C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Facebook and the Dead

I’m going to write about death and social networking.  Within the last year I’ve lost three friends to cancer.  This really sucks.  I know death is inevitable, but I don’t have to like any aspect of it.  Since they saw death coming they all “made a good end” as Ophelia says.  They had bucket lists and the ability to do most of the things on them.  They had parties to celebrate their lives, their friends, families and their children.  There was music, art and poetry.  One chose assisted suicide, the other two had access to good hospice drugs so, as far as we can tell from the outside, physical suffering wasn’t an issue at the end.  This, of course, is different from the profound and horrific suffering that has accompanied death through most of time and place on our planet.  Despite these good ends, I still hate the huge gaping hole that is left when they are gone, not to mention the stunning reminder of my own mortality and the fragility of all the lives around me that I love. 

So I turn to facebook. 

I notice an interesting thing begins to happen.  The facebook page of a dead person seems to go through a consistent transformation.  First it becomes a digital gathering place for people to leave condolences for the bereaved.  After some time has passed, posts transition to statements of praise and appreciation for the person who has passed.  After still more time passes posts begin to be addressed directly to the dead: “found a picture of us…,” “went to such a place where we…,” “was singing a song and thought of you…”  Five months after one friend had passed he had accepted the friend requests of over forty new people!  Finally, I have noticed that people are posting as if the dead person were still in communication – birthday greetings, events “Visiting the coast. Wish you were here.” “Hope things are going well for you in your new life.  Bet you are putting on quite a show up there!” 

The way we communicate has changed radically in the last ten years, but we are still tribal creatures.  We sit at computer screens in the gathering dark of an awesome, terrifying universe.  As a globe we each huddled around our flame in this digital community fire, while an invisible host of the living and the dead sits at our elbow.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Missing Piece

I am deep cleaning my house this summer.  We moved to Colorado from Connecticut four years ago.  We packed in a hurry, scooping up whatever came to hand and filling box after box.  Although we gave away a lot of stuff I remember marveling, as I packed, at the amount of junk we still had: clothes that were no longer worn, papers that were probably not that important, a favorite puzzle with a missing piece.  We unpacked in a hurry as well, and dove into our new lives.  

New house, new job, new schools and end of life care for my parents all eclipsed house cleaning in priority.  This means that at the start of this summer the boy’s room, whose youngest occupant is now eight, still had shelves filled with the favorite toys of a four year old.   Alphabet blocks and electronic Lego kits competed for space.  The floor was ankle deep in school papers and hot wheel cars.  The boys went to camp the third week in June and I plunged in with a large shovel, determined to create order out of chaos.  I became a whirlwind of organization.  Papers were shredded and recycled, toys given to friends with younger children. After I had vacuumed I sat still and quiet on their little couch for a long time just relishing the calm and the order.   I ran my fingers absentmindedly back and forth along the edge of the clean rug when my forefinger detected one last piece of junk.  I yanked it out from under the rug with a shout of disgust and then stopped as I beheld a marvel.  I held one small jigsaw piece belonging to a detailed puzzle of the solar system.  I, of course, knew where the puzzle was now but this piece had gone missing about ten years ago, when my eldest was eight!  It had moved in the ebb and flow of small pieces of junk, from one child’s toy box to another’s drawer.  It had survived the babyhood of two inquisitive toddlers, a move halfway across the country and my recent take no prisoners vacuum job.  I don’t know if it is a metaphor for something profound or just a sign of my insanity in letting all these little drawers full of odds and ends remain in our lives.  But Oh!  What a feeling of satisfaction when I put that piece back in its puzzle.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


The Walk from the Pool to the Bike

Kisses my chilled skin
Crisp with chlorine
Legs swing and melt
Into each gravel crunch

Seeps in deep
Soaks the very marrow
Breaths come so full and smooth
One more and I could fly

Slips through my hair
Flutters the skirt
Loose around my knees

Drenches slanting shadows
Lilies soused with gold
Overarch my path

Bakes into cricket’s trills
Into the Cicadian waves
That break on my ears
Like the sea

Pulls out the languid lilt
Of the sunset robin

A moon is rising
Rich as cream and
Full to bursting

This perfect summer moment is brought to you in memory of Spalding Gray and his never-ending search for perfect moments.