On Bullet Holes and Uninhabited Spaces

Creative Foraging

Looking back, over a twenty five year time span, it can feel like there are more empty parts of me than there are that are occupied.

It has felt like my body was caught in a war zone and that what is left is holes and empty spaces that still remain unoccupied!

Some of the empty spaces seem apartment sized.

Multiple loss is the hole/apartment sized space generator!

Life can shrink as you spend your time looking at the holes!

You can find yourself hole obsessed and focusing on the negative space.

At 60 it felt daunting that so many things that had been an essential part of me, were emptied, leaving holes and big spaces.

It is tough to rebuild.

The good news is that rebuilding can be done.

However, the bullet holes remain a permanent feature, a reminder!

Facing another, admittedly smaller, bullet hole I ponder on my…

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Insights into Loss and Grief

After facing one death of a significant other after another, and another, words stuck well below my throat. I was silenced and spent many years lying fallow. Time, adjustment, resettling and reading articles like these have helped to finally break the silence.

Most of us live in parts of the country where there is a distinct change of seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall each have their own unique qualities. Grieving is also like the seasons – there are a variety of events that we experience as we grieve, much as we experience a series of events as the seasons change.

So, as we explore these seasons of grief, let us turn our reflections to the power of these seasons of grief – pre-grief, a time to grieve, a time to heal and renewal.
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Sometimes when I can’t sleep I walk through my grandparents’ old house in my head. I sit in the breakfast nook and watch as my grandmother shakes from a jar the handful of raw almonds she would eat each morning. Or I watch myself – I’m six and wearing a dress Grandma crocheted for me – pester her for the liquorice allsorts she always kept at the back of a cupboard.
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Summer’s here and Canada-wide, tomatoes are in the ground, mine included.

I live alone now, and at 61 years of age, I have little need for all the food I gr ow. But I do love my own produce, my pesto made with home-grown garlic and basil, which lasts me into the following summer.

I have been thinking of my connection to the land, of closely observing the daily, seasonal and yearly changes that occur. I like that every day something is happening: Another rhododendron opening its buds, the daffodils dying back, the asparagus poking out of the ground, the hummingbird flying past to the flowering red currant, beetles mating.
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A Day of Remembering: Making Descansos

Years ago, a hospice volunteer mentioned each patient and caregiver she spent time with was like a pearl in a necklace—over time, the necklace grew and grew.  I decided to use that idea as a theme for the Annual All Day Volunteer Retreat I facilitated for my hospice volunteers this year.  I had also come across Heather’s Soul Food Site “Descansos” which familiarized me with the term.  I then thought about how this theme could apply to hospice and to our Retreat.  Combining the two ideas, I planned a “Day of Remembering,” with the creation of a pearl necklace becoming the descansos made by each attendee.

 

Starting with a visualization to activate each participant’s memory about their loved ones, whether personal or hospice patients, we all thought of eight people we wanted to remember, and a few words about each that reminded them about what they received as a legacy from the person.  The legacy might manifest as an idea, a trait, or an actual item; such as, a recipe, a love of cooking, or a well-used rolling pin. 

 

I previously drew eight circles of varying sizes, on a piece of paper, with each circle touching the next, forming a completed chain.  This would become our necklace.  The largest circle in the necklace was generally reserved for a personal loved one, with the others filling in for hospice patients. 

 

The grief of hospice workers, and other nurses, doctors, and aides, etc., is considered disenfranchised grief—not acknowledged as real grief since the health care worker only knew the patient for a relatively short time compared to if the person was a beloved parent, spouse, child, grandparent.  However, one can become quite close to someone and still need to deal with their loss when it occurs.  When the losses are ongoing, as with health care workers, and one is then on to the next patient, those losses aren’t acknowledged and dealt with, and so accumulate, leading to eventual burnout.   So I try to allow the volunteers an avenue to know it is all right to grieve for patients, to provide an avenue in which to grieve and express that grief in a different way each year.  We’ve done “Legacy Writing,” “Ethical Wills,” “Rekindling,” “Inner Child” and many others in the six years of having Volunteer Retreats.

 

We each wrote the name of the remembered person in one of the circles.  Then we perused magazines to find pictures or words describing the person and their legacy to us, or used colored pencils or crayons to draw pictures or words.  There is something so therapeutic in using scissors and colored pencils, in smelling glue and crayons that takes us back to childhood.  The volunteers know by now every creation made at our Retreats is considered a work of art, and so have resolved any lingering critical voices in their heads from childhood.  Even the men get involved with creating and sharing.

 

Snip, snip, snip go all the scissors.  Sniff, inhale deeply beloved smells of childhood.  Oh! Look at this! Wow! intersperse the proceedings as people move about seeking the perfect picture or accessory like ribbons or beads, small flowers or feathers, yarn or thread, crayon or colored markers.  Anyone see a lilac bush in bloom?  How about a man fishing?  Here’s a woman baking.  Who was looking for that?  Looking for oneself as well as looking to help others.  Sharing as part of the process of creating, usually considered a solitary activity.  And sometimes it got quiet as each was busy getting it “just right.” 

 

Finally finished, or as finished as it can be in the allotted hours.  I asked each to bring in a fairly recent picture of themselves.  Now those pictures were glued into the middle of the picture, and we each truly had a pearl necklace going around our necks: a descansos of our legacy from losses of loved ones.

 

 

Then the verbal sharing started.  Each, in describing their necklace, gave a eulogy for the pearl-people (in their necklace), telling of the legacies they received from each, telling stories and activities, sharing the love they felt with others in a setting where they were really listened to.  And what stories!  Fortunately, I brought many boxes of kleenex, which were needed during the three hours of sharing.  Powerful legacies from patients one was with only a short time but where a real connection was built, showing we might never realize the influence we can have on others.  Three hours later, we all felt as if each of us had honored our loved ones in a eulogy sometimes more pertinent to the person than that done by the “professionals”—ministers and funeral directors.  Our hearts filled with inspiration and the goodness of so many people, including the volunteers telling their stories.  Truly “A Day of Remembering”, by making a pearl necklace, a descansos of our loved ones.

 

This was so therapeutic I went on and made a pearl necklace honoring my personal loved ones and using their pictures as part of each pearl, as well as individual collage cards honoring my memories of each person and their legacy.

 

all souls need solace

My internet connection was down for a week and thereby shut me out of the Temple of Solace and Soul Food Cafe.  After a few days I realized that anywhere in Soul Food is my Temple of Solace from my surroundings.  The whole world seemed to get stuck on the “ugly channel” for a while.  And then somebody switched it to the “Seanna” channel again, and though that channel is a painful one, it is anything but ugly.  There’s so much love and beauty to be discovered in there. 

One of the reasons for getting a ferocious looking dog, and a dog who indeed would be ferocious if anyone broke in while I was asleep upstairs, is the lovely addition to the neighbourhood of the crack house on the corner of my block several houses to the right of mine.  They of course are not to be outshined by the neighbours three doors to my left who left such an enormous number of bags of garbage outside the city refused to take them away and the tenants let them rot by the sidewalk until they were overrun with rats.  Yes, rats.  Neighbours called to yell at The City, and The City called to yell at The Building Owner, and The Building Owner threw The Tenants out and there was quite a scene.

The rats came from the hazardous waste site that my property nears.  I say “nears” because there is an alley between my backyard and their storage yard.  It’s really called an “environmental waste storage facility“, but they are moving and the land being redeveloped into something friendlier.  I think.

I know everybody likes Spring, but winter’s snow covered the garbage in the alleys and streets and gulleys and ditches.  The snow has receded to reveal the same mess only now with colours muted slightly from last year’s garrulous hues. 

The brightest display this season was put on not by a showy flower but by flames shooting skyward from what we thought was the old St. Vincent De Paul building.  Coming home from dinner two nights ago we saw thick black smoke rising in the sky and followed it down to its obvious source:fire.  The fire appeared to be coming out of the building next to Beasley Park just around the corner from my house (inner city version of a “park”).  No fire trucks or police cars were on the scene so we called 911 and got through just as the first fire truck arrived on the scene and said “Never mind.  They’re just arriving.”  We drove around the block to park well out of the way and came back to discover that the building was not on fire, but just a car that was parked in front of it.  Totally engulfed in flames.  Must have had a full tank of gasWelcome to the neighbourhood!

Last night I dreamt that I was looking for my Seanna, sure that she couldn’t really be gone, that she must be around here somewhere.  Where’s my beautiful girl?  Where’s my beautiful babe?  Where’s that pretty smile hidin’?  Where’s she tuckin’ away them pretty hands?  I dreamt that I broke into her birth mother’s house, where Seanna died, to look for Seanna there.  Thinking that I’d been misinformed.  But no.  There was no sign of her.  Life had gone on with all of its kid stuff but not with Seanna.  They went on without her.

The world was such a pretty place when Seanna was here.  But then…I wasn’t living in this house…then.  Here.  This is a sad place.  I have been planting trees and ducking the bees buzzing the gorgeous scent of the blossoms on my apricot tree.  Tomorrow I will take pictures for you, but today is a migraine headache day.  Damn the sun!  Ow!!!!  I took a small wayward seedling of plum from the back corner and planted it in the front.  And in the corner of the postage stamp lawn (where people throw garbage…argh!!!!) I dug up a section for a wee patch of garden.  There are peonies, something that will reveal itself when it blooms, and a tiny tree replanted from the kitchen garden.

My eyes are filled with ugly images and the promise of beauty alike.  I wonder which will follow me into my dreams tonight.  I’m looking for something.  I need something.  I need solace.  This house, this home, must become my own temple of solace.

steph

For Anne – Mourning Her Mother’s Passing

ItsTime

At the appointed time we must each return to our source.
For Anne who is left behind.

Deep peace I breathe into you
Oh weariness here, O ache, here!
Deep peace, a soft white dove to you;
Deep peace, a quiet rain to you;
Deep peace, an ebbing wave to you!
Deep peace, yellow wind of the east from you;
Deep peace, blue wind of the west to you;
Deep peace, green wind of the north from you;
Deep peace, red wind of the south to you!
Deep peace, pure gold of the sun to you;
Deep peace, pure silver of the moon to you;
Deep peace, pure green of the grass to you;
Deep peace, pure brown of the living earth to you;
Deep peace, pure gray of the dew to you;
Deep peace, pure blue of the sky to you!
Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet Earth to you,
Deep peace of the sleeping stones to you,
Deep peace of the Goddess to you,
Deep peace of the God to you,
Deep peace of the Flock of Stars to You.
Deep Peace of the Spirits to You.
Deep Peace, Deep Peace.

– Old Irish Blessing of Peace

The Weeping of a Disappointed Womb

 THE WEEPING OF A DISAPPOINTED WOMB

Twice–

hiatus in the weeping

of a disappointed womb

Twice–

this womb embraced

wonderous babes  

My womb was pleased

and so was I

we both reveled

in the ease of pregnancy

the joy of birth             

Long ago

a nurse said

“the weeping of a disappointed womb”

was a uterine function;

it stuck over the years

as I pondered

its accuracy and intent.                       

This womb, my womb,

provided good service

Symbolized the part of me,

hidden from incursions

of others

in use and abuse;

protected

within my body

protected

unconsciously by me,

until I could learn

to speak for myself. 

As I apply this wisdom

the uterus is taken from me

endometrial cancer

hysterectomy needed

just enough time

for quick words, thoughts

gratitude, love, appreciation

for all its gentle weeping

all its being there with me 

My womb is gone – and now I weep!                                             

                     (published in Releasing Times)