Over these past holidays, three close friends lost their mothers. We are now at that age, I guess, when our mothers are falling from the earth. In another good friendship, the light has been turned off, at least for now. This past year brought family members pushed to the edge of their mental illness. I faced a challenging conflict at work. Winding out the year, a friend had a lamp fall on, and break, her big toe. Maybe an appropriate ending to a challening year.
This image, taken many years ago in India, flashed into my mind as I dreamed up this musing at 2 a.m. Maybe feeling like the bold woman in blue trying to make my way through the rubble of 2018. When we are forced to sit with death, to hold someone’s hand as they leave this earth – we will likely find that we, and they, hold more grace and beauty than we ever imagined. So many are circumstances out of our control – my good friend needing space, an attempted suicide as a wake-up call, to speak what feels true and right amidst conflict. As far as my friend’s toe, well, I guess she’ll have to slow down for awhile.
When we face loss, rejection, walls (real or imagined), we take that blow to the gut and often try to find a way to move on – to turn right, or yield. This seems to be the nature of life – a tree falls, then moss and dropped seeds. As a writer, I’ve been sending out poems and a manuscript to potential publishers, waiting for some interest. So far, I wait. I have had to buoy myself up (and rely on others to help buoy me), amidst the myriad of rejection letters. Strangely, after I absorb the sting of each one, my determination flares and my creative energy runs wild. I get off the floor fiercer than before – to stay on my one true path of writing and poetry.
Amidst the uncertainty of publishing, I sent out a poem to a good friend and visual artist, asking if she would sketch me a phoenix to accompany my “Tonewood” poem. She agreed and got to work sketching and painting all weekend. I was thrilled that my poem could spark creation; I was even more thrilled when I saw what she created! Our collaboration turned into our poetry broadside, “Tonewood,” posted on my Book Arts page. I also dreamed up a poetry workshop to offer in my community and felt a sudden urge to complete this website and release it into the world. All creative nudgings. To me, all flashes of blue pulling me into this new year.
At every gathering we went to over this holiday season, there was music. It started with a friend’s recorder performance to a small group of us in her living room, followed by me reading of a few of my poems. At our Christmas Eve gathering, our friend played guitar and sang in varied combinations with her daughter, her partner, and myself. At another friend’s family gathering on Christmas Day, we played music from around the world — and stomped, and danced, and sang — around their circular coffee table. It is as if we needed music, and song, and dance – it is as if we needed to stomp something into (or out of) our bodies.
The other night, we had our neighbors over for the grand finale to our holiday season. One of our neighbors is also from the U.S., and surprisingly, we share the same Canada Day birthday. We were talking of the political obsession, and just how bad things are in “our other country.” But also, we talked of how this heavy obsession seems to be removing our attention from the small details of goodness in our everyday lives. Our neighbor still generously shovels our snow, or the butcher remembers our name, with a smile. We still gather around food and friendship; we paint and we write. We sing and dance and stomp around tables – all flashes of blue on a backdrop of rubble and dust.