Tuesday, September 20, 2016

#SOL 16: A New Geography

from my art journal, 9.19.16  (acrylic paint, deli paper, marker, stabilo pencil)


Early spring I planted pots and pots of flowers and placed them on the front steps leading to my home. Bright red geraniums and variegated vinca vines spilling out of French blue pots. It was only a couple of weeks after Rob had died and late March remained unseasonably warm. One Saturday, with too much time and too idle hands, I filled a dozen or more blue pots with plants.

Something must live.

This evening I noticed how vibrant the geraniums have remained all these months later. They will likely bloom longer than Rob fought to live. That first weekend after we received the diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer, I watched lectures about treatment from Sloan Kettering late into the night, one after the next and then cried off and on while seated on the floor of the bathroom shower, seated long after the water had turned cold counting off the months Rob would likely live. And the only moment of comfort I remember was when I finally thought, "So long as you can touch him, nothing bad has happened."

Surely he would live.


By that April, the need for Thoreau's 'tonic of wildness' rose up and no suburban geography could quell what Rob's death had unseated. In chapter 17 of Thoreau's Walden, he explains,
"We need the tonic of wildness...we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature...We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander" (p. 265).
I live a mile or so from a modest forest and it was there I found myself wandering further and further each day that spring, breadcrumbs be damned, and it was only tired legs that found me heading home when I so wanted to stay lost.

When the world is less familiar there is comfort in what is left unnamed.


Tonight, with autumn coming on and the geraniums blooming red petals like a color-crazed Morse code,  I want to stop a moment and let my fingers decipher intention. What is it I am learning? I want to pause and say out loud that the tracing is never a map. That which is traced is always a system closed and I cannot walk where I walked with Rob before.

Grief is an unexplorable tension--an infinitely wild geography where the logic of boundaries fail. Here there is a language of starts and stops--utterance I cannot seem to hear and yet know to be true like my very breath. To trod a path new to the feet--is to know momentarily that there is no coming back, there is only becoming and though this knowledge hurts, it also is the first moment of grace.

After so much inconceivable loss,
there is no
                going back.

                                 There is no back.
                                 There is no

On the days when the pain feels unrelenting, it is good to stand in this new country, to hold in my heart an incomplete map, and imagine that over that next rise is life pasturing freely.


  1. Your writing is stunning. I hope it carries you to a peaceful place.

    1. Thank you Julianne so much taking time to read and to comment. I appreciate both.

  2. Mary Ann, I wake to the sound of your thoughts and feel a smidgeon of your deep grief. While I can never fathom the depth of your thoughts, I can't help but think that If you but stay lost then you are not fulfilling the dream Rob had for you to live life. As the geraniums spill over with vibrancy, feel the energy of life and continue to fill your days with artwork, reading, and writing to bring breath into your days. Peace to you, my Twitter friend.

  3. So powerful, there's nothing that I can pull out to highlight... seasons pass and it's so hard to continue without our anchors...
    So hard to accept "gone"

    1. Gone is hard to hold on to. You're right. Anchor-less.

  4. I loved this: "there is only becoming and though this knowledge hurts, it also is the first moment of grace." We are always on this quest for grace, one way or another, and for one reason or another, aren't we?

    1. Yes I think so. Grace comes at the oddest of moments.

  5. As I read your words the pain of loss reappeared and bloomed across my chest. It never gets better, only different. Nine years later, still I am lost, but also found in another world, another place. The world I knew and celebrate with my child is forever gone. OH! But the memories! Enough to last me a lifetime! I had to suffer horribly that requisite time with the sharp, jagged, heavy grief, barely breathing, surely not wholely alive until it gave way to the softer, lighter, gentler season of sorrow, a season that I suppose may never end. There will come a time when thoughts of your beloved will bring only a smile to your face, a burst of pleasure in your chest, a reminder that you have been blessed. How strange that seems now, but it will come. It comes to us all. You are one of so many of us now, my darling. I am so sorry...so goddamned sorry that you had to join us. I buried my child, died a thousand deaths, lost my Self and all faith on all fronts, was weak and worthless in every regard, and still...I am content again, I am grateful again, I am with purpose and love and faith again. You have all my compassion. The road is long, but you will find your way.

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. So sorry. Your words mean so much. Thank you.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.