The hero in Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” realized he couldn’t go back to his home town because he had written such revealing things about its citizens that they greeted him with nasty letters and death threats. While I may have enjoyed complaining about Ashland’s political underbelly, I haven’t written the great exposé, and whenever I’ve visited, my friends have always said, “So when are you moving back?”
Sometimes the loss of a beloved pet is a strange sort of gift in that it brings up old losses that may have been floating beneath the surface for years, losses that are deeper and often more complex, losses that may need additional grieving. Losing Bacho has reminded me of the deaths of both parents and my relationships with them. And losing Bacho has naturally rekindled the grief of losing Jack.
Not long ago I had a first-hand experience of illness as metaphor. Suddenly I found that my sense of balance was completely out of whack. Moving my head made the world spin. As an audiologist I was quite aware of the irony of vertigo making me miss a meeting all about new discoveries in hearing science. But as a writer and a spiritual seeker, I was also aware of the metaphor. The frenetic pace of my recent weeks had thrown my whole system off balance. The metaphor was perfect.
After watching the recent Ken Burns documentary on PBS, Cancer, the Emperor of All Maladies, I felt the need to write about it, not so much because of its superb analysis of the history and state-of-the-art of allopathic cancer treatment, but because of what it left out.
Last weekend I attended a Sufi retreat in Seattle. We repeated the beautiful invocation several times during the retreat, selected phrases from it, and let those words penetrate deeply into our meditations. On Saturday night we had a party where people read poetry and sang songs. I read the chapter from my book where Jack and I had an astonishing experience at a gathering in Sieburg, a suburb of Bonn, Germany.
My friend Ed Battistella is a popular author, writer, linguist, dean at Southern Oregon University, and an exceptional interviewer. He writes a blog called “Literary Ashland,” where he posts his interviews, and he knows how to ask tough questions. He recently sent me a list of questions.