John Ostrander: That Time of Year
The other night, My Mary and I were looking for something to watch on the tube. She had recorded Fly Away Home, the 1996 film by Carroll Ballard, starring Jeff Daniels, Dana Delaney, Anna Pacquin and Terry Kinney. We’ve watched it many times and I think we even own a copy of it. It’s wonderfully acted and beautifully shot; if you ever watch it, try to see it in wide screen. Some of the shots of Canadian Geese flying are breathtaking.
One of the things that struck me (again) was Mark Isham’s soundtrack and the haunting song that opens and closes the film, 10,000 Miles, sung by Mary Chapin Carpenter. (You can find it on YouTube, along with the lyrics.) It was one of the pieces of music that I played over and over again during that year of grieving after my wife, Kim Yale, died. Music was, and is, one of my coping mechanisms in life and hearing that song brought me back, not to Kim’s life or death, but that time of grieving, of learning to live without her, of starting my life again. Not to the grief itself but to the memory of that grief.
It’s that time of year. Here in the Midwest, the leaves fall from the trees, the days get shorter and darker, it’s colder as we head towards year’s end. Labor Day comes, signaling an end to summer. We lurch towards Halloween and All Saints Day (or Day of the Dead) with its skulls and ghosts and reminders of mortality. The harvest comes in and the fields look bare even as we celebrate Thanksgiving. Christmas is coming, yes, but so is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The cycle completes as the old year dies and a new one begins.
It’s not grief I feel now but a rise of melancholy. It’s always a part of me and, I think, always has been. I’m not sure of its origins – I went to many wakes and funerals as a boy, seeing people in caskets who I had known when they were alive, and I know it made an impression on me. I wouldn’t say that I treasure my melancholy but I do value it. I’m aware of death as part of life and that, I think, has informed my work as a writer. I enjoy life immensely and I don’t wallow in melancholy. It is simply there, a constant, and it makes me value those who are there and the joys and pleasures of life. Knowing they will all pass doesn’t make me depressed. Shadows help define an object and my melancholies help define my joys.
Every morning, I see a photo of my Dad sitting atop a shelf that he made for me and my brother when we were boys and I say, “Hi Dad.” I remember him and I miss him and I still love him just as I remember and miss and still love my Mom and Kim and friends and relatives and even pets. I miss places that are no longer there. They all still live in my mind and heart and I still know their stories. They all still have a value to me and are still helping to shape me into who I am.
It’s that time of year to remember and feel, to harvest our emotions, and value what we have. That’s what I’ll be thankful for as we approach Thanksgiving – the shadows as well as the light.
MONDAY MORNING: Mindy Newell
TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten