Following the wisdom of my ancestors, I walk the words to find the truth. Words are a path, the spaces between are the destination. To find a way between the words, you must walk the path and hear the deafening roar of silence.

"Who has not listened to hear the secret
stories of the land whisper from ruins or
forests, or the pages of ancient texts?"

Ari Berk~

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tunnel Of Love

My daughter Evlin died Sept. 18, 2012, one month short of her 20th birthday.
The ten months leading up to her death and those that came 
immediately after were unlike any I have ever experienced...

It seems to me that looking backward is like trying to see the end of a tunnel through a telescope lightly smeared with petroleum jelly. Everything appears sort of fuzzy and small, and I frequently wonder, "What was really going on then?" Usually I can capture at least some sense of what I was feeling at the time. Often it translates into a vague sensation that borders on itchiness. 

These past twenty months have been raggedly and alarmingly disjointed for me. Most of the time I've felt 
either enraged or numb or just flat-out crazy. Remembering the awful events that unfolded with such unrelenting, inevitable determination brings with it a lurching, clutching dread that can leave me feeling incredibly fragmented, bereft, and nauseous. Who manages to survive the death of a child with any sanity intact?  (Pre-supposing, of course, that sanity was extant to being with.) How do I walk through the rest of my life carrying the sorrow as lightly as I possibly can? What happens next? I decided to revisit the few sketchy journal entries I made at the time to see if I could recapture my own personal zeitgeist and look at it through the lens of the here and now. And maybe find some emotional glue.

"16 November 2012: At 1:45 am I found myself outside in freezing cold weather wearing a nightgown, a parka, and a pair of Hello Kitty slippers. I had come to gather the last graying stalks of lavender ...cutting them willy nilly with a rather dull pair of secateurs. I was there because the Universe had instructed me to be so. I just kept hoping that the police would not show up and find me - a 61 year old woman with wild gray curly hair holding a bag of dead lavender stalks and wearing fuzzy slippers that had bright red sequins on them. I looked like an exotic, demented penguin. But the Universe had spoken - and I obeyed. 
What other choice did I have?"

Ok. So perhaps I was acting a bit eccentrically. Possibly.

"21 November 2012: I felt wild, fierce grief rise up in me. I was so agitated - I howled and railed and cried until I felt like my head would implode. I was teetering on the cusp of madness when a voice inside me whispered, 'Go outside. 
Eat lettuce.' So I did. At 2:00 am I sat bundled up against the cold night air and ate an entire head of lettuce. Lettuce. Just lettuce. Such a soothing food."

Ok. Lettuce is healthy, right? Right.

"22 November 2012: "I feel a tremendous amount of comfort, serenity and peace when Grandfather North Wind arrives each year. I am a child of that wind and I am a woman entering the House of The North Wind as my life slows and age overtakes me. My fondest wish is that when I have fully arrived at the end of my own life and leave this existence, that I will become a tree. Sinking my roots deep into a mountainside covered with snow in the company of other trees. I hope that the winter white hare will grace me with a burrow dug into my roots and trunk, and that chickadees and cardinals will come to roost in my boughs and branches. I can imagine no better way to exist."

Ok. Some of my favorite people are trees. Seriously. 
I was also obsessed with pomegranates. Many of the haphazard journal entries contained some form of ode to the pomegranate.  Some were made up of little else than expressions of insatiable longing and desire for this odd, delicious fruit. And, yes, I believe the North Wind has a life of its own.

"28 November 2012: "Standing barefoot in a snowstorm at 3:00 am feeling large feathery flakes caress my cheeks. Eating pomegranate seeds makes me feel as though I am planting new life inside me."

Time to put on the "here and now goggles". What I'm seeing for the first time as I revisit my journal is a complex tale fraught with heartbreak, conflict and soul bruising tragedy punctuated by confusion, absurdity and ennui. An epic of bloody familial struggle, anxiety, deprivation, endurance, and finally capitulation that makes Game of Thrones read like Mother Goose. A richly patterned, shimmering, dreadful wonder of a tale. Not a series of intense, 
unconnected, unrelated, piece-meal or patchwork dramas such as I experienced at the time. No. Whole cloth. All of us who were the threads woven into this particular tapestry had unspoken assigned roles, and expectations were adamantine and unyielding. What none of us had ever been told, however, was just how crystalline and paralyzing the machinations of death can be for those watching it happen first hand. There were fights, there were tears...oh, lots of tears, uneasy truces were drawn, and the kind of unlikely alliances made that can only happen between members of a dysfunctional, extended family. I longed to be merely miserable. Misery would have been a step up on the most treacherous emotional ladder I've ever tried to scale. Through it all I had the feeling that whatever I did it wasn't enough, that there should have been something I could do, say, make or find that would turn the whole ugly process around. The guilt was crushing. The routines were mind-numbingly dull. The smells institutional. The hissing of befuddling machinery interminable  The waiting excruciating. And the witnessing, oh... the witnessing. Because, after all, the only thing that any of us could really do was bear witness. Be there, be present, be available. Everyone involved was struggling to keep their head above water. Some of us fared better than others. 

It's been ten months since Evlin died - just about the same amount time it took for the leukemia to run its course. When she passed we stood around her bedside and sang her soul to the mountain - wishing her deep peace on her journey and forever after. That was an act of grace that will be forever emblazoned in my mind and on my heart. The songs that were sung will always belong to her. In that moment all of us were profoundly and irreversibly changed. 

So, what tidbits of inner wisdom have I gleaned from this 
retrospective exercise? Well, most importantly, I've learned (once again) that if I listen to whatever the Universe is telling me to do I will find peace. I've learned that if I listen to my inner wise woman I will find peace. And I've learned that if I trust myself to nourish my spirit I will find peace. That's it. Simple. Last year I was doing the best I could in really horrific circumstances, all the while beating myself up for what I thought of as my odd behavioral quirks and character deficiencies. Looking back at it now from the cushioned distance of time I can find not only pathos but humor, and a new feeling of gentle tenderness toward myself. 

Yes, I am eccentric. Yes, I eat heads of lettuce on freezing cold nights sitting out on my balcony, and yes, I really do want to become a tree. And that's all ok. Really, really ok. Finally. From now on when I look back at that time I will be able to see myself from a new perspective. I will look with respect and compassion for the woman who endured. I'll look through my own personal tunnel of love.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Deck Chairs On The Titanic

I dither. I dither a lot. I am an unrepentant ditherer. Subsequently, long periods of time can elapse before I complete a project, a book, a piece of art, a sandwich, a blog. There is always something to lead me away from whatever it is that I'm doing at the time. This is not procrastination. Seriously. On any given day I can manage to find myself with a multitude of "works in progress". Half started, almost done, stuck in the middle of, completely stymied by and oh, why don't I go and play a video game... I am certain that I am not alone in this. There must be thousands, if not millions, of people out there who earnestly, and with all good intentions of staying on task, start to do something and wander off at some point when another thing absolutely, positively must be done at once. Or have a brainstorm about how to arrange, solve, repair that "thing" that desperately needs it. Now. Or realize it's time to google cute cat pictures. Or sit and count how many commas they used in the last two sentences they wrote. Or play with the plastic Jean-Luc Picard Star Trek action figure presiding over the mutterings. Whatever.

Take today for example. I decided to sit down and make a list of all the things I could think of that I haven't done that I used to do and that I really enjoy doing. It didn't take long. There were only four items:

Making art
Walking around Clark Pond
Celebrating seasonal changes with ritual and/or ceremony
Writing my blog

I looked at the date of my last blog. April 2011. What the hell have I been doing? Had I really dithered two years of my life away? Then I stopped, smacked myself in the head with an imaginary rolled up newspaper, and tried to come to grips with the fact that the last two years of my life really have been about unfinished business, loss of momentum, frustration, futility, tragedy, havoc, and discontinuity. I was hospitalized with an over-the-top allergic reaction to some new medication. I fell and broke my ribs. My husband had surgery. My beloved cat Sissy died. A month later my 19 year old stepdaughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. Ten months after that she died.

And then came darkness. I was totally adrift. I dithered. About everything. And I kept right on dithering until just a couple of weeks ago, when two things happened that stopped me in my tracks and enabled me to find my feet again. For these two events I will be eternally grateful. Both involved connecting with two wonderful women - one a cherished friend long estranged, the other a fabulous long distance friend that I had never actually met. The confluence of these two formidable forces of nature crossing my path within 24 hours of each other made me sit up and say, "Hey... Pay attention! Something very, very cosmic is afoot." I tentatively started a new project, cooked some really lovely fresh local food, bought a bathing suit (!!), started to heal, and began to re-ground myself in the here and now. I started to find closure of sorts.  The incredible, elegant synchronicity of all that had set the mysterious, incomprehensible wheels of change in motion. So now I find myself back here -  sitting in front of my computer, listening to old jazz and sorting through the silly string that's taken up residence in my head. And deciding to leave the bloody deck chairs alone. Land ho.