I came in from my eight o’clock howl feeling, as usual, connected and purged. It’s a ritual not often honored in our contemporary lifestyle, to throw back your head and let pure sound come out, and the experience of hearing fellow humans from miles away joining the ululation is, well, special. It seems to be catching on around here.
John Prine died at the full moon, and that evening’s howl had powerful weight for me: celebration and grief. Tonight’s howl was just a howl until I came inside.
I got shaky and asked Conrad to come lie down on the couch with me for a bit; I needed full contact. And then the gate opened and the sobbing began. I had no idea why, the grief was just there. And we lay there, his face above me and his arms around me, and I just let it go. It felt familiar.
“It’s like being in labor.” I remembered the endless process, thirty-six hours before the OB realized that he hadn’t done pelvic measurements. “This baby’s not gonna get thru there, prep for C Section.” But until then, Conrad’s face was close to mine, riding the rapids with me.
These tears came from as deep a place. Our world is in labor, and we need a doula. The birthing is difficult, and the outcome is not guaranteed. I wiped my tears and tasted the salt. Earlier in the day, I’d wiped the blood from a shallow scratch and tasted the salt. If I’d tasted the fluid when my water broke I’d have tasted the salt.
We need salt. It’s in everything essential: tears, blood, pee, sweat, and amniotic fluid. Maybe our wild craving for Cheetos and potato chips is a signal that we’re missing a more essential salt: the salt of sorrow. We’re told that everything is normal, we just need to tend to business and all will be well. But we crave salt.
I think we crave connection with sorrow. Sorrow implies a connection with something that might be lost, an affirmation that it has value. This is not an old man on his last legs, that’s our grandpa. So let the tears flow, taste the salt, honor their source, and let it shape tomorrow.