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Thursday, June 25, 2009

doppler effect

–Noun. Physics. Change in the apparent frequency of a wave as observer and source move toward or away from each other.


If there is an invisible part of you (your other heart, not the physical one composed of bits of matter: bosons and leptons and strange quarks), that unscientific yet very real heart still may be broken in a thousand little pieces but held together somehow (like a shattered windshield) as you rush towards what is now inevitable, can the compression of the movement before you hold those pieces together? Is that how you are able to put on your brave face?

And then, only upon receding from the situation, as the distance grows between you and what you bear witness to, that the little shards start to fall and the broken structure fails? And then you can cry behind your large dark sunglasses?

Can any wave be subject to the doppler effect? Even a wave of emotion?

As much as I love the physics of the universe (with my base, miniscule grasp of the science), there is no theorem to cope with grief, regret, loss.


Approaching and receding from a personal event horizon.

I took photos from my seat on the train, coming and going from the visit to Little Helen. I brought a book but could not concentrate on it, although it's a book I'm enjoying very much: Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. And after obsessively checking my email on my iPhone, I had run the battery down to almost nothing, putting an end to that activity.

So all I could do was take photos out the windows.

Trains take us around the underbellies and backsides of things, to places that we normally cannot see and have no access to.

Having the camera on continuous shooting mode, hearing the click click click click in rapid procession, ticking off the world going by in bite-sized pieces, that made things feel more manageable. Just hearing the sound of the shutter was good.

You probably cannot tell from this photo, but the plane is Air France. I felt a pang of solidarity and goodwill seeing that takeoff from my train's seat, thinking Good for you, you got back on the horse, Air France. Safe travels and go go go!

Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us!

Where the wrecks go

{The Boy: Do you want to talk about it?}
{Me: No. (cries)}

Can you read the sign? I didn't realize what it said until just now.
There is Help.

So people don't jump in front of moving trains.

So those are things you see while riding the train.


Yesterday Little Helen turned 91.
June 24, 1918 is her birthday.

The hospice nurse came. And these lovely people from the assisted living center brought a piece of birthday cake she cannot eat but we put it in the freezer anyway in the hope that she can have a taste sometime in future. They sang. I am convinced that people from the Philippines are the nicest people in the world. My mom and I looked around the room, the defensive thing you do with your eyes so that you don't cry in front of others when you're supposed to be looking happy.

Little Helen is home now, for a little while.
I guess, in truth, all of us are home, for a little while.

I write these things down because I don't know how to say them out loud. And then when I do, I feel like I understand an infinitesimally tiny amount more than I did a moment ago. Only it's never enough. And then the understanding is gone again, so fleeting, just like the tracery of a quark's trails.


~K June 25, 2009 at 2:05 AM  

You are truly a beautiful person Jules, I love how you see the world , but even more s your attachment to your family and "Little Helen" You must just be the apple of her eye.

Brook June 25, 2009 at 5:02 AM  

Pretty darn good description of it all if you ask me. Yep. What else can I say? I feel your pain, cry your tears, look for answers in every thing and every place I go. Your love shines through and it will carry you.

Tessa June 25, 2009 at 6:14 AM  

Those photographs are almost unbearably poignant. Where once there was life....

PS. I hope K is doing well now and has managed to find a job.

Yoli June 25, 2009 at 6:56 AM  

I wish I was there, just to hug you. Being the human animal is never easy. Thinking of you and of your sweet little Helen.

Anonymous June 25, 2009 at 7:22 AM  

I'm so sorry for all of your pain. I wish there was some way I could make it better.

Char June 25, 2009 at 7:51 AM  

oh honey...I wish I could help during this travel, but the truth is nothing much helps the pain except time and love. sending all the love that I can and wishing you the ease of time.

a beautiful write - I feel every word and then some.

poet June 25, 2009 at 8:30 AM  

Dear tangobaby,

I'm sorry about Little Helen... but I'm glad she had a birthday with friendly people around. And I feel that you can be glad that you can be sad, paradoxical as it sounds. I have a very distantced relationship to my grandmother, and I think I couldn't, at least not to that extent.

Also, the photos are great. I used to go by train a lot when I still lived in Europe and I can only agree. I never saw such an anti-suicide-sign, though, and the train was regularly delayed because of "person damage" somewhere on the way. Cruel expression, isn't it?

All the best,

Rachel June 25, 2009 at 8:32 AM  

Gorgeous photos and tear-generating words as usual.
We've never met but just know people are here to catch you or hold you up as needed.

Marilyn Miller June 25, 2009 at 8:32 AM  

I can see so much care in the last picture from the hospice care givers. How tender and special to present little Helen with the birthday cake and save it for her.

There can sometimes be beauty in the raw pictures of life, including the graffiti on the train and walls, the little signs of life. Thanks for sharing.

shabby girl June 25, 2009 at 8:34 AM  

A beautiful post.

Middle Aged Woman Blogging June 25, 2009 at 10:59 AM  

Wow! Reading this and seeing these photos left me feeling your pain. Beautiful and heartfelt. I am terribly sorry about Little Helen. My prayers and thoughts are with you and yours. xo

Kelly Kilmer June 25, 2009 at 11:29 AM  

Amazing amazing post.

Little Helen looks like she is surrounded by much much love.

whimseycreations June 25, 2009 at 1:45 PM  

You are such an exquisite writer. Thank you for sharing. Hugs!

Cartooncharacter June 25, 2009 at 3:05 PM  

Darn it, Julie. You made me cry all over the new cartoon I'm drawing!

I know how you're feeling and that words don't help, but just keep thinking of the wonderful woman Little Helen is to have brought into this world all the awesome people in your family. She has done a lot of good, and as she moves away to that place we all must go someday, the good remains and multiplies.

Adam June 25, 2009 at 7:08 PM  

i am glad i was one of those e-mails.

I have no idea what to say besides, hang in there.

Mari June 26, 2009 at 7:03 AM  

Oh my gosh, my Grandmother's birthday was June 25, 1918! She just turned 91 too. I saw the place where she was born last summer, a tiny canyon above Hollister.

Christina June 26, 2009 at 9:09 AM  

Happy birthday, to little Helen! I am sending prayers her way
; )

SE'LAH... June 28, 2009 at 2:14 PM  

Hey girl...I am so happy to get a moment to visit you.

I absolutely love these pics. Sweet.

Relyn June 29, 2009 at 9:20 PM  

Little Helen is home now, for a little while.
I guess, in truth, all of us are home, for a little while.

And that, my friend, is the all to real truth. I'm thinking of you. And bunny. Of all of you.

robinbird June 29, 2009 at 10:36 PM  

i had to come and tell you. i can see you on that train. taking those restless photographs. looking for messages on the signs and graffiti as you fly past. you are a brilliant writer. you have written about grief in a way i have never thought of or seen before. and to think you are simply putting your fingers on the keyboard and giving us your sorrow. i do love getting to know you in lightness and in darkness.