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Memoir Monday 3

Wild Yellow Flag Iris with ivy-covered ghost cabin in background. Phall Photo 2014

Wild Yellow Flag Iris with ivy-covered ghost cabin in background. Phall Photo 2014

Nature Heals: A Non-Scientific Study, Part 1

A 5-year, blinded by multiple deaths of loved ones, study.

After Paul died (Aug 2009) I spent my few waking hours out on the back deck of our home. From my lofty vantage point, I soaked up the panorama of our own overgrown lawn and gardens and the wild acreage surrounding them. Beyond all the love and support of our circle of family and friends, nature itself helped bring me back to life.

Excerpts from my first few emails in late August to early September 2009 to our family and friends:

I’m watching the deer on the hill & the chickadees are singing their evening lullaby. There are many things I should be doing, but I will probably go back to bed. I did finally turn the soaker hoses off…after 3 days!

I woke up to a longggg, LOUD roll of thunder this morn. The pounding rain on the roof woke me several times last night, still pouring now. Bring on the ARK!

Oliver (my cat) is curled up next to me on the porch swing, dreaming of the good old days when he could get around better and we still had Paul and Jake (our dog) with us. I know what Oliver’s dreaming, cause that’s what I’m dreaming…

Earlier I described a gloomy, rainy day. Now, however, the sun has come out, the rain stopped, and a mist rises from the grassy field on the hill. I’ve been watching a fledgling red-tail hawk learn to fly. He’s resting on a high, thick fir tree branch, his wings drooping at his sides. Trying to balance his heavy wings, he follows the branch towards the center of the big tree; I think it is siesta time.
A light breeze just came from the south and swept away all of the dark clouds, leaving some bright white ones on the horizon, pushing the others to the north. The porch chimes are singing and one of the ducks on the pond is yakking. People, this is amazing! I’m listening to all sorts of birds singing about the sun coming out after nature’s shower.
I keep wanting to turn around and knock on the window to get Paul to come out and see these wonders; he never failed to show his enthusiasm for my discoveries. He never told me to wait a minute. He would put down whatever he was doing and mosey on out to see what I had found. He usually grabbed the camera too. Now, that makes me cry–how could we lose someone that special?
 
Pretty crazy weather day. That same breeze just filled the sky with more dark clouds and I’ll be damned if it isn’t raining again! Yesterday I finally planted the thyme, moss, and ornamental grass that have been sitting by the side of the house in their original store pots since May. I salvaged most of them and planted them in a big round bowl-shaped pot and sat it in the tall pot with dead things in it on the back porch. Another new rose bloomed in the temp perennial garden. This one is a large, fluffy pink one. I cut it yesterday and added it to a vase with a pink and light lavender gladiola. Collected and stored seeds from a cool Canterbury bell-like flower yesterday; one was light lavender, the other a deep purple. Hopefully we’ll get a couple more dry spells to collect more seeds, she says, as it pours buckets of rain on her garden… “What wild hopes lie here.” author unk.
Part 2, excerpts from beach cave notes and conclusion of my tongue-in-cheek “study” will be posted on June 23rd.

Thank you,

Patti

 

The Memoir Monday feature will be posted every other Monday.


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Dedicated to My Aunt, Her Children and You!

On October 1st, while I was being amazed at the offerings of the sky, my Aunt Norma was on a final journey to her loving husband who passed away eight years ago. As a hole in the stormy clouds above the ocean opened up, it sent rays of light from above, and chills ran up and down my body. This is usually my reaction when I get to witness this natural phenomena, but it felt stronger that day.

Hole in sky. October 1st. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Hole in sky. Westport, WA, October 1st.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

Yesterday I visited my other aunt and talked to my mom in Alaska; they had both lost a sister the day before. For my mother, that is a daughter, a close family friend, a great grand child and a sister, that she has lost in less than 2 years. I got to hug two cousins yesterday and renew our cousin-love vows. I stopped by to give my uncle a hug and to renew our vow of family love. I have recently been rebuilding friendships with the children of the aunt who just died, and I am trying to support them through this hard time.

A double rainbow, double the hope. Oct 2nd. PHALL PHOTO

A double rainbow, double the hope. Oct 2nd. Centralia, WA
PHALL PHOTO

All of this has me thinking about the nature of loss. How very different the loss of one person can be to each of us; how the news hits us and how it settles around us. Our experiences with loss, and our relationship and history with the lost one, make such a difference. Some want to laugh, some need to cry, others want to reminisce, while some just want to ignore the pain. It is very hard to know which way a grieving person is leaning on that particular day, or hour or, even, that minute. I am doing the best that I can for each. The biggest thing I think I can do, is to be a good listener and let them lead me to the place they are, emotionally. I offer gentle sympathy. After a lot of listening, I can usually offer something that I think will help. Sometimes it is just a hug, or hanging out for awhile. Sometimes it is an action I can take. Either way, I try and be gentle. And yes, this loss is my loss also, so I’ll need to be gentle with me too.

Fall Rainbows. Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA PHALL PHOTOS 2013

Fall Rainbows. Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA
PHALL PHOTOS 2013

I also spent time with my daughter’s family yesterday. As usual, I drug them all out to see Nature’s glory in the sky. Pretty soon, Nola (6) and Cora (7), were dragging me down the sidewalk and around the corner to get better views of the incredible fading rainbow-setting sun-lit sky.

Sunset on window-wall of Centralia College. Oct 2nd. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Sunset reflection on window-wall of Centralia College. Oct 2nd.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

 

They ran up the concrete steps of a vacant 1930’s church, and still, stood on their tippy-toes to get a better view…then, around another corner, and they careened, arms out, down a wavy concrete ramp.

Nola & Cora, Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Nola & Cora, Oct 2nd, Centralia, WA.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

This loss, like others, seems to bring us together, even as we regret not having spent more time, laughter and rainbows with the one we lost. Let’s just try harder with the ones we have left. I think my aunt would be happy with that vow.

Sunset of a happy-sad day. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Sunset of a happy-sad day.
PHALL PHOTO 2013


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Midlife Collage Contest Essay, “Love, Laughter and Loss”

sunset, moon, coastguard

Sunset Moon & Coastguard Tower, Westport, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

As usual, the photo is unrelated to the text :>) I hope that the Coasties love this one. More photos of mine at phallphotos.wordpress.com 

One of my stories is in the  Midlife Collage contest this week (Monday through Sunday). It’s called “Love, Laughter and Loss” and is up against four other short stories. It only runs until this Sunday.

http://midlifecollage.com

This contest pays $50., but it asks more of the reader/voters;

  1. Facebook “likes” count a lot in the final judging. So, please click the Facebook link at the bottom of my story—it looks like a thumbs up.
  2. Please leave one of your thoughtful comments at the end of the story. Comments count for judging, only if they are more than a quick, “Great story!” What emotions, memories, thoughts came up when you read it? What did you think about the quality of writing? Was it descriptive enough? Logical beginning, middle & end?
  3. Please go to “Closing Arguments” (at the top of each page, in the header) and convince the judges which story should win this week and why. I usually copy and paste my comment from the story I want to win, then make it stronger for the judges.
  4. For you to “qualify” to give the judges your opinion in the “Closing Arguments” you have to click a box that says that you have read at least 3 of the stories.

Thank you for taking the time to do this for me.

Patti


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What Will Superman Do Now? Garden Shift from Woods to Beach

Dead Phone Booth, Westport, WA Phall Photo 2013

Dead Phone Booth, Westport, WA
Phall Photo 2013

Do you have any phone booth memories? I took this photo in Westport, WA a few days ago and it actually made me sad to see this moldy decrepit phone booth.  It is one more ending of things that we have grown used to in our lives. Remember the fad in the 70’s; college kids stuffing themselves into a phone booth? How about all the books and movies with phone booths as props, or even as main characters? RIP phone booths everywhere, I’ll miss you.

Speaking of missing…I have barely been online for the last few days and I miss you all!  You have become part of my routine since late March and it was tough being away. I’ve spent the time well, saying goodbye to another loved place. I’ve been doing hard labor, with the help of two friends. We’ve been moving what was left of my garden from the home that my late husband and I shared.

As most of you know, I ran away from home over 3 years ago. We had a beautiful yard and garden when Paul was diagnosed with leukemia in July 2009. We had a load of fresh topsoil and were beginning to remove the grass and fill the yard with trails and flowers. We had healed in some of the perennials. There is now a huge tree in their place. Grass and thistles 3-4 feet high. Three saplings grow in my raised bed garden. Much of our yard art was stolen.  Over 4  years of abandonment.

The first day was mainly clearing paths and discovering what was left to salvage. Elephant bamboo, blackberries, and ivy were taking over and the grape arbor was completely hidden. It took a chain saw to get to the pond and my shade garden in the back corner, where I had been making a memorial garden for my husband’s late wife. She was a wonderful person who died of cancer in the mid-80’s; I wanted Paul and his adult children to have a special place to “visit” her. I almost cried when I found a tiny yellow plant that smells delicious. It survived! My wild ginger still struggled on, my mondo grass and a hosta. It was like finding treasure in a sunken ship, while mourning the loss of the ship and some of the passengers.

Everything we salvaged went to a friend’s house, where I am building a new garden. I live in my little Maggie home on the property, so it isn’t my land, but I will be outside creating a magical space, and I will enjoy it until I settle into a home of my own.  So much was lost, yet I can take what’s left and make a spot of beauty near my beach.

August is a difficult month and I hope this garden project will make it easier; hard work usually does. Paul was born in August and he died in August, 11 days before his birthday. We celebrated our anniversary of meeting again in August.  His memorial was also in August. The bright side shines too. Ever since I ran away to the beach and met Mermaid Carol, she hovers over me in August, taking tender care of me. One of my best friend’s, Gwen, was born in August, and last, but in no way least, I gave birth to a wonderful red-headed boy 24 years ago in August.

Here’s hoping that the sun shines on the best side of your life this month:>)

Patti

 


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New! Book Review Page and Reflections For The Memoir

“Widow Stories” by Michelle Latiolais is my first book review; under the new heading at the top of my blog site. On the techy phones, my daughter says that the new pages that I’ve added at the top are in a drop-down called “Menus.” Below is an essay I wrote for the memoir after reading this book and writing the review.

In “Widow Stories” by Michelle Latiolais, I found these words comforting: “She doesn’t want them anywhere near how shattered she is.”  The comfort I feel is from reading words that reflect my own feelings. After my husband’s death I was unable to articulate this feeling in spoken or written words. After the recent death (MUST I SAY THAT WORD; CONNECT IT TO THIS SWEET CHILD?) of my grandson I wrote these similar words in a poem: “Not fit for the nurture of others; their sympathy shatters the broken pieces of my heart…”  On most days, one sympathetic word or gesture sends me into meltdown, which then makes me want to protect my loved ones from how “shattered” I am.

In another story Michelle talks about “…the mythology which the human animal makes sense of pain.”  This speaks volumes about my choosing to believe our lost ones are “up there,” in my recently posted letter to Paul, as well as the ghostly visitors in my poem, “Visions On The Beach.”  It is obvious that, like other writers, Michelle and I are using our writing to help make sense of the pain. No matter how many times I experience it, it always amazes me how my heart swells with the comfort of knowing that someone else feels as I do.

Michelle contends that, “You will be alone now, but never alone again from the company of loss.”  I have to agree, because, even as you begin to heal and join the world, that loss will always be with you. However, when you set the table for guilt, change the sheets and place fresh flowers out for guilt, you also build your house on a foundation in the company of loss. With each death I have carried away a suitcase filled with guilt. I do know that pretty much everyone associated with the death of someone close feels some degree of guilt. I know that. I just don’t know how they “manage” it; how they get up and shower and carry on with their normal life. I haven’t given up trying to send my guilt packing, but it may take some time.

People try to comfort me, and offer variables of  “At least you had that great love.”  I now have Michelle Latiolais’ perfect answer: “One wants what one has loved, not the idea of love.” I know that it is Paul I want, not some idea of the love we shared. “Yes, but I want my Paul,” has become my mantra since his death.  However unreasonable it may be (and I do realize it IS unreasonable), I want the actual person, not the idea. Maybe the most comforting words would be, “I wish I could bring him back to you.” My mom simply says, “I know, honey,” and that usually calms me down.

Michelle Latiolais’ little book of stories has helped me acknowledge and explore some of my own pain from the loss of loved ones.

I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a note in “Leave a comment” which is located to the left of the title.


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Treasured Souls

 

Oh, but we have lost–

such treasured souls,

at immeasurable costs.

 

Oh, but we do moan and cry–

such treasured souls,

no tangible, useable reasons why.

 

Oh, but we who’s hearts do bleed–

such treasured souls,

we feel no soothing sacred creed.

 

Oh, but we do startle awake from restless sleep–

such treasured souls,

dreamland holds tight; tries to help us keep.

 

Oh, but we struggle to remember their voices—

such treasured souls,

memory steals them away, we have no choice.

 

Oh, but we close our eyes to see their faces—

such treasured souls,

memory leaves only blurry, faded traces.

 

Oh, but we do measure the cost—

such treasured souls,

counting only the sorrowful trails of our loss,

such treasured souls.

 

for Paul, Michaela, Tommy, Tiven