Ursula le Guin died today and when I read the news I felt an overwhelming rush of sadness. Weird. I wasn’t a huge died-in-the-wool leGuin fan – not because she’s not deserving of it (by the accounts of many many trusted folk, she most certainly is) but just because that was the way my particular reading-cookie crumbled. But her presence and her very existence just felt so important.
And she was 88, so not so very young by any means. Some get more, but not many get much productive or enjoyable more, so it doesn’t feel like some tragedy in itself – her death.
I never know which celebrity death is going to resonate with my heart strings and which will just get straight away accepted. Leonard Cohen – who means /meant more to me and growing up me, and coming of age me, and losing my religion me, and writing bad poetry me, and writing passable poetry me, and wandering streets alone me, and drunk me, and oblivion-seeking me, and sober and hopeful me, and …
I could go on.
Leonard Cohen’s passing didn’t devastate me. I wasn’t even all that sad that I didn’t see him in concert because I’m not sure I really wanted to see him in a big concert, and that was the only choice that was left to me. Leonard Cohen plays to me in my mind still, in my own private head-concerts.
And the day I learned of his death I got on with the usual business of living life and I don’t think I even played much of his music ’til a goodly while later.
But then David Bowie! And yes, there was this part of my life, these few bordered years where I was completely obsessed with David Bowie and his songs. And yes I’ve fallen in love with the Goblin King every time I’ve watched Labyrinth, but all the same I was surprised how deeply sad and lost I felt for about a week around the time of David Bowie’s passing. I felt like I was mourning some lost part of myself that I never lived out.
Maybe I lived out my inner Leonard Cohen, but not so David Bowie.
The day after I did my eyes a little more glittery and wore ice-coloured lipstick to school. No one noticed but me and that was exactly the way I wanted it to be.
So do I have an inner Ursula le Guin that I feel has never come to the surface. Nah, I don’t think that’s it. Sadness doesn’t have to all come from the same reason, does it? But I think she was like this little pool of constant magic in the world. Like knowing a fountain of eternal youth exists somewhere – that can be enough, even if you don’t ever get around to seeking it out.
And I can’t say like I feel magic has drained out of the world with her passing because the books are still there and I’m super lucky because I haven’t even read them all!
But maybe I feel a little like The Last Unicorn passed into the sea. Or maybe she’s just returned to her forest.
And a lot of people who are my friends are sad – and I’m not just sad, I’m emotional. I feel like my feelings are exposed – those uninsulated wires at risk of surges of charge and crossing wires and pain and surprise and all that unexpected messy feelings stuff.
I’ve just been feeling it a little today. It’s actually not horrible to feel things a bit keenly. G. wrote some lovely words and I read them while supervising an exam and had to be careful of the sudden proximity of my bladder to my eyes!
Sometimes, you mourn the potential cut short by death; the books that might have been written, the things that might have been done.
And at other times, you mourn as a mark of respect for someone who used every bit of their talent to the fullest, and never left a word unsaid.
How much would I love to have that said about me at any point in my life; to have used every bit of your talent to the fullest! How amazing.
I’ve been busy these last few days trying to convince myself that it’s okay to be mediocre because of the cost of greatness and the selfishness of greatness and about how it’s a choice and it’s a valid choice to walk a normal good-person path.
And now today I’m not so sure. Maybe that’s why my eyes have been filling with tears.
But whatever: I hope the lady has a most excellent next adventure.