Friday, February 26, 2021

I Know

 "I don't believe, I know."   - Carl Jung


I read this quote this morning and began to think about what I know today.

1. I know  my life changed forever with Rick's death on July 16.

2. I know  the moon still rises and the sun still shines.

3. I know  I am stronger than  I thought I was.

4. I know  grief and loss is always a part of life.

5. I know  Jason Isbell is right, it gets easier, but it never gets easy.

6. I know  the love of friends and family is the best gift I have ever received. 

7. I know  I still have the ability to laugh at myself.

8. I know  rainy days can be great and sunny days can be heartbreaking.

9. I know  my daily mantra has become, keep me healthy and strong.

10. I know  there are no answers to most of my questions.

11. I know  a cup of hot tea, a good book and a fire in the fireplace is comfort.

12. I know  my dogs bring me great joy.

13. I know  walking in the woods is medicine.

14. I know  life  goes on.

15. I know in the scheme of things, I know nothing.  Strange but true.

In the words of Sarah Breathnach, I don't have to just believe anymore, I know.  Sending you all wishes for peace and comfort today.



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Winter Storm


 We have been issued a winter storm warning.  If it were for snow, I would be so happy, but this one is for ice.  Those of you who have dealt with ice you know this can get ugly.  My hope for these next few days,  beautiful scenes and no loss of power.  I added another layer of cedar shavings in the hen house yesterday for warmth, more hay in the nesting boxes and I encouraged the girls to huddle.  The pantry is full, my propane tank is full and I will make sure to charge my phone fully today.  I have bird seed and suet and will leave the faucets on a slow drip.  The cold won't last long but it has been bitter the past few days.

There is a difference in dry cold and wet cold.  Both can be bitter and deadly, but my bones and body react to wet cold more extremely.  The joints ache, the migraine knocks, the lungs demand oxygen.  Layers of clothing, hot tea, hot baths and deep breaths, those are my remedies this morning.  

I walk regardless of the weather.  Walking through these woods is my saving grace, my healing balm. Each day is different, the light is changing.  As spring approaches, somehow the light becomes more effervescent and even on grey cloudy days the skies seem to weigh less, and there is more air to breathe.

Some of the trees are starting to bud and everywhere you look, even in the middle of February, the earth is awakening here.  Daffodils are pushing through the wet soil, spots of white appear and you know soon there will be toadstools and mushrooms.  Patches of moss are spreading and the shades of green on a cold winter's day appear in stark contrast to the blackness of dirt.  A wood hen hammers on a tree, a squirrel yells obscenities and the dogs bring me a turtle and that was my walk yesterday morning.

Day is breaking now, songbirds are singing, reminding me this is Valentine's Day.  My mom always told  me that this is the day birds mate, maybe that is why there is so much music this morning.  Even the crows are joining in and the hens jealous for attention ,have started their morning clucks.  

Valentine's Day was never an over the top celebration with Rick.  Sometimes he picked up flowers at Walmart, sometimes he forgot to get a card, sometimes I got perfume but he always picked up a bottle of wine and I cooked something special for dinner.  If you are with your Valentine today, give them an extra hug and kiss, you won't regret it.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Monday, February 1, 2021

Fire and Rain



 February 1, 2021

For many years the house  I grew up in,  was heated by two coal burning fireplaces and a coal burning Warm Morning heater in the kitchen corner.  It was only a four room house so we stayed cozy most winters.  We lived in coal mining country, coal was cheap and plentiful.

I learned early the value, the beauty and danger of fire.  I remember the warmth of flames and embers on skinny little legs covered by a flannel nightgown and the yells of my mother warning me not to stand to close.  I can close my eyes and still see the grate holding the burning coals, the glow and depth of the red embers and oily smell of burning coal.  It seemed that even the belly of the heater had a glow when daddy would pour a scuttle of fresh coal in its mouth.

I suppose it was those winters that instilled in me a love and respect of fire.  As I grew older I realized that fire had played many roles in history, and that it had been a part of many stories and myths.  I think in wonder of what it must have been like to live in that earliest of civilizations when man and fire found each other.

When I worked at the addiction center, those with  PTSD, trauma and grief were required to come to my class.  As I listened to their stories, as I pursued my studies and involvement in helping those in recovery,  I understood that fire could be a release in many ways.  I encouraged students to write letters to those who had hurt them, to those that they needed to forgive but couldn't find the voice or courage, write letters.  Write letters describing in great detail, pain, hurt, anger, hate, fear, sadness, grief  and then...burn that letter.

Let the fire release and take away all those words and feelings.  Fire is extremely cathartic and healing. It can be an incredible first step in forgiveness and letting go.

Because Rick's death had been so traumatic for me, I knew at some point I needed to light a fire. I had wanted to do it on his birthday, but the weather would not let me.

Last Sunday, our good friend Fred ( who happens to be a trauma counselor at the center where I had worked) came over and helped me burn and release.  We spent close to six hours burning a fire almost as big as my great room.  Now much of the wood that was the base of the fire had been there since last spring when storms had blown down trees and limbs but Rick just never got around to burning it.  Since I order many of my supplies I had saved boxes for the past few months and a couple of months of newspapers as well.

As the fire started to burn, I had a long handled pitch fork, and Fred brought his "poker" that he uses in the fires with his work.  I had prepped the area around the mound, raking away pine straw, making sure there was no plastic, glass or metal in the pile.  As the fire took life and began to burn, we talked a bit at first, but then Fred started to explain that fire was much like life, and to live, it had to breathe.  We spent the next few hours, poking and prodding that fire with Fred reminding me to breathe, to let the fire breathe and to let go.

Once the fire had burned down to smoking logs, Fred left.  The clouds were rolling in and there were sprinkles dropping from the sky.  In an hour or so, I knew there was still unfinished business with me and the fire.  I went back out and grabbed my fork and started the poking and prodding, soon there were flames rising from those log, tears were falling down my cheeks, and rain and darkness were moving in.

For an hour in the rain and the darkness, I stood and watched those flames finally begin to wither.  All I could think of by then was James Taylor's song, Fire and Rain.  I had seen them both.

Today in Ireland, the Irish celebrate St. Brigid.  She is much older than Christianity, she was a Celtic goddess, so beloved by the Irish that the Church canonized her.  She is the Goddess of holy wells, fire and healing, and poetry.  With my Irish heritage, it seemed fitting to write this blog about fire and healing today.  Perhaps it is in my genes, this love of fire, poetry and healing.   I  can tell you this, that fire last weekend was healing in many ways.

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.