Friday, April 5, 2013

Colts, Calves, and Victorian Mourning Traditions

Dear John,
 
It's been a long busy day, at work and at home. But I have to tell you - I saw a new colt and some calves outside today. Maybe there will be spring after all. And on County Road 42, suddenly over half the fields have been plowed. It's good to see living soil turned over
 
I was thinking today about the Victorian tradition for widows, of 12 months of heavy mourning followed by 6 months or so of gradually lighter mourning. I understand it now in a way I never did before. It gives you time and space to get you head together. I've learned that most widows do need at least a full year. During that year there is a lot to do, so you need to cut back on things you don't have to do. Some normal activities can be too painful to do for a while, and you need the freedom to say no whenever you want to. And your memory and concentration aren't what they usually are, you're not sleeping well, probably not eating right either. The widow's weeds - the full garb of the first year of widowhood - was the signal that you were to be treated as befitted a new widow. Or, as Jen would put it, it reminded people that you have a free hall pass for the first year. That includes the freedom to avoid any social event you choose, to hide in your house and not see callers, to withdraw from society in general. I've needed to do all those things this past year, and there were times it would have been easier to be wearing a traditional dress that informed others of my situation.
 
In a few weeks I will have to end my heavy mourning period and move to the half-year of lighter mourning. I don't know if I'll be ready then. But I will listen to my heart when we get there.
 
I love you so much. I would have loved to wear black crepe and veil my face for you. Since I couldn't, I veiled my heart. I don't know when that one will lift. Maybe when it is my time to go home, you will come and lift it for me.
 
Hurry the day!
Joan.

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