Archive for the ‘loss’ 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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Roots Bound

As in spellbound–hopefully it will make sense if you read on.

Last week my sister e-mailed me that the immigration and travel records would be free on ancestry.com for the week.  I plan to do a lot of family research when I retire and have more time, because a subscription isn’t cheap.

So I started my search.  Actually, I wasn’t able to find much in those records, so I went to my other sources of family history to get more information, mainly https://www.familysearch.org/.  The more I found, the more I was intrigued.  As a friend said, it’s like a puzzle, and it’s exhilerating when you find something (and can become addictive, I’m sure).

I was trying to find immigration records for my great-great-great-grandfather, who immigrated from Norway.  The spellings depend on the interpretation of the transcribers, and a lot of ship passenger lists were very splotched, undoubtably by the sea air.  Part of the difficulty was the naming conventions in Norway, which were unlike those in this country (the surname became the father’s first name and -son or -datter), and they changed again when they immigrated here.  But along the way I came across a person who had done a lot of research on my great-great-great-grandfather.  I tried e-mailing her but got an error.

This obsession took up half of my Labor Day weekend.  I gave up.  But today I did a search on the history of the town where he lived, and while I didn’t get any information on that, it did bring up more information from the mysterious researcher, as well as a new e-mail address for her.

So I sent her an e-mail, and I received an enthusiastic response of 14 pages of information, including every encounter in his Civil War unit’s journey to the sea with Sherman.  I had not learned about his marching with Sherman until many years later than I lived in Augusta and Fort Benning, Georgia, which is fortunate since we never got past the Civil War in school (I know nothing about World War I and II).

I just wish I had found all of this out many years earlier and could have shared it with my dad.  He loved history so much.

(The picture is of my great-great-grandmother Christine (right), a librarian, pianist, wife, mother, and painter, who  tragically died because of the great flu of 1918, and her sister Anna (on my father’s side of the family)).

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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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I began the practice of mindfulness while reading “The New Earth” by Eckhardt Tolle, although I admit the practice was sketchy and I did not finish the book.  I did begin to experience mindfulness more fully based on my weekly walks in the park.  Unlike the older park about a block from me, this park already had many tall trees when it was created.

When I began being mindful in nature, trees become a focus of my attention.  Because I live in the  desert, I appreciate them more, because I come from northern Wisconsin, rich in forests.

To me, they are a sign of strength, of timelessness.  My favorite part of “The Lord of the Rings” was when the Ents came to the rescue.  I wrote several years ago about a stand of over 100-year-old trees that were destroyed in my hometown.  Those trees had been there longer than any  people, and there was a picture in the paper of a man grinning like he had just conquered Mount Everest because he had cut down the stand.

About a month ago I really began noticing the trees on my way to work and errands.  We had a  record-breaking cold spell of about a week in February.  Water pipes busted in some peoples’ houses.  The gas company turned off the gas supply to hundreds of homes because of the lack of supply.  I was lucky and did not have any of those problems.  But those problems were  temporary and did not cause a lot of long-term damage.  Sadly, the damage it did to trees seems longer lasting.  Some palm trees have new green sprouts, but some magnificent old pines and other large trees do not.

And then there was a new twist–pardon the horrible pun.  In the fierce tornadoes of April, trees, like the ocean, became dangerous.   Of course they did not choose this.  But it seemed ironic the very tree you had cherished over the years could kill you, as it did in several cases.

Of course, those storms were not normal, and trees have many benefits besides shelter and shade.  For the most part, they are “peaceful and diligent” as Mary Oliver wrote in “About Angels and About Trees”:

“The trees, anyway, are

miraculous, full of

angels (ideas);even

empty they are a

good place to look, to put

the heart at rest–all those

leaves breathing the air, so

peaceful and diligent, and certainly

ready to be

the resting place of

strange, winged creatures

that we, in this world, have loved.”

And this little tree, which I thought was dead, bloomed like this in a week.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, one of my angels; and to Mother Earth.

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I was lucky to go to an elementary school in New Jersey that celebrated May Day with a Maypole.  There would be a little homemade carnival, too.  There also was an annual flower show, although I’m not sure if it was at the same time or where the flowers came from.

This year, in light of all the recent disasters, I decided to do prayer ribbons.  I found out they are a tradition of many indigenous people and are used by Buddhists and Native Americans.  Then I found a page on Celtic Holidays that suggested doing prayer ribbons for Beltane/May Day since going out and chopping down a tree was impractical (although it does give you a way to use one of your own trees).

I needed something to cheer me up.  Friday was the 12th anniversary of my mother’s death, and tomorrow is my dad’s birthday (I lost him 4 years ago).  I don’t shop at WalMart for ethical reasons, but yesterday I found a craft store listed in the phone book that I didn’t know existed.  It had lots of neat stuff for many arts and crafts, and the owner is very friendly.

So I made my ribbons after my studies this morning.  I have one each for Japan, marine life (especially in the Gulf and Pacific),  wild horses, and the tornado victims.  There are four because of the four elements, four directions, and four Archangels.

You ask the tree’s permission first, and then you remove them in three days out of respect for it.  Then you burn or bury them in your garden.  I’ll probably tie them to my garden fence, although with the wind we’ve been having they might not be there in three days.

I also love the old tradition of May Baskets.  I was going to make one, but I found this one in a grocery store for $20 and decided it was perfect and a bargain because it had so many pretty flowers. So my May, which is also my birth month, is off to a merry start.

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