Monday, October 31, 2016

Day of the Dead-- Día de Muertos

Huichol Skull with Peyote 

"When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past..."

Now is a time, traditionally, to honor the dead, especially our family and those we have loved. Naturally, I think of my parents both of whom suffered long, dreadful ends to their lives. I think of my two grandmothers to whom I was so close, whose affection warmed my heart and both of whom helped create the values I've held since childhood. Fond memories arise of my husband Darryl's grandmother, Aunt Edna, and his mother. I think too of my friends' loved ones and parents, especially life-long friend Lee Killian's parents who were always sweet and kind to me, and of Lee's uncles. I think of Julian Baird of San Francisco, my first gay lover, who invited me to San Francisco many times, with whom I lived for several months on Russian Hill. There are many other cherished friends now hid in death's dateless night, in the words of WS.

As The Day of the Dead and All Saints' Day arrive, my thoughts and emotions go back exactly thirty years. My closest friend, my kindred spirit, from 1969 until 1986 was murdered that October. His mother and family had his body taken back to Tulsa to be buried there, and they flew his companion and myself in their private plane to Tulsa. I recall it all as if yesterday, the flight, seeing Jim's mother, my primal scream, and seeing people masked with images of death everywhere we went in Tulsa. It was surreal and I had no idea what to do. I just let others lead me around. I gave a ring I wore that I bought in Mexico with Jim to be placed in his casket. His mother introduced me to her friends at the funeral as "like a son to Jim." 

Jim was the first person with whom I visited Mexico in 1971. We returned two more times and we both kept journals of our rich and powerful experiences throughout the country. We both lived at Johnny Mercer's home on Moon River and Jim completed his book on Keats and Yeats there. By our last trip together to Mexico, when Jim spent a year teaching there, I was already studying D.H. Lawrence for my Master's thesis and degree at Tulane, the university where we both earned our doctorates. When I moved from New Orleans back to Savannah, we held readings aloud of Proust, with a few friends, in the garden courtyard of my apartment on Oglethorpe Ave. In the early 1980s we alternated teaching the same course in Philosophy at Armstrong-Atlantic University in Savannah.

It was through Jim that I met Jake. Jim wrote a series of poems to Jake. In 1976 Jake and I became fast friends as we traveled together to New Orleans and a year later in '77 to San Francisco and Big Sur. We drove cross country and had intimate experiences that Jake called "enterprises of great pith and moment" (WS again). Later we both studied law and moved to Atlanta to attend Law School and work together in the Law Library of Ga. State University.

On the day of Jim's funeral on November 1, 1986, after the service and a gathering of the family, I flew back to Atlanta to attend Jake's wedding. Thus the surreal play of Thanatos and Eros in my disoriented psyche that day. Festivities of the Day of the Dead, of Día de Muertos, always conjure that day for me. And on the day itself, and those leading up to it, I dance in memory with them both, Jim and Jake. I feel their spirits around me and praise those remarkable years we shared together. 

James Land Jones

Jake Waldrop


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