“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.
This post was written for The Be Zine which is dedicating its April issue to International Poetry Month. As a Contributing Editor, I am honored to be able to join with truly accomplished poets in celebrating Poetry, but I am well aware that my skills do not match those of my colleagues! Treat yourself to some truly substantial fare by visiting the magazine here.
My favorite poetry is philosophy dressed in dreaming, not logic. It imagines a larger reality, a more expansive love. Rilke is the gold standard, I think. Oh, but that is the pièce de résistance, and there’s so much more besides that. I am a poem consumer, not a gourmet chef. I know very little of form or craft, but I love to taste and participate. So I’ve written a love poem to my late husband because, well, you might as well start with breakfast.
Thick, boyish lashes fringe Other eyes, perhaps as blue, Open, tender toward Beloved
Still smiling youths may offer Eager grins, warm confidence Gleaming ‘neath soft whiskered lips
Clear voices might ring Thrilling, gentle as yours when
You sang at daybreak just for me
Surely now first loves make vows, Grow mature together, devotion’s Friendly joy becoming solid strength
Fathers must bend heart and arm Wrap manhood’s grace boldly around Each golden, blessed child – like you
No doubt live sorrowing pairs With looming loss, still holding, Fingers trembling, to brave last words
I cannot boast an only, greatest grief; I know this storied world is vast. But still I weep in fond belief That you and I loved first and last.
I have been invited by Terry of Through the Lens of My Lifeto participate in a Five Day Challenge. Each day, I will post a photo and write a story to go along with it. (I probably will interpret the term ‘story’ quite loosely. I do that.) I will also invite one person each day to take up this challenge on his/her blog.
Today’s offering is titled “Scarring and Healing”:
The cold air pricked her cheeks as she walked the soggy trail. The sting kept her alert in her solitude, her daydreams suppressed by the chill of Now. Her downcast eyes were wary, marking her footing lest she slip on an icy patch in her resolution to maintain a brisk pace. On either side of her, oaks and pines stretched darkly upward into a damp, gray sky. The leaf litter beneath her feet offered up the rich, earthy smell of decay. She breathed it in deeply and raised her head. At the fork in the path loomed a large, lichen-covered trunk. At eye level, the bark was stripped away and a curious zigzag was laid bare. Suddenly, her legs grew weak. She stood still, staring at the jagged gash. Tentatively, she raised her hand and pressed her fingers into the seam. The place felt warm to her touch. Slowly, she traced the serpentine line, caressing each inch with intent awareness. Her brows pinched together, and her nose stung. Her salty tears ate away the iciness of her cheeks. This living tree displayed the image of her memories, the shiny white scar down his breastbone, wider and redder in a few places where the staples had given way and the flesh had became infected, punctuated here and there with the small holes of needle entry. How often she had looked anxiously on those scars. How guilty she had felt when she at last laid her head on his chest again and noticed the swelling when she raised it precious minutes later. The last thing on earth that she wanted was to add to his pain. His quick laugh was enough to assure her that he wanted her closeness more than her worries. And with that memory, she recalled the tender touch, re-enacted it, and reverenced the miracle of healing in the patient example of the living pine. The tree stood tall bearing witness to its tale, and she moved on, alone, bearing hers.
— Next, I invite you to visit Edward Roads at My Two Sentences. Each of his posts is exactly that, two sentences, narrating an idea inspired by his photos. His genre makes my brain whir, filling in more detail to the story, and his vocabulary makes me get out my dictionary – which I appreciate! I reckon his two sentences amount to a story, so he’s already completed this challenge and will probably keep it up for at least five more days. (So, no pressure, Edward! 🙂 )
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
Yesterday was a very sad day for me. I was following up on a news article I read a few weeks ago about indigenous Americans purchasing sacred land in the Black Hills. I was happy that they had raised the $9 million they needed, but I was led deeper into the story and watched a TED talk and slide show that made me very emotional. Then the breaking news stories started flooding the internet. Gun violence, death, fear, suffering, blame. A hurting world in sudden outbursts of information and misinformation. Another seemingly random mass shooting.
Do no harm.
I suppose that is an impossible task. Everywhere we tread, we harm something. It’s our responsibility to be aware of that. What is the positive alternative? Make peace. What if there were mass ‘peace’-ings instead? What if the media covered screens with healing stories of kindness, of love, of compassion, of good will? What if our every breath was tuned toward acceptance and wholeness? What would that look like?
Imagine. A group of people, young and old, of all colors, surrounds a school where young minds are developing ideas of the world. The students are beginning to formulate their own opinions about the world and whether it is a place of fear or not. These opinions will shape their interactions and responses for years to come. And the students hear from their open windows a sound that begins to grow…it starts with a single voice. It is singing a clear melody in an ancient language…”Dona…nobis…pacem…”. Another voice joins in. The tune is spread, broader, higher, deeper, from voice to voice. A child inside the school picks up the cue and begins. And another…and another. The music blankets the classrooms, the cafeteria, the hallways, the offices. “Dona nobis pacem”…”Give us peace”. Peace is given, shared, lived, spread. This is how the world changes from a place of fear begetting fear to a place of safety and love.
What world do you want to live in? Click here to listen to the melody. Join in, with your voice, with your breath, with your life. Imagine that spreading like news to a hurting world.
“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.
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.