Friday, June 18, 2010

Unknown Feathers – Dianne Benedict

Dianne Benedict - September 17, 1941

Another wonderful story placed into this anthology. I think I need to be in the right frame of mind to accept a story that blurs the lines of reality, and I must have been in that mood because I thought this story really held me. Given Updike’s fascination with all things about life – the decision to include this story must have been easy for him.

Benedict has a Vermont connection and one that is even closer than just a shared connection to the state with me. She received her MFA and taught at Vermont College which was part of Norwich University...which I attended.

This story -

It’s passed though my mind on more than one occasion that I could easily be erased from this earth in a second. A simple smack from a car rounding a corner, smashing my head on the street could end it all.

I don’t let this knowledge dictate the way I lead my life...rather, I lead it like most of us do in this world...that was are going to live a long drawn out life dying of old age.

This is the default setting that we are born with (most of us) and it works out just fine for us humans.

I will also admit that I have thought about the final days and hours of my life before. Will I be laying in a bed passing between dream states out of touch with reality? With my interest in consciousness and discovering the levels of it, its boundaries (if there are any) and the secret powers it holds for us, I think that the time of death will be a very interesting state of mind to find my particular mind in.

I imagine that someone like Aldous Huxley had it right. He instructed his wife to feed him with a nice dose of LSD as he was fading out. That option certainly sounds good to me. I think any efforts to ease the anxiety of the process of its last few hours certainly can’t hurt, and if it is what the dying man wants then it should be granted.

One time when my father and I were sitting in the forest behind his house, drinking from a bottle of “Isle of Jura’, he looked off into the woods, and said that when he was at the point of dying, he wants to be chained up to a tree with a bottle of scotch and left to die. I’m pretty sure that some of us have made similar statements when drunk, and feeling a little goofy.

Now, he has to know that this little wish will never happen because first, we don’t live in a time where that sort of thing can be done anymore and second, I wouldn’t be the one doing it for him and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one he has every said this to.

There was some honesty with himself in his statement and an almost prophetic longing for what he subconsciously knew would never be. It revealed a lot about him...his past life and where he was at that moment in his world.

All of that is changed now.

His ability to look off into the crisp green woods and imagine a beautiful passing has now changed into a vision where dusk is fast approaching, the forest is getting darker, and cobwebs are forming between the branches of dead tree limbs. The forest is no longer green for him.

I suspect his final days will be spent in a bed with crisp white sheets and the sounds of medical equipment.

Is that really better?

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