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Posts Tagged ‘death’

Numerous primitive and tribal cultures believe a person’s soul is stolen when they’re photographed. I wonder if a photograph shows a soul being drained.

I’m delving into mental and photographic snapshots of my 12 year expat experience for a colleague’s blog: one highlight, one lowlight. The lowlight will be hard to choose.

My five years in Asia in the ’90s would amount to great adventure for most people, yet the evidence clumps together in my least favorite albums.

Off-camera life losses — separation from family, friends, language, community, the death of my best friend, the theft of my puppy, you name I lost it during my first longterm stint abroad — are reflected on-camera. Stripped of my cosmopolitan composure. Confident clothing. Gleaming skin. Chocolate curls. Toothy smile. Layer by layer, country by country, year by year I deplete and erode.

There are some monstrous stunners here.

Sweaty and sun-damaged with unschooled fluffball haircut, captured in the gracious gardens of Raffles Hotel. I’d given up sunscreen, as well as hair products and all hope of finding a stylist who understood fine and curly.

On the Great Wall of China, scowling Westerner in unladylike Doc Martens and baggy seersucker shorts (the only ones in the shops, I swear!), surrounded by svelte Chinese girls in platform shoes cheerfully waving tour company flags.

Thankfully these days the likelihood of snapping a picturesque portrait has gone way up even if my background doesn’t always match me.

What do your bluest images depict and how do they reveal the soul’s resiliency?

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I don’t see death every day, but I hear it.

From where I sit, in my home office overlooking a little Bosphorus bay, the day is punctuated by recess at a large school below. Sometimes through the din I think I hear a high-pitched pain cry echoing in the valley. An intermittent wail. Out on the balcony I listen, some primitive hackle raised. The source: the government hospital on the waterfront. Not a patient. Someone realizing a loved life is over.

Yesterday I caught a grief panel live-webcasted from The Women’s Conference 2009, America’s foremost forum for women as architects of change. California’s First Lady Maria Shriver — whose mother and uncle died recently — and other high profile grieving women talked in raw terms about love and loss. Tremulous voices….courageous for getting on stage in front of an audience of 25,000 for what is usually a private conversation.

Buttoned-down American culture is “grief-illiterate”, they agreed, one woman appreciating the Middle Eastern tradition of ululating which she saw as stress relief. Celebrity means they mourn in the public eye.  Shriver’s iconic clan has had a lion’s share of public bereavement — it’s practically the Kennedy family culture — yet she counted it as a benefit: people treated her gently, strangers transformed into supporters.

Many of us grieve in private, our mourning unnoticed outside of networks of family and friends. Restricting who we talk to about it can cut us off from people unafraid to hear about death, perhaps those even able to console us.

I know when my best friend died — 15 years ago today — I was on the opposite side of the planet from everyone who knew me, and her, which muffled my pain cry and made the isolation I felt even more acute.

What do you hear about death? What do you want to hear? What do you share?

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