Getting it Donne

The thing that everyone forgets, when writing long missives about how easy it is to be away from a loved one, is that it’s all complete bollocks.

This became glaringly obvious to me the moment that I found myself standing in the Halifax airport check-in hall, hung over, wearing my mother in-laws old paint spattered sweatpants, with day-old wedding hair, and a stomach churning from dodgy Thai leftovers.

I was crying my absolute eyes out because I felt as though my heart was being wrenched from my chest with a rusty ice claw.

And one would think that, having done this so many times before, that I would never forget how much this hurts, but for some reason, like child birth (I assume) and the act of running a marathon (I know), I just always forget.

Call it the John Donne syndrome. Some stodgy old British genius pens one poem about how gauche it is to show emotion about leaving your spouse for an extended period of time, and suddenly (okay, like 400 years later) we all want to pretend as though spending months away from your life-long kissing partner is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

And yes, I am aware that I am protesting a little too much. It’s been a cool sixteen hours since I bade farewell to Marc at ye good ole’ Standfield International, and my tear ducts are still a little raw. I know that once I get into the groove of things here in the city, the days and weeks and months will literally fly by and before I know it I’ll be back in his arms, cracking jokes about Elizabeth May and watching Danish cop shows.


Speaking of John Donne – I really shouldn’t be so harsh, because I really do love him and many of his works of metaphysical brilliance.

One poem, in particular, will always hold a very special place in my heart: A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning.

I have a very distinct memory of first hearing it in Literature 12, when Mr. Hill, our teacher, and one of my early great loves, read it aloud for the class. He fancied himself a sort of Falstaff/Leonard Cohen figure, and I am pretty sure he knew that most of the class was completely in love with him.

To this day, I don’t know if it was my crush, or the power of the oral word, but everything that he read that year has stuck with me.

At first, I thought Donne seemed pretty uptight, what with so much of his writing purposefully contrasting that of his Elizabethan contemporaries. Donne found most modern prose too smooth, too easy, and it was his aim to experiment with the concept of “dislocation”, peppering his writing with abrupt starts and stops, metaphors and ironies.

(You know, all of the good literary stuff that keeps us lazy readers on our toes.)

Check the below portion of the poem:

So let us melt, and make no noise,

   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;

‘Twere profanation of our joys

   To tell the laity our love.


Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,

   Men reckon what it did and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

   Though greater far, is innocent.


Dull sublunary lovers’ love

   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

   Those things which elemented it.


But we, by a love so much refined

   That our selves know not what it is,

Inter-assured of the mind,

   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.


Our two souls therefore, which are one,

   Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion.

   Like gold to airy thinness beat.

I will never, ever tire of the metaphor of the golden thread that ties Donne and his wife Anne together, and my favourite line is: “So let us melt, and make no noise.”

So let us melt and make no noise.

What a perfect image. Such a perfect thought.

It’s one that I think about often as I start a little bit of a new life here in Nova Scotia.

I am melting. And making just a little bit of noise.

I am thinking about healthy ways that I can keep busy. When I spend too much time in my head, I start to think about all of the things that are wrong and bad with me. I think about how much I weigh, or how little I am doing with my life, and why I am not writing more or running faster. I go rope-a-dope with myself as hard as I can until I am left unable to stand.

So last night I wrote out a list of goals that I want to achieve during my time here on the east coast. I found a small note pad of paper and wrote them out on a single sheet, before tucking them away in a chest of drawers.

I figured this would be the closest I could possibly get to burying them in the backyard, like some kind of elementary school time capsule.

(I think about a lot of weird things sometimes. Like, for instance, do you think if someone ran over the person who one week prior ran over their husband that anyone would believe that she didn’t do it on purpose? P.S. This didn’t actually happen and I am not this woman.)

Part of my three-month plan is to go to bed each night having written out a few things that I would like to achieve over the course of the next day. So today saw me signing up for a gym membership and registering myself for two ten kilometer races – one in September and one in October. They are both races put on by MEC and I figure they’re good bets because I’ve loved running their Vancouver series. My cousin David has also started running and he has his own goals of completing a 10k race, so he’ll be joining me on the start line.

It’s always so much nicer to have someone with you on race day.

Another catalyst for these goals is that fact that I don’t have many friends here, and I figure if you don’t have friends, you might as well just get really fit (and hopefully make some friends in the process.)

But mostly I am really trying to melt.

I am trying to be nice to myself.

I am trying to melt.

And to make good noise.

Oh, my heart. My heart.

I like knowing where others have been.

A woman’s perfume that lingers. The faint trace of a cigar, long-extinguished.

It makes me think about all of the lives I may never know.

All of the hearts I may never touch.

This morning I woke to a stretching sun. A ball of bleached blues and sherbet hues, melting its way across the frozen skyscape.


Before the herald of the first alarm, I silently stole from my scattered dreamspace, and crept into the cool dark of the house.

Nymeria yawned and quietly mewled from her corner of the chesterfield, her eyes squinting in discomfort as I turned on one of the small side lamps.

The soft light illuminated the many discarded tea mugs and half-finished books populating the table space of the room.

(Hallmarks of a busy workweek and my inability to ever finish a drink.)

I drank a demi-cup of sugary, dark coffee, and read from one of the books, marvelling all the while at the stark beauty, ablaze, across the New Westminster waterfront.

I then slipped into my beautiful new running pants, laced up my runners, and set forth to immerse myself in the golden glow of a world, seemingly reborn.

There are times in my life, where I am unable to stop myself from crying. Tears stream easily, unencumbered from the corners of my eyes. They are fat pearls of emotion – of happiness beyond equation.

Beyond compare.

And this morning I cried.

Racing time.

Racing an untameable sun.

I felt as though I could keep moving forever. That I might blend my body to my path, eternal.

Returning home, I caught a fragrance of a women. And for that moment, I breathed a life; a mind, body and soul – now vanished, or perhaps vanquished – within the thrum and hum of a waking day.

And I was hit with a sense of nostalgia so strong, I quaked.

I was five and cuddled up next to my mother as she read aloud to me on my bed; I was ten and exploring my grandparent’s basement bookshelves, as the dust swirls sparkled in the amber light; I was nineteen and working late closing shifts, experimenting with eye contact and fake names; twenty-four and riding my bike down Hagley Road under the muggy, Brummy sun; twenty-nine and dancing my heart out, my hair stuck to my back, and my calves like two hot rocks; thirty-five and forty-four, and sixty-seven; I was past, present, and yet-to-be present.

Who are we all?

Why are we here?

From where are we going?

Infinitesimal sums of beauty and strength, of wonder and light, of magic and marvel, of love, of love, of love.

So just keep breathing.

And let in the light.