Walt & Trudi on the Tilikum Crossing - "Bridge of the People" - in Portland

…a word from the Kind Watcher and the Little “i”

How real is Anything??? My “reality” changes with whatever I imagine. Fear and hope run me…

At first when my sweetie Walt vanishes into the unknown, I’m just vastly relieved not to be stuck in the helplessness of watching him suffer.  For a while, I’m even euphoric – which is a bit embarrassing, since I’m supposed to be grieving. 

Luckily after a week or two I manage to make up for that. I weep for missing Walt – his solid, loving warmth, his deep caring and compassion, and the dependable gravity of his waggish being. 

Now, at least, I’m grieving properly. I pat myself on the back. Surely this should be enough! 

Walt in his early 20's (long before I knew him), at the helm of a tractor while building affordable housing in Vermont

But no. Instead, I begin to be pounded by tidal waves of fear. It’s the fear of being utterly alone forever, washed up on some desolate shore, abandoned and friendless…

In reality I’ve always had this primal fear lurking in the background, which is why I’ve always made sure to have a fellow primate sleeping beside me in the mouth of our cave, snoring to ward off intruders. I crave the sweet illusion of comfort and safety. I know it’s an illusion, because we all die – but I don’t care. 

Anyway, when those tidal waves begin slamming me, the future weighs like a poisonous leaden darkness, and I even fear that I might sink irretrievably into the black depths – for that, too, is a choice… 

Again, I think, surely this is enough! And again, it isn’t. Not satisfied with the depth of my angst, I manage to add mortal fear to mortal fear by convincing myself I am dying. 

I mean, I give myself good reason. In my queasy, on-the-edge state at being suddenly alone (no more alone than ever, but more apparently so) – I’ve lost my appetite and therefore also lost a little weight. 

So now, consulting my doc about another minor issue, I mention my weight loss and she tells me it’s probably fine, but “if you keep having unexplained weight loss, be sure and let us know – it could be cancer.” So of course you know where I go with that…

In a panic, I determine to take charge. I will simply force myself to eat more, so as to gain weight and prove myself immortal again.

So I do – and I lo and behold, I eat so much that I gain three pounds overnight!

What a relief! The whole world is now beautiful. Safely immortal again, I am no longer oppressed by my solitude – instead, being alone is a peaceful, lovely and privileged state… 

You get the picture. My little boat having capsized, here I am, swimming in pure illusion, floundering “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily” down the stream of my dream life….

It really is quite hilarious and diverting watching “myself” (who, being so changeable, is obviously an entire fiction) –  tumbling and floating and twisting and turning down these emotional rapids, full of angst and hope, deep dark foreboding and delightful fantasies…. 

And NONE of it is real, save the serene outlook of the kind Watcher (who is also myself) as she graciously stands aside, watching the “little I” take the bait again and again, clinging first to one shred of illusion, then to another. Not that the Watcher is cruel – apparently this is just the only way the little i can learn to see beauty and meaning in this strange entrapment called “Life.”

For whatever reason, both of us – Watcher and little i – seem to be absolutely fascinated with the show.

When will we tire of this entertainment??? 

Never, as long as the little i insists that she is alone and helpless in the clutches of the vicious twins, Time and Death. Which of course, she is, if she believes she is.

But what is Time, and what is Death?

Is Time not exactly this stream of illusions, this self-perpetuating round-robin of pain and pleasure, from which, with all its helpless little heart, the little i yearns to escape? 

And is it not possible that Death – whether it comes before or after the body dies – might offer the only thing we truly need: a moment for the little i to just let go and fall, in limitless relief, into the arms of the Kind Watcher?

Report from the Trenches – observations after the death of a beloved partner
Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards, a poetic and musical member of the Universal Human Nation, is the author of On Wings of Intent, a biography of Silo; Soft Brushes with Death, a Jorge Espinet Primer; Confessions of Olivia, a fictional autobiography; and Fish Scribbles. She has also co-authored two books: Experiences on the Threshold and Ambrosia - Poetic Recipes/Recetas poeticas. Exactly two of her poems have been published by anyone other than her less-than-modest self: “The Great 21st Century Poemic" appeared in the April 2021 edition of Global Poemic (globalpoemic.wordpress.com); and "Fairies of the Forest" appeared in the Palo Alto Times "Youth Said It" column in 1957. In the '90s she also wrote for, edited and published an independent San Francisco newspaper, Human Future; and in the '70s she co-founded the San Francisco arts publication La Mamelle, which morphed into Art Com before it died, and whose remnants are now housed in the Stanford Archives. A graduate of Stanford University, she helped raise several humans from infancy, and is now enjoying their friendship. Currently she tends to wander between Oregon and California, enjoying the company of her beloved community of friends and family. She can more or less reliably be found at the west coast Park of Study and Reflection, outside Red Bluff in Northern California, on the third Saturday of every month.