Tuesday, 15 April 2014

crowned with soil

One month ago I planted some seeds I found in my mother's house after she died last Spring.  All month I have waited and waited to see if they would burst through the soil.  I check every morning and every night for signs of green. Nothing.  When I had just about given up, I found this pumpkin seed, crowned with soil, reaching for the sun.  I can't believe the power of that seed! So green, so beautiful, doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing--pushing, growing, reaching, bringing forth new life.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

wearing black

Most of my clothes are black.  Although I have been described as a melancholic person who loves to dive deeply into emotions, including the emotions of others, I do not wear black because it is my favorite color nor do I wear it to represent my fascination with death. I wear it because it makes me look thinner.

But recently I have been longing to wear black to signal to others that I am still grieving the loss of my mother.  I get it now why some cultures wear black as an outward sign to say, "This person is grieving, certain topics are off limits. Be sensitive, be aware, be patient, even if she seems grumpy, show her some grace." Oh how I wish we could wear a color that would universally signal the state of one's inner landscape.
We live in a culture that pushes death far under the door.  We don't like to think about it. We don't like to talk about it. We want to pretend that it won't happen to us, but death is real and all of us at some point have to deal with its waves of grief: shock, anger, sadness.

I don't find death as hard to deal with as learning to say goodbye is. It's funny, I thought I had said goodbye to my mother, and yet, even a year out from my her death, I am still learning to say goodbye as I move through the natural cycle of the year with birthdays, holidays, and Spring's arrival. Maybe grief really is just learning to say goodbye. And perhaps wearing black for now helps remind me that I am still practicing, still learning how to say goodbye to all that was once good about my mother's life.

Maybe next year I might wear blue.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

the sea beneath the sea

Just like the tide, held between the earth's core and the moon's gravity, I stand between my inner landscape and my outer one.  Sometimes I can't really see the difference between the two places.  At times, I live so deeply in my inner world, that I don't see how the outer one matters as much, but then I know the outer world is always my access point to my inner landscape. The outer sea, like the waves, carries a tide I can only feel when I dip my feet in its water. Once my feet are in, I feel the pull inward to some other place, possibly within me and yet also beyond me.  I like this sea beneath the sea that is so physical and also so invisible.

Everyone has to find their way to the sea beneath the sea. Some get down on one knee, some walk, some write poetry, some grow seeds, some take photographs, some read, some stop, some listen, some build. There are many ways inward and just as many ways outward, but the sea always comes in things:

in cloud shadows that fall and move quickly across a field,

in a tattered blanket that has lost its warmth,

in a found photo that holds someone else's memory,

in the surprise sighting of two large red antlered deer,

in the way shells dot the sand at low tide,


in the gentle but firm pull from gravity that always invites us



Thursday, 20 March 2014

hidden mother

The first day of spring is about celebrating balance, between light and dark, between action and rest, between here and the underworld.  It feels like I have been underground, living, breathing, and hiding for months now.  My inner landscape seems to have taken precedence over my outer one, but not today.  This is the day when I begin to surface, bringing into physical shape what the dark winter months have grown.

The seeds I found in my mother's house after she died last May are just the shape I long to see.  She collected seeds in old envelopes, marked them, and hoped for a new spring.  

Part of me doesn't want to plant these seeds because I want to keep everything as it is. Cracking open the envelope forces me to let go of old shapes, ones I don't want to let go of--my mother's hands, her looping cursive, her dream of once saving these for another garden, another spring--but I know I need to plant these seeds because they hold her shape too.  

She may be hidden from me physically, but not today. Slowly, I begin to find a balance between her and me.

Thursday, 6 February 2014


A letter came through our post slot last week, and because it was face down on the floor, I could not see to whom it was addressed. I naturally thought it was for me since I have been writing letters like crazy.  I confess, even though I don't expect replies, I hope for them.  Writing to get replies is not my intention, at least I didn't think so until this letter arrived for my husband and not for me.

When I saw it was addressed to him from his brother, I wanted to chase after him (he had been gone for only five minutes), catch him before he got on the bus to work, and hand him the letter so he could read it.  I was that excited about this letter.

I could not contain myself. Seven hours until he would return home from work. I called my husband hoping he might give me permission to open it.  Maybe I could read it to you? He didn't like that idea, and honestly the better part of me didn't either. He told me to wait,  but I didn't want to wait. I considered hiding in the bathroom to read it so no one would catch me, but I didn't.

I knew that my behavior was related to wanting to see my brother-in-law's handwriting. I wanted to hear his thoughts.  I wanted to know why he was writing.  The thought that there might be something private in this letter, and that I was told at a very early age never to open someone else's mail (was it really against the law?), kept me from opening the envelope and reading it. Besides, it would be too much work to try to disguise my slight intrusion (would my husband really believe me that his brother taped it shut), and my children would definitely catch me in the process.

There is a magic in being the first person to open a letter and I didn't want to take that away from him.  So, the letter waited on the kitchen counter all day long for my husband.

When he finally did read it, I found out that his brother is writing one letter a week for one year. 52 letters in one year.  And you know what, I didn't need that letter to be for me like I thought I did.  I just needed to know that someone else is writing letters on a regular basis too.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

is letter writing an art?

I have been writing letters like crazy--to my aunts, to my sister, to my son--and I dream of writing letters to friends who I see often and not-so-often,  and I wonder why this wave of writing comes on so strongly.  I have heard of writers who can't put their pens down or turn their computers off because the call of the Muse is so powerful and inspiring, so pulling.  The urge to create and write is so primal that at times it seems a bit frightening, but I mostly love its crazy tug.

The crazy pull to write comes even stronger when I receive a letter in the post.  I have no expectations that others will write me back but when it happens, I can't stop smiling.  I received a ten page letter this week from my 84 year old aunt and I must have read it three or four times.  Her handwriting, her words, her thoughts, I love.  I know this love.  It is like standing in front of my favorite Van Gogh painting and never wanting to turn away from it to leave because I love its form, its colour, its stroke.  I want to remember it.

And I wonder how much letter writing really is an art.

Friday, 17 January 2014

the gift of darkness

This is my second winter of walking the same path.  In darkness, I climb up the farm road, and as I turn to complete my circle, instead of staying to the road, I head into the field that steeply leads into more field, and then I head home. Usually by the time I turn to enter the field, the sun is nearly up, and if I keep my head up instead of looking down, I see the exact moment the sun rises over the southern hills.  

This circle, this walk, strangely shapes my winter days.  I don't know if it is the darkness turning to light or if it is that I am always alone, but this winter walk always feels different.  

I shouldn't be surprised that I need darkness, but I am. 

The other day, it was dark, really dark, thanks to the low clouds. I could hear the traffic in the distance and the occasional commuter train heading to Edinburgh and I felt slightly reassured.  There were several moments, though, when I paused on the climb up the hill, and considered turning around because it was too dark. I could barely see the path in front of me and I wondered if the light will ever come. 

I plodded on despite the darkness and my fears about what might lie ahead.  

What really keeps me walking in this darkness is the poetic love affair I have with Nature. To be outside with Her when she turns from dark to light--that short moment of the day when if I could feel time move, it would be now--feeds my desire to keep walking with the dark.

Darkness gives my sight a chance to take a break while encouraging my thoughts to take shape, giving voice to metaphors and movements, shapes and sounds.  And the rhythm of my walking becomes the form that holds my life together.