I began this letter to you when the black birch leaves had turned their various shades of yellow, appearing saffron in the overcast light of a rainy day. A blend of squirrels scuffling in the leaves, acorns hitting the roof, the wind and the dissonance of weed whackers and blowers, weave together, against a background of silence. But the writing wouldn’t come together, even though most of the letters I send you – you who read them, you who are going through grief, you who want to hear from me, you who aren’t physically here, usually come from my computer to you. Raw. I guess they are a combination of prayer, invitation to my dead, to you the reader for us to walk beside each other, to reach out to those I know and haven’t seen or circled with in what seems such a long time. To speak of grief.
The luminous leaves fall like coins raining down and he is not here to marvel at it with me. Or rather he is, he is all around me, this I know, and don’t always feel. The absence of his physical presence looms large. Where did he go? On December 24, it will be three years since Allan left his precious body.
And now it is Samhain, the Celtic Holy day when the veil is thin between the worlds in our part of the world. I remember so many Ceremonies on this land, Samhain gatherings where we called to our dead, blessing them and asking for their blessings. Remembering them. They want to be remembered. I have been reaching out to the veil for many years, rather reaching out to what we perceive as a veil, more so since Allan died.
My right brain is getting a workout these days as I try to expand my state of consciousness to other realms, and to believe what comes to me from the dead, from the invisible ones. I’ve read so much and studied so much in these past years. In the last three, particularly. Metaphysics, mediumship, near death experiences, and visitations of our beloved dead.
John Trudell, a thinker, poet and leader in the American Indian Movement and a man who knew great sorrow after the unproven murder of his wife and children by the Federal Government. He once said that colonization mines people. “You been mined man.” Something along those lines. I can just hear him.
Colonization takes over a people, their ways of soul, ways of life and expression, their language. They are gouged, the way we gouge the earth for oil, for diamonds, for coal and iron. He included all people in this. Even the perpetrators of crimes against his people. We Europeans were mined in our home lands and by the time we got here we perpetuated the mining on the original peoples. We tried to dig out what we saw as worthless and replace it with our own values. The way old science still mines the Holy mysteries for knowledge and power over what we cannot know or control.
Grief throws us over the dark edge into the very heart of the mysteries. Yet as a culture, we do everything possible to deny that mystery. But perhaps if we allow it, what we don’t know, what we don’t ordinarily see or feel, naturally in the breaking open of grief, throws open its doors long enough for us to be taken, undone, carried and reassured by the very Mystery we long to control. Initiations are painful. Grieving ones are raw and messy, sensitive and often hopeless. Robbed of a future, we live time out of it’s flow as Denise Riley puts it. Because our soul has been mined, our ability to honor and see it as a portal has been mined. Grief is theorized, diagnosed, given time limits and seen as a passing phase. Rarely sacralized in our culture. Rarely seen as Holy, as being so close to the Mysteries.
I realized yesterday that what someone in me needed to say didn’t come together because an awareness was coming to me. So obvious, so simple, so real. I have been stopped so many times the last few days, staring out the window, sitting suddenly down on the bed, stopping on the path in the woods feeling that knowing traveling to me over distances, while Roxie wonders what’s more important than a stick.
It is this.
The arc of my life is almost over. I see the arc of it, of all our lives, each one a full story, sacred to us. It’s almost as if my life passes before my eyes in ten seconds and brings me to this moment. My Beloved’s embodied life is done, his earth story completed. I am astonished, it is true.
I am an old woman at the end of the arc of my life. The rainbow arc, the luminescent lightning linking birth and death, the arc of story, the arc that carries us along the river of life. With all its sufferings, the blessings, disappointments. Deep down, below, in rare moments, I come into a chthonic realm of dark and vast silence, Holy silence. A place of knowing that all things will die, people, dreams, every blessed alive thing has its day and its Holy death. You, me, who we count among our beloveds, all of us. And each life is its own epic story. This is not an intellectual understanding dear ones, this is a nascent change in perception. A terrible beauty.
In the center of it all, in my daily human life, my heart aches with longing and absence. So much has happened this year. I want him here by my side. So much that begs his wisdom, yet he is not here to give it, to ponder the wild workings of this world. I miss our conversations. Oh I miss so much, too much to list. And something I cannot articulate.
I don a pair of tights covered in large pink roses, and white gaping skulls. I call them my Frieda Kahlo tights and wondered if I can wear them. Skulls mean something different now that my beloved’s bones lie beneath the earth, his skull likely down to the bone. His Holy bones that carried him through life. I do wear the tights, daring myself to, reminders and all, because I don’t want to shy away from what is true. It may seem a minor thing, but in the realm of mourning, reminders abound. Dates, smells, objects, feelings, memories – the pen he used, the clippers in the drawer, the old razor in the bin, his handwriting, oh his handwriting. The smell of his leather jacket. I wear the tights because I love his bones as much as I love him.
I come from a keening people and an enduring people and a stiff upper lip people. The keening heart of me has won out, while the strength of endurance serves me well as has the ability to give in. To surrender, not serenely, not without kicking and screaming, not without wishing this would be over. The stiff upper lip part is the one who gives me trouble. Judges, analyzes, insults. Diagnoses. Mining my humanity. The colonizer.
The hero’s journey is one of return. I will never return fully. I am changed. I will never be the same. In the canyon of my emptiness, there is an old riverbed, eroded deeper by mourning, carrying tears, carrying memories, carrying the little boat of my life in such vastness to its stopping place. But also carrying a knowing with no words. I will set up camp and tend the fire between the two worlds.
Grief and death brings us to the edge of Mystery. Grief is a willingness to submit to the Mystery. Shit, it hurts, and who would want to do it? I’d rather have my Beloved in the bed beside me. But he’s not physically there, and I say yes to this side of love. Those who grieve, trembling at the edge, know the toll of deep love. We will all tremble one day, and it is this that binds us, humbles us.
Looking around we see plenty to tremble about, to grieve. This is learning that love is stronger than any force. Even stronger than death. Not all gifts feel good or bring pleasure but sometimes open us to the vastness and terrible beauty of life. Was Allan’s death a gift. No. Does breaking open bring me closer to my humanity, my heart, my compassion, the suffering in the world. Yes, and it attunes me more fully to understanding that this embodied life is not all there is.
What do I mean by love? When my mother died, I had a dream. I had asked her to contact me if she could. Wryly, she said, “seeing as you’re the only one who’s interested, I will.” She did.
I dream of children who are trying to teach me to fly. Moving their arms up and down. I don’t know if I flew but I did see the destination and move toward the most embracing and tender light. A peace beyond understanding. I wanted to go there, until I understand that this is my mother’s journey as she had indeed let me know. That is what I mean by love. A deep reception and witness of our true nature, true essence at the core of each of us. Unconditional. And luminous.
When Allan was dying, yet still sitting at the dining table, he said he’d been thinking about blessings. I sat down near him and asked him to tell me. He said a blessing is when one person recognizes the humanity and divinity in another and he put his hand on my forehead. It is in the recognition that the blessing lies, he continued, looking into my eyes. I in turn blessed him.
I began this while the leaves were turning, now the trees are nearly bare. Last Monday, high winds thrashed through the trees. While I stood at the easel painting, two Old Ones fell to earth crying out in a language cracked and splintered. These elders had withstood every storm, ice, wind, and snow between them for one hundred and forty years.
And now, the arc of their living story is over. And now, their stories will rise in the dance of smoke, carried by the spirit of wind. Beyond.
Blessings and love to you,
7 thoughts on “Tending the fire between the two worlds. 11/11/20”
Nora! This is just beautiful! Thank you for staying with it!!!❤️💕❤️
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All prayer. All real. I can’t find anything not acknowledged, not loved, not offered to us all. Tending the fire between the worlds…yes, if we dare. Thank you. Sharon
Dearest Nora, thank you so much for sharing all of this. Thank you, too, for setting up camp. Please know, however, that you can take as many breaks as you need as I, too, am tending the fire between the two worlds. I am very well-acquainted with the knowing beyond words, if not yet anywhere near fluent in the language not-spoken there. Like your Frida Kahlo tights, I have two pairs of lapis lazuli earrings that I only resumed wearing a few months ago. Inanna wore lapis lazuli when she visited the underworld and, over the years, I’ve gathered several pieces of jewelry featuring this precious, powerful stone. I found myself hesitating before putting on one pair of earrings some time after my Stage 4 diagnosis in February of 2019. I placed the earrings back into their little compartment in my jewelry box and haven’t worn either one of them since. I felt as if it was just too brazen; it seemed as if putting on the lapis was in some way “challenging” the universe to go ahead and send me back to the underworld for another visit, and I didn’t feel up to that task. A few months ago I purchased a ring with a nice-sized, oval, lapis lazuli stone, and I have not taken the ring off since the day that it arrived in the mail. I’ve earned the right to wear this stone. I am proud of myself and my journey thus far. I wear the earrings any time that I feel like wearing them, too. Like grief, being diagnosed with a terminal diagnosis also throws us over the dark edge into the very heart of the mysteries. Word, Nora. People most assuredly do not want to hear anything that we might relay to them from the mysteries. I am finding it to be more and more absurd, as I grow closer and closer to death, how isolated people would prefer that I remain. I suppose that they don’t think of it in these terms… I suppose that they don’t go terribly far beyond just not wanting to talk about (hear) any of what I’m coming to know. But word. The isolation is real. Thank you again for sharing this, here, today. I love you. v
Nora…I am so deeply moved by the felt sensation of reading your words and feeling them echo viscerally in my body. And the shared grief reverberates alongside of the personal grief that is different than yours- yet familiar in so many ways. Thank you for returning again and again to your heart, your uncertainty, your images, and the beyond…Setting up a campfire between the two worlds feels like a proper naming. I look forward to when I can join you there….sitting and tending the fire.
much love, abbe
Thank you all for your response, and your heart. love, Nora
So much beauty. So much love. Thank you for your sharing.
I still think about you and often visit your website. This is so beautiful!