blue peninsula

by nicolecallihan

Tonight, I have the good fortune of organizing an event to celebrate blue peninsula. This powerful and poignant book written by Madge McKeithen chronicles the years after McKeithen’s son, Ike, is diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating and undiagnosed disease. Fed up with the butterflies and affirmations of “how to grieve books,” McKeithen turns to poetry (Dickinson and Doty; O’Hara and Rich), and with each poem and meditation in the book, we are so glad she did. Read the New York Times article: here.
In one passage called “In The Details,” McKeithen quotes George MacDonald: “The merest trifles,” he writes, “sometimes rivet the attention in deepest misery.” McKeithen goes on to explore our need for details and her satisfaction with the fact that they can “be chosen and edited.” She ends the section with this paragraph which, all morning (in between my cravings for dried apricots) I have read over and over:

I can hold details and know they are there, let go and know they once were. The way my grandmother’s Buick smelled of clove chewing gum, the Richie Rich funny books they bought us in Southern Pines–my missing her takes some of its shape from the shape she occupied when she was here. I start a list of the things that Ike enjoys–a way to see the present moment as specifically as I have been chronicling the decline. Today, I make plans to take him to a basket ball game at his brother’s college. I send him dried apricots for Valentine’s Day.

The book’s subtitle is essential words for a life of loss and change, and I truly recommend it to anyone whose life has ever felt dominated by those two things. Buy it: here.

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