On my way home last night, I noticed that the temperature had reached that beautiful threshold for absolute bliss. It was ambient. It’s the temperature that exists such that, if you’re in it, you’re at risk of not noticing it. It was just after sunset, there was absolutely no wind. You don’t notice the environment. I wonder if this is where my ancestors evolved, in a place where they felt like this everyday. I felt like this often in Asia, accented by the eyes of my love and happiness and true relaxation. Happiness is a paradox, it’s something we have to work so hard for, but it’s also something that we simply need to let happen to us when it comes. I’m still learning how to do this, but at least I know I’m not a total amateur.
When it’s warm, you can smell it. Maybe only people who go through winter can smell warm air. Because in both spring and winter you can smell the city, the asphalt and concrete, the exhaust, vague rivers of food aromas from Dinkytown. But in spring, it’s more than just the addition of flowers and leaves and grass. There’s something different in the air. Maybe it’s the humidity.
I know what death smells like. I’ve held it in my hand in the laboratory, fixed by the simple reactions of formaldehyde. I’ve smelled it after squishing an Asian beetle, it’s body juices sticky under my palm. A disgusting, waxy, vomit-like smell. I’ve smelled death after shooting a deer, tearing open the skin over it’s gut with my knife and pulling out all of the guts. I smelled it as I hung the deer in the garage with my dad, peeling off all of the skin, slowly removing the muscles, wiping our hands free of coagulated blood and loose hair. I’ve smelled death in the church, the dusty air mixing with the staleness of this place, lending an air of ultimate stagnancy to the funeral of my grandfather. I don’t remember much about that day. But I remember the cold, I remember the bleak grey sky above the place he was interred, and I remember the smell of the church. My experience with death is tangential, light, theoretical. It is for nearly all of us. My mother has tasted death, shortly after septic shock ravaged her small body. I love my mother so much, and the respect I have for her is paramount. She has looked death in the eye, she has dealt with the pain of many surgeries and infections. My mother is a warrior, and I mean that respectfully. Those who die of disease are not losers. My mother is a warrior for always holding her head high.
Once, in Colorado, after butchering a deer in the field, my father and I were lost in a blizzard. Total white-out. They tell you that sometimes, during blizzards, you stop feeling cold, you stop feeling tired, and you just have the urge to sit down and fall asleep. I never believed that, until I felt it. I felt death, offering his blanket to me while pure white chaos circled around me. My father led me out of the hills back to the tent.
A friend, lost. I don’t pretend to know what he felt, before or during. I know that there is no feeling left now. I wonder if, while he stood outside, he smelled the warmth. I don’t pretend to know his pain. All I know is regret, regret that this is what happens sometimes. Regret that we have lost a truly beautiful person.
It’s nothing now. It’s death. It’s simply…their chapter is done.
Yes, but, the pages keep turning. And they’re blank, and they’re blank, and they’re blank.
We go through life, and we lose other lives and subsequently gather more and more blank pages that we’re forced to look straight at, maybe not everyday, but it happens.
and they’re blank, and they’re blank, and they’re blank.