Suicide and Impressions of a Dove .
This morning I woke by the quiet of a morning in the desert. I reached for my phone and before I set it down, I read a long note by a friend of the suicides that have surrounded him like so many black roses.
His story was sad, but sad was not the point. I believe his point was love and to reach out to those around you, even if it is just the tiniest bit of love you have to share. I thought that with all of this suicide all around him and growing in an ever-widening circle, that heading toward the dark that encircled his spirit was no place to go.
And then I saw his candle in the dark.
His candle was not a promise that it would all get better, but to share a reminder that all is temporary and that as we travel the path, the scenery changes. His candle was not hope or promises or glorious visions of the future.
His candle was an ear. To listen. An ear to listen and a heart to care.
In the swirling darkness that swallows our spirits whole, that encroaches on every fabric, every molecule of our being, in all of the complexities of pain and loss and rejection and failure, his message was simple.
I don’t think of suicide these days. I am not sure why. Maybe it is because in my youth where the thought of the finality of suicide was a constant hum in the background of my life, it made sense to end a promise of a life of emptiness and pain. But somewhere, the pain subsided. Maybe with the arrival of my mate or my children or the constant diversions of responsibility that they provided, I was to occupied to consider the permanent option that suicide provides.
Maybe I was happy.
My own thoughts of suicide have faded and I don’t suspect they will return. I plan on seeing this movie through to the hopefully not so bitter end. It no longer presents itself as an option.
My home faces the San Jacinto Mountains. They are worn and ancient stones, piled haphazard by an earth scape tectonically constantly in motion and then worn smooth by the powers of erosion, of wind and sun and what little moisture we receive in the desert.
I have large windows that face the rising sun and the stone mountains. As a new day is formed, much of the heat is reflected away and I am kept cool as the air outside turns to ancient flame.
There was a loud thud, a thump on the window as I read this morning and all I was able to make out with a dusty outline of wings and a body and a smudge that had made up the life of a dove that has lived the skies around here since before this house was built. By the time I made it to the front, the cycle of life was well on its way and a small animal was carrying off it’s newly discovered morning meal.
No hunt, no stealth, no pounce of silence on the unsuspecting, just a cat or a coyote passing by my window and spying an easy meal.
Was there a lesson here? Had the dove finally just given up? I know that doves mate for life and after the loss of it’s mate some years before in a similar mishap, I saw that the dove floated around from feeder to fountain alone. Briefly last year, the dove was joined by two others, but this season, they are nowhere to be seen.
Had the dove succumb to lonliness? Hag he made a decision it is time to move on to the next level of dove-ness?
After gliding over the mountains, after dining on the most tender buds of spring and soaring freely over an immense terrain unchallenged, had the dove made the decision to fly into my window and end it’s life.
Or had the dove just been mistaken and took the reflection of the mountains in my mirrored windows as the mountains that were in truth, behind him.
For a moment, I thought about Delmore Schwartz and the Allegory of the Cave:
“In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave,
Reflected headlights slowly slid the wall,
Carpenters hammered under the shaded window,
Wind troubled the window curtains all night long,
A fleet of trucks strained uphill, grinding,
Their freights covered, as usual.
The ceiling lightened again, the slanting diagram
Slid slowly forth.
Hearing the milkman’s chop,
His striving up the stair, the bottle’s chink,
I rose from bed, lit a cigarette,
And walked to the window. The stony street
Displayed the stillness in which buildings stand,
The street-lamp’s vigil and the horse’s patience.
The winter sky’s pure capital
Turned me back to bed with exhausted eyes.
Strangeness grew in the motionless air. The loose
Film grayed. Shaking wagons, hooves’ waterfalls,
Sounded far off, increasing, louder and nearer.
A car coughed, starting. Morning, softly
Melting the air, lifted the half-covered chair
From underseas, kindled the looking-glass,
Distinguished the dresser and the white wall.
The bird called tentatively, whistled, called,
Bubbled and whistled, so! Perplexed, still wet
With sleep, affectionate, hungry and cold. So, so,
O son of man, the ignorant night, the travail
Of early morning, the mystery of beginning
Again and again,
while History is unforgiven.”
And for awhile I thought of the illusion of life, that we rarely face it’s brilliance head first or we would surely be blinded. We are just mortals and can only perceive the shadow of reality. We sit, tied to a chair, facing a blank wall. Behind us, the parade of reality streams past like a living river of images. And behind the images, a light, a candle that projects the shadows of life on the wall in front of us.
We chose to watch or we close our eyes, Either way, like the river, it continues to flow. Like the dove that flies headlong into the mirrored reflections of the mountains, or the suicide that faces reality finally with their last drop of life that there might have been some other solution.
I thank my friend this morning for these thoughts and I am glad to be reminded to listen to the voices calling out in the dark. There are few dragons to slay these days, but we still must find it in our energies to listen for the silent sobs or falling of tears in the dark.
Delmore Schwartz, “In the Naked Bed, in Plato’s Cave” from Selected Poems (1938-1958):