Jilly D.

Posts Tagged ‘Sam Warren’

The skies cry

In Anniversary and memorials, Grief on September 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

111111-R1-14-15_015Cold wet rainy. A lot like September 2009.

The skies cry. Winds howl.

Two days passed and grief snuck up Buffalo Hill through the Shindagin Hollow Forest. Like the mushrooms and vibrant fungi I see on my walks in the woods, grief manifests itself only under certain circumstances, but the spores stay right under the surface of the soil. When the days are sunny and dry it looks like they’ve disappeared from the woods, but they are simply dormant. When it’s the rainy season, fungi pop up between dark and dawn. When it’s mourning time, sacrificial offerings spring from the heart.

Looking up from my desk, I see outside lush green leaves of the maples and elms standing in the yard against the forest’s edge. The air is still and the drizzling has stopped. A branch on the sweet maple tree waves.  I watch the tree greet me. I take it in as if it were as customary as my dogs wagging their tails while lying still next to my feet. A calm and fleeting moment. I breathe and see wet green.

No breeze. I look out the windows on the east wall and notice no wind at all. When I look back at the maple, it’s still waving at me. I stand up and walk outside to greet the spirit of tree.

Greenway thru maplesThe dogs accompany me toward the backyard and take off down the lane into the woods without stopping or noticing the waving arm. As I approach the maple, I raise my hand to see if I detect a breeze or feel the wind. Tree waves back. By what magic?

The trunk felt solid. The girth of it did not vibrate or offer any explanation for its leaf fingers waving at me.  I looked up and put my hand under the moving branch to see if I could detect an updraft. Nothing. Houdini had me playing his nimble assistant in performing a magic show. Except there was no stage, but the one on which I walk in my interior life with Sam’s ghost.

Shindagin Hollow Forest

Shindagin Hollow Forest

Over my head flew a crow and it called to me. I followed the bird in flight with my lips, pursed into a frown. When I turned to follow the dogs into the darkness of the tall pines, every leaf on the maple tree stood still. And I shook.

Don’t leave me. I can’t say good-bye. I love you always. Come back, Sam. Come back to me.

It’s Friday the 13th and Sunday marks four years since Sam decided to take his own life. Tuesday, September 15, 2009. There isn’t a Tuesday that goes by that I don’t dread the dinner hour. The middle of every month my belly button bleeds.  When I hear a gun blast, every muscle in my body tenses. Sirens send a chill up my spine.  My mind can control most of the physiological responses before the panting begins and tears obscure my vision. I’ve learned to pull back from a full blown meltdown; at least in public. But my heart and body still know my sorrow.

Indian Pipe under rotting Elm tree trunk

Indian Pipe under rotting Elm tree trunk

It’s been so long that no one mentions Sam anymore. As though our life together is separate from my life alone. I know people don’t raise the subject because they assume it will bring up painful memories. For me or for them, I wonder. I live with all of these memories day and night, awake and asleep. I can’t forget. I can’t forget the night he died. I can’t forget the good times that came before. And I can’t forget the joy I felt being loved by Sam Warren.

Tree waves hello. Or goodbye? The crow returns.  Tears drip from the rumbling heavens. Memories reverberate in the thunder of another storm. Toadstools and moss will carpet tomorrow’s forest floor.

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Two-stepping to Austin SXSW

In Friends, New beginnings on March 7, 2012 at 2:45 am

It’s been longer than I dare confess online since I traveled. South by Southwest is an opportunity to soak up new ideas. New ideas beget new books and immersing myself for ten days in a community of thought leaders seems pure luxury at the same time a smart investment of my time.

You can always make more money but you cannot make more time. That was Sam’s mantra. Time is so precious and deciding how to spend it wisely takes nearly one’s entire lifetime to figure out and act upon it. Each in their own way, in their own season. For me, without Sam, it’s about the love of books. So…

Now I skip off to the Interactiv sessions of SXSW and forego billing hours consulting, editing, running workshops or custom tutorials. There are a few urgent client/author projects I’m glad will keep me grounded in practice these next 10 days. It’s so easy to be swept off into theory space. This is why I so loved graduate school and didn’t entirely feel ready to take flight as a fledging Ph.D. There were still classes to be taken. Still improvements in my writing to be made.

I learned to fly, leave the nest, and migrate with my own flock and change flocks in accordance to weather conditions. Then this old hen took roost and set in her ways. For a long time and learned to live by the moon and stars, sun and wind.

It’s the full moon and the molt is over. Spring without a rooster still brings forth those Easter eggs. Now I’m going to allow myself to get penned into a tight cage of some small aircraft and sent south for the sunshine and warmer temps.

Let it snow here while I’m gone and even blizzard in my absence. When I come home there will be daffodils popping their green stems out and I’ll share my photographs of the Texas blue bonnets in bloom.

Looking forward to Austin. The last time I visited was the first time I met Ruth, senior editor for Swenson Book Development, LLC. Twenty years ago. Suddenly I feel a lot older. Hopefully, wiser.

I watched the video Adam Ellick made that appeared on the New York Times blog so many times I may have broken the link the same way Sam wore out several copies of DVDs with his favorite flicks. Hundreds and hundreds of times I hated that it didn’t capture who he was. Then I kept hearing his voice say one thing over and over again. Because I lived the way we did and experienced life the way we did I can go back into this world and survive. I needed to hear it over and over again. I still need to hear it.

Most of the people in the world are not connected to the internet. They aren’t even connected to potable water or safe foodstreams. People in the first world are unable to produce more than they consume. They are asked to produce personal debt that can be bought and sold by fatcats whose goldplated compensation packages allow them to walk away making money betting against you being able to pay off the balance. They win either way and for working hard and doing the right thing you lose. That system is broken. Time for new ideas and solutions to real problems in our nation and economy.

Sam knew the scam and didn’t need a Ph.D. to recognize what was going on with the American economy [and environmental practices]. He had lots of ideas that I now see so many others adopting in piece or parcel of his larger vision. Our larger vision of  a world that is changed by ideas. Like Thoreau who begged for the seed of an idea because it promised a bountiful harvest, so now I open myself to the germination of sustainable ideas that change the world. Awesome, Sam.

 

Share the Moon with me, Sam

In Grief, The Farm, Time and seasons on November 5, 2011 at 2:56 am

I wish you could be there with me to share the moon tonight, Sam. All the stars are out. But you are not. You made a choice. Certainly wasn’t my decision.

I am at peace, you thought it best. I didn’t agree with your reasons even though I can still hear your thoughts and very few words. Quit while you’re ahead; when others owed you and your debts paid free and clear according to your calculations. No long drawn out downhill. You were done paying your ex-wife for a bastard son. You weren’t going to live to see your parents die. You’d broken both wrists and who knows how many ribs and the skin cancer had come back with vengeance. I thought we had it made on our homestead and it wasn’t going to get any better. The best times stood behind us in our rearview remembrances. But you’d rather die than tell me what was on your mind?

How many times did we watch the movie Titanic together? You fancied yourself my Jack. Love at first sight. Like Rose, I would do anything for you and when the ship finally sank and we were alone in that freezing water, you told me to just hang on and never let go.  But when I woke up you were dead floating in the Atlantic ocean and your fingers frozen in my grip.

“Jack, Jack, Come back!” Rose sobbed on the big screen.

I walked the farm’s hedge rows crying and screaming for weeks two years ago. “Sam, Sam, Come back to me! Please, Sam. Sam, come back to me.”  

You can’t.  You’re not coming back.

Two years later, I am not the same woman you left behind adrift on the open seas and in need of rescue. I’ve grown accustomed to living without you. And it’s okay. Just okay. Okay. Even the new grey hairs and lines in my face show the devastation I’ve experienced since you left me.  But now I’m able to carry on and it will be a long time coming with more changes, and that’s okay too.

I’m doing a lot of things different because I am no longer living in deference to your preferences. I eat Asian food with lots of rice. Work on three projects simultaneously and spread out all over the house. Read books in bed. Knit while watching chick flicks. Take long hot showers. Swing dance lessons. Book clubs. Art trail and community potlucks. Hike the state parks, host friends for brunch, meet at Felicia’s for cocktail hour, volunteer at the library, and participate in local political campaigns. I have new friends found in support groups; I could not endure the loss of your love without help. The grief brought us together, but friendship keeps us together. And I am a better person for it. It’s been a painful process but I learned who my real friends and family are and are not. And I’ve learned about what I need, or don’t, want, or not, and begun to open myself up to opportunities I wouldn’t have considered if we were still together trying to farm sustainably. So I’ve changed. So much so that I don’t know that we would be together if you did come back now and I am who I am today.

And in that awareness, I let you go; slowly loosening my grief grasp on your hand frozen in time inside mine. Like Rose in the movie Titanic, I’ll never forget you. I’ll always love you and cherish our memories of sweet dreams. Sleep.

Sobbing awakens me

In Mourning, Signs from beyond, Time and seasons on October 28, 2011 at 3:37 am

The sobbing wakens me. I’m crying in my sleep so hard it forces me to consciousness and my eyes read the red digits on the alarm clock beside my head as 3:42 a.m. My face is wet from crying and I sit up in bed to catch my breath. I know he’s not here. I’m alone.

And yet he was the only person I could ever feel alone with and not feel lonely. Now I feel lonely, upon reflection. We both sanctified our own solitude and he was the only two-legged creature I could share the experience with in daily life for more than a decade. Like the comfort of an indoor plant or a pet, we lived alone together as cats in a common household. His physical presence a comfort rather than a distraction from my inner self.

It’s as though I am having an out-of-body experience. My unconscious weeps as the sadness seeps through my skin. I am awake enough to know my sleeping-self suffers. I see me laying under sheets, blankets and comforters nestled between his dogs. Even my dreams are disturbed by Sam’s death. It’s like watching sleeping dogs twitch, the way I see myself in the middle of the night’s darkness alone in my bed.

Under conscious control I start to calm my breathing and unclench my muscles. Fists, feet, thighs, arms, calves calm. My mind and body meld back into the middle-aged mush of myself in a flannel nightgown while the first snowfall of the season gathers on the lawn. I imagine him next to me snoring gently.

When he’d breathe in, I’d inhale. I’d exhale in sync with his breath. Matching his relaxed in-and-out respirations would always lull me into deep restful sleep. I’d lie there tight up against him and sink into his rhythm and find stillness, and calm, and the kind of peace I thought only the Dali Lama could know.

The breath. The touch. The warmth. The quieted spirit.

Sam used to say that sleep was just God’s way of letting us practice for death. I think he was trying to tell me that death would be as peaceful and sweet as sleep. In sleep there is no pain, there is no loneliness, there is no want. Or so he thought.

Sobs rock me awake and his absence sends me down a well of loneliness in the middle of the night.

“Come back to me,” I cry. My heart is broken. He’s tried in all kinds of animal forms. Deer crossing my path, squirrels squawking at me, the blue heron and raven who chase me   down for long discussions on walks along Valley Road.

There’s no way to make up or break up or argue or agree with him anymore, and yet my heart keeps trying. One doesn’t forget. Never.

While it would be easier in some ways if he’d been killed in a tractor accident, or hit by a stray bullet from a hunter in the woods, or keeled over from a heart attack in the hay mow. Easier because he would not have intended to end his life which left me without him, alone.

Sam’s intentions cannot be mistaken. It was no accident. He planned it. Had planned it for a long time and had told others bits and pieces of his intent and method. He did not want me to be implicated and made sure it could not be mistaken for what it was. He’d barricaded, chained, bolted and locked every possible entrance.

I only recently have had flashbacks of his wild and desperate calls for help in the final weeks. He was furious at the news on TV. Michael Jackson died. Madoff made off with millions. He made me look up the phone numbers for the tv news hotlines and write them down during the news broadcasts. He’d call up and leave threatening messages. I was flabbergasted and expressed my total astonishment to him for doing it. He’d made calls to Bolivia the winter before to inquire about land there and had likely already put my name on some kind of watch list. My record of government surveillance goes back to my college years when I supported the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador with a campus club. I couldn’t imagine why he’d call and say Madoff should be executed, shot before the people, on a voicemail with a phone number listed under my name. I laughed and cajoled him about his hidden militia tendencies. Now his rage against Wall Street and the corporate rip-off of the American public and the desecration of democracy are called the 99%. Why did he feel so all alone?

No health insurance. The skin cancer on his back was back and it had spread. People owed us money and couldn’t pay because the economy tanked. He was serious when he told me it was best to keep your stock in the barn, not in the market. Sam was giving me the 911, the nine-eleven, the heads up in the most subtle ways. The perfect storm brewed and his inability to say what was going on inside himself is what still hurts most of all. You think you really know someone. He lived inside me; every cell. How could his suicide have taken me by surprise?

I’ve been listening to a new CD by Mary Lorson and the Sobrettes (Amelia Sauter and Leah Hougtaling). The lyrics resound in my head:

“You’d rather die….ooooh, than tell me. You’d rather die….ooooh, it’s just a matter of time.”

We all die. Sooner or later. One way or another.  We’d talked about these metaphysical matters many times. Sam did not want to live through his parents’ passing. He couldn’t’ bear it. He told me so and it was no secret to his family that he felt this way. He loved his mother and father deeply. He knew he had hurt them and yet redeemed himself to them as a prodigal son.

He made his own decisions. He didn’t include me in the deliberations. He lived his life to its fullest and he wasn’t going to settle for less. He kept careful records of hours and work and who owed what and what he owed and in the end, Sam left this world thinking others owed him far more than the handful of bills and receipts submitted to his pauper’s estate. What is owed to Sam Warren will be tallied at the pearly gates if Saint John can do the new math. I know he earned a pair of wings. The hot cancerous flesh across his back formed the outline of where they would be attached under his shoulder blades.

He would not talk to me about it. He would not let me see or touch. he would not go back to see the doctor about it. The broken wrists and ribs and setbacks didn’t seem to faze him. He slept through the pain and the bad parts. He told me everything would look different in a week; just a week before he shot himself. I thought he meant the publishing contract offers for my memoir about our life together; withdrawn on notice of suicide. But in that memory of him thinking it would get better in a week, I loved him even more because he had hope for me.

So long September….

In Time and seasons on October 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

The first days of October have been known to include clouds with snow. The chill is on and the color called out from the leaves against the grey skies. This is the kind of day you call blustery. No denying how time marches on and silence here the past two weeks filled with private grief.

Putting the garden beds to sleep for winter, plant life dies back, and saying goodbye to September is bittersweet. I harvest the sweet memories from past years on the farm. Autumn approaches.

Three years ago this weekend Adam Ellick came to visit Sam and me On Warren Pond Farm and report for the New York Times how we were faring compared to the rest of the world in the midst of the worst economic collapse since the depression.  In that interview Sam told Adam point blank that if he got sick or hurt he would just quit. Adam reported he meant quit the game of life.

Sam said I would be able to go on because of having learned something from having lived this life with him. I nod my head in the video and yet I was stunned in that moment. Less than a year after Adam arrived to find snow on the first weekend of October, Sam quit. I am stunned yet.

Sam had such a great time when Adam visited. He got such a kick out of the young city slicker who didn’t see the boulder on the shoulder of the driveway for the snow. Sam went out in the snowstorm to find the rental car on top of a thirty inch tall boulder. We got the car off the rock and Sam banged out the dents and had a hearty laugh in the blinding snow.

The warmth of the fire in the Ben Franklin stove steamed up our glasses when we came back inside. I put the pork chops on and Sam turned on the TV to watch more bad news. The dogs underfoot and Adam’s tripods, lights and cameras in our faces, Sam soaked up Adam’s attention. After supper he took Adam out to the sunroom and flipped the switch to show off his Lionel train panorama. Twinkling blue eyes and a smile on his face, he played with the train for the fun of it. The backdrop of a first snowfall made the light brighter and our souls warmer.

Let it snow. Let it go.

Labor Day Struggle

In Grief, Holidays, Mourning, Signs from beyond, Time and seasons on September 6, 2011 at 2:06 am

Labor Day. Rained hard all day long. Long face; can’t wipe it off. Feels like the sky weeps. My heart sinks. Another day without Sam; another shitty day. He’s not here to say what everybody’s thinking about this weather. If I had anybody to talk to, it would be his profane voice coming out of my mouth.

Not that the weather matters anymore to my survival. I don’t have to pick beans or corn or spend the days in the fields under the sun and in the heat. I don’t have to worry about the pond overflowing or the lane washing out. The wind can howl all it wants; no windmill tower is going to crash on top of my roof. I can throw my wet washed clothes in the dryer during a storm. I love laundry day and any day can be laundry day.

The weather still sets my mood even if it no longer dictates my daily schedule off-the-grid. The dark grey skies and steady downpour day and night is downright gloomy. No getting around that fact. And the doom descends around me as the day turns again to night. Some holiday.

The grump of grief came out to play. Like this gnome, I felt small and squashed. I shuffled through the simplest housework tasks.

Chit. Another day marked off the calendar. Damn depressing. But today I chalked it up to the weather; sang the blues.

Am I feeling sorry for myself? Yeah. Nobody else is going to. I won’t let them. But I need some sorry. Think I’ll eat some worms. A whole lot of my tears are for what I have had to go through to get to here and now. My wailing releases all that I have had to suffer for so long. The relentless raindrops pounding on the rooftop, I listen and weep with the sky.  

The dripping in syncopation with the rooftop beats makes my home a drum. Its steady tempo gives a heartbeat to my sorrow. Thunder and lightning are the rumblings of emotions and flashpoints of memories replayed in the darkness of day. Oh, let this date roll over.

Melodramatic? Mellow, yes, not yellow. I’m not afraid to admit how I feel in the face of another day without Sam. After two years, it still hurts: every damn waking moment. There is no drama; only a dullness about the drudgery of everydayness. And the point is?

Yes, the existentialist question arises in weather like this. Perhaps this storm is a segue between one scene and the next; a new chapter or a new trail. Or perhaps there really is no point.

Points are sharp and they can be weapons. Rain has no point. It splotches. Snow and ice have points in their crystal formations, but water is not pointed. Water certainly has its purposes, but what is the goal of water? What is water striving for? Water is just water. It is.

Grief is just grief. Morning greets mourning. There is no escaping it.

Working so hard for so long is my way out of my material suffering. Labor Day let me step away from my work and the grief grump grabbed hold of me. Grump took me by the neck. Its fingers tightened around my throat and left me grasping for my breath. Sobbing, I stopped hearing the rain.

When I got cried out, the sound of wetness all around cleansed me and I sensed a peaceful resignation to what is. What is and what will always be and what has always been. Water, earth, wind, sun, stone, fire. These are the elements that endure. Elements of power. What is missing? The power of love; the greatest element to the life force.

I know love’s brutal force and its tender graces; my love for Sam and his love for me. What we had together wasn’t perfect, but it sure was special. The spark, the passion, the deep connection we had is still there even though he is gone. It’s a continuing bond beyond time and space; our love is one of those powerful elements in the universe that endures.

So as day turns to dusk, I imagine us both weeping because we are apart from one another. The whole world and all the skies cry tonight. The fog gives form to Sam’s sorrow; elusive and ephemeral. Walking through the fields with the dogs, I look into the mist hoping to catch a glimpse of his ghost. No luck. Now I sit inside by the light with the dogs at my feet and wait for a sign; for my spirit to find solace. I listen to the quiet rain as night falls. The peace of sleep envelopes me until mourning.

Sunshine and smiles for Sam in September

In Anniversary and memorials, Friends, Mourning, Pictures and memories on August 27, 2011 at 2:01 pm

september smiles

The days creep closer to the two-year anniversary of Sam’s death and I approach it with some fear and trepidation. For nearly a year the pain and grief seemed an emotional abyss; a black hole that sucked me in and the best I could do was hold on with magical thinking to the life we’d had together and all our dreams on the farm. Sam’s death brought me face to face with a darkness and depression I had to know as grief and face in mourning. I’ve spent another year trying to get back up on my feet, falling down several times, even breaking a wrist. But I’ve let go of the magical thinking. I am no longer expecting that collect call from the Sundance Kid in Bolivia.

 My memories are fond and sweet and the ways in which he touched  lives should never be forgotten. Everybody who knew Sam has a special story.  My recollections of this wild man backwoods lover are different from those of his mother, sister, and daughter. His buddies have endless tales of Sam and their rollicking good times together. Sam etched into our common memory the simple joy of summer, barbecue chicken, good friends and laughter.

In memory of Sam I have asked family and friends to join together for a chicken barbecue before summer’s end. My wish is for a day in the sun to celebrate Sam. A good day.

Sam' Warren's mother and sister

The Sam I knew lived a full life; everyday he tried his damnedest to do a good job, make something, fix a problem, accomplish a goal, live out a dream. He and I knew a rich life on the farm he grew up on as a boy. His fondest memories were when he was ten years old. His parents gave him a good start in life and he had so many friends along the way. I only knew him for short time, but I like to think of our years together as his best times. What we had was special, not perfect.  I never thought, honestly, I’d be able to live without him. I couldn’t continue to live without him on the farm. That was a slow reckoning, and painful. I didn’t think I could continue to live without his love and physical presence. But somehow the days continue to add up. I still wake up and do what I gotta do and go to sleep and do it all over again —  without him. I’m looking to bring a little more joy back into my life and that means more memories of the good times. I hope to laugh as we remember Sam and talk about the stories that made him Sam.  He was one of a kind and could always make you smile. He was my sunshine.

sunflower

Birthday Gifts of Memories

In Holidays, Mourning, Pictures and memories, Time and seasons on July 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Sam didn’t woo me with wine, flowers or expensive jewelry. The look in his eye, the smile upon his lips, his hands touching mine; he gave me his heart. Sam’s idea of a gift involves “building,” or “making” or “doing”; not “buying” something for somebody.  

For my 40th birthday he gave me something I had only dreamed about since I was a little girl: a dinner date with a boyfriend.  He had gotten to know me just well enough in the past six months to know that it wasn’t dinner he was buying that night, it was a feminine fantasy he fulfilled.

“I want to take you out on a date for your birthday,” Sam told me a week in advance. “We’re going out for a prime rib dinner.”

 This was my first real date. Not with Sam. With any guy. Not that I hadn’t hooked up with men, but this was an “official date”  in the sense that 1) he asked me 2) in advance 3) it wasn’t going to be “dutch,” 4) and I was expected to dress up and act like a lady. Dating had not been part of my social repertoire.

When I was in high school I recall the dread that filled my chest when my father would answer the phone in the evenings and it would be a call for me.

“Jill. Jill. Telephone is for you. It’s a BOY…..” my father would mockingly call out. A boy who missed class and needed notes or some dweeb who wanted the answers to tomorrow’s math homework or my gay friend, Mark, who spoke German nearly as well as I did comparing our comprehension of the short story assigned for discussion. The embarrassment my father could induce with that mocking tone in his voice still makes me cringe. Secretly I wished for what my dad wanted all along for me: a man to treat me like a lady. My 40th birthday was an initiation into womanhood. A real romantic date.

I look forward to my birthday like a kid who has never grown up even now that I’m in my 50s. Sam’s gifts didn’t come in a box. One year he built a dock at the other end of the pond. That same year he invited my sister and her family to spend the week. Witnessing Sam teach my nephew, Ben, how to fish at dusk is a memory gift.

Another birthday present was the addition to the southwest side of the cabin. It started out as a two-tiered porch. We grilled steaks there on July 16th. He reminded me of the time we had laid in the grass there in the middle of the afternoon and made wild passionate love.

“Do you remember how hot it was? Must have 95 degrees and we weren’t in the shade,” he said grinning. “Remember how Charlie Fields showed up and caught us butt-naked?” he laughed.

“Your butt is the only one he saw,” I reminded him.

The two-tiered porch became a sunroom when he closed it in later that summer with windows he salvaged from the Trumansburg School renovations.

For my birthday presents, Sam schemed up some project to enrich our homestead life. He planned presents that keep on giving.

One year he transplanted blue corn flowers he’d found in the middle of the corn field. They bloomed through the fall and into December. Bright blue.  My favorite color.

In 2005 Sam fulfilled another fantasy: a surprise birthday party. When your birthday is in the middle of summer there are no classroom celebrations at school for your special day. I was lucky to get a bunch of cousins together with a cake for my childhood parties. My birthday never seemed special when it came around.

I never quite got over that until I hit my mid-40s and realized I didn’t care to have any more disappointments in the getting older category. I’d had years of practicing the “I don’t care” attitude and it had finally sunk deep into my soul. I really didn’t want to observe the “day” of being another year older anymore.   

 After a full day of picking beans and produce in the stifling heat for Farmer’s Market and then standing there for hours waiting on customers, I returned home exhausted. I felt older. Sam wasn’t in the cabin. I walked toward the other end of the pond to find him and see if he’d started a fire to barbecue dinner. There at the pavilion was a big gathering with friends and family. Party decorations, balloons, flowers, catered dinner and a special birthday cake. I never suspected a thing and it was a wonderful 47th birthday. He made my day. I don’t need any more birthdays now. And any gifts pale in comparison to my memories.

Time shifting into mourning

In Anniversary and memorials, Friends, Mourning on July 12, 2011 at 11:34 am

A full moon rises with the cast of a pale cheese. The rind takes its color as aging takes effect. And the moon gathers the silver threads in my hair. Every wrinkle on my face is earned; the smile lines around my eyes and mouth belong to Sam. How long has my face been turned up towards his anticipating a serious whisker rub? Twenty one months. The worry in my brow comes and goes with the everyday challenges. Lines form in the opposite direction of the past decade indelibly on my face.

On June 15, 2011, I woke up crying. Twenty one months.

I escaped back into 1892 as a schoolmistress at the Eight Square Schoolhouse, #5 in Dryden, NY for most of the day. Teaching young scholars about flag etiquette and memorizing a poem we know today as the first version of the pledge of allegiance reminds me of Sam’s patriotism. He liked to be called Uncle Sam and there was a slight resemblance between the WWII comics’ image and Sam Warren; if you replaced his welding cap with a top hat.

Reading, spelling, punctuation and grammar. Now those things make up most of my modern day. And I follow those roots back into 1892 and the instruction and celebration of words and language. It thrills me that I might provide a lasting positive impression on a young person’s mind. Every moment I am there in the schoolhouse I remember how much I enjoy timeshifting and what a kick Sam would get out of me in my hightop boots, long skirts and a straight-laced face.

Operating a pump, writing with slates and pencils, using the outhouses, cursive penmanship lessons with pen and ink, recess playing with hoops, graces, stilts, and the swing in the old pine tree bring me back to the lifestyle Sam and I enjoyed together.

Twenty one months.

Discussion of a work of fiction among six local women keeps me occupied into the evening. I dare not feel sorry for myself. Each woman in this group provides me with a model of being comfortable as themselves in the world.

What lessons can I learn? For me to survive, on the anniversary dates of Sam’s death, I need to fill my day and evening with good friends, good conversations, good times. Not to escape from the pain of his loss, but to remember why I miss him so much; and do so within a buffer zone that can absorb the impact. Keeping busy at what I do best lets me remember why he fell in love with me; with who I am. Keeping busy so I can tell him what is happening in the world that impacts me deeply. What stories I can tell Sam remains a mindset I cannot yet shake as I integrate the reality that he is dead.

I think he might love me more today. He loved me more and more the longer we were together. And so did I love him more every day. Twenty one months and I still can’t accept he is dead.

Hunh. That may be the first time I have acknowledged he is dead. Dead.

So why do I cry to the moon and howl?

“Come back, please Sam. Please come back to me.”

Time to stop that, I know. He comes to me all the time. I know him all around me and inside me. I miss the past. Don’t we all?

The 4th of July and wild black raspberries

In Grief, Holidays, The Farm, Time and seasons on July 4, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Hamburgers, sausage with pepers and onions, potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans, fresh fruit salad, watermelon, chips and raw veggies with dips. Picnic today. An American tradition I decided to observe at the invitation of Sam’s sister, Judy. Driving out west State Route 79 I noticed so many little things have changed along the side of the highway. It’s been weeks since I took my old route “home.”  I started crying when I rounded the curve and down the hill to the left turn onto Buck Hill Road.

Heading south towards On Warren Pond Farm used to make my heart race. I would speed up so I could get back to Sam sooner. Today my tears rushed like a river and my heart sank deep down into the pit of my gut. I can’t go home anymore. Never thought this would be a hard day, the grief just snuck up on me.

Just one joy in walking with great niece Jadyn along the hedgerows and teaching her where the red and black raspberries are hidden along the hedgerows. Jadyn didn’t know there were black cherry trees in her yard. Not quite ripe, we tasted some. Not sure Jadyn will be back to pick those. Too sour.

Tiny fruit with big pits, the black cherries are my favorite fruit to forage. Stains of burgundy on my hands and mouth mark the wild pleasure.

I know this land like the back of my own hand. But now I am estranged and alienated from its terrain. Peeking down the field, the cabin gone and windmill down makes the barn and machine shed look bigger and different. The shimmering blue surface of the pond winked at me. I choked back the tears and Jadyn and I took the trail back to her Gramma Judy’s house.

The sun was hot, the grass was tall, the raspberry bushes pricked us again and again. The price of a berry.