Visitation

It snowed early that year, and those who gathered at the church hall were dressed to keep out the cold, mumbling about the weather, and helping themselves to warm beverages.  Seems deaths come in threes, and this was the third of our family members we’d buried in as many months.

“Where’s Uncle Charles?” I asked my mother, taking inventory of those present.

“He’s up north hunting.  Couldn’t make it back.”

He’ll be sorry to miss this, I think to myself.  It was his oldest brother being buried after all.  I worked my way around the room, greeting relatives and swapping stories, until a sudden gust from the doorway made me turn.

Stepping in out of the cold was Uncle Charles, who smiled and winked at me across the room, as he shook the snow off his coat and stamped his boots.  He looked unusually dapper, with a smart fedora and long wool coat.  Hardly hunting gear.

I wrapped up my conversation and pushed through the crowd to greet a favourite uncle, now nowhere in sight.

“Nice to see Charles made it,” I mentioned to my mother later.  “Although, I don’t know where he went.”

“Charles didn’t come.  I told you, he’s snowed in up north.”

“But he did.  I saw him.”

“What was he wearing?”

I explained.  “I’d know him anywhere Mom,” I plead my case, ” by the glint in his eye and that unmistakable moustache.”

“My brother Charles hasn’t sported a moustache in years.  You’re describing my Dad.  A couple of others said they saw him too. Of course he’d be here for his first born’s funeral.”

My mother’s father.  A man I’d never met.  A man who died the year before I was born.

(Submitted for my weekly challenge:  veil.   Also linking up with Laura’s Manic Monday 3 Way Prompt. )

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Stoic Hunter?

Who is more stoic
than the Great Blue,
stealthily enduring
rocks and rapids
to catch the day’s meal?

Appearances, however,
have been known to deceive…

seems this bird is no emotional
void, no paragon of strength,
but a closet thespian – caught him,
mid rehearsal – aspiring
to a phantom role –
of the opera variety.

rehearsing

(Written for Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt: stoic.  Inspired by this Great Blue Heron photographed at the falls at Hog’s Back Park, Ottawa, On.  V.J.’s challenge this week is irony, so forgive me for injecting a bit of humour into the scene.)

Removing the Blindfolds: Life’s Journey

Driving in a rally race with a blindfolded navigator is how I’ve often described my life – never really knowing where I’m going, pedal to the metal, and hoping for the best. Life, it is said, is a journey. Implicit in this metaphor is guidance, direction, and a destination.

quote-what-do-you-seeThe guidance I received in my formative years came from a father who spouted the words of Dale Carnegie, Vincent Norman Peale, and Kahlil Gibran – all good wisdom, but it was targeted towards us as criticism to point out our  failures, and mostly in direct contrast to how he lived.  Or, at least, that is how it felt.

It was only in later years that I began to question the validity of my upbringing, and look outside family for guidance, although the stain of abuse made it difficult to discern motivations, and, therefore, value.

Directions came from my same-sex parent, whose belief was that women should be beautiful, upbeat, and submissive.  She excelled at all three – an impossible standard for a geeky, temperamental, anything but submissive personality.  She reminded me frequently that not only did I not fit in, but that my oddness would likely leave me lonely and unloved.  Whatever direction I might have chosen for myself seemed hopeless.

Entering adulthood without a compass or a roadmap is not a plan for success – it is an itinerary destined to feature obstacles and dead ends.  Even when I did achieve, I never really knew if I was fulfilling my own dreams or just trying to win my mother’s approval.  Do we ever really  know?

Death, I knew from an early age, was the only given in terms of destinations.   Death visited our extended family far too frequently, picking off the young, and carving out an expectation of pain and suffering.

Who was I to complain about anything, given I was still alive?  I learned to hold my breath and wait.  Sometimes, I idealized death as a final solution to the interminable anguish.

With age, the sharp edges of youth’s blades soften.  Idealism, slain by cynicism, is replaced with practicality.  Rage either motivates or dissipates under wisdom’s tutelage.   Fear changes its focus.

I’m not driving in races these days, and the choices I am making involve eyes wide open.  That journey, I now appreciate, is inward, and I’m learning to seek guidance that enlightens, follow directions that lead to truths, and have faith that the stops along the way are only ever temporary destinations.

(V.J.’s challenge this week is questions.  The caption above came from Willow Poetry’s challenge: What do you see?, and Laura Bailey’s Manic Mondays 3 way prompt: journey.  Thank you to both for providing the fodder for continual pondering.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop asking questions.)

Forlorn

This sweet bushtit landed on my path while I was visiting Redding, California this past spring.

After playing with the image, what emerged was a forlorn little fellow for whom I wrote this haiku.

Sing(1)

My heart goes out to all those in Redding, and elsewhere in the world where forest fires are ravaging lives.

(Submitted for Laura Bailey’s Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt: forlorn.)

Ghostly

“What can walk but has no legs; sleeps during the day, and is awake at night?”

This is our six-year-old granddaughter’s latest joke.

“A ghost!”

On a recent visit to Northern Ontario, I photographed this solo loon.  There is something so haunting about the call of the loon, and I’ve been pondering it ever since.

Ghostly

(Thank you to Laura Bailey for her Manic Mondays 3 Way Challenge: ghostly.  The challenge is open all week.  To participate visit here.)

Confessions of Losses and Gains

Illness comes at a cost, yet even as the losses add up, there are gains.

HoneymoongolfingWith the onset of summer, I recall leisurely hours spent golfing with my husband, or friends – a pastime we so loved.  My clubs now take up residence elsewhere, these muscles unfit for the exertion required.

My tennis racquet sits dormant too – a remnant of a passion now redundant.

I miss gatherings at a pool side bar, or a downtown patio – the sound of laughter mingling with the crisp, dry burn of white wine.  My system no longer tolerates alcohol, and outings have changed with priorities.

cheers 2I am no longer the woman, whom my husband called Lucille Ball, whose sunny demeanour and fiery presence guaranteed lively repartee.  The setbacks have softened my edges, this lingering condition evoking a vulnerability that avoids noise, scents, and the overstimulation of crowds.

Where once ambition drove me, and career set precedence for aspirations, I now  live with solitude, find solace in the quiet, have donned a new lens which invites discovery.

Loss has flooded with all the force of a tidal wave, and even as I swim against the pull of despair, I am labouring to redefine purpose, self.

 

IMG_1646I confess that there has been sorrow.  I can attest to darkness.  And, yet, wrapped in all that discord there have been blessings:  awakenings.  I have discovered delight in developing a photographic eye, and the infinite pleasure of daring to express in colour.

(This post is inspired by Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt: Confession.  Thanks to Laura for hosting.  All photos are from personal collection.  The images of me are from healthier days, when apparently I loved kiwi green.  The watercolour is a close up of a saguaro, if it was orange.)

 

The Light Fades

Light fades,
the sun’s optimism
giving way to darkness’ shadows
my eyes are drawn to hidden placesdarkspaces
warily seeking the source of this creeping sensation
what beasts inhabit crevices, what creatures lurk
thingsdangling
and are these merely trees that loom over me

forestspirit
or the incarnation of trapped souls
taunting my passage?

skullrock

(Written for All The Shoe’s I Wear’s prompt:  Mysterious)