this is a benediction for mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“No his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity of our love.
-"AValediction: Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne

“They came on a cargo boat, locked in mourning up to their necks because of Bayardo San Roman's misfortunes, and with their hair hanging loose in grief. Before stepping onto land, they took off their shoes and went barefoot through the streets up to the hilltop in the burning dust of noon, pulling out strands of hair by the roots and wailing loudly with such high-pitched shrieks that they seemed to be shouts of joy. I watched them pass from Magdalena Oliver's balcony, and I remember thinking that distress like theirs could only be put on in order to hide other, greater shames.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold


I’ve been running through a catalog of deaths in my head, all the ones I’ve known and seen in my short time on earth. Death as in physical death, when someone’s heart stops beating, and death as in absence, when someone is no longer in your life. We suffer these little deaths every day.

Around me, I see buried sorrows and hints of sadness, blatant joys and feigned buoyancy. I see fidgety fingers and anxious, worn faces. Melancholia disguises itself as exhaustion, gloom as anger. But rarely do I see grief--publicly, unashamedly, explicitly. I know of its existence, but do not hear it, do not know it, except my own, which I hold inside my mouth, like a foreign object.

Grief is often pitied rather than welcomed, or honored. Mourning, after all, is a rite, a cultural complex of behaviors that follow death. Wearing black. Fasting. Post-mortem portraits. The Victorians, in particular, had intricate mourning rituals that fixated on memorializing the dead, which included stopping clocks at the time of a death, wearing locks of hair from the deceased, and marking one’s house with badges of mourning: closed piano lids, drawn blinds, black crepe draped on mantles. Their death rates were so high and life expectancies so short that these rituals were sacrosanct, a way of making life a prayer for the dead, and these rituals were observed and codified the way people nowadays observe and codify their morning coffee routines, as if their life depended on it. But frequency doesn’t make death any less challenging, and ritual doesn’t make it any less confusing, disgusting, or horrifying.

Death is a certainty, and the anticipation of death, or the fear of it, worms its way into how we conduct ourselves and how we love each other--every single day. Despite death’s hovering--and its inevitability and constancy and inescapability--no one has taught me how to mourn, which is the passage that the deceased leave for the living. Instead I am witness to these forms: withdrawal, shock, numbing, distraction, escape. American psychology has categorized grief as if it were a science: there is “normal grief”--grief that is “eventually lessened as a person readjusts to their loss, and “abnormal grief,” or “complicated grief,” which is then sub-divided into five categories: chronic, delayed, disenfranchised, exaggerated, and sudden. The four phases of grief are: numbness; searching and yearning; disorganization and despair; and reorganization and recovery; which are accompanied by four tasks “that need to be accomplished in order for mourning to be completed,” sterile, dry, prescriptive measures for coping with loss. It is easy to say: “work through the pain” and “emotionally relocate the decease and move on,” as if we were the machines in an assembly line that had buttons corresponding to our functions and switches we could turn on and off. And you would think that the psychologist who studied and analyzed grief and made these pronouncements would have understood, by the very complexity which he/she faced by even attempting to confront the living aftermath of death, that any easy solution, any simple categorization, any silly pronouncement at all would be not only an affront to anyone who has had to pick up all the broken glass of death, but also proof that the psychologist either never dealt with grief or was dealing with it “abnormally.” To the emotive, simplification of emotions feels like an offense. False understanding, a terrible insult.

Where is the phase of grief in which you try to make sense of it all? And making sense can be as sorrowful as it is joyful, as comforting as it is infuriating. I have no examples to follow for how to mourn, so I thrust myself into grief by investigating the sorrows of my memory, the sadnesses that have been transcribed into word, the deaths that have passed before me; I search through the archives of books and stories and music that other people have made in the wake of death. I think to myself, maybe they can guide me. They’ve done it before. Sometimes finding the ache of past tragedy, or fictional tragedy, or someone else’s tragedy, makes dealing with my own easier. It is possible, but not necessarily beneficial, to deflect heartache by mourning old losses. How strange and wonderful and morbid: to use the stale pain of the past as a salve, the way dentists apply a pasty topical anesthesia to your gums before injecting you with novocaine--the real anesthestic. Numbing yourself to lessen the pain of really numbing yourself, which I suppose makes it all the more bearable, somehow.

I read “Cold Pastoral” again, the short story published post-mortem by Yale graduate Marina Keegan (this is her post-mortem portrait, I supposed), who died in the summer of 2012 from a freak car accident. The story is eerie, given the circumstances of its publishing: a girl finds and reads the diary of her lover, who has just killed himself. The whole story is a series of ordinary moments in her life after his death, death being a pivot in the lives of the conscious, the way it saran-wraps the mundane, muffles, distorts, gnaws. Death inflicts so many other deaths; our hearts were not meant to love in absence. Claire, the protagonist of “Cold Pastoral,” must not only grapple with absence but also the insecurities and uncertainties that death reveal (through his diary, the unspoken confessions of the psyche)--they were always there, we just see them more clearly in the wake of tragedy.

I comb through old emails, finding the saddest news people have sent me. One subject line reads “Tragedy.” It is from June of 2010, an email from my dad that reads, “Joann, Richard just passed away from heart failure. Please call Taipei.” In a hotel room in Japan, I beckon my mom over to read this email--there is no way I can speak those words to her, of her brother’s death. He was found on the streets outside of a bar in Taiwan. Cardiac arrest. By the time he was brought to the hospital, it was too late. I do not have the courage to be death’s messenger. Sometimes we have no choice.

In April of 2012, a month before we graduate, an email arrives in my inbox with the subject “Sad news.” It is a “tragic passing,” reads the email, of a dear friend, who, we find out later in whispered word, hanged herself in her closet, in the middle of the night. “There was no foul play,” the email reassures, with no specifics. The vague language is supposed to be a comfort? It is insensitive to be specific about death, so we leave the grief shrouded in the box it came in, and we just carry that box around with us, unsure of what’s in it, terrified to open it, but unwilling to let it go. That weekend, I walk up and down the Charles River, bleary-eyed, swollen, mostly with confusion. I ask why, over and over again. Death is a permanent disappearing act, and don’t we all long for permanence, eternity? Two years later, I don’t know what to do with her contact information, which is still in my phone. Deleting her feels like a betrayal; keeping her feels silly, useless. Forgetting seems to be the most tragic act of all. Preserving the dead is preserving the self. We don't want to forget, but mostly we don't want to be forgotten.

I recently finished reading The Fault in Our Stars, a young-adult novel about two teens, who fall in love, both cancer patients, both on the uncertain precipice of death. It is poignant and complex, a book more about questions than answers. The novel also presents a meta-narrative in which the two teens travel to Amsterdam to find the sequel to their favorite book, which they can both relate to, because the book, An Imperial Affliction, is about a young girl with cancer. They want to know what happens to the characters left behind after she dies. This desperation for clarity grips them, even though the reason they like the book in the first place is because it portrays death accurately: "You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence."And despite the sweetness of nostalgia (a side-effect of cancer they say, a side-effect of dying), Hazel says this more than once: "You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect," a fact that horrifies me, because in the wake of grief, I think to myself, "All I have are words. At least I have words." Throughout the book, you see so many articulations of grief: the grief that takes hold in anticipation of death, the grief that nonetheless shocks and strangles despite its anticipation, the grief that does not change you, but reveal you, says Hazel's father. There are many ways of coping: Hazel's mother devotes her every waking moment to her sick daughter; Hazel's father just cries; Peter Van Houten drinks and yells. Perhaps the most courageous act of coping is also the most irreverent and least reluctant: Augustus, who has picked out his own burial spot and death suit, holds a pre-funeral funeral for himself, so he can hear the eulogies given for him. "Funerals, I decided, are for the living," narrates Hazel. The imminence of death urges an examination of life, as do the simple and stark differences between the living and the dead: “I knew that time would not pass for me differently than it would for him--that I, like everyone in that room, would go on accumulating loves and losses while he would not. And for me, that was the final and truly unbearable tragedy: like all the innumerable dead, he’d once and for all been demoted from haunted to haunter."

There's an account found in the second volume of Edward Eyre's Journal of Expeditions, in which the nineteenth century English explorer witnesses a death wail by the women of an indigenous Australian peoples called the Nar-wij-jerook tribe. In the aftermath of violence between two tribes, the women coat their heads with lime, approach the area where the deceased lay and begin wailing loudly, while lacerating themselves--their thighs, backs, and breasts--with pieces of glass and shell. Blood spills amidst these moans. The codification of grief--even if in such a horrifying and public display--is honest and unashamed; a way of accepting, not mastering death; of acknowledging, not denying grief; feeling sorrow, instead of pretending everything is ok. Senselessly throwing yourself into an unintelligible void is okay. Trying to stand still, or to be unmoved, is okay too. No matter what, death is not soluble. It does not just dissolve into nothing. It is a choke, a bone lodged in your throat, the disaster you weren’t awake for, the scream whose echoes mercilessly resound. Death is not silent. We will continue to bury bodies, but we will never bury death itself.


these are meditations on Jacob Montague's All Creatures

I’ve always found it easier to ask people for prayer than to pray myself—perhaps because believing in the existence of God is easier than connecting to Him. Without the latter, I couldn’t pray. So I asked my mom to pray for me. I asked my friends to pray for me. I asked strangers to pray for me. I wrote the prayers of saints and other God-loving humans on index cards and carried them around in my jacket pockets until I accidentally laundered them and they disintegrated into lint. But one thing I could do was sing hymns—which never felt trite and silly to me like Christian pop songs. I hoped the spirit of these hymns would become my own as I whispered a single refrain over and over again—Be Thou My Vision, Be Thou My Vision, Be Thou My Vision.

The first song on Jacob Montague’s newest album All Creatures has one single refrain like this. A single, repeated piano note opens up a path for this proclamation: In Him Was Light, chants a chorus of angelic voices, creating an orb of atmospheric sound. In Him Is Light. What was still is, and what is will be; this is a declaration not of existence but of discovery. The sound thickens with a perky clarinet, a rousing, awakening spirit that becomes more expansive with a heavy drum line that sounds like a call to war.

All Creatures is a marriage of disparate feelings: of praise for creation and of despair for destruction. This is also a marriage of unlikely sounds—wind instruments with electronic synth, mandolin with percussion samples—this kind of tinkering orchestration is Jacob’s strength. Each song is a narrative unto itself, with a wide and complex range of emotional and aural frequencies. No sound is filler, and no one instrument dominates. Somehow Jacob weaves together a smooth patchwork quilt, with slightly frayed and jagged edges. Unlike his previous solo work, this album includes lyrics, voices, and a whole cast of instruments—more than twelve in total: you’ll hear clarinet, organ, banjo, theremin, trombone, and a toy piano, among other delightful curiosities. Jacob even uses found sounds that he records here and there in San Francisco, where he lives.

The title of the album All Creatures makes reference to the hymnal lyrics written by St. Francis of Assisi in 1225, a focal point of the work. It’s tempting to use religious allusions to give off spiritual airs—like donning a habit, or wearing a cross—or to get people to take you seriously, but there is no naiveté or pretense here. Instead, Jacob borrows the rich language and imagery of the stories, liturgies, and canticles of St. Francis, which deepen the lyrical narrative while widening the musical landscape. Deft allusions expand our understanding of the spirit, not the spirituality of the album.

The songs that follow are woven together cohesively in both name and sound: “In Him Was Light,” “Tinder/Spark,” “Doxology,” “Canticle of the Sun,” “All Creatures,” and “Sermon to the Birds”—forming a tight album that is under twenty minutes long, with repeating motifs of light and dark. The album feels like one single life with different phases—not unlike the Psalms, which are attentive to complex emotional vacillations; or the life of St. Francis, whose character we understand through anecdotes and tales. You’ll play it over and over again because there’s more to hear each time, and the ending feels almost premature, like you’ve only heard the first chapter in a great novel.

In person, Jacob is tall and unassuming, with a dark beard and wiry glasses that could have belonged a physicist from the 80s. He doesn’t speak loudly, but he speaks playfully. His sense of humor is so earnest that it almost feels politically incorrect, but it’s a sense of humor that needs an audience to be effective. Despite his quiet demeanor, he’s a people-person, and that shows on this album.

In the past, Jacob’s solo albums have been exclusively instrumental, artful demonstrations of himself as a composer, arranger, tinkerer, and musician, but the vulnerability that bleeds through All Creatures is a new strain—one that comes through the meditative lyrics and the communion of musicians and voices that Jacob brings together, his own voice an instrument unto itself. This communion in the making of the album is faithful to the communion on which this album hinges: the relationships between all creatures and God and man.

Yet creation and destruction go hand in hand, and not without tension either. Inevitably, we find that the coexistence of life and death is essentially the war between the two, and that cycles of life are made possible through death—soil, heartbreak, and sacrifice. “Doxology,” which literally means “glory-saying,” begins with solemn praise engulfed in a space of reverberating, electronic sounds that stretch upward to a cathedral ceiling. A glockenspiel chimes. A trombone plays. “Praise him from whom all blessings flow. Praise him from creatures here below.” The words of a common doxology familiar to many of us transition into a declaration of destruction: “You destroyed them like ships at sea, shattered by the east wind.” Here echoes of sorrow swirl with echoes of praise. The Portuguese use the word saudade to describe a beautiful sadness, a love that remains despite absence, and this is the nuanced, in-between feeling that “Doxology” captures—which isn’t completely wholesome, and never fully resolved. Sometimes the glazed-over effervescence of praise that doesn’t acknowledge sorrow seems silly and incomplete, like a line from a poem by Nazim Hikmet: “You have to feel this sorrow now—for the world must be loved this much if you're going to say ‘I lived.’” The most captivating part of the song is toward the end, when the trombone emerges in a funeral march that spirals downward into a round of voices. “Canticle of the Sun,” picks back up with the whimsy of clarinet and banjo, proclaiming, “We don’t need candles anymore.” There is enough light here.

In the hour of St. Francis’ death, a flock of morning larks, the saint’s favorite bird, emerged out of darkness despite their dread of twilight. Flying flow, they circled above the house where the body of St. Francis lay, sweetly singing, a bird choir both praising and mourning. Now the larks were not only birds of sorrow and grief, but also birds of glory and paradise. With his last breath, the soul of St. Francis, God’s troubadour, now winged and transcendent, ascended to heaven, like a moth scrambling towards light. This album is a scrambling towards light: an album that, despite its brevity, contains the knotted glories of both tragedy and praise.

Download All Creatures for free.


this is a reflection/refraction

table of contents




A February Saturday: I had woken up flustered at how late it was (10 am), ate leftover Chinese takeout while standing in front of the fridge, and ran down to the coffee shop for a cappuccino to calm myself down, to chat with Rita and Emma and Dena and Hector about the flowers on the counter and my distress and the grey skies. In the early afternoon, Crystal and I headed out of the city, to another city, floating from one train to another, perfectly content in the in-betweens, in the waiting. We were reading the same book. Bearing the first rainfall of the season. We bought pastries from a Korean bakery and got lost on the Berkeley campus. With enough time and distance, college life seemed charming again. When we arrived at the Berkeley Art Museum, we were triumphant, and the receptionist told us, "You guys look so happy to be here!" We were.

THE POSSIBLE correspondence.

Anzfer Farm constructions.

Natalie So, rug deputy
"Domestic Integrities rug deputies (Caroline Walters, Francesca Ferreira-Caruana, Valentina Castro, Rumi Koshino, Natalie Palms, and Natalie So) specially trained in the crochet technique will periodically be working on expanding the rug with locally donated clothes and textiles. They will also train museum visitors who want to help work on the rug." 

"I knew that if I didn't create a structure for seeing people in a stimulating, meaningful way, I might lose touch completely."
-Fritz Haeg, on living and making art in L.A.

Someone recently asked me, "What motivates you and what doesn't?" I replied, "I am motivated by the common good, by people I love and my accountability to them, by art and self-expression, by self-discovery and growth, by what's right and honorable and true. I am not motivated by jealousy, ambition, or money."

These days, the energy I give to the people and places and occupations of my life is in proportion to my priorities, which should be obvious, or revealing, or convicting. For me, this is relieving. I have been spending my time gathering around the table with the ones I love, mostly in, once in awhile out. One night, we ate in the backseat of a car on the way to the movie theatre. Most of the time, the food seems secondary, a transient delight that moves through the mouth into the stomach, but a blessing nonetheless, a reason we lean on to gather, a means to an extraordinary communion. Here's to the company I've been keeping, to the ones I love. 

A little New York fire escape moment at Kirsten's charming studio in Nob Hill. Eggs, berries, chocolate chip banana bread. I could stay here forever.

Beating the brunch line by taking advantage of weekday breakfast, at Plow. Korin and I plan to eat our way through all the breakfast nooks in the city. No waiting for brunch, ever.

Dave Lomas' book came out and we celebrated at a quirky Victorian house in the Lower Haight.

Chinese New Year was properly celebrated with takeout from Mission Chinese and Big Lantern, by candle light, in an empty apartment.

Chess mates. 

"Yet you could feel a vibration in the air, a sense of hastening. It had started with the moon, inaccessible poem that it was. Now men had walked upon it, rubber treads on a pearl of the gods. Perhaps it was an awareness of time passing, the last summer of the decade. Sometimes I just wanted to raise my hands and stop. But stop what? Maybe just growing up."
-Patti Smith, Just Kids

I have had a long history with granola. From the days of eating a big bowl of it with Puffins, banana, and almond milk when I came home from school to summers at home testing recipe after recipe, granola has become an easy comfort. Making it is a familiar rhythm, in which I can build any permutation using a basic methodology. My affinity for granola also comes from its many possibilities: the classic and novel flavor profiles, the infinite ingredient combinations, the variety of never-agreed-upon recipes. 

This Oakland house--and my two very good friends in it--were in dire need of some granola.

And so it was made: oats, black sesame seeds, pecans, pepitas, maple syrup, extra fruity olive oil, extra salt, and brown sugar. We were going to add in dried cherries too but they looked like little turds and ruined the aesthetics of the granola. No can do.

I am rarely impressed by store-bought granola, but ate this breakfast granola bowl (with Damn Fine Granola, Straus Creamery yogurt, persimmons, and pears) recently at Craftsman and Wolves and loved it. Inspiration for the next batch of granola. Pistachios, cornflakes, cocoa nibs, cinnamon, curry powder, coconut, vanilla bean, and honey. Yes please.

"I can't say much more, except that it all happened in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt like the bliss of a certainty and a life lived in accordance with that certainty. I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back to America. Pray God I remember this." -Mary Oliver, "Varanasi"

After a long day at work, I have very little energy to exert, or to entertain, or to make small talk. I want to be at home. On my couch. Or at my dining table. Or at Josh and Carlos' house in Oakland, which I've made a second home. These people are my people--the best people. They are creating a handcrafted space that will be both living quarters as well as a wood shop for our community. I have been fortunate enough to see this place get moved into and furnished from the very beginning, and it's inspiring to see how much love and labor they have put into this place--both in concept and in practice.

Every meal here, thus far, has been a christening. And we followed suit with a first fire and a late-night dinner of roasted cabbage, sweet potatoes, onions, and chorizo, first wrapped in hobo packets and thrown into the fire, then laid atop the logs for a perfect, smoky char--my favorite flavor..


"The quietest way to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west chasing after it but to head east into the darkness until you finally reach the sunrise."
-Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

On Wednesday, January 22, after a morning of rabble-rousing photo shoots at work, I felt faint and took an early train home. As a precaution, I carried toilet paper in my purse. A heavy dose of Nyquil induced 18 hours of intermittent sleep. On Thursday, January 23, I did not speak to anyone. I am generally pleased with the strength of my immune system, but like a spoiled child thrown into pauperdom, I was shocked by how difficult it was to bear a mild affliction--of body, mind, and spirit. The forced rest did me good though--that was when I began writing about the desert. 

Sick person's view.

Every place a home.


"An attachment, certainly, though I was never sure it was love. But what did it mean to be in love? Maybe all the things people said about falling in love, about the initial torrent of joy, were a lie. And then there was the matter of how my days and weeks and months had become so unexceptional, they were nearly indistinguishable from one another--marked only by my job at a second-rate law firm and the occasional date and watching the weather shift through my apartment windows." 

-Laura Van Den Berg, The Isle of Youth


February flowers:

On 18th Street.

At Dean & Shelbey's wedding.

At my parents' house.

From McCall's Book of Handicrafts, which I checked out from the library. You can make flower-head vases like these.

"The most beautiful still lifes are never pristine, and herein lies one of their secrets. The lemon has been half-peeled, the wine tasted, the bread broken ... These objects are in use, in dialogue, a part of, implicated. They refuse perfection, or rather, they assert that this is perfection, this state of being consumed, used up, enjoyed, existing in time."
-Mark Doty, Still Life with Oysters and Lemon


Gallimaufry, from the French word galimafree, which was a kind of sauce or stew, meaning:
A hodgepodge; jumble; confused medley.

Typical & accurate.

Typical & accurate.

Linea almond milk cappuccino & this book. Only the best.


Sir Prize Avocados, Cara Cara Oranges, Josey Baker toast with cream cheese. Crystal Jones. JD Stark. I live a pretty good life here.

This is the first sandwich I have bought in two years. 

Fractal planet.

"I know I must be dying (Death draw nears)I know I must be dying, for I crave
Life--life, strong life, and think not of the grave,
And turf-bound silence, in the frosty year."
-Edith Thomas, "Winter Sleep"

"Why can't I write something that would awake the dead? That pursuit is what burns most deeply. I got over the loss of his desk and chair, but never the desire to produce a string of words more precious than the emeralds of Cortes. Yet I have a lock of his hair, a handful of his ashes, a box of his letters, a goatskin tambourine. And in the folds of faded violet tissue a necklace, two violet plaques etched in Arabic, strung with black and silver threads, given to me by the boy who loved Michelangelo."-Patti Smith, Just Kids

February: jarring movements. big pivots. getting deeper. moving forward. 


this is eavesdropping

I am on the train headed south to San Jose.

The clouds have ended their strike at last, and the earth is lapping up water like a thirsty mutt.

The two women sitting in front of me are talking loudly, or at least one of them is. The other is listening quietly, affirming her companion with “uhuhs” and intermittent chuckles.

The talkative one—she is spewing words like a hot tub jet stream, a barrage of buckshot words pummeling the air and then dissipating into nothing. You can tell she’s been practicing her whole life, a talker since birth, retort-ready, wielding words like weapons, punching, jabbing, swatting, shocking.

She’s telling a story, and I’m catching lines.

“She says I was not paying attention. I says it won’t hurt if you don’t wiggle.”

“I says you ain’t gonna go back to school no more.”

She is repeating conversations. “I says.” “She says.”

The train stops, and a gangly white man in a faded grey sweatshirt, probably in his early twenties, wearing glasses he’s probably had since puberty, stumbles down the aisle, trying to reach the train door. He’s pulling a small rolling backpack behind him, and his mouth is agape. His feet tangle, and he trips, falling onto the ground. His pants worn low around his thighs instead of his hips slip even lower. He is flustered but unaware.

As he clumsily picks himself up and lurches forward for the door, the talkative woman notices the commotion and turns from her conversation. She yellws from behind, “You losin’ your britches! Your pants are fallin’ down, boy!”

He barely hears her, and he’s out the door.

She keeps talking, “Looks like he got dirty diapers, for real.”

She keeps talking, now to the whole train car.

“Know where that came from?” referring to his sagging pants, his underwear exhibition, which I remember pre-pubescents boys embracing around the same time they discovered the wretched smell that is Axe, which they kept in their lockers to spray like air freshener through the school hallways. Teachers told them to pull their pants up or wrote them up for not wearing a belt.

Another woman, sitting cater corner to the talkative one, yells back, “From prison!”

“That’s right,” the big mouth answers. “That way you got easy access.”

Now she’s just talking for show.

“It just looks nasty. I wish he’d pull up them britches because I don’t need to see the Grand Canyon,” she says with a cackle. In my head, I'm thinking of the construction worker I saw on the street the other day, who was bent over in his dirty white painter pants, an eyesore to every passing pedestrian. I didn't need to see that. "Grand Canyon," I thought. "Perfect." I am always trying to make sense of my life by forging absurd, metaphorical connections between this phenomenon and that. The absurdity is comfortable. 

At the San Jose Diridon station, we all get off the train, and when I pass by her, I see she’s a haggard, old white woman, grimacing, now on pause. Her bones bear the weight of age, and she’s hunched over, carrying several bags. I am suddenly grief-stricken by her silence.