Saturday, September 10, 2016

A few days of summer



To say that this has been an odd time is an understatement. More like a hold-your-breath, tic tock, out of the normal standards of what passes for continuum. Things stretch, they seem impossibly eternal and then run into each other like bumper cars with a case of the hiccups. And unfortunately, I am only referring to what has been going on in my heart.

A few weeks ago, I found myself sobbing, kind of in public, it's a long story. But there I was, washed over by a whole new wave of grief that had risen out of a seeming nowhere. I wiped off my tears with no pretense of embarrassment and then moved on to go shopping for a bit with my Sister, as one does. There, we ran into one of her oldest friends. I actually introduced them when I was seven years old and still fearless. We had just moved to Michigan and there were these girls about Robin's age out in the alley by the blackberry bushes. I took them up to her room and there you go. How simpler things were without personality in the way. So this same friend, Susan, invited us up to her family's little slice of personalized Heaven. We left less than 24 hours later. 

Michigan - where I have been living for the past six months - is truly quite beautiful, something that is a bit of an inside secret for those who are from "the Mitten State" (take a look at the bottom half on the map to understand, apparently the residents of the Upper Peninsula smugly prefer to be left out of the equation entirely) but an area, like much of the US, where great distances are considered casually. As I still do not have my drivers license, Robin sat with a fixed gaze behind the wheel for four hours but wore the effort with the lightness of a grocery run until we pulled up under the pines in front of a true log cabin.

Her immediate spreading smile was worth...all the gold in the world? Well, not quite, mais presque. She knew what she was getting us into. We both needed this. I stepped out and stretched and could feel the pull of Lake Michigan before I could see it. Now, you may laugh - certainly if you have never seen it - for I know well it is not an ocean nor a sea, but trust me, that pull, lion-like, is there. 

For two days, we settled in as Sisters. Sisters of a certain age who know each other now. We respected each others needs for respective space and togetherness. The timelessness of the log cabin walls and the somehow more seeming choice to have internet access or no let our individual current stories fall away. We read. 

Coming back from one of the evening walks that we would take along the beach before sunset, we looked up just as we were arriving back to see Tupelo, or Tupy, nosing down the steps of the dock. She is Susan's 15 or 16 year old Golden Retriever, depending on who is doing the math. So that meant that Susan had made the drive up to spend a few nights with us after all. It wasn't certain, but we had hoped. 

Old friends banter. I made a toast to Susan just for having known her for forty years. When you have moved around as much as I have in life, that is something worth the clink. I took over cooking when we all were too lost in the conversation and I let these two true friends be to wander down to the beach so that they could talk and I could get lost in the stars. With the waves crashing in, I craned my neck and was overwhelmed by the merciless number, far outweighing what my concerns - current or past - could ever be. And yet even there, I cried again until my ribs shook, vulnerable to the truth, that damn resounding truth that natural beauty or God (your choice) has called out to me with an unflagging voice. Under the bare gaze of a million years, I could not help but hear it. 

What else happened down there on the sands is between me and...something greater. This was a few weeks ago. It is such a long process, this grief, these steps towards healing. And I have accepted that I am on nobody's schedule but my own. But those stars are emblazoned within me and if I close my eyes, I feel them not far. 

As luck would have it, I slept down where I imagine the children are usually delegated, the basement level of the log cabin. But as it is built up on stilts, I was able to open my curtain every morning and see that thin line of horizon that could extend nothing but hope into my view. Breathe in, breathe out. Another day rising. 

This has been such a strange time. I don't quite remember the days of the week but I am aware, often too aware of whether I am moving forward or not. And yet, for those four days, I had a taste of pure summer. Far from much, I was focused on the quality of the light upon the water (so similar to that of Bora Bora as to be laughable - why do people insist on flying to the other side of the world?), how the most basic food could taste so much better, how people seemed to have their guard down enough to talk with strangers, that it was possible to count down the sunset and even the Milky Way could break me open, yet again, to the possibility that I am learning and very much still alive. We all forget that some times but it was, in this case, nothing that a few days of summer couldn't set towards the direction of...a maybe one day beyond. Listless yet dreaming like summers do.































Thank you with all of my heart for the many incredibly loving messages and emails that so many of you have sent about Ellie's passing. Again, I feel truly fortunate to have been able to call such a woman my friend. It has been so incredibly moving to see here and elsewhere on social media exactly how far her reach was and is. Hers is a light that will never go out.



46 comments:

  1. What a moving post. The log cabin is beautiful, the colour of the water unsurpassed. Beautiful photos and writing which gives us all pause to think and reflect.

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  2. Thank you Heather for another beautiful post!
    Shireen from Elizabeth's neck of the woods (and another Ellie fan...)

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  3. lovely. this cottage has healing in it's bones. xoxo

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  4. Oh, Heather......I read your comment "This has been such a strange time. I don't quite remember the days of the week but I am aware, often too aware of whether I am moving forward or not."......and I thought "Good Lord, I feel the same half of the time".

    My life is odd in that I live alone (now) in this big, old house.....and I don't hold some 9-5 job...nor do I have children (all of which are things that, for better or worse, do tend to remind one of WHAT TIME IT IS!!!!!")

    I'll be quite honest. I do my work, both inside and out, as it needs to be done.....and I go to bed much later or earlier than I ever did previously....and I eat or nap when I'm hungry or sleepy....and I wake up, and I think "Jesus Christ!!!! Is it morning or evening?".

    I'd wonder if I were crazy if it weren't for three dear friends of mine (all female and all in their 70's) who've told me that, having been widowed/divorced after their children had gone way-off to college, they simply didn't know how to keep track of their own time if a spouse or child wasn't demanding it of them every single moment of every single day.

    Simple and true.......I'm learning it, myself. I expect that everyone does in various ways and, eventually, under various exigencies.

    It's nice, though, when you learn (I've only very recently learned to do so)to just sit back and see what happens. I've been consciously keeping score for the past year, and the good things/people/occurences somehow seem to be occuring at about-twice the number of the shitty things. Perhaps I should emphasize that I do make a point of noticing the good things.

    And, yes......I'm going to follow La Contessa's example and fly you down here for a visit to this 220 year old, fully restored house. We ain't got no discotheque (yet), but there are other diversions.

    Just for the public record?....I spent this afternoon dealing with movers who will be moving all of Herve's stuff OUT of this house (which has been bought by a trust comprising my friends and family). As I've told him?.....you need to move OUT, so that I can move ON.

    You probably don't need me to tell you that erring boyfriends/spouses can be difficult and non-communicative (to put it mildly).

    You'll be fine, Heather.....and I'll look forward to having you as a guest here.

    sincerely,
    David Terry

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    1. Now, do you really think that I need a discotheque, David Terry? ;) I haven't set foot in one in over twenty years and do not plan to - happily and wisely, I had my fill of such shenanigans at the time with no current regrets on the matter. As for other matters...well...thank you for the invitation, again. You are a good man as I have said many a time before.
      xo

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  5. Heather, you are surrounded by angels....breath in and out....

    Ali

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    1. Hey "Unknown".....

      That's a beautiful & perfect reply. Someday, maybe I'll learn how to say exactly the right thing in only ten words.

      Admiringly,
      David Terry
      www.davidterryart.com (where a picture isn't necessarily always worth a thousand words, but is inevitably accompanied by at least 500)

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  6. I hear your grief and despair, hang on there....give it time as it is s great healer.
    Love all your pics and I miss Ellie's posts.

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    1. I do too, although it was amazing that Grace wrote hers, such a beautiful and brave gift. And thank you for the reminder about time.

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  7. What a perfect place for reflection and refreshment, even a golden. The cabin is so much more than a cabin. The midwest of America is, as u say, beautiful. Stay inside during deer season ........
    Bon

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    1. Hopefully I will be in your neck of the woods by then. They shoot here on my Sister's property so they have to be verrry careful when walking the dogs - on the road only!

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  8. Oh, Heather, hugs are being transmitted your way. The blow of losing a friend, a young friend (and even though she was somsick, she had escaped from so many close calls we though maybe she really was invincible)....and coming while you are still in mourning over the relationship. That is a lot at once.
    It will get better, and you yourself are the proof. You string words into sentences as if they were diamonds becoming necklaces. Your photographs show how much your eye is drawn to beauty. In a way it's all we have. We need our ties to other people, it's the paramount, but even if our family and friends make us happy and love doing it, it isn't fair to depend on them for it. We have to depend on ourselves and in a way choose to be happy, choose to see the beauty and celebrate it. Actually, that's what Ellie did. She would start on a rant about something but it was as is she couldn't help herself and she had to shift focus to something wonderful.
    In the middle of the storm you can't see the end, but it's coming. You are doing good work.
    Grosses bizes!

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    1. ' You string words into sentences as if they were diamonds...' Such a beautiful and apt description! x

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    2. Trudye, Catherine is herself a fine writer so it is quite a compliment for her to use such a phrase here.

      C, I agree with you entirely. I haven't been so responsible always for my own happiness and procuring of joy - here on the blog, yes, in life, not always so much. It is one of the lessons that I am learning the hard way and Ellie gave me many fine examples.
      Gros biz right back!

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  9. SERENITY was painful. I'm sorry. Don't Hurt Child. Laura Nyro.

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  10. So much sadness, I can feel your sorrow, but if there is one place to heal it is surely at the beach (even if it is a lake rather than an ocean). The sound of the water gently washing onto the shore, it always soothes the soul, it is extremely relaxing, calming and peaceful. Talk to the waves and the water, no one else will hear and it won't reply but I always know it gives me answers. Have a wonderful weekend. Susan X

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    1. I certainly did...and to the stars too. Both were wonderful counselors. Thank you as always for your wonderful kindness, Susan. xoxox

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  11. A glimmer of hope for a new dawn. The supportive comments of your readers and thoughtful actions of your friends should affirm what you may have been doubting during this anno horribilis - you are a remarkable, warm and thoughtful woman to whom good things (which you certainly deserve) will once again happen. Gros bises
    (Tupy must make your heart ache for your 2 boys in France..............)

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    1. She really did. It was bittersweet being with her but I tried to focus on the positive! And everyone here has given me so much strength and love that I have to try and believe that I deserve it.

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  12. Lovely photos and lovey introspection, Heather.

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  13. David Terry, Your "long" replies are perfect. Most of us have "structured" our time in relation to others and when we are no longer with them, we have to relearn what our days and nights are going to be like, what our goals are going to be, where our happiness will lie, to cherish solitude and to be happy when in it and when visiting with others. To transform that "empty house" feeling from a syndrome to a symbol of a new life where we fill the house with ourself.

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  14. Achingly beautiful words and serene accompanying pics, Heather.
    We never know when a grief trigger will shake us to our very core. Let the tears flow and then walk through, leaving them in the past.
    How very lucky you were to be given the gift of the cabin and time spent with Sister, Tupy and Mother Nature! Mother Nature never disappoints and in her vast beauty always helps me put things in perspective. Everything will be ok!
    Beautiful, thoughtful words of caring and advice in the comments here! Again, lucky you! Mwahs, T xx

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    1. Definitely, lucky me. I know that Trudye. And Mother Nature has her eye on me too. Yes. And when I cry I do feel like I am letting go that much further, I let them flow then let them be.

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  15. What a wonderful respite from the world you had there at that beautiful log cabin, in God's beautiful creation.

    ** natural beauty or God (your choice) has called out to me with an unflagging voice. Under the bare gaze of a million years, I could not help but hear it. ** Oh how beautiful that is.

    Grieving takes time, for the worst part, but even after almost 4 years, I still get hit with it when I least expect it, and you've had a double dose of loss recently. Each day is a gift, just live in it as it comes.

    Love, hugs & prayers for you dear heart ~ FlowerLady

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    1. I am so sorry for your grief, Lorraine. You are such a wonderful, kind-hearted woman and I want nothing but the best for you. xo

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  16. I'm learning from you and your wonderful readers. Such lessons are sometimes hard to take. We just have to keep "practicing." Another beautiful writing you have shared with us. Thank you. Don't you wonder where the phrase "good grief!" comes from! I am glad you got away for a few days. I'm trying to do the same.

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    1. Such a good question, Judi! I hope you had a great time in SD. xo

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  17. Beautiful photos, Rocket .. but they pale in comparison to this masterful piece of writing .. Superb!

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    1. Much Mahalo, Bill, as always. Good friend, you...

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  18. Body of water, sight or dipping, has a calming effect. Walking barefoot on the beach,feeling the sand on your feet, you feel connected to the earth again.

    Sorrow or grief can wait.Tears could have been a feeling of gratitude,spending time with your sister..

    You photos are wonderful.

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    1. Yes, it was a very grounding time which felt wonderful as I can spend far too much time up in my thoughts.

      Thank you for the compliment, Edgar.

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  19. Its half an hour before midnight here in Athens. I am thinking of you. Bonne nuit Heather

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    1. Maria, this comment touched me so deeply that I told my Mom about it. Thank you.

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  20. HAPPY to hear YOU are cooking!AT first glance I thought that was BEN!What a GREAT escape you and your sister have had!FRIENDS are GOOD TO RUN INTO!!!!The fact SHE made it TOO made it even MORE SPECIAL..............with dog in tow!
    NOW ABOUT THAT DRIVING LESSON..........................the little engine COULD and SO CAN YOU!
    ONWARD and UPWARD!!!!!!!
    XOXOXO

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  21. Just beautiful! Of course you don't need to sell me on the Great Lakes. They'd be perfect if they had better fish coming out of them. And I think Lake Michigan is the prettiest. I'm loving seeing your eye for the beauty around you cast a wider and wider gaze. Slow growth is far superior to atrophy. so glad you got some summer. I think I've OD'd on summer. I've basically been in fuchsia or mint shorts since March and am needing some structure! I can only pretend to be a Gemini for so long. I'm sure it felt bittersweet but wonderful to have a golden companion.

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    1. It did, Stephen. And thank you for the smile. Fuschia shorts with no shoes, I bet. ;) You know all that is going on here. I have barely had any decent corn and tomatoes! It was waaaay overdue to have a bit of summer before it disappears...it already has!

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  22. Grief hits us when we least expect it, just go with it. I cannot tell you how many times I have burst into tears in the store, at a restaurant and frankly I don't care how I look or who sees me. If we suppress our feelings bad things happen.

    I think it was God sent that you saw your sisters friend and had the opportunity to go to such a chiming place to commune with nature, relax and to just be.

    Keep taking care of yourself, everything you do for yourself will make you stronger!

    xo Elizabeth

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  23. Indeed, a bit of Heaven, Heather, and you captured it in word and photo
    beautifully... I feel so privileged to be in the distinguished company of
    Ellie adherents...erudite, gifted, searching and whatever else makes up a
    profound soul....I have Ellie's picture propped up next to my computer and
    that lovely face keeps admonishing me to live...enjoy... learn... indulge...
    The day after I learned of her passing I felt I heard her voice and it said,
    "you haven't lived.." to this cautious, non-risk taking being.... that's our
    Ellie...ever teaching. I can imagine the depth of the void she has left in
    your beautiful heart, but what precious memories will ultimately fill it and what determination she will inspire in you in the process.... You are hedged
    by a band of loving and caring cohorts and I hope you feel that now and in the days to come. Bless you for sharing this moving message.....

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