"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

Sunday, November 13, 2011


No Indian Summer this year after a summer that was barely summer. One of the shortest autumns I can remember. November has become everything that makes winter so hard to bear here: cold, gray and bone-gnawing damp. Days begin in darkness, and fade all too quickly back into deeper darkness, with more than a month before the light begins to assert itself again.

So much in my life to be grateful for. A long list easily accessed and appreciated. Called upon as a shield against winters: the season coming and the year just ending.

Like the black depths of tidal waters, winter threatens to pull me under. It's only November. The month of my birth. This year a significant transition in more ways than the new decade might account for. Usually I enter winter saturated with the warmth and light of the previous year, enough to get me close to spring when I can feel new light beckon.

Not this year. I'm tired. And cold. And try as I might, the shield refuses to hold.

I've read about anniversaries, held friends through theirs, prayed for comfort for survivors facing the end of the first year without loved ones. This is my first. Like so many of life's biggest events, there is no preparing for or even describing what it feels like.

Kathleen's death date is a bit more than a month away, yet every day now it's as though I just heard the news for the first time.

The night of my birthday celebration, my SIL, the one whose son took his life two weeks after my daughter took hers, gave me a book. Privately, out of the glare of the family gaiety. A memoir written by a women about her sister's suicide. While it might seem to be an inappropriate birthday present, it was my favorite. Both because it was the first real acknowledgment she's made of our shared loss, and because she knew exactly what that book would mean to me.

With the early onset of winter weather, most of the leaves which light the darkness of November have fallen prematurely. For days last week the wind whipped foliage from trees in blizzards of dying color. Yet there remains in our yard a maple in full flame. It's been aglow for more than a week and continues to  pulse red through the fog that clings to everything from sunup to sundown.

At first I looked at it, admired it, then turned away, certain it's beauty would be stripped away as quickly as it has been for every other tree in our yard. But it continued to beckon from the edge of the yard until it pulled me outside with my camera. I tried to resist. I have lots of pictures of more fall beauty than this year could ever hope to offer. But I found myself drawn, in bathrobe and rubber boots, hair spiky from sleep, into the cold morning mists.

I'd moved around to shoot the tree from its most symmetrical angle, still not sure what I was looking for, or what it was offering. Then I realized it wasn't just the fiery maple I needed to see. It was the maple behind her sister, already stripped bare for the winter, and in front of the sequoia, which will never be anything but lush and green and strong.

The layers are a perfect metaphor for my life right now. Seeing everything through the filter of death, the light of dying flaring brighter than ever in the time left, the constant shape and color of life that doesn't die.  No one more true or more real than the other, all existing together in a tableau that offers comfort. Not warm quilt, hot cocoa, warm fire comfort. But a small, significant flame of comfort, like a pilot light - enough I believe to hold me through the winter ahead.


Wanda said...

Gorgeous shot. Wonderful words. And I love the picture of you in your robe, rubber boots, and spiky hair.

20 years ago this November my dear friend died. I remember every year. It feels different each year, but I still remember.

Hugs, dear love.

yaya said...

In the first pic you don't see the leafless tree...how beautiful that it all comes together in the end pic. Just like life I think...we won't have all the answers now. We have to deal with all the hurt and pain but hopefully we will find all we need in the end to make it a perfect picture. I hope you find comfort and peace during this winter. I'm not ready for the snow and cold that are already knocking on my backdoor...but we will endure and meet again this spring and enjoy the light and warmth.

Charlene N. K. said...

Wow, another beautiful analogy written eloquently! Your life is as clear, as beautiful and as colorful as the pictures you took.
This is another dose of inspiration for me.

DJan said...

The reason I love to read novels is that the people only exist in the author's mind and when someone dies, I can cry and put the book down. Life is not like that for those of us who lose loved ones...

So eloquent and poignant the words and pictures you give me here. I am so grateful and my heart is full. Thank you.

Wanda..... said...

We all seek comfort and peace from the pain of having lost loved ones sometime in our lives. Your words and thoughts are beautiful, Deb.

My granddaughter wrote a 32 line poem for me when my mother passed...here are just 4 of them.

"There's something to understand about nature, That there's beauty in sadness too. When nature takes it's course in life, There's beauty in seeing it through."

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I think of light as hope. I seek the warmth of light. Winter nearly pulls me under and then there it is--Spring. Spring that promises something better.

I will be praying for you my friend to feel the light of hope during the anniversary.

Beautiful words.

JKS said...

Brava! Last Sunday I went to a Requiem for a dear former student who died a year and a half ago - of complications of a drug overdose which we'll never know wasn't intentional. Her mom and I became friends after her death and sat hand in hand during the Requiem - very healing. I wish the same for you.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful color, we don't have that fall color here sadly. It's been a rough year and yet you keep going, we keep going, mine was less than stellar as well. We don't really have a choice I don't think. Life demands that we keep going. I think that's the hardest part of death, the knowledge that life continues on.

Sandi said...

Aw Deb, I just can't get enough of your words. I love how you wind them gently around, like a big long scarf, bringing a bit of warmth, a bit of hope.

I've been thinking of you, and of me, as the month drags on into serious winter. It is always the winter of my discontent it seems. I've been thinking daily of Chris' birth, his boyishness, his too short life. Crying almsot daily.

As I read your words about your loss, these in particular struck me.

"Seeing everything through the filter of death, the light of dying flaring brighter than ever in the time left, the constant shape and color of life that doesn't die."

We are living, you and I, sister survivors of what feels like the ultimate sorrow. How grateful I am for you and your friendship, and the sweet promise of time shared together.

Deep love and fierce hugs to you, my friend.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

The photo and your words describibg it shot an arrow of affection for you into my soul. I hear you so vividly. I am so touched by it and want to join your blog as a friend. November is tough. But be hopeful. Let in the warmth that is flowing your way from bloggers, others too of course. Be uplifted by those many good souls surrounding you with good wishes.

Barb said...

As these months pass into new seasons and your year comes full circle, I hope you can find comfort and warmth in you heart, Deb. The trio of trees in each stage of life spectacular. So is the misty morning, though I would also yearn for a sunny day now and then.

Linda Myers said...

What a glorious metaphor, those three trees aligned.

Here's to life in all its seasons.

Rita said...

The flaming tree is bursting with affirmation, the green one solid and unchanging, the bare branches are filled with promise. I could picture you out there with your rubber boots and sleep hair. This was a lovely post. Nurture your pilot light. :):)

Terri Tiffany said...

I come here to relish your words and imagine my own response to life when you share yours. I love how deep and richly you share:))

Desiree said...

Such a beautiful picture, Deb and your words are as lovely and wise as always. Have you ever visited Gina at Antique Art Garden? She's an incredibly loving woman who lost her beautiful, 21 year daughter in a tragic motor accident a little over year ago. You may find that you are able to relate to each other's pain.
As Wanda said, I too loved the image of you with spiky hair, dressing gown and galosches :)

Dee Ready said...

Dear Deb, Your piece was heartsore and my own heart reaches out to you. The lines of poetry Wanda sent you speak of leaving through the sorrow that spans our life. I know that is what you do--that is the flame of red through the skeleton of tree. I'd like to share a poem with you also--by Yeats:
"TheLake Isle of Innisfree"

I will arise and go now, and go to Innifree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Anonymous said...

Such beautiful photos Deb - they inspire me and somehow promise that things will be all right. The first anniversary may be the most painful but along with that you have the memories that have been waiting to be re-released. Enjoy those if you can.
We did have an Indian summer here, such that it is only now turning cooler and not all the trees are leafless. I love November , I married in November as well as being born in this month. It is a month of contrasts.

Mark Lyons said...

What a great analogy to life that last photo illustrates. As always, such a beautifully written and insightful post. Thank you.

I love you

Sally Wessely said...

Only you could have had so much with so few words and a beautiful photo. You have touched my heart again.

Gammary said...

Not warm quilt, hot cocoa, warm fire comfort. But a small, significant flame of comfort, like a pilot light - enough I believe to hold me through the winter ahead.

wow...that is wonderful.

"Hang on Little Tomato" there is a warm spot in many hearts for you.


Katie Gates said...

Wonderful reflection, Deb. And I love it that you found that perfect shot of the layers of trees (and the layers of life). That's beautiful!

Donna said...

You never fail to take my breath away a little with some of your wisdom, Deb and ability to feel so deeply. You go to a level that I many times, put to the back of my mind. I feel so much for your pain in your daughter's death. I'm so glad you have a friend that you are able to share things with...God must have known you needed her!
Please have a happy birthday and try to think of it as a way to honor your daughter in lifting high each day as a great celebration of life. That way the days are precious as they slip away from each of us and while we all get down in the dumps from life's problems (most not as horrific as yours...) trying to be thankful in every moment can help us get through most.
I'll be praying for you this winter...it WAS a short summer. I felt it too.

Anonymous said...

Some beautiful colors, Deb. We've had a very strange autumn here in Virginia, too. We didn't get these sharply colored leaves this year. In fact, the big tree right outside our duplex was still totally green during our freaky snowstorm several weeks ago! And today the temperature was 70!! It has been a VERY strange year.

And you have had some very difficult times. Such difficult, sad losses. I miss my younger sister, too, who passed away two years ago, and her husband, my age, a year and a half before that. And my younger, only brother last March. I have no more living siblings.

Life isn't easy, but I'm glad I have such strong beliefs in life after death and look forward to seeing them all again in the not too distant future. I often like you feel very tired too. Your layers is a perfect analogy of what we experience in this life. Thank you for this nostalgic, poignant post...so beautifully written!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Unspoken said...

Comfort carries us far, even small ones.

Amber said...

Beautiful post, friend.



Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

What a beautifully fascinatin' shot.

Know my heart and prayer are with you as you tread on this sorrowful time of the year. I know your heart must be broken.

Please feel Gods comforting arms wrapped 'round you durin' the winters cold.

God bless and have a beautiful day sweetie!!! :o)

kario said...

Thank you so much for listening to your intuition and going outside to photograph the trees. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful realization with us. I am sitting here in tears right now - feeling the melancholy of the dark, grey days seep in to my bones and wanting desperately to find something, anything to counteract that with. And you have just given me the image of the pilot light, deep within. I will look to it in the days to come.

I love you.

BECKY said...

Such beautiful words and photos, Deb. I so admire your strength.

Laura said...

Oh Deb, your last photo, your exquisite words, your gentle open heart...all fill me with a deeper sense of connection to you, to the suffering in my own life and gratitude for all the blessings.

If I could reach through this screen to offer you a hug, you know I would.

graceonline said...

I know there is absolutely nothing I can do to ease your suffering, yet I pray that somehow miracles will occur, first, to give your heart lasting ease, and second, to warm and light these winter months as they have never been for you.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I give gratitude for the light your words shine into my soul each time I visit here.

Anonymous said...

If only my brain could articulate the depth of what my heart and soul feels...

In time, the memories will turn the focus from the death to the life and that will bring about more comfort and ease. Kathleen is still here with you. Maybe more now than before.

Thinking of you and the blessing you are to me and so many.

-M in Vancouver

Unknown said...

oh, Deb.
It almost feels too sacred to add my thoughts here.

I hope you feel held in the deepest way.

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

Hi Deb,
I've given you an award on my blog.

Arlee Bird said...

This is a melancholy post but not without hope. We go on and hopefully the pilot light keeps burning. The photos are beautiful. It seems the trees in Los Angeles are turning colors more than I recall in past years.

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