Under the yellow and white stripe food tent at the county fair my dad tells me he plans to move my mother’s body. “I can’t leave her there, alone. I had no other option at the time, but no one else is buried there. How can I leave her apart from everyone else at Emerald Grove?” He looks at the back of my chair.
I look at the ground. I don’t hear my chest sigh in the thick summer air, but I feel its absence.
“She never thought she fit in, never belonged.”
I don’t like the subject. Every time he mentions it all I see are withered bones in a sterile casket. At the library, I shelve the new books. One is written by a woman who shares my last name. I search Amazon for others, and I find memory. I read the description online of Jill Ker Conway’s work, When Memory Speaks: Exploring the art of autobiography.
“Conway traces the narrative patterns typically found in autobiographies by men to the tale of the classical Greek hero and his epic journey of adventure. She shows how this configuration evolved, in memoirs, into the passionate romantic struggling against the conventions of society, into the frontier hero battling the wilderness, into self-made men overcoming economic obstacles to create an invention or a fortune--or, more recently, into a quest for meaning, for an understandable past, for an ethnic identity.”
I add the book to my wish list.
Wind presses. It’s air that takes away breath, my breath. It’s lack of equilibrium that takes away forward movement, my forward movement. Up the hill the three of us climb on ten legs. The leashes pull us forward in dim but sure light. Feathers dip low high above us, but like my dog my eyes stay on the road ahead of us. There is a body, a tiny body. When only inches from its shape, I see the closed eyes. I want the slits in downy softness to mean that the eyas or baby hawk is only asleep. The body is silent, but it is not asleep. I can’t leave such softness on the road to be shoved or flattened. Its grave doesn’t belong in pavement. I remember the paper towel in my back pocket and fold it over my palm. The head is limp above stiff feathers. I wish I could leave the baby in an open place for a hen to find and know what happened. There isn’t one that wouldn’t meet a lawnmower so I pick the base of a tree shielded by grass. I never see the body again, only hawk feathers every now and then along the road.
My dog pauses and marks and circles back and marks and presses forward, always forward always into the collision of his known and unknown worlds. I never considered the difference between males and females when selecting my pet. But if there is a next time after my heart recovers from loving and losing him, I will own a female. I will name her Bones. It’s one thing to know to bend in the wind. It’s another altogether not to face it. Still barely breaking even, I can’t buy the books on my wish list. Maybe I could request it from the library. Another female writer in my critique group is struggling with finding her voice. This time I read the complete summary posted on Amazon. I almost recommend the book written by someone else with my last name, almost.
“In contrast, she sees the designs that women commonly employ for their memoirs as evolving from the writings of the mystics--such as Dame Julian of Norwich or St. Teresa of Avila--about their relationship with an all-powerful God. As against the male autobiographer's expectation of power over his fate, we see the woman memoirist again and again believing that she lacks command of her destiny, and tending to censor her own story.”
“I needed a grave,” my sister in law tells me driving in the car during an unexpected visit. In my mind I see the ash of the homeless dead spread over Jerusalem.
“I named her Ori.”
“When I wrote my novel, Bird, I asked for Israeli names. Ori was on that list. I chose that name.”
“Hmmm. And we gave her your mother’s name.”
“I think you’re right. They should be together. They belong together.” I don’t say it, but I think it. When I think of Ori, I always do, think of them together. In my head, I hear the name and I take it as a sign, like the feathers, that the women in my family are connected, are looking, and are looking over me. Their bones hold me up, but I am the one who needs to take control of my own belonging, my destiny.
To view Jill Ker Conway's book summary on Amazon, reference: