Posted in Back to the Castle, Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

Undertow

Last week I woke at dawn, in the home of my husband’s family, and took out my laptop to squeeze out a bit of deadline while everyone slept, but moments later closed my computer, and walked out the front door, and kept on walking, across the island, until my feet were in the sand, and the spray of  sea met my face, and the sun burst above the clouds in regal light.

I trailed the surf then until I came to “my” beach–between the Pan Am & the Crusader–and noticed how the empty lifeguard stands bore the name of roads–all flowers–instead of men or soldiers or continents; something I once dismissed and now appreciate.

I turned away from the surf then and trudged through the deep, soft sand, and into the dunes past the place where the prickers always found our feet or our ankles or our shins no matter how carefully we stepped, and past the beach hotels, across Atlantic, and down along the Little League field where Mrs. DelConte sold the Reese Cups; and across Seaview, alongside what remained of the beach houses not yet turned into condos, until I came to a rose bush, on the corner of Pacific, just across from “my” house, but I didn’t pretend that I lived there, not this time, I just kept on walking, past the Way’s house, the sister house to ours (and a better-looking one at that, having aged with love and continuity instead of loss and abandonment), and nodded across the street to the church where I went to Sunday School and married my husband and buried my mother, and nodded too to the big house beside it, the mother house of the 3, Aunt Sue’s, which was now a summer rental for the wealthy, and turned past the Johnson’s and the DelConte’s and what had once been the Parsonage, until I came to the other end of the block which was once my entire world, traversed barefoot, at the age of 4, big toe bloodied by sidewalks shifting on sand, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”

Nothing left but memory.

Anderson’s Corner Shop, my penny-candy Mecca, now a Realty Office; the bakery with the jelly donuts, a parking lot; and the Polish Shoe guy’s repair shop where he still charged a dollar to fix the pumps I wore as a young teacher, a Driving School. Sticky Fingers, across Cardinal, a Surf Shop, and Snuffy’s Hoagies, across Aster, where my grandfather opened me a summer account at the age of 7, now the Jellyfish Cafe. (Who wants to eat with jellyfish?)

I kept on walking across New Jersey Avenue past where I enrolled in the second grade, for two weeks, before we moved out to Colorado, and even though I told myself that I had no need to see the house that had once been my mother’s, especially with the sun rising higher in the sky, and the day growing warm, my feet took me toward the bay anyway, and I stood still for just a moment and felt into her presence, there on the porch in her wicker chair, with her tomato plants beside the stairs.

“Hi Kel,”

I sank into her steady, constant, contemplative presence, with those chesnut eyes like my first born’s and dark hair that she had dyed lighter and lighter and lighter until it was lighter than mine had ever been (which she had always admired/envied), and then it was the morning of my wedding, just after Jackie finished my hair and put on my veil, and I stopped by while I was still on the island, wanting to be sure that she was okay, and found her sitting on the front stoop, almost sober, still in her nighshirt, hair matted with neglect, and careful of my veil, married twice but never in a gown herself, somberly kissed me on the cheek, and as I got into my car, she stood to wave, leaving, beneath her, a puddle of blood, not knowing she was bleeding…

So I turned away, and headed north, walking until I left the shore once more and returned to the Green Mountains, a safe distance away, from the undertow of a lifetime of accumulated memory.

(2017)

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Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Light, Voices

the other shoe

(after the storm)

Earlier this evening, I snowshoed down to the pond and into the woods, and along the way, I looked down to see that I was wearing only one snowshoe…

Later, we drove our car down our un-plowed driveway, and over to a friend’s house for a  gathering, where I opened the bag of slippers I’d packed, and found only one…

i think it was Anne Lamott who said (about the dropping of the “other” shoe):

Haven’t you heard, God only has one.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss

April 19,1993

I remember coveting my sister’s children.

I remember fantasizing about stealing others children.

I remember resenting pregnant women, baby showers, positive pregnancy tests.

I remember peeing on a stick.

I remember waiting.

I remember tucking the stick back inside the wrapper and dropping it into the trashcan.

I remember bleeding.

I remember contractions.

I remember the man vomiting in the bed of the pick up truck ahead of us at the light under the noon day sun.

I remember the feel of the sac eating tugged from between my legs.

I remember the midwife saying it was perfectly intact.

I remember looking toward the specimen tray.

I remember imagining a perfect egg with my daughter inside.

I remember the ultrasound.

I remember wanting to pee more than I wanted to be pregnant.

I remember the technician saying that everything “looks fine.”

I remember knowing that everything was wrong.

 

Posted in Lanscape of Loss

Apprenticeship with death

The 50s are a precarious decade for me. Although my great-grandmother lived into her nineties, and I might too, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and my uncle all died in their 50s, as did a dear, dear friend, just last winter, and a colleague in a freak accident, and my best buddy from Junior High with whom I lost touch and only found via her obituary, and a sister I only met once who was just a year older than me and who I’d always dreamed of knowing and who died 6 months (6 months!) before I’d even heard.

I suppose this decade is the beginning of the apprenticeship of letting go, if not our own life than that of loved ones.

Before her death at 94, my great-grandmother buried two husbands, a daughter, all of her siblings but one, and most of her friends, and plenty of her students.

“I’m ready to go,” she’d say. “Everyone’s gone without me.”

Maybe it’s the cloud cover or the coming of Valentines Day (my late father-in-law’s birthday) or the tender broken heart of someone close to me that brings me to these thoughts this morning.

And yet, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about death, and maybe it’s always been so, having grown up in a surgeon’s home, who was also the child of a surgeon, who was the son of a nurse and a physician, that, and having lost the love of my life at 14 in a tragic accident that took away much more than my Nana Lila.

Perhaps it’s a gift, this intimacy with death. Perhaps it’s what is needed in order to remember that “There is no promise of tomorrow on this earth,” a prayer which hung above my marriage bed, almost thirty years ago, and hangs there still.

Perhaps it’s a preoccupation, a fear, a burden that I’ve passed on…

My son said goodbye to me this morning mindlessly, and I called after him as headed to the car–“Who knows if we’ll see each other again,” I said, reminding him that my father fought with his mother Lila on the night that was her unexpected last.

My son paused then, and returned up the porch stairs to embrace me with a smile,”These are the things I’ll tell my therapist someday,” he said, “How I could never leave without thinking about death.”

~February 2018
Marlboro, VT

Posted in Light

Light through Winter

When I worked in a church (which is still a funny thing to say, even though it was only a year, and it was UU, and it’s no more surreal than saying I am a yoga/dance instructor), we would arrive to our offices on days like today, and it wouldn’t be enough to wear layers (that building was exceedingly cold.)

In order to face the work ahead of us, we’d each light a candle on our desks–the Minister, the Church Secretary and me–the Director of Religious Education Although we were each in our own office, there was something about this mutual lighting that lent warmth and connection on dark days.

I imagine that it was the minister who began this lighting ritual, being Swedish and all (a country whose northern climate deepens into a darkness unimaginable to most.) She had one of those IKEA lanterns on her desk, and I had one at home so I brought it in.

It’s a habit I continue to this day–lighting the darkness around me–not only at night–but at daybreak and throughout any dark day. (Though as I age I rely on battery operated candles and twinkle lights and space heaters and lots of hot tea.)

I adore sunlight in winter and rely upon it for sanity, but I’ve learned to welcome these shrouded days, cocooned in darkness, for the way they deepen my attention to what it is to lend light, and how light can bless even the hardest way…

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Pure Love

Love & politics

The Women’s March, the inauguration of a misogynist and the death of a dear friend who supported his candidacy are woven into the fabric of this weekend for me.

My husband joined the march in Montpelier last year, without me, too consumed was I in grief to leave our home.

The irony is that my friend died the night before #45 was inaugurated.

We fought about him intensely on Facebook, while in private messages we connected around her health and our sons, and in person we doted on one another with love.

On the day after the election, Laura was so present to my grief that despite her joy, she ached with compassion, messaging me encouragement about how pushback on #45 might give rise to even greater women’s empowerment.

Laura loved animals and was fierce in protection of them. She was a strong woman. Outspoken. Big-hearted. Even when we were girls.

Although we came of age in the same shore towns and danced at each other’s weddings, we both moved away, and the distance between us magnified with time and the all-consuming responsibility of parenthood, until a funeral brought us together, and she said,

“Let’s don’t wait so long,”

And we didn’t.

We were together at the shore on her last birthday and before that in the mountains on my 50th, and we had plans to be together on the weekend before the Inauguration, but Laura ended up in the hospital again where she remained until I received these three words from our mutual bestie on the morning Trump would become President:

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, My Bonnie

Motherless Birthday


The hardest part of my birthday isn’t getting older, it’s worrying that I won’t make the most of it.

I really enjoy my birthday, and just like Christmas Day, I’m sad to see it end.

The best part is that my husband takes the day off just to play with me, offering himself to whatever I conjure. Even ice skating. Sometimes a day trip. Often Christmas shopping. Always an indulgent meal.

I remember the first birthday that I celebrated after my mother died. I turned 37 that year. I woke up and wanted to be alone.

I left before the boys were up, and missed the coffee cake that the neighbors brought to share.

I was up before dawn this morning too, and apparently left behind some of the facial mask I had applied–a dark crusty clay–circling my right nostril–which I didn’t notice until after we went out to breakfast. (Though apparently, my husband noticed it and didn’t think to say anything.)

Without thinking, I did the unthinkable. I licked my thumb and scrubbed. And then I smiled. “Hi Mom.”

My mother was the one to wipe spit across our faces when we were young, particularly on special occasions. I found it revolting, and I made sure I never did it to my kids.

It almost always snows on my birthday, no matter where I live, but not today, except, I hear, on the beach where I was born.