Here Be Monsters 2.0
“Here Be Monsters.”
This was a phrase used by map makers long ago to depict uncharted waters where ships were known to have entered but mysteriously disappeared. They never returned to their home port so were listed as “Lost at Sea”.
Yesterday, the photo of the spectacular show called, “Walking with Dinosaurs” was attached to this phrase. The world of those ancient monsters that so beguile and beckon children and adults alike to re-imagine the world and the universe. They are our ancestors, we are told. We are amazed. We are terrified. We are proud. We clap when we see them recreated as if they might hear our applause and take a courtesy bow. Kids in the darkened, cavernous sports arena waved sparkling pin wheels to celebrate the monsters in their midst.
Today, talk of monsters again. But, there will be no clapping. No re-imagining. No comet kills this monster with a spectacular Big Bang and spectral light show. Death comes slowly, inch by inch, day after day, week after week, month by month, and year after year and with a clenched jaw. All one can do is bear witness and hope your own life and death takes another route.
If Stayin’ Alive represented our final days together, this image reflects the 14 years that proceeded it.
They called it many names. Depression. Dementia. No Doctor or consulting medical professional ever really called it by one thing. They treated the behaviors only: depression, hopelessness, abusiveness, combativeness, hallucinations, as best they could. But, it lived within and it resisted these treatments, even mocked them.
Amidst the tangled neurons of our brains, there be monsters that chew up reason and common sense and spit it out in contempt. What it also demolishes in its rampage are any traces of love they may have once had for this world or the people in it.
This was not Alzheimer’s. Nor was this a gradual fade into passivity, frailty and fog that breaks hearts in other ways.
It was a failure of whatever it is that makes us human and animals, the hard-wiring of love. The experts were not so expert when it came to this.
These synapses fail at the time this bond is needed the most. The terror is not in the sounds of illness, but in the silence. The silence that is filled with rage– ruminating, fuming, posturing, readying itself rage for another battle without victory.
This monster, in the end, consumes all human bonds. When death comes, it is not proud. It is not healing. Nor, is it even a relief or peaceful. It refuses drops of water, touches of the hand. It is alone, despite a bed surrounded. It clenches a jaw tight, grinding on as if steeling itself for the journey ahead.
Here be Monsters, indeed.
How fanciful that phrase is and how romantic the sound of lost at sea.
One thing is sure: They be poets who created these phrases–not the passengers on the doomed ships.
If this monster is in your midst in 2008, take a deep breath. Pick up your camera or whatever your creative “pinwheel” is and tell the truth-paint it, photograph it, write it, sculpt it, perform it.
Wave it all around, side to side, like a benediction in the darkened world that envelops you and them.
From a distance, it may look to others like you are waving not drowning–but, up close?
This creative act is your life jacket.
©Pat Coakley 2008
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