This week I had a tuna fish sandwich with my mother

There is no photo for this post because sometimes, there is no person to photograph anymore.

I was thinking of what I wanted-or if I wanted-to write a special post on Mother's Day. Not only am I surrounded by working mothers here at the farm, but I admire so many human mothers I know, including my departed one. I opened up Facebook this morning to a sea of mother photos and can't say I got depressed, but perhaps at this stage of grieving I just felt like I didn't want to participate. And how many times can a person say, and be heard, that they miss their mother.

But I did have an experience this past week and thought it might give encouragement to those who recently lost a mother. This idea that our loved ones never leave, in my experience, is half true. The hard fact to us left as land dwellers is, they do leave. The body goes and with it the smells, voice, clothes, favorite meals, telephone chats, and motherly glances. Can't get around it.

But after a year now, I have recreated my mother, without even really knowing it. And I have her "on call".

This all dawned on me just last week. I had been suffering with a cold, not a horrible one, but enough that my spirit was slightly off, my feet were heavy and it took me forever to focus on one task. I had to eventually go to town and do a lot of catch-up shopping and tasks. I went to the grocery store first. I hate grocery shopping. I got to the parking lot, and just sat for awhile. My mom and I would often sit in the car and wait for my father when he was doing errands. So I sat and watched all the funny people-we are all funny people when watched doing daily tasks like unloading groceries into a car-and I thought how my mom and I would chuckle at this one or that one. I went into to do my shopping and almost instantly I was hit with this desire for a tuna fish sandwich with chopped celery and dill pickles. I rarely eat tuna fish anymore but we had it a lot growing up and my mother loved a tuna fish sandwich even into her twilight years. She always added chopped celery and pickle. It was about noon so I gave in and bought tuna. And for the next 2 hours of shopping, I kept thinking of the tuna fish sandwich I would make when I got home.

Back at the farm, while making my sandwich, I remembered how my mom would cut the bread at an angle, so the sandwich parts were triangles. As a young child, I loved that. So I made my sandwich into two triangles.

And then I ate my sandwich. And it was as if I was feeding her. I sensed that somehow where ever she was, whatever realm, galaxy or whatever form she was in, she was getting to taste a tuna fish sandwich again–something she no longer needed in her current state. I sensed her enjoyment of it–like someone who spent a year in another country where they couldn't get a favorite food arriving home and relishing it on arrival.

This experience was not the same as having a memory of her, and feeling kind of sad, and then shaking it off, moving on with the day. I literally felt she had dialed into me that day, and urged me to get a good old tuna fish sandwich made, for both of us.


What becomes of the face?

I have not painted in earnest since my mother died a year ago this coming week. While I've been creating images for the book, I have not worked on a body of canvases since my last show, which I was painting for when my mother suddenly died. I didn't consciously stop, I just couldn't bring myself to sit in the same spot of a year ago and look at the paints and other views that I remember while I tried to absorb the shock of that moment. I'm the boss of me, as Neil Young once said, and I didn't care if I wasn't painting. Everyday is a painting here, but sometimes my medium is the land, or animals, or sewing, baking, writing or thinking. I quit worrying about 'shoulds' from others a long time ago.

It was Boone's birthday. I told you then how it seemed unfair that she died on his birthday, but I quickly saw it as a little note from her and others, reminding me that life is for the living. After all, I had waited so long to get my horse, there was no need to wallow in the past or death. I had to get in the saddle. So on April 4th, I'll be with Boone.

But I can now say with all honesty I've had depression. Internally. I'll mention it to Martyn when I feel it, then I move on. We have such a good life together with so much laughter, nature, good meals and wine, and our garden and farm, that I can't wallow in any kind of sadness. But it is still there, the quiet little sack of sadness. But then every day I'm happy too. But then I'm depressed...while being happy. I think it is important to remember this about loss–it does not go away. the loss is always a loss and it manifests itself forever, in different ways. Others who have had loss, on any given day, might be struggling even if they appear happy. There is also this pressure online-for me anyway- to not dwell on the negative, to share the positive, the upbeat. I'm not looking for advice from anyone I just think it is helpful that others see that even someone like me, surrounded by donkeys and sweet pigs, and one grumpy one, folds her wings in and takes a sit down.

The mounting pressure of the arrival of April 4th really started around Martyn's birthday. Then mine came and went. All the 'firsts' of the first year after her death-first holiday season, first birthday, first spring, etc- are now almost past. There is something freeing about it being a year. But I still can go into shock, briefly, when I remember she is dead, or remember that day. I have been pondering why it is hitting me hardest right about now and I think it is because spring itself is so raw in so many ways-our senses are ready and open for the aromas of spring flowers and fruit blossoms, the seeds are percolating beneath us-we are vibrating in a spring. Our hearts are eager and open to new life. It's a visceral time.

I have a voice message saved from my mother and in the days after she died, I played it all the time. Now I play it every few weeks or less. But I still talk to that recording. "Hope everything is okay, talk to you later," she ends her message. "Talk to you later," I say out loud.

I was thinking that if one is lucky enough to grow old, there perhaps comes a day when a thought enters your head, "I sure do miss a lot of friends and family, maybe eternal rest isn't so bad after all." I don't know, but that must be what letting go is all about in the end-the end to suffering, whatever your personal suffering is.

After a year of not seeing her, I think the other reality is still-okay, it's been a year, now there are 40 to go.

So today I started some warm ups to paint again. I'm taking back the studio, taking back the paint. I painted a face trying to remember my mother's hair and features in the end and all I could see was her face is lit up like stars. I didn't make much of anything but I started again. The other two faces only remote resemble her. Perhaps I'm not ready to see her from my soul yet.


The lingering scent of love expanding

I think of my mother every day, in quiet ways, sad ways– but now happy ways.

The biggest lesson I can share-and I knew it, but I relearn each time a creature I love dies, or a friend departs–is that with death comes an expansion of love. The expansion is on both ends–I think the person dying somehow bursts open and the person left behind gathers and breathes all that came before, and all that spills over in that burst of death.

Love lives.

There are intense moments. Anyone who has grieved knows this experience. I find they are short now, usually, and intense, but I go on about the day. Recently I was looking for a sweater in my closet and came upon one that I'd brought back from my mother's after I cleaned out her house. I immediately smelled it-just like a sheep or equine would do–seeking a known scent to make everything seem normal and safe.

I could still smell her scent in the sweater. It was fainter than when I brought it home, as it has mixed with my scent for 7 months now. But I could still smell her. At first I winced slightly remembering the reality, but I buried my face into the wool and lived with it for many seconds, in silence.

Those moments are really interactions of two spirits-one still in her body, one not. It was pleasurable, really–like smelling vanilla out of the jar or cinnamon in a baking cake.

I think that is what I want to pass on today–there is grief and shock and horrible jagged waves in the initial weeks of loss. But there are moments of intense love. That is what is really left–love.

Love expands after death.


Journal: The fog returns as does grief

The cooler air has returned to us and our friend the fog blanketed the upper hills yesterday. It is welcome. I love the fog - when I can be home anyway as it is not fun to drive in and I worry about Martyn in it at night.

But when it settles in over the farm I feel I'm being embraced by something much bigger than me.

I need the fog right now. I seem to have taken a dip in sadness. I'm happy, but sad. I am not a person who sinks into long periods of depression, and I feel for those who do. But I would never say never. Perhaps some of life's events could propel me into that, I hope not, but I am human.

I think it is the shuffling of my immediate family - what's left of it. I have lost my mother and two close aunts in less than six months. My father is gone, all my uncles and aunts are dead except one. The elders that made up my daily memories and family gatherings - the core people in my life for years - are all gone except a few. Maybe it was the phone call I had on Sunday - an old family friend now about ninety, who called to say hello. He is in assisted living with his wife. They knew my parents since before I was born. He sounded good, but it was a touching message.

The old family dynamic is gone. A new one made up of only me and my brother must be recreated.

I miss my mother.

I want to sew and as soon as "Misfits" is at the printer, I plan to start making my comfort blankets out of my mother's sweaters. The blanket will be like the fog, a wrap to cover myself in.

Professor sat at the top of the compost heap warming his bones, I worked below, contently, but with a sense of a hole somewhere in my gut.


Like leaves returning to earth

I haven't written here for a month. It hasn't felt necessary. Although the other day I began thinking that the busy tasks of my life keep me from diving into a deep hole. Every time I do something I love, enjoy or that makes me feel like I've added something to the world - I think of my mother. I think of her face hearing me tell her about something I've done, and I can hear her say,

"Oh good!"

I also missed her in a very deep way a few weeks back when I was involved in a rather upsetting situation, one that left me feeling beaten up emotionally. I really missed not being able to talk to her. There was a specific moment that day where I just wanted to...dissipate and blend with her and my father. It was a real visceral moment of understanding she was not there this time either. And only my mother could say some of the things I wanted to hear that day.

Our mothers - or at least mine, and many of the mothers I've known in my world - want us to be happy. They don't want to see us suffer. I think of the times my mother would come over to my house some 12 years ago, before I met Martyn, and I had a real broken heart over someone. I am the kind of person who suffers hard and intensely, but then I get it out of my system. But I remember how she suffered seeing me so sad.

When I miss my mother on a daily basis, I think of her smiling, talking on the phone, showing me how she is happy I am happy.

When I see the leaves falling, I think of my parent's bodies and ashes returning to the earth. It is helpful to know they are right here under my feet somehow.

I have had so many happy days, more happy than sad. I hope people that are suffering a loss can hold onto the belief they will have great joys again.


Empty Chair for Two

Outside the back of my studio is a small bistro chair and table. It is where I used to sit in the morning and have coffee, chatting with my mother - at least three to four times a week. We talked about mundane things like weather, politics or how to fix a spot in a white shirt. We laughed a lot. Sometimes got a bit catty. Sometimes there was nothing going on, we just felt like taking a break from the day and calling one another.

More than anything, I miss those chats. I only got to see my mother twice a year due to logistics of the farm and financial restraint. It was impossible for her to travel those last few years. So our chats were our time together.

The last time I sat in that chair and had a talk with her was the morning she went into the hospital. We had a routine, mundane chat. We thought it was just another little visit to have blood work. No drama. My mother hated drama. But she was dead 48 hours later.

The day after my mother died, I looked out on the beautiful world and saw my little chair and table. I sat down, but cold not stay there. I look out at them now - like abandoned friends of the past. I want to reach out and sit with them and have it be like it was. But it can't be, so I won't sit there. It's been 4 months and I think more than any other place, it is where the rawest sadness still resides.