Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Rainbow and Sacred Grief and Fierce Grace and Reconciliation After Death and Our Golden River and The Beloved Community

Thank you to Robert at The Solitary Walker, for posting the following from D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow on his Facebook page.  It is a bit of synchronicity that I read this passage this morning, the 9th anniversary of the death of the man that I met when we were 17 years and whom I loved, mostly from a distance, for 42 years and with whom I have found reconciliation and peace through his death.  When R and I were 20 years old, he was drafted and spent the year in Vietnam, and I spent the year waiting for him as well as participating in protests against the war in Vietnam.  One of the things we did after he returned was to go to a protest against the war, during which Joan Baez sang. During the time R was in Vietnam, I read The Rainbow.  It was this passage that engaged my full attention all those years ago:
'And then, in the blowing clouds, she saw a band of faint iridescence colouring in faint colours a portion of the hill. And forgetting, startled, she looked for the hovering colour and saw a rainbow forming itself. In one place it gleamed fiercely, and, her heart anguished with hope, she sought the shadow of iris where the bow should be. Steadily the colour gathered, mysteriously, from nowhere, it took presence upon itself, there was a faint, vast rainbow. The arc bended and strengthened itself till it arched indomitable, making great architecture of light and colour and the space of heaven, its pedestals luminous in the corruption of new houses on the low hill, its arch the top of heaven.
And the rainbow stood on the earth. She knew that the sordid people who crept hard-scaled and separate on the face of the world's corruption were living still, that the rainbow was arched in their blood and would quiver to life in their spirit, that they would cast off their horny covering of disintegration, that new, clean, naked bodies would issue to a new germination, to a new growth, rising to the light and the wind and the clean rain of heaven. She saw in the rainbow the earth's new architecture, the old, brittle corruption of houses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitting to the over-arching heaven.'
Most of you are familiar with my story.  Today I need to tell it again and see how far I have come this past year.
These last few months have been an unexpected and particularly difficult part of my grief journey, which began in 1971 with R's return from Vietnam and the violence that led to our separation and my inability to accept that the physical separation was permanent, until his death in 2008.  Although the bookAmbiguous Loss:  Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (recommended to me through a community grief support group in 2008) was immensely helpful in acknowledging my grief, a turning point came in the last few weeks as I was reading a book called Sacred Grief:  Exploring a New Dimension to Grief, by Leslee Tessmann. 

Sacred Grief.  "Fierce Grace" was the way Ram Dass spoke about it. Patti Smith has some healing thoughts about it here, and I thank Sabine for posting that just when I needed to hear those words spoken out loud by a woman who has survived many losses.
The painting at the top of this post was painted by me in 1999 soon after learning that R had been diagnosed with throat cancer and was recovering from a major surgery to his neck and throat.  We had not seen each other for 13 years at that point and had not talked for 9 years.  He had a lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol and anger issues and for my well-being, I needed to keep a healthy distance from him, but something prompted me to call his mother in December of 1999.  It turned out that he had moved back in with his parents because of the cancer.  His mother handed the phone to him. The painting is titled "Reconciliation Dream."  
R's cancer returned in 2001 and went into remission again in spring of 2002, at which time he began to use drugs and alcohol again, and I had to distance myself from him for my own well-being.  
After having a brainstem stroke in September of 2007 as a result of alcoholic drinking, R spent the last 8 months of his life in a VA hospital.  I would not have known this except that, once again, I was prompted, against my better judgement, to contact his sister, who told me that she knew that he would love to hear from me. Two months before R died, I dreamed that we were connected forever by a rainbow, although we could not touch each other in a physical way. In the distance between us, a rainbow was created.  I wrote him a letter, in which I related the dream.  His brother, whom he asked to read the letter to him, said that R was deeply moved by my dream of us. 
In the last week of R's life, I drove from Washington State to be with him in the ICU at VA Hospital in Palo Alto, California.  Because he had MRSA, I had to wear a face mask, hospital gloves, and a protective gown when I visited with him.  I could touch him but only through hospital gloves.

Words and music by Pete Seeger

Sailing down my golden river
Sun and water all my own
Yet I was never alone

Sun and water, old life givers
I'll have them where ere I roam
And I was not far from home

Sunlight glancing on the water
Life and death are all my own

Yet I was never alone

Life for all my sons and daughters
Golden sparkles in the foam
And I was not far from home

Sailing down this winding highway
Travelers from near and far
And I was never alone

Exploring all the little byways
Sighting all the distant stars
And I was not far from home

Sailing down my golden river
Sun and water all my own
Yet I was never alone

Sun and water, old life givers
I'll have them where ere I roam
And I was not far from home

Yet I was never alone
And I was not far from home

From my self-published book, in which I put together, soon after R died, my paintings and poetry from the previous 42 years: 

"Both of us sustained war wounds.  Something in us died young.  We were not alone."

I know this for sure today.  We were never alone.  There is a beloved community that Martin Luther King, Jr., envisioned.  It continues to grow, despite all odds.

(As I was finishing this post, the phone rang.  It was my old friend, Yom, who came from Vietnam with the first wave of refugees in 1975.  I was one of the first people she met after arriving in Bellingham.  She sustained war wounds, too, but went on with her life in a way that I was unable to do.  We met in a factory, here in Bellingham, where we both did industrial sewing.  I felt an immediate connection with her because we were the same age and had been deeply affected by the Vietnam War.  The man she had loved had died when his throat was slit by a Viet Cong.  She just happened to call today.  We talk every few months.  She has been happily married for many years.  She and her husband adopted a baby Vietnamese boy who is now a thriving American teenager.  There is much joy in her life as a wife and mother and gardener.  She continues to work part-time after retiring. I am grateful for her friendship. This day has been filled with synchronicity, beginning with the quote from The Rainbow on Robert's Facebook page. Astonishing that Yom would call today of all days.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hexagram 58 / Tui / The Joyous Lake that I have not fully acknowledged

Between my living room and porch and the
mountains to the east, there is a 14-mile lake.  I rarely
mention it.  I'm not sure why I have paid so little
attention to such a beautiful lake, except that for
so many years, I missed the ocean so much that I
could not get excited about a lake. That is changing.
I've been walking a short  distance along its shore
as part of my walking route in the last few weeks.
There is also a 6-mile round-trip trail along the
north shore of the lake.  Next time I walk there,
I will bring my camera.

Hexagram 58 -- Tui -- The Joyous Lake on a cloudy
early morning a few weeks ago:

You've seen the mountains on the other side of the lake
before.  Here's a spring view of them:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Walk of Life

Above is a photo from early May of 2016 at West Beach of Deception Pass State Park, about a hour's drive south from Bellingham.

April 16, 2017, is a sunny day on the coast in Mendocino County, California.  It's a cloudy day here in Northwest Washington State, but the birds are singing and there are flowers everywhere and people out walking.

And I found this interview from 2011:

"Mary Oliver: What I have done is learn to love and learn to be loved. That didn't come easy. And I learned to consider my life an amazing gift. Those are the things."