Family Tree Revisited aka The Last Time I Saw my Mother

SavedPicture(407)SavedPicture(137)SavedPicture(406)

In the beauty of trees Mother Nature has always offered me a resting place I call home, one that feeds my soul and sustains me, that I can count on to always be there and whose changes I can observe through the  seasons of life.  Perhaps I read way too much into things but trees, especially the familiar ones I see frequently, are like friends that stand tall and bear the brunt of storms, surviving tempests and turmoil that can nearly level the most stout-hearted to the ground.  They look different in the changing light of day from early morning gray mists to the brutal yellow light of noon to the relief of the purple sky at dusk.  If I pay attention I can observe these changes and appreciate the unique beauty that each one offers at various moments in time.

The trees pictured here are two of my favorite resting places on Turkey Creek right in the serene backdrop of my own backyard, a marshy, swampy wilderness in South Carolina.  The cluster of two trees, twisting, touching in places with offshoots, is what I have titled “Family Tree” through all the nearly twenty years we’ve lived here.  I have watched the silent growth of these trees and compared it to the members of my immediate family, how we’ve slowly grown stronger, older and more stout-hearted through the years.  The long, hot summer has kept me from visiting in awhile and I notice the poison ivy creeping up the trunks like a choking toxin that needs to be eradicated before it takes over this precious tree.  I am reminded to tend to my own creeping poison ivy in my life, the areas of negativity and pain that only get worse if ignored and that certainly choke growth.

The other picture of the tree looking skyward is a giant pine growing in the middle of the wild part of the backyard.  I have often appreciated its towering strength rising above all the other trees surrounding it, including the “Family Tree.”  I never gave this tree a name but I feel like it now and will call it “Mama Tree” for the way its strong presence permeates all that exists nearby and provides shelter from the storms for wildlife.  I have seen many squirrels race up and down her massive trunk and chase in her sprawling branches.  In her lofty perch I’ve seen hawks and eagles rest and scout for prey.  I too have taken comfort from her and wandered about her trunk like a toddler playing in her mother’s skirt.  I have worried over this tree as well that her rooted base in the soft marsh earth moistened by the changing tides would one day cause her to topple over.  She has survived many a storm and a few hurricanes so far but for how long?

I can’t talk about the naming of “Mama Tree” without acknowledging that the inspiration to honor this tree is coming from the grief and sorrow I’ve been dealing with since my mother died over a year ago.  The picture here is the last time I saw her in Pennsylvania a week before her 85th birthday.  It was snowing in January that visit and I was like an excited little girl taking pictures of the snowy wonders I NEVER get to see in the south.  I got the nudge to go visit and flew there by myself to enjoy a long weekend with her and a few of my sisters, not knowing it would be my last visit.  I even got to stay with her and share the double bed in her assisted living apartment, something I’m sure hadn’t happened since I was a child.  It was a very special time to connect with my mom and feel her unconditional love that has blessed me my whole life.  On May 1st, 2014, she breathed her last breath and I wasn’t able to be at her bedside in the hospital with my siblings.  The long distance made that trip impossible to make in time.

My good-byes were by phone hours after the machines were unplugged and she lingered in a coma.  We were told there was no brain activity.  I don’t know if she could hear me but I appreciated my brother thinking of this and calling me.  I was with my son who was helping me drive around and take care of last minute work details so we could be at her funeral, when the time came.  I was an emotional mess and his presence calmed me as we sat in the parked car outside my job and I said goodbye to my sweet mom, telling her we loved her and Jesus was waiting for her.  She passed about five minutes later.  In the sacred mysteries that permeate life and death, I don’t know if on some level my mom was aware of the presence of my siblings at her death bed or my voice saying goodbye but I have some peace believing that she was also saying goodbye for now, letting go of this life to go to the glory of the next life where her husband, sons, parents, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends awaited her.

Studying this picture of “Mama Tree” I notice that  the top half of her seems cut off and since this picture was just taken earlier today, I wondered if a recent storm had indeed toppled part of her over.  I lathered myself in bug spray and trudged through the squishy mud from the recent tide to see for myself.  I walked around her massive trunk like that toddler in her mother’s skirts but covered in black mud on bare feet in flip flops and did not see any signs of fallen branches in a sea of elephant ear plants and a carpet of pine needles.  I did see a lot of poison ivy creeping up her trunk as it did the “Family Tree” and I know that I must come back and remove these toxic vines that threaten to choke these precious trees.  If I had thought to grab the garden gloves and clippers I would have done so right then.  I do know my visits to these special trees need to be more frequent, it does my soul good to rest awhile among their branches.

Black Cypress Swamp Song

DSC_0698 (2)

There is a silent beauty that isn’t really silent at all in the murky waters of a black cypress swamp.  Towering cypress trees shoot out of the water like elegant pillars marking time in an alternate world.  From their branches hanging like outstretched arms birds call out and all manner of insects swarm and sing a celebratory song to Life .  Walking here on a rainy, gray morning at the onset of spring I discovered the mint green blanket of foam covering the dark waters like snow and marveled at small miracles that bring this ancient place to life again.  A blue heron wades along a shallow, distant shore looking for breakfast.  She eludes the camera lens, dodging in and out of view among the trees with her graceful movements and sends ripples through the waters as well as my heart.  Gratitude bubbles in me that I can join in the song and feel the vibrations of a joyous heart also being renewed this spring day.  Deep in the woods of South Carolina at a place I love to visit once in awhile called Springbank Retreat, it does my soul good to come to this place of peace and rest.  I rarely ever want to leave and always want to go back.

Making Friends with Fear

The New Year is starting off right with a lesson from my granddaughter. She came to visit with her parents for Christmas and was afraid of the black and white rocking horse who whinnied and wagged his tail with a squeeze of his ear. His strange noises sent her running to the safety of her mother’s arms. It took several days and many tries on her terms to get over her fear. On the last few days of her visit she was able to ride him and not run away at his horsey sounds. I am learning from her brave steps in regards to my writing and facing my fears. I keep taking baby steps when deep down I know it is time to ride.

Reflections

SavedPicture(256)

Recently, I encountered an image on my co-worker’s computer screen that literally reached out and grabbed my soul.  It was an image of the one pictured here that was on display at the art gallery managed by the office where I work.  I asked her about the piece and was told that it was part of the exhibit coming down the next day.  Without consciously knowing why I was so drawn to this piece, I told her I really liked it and would go see it at lunch.  I did just that and looked at many paintings/drawings on display by a local artists guild.  I viewed the exhibit twice looking for this piece of art but couldn’t find it.  At the gallery desk, I picked up the exhibit postcard and there it was but it wasn’t on display.

I returned to the office feeling disappointed, thinking that it had been sold.  Upon further inquiry it hadn’t been sold but for some reason the artist decided not to display it in the exhibit. The artist was contacted and she agreed to bring “Reflections on the Afternoon” to the de-installation the next day.  I bought it without hesitation as I was even more moved by it in person and she offered a price just under the limit I told my husband I’d spend.  I wondered at my strangely driven behavior since I am not usually so obsessive about anything.  It didn’t hit me until after I returned to the office in the pouring rain and unwrapped the colored pencil drawing from the brown paper wrapping.  Suddenly I was struck, like a two by four between the eyes, with the Ah-Ha moment.  The reason occurred to me  and tears welled up in my eyes.  It reminded me of my mother who died three months ago.  Somehow this artist, Trish Emery, captured a moment in time in her living room that is simply beautiful.   On some level, the level of my soul, the image transcended reality and touched the part of me that has been grieving and aching, missing the mom I love so much.  Words can’t describe it but a picture can and that is the beauty of art.

The meaning I have derived from this visual encounter in the days since I hung it in my studio is multi-layered and I’m not sure I can sufficiently put it into words.  Anybody who knows me well, knows that I love blue and have collected many versions of pretty blue things, including vases.  I love to see light reflections in transparent blue objects and I am drawn to this color for unknown reasons.  Somehow the blue vase in the drawing, being a vessel, represents me (speaking metaphorically now).  The vase only shows the stems of the flowers resting in the water, not the actual blossoms.  To me water is the Source, symbolizing the Spirit, and inside the vessel of our bodies we can’t survive without it.

The pink hydrangea flower lying on the wooden cedar chest, not in the vase of water but outside of it, struck me as a vivid memory of mom’s funeral.  There were pink flowers all around her and she was wearing a pink flowered dress I remember well from her wearing it to my daughter’s wedding on Mother’s Day four years ago.  Mom loved pink flowers of any kind and this pink hydrangea reminded me of sitting on the hillside at her grave the day after she was buried, saying goodbye one last time before traveling south to go home.  Amidst the deer-eaten flower wreaths I picked a few pink flowers, a carnation and a rose, to take home as a memory of mom and our sad parting.  Somehow, the pink hydrangea in full bloom reflecting the ethereal Light is in an eternal state as I fully believe she is and she’s at peace.  Though she has left the vessel of her body she will forever be in full bloom in my heart and in the hearts of those who love her.

One early morning after writing about this in my journal I returned to my bed spent with emotions and fell asleep right away.  I dreamed about my mom and grandma who were walking towards me, smiling and talking to me.  I couldn’t make out their words and I strained to hear them.  I asked them “What are you up to?” but I must have said that aloud in my sleep because my husband woke me up and asked me if I was awake.  “I am now!” I said.  Hopefully, they will visit me again in a dream one day and I will hear the words they wanted to say.  I do know that since her death I have been unable to write and this beautiful work of art was a catalyst to help me express deep sorrow I’ve had to keep at bay in the midst of a busy summer and way too much going on that I have to keep myself together for day to day.  Sometimes grief just can’t be scheduled at my convenience and the unexpected triggers and memories serve the purpose of helping me heal.

Ode to Spring

WP_20140323_011 (1)

The next collage/mixed media piece that has been keeping me busy this spring.  There are levels of meaning here and many symbols but Ode to Spring sums it up the best.  I’m working on another piece now, very different from this, and it is about hope.  I thought working in a different medium might help my writing but these take so long to complete I haven’t had much time to write.  Such is life.

Ode to Mnemosyne

Ode to Mnemosyne

…new adventures in my art in mixed media collage. My grandmother would be proud that her basic sewing lessons weren’t a complete waste of time. These are a few of my favorite things: sea glass, golden threads and beads, flowers all in a sea of blue.

Image

Do not lose hope!

SavedPicture(69)  …like a white feather amidst the rocks of life, do not lose hope for the plans God has in store!  I don’t know who will read these words, but somebody needs them.  From Joy and Strength by Mary Tileston for tomorrow, February 17:

“I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee.” Isaiah xlii. 6.

“Don’t be content with spending all your time on your faults, but try to get a step nearer to God.  It is not He who is far away from us, be we from Him.  If you ask me the best means to persevere, I would say, if you have succeeded in getting hold of Almighty God’s hand, don’t let it go.  Keep hold of Him by constantly renewing ejaculatory prayers to Him, acts of desire, and the seeking to please Him in little things.” Mother Francis Raphael

“Strive to be as a little child who, while its mother holds its hand, goes on fearlessly, and is not disturbed because it stumbles and trips in its weakness.  So long as God holds you up by the will and determination to serve Him with which He inspires you, go on boldly and do not be frightened at your little checks and falls, so long as you can throw yourself into His arms in trusting love.  Go there with an open, joyful heart as often as possible; if not always joyful, at least go with a brave and faithful heart.”  St. Francis De Sales

Of course, it is quite possible that I need to read these words and not lose hope too!

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 196 other followers