July 18 2012
On my way to collect the laundry from the line, I found myself halted by the vast, surrounding landscape. This often happens to me here, the beauty and enormity of the planet stopping me in my tracks. There is a stillness in this part of Tuscany, a stillness that yet somehow quivers. And then you bring your gaze in close and see the individual stalks of wheat wafting in a rare breeze, or, on the days when a hot wind blows, whole fields of wheat undulating as one, oceanic body.
Today the landscape seems over-exposed, the colors of sky and hills and trees bleached so pale that as I stood there I though it might all fade away before my eyes, and yet the volume of it all seemed larger than ever; the cows in the foreground were out of proportion to themselves while l, like Alice, became smaller and smaller.
Maybe it was this experience of self as miniscule and insignificant that bleached me of the will to carry on; or maybe it was simply one day too many of enervating heat. Or maybe it was a wave of sorrow that knocked me over. Today is Amy’s birthday, my firstborn, stillborn.
The sorrow seemed indulgent after 41 years. For someone who likes to boast of non-attachment, how could I possibly feel the sharp pain of agony and grief for a life that never made its entry into this world so many years ago. And how, I wondered, as I struggled to banish the tears, do my friends who recently lost their mates, how do they make it through a day without being felled? Surely the loss of a shared life must be insurmountable compared to a life shared only in utero.
It would seem this sort of constant comparison made in the hopes of justifying one’s feelings is an utter waste of time: we feel what we feel. Perhaps I could allow that the grief of never knowing the child I bore is equal to all grief and in some ways less finite than some. The grief suffered from the loss of a mate has much to do with “real” loss: one actually talked and walked with such a person, agreed and disagreed, shared burdens and joys, left, one likes to think, some imprint on each other and on the earth. Whereas to grieve for a stillborn is to grieve for all that never was nor ever can be. It is, for sure, the grief of loss, but the loss of what? The loss of never having seen her face, the loss of not knowing what color her eyes were, of not knowing how she would have laughed, what would be her favorite dress, with whom she might choose to share her life?
The landscape of Amy was bleached before it had a chance to imprint a single image on my memory. And yet, all these years later, her absence is as great a presence as the fading hills.