Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Light, Markers, Return, Spring

Let It Be

It was a quarter of a century ago that I spent SpRiNg Vacation bleeding, assured by technicians & physicians that everything “looked good.” (My progesterone was just low and so they gave me some to take.)

It was this night that I would wake before dawn with a kind of rhythmic cramp that I’d never felt before, on & off, on & off. I thought I had a stomach virus.

By morning, I knew something was wrong and so I woke my husband and we drove an hour to the hospital. The midwife extracted the intact sac from my cervix. At least that’s how I remember it. That’s what I can still feel between my legs all these years later.

April 19th.

I’ve never forgotten the date even though the agony of loss was later overwhelmed by the joy of two sons, but not until I miscarried that fall. We had conceived immediately that time, living in the little ski rental beside the brook above the mill across from the cow pasture, our first place in Vermont.

It was the grief of the first loss, at the end of the first trimester, after a year of trying, that drove us from home–from the sea to the Green Mountains.

I was teaching 3rd & 4th grade in a little school nestled against a mountain just across from the ski place when they called me with the results of the ultrasound. I took the call in the nurse’s office and then went into the bathroom and sobbed before returning to my classroom.

I left that school after a single year. I loved my students, but I had fallen into despair, working 12 hours days, which was never enough, thinking my life would always be like that.

My sister sent me a cassette tape in the mail. “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” I’d always loved bridges even though I’d planned to name both babies after the Beloved who I lost to one. I still have that plastic Easter Egg that I painted this month all those years ago–a small-petaled flower and the name: Lila.

“When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them off.

I’m on your side…”

I never went back to teaching after that, not full time, but next week I’m returning to that school to consider a classroom support position, twenty-five years after I left.

Perhaps there’s a bit of soul retrieval going on behind the scenes with both boys graduating, one from college, the other from high school, and the book about my grandmother rounding its last corner.

Let it be.

That was the other song from the tape that ministered to me,

“Mother Mary comes to me…

Let it be.”

I’m still learning what that means.

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Posted in Ancestors, Spring

April Rocking

When I was a girl, the women in my life would check out with the bottle. One would drink for an entire weekend at a time. Another would start each afternoon with cocktail hour. Others drank here and there until incrementally, here and there became always.

It’s in my DNA, I suppose, this meeting of grief and anxiety and hopelessness and overwhelm, by turning away.

This may be why assisting a meditation program always gives rise to some measure of terror inside. And why, after pushing a few other envelopes of late, I’ve retracted. With sugar. And caffeine. With Netflix. And late nights.

The rocking of the seasons. Inside and out.

So let it be.
So, let it be.
So, let it, BE.

May I be rocked. May I be soothed. May I be courageous. May I be transformative.

May you BE too.

 

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, letting go

Middles

visipix.com

Whenever I have trouble getting the woodstove going, I think about that family when I was a girl in Colorado.

Why did that fire, unwanted, burn so easily?

And then I think of other things, like pregnancy. A single spring at the bloom of 16, one terrifying conception after the other, while a decade later, an entire year of yearning, followed by one heartbreaking miscarriage and then another.

And what about gardens? We work so hard to grow things, while other things grow no matter how hard we labor against them.

Criticism is like that. Sticky.
Compliments. Slippery.

People take their lives while others fight to hang on, leaving behind lovers or life’s work or little children and the span of light-filled years expected to unfold…

I don’t like puzzles much, except for the edges. I like the edges of brownies and cookies too. Movies and storybooks run along the edges–the crispy, chewy stuff–without all the soft middles of indigestion & weeding & building the fire & making appointments.

When we do die, I wonder if all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and look beautiful.

I wonder if we look back and wish for more middles.

Posted in Apprenticeship with my own passing, Lanscape of Loss, Light

Winter Meditations

Decades ago, I came across a quote that spoke of kindness like drops of water filling a vessel until it spills over.

I wonder if it’s the same with hurts. Does everything accumulate? Is there always a tipping point?

Or should there be no accumulation of anything? Should everything flow, pain as well as kindness?

Do I grasp and hold onto injury as much as I do love?

What would come of opening and feeling all of it without holding on?

Instead of weighted and bruised and scabbed, my heart is as soft as a petal.

~

Whenever I have trouble getting the woodstove going, I think about that family when I was a girl in Colorado.

Why did that fire, unwanted, burn so easily?

And then I think of other things, like pregnancy. A single spring at the bloom of 16, one terrifying conception after the other, while a decade later, an entire year of yearning, followed by one heartbreaking miscarriage and then another.

And what about gardens? We work so hard to grow things, while other things grow no matter how hard we labor against them.

Criticism is like that. Sticky.
Compliments… slippery.

People take their lives while others fight to hang on, leaving behind lovers or life’s work or little children and the span of light-filled years expected to unfold…

I don’t like puzzles much, except for the edges. I like the edges of brownies and cookies too. Movies and storybooks run along the edges–the crispy, chewy stuff–without all the soft middles of indigestion & weeding & building the fire & making appointments.

When we do die, I wonder if all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and look beautiful.

I wonder if we look back and wish for more middles.

~

Sometimes I avoid going to bed because I feel too overwhelmed about climbing the stairs and flossing my teeth. And when I finally do face it, I’m surprised and congratulatory, “Yay, Kelly, you did it,” but then another night comes, and I’m overwhelmed and resistant all over again.

Sometimes I resist going to bed because it’s a little like dying and I don’t want to miss anything.

Sometimes I go to bed just so a new day can come and I can have another cup of tea.

But back to flossing. If I gave it up, I think I’d get more sleep. Less teeth. More sleep.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers, My Bonnie

Benevolent

It was my mother who taught me to watch the signs, to wink at the synchronicities, to see all things, even the inanimate, in possession of soul, and to view the world, despite its imperfections, as she was herself, despite hers—benevolent.

Her life and that of my youngest crossed paths, for a single month, and now, eighteen years later, when he has unexpectantly returned to the nest, we embarked on an epic road trip, covering 8 states and 1,900 miles in under a week. Because we could.

Because one of my youngest cousins was getting married in Tennessee. Because the groom and his friends were scientists & engineers (& goofy & interesting) like Aidan aspired (and now needed encouragement) to be.

We drove west out of the Green Mountains into New York, past Albany. “I’ve never been this far west,” Aidan said, and he was right, but still this surprised me because hadn’t I’d lived in the Rockies as a kid and returned as an adult, and hadn’t Aidan always been with me?

“I can’t believe there is all this country I’ve never seen,” he said, “Now I have to go everywhere.”

I chose this westerly route at the advice of friends to avoid the traffic around New York and Philly and DC, and Aidan heartily endorsed a longer route once he realized that we would pass Scranton.

“Scranton!” he said. “Scranton, PA?!!”

His enthusiasm was unfathomable as was his request to stop there, particularly when he showed such little interest in a detour to Monticello on our way south.

“Dunder Mifflin is in Scranton,” he said.

We continued past Scranton (though I took photos at his request), traveling south on Interstate 81 for an audacious 678 miles–through Pennsylvania and into Maryland and West Virginia.

We took turns with our respective audiobooks. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” (which he downloaded “for me” because he had already read it three times), and “Half of a Yellow Sun,” by the phenomenal Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which was the more captivating of the two (in my opinion.)

The next morning we drove through the Blue Ridge Mountains in a snowstorm, with elevations exceeding 2,500 feet, which is where we found ourselves, stuck behind a box truck whose cargo caught my attention and grief, just as the characters in “Half of a Yellow Sun,” professors and parents and school children, found themselves steeped in the trauma of war.

“What is that?” I said. “Chickens?”

“Turkins, maybe,” Aidan said, navigating into the passing lane.

“It’s so cold out. Why would the truck be open like that?”

“There’s no company name on it,” Aidan said as we passed.” They don’t want to advertise.”

I snapped a photo of the cages, thinking there was beauty in the angles and color and light even as it pained me to see it, and thinking that I wanted to share what it is we do to animals before we eat them.

“This is why we get our food locally,” I said, as the truck faded from view, and Aidan nodded his head before pushing play on his second book, another Neil deGrasse Tyson’s, a new one that he hadn’t read: “Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military.”

All of this cast a spell on the afternoon–the high elevation, the wind, the snow, the chickens or Turkins, the war in the novel and the alliance between profit and killing.

“Let’s listen to the radio for a while,” I suggested, hoping to lend a sense of place, but it was then that the announcer said, “The poet Mary Oliver had died.”

This darkness stayed with me as we crossed into the Smokies and then it receded when we arrived at the site of the 1982 World’s Fair, and took the elevator to the top of the Sunsphere where dozens of relatives–uncles & aunts, nieces & nephews, siblings & grandparents–gathered inside a 360-degree view of Knoxville, Tennessee.

By the time Aidan and I left Knoxville three days later for the long drive home, we knew our way around town and had each found our favorite coffee shops–his downtown, sleek and minimalistic, and mine comfortable and homey in the historic part of town.

Our return trip was delayed by weather and so before we left Tennessee, I found us an establishment that served chicken & dumplings (in the town where Dolly Parton was born in fact, on her birthday weekend), and this meal nourished and delighted us, even the next day, as set out north on 81, out of the Smokies again, listening solely to “Accessory to War,” because the extra day meant that my library loan had expired.

We moved at a clip with Aidan was behind the wheel again, insisting on doing all the navigating himself, as he had throughout the city.

“There’s an accident up ahead,” he said, pointing to the GPS. “But this is still the fastest route.”

The traffic slowed as we approached the scene and I felt how strange it was to move in procession among the eighteen wheelers who had been such a nuisance on our journey, though there were fewer because it was MLK Day.

Their gray somber pace reminded of the teenage sport’s team who arrived at the funeral parlor, heads bowed, uncharacteristically subdued, outfitted in suits instead of cleats, as they walked past the coffin which held my lifelong friend, who died this very weekend, an unfathomable two years ago, for whom the site of the box truck with the chickens or the Turkins, would have been unbearable, so large her heart for the creatures among us.

The accident, if that’s what it was, seemed to have occurred on the soft grass up head between the north and south lanes of the highway, but I didn’t see any vehicles as we approached.

“I think it’s construction work,” I said, pushing pause on Aidan’s audiobook. But as we passed the site, he said something chilling, just as I realized it too.

“The chickens.”

The cab was barely recognizable, but the birds were.

I remember holding Aidan in my arms while my mother took her last breaths. I never understood why my sister needed to photograph even this, but those photos became precious touchstones of life, of loss, of love, and the benevolence of all that is, her passing, his arrival. Her dying palm cradling his newborn head.

We drove in silence for a good while as we continued on 81 through the Smokies and when we pulled over at a rest area just across the border in Virginia, Aidan asked if I would drive.

Posted in letting go

Farewell Christmas


From later & later nights to mornings languishing in bed, to lavish brunches and afternoon slumps lifted by sugar & flour & butter & caffeine, to evenings brightened with spirits & cheese, to hearts melted by music & magic & merry-making—to the lean wintry months ahead—Christmas, I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone—and still, it’s time for you to go, and in the hush of your departure, I’ll exhale, soberly facing the sparse, simplicity of beginning again.

Posted in Ancestors, Back to the Castle, Return

a week back “home”


From 7 acres on a backroad in the Green Mountains—north to the great sea of Lake Champlain in the big city of Burlington—south to the Berkshires in a the middle of snowstorm—and finally across the mighty Hudson and down to Exit Zero on the GSP at the southernmost tip of the Garden State where I was born.

So many places, spaces & faces that feel like home.

This time next week she’ll be 92.

There she is coming to meet me at the ferry in Lewes, Delaware, waving as I come down the stairs through the terminal.

When I was a girl, foot passengers walked right across the boat ramp as I did on the inaugural crossing in 1964 (in my grandmother’s arms.)

The Ferry & I turned 50 a handful of years back and now we’re headed toward 55.

I miss the smell of the old wood pilings and the faded hues of the old ships, but some things haven’t changed–like the way the Captain’s horn startles me and how a loved ones wave quickens inside and how the wind on my face at the bow welcomes me home as the world recedes from view.

I’m not one to find a loved one in a cemetery but sometimes my car goes there anyway rembering a well-worn path And once there my heart spills open so that I can love more fiercely again.

Thanks Mom.


I wake before dawn with the full moon of Thanksgiving setting in the West and all my resilience spent with night’s regret.

And still, I rise toward the sea and wait as morning painstakingly breaks over the Atlantic, seeping like lava through a dark bank of clouds that stretches north and south across the horizon.

This is what it is to stand in the center of one’s pain, grieving what has been lost and what has been taken and what may never be.

Will I turn away in the bitter winds or will I remain still until the orange light unfurls beneath the darkness, reaching like a hand across the icy waters toward the shore.

“Stay,” she says, and in so doing, the light now golden, rises above the illusion of a hardened sky meeting all that has been hardened inside.