Mother’s Day in my yard

I’m sitting in the sun on my deck. A gentle breeze whispers by every now and again. I can hear human sounds: cars in the distance, a chain saw somewhere, a lawn mower running. The church bells tell me it’s 10:00.

In the distance, a dog barks, and I can hear the blur of people’s voices – an indistinct indication that I’m not alone.

And underlying all of this, is a chorus of birdsong. My neighbourhood is an old one – the heritage district near St Mary’s hospital. So we are blessed with mature trees, lilac bushes, cedars and small evergreens here and there. And as a result, many birds.

I can hear a cardinal reminding us that this is his territory. Sparrows, house wrens, robins, and red wing black birds add joyfully add to the cheer. The occasional starling inserts their strident comments, they seem to be saying ‘simmer down! Don’t be so happy!’

There are so many different bird voices that I can’t identify them all. I bet once my sister Linda gets back from sailing she can tell me who is in my yard – she is a much better birder than I.

An American Goldfinch lands above my head on a branch of the Mayday tree that’s adding its fragrance and beauty to my yard. We consider each other for a few seconds. Then he flits away as quickly as he’s come.

As I turn back to my writing, a chipmunk appears on the end of my deck and starts chattering at me, apparently unhappy with my presence in her space. Well too bad friend, I think, now I’m part of this space too. Also, I make a mental note to get some nuts to feed her when I’m out here next.

Each day when I check my yard there is something new to delight me.  I have so many plants coming up: bleeding hearts, tulips, grape hyacinth, forget-me-nots, lily of the valley, peonies, day Lilies, snow-in-the-mountain, some other little pink ground cover plant. A lilac bush is starting to bud, and the forsythia in the front garden is beautiful.

I’ve had contact from my kids, and have spent time drinking coffee and writing in my garden. The rest of the day is mine to spend as I wish.  How could a mother’s day get any better? 862A75FC-7C62-4A24-85C1-4B636D7CFC22

Shut Up Little Voices

This morning is bright and clear. The sun is beaming into my writing room, I have moved Chester’s pup cup into the sunshine and he is curled up and snoozing in the warm winter sun. I’m listening to a podcast on economics (I’m a bit of a nerd in this way), drinking my coffee and feeling pretty good about today.

Yes, it’s -19c outside and there’s an extreme weather warning in place, but I look out the window and see the sun bouncing off the snow, and the world looks beautiful.  I am grateful for my little house, my little dog; my happy house.

Still though, I find myself struggling with the idea that I should be doing other things – I have a stack of boxes behind me that really need to go into the basement if I want to make this room a bit cozier.  But I’m starting to realize that these ‘shoulds’ are coming from somewhere else – not organically mine, these ‘shoulds’.

I mean, yes, I want the boxes moved… and I’ve gotten about half of them out of here (it’s a tall order for a fat 55 your old person to carry all these boxes downstairs in one go).  But somehow I feel like I ‘should’ have gotten these boxes out of here already and that enjoying writing in the sun is somehow indulgent when there is work to be done.   Why am I not organized? my little voice shames myself. Why does everything always take me so long to do? Other people would have this done by now. (mom, is that you?)

Here are some facts:  I’ve been in this house for 1.5 months.  December was a busy month at work, and a busy month emotionally. The first Christmas after you lose someone you love is very difficult: it requires a lot of work to attend to these emotions – to honour them, let them work through you.  And that’s pretty exhausting.

I arrive today at the first Saturday in the New Year.  The first day that I feel better, emotionally, and able to enjoy the house that I’ve chosen to live this part of my life in.  So why am I beating myself up about what is NOT perfect yet?  Where on earth did this come from in me?  I have a plan – I have stacked some boxes at the top of my basement stairs.  Every time I go down, I take a box with me.  This is a fair plan. (of course now I avoid going in the basement because I have to take a box with me…lol).  Yet, even though I have thought it through and I have a plan, I find my critical little voice chastising myself because I haven’t just dug in and moved them all.

My life, my choices – so shut up little voice. 

That’s my motto for this year: Shut Up, Little Voice.  I will listen to some voices:  the voice that tells me I should hurry up because I’m late for work. The little voice that tells me that I’m not paying attention to my own needs. That one for sure.  But the little voice that says ‘You aren’t good enough.  You’re not measuring up’…  That voice is being banned from my head.  I had enough happiness taken from me last year, I do not need to voluntarily give my happiness to the voices in my head.

I am feeling hope that today will be a good one.  I won’t try to forecast what tomorrow will be like – I’m happy to live just this day, right now. And I might even take a box downstairs.

Of course, now I’m worrying that I have too many little voices in my head…

Sigh.

S

Circle of Fifths

Today is the fifth of August.  3 months since half of my heart died.  90 days since I last spoke to my very best friend. A sad milestone.

These fifths surround me as I move forward,  I can hear them, a progression of 12 tones, one of them for each month.  Each month with its associated major and minor key.  Some days I exist in harmony with his death; I understand that what has happened is a circumstance of life – people die.  But other days things take a minor key; nothing seems right without my Bear.  This was not how I expected my future to be.

I’m taking singing lessons.

In April, while we were crossing the Texas panhandle we were talking about fear and what fear had stopped us from doing in our lives. I confided to Warren that I wished I had taken up singing when I was younger. Singing makes me feel free – it revs me up, makes me happy!  But I’ve always been reluctant to sing in front of anyone, I told him, I didn’t think my voice was very good.

‘Fear shouldn’t stop you from doing what makes you happy.  Look at us. If we had let fear stop us, we would not be here’ He took my hand and held if for a few seconds while I thought about this.

He shook his head, then turned the radio off. We drove in silence for a moment, then he took a big breath and he started to sing.  In his wonderful, gruff, off-key voice, he belted out – acapella – John Hiatt’s song ‘Drive South’ – one of our favourites.  When he was finished, he looked at me.

I did not know what to say…

‘Are you offended by my voice?’

I shook my head, a little stunned, ‘No Bear…’

He raised his eyebrow.

‘Do you think I’d be offended by your voice?’

I stared at him – suddenly understanding what he was doing

‘No, but…’

He nodded.

‘Then sing. For me. I want to hear how happy you are’.

I sang.

After a few moments, he nodded again, then reached for my hand and started singing too…

When he died, I couldn’t sing anymore.  I just could not stand the idea of doing anything that distracted me from my grief. And when I tried to sing I usually ended up crying.

But after a few weeks I realized that I had to keep singing – for him.  I needed to find that happy again.  I still cry when I sing certain songs: The Dance by Garth Brooks does me in every time.  But he is right – no fear should stop me from doing what makes me happy.

I miss him every single day. Every one. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like right now if I had not had him in my life.  He really helped me find my bravery.  And helped me to realize that life, this life, is all we have.

So I sing.  I practice my Circle of Fifths and love him with every note that comes out of my mouth.

I love you my Bear….

Adventures of the Heart

Yesterday my second oldest sister and her heart twin left for another adventure at sea.

These sailors were the ones who scooped me up in Idaho Falls when my own heart twin died. Linda held me and let me fall apart, tempted me with bits of food and things to drink, helped me decide what to wear when I was unable to even look at the clothes Warren and I had bought on vacation.  Chris took on the practical and necessary as well as comforting a broken sister-in-law: dealing with the funeral home, packing the truck, dealing with the hotel. They both made me walk (‘Walking is life’ I hear Warren say), and listened to me talk, and encouraged me to cry when the grief was still so acute.

Sailors are the best people to have around when things go wrong.  Although they always have a plan – I mean, it would be silly to hop on a boat without planning the food and water and route – they are prepared to change direction at any moment.  I guess that’s what happens when you agree to live a life that is based, literally, on where the wind takes you.

I spent a week or so up at the cabin with Linda and Chris, just hanging out and healing.  Although things are getting… better? I have a finite capacity to be sociable – interacting with people is exhausting right now. Linda has a warm and generous heart and let me just be in silence or chatter on when I needed to. Chris, a quiet man, also has a warm and generous heart. He listens to my endless chatter, always with an interesting perspective and often excellent advice: ‘You have a million tears to shed for Warren,’ Chris told me when we were in Idaho Falls, ‘that’s your job right now. You need to get at it’.  And I did.

I arrived to pick them up yesterday around 11:30 and take them to the hotel in Toronto where they would spend their last night as land lubbers before a ridiculously early flight to Quebec. They were zipping around attending to final details at the house, packing and discussing what needed to be done. They were excited and happy to be on their way to their next adventure together and the love they have for each other was clearly evident. It made me think of when Warren and I were waiting impatiently for him to finish his last job so he could come get me and we could head out on our Epic Road Trip.

A brief grief squall – Then gratitude for the memory.

We got on the road and wended our way through the traffic to Toronto. When I dropped them off at the airport we hugged and they told me to be strong and I’d see them in December. Well, Chris said he hoped he WOULDN’T see me in December but he just says that to hide his warm and generous heart. Also he’s a little bit of an ass. But I love that about him too 🙂  As I headed back to Guelph I had another brief grief squall – these sailors bring all kinds of unpredictable emotional weather when they leave.

And now it’s time for my own adventure.  I’m waiting for the results of two job interviews – I may end up in Alberta again, or I might stay in Ontario. One of the gifts I got from Warren was the gift of travel – I can go anywhere now – and I don’t fear anything anymore. So now where I land is less important than where I can go. I do miss those blue eyes and that hand to hold as I travel though.

I got a text from Linda this morning, saying they made it to Gaspé just fine and soon will be reunited with their beloved MonArk.  If you would like to follow their adventures, Linda also has a blog called liveaboard four seasons on a sailboat.  If you follow that link you can watch as she and Chris sail across the sea again.

It’s amazing where life can take us.

 

 

Singing Solo

I’m sitting in the sunshine, feeling the familiar warmth on my skin, and remembering our days in Yuma. I distract myself from the spike of sorrow by wondering what to do with the rest of today.  I have washed the truck and bought dog food – all good responsible Sandy activities.  I also organized the truck inside – didn’t vacuum it but wtf, it’s some progress anyway.  I don’t know what it is that is pushing me today – I feel restless? No. But I want to do something.  Maybe I’ll go into Fergus tonight and watch the live music at the Brew House.  Or maybe not.

I feel like I’m starting to emerge from under the tsunami of grief and sadness that has consumed me for days.  I miss him.  I miss having his hand to hold and his warm smile and his excellent advice. But if I listen to my inner voice he’s there.  He’s still with me.  And as much as that makes me sad and frustrated – I want to see him! – it is also becoming a comfort.  There is a tribe (which tribe? I hear him prompt me – I don’t know Warren, I can’t remember…) that says that no one is really dead until the last day that their name is spoken.

Warren Allen McLeod.

I say his name each morning when I wake up and each night as I fall asleep.  No forgetting on my watch. With that in mind, knowing that he’s still here in one way or another, I feel stronger.  I am starting to pick up the the notes of my life, starting to compose the sound of the each day.  Never more than a day ahead though – I know now that fretting about the future, trying to compose an aria to carry me through – is futile.  We only have the notes for today.  Cherish whatever melody that brings you.

Today I’m composing a solo: my melody is bright and warm with an undertone of melancholy. And  that’s ok.  It fits me right now.