When my daughter died, I kept all the cards. There is a manila folder that says "Lucia" on the tab. Every card and note that came to my house, I tucked into the folder. I didn't look at them again in the months or years since. I know they are there. That is enough. The condolences were never lost on me. They were there, the words meaningless and important. What it did was made me love, feel love, feel loved, because of that, they did the most important job ever. Things change, some of those people are gone. But those condolences were the possibility of them staying, and it meant something.
There are so many things about the time of early grief that I want to study. The way I reacted to normal life, for example, or the feeling of being skinned alive and sent on my way. "Your baby was born dead. Then we removed all your skin. You are now free to leave the hospital. Watch for sharp corners, lemons, and salted foods."
I soak the photographs of the girl I once was in formaldehyde. I add in the compassion I had before, and the belief in me and my body. I have another jar entirely with luck, fortune, and giggly spirits. And one for good behavior and doing what I am told. I have a jar filled with the callouses that protected me from holding grudges. They fell off after she died. I put all those little fancy parts of my grief in jars, and keep them on the internet.
I tuck that grief away in yellow liquid, because it feels so unnatural, like a disease. It feels like it needs to be extracted, even though I know my baby died and I am supposed to feel this way, even three years later. I want to study my grief. To float it in liquid. I want to dissect it, pull the blackness out of the moldy chambers of me, weigh it, examine it, pluck out the lungs of it. I want to find the source of our fevers and weeping. I want to find ourselves in the lostness of our lives. I want to lose ourselves in the finding. "We are animals," this strange Victorian curio cabinet of my grief seems to say. "There is a natural connection between us all in this grief, even as it feels lonely and strange." I admit that there is a strong desire in me to make this grief feel natural and beautiful and at the same time, wrong. I wrap it in beautiful, curious words, nature scenes, very tiny spores even. It makes me invent scenes involving organic matter in formaldehyde and science labs. But the truth of it, something in me is dead and floating in dirty liquid.
There is a curio cabinet inside of me. I collect things in it. Symbols and full moon names, like tattoos on me. Strawberry Moon, Harvest Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Hunter's Moon...Lucia's Moon. I see them in script across my back. In the cabinet, there are the jars of who I was, and all these bits of grief. The grief looks like animal fetuses, unformed yet sleeping. They are the emotions I stopped and replaced with anger. There are also bones of animals. Any animal. The ones I crossed in the woods and saved, just because they were some other animal's child. And I would want a wolf to pick up Lucia's bones and keep her somewhere, gnaw on her and think of all we missed. There is a raven feather, because death birds surround me. And there are locusts dipped in gold. They are for Jess and the plagues that seemed to come to my home. There is a deer antler found in a bed of moss by a hippie girl who makes necklaces. She says they are naturally collected by her. I want to believe a caftan-wearing urbanite with Frye boots and a beaded headband tramps through the forest foraging for deer horns, rubbed off in spring, then strings them for grieving mothers. That seems like part of this mythic world I created on the internet after she died. We are magic here.
I am leaving for the weekend. It is a retreat with nuns and prayer and artwork and meditation. It is nestled in the woods. I might have a cigarette, even though I haven't smoked in a seven years. But I might. I always think that when I am around smokers, but I probably won't. I am not grieving this miscarriage. Not a right and proper grief like Lucia's death. My friend said there is a space in this community for not-grief too. The space to just be with a death. It just makes me think about all these years of grieving, collecting jars of the more curious parts of me. I still don't quite understand what happened to me in the last three years. I am different. Not better or worse, just different. Since I began bleeding a month ago, I have been expecting to wake up and be in early grief again, keening and uncomfortable, but it hasn't happened. I remember reading Monica saying that first miscarriage was harder than her son's stillbirth, because she wasn't expecting it. Or maybe I got that wrong, but what I said makes sense to me.
I drink down those jars of the old me, some days, expecting to be that person again who looks welcoming and smells good. I know it would work the same way as if my severed finger were in a jar and I tried to drink it back on. And maybe I don't even want to be that person, it's just sometimes this person's head is too loud, too morbid, too dark. And so I write in jars and put them on the internet.