May 05, 2004


Bad news travels slowly. Madeleine and I were close friends, but only for a short time, and after we'd explored our friendship fully, we lost touch. Through sheer happenstance news came to me today. Reading her blog and the comments of those who were around her filled me with deep sadness, but also with joy. During the time we were close, she seemed so solitary, and solitude was something we shared. She had a way with friends that made each feel singular and uniquely important. But I wondered if her solitude was lonely, and I see that it was not. It is clear to me that she had a strong and vital network of dear friends even when she seemed to me to be one against the world.

Someone said Madeleine was not interested in things, but rather in the things her friends were passionate about. She was drawn into the world of running a few years ago by her own running, and I was introduced to her by reading her writings on rec.running.

The resulting friendship extended far beyond running and cycling, however, even though we both shared that interest. Our correspondence and conversation covered every topic important to both of us at the time, and I can only hope it helped her even a tiny fraction of how much it helped me.

Someone else described her writing as a conflict she had with language. I didn't see it that way. Rather, I thought her alternate spellings had the purpose of assigning a personal value to words. "Brane" is a wonderful example. She wasn't talking about any brain, but her brain. It was definitely not dyslexia--her command of language and symbology was absolute--but rather the position of someone who knew the rules so well she was free to break them. No, her dyslexia was entirely mechanical and physical, and our friendship rested in part on the advice I could give her about her bicycles.

So far, nobody has mentioned her love for poetry. She shared several with me, and demanded that I take them seriously. Here's my favorite:

Mother, Summer, I
by Philip Larkin

My mother, who hates thunderstorms,
Holds up each summer day and shakes
It out suspiciously, lest swarms
Of grape-dark clouds are lurking there;
But when the August weather breaks
And rains begin, and brittle frost
Sharpens the bird-abandoned air,
Her worried summer look is lost.

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone;
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness
I can't confront: I must await
A time less bold, less rich, less clear:
An autumn more appropriate.

She looked on it as a tragedy, of the son bound by his mother's fears. I know it had deep personal meaning for her even if it was just one of many poems she loved.

Madeleine Page, rest in peace, my friend.

Rick Denney

Posted by maddyfriends at 11:58 PM