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Blog - Memories in Motion

04

Apr

You Are The Bloom

Yesterday I walked 6 miles along the paths here in my town. Everywhere, Spring was in full bloom!
Cherry blossoms lined Iris Avenue, 15,000 tulips were face-to-the-sun on Pearl Street and lilacs crept across many a porch’s waiting wooden framework. As full sun warmed our bleached grass and the foothills offered their ever welcome shade, I felt nourished.
I woke up this morning with a bit too much sun on my Irish skinned face…reassuring me that yesterday’s beauty was not a flight of fancy! Through the night some 4 inches of snow fell. The robust vulnerability of yesterday’s blooms, now cloaked in a weighty and uncertain struggle to survive, reminded me of how often we are each met by challenges as demanding, sudden, dramatic and heart rending. While I can (and did) shake off a few heavy, wet and sometimes bowed limbs, I knew that nature would take her course…some would survive and some would be lost…this is the way of life.
In that most of us, at some point, will have first hand experience of days when ‘the all of it’ is humming along beautifully and then turns towards unthinkably challenging transformations…I hope that you too look at the world as you move through it. I hope that you notice it’s generosity and let it’s beauty touch you. I hope that you will find in it a model of grace, surrender and resilience to call upon on day’s when you are the bloom!

20

Jan

“Since meaning is the movement of speech, our thought crawls along in language.” Merleau-Ponty

I have spent a lot of my life, in and out of the office, attempting to reveal experiences-lived as experiences-formulated-in-words. I believe that language, and our ability to share our experiences through it, connects us to one another, relieves us of some of the isolation that comes with being human and offers us different ways to appreciate what our experiences can mean as we grasp how our losses change us.
Loss is often hard for us to talk about deeply and freely, because it is difficult for people to bear our pain (and their own sense of helplessness in the face of it). Because I believe that children, in their need for a stable and comprehending adult world, are especially challenged by the need to make sense of significant losses, I decided to write a book for them.
My story is about a little monkey moving through love, loss and adaptation after the death of his mother. It’s on Amazon.com and can be found by searching www.amazon.com/Story Monkey On Memory Mountain. My book is intended to encourage ways of speaking to children as they grow into and through their losses. My hope is that it invites conversation between children who are grieving and the adults who are trying to provide a safe space for them to speak about it!

06

Jan

Trust What You See…Delight In It

From the time my children left the house and moved out into the world, their Birthday’s have created a puzzling series of feelings in me.
Alongside the pleasure of conversations with them, surprises that I feel confident will tickle them and gift giving that always seems ‘just right’
(at least to me)…there is the appreciation I have developed for how much they belong to the world beyond me. Of course, most of us would assert that, as parents, we have always known that our task was to bring our children into the world and, with gratitude, surrender to the fact that there is an inevitably brief period of time through which we can have such intimate knowing of them. Still, reason often fails me there! I find, year after year, a quiet bubbling of sadness and a sense that they SHOULD be with me on this particular day… I’m somehow entitled to be with them to celebrate the long road I have walked with no one but them. It’s a feeling that also induces a bit of shame…it is unreasonable and selfish, not to mention impractical and childish. I have reflected a lot on the ways in which the chord that connected us is never fully severed and how fortunate I am to have them as much and as deeply as I do. Today, I found myself wondering if maybe parents who have lost their children live with some intense version of that feeling every day as they know that the relationship they had will never be either severed or satisfied in just the way they long for? I recognize that there is no end to the variety of ways we all tend to our losses, hold them, soothe them, resist them but I do think that recognizing them explicitly, developing traditions and public recognitions that incline us to cultivate our relationship to them for always, is possible and helpful. I imagine that we might live more fully from that position.
So, with those thoughts in the forefront of my mind yesterday, I watched the snow deliver some 14 inches to my muted, snow globe-like, little back yard. My son celebrating his Birthday 1500 miles and one day away, was on my mind. As the snow accumulated on the glass table, I watched it begin to look like a monumental Birthday cake! It pleased me that somehow my fantasy of the ‘snow cake’ matched my thoughts of him as he grew through all those years, bit by bit, and definitely beyond any effort I might want to make to keep him just so! By evening, I decided to take my “vision” seriously and I planted 27 candles into the snow and lit them…it was as sweet and quiet a celebration as any church vigil I have ever attended AND having taken a picture, it gave me a way to share with him (and with you) one simple, organic moment when I was able to let my heart speak to my sense of loss AND celebration. I hope that you will allow yourselves to play with your own wish to remember and express your love as it bubbles up…AND, of course, I hope that you know we’d welcome hearing about it!

30

Oct

Tommy Lee

Nine years ago today, my 24 year old nephew,Tom, died of a hemorrhagic stroke. It was one of the most staggering days of my life… and in our long family life together. The meanings of that loss continue to unfold.
Over these years, I have developed a new relationship to Tom by trying to understand him better, retracing the steps of our relationship and growing closer to an articulate sense of what he struggled with. I have also cultivated reminders regularly of how funny, infuriating and vulnerable he was. I loved Tom…BUT I also love Tom. What I have absorbed of him rises up at times when I am not even looking for him…Tom was bold, angry, beautiful, expressive and, when he loved you, remarkably tenderhearted.
Tom’s death did not end my relationship to him…we are always an afterlife for the people who have marked us, and though it is not everything, it is not small either.

For Tom…Who Still Belongs To All Of Us

As the sun rose
east to west
each time zone weighted in.
The bright light of the internet
warmed me through all the day
where my own heart’s sun never rose.

9 years, the last age you were before it all began to unravel
a lifetime or an afterlife time…no matter.
I give myself away
in service
to those not yet lost today…

and then, there you are,
an absent presence,
developing like a darkroom photograph
in every other life I do get to touch now.
I am growing you up again, using it all…
heart and breast, death and the struggle for final rest.

There is no close to this story.
I bring you forward,
work never ending
when it matters…matter spiriting our every cell
keys opening the gates of heaven and hell.

26

Oct

Shopping for Dog Food

I came out of the pet store tonight with a 25 pound bag of dry dog food and was stopped in my tracks by this compellingly beautiful sky. I put the bag in my trunk and just stood in the parking lot taken by the strange, darkening beauty of it. I felt unmoored as though this skyscape were the kind of vision available to astronauts looking down on the earth from deep space. Something of an inversion between the darkening blue and the greying clouds was just beautiful to me.The twisting and floating of clouds, as though shaping an ocean of curious silence, settled something. After a few minutes I got in my car but hesitated about leaving. As I reflected on my stall, I recognized that I’d been inside all day bathed in bright artificial computer light and that I had missed an autumn day passing just the same without me. Sometimes our losses aren’t dramatic at all, they can be as simple as neglecting attention to the world around us and losing moments of beauty that might well have resulted in wonder. It’s a good day when I can find dog food and wonder in the same quick trip!

07

Oct

Remember the Purpose of Seasons

It has occurred to me, many times in the past few months, that this year, Summer felt more like Autumn…a season lost to it’s own cycle.

The levels of social and political unrest, terrorism, violence, broad brushed suspicion and hate, hurricanes, floods and the personal miseries each engendered, requires a deeply attentive listening as we try to make sense of a path forward.

So, I think about the Fall and it’s place in the cycle of things. Those beautiful colors, the ones that signal to us that winter is on the way, are communicating more than we generally understand.

All Summer long leaves sport a variety of greens that flash through us with reminders of growth’s lush business. While we are often excited to see more varied colors and the crisp air that breezes through them, they are actually indicating that Summer is closing up shop and preparing for Winter. Leaves begin their undoing dance preparing for a retreat in keeping with their survival needs.

When leaves turn gold or russet or brown they are showing us what they have lost…punctuating  their own growth by shedding what they can no longer use. Primarily, Summer’s green reveals that the tree’s factory, it’s food producing processes, are in top gear. Yellow lives beneath green, red the same. When the seasons change, food development sources, in the form of water feeding roots and sun providing the fuel for the functions of photosynthesis, diminish and then stop. Those fabulous reds and browns reveal that glucose has been made waste. Glucose, warmed by the sun, but not transformed by photosynthesis, gets stuck in the leaf and dies into it causing the leaf to wither and fall. Food, no longer usable by the tree, becomes waste.

The yellows and oranges, mostly embedded throughout summer, hidden by the greens of chlorophyll, come forward for display but are also, eventually  unsustainable, so die. Long and leafless tree Winter’s are a time for cleansing and moving slowly,  so as to survive into another more welcoming season. It’s not magic, though it is a beautifully orchestrated wonder.

I hope deeply that after the challenging Summer season we have all just endured,  we can move inward, consider what we need to discard, what waste has been revealed by the ways we have dealt with what we have taken in and that we can prepare to begin again.

May what has had to be revealed, and then let go of, facilitate our growth. May all the suffering we have witnessed, or experienced up close, touch home and may we find, and feel, how connected we are to our human family of losses so that we can begin again to share the new Spring which always offers second, third and forever chances to do things differently.

Say ‘No’ to hate, say ‘No’ to hardheartedness, say ‘No’ to violence and prejudice, so ‘No’ to selfishness…try hard to say ‘Yes’ to each new season in your life by recognizing that those dark waves of fear that move within us all, incline us to mistake sequestered hearts and minds for safety. Do not choose Winter as a way of life. We need one another and, I believe that our lives get better when we feel that pulse.

 

21

Jul

Leaning In

So, in my last Post I suggested that we lean into our grief as a way of resisting fear…what a challenge that has become this month! The gravity of pain I feel as I watch peoples terrorized responses to violence has only one ‘bright’ dimension that I can decipher and that is that, as I replay news casts in my head, I often don’t remember what color the people  were, which ‘side’ of hell they were on, or even which circumstance they were in when horror met them. At night, as I try to sleep, I hear their TV voices, the stew of their uncomprehending cries and wordless paralysis. I hear them retreating from reason and hopefulness about life. Sometimes, I worry that the weight of it all could shift my worldview in a dark way. I worry about this for you too. I think refusing to be made fearful is a worthy fight but it is a hard one. This week has continued to unfold with more violence…stories of a group of police being ambushed in Louisiana and an attack on multiple people riding a train in Germany. Life, so brimming with sorrow, has made me feel a need to counter my sense of helplessness with action. I  have found myself thinking a lot about a myriad of  personal losses and trying to remember what kept me moving forward through them. Surely, relief came from many quarters but I found it most notably in small personal gestures. Even if I’ve only got an ink blotter to hold up against this tidal wave, I figure that a few drops absorbed counts for something.  I want to encourage us all to find  something that we can DO as a way to comfort ( ourselves and others). Believing  that I can make a small difference, and that others will feel my hands reaching for them, has inclined me to think beyond myself into the big world situation right now. It’s motivated me to find some small ‘somethings’  to DO, like writing a check for burial services that are now an unanticipated financial hardship for too many families, taking even more seriously the impact of my vote, smiling at strangers (especially ones who looks different than me). I’ve talked to the policeman I usually pass on Pearl Street with a question about how he was doing…stopping long enough to hear his answer. ( It felt good to tell him that I appreciate what he does.I suspect it felt good to him to be asked.) There are many small ways we can reach out. Would you consider writing a letter to one of the children whose mom or dad gave their life protecting yours? (You can be sure that they’d cherish it. ) We can all try harder to speak to the people around us with respect for the many complex feelings that they may hold beneath the surface and need to have listened to. What do you think about learning a few words in another language and using them?  Can you pray?  If you have friends of different faiths, nationalities, gender identities, maybe you could ask them how they’re doing with all this? If you don’t have any such people in your life, maybe you could think about that? If you can’t find any new people to talk to maybe you could find someone in an older generation that once immigrated here from a now-familiar-land and let them tell you some of the challenges they met. One way or the other, take up the challenge of  “Seeing how this could be you”, showing your gratitude for the many days when it is not.

15

Jul

Shadows

It is a common, and fairly well respected notion that what we fail to remember, we will repeat (individually and as societies). Repetition is one way we come into contact, more and more loudly, with truths that won’t go away, cannot yet be owned and need desperately to be understood. Again, this time in Nice, France, we stand agape at the intentional horror reigned down upon ordinary individual people who served as a canvas for the pervasive and anonymous hate memorialized there. I want to ask aloud, What is being repeated? What do we need to better understand to meet this terror with something beyond retaliative hatred? What has to happen for this escalation to fold in on itself, for people to feel less frightened and helpless moving more and more into greater anger and outrage (yet another repetition)? Plainly, I have no answers…I find myself capable of  little more than musing about root causes or systemic responses…still, in the good everyday, I want each and every one of us, to be able to DO some small things to alleviate our own besieged feelings of helplessness, remembering that when a present grief is experienced it often activates all the grief experiences we have had to manage over a lifetime. We are all struggling with vulnerability  right now, ( even the most aggressively defensive among us ). I want to challenge us all to make the effort to step back from the brink of our anger and fear long enough to see that we are all at risk though we don’t want to be…that all sorts of ancient pain, personal and social, has been activated and so we are sensitive to each others differences in a heightened way. I want us to imagine, alongside all this, that we still share, the often unspoken but common, wish to be less embattled. From this perspective, we might find that we are more able to bear differences that do not threaten us for the sake of our own relief? C.S.Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like  fear.”  As I manage my feelings today, I’m trying to lean into my grief so as not to be blinded by my fear.

08

Jul

“The Thread and the Cloth”

I have been, like so many, washed over by the news of shocking and violent loss (from all over our country) these past few days. Of course, the circumstances vary, our grasp of what happened in each situation is still foggy and conflicting and there’s no question that each is fueled by deep divides in political sentiments that loom large. All that said, I want to attend to what is common to each confused and terrifying incident, by reminding us that each person lost was an individual. Each person had a name, a history, people who loved them and lives that mattered. Keeping loss anonymous, politically fueled, or presenting it in a ‘for and against causes’ way, helps us miss our common vulnerability. It keeps us imagining that in an “us and them” way of framing things, we can perhaps remain observers, relatively safe, on the sidelines. While each circumstance is a very specific story, with a long and meaningful series of differentiations to be made,  I wonder why we, so often, seem just incapable of grasping the sheer horror of these incidents? Beyond the finger pointing that these deaths result in, how can we take up the grief that they really should engender? I want to call you back to the last post I made ( following the Orlando shootings in June) and highlight a central reflection that the poet made.”…Before you know the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.” I think that when we genuinely appreciate, how ‘this too could be us’, we are challenged to surrender our defensiveness. We might come to own the fact that, “he” ( the Indian, the police officer, the CD mover, the School Cook, the people dancing in a nightclub in Orlando) ARE us. We resist knowing this, likely, because it is terrifying .

Wonder about…Stanley Almodovar, Amanda Alvear, Oscar Aracena, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Angel Candelario-Padro, Darryl Roman Burt, Cory James Connell, Paul Terrell Henry, Frank Hernandez, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason Josaphat, Kimberly Morris, Edward Sotomayor, Shane Evan Tomlinson, Luis Vielma, Jimmy Bejesus Velazquez, Alton Sterling, Philander Castile, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Thomas Kirk…and the many, many unnamed others who, “…journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive…”,  it is what we are all doing..

16

Jun

Poetry: One Language for the Unspeakable

As a follow up to my thoughts about terror, trauma and the potential for absorbing, and even growing through, unimaginable loss…I wanted to share a poem that spoke to me of, what I think may be the grandest of human accomplishments…kindness.

 

Kindness by: Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

 

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.