Endings and beginnings. This month I seem to be in the midst of both of these passages. Everywhere I turn, it seems there’s another ending — a change, a loss, a time to say goodbye. But lest I get too caught up in grieving the passing of a season, I can’t help but see the seeds of new beginnings all around me as well.
Endings. I’m happy to say goodbye to a long, cold, wet winter. Days on end of grey sky and damp weather. People commented that it was like living in Seattle, without the beautiful coastline. Spring is finally here, and the flowers and everything green is now growing with a vengeance! On warm, sunny days, it’s hard to be inside. Beginnings.
Saying goodbye to John Black
Outside was where I would see Mr. Black, the farmer who we purchased our property from back in 1992. Over the years, he was always on his tractor, transporting round bales of hay for his cows or on the way to fertilize or seed a field.
He and his family welcomed us to this corner of North Carolina. John Black was strong, kind, sturdy. He wore blue jeans and denim or flannel shirts. He built our barn, cut hay off our pastures, chainsawed trees that fell across our driveway. He kept an eye on things and was often the first one to call us if something was amiss.
He loved to tell stories and laugh, and he was never in a rush. Even at the age of 88, during the last week of his life, he lingered, telling me about “an ole horse he used to ride.” He had the same sparkle in his eye that I had grown to love. But a few days later, the candle within him dimmed and blew out. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But it was time. Endings.
His granddaughters brought tears to my eyes as they gave his eulogy — sharing memories of a well-loved man. Granddaughters, who we knew when they were kids, the younger one was one of my daughter’s first babysitters, granddaughters who are now mothers with children of their own. Beginnings.
Sending Jean home to England
Endings. Sitting around a table with dear writer friends, saying goodbye to Jean, who kept us in line with her pen tapping. Twenty-five years of friendship, sharing stories of our lives, unearthing the hurts and joys, the parts of us who made us who we were, shaping me into who I would become.
These women helped midwife my memoir, a labor of twenty years where I brought them chapter after chapter. Their kindness and wisdom folded into me. We listened carefully to each word shared, celebrated each other’s successes, mourned each other’s losses.
Jean came from Liverpool and introduced us to life during the war, her father’s pub, her bicycle-racing years, her beloved Sonny who brought her to America and grew tomatoes for her. Jean’s novels were full of adventure and the spirit of a woman we grew to love. And now she is leaving, returning home to England. It’s appropriate and beautiful, this coming full circle and living her last years with nieces and nephews who adore her. An ending for us, a beginning for her.
Saying goodbye to Shady
Endings. This weekend, Shady is being sold. A beautiful horse whose coloring reminded me of my beloved Crimson. Shady’s owners, family friends, are transitioning into a different circumstance, and after three years, have decided it was time to let him go. Shady will be moving to a new farm where he will have a job and be engaged in happy work for a horse. It is right and it is good. But it’s a change.
Foxie and Shady have been pasture mates for years, and we will miss him, even though he drove us crazy at times. I will always have a vision of the two of them side by side, Foxie’s head low, Shady’s head high, as they walked through the tall grass, companions for a time. Shady will have a new beginning as will Foxie as she returns home (after being boarded) with a new companion, a little mare named Ruby. A mare similar in color to Shady, but smaller and older. We hope that Foxie and Ruby will become friends. Only time will tell.
Endings and beginnings. The taste of sorrow and sweetness on our tongues. The end of an era. A time past. These phrases float up and ride within me. Tomorrow will be different from yesterday. A new landscape, a shifting sky. I never quite understood until this year how in the midst of each ending a new beginning is cradled.
Ever since my trip to Naples last November (which I wrote about here), I’ve been wondering what it would be like to bring members of my AlzAuthors Management Team home. I’ve grown close to these women, who I’ve been working side by side with in a virtual office for about a year now. We are scattered around the country and beyond (our art director lives in Canada), yet we share an intimacy that’s hard to imagine, if you haven’t been an Alzheimer’s caregiver.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jean Lee and Vicki Tapia once in person. I only know Marianne Sciucco, Kathryn Harrison and Irene Olson through social media and Google Hangouts. But I feel as if I know their hearts. I’ve read their books. I know their stories, and I know the passion they bring to the work they do at AlzAuthors. After all, who would think that a handful of volunteers would have collected and collated 170+ resources from around the world about Alzheimer’s and dementia? And that’s just a fraction of what they do. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a rare opportunity when you get to honor your mentor, who is alive and well, still reading poetry and teaching at the age of 84. This, after a bout of lung cancer and dealing with chemo and radiation, which makes it all the more meaningful.
April is National Poetry Month, a perfect time to reminisce over my early days as a poet and the gifts I’ve received from Tony Abbott. I spent those days searching for the next line that would move me deeply, digging into my past, roaming beyond the ragged edges of my heart, seeking something bright and unexpected – the sun rising over a new land created through language.
In short, I wanted to be broke open and reformed – again and again.
On the Ides of March, there was a book launch party for The Beach Poems. I started the day fearful that it would be an embarrassment, that so few people would come that the bookstore would lose money and the kind staff who supported this event would never want me to show my face there again. This is what the mind does – spiral and spiral until we are cringing at our own unworthiness.
Fortunately, I was blessed to have an incredibly supportive core of women, part of the CWC-N board who assured me not only that they would be there (they put on the book launch party and made the entire thing a piece of cake, so that I could sweep in and not lift a finger), but that no matter who showed up, they were looking forward to an afternoon of sharing time together, listening to my poems and celebrating our love of all things literary.
After packing and saying our goodbyes to Jean and Vicki, Gilda and I drove south towards Alligator Alley. I was excited to be driving across Florida and to get a view of the everglades. My father, a civil engineer for the Army, had worked throughout South Florida on various projects before I was born. The names of towns were familiar to me because I had grown up listening to him talk about them.
While I felt as if I were home and had hopes of catching a glimpse of an alligator, Gilda’s husband Stu had warned her not to get out of the car because he’d been warned there were large snakes in the area. Gilda wasn’t sure what to do when I pulled over and asked her to take a photo of me by the water. Read the rest of this entry »