The existence of a speck of dust makes everything possible. If dust does not exist, neither does the universe, nor you, nor I. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

solitude

Upon a trunk is a framed photograph of my mother, a hand painted photograph, of her when she was young.  When my eyes linger I’m introduced to unabashed joy.  Before it are three small framed images … her first born – my sister D, and her two sons – C and L.  

It is an image of my mother I do not hold in memory…invisible like my father’s. It is of a young woman before she was a widow with three children, a twice divorced, and finally a woman married to T, her first love.

She named her sons after their fathers.  Her last two born are daughters, M and S.  Within M’s name is Faith. Within S’s name, Joy. A mother’s blessing.  

Then there is I…her second born who as a teen exhausted her.   “Do I have to?” she responded to a police officer’s question, “Is this your child?”  

A mother-daughter relationship defined as “complex.”  

My secret childhood fantasy was to come home from school — the afternoon sun warming the kitchen…she standing in the kitchen — and I would hear, “Be more gentle when closing the door.”

Not the vibrations of more gentle but the sounds of more gentle. She could hear…she could hear me…my voice. My faith, my faith despite being the size of a mustard seed was felt by God.

She has come to visit many times as I dust these photographs … often remembering the visit after L’s funeral. She shared that the only time in her life she regretted being deaf was after I told her that within the sound of his girlfriend’s voice was D’s.

This I believe open the door to the realization that if my childhood self had succeeded in finding and pulling out the thread of deafness in the tapestry of my mother’s life, she would no longer be. If she no longer was, then the universe of my life would not exist. It was she, her total being that made everything possible.

reflection

My mother came to walk alongside me as I noticed a parked school bus.  Brilliant yellow, unmistakably school bus yellow.  It was small…a seat row larger than the one D and I rode to school during those two years we were living on the farm.  

She and I reminisced about the scent of fresh baked bread that would welcome D and I home and the school dresses she made at the beginning of the 4th grade.  I think there is a first day of the fourth grade photograph in which I’m wearing one of those dresses.  Smiling…hanging on a wooden aged fence.

She silently listened as I thought of school, friends, 4-H, swimming, and reading. Today, I suddenly realized that it never came into my mind to consider what life was for her living on the farm with four children in a 10-wide trailer away from family and friends. She in Colorado. They in Oregon/California. No phone…just the postal service. No radio. No television.

Silence. Silence was her life-long companion. The silence I recently have become acquainted with when a snippet of the mediation bell simply disappears.

She trusted life within that small rural community.  She never said, “No” to weekends away from home…sleep overs that began on a Friday after school and ended on Sunday after church. She never questioned which church. There was that moment she did frown and say, “I don’t like that” as I described a Sunday service.

She greeted each friend that walked into the home with a smile…the authentic smile…the eye smile.

After we moved into town I roamed through a backyard that extended south to the Yampa River, north over the creek and up the hill behind our home, and to the eastern and western edges of town.  

During that summer the only concerns she expressed was to be home before dark and to wait an hour after eating as I would join a group of friends on the dirt path to the Yampa river with worn, faded, and tattered bath towels draped over our shoulders. Black inner tubes of various sizes dragged behind us filling the air with the pungent scent of faded rough rubber. The sounds of splashing water and laughter would fill the air as we gathered along the river bank and swam to the sandbar.

No parents…no supervision.  Freedom.  My mother gifted me freedom. 

Nikon D750 / f/5.6 / 1/320s / 200mm

My mother came to visit as the rays of the morning sun colored spring’s autumn leaves a translucent orange-yellow. It seems the sun has shifted more towards the northern horizon since the beginning of spring.

Spring’s autumn leaves…crisp and crumpled endured the winds of winter as if their stems refused to let go of their mother’s hand. Or could it be that this tree’s grief…layered by multiple years of autumn shedding could not let go of these leaves? Or…maybe they were tethered by their own separate grief and loss … their fears of the unknown.

This morning my mother did not stay long…it was as if she touched our memories with a simple, “hi” and then faded away. A simple, brief greeting.

“We do not have to stop and chat. A smile, a nod of the head is a pleasant greeting,” I remembered her saying one Saturday morning as we walked out of Safeway.

The morning chill came through an open window. The morning had begun its transformation from black to variations of dark blues to lighter hues outlining night’s black shadows. It had just passed…the morning ritual. The magical moment of silence in which all of the world — right before the sun’s rays lightens the sky — seems to hush in stillness. Then in the distance one songbird followed by another as if a congregation’s “Amen.”

My mother came to visit. I may have called her as I, with a cup of steaming tea, looked up at the antique framed cross stitch hanging on the dining room wall.

It was during one of those rare visits to her home in which she shared a beautiful piece of counted cross stitch. I saw the delight in her face as she told me it was a gift…a gift of gratitude to someone unknown to me…a stranger. Aged old jealously rose unbidden and formed a barrier between mother and daughter.

And then, “Would you like one?”

“Yes! Please let me frame it.”

Within an antique framed cross stitch…a magical moment. An exchange of love and validation.

The true person is
Not anyone in particular;
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world
.

~Eihei Dōgen

Nikon D750 f/1.8 1/4000 35mm 200 ISO


Yesterday my mother came to visit…it was a remembered touch that announced her arrival not as the frail woman with a fierce determination time had transformed from the woman who carried with her the stature of Danish Vikings…warriors, explorers, conquerors, survivors.  The English genes of a woman whose life was colored by an incessant search for security, an unquestioning moral and social mandate, and an aloneness I did not know. 

She visited as my mom and walked alongside me as I gathered the ingredients for homemade soup, she watched me — with discerning eyes — as I made the bed and gathered the laundry, and she sat with me as I flipped through a photo book of fading memories. Memories…the mundane moments swept away into darkness by brooms of discontent, negation, and yes…shame. The shame that arises from a felt sense of a marginalized family’s “being different.”

She woke the memory within the shifting images of a night when I saw her sitting alone within the silence of deafness nested within the silence of night.  Before her was a topsy-turvy pile of children’s scuffed and worn shoes. I watched her from the doorway, hiding as I did not want to be sent back to bed, slowly polishing each one and then matching them into pairs, forming a straight row — creating a sense of order.  When her eyes acknowledged my presence, she invited me to sit alongside her.  Moments passed as I felt her listening presence…a mother and a daughter sitting quietly in a dimly lit room, a protective barrier. 

As this remembering faded, I felt a gentle gaze that spoke of a silent loving-kindness. It was as if she came from a place of waiting knowing that the barriers that blocked me from being receptive to the multiple color threads that weaved her life had begun to weaken and fade and — for the first time — I entered, felt, and embraced her aloneness. And she, in return, eased the discontent that ebbs and flows throughout this time of uncertain isolation.

I have often wondered, since her passing, that if we had met – not as mother-daughter but as children in a playground would she have wanted to be my friend?

First published on April 2, 2020 … Stay at Home Order … day 8

Today my mother came to visit within an unexpected memory…long forgotten…time faded.

my mother came to visit

As if in a movie theatre, I silently watched as she cover her Crown Braids with a triangle-folded scarf.

She then covered a straw broom with a frayed-gray rag…held in place with two baby diaper safety pins. One with a yellow tip, the other blue.

Then a remembered sigh as she turned the broom upside down and began to slowly sweep the ceiling with special attention to living room corners. “Hidden spider webs,” she mumbled.

Spring cleaning had begun…

“Yes, a line is fine, but when a line swerves, when a line bends, watch what happens . . . a shape begins!…

“A square is four sides all the same — … blocks to build with, share and stack…

“A rectangle is like a square with something rearranged. Two sides are long and two are short. …

“A circle’s … the bowl Mom fills with hot noddle soup, … a cookie to eat, … a big drum to beat, bicycle wheels …

“A triangle is three — three sides, three corners too … the pyramids of old, a lunch of jam and bread, a napkin to fold …


“An oval’s like a circle, except it’s not …” (cited: R G Greene, When a Line Bends . . . a Shape Begins)

Join Patti’s (P.A. Moed) Lens-Artists challenge — to share shapes that are visually interesting and form a pattern or rhythm.

For the month of March, Paula (Lost in Translation) invites us to share images that illustrate one of five words – buffet, equine, gleaming, jagged, and lacustrine – within photos or photos that reflect each of the words.

I chose lacustrine which Merriam-Webster defines as: relating to, formed in, living in, or growing in lakes. The Roget’s International Thesaurus identifies lacustrine as: lake dweller, pile dweller or builder, laker.

Beginning with a poem written by Li Po:

The harvest moon is burning the waters of South Lake. Driving alone, I lean down to pick white lotus lilies.

Fierce desire pulls me… I yearn to tell them of my passion. Alas, my boat floats away at mercy of the moving current. My heart looks back in sadness.

~Li Po (cited: Trans: Anonymous. The Jade Flute. The Gutenberg Project)

And then a sharing of more music by Christine and the Queens…

May your spring be filled with days of laughter, pastel colors, awakening, family, friends, wellness, and hope.

“…each moment gives rise to the next, this is because that is. We do not exist in isolation; there is nothing that exist by itself alone.” (cited: Brother Phap Hai, Nothing to it.

On a pitch-dark

night road

I get lost

watching the moon

set behind the faraway mountain. Ryokan (cited: Trans. K Tanahashi, Sky Above, Great Wind)

Clouds drifting off:

the sight of

moonlit heavens ~Kizan (cited: Trans. Y. Hoffman, Japanese Death Poems)

Even more

because of being alone

the moon is a friend ~Buson (cited: Trans: Y Sawa & E M Shiffert, Haiku Master Buson)

This week’s lens-artists photo challenge is hosted by Tina (Travels and Trifles) who invites us to share some of those special moments that have taken our breath away.

be safe, be well, and be sage.