Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Ramblings

(Pleasantries for a change!) 

I decided I wanted to get out a bit today and take pictures but I wanted it to be someplace relatively close. I remembered news stories about an old wooden bridge that they were going to do away with and I decided I wanted to head out in that direction. Who knew there was a whole new world just thirty minutes away from my house? (I knew, I just sometimes fail to appreciate it, and to take advantage of it.)
My twenty year old daughter rode along with me. We were deep in the swamp. Apparently they had just put down a layer of fresh rock on the road and it felt "mushy" so she was crawling along at five miles an hour (or less) gripping the steering wheel. I was worried that if she did not pick up speed we were going to bog down! We kept rounding curves and seeing more of the same stuff. We didn't really know where the road was leading to but our curiosity kept us going.
When we saw this guy, I reminded my daughter that it was curiosity that killed the cat! My daughter snapped the photo from the safety of the car. I really wanted to get out and get a closer shot. I planned on doing that when we came back by. But when we passed him on the way out, something spooked him and he high-tailed it into the bushes. I did not realize these little guys could move so fast!
I only got two photos of the bridge. They recently redid it and are trying to get it listed as a historical monument or something. I'd like to go back another time (if I can remember how to get to it!) and get some better pictures.
This is a photo of a mimosa blossom (with a texture layer applied). I braved it and got out of the car at this point to take a few photos. It is amazing to me how the land changed on this one road we were on. At one point we were driving through swamp and then we were driving on firmer roads with rice fields on the side of them. We were sort of afraid we had somehow wandered onto private property. Fortunately no one shot at us!
And then there is this one. Again I was playing around with layers. I like this quote a lot but I am not so sure I like the "thang" a lot.

My photos do not do justice to how pretty (and how isolated) this area is. Nor can they convey the sounds of the birds singing or the smell of the fresh creosote on the bridge or the smell of the mimosa blossoms. Or was that the smell of the tree with the white flowers on it? I am not at all sure. What I know for sure is that something smelled really good when I stepped out of the car to take pictures.
Another frustration is my failure to adequately capture cypress knees! They were all over the place and I tried to get good photos but no matter how I try, the photo does not show whatever it is I see when I look at these things! Maybe it is because I zoom in too close. When there are so many, it looks like a convention of gnomes or something! I get this crazy urge to sit a while with them and see if they have anything to tell me (or maybe to sit and tell them something)!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Believing Impossible Things

The word "believe" has been coming up for me in a lot of places lately.

This is a page from a book I am working in. I have trouble believing that I am enough. At first I thought that statement "I am enough" meant "I am tough strong woman who does not need anybody or anything to make it through life." One night I was lying it bed and out of nowhere, it became crystal clear to me that "I am enough" really meant "I am (fill in the blank) enough. I am smart enough. I am creative enough. I am good enough. I am pretty enough. I am brave enough. I am strong enough. 

You probably have your own things you could use to fill in the blank.

So part of the focus of this journal is to name the places where I am good enough. It is my hope that I will eventually be able to believe the "impossible things" not only before breakfast, but also all day long.

The other part of the work I will be doing in this journal is to make a list of the qualities of the type of woman I could respect and then to work on trying to become that woman. This was an idea from a friend of mine.

I've made the lists: "annie is a woman who ..." and I was all enthused and gung-ho when I started but I have not been back to it since I made that list!

I have issues with self-worth and I am way kinder to everybody else than I am to myself.  So of course one of the things on the lists is that "I am a woman who is gentle with herself." That I can work on. "I am a woman who is secure in who she is" will be a bigger challenge. 

And then there are things about the creative things I do. One of the things is that I want to work on reopening my Etsy store and doing something with my photographs and my "thangs."

I got kind of stuck on how to organize it after that so I've been thinking about what I want to do. Thinking about how you want to do something is an excellent way to procrastinate on actually doing that which you are thinking about! 

And I have to remind myself that I don't need to work on everything on the list all at one time. I need to focus on one or two things at a time so that I don't get overwhelmed and quit altogether.

I won't bore you with those details but I think I have figured out what I am going to do and will probably work some on the list this weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday, 04/25/12

(And a short short story.)

Glass cuts, as does grief.

We went again to the Compassionate Friends meeting.

There was a woman there whose grief dominated nearly the entire meeting,
as if the rest of us were not also hurting.

"It's just so sad," my husband says.

 "It will get easier," the meeting leader man says.

I believe him.

But the woman whose grief dominated nearly the entire meeting,
as if the rest of us were not also hurting,
she does not yet believe him.

Sometimes you just have to believe.
Even when you don't.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Joy and Sorrow Giving Birth?

Joy and sorrow, they are never far apart, but sorrow keeps pushing joy further and further away, not out of sight, but just out of reach (like my son—not out of sight of my mind’s eye, but out of my reach).

It was the rain pecking on the metal roof that called me out to the patio. The noise was like a thousand chickens pecking hard ground that will not surrender sustenance. I was sitting on my glider, the one we finally got fixed after nearly four years of it sitting useless on the patio. I was gliding back and forth. It was twilight, my least favorite time of day, that time that is neither daylight nor dark. It is the neither-ness of it all that gets next to me. Be daylight or be dark but don’t be neither that’s how I feel about it all.

I’ll tell you a little bit about joy. Joy is gliding in the glider watching the drips hang tenaciously from the cross bar on the old metal swing set. Joy is finally getting the chains back on the glider and the nuts and bolts tightened. Joy is sitting there feeling the temperature drop. Joy is feeling that cool breeze brush your face and imagining that it is the hand of God and not long after that imagining that it is my son breezing by to check on me and to reassure me.

But is it sorrow that makes me sit slumped down on the glider breathing deep as though I am about to give birth to something? Maybe I am about to give birth, to something. Sometimes it feels that way. It’s not a totally unpleasant feeling.

And the rain keeps falling and the tears pile up on the swing set cross bar.

When I noticed the mosquitoes biting my elbows and my ankles that is when I came in and tried to right what I felt out there. When I closed my eyes time felt like a dust storm in my head. Part of me was not there with myself. Part of me was whirling around in that dust storm. Was it subliminal that I wrote that I came in and tried to “right” what I felt out there? Maybe not.

At any rate, as I was experiencing my time on the patio I kept thinking I will not be able to come in and sensibly explain these feelings and so I am right, it is indeed difficult to write what it was I felt out there.

And I remembered this that Annie Dillard wrote. It cracked me up when I read it. I’ll tell you, I still think I very much need to sit still for a little while, and leave the dusting and sweeping and wiping for another day. And yet, the time will come again for movement for I think I am not yet ready for burial. There are still things in me that are waiting to be birthed.

“Earth shifts over things. If you stay still, earth buries you, ready or not…

Quick: Why aren’t you dusting? On every continent, we sweep floors and wipe tabletops not only to shine the place, but to forestall burial.”

This is not new work, I did it in my journal sometime in the beginning of February, but it seems related to what I have written. Maybe it was a premonition of some sort...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday, 04/18/12

(Click on this one to make it bigger-it looks like a human eye is looking out from the petals. Creepy!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Wrench, a Bicycle and a Philosophical Photographer

(With a flower thrown in for good measure.)
I thought of this little one today and remembered I'd never posted it here. 

I was out with my camera this morning, trying to get pictures of the carpenter bees who feed on my wooden glider. Those things are hard to get, about the time the camera focuses on their tiny little body, they move. I gave up on that and moved on to taking pics of an old rusty wrench and my son's bicycle parts. Then I went in to PSE and added layers and textures to them. I want to learn to make my own textures eventually, but for now I am using some of the free ones Kim Klassen sends out. She has a class which maybe eventually I will get to take.
I believe this one is my favorite of the bicycle pictures. This was my son's bicycle. We bought it for Christmas for him a year ago. Now it resides on the patio as part of our decor.
A quote from Pema Chodron: "In meditation and in our daily lives there are three qualities that we can nurture, cultivate, and bring out. We already possess these, but they can be ripened: precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go."
No, I don't think I need to let go of my memories. I do owe a debt of gratitude to my dear son for helping me to learn lessons in letting go of things that were not mine to hold. 

Excuse the pun, but it was, at times, a wrenching experience.
What can be said about a wrench propped up on a fence reaching for the sky?
I think I brought the wrench home from my grandparents' house after they both were gone. The other possibility is that I borrowed it from dad, didn't return it, and now have let it get all rusty and stuff. Ooops. No, I really think it came from my grandfather's tools. There were a couple of wood files I brought home too. I'm not sure but I think those are in the garage somewhere. I am not too good at keeping up with some of my mementos of the dead, meaningful as they are to me.
I'm trying to be all cheery and philosophical but let me just tell you, life sucks sometimes. Not all the time, thankfully, but sometimes.

Having said that, I do believe I am on the cusp of something, or at least, I am hopeful that I am. On the edge of something. Let's hope I don't fall off.

I'm working on my self. That's what it is. There are lessons being learned and observations being made and things hoped for but not quite seen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

In His Room

("I was advised to write how this came to be as a 3rd person narrative with changed names." Patti did such a great job with this writing exercise and then asked if anyone else wanted to try it. Her story brought back up a lot of memories for me but my story today is very rooted in the present.)

She is in his room again. On Good Friday there had been two big storage totes and one suitcase full of clothing and several assorted piles strewn about. And shoes, my god, there were shoes! His grandfather used to joke, “You’ve only got two feet, why do you need so many shoes?” The boy just grinned and went on.

The mattress and the box springs were on the floor. He’d taken the bed apart one day when she was at work. The bedstead, which had belonged to her grandparents, he’d taken out to the garage with all the other family detritus. Nothing was sacred to any of them anymore.

She stood the mattress and box springs up against the wall and sorted the clothing into piles to be washed. Then she swept the dust from the floor and threw away the last of the trash he’d left piled up on his bedside table, an energy drink and a couple of fries and part of a chicken tender. It was almost too much for her to bear, throwing even these things away. They carried his DNA. Those things she resisted the urge to keep. But there was this one long-sleeved shirt that still smelled so much like him. She set it apart from the laundry piles so that when she got really, really lonesome, she could bury her face in his shirt and conjure up the smell of him again.

She pulled the headboard and the footboard from the garage and lovingly dusted both pieces, marveling again at the beauty of the wood. Silently she fussed at him for putting her treasure at risk in the varying temperatures of the garage. But that was the way he was. He just didn’t value the things she valued.

She got the bed set up and washed the bed linens and decided that was enough for one day. A woman can only take so much of rifling through her son’s personal things before she is overcome with sadness and knows it’s time to quit.

But now, today, the day after Easter, yes, she is in his room again. The sheets are freshly washed and lying in a heap on the bed. There is still work to be done. So she sets out to make the bed, smoothing the sheets, making sure the corners on tight. And now the bed is made, with the pillows plumped just so and it reminds her of the times he would be gone, how she would work, how they all would work, to get things ready for the prodigal son to come home.  The decorative pillows are ready for him to toss to the corner. His clothes are hung and his shoes are neatly arranged in the closet.
But he’s not coming home this time.

And she hesitates to wash any more of his clothes. She feels almost as if she is washing him away.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter Shoes

Easter Sunday will make four months he's been gone. I spent a lot of time today in his room. He had taken the bedstead down and put the mattress and box springs on the floor. I put all that back together and washed the bed linens. Now the room looks like Mama wanted it to look all along!

I also spent considerable time trying to organize his clothing and prepare it to wash. He always loved clothes and he had a lot. We used to tease him about having more clothes than a girl. He brought a lot of it to Pennsylvania with him. So when his friend brought those clothes back they were in big Rubbermaid totes and it was hard to tell what was clean and what was dirty. So I want to wash it all. We'd also been digging in it from time to time. It's hard to explain but we'd often end up in there just looking through his stuff as if we could find him hidden away in one of the piles of clothing. The girls had certain shirts of his they wanted to keep and they looked for those. So everything was sort of strung about.

I found an old Whataburger shirt he had when he worked for Whataburger. For three nights. And on the third night, when we thought he was working, he skipped out and got into some trouble. I commandeered that shirt as a sleeping shirt. Later, he did learn to be more responsible and consistent about his work.

There was one shirt that still smells so much like him that I separated it out from the laundry loads. I want to hang onto it a little longer and just wrap my face in it from time to time.

We (his sisters and I) teased him about these shoes when he bought them. They look like his toes would not be able to go all the way to the end. It looks like to me you could cut two inches off the shoe and it would still fit. The shoes had been sitting on his dresser all this time and they never failed to make me smile when I came in his room and saw them.

It's funny, the things you think of. We thought about burying him in these shoes, but there were two problems: I couldn't bear to let the shoes go, and his suit was black and the shoes are brown. He would not have approved of that arrangement!

I've got a pair of his Justin Ropers in his closet that he wore when he was three or four, and a pair of huge work boots he bought when he was working in Texas. I'm going to figure out a way to photograph the two of those together.

All these things have their way of healing my heart. I am at peace about his death. But that does not keep me from missing him very, very much. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wordless Wednesday, 04/04/12

 Yeah, I know, there are words in the second one. The first one is a sketch I did using someone's Flickr portrait as a model. I took a picture of the sketch with my phone and worked on it using an iPhone app. Then I took it into Photoshop Elements and added the eye and lip color.

I wasn't satisfied with that so I added a photo of tiny flowers plucked off a plant in the office (they were dying, ready to be removed from the mother plant, it was their time) and words and fiddled with it a little more. I am not totally satisfied with the results but I always enjoy playing around in Photoshop just to see what happens.

So there, words on Wordless Wednesday!

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Club Nobody Wants to Join

On Tuesday night of last week my husband and I went to a meeting of The Compassionate Friends. They are a national organization that was formed to offer "grief support after the death of a child." It's a meeting nobody wants to have to attend, a club nobody wants to join. Through the years I had opportunities to attend various support type meetings and I went a few times but I ever really cared for them. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about attending this meeting. But I decided I'd give it a try and see how things went.

There were probably ten or twelve people there, all in various stages of grief. One couple had just marked the first year anniversary of their son's death. Another couple lost their daughter a month before our son passed away. The couple that was facilitating the group had lost their son in the early nineties. They were well informed and very good at managing the group. It was not easy being there. But I was surprised at the level of comfort I found in being with these strangers who had walked the path that we are now walking. I think we will probably both go back again next month.

Grieving is a process and one should never try to suck it up and be strong all the way through the process. I'm fortunate that I do have a decent system of support.

The butterfly photo was taken on a recent "photo walk" at Chicot State Park. I've been looking around at animal symbolism lately. Tonight I see that the butterfly is thought to be asking us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives.