"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Friday, January 1, 2010

Brotherly Love, Part Two

I knew I'd discovered a treasure the minute I saw the picture in the muddle of our mom's box (now mine) of old family photos. Our father beaming with unhindered joy. This was not the man his children called Daddy - the man whose temper was feared, whose approval was a bar too high to reach, whose belief in the world as a hostile place was a foundation stone of our childhood.

It was such a rare thing, I needed to share with my brothers. And what better way to share joy than at Christmas, the season of joy. As I pondered the most powerful way to give this gift to them, I found myself wondering if a similar picture of our mom existed.

Back into the box and the albums, an inheritance whose value cannot be measured, I turned over one picture after another, one page after another. I've been through these pictures a hundred times and know many of them by heart. Still, from time to time, one has the power to be so new and so heart-opening, it's like I'd never seen it before.

Mom's joy picture was one of those. Playful, open, mischievous even - she's a child of maybe eight or nine. One of the only pictures I have of her with a full toothy smile, and as it turns out, the only one I could find where her happiness was not damped with tight lips or an air of sadness so strong the paper held a chill.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas I studied the two photos as I wrote the message I wanted my brothers to receive along with the prints. These surprise versions of our parents watch me now as I write this.

A small dark-haired girl who had been abandoned by both parents, whose body had already been violated, for whom being invisible was the only safe place. Her spirit still shining through. Hope not lost yet. I long to hold her and give her the childhood she deserved. In part so that she could eventually give me the same thing, but at this point more than anything I just want to ease her pain.

A handsome dark-haired man, not yet thirty, who had survived childhood polio and the distance of his own mother who couldn't bear his suffering, who nearly died again as a logger, whose carnal appetites were already beginning to eat away at the fabric of his young family. It's harder for me to look at this picture - my feelings are still so conflicted about him, healing insights still a blur on the road ahead.

But what these pictures speak loudest to me, and what I most want my brothers to hear, is that joy runs in our blood just as much as fear and pain. We are not doomed to the patterns of the generations before us because the potential is there for so much more. And if joy exists, love has to be the fuel that ignites its brilliant flame. That's the best news of all.

There was love in our family. And so there is love now. For ourselves. For each other. For the deeply wounded people who brought us here.

Seeds of joy survive
in quack grass choked gardens,
devouring plagues of sadness, drought.

Seeds of joy survive,
to flower as thornless
radiant smiles,
withering in early June frost.

Seeds of joy survive
even sins of the fathers,
slicing barbs, twisted mutations.

Seeds of joy survive
as dormant as fireweed,
waiting for wildfire to restore.

Seeds of joy survive,
now burned free, tear-nourished,
hearty shoots,
stretching unhindered sunward.

Seeds of joy thrive.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

"And if joy exists, love has to be the fuel that ignites its brilliant flame." WOWOWOWOW!

OMHOG on those pictures, all three of them. Wow. Just wow.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Ah Deb. You're on the right path. Those skeletons have to come out of the closet before we can give them a proper burial.

May the New Year hold much joy for you and yours!

Wanda said...

I am speechless. Wonderful writing. The pictures are terrific and I love the one of your Dad. I can relate to the disconnect about who you see in that picture and who you lived with. Both...and...are true.

JOY said...

A beautiful post. Truth and hope. Good poem also! You lead with grace. Hugs.

Amber said...

Just beautiful Deb, so so beautiful.

I love those pictures.

:) ox

Carrie Wilson Link said...

And NEHBM (not enough has been made) of the poem! OMHOG on the poem!

patricia said...

This may be my favorite thing I've ever read written by you. LOVE it. And, it really made me think about how you are the spirit that couldn't be hampered; a powerful, vibrant, thriving spirit.

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Lorna said...

The joy you speak of that can burst it's way out of pain, that is a peaceful sweetness. Love the imagery, the courage and the strength I see in your family in the pictures and the past you describe. It's amazing really, how we make it through this journey. The human spirit just astounds me. Beautiful post.

M said...

I loved reading this... the story behind the gift that you gave each of us - and the gift you received through the gift given. I love that you recognize (and reminded me) that we are not doomed to repeat the past, that we are capable of love and joy.

I pray this new year continues to be a year of healing, growth and love.

I love you


kario said...

Your insight is amazing, my friend. You are such a gift. I, too, am sorting through old photos to give to my siblings as a reminder that our father was a person, a whole, real, 3-dimensional person who had a childhood and laughed and hurt and breathed. I will think of your poem as I find just the right ones to give.

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Blood Brothers, i have bought tickets from
http://ticketfront.com/event/Blood_Brothers-tickets looking forward to it.