Awareness of loss is not developed due to time. Time serves as ongoing setting in which to live out experiences. It is from these very experiences that one develops an awareness of loss. The experience of loss is paramount to raising one’s awareness. This recognition that experience of loss is the main avenue to developing one’s awareness and is particularly evident in Jon Bauer’s short story, ‘Cold Patch’, and in Glen Harwood’s poem, ‘Barn Owl’. In both texts, the persona’s experiences are the catalyst for their awareness of loss, rather than time.
Composed in third person narrative form, Bauer’s short story, ‘Cold Patch’, offers a woman’s perspective of issues in her relationship with her husband, as he tries to sleep while she obsesses over a literal and metaphorical “cold patch” in their relationship. Using descriptive language, Bauer portrays the couple’s lack of intimacy through the unattractive narration of the husband’s movement: “He was undressing with his back to her, knick-knacks wobbling”. The alliteration of the ‘k’ sound reinforces his awkwardness and the subsequent lack of intimacy. The woman craves the intimate relationship that they used to have: the symbolism of the weather in the first lines of the narrative – “that sunny Thursday” as opposed to “cold Friday… downpour dirtying her sheets” – creates both a contrast of ‘what used to be’ and highlights the narrative’s sombre tone. In fact, Bauer establishes a number of contrasts throughout the text. When referring to the past, the wife uses cheerful language: ‘sunny’, ‘clean, fresh and bright’. This is in contrast to the description of movement of the husband, such as ‘he crawled’, ‘he shuffled’, he huffed’, and ‘he snatched’. The use of unpleasant adjectives when referring to the husband highlights the disconnection between the couple and emphasises the story’s uncomfortable tone. The impressionable ambiance of the text through the perspective of the woman gives evidence to her awareness of loss, right from the beginning of the narrative. The wife’s awareness of loss develops through continual experiences that are lacking in intimacy throughout the course of the evening.
Harwood’s poem, ‘Barn Owl’, is told in first person and examines ideas of growth towards maturity, understanding and wisdom, and the connection this shares with the conventional images of youth and age. Unlike ‘Cold Patch’, which reveals a couple’s experiences of loss throughout the story, ‘Barn Owl’ depicts the events where the persona is described in a state following loss. ‘Barn Owl’ tells the story of a young child who goes behind their ‘old no-sayer’ father’s back, to shoot a barn owl in the early morning. In doing so, Harwood metaphorically explores the transition of a child to an adult. The child transformed from ‘innocent’, to ‘a horny fiend’ and finally to ‘afraid’. This change in description language through the poem conveys the persona’s stages of maturing. Initially, the tone of the poem is arrogant and rebellious. “Master of life and death” and “a wisp-haired judge whose law would punish beak and claw” suggests the persona’s pretentious and childish attitude. When the “lonely child who believed death clean and final” shoots the owl, there is a grotesque realisation that death is ‘obscene’. The child loses their innocence and childlike perspective while confronted by reality. The use of low modality of language, “this obscene bundle of stuff that dropped and dribbled”, suggests the child can’t comprehend what has happened. The shift in language and tone confirms the child’s awareness of loss, which is then developed through experience.
In both aforementioned texts, an awareness of loss is recognisable to the reader through the experiences of each of the central personas, the wife in ‘Cold Patch’ and the child in ‘Barn Owl’. In ‘Cold Patch’, the story focuses on…