Grief is a strange thing. So is memory.
There’s a place you pass on your way from Yosemite to the Bay. It’s not a particularly noticeable place. The road goes so very slightly downhill there that you might not notice the slope at all. In summer, the surrounding grass plains are golden yellow from invasive grasses that can’t survive California summers. There, as you ride back to civilization, is a low table mountain-like feature, a kind of a border between the Sierra foothills and the rest of the world. About two-thirds up that feature, there’s a lip of slightly more resilient sediment that eroded at slower pace and created a sort of a step in the layers, a kind of an awning. A clear line in history of earth on which snow piles up in winter.
This place came to the forefront of my mind unexpectedly, unwanted and uninvited, when I read the last sentence of The Magicians and closed the book. I had been successfully avoiding any and all memories of home until that point—but then there it was, as if someone had snuck up on and stabbed me with a hunting knife from behind, and my heart was being torn out of my chest in one smooth, excruciatingly slow motion.
It was grief so strong it felt physical, and I let it consume me for a few moments, seeing that place in my mind’s eye as if I was really there. The hot summer air dried out my lips as the golden grass swayed past my waist—all the while snowflakes fell on my hair and stroked my cheeks.
That day, I relized you can’t tell grief and memory what to do. They’re concepts as alive as you and I. They have their own minds, just like humans, and they’ll barge in on you when you expect it the least. In some other universe, I believe they exist in their own physical bodies; so real and so alive they are. Maybe it’s time to treat them as such; indeed, to treat them as guests: with kindness and a cup of tea in hand.