Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 senses

Things I happened to…

We watched a movie last night. We hardly ever watch movies and we never watch tv. When I say never, I really mean never! The tvs all went to digital this month in Australia. We'd been thinking we needed to get a set-top box to convert our old analog images (little people walking along that high wire, all the way to our house! Where they would put up their little sets and move about inside our box, just for us. We always felt so special), into digital (all those people shrinking, turning into ones and zeros, all saying, 'But wait…wait…'), but we never did.

We never bought the box, much less a new television. Ours is over 10 years old. It's a fossil. Where's it supposed to go now? Is there a play park for defunct things, things like walkmans and the egg beaters you whirr by hand? I imagine our tv shyly entering… 'Hello?' it calls. The other tvs wave shyly back. There's a special corner for them, I imagine. Somewhere they plug themselves in…and in the crackle of nothing, there are the ghosts of the people who used to live there, moving about silently inside. 

We watched a dvd on our new computer. Why? It seemed easier, in the moment, to do it that way. And this is how you make these huge changes in your life. One moment you're in your old life, and then, just like a train being rerouted, a click shifts the tracks, and you head into the new. At some point, maybe years later, you go, "Remember when? When we used to watch tvs, when we listened to CDs, when we warmed up food on the stove, when we washed dishes by hand, when all we had were rocks to make fire and the wolves howled outside?"

It was a movie called Moon, a sci-fi film with Sam Rockwell. I'm not a sci-fi sort of person. I'm not a scary/spooky movie person either. I don't like to be shocked or overly nervous. But I'd heard this movie was great, and I'm a Sam Rockwell fan. It was worth it. It was unnerving in this delicious way, listening to the spooky music, knowing (sort of) and not knowing what's going to happen. There's a man, Sam, who is stuck alone on the dark side of the moon (or IS he? Oooh.). There's the grey of the moonscape and the trundling of the moon rover and the visions Sam starts to have… and then it gets kind of surreal. And kind of sad and kind of beautiful too. I totally went with it—I got hooked. I'm very glad I did.

We stayed up too late watching, of course.

One day, maybe we'll look back and say, "Remember? When we stayed up too late, watching Moon? And we didn't care because then we went to bed and whispered to each other as the children slept, as the night crawled into morning? And the last thing we said before sleep was, 'I love you.' Remember?"

I just found a new band. Oh, they are lovely. They make you bounce. They lift you and make you smile. It's easy to love them. Because lift, bounce, smile and love are the things you always hope to have in your day.

Someone commented on this video: "This is what happiness feels like." Don't you agree, now that you've heard and bounced and smiled?

This is just some of the vegan yumminess we've been loving recently!

Porridge with pear, apple and banana.

Home-made muesli with flaxseeds, chia seeds, pepitas, slivered almonds, psyllium husk, and oats, served with banana on rice flakes. (served with four milks—we're crazy that way. Almond, rice, soy and oat—all very yummy and all easily available)

Almond banana fritters served with real maple syrup!

Brown rice with lentil bean mix, sliced avocado on the top. 

Sweet potato and cannellini bean soup.

Quesadillas and Nachos and Tacos—all topped with crazy amounts of guacamole!

Pad Thai—my favourite. Unbelievably scrumptious, noodles and veg and tofu with a magic sauce, made by my beautiful husband. 

And a recipe for you (because I know you'll love it)

Vegan Brownies from the very cool, and very funny Vegan Zombie website:

These are insanely, divinely, yummy. They work with gluten free flour too! We dazzled everyone at my son's party with them, and then a family got the recipe and made a batch for their school fete. How cool is that? It made me very happy, to think of all the vegany love spreading outward.

Winter is truly upon us. It's cold here, lots of wind blowing, lots of rain outside. Heaters on inside, sitting in ugg boots and jackets inside, many jackets (for me) outside. 

But because we love the sea, and because it wasn't raining one day, we went to the beach to feel the wind. 

It was Glorious. 

My children's skin, as I'm cuddling them. When I'm kissing them goodnight and their skin gives off that sweet, sleepy scent. I breathe in and everything is all right with the world.

and See, again.

My children's stories from the Just Image competition!

I love them, and I know I'm biased, but I think you'll love them too.

Frederic Bates, Late lights, 
1963, watercolour, brush and blue ink on paper, 32.4 x 29.1cm

Down Down Down
by my boy

Down down down—it seemed strange that he should fall that fast through water.
Great unfamiliar shapes shot past as he tumbled, head-over-heels, towards the bottom of the sea. The underwater inhabitants watched with curiosity as the alien trespasser fell through their midst.
A stream of bubbles blew out like a cape behind him as he fell. It was like some great monster was hiding in the depths, and with each mighty breath the sailor was sucked further downwards. Like a missile, he sped through the twilight zone into midnight. In the blink of an eye, all sunlight was shut out. Eerie glowing colours swam in and out of his vision.
At that moment, his need for air hit him. It started like a bed of hot coals sitting in his lungs, and grew into a raging inferno. He tried to swim up, up towards the surface, but he knew it was futile.
And then, the light flickered back on again, first as a soft blue-ish glow, then becoming a harsher, colder shade. And with the light came a new sensation, like he was below the monster now, and it was weeping for something lost. Its great silvery tears flowed over his body.
Finally, the need for oxygen became too much. The sailor blacked out. 
Slowly, the young man’s eyes swam back into focus. He was lying on a hard, cracked grey surface as great rivers of rain poured down on him from a turbulent sky. Fog swirled and twisted around towering structures, concealing shadowy forms amid its misty folds.
Suddenly, something swooshed past his fallen body, sending a great wave of dirty water crashing down on him. He cleared his eyes just in time to see a sleek black monster shooting through the darkness. Its great red eyes glared back at him before it was swallowed by the night. The sailor shuddered. Then he heard a voice.
“Oh my god! John, come over here!”
The voice was high and female, and had a foreign tinge.
“What is it? Oh my god!”
This new voice was deeper, but had the same foreign sound.
Someone bent over him.
“What’s your name? Where do you live? What happened?”
The sailor groaned.
“Prithee, good sir, I beseech you; where am I?”
He shook, hacked up a great gob of seaweed, and collapsed again into darkness. 


The Dance Of The Brolgas
by my girl

The sky glowed red above the mountain tops. Underneath the setting sun the pool lay, soft and silent in the twilight.  It was still, reflecting the sky and the bunches of stars that poked their heads out into the world, dimly shining as they waited for the last streaks of sunlight to fade.
Then they came.
Dancing and calling came the brolgas. Waving their wings high, they sang. They shook their beaks and lifted their feet, scattering the water that leapt like tiny fish. The brolgas seemed to sing the moon into existence. Their song was powerful in a simple, beautiful way. The stars glimmered, smiling down at the dancing birds.
The brolgas, five of them, beat their wings and took great leaps in a circle, as the shining sphere of the moon rose into the sky, first low, over the mountains, then higher and higher.
One of the birds stretched its long neck, uncurling it to touch the moon, just gently, with its beak. It lifted its wings and brought them down again, letting out a burst of song.
And the other brolgas raised their heads and watched as the bird rose and circled above them.
Then they too beat their wings, once, twice, three times, and followed the brolga into the sky. The birds flew, giving swoops of song that were filled with the delicate power of the stars and the moon they had sung into life.

and that's it…

(for now!)

here's to finding the joy in every moment you can,

with love from me to you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

so much to share

Boy, my last post was long (and sort of a little bit sad) wasn't it? I hope that you read it all the way through and saw things finished better than they began. Which is so often the case, don't you think?
(And if you haven't read it to the end, then…oops. Spoiler alert?)

You might like to know, and I think it's important to say,

that any sad I feel these days, is much smaller than it ever used to be (because I am learning…that sad is a part of happy is a part of breathing is a part of waking up and a part of me).
It passes more quickly (because I fight it less).
And smiles come much, much sooner than they used to (because I know they're on their way).

I am so unbelievably grateful for that.

I actually have even more to write about this journey, about my complicated companion Fear…and all the steps I've taken over the past 6 months to get better. And I am getting better, I am letting fear go. It's been an amazing and beautiful ride, in so many ways.

But I can't write any of that right now, because I have to make some

Very! Important! Announcements! 


Because that's how life is— isn't it? You sometimes feel all serious and want to address serious issues. Sometimes you get sad and think serious thoughts. Sometimes you have to make important (and serious) decisions. Sometimes you get slapped in the face by sorrow/fear/worry/grief and feel like you want to give up and then you have to get serious about saving your own life.

But in all this seriousness, all this staying focussed, and in all this getting better,

life keeps on happening.

Doesn't it?

Glorious, improbable, extraordinary life.

Filled with crazy goodness. And beauty and wonder and laughter and
surprises (large and little) that make you smile so big you are amazed your face has room.

So that's what's been happening here.

A whole lot of crazy, good life.

For example!

Announcement #1

My daughter has been accepted to be a Young Editor at Youngzine (our all-time favourite online magazine for kids) for the summer (our winter)!

She wrote an essay on being vegan recently and submitted it—Youngzine published her essay, and it generated a huge response from the readers. So then she applied to be one of their summer writers, and they said yes! She's working on her first story right now, and is so pleased (as well as a little nervous, truth be told). I'm so thrilled for her. Wow.

Announcement #2

My son has quietly become a jazz pianist.

He played a gig at a cafe the other day with his jazz combo (getting paid in soy hot chocolate, as all musicians should be, really). When he played his solos, my husband and I were blown away. How'd he learn to play like that?? I've heard him practicing in the playroom, and driven him to rehearsal. I've never really thought about what he was doing; it was his special thing and just a regular part of our lives. Now, possibly for the first time I saw him as a separate person, a musician in his own right. I had never seen him play like that before. Wow.

Announcement #3

Both kids submitted stories into the Just Imagine writing competition* at the city art gallery this year and…

(* wait! More info required! In this competition, you pick an art work to use as a prompt and write a story… it's sort of that simple. The rules state you are supposed to pick an art work in your category—there are four artworks for Grades 5-6, four for 7-8, and so on through high school. Well. Um. We didn't exactly stick to that. My son liked the 9-10 category, and my daughter, who's in Year 4, submitted in the 5-6 category. We did it 'cause we're rebels that way. All of us ninja writers, somersaulting through rules like they're laser lights in a musty museum. Did you see that back flip?!)

…yesterday they had the awards ceremony and

both kids won. Both their stories won "Best Story" for the artwork they picked! Wow. Both kids get their stories published in the paper, get a book voucher as a prize, and will have their stories displayed beside the artwork in the gallery for the next month. Wow. WOW.

Could I be prouder? I don't think so!

All these wonderful happenings (plus reading this great post by Christina) have led me to
another lovely epiphany.

And that is:

My kids are free, this minute, to realise any dream they might have.

They have the time, the support, the space, the resources, the energy

every single day

to be the people they want to be.

They can be journalists. They can be writers. They can be musicians. Right now. This second. Not later. Not when they're grown and done with their school years. Not even after school is finished for the day. Now.

They can be artists and web designers, explorers and Minecraft engineers. They can be vegan advocates and chefs. They can be mathematicians and jugglers and cat cuddlers. They can be beachcombers and cyclists. They can be dreamers and readers and sleeper-inners. They can be in their pyjamas all day, writing novels and playing piano and eating warm pasta at lunch and asking each other, "What would you wish for, if you only had one wish?" every single day, if they like.

They get to live outside boundaries, outside expectation, outside shoulds.

That's their "normal."

Even on the crinkliest, most serious days, this is their life,

our life,

in all its crazy goodness,

wrapped up in surprise and delight.

I'm linking this post to Owlet's beautiful Unschool Mondays

and to Christina's inspiring Interest-Led Learning blog (because her words inspired a comment which is now the central message of this post)  :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A ride and a letting go (about four weeks ago)

It begins with one foot in front of the other, turning circles.
It begins by finding the helmet and finding the shoes.
It begins by getting dressed.
It begins by deciding to ride.

And when I head out, the streets are wet with recent rain. And a neighbour talks with another in front of her house. And two boys run over the grass lawn. And a car goes east as I ride west, to the end of the street, turn left, and left again. The escarpment rises up like a wave. Dotted with trees and mines and careening rock.

My legs work forward and forward, and I feel like roaring because today is a hard day. Today nothing is right, and nothing has been right or will ever be.

I will never shake this. This terrible fear. I will never be able to outrun it. Vines rope around my legs, twine around my ribs, laughing. 

My legs pump. Past the trees and the cars, with the mountain at my back.

I wait at the lights where the freeway cuts through neighbourhoods like a guillotine. People go so fast here, all their lives in the distance; they are chasing their dreams down.

And then the light is green and I pedal on, and now there’s a slight downhill and this is when I give in to my own rising speed. My feet spin like a blur, here, past the corner pub and the old timber house half falling down, over the bump bump of the train tracks. Past the warehouses and almost straight through the roundabout but for a moment’s check. Because here I feel invincible with my own sorrow; I am a ball rolling, gathering speed, gathering force, and as I hit the bike path I’m weeping, leaking so much I have to wipe the tears away as I ride.

I will always be afraid. I will snap at my husband and drive him away because I will always be afraid. I will cry in front of my children and feel overwhelmed without a moment’s notice. I will carry this fear inside my chest always. And the ball of sadness that is me weeping rolls with the ball of fear spinning and burning in my chest, and together, the two own me.

The ride goes on.
It doesn’t take long to reach the ocean. There it is, as always, pushing itself in and out like a muscle. A great stretch of blue, going all the way past sight or believability. Does it really keep going, or is that a myth? Maybe past those freight ships—the ones carrying cars and surprises in containers as big as houses—the ocean simply stops. Maybe all those images from space are photoshopped. Maybe life is a lie and I’m not really riding here.
My feet push on, over and over, in circles around themselves.

The ocean is stunning, as always, but it takes a while for the beauty to sink in. It takes a while for the feet moving and the bike path slipping smoothly underneath me and the waves curling over themselves in a whisper to make any sense. Here I am. Under a mottled sky. Escarpment rising in all shades of green. Feet moving. Body moving. Wind moving past my skin.
At some point I stop crying; I don’t know when. And the hill rises up and the ocean pulses and I lift off my seat to make it to the top of the hill without stopping.

I ride past a lagoon where ducks dip for weed and search for nameless, hidden things. I ride past a beach where dogs leap for sticks and scramble into the water like it’s the last thing they’ll ever do. I ride past people riding, people running. I pass women in exercise clothes resolutely marching forward. I slow down for a small girl coasting on a scooter and wavering uncertainly from left to right. Her brother tears ahead, his foot pumping against the path. “C’mon!” he shouts over his shoulder. His helmet tilts rakishly to the side.
I ride past the new building development. New trees have been planted into the slight hill there, as though these young, hopeful things might make up for all the concrete and the glass rising, where once were only fields and brush and birds. The trees are enclosed each in their own white fence, and as I ride by they look like military graves. Dozens of white stones marking a life, and another and another.
I stop beside a beach. The lighthouse sits at the top of the headland close by, and the café is filled with chatter—people gathered for drinks or a bite to eat, all gazing out at the view. The beach is littered with people enjoying the sun. Which came out somewhere between my leaving and getting here. When did that happen?

This is when I stretch. I stand facing the sea and lean into my own ache. Calves, thighs, tendons, thighs again.
An older woman sits on the grass a short distance away, and watches the surf. She looks familiar—short grey hair, scarf knotted carefully. Looking as though she might turn at any time, walk towards me and say, “Oh! Hello! It’s been so long.”
She gets up, turns and walks towards me. Here she is. Walking to my bench. And in the tiny moment between her rising to walk and arriving here I’m suddenly tight with worry. In this tiny moment lies a lifetime, a whole conversation with myself. I don’t know who she is, this woman who is about to break my ride, my quiet. We will have to talk and I’ll have to think where I know her from. I know it will change everything.
She sits down beside me without speaking and gazes again out to sea. Here we are, we two. I lean forward along the line of my legs and touch my toes with my fingertips. A stranger rests beside me, so close I could stretch a single hand forward and place it on her shoulder.

I walk into the café, and out with my hot chocolate. I head for the wall that runs along the beach and set myself down to watch. I watch a man teaching his son to surf. I watch two small boys discovering treasures in the sand below, charging up and down the ramp to show their father. The man in the sea stands and waits with his boy for the right wave, both in wetsuits like patient seals. The wave comes quickly; there is the release…and now, the catch. The boy rises; he stands on the wobbly sea and takes the wave in. Hurrah, hurrah! He’s invincible.

And he goes out again. Father and son repeat this over and over, together, apart, together. The little boys tear up and down the ramp, laughing. I can’t stop watching them, and at some point their father notices me. I look away, but look back again; I can’t help myself. Their delight fills me, suddenly, with a gust of joy.

It hits me, like wind, like water. It hits like a sudden intake of breath. All this holding on to fear. Why?
Why don’t I just let it go?

It could be that simple.
I imagine myself releasing the ball. Opening up my chest and letting it roll out. It blinks its eyes, unused to the sun. It whimpers a little. Holds its arms up.
Here is fire. Here is burn and panic. I’ve held fear so close for so long; this is the first time I’ve imagined not keeping it warm in the space just under my ribs.
Let it go.
It whimpers, exposed. Begins to hold up its hands. And, just like that, it shifts, and disappears.

Could it be that easy?
I look out at the ocean. I can hear the boys chattering on the sand below. The surfing father and son have come in from the waves and stand directly behind me, spraying sand and salt off themselves in the outdoor shower. I can hear the boy asking his mother, “Did you see?!”
I hear her smile as she says, “Yes.”

I rise. I take my bike, and I ride. My feet move below me. It’s like I’m riding and not riding at once. All is clear sky and clarity. I feel myself moving, and it’s like claiming. I pass between trees and come out to an open field where a couple stand and point their fingers straight up in the air.
I know what they’re seeing. It’s the sky-divers coming to land. I’ve seen them hundreds of times, appearing like specks, then floating down, spinning, floating. But this time I stop my bike. I pull over onto the field and like the couple pointing, I lift my eyes.
They are so beautiful. These people falling. They are afraid and not afraid. They are spinning in an impossible sky. They are alive, alive, alive.
I can hear their hooting. I can hear the whoops and I see them land; I see the hugs and the high fives. I feel the joy, in a rising wave.

I ride on and feel a smile coming. I see a father, walking with his daughter on his shoulders. He holds her small hands with his large. She chatters and bounces. She is up so high!
And just around the bend, past the trees, another little girl is chasing her father down. He is looking over his shoulder, grinning, and she squeals with laughter. Her sound rises and twirls. She shrieks; he slows down and is captured.
“I got you!” she cries. “I got you!”
I pass them in that instant. I grin; I beam at them both. The girl pauses, looks up at me. I lock eyes with the father. He smiles so wide, so brightly. The sun pours in.

And this is my ride now. Feet pumping, my smile unstoppable, light soaring. Fear behind me, left for a time or forever, beside the sea.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

look back on with joy

Last Sunday, my little family went off  to the Blue Mountains, for a boy's birthday treat.

It was SO SO cold there! Amazing that we didn't see Emperor Penguins wandering about, sing-calling for mates, laying eggs in a huddle. We dashed into a shop at some point and bought scarves and gloves. Another moment, I thought my feet might have actually frozen off, and were being used somewhere for an ice sculpture.

It was beautiful, too. Not in the typical Blue Mountains beautiful way, which looks like this:

(There was much too much fog, and cloud, and mist, and rain for that). But beautiful in the way of,

"We're together. Here under the dripping sky, wandering through the swirling mist, off on a sweet adventure that belongs just to we four. We who love each other and never like to be apart. We who are our own four-penguin huddle, singing songs only we truly understand."

There was a gorgeous circus shop to juggle balls and clubs and toss diabolos in (and where we spent much birthday money! The shop was the reason for the trip, and the stuff in it was my boy's main birthday present),

and a cosy hostel to bunk down in (it was so warm and lovely in there. With a fire and soft couches, a big old kitchen, free wi-fi, and incredibly affordable rates. We loved it),

The Blurry Jugglers…
all practicing in the hostel hallway. Gorgeous.

and a fantastic restaurant to eat a yummy dinner in (with wonderful service, and a lot of silly jokes and love happening inside),

and a hattery to hatter about in (so much fun!),

and a book store we always go to whenever we're in the mountains (it's just yummy in there, and you can sit for hours, perusing),

and—in a fantabulous moment of Serendipity
(we just popped into a little shopping arcade to get out of the rain, and there it was)—

a wonderful vegan cafe to spend hours in (literally, we spent hours. Came for lunch, then went to the book store and came back for vegan, gluten-free desert!).


I think this was the only time the whole weekend
my husband wasn't cracking jokes, keeping us laughing,
making us smile the way he does. He was focused on
his Mad Future Vegan Cooking Skilz, I think.

Rubyfruit is so delightful. A totally vegan cafe, with a big gluten-free menu—Bliss. We met the women who created it last year, when we went to the Cruelty-Free Festival in Sydney. That's when we discovered their cupcakes. They are heaven. Then we found their cheesecakes at a pizzeria in Newtown (Basil Pizza—where you can get vegan-gluten-free pizza—pure gold) and did little happy dances then too.

Now, all we have to do is get into the car and drive for oh, two hours, to yum their food up, any time we want. The food is truly delicious. The energy of the place is so warm, and filled with smiling kindness. You feel good just sitting there, and then you get to eat food that makes you Shut-your-eyes-Happy. Could anything be better than that?

Knowing this wonderful cafe is there, is another reason I love the Blue Mountains. I've always loved it up there. I've grown up going there, and remember bushwalking with my parents, falling in love with the pure silken darkness of Jenolan Caves, going up with uni friends, growing up going and going, and now…coming almost every year with my little Penguin Clan.

All my husband and I wanted this year, with everything that has been happening, was for our boy to have a good birthday. To have a day/days he could look back on and remember with real joy.

As my husband was paying for our second meal at Rubyfruit, the kids and I leant against a balcony railing in the little shopping arcade, peering down at the people below. My son turned to me, with his big clear eyes, and kind heart, and said, "Mum. Thank you. Thank you for this weekend. I think this is the best birthday I've ever had."



Joy. Found.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

happy birthday to you

Happy Birthday 
to my beautiful 12 year old boy

(June 7, 2012)

Twelve years! 
what an incredible ride it's been

And look at you now…

hat wearer
bridge builder
hike lover
story writer
book devourer
yes sayer
try anything-er

Look at you!

You are my wonderful.

serene sometimes

Emotions come like musical chairs.

The music stops; I sit. On this chair, I find acceptance. She is gone. I accept. What a simple chair this is; it takes me in like water. You know the kind? When you can walk in and float in an instant without a moment's shiver. This chair feels like no chair and everywhere. It feels serene, like floating. It is beautiful. This chair is where I think my friend is.

Music starts; I move. Music stops; I sit. Here, this chair feels harder. This chair has prickly bits. This chair says, "If only." If only I had called more, written more, been anywhere near at all, instead of all the way across this impossible sea. If only there'd been more time, or more…anything. Regret and longing prick like the sharp tags on the back of a shirt. Useless wishes scrape at me and I start to hurt.

Music starts; I move. Music stops.

This chair. Feels bottomless. In this chair I sit and wail like a lost child: I just want her to come back! I don't want this! This chair has me weeping and broken. This chair is no help to me or her at all. But it's one of the chairs I come to, one of the chairs I sit in as this hard song plays.

Another chair comes. This one comes with stories. In this chair, my husband and I talk about his last dinner with Jennifer and Dennis and their boy, Little J. How Jennifer spoke of the literacy projects she was involved in. How they ate pizza. How Jennifer talked about my blog, and how Little J hugged my husband good night. In this chair, I think of the first time I saw Jennifer, when she had just started dating my friend Dennis. I remember being blown away by how beautiful she was. Then other stories come and speak in turn and one by one they make me smile.

And then, here I am in the peaceful chair again. This time, the chair brings a sense of light, too. A pin point of it, bright and fine. I feel my friend. Here, here with me, is her beautiful spirit.

Here she is. Helping me through the peace, the wishing, the stories, the weeping. All of it.

Today, is Jennifer's memorial service.

Her husband and beautiful little boy will join with dear family and friends to celebrate and honour an incredible woman, mother, partner, daughter, sister, friend. My incredible friend. An incredible friend to so many.

My little family can't be there because we are here. Being here seems ridiculous. Not nearly as ridiculous as the whole idea of her not being. Jennifer knew it was ridiculous and yet, she accepted it, too. Somehow, she found a kind of peace people dream of.

I think of that peace, and it comes, sometimes. It makes me feel…like I'm floating.

In this chair…I feel like she's right here, with me. And everywhere else at once, too, with everyone who loved her. She is holding us together. She is in the stories I think of, the tributes I read on her Facebook page and on her blog. She is in the words her loved ones have told and will tell each other. She is in the memories we have and will keep. She is in the light I will see in the morning tomorrow, when I wake.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

heartbreak / joy

credit: Jason Thomas

It is incomprehensible that you won't read this post. It feels impossible, inconceivable. My brain can't make sense of it, and when it does, it hits so hard my chest hurts. And, after the hurt has torn through, peace comes. Peace and love, still and deep.

Because peace is what you felt last, and love is the gift you left.

Dear, dear Jennifer. You—who steadfastly, lovingly refused to feel defined or defeated by your cancer—passed away on the day of my son's 12th birthday, two days ago. My husband found out first, and when I arrived to pick him up from teaching, he told me on the street beside the car. I came undone then. Roared grief against his chest in the sunshine while children played soccer in a field nearby.

And then we had to keep going. Incomprehensible. We had to continue to celebrate my son's special day—we had a birthday dinner to make, and a birthday song to sing, and candles to light and watch him blow out. We had to find the joy. Dig so, so deep to find it.

We did find it, and we gave it and received it. There was juggling and stories and apple crumble eaten at nine o'clock at night, and my son making us laugh as we sat all together at the table.

The days have felt surreal since. Waves of emotion, peace, grief, love, grief, smiles, all criss-crossing, ribboning against each other.

My son had a party last night, with his band mates. We hosted a jam session at my husband's work, in the theatre there, followed by a game of spotlight through the trees outside. My son was so happy, and so thankful.

The night pulsed—like a heartbeat, like a song. Sound and joy and togetherness, all intertwined. Children donged cow bells and honked saxophones and flitted gloriously through shadows, hiding, chasing, every sense alert, alive.

I floated inside the party, and outside it, watching my son's pure joy, and thinking of you. Thinking how heartbreak and joy can lie together, hand placed in hand.

Jennifer, you would have loved to be here. Your boy and husband would have been in the thick of it, and you…well, you would have been the life of the party. You always brought people to you, you made them know they mattered. You gave love like breathing.

Our lives have been connected for so long. Thirteen years. We met the loves of our lives within months of each other. We, both of us writers, married jazz musicians. They were best friends, each other's best man. You got engaged days after staying with us in Australia, with a ring your husband bought in a town half an hour from here. My husband flew 14 hours to be at your wedding in California when I was 8 months pregnant with my girl. You were at my wedding three years before that. You and I were the same age, had our 40th birthdays within three months of each other. We wrote our blogs and loved each other's words. At some point in all these years, we became friends in our own right, aside from our husbands. It has felt so precious and so good, being friends with you.

I have gone back to re-read your beautiful words. 

Oh, Jennifer, thank you for them. 

Over and over, you write—you call out—the only thing that matters

is to love

To love. To LOVE

You are a writer, were a writer, are a writer. You are a mother, were a mother, were a wife, are a wife. You are, you were. How can that be real, the word 'were'? You are, to me. You always will be. Here inside. Inside your darling son and your beautiful husband and all your loved ones. You are

Here is the last blog post, written by your husband. It speaks of your peace and of your joy. It's a stunning post.

You are stunning, dear friend. Your spirit is so big, so beautiful. It fills the space around, fills me, fills the ones you love. It sings.

I love you,

love you,

love you.

Taken in April, when my husband was in the US.
Jennifer and I were sending huge hugs via text.
Look at all that JOY.