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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

The Calendar is a Vortex

photo taken by me of the first sign of sun after several days sailing in the arctic circle during winter.

Dear Jesse,

Happy Birthday.

After you died, maybe a year later, I went to North Bay for a visit. Your mom and I drove to visit your grave. She was playing a cd her grief counselor had made of a selection of Mumford and Sons songs. They were her permission to still be grieving.

/From Winter Winds:

We'll be washed and buried one day my girl

And the time we were given will be left for the world

The flesh that lived and loved will be eaten by plague

So let the memories be good for those who stay/

I loved their album Sigh No More. I moved to SaltSpring Island just after it came out, and I listened to it on repeat. I would leave the island I loved within the year, under the duress of my husband’s affair, and move to NYC to live in the unique state of panic of trying to save a lost cause.

Once, while driving around British Colombia forests with him in the rain just after he’d confessed, through taller and thicker trees than our Ontario forests, he asked me what music I wanted to listen to. I was despondent, I shrugged. He popped Sigh No More in knowingly. The grief the songs stirred in me was a relief. I was holding on when I wanted to let go. I took a break from fighting myself, and my reality and watched the windshield cry.

/From The Cave:

And I'll find strength in pain

And I will change my ways

I'll know my name as it's called again/

North Bay is a place I remember as home, but not a place I feel at home in. I am always happier to be where I am now than I have ever wanted to go back to where I was. There was a time when that had to be true for survival, now it is my disposition. I have never left better days behind me. Even though I have left very good ones.

Those Mumford and Sons songs were a rare, effortless link between North Bay, aka my deep past, and my then-current life. There was no temporal strain in the connection between me and your mom driving in the rain to visit you. We were listening to music meaningful to both of us, we were grieving. Taking a break from fighting ourselves and our reality.

“Would you like to see Liz?” Your mom asked me at the cemetery, waiting quietly as I looked at her name in stone. “Grampy is over there.” We moved slowly among our dead. People I left. People I didn’t see before they died. You, baby brother. I thought I was going to see you. Soon. I was making travel plans to see you, I was going to be there within days, and then you just died.

/From Beloved:

Before you leave you must know you are beloved

And before you leave remember I was with you

And as you leave

I won't hold you back beloved/

When I got divorced, papers I signed on this day, your birthday - three years after I left Saltspring, three years of New York, three years in a marriage with the alive-like texture of a preserved-corpse - my freshly-ex-husband said, ‘If someone was talking to me about you, the only thing I’d ever warn them about you is that you leave. I would tell them that everything that seems good about you is true. You really are those things. But, when you’re done, you leave.”

/From Wild Heart

I guess I asked for the truth

I guess I asked for it, brutal and untuned/

I come to La Cueva everyday for coffee I no longer have to order. It just appears. Antonio also manifests brownies from the bakery next door, makes bacon to my unusual-to-him-muy-muy-super-hecho specifications, asks my advice on what placemats to buy, teases me for how little food I eat, how much of it is potato based, hops on his motorbike to bring me soup from a completely different restaurant when I ask if he has any.

He gives me his phone to put the music I like in his Spotify.

Mumford and Sons came out with a new album recently, Delta, and I plugged that in. That’s what plays when I come for my coffee, I gaze at the endless rain out the window and gently grieve through the anticipation of my next big transition. Transitions give me the most joy and evoke the most loneliness than any thing else in my life.

I am going to leave Spain soon. I leave. I’m even going to be in London, my home town, for a while. The one in Ontario, which isn’t the one the song is referring to, still cool.

/From Forever:

So if you doubt for the time that you're spending

And if you doubt for the love in your heart

Think of London and the girl you're returning

And the days you defend will turn to gold

So love with your eyes

Love with your mind

Love with your

Dare I say forever/

The calendar is like a vortex with a reassuring or oppressive velocity depending on how much you want to be swirled toward the center of a recurring date. Other things which form vortices: tornadoes, cyclones, dust devils.

I was once attached to my paragliding wing, ready to launch, when Jose suddenly shouted an alarm, a rare occurrence from him. Everyone within ear shot started to run, threw their bodies on top of any open wing. Dust devil.

There is a video going around my pilot packs of a guy taking off into a dust devil at our launch site here in Algodonales. It tosses him around with as much regard as the wind has ever had for a plastic bag. He somersaults, in the air barely above the trees, head and wing over feet.

Acro pilots do that exact move on purpose, after a lot of training and safety exercises, with specialized wings and VERY high above the ground.

I’m not sure if my lifetime of leaving gives me any more command over the vortex of sentimentality it takes to stay connected to people and places I may never see again. I do it as deliberately as an acro pilot, but sometimes I feel more like the rag-doll-new-pilot in the video.

His instructor talked him through it over the radio by reminding him that despite the intensity of the take off, now he was just flying like any other flight, don’t think about how he got there, just fly. Can you imagine what it took for him to resist the G-force of panic in order to do that?

I can.

There is also a video of total bliss taking over my face while Pablo created that same force in the glider we were flying tandem.

Jesse, what If I never figure out how to stop leaving? You can only carry so much memorabilia of your life with you and people tend to stay where they are planted.

Songs, blessedly, travel on their own. They follow you, they pop up on radios and in movies, on the cd’s people are listening to in their cars when they drive you to your little brother’s gravesite. Music weighs nothing. Neither do words. If I want to keep something, save it from my severing, I put it into words. Then I give the words away.

/From 42:

What if I need you in my darkest hour?

what if it turns out there is no other?

If this is our time now

We wanna see a sign, oh

We would see a sign

So give us a sign

I need some guiding light/

“The music is a little weird.” Antonio said, when I blushed to Luisma and his visiting parents who were having dinner to the new Mumford and Sons album without knowing it was playing because of me. “But I kind of like it,” he shrugged.

All week Antonio played Mumford and Sons. And not just Delta, their entire discography.

Which means, when I ate lunch, when I came back for dinner, even when there were other people in the restaurant, when I spontaneously hosted a bunch of new pilots from another school for a round of drinks, or greeted friends having a family birthday dinner - I was listening to the songs that kept your mom company while she bore the unrelenting agony of your absence. The songs that make me think of you and of your mom and I sharing our grief.

Songs that remind me that even though I left - I leave - one way or another, I circle back around. I come in to land.

From If I Say:

If I say I love you, well, then I love you.

Always your sister,


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