Everyone, but mostly I am writing for Christie and for my Dad, because they--you--will find this post tucked away into the corner of my website, either on your own or because I'll no doubt tell you it's there shortly after finishing it. I should say right away that I am grateful that you read what I write and listen to what I make, that you seem to seek it out beyond what your spousal or parental roles require. That means a lot to me. And I don't want to try your patience by going on and on, but the day after feels like a lit fuse.
I come to the page to make sense of it; whenever I feel this impulse to write I write myself into a place that feels surprising, that sometimes even constitutes insight. It's almost the form; begin, and the ending reveals itself through the process. I have doubts about that form today. By today I mean two days later, Veteran's Day, because it has taken this long to say anything at all. Sitting with grief, not bending grief into a formula for action or transformation. Taking stock of grief, measuring it, getting to know it. Living inside of it because it is vast.
I wonder immediately if it's fair to call this grief. My life will change, but I won't get deported and my marriage won't be attacked. No one is going to carve a swastika onto our front door. A furious electorate rose up against 'the other' but I don't think it is talking about me. I am a liberal university professor but at this point the crosshairs aren't on my forehead. Maybe soon, but "maybe soon" does not feel like entitlement to grieve.
And yet. The physiology is grief. My eyes burn and I feel like I've been crying for days. I was sure this wouldn't happen. Not because of polls, either; when I filled in my ballot, literally when the pen touched the page, I felt this incredible solidarity with others who were doing the same and I was dead sure we would lift each other up. I knew it. It is hard to let go of something that you know in your bones. Maybe it's impossible.
That's something to grieve. The radical transformation of the known, the way we have to hear it in reverse. I talk to my students about this. Hear that beat drop? Hear how the thing you were feeling before, in the part of you that processes time in music, is actually not what you thought at all? This new event radically recontextualizes the understanding you thought you had. That's what this is. I am processing this in reverse. I am thinking of how much I didn't see.
These moments can galvanize what we believe. But right now, in this expanse of mourning, it is showing me what I don't believe any more.
Yesterday in the convention hall, after the exhibition area closed, the drumming stopped and it was quiet. We were leaving the floor and Michael Burritt started playing a marimba at one of the booths, with soft mallets, a piece he is going to premiere tonight. My friend Robert wrote it, and so he stopped to listen. I stopped with him, and soon others were doing the same, all standing together around a marimba placed there to sell marimbas. At a point in the piece Michael starts to whistle. The contract--I am playing a marimba piece, mallets on bars--gets torn up in that moment, but we are offered a new awareness, an enlargement of what we thought was happening.
It can work that way, too, out of making an offering. I will play this music. We will listen. We are holding each other up, and then, together, we get to rewrite the terms.
I want to rewrite these particular terms somehow. That might look like opposition. I expect it does. But I hope that opposition aims at a radical reframing of our understanding of each other. A way to absorb this moment not as the last move the artwork makes, but as a conceit, a provisional understanding that we will get to un-know, at a moment of expansion yet to come. Changing of terms. Breaking of contract. Not pushing the pendulum but smashing the clock.