At a Loss


Jane W. LaFever, February 1, 1948 – November 18, 2012, in the waterfront neighborhood of Nyhavn, Copenhagen, 
Denmark in 2006.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”


They just keep staring at me, unblinking, unrelenting, waiting for something to happen. I stare at this blank computer screen and then glance at them. No response, not even a little head nod. What do I expect from a soapstone elephant and rhinoceros, bought for a pittance at a street stall in the dusty, dirty and chaotic town of Eldoret, in western Kenya? I am at a loss, at a standstill with this damned computer. It won’t write for me and I can’t seem to find the words, the flow.

I suppose I could write about the soft rain falling outside, gently sliding down the roof and through the gutters to the earth below. It’s a beautiful and nourishing thing.

Or I could write about this past weekend and a Buddhist group visit to Pelican Bay State Prison (I will write more about this experience soon). I could write about how surprised I was to leave the confines of the chapel where we had meditated and find the softest rain I can remember falling from the sky, as if the entire cosmos was enveloped in mist. How can such a gentle rain could fall in such a hard place? The veil of the water filled air made the inmates exercising in the yard seem distant and disconnected as if I was watching them through a television screen.

I could write about the delight of a dry home and a warm fire on a rainy day and how grateful I am to have a roof over my head and the warmth of the tanoak logs set ablaze. “Deep inside, the plants hold the light” a botanist once said. I reckon that a fire is nothing more than the release and transformation of this light into heat, flame and ash.

Or I could write about loss, which is the title of this essay after all. Would I write about the loss of words, which I experienced this past weekend meditating in a maximum security prison with men who some would consider the worst of the worst in our penal system, nay worst in our society? The loss of words in this case coming from an inability to express how normal and abnormal, how ordinary and profound, and how uplifting and deeply saddening it all was.

0852 - jane and dave at lunch in copenhagen 0954 - watching a ride 0945 - jane and kristin at lunch

LtoR: Jane and her son David at a Copenhagen street cafe; Jane, David, Jannik and Signe at Tivoli Amusement Park, Copenhagen; and Jane and her daughter (in-law) Kristin at a street cafe in Copenhagen.

Certainly if I could write about loss I would write about the passing of my mom, who died on November 18th two years ago. I would write about the loss of a delightful human being, one of the most important people in my life, and one of my anchors and how I have felt adrift since then? Perhaps I would write about the loss of continuity from my daughters, through me to their grandmother and on through the matrilineal line to whatever arbitrary point we call the beginning. How do I ensure that connection? What stories do I tell to keep her alive in our minds and our lives? Volumes could be written about this loss but in the end words won’t suffice and it must simply be felt, like a wave crashing over me. I feel the water running down my body and I taste its saltiness and I let it go, knowing that another wave will come, perhaps not right away but always unexpectedly.

I need to write something, I mean I promised myself I would write every week but nothing is coming easily. These soapstone creatures just keep staring at me and it’s unnerving. I am uneasy. Maybe that is what I will write about: uneasiness and the fact that sometimes uneasiness is the easiest thing of all.


3 Comments on “At a Loss”

  1. Julie says:

    Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
    and rightdoing there is a field.
    I’ll meet you there.

    When the soul lies down in that grass
    the world is too full to talk about.”
    ― Rumi

    The photographs of your mom and your family are really sweet.

  2. Jannik Sønderby says:

    We remember your visit here with us with a smile and good feeling of great company and lots of ‘hygge’.
    I remember Jane as a fun, caring, and hockey loving mom. She took good care of me and supplied me with a strong and secure base in my time at your house; even through all the troubles that was going on around us.
    I only saw her on her high times and good health, and that is how I remember her. And I always will.
    – Jannik

    PS. For the first picture: its spelled Nyhavn (meaning New Harbour).

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