I am in Detroit Airport on the way home to Berkshire County, to my family, to my own bed and my own little life.
My heart and I have ventured deep in to the north woods this past week. I have been in the home of my mother and stepfather, clearing more of my Mom’s belongings, organizing her lifetime of Christmas ornaments in to equal piles for each of my sisters and some for the grandchildren.
One potato-two potato- who gets the vintage glass balls or the red yarn dolls we made when I was 4?
I had to remind myself again and again what I was there for because I repeatedly veered off course. How can I tell I am off course? My heart races, I begin hurrying around, whacking my shoulders on doorframes as if I am too big for the space. I could feel my open heart slam shut. I was there to listen closely to my heart, to spend time where my mother had lived her last years. I was there to visit a few dear friends, be with my stepsister who is accompanying her father, my stepdad, through the last years of his long life. I had to really slow myself down with walks. I fed myself vegetarian pasties, took walks by the lake and even took a nap on the beach. Daily, I visited Mom’s gravesite, which is also the resting place of my father’s remains. Mom just happens to be situated about 50 paces from the back door of her home. I brought my tea there every morning to keep company, to watch the squirrels and wait for wisdom to leap out at me.
Most of the week, I had to make decisions with no one there to bounce ideas off. My stepsister Jeanene started the week with me. We had one sweet evening of talking and sharing ideas, laughing and looking at things around the house that holds not only my Mom’s belongings, but traces of Jeanene’s mother who died a few years before her family became mine.
I visited my longest time friend from kindergarten, Geri Miller, over in Northern Wisconsin. We had quite an adventure I will tell you about in another post. Geri came east to Escanaba to help me tend two flowering crabapple trees planted in honor of Mom. We dug and fertilized, watered and mulched the trees. I hope they will flourish. My hometown is full of beautiful trees.
Of all I did this week, alone and with friends, in the basement or at the lakeshore, two of the sweetest things I did at the very end of this week of soulful contemplating 4 heavy boxes of Mom’s correspondence were to meet two Kathys.
The first is a pal from 5th grade, known to most of our friends as Kress. Kathy lives happily with her husband in Escanaba and is at the hub of our friends, she knows everyone in town and can still make me laugh. It was the best sound on Saturday to hear her knock on the back door and let herself in the house. This action alone distinguishes my hometown from my life on the East Coast. Not many people let themselves in to my house in Great Barrington. The East Coast is full of wary visitors who leave things on the back porch rather than open the back door and slip something in to the mudroom. In Escanaba, if the door is open, you can pretty safely open it, stick the bucket of apples you are delivering in the entry way and close the door without fear of being reported to the police. There are many friendly people in Escanaba, in fact, when we moved there is was known as “Friendly Town”. Kathy could be an ambassador for Escanaba.
The second Kathy, the iconic Kathy of Lake Superior Spirit, met me in Marquette, about 75 miles north of my hometown, just today. You may recall Kathy. She is a contributor to the Out of the Mouths of Babes blog series on mothering and creativity. You can find her writing in An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice.
Imagine my delight at meeting Kathy in person. We met for lunch and talked and talked. Ideas flew between us. Then we stepped in to the Zero Degrees Gallery down the street and the ideas increased in velocity. Before we left the gallery, we’d firmly set in motion the desire to have a public reading of the Anthology at this gallery that features many women artists and then a weekend retreat up in Big Bay for women interested in making art, writing and sisterhood. We dream big together.
Kathy and I already so much sisterhood between us, rampant sisterhood, in fact! We collaborate online and share each other’s blog posts often. Kathy reflects on what I post here on Laundry Line Divine. Now that I have her voice in my head, I can hear her speaking to me in the words she types in the comment boxes at LLD. I can see her sparkling eyes dancing above her fair cheeks. I can see her lean in to a view off Black Rocks to capture some texture or vista with all the intensity of a passionate photographer. We had a delightful play time out on Lake Superior. She is indeed Lake Superior Spirit.
I am heading home having harvested so much of my Mom’s spirit from her belongings, from her presence in that northern place, from pages and pages of her journals which I did not read, but flipped open just to look at her handwriting, long and loopy. I am curious about how I will relate to my homeland without my Mom’s live presence there. I am curious about what I can create up there with some of my friends.
As I look at the images I captured with both Kathys, I am grateful for what happens when friends call me out of my solitude for company and sparking on ideas, memories and plans. My lively, joyful set of Kathys was a gift in a difficult and deeply tender week and I am so happy I got to see them.
Jeanene set the tone for my week be gifting me with this quote:
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
Geri and I adventured in to the woods and discovered brilliant golden hours.
Kathy and I took in a spectacular sunset on Lake Michigan.
Other Kathy and I steeped in the deep blue of Lake Superior.
Deep blue sea.
Deep blue see.
The blood that pumps through our bodies is blue.
We are, as Joni Mitchell sings, tangled up in blue.
I am grateful blue.