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  • My cousin Jessica died tragically over the weekend.

    Yesterday I had to leave work early. I exited the restaurant bleary-eyed and soon found myself walking north, not sure where I was going. I entered the park and kept walking, walking. Letting my feet think for me.

    The air was bright white, spitting drops of rain and the occasional snowflake. Devoid of color, the dome of the sky disappeared so that it stretched taught like a drum over the leafless maples. The sun was obscured from view.

    As I walked I tried to piece together those memories I have of Jessi. Rolling down hills in Bangor at no more than four or five years old. Stumbling as she taught the younger cousins her choreography for an R Kelly song that we played over and over one summer – “if I could turn back the hands of time.”

    Jessi was an accomplished dancer and ballerina – something I knew but never witnessed. Even so, I can see her flowing through space, hair drawn up tight, slipping gracefully out of the pictures my aunt would send us at Christmas and that covered our refrigerator.

    As a teenager I remember falling asleep in our tent as she regaled us with stories about our one-day grown up lives. I remember thinking that surely she knew what love would be like. She had a tremendous capacity for love.

    Two years ago we joined our aunt and uncle on a sail to Catalina Island off of Los Angeles. One morning we left for a hike, winding through fields of cactus and manzanita. We stopped at a secret beach to sift through pebbles for polished beads of amethyst. On our way back to our mooring, I remember pausing on a bluff overlooking the ocean and suddenly sighting a pod of dolphins out to sea. There must have been at least a hundred of them, moving in and out of formation, dimpling the water so that it appeared to boil from a distance. We watched them for several minutes, wondering what school of fish they might be chasing, where they might be headed.

    I took a picture of the dolphins, and have since looked back at it on several occasions, trying to re-conjure the magic of that moment. In the photograph, the ocean looks out of focus, the dolphins mottled waves on an otherwise smooth horizon. Only my memory changes the picture.

    I would call myself a spiritual person. I don’t believe that anything is ever really lost but rather redistributed. I believe in souls, spirits, yes. But I imagine them not as human forms but rather glimpses, bursts of life. Entities that I know exist, even if I rarely see them. Perhaps a pod of dolphins rippling a far off ocean. In winter, the last flash of yolk-yellow light that illuminates a stand of naked maples on the crest of a hill. A nest of tiny spiders opening and dispersing on silver threads in a field. Those few minutes at dusk when the granite skirts of Maine’s rocky coast glaze gold and seem to float on the sea. Imprints. Flashes. And perhaps just knowing that something is there if not by its presence then by its absence.
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