Saturday, April 23, 2016


It's a hard time of year. My late mentor's birthday is less than two weeks away; it's also the anniversary of his death. He's only been gone three years. Grief has been surprisingly durable. I hate the way late April casts a shadow over everything now - as we get closer to the date, the events of that morning suddenly spring to mind: how I looked out the kitchen window as I got the news and wondered - hoped - if he'd seen that beautiful sunrise. How thin and airless the atmosphere felt in the days and weeks after, a sort of surreal unmooring from gravity. How, for many weeks, it still didn't seem possible. The flowers I'd brought over 2 days earlier. How I'd asked him to eat one of them - a sacrament. How I refused to say farewell, and instead offered love and gratitude.

Any one of these memories - to say nothing of a flood of them - and I'm suddenly weeping. It happened to me this morning during my workout! It's very hard to finish an aerobic workout on an elliptical when your breathing suddenly becomes gusty with sobbing.

But I finished. I stepped out into the morning and sat on the porch step to cool off, my feet on the concrete, still wet from last night's rain. I looked to my left and saw this: one of the Giant Solomon's Seal plants we just added to the garden, sparkling with raindrops. And my tears stopped, just like that. I grabbed the camera so I could share it with you.

I don't understand this strange power that the natural world has over me, but I also remember that when I finally said, "Enough!" and demanded a weekend off to grieve (my mentor died just weeks before my dissertation defense, during the final editing push and my advisor had insisted I could NOT stop to grieve until it was done - fearing, I'm certain, that I would lose momentum and miss my deadline), I spent that weekend in my garden. And it was the first time in weeks that didn't cry - not once. I just worked, quietly and steadily, in the sunshine - weeding, watering, pruning, tending.

I don't understand it, but the natural world makes me whole - even when I am most broken.

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