Archive for the ‘letting go’ Category

When I read the book “Return to Wake Robin” by Marnie O. Mamminga, I knew it would be a glimpse into my past summers in Hayward, my hometown, although I never actually spent any time in a cabin on a lake until last summer.  There was one passage that was very familiar to me, when they went into the town and explored the various stores on main street.

I understood the expression of what her grandfather said about being Up North from my own interpretation of true wilderness.

Over the years, on one of the many endless all-day car trips Up North, when fatigue begins to set in and there are still several hours of driving left, I often ask out loud why Erle and Clara didn’t stop earlier, especially when their ride took two days of travel over dusty, bumpy roads.  Why travel 450 miles when 300 might have worked as well?

“Erle must have been asked the same question, for he was often know to remark, ‘You have to come this far north to get this kind of beauty.’

“And he was right.  Like ‘The brightest star in the Milky Way’, his love of the Northwoods shines on.

“From a grandfather we never knew, that is quite a gift.”

It’s a shame many of the resorts were converted to private property, but times had changed and people started traveling farther by air to places like Disneyland for their vacations.

I thought about writing about this a lot, but I didn’t.  I realized I had only spent two childhood summers in Hayward.  Then it came to me:  it’s not just about being in the wilderness, it’s about childhood and having the freedom from responsibilites.  That’s what really touched me.  So now I have to see how I can start feeling free from the burdens of adulthood responsibility.

Tomorrow is the first of October, and I don’t think I’ve done anything on my “Fun Things to Do in Summer” list.  It’s still hot here in Arizona, so I can still do some of them.

Today the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota broke ground on the Hope Learning Center and Northwoods Ecology Exhibit addition to their center.  September 16 was the anniversary of Hope’s death.  Someone read the following quote:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.  Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.  We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.  And therein we err, and greatly err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”~~Henry Beston, “The Outermost House”

I had included part of this quote in my “Sacred Life Sunday” journal when I learned of her death in 2011.   I hope the Hope Learning Center will educate millions of people on black bears and how we can co-exist.


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I bought a 2011 car at the end of June.  I transferred the title of my 2007 Ford Taurus to Get Junk for Jesus on August 31.  I didn’t think the dealer would give me that much, and I can take a $500 tax donation.

I had the car for 16 years, and it was the best one I ever had.  I told my banker I was going to buy a new car in 2007.

Every time I thought about it, my stomach became queasy.  I feel like a lamb at the slaughterhouse when I deal with car dealers.  I hated the thought of making car payments since I had paid the loan off in 2004.  But that’s not the real reasons.

My mom and dad took me up to Tucson to buy a car (I didn’t think my old one would make it).  My mom co-signed the loan.

I named the car Tir Na N-og, the Irish fantasy land where no one gets old, after I learned about it from the movie “Into the West.”  A man finds a white horse and gives it to his grandsons.  The hero of the legend of Tir Na N-og meets a beautiful woman on a white horse and goes with her there.  The boys in the movie are Travellers as the Romani are called in Ireland.  Their mother died, and without totally giving away the story, the horse seems to be the embodiment of her spirit.

My Taurus was as white and graceful as the horse.  It pained me whenever I looked at her to think of giving her up.  At least she would be fixed up and given to a needy family.  The Get Junk for Jesus people had a waiting list, and one of them was really pressuring me to give it up.  Both my insurance and vehicle registration were coming due for renewal, so I finally knew it was time.  I also was tired of wondering if I would make it to work or the park with my dog.  The hot weather was coming, and the air was stuck on and not working well.  I didn’t want to put more money in her.  My friend who knows more about cars than me offered to go with me.

I told Tir Na N-og how much she meant to me and thanked her.  I had not run her since about a week after I bought the new car because I didn’t want to get stranded in the monsoon, but she started up every time.  Some people may not understand this, but my boss had a new engine put in his dad’s truck because he couldn’t give it up, and I once worked for someone whose husband had made his engine into a coffee table (now that’s love for her to be able to accept that).

My new car is a silver Honda CRV, and it’s quite a different driving experience.  I haven’t named it yet, but it has more of a masculine feel.  I used to think a car was just something you drove and could never understand why people (guys especially) seemed so attached to them (or maybe it’s a status thing for them to have so many cars, I don’t know).

There were tears, and I posted on Facebook that I felt I had taken my dog to the pound.  But later that day when I was on my errands I began to feel a sense of freedom, of finally being able to move on in the loss of my parents.  And I think I’ll be able to let go of a lot more stuff and have the home sanctuary to retreat to that I crave.

(The photo was in one of my grandmother’s photo albums.  I thought it was taken in upstate New York, but my sister who used to live there thought it was probably from Germany.)

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Nostalgia comes from the root word “Nostros” which means “homecoming.”

For some time I’ve been wondering why I kept thinking about my hometown in Wisconsin ever since my trip back there last summer.  I know I don’t want to live back there, but I just kept thinking about it, searching for web sites, and thinking it would be nice to have a summer cabin there.

I also had sent someone some photographs of her grandmother, who did a lot of traveling with my grandmother until they had a falling out (no one knows what it was about).  She thanked me but I never heard another word from her after I sent them.  We also never heard from the relatives that held the reunion, and I had sent them some photographs, too.

I thought part of it was because nature and the outdoors is so much in peoples’ lives, and I envy that.  There’s a more pronounced four seasons than in Arizona.   But I don’t have any close relatives up there any more, and there are other reasons I choose not to live there which I would rather not reveal here.

The other day I had an “Aha moment” as Oprah says.  Some of the people have lived there their entire lives.  I knew I was mainly glad I had lived the life of an Army brat, and we never lived in one place more than three years (until Arizona).  But there was also a small part of me that wondered what it would be like to walk down Main Street and see a childhood friend.  So I think it is that part of me that keeps thinking about it and tried to make friends with the granddaughter and our relatives.  I still consider it my home town, and in fact that is where I will be buried, next to my parents.  The cold won’t bother me then.

But lately I’ve had thoughts about having some of my ashes scattered at sea, too….I liked the life of a sojourner.

“The Sea is our mother rocking, rocking.  See how she fills her blue arms with gifts ~ with slippery bits, weed, white shells, fish as bright as wisps of moon.  Hear how her voice lifts, falls, lifts while she sings our life.” – Tony Johnston

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When I learned Wednesday a former neighbor had died, I sent an e-mail to my sisters.  One of them asked if we wanted to send flowers for the service.  My older sister questioned why when we had lost touch with them.

Why?  I used to babysit their children (and they were the best kids I ever watched), but that’s not the reason.  Yes, they were our neighborhood children (we used to call Lynette “Lynetti Spaghetti”–hope that didn’t cause any problems for her later).

It’s because I know where the family is–in that cold, dark place where the grief comes in waves so strong you feel you are going to drown.  But first you have to get through the numbing shock that makes you think you must be dreaming; this can’t be real.

Yes, we had lost touch.  But they came to both our parents’ funerals.  And they had stopped by our parents’ house here a few times when they made trips to Scottsdale to buy Southwestern turquoise jewelry.

We were just up in Wisconsin over a week ago.  We drove by our old house but didn’t stop in to see them.  And now I was feeling the pain again of losing your father through those kids.  The oldest is five or more years younger than me.  Living 75 years might seem a lot to some, but losing your father at any age is devastating unless you had a horrible relationship.  Even then, the closure would probably never come.

That is part of the reason we made the journey north.  We had not been there in 5 years, for my father’s funeral.  I wanted to see my hometown again and attend to their graves, hoping it had been long enough to get some kind of closure.

I had forgotten how truly beautiful the northwoods are.  We stayed in a cabin, and except for the noisy neighbors it was so peaceful and and restorative.  I made a vow to get out in nature more now that the cooler weather is finally coming.

We also attended a family reunion with some relatives we had never met.  Our grandmother and her brother had a falling out over an issue no one knew anything about.  My grandmother was a proud person, and when she had a falling out with someone she never talked about the person again.  They were truly nice people, and we agreed it was a shame we had not been a part of each others’ lives for all those years.

We visited my dad’s second cousin and his wife on the lake and were joined by some other old friends of my parents.  The next day we had lunch with one of my mother’s dearest friends and her husband.  There was a lot of talk about the past and how things used to be.

We drove around to all the lakes and places we used to go to.  A lot had changed, of course, and my overall impression was the one most commonly noticed when visiting the past, that everything used to look a lot bigger.

We did clean the graves and put silk flowers on them.  We had not seen the headstone from the Veterans Administration, since it was placed after we left.  We also visited our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ graves.  A rosebush my grandmother had planted on her parents’ graves was blooming but needed a lot of trimming.  My uncle, whose family we are estranged from, had been buried the week before.  But we did not have to look for his grave, as he was buried right next to his parents.

I’m glad I made the journey back.  It’s nice to remember it as our childhood playground for a while, and not the place where we buried our parents.  I probably wouldn’t have sent the plant if we hadn’t just been back there, but I hope seeing it at the service this morning made his wife and children understand there were old friends who appreciated their father and felt their loss, knowing that their lives are forever changed.

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My Sweet Girl

It has taken me a while to understand why I’m having still grieving for Katya after over a year.  I finally realized she was with me with all of my losses, beginning with my grandmother in 1998.  Then my mom the year after, my other grandmother two years later.  Plus the other dogs:  Joey, who had been abused but adored me and Dylan whom I knew for only two months; then my dad and my dog Jessee a month later.

She was with me through the worst times of my life, from my mother’s death to my father’s.  I would not have survived without her.  She was always there.

Today I read an article in the May issue of O Magazine  written by a woman who had lost her mother at an early age (“Hope Springs Eternal” by Robin Romm).  She and her husband moved to New Mexico and had a disasterous experience with the house they were renting.  Then her job was in jeopardy because of the college’s mismanagement.  One day on a walk with her husband and dog, she found a strange-looking puppy.  She took it home and then was not able to give it to the animal shelter.  She said she was in love with her.

Unfortunately, her dog did not share her affection for the puppy, and she ended up giving it away to a loving family rather than risk a serious injury to her.  She then fell to pieces, crying all the time for a week.  Then she remembered being in a grief group where a woman said she she cried when she lost her dog but hadn’t cried when she lost her mother.

“The counselor explained that when someone close to us dies, the loss is often too large to comprehend.  But when a pet dies, we understand it.  We experience an animal’s death in smaller, more accessible ways.  We can absorb that grief, and in doing so we touch the shore of that larger island of loss inside us.”

The writer than allowed herself to grieve for the losses in her life and was able to forgive her dog and get back to a normal life.

I will be visiting my hometown and my parents’ graves for the first time in five years this summer (and yes, the guilt of not being there for five years was a part of the decision to go).  I’m hoping it will allow me to celebrate their memories instead of grieving them.

As for my sweet girl (from the Fleetwood Mac song I used to sing to her), thank you for getting me through those years, and as my vet said you will always dance in my heart.  See you at the Bridge.

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That may seem like a strange title, but this year I felt the need to bring more joy into the holidays.  I did all of my shopping and mailing early, so I did feel less stressed, but I also had a strange feeling of not being invited to the party since I was not out there rushing around like everyone else.  But crowded stores really bother me now, and I almost felt like I was going to have a panic attack standing in line in the crowded post office.

I also wanted to explore the meaning of Christmas traditions to bring more meaning and less commercialism to my Christmas this year, since I was staying home.  I made an Advent wreath, found a wonderful Advent calendar, and did some reading and research.  I was amazed to learn many of the Christian traditions are based on pagan ones.  It did make the season more special.

That isn’t to say I did not spend too much money.  There really is so much pressure to buy, and of course I had to have some presents to open “from my dog.” Those were books and CD books, and I have sworn never to buy more.  But they give me more pleasure than anything else, and I found some real treasures this year.  I decided I would read them and in some cases pass them on if I felt someone else could benefit, unless they are something I mark for future reading.  I used to not want to make marks in my books, but I realized that was ridiculous.  It does not ruin the book; it only shows how loved it is.

I did decide to reduce my Christmas CD collection.  I usually added one a year, so I decided it was too large because I never played them all.  I kept the ones I really loved, and I gave the others to a woman who adopted three families for Christmas and a young military wife whose husband is deployed.  She was thrilled because I also added some children’s DVDs I had bought for when my nephew comes to visit, but he has outgrown them.  I’ll spare you a cliche on that, but it did feel good.  And I will make my Advent wreath on something less tacky than tin foil next year.

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The Wisdom of Trees

Last week as we were walking towards my favorite trees, I noticed their leaves were finally starting to fall.  The other trees were almost bare already, but these trees shed their leaves last.  As I stood in the grove, I felt a sadness knowing they would soon be bare and it meant winter was coming.

Then I realized, they aren’t sad, and they aren’t resisting.  The falling leaves made a whispering sound as they gently glided down through the branches.  

“Winter embraces the land, and trees surrender their leaves in an act of holy supplication, extending their arms upward in prayer. I see in those bare branches, the beauty of things brought back to their essence,” wrote Christine Valters Paintner on her beautiful web site, abbeyofthearts.com.

Trees have always seemed strong and wise to me.  I come from a logging town, and when I went back there it broke my heart to see the logging trucks constantly roaring down the highway in back of my grandmother’s house.  Once there was a picture in the paper of a lumberjack who had cut down the first tree in a stand that was over 100 years old.  He was grinning like he had just climbed Mount Everest.

“I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”~~Willa Cather
 The older I get, the more I resist change, which is futile.  Especially in these times, I need to remember to live in the seasons, not in the past.



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