Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kickstarter Day 11 (18 to go): on lost friends and passages

Yesterday's high was wonderful, but today hasn't been so happy. After learning within the span of a few hours that the son of a family friend died and that one of our neighbors died, hearing that Leonard Nimoy also died just compounds the sense of loss.  I don't have pictures to honor the first two, so I wanted to dedicate today's post to another lost friend: Blair Halley, whom I met through the Colorado Mountain Club not long after I came to Colorado.  We climbed together for years, scaling cliffs and hiking 14ers and backpacking in the wilderness.  A lot of my Colorado "firsts" were on trips he organized - my first snowshoe trip, my first time seeing fireworks in Telluride, my first time ice climbing.  His energy was boundless and his enthusiasm and joy in the mountains a wonderful thing to behold.  He died some years ago and I miss him still.

Blair Halley and I at the end of a 10-day loop backpack that took us to the top of Mt Whitney and deep into the Sierra Nevada. 
I've read quite a few SFF novels that explore loss, but none that tackle mortality and death in quite so direct and unflinching fashion as Connie Willis's Passage.  The protagonist is a research psychologist struggling to understand the phenomenon of near-death experiences, and the novel focuses on the question of what exactly a dying mind experiences and why.  It's not a comforting read.  Some of Willis's ideas in this regard are horrifying, or at least I found them so, because they are so terribly plausible.  I read the book when my maternal grandfather was succumbing to the final stages of Parkinson's disease, and I remember sobbing my eyes out, because what Willis's characters discuss and experience wasn't some safely fictional tragedy, it was happening right here, right now, to someone I loved.  It's an unsettling book, and not without narrative flaws; but in the way of the best science fiction, Passage challenges the reader to examine assumptions, face difficult truths, and decide your own beliefs.  For that, I strongly recommend it.

And in closing, I leave you with this link to a performance of "Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras" from Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem.  The first part of the movement is one of the most powerful representations of death and mortality I know as a singer.


  1. Very sorry for your losses, and those of your friends. All losses gut us, but the ones that come suddenly bring even more trauma and regret.

    A great grief is a tremendous bonfire in which all the trash of life is consumed.
    - Clare Booth Luce