I reach back, I go back, in recollection. I recall:
Notes on a ritual:
When I think back, on that day when my father called, to tell me that Matt had been killed – I was standing on the island, looking out in the morning light, to a grouping of stones that stand near my house on the island. I go back. It was just after 7.00am. Now, I live in fear of calls like that, early morning and unexpected rings, the reign of sadness from afar. And it was striking, listening to my father, telling me that my youngest brother was lost in a rescue mission, to the remote kingdom of Uvs, Outer Mongolia, snowbound, deep winter — and immediately visualizing the character of that passing: snow, bitter cold, an explosion, cries and black smoke. And I looked down at the stones. I go back.
And “adventure”, as Matt put to me, in the last email I’d received from him. “It’s time for a little adventure”. We’d talked, earlier, about going to Tibet that winter. Yet, that never came for the two of us. Just for me.
And that is a potent attribute our connections, the wandering, the exploration, the imbibing of the elixir of travel and culture. Matt and me. I go back.
So since that time, there’s been a ritual in passing, that time of year, yet again, in memory of that fine person, that brother, and what those meditations represent, in reflecting that passage. And this, in frequency, has been with my parents. And it, too, involves fire. And scent, and smoke, and heat, and — at this time of year — cold. Every year, together, we go there, to the stones that I saw on that morning.
And that idea of scent takes you back to the idea that smoke, the fume of perfume, is a calling back — a reckoning of the scent of memory and experience. You inhale a fragrance and you’re called back to a memory in mind. I go back.
I go back to the Himalayas, in my mind. The scent of the temples of Tibet — or, the burning installations of Bhutan, where the wafting of burning conifers carrying the spirit skyward, as in this opening intonation, calling from a Dzong in the high mountains of Bhutan.
That smoke infuses you — and it creates its own kind of mimetic mist, that carries the memories and the visioning of time, spirit, and sends it aloft in prayer. So we do that, have done that, since the passing of Matt, in celebration and fond re-collection, of those times and that person.
Here, then, that ceremony from today, light. Contemplating that day, January 14, eight years prior.
The cairn, with an installation in the water, below, the tide in:
Dad, with offerings:
Mom and Dad, at the cairn of remembering:
Mom, making offerings:
The offerings, contained:
The cairn in the light:
And Matt, in his garden, Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
Isn’t it so, that recalling is a retracing — you call out, you retrace, you find your way back to the heart? And in every day, there should be a ritual that does that — it takes us back to the heart. Even the following of the path of the bird in the sky, it takes you somewhere. And perhaps it brings you back to the heart. The ritual of skywatching. The center of your collection, your palace of memory, that you carry with you, moving forward into the year.
I go back.
tsg | D e c a t u r I s l a n d | 1. 14. 2009
Explore the Embrace of Change:
Other writings on scent and memory:
It was today that I happened to come across a person with a similar last name that I remembered my beloved colleague. It is not that I’ve forgotten him though. So, I googled your brother’s name to see what I will find and came across your diary. It was a tragic, tragic loss…. too sudden and large to apprehend…
I was a colleague of him, but at UNDP Mongolia.
He had such a heart for people, he radiated somewhat shy, boyish and very warm smile wherever he went around. Never ever have I heard him raise his voice or snap at people… Calm, confident and happy chap was he.
Be proud of your brother Matthew. Everyone who worked with him, who was approached by him liked him immensely. I miss him as a colleague, brother.