Day 28: From the Well

I wake and feel myself sifted in layers like cremated ash.

I look out at my Japanese garden.  Two crows rest there.

Today the grief for my brother’s passing is spread throughout me like mulch.  I receive the transformed elements of grief, joy, memories, peace.

Yesterday was a volatile day.  I’m on edge, quick to react with not the bliss I intend.  Frustration is a knife cutting my day into fragments, and maybe that’s okay.  My friend Elaine points out that the well is deep and complex. I consider that as I stand below and look up at stones and moss. Maybe some days I can’t climb up to the light because of the slipperiness of wet moss.

I also say to Elaine that my son Jeff has been my knight in shining armor. She points out that a knight needs a damsel in distress. Ah, yes, and so I have been.

I’m with the cover of my book Airing Out the Fairy Tale which I’m gratified to learn that people love.  I believe it took two months to come up with the image for that cover. I would talk to Patrick and explain what the trip to Nepal meant to me, what it is to go through menopause and midlife crisis.  He, a male, reached to understand and created image after image. We both related to the ones with fire, but when it came to the cover we wanted the mountain, Ama Dablam, mother and son, a sister to Everest, and a woman on a suspension bridge with the wings of birds.

You can check out Patrick at: http://www.jpliphotography.com

You can order Airing Out the Fairy Tale: Trekking through Nepal & Midlife on Amazon or ask your local book store to order it for you. It is an offering to the celebration that is life. It also honors those who’ve passed circling around Mount Everest as they travel on. Life is rich with blessings, balanced on the cultivation of peace, trust, request, reception and ease.

A section of my garden
The image for the cover of the book before the words
Stones from the garden offer stillness and lift

Day 20: Raw

The day has been full, that raw edge of laughter held in sorrow, the vein of gold within the pain. I try to sleep now, feeling like a box of pick-up sticks dropped on the floor. I need to pick up the pieces and put them back together again. There is pain that pierces, and there is gathering. Perhaps it is that gathering of love that allows the full feeling and expression of pain.

I keep saying to myself the words of John Squadra. “When you love, you complete a circle. When you die, the circle remains.” We are a circle gathered as though around a campfire and campfires warm and before they go out, the embers are hot, the flame within the dark.

Tomorrow, well, really today, as I see it’s 1:00 in the morning of a new day, we will celebrate a life, one life, all lives, joy, laughter, tears, pain.

Day 18: Morning Mourning

I went to bed on a bit of a high, woke broken apart like a hammered rock.

Today I start the journey back to CT.  I’ve made it as easy for myself as possible.  I drive down to San Jose today and my son Jeff and I will fly out early Thursday morning to JFK.  My husband Steve is already in NYC for work. Friday morning we’ll take the train to CT and rent a car.  Such a plan, and yet, I feel sick. From here, I can pretend, somehow, that my brother is alive. I did it when my father died. It will be harder there.

The last time I saw him we were blessed with snow, and as the family gathered, we went through almost a cord of wood in a few days.  We were up both early and late, talking, laughing, playing games. We knew it was a goodbye but there he was, and now, well, of course, I’ve written of how I feel him here, in different form, but I feel sick again at all that now comes, and I pause to know and acknowledge I’m here right now, looking out at the ridge as it dances in fog, reflecting tears.

There was a year I traveled.  I’ve written one part of that year of travel in “Airing Out the Fairy Tale,” and then while sitting on a granite cliff on Monhegan Island, I felt how clearly the journey is within.  I came home. I still travel, but I’m aware of my carbon footprint. My home provides all I need and sometimes we are called to leave.

There is a book I love: City by Clifford D. Simak.  It was originally published in 1952 and was prescient about what home might come to mean to some.  The main character’s home has become his castle, run and protected by robots. His best friend dies and he tries to mobilize to go to the funeral.  While he’s debating his ability to do that, and finally overcomes the hesitation, his robot, his companion and friend, has sent the transport away saying he, the man, never leaves.

I do leave, obviously, and I do love travel.  I loved my journey to Zion, Sedona, Tucson, and Phoenix this fall, but this trip is different and this morning there is pain.   I allow the pain to be there, and the tears.

Morning fog on the ridge

Day 12 – The Weight of Grief

The fog has come in. There’s a gray embrace, a clasp of wetness.

I am heavy with grief, weighted down as though pregnant with new birth, though I’m not bringing forth a child into the world, but the weight of myself, a knowing in the cells there is a wider birth of earth than just this collection of cells I am right now. It is my energy that animates, and that energy halts now as it rearranges the knowing with which I connect. My umbilical cord is stretched and will snap back.

I open John O’Donohue’s wonderful book, To Bless the Space Between Us. I open to his poem “For Grief”.

For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time. 

John O’Donohue

Two rocks – One from Monhegan Island – the other from the Ganges
Healing abides

Day 11: A Well of Compassion

I wake and see the moon, a light in the sky, not whole now, or full as we say, full of light, but still whole, still knowing itself as full, round, whole.

When people I meet  in daily tasks, people for whom there isn’t time for the story, ask how I am, I say, “I am well,” and those who know me look at me more closely as though there’s something not quite right in that response, so this morning I sit with it, sit with how one responds in daily life.  I know the eyes are a giveaway and my energy, too, and yet, I also feel the truth of it realizing I can internally modify it for myself. Though I say “I am well”, I can know that I am a well. I may be empty or full, offering, receiving, or simply still.

I am a well, and this morning my heart is heavy, so I stay with that and feel myself as an island, perhaps Japan or Monhegan, perhaps formed from a volcano.  Yes, this passing of my brother is a volcano, and I am an island forming, and islands connect with other islands.

I need a moat around my castle right now, a drawbridge. I venture out and return to feeling.  I’m working on a “speech” for my brother’s memorial. I poured my heart out last night, memories flowing like lava, now ash.

Then I checked the word count.  I offered to speak for three minutes, figuring five was fine, so at 125 to 150 words a minute, I had the freedom of between 600 and 700 words.  I was way over that, so I cut and cut again, and now I sit with how one defines 65 years of sibling love and connection in a number of words. No wonder I wake thinking of islands, and look up at a moon not full, and yet, in that I can feel the well I am, a well sometimes full and other times dry.  

Today, the pain is tender, soft tapping within, as though the moon reaches into the well, and says look up, keep looking up and hear the birds sing, and see that the limbs on the Maple tree that were bare a month ago, are full, luxuriant, and harbingers of life. They are foundational fountains; they monitor and hold; they move and offer newly formed leaves like fingers as they stir sun, rain, light, and shade.

I am well, well with compassion, well with understanding the phases of the moon, the phases of life. I know that even when empty, I’m full, and even when still, I offer. I am a well, a well of compassion, for you and for me, for being and doing, for living and dying, all held and shared as one.

Day Six: Layering

I awake to the word “layering” and think of compost made from gathering organic ingredients and layering them until they come together to make a nutrient-rich mulch for the garden.

We do the same when someone dies – come together – layer various people known in different ways – we layer and compost levels and layers of grief until one day there is a little more life and ability to raise our heads from the ground and look around.

Oh, what a beautiful world it is today.

I woke this morning thinking of Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers”.  He was a gardener and a poet, and perhaps the two are twined.

In my darkest night,

when the moon was covered

and I roamed through wreckage,

a nimbus-clouded voice

directed me:

“Live in the layers,

not on the litter.”

Though I lack the art

to decipher it,

no doubt the next chapter

in my book of transformations

is already written.

I am not done with my changes.

Afternoon Grief

It’s different than morning grief.  The sun is shining straight down. There are no shadows in which to hide.  All is revealed, and today where I am the sun is hot. I feel scorched. My friend Elaine says it’s okay that I need to hibernate.  I’ve been burned. I need to wait for new skin to form before I emerge.

Today is the day of my brother’s cremation.  His wife and I talk and cry together. We are touchstones for each other, two women who love the same man but know him differently.  My grief can’t equal hers and yet there are the memories of childhood, parents, a shared DNA that seems to cry out, “Nooooo!”

We want to understand; we want to be brave and here we are connecting in shared pain and maybe that is the place where moisture connects in the flow of tears as they lubricate and cleanse.

I am oiled, bathed, possibly soothed at a level I don’t yet know.  A hidden spring comes forth or so I tell myself as tears continue to flow. I want to be brave and I know the word courage comes from “coeur” heart, and my heart is certainly involved in this process of letting go. It joins the beat and waves of love, the rise and fall of whales, and the float of feathers in air.

Elaine and I see a whale, the lighthouse and a white feather floating across symbolizing Mother Love!