There’s a tattoo on my middle back of a Californian horizon, rugged edges of a mountain in a desert with a single mid-century era chair, facing out toward the sun. The disjointed image is a memory of a place I love and an ode to a life I believe to have lived, another time ago. Joan kept that faint and peculiar knowing alive for me in her delicate and rare existence. Boundless essays and critiques of America in the 60s stamped a time I did not live as Emily Dawn, but collected again on a visit to California in November, 2017.
Have you ever known yourself to have had another life?
Last night when the news of her passing would have seeped out of New York City and across the world, I was in a deep rest on Australia’s Western Coast, my back sunburnt and thoughts dormant. When I woke to see the many posts and comments from Nitch to The New Yorker and friends in-between, I realised her spirit has passed through the earthly confines and back into the ether of black.
I had questions to ask her, notes scribbled across screens and paper about the virus, political superpowers and patterns stamped in decades. One of my later thoughts this morning, in her wake, was ‘who is going through her apartment? What recent entries did she make into a diary, surely there are many diaries’.
A handful of days before her death I wrote about her etchings on my soul regarding grief, loss and the unravelling of time. Timely, to feel I must finish that work before the sun set that day.
Joan Didion has cast us writers into a fervent mourn of curious proportions this morning. A sadness that our questions will go unanswered, a knowing there will be no more unique sentences but without question, a gift. This Christmas Didion’s spirit winked unto us writers, and we know exactly what she meant.
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