Sunday, June 7, 2015

earthly notions

No Earthly Notion by Susan Dodd is about a woman, Murana Bill, her brother, Lyman Gene, her parents Clive and Mary Alice Bill, and a dear friend named Lucille Beebe.

I finished the book this morning and my initial take was that it was an okay read although not the most uplifting novel one is likely to spend time with. In essence, we have no earthly notion about the interrelated topics of how to live or what it means to die.

A few hours later the book has taken on more meaning to me.  The message is still the same, but the nuances that took a few hours to settle make the book more powerful and make me more glad that I plucked the book from a library shelf.

The phrase "no earthly notion" appears at least three times in the story.

  • Once when Murana decides to radically change her life style, 
    •  "She wondered how she'd ever be able to explain to folks just what she thought she was doing, when she could barely explain it to herself. She had no earthly notion what she'd be getting into."  
  • A second time when Lucille explains the hell she is enduring, 
    • "The pain and the stink aint yours. You got no earthly notion what it's like." 
  • A third time Murana is being chastised, 
    • "[You're] just like a child. So damn dumb sometimes. Like you got no earthly notion about anything. Then you'll turn around and startle a body out of her wits, saying the smartest things."

The older we get and the more exposed we are to death, the more we realize the value of life.  And sometimes, in retrospect, I have begun to examine life decisions and am startled how someone who has been blessed with many gifts, did not get life enough, to enjoy it to the extent one can.  Our behaviors can reflect no clue as to what death means and what life should be given its finite duration. Not the most uplifting of things to consider but not a bad notion to deposit in your head to give you a better chance of enjoying days.

If you think you may want to read the book, DON'T read what comes next.  I recommend the novel with what has preceded as sufficient explanation.  But if you are not going to read it, the following might be illuminating.

Murana is exposed to more death than the average person. Her parents--life loving and dear folks-- are killed when their car stalls on train tracks. Her dear brother goes to Vietnam and comes back stunned and mute.  He too leaves the living prematurely.  Murana meets Lucille who is pure nourishment for the girl's deprived soul, but Lucille also passes before her time.  And then there is Murana's job: she works with the elderly in a senior home, spending time among folks trying to find life in what is likely the last station before death.

The message is very clear to me as I sit in my now dead parents' living room. Who are we, but people who should be enjoying time.  And yet how much of our time is spent with no earthly notion that we are not doing that.

Probably a good time for me to take a walk on the beach.

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