Murmuration

Soyez comme l’oiseau, posé pour un instant

Sur des rameaux trop frêles,

Qui sent ployer la branche et qui chante pourtant,

Sachant qu’il a des ailes!

(Be like the bird who / pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight / feels them give way beneath her /and yet sings / knowing she hath wings)

–Victor Hugo

When I was a young girl, I spent many summers abroad in France, my grandmother’s country. I remember how exciting it was to count down the days until the trip every year. I would wish for time to speed up, even through Christmas, just to get there! Each summer, we would spend a few weeks in Paris, then Is-en-Bassigny, and then finally, Roquebrune-sur-Argens, which was my favorite. Built into the mountainside just off of the French Riviera, Roquebrune offered beautiful views of the Provence from its great heights.

My most favorite part about the townhome we owned in Roquebrune was my bedroom window. Situated at one of the higher points in town, I could see for miles out of that window, and I spent untold hours in the evenings sitting on its thick ledge of the 300 year old house. This was a nightly occurrence for me, because I loved to greet the starlings as they danced their murmuration across the sky in the evenings. Appearing over the horizon like a great, black ribbon, they would dive and turn, undulating through the twilight to an erratic dance of birdsong as the sunset burned orange and ember behind them. Eventually they would come closer overhead and completely dominate the sky with the moon rising behind them. Then as gracefully as they came, they flew beyond our town and out of sight. I was entranced each time, as if every night was completely new to behold.

It has been 16 years since I last sat in that window and watched the birds dance their nightfall ballet. I think back to those memories often though, despite the time. Some people imagine a pristine beach as their happy place, and I imagine the starlings at my window, and I can seem the just as vividly as they looked so long ago. It’s no surprise that I should then dream of them, from time to time…

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Mourning in the Digital Age (pt. 1/3)

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

–Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dirge Without Music

Winter has always been a season of loss for me. The three most impactful deaths in my life all occurred in winter, after all. On a historical and spiritual level, the season is inherently tied to death to begin with, given that for our ancestors, a harsh winter could spell doom. So I suppose it’s only natural. Lately, as I think back to those three I’ve lost, something has struck me in how I’ve processed each one, and how the digital age has changed how I’ve mourned them.

My first exposure to death, true death, was the loss of my cousin Sammy at the age of nine. I know that prior to his death, there were a couple of pets here and there that had crossed the bridge, but my grandmother and mother kept me insulated from what death truly was. It was an abstract concept to my child’s mind. People and animals lived, and then they went away. Less a feeling of loss, and more an absence, and I was already used to people being absent in my life. In that hopeful, childlike way, I thought little about the difference, and overlooked that while absent people may return, the dead do not. At least not in any conventional way…

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