Tuesday, July 26, 2016


There are so many kinds of loss.

Loss of time, loss of money. Loss of hair, loss of weight, of teeth, of hearing. Loss of memory. Loss of history. Loss of people. I think of the poet Tomasz Różycki, who writes of calling to his ancestors under their bed coverings of grass. Paraphrasing, he says, come out, you can come out now, while lying in the field of the place where so many were killed.

We lose lovers. We lose hope. We lose confidence and sense of self. We lose dogs and keys and wallets and bikes. We lose parents and children. We lose sight of the goals in front of us. We lose strength. We lose resolve.

We lose the nerve and the feeling. We lose rings, letters, light, energy, glow, spark, and equilibrium. We lose the idea, the train of thought, the story, the punchline. We lose heart.

This has been a summer of loss.

I've lost two months, spent largely unable to work or write. Is it the weight of what I saw and learned? Am I simply tired from the PhD comps and the frantic traveling? Or is it a large issue of silence, and not knowing how the idea of home can mean anything more than nostalgia, after the bone-shaking cautions of the archivist (you are not from where you think you're from; you do not have the name they likely had; you may never know) and the continuing unsettled feeling I have here on stolen land, my home, my birthplace, this island, this golden paradise of diminishing salmon?

I've lost friends. I've lost people dear to me. I will lose more.

And then, two weeks ago, I walked into the water at my favourite canoeing lake. It was to be a restorative trip. I paddled alone with my dog in the bow. I went with friends who love me. But I walked in carrying my phone unthinking in the space between my breasts. A kind of reverse baptism, perhaps. I lost every single video and sound recording I made in Europe. The cemeteries and the musicians, the man who showed me around Łomża, the two girls playing accordian in Vilnius, Poland's killing forests, Berdichiv's gardens and ghost-shaped graves. The Fado singer in Lisbon, the Flamenco in Spain. I lost every photo, every text, every digital note I'd made. Which I hadn't, stupidly, yet downloaded onto my ailing computer (which has, itself, also since failed). Two weeks of trying to rescue the data through re-soldering the motherboard and bathing the hard drive in alcohol has done nothing. The spark is gone, or has misfired. I'm left with perhaps ten photos, which I posted on this blog, all in low quality images. And I'm left with the words here, which is the only place I seem to be able to write these days.

If I am lucky, I will be able to make these entries into a geographical essay on loss. On displacement. But the irony lurks like a lost tooth. I went on a trip and found nothing. And then I lost everything I had brought back that proved I was there. As if something were taking back its stories and its dead. As if I had created loss in my wake. The water stops rippling. The surface is smooth. I can't even tell if sun is lighting the depths.

Where does one go from here, when the voice and the image (and the computer, the phone, the car trunk latch, the canoe seat, the glove, the ring, the book, the trip, the plan, the ambition, the shield) is lost? I think you sit in loss, as my friend S said. You just sit there. And its grey body winds itself around you. And the summer passes. And you sit there. And sit. You don't even wait for something to change. You just try to release your desire for control, and, as when you're lost in the wilderness, you stop. You stay still. You try to care for the body. You sit, while the world whirls around you, and the deadlines pass, and the emails go unanswered. You just sit. Because as another friend said, "You are not crazy. I would think you crazy if, at this point, you weren't feeling totally lost."