Sunday, August 12, 2007


My brother was a hunter. When he turned seventeen, camouflage began to show up in our house and he began waking earlier than the sun to go sit in blinds on the edges of fields--waiting for geese to fly overhead. We argued about it, even then--when I was just a ten-year-old girl, I had strong ideas and couldn't fathom that this brother who rarely so much as raised his voice had enough darkness in him that he wanted to shoot birds out of the sky. It was a jarring paradox to me--the kindhearted hunter. One time, just before Thanksgiving, he killed two geese and brought them home, dropping his muddy boots beside the front door. I was so upset that I didn't offer my congratulations like the rest of the family did...I stormed out front and sat on the porch, crying, the cold dusk closing in. A little while after, he came outside--sat on the bench beside me and said,
"So, what's up?"
"Nothing," I muttered.
He just sat there, the moment silent but for the voices of the family inside and the last leaves skittering down the pavement with the wind kicking up.
I blurted, "I just don't understand why you have to kill innocent creatures. It's so mean. You don't even care."
He was quiet, waiting for me to continue. I sat there and caught my breath instead.
"I do care," he said, "I say thank you when I get a goose--I am not doing it just for sport, I will eat it. It's going on the Thanksgiving table."
"No way."
He laughed gently, "Yes way...Mom already said she'd cook it up with turkey." He paused, "See? You'll eat turkey--how come you're not angry at the farmer who raised it?"
I felt the contradiction--he had me there and I knew it, but all I could say was, "The farmer isn't you."
"I'm sorry you're upset," he elbowed me, "Come inside--it's getting cold."
Then he went back into the house and I sat for several minutes thinking of what I'd was also true--I was upset because it was him--my brother. I just couldn't understand.

By the time he was gone, we'd had countless discussions about hunting, nature, and connectedness. I still didn't agree with it, but I had a deeper awareness about what compelled him to sit for hours in the blue-black cold, watching puffs of his breath rise and the stars dissolve into dawn. He hardly ever brought geese home with him--but, I understood later that this wasn't really what my brother was out to capture anyway. It was the stillness. He died in a September four days before his twentieth birthday and for weeks and months afterward, geese trailed through the sky in their perfect V-formations--making me cry and cry. Every single year since, I hear their jagged calls and watch them overhead and think of my brother and remember.

In my writing, my brother is often alive again--with a pen and paper, my memories of him flare up in real time. He is able to speak, to have muddy boots, to comfort me. I tried a little while ago to put an anthology together to honor him--to honor anyone who has lost a sibling and wanted to share their essay with me. A small publisher had expressed interest and stories began trickling in...something was happening. But, reading the essays--as lovely as they were--re-opened old wounds for me. I was ill for many months and with my physical strength depleted and my emotional strength taut, I shelved the project completely...indefinitely. Until very recently, when I felt that urge again to make sense of this loss in my life and what it has meant to me in a more public way. My sorrow is a very private thing--but I know so many others out there have experienced this loss--which is always considered secondary to that of the parents "who've lost their child" or spouses and children "who've lost lovers or parents". In my experience, it has always been a very rare person who acknowledges the full impact of what losing my brother did to my identity...I know I am not the only one.

So, when I sat at my computer on Friday and added a page to my website about my re-launched anthology project--my heart was pounding with possibility. I believe in the value of this work and I now have two years of editorial experience. I want to be an outlet for other sibling's stories--writing them out is such a powerful act of ownership and remembrance. I sat poised to publish the page online and I heard something outside. It had been ninety-five degrees with oppressive humidity...the heart of the summer pulsing in its parched rhythm, driving us to air-conditioned sanctuary. Impossible to hear what I thought I did. But then, it came again--the broken calls of geese in flight. I pushed my chair back and waited--my words about loss glowing on the screen before me. When it rose again, I leapt up and ran out there--not a day for fall, but winds had picked up in the sunset and great swaths of clouds rolled by, driving off the heat. I scanned the sky--empty--I knew it would be, I was just imagining the weeks-too-early sounds of migration. I stood for a moment and then they crossed, just overhead--dozens and dozens of them. More than I'd ever seen in one group...not in an orderly V-formation, but a misshapen cluster. I watched them fly by so low I could see their downy underbellies and hear the steady thumping of their wings. Their chorus of voices answered me and I felt tears rise at this uncanny coincidence...I felt blessed. Their call and response was a gift to me. I know now that I will do all that I can to get this project off the ground...


Blogger Sunday Scribblings said...

Whew. Beautiful and haunting -- you give ME goosebumps. I'm so sorry for your loss -- and so glad you are reopening the possibility of this book that sounds like it could do so much good for so many.

12:10 PM  
Blogger January said...

Talk about goosebumps! I'm so happy you decided to pick up this project again. What a way to honor your brother. You can do this. And we'll be with you all the way.

2:44 PM  
Blogger raymond pert said...

It's beyond me how these things happen. What hand forms these moments of mystery so that geese flew overhead at such a timely moment. It' beyond me. It's awe inspiring.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Rob Kistner said...

Bewitching, sad, poignant -- thank you for sharing... and the best with your project!

4:56 PM  
Blogger Tammy said...

I really get your brother for I'm married to a kindhearted bird hunter. I argue just the same but I'm happy your brother sends you signs. What a horrible loss Delia. BIG HUG

Great writing, always!

6:20 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

...Perfect. A perfect moment of Spirit.

Have you ever looked up the totem story behind them? I bet it would also have meaning to you, like your butterfly. ;)

I have just finished reading a memoir that just kicked my ass. It makes me realize how important it is to relate these truths, and tell these stories. How much they can mean to other people.


11:59 PM  
Blogger Cynthia E. Bagley said...

this is a beautiful tribute to your brother. What killed him?

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for your loss and as always, in complete awe of your writing.

Your words honor your brother and your love for each other.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Becoming Amethyst said...

Sending you love and support in starting this project up again, Delia ~ I'm behind your decision all the way xox

9:31 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

i'm so glad you're continuing with the project (and have i said yet how much i love your website?) - it is an important one, and one that will give comfort and clarity to so many... love you, beautiful xx

3:36 PM  
Blogger Melba said...

I waited to read this post of yours because somehow I just knew...

What a gift! Your brother's spirit coming to encourage you.

I know this project will be all you want it to be.

9:48 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

On Saturday night the geese flew over my house lower than I've seen them before. I could hear their wings through the open window. There's something majestic and yet simple about these birds - it seems they want to tell me something too.

I'm glad you're moving ahead with the anthology. You've got powerful work to do with this.The website is very good...I looked around and liked what I saw.

This piece of your brother's story, and your own, holds so much life. He must have been a wonderful big brother.

I'm not sure I'm ready yet to write a longer piece about my sister, but I'd like to try. These siblings of ours still need to be heard.

12:27 AM  
Blogger Trenting said...

What a powerful post! I love how you write :)

8:56 AM  
Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

Words fail me. That is such a beautiful, heartfelt poignant writing. I can't understand your loss. I can't fathom it. But as you say, you can take on that project and help us understand better.

Ironic isn't it? My post is about my dad..

10:09 PM  
Anonymous sandhya said...

It's hard to open up those wounds of loss, but doing so does bring us closer to those who have passed. I just wanted to say how beautiful this piece was - and wish you good luck with your project.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Lacithecat said...

Oh I am so sorry and I too think your endeavour would mean a lot to others. I wish you well with it!

5:07 PM  
Blogger daisies said...

warm hugs dear one ... this has convinced me that i will sit down and write it all out as my heart needs to, to bring her alive in my words ... xox

10:15 PM  
Anonymous gel said...

Oh, sweet gentle soul who has such a wonderful gift in writing, this piece moves me in ways that will stick with me forever. I have not lost a sibling to death. The ache of no contact and loss is incomparable to yours, yet the visceral pain within me surfaces immediately when wounds are re-opened. I understand that happening from reminders. Trauma has occurred to me in different ways.

I'm glad that you are now in a place where you feel this writing project can be reopened. I have always felt that is is utterly awful that the loss of a sibling is considered by society to be secondary to that of a spouse, lover, or child. Your writing is always a treasure to read. May this book keep your brother's memories alive while reaching others. It's a generous and courageous idea.

best to you,

12:52 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

I found you through Mahima and I just wanted to say I was very touched by this writing. Recently I was in gathering of women. None of us knew each other very well - but as it turned out 3 women had lost brothers. When this was discovered there was a poignant tender feeling that spread around the group. I imagine your project would be a place of comfort and solace and connection for many who have no place of exploration for the feelings. I am very sorry you have lost your brother but after reading your writing I do hope you are able to complete your project because it would be a gift not only for him but for others who feel a similar loss.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

Thank you all for your feedback and kindness...I hope anyone who would like to submit will feel inspired to do so. If you know someone who has lost a sibling and would be interested in participating in this project, please forward this information!

12:22 PM  

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