Tag Archives: grief

wednesday morning in the garden (with a little extra sparkle)

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It’s warm again here, and the sprinklers were going full force this morning at the garden. So we zigged and zagged a lot as we walked – no real plan as we meandered.

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My photos moved from white to pinks to reds and greens. The lilies are glorious right now, and the roses are still prolific.

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There are signs of autumn everywhere – autumn crocuses (something I’d never heard of until a few years ago), and the beginning blooms on heaping mounds of mums. I love purple mums the most, I think.

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There are berries on everything, russet colors against a backdrop of green.

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The sun is lower now, and still hot. Everything looks warm to me in these photos. The heat didn’t stop her from running everywhere. She was full of energy this morning; second grade is agreeing with her.

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We left some admission tickets at the front desk to surprise a few guests later today. We’re all spreading a little sparkle around this week, in memory of my niece. She would have been fourteen yesterday. Walking in the garden each week has been one of my centering points in this grief walk. As difficult as it is to watch the seasons – and the milestones – go on without her, it’s also helpful to experience those changes too. I hope we brought a smile to several faces today – an extra treat beyond the joy and the gift of an afternoon stroll in this place.

sacred space

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On the drive home from work I was listening to All Things Considered on the radio. Eleanor Beardsley was reporting from a small microphone, panting slightly as she walked a half mile into one of the towns in Central Italy that has been devastated by the earthquake and aftershocks this week. She notes the silence of her surroundings, and then you hear a guard in the distance telling her to turn around and leave. There is no one there. The town is gone. Everyone has left but this guard, and the buried.

As I was listening, I started crying. Whole towns are gone. Whole families. Whole histories. I tend to take a long view when I think of life, of the tiny little blip we are in time. It’s almost like that motion sick feeling you can get when you zoom in and out quickly in Google Earth – I prefer to hover a bit where I don’t get too attached. I could picture this region in the long view, visualize the area affected in the center of the country. I lived in that country and studied its history. We walked on the current streets of cities like Assisi, and then walked the ancient streets of that city underground – the foundation of the current one. There are layers upon layers of civilization there, a civilization that is still just a blip in the long view of time. I remember seeing the damage done to that city by an earthquake just after I left; I can’t imagine how much damage this current earthquake has done to similar towns.

I had the privilege to live and walk on so many of those streets, the gift of time to get outside of the famous cities and sit still in the smallest of places. So many of the best hours of my entire life have been spent on ancient stone steps, sketchbook and pen in hand, watching the people move about their day, greeting one another in the street, carrying food home for dinner, sitting at outdoor tables with a glass of wine and the paper, lighting candles just inside the open doors of churches. I stayed in little hotels, small flats, and even tinier rooms as I worked my way across the entire region.

There is devastation all around us; it’s nothing new. But this feels like sacred space to me. I left a piece of my heart in that country, and it’s broken this week.

breathe

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It’s hot here, and humid. This is not atypical for this place and this time of year. It’s been such an emotional week, and I’m spent. Our extended family is wrapping up an emotional journey, and we’ve followed along with their photos through our own tears. The daily news is hard to stomach, and the cycle never ends. And there’s the natural emotional pull that comes with family milestones, big and small. I feel this on the eve of each birthday, as we say farewell to another year of life. It’s a mixture of gratefulness and relief. We’ve survived to mark another tally mark on the yardstick of life. The heat and humidity takes me back to that place seven years ago, walking through a garden, breathing, stretching. Attempting to calm the nerves for what I knew lay ahead. Blissfully unaware of the even harder work beyond.

I did not know, on that steamy July morning, that the practice of breathing would become such an integral part of my life as it has unfolded. I relied on it to get me through the excruciating hours of pain that night. I learned to stretch it into patterns that saw me through gripping anxiety to a more peaceful acceptance of change. I lost it in the throes of grief; it escaped out the same pipe as our screams and cries, only returning in shallow whispers that kept me near home and still. I practice it now in ujjayi form, twice a week, on a mat. I practice it in rhythmic form, three times a week, on gravel paths and hills. I draw more strength from it than I could have imagined seven years ago.

It seems rather silly to think that the act of breathing can be such a vital component of change – we don’t even have to think about it as we do it. But still, I wish that there was some way to convince the world to take a deep, cleansing breath. Each morning, before each thought, and certainly before speaking or acting.

It’s silly, I know. But still.