The beach has always been a place of deep nourishment for me. When my mother passed away, after living with Alzheimer’s for 14 years, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. I fled to the coast in search of the parts of myself I had lost.
Each morning, I got up early and walked the damp sand, studied the shore birds, listened to the roar of the waves and inhaled the salt breezes. My mother had always loved the ocean and images of her inspecting shells or pointing out dolphins gradually began to float back to me.
As I remembered and grieved for my mom – the woman I had lost, the mother whose physical form had departed this world – tears filled my eyes and slipped down my cheeks.
At the same time, descriptions and words filled my head. and I began jotting down lines of poetry that turned into poems. In this period of solitude, I gave voice to the myriad emotions that came to the surface.
Little by little, a lightness began to permeate my soul. It was as if my grief had been clogging the pathways to joy. And as I gave my feelings permission to take flight through words, a sense of the sacredness of life filled me. Gradually, I awakened to some of the day-to-day blessings I had been blind to over the years as I numbly cared for my mother.
I’m excited to share my journey from grief to joy in my new collection of poetry called The Beach Poems. It will be available through Main Street Rag Publishing Co. The list price is $12. But If you live in the U.S. and you order now, you will receive the pre-publication discount of $6.50 (plus shipping).
Click here for your pre-order discount. The collection will be mailed to you upon publication. Thank you for your support, and may your beach days be blessed!
A new beginning. A new rhythm. As the seasons roll on there is always a new beginning and a new unfolding. Changes we expect and those that slip up on us, catching us unaware. After six years of homeschooling – later mornings, relaxed breakfasts, snuggling on couches, following my own routines — things have switched up.
For the first time in years, there is space. Space within my days. Room to do more than breathe, room to stretch my arms and stretch my mind into places long abandoned.
I was eager and willing to embrace homeschool during the years we did it. I don’t regret one second of that time, even though it wasn’t always easy. I am so grateful to have spent those years side by side with my daughter, learning who she is and growing close to her.
But the rhythm of days has changed, and even though I have been preparing for this all summer there is both a joy and an ache.
The joy comes from seeing my daughter move along a path that feels right to her and to us as her parents, watching her find her way in a new community, seeing her stretch and explore, witnessing an unfurling into the young woman she is becoming.
I miss her daily presence, the light of her face throughout my days. Yet I embrace the ache. It reminds me of the gifts we’ve shared, the interwoven hours, the privilege I’ve had of sometimes escorting, more often trailing behind, her as she transitioned from one stage to the next.
The ache is a small wildflower in the field of my heart. I imagine I will carry it with me through all my days. When I feel the absence of my girl, I will bend down to inspect the exquisite petals, delight in the flower’s bright colors and its insistence to grow.
At the same time I have been blessed with the time and space to grow myself as I watch my girl flit like a butterfly towards her future. Years ago my mother told me she was always learning even through her later years, maybe especially at that time.
My mother walks beside me today and as I link arms with the ghost of who my daughter was and who she might become. She places an arm around my shoulders, whispers words of assurance and love as we step forward into this new day.
Mornings are some of the most peaceful times on the farm. Here’s a little peek at what I see most mornings when I head down to the barn with Sydney. How can you not love these horses?
I woke before dawn, an eagerness spilling over me to greet the day, see what it holds. Before the recurrence of Lyme symptoms, I woke like this every morning for six weeks in a row, maybe more. I’d slip out from the covers, pull my clothes on and set out with Sunny for a walk to the end of the road. Those mornings were delicious…quiet, light splashed, cool, damp, grey-filled…always different, but always a gift.
For a few mornings this week, I stayed in bed after the sun crept over the horizon and wondered if last-year’s fatigue would take over and keep me from celebrating each morning’s blessing. Today, I hoped when I got out of bed, I’d have the same energy to walk and enjoy the beginning of my day. It was not a miraculous healing…but it was a positive step. I had some energy and was able to walk. Not all the way to the end of the road. But partway. And maybe I pushed myself a little. But it was worth it…to see the pale peach sky behind the barn, to hear the twitter of birds, to see the world waking. Yes, I felt the drag on my right side as I continued. But my pride or my stubbornness kept me going. And I was rewarded.
It would be easy to get discouraged and compare my present state with my recent great health. But I remember the days where I dragged myself around a short route for five minutes, once, twice, eventually three times a day, then slowly increased my time. My body responded…gradually.
And even when my body didn’t respond, I learned how quickly we adjust and gain perspective. When my legs no longer worked, I was reminded that I still had my hands. When my hands no longer worked, I rejoiced that I could still think. Not that it was easy. No. There was mourning too. But appreciation somehow flowers when we lose things.
Today, I remembered to thank God for each step, even the draggy ones. I was awake and moving. The sun will shine today and beauty abounds.
…with horses back on the property. I wake early, anticipating another sunrise, the serenity of a quiet dawn and the presence of horses on the farm. I am eager to take my morning walk, then come back and meet Sydney so that we can feed the horses together.
Sunny and I walk down the gravel drive through the trees. There is a hint of coolness in the air, unlike yesterday’s summery temperatures. My shoes crunch on the loose rocks below me, I wonder how the horses will respond when they see me. Will they neigh loudly, stamp and paw the ground, eager for breakfast? Will they circle their stalls, ready to bolt when their doors are opened into the grassy field in front of them?
As I walk towards the barn, I sense a stillness. I pass the big barn doors, continuing down the driveway. In the filtered light, I look across the paddock and see Foxie’s face peering in my direction. Smokey is too small to look over his door, but I trust he and Foxie share the same peace. They seemed to pass it back and forth yesterday afternoon when they arrived. Neither horse was agitated in the least. Both of them seemed to look around and, with a slow exhale, say to themselves, “We’re here. This looks like home.”
After my walk, Sydney and I come down to feed. The horses watch us as we move through the barn. We replenish their stalls with fresh flakes of hay. I say to Sydney, “Let’s wait a few minutes before we prepare their grain,” knowing the clatter of pellets from scoop into bucket excites even the calmest of horses.
Foxie and Smokie wander over to the hay in the corner of their stalls and bury their noses. My daughter and I stand waiting and expectant. There is nothing but the sound of molars grinding fescue and timothy and an occasional soft snort. Morning coolness wafts through the open barn. This is the companionship of horses. I could stay forever in this moment.
Before the sun came up, I woke with a sense of peace like clean gauze wrapped around the oozings of my heart. My mind had wanted to race in circles last night, but I slowed its galloping with a reminder: things often look new in the morning. And in this damp drenched April dawn, I sense a settling, the way pollen clings to grass or how magnolia petals that blossomed pink and surprising in March gradually turn brown and drift to the ground. Whatever it is my mind wants to force into place has eased, leaving a sweet trust that hides in the sleep-freshened branches of my mind.