Weekly Photo Challenge: Transformation

“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature’s delight.” — Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor)


“I am the joy in change and movement.” – Steve Wiencek  (Milwaukee guy)

 

Celebrating my place in Nature has long been my way to transcend losses and feel grounded. When my husband died, it was like my identity died with him. Transitioning to a new life was very difficult, but spending time pursuing my hobby, photographing the changes in nature, certainly opened my eyes to new life all around, even in unexpected places. 

Change is the characteristic of Life. Everything is transformed, even sadness, loss and fear. There is always something new, in a new state of being, to discover. In my case, I discovered Steve, in the state of Wisconsin. 

Transformation

Photography 101: Connect

The prompt says, “There are many ways to interpret this theme: from a gadget to a handshake, from a bridge to a gathering among friends. What’s yours?”  Well, I have two.  One is quite literal, and I think it’s a strong image:

connect 2“Blessed be the ties that bind….” 

If you’re a sailor, there’s nothing more important than well-connected lines.  This is concrete understanding of the physical world.  It means something right away.  Here’s one that’s a bit more intuitive:

connectSisters

How strong is this image?  Well, it is emotionally powerful to me.  These are my two living sisters.  We had just learned that Sarah’s husband has cancer.  I was visiting them in California.  We get together; Dharam greets Sarah with a hug, I pull out my camera.  How do you connect?  (I hugged her, too, BTW)

I Haven’t Forgotten This Day

I haven’t forgotten what we shared and how much it meant: how meeting you for the first time made me feel…

I haven’t forgotten the gift of holding you in my arms…

…or the joy of our shared laughter…

…or the sweet music we made together.

I haven’t forgotten the caring; deep, yearning, hoping for all good things for you.

He whispered these things to my heart, and I responded, “Neither have we, my darling.”

To us: many happy returns of the day. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

This week, in a post created specifically for this challenge, show us an image that says REFLECTION. 

It could be a person who helps you see things clearly, a place you go to collect your thoughts, or an object that reminds you of your achievements. You could also go for something more literal, like a reflection in water. Or something that demonstrates both interpretations of the word.

“A person who helps you see things clearly…” 

What would you say about someone who meets you in your greatest grief, who doesn’t turn away but faces the tough questions with you, offering presence, not answers?  Someone who challenges you to pursue those questions and discover the emotions they evoke, the hopes, the fears, the identity that emerges from within…and who then asks you to decide who you want to be?  Someone who promises simply to be aware and who asks simply for your awareness? 

Steve met me 8 months after my husband of 24 years died.  I was in a state of profound transition, the fabric and framework of my homespun in complete collapse.  On our first date, we hiked around glacial terrain, enjoying the fall colors and talking.  Beside Nippersink Creek, I stopped.  I became silent.  I no longer wanted to fill the space between us with words and thoughts.  I was finally unafraid to be aware that I was with him, in a new place, with a new person, as a new life was beginning.  He sat beside me, quiet and reflective as well.  What I saw clearly was that Life is beautiful and that death does not diminish that one bit. 

Came home from work with a poem in my pocket…

Ever had one of those days?  Decidedly moody, unable to focus, liable to shed tears at any moment.  It started as I was driving in to work.  By lunch break, I had a poem scribbled on the back of a museum map in my pocket.  By afternoon break, I had texted my children just to tell them I missed their dad.  Lovely souls that they are, they reached back immediately with cyber hugs.  (thanks, kids!)  So here’s the poem – no title came with it.

What can I do?

                 — it’s October

the sumac is red and my poor, backward head

is flooding nostalgia like liquid amber. 

If I picked up guitar and a blues-country twang

                — and sang

it’d be you in the sunshine

white overalls, your shirt as blue as your eyes

walking me home from school

sweet, musky sweat

your warm, solid arm

the newness of the world in the flash of your smile

               — Hell. 

Now 35 Octobers gone

I’ve aged like a maple leaf

Fall-ing, as once for you,

now with you, in spirit

falling, scattering, lifting

like ashes in a sunbeam

like milkweed in the wind

Shouldn’t I settle in the present?  How can I?

             — in October

when you’re long gone…

The Kiss

A selection from my file marked “Widow’s Story”:

“I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I found out that he was in the same English class as my older sister, so I gave her a note to pass to him. I fastened it with a safety pin because I didn’t want her to read it. It was decorated with doodles and stuff, like a goofy schoolgirl with a crush would send. Basically, I offered to make him a cassette tape of my parents’ PDQ Bach album because I knew he was learning some of the madrigal pieces in choir and found them very funny. He sent me a note back, or spoke to me, and we agreed that I would give him that gift the next day before he got on the bus to go to the beach with the Senior class for Sneak Day. So, early on the morning of June 8, 1978, I waited outside the school near the cul de sac where the buses would board. He came bounding up to me when he saw me, and I greeted him with a big smile, handed him the tape and wished him a good day at the beach. He smiled back with his dazzling grin, thanked me and then leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. He smiled again, turned and boarded the bus. I stood dazed on the steps for a few seconds before running off to class with a secret smirk planted on my face that must have lasted days. We talked about that first kiss a lot over the years. We celebrated that kiss forever after. At first, it was the 8th of every month that we gave each other anniversary cards and letters. Then, it was the yearly Kiss Anniversary presents of Hershey’s kisses. For 29 years we did that, sharing our chocolate mementos with children and co-workers and whoever was around on that June day to hear the story.

After the kiss came the letters. In the first one he wrote me, he said, “This is the first in a series that I will affectionately call ‘Letters to Priscilla’. In 20 years, you can toss them onto the fire and say to your husband, ‘Well, they were some good after all.’ But then again, in 20 years, maybe I’ll be your husband. Wink, wink.” He wrote that letter the night of that Senior Sneak Day. The day of our first kiss. Did he know?”

The energy of that June day returned to me this morning.  Lying awake beside my open window, feeling the coolness of the morning air and the promise of sunshine and heat to come, the scent of freshly-mowed grass recalled to me the old high school lawn.  A certain excitement, the world about to turn in a new direction, the feeling that my real life might just be even more wonderful than my fantasies, and the realization that finally, I didn’t want to be anyone else except the person I actually am, set that energy flowing in a trickle down my face.  This may be the path to acceptance after all.

Photo credit: my little brother, aged 7. I set the shot up for him on my Canon AE-1 (a gift from Jim) and asked him to do this favor for me so that I’d have a picture to take away to college. What 7 year old kid would take a photo of his big sister kissing her boyfriend? A sweet, generous one. Thanks, David. Always grateful.

The Man of My Dreams

A song from the past floats into my head as I’m falling asleep.  I’m a teenager, listening to one of the first albums I bought with my own money.  Barbra Streisand: A Star is Born.  It’s the end of the story.  Esther Hoffman Howard is a widow, taking the stage for the first time since the accident.  “With one more look at you…” she begins.  “I want one more look at you.”  I want one more chance to put it all together and make it make sense.

My husband Jim is in my dreams again.  But I don’t know I’m dreaming.  I can touch him.  I feel his hair, strangely coarse, actually, compared to the thick, loosely curled, soft stuff I remember.  But he’s there, in the flesh, inexplicably, and so am I.  I want answers.  How is it you’re here again, and so often?  Was I wrong when I thought you’d died?  Has there been a mistake?  Are you back for good?  Where, exactly, have you been?  Speak to me.

He begins to talk, and I hang on every word.  He is telling me the secrets of the Universe, of life and death, and I had better remember this accurately later, when I wake up.  When I wake up…does that mean that this is just a dream?  Logic gets all loose and wiggly again, and consciousness creeps back into my head.   Suddenly, I’m awake and sweating hot.  I’m in a room by an open window on a street in suburban Milwaukee.  And this doesn’t seem to make much sense, either. 

Anger. Denial. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.  What are the emotions driving these dreams?  What is my subconscious trying so hard to reconcile? I keep struggling for meaning.  I am angry, I suppose.  I deny that Jim died at the age of 47.  That was too soon.  It doesn’t fit into my perception of How Things Ought To Be.  I do not accept it.  Even now, more than four years later.  Although, even in my dreams, I know that he is dead, and that is Real. 

Enlightenment is, roughly, when you accept all that is…without the ‘you’.  Ego is inconsequential.  Acceptance, peace, wholeness.  All Is.  I guess I’m not at that point yet.  I work on it through the night.  I imagine Jim trying to help me out, but his input just confuses me.  And I’m still too involved, trying too hard to wrap my little brain around the incomprehensible.  How can I simply let it go?  Accept ambiguity.  Accept mystery.  Accept it all.  Accept.      Accept.