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Friday, June 01, 2018

Reader's Diary #1835- Sharon Butala: Where I Live Now

I had a particular connection to my grandmother's house. She lived upon a hill in an old-fashioned two story roughly 50 steps from my own, or 11 good leaps if I was bolting home for supper. When she died about 10 years ago, her children debated what to do with the house. Sell it? They'd have strangers living on their doorstep. That wasn't an option. Tear it down?

That probability broke my heart. Fortunately the last, and only, couple of times I've been back since it was still standing. Though it was painful to look at. The first time I avoided it. The second time I went through it. If ever a person was connected to a place, it was her and that building; in my mind almost interchangeable. Tearing it down felt like purposefully forgetting her while leaving it felt like watching her corpse decompose.

I say these things and felt this way acknowledging that I no longer live there and so I do not resent the fact the house has since been taken down. Those family still living near it had their own reasons and complex relationships.

This reflection on grief and its relationship to place has been brought to me courtesy of Sharon Butala's Where I Live Now: A Journey Through Love and Loss to Healing and Hope. She analyzes her time in rural Saskatchewan while grieving the loss of her rancher husband. There are no hard or obvious conclusions but the exploration is warm and engaging, poignant, sad but not unbearably so, and inspiring in a gentle sort of way to contemplate our own existence but with particular emphasis on our relationships to people and place rather than on our navels.

3 comments:

Buried In Print said...

I've enjoyed so much of Butala's writing, but I am anxious about reading this one. Maybe I should have some rereads lined up for afterwards...

Melwyk said...

I agree, this is sad but not unbearably so. A strong sense of nostalgia for place and being situated in a specific surrounding. I found it quite moving, but I did have to take a break after she talked about losing her husband - I found that a difficult passage.

John Mutford said...

Buried in Print: This was my first time reading her work but would definitely pick up more based on it.

Melwyk: In some regards, that connection to place reminded me Libby Whittall Catling's The Mundane and the Holy.