Shades (An Original Poem)

Shades

The day is dim
Though the sun should be soaking us in a warm spring
This sky
is sullen, stormy, chilly,
weeping,

In memory of you.

This week,
the world struggles to recall your light,
your tall sunflowers
cloaked in a shroud of

The loss of you.

Those fires that destroyed you,
their causes unknown
linger,
their scent
caught up with yours
behind those doors we try
to keep closed
from

The loss of you.

I try and fail
not to replay that morning
on a loop in my head,
not to board that grief train.
Instead,
I find myself
grabbing a passing rail,
missing
falling
my heart
cut to ribbons under tons
of heartless steel
weighted down by

The loss of you.

The air
ripples in the darkness,
in my line of vision,
as I try to see the world
through

The loss of you.

Daily gratitudes:
Sleep when it comes
Getting accustomed to some hard truths
A successful truckload for the move
My great-nephew’s birthday tomorrow

Quote of the day: “Some people are just not meant to be in this world. It’s just too much for them.” — Phoebe Stone

The Day After

I spent a long, long time in the shower this morning. Wishing I could find beautiful, lyrical words to express my sorrow. Wishing that those words would unfold from me, like the unfurling of a fiddlehead fern in spring, and spill from my fingers onto a page. I felt like I was not really a writer, because I don’t have that gift of spinning words that mean something, that touch others, from a silken tangled web of thoughts and feelings. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

The media released the names of those killed in yesterday’s shooting. Was I a friend of any of them? No. Were some names familiar? Yes. Even though I’ve written about how this town has changed over nearly 40 years, today it feels like a small town. Between K and myself, we have some second or thirdhand connection to someone who has been deeply wounded by this tragedy. (After speaking with K, she does indeed know some of the victims as friends of friends.) Speaking to us, the Mayor of Boulder, the Chief of Police, the Governor, all hold back tears – you can hear it in their voices.

Our community feels just numb. There are so many feelings and thoughts that it’s hard to even separate them. Thankful it wasn’t one of our friends or family. Guilt because we’re thankful. Struck by the names of those who were killed, as we run them through our minds…did we know them? Have any mutual friends? Do I deserve to be struggling with any feelings at all, since I didn’t know any of the victims, just the place? Why did the police treat the shooter with such tenderness? What if he had been black? What about gun control? One of the dead is a policeman who was known for rescuing baby ducks. He was the good guy with the gun. Why is he dead? Am I overreacting? So much. Too much.

Focus is a challenge today. Empath-me needs to immerse myself in media coverage, but I don’t have time for that. I want to sleep, a reflection of internalized grief. I have no appetite. My stomach is upset. My Mother used to say I always put my stress in my stomach. I guess that’s true. I continue to leak, just a glaze of small tears creeping into my eyelashes.

As the day progressed, I realized that this is personal. It’s happened to a community that I’ve been a part of for almost 40 years. Not in the community, but to the community. Today, we don’t care about why he did it, what his nationality is, what religion he follows, whether gun control is stronger…we don’t care about any of it today. We care about the people we’ve lost. The only thing we want is for this not to have happened. And that’s the only thing we can’t have.

Daily gratitudes
The hawk that accompanied me right by my driver’s window today – I could have reached out and touched him
Getting my vaccine (ouch)
Getting all of my old (and I mean old) journals back from my ex-house
Talks with K
Halo Top

Quote of the Day: “We cannot change fate and the tragedies that enter our lives but we can choose how we want them to change us.” — Nikki Rowe

The Original Friday Poem

Transcendental

When I neglect the solitary pleasures
of my soul,
Forget that there are myriad Waldens,
cloned Thoreaux,
I lessen what I have to spend, to share,
Ignoring random treasures buried there,
And find my self undug and drowning old,
A story dreamed, but never to be told.

But if my face should turn
towards silent suns,
Lessening winds that storm and
whip and churn,
Perhaps a tale will speak from ashes left
To smolder slowly,
finally,
to burn.

In brightness glowing with a roseate hue,
A saga shared with stones and living few,
The blooming blaze of me will well retell
The story still unknown, but known too well,
of love and life, of death, of heaven,
hell,
Of ages sages laughed and lied for,
Eons soldiers killed and died for.

Daily gratitudes:
Nerve
Lists
A beautiful thank you card
Friday
Finishing a journa

Quote of the Day: “There is no remedy for love but to love more.” — Henry David Thoreau

Mt. Anticipation (A Weekly Friday Poem)

Slivers of sun peek through sodden skies
As the tender tendrils of spring
Tremble in the breeze.
deceptive wind
deceptive warmth
teasing clouds
Where is it coming from?
Where is it going?
How strong
How stubborn
How painful
How powerful
How tragic
We wait,
Me
and the harbingers of spring
tentatively tucked up
for whatever the storm brings.

Daily gratitudes:
Tuna steaks
A day warmer than expected
My pirate mask
Friday
A quiet day

Quote of the day: “Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night will always fill my heart with sweet clarity.” — Novala Takemoto

The Sorrow of Today

Today, my youngest stepson would have turned 26. We lost him to suicide almost two years ago, another date that we mark with grief as we pass through the years. He was a complex and magnificent soul, with so much to offer. But as we all do, he found it hard to get out of his own way. The hopelessness and futility that feeling can engender became too much for him to bear.

M marks his birthday by dining at our son’s favorite restaurant, accompanied by his picture. He buys our son a glass of wine, and leaves it untouched. To date, M does not want me to accompany him on this modest pilgrimage.

I feel somewhat detached from my own grief about his loss. I think that’s defense mechanism that I have built, particularly around losing him. I have seen my hopeless, raging grief spill out at sunset by the side of a mountain river. I know it’s there. I just don’t know how to manage it, particularly in the face of M’s deeply painful, life-changing sorrow. My grief lives tucked away on a shelf so that I can be strong with him, for him, in the face of his.

Losing a child, at any age and regardless of the relationship you have with them, means losing so much more than just their being, their day-to-day existence, your interaction with them. It means losing the future. Your hopes, prayers, and dreams for your child vanish in an instant. You grieve that loss as well. I chastise myself for the opportunities I missed with our son, the promises I didn’t get around to keeping, the unintentional hurts I may have caused him. It’s impossible not to ask myself if I contributed to his choice. Or if there was something I might have done that could have prevented it.

His joy in his life was as real as his struggle. I hope with all my heart that where he is now, he can freely feel all the joy, and that the struggle is gone. As my belief supports, I trust that he and I will have a chance to get it right in some other life. In the meantime, M and I honor the day of his birth in our own ways, and honor him daily with remembrance, and prayers that his spirit has found some peace.

Daily gratitudes:
Jasper the Great Pyrenees
Two horses playing “I’m gonna eat your face”
Wind chimes
Having Ice Melt on hand for our upcoming snowstorm
Sending presents

Quote of the day:
“May the stars carry your sadness away, 
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty,
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.” — Chief Dan George

Losing My Father: 16 Years Later

Today is the 16th anniversary of my Father’s death. It feels strange to call it an anniversary, because I associate that term with happy events, despite the fact that I’ve lost an inordinate number of people I’ve cared for in my life, disproportionate to my age. My body is aware of today. I have felt ill for a week. This is not new to me. My body has a physical memory of events, moreso than my conscious mind. There comes a point, usually before the anniversary of the event, when my body and mind catch up with each other and I figure out why I’m feeling like a cow turd in a remote Highland field.

I remember most of this day as it happened 16 years ago. I knew Daddy (yes, I’m a Southern girl) wasn’t well. I had talked to him the day before, and the last thing we said to each other was “I love you”. That’s as it should be. I was still in bed when ex-Pat came in with the phone, and said it was Larry, my parents’ best friend. I knew then. My Mother couldn’t talk to me. I don’t even know if she called my brother or if Larry did. K was going to up to see ice sculptures in the mountains with her aunt and uncle that day, and to a classmate’s birthday party. I was supposed to go with her, but we decided we didn’t want to spoil her much-anticipated day. So I stayed home and her dad went with her.

What I don’t remember is what I did after they left. Did I cry? Did I call my brother? Did I talk to my Mother? I don’t know. In the afternoon, I called my friend Denise. She is one of those friends who you know will always be there for you, even though now we’re quite distant. (But my phone Facetimed her about a year ago, all on its own when she was trying to talk to Comcast, and we caught up after a decade. It was lovely.) When my Father died, she dropped everything, and came and drank martinis with me in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel. She helped. I wish I could have been within a thousand miles of her when she suffered a similar loss, but that’s life. Or death.

I was a Daddy’s girl, for sure. I still miss him every day. I wish he could see who I am, what I’m doing, what I’ve become. Who I’ve become. I’d like to think he’d be proud of me. Neither of my parents was ever effusive with pride over me, to me. In the course of the last year, I’ve thought about that a lot. Been angry about it sometimes. And recognized that there are things that just are, that I can’t come to terms with, not without a dialogue with them about it. That’s how it is, and I think that’s part of how I grow as a person as I continue to age and look through the glass darkly at my past, my relationships, my perceptions. I also think that’s an important step to take as I move through the years towards the next place. Acceptance. Of my parents. Of relationships. Of myself. We can’t always have answers or fix things. Sometimes we just have to settle for an unfinished peace.

The sense of loss of Daddy never leaves me. It’s not at the forefront of my days as it was for a long time after he died, but it’s always there. When I make a huge change in my life, he (and my Mother) are the first people I want to tell. I think it’s important that I’ve had to make changes without their guidance and input. I think that’s a sign of strength, of growing up, which is a journey not limited to our childhood or teen years — it is a lasting adventure in our lives, if we’re lucky.

My life looks nothing like what it did when Daddy was alive. But I know he’d support me in the changes I’ve made. I know he’d have so much to talk about with M. I think M would be one of those guys he’d actually have approved of. And he’d be so proud of K.

He didn’t want to go, and he made that clear to me after he died. It took some time for us to work through that. I may write about that later. We talked a lot in our lives. We had a unique relationship. Ex-Pat always thought that we were too close. He didn’t understand how a father could tell his daughter that he loved her so often, that he would always look out for her. That’s a refection of the relationship he had with his own father.

I try hard not to catch the grief train when it pauses at the station these days, but I still step aboard, look around, feel. It’s how and who I am. It is woven into my curious relationship with death and the afterlife, a thing which I am still holding close, trying to feel how it nestles into my daily existence. I don’t wallow as I did a decade ago. But while years according to the calendar have passed, my partnership with my Father, and what today signifies, are still as fresh as they were 16 years ago. My heart, today, around this, his death, is like a statue that has stayed in place outdoors through seasons and weather for all these years. It has changed in appearance, grown mossy and tender and tougher all at once, but with its core solid and intact.

How did I celebrate my Father today? I worked. As he always did. I had a couple of glasses of wine that he would have liked. He was not a drinker, but he enjoyed trying wine with me. I went to my local library’s book sale and bought 11 books in honor of his lifelong career as a librarian. I picked up some yellow roses at the grocery store, which were my Mother’s favorite, but he would have approved. I wrote this post, which he also would have appreciated, because he always loved my writing, and he was the first person to introduce me to the blogosphere, when he asked me, “What is a blog?” and I didn’t know, so I looked it up. And while he so very seldom visits me in my dreams, I will fall asleep tonight thinking of him, and having recited the prayer that he always said with me at my bedside when I was a child.

Love you, Daddy, and I hope you’re having a marvelous time.

Daily gratitudes:
Birds in the out-of-place tree, a sure sign of Spring
The squirrel that made it across the road
Cooper the Beagle mix at the Dog Bar
A clean oven
My red shoes

Quote of the day:
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges

Paws Crossed

No words today, just paws.

Daily gratitudes:
Cleaning out closets
Cognac Beef Stew
That the sun sets after 6:00 p.m. now
The blade of grass in the yard
Books

Quote of the day: “I had a friend once who looked at his library and discovered that even if he completely stopped filmmaking (he was a filmmaker too) and just decided to read the books he had in his library, it would take him until he was 100 years old. He was a little bit panicked. But he was courageous. He went out of his house. He went to the bookstore. And he bought ten books.” — Alain Resnais

The Death of an Appliance

While I am accustomed to charring things accidentally in the kitchen, I’ve never actually killed an appliance. I did accidentally destroy a china monkey hanging from the ceiling in the Cottage during the Great Smoke Detector Debacle of 2010. And when I moved out of the Cottage, my landlady inquired as to whether there had ever been a fire in the oven — I had to hesitate because there had been a fire or two ON the stove, just not exactly IN the oven. Yesterday, though, the microwave died.

In my defense, the microwave was old. At least 11 years old. So I’d prefer to think that I was its Death Doula (part of my future career plan), and not a murderer responsible for its demise. I thought it was having a glitch three days ago, when I put a cup of coffee in it and after a minute and a half, it came out cold. Later in the day, I tried heating soup, and it came out warm, but not hot. In the Bungalow, there are a myriad of eccentric electrical systems. For example, when I plug in the television in the living room, the ceiling fan comes on, but the television doesn’t. So I just assumed it was another transient house quirk. Those happen all the time.

Yesterday, when I put some soup in the microwave for lunch, there was a startling POP as it started running, but it ran for its required three minutes. And then it died. The soup was lukewarm. I checked that the breaker it was still on (that’s been an issue before). Walking into the bathroom, which shares a wall with the location of the microwave outlet, it smelled like an electrical short. I made sure the wall wasn’t hot, hoping there was no fire smoldering in said wall, and the scent of burning wires dissipated. The microwave was finally gone. It was a good appliance and served me, and Niece 1 before me, well.

I was raised in an era when microwaves did not exist. When you wanted to reheat something, you put it in a pot on the stove, or a dish in the oven. I didn’t have one through college either. But now (decades later), we are a society that can’t wait for things to heat on stoves. It has to be hot in minutes, when we want it, without delay. Shifting back from that mentality is a challenge, and one I’m fully prepared to admit that I didn’t want to face, partly because I don’t have a dishwasher and hate doing dishes. Who wants more dirty dishes?

Fortunately, I had been banging around in the garage just before lunch, in search of M’s and my Blue Willow china to take up to the Retreat, and had come across the microwave that I had when I lived in the Cottage over a decade ago. What perfect timing! Digging it out from behind the bicycles, over the ottoman, and off the shelf from underneath empty moving boxes, between the heavy bag and the BMW, I had hope. It was tucked up in newspapers, with its little round tray intact (the whole unit is a tiny thing, especially compared to its predecessor) and when I plugged it in, it was perfect. Not as strong as my old workhorse but completely serviceable.

The nicest thing about this experience, aside from the fact that my need for immediate food gratification can continue to be fulfilled, is the newspapers Li’l Wave was wrapped in. At first, I crumpled them up to put in the recycle bin, but then a headline caught my eye. A near drowning at a public pool that no longer exists in a nearby town. No victim named, and the three-year old girl was already well on the road to recovery when the paramedics arrived, but this was still the small town newspaper headline. Next to it, was a large, lovely color picture of a mare and her new foal, with, essentially, a birth announcement from a local farm. All ten years ago. I wonder what those horses look like today? That little girl is in middle school now. Does she remember?

I am unfolding the packing newspapers to look through them to see how things have changed, for a glimpse back to what was a simpler time, even though it was only a decade ago — not that long. It was a time when I was trying to rebuild my life and I had a lot of hope. And Spring was coming. The world doesn’t look at all the same now. My life looks very different, and it’s a happy different. The snow is blowing outside the picture window tonight, and I’m cuddled up and warm. It’s all good.

Daily gratitudes:
The older gentleman’s shock and joy at the price of asparagus
Beating the snow home
Talks with K
A good night’s sleep
Wind chimes

Quote of the Day: “A trip ends. A journey doesn’t.” — Mr. Boehmer

Too Close for Comfort

I am not the greatest of airplane passengers. It’s the taking off and landing parts that make me anxious. Once the inconceivably heavy airplane gets off the ground and up in the sky, straightening itself like an arrow to float through the clouds, I’m fine. But I’m worse with landings than with take-offs. On landing in Costa Rica a few years back, exhausted from lack of sleep and anxious as usual, we discovered that I had left a neat arc of fingerpad-shaped blue bruises around M’s bicep. Being wonderful, he didn’t say anything at the time, and he supports me through all of our white-knuckled (on my part) landings. He always had the dream of being a pilot himself, a dream which I hope one day will become reality.
Long ago, in a different career, I was a road warrior. I flew all the time. I was gone at least 50% of the year. And I loved it. But after a couple of years and a few hundred flights, I had the sense that my luck was running out. That I’d beaten the odds, but that wasn’t going to be the case for much longer. There was nothing that precipitated this feeling. It just gradually crept up on me. Strangers sitting next to me would ask me if I was okay during landing, and I’d always tell them I was fine, but they knew better. Then I decided to have a baby, and my road warrior life came to a close. It was an awful lot of fun while it lasted.
Since then, as I say, my anxiety about flying has grown. K is also an anxious flyer, through no fault of mine; she has experienced some unbelievably bad flights during her time flying alone, which have rather put her off of it. I will still always go, because that’s just who I am. I want to go. I want to move. I want to see. All of it.

And then things happen, like what happened today in my own backyard, or rather the next town over. United Airlines #328 took off from Denver on its joyful way to Hawaii. Not more than 30 miles after takeoff, one of the engines exploded. People’s dashcams captured the flames on the plane as it flew above them. Ring doorbell videos showed pieces of engine debris dropping out of the sky, falling into the middle of residential streets. In the park where K used to play Ultimate, people were taking videos as they ran for cover from chunks of metal dropping from the sky. I heard the plane as it turned to the left over my house – it sounded a little like thunder, and I didn’t know what it was at the time. By the skill of the pilot and the grace of God, the plane made it back to Denver International Airport, with no injuries.
There’s a video out in the cyberworld that a Denver resident’s parents took of the engine as they flew back to the airport. It’s shredded on the outside and flames are burning on the inside. Everyone seemed exceptionally calm in all of the snippets I’ve seen. Had I been there, I likely also would have been calm, because panicking never helps anyone or anything, and it’s not in my nature. However, had I been there, I suspect it would have put me off of flying again for a long, long time. Here’s a still from that video (credit to @michaelagiulia).

I mean, yikes. Seriously. Not something you see every day. Or hopefully, ever.

Daily gratitudes:
That everyone on that aircraft was safe
The sound of snow slick roads when you’re cozy inside
Blankets
Flexibility

Quote of the Day: “When I don’t sleep, it’s not that I feel tired so much as assaulted.” — Samantha Harvey