It’s been two years since we lost the physical presence of Neil Peart on this planet.
Because of the timing–just two months before the world shut down–it’s one of those things I’m not sure anyone has properly grieved, at least not in the traditional way. There were all sorts of memorial concerts planned; none of them have happened yet.
It was also the kind of loss that was so shocking in particular because so few people knew he had cancer. At the same time Canadians were processing the much more public farewell to Gord Downy of the Tragically Hip, Peart was dealing with the same kind of cancer, privately. He was, of course, a famously private person, an introvert that warmed my own introvert side. We understood this, but yet, it was still so sudden and shocking. We didn’t find out for several days. I learned as I checked into a hotel in Grand Rapids, there for what had been, until this past fall, the last live performances of a Shostakovich symphony I would hear. And so, incongruously, the 11th is associated with him.
I have never considered my artistic inspirations to be heroes, but in Rush, I found decent human beings. More than decent, in fact–they quietly went about caring about their families, friends, and complete strangers. Peart always thought deeply about things, and in his writing–not just his lyrics, but his travel writing as well–he shared parts of himself through words that his nature would have never dreamed of sharing in person, revealing vulnerabilities and passions and an eye for observation. He made his own way, and held himself to high standards in art and craft. When he felt he could no longer meet those standards, he retired.
I feel lucky to have lived in a period where I not only could listen to Rush, but also attend concerts, and to not only share a planet, but a few times the same room, as its members.
I spent today reading an incredibly vivid account of the Chernobyl disaster written in 1989 by a Soviet official who had previously worked at the plant. It read like a novel.
And that, of course, sent me down the rabbit hole again. My most significant discovery this time? this video, featuring actual footage of the evacuation of Pripyat. The filmmaker was a resident of the city who died just a couple of weeks after filming the footage; his death may have been accelerated by the accident.
And we’re back to barely leaving the house. We’re going out for groceries. That’s it.
I can’t pretend that I’m unaffected by the stress. I had a panic attack a couple of days ago, triggered by the simple act of accidentally running over the corner of a curb while out. I’ve recovered, of course, but like everyone else, I’m tired. Maybe that’s why I’m going down disaster rabbit holes again.