No. This one’s not about anything in Bend in particular. Yes. There will be more posts like this over the course of the future. In the following paragraphs, maybe I’ll mention a bookshop or two in town where you can go and search for Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m going to write a few words about Joan Didion, and a few about how little time we have here. In Bend, but more importantly in Life.
Last night, a few minutes before gathering clothes to my body to meet a few friends for some food sharing at Spork, I finished the final pages of The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. I had begun the book not 24 hours before and was swept along by its swift, rhythmic current. A concise current filled with sea urchins, kelp, and cavitated shells. That is: The Year of Magical Thinking is Didion’s elliptical personal account of becoming a widow and of nearly losing her daughter, Quintana Roo (whom she does lose, and which is written about in another book, 18 months after her husband’s death). As a book about loss and grief, The Year of Magical Thinking almost can’t be anything but an incisor, something tender and electrically anxious at the same time. In 227 pages, Joan Didion lays the facts out as no one else can.
Some Words From Our Girl, Joan Didion
Didion opens The Year of Magical Thinking with these lines:
Amen, sister. We all know it. Perhaps Joan Didion more than some of us and perhaps some of us with less cognizance than others. Still, not one of us does not know it.
Being aware of the fact that life changes in an instant, and experiencing firsthand the fact itself are two different things. Most days it’s like we’re all teenagers about it, this fact, until we’re right up against the knife edge of it: yeahyeahyeah, I know I know, I’ll take care of it later. Until later is now. Until later is yesterday.
And so how do we spend our days? Our hours, minutes? The hours and the minutes seem to speed up as we live through more of them. But when and where and who are we speeding through, doing something just to get that something done, checked, because we’re supposed to and because it’s part of the more largely accepted measure of success?
Slowing Down: It Takes Conscious Effort, Or Blunt Force
About a week and a half ago my head it pavement going 30mph, plus or minus a few miles. The helmet I was wearing at the time took the impact, absorbed it, and cracked straight through. I was lucky, if that’s even the word. Aside from a fractured shoulder I’m fine. I didn’t even black out.
A week and a half later, I read Joan Didion’s book about the swiftness of everything. I had already been taking a step back, reassessing, reconfiguring over the past few days, and The Year of Magical Thinking couldn’t have been better timed. I’ve had my fair share of crashes and surgeries and forced decelerations over the years (duh), and while generally not the most comfortable of days, they have always come with these specific opportunities for taking stock, reprioritizing, chilling the fuck out, and just being here. Right here. Not three hours ahead and already planning the next six steps.
I won’t say this Joan Didion book was meant to be for me in this time right now, because I have mixed feelings about that statement. Mostly I think it’s bullshit. I will say that I’m glad I read it, and that, as any good piece of writing or work of art doesn’t do, it didn’t answer any questions. Instead, it asked some important ones of its reader. And continues to do so.
Maybe this is less of a post and more of a PSA. A scribble of a note to myself and to our selves here at EBGTB, and to all of you who join us and read our shit about Bend from time to time. And maybe all this PSA really needed to say was: Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity. And that’s it.
Thanks for reading.