In hopes that it may help her to be less awkward (if less scintillating) company and a more reliable (if less polished) correspondent, I hereby bestow on one Gretchen Icenogle permission to leave her thoughts (and much else) unfinished.
The weight of everything (the compulsion I often feel to be comprehensive, exhaustive, or at least cogent) can obliterate many delicate somethings (including the fragmentary and frequently contradictory impressions that accumulate without necessarily adding up). These have been some very full weeks. I cannot do them justice; I cannot from this vantage order them into sense or story.
I've taken issue elsewhere with Susan Sontag's overly broad and needlessly harsh (verging on masochistic) interdiction against metaphors in descriptions of mortal (or potentially mortal) illness.My feeling is that their use requires more care in this extreme circumstance, especially from those charged by us or by themselves with the care of ill persons – the plural often gets erased here, and infinite variety along with it, with real and sometimes pernicious consequences for health in its deepest sense, consequences, as Sontag rightly notes, for the agency, dignity, and fundamental well-being of caregivers and receivers alike. It may be ironic (given her argument) or apt (given my beef with that argument) that I find her own overriding metaphor for grave illness a richly illuminating one, that of being given a passport to a dark country that one had hoped (against all indications) never to visit. But if metaphors are more than ordinarily dangerous in that land, they are potentially saving, too. Or salving, which is no small good.
Peter and I returned a little more than a week ago from a more literal voyage (facilitated by ordinary paper passports) that was full of delights but also full of challenges that sometimes felt gratuitous, almost perfectly redundant to the challenges I now face every day without going anywhere. Disorientation? Check. The discovery that tasks I once found simple are suddenly difficult to impossible? A near-constant awareness of the abyss between thoughts/feelings and their expression? Check. A sudden, steep fall into childlike incompetence and dependency, with all ensuing confusion and embarrassment? Check.
We choose to travel for all kinds of reasons, but a common reason (a reason that has inspired many of my own travels) is a hope that we'll be altered by what we find. Some, of course, are much more powerfully driven by their desire to do the altering, but in either case the law of unintended consequences reigns. Even if the outcome "proves" good (pick your time scale carefully), the process is by definition shocking (more or less enjoyable depending on our appetite for shocks) and almost invariably exhausting. I was already exhausted when we left Portland just after Thanksgiving; when we returned just after New Year's I was thoroughly done in. (Peter, too - poor guy is nursing his second bad cold in a month.
But we made it! We did it! We were certainly ill-advised (or rather, we refused much sane advisement) in setting aside our many fears (we share a particular horror of seizures, and these are a looming threat for me) and our need for rest, in favor of a grand adventure and the chance to spend some of our dear time with some of our dearest people. Indeed, my one big regret about the trip as a whole was that I had too little left in my tank to tack a multi-state road trip onto the end of it. Yo, Virginia, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island! You (and some beloved of your inhabitants) are still on our wish list!! Once/if we're able, we'll be headed your way soon. Same for pretty much the whole darn state of California. Oh, and Washington, Idaho, Utah. Might need to save Minnesota and Nebraska for summer.
Ah, fuck it, let's all meet in New Orleans for Mardi Gras!
More soon, including more pictures...