25 January 2015

Hope + Comfort


As is true every January, the paperwhite bulbs are beginning to bloom. Witnessing tiny miracles like this always fills me with hope, something we could do with around here right now. Things are still very sad as I watch my daughter going through the most difficult period she has ever faced. Disbelief continues to be my overriding emotion, and acceptance seems far away.

Besides hope, comfort is another thing you need in times like this. When I opened up Natalie Goldberg's Long Quiet Highway to a random page the other day, the first paragraph I read led into these words:

Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in the other person's presence we exchange our cells, pass on some of our life force, and then we go on carrying that person's body, not unlike springtime when certain plants in fields we walk through attach their seeds in the form of burrs to our socks, our pants, our caps, as if to say, "Go on, take us with you, carry us to root in another place." This is how we survive long after we are dead. This is why it is important who we become, because we pass it on.
-Natalie Goldberg

I always find Natalie's words to be relevant, reassuring, full of compassion and hope, and this time I found comfort in them too. So I typed them up to keep nearby, as a reminder that those we lose will always be part of us. It will also remind me how important it is to live as well as we can, since we will one day be passing that on to others...

15 January 2015

Paper tree

It's time for 2015's first edition of the ROY G BIV photo challenge, so we are once again beginning with the color "red" (the "R" in ROY). My images this month are of our 2014 Christmas tree, pre-"assembly."

The Christmas tree was always one of my favorite traditions of the holiday season, but getting an evergreen home on foot and up fifty-five steps became such a project, and then I always felt guilty having to dispose of the tree in the new year. So, as an alternative, for a few years we made one of tissue paper pom poms suspended from the ceiling fan in a pyramid arrangement that loosely represented a tree. Last year we were in Sydney over the holidays, but my daughter emptied several bookcases to create a tree of books that we draped with beaded garlands and a string of lights. I really liked that one, but it made accessing many of our books a bit of a challenge until we finally got around to disassembling it some time in February!

Last November, as I was hunting out crepe paper to make streamers for my daughter's birthday, I found some luxurious (i.e. beautifully sturdy) red and purply-red papers. Since the holidays arrive soon after her birthday, I grabbed some olive crepe paper as well, thinking maybe it could at some point be brought into the equation, extending the birthday decorations into December. The ceilings in the living room are a few meters high, and I envisioned a second, more intimate, "ceiling" composed of crisscrossing streamers.

After trimming the paper into narrow sections, there were far more than I needed for the birthday decorating, so they sat, pretty little rolls, in a basket. I liked how they were all kind of squished together, somehow reminding me of roses. At some point I got the idea to create a Christmas tree with streamers. We gathered the ends together at the top, suspended them from the trusty ceiling fan, and then attached the loose ends to a ribbon-covered hula-hoop...so there we had it——a lovely "tree" of red, purply-red & olive streamers.

But first, I took a few pictures...

Incidentally, I find red to be a very difficult color to photograph accurately when it is the main color in a composition, so I tried under a number of different occasions before getting the handful of images you see here. Controluce, with the day's later light, seemed to best capture the reds & purply-reds. Then all of the JPEGS became washed out once they were imported into Blogger, giving the lovely reds a pinkish cast, so I resaved them as PNGs. (I include this info because I know others have also had issues with photos retaining their properties in Blogger...the PNGs are a bit darker, but definitely truer to the originals.)



I just wanted to say thanks again for the condolences and very kind comments in response to my last blog post. Things continue to be hard here; it still feels like things will never be the same in our little world, but the support is very much appreciated. Thank you...



And, for those of you who may not be familiar with the
ROY G BIV photo challenge from past years, it was first begun
by artists Jennifer Coyne Qudeen & Julie Booth. Each month is
devoted to a different color of the rainbow, and once we do each
of these we will move on to other colors later in the year. All
are welcome to join in the search. Please visit Jennifer & Julie's
 blogs for links to other participants. Guidelines are here.

10 January 2015

Eighteen years

This post was originally going to be called "Three years," alluding to today being the three-year anniversary of Arzigogolare on Blogger. But instead of taking some time over the last few days to revisit the past & consider the future of this blog, the week took a very different turn from what I had planned. Unfortunately it was not the pleasant, creative kind, where you're following whimsy & finding serendipity. Instead, the week began with the unthinkable news that one of my daughter's closest friends had died, very suddenly and very unexpectedly, of a fluke medical complication.

I have been lucky that death has taken few close to me in the last forty-seven yearsand never a dear friend who was part of my every day. This means, though, that I don't really know how to deal with such things. It's hard enough to comprehend the hostage situations, killing sprees, plane crashes and other tragedies that happen all-too-often around the world, but finding a place in my mind for this quiet, but very intense, close-to-home event has been a terrible struggle...and I hardly know how my daughter and her tight-knit group of friends are managing to get through it. Well, actually, they are the only thing getting themselves through it. They have clung to each other, cried with each other, supported each other, and are beginning to find ways to honor the friend who is no longer with them.

All week I have been trying to understand why I can't seem to come to terms with Marco's death. Maybe because there is no explanation or reason, no logical chain of events: he wasn't hit by a drunk driver, he wasn't doing drugs, he didn't have a terminal illness. He was a good kid. There's no lesson here; he was valued, he was loved. I could try to look at it from the standpoint that he had the best eighteen years that a person could, that he is a vital part of memories that his friends and families will always hold dear. But I can't help but mourn the future he will never live...the future that so many had counted on sharing with him.

And I mourn for his familyfor the younger brother who shared a room room with him, for his parents having to bury their beautiful eighteen-year-old son and all of the dreams they had for him.

I mourn for his many, many friends, and the musicians in the multiple bands he played guitar for. And there's been that core group of friends that my daughter is also part of, nearly inseparable, who have been like a second family to one another, helping to navigate the waters that take some teenagers on a pretty scary journey. I've admired how there was no drama among them, just music & memory-making. At least you can say they didn't waste their precious time together (though I am not really at the point where I can use "at least this..." and "at least that..." to rationalize or find comfort).

I mourn for his girlfriend of the last year-and-a-half. She has been friends with my daughter since first grade, and it has been amazing to see her blossom in the time since she met Marco. They were the couple who everyone assumed would be always be together—the ones who must have given the rest of them hope for someday finding someone too.

In trying to work through this, I realize that one reason this tragedy feels so close to home is not only because of Marco's importance to my daughter and her dearest friends, but also of course because losing a child is the always-present fear of every parent. I have been extremely lucky as a mother; my daughter brings joy into my life daily, and our household is a harmonious one. I will admit that my mind sometimes wanders to what it would be like to lose my daughter—you never know what tomorrow holds, as is glaringly clear nowbut in the light of such thoughts I always comfort myself with the knowledge that she has lived seventeen years fully and beautifully, and that I have had the privilege of loving, cherishing and being proud of her every single day. I know now, though, how naive it is to think that would be enough. To lose her would be unbearable...

I suppose it boils down to this: we don't know which day will be our last on this earth. All we can do—or at least a startis to live every day as well as we can...to recognize the beauty each day holds, and to find & give joy.





...Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

― John Donne, No Man Is An Island - Meditation XVII





I do hope that others of you out there have had a happier start to the year, and may you find comfort in the sadnesses and difficulties that, inevitably, do come. But may they be few...

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