Saturday, January 23, 2021

Sunrise Magic

 There is power in the sunrise.  I have always loved to watch the sunrise and set, but to be honest even though Rick and I were always early risers we didn't always stop to watch the magic.  That changed with the isolation Covid 19 brought.  We began to look forward to the sunrise with the anticipation of small children waiting for Santa.  Watching the sun come up became a ritual with coffee, conversation and observation and I have continued that ritual, though the conversation is one sided, unless you count the comments of the dogs barking at the shadows of the morning.

Every sunrise is different, much like our lives.  Some mornings it is only shades of grey finally meandering into a semblance of light.  Then there are mornings with color so beautiful that the Great Master artists would weep because they cannot replicate the beauty on canvass.  

As the sun stretches across the horizon, you feel the earth begin to awaken.  Birds start to sing, chipmunks and squirrels and deer slowly move through the dead leaves and bare trees.  The sun rise brings the promise of a new day.  A new day brings the promise of hope, possibilities and opportunities .

The sunrise reminds me that there is comfort in knowing yesterday is now behind me.  What ever yesterday brought, good or bad is now stored in my brain as a memory and this new day brings the ability to create new and even better memories.  If there is sadness, it helps to remind you of your strength and courage, because you got out of bed to see this new day.

I hear the hens clucking each morning, they are reminding me they have done their duty, eggs are laid and now it is time for me to feed them.  I walk through the morning light, sometimes in rain, wind and fog to feed those chatting girls, they rub against my legs, wanting me to reach down and smooth their feathers, demanding that corn be given in gratitude for their hard work.

As the day brightens, my world becomes more clear. There are dew drops hanging on brown dried leaves and I breathe in air so clean and crisp it makes me laugh.  That is the magic of the sunrise, it makes the ordinary sparkle like the precious jewel that it is.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Happy Birthday Rick, I Love You More

 All of these firsts, you know they are coming, you think you are prepared...but you are not.

Today Rick would have been 70 years old.  I would have painted him a birthday card, cooked any  meal he wanted, bought him a gift,  and we would have had a bottle of champagne tonight.  Last year we spent his birthday weekend at Mentone which is a beautiful artist community in the mountains near us.

As we celebrated his birthday last year, we talked about plans for my birthday in March, plans for our anniversary in May and possibly a trip back to Ireland in the fall.  Covid hit mid-March and our plans were put on hold.  On July 16, the day he died, all plans were cancelled and my normal disappeared.

Today is his birthday, tomorrow will be six months since he passed.  People keep asking how am I doing?  I have no answer for that.  I say ok, but ok is relative to each day.  All I can do is share with you what I have done in six months.   Get out of bed, get dressed, take care of animals, do chores around the farm, take care of the house, breathe, walk in the words, cry, handle business affairs that were left by a sudden death, reach out to friends, read, paint,  deal with surprises, mourn for all those I know that Covid has taken, do everything I know to stay healthy, talk to Rick constantly, and slowly begin to patch my life and my broken heart, knowing that the hole never heals. 

I know he has many friends and family who miss him,  but missing him is only a part of the picture of my life without him.  I reach for him, strain to hear his voice, hunger for his touch, remember his smell, thirst for our conversations with our morning coffee, say absurd things to each other, laugh over the mundane,  and shed tears sometimes,  being in the car together, writing songs and performing together, walking these woods...this list could go on for days.

My friends in the widow's club keep telling me this year of firsts is the worst, I believe them.  But I still make myself find gratitude every day, in sunsets, frozen fog, emails and calls . There is still so much beauty in the world and I truly look for it every day and you know, I always find it.

So today on his birthday, I hope he is celebrating all the beauty that he saw and captured in his photographs, that he is feeling all the love from his friends, family and me.  Today, no matter how much I miss him, I celebrate his birth and know that he touched many lives because he lived 69 years. 

Happy Birthday Rick!   I love you more.




Friday, January 1, 2021

Hope

 Five in the morning, January 1, 2021.  I think the world breathed a collective sigh at midnight.  For those of us who survived 2020 and our loved ones didn't , today has probably not been one of celebration but of realizing that we made it.

Rain is coming down this morning and it is unusually warm, a very mild 65 degrees and storms are approaching.  I can feel the atmosphere changing, the pressure is shifting as though 2021 is pushing her way into our lives.  Maybe this is her way of showing us there is strength left in us, that we are stronger than what we think.

New Years was one of Rick's favorite celebrations.  He loved the idea of a clean slate, of starting everything anew.  He was the resolutions king.  He would make a list, then a mind map, then a recording of his resolutions and listen to them almost daily.  My attitude toward the New Year drove him crazy.

Basically, I make a Vision Board and look at it daily.  That board usually contains pictures of places I want to visit, music gigs I want to play, pictures of the two of us enjoying life, family and friends. And of course always positive thoughts.  That was in the past.  This year, I am still trying to figure out how to function without Rick.  I have come to understand that I can't fix the hole, it has to heal itself.  I have to honor how I feel every day and what it takes for me to survive each day.  To make a Vision Board, you have to have a vision, mine is still out of focus.

I spent yesterday working on the chicken pen, again.  Just when I thought those girls were housed in the perfect coop, a hawk tried to invade their home.  I reinforced the netting across the top of the open run and fingers are crossed that did the trick.  I am grateful for my hens, they entertain and provide me with problems that have to be solved.  The three dogs do that as well.  Hook has a nail that is  ripped because he dug a hole six inches deep by the back fence, so that Kodak could escape daily.  The fence is fixed, now to work on Hook's nail.

My hopes for this year are simple, we as humans open our hearts to kindness toward each other, we as a world work together to end this pandemic, and I find my way to the life that is waiting for me to resume.

I hope that 2021 lifts the burden that so many I know have carried.  I know there is much work to be done on ourselves and that there is still a rough ways to go.  Responsibility has to be accepted, sleeves rolled up and we must be willing to work hard for each other and our world.  I think our world is worth it, the human race is worth it.  

As the wind and rain grow more energetic outside this morning, I know there is always sunshine behind every dark cloud, you just have to make it through the storm.  You might come out of the storm bruised and beaten, but when the sun peeks through, there is hope.  And that is what I have for 2021, hope.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Comfort


 Christmas Eve 2020, my first one without Rick.   My friends in the widow's club warned me about the holidays.  My initial thoughts, how bad can they be?  The weeks after his death had been indescribable .

But Thanksgiving came, alone on the farm and the realization of what my friends warned me about hit.  Those first few weeks, and the first 2 or 3 months , I was in shock and then the fog rolled in.  ( see previous post about fog)  I'm still walking through the fog, but the holidays brought a new piece to the puzzle.  Even with Covid raging, the holidays brought something I did not expect, the shroud of grief I wear, does not protect me from others' joy and gaiety.  All the Christmas movies that end with happy and joy, the smiling Santas and snowmen on cards, the upbeat Christmas carols. the bright colors, the well wishes of Merry, and Happy.  I see it all and wait for the osmosis of all this to somehow permeate my being.  I realized this is not my holiday season to experience the gaiety and joy.

So what am I doing this first holiday season alone?  Thanksgiving brought calls from friends who had walked through the shadows, they were my lifeline.  Those same friends are throwing the life preservers to me this week.  Calls,  my first ever bouquet of roses, letters, food,  thoughtful gifts have brought comfort and that is when I realized this holiday for me is about comfort.  Comfort is what my spirit had craved, comfort is what my body needed, love has been the balm, the glue if you will of what has held my broken pieces together.

A friend called and the first question I was asked, "how's your heart?"  I admit I was taken aback, I admit I lied and said it was fine.   But after the call, I sent my friend a note and apologized about the lie.  He laughed and said he knew I was lying.  That question led me that day into serious introspective, moving deep and looking at my heart and realizing five months of grief were just a drop in the bucket.  I have a long way to go and much grief to muddle through.

Besides missing Rick and our traditions, I miss the big family gatherings.  I won't be going to my sister's house or his sister's house, though they are still continuing with their gatherings.  Covid concerns have kept me at a distance.  I don't want to be sick, alone on this farm.  Also the gaiety and joy of others, the sound of all that laughter and cheer, it's just too much to bear.

Yesterday I took both my sisters gifts and spent a few moments with each in a social distance visit.  I dropped off Rick's family gifts at his sister's house.  This morning I will take my brother Ricky and his family's gifts to his house.  His family has been my bubble, I see them daily though even with that the visits are short lived.  

Yesterday I drove to the cemetery, there my parents and Rick are side by side.  I suppose that was my Christmas gift, because Rick's marker had been placed on his grave that morning.  It seemed like the fitting gift for him as well.

So, I have the tree, I decorated my mantle and I painted Christmas cards.  The same friend who asked about my heart told me that when he and his wife opened my card, she looked at it and said, " it's different this year, there is sadness there."  I couldn't paint joy.

I hope this season, this holiday brings you comfort and love.  I hope the New Year is kind.

Here is my Christmas card for 2020. 


Saturday, December 19, 2020

Firsts

 There have been many firsts since Rick died in July.  The holiday season has brought its own list of firsts.  I spent my first Thanksgiving alone.  For years I taught my students that you are stronger than you think, Thanksgiving alone on the farm proved it for me.  Thank goodness there were calls from those who loved me, giving me strength that day.

This week there have been other firsts.  The first Christmas tree I have ever done alone.  The first Christmas cards I have ever not signed, Rick and Jilda.    My friends in the "widow's club" warned me about the holidays.  Sadly, they all knew but they made it through and are still making it through year after year.  As one friend told me this week,  it is our job to pay it forward.  

There are many this year who are enduring holiday firsts.  With the deaths of over 300,000 Americans from Covid the widows club has grown by leaps and bounds. 

I have always tried to reach out to those in need during the holidays.  I cooked meals for families, bought gifts and  we gave money to those in need.  My most memorable Christmas, a poverty stricken family moved in down the road from us several years ago.  A mother with several children and it was heartbreaking to watch them struggle.  We live in a very poor area of our county, but this family was probably the most destitute I have ever seen.  My brother's family and Rick and I tried to help them in any way we could.

Their first Thanksgiving, I bought a turkey and all the fixin's and took it to them.  The mother sobbed and the youngest son, told me she didn't know how to cook a turkey.  No problem, on Thanksgiving morning I got up, cooked their turkey ( at 2:00 am) and then mine.  They had their first home cooked Thanksgiving meal.  I knew I would do the same at Christmas.

That Christmas, I bought each of them a gift of warm clothing and wrapped every present.  On Christmas day when Rick and I took their Christmas dinner and gifts to them, they all sobbed.  It was their first Christmas to receive wrapped presents.  Life was already teaching me about holiday firsts.

My first holidays without parents were full of firsts.  None of momma's cooking, none of daddy's gag gifts.  But I had Rick and as we lost family members, we held on to each other through all the firsts.

So now, here I am and the firsts just keep on coming.  I never considered I would have holidays without Rick.  Honestly, I thought we would both live to be that old elderly couple shuffling through the mall every holiday, slowing all those young shoppers down.  Rick would tell each cashier who asked how we were doing, " I'm living the dream, what are you gonna be when you grow up?"

Each day brings a new first for me, some I handle with grace, some with full blown anger, some with sobbing lying face down on the sofa.  There are no rules in grief, don't let anyone try to tell you there are.

Another first this holiday season, placing holly wrapped in plaid ribbons on Rick's grave.  That one numbed me to the very core of my existence, never have I felt so empty or so alone. 

If you are experiencing firsts this holiday season, don't worry about traditions, rules or whatever.  Take care of you, believe it or not, your firsts and your story will help someone else.  Pay it forward.  By the way, here's another first for me that phrase, M---y C-------s!  just can't utter it, can't write it or even type it, maybe next year.



Sunday, December 13, 2020

Fog


 Yesterday evening a thick, cold heavy fog rolled in.  It muffled the silence of the dark, increasing the chill the rains had brought and distorted familiar images.  I remembered fogs that we had seen on our many visits to San Francisco.  The city would wear a  coat of grey and you could watch the fog roll across the bay, coming to envelop everything in its path.  There was an odd scary beauty in the somber monotones that crept toward the city.  Soon, even the bay would disappear into the shadows.

I think I have lived in a fog since July 16, the day Rick died...I am always cold, I shiver in the bed at night and during the day I wrap in layers, even  when the sun shines.  Life has been distorted, nothing familiar has been the same.  I have tried wearing color to brighten, to heal, but the colors seem so gaudy and cheap.  Yes, I am the woman who studied the psychology of color in college so many years ago, but those lessons don't apply for now.  I know the physics of fog, I know that it is not a constant that it does lift.

I am waiting for that lift.  I have seen flashes of it, moments when there is a stream of light, bits of joy like the tiny bits of lint that birds put in their nests.  Rick came to  me in my dreams a few nights ago, he was standing in a field of snow,  there was fog, but I could see dozens of deer there with him.

He laughed and said, these are my friends, look how beautiful they are, see how beautiful this place is!

And then I woke.  He loved deer, and taking pictures in the fog and snow. Maybe this fog I feel, that I am wrapped in, is his way of offering comfort .  

I do know this, fog is beautiful and scary.   But fog makes you slow down, makes you more aware of your surroundings, and when it lifts and the sun comes out...well the beauty of all that is right in front of you is sharper, more exact and reminds you it was there all along.

This is the weekend we always went to the tree farm and got our tree.  I just couldn't do it alone.  For the second time in 46 years there will be a fake tree.  The first one was a few years ago, during the drought, no trees could be dug, so we bought a small fake one and after that used it with our Christmas pig and chicken outside.   This one will probably go outside next year, but for now, it's all I could manage, though it is still in the box.    Sometime between now and Christmas I will set it up and decorate.

The fog has morphed into a mist this morning.  There are days, my personal fog does the same.  I'm painting Christmas cards and sending them out.  It is strange to write just Jilda on them.  It would have been so easy not to paint them, but he loved my cards.  And honestly, since I have been painting these last few days,  the fog is not so heavy.  I hear his voice telling me how much he loves them, how much he loves me.  

There are probably many of you who feel the heaviness of a cold fog today.  Covid is raging, the holidays are here, so many varieties of fog.  I know in my heart all this will lift some day, we can find our way, breathe, move slowly, hold someone's hand and know the beauty is still there, it's just not visible right now.  I just stepped out back, the fog has become a mist.  There is hope.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Winter Arrives

 Sunday we had rain, pouring rain, cold and pounding the earth like the anger I feel sometime because Rick is gone.  On Monday frigid cold came rushing in, so the chicken pen had to be winterized  ( even more than what I had done over the weekend) and the pump house heater had to be installed.  The temps dropped all day and by afternoon we had snow showers.  

That evening as my brother Ricky and I walked to the barn to install the pump house heater, snow flakes danced in the wind and I felt more alive than I had since Rick died.  There was something about that numbing cold, those dancing snow flakes and the wind howling through the trees that reminded me life was moving forward.  I find comfort in those bare trees,  most days that is how I feel, bare and being whipped by the wind.  The exhilarating realization has been seeing life push on, even in the bareness  of winter.  I know that with the thousands of acorns that have fallen, there will be baby oak trees making an appearance in a few months.  On neighboring farms I see foals and calves enjoying the winter sun and running with abandon in the cold.  Even Bertha the hen, still wants to sit on her eggs and hatch baby chicks regardless of lack of sun and warmth.

I made it through Thanksgiving, friends called with words of love, comfort and encouragement.  Kim and Christine, you will never know how much the sound of your voices meant to me that day.  You gave me a lifeline when I thought there was none.  Though the dogs don't know you, I know that they are grateful that you helped to stop the flow of tears that had streamed down my face Wednesday and Thursday.

Life continues to move on, I still cry daily, but I laugh as well.  Sleep comes and goes, as does my appetite for food, some days I hunger for conversation and other days, well there are no words.  For those of you who grieve, I wish I could give you a plan, a path that would make it better.  I am stumbling through the dark, just as you do.  Every day is different.  I have found no answers for so many questions that I had.

I just get up each morning. Try to follow a simple routine, go outside ( even in the rain and cold), eat a little, drink water and hot tea.  I read every day.  I pet my dogs, I yell at them some days.  Some days I paint, every day I work to keep this farm alive.  I reach out to family and friends.  I go out for supplies and food.  Covid is rampant here, and I am doing everything I know to stay healthy and well.  I hope you are doing the same.

The picture was taken on Monday during the snow showers.  It is the last tree to change colors on the farm every year.  It is my favorite tree.  Every fall when we would walk the dogs Rick and I would argue about what kind of tree it was.  Last fall I told him it didn't matter, it was my favorite tree and that was that.  He just laughed.  I laughed when I took this picture, because he and his memories are with me daily.