The Brain—is wider than the Sky, wrote Emily Dickinson. It is a beautiful line. But problematic. First, some brains are cramped, narrow. They have potential to be wider than the sky. Second, a brain by itself is limited. A brain, together with a heart, under good guidance, holds infinite potential.
If I could sit down with Dickinson, I might suggest, The Brain and Heart, trained and directed, can be wider than the Sky. Not a pretty line at all but one that covers more bases.
I, a detective, not poet, sit in mom’s sewing room. I have just left her, dad, both sets of grandparents, and my little sister, Rose. I am the only “living” (earthbound) member of the group.
Multi-sphere communication is something we do, have always done. I am not here to defend or convince you of its existence or link to spirituality—only to say it is a consistent family practice that widens our brains and hearts. Ben, my brother, who lives way up in the northern part of our state, communicates this way and so do our cousins. When we visit, we do it together.
Mom loved this sewing room, even slept here at the end of her life. It holds stacks of books and unused journals. (I write in one now.) It holds embroidered tablecloths and napkins, stacked neatly in the linen cupboard dad built. Dresses hang in the closet. Today, I wear her white muslin caftan with bees (jet black, bright yellow) embroidered along the neck and sleeve lines. Mom loved bees and their robust presence in our city. She was proud that certain buildings in and around our business district used hives in their architectural ornamentation. Maybe because of her I imagine honeybees hunkering down, making food, feeding offspring.
This is my story of their lives—comforting but perhaps factually flawed.
It is a cool spring day. I bring this journal out to our porch and write as I take in blossoming trees, kids jumping rope, fresh air. It is late afternoon. Communing with family is a needed break from my job as a criminal agent, a profession I am devoted to. When I say devoted, I mean obsessed—but that is a harsh word, and I don’t want you to stop reading. Or listening.
Without it I am nothing.
Paula and Hoss, my superiors, provide specific brain/heart training and support essential for criminal agent effectiveness. Without that, we agents are nothing. With it, we can be wider than the sky.
On a human scale.
So wider than the sky, relatively speaking.
My crime-fighting career stems from personal tragedy. Our beautiful Rose was murdered as a teenager. Throat slit. Otherwise physically unharmed.
This note was left on her body:
You’re a Beauty
You are not the one
A nasty construction.
I sensed, even back then and pre-trained, that there would be other victims. There were.
I always told her, If I die before you, never worry because my ghost will settle in your body so we can always be together.
This was our game, our joke, and hilarious because an early death for either of us was inconceivable.
Multi-sphere communication is not goal driven. It is not for asking Emily Dickinson about brains and hearts, for asking mom how she learned stumpwork embroidery or for asking Rose about her murder.
We use the process to pass time together in the same way other time-outs are soothing—like sitting together on a porch or hill or beach or living room couch. Times we merge, rather than volley. Then, restored, go our separate ways.
Hanch, dad’s client and close family friend, visits from Denmark just after Rose is murdered.
“Cry,” he says to Ben and me. “You have to take this time now and let yourselves grieve for your sister. Otherwise, it will be so much harder to move forward. Cry. Cry together. Cry alone. Cry in the morning, cry at night. Cry when you play the piano, cry when you jump rope. Listen to these operas.” He hands us a small stack of LPs. “Especially Madame Butterfly, a sadistic story with beautiful music. The cruelty and loveliness together will make you wail.”
He hands us a book. “Fairytales. Truly devastating, most of them. If you read Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Mermaid, you will sob. Some versions have revisions with happy endings, but you can always find the original, crueler ones. Even with the revisions, just think of what those poor children had to endure. The man who wrote The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Anderson, is from my country. He said mermaids are the saddest creatures because they don’t have tears and therefore suffer more. I agree with him. But you two are human and have tears. Use them to lessen your suffering.”
During the next few weeks, Ben and I listen to opera, read fairy-tales, grieve. We hurt. We act and zone out.
I cannot revisit that post-murder period in any more personal detail.
Hanch spends more time with our parents than my brother and I do. The three hunker down in dad’s wood workshop. One afternoon, I bring them a tray of tea and hear Hanch ask, “How can it be that we and that killer share the same sky?”
This is my first experience with the value of a solid clue.
The same sky.
Yes, I think. How can we share it? But we do.
I feel a stir of excitement. The world is wide-ranging and apparently random. But we all share a sky. That structure offers, absolutely, the possibility of me tracking down and apprehending Rose’s murderer.
And I do.
But that is a much longer story I will share with you another time.