Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The early days of my grieving for Kathleen were done in the cold dark of early winter. There was comfort in the starkness of weather that matched my interior. Bare trees and hard ground. Biting air driven into bone by fierce winds. Clouds, deep gray and heavy with moisture released in torrents of rain or damping blankets of snow.
Now in the lush green moistness of June I adjust to a world without a mother. And I find equal comfort in daily reminders of the irrepressibility of life.
This is the season of fledging. There's a new baby owl in the meadow below us. The bald eagles that have nested somewhere to the north spent a recent Sunday teaching a dark and awkward eaglet how to fly. Stellar's jay babies chase parents around the bird feeders, demanding to be fed in pre-teen boy voices.
Our wildflower area surprised us this year with a profusion of foxglove. The rich exuberance of color, texture and sheer abundance offers a visual delight that never fails to lift my heart, even on the harder days.
Although this has been a cooler and wetter year than normal, the world around me seems not to have noticed. Mornings are full of wild birdsong. The river chuckles and chortles its way to the ocean. Deer visit. Coyotes claim the night with their yips and howls. Rabbits graze the lawn.
The wind is warm and gentle, so full of promise and hope, I long to be carried away in its arms.
After Mom's service last weekend, my youngest brother drove to our old home while the rest of us began the long trek back to our lives. He posted pictures on our family site, and I wasn't far into the slide show before I realized something was missing.
The place was sold to a large corporation whose plans for it never materialized. So it has sat for years just as it was left, a tiny ghost town consisting of house, garage, barns and overgrown trees. A caretaker lived in a trailer at the back of the property, but it was always possible to visit and step easily into childhood memory.
I drove out just two years ago—walked through the house, wandered outside a bit, and knew for the first time ever that I would never find the answers I was looking for there.
Still, it was a shock when I realized, looking at Geoff's pictures, that the house had been torn down. Nothing remains but a crumpled pile of aluminum roofing and flat ground. Something about the finality of the razed house drove home the finality of Mom's death, and the death of those remaining childhood hopes and illusions.
I watched picture after picture of bare ground surrounded by trees, a disorienting array of proof that our childhood home was really gone. In the background were the barns and old garage, all soft around the edges, slowly melting into the ground. Then, toward the end, there was a shot of yellow roses that seemed out of place with all that evidence of destruction.
Mom loved yellow roses, the wildly fragrant climbing kind, and Dad had planted these outside the milking parlor where she spent so much of her time. Here they were, untended and undaunted, growing into June against cold gray concrete, as they had every summer for decades. Hardy enough to withstand the cruel North Idaho winters. Hardy enough to thrive in the short summers. Hardy enough to survive from a beginning that might have preordained them to die without the care so many roses require.
My daughter is gone. My mother is gone. Someday, I will be gone. But until that time, I journey in a world that sings life at the top of its lungs. That shines light so bright the darkness has no chance to win. That reaches into my heart and releases love, gratitude and hope.