A friend of mine died a few weeks ago.
As I type that, I wonder if it’s quite accurate. We were once friends. We were once more than friends – she was a teacher and a mentor to me and heavily shaped the early days of my work. There was never any real ending of the friendship – but I moved away, and it was one of those friendships that relied on regular, work-related interaction, even if our friendship was much wider than our work.
I hadn’t spoken to her or interacted with her in more than 3 years. About a month ago, a person who had worked with both of us but who was still in contact with her, wrote to tell me she was in hospice and was not expected to last out the day. He thought I would want to know.
Death is a declarative punctuation mark – a period in a life full of commas and semicolons. Death is a full stop, the end of opportunities for the deceased and those who knew them. Death is cruel like that.
She had lived and died in NC but was from a small town in Louisiana about 2 hours from my house, so this weekend I went to the small memorial service her family had for her there. The drive there was through rural Mississippi and Louisiana, which gave me lots of time for thinking and reflection.
It was interesting seeing the small rural town that had shaped my friend, meeting her mother and sister for the first time, and hearing a small town preacher who did not really know her do his best to do something meaningful for the family who still lived there. It was over in 20 minutes or so, and afterward, when the preacher invited us all to the fellowship hall for a reception, I got in the car in headed south to Baton Rouge.
I have a friend that lives there. We aren’t great friends – we are really mutual friends of a person who is incredibly important to both of us. He is the thing we have in common and the basis for our friendship. But she and I get along, and when we are together, we have a good time, and so, since I was just an hour away, I decided to visit her and her family.
It would have been easy not to. I could have come back home after the memorial service and slept in my own bed rather than a $50 motel room in a questionable part of a strange town, but the older I get, the more people around me I care about die.
So, I decided to go visit. I met her husband and daughter and mother, and we all ate tacos on a sidewalk and told stories, and then she showed me around her town, and I went back to my sad motel room and called home and then fell asleep, exhausted.
I didn’t have to go to Baton Rouge, but I’m glad I did before that one, too, became a full stop.
Hug your people while you can.
Five things I thought were beautiful.
“…if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined.”
In 2018, a woman named Gloria wrote Nick Cave a letter in which she said that she occasionally saw her deceased relatives in her dreams and wondered if Cave, who had lost a son, ever experienced his son’s presence. Cave wrote a beautiful note in reply, which is read here by Benedict Cumberbatch.
The statues of ancient Greece and Rome were not stark white marble, as we see them today, but were, in fact, brilliantly colored. The Met currently has an exhibit in which replicas of famous pieces are colored to give us an idea of how vibrant the ancient world actually was. Here is a short video with some background and stunning images of how the statues could have looked.
Moment of personal privilege: A Barred Owl visited my wildlife pond late at night. I can watch this over and over.
Since setting up a variety of cameras in my backyard (see the owl video above) I have been fascinated by the idea of trap photography in general. Sascha Fonseca is a wildlife photographer who specializes in this sort of thing, and his Instagram is filled with huge cats (tigers, snow leopards, and so on) he has photographed on his travels.
By now, you have probably seen the stunning images coming back from the Webb telescope, but if you haven’t, NASA is uploading them to Instagram. And if you need more space goodness, here is a roundup of finalists from the 2022 Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest.