There are many types of loss, and Gabrielle Zevin’s gorgeous novel invokes the permanent, abrupt, cratering kind. Perhaps not strangely, then, my former colleague Nate appeared vividly in a dream when I was midway through the novel. I think of him all the time — more than I did when he was alive, to be honest — because I drive by the intersection at which I learned of his untimely death almost every day: my invisible cross on the telephone pole. Last week, a discarded infant carseat appeared about two blocks from that site, at the intersection of Goldsboro and Massachusetts Avenue. It has sat there in obsolescence, gathering rain and dust, and every day, I wince at its premonitory presence. It is a haunting augur, two blocks from coordinates that already invite grief, though I tell myself the carseat must have been left there for someone to take if needed, or perhaps it tumbled out of the back of a pick-up?
No matter the case: that section of Mass Ave is a corridor that runs dimly lit.
But, there is this: in dreams, you can find things lost. Nate appeared to me smiling, fully rendered, as if in technicolor. Elizabeth visits with me there, too — less frequently now — but I also search for and find her in my writing. She will appear to me on the page, dressed in my own words, and it is the strangest sort of redemption: something I have willed into being. The crescents of her smiling, gently goading eyes, the flick of her Visitation lanyard around her finger. She is here; Nate, too.
Because of this tangle of emotional events, I have been reflecting on loss more generally. There are the Big Kinds that Zevin presents, the Nates and the Elizabeths. But there are also the things that just kind of slip away from you, dissolving against the force of time, distraction, other priorities. I am thinking primarily of friendships, but there are many examples in the realm of motherhood, in the geographies we temporarily inhabit, and in the general category of “gaining experience as an adult.” Elizabeth Bishop (a poet of tremendous personal significance to me) has a slightly pedantic poem titled “One Art” in which she talks about the accruing loss of living: “Lose something every day. Accept the fluster / of lost door keys, the hour badly spent,” she begins. Later in the poem: “Then practice losing farther, losing faster: / places, and names, and where it was you meant / to travel.” Finally:
—Even losing you (the joking voice,
a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied.
It’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master.
Though I hate that this is one of Bishop’s most famous pieces, as it presents her as a bit of a bluestocking versus the grounded naturalist she reveals herself to be elsewhere (the villanelle form feels coyly pedagogic), I relate deeply to the ways in which the small losses prime us for the big ones. But maybe, too, the big ones can help us prevent the littler ones. I wrote earlier that I will Elizabeth and Nate and others I have lost into my presence by putting pen to paper. I reach for them in my dreams, which are more often than not mirrorings of texts (like Zevin’s work) I have willed myself to read. Why not, today, take a minute to push back on the march of the quotidian, to reach for something small that has slipped away from me?
A hobby, a friendship, a devotional, a text thread, even a ten minute break to sit with your toddler doing nothing at all but clinging him to yourself, absorbing everything about his perfect toddler-ness?
+My neighbor has THE best hair — like bouncy supermodel waves! And she recently revealed that she uses this $70 tool to get them. My hair is too short right now (I have a shoulder-grazing bob) but I have this on my Amazon wishlist if/when I grow it out. She totally sold me on it!
+Tevas have made a comeback and aren’t just for the earthy-crunchy set anymore: my niece and nephew had them in great colors last summer and I realized they were not only functional (lightweight, quick-dry, rubber sole for grip) but cute! Love this pastel pair for girls. Would look sweet with a little spring dress like this.
+Fun statement pants for spring.
+How adorable is this little alpaca keychain?! Do I need it!
+Chic, well-priced wastebasket.
+Pam just continues with the hits! LOVE!