Honey

We said things like

forever and always

under star studded darkness.

That was before

winter. It was before

the black bear began to lope

towards hibernation, slipping

into a deep slumber

out of necessity for warmth, knowing

the days would once

again lengthen. I

am watching them shorten

like she did. I

am taking inspiration from the bees,

keeping my mind on my work,

hoping that if I

notice this honey, you’ll

return when she does. You’ll

wake up and come looking

for what we began before

the frost occurred, before

the crimson leaves fell, before

the heavy rains, when our love

was something to be savored. But

the seasons have already

passed and even the shoots that push

through the dark

soil are not the ones from before.

So I ask –

will you let go

and let yourself too be reborn?  

Have you ever noticed the way a bird falls?

I saw a boy pick up one
of the rocks
by the edge of the creek,
(You know the ones)
smooth and sharp,
good for skipping,
dark and heavier
than you’d think for
such a small,
packed piece of dirt.
He looked up and
saw the red and
wanted it
for his own,
wanted to hold it
in his hands,
cradling it the way
he held the stone.
Squinting, he aimed
and missed.
He hit the brown thrush
resting on her nest,
protecting her own
white stones,
the possibility of
flight inside fragile porcelain.
He did not know
how much an apple
cost.

I lose things.

I am continuing to learn how to identify grief as it comes, both in the small and simple and in the large and untethered. Growing up, there were not words used to describe the cold chill and aching that comes with loss. I only knew that losing became numbness.

When I was in middle school I would wake up crying because somehow in the night I had cut off the circulation in my arms. I would startle to a lack of feeling in my hands and terror would set in. I had no idea what was going on and my lack of understanding scared me to the point that I became panicked. But, once I began to poke and prod, the tingling would begin, a painful process of blood moving back life back into numbness. At times, the tingling felt excrutiating. Still it was the only way to regain the movement.

Our bodies know the way to heal themselves, but our minds fight it. 

Grief does not play favorites. She visits each of us, and if we ignore her, her cold presence begins to chill us without us noticing, slowing our connection till we can’t feel at all. Her visits vary in length and if we are present with her and ourselves, we begin to notice that her story is valuable. She is telling us what matters to us. She tells us of our deep caring and deep strength. 

I feel her most in the aching of my arms even now. I fight her in the heaviness of thoughts that are attempting to repeat the past with a different ending. I sit with her in salty tears as I wait for her friend Acceptance to arrive with the comfort of ginger tea, the last sip of honey a balm for my hoarse and tired throat.

I am learning my place in the world is not to prevent loss, but to attend to love.

When I try to keep the pain from coming, I only keep myself from noticing the love that is present with me now. Even amidst the pain. When you’re used to the cold, the warmth feels strange, and may even create discomfort. Notice the tingling and anxiety; take another step. Keep going; it’s the way home to yourself.

Lesvos

In July, I went to work with refugees who were currently staying in a camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece. We spent a week training volunteers around compassion fatigue as well as counseling those in the camp, both teaching coping skills as well as processing seemingly only a little of the trauma they had experienced. After returning, this image has remained in my memory.

“Bebe, those sleepy seeds are still in your eyes.”

He has been

Dreaming

It is all he can do

after waking up in this

place on the dusty

hill, barbed wire fenced in safe

and yet still stuck

in this holding cell, this

waiting

room, for a future he knows so little of.

They huddled in, chilled, as they crossed

with nothing but a few clothes stuffed

between legs, their raft slowly rocking

through that birthing canal,

hoping to make it alive across

the icy waves below. Yes,

he wakes here now,

Dreaming,

day after day, to leave this

place. Dreaming

is all he can do;

these tiny seeds of hope

keep him alive.

Meditation II.

Today I saw a red leaf
calling by the tire of my car;
it had already fallen
and
I could see the brown creeping up its spine as it struggled to hold the life,
as it slowly exhaled,
letting go.

I don’t want to talk about
change,
so I’ll talk about how the leaves fall
even when I don’t want them to.
I’ll refer to the layers of sweaters, scarves, and gloves
till all you see is my nose;
my breath.
I’m still alive under all this.

I’m noticing the air is getting much cooler
and with it,
a thrill,
as well as something somber.
We are all preparing for death,
preparing for something
new.

Meditation on Autumn and Change

Can you hear it?
The leaves are whispering of freedom.
You have to wake early.
You have to slip out of your house unnoticed
and go to the woods.
Leave your shoes at the edge,
For this is holy ground.
A few of them are breathing, showing their amber edges,
Their hearts exposed to the raw reality of change.
Walk slowly. They are just beginning to stir,
And, if you allow your feet to take root,
Your toes sinking into the red clay,
Pushing into sweet, dark solitude,
You may find that you, yourself, already know the words
And are humming along.

Patty Griffin

August 4th, 2011

Why are you silent? Because I’ve watched the way you watch the way I watch the way you watch me. We’re just watching. And, I dare not speak the words that ache to pass from gut to throat to tongue to teeth. They are vulnerable. They are questions. You see, they’re not safe. They don’t wrap nicely, brown paper, scotch tape, a little string to fold over, under and tie tightly. And, we worry what will happen if we speak, if we choose, if we make a move too soon, like we were playing an eternal chess match. Like one misstep will create a chasm deeper than hell itself. We build boxes to make ourselves taller, so our voices seem more confident, built on forms of cardboard and air, enforced by judgement, when all we’re doing is whispering the same doubts underneath. So keep watching. My lips cannot continue holding in the provoking thoughts of the reality of love. And, maybe I’ve got it all wrong. And, maybe we both do. But, the passing of air back and forth is about life itself, not victory.

A few years ago I took a trip to a Patty Griffin concert on my own. I stood in the crowd as she sang a note that rippled the chords in my heart. I scribbled this around then, and I made the specific date up. I don’t know if that’s when I wrote this or exactly what it was about but it feels like a fit as much now as I guess it did then. What gets in the way of a proper love poem, I ask myself?

A month ago I spent an entire day in between sand and water. I watched wave after wave come over, was tossed by the ocean, and came up sputtering. Air, sweet air. The in-between is exhausting. When you don’t know if you live in water or on land. When you live in both. It seems easier to pick a side, and plant a pole. It seems safer. But, our bodies are made of both water and material, and we wonder why we struggle in a world that hopes to hold us to some particular reality. As if we could really only be one.

All that metaphorical, vague language is just an opportunity to remind myself movement will lead somewhere as long as I still have have air in my lungs. I’d prefer the sea and salty kind. Breathing is a part of the process.

This building trust takes time. It takes minutes and hours and years. It takes floorboards in shambles and windows, bricks, and mortar. And, sometimes when we start, we can only think of whatever the next step is. And, some days we don’t want to. And, some days we knock down walls. And, sometimes we leave. Whether it’s for something bigger, or something easier, or something really far away. And, the sad thing is that sometimes these lots sit empty, a shell of life. Some buildings take years for us to return to and sometimes we never return. But, sometimes we do. And, sometimes we stay. Our backs ache and muscles are sore. We have dirt on our faces and blisters on our hands and we’re still here. We are stronger. And, maybe we look back and realize, yes, we built this house, but this house also built us.