using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Lions Roar : March 2008
73 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 marvel at how her father’s love of the arts had skipped a genera- tion, bypassing her, only to end up in me. It made me feel very proud whenever she said this, and she said it often, as though to make sure I would remember. I had only met my grandfather that one time when I was three, but I felt some kind of trans- mission had occurred. And my grandmother’s bones had com- pleted the process. Her bones were the seal to the mandate. What grew from this was a documentary film called Halving the Bones. It was the first narrative effort I dared put out into the world and it’s made from stories—stories of my grandparents’ lives, my grandmother’s death, and delivering her bones to my mother; stories of World War II, my grandfather’s internment, and the dissolution of their family; stories of loss and coping with loss. I tell some of the stories. My mother tells others. The ghost of my grandmother tells still more. At the end of the film, after I’ve finally handed the bones over to my mom, I ask her what she wants me to do with them and she tells me her wishes. It’s a nice scene. Before giving them to her, I’d transferred the bones to a pretty Japanese tea canister and ditched the Tupperware, so Mom is sitting there in her liv- ing room with the little can of bones on her lap. She laughs at the Tupperware story and professes her fondness and admira- tion for the tea can. She opens it and inspects every bone, peer- ing at each one, exclaiming over the beauty of their shapes, their surprising hues and shades of color. She whispers to the bones, as if to her mother. And in the end, after closing up the can and patting it contentedly, she tells me what she wants me to do with my grandmother’s bones, and hers, after she dies. I’ll tell you what she said, but first I should explain that this was a turning point in our relationship. Making the film with my mother, engaging in this creative and collaborative story- telling project, helped us to reconnect. It gave us the excuse to spend time together, and get to know each other again, and learn to talk about the important matters of life and death. It was as if our relationship were somehow re-knit from the bones of my grandmother, so much so that when my mother was di- agnosed with Alzheimer’s, and then my father died, I decided to bring her to live with me so I could take care of her myself. I think this decision was only possible because of the closeness we’d found, but in addition, making the film—writing, shoot- ing, editing, putting it out into the world—forced me to think deeply about loss, and the many ways we lose people, and the choices involved. My choice was simple: I didn’t want to be half a world away from my mother when she died. I think there’s a powerful link between creativity and death. We make things because we lose things: memories, people we love, and ultimately our very selves. Our acts of creation are ways of grappling with death: we imagine it, struggle to make sense of it, forestall or defeat it. When I sat down to write this essay, I realized that all my work—in film or on the page—has ultimately been about dying, and I know I’m not alone. These media are, quite literally, mediums, the means of traveling to the other shore. They are our imaginative transport to the land of the dead. We learn things there, and then return what we learn to the living. This journey is undertaken by anyone who has ever told stories, from Homer, to Dante, to Elizabeth Bishop. To tell stories is to practice of the art of losing. As Bishop says, it is one art. THE ART OF LOSING It wasn’t always easy to care for my mom. It became clear pretty quickly that she couldn’t live on her own, but my mother, like most mothers, had a serious stubborn streak, so I was prepared I was surprised to hear my aunt name each bone as she moved it into the Tupperware container: “This is a piece of your grand- mother’s skull. This is a bit of her rib...” MAR 68-77.indd 73 MAR 68-77.indd 73 12/19/07 2:16:10 PM 12/19/07 2:16:10 PM