The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the month “February, 2021”

The Harshing of the Mellow…

first published June 5, 2016

cassandra

Cas

I fancied myself a tragic Cassandra, my warnings to the world ignored and unheeded. I could recognize the birth of a killing wave long before even a ripple fluttered beneath the water. I paid attention when the stone was dropped, and could accurately calculate how long it would take before those waves engulfed the shore, There, the revelers and the workers plowed on, willfully oblivious to impending disaster.

I was not well-liked. Few wanted to be reminded that their own greed and selfishness and laziness and ignorance were contributing to an inevitable crisis.  Nobody wants to be lectured by someone who is in no better a position to stop the juggernaut than they are. The best way to get through life with any measure of happiness is to ignore the sword that hangs over all our heads.  But I could not let anyone forget.  I would not allow them the luxury of denial or ignorance.  They mocked me, condescended to me, ignored me because I could see what they refused to consider.

It didn’t matter that my predictions generally played out as I said they would. I was not sought for my advice.  Instead, I spent my life on the edge of panic, without hope, certain every moment that the end was imminent.

But of course the end is always imminent for everyone. This is the human condition. Each generation eventually dies. Society, technology, mores…they are always changing,  sometimes unrecognizably so in a very short time. What is calamitous to the parent is perfectly normal to the child. As the older generation loses its ability to adapt,  the young easily inhabit the new conditions, having known nothing else.  The human race is resilient, after all.

In the end, the pattern unspools as it was always meant to.  All the millions of moving parts conspire to weave the future in the only way possible.  My dire warnings and fears were for naught.  What did it matter that I could see further than most? There was nothing any of us could have done to have made things turn out differently.  There was nothing to do but wait for another tide.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Living in Limbo

First published March 2, 2015


swings-111925_640

Wir

The turning point of my life came when I was thirty one. Until then, most of my moderate expectations had been met.  I fell in love, got married,  gave birth to a beautiful, clever little girl we both adored.  We were financially comfortable and happy together. My mind was uncluttered by much introspective thought or intense emotion.

When my daughter was 7, she disappeared. She’d been playing in the park with friends, and then, they called for her and she wasn’t there. Nobody had noticed anyone or anything. She’d simply vanished.

The police looked for her. My husband and I, our friends and family, we all looked for her. But we didn’t find her. Not alive. Not dead.

And so I lived the rest of my days in a limbo.  I was filled with the kind of intense emotions I’d never felt before, and did not know how to process. I cycled through grief, despair, guilt, anger, sorrow and the occasional scintilla of hope, which was always quickly extinguished and replaced by fresh grief.

Sometimes I heard stories of children returning to their parents after many years.  Somehow, they’d remembered and found their way back.  Naturally,  I hoped for such an outcome,  but after a time, I would have been relieved to know for certain that she was dead. If I could have given her a proper funeral, I might have been able to move on.  If I knew what had happened to her, I might have been able to forgive.  As it was, however, I never could settle on a single emotion, and so this was the cycle which spun the wheel which turned my life.

My husband and I stayed together, but it was never the same. We both felt a similar range of emotions, but our moods were infrequently aligned. We rarely connected, except on her birthday when we both seemed to feel the same. For many years, we’d get a small cake with a single candle. We’d bring out the old photo albums. But then it became too awful. It made us feel helpless and hopeless.  We each tried to make our way through our pain in our own way, but neither of us had much success. Compounding our pain was that we were of no comfort to each other. Even after many years, we both suffered alone.

Her being ripped from our lives so cruelly was for a reason; for the lessons on tragedy and mourning. At the time, however, it didn’t feel like any useful lesson. If anyone had suggested to me that it was part of a greater plan, I would have lost all control and attacked them ferociously. The pain was wrapped around me too tightly to loose its bonds. What mother can ever make sense of such a thing? To come to terms with it would have be tantamount to abandoning her; to losing her again. She remained alive in my sorrow.

Now, however, I am afforded greater perspective. The unrelenting pain of that life is finally healed. She and I are together again, awaiting a next time.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

The Hand of a Stranger

First published Jun 10, 2019

Var

The trouble came when I was quite young.  My father was taken away when I was about three and he never came back. My mother cried for a long time, but I never knew where he was or why he did not return.

These were times of famine and political unrest, difficult for everyone, but especially for a widow with a small child.

Eventually, it became too dangerous to remain where we were.  Not just us, but for many, many people.  So, when I was about six, we packed up the little we had and left the countryside for a large town.  It was far away – many weeks walking.

We were a miserable lot, most of us near starving, cold, filthy, exhausted, frightened. The fields we passed were mostly bare.  Drought had destroyed the crops.  But if we scavenged carefully, we might find something still edible – a buried root, a struggling vine, insects.  If we were lucky, perhaps a small animal.

We slept outside, wrapped in blankets, huddled together for warmth, or in makeshift tents.

One morning, after many days walking, my mother could not rouse herself.  Her eyes were sunken and glazed, and she struggled to breathe.  “Go with the others,” she told me.  ” Survive. Be brave. Be strong. Be good.”

I cried and begged her get up.  I was terrified. I refused to leave her until some others pulled me away from her and folded me back into the caravan, where I was carried away in the tide.

Now, not only was I starving, filthy, exhausted, cold, and frightened,  I was also alone in my mourning,  with new things to worry and be frightened about.

A few people were kind to me but they had their own worries and they could not make my problems, theirs.  Occasionally one of them shared with me from their own meager food supply — a scrap of a scrap, here and there. But most of them had to feed their own families.  An orphaned boy was not their problem.

Finally, after many, many days, we arrived in a large town. The local people did not like us country folk. They didn’t know us, didn’t trust us, didn’t want us around to threaten their livelihoods with cheap labor and a need for charity.

Some of the people in our group had family there. They, at least, had safe places to go.  Some of them had skills that enabled them to find paying work, although it was usually grudgingly. The others only had their backs and remaining strength to offer. They struggled to survive, but at least they were adults.

But me?  I was an orphan with nobody to watch out for me, nobody to care if I lived or died.  But I’d promised my mother I’d survive and I’m sure it was that determination that kept me alive. I begged on the street,  ate discarded fruit and vegetables left on the ground after the market closed, slept against doorways to protect against the worst of the elements.  I was usually chased away from several before I found somewhere to settle in for the night.

One evening, I curled up in front of a small shop that sold pots and pans and other such housewares. The store owner came out and looked me over. I picked myself up,  sure I was about to be kicked along my way.   But he took compassion on me and brought me into his shop, which was warm!  I hadn’t been warm in months!  He give me a piece of bread and some soup that was heating on the wood stove. I was so grateful, I couldn’t say anything but thank you, bless you, thank you.

He allowed me to sleep inside,  enjoying the remaining residual warmth of the fire when there was nothing left but embers. The next morning, he gave me some fresh bread and tea for breakfast, and asked me to sweep the street out front, which I did gladly, with gratitude.  He asked me to climb up the ladder to fetch things he couldn’t reach, and scoot down low to pull things out from under the counter.

He was an older man,  maybe the age of my grandfather (whom I barely remembered). I learned later that his wife and child had died many years before, and he was alone.  He seemed as happy for my company as I was for his.

As we both got older, I got stronger and he got weaker, and he came to rely on me even more.  I was there for him in his old age.  There with him when he was too infirm to leave his bed.  I sad beside him,  and held his hand as he crossed over.

The store passed into my hands.   I eventually found a wife and we had two sons, who took the business from me when I passed on many decades later.

I never forgot his kindness to me and for as long as I lived, I endeavored to pass that kindness on to others.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Satiated

Originally published June 23, 2016

stew

Ki

I was born in the time of famine. The crops had withered and died, and soon the animals followed.  We might have left to seek better circumstances but we were trapped geographically, surrounded by water and inhospitable terrain on three sides, On the fourth, in the distance, were soldiers stationed at the edge of a war.

As I child, I knew nothing but deprivation. There was barely water or food to survive. Starvation —  along with all its related miseries — were a permanent condition.  Few lived to see full adulthood.

Such a life doesn’t offer many opportunities for spiritual lessons.  To think about anything except the next scrap of food or the next drop of water was more effort than I or anyone else could spare. Philosophy was a luxury we could not afford.  There was no time to contemplate life; not a moment to wonder if one was on the right path; no opportunity to weigh one’s options. The choice was to blindly follow the trail of others, one step at a time, or lay down and die. But in my short life, I found another way,  all because of one specific day,  which I recall even now with the same amazement, longing, and wonder.

We lived in a remote place which rarely saw outsiders.  One day, some foreign workers passed through our village. They saw how we were starving and took pity on us.  They gave us whatever food they could spare. It wasn’t much and we had to share among all of us.  The women cooked it all into a weak soup to make it go further.  It did not have much flavor but it had more nutritional value than anything I had ever eaten. It was the first time in my entire life that I was able to eat until satisfied. It was I feeling that I could never forget.

If I considered the outside world at all, it was to wonder if there were people who filled their bellies every day.  Were there some, like those strangers,  who never went hungry?  After the visitors,  I began to have a sort of recurring dream.  There was always a big welcoming pot of soup on the fire.  I’d lean in to smell and taste,  and I could see all kinds of wondrous things floating in the broth.  The imagined meats and vegetables were completely fantastical because I had never seen much of either in reality, and had no point of reference.  Mostly, they were just larger and more interesting versions of the few foods I’d actually encountered.  A thick stew overflowing with beans and roots.  Once, I dreamed a hawk dropped a goat into the pot from the sky.

I knew nothing of the world outside my village.  My people were too poor and weak to travel; too close to death every day to worry about what was happening elsewhere.

Finally,  driven by the fantasy that there existed a place where people ate until sated,  I set out from my village in the only direction I could – towards the war.  If I died on the way, or if they ultimately killed me,  it would hardly be a fate worse that the one I had in store remaining where I was.  But perhaps they would feed me! Perhaps I could experience that wonderful feeling of satisfaction again.

So I walked, surviving the route much the same way I survived in my village –foraging, digging, perhaps catching a small animal or bird.

Arriving at the encampment,  I collapsed at the gate in utter depletion of all my physical and mental resources. In that condition, I was no danger to them; that much was obvious.  They nursed me back to some strength, and when I was able, I worked for them doing small tasks to earn my keep.  I would do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do,  just to be fed.

Despite their kindness, I didn’t live very much longer. All those years of deprivation had exacted their toll on my body.  But I died with my belly full,  and so I died happy.

——————

Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne

Conquered

 

NEW!

Vara


They came on horseback in hordes, with their weapons drawn.  They slaughtered man, boys, male babies, and pregnant women. They took the women as slaves, raping us and forcing us to bear their children. I was only just a woman, myself, then, having been a girl until just a few moons before.

We were the conquered and with no men of our own for protection, we had no choice but to make ourselves appealing to these men who both controlled and protected us.

We adopted their ways, their language, their methods of preparing food, their values, their standards of beauty, their ceremonies and spiritual practices, although most of us women continued to speak among ourselves in our own language. And in secret we practiced the old rituals.

The younger women and girls, like myself, adapted better to our new masters. I forgot my father and my brothers and my uncles because I had no choice.  Many of the men went back to from where they came or perhaps went on to conquer new peoples.  But many stayed on, for what is the point of conquering new lands if you do not stay to reap the rewards and extract its riches?

Some of those who stayed became kinder in domestication, especially those who now had children.

My original captor/rapist was one of those who left and I was eventually taken as a wife/slave by another man – a younger,  low-ranking soldier who had been conscripted into service and didn’t really have the heart for war.  He was happy to remain and farm our rich, fertile land. In the end, what did it matter to a young girl which man took her as a bride?  Men as a group, it seemed to me, were all alike.

In time, we younger women forgot the old ways as the older women, who still had their memories and their anger, died out.  Eventually,  a new culture emerged – a blend of our old ways and the new.

—————— Buy the book!

If you are enjoying this blog,  please click the link above to subscribe and receive posts via email (new posts every three days).  When you think of others who might enjoy it too,  it’s easy enough to help spread the word! Post your favorite stories to social media.   Email a particularly apt link to a friend.   Even better,  talk about the concepts with others (whether you agree or disagree. )
Also,  I have just started a discussion group on Facebook,  for conversations about any of the concepts/issues in the posts.  Honestly, these are things in here which I don’t fully understand myself.  I would love  get your thoughts on this…even if you think this is all a bunch of hooey!
-Adrienne
Photo:  Detail of a 19-century CE painting depicting the Battle of Kulikovo (1380 CE). By Ivan Blinov, on display at the State Historical Museum, Moscow.

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