I have not come close to death. But I have feared it. Taunted it, too. Repelled down the sides of cliffs. Spelunked in the bowels of caves. Flown over the Arctic in a small plane that landed on a short gravel bar on the banks of the Nahanni. Once I drove through the mountains on a cold snowy night, joyriding with friends. We ended up stranded in a ditch, no coats, no water, no food. Another night I got lost hiking in Arches National Park. But I sat tight with the bats, two camera bodies, flickering distant desert, until rangers whispered my name.
I was younger then, took more risks. I feel more cautious. Older and prone to safety. It’s boring to lose that sense of adventure. The bones creakier. The face more wrinkled. The risks emotional.
Who do I know that has come close to death? A girlfriend in high school told me she had meningitis as a baby and nearly died. She was scarred from the shots, said it was a miracle that she was still alive. What must it be like for a parent to lose a child? My grandmother lost her son, my mother her brother, at the age of 18. There are ways I would not want to die. I wouldn’t want to be in a fire or drown in the ocean. I don’t think I’d be fond of a shark bite ripping me in half. Car accidents don’t sound like a way to go either. Maybe there is no good way to die. To imagine death.
There have been times when I felt like I was a millisecond away from making a wrong turn with the wheel, a swerve of a bald tire, and something righted the machine. The hand of Fate? A God or Goddess? Is there something bigger, unimaginable to the mortal brain, there to intervene? I believe so. What if reality turns out to be only what we believe. I watched a movie recently called Paper Heart. It was an exploration of love. What is love. When was the first time you fell in love. Have you ever been in love?
I was thinking of the broken heart. In the movie, a faux documentary, the experts said love wasn’t in the heart, but chemical reactions in the brain. How then to explain the tight chest, crackling near the ribs when someone suddenly says goodbye. When I think of death, I wonder about being ready to die. Will I feel like I’m ready when my time comes. And when will that be.
It’s unpredictable, a good argument for living in the moment. And here I am writing about death like it was love and love like it was death. And on the screen in front of me a shark swims next to a narwhale, elusive creatures of the sea. You could go your whole life and never see a narwhale. Yet there he was, the National Geographic photographer who spotted the ivory tusked cluster from the air.
And when he zoomed in with the telephoto, face to face in the water, who was closer to death, animal or human. Do skeptics believe in love? Maybe they don’t need to. Dense and blue. I think love is blue. “In love” is that bright color mix of powder and turquoise. Broken love, a deep blackberry navy. Death. What color is death? In the end it does not matter. The one thing we share besides birth is death. I haven’t come close to it. Yet skin cells continue to shed. New skin, new me. Haggard and prunish, a raisin in the sun.
-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the first of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]
-Also related to posts PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman)