phone systems. I mourn for us all for this, but in a much different, more Guy Fawkesian/ fight club way.