Reading, Traveling

The Booksmith (and a book about grief)

April 18, 2016


While I was in San Fransisco for 36hrs last month, I made time to walk Haight-Ashbury and stop in at The Booksmith. More and more, it’s becoming a little ritual when I travel to find an independent bookstore and buy a book.

After a while of wandering, thinking I may pick up a new Margaret Atwood, I saw H Is For Hawk on the display near the register, highlighting best sellers or something else notable. I heard about it often during the past year, so it made my TBR list. Easy decision.

The book overlays the author’s experience of training a goshawk with the grief of her father’s death: “The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life.”

It is even heavier than I thought it would be, and it’s taking me weeks to get through, but the language is strong, stark and at times, such a wave of moments and senstations that I am not sure I understand what’s going on, but I feel it. I feel it.

“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps…”

And isn’t that exactly what grief does to us? Brings us into and through feelings that we can not even begin to articulate, but that we must feel, and process, and grow around.

I am still growing, still traveling, still processing, still flying.

And still reading books from bookstores in cities I visit.

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  • Reply Rita April 19, 2016 at 11:29 am

    “You see that life will become a thing made of holes.” Yes. My grandmother turned 99 in February. What I know about that is: I don’t ever want to turn 99. There are so many, many holes for her.

    But today, I am grateful for the new things I get to discover, and that there are still new things to keep me from falling into the holes. I love the idea of finding an independent bookseller in every new city I visit. That’s a new thing I will tuck in the back pocket of my mind.

    • Reply jtao21 April 19, 2016 at 1:24 pm

      My grandmothers are edging 80 and it’s the same when I call them – they sound so sad that maybe they won’t ever visit me in Los Angeles or don’t know when I’ll see them again – and mention that this friend or that relative passed away this week, or who’s in surgery, or etc etc. I agree… but there’s also so much life and family and amazing experiences in their minds, I just keep prying away to hear more before they leave me. xo

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