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HELP

We all come into this world needing help; it is crucial to our survival.

Even the milkweed needs the help of the wind to spread its seeds.

I grew up in awe of my mother’s ability to help others. She had ten children, so there was never a time when she wasn’t helping someone except maybe herself and knowing that was part of the problem. She gave and gave but didn’t get, at least not very much and not very often or without an argument first. Knowing this always made me reluctant to ask her for help when I needed it since I did not want to be more of a burden to her than I already was.

Maybe that’s why I still find it so very difficult to ask someone for help. I know that I will be an imposition on their time and or energy so most times I opt not to ask even at the risk of hurting myself, emotionally or physically.

I have had multiple traumas to my back over the years, so I know my limitations when it comes to physical labor. Yet I often push past these limitations out of fear of being a burden to someone. That or simply because the thought of my not being able to do something myself gets me so pissed off that I stupidly believe I can push past the pain and do it like I ought to be able to, even though time after time making those kinds of stupid decisions lands me flat on my back for a week, unable to move.

“Not only does the need for help never leave us alone; we must apprentice ourselves to its different necessary forms, at each particular threshold of our lives.” – David Whyte Consolations

As a child, I didn’t have much of a choice. Despite my reluctance, if I needed help, I had to ask for it. But I also grew up watching my mémère, who was fiercely independent, get by on little to no outside help at all. At least that’s how it appeared on the surface.

It seemed there was nothing she couldn’t do. Her husband – my grandfather had died young (long before I was born) so she lived alone which I’m sure made her even more resilient than she already was. It was not unusual to walk to her house which was around the corner from ours and find her balancing precariously on a step stool in her seventies, reaching out into to get every nook and cranny and corner while dusting away the cobwebs every spring.

We would chastise her by reminding her that she had plenty of grandchildren that could help her with that, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She made it clear she didn’t need any help.

It was only towards the end of her life that I witnessed that change.

First, when she was going for chemo and radiation and needed someone to drive her to the appointments and I was grateful for the opportunity to help. She still balked when I pulled out the small plastic step I’d brought along that would allow her to get in and out of my truck more easily and she still had to attempt to give it a go without it first, but eventually she caved and accepted the help from the boost up.

The second came towards the final days of her life when my oldest sister and I went to spend some time with her one afternoon. My mémère always prided herself on having lovely painted fingernails, but she was too weak to attempt it and asked for our help.

When I didn’t respond, my sister kindly offered to do it for her, which she accepted, and I sat there frozen and ashamed. It was one of the few times, maybe the only time, I’d heard her ask for help and it nearly broke me. It was too much for me; I just couldn’t do it.

It was such an intimate moment that before long I was in tears. I was unable to move, unable to take my eyes off either of them as I watched my sister gently hold each of my grandmother’s beautifully wrinkled hands in her own as she carefully and delicately painted the nail on each one of her long slender fingers.

A few days after my mémère died, I went to her house alone to mourn. I was sitting in the recliner she had sat in and noticed the same bottle of nail polish still sitting there on the side table. The memory still had sharp edges and cut me to my core. I began painting my nails with her polish but couldn’t see what I was doing through the hot tears flowing down my face and didn’t get past painting my thumb before quickly wiping it away, and I have never worn nail polish since.

My dying grandmother needed my help and I wasn’t able to give it, and I guess I’ve never forgiven myself for that. But the experience made me want to do better, to give to others more freely and offer a helping hand to people in need more often.

I had young children at the time of her death, and I was determined to lead with a better example. I wanted them to willing offer help to others, but also to be unafraid to ask for help when they needed it and accept it whenever offered.

It was right around this time that I pulled my daughter out of public school to begin homeschooling her. My son would stay and finish second grade before joining us the following year.

I was fortunate to have grown up in close contact with nature so I designed our curriculum around nature as much as I could.

I taught them that everything was interconnected. That in nature there was always a constant give and take that could be relied on and that it was important to try and always be mindful to stay in balance.

How the reciprocity between the bee and the flower produced the fruit and the honey that fed us, and how the trees that helped us to breathe also needed our help and protection.

Once, we were called upon to do just that, and with my teenaged daughter beside me, we threatened to chain ourselves to a tree to save it from being cut down. It was an enormous old oak that we proudly saved from the hungry teeth of a chainsaw.

On another occasion, we came across this lost little gosling in our yard and gave it the help it needed by reuniting it with its mother that was squawking like crazy in the river behind our house.

Let’s face it, we all need help every day of our lives especially the lost and the innocent.

“Help is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our individual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on.” – David Whyte Consolations

I suspect there is so much more that we can all be doing to help our fellow man in these troubled times we live in.

As Albert Schweitzer, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his philosophy of “reverence for life” once said, “The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

I doubt any of us can look back at the stories that define who we are and find one where we could not have been a greater help to others. I know I can’t. But I also know that I’m still a work in progress.

 

NEXT WEEK: HIDING

HEARTBREAK

Her name was Phoebe. She was the broken the little bird who broke our hearts.

I will never forget the day my daughter and I went to pick her up. We found her on Craigslist. We were told we’d be meeting a man in a parking lot at a mall about a half an hour away from where we lived. This was a huge red flag, but I was colorblind. Our senior dog, Kali, had recently died and our other young pup, Lucy, was now terribly lonely, so we were determined to find her a new friend.

The ad showed pictures of two beautiful black lab puppies, one male one female, age listed as eight weeks old. They were the last two of the litter and anyone interest in either of them was told to act fast for they were already fielding calls.

I acted fast, but the man from the ad took his time. There were multiple phone calls exchanged before he agreed to meet with us. He repeatedly told us he would only accept cash. Two hundred and fifty dollars in exchange for this beautiful baby which I happily and repeatedly agreed to.

All morning long before leaving to pick her up that day, it felt like a vice was tightening its grip on my guts trying to warn me that something about the whole thing felt wrong. When I questioned others as to why this person would want to meet me at a mall parking lot, I heard the same thing over and over; this was the way it was done. When buying anything from Craigslist, you meet in a public place instead of inviting a stranger come to your home. It made just enough sense to overcome my unease.

We waited almost thirty minutes after we arrived before a large man approached my daughter’s car, seemingly coming out of nowhere.

He asked us if we were ready for our puppy then handed us a tiny brown puppy with wavy hair that looked nothing like either of the puppies in the ad, saying, “Here he is.”

We both looked at each other then looked at him and reminded the man we were interested in the black female like we had agreed to over the phone.

He apologized saying he must have gotten us confused with the next person he was there to meet, then instructed us to follow him. Somehow, I never noticed the plain silver minivan parked a few cars over before that moment.

The back window was broken with a large piece of cardboard covering the hole. He opened the door, put the brown puppy back into a cardboard box and pulled out an even tinier black puppy – the female – he assured us, and said, “Here she is.”

The pit I’d been feeling in my stomach all morning instantly became a chasm that engulfed me.

“Heartbreak, we hope, is something we hope we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time.” – David Whyte Consolations

Wherever I went when I fell into that vast void emptiness, I stayed there a little too long.

At some point I snapped out of it when I finally heard my daughter, who was holding this tiny little creature in her arms, repeating, “Mom? Mom? Well? What do you think? Mom? Are you OK, Mom? Hello?”

I remember looking at this pathetic puppy then looking into my daughter’s pleading eyes then looking into this man’s eyes then looking back at the puppy then saying “Yeah, you said cash, right?”

I knew at that moment that I would never let this tiny defenseless creature alone with this monster for another moment.

We walked back over to her car, exchanged the cash for the puppy, then I asked him for her medical records. The advertisement said the puppies had been given all their shots and had been vet checked.

What I got was a single piece of white paper with some words and dates scribbled on it. The words didn’t make any sense. Nothing about it made any sense. Incredulous, I took the paper from him and watched him stuff the money into his pocket as he walked away.

My daughter kept asking me if I was okay. Kept asking me where I went and why hadn’t I answered her for so long. I was not okay, nothing about this was okay, but I just shook my head and stared down at the little baby she was holding, watching it shake as it covered her hands with tiny kisses.

We would later learn from our vet, that she was approximately only five weeks old. She came to us infested with fleas, suffering from malnutrition due to a belly full of worms, and would need to be fed milk from a syringe.

Here she is, being carefully inspected by some of her new canine friends who seem as dubious about her as I did.

After repeated baths with dishwashing liquid to rid her of the hundreds of fleas that called her tiny body home, came multiple frustrating attempts to try and get her to drink puppy formula from a syringe. If she managed to get an ounce or two down, we celebrated while assuring each other she was going to be okay because well, she had to be.

I spent that entire first night cradling her in my arms while feeding and rocking her in the recliner just like I’d done with my babies. Her breathing was extremely shallow and raspy, and I was afraid that if I left her alone even for a moment, she would die.

I knew the first few days with her were going to be critical to her survival, so she never left my side. When I ran out of her formula, she was swaddled in a blanket and tucked into my shirt for safekeeping while I sprinted up and down the aisles searching for it. Whenever I could get her to eat even a few bites of scrambled eggs, I was positively thrilled.

Her situation was still tenuous at best, but she was now a part of our family, so she needed a name. By the end of day two, we settled on Phoebe, naming her after the little birds that nested in our horse barn every year. She was our little bird that left her nest way too soon, and we had become her surrogate family.

Even Lucy, our young pup, was finally warming to her, though she still didn’t know quite what to do with her, given how tiny she was.

By the end of our first week with her, she had gained about eight ounces which I considered real progress, but in the coming days, she would lose what she had gained and then some.

A return trip to the vets was in order due to her sudden inability to stand on her own. She would shake and wobble then collapse, so I feared something more was going on.

He confirmed a previously undiagnosed tapeworm and begrudgingly treated her for it while warning me that he suspected something neurological might be going on and that I might want to prepare myself for the inevitable. In lieu of euthanasia, his only other suggestion was to take her to an animal hospital nearby for further evaluation.

Fuck that, I thought. Nothing about this dog was inevitable unless I gave up.

Her condition was worsening daily, so I fought harder. I convinced myself that the tapeworm must have been robbing her of any and all nutrition, so it was no wonder she was so weak. I bought her an extra small life vest with overnight shipping and placed her in a warm bath in the kitchen sink to help strengthen her legs. Had I let go she would have drowned since she was too weak to even kick her legs hard enough for her head to stay above the water line, and I think it was in that moment that I began to let go.

When I gently placed her on the ground the following morning so she could pee, her tiny head hit the ground first followed by the rest of her body as she toppled over while relieving herself down her legs. I called my husband and my kids to let them know I would be taking her to the animal hospital that day. I tried in vain to prepare them but they weren’t having it, and I was told to do whatever it takes.

In the end, it would take every bit of determination I had left to defiantly push open the heavy double doors of the hospital hours later with my little bird cradled in my arms.

I agreed to an initial evaluation fee and to the costs of tests they required to confirm she wasn’t contagious before they would treat her. They agreed with my vet that the problem looked to be neurological and was more than likely something called Canine Cerebellar Hypoplasia where the cells of the cerebellum do not mature normally, causing poor balance and incoordination which will progressively only get worse and never better. We discussed euthanasia, but I was told they wanted to run more tests first. I asked to see the bill before I agreed. I learned it was already costing me hundreds of dollars and if I agreed to them keeping her overnight in an oxygen tent, the costs would run more than a thousand dollars more.

I told them I wanted to take her home. I was forced to sign something saying I was refusing treatment, however, when I was finally allowed to see her again and was given the final bill, it was now almost six hundred dollars. They explained they had run more tests before they had brought her back out to me and that was why the bill was so much higher. I explained I never gave my permission for those tests, and they told me I needed to pay my bill before I would be allowed to take her home. I agreed to their hostage demands, and she was given back to me. I was walked to the front desk and paid my bill.

When the receptionist picked up on the discrepancy between what I was charged and what I was paying for I was asked to wait there a moment. When she left to consult with the doctor, I turned and pushed past the doors into the parking lot. I was shaking like a leaf, literally making a run for it while clutching her close to my heart.

I dug the hole in the backyard before leaving for my vets the next morning. My daughter and I were allowed into the backroom with her, gently stroking her baby soft fur as she not so peacefully left this world. We were sobbing uncontrollably by the time it was over, and the kindness that was shown to us by him by allowing us to stay with her body until we could pull ourselves together is not something I will ever forget.

My daughter and I had brought her into our family, and we saw her out, together. The sight of my daughter holding her wrapped in her blanket just before we gently lowered her into the hole was the most heartbreaking thing I’d ever seen. We were burying a baby.

In the coming weeks, I would learn that I was being sued by the animal hospital for refusing to pay my entire bill. We had already spent over a thousand dollars altogether trying to save her, only to watch her die, so my attitude was, bring it on. When I threatened to counter sue them for malpractice and pain and suffering, they dropped the suit and waived the balance.

I also tried (in vain) to go after the scumbag who did this to her. Within an hour after coming home with her that day I tried calling him over and over, but the number was already out of service. He had gotten away with it, and despite repeated calls to the local police and MSPCA, I got nowhere.

We were all heartbroken. We had attempted to rescue this puppy, but in the end, we were the ones who needed rescuing from our overwhelming grief.

“Realizing its inescapable nature, we can see heartbreak not as the end of the road or the cessation of hope but as the close embrace of the essence of what we have wanted or are about to lose. It is the hidden DNA of our relationship with life, outlining outer forms even when we do not feel it by the intimate physical experience generated by its absence; it can also ground us truly in whatever grief we are experiencing, set us to planting a seed with what we have left or appreciate what we have built even as it stands in ruins.” – David Whyte Consolations

Her absence in our lives felt like the void I had fallen into when I first laid eyes on her. But even as we buried her that morning, the seed of our desire to rescue another – which was all we had left – was planted.

About a month later, we welcomed another rescue into our family.

That’s when Charlie, or Charlie Brown as I’m fond of calling him, rescued me.

 

NEXT WEEK: HELP

HAUNTED

There are many experiences from my childhood that still haunt me today but probably none more so than when our next door neighbor shot our dogs.

Prior to this happening I have a vivid memory of the wife (who I think always despised having so many children living next door to her) taking a large bucket filled with soapy water and washing the trunk of a tree in her front yard, all the while berating us children for having allowed one of our two dogs to get loose and piss on it.

Maybe it was our collective hysterical laughter at what a fool she was making out of herself that spurred her husband into action; I guess I’ll never know. But some time later, (may have been several days later I can’t recall) while my sisters and I were out playing in our backyard with our beloved dogs, her Nazi of a husband aimed his rifle over the fence and shot our dog, Shalimar, between the eyes killing her instantly. He then took aim at our other dog, Keech, whom he hit in his side.

I don’t remember how many of my other siblings were there to witness this first hand, but I did, and the memory of my beautiful German Shepard lying dead with a bullet wound between her eyes and a pool of blood slowly spreading out into the pine needles cradling her head, still haunts me to this day.

I was quite young, I’m guessing maybe seven or eight at the time, and my two dogs were my world. Shalimar, our German Shepard had a heart made of pure gold. She was the most gentle sweet reminder of all that is good in the world. And Keech, our Golden Retriever, was pure bottled energy, pure joy, pure exuberance, pure love radiating from every pore of his golden body. They were my best friends, and since my parents forbid us ever getting another dog after what had happened, they were the last canine friends I had until I was on my own and able to get another one.

To be fair, this story requires more of a backstory.

I am also still haunted by the way I used to treat this same neighbor’s daughter while waiting for the school bus every morning.

We cease to be haunted when we cease to be afraid of making what has been untouchable, real: especially our understandings of the past; and especially those we wronged, those we were wronged by, or those we did not help.” – David Whyte Consolations

She was the same age as me and was a large girl for her age. This was something that somewhere along the line she had learned to use to her advantage. She didn’t take any shit; the teasing and taunting was a two-way street. But some of the kids at the bus stop showed her no mercy whenever pointing out how overweight she was. Unfortunately for me, the one time I decided to chime in, she seized the opportunity to grab my scrawny ass and pin me to the ground by sitting on me long enough for me to almost miss my bus.

By doing so, she successfully turned the tables on me that day making me the victim of not only her considerable weight nearly crushing me but by the other kid’s taunts about what a weakling I was.

So I devised a way to get even with her. Over the next week, I collected as many slugs as I could find into a jar, and the next time we all met at the bus stop, I reached in and grabbed a huge handful and began hurling my slimy secret weapons at her.

I am still ashamed that I did this to her. Ashamed that I would ever do this to anyone. To this day, whenever I see a slug in my garden (which is pretty much every day), I am reminded of how awful I behaved that day.

But for her father to then turn around and point his weapon at us, not just our dogs but at a yard of kids as they played, is still not a thing that I can comprehend.

As my sister began screaming and running in his direction with fists flying, I remember two things. First, the look on his face. He was smirking, seemingly delighted in his handiwork. Second, my inability to comprehend what I was seeing.

I remember looking into Shalimar’s dead eyes and wondering what on earth had just happened. I immediately started crying and ran into the house to get my mother.

I don’t remember a lot of what happened after that. I know the police were called, but I also know that nothing ever came of it. He was not arrested, and to the best of my knowledge, he was never punished for what he did. I know that he was a small business owner in our community so maybe that had something to do with, I don’t know.

I do however remember what happened to our other dog after that. My beloved Keech was taken away from us. At first, we were told he was in some sort of animal hospital because he needed emergency surgery to save his life. Thankfully, he survived, but I never saw him again.

My siblings and I were told that because of what had happened, it was too risky to bring him back home and so he was given away to an older cousin.

We were never allowed to have another dog again, and that decision haunted me for a very long time.

I would have to wait almost fifteen years before I was on my own and could have another dog in my life. When I finally got my first puppy (a Doberman/Lab mix), I would name her Keech in his honor.

As I grew older, my hatred of guns only grew stronger, and that was long before we had mass shootings to worry about.

I had been exposed to hunters before, a couple in my own family, and so I had heard all sorts of justifications made in defense of someone taking an animals life. I learned early on to keep my opinions to myself, or I’d be putting myself in their crosshairs.

But while in Africa, I was exposed to something much darker and more evil that still haunts me to this day.

Late one night as we were all sitting around the fire having just fished eating our dinner beneath the backdrop of the Milkyway, the conversation took a turn that I would have never expected since before that night I had never even heard of such a thing.

It’s called canned or captive hunting, and when I heard one of our guides, a women born and raised in South Africa who with her husband was in charge of our volunteer organization, begin to describe to us all what it meant, I felt something inside me break and felt hot tears streaming down my cheeks as I listened in horror to what she was saying.

Canned or captive hunting is essentially when magnificent wild creatures (primarily lions) but other exotic species as well, are bred and held captive in camps so that they can be slaughtered solely to satisfy someone’s ego and line the pockets of the disgustingly greedy. Unconscionable sums of money are made from what some have the nerve to call a “sport.”

Uber rich people pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of being able to travel primarily to South Africa, or some of their neighboring countries, in order to shoot and kill a lion that would have been taken from its mother as a young cub, hand raised and hand fed by humans, confined in enclosed spaces on private hunting reserves thus guaranteeing “hunters” easy trophy heads in exchange for fees of up to $50,000. They have thousands of “ranch” lions to draw on, and South Africa’s hunt operators are making a fortune.

This does nothing to help conservation efforts as some have tried to argue. All this does is give a person with more money than they know what to do with, the opportunity to easily kill an animal for the sole purpose of acquiring another sick trophy. These innocent defenseless amazing creatures are being bred by the thousands for a bullet.

And they are not the only ones.

Nearby to where I live (in America) prisoners are put in charge of hand raising pheasants that are kept in captivity until they are released into a wildlife “management” area to be hunted. These birds have been known to walk right up to you before being shot. How is that a sport? I will never be persuaded that this practice can somehow be considered ethical.

And I know someone personally who a few years ago began baiting a bear nearby to where he lived. Every day he would leave out a pile of birdseed to lure it in until the bear became as predictable as the sun rising every morning.

Of course, the bear being a bear took the bait, and the bear died. It was shot and made into a trophy as if the person who killed it had accomplished something to forever be proud of.

This is illegal not to mention immoral, but no one was there to stop him. He got away with it and is proud of what he did which makes my stomach turn because I know this person and I was forced to keep my mouth shut about it.

But as the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

And he’s right. And I will not remain silent about this any longer.

I now proudly support http://www.bloodlions.org/born-to-live-wild/

It’s an organization that strives to bring awareness to what is happening before it’s too late. I urge you to check it out if you feel so inclined.

And I urge you to reflect on anything that still haunts you, because when you shine the light into the darkness to confront what haunts you, what haunts you cannot survive. And when we all begin to speak up about things that matter to us, I believe anything is possible.

“We wake into our lives again, as if for the first time, laying to rest what previously had no home through beginning to speak, beginning to make real and beginning to live, those elements constellating inside us that long to move from invisible to the visible.” – David Whyte Consolations

I have begun speaking up by way of this blog by making the painful stories from my past real again. I am making the invisible visible, and in doing so, I am beginning to live in a whole new way.

 

NEXT WEEK: HEARTBREAK

 

GROUND

It was my last day in South Africa. I was already feeling the pain of separation as I spread my body across the rich iron red earth and wept. I made no attempt to hide. I did not venture away from base camp for privacy. I did not want to tempt fate by making myself lion bait. The other volunteers were not embarrassed by my tears. If my crying made any of them uncomfortable that day, they never let on.

When I first arrived, I did the same, but I did so casually. No one looking at me would have suspected the surge I felt beneath me when I refused a chair during our first group meeting, opting to sit on the ground instead. I remember the feeling well: reunion.

This overwhelming feeling of reconnection seemed illogical and made no sense to me at first. I had left my actual home seventeen days before yet as I lay there weeping that last day, leaving Africa felt like leaving my mother’s womb.

I didn’t know I was starving until She fed me. Africa nourished me. With the exception of becoming a mother to my children, Africa fed me and filled me in a way that nothing else ever had before or since.

“I guess I’d have to say that the most exciting place I’ve ever been to is Africa. Because it’s another world there. Not just the cultures and the people. That’s great… but it’s the air… the colors from dawn to dusk, and there’s something tangible about the whole thing. The cohabitation of man and beast, and beast and beast — who’ll survive and who won’t. There’s no judgment about it either you know. There’s no imposed morality. It’s just the way it is. It’s just beautiful really. There’s nothing like it…”

I read this somewhere, printed it out and hung it above my desk a short time after returning home. I wish I could give proper credit to its author, but I have no recollection of who that is. But I do recall how much those words made me ache. They still do.

I have always felt an incredibly strong connection to the earth – to ground. Not just while in Africa but always. I think that’s why I dislike winter so much.

“Ground is what lies beneath our feet. It is the place where we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or circumstances to which we belong whether we wish to or not.” – David Whyte Consolations

When I was a kid, I used to say that if I were ever given one wish to come true, it would be to have the ability to hibernate. My friends and siblings would laugh at this, but I wasn’t joking.

These days, every year on the last day of summer, my husband and I make a point to try and be out on the water to watch the sunset. It seems like a silly ritual, but for me, watching that last summer sunset is my attempt at making sure my battery is fully charged before winter.

Throughout fall, as trees begin to shed their leaves until all but the evergreens are stripped bare skeletons, I also feel that precious energy begin to leak from my body.

The first frost is a warning siren; the first hard freeze pulls the plug on my life support.

When the ground is frozen in many ways so am I.

This loss of connection to ground leaves me numb and resentful. I find myself demanding to know where the rest of the year went. I want answers but am left with deafening silence. The chorus of birds and frogs have left me, only their echoes remain.

The silence in winter is profound, and the frozen ground bears the weight of all my worries accumulated throughout the year. Escape is futile, though at times attempts are made to have my insides match the outside by drinking until I am sufficiently numb.

But there are also times when I’m out walking in the woods on a bitterly cold winter day when the sound of snow squeaking like styrofoam beneath my feet reminds me to come to ground. One minute I’m convinced that I’m all alone in the world, and the next minute I remember that this too shall pass. That the leaves will once again sprout from naked trees and I will sit in their shade on a hot summer day listening to an avian orchestra.

If we are fortunate to have a seventy-degree day or two in February, as we were this past winter, the first thing I do is worry about climate change and the second thing I do is walk on the frozen ground barefoot. Despite the intense cold, I can still feel the tickle of connection which charges just enough of my dead battery to make to March.

By April I am itchy. Itchy to work my fingers through the rich loamy soil again. Itchy to pick fresh chives and plant seeds.

Above all, the ground keeps me grounded. It reminds me to strive to stay in balance and teaches me patience which is a lesson I stubbornly refuse to learn.

In my garden, there are no neat rows or straight borders. I don’t label the plants they label me. The first time I ever planted onions I was completely blown away. The seeds are somewhat larger than carrot seeds which are tiny and also never fail to impress. But something about harvesting those onions, gently tugging them from the ground while feeling their reluctance to yield, almost brought tears to my eyes. Of course, onions always make me cry, but this was different. I was overcome by overwhelming gratitude for the ground.

The same ground that supports we humans in every single thing that we do.

Ground is what supports us and sustains us and is our lifelong medium for growth. Without our connection to ground, we wither and die on the vine.

“To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above all to face the truth, no matter how difficult that truth may be; to come to ground is begin the courageous conversation, to step into difficulty and by taking that first step, begin the movement through all difficulties, to find the support and foundation that has been beneath our feet all along: a place to step onto, a place on which to stand and a place from which to step.” – David Whyte Consolations

And it is ground that welcomes us home. Not just the ground that our physical homes are built on but the body of the earth that we return to when we die.

I witnessed this again just recently during a burial for a young man sadly taken way too soon. It was heartbreaking to watch, and it reminded me of all the loved ones I have lost over the years.

To come to ground is to step into difficulty, literally step by step one foot after another as you leave that loved one behind to face the neverending challenges of being alive. To face the truth that one day it will be us being lowered into that ground and let it make us more determined to find some joy in every day.

As we left the services for this beautiful young soul, my daughter turned to my husband and I and began talking to us about how she envisioned her own funeral to play out. She explained to us how she wanted a party, a cookout or something of the sort, but definitely a celebration of her life filled with lightness and laughter.

I agreed and was about to add more to the conversation, but before I could say another word, she quickly and thoughtfully added, “But you won’t be there.”

I hope with all my heart that she’s right.

 

NEXT WEEK: HAUNTED