in her thought,
her love and choices
a river never
damned or caught,
her even shadows
I was in my long period of recovering from my illness when I met her. She was a brilliant woman.
Life had been hard on her. Grief, loss, and injustice had darkened her doorway for years.
She, too, was dealing with illness. But whereas I was getting better, she was headed in the opposite direction.
We didn’t talk about our troubles, though, at least not often. We mostly talked about music and the cosmos and literature and national parks and hydroelectric power and languages (her field of study) and philosophy and oddities of regional dialects, to name a few topics I can remember.
I do not think I had ever met anyone who was so consistently misunderstood by people around her than she was. To me, she was easy to understand, although I cannot say I ever came close to figuring her out. She was thinker, a pure thinker, and much of what others found odd or off-putting was to me a sign of someone who was constantly thinking about everything.
She had emotions, too, of course, but those had been so stretched and frayed by events in her life that they did not have that tendency to snap back into place that luckier people’s emotions have. She could get angry over something simple, or show no anger whatsoever over something major. But she would notice it, and comment it on it. She was always thinking, even about her own interior landscape.
The illness she suffered from was one that, thankfully, left her mind intact; however, over the time I knew her, the physical part of her life became very difficult. She never resented me my good fortune; she never resented anybody anything.
Hers was a grand, celestial sort of mind: she loved the writing of Henri Bergson, and often quoted him to me (frequently in French, which I would then have to ask for a translation):
“Intuition is a method of feeling one’s way intellectually into the inner heart of a thing to locate what is unique and inexpressible in it.”
“When it is said that an object occupies a large space in the soul or even that it fills it entirely, we ought to understand by this simply that its image has altered the shade of a thousand perceptions or memories, and that in this sense it pervades them, although it does not itself come into view.”
“… all that we have felt, thought and willed from our earliest infancy is there, leaning over the present which is about to join it, pressing against the portals of consciousness that would fain leave it outside.”
I last saw her nearly twenty-five years ago, and she died, in her mid-thirties, a couple of years after that. As a sort of tribute, I went out and bought every Henri Bergson book in English translation that I could find, and read them. It seemed like something she would have liked.
She had no living relatives when she died, even though she died young. I didn’t hear about her death until nearly six months afterwards, from a mutual friend down in Florida. I was going through a divorce at the time, and I mentioned the news of her death to my soon-to-be-ex-wife, who had met her.
“I always liked her,” she said.
“Yeah. Me, too,” I said.