The elegy is a literary form dear to the human heart, for it’s the best reply we can summon to death’s speechlessness.
Janet is such a work, created by Bay Weekly contributing writer Al McKegg in honor of his wife, Janet.
With soaring highs and crashing lows, theirs was a love story made for literature. It was too cruel for real life.
Cupid struck them with wayward arrows. Al was 12 years older than Janet and otherwise engaged. But out of irresistible attraction, these matched spirits made a life. In marriage, Janet became a mother and Al’s partner, muse, enabler — and scientific source.
A barefoot country girl, she followed her other passion into wildlife biology, pouring 28 years of love into championing life in open spaces through Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Their interests united in their lives — spent close to nature on the land and on the water — and in Al’s writing. The Chesapeake is an estuary, its waters circumscribed by the influence of land. Al’s subject was nature under the influence of people. In the first decade of this century, he was a steadfast writer of short personal essays describing how real people and creatures lived at that intersection. The columns were wry, tender, funny. Most were written for The View, a publication in western Howard County, and a few for Bay Weekly.
Al hasn’t been writing much lately. At 50, Janet was set upon by dementia; for most of the next seven years, Al became her caregiver. She died this year, on March 9.
Within a month, he was creating her elegy, combining 16 stories with photos and drawings inspired by her vital force into a lovely 76-page spiral-bound book that bears her name.
“Janet is in every one of the stories in this book, sometimes as protagonist, sometimes as companion, always as inspiration and teacher,” Al writes in the introduction.
It is an utterly personal book describing the human experience with purity, truth and guilelessness. That is how elegies work.
Janet was compiled in limited edition for the people of Al, Janet and daughter Gillian’s lives. Get copies while they last at Al@McKegg.com