Avoidance

Stuck.

Stuck.

Stuck.

I’m noticing that the night-blooming jasmine flowers, that rarely bud out anymore, are budding in a cluster of five or six.

(is that my mother making them bloom now – maybe? or is it my Aunt Lee, checking in on me. Or is it nothing because there is nothing, and they are gone now. All the aunts except my aunt Cathy are gone.)

I pulled out my Halloween decorations yesterday, and I really enjoyed that last year, but I’m having a hard time enjoying anything this year. It’s getting chilly here in Western Massachusetts, so I pulled out my fall and winter clothes too.

(mom kept all her clothes until they were practically rags, and I have the same wardrobe I’ve had for the last ten years, except underwear, of course, and a few shirts and a pair of pants I got from Costco.)

I’m having a coffee, trying to savor it. Be present to now, I think. Be present.

(mom loved coffee. why don’t I feel her? If spirit is real, and true, then why the fuck don’t I feel anyone who has gone on that I loved?)

I like how the steam rises up, and the rich smell of the beans is so delicious. I go out onto the back deck steps on sunny mornings to sit for a few minutes before starting my day in earnest. The willow trees, the small garden, the bright sky – I appreciate all of it. I am grateful for all that I have, for the time I’ve been given on this good Earth.

(and there’s the garden shed where some of mom’s things are that I have yet to go through and try to salvage anything or chuck it all out)

It’s different now. The raw grief has subsided, but sometimes it overwhelms me again. Mostly, it’s just part of me now.

(i think I’m angry with you, Mom. why are you silent? why don’t you visit me in my dreams? why won’t you make your presence known if you still exist? what kind of a shit universe is this?)

All unanswered questions. The Universe doesn’t bend to my will, or care how angry I am. I have to choose what I believe – if anything. I can be as wrong believing as not believing, or as right believing as not believing that there is a point and purpose to all of this.

I’m older now. I didn’t want to get older. I didn’t try to get older. Life just moved on – often without me keeping up – and definitely without my consent. My pain is often because I refuse acceptance too. I try to remember that I only have to accept, not approve. I can yell all I want that this is against my will, but life just doesn’t work like that. Life is neither for nor against me – or any of us – no matter how it seems otherwise.

Mom’s passing was just that. Whether it was ‘her time’, or whatever justification I might throw at it – it’s just a fact. I am on a temporal plane. Do I not enjoy what beauty and camaraderie and joy and struggle there is just because it’s going to end? Do I sit in a corner with my arms crossed until my own death comes? Joy and play are important to me! My people make life tolerable. The right music and free-spirited dancing lifts my spirits. So, I will grow older, and have more difficulty until the end. So will everyone on earth who doesn’t die young.

There is goodness, and there is terribleness. I can be as upset as I want, and rail against life’s ridiculousness – and I can make the best of this nonsensical experience. It’s not either/or for me. It’s all of the above.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Summer Evening, Six Years Old

I am about six years old, and just finished my bath. My mother dries me off and tells me to get into my pajamas and wait for her while she finishes bathing my three year old brother.

She will braid my hair, like she has my older sisters who have already had their bath, but unlike them, I will have to go to bed right after my hair is braided and my teeth are brushed.

Those were the best times with my mother. Her love was fully present, and in those few moments her attention was all mine.

I stand looking at the rectangle of sky out of the window in the steamy bathroom, a soft breeze cooling my face as it carries in the evening songbirds’ chirping.

The open kitchen window is full of the dimming sky as I write this, the night birds singing me back to six years old – feeling my mother’s touch and love – the current ache of missing her lessened by this time travel.

Are the birds singing to their broods, hushing them to sleep? Are they, too, happy in their mother’s attention?

My oldest brother rushes into the bathroom: “Mom, look!”

He has a lightning bug in a jar. It’s buzzing against the glass, looking for a way out.

“That’s a special bug. You can look at it for a while, but I want you to let it go outside before bed.”

“Oh, alright,” my brother groans, ruing his decision to show her his prize.

My next oldest brother comes in with a lightning bug he smeared on his arm just as it had lit up. His experiment a proud success.

She tells him to go wash it off as my little brother and I start to cry at his seeming cruelty.

“It’s just a bug,” he sneers, and then they’re off, clomping back downstairs.

“You boys stay in now – and clean up,” my mother calls after them.

The darkening sky has quieted the birds, the light in my kitchen seeming brighter now.

I imagine a mother bird having fed her brood, and cleaned their feathers before bed – their crowded nest all cozy and warm.

A few late birds call out, and then all is quiet again.

The earth is turning from the sun for another night.

The fireflies are lighting up in the dimness, and perhaps my mother is right here, enjoying this moment with me.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Disaster Cake

It’s not the kind of cake you make for a disaster (although that might be nice when totally stressed out from a disaster?).

I have never made pineapple upside down cake before, but have always wanted to. My mother made one when I was a kid, and it was delectable (her chocolate fudge was amazing too).

I had some frozen pineapple from several months ago that I kept meaning to thaw and try this cake recipe with. (Frozen pineapple is also fantastic in smoothies, if you didn’t know.)

I bought a yellow cake mix because the recipe said that was fine if you didn’t want to do it all by scratch, which, in hindsight, would have been better.

I made up the mix, and carefully laid out the pineapple and brown sugar/butter mixture on the bottom of the pan, and then poured the mix on top – following the instructions to a T.

What I failed to notice was the *.

I mean, I noticed it, I just thought it didn’t pertain to my situation.

The asterisk cautioned that it was best to not use self-rising flour.

Cake mix is self-rising.

After a half an hour or so, I smell burning.

Burning?! It wasn’t even half-way done, and I had the temperature correct.

Oh bloody hell!

I looked into the oven to see cake batter rising up and bubbling over like an oversudsed washing machine, dripping down through the rack tines into a batter puddle on the oven bottom.

I shut off the oven, told my partner to open the front door and prepare for the smoke alarm while I took the still-uncooked cake batter in the pan out of the smoking oven, and set it on top of the stove.

I took out the oven racks, dropped the second one when it burned the side of my exposed hand, and screamed to my partner to back off as the rack clattered to floor. Fortunately, my barefooted partner was quick enough to jump out of the way.

He grabbed an oven mitt and picked up the rack, holding it gingerly over the sink because he was afraid that it would hurt the metal sink to put something so hot onto the cool sink bottom. I don’t think that’s a thing, but maybe it is, so whatever. It made him feel better.

Then we scraped off what we could of the burned mess, and I was lucky enough to get the burned batter pile on the oven bottom with a frying pan spatula as it had enough butter or oil in it to not be stuck too badly.

I decided to turn the oven back on and try to cook the cake the rest of the way, even though I figured it was ruined.

I had no idea how much longer to cook it, so I put it on for 20 more minutes at the 325°f setting from the instructions.

I wish I had taken a picture, but am also glad I didn’t. It looked as pathetic as you imagine.

It smelled amazing though.

20 minutes later out of the oven it came, and the toothpick I pierced the cake center with came out clean, amazingly enough.

I set the pineapple-blob disaster cake on the cooling rack for a few minutes, and then tipped it upside down onto a plate.

I had to get a knife to cut away all the baked-on batter that had congealed down the cake pan sides, but it, too, came away without too much effort.

Then came the big reveal lifting off the cake pan…

– it was a girl!

No, it was beautiful, and I still don’t have a picture (what kind of blogger is she?, you’re thinking). Not an astute one. I’ll work on that.

But it came out imperfectly perfect, and DELICIOUS! I wish I could share it with you!

It was light and fluffy and the pineapple looked almost like Martha freaking Stewart had made it. (Easy to say without a picture, but you’ll just have to trust me this one time).

So, here’s the metaphor the universe gave me:

Don’t give up.

Clean up my mess, and have a little faith that, sometimes, even my screw ups can work out better than my dreariest expectations.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

New Old Life

Nothing looks the same anymore. Maybe it’s still grief over my mother, and over several friends who have died in the last few years – one of them over twenty years ago who I have recently reconnected with.

It’s funny to phrase it that way, but it feels true. I had been stopping by the grave of one of my dear friends – filling her in on our crazy world now – and doing my best to let her know she’s loved and not forgotten.

I’m supposed to be writing an article for work, and I’ll get to it. It’s been such an orderly thing in my disorderly life.

I feel like a weirdo still grieving my mother’s passing. It was her time, after all. She got to live a long life, but it still came as a shock.

This has more to do with me now, I know that. I know it always had to do with me, really. I’m still here and she’s gone – on.

I’ve still not felt her around me. Maybe she’s left for parts unknown – or is just gone, if atheism is right.

Over the past year, it has taken a lifelong soul-sister friend to help me sort out what’s mine and what isn’t.

I had so much grief and rage.

I’m kind of surprised I’m still talking to any of my family members, but I think that’s guilt. I think it’s hope too, but at some point, it’s wiser to move on.

We were each others’ survival growing up as we were tossed about treacherous seas while those who were supposed to be in charge jumped ship. That forges a bond, even if it’s not ultimately healthy.

I love and loved my sisters dearly, but that affection was only really returned by one sister, who still told me her god is better than mine – and even though we got along the best – I know we can only share some of our heart now.

My friend told me I taught them how to treat me, and my acting differently will not cause them to respond well. In fact, I can expect them to act worse, or just continue as they’ve often been toward me.

Sometimes you get surprised for the better, and sometimes you find your true family outside of those you were born with.

Maybe it is my mother’s nudge from beyond this world that’s pushing me toward compatible love and friendship. At least it makes me feel better to think so.

I love you Mom.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) Debts To Pay, and Making A Way’s Blog, 2010 – current

Come Visit Me

She’s been calling me for days. I thought I was making it up, but she is persistent.

Go see Mom.

“She’s not there,” I think. “You’re just chasing a memory. You’ll go and the stinky, moldy trailer will be empty, and cold, and you will leave empty and cold.”

“Go anyway.”

“Why, Mom?”

“Because I’m lonely.”

Wait, she’s lonely? I thought she could come see me anytime. I thought that when you’re in spirit, you’re free? Maybe there are things that need to be righted though. Maybe there is unfinished business.

Maybe those final days there were not days she would have wished for. It was not how she wanted to leave it. And my presence will bring love and companionship, even if for a minute.

It will suffice.

And I will keep going back, Mom, even if I’m making it up. I’ll keep going back to say hi until there are no more reasons to go, or no more tears to shed – I guess? I honestly feel like this isn’t just me.

That was your heaven on earth, you said. So I will visit your temple.

I will enter in prayer, and I will leave in prayer.

I wish you peace. I wish you abundant love. I wish you goodness, and light, and laughter all of your existence.

Joni Mitchell has been singing to me too, Mom:

“It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Joni Mitchell, River from Blue, 1971

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Late November

The sun shines brightly over the brown, leafless trees outside the kitchen window. A breeze ruffles the tan stalks of grass and hay poking up in patches of the neighbors back property like several days of stubble growth on earth’s face. The blue sky rimmed with white and grey clouds gathered near the horizon makes me think of the soft summer days recently erased – an artist ever changing its mind.

The chug of the tractor’s engine is heard well before the machine trundles into view. The stack of wood will warm us as the evening chill descends.

Ever turning.

Ever turning.

Each day a chance for a different thought, a different choice – until the chugging of my own heart ceases – and all the fuel has left my body.

Until then, my machine needs the same care any aging machine does – I can no longer skimp on maintenance.

Seeing myself with the same respectful reverence I have for that eighty year old tractor is a hard sell for me, but I keep trying.

I’ll keep trying.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Time Slipper

Existential angst. Unanswerable questions – classic configuration: who, what, where, when, why.

Especially why. To what purpose? To a purpose?

Accidental? By design?

A soup of elemental goop, dividing, evolving, adapting – created the world we’re currently in?

Preposterous?

Yes and No.

The question has become: “does it matter?”

We get to determine what matters, and what to do.

I heard Jane Fonda say she is a repeater – and I realized that I am too.

I am a light receptacle. I travel the helper network, and have found so many others along the way.

There are other networks, some flashy, some dreadful, none as lasting or strong as ours – and we’re open to every single soul, forever.

It’s not really that “we win”. That implies competition, but it’s just a journey home.

I grieve for those who won’t make it home for a long time. I’m going home after this life is done.

In the meantime, I’ve got light to spread as I slip through this time.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Debts To Pay, and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

After The Storm

Our summer has been hot and humid – and I’ve already heard “Hot enough for ya?” greetings where a nod and a commiserating look suffices in answer.

We have been edging into drought since late May again for the third year in a row. There was no rain for over a month, but then a string of storms descended, like a fire hose on a match, and the town crews got busy removing felled branches and trees in the aftermath, while the electric company restores power, and residents clean up their yards and assess damage to their gardens or land.

We were lucky. Our garden sits to the side of the house, looking like it has no idea what the bother was.

Our neighbor’s weren’t so lucky.

A large tree crashed down, gouging into a long swath of the neighbor’s prized asparagus patch, the tree branches swiping through most of the row of blackberry bushes he planted last fall – sending not-quite-ripe berries scattered through their yard. Their asparagus which had grown tall and spindly with seeds, is no more. The roots are deep though, and next spring will likely see a new crop – and if the neighbors are brave, they’ll plant blackberry bushes again.

We pick ourselves back up and move on, if we haven’t been flattened. Maybe pieces were scattered over our soul’s yard – crumpled, raw, and overwhelming to look at, but we start somewhere. Maybe picking up bigger pieces and try to salvage whatever we can.

The job is too big for a day, and time fills in with other necessary tasks, and days turn to weeks turn to months – but we see it out there. It’s not going anywhere until we do something about it.

After inspecting our oblivious growing garden, I pull on my work gloves and start picking up branches and twigs in the neighbor’s yard and put them on the burn pile for next spring.

My neighbor is pushing bigger limbs with his tractor back into the tangle of vines and poplar trees that line the back of his property. I wave and smile and after he’s through we look at the damage together.

“Could have been worse,” he says with a grimace.

“Could have been better too,” I think, but just give a sympathetic smile and return to picking up some of the debris before heading back into the coolness of my house.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Where Are You, Mom?

Doe, Winter 2014, by her chicken coop

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom!” I just kept saying it over and over for several days, as if I could conjure you. I was lost. My guttural howls could not take away the emptiness.

I knew I would not be prepared. How could I be?

I thought our relationship was solid and clean, but regret has inched in anyway. Why couldn’t I save you? Did I do enough? Was I a good daughter, Mom? Did you feel loved and cared about?

You were.

I am limited, and I wish with all my heart I could have made your life better. I never got beyond thinking about how to do that, and everything we talked about doing felt like moving a mountain.

I imagine you’re free and flying around in the spirit world – or have you reincarnated (which was your fervent desire)?

Doe taking direction from Jerri – “Come on, Mom, it’ll be hilarious!”
Doe having a great time: “Take the damn picture,” she said.

It breaks my heart to think you might have stepped into another life – abandoning me again. I was too much for you – your children were too much – so you left, even if not physically. I was a child and needed you Mom. All your children needed you. I still feel like I need you.

I can understand how difficult your life was, and I know you loved us, but love is also a verb.

I forgave you as life went on, and I thought we got whole. I guess the onion metaphor is apt, but how many damn layers are there?

You did make living amends when I had my son, your only grandson. You were such a great grandmother. You helped heal so many of my childhood wounds, but your passing opened them again.

Grandma Doe with Austen
Doe with her daughters and grandson 2017

I wanted you to be here my whole life, as unrealistic as that is. I would have kept you suffering in your painful body for my selfish desire to have you near me, like I owned you or something. Like you somehow belonged to me – and I think that’s a trauma bit from when I was so very little, and so much terribleness was happening in our family, and in the world – just like it is again.

You’re lucky Mom. You got out. You’re not suffering anymore.

Do you miss being here though? Or is it better “there”? Where is “there”? Are you conscious? Is consciousness outside of the body, and we just believe it’s in the brain, or are you completely gone?

Please forgive me for my lack, Mom. Please forgive what I couldn’t manage. I don’t know if it was my job to make life the best it could be for you, but it feels like I failed you.

I liked our conversations and our mostly shared values and morals. I am grateful for the time I got with you. I am so glad I was close enough physically and emotionally to help you and spend time with you regularly.

Doe and Jerri in 2010
Laurel Lake swim day

I had wanted to do a “Tuesdays with Morrie” thing with you, but never got it together. I was going to call it “Wednesdays with Mom.” I have never been accused of being original.

Today is Wednesday, so, I guess I’ve begun. If you’re answering me, I’m too dull to hear it. I keep waiting for a sign that you’re still around, but I would doubt whatever you would send me anyway – and you probably know that – so why waste your energy?

Energy is something I absolutely know you still have because of the first law of thermodynamics: energy is neither created nor destroyed. It can only change form or increase. Physicist I am not. I don’t even understand much of it beyond the simplest of terms. Not that I don’t try. I blame my love of standing in front of Dad’s Lincoln Continental and breathing in the leaded gas fumes coming out of the car’s grill for my intelligence deficits. Sweet Jesus, why didn’t anyone stop me? I was 5? Did you even know about that, Mom? I doubt it.

Now, of course, we know that the leaded gas was spewing toxic lead into the air and landing everywhere, especially into my tender lungs and organs and bones as I stood there breathing deeply.

You wanted to make it to 103 years to best your Dad’s 102 years on earth, but you missed 90 by two months instead. Still, not a bad stretch.

I believed you though. My whole life you repeated that like a mantra. You were going to live to 103. It was just a fact we all accepted. You seemed to know, but obviously it was just hope.

Doe March 22, 1930 – January 2, 2020

And maybe you would have made that milestone if you didn’t drink so much, or if you had let us clean up your mildewing/ moldy stuff trailer while you lived – or if I was able to follow through on getting you a new-to-you trailer, or a tiny house that could have given you those 13 more years?

I know that what I was able to do was worthwhile. I have some sweet memories to savor. My job now is to keep the bitterness from spoiling them.

I love you Mom.

Doe circa 1936
High School graduation 1947
Doe 1950 something

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Soft Summer Days

How soft the early days of summer.

The cool breezes enliven on this quiet day

before the heat casts its oppressive net.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current