Summer is so sweet and so full of life.
But grief has arrived and she cannot be ignored.
We have to speak about loss.
In my community, there has been a terribly sad loss of a teen-aged girl. She is the daughter of people I don’t know well, but know in the way you know people in a small town. She is the niece of our friends, she is the cousin of my daughter’s close friend, her name is Maia, and though I don’t know that I ever saw her as a grown-up kid, I remember when she was born, the ripples of happiness that spread through her extended family and touched those of us further out from that center.
What do you do in the face of this or every other sadness we encounter on a daily basis? The surprising losses like Maia who drowned while snorkeling with her father, or the shattering devastation at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina? Each loss reveals more about us than we’d like to admit. Here, this tender dear girl who resembles so many of her cousins, thick eyelashes and a smile that stops traffic. I sense the utter sadness of her parents and I want to claw my children to my chest. I hold my prayers like shoulders leaning in to my heart. In Charleston, layers of revelation about the sinister presence of past and present oppression continue to disrupt communities. Street names, place names, flags and habit patterns bear not-so-subtle reminders of terrible sorrow.
What do we do? How broken open do we have to be before we start to take steps, remove flags, rename streets, extend a hand to another who cannot even speak for the sadness that has stopped us in our tracks?
This past week, I gathered with my sisterhood of bookmakers. We painted papers and built journals and sat in sacred circle where we wrote and shared. In that quiet held space, grief sat among us and carved a bigger space in our hearts for each other. Sitting there with bare-boned knowing, grief rubbed elbows with celebration and the agonies of our lives return from exile.
How do you sit with grief, yours or someone else’s?
What do you do?
In my town, we start cooking. People trodden down with sorrow need to eat and drink, so we utilize the online tool of Meal Train and the family eats.
In the lushness of summer, grief joins us. She edges in like a dog soaked with skunk, fragrant and impossible to ignore.
It is Sunday morning.
From the church of my heart, I send you love.
My apologies for the earlier draft of this post that misnamed Charleston. Yes, I am right with you #Charlestonstrong.
They are artfully made to tantalize you to pick them up.
And often, what they contain tantalizes you further.
What is on your summer reading pile?
Jessica Fechtor’s Stir arrived this weekend and today, I baked this cake from the first chapter. You can too, here. Or you can get your own copy of her well-told tale that is punctuated, as those toasted almonds and granulated sugar dot that cake, plentifully, with recipes.
I am not going to write a lot today.
I am waiting for my daughter to turn towards me, like I wait when the moon comes full.
She is in her own time, but I know she is turning.
She arrived last night, later than we expected.
We waited. Standing in the entry way of our house, our yearning for her was a muddy squealing piglet in our arms.
Dripping and moist. Noisy. Impossible to avoid.
Yet, when she walked in the door, I for one, was a tiny bit embarrassed for the mess of
my longing. In my jammies. No bra. Arms aching to hold her.
She is here right now. She’s been out and back. She’s gone for a run.
I have wiped the kitchen counter several times and watered the tomatoes.
I reserved today for this.
Tomorrow, I plan to be ship shape and back in the saddle and all tidy and running smoothly.
Or else, I will be, as you might expect, ship wrecked and dragged by my stirrups. Again, the mother heart, ticking madly, looking for your light.
“When feeling the sharpness of being sad or hurt, it helps to take new things in. This pours the water of life on the fire of the heart.”
So I gave myself permission to be spontaneous. I painted. I found these words.
What are you giving yourself permission for today?
Tomorrow, Monica Devine arrives with a view of what permission looks like for her in Eagle River, Alaska.
Stay tuned to the moon’s trajectory, to the summer of permission, to the voices of creative women, some of whom mother, here on Laundry Line Divine.
Nothing is perfect here, but it is real.
All my messy piglet love,
PS I know I am supposed to be telling you about this and this. I am also heading to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in August for three wonderful offerings and a bit of family vacation in my homeland. More on all that another day. Please share this post with friends, especially those who stand around kitchens, distracted from everything because of the moon, standing there in jammies, unbrushed teeth, grinning in a wrinkled linen dress.
This pain in my stomach and the tears that brim, if and only if I stay quiet long enough, but really, I’d rather write, are all about my children today. One is supposedly leaving for college on Saturday. Aside from purchasing extra-long fitted sheets and a plastic basket for his toiletries, there are few signs that he will be ready to leave this house at 7:30 AM. The other is off at work where she can clean and wipe and do all the chores that she ignores here at home. She snipes that we don’t have guests any more so she can sleep on the guest bed in the living room. Now, not only do we have her shoes cluttering the floor wherever she pauses long enough to pull her feet out of them, we have her balled up shirts and crumpled newspapers on the couch, as if this room where we’ve celebrated Christmas and Solstice and Hanukkah, birthdays and meetings is now just an extension of her impenetrable bedroom upstairs.
The boundaries here are wobbly today. I took a bath and lost myself reading about damselflies and dragonflies. While soaking in water laced with Epsom Salts to sooth me, whatever part needed soothing I could not name, but I needed it, I identified the Twelve Spotted Skimmer that landed briefly on the purple phlox just off the back porch where I wrote this morning. My writing time extended in to three hours out there in my jammies because even though this is the day when I am protected from distraction, even though this is my Art Day as it has been for the past 3 years, even though I had directly stated last night and again this morning that I really need time to focus and work today because tomorrow will be busy, what with packing and all the rest, I was interrupted out on the back porch about 75 times. This included searching for the bike lock for my daughter who was in a rush to bike one hour to her driving lesson and it became my fault she would be late because I insisted on the lock. Then she left not knowing the combination but at that point, I was considering walking off the back porch myself and locking myself in the little playhouse in the back garden where no cheerful children play bagel drive-through with me anymore as I weed the red currants and winter berry. I could surely be secluded out there.
I emerge from the tub and the house is weirdly quiet. While I think they have left, all to their aforementioned pursuits, my worry is such that I think they have all hauled off to family therapy to consult over my not being ready, willing and able to ditch what has become my work and be fully available. Wouldn’t it all be so much easier if I slipped back in to my 24-hour Mart Motherhood? Let us not forget that I have contributed mightily to the going-to-college effort and steadfastly stood by while decisions were made what weren’t mine to make and pitched in my opinions where they were called for. I have hung wash, folded wash, delivered wash in tidy piles. I have helped with the list making and conversed about the schedule.
But at this point, I am pretty sure it is up to him to pack his own bags. I said that. And he did not like it. He felt offended that I would stick to my Art Day while he went off to have two lunch dates, neither of them with me.
So I am convinced that this quiet is all of them at therapy talking about the fact that I just don’t do what I am supposed to do anymore. I make boundaries and consult with them about the calendar, which they always forget. Except my husband, who never forgets, so that when a sudden thunderstorm rattles the teacups, he darts around the house closing windows and is startled by my presence on the porch because wasn’t I supposed to be at a lunch meeting. No, I say, that got canceled yesterday and I forgot to mention it.
So, pondering them all at family therapy, I eat lunch outside again because that storm has passed. My stomach feels only slightly better. I take my vitamins, and then decide on an ice cream bar for added comfort.
I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. That is all there is to this making a decision and sticking with it, my work, this work, this writing and art and time with my door closed, thanks to Virginia fucking Woolf who did not have children and I am very aware of that when, on the 76th interruption something quite beautiful happens that I would not have missed for the world.
It was a call to swim. “Can you be at Whale Rock in ten minutes?” I am thinking the rock about 3 blocks from here, sure, I can bike there. But no, he means the Whale Rock at the river, so I have to drive and I am there in 13 minutes and I even finished the row of knitting I was doing when he called me.
Would I have missed that for writing?
Would I have not painted one stroke for that dive in the head chilling waters of the Green?
Would I have exchanged his long strokes admired by two boys under ten, watching my boy the same way he used to watch others, emulating the swagger, the technique and the tug of the shorts just so?
No, of course not.
No, I would not miss that.
But, I will let him organize his own wardrobe. It is clean. There is plenty of it.
And I will be ready to drive him to school on Saturday.
I will be here when she returns from Driver’s Ed. And I will be nagging her about a helmet for as long as I live.
And today, I will stay behind this closed door because that is the agreement I have made, a family contract which may appear, as I have always appeared- flexible, resilient, malleable, changeable at the drop of a text or a hat or a tea cup.
This all makes me itch, but at least I can work now, my stomach has settled (hurray for the ice cream sandwich and the bathtub biology lesson).
The dragonfly, (mine a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella), is the symbol of metamorphosis and transformation. When a dragonfly appears, perhaps just twelve inches away from you on a morning where your tummy is tight and passing clouds gather stormy between your ears, “Its lightness inspires those who have the dragonfly as totem to use their ability to be flexible and highly adaptable in any situation.”
Perhaps I have to haul myself in to the river to chill or to the bathtub to soak. What will be the benefit of this watery existence?
Maybe a moment’s fluidity? Maybe the ability to keep a light, positive outlook on the impending metamorphosis of our family? Maybe I can emulate the dragonfly’s aerial lightness and take things lightly? Maybe even when the clouds gather?
I am willing. Virginia and me, we are willing to be changed by this watery existence. Sadly, she ended her life in the river. Me? I see my life begins there.
Happy Friday you all.
I am packing and patient today.
PS I haven’t said this in a few posts, if you like what you read here, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and got an email from AWeber about your subscription, please respond to it. I am updating my mailing list and would love to keep you on it. I send a newsletter once a month, except, well, this month because I am leaving on a book tour to Upper Michigan, where, I expect, I will see many dragonflies. Please stay in touch. Comment. Share this site with a friend. Be well.