essays kaddish in two-part harmony

running away together — dordogne

It’s not like either of us never went anywhere — though I thought she had me beat in this regard. Her fieldwork took her to what I thought of as the ends of the earth. although for her, it wasn’t really all that far — just inaccessible. My own favorite spot was in the deep Sahara, and she would have joined me there in a heartbeat if I had asked. And I had agreed to Jerusalem (with great misgivings) because she wanted us to surprise a friend…

But most of all it was when she was with me, living with me for however short a time it might be, that she said she was most at home. She said she could stop acting, pretending, trying. She could just BE. Her room was always waiting for her chez moi.

We talked of running away together… well she did — I was quite happy where I was. I just wanted her to stay right there with me, forever. But she missed her grouchy little dog. And she had a dream. To be honest, she had many dreams. This was only one of them.

We would buy a village (yes, a village) in Dordogne. One of those medieval towns without amenities (like indoor plumbing or reliable electricity, although this latter did actually matter). One of those places that foreigners were already beginning to snap up. Or a country estate, for starters. And we’d build a Retreat Center for Anthropologists, far from the distracting eye of their home universities. A place where they could write. And think. And talk. And yes, I know, there are plenty of these spots all over the place… That doesn’t matter. This was her dream. Her village. Her escape.

I looked at properties online, and found some fabulous deals. I looked at the pros and the cons:

Pros: Be with her. Write.
Cons: Leave SF. The heat.

Trading my house for someplace in rural France? I would have done that for her and her dream. I think. Even knowing that it was only one of her dreams. Her dream with me in it. Our dream. There were others.

And then (you probably guessed it): She got ill. Or rather, she got diagnosed. And well, while life does not stop after diagnosis (although to be sure, it can), it doesn’t stay the same either.

Her specialty, after all, was Healing and she was an expert in this regard. And what I found so validating to my own worldview was that it wasn’t too much later that she no longer gave a damn about healing anymore. Although she tried it, of course, on one last trip, to South America. It didn’t help, or not for long, anyway, and at long last she was ready to go.

Now, as is abundantly clear, I do not have a spiritual bone in my body, so it’s not like I’m wishing her a Dordogne afterlife. I know at the end she let go of that dream and most of the others as well. She did care about one thing and one thing only, and in this she was well satisfied.

She said she knew how to die. She just didn’t know how to live anymore. I asked to see her. Just say the word and I’d be there. She said ‘No’ again and again. And then at last, she was ready.

It was the end of the semester, and I was about to give Finals, when she said ‘Come!” — and I thought, great! As soon as I finish up the semester I’ll fly out. My passport was renewed. The ticket could go on a credit card.

And then, she was gone.

I still think about running away to Dordogne. There are some great deals still to be had, especially in this economy. A village would be nice, for all of us. Or a country estate, for starters. It’s so much closer to my fieldwork. And I could drop in on that friend in Jerusalem (despite misgivings).

Pros: Be with her. Write.
Cons: Leave SF. The heat.

Galina Lindquist — In Memoriam —
Memorial Day, 2008
Rest in Peace, sweetie.
You, and your little dog, too.

By mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.

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