Death and wisdom

Owls, traditionally associated with Athena, symbolize both wisdom and death. My sister loved them. It made buying her little mementos from my travels easy because somehow owls are everywhere — on mugs, placemats, statues, and puzzles. Picking up these trinkets was one of the few things I did to accommodate her neediness that I didn’t mind.

Now those owls live here. They’re all over the place.

Last week a scrap of paper sandwiched between two sheets of contact paper appeared on the hall rug upstairs. The Virgin and Child. Huh?

At first I thought it was of the many prayer cards that I brought home from Assisi. They have a way of turning up at odd times and in odd places too.

But no. The back revealed a newspaper article which told me this was made by my sister. Cutting pictures out of magazines and newspapers was her only real creative practice in the end. I remember thinking it weird, as in deficient, that she never DID anything with her cut outs. Lately, however, I’ve begun to see the scouting and collecting as a kind of art form in itself.

I know I’ve shared other times my sister’s made “visitations” — the shattered blue Pyrex dish, her large painting falling like a guillotine. How narrow the evasion of harm! With the appearance of Mary and the Christ Child, can I assume we’ve entered a new, softer phase, perhaps one rife with atonement?

But whose, you ask — whose atonement?

Peabody Essex Museum maritime exhibit

Being in Salem this weekend allowed me to notice a change. How memory is fading. The relief of that. There was a time not too long ago when just driving by her exit, never mind sitting down and having lunch at the end of her street, would have tightened my chest and filled me with dread. I’d feel hints of the weary exhaustion that went hand in hand with our visits. Every visit.

That seems to be muted now.

17 thoughts on “Death and wisdom

  1. Rainsluice

    Muted. Seems good. But Virgin and Child seems an empty message?
    My book group is reading Spook by Mary Roach. I am not one to venture into the afterlife but I believe that souls must go somewhere. I’m not really enjoying the book, except for Roach’s sense of humor.
    Owls are so full of intrigue. They know the night, they can sense their prey and find it in silence. Ooooooooh.
    Your sister definitely was one who tapped into the afterlife herself, right? Is the soul what the dead leave to the living, to contemplate and learn from? Who gets to decide?
    I think the living get to decide. What do you think?

    1. deemallon Post author

      Just read some reviews of Spook. Very mixed.

      The piece of paper seemed a positive progression if only because by being so insubstantial it posed no risk of injury. Plus Mary is traditionally associated with compassion and forgiveness.

      I guess if I had to say I think maybe people have souls but they don’t all linger.

  2. Nancy

    I understand this, from my own place of course. That slight mute carries less gut-wrenching pain. Yes, a relief, even if some guilt etc. remains

  3. Liz A

    I’m picky … wanting to remember the good stuff and totally forget the bad …

    and I do believe one can be haunted by someone still living

  4. Marti

    I’ve written of my sister visitations so not going to add more here BUT what I want to add is this:

    I get up very early most days, well before 4 am. On Tuesdays, the old British Midsomer Mysteries is on one of the TV channels and so of course, tea in hand, I sit and am taken away to the compelling landscape of the British countryside,, vast green fields, woods and streams, enchanting yet at times. sinister villages, crumbling stone manor homes and of course mystery, mayhem and murder. Yesterday, the episode was titled, The Green Man and I bring it here for the incredibly beautiful and other worldly white owl that flew in the night sky. In one scene, the owl flew right at the camera and I felt a haunting spirit…you spoke of your sister’s owls that you had gifted her over the years so that is why I came…and from where I sit, no atonement is needed…the upper rt hand of your first photo, the cloth pieces combined to create a wondrous owl, that is what I see and underneath those feathery cloth patches, I also see love…


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