Dear Diary: Geographic

I’ve been reading two books recently, one new, one that is about five years old. The new one is George A. Bannano’s THE OTHER SIDE OF SADNESS. Subtitled “What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss,” Ii is a pretty common sense sociology that basically says humans are hard wired to recover from loss–and that the much touted but sometimes nonsensical seeming stages of grief aren’t necessarily real.
The most interesting thing in the book is the author’s experiences with Chinese ritual–burning joss paper images for the dead. It is compelling because it brings up that odd experience of bereavement–a kind of geographical sense that the dead person is someplace–a rather concrete land of the dead. This isn’t exactly based on belief.
In a good movie about Bosnia made just after the war ended there is a great scene where the dead soldier son comes back to drink with his father.The father wants to know if the son is ok, has a woman. He does, but admits “she isn’t one of us.” Still, the father is uncritical. They’re dead after all.
So the dead are geographically somewhere. My own experience with grief propelled me into travel, and into a love of accounts of extreme travel, a love that now seems indelible. I like to read about Everest, storms, survival, remote places, harsh conditions. Kath Lee suggested THE LOST CITY OF Z by David Grann. Here is a tale of Amazonian exploration, or obsession, of a vanished Victorian explorer and those who vanish following after.
How much of the author’s quest is relevant in a book of non-fiction? Both these books are greatly enriched by the presence of the author. The two books link together in my imagination. Both are about looking for something lost in a very concrete sense. And actually both of them ate about finding something unexpected and far from home.