walking back 

Sometimes only a long walk will work. I fled the house to stamp sightlessly along bridleways and through fields until eventually I could slow and breathe and start to look again. I walked to connect myself back to a world I recognised.

I'd been reading from a book examining the excavation of the mass graves in Bosnia and the importance of the work of forensic anthropologist Ewa Klonowski, who directs the recovery and classification of human remains. The physical recovery of clothes, of bones, is central to those left behind; a key element in their process of mourning. It reminded me of the first time I saw Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam and the photographs on the wall of those piles of shoes and of glasses that were discovered in the camps. In the same way that the ordinary objects left in a house after a death are so heavy with meaning that they're sometimes too painful to bear, it was seeing those careless piles that finally released the tears. 

The book is careful and rigorous and utterly devastating. When I'll have the courage to pick it up again I'm not sure, but how I admire those people who are prepared to face down their own horror and bear witness. 

The day outside is still and muted. There is nesting beginning already and the daffodils are pushing through. The world outside my window hasn't changed but inside me all is adrift. I think I need to get my boots on again. 

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Reader Comments (5)

Strength is truly needed for a situation like this. I have been blessed since I have not lost anyone dear to me...but I know that it will painful to see objects that were touched by them and remember. But yet, there is such a joy in the memories.

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermaria
I'm happy to have found your blog—this post—this chapter, had me pulled in from breath one. It made me halt and contemplate things if only for a moment. Something that is appreciated and needed.
January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracy
This seems extremely difficult reading. I believe another walk is necessary. You need more daffodils. Heck, I need daffodils just from reading about your reading. Take care, Denise
January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise | Chez Danisse
Maria, yes there is pleasure as well as sorrow in those objects and memories.

Tracy, thank you. As I'm happy to have found yours :)

Denise, It may seem perverse to read something that will clearly be distressing but as it's part of our recent European (and - in a complicated way - personal) history I feel it's important to try and understand it. But daffodils are necessary for sure.
January 25, 2012 | Registered Commenterlittle house
Beautifully said.
January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLecia

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