Monday, January 8, 2018

Among the Trees

When I am among the trees, 
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
- Mary Oliver, When I Am Among the Trees

It has been so long since I have been among the trees. Who knows why? Depression? Lack of energy. Lack of will. Not wanting to face myself or the world. 

These holidays have been killers and my memories have been coming and hitting me left and right without end. Even in my dreams. So I have been silent, lost in the pain of all of it. 

You never come to terms with the loss. Of that boy. That joy. That happiness. My buddy. This pain will always exist, that I know. That I have realized and begun to accept. But that doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t make it any easier to wake up each day and once again realize he’s not here and we must go through another day without his presence. 

I still haven’t figured out how to have any kind of happiness, except that with Carie, without our boy. Everything is hard. Everything is different. I often feel lost. 

What is my place in this world now? I don’t know. But I always feel a calling that it should be more. I should be more. I need to do more. I need to make his life count. I need to make our life count. 

But this world. It’s go go go. We never get time to breathe. We never get time to find ourselves. This was one of Kreed’s greatest gifts to me- realizing that life was meant to be slowed down, and to walk among these trees and truly take them in. The smell. The wind gently rolling across our shoulders. The rustle of the leaves and animals. The air we breathe. All of it. He was able to do that and it renewed him often. These trees were his favorite place to be (besides Five Guys of course). And I loved how we stayed in those moments without a single other care in this world. 

Since he’s been gone the world has not stopped. It has kept on spinning, tumbling and turning me every which way until some days I can no longer find which way is up. 

And I yearn for him. To hear him. To play with him. Hike with him. Be with him. And no one- and I mean no one- except those who have lost their sweet child- know this kind of unending pain that we will never again have time with our child. And the excruciating pain it is to wake up each and every single day without them. 

But these trees. When I finally come again, peace comes even if for a moment. My tears fall- or really I sob. Because it hurts so damn much. And these trees are where it’s safe to feel. And I search for him and for meaning. 

I search for those moments I used to love with him. And allow the pain to come and consume and just be. No matter how much we try to stuff it down and pretend it’s not there, it is. It always is. We just choose to decide when to let it come or other times it choose when it needs to come. 

So I come to these trees to allow it to come. Acknowledge it. And grieve. And grieve. And grieve. And try to remember to continue to do this. To remember him, honor him and grieve him.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Where are you

Moon rose 
full and without 
compromise through the good 
garden of leaves, 
here and there 
stars rode in flickering 
slicks of water 
and for certain 
the burly trees 
hunched toward each other, 
their dark mantles 
like the fur of animals 
touching. It was 
summer on earth 
so the prayer 
I whispered was to no god 
but another creature like me. 

Where are you? 

The wind stood still. 
Lightning flung 
its intermittent flares; 
in the orchard 
something wandered 
among the windfalls, 
licking the skins, 
nuzzling the tunnels, 
the pockets of seeds. 

Where are you? I called 
and hurried out 
over the silky sea 
of the night, across 
the good garden of branches, 
leaves, water, down 
into the garden 
of fire. 

This skin you wear so neatly, 
in which you settle 
so brightly on the summer grass, how 
shall I know it? 
You gleam as you lie back 
breathing like something 
taken from water, 
a sea creature, except 
for your two human legs 
which tremble 
and open 
into the dark country 
I keep dreaming of. How 
shall I touch you 
unless it is 
I begin 
here and there, 
finding you, 
the heart within you, 
and the animal, 
and the voice. 
I ask 
over and over 
for your whereabouts, 
trekking wherever you take me, 
the boughs of your body 
leading deeper into the trees, 
over the white fields, 
the rivers of bone, 
the shouting, 
the answering, the rousing 
great run toward the interior, 
the unseen, the unknowable 
- Mary Oliver, The Gardens

Where are you dear boy? This I have wondered for weeks and days. It does not matter where you are in your grief journey- there will be days, weeks, months and years that your soul suddenly aches for the missing with a new hunger for their touch, their voice, their smell, the feel of their beating heart. You search endlessly for them in the depth of your heart and must again accept that you will not find what you are searching for and you will not feel what you are missing. 

I go to nature continually to find him. Feeling. My heart. Soul. Sometimes I go alone, sometimes I go with my love and we find ourselves together and miss him together. And we hold ourselves together, both feeling the gut wrenching pain, but healing together in love. 

But some days, some weeks I just ache. And ache. And ache. Sometimes I’m distracted enough that it doesn’t feel like it will kill me. But other days it feels like it could take me away again. 

Then some days we find slivers of happiness, like our new pup Apollo 13 we rescued on the 13th. Somehow this little animal has brought some laughter as we watch him discover a free and wild world. But even in those moments I remember how Kreed discovered the free and wild world. And the ache comes again and again. 

Where are you? I never find Kreed at his resting place. First- that boy never rested a day in his life, always wanting more- more love, experiences, nature, French fries, joy and happiness. I find him in the wind whipping through my body, the suns warmth and in this free and wild world. 

Grief will always come in waves. Whoever said that way back when was correct. It doesn’t matter the time that passes or the way life changes. The pain is there. It’s there to stay. We just learn how to coexist with moments of happiness. We learn to laugh at the puppy and other animals, we learn to enjoy our moments together, but we always, always remember our boy in all of those moments. 

Where are you? Everywhere. 


Carrying this grief

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hands in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent
and my laughter,
as the poet said, 

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it -
books, bricks, grief -
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled -
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply? 
- Mary Oliver, Heavy

We carry this grief. I can’t always say which way we carry it. Some days we are in a dark valley. There is no sun, no light, nothing to shine on our darkness. Surrounded by peaks, we traverse this dark valley, letting sadness come, memories come, and in some ways consume us. He was our world. The sun which we all spun around, and happily. His joy was infectious. He was the meaning of our life. Then gone. Taking all the light. 

Then some days, we climb up from that place. Together. She and I. Our hearts together, and our love pushing us to get out of that darkness. And we try. We try to stand in the light. We try to smile. We try to laugh. We try to find some measure of happiness. I know for me, it’s her. I love my wife and that’s what gets me up every day of my life. For that love, for our life. Even when I think I have lost who I am, I know I’m still someone, and I’m still loved for whoever I happen to be. 

I still miss him with everything I have and more. I miss the moments of just being. Existing. Without a clock. Without a list. Without a to-do. Just existing in those moments, doing whatever was needed at the time whether it was a trip out into the world and lessons to be learned, or a trip to decide who had the best French Fries. Or a journey into the wilderness to just exist with nothing but our own beating hearts. 

I haven’t hiked in some time. And it shows. But it’s so damn hard to face yourself with just yourself so often. To really look at yourself with nothing and just exist and ask yourself the tough questions. And to visit him, in his element and feel the things he felt. But I did it today and then here I am pouring my heart out, letting the tears fall. Instinct is to run. To run from yourself, your heart, your soul. Because this grief, this all encompassing, heart ripped out of chest feeling is not pleasant and for some, and at times, it’s so much easier to hide from it and not feel it. But here I am today, laying it all bare. 

And I will pick myself up. Do what’s necessary and then go home. To love. To light. And know that things will be okay and sink into a long embrace and just be. Exist. And learn this life together without our sun.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Grief and Joy

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.
What a time they have, these two
housed as they are in the same body.
- Mary Oliver, We Shake with Joy

I am in love with the Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is

always grief more than enough,
a heart-load for each one of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all the blast and welcome
of her sorrow less, salt self. 
- Mary Oliver, Ocean

"I'm a believer in meditation that isn't thought of as traditional meditation. It can be in the form of music or painting or walking or anything else that carries you into the flow state. Getting lost isn't actually getting lost. That's the paradox: getting lost is going inward. Getting lost is finding ourselves in a deeper capacity. Getting lost is sometimes essential to growth and ultimately a greater understanding." Victoria Erickson

I'm sitting again amongst the trees, rock, grass, bluebirds, ants and mountains. I have felt so lost lately. Lost in myself, lost in this world, riding the tide of grief. Questioning the duality of feeling so much pain and wondering if happiness or joy will exist along side such pain. That's the question in grief isn't it? We will feel this pain forever and joy will exist along side such pain. His loss created such a duality for our life that we must accept at some point. We must learn to live and grieve and accept what each of those states shall give us.

And we become lost. To find ourselves after his loss. After his life. To find love again. 
Life again.
Soul again.
Joy again.
And how all of that will exist alongside our grief. We were permanently changed the moment his heart ceased beating. While the world moves on and everyone goes back to exactly who they were, we do not. We are permanently altered and must find who we are now, not who we were then. 

Knowing and loving Kreed changed me into a much better person than I could have ever hoped to be. And his death has left me shattered, grasping at the shards of myself, trying desperately to put them back together, but instead each shard stabbed me, drawing blood, dripping down and swirling into unending pain. 

Until I realized, I could not put the shards back together. I was never, ever going to be that person again. Grief is transforming us into someone new, someone I have trouble recognizing. But the trouble isn't recognizing so much because I'm someone I don't know, but because I fight so hard against the new beginning and accepting the last ending. 

It wasn't supposed to end that way. We fought and fought and fought and always assumed the storm would pass, his dimples would come again and he would be ready for the next adventure. Until one day it wasn't. And we were left.

No one realizes what it takes to accept the immense pain that will forever exist in your heart and then learn to allow happiness to exist next to that pain. Neighbors that must co-exist in some kind of neutral agreement that each will remain and live separate but equal lives. Our grief will rage on, turning and tumbling over and over, sometimes casting us to the larger waves and other times allowing us to float amongst the calmer water. But somehow, someway, as we continue on, a separate happiness and joy for life must exist. Each acknowledging the other.

I have struggled so long and so hard with accepting this duality within myself. Darkness comes over me and tells me this isn't so, that I can only feel this great pain and I must exist in this pain and allow for nothing else. The pain twists me.
Tortures me.
Empties me.
Buries me.
I fight and I fight against its completeness, the suffocating heaviness. But fighting only sends you deeper and darker. Until the day it comes. Acceptance. 
This is the new life.
This pain will always remain.
Happiness must exist with pain.
And that's okay.
And you stop fighting. You sit up on this ridge, feel the sun at your back, watch the bluebirds fly overhead, stare at the vast expanse of the mountains and revel in the beauty of this place. And breathe.

Because we can. Because we're alive. Because we still have this one wild and precious life to live. And love this world again in a new way- the world our boy so loved. 

Connecting Again

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude-
believe us , they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.
- Mary Oliver

I climbed a new ridge today. Higher than the one before. And facing the sun, as it rises from the Earth. For weeks, I've sat on a ridge, contemplating my life, searching for meaning and feeling, with the sun at my back, burning and shining in all it's glory. I faced the mountains, staring at their majesty. I searched for

But every day as I left my rock seat thinking spot, everything went away. I take off my hiking boots, change into the work clothes and I entered the world just as unfeeling as I began the day.
Today, today I climbed a ridge, higher and higher and faced the sun. The mountains to my back. I watched as the sun came up from the earth, in all its majesty and rays of light and there are few things more beautiful in this world than a mountain sunrise, sitting high up on a ridge with just yourself and your demons and your heart.

I'm still searching for

The sun rose in all its brilliance and briefly I felt its warmth, before the clouds took her away again, leaving me just as I have been, cold and alone. And I wonder, where my light went, though I know the answer lies six feet under. I have been left shattered, struggling to pick up the pieces. I come to nature seeking the reason for everything, seeking a certain kind of feeling, seeking him. Nature was his sanctuary, where it did not matter what was wrong in his body, or that he had autism, or that he could not speak the language of the world. He spoke the language of the soul, which went straight into ours. For years there was no separation, if he was happy, we were happy, if his soul raged, so did ours. So I don't wonder why, when his heart stopped beating, we were left with ours stopped in that moment. While physically ours still beats to the rhythm of life, it stopped beating for the soul. And we're

Today, today I know, I need to change my life. Somehow, some way, my feeling needs to come back. It's not tied to him any longer and has just been cast out, left by itself flapping in the wind.
My tears softly fall upon the thick rock here upon this ridge. It's the only place my eyes leak and my heart is open and searching. I can't be all numb if I sit here feeling the weight of the world, the weight of his loss, the weight of my soul.
I long to feel the warmth of the sun beyond the clouds. But I know it's up to me to light that warmth inside again.
Today I sit on this ridge. And commit to changing my life. To find a way to connect again with this world and not with our child that lays beneath the earth.
This grief washes away everything you thought you knew about life, about love, yourself and your place in this world. Sometimes you feel caught up in the undertow, drowning and losing your place in this world. The pain will never go away, time doesn't make it better- you spend your life missing them and feeling the sharp ache of their missing. But I know somehow, some way, I have to find a way to shore again and accept and live this life with that certain kind of pain. Grief washes away who I was with him, but surely I am still somebody.
I miss you dear boy. I miss who I was with you and I don't know who I am without you. But I will try. For you. For me. For the fight of this life that you loved so wholly, purely and joyfully.

My Heart Beats On This Ridge

My heart beats up here on this ridge. I stare out at the vast expanse of the nature and beauty before me. But none of it can ease the ache I feel deep within.
The emptiness.
The missing.
The torture.
Of missing his presence. Wondering what he would be doing with me now, fifteen months later. We packed so much life into our time here and I made the mistake of thinking that would always be. We didn't have fifty years. He had 18. 18 years and 8 months and three days to be exact. That was the length of his life. And now I have the next 50 years missing him and feeling that ache, that emptiness, that missing, that torture. That's what I get to spend the next fifty years doing instead of running gleefully through the forest, tubing on the river wild, stuffing our faces with Five Guys French Fries and Sauce pizza.
Oh this pain is a sharp one. Cuts deep down to the soul. I am left shattered by his absence. All of our joy that was wrapped up in him is gone. Vanished in an instant. Our whole life was watching him experience this world with a certain kind of innocence and unconditional love. His wonderment over the way the water moves in a lake, the feeling of leaves across his body and the taste of the sweetness- and bitterness- of nature was a sight to behold. Getting to experience life with someone like that changes you.

And their loss changes you in an entirely different way. Life feels less joyful. Less alive. Less wonderful. Less innocent. Less everything.

My heart beats on this ridge but it feels so very hollow. No one can tell me how to live in this world after losing your heart and soul. And I'm left seeing the beauty of this world, but feeling none of it.

I hate these fifteen months. I hate this grief. I miss our boy.  And yes that is a hummingbird and the blue orb together in one picture.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
- Mary Oliver, The Summer Day.

I Miss You

Yesterday my sanctuary failed me. I could feel nothing. No words came to me. It was a certain kind of emptiness that was unsettling. All I could do was stare out, watching the clouds move and the darkness cover the sun.
Despite the troubles of yesterday, I still returned, hoping and pleading with myself. I was treated to some low lying clouds that made the mountains seem mystical. I hiked up to the ridge as the sun began to peak out from the clouds. This time words were coming to me. Thoughts were coming to me.
And so many memories of our boy. They came crashing into me. I turned the music louder trying to drown out the despair until I could breathe again.
I sat with my books and my writings. The memories continued to hit me and I sat with so much sadness and despair.

Morning Poem
Every morning
the world
is created
Under the orange

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again

and fasten themselves to the high branches-
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands

of summer lilies.
If it's your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails

for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it

the thorn
that is heavier than lead-
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging-

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted-

each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
every morning,

whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
- Mary Oliver

Nature continues to call to me. Even as these memories slam against me.
I breathe.

A bluebird flies to a nearby tree and hops up and up. Oh how I love sitting in nature and witnessing so many beautiful creatures. And how these creatures can just be. How wild and free.
Despite all this beauty, there is still so much pain. Pain for knowing our boy should still be here. And how much he loved life. And how he taught us to be wild and free.
And to love.
And to live.
And to be kind.
He was our whole world. And then he wasn't. And here we are wondering what our world is now. I seek this nature and way of being in hopes of figuring out what is next. How our hearts will go on, how we can open ourselves back up to this world. How to honor his death and make sure his life is never forgotten.
And I cry. Nature brings these tears once more. I think I'm so numb and unfeeling and not for this world. But I sit here with the gentle breeze and the sun blazing against my back and I'm reminded I'm alive.
And maybe I'm not as closed off as I think I am. Maybe I'm not as numb as I think I am. But oh how I wish I could keep these feelings after I leave the ridge. And explain to people why I love coming here and how I find myself here again and again. How I try to live again. Love again.
The bluebird flies off, soaring high above in the sky. I crave that freedom. That wildness. If I crave something, then I must not be so lost. Am I?

I miss you dear boy. I miss you.