Grounded by the Sea

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Grounded By The Sea

I was going to get away with it—again. This time, the destination for the diversion was the beach. Desperate to be pulled away, I ignored the question rising up inside of me. Instead of asking if I should go, I savored the rush as I walked to the fitting room with the $58.00 bathing suit, that I could not afford, but would make me look damn good. Eager to get it on, I placed the hanger on the hook and slipped off my clothes as I drank in the fabric’s tie-dyed design. It was just like a cup of sugary shaved ice that I craved as a girl. I imagined the person behind the counter of the wooden beach shack pouring three flavors at once. The bathing suit was blue raspberry, lime, and grape just before the colors blended together, before saturating every bit of the soft ice. Even though summer was almost over, I was going. Standing tall in the bikini, staring into the mirror, through it, I was already there. As I stepped out of my shoes, I imaged the bottoms of my feet burning on the sand as it radiated heat from the all day sun. Taking in the cold drinks, sea, and hotness, it was going to be heady. I need it! I insisted. Determined be filled up by the beach, I went straight the register and pulled out my credit card. With $73.00 available, I had just enough to get my fix.

That night, as I packed for the trip, I thought about how sexy I’d be, how much he’d want me, and how who he was didn’t spark a thing in me. Still surprised I’d agreed to go with this man, I tried to put it out of my mind as I found my good beach towel that matched my new bathing suit. I looked out the window to the porch as I made my way from my guest bedroom to my own. I couldn’t, he’d know, I thought as I walked toward the suitcase on my bed trying hard to control my craving for a clove. Pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, aware of my breath, I needed to brush my teeth. I watched in the mirror as I brushed hard enough to make my gums bleed. I filled my cheeks with mouthwash, forced it around, and enjoyed the alcohol’s effect as it burned me. I held it as long as I could before spitting it out. I was relieved—proud—that I didn’t smoke. I was just as pleased that I’d agreed to take that weekend off. With it all temporarily under control, I was ready to get some sleep. I reached for my night guard and bit down against it; the tightness around my molars reassured me. My dental appliance was nighttime protection against the stress that had ramped up during that summer of 2006. I was ready for a break. I hadn’t had a bona fide beach vacation in well over a decade. In the two days away, I’d not only forget about work, I’d get some respite from all of the cumbersome uncertainties, my problems, that continued to mount and, somehow, were not my fault.

The next morning, I was feeling fresh. Excited to get out the door and on to the beach, I shoved my suitcases into my spotless, still new, car and slammed the door. After checking myself in the mirror, I went for the music. Instead of the usuals: Ani Difranco, Antony and the Johnsons, or Johnny Cash, I popped in a CD that, for the summer, had become my pick. KT Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope must have been an impulse buy, not my typical choice—in fact, I didn’t really like it. She tried too hard and left little space. It was, in one word, overproduced, yet I listened. I cranked up “Black Horse and Cherry Tree” as she sang “You’re not the one for me,” while I merged onto I-40 speeding towards his house. I didn’t want to think about being “hot or cold”, just HOT—on fire, please! I didn’t want to think too much about any of the lyrics or consider who I was or wanted to be, but I played the song a few times on my way from Chapel Hill to Raleigh before turning it down as I slowly pulled in front of his house.

I wanted him to be the opposite of who he’d been on our first date. Hoping for intimacy, normalcy, not him, I made my way up his driveway and held my breath as I made my wish. Through the glass door I could see him walking towards me with that haughty daft grin on his face. Something happened in my chest (an Aurora Borealis viewing cancelled due to dreary skies type heartbreak) when I realized that the first date version of him would, in fact, be joining me on this rare and precious event. As he opened the door and greeted me, I hoped he didn’t hear as I sighed and flashed a duplicitous smile. Not wasting any time, he brought his things out to the driveway. My heart was heavy as he lifted his bag and finished loading up the car. I looked away attempting to momentarily get lost in the blue sky with only a few clouds—a sure sign that I shouldn’t back out. We got in, buckled up, and I focused, not on him, but the beach: sun, sand, and sea. We drove two and a half hours, long enough for me to know, without a doubt, that we were not right for each other. Our first date had been unremarkable, but on paper we should work. I wanted us to? I just didn’t like him, Guy, I knew right away, but I was attracted to the tension. I was excited by his aloofness, the distance between us. When he asked about a second date, to the beach, I said, “OK.”

Walking up the steps and through the front door of the faded yellow beach house, it was clear that this former retreat had become an abiding home. It was neat, small, but spacious enough and like the paintings of ocean scenes arranged just so, I was open and ready to walk through. Able to exhale in my getaway, I enjoyed the tour. There was a nice sleeper sofa in the sea foam blue living room and a color coordinated guest bedroom in back. The vintage nautical themed master stood command facing the beach and had its own bathroom that I never got to see. The guest bathroom was between the two bedrooms like the fresh stack of capri blue towels on the toiletry shelf, separating the sand dollars from the starfish. Off from the living room was a galley style kitchen and stools facing it and the focal point—the bar. There was a dining area that shared the living room’s space with a sliding glass door that served as window for looking out back at the neighbors’ small yards. Staring out the window I wondered, Who are these people living year round at the beach? They can never get their fill, I assumed looking at Wade, the homeowner and old friend of Guy. From the few minutes I’d known this seaside dweller, Wade went from safe enough to downright kind showing us around his raised house. Between Wade’s hospitality and his place with the inviting beach theme, it was plenty to feel right at home except someone was missing. I didn’t get to meet her, Jen, because she was away drying out.

Jen’s problem had been mentioned on the drive down, but I wanted to know more. I had questions—all of them. As we stopped at the kitchen, Wade gave us an update. “We talk when we can,” he explained addressing Guy then me like I knew her and the story. “She sounds like she’s doing OK,” Wade said looking down, leaning over the counter and smoothing out a kitchen towel on the bar. “Hope this time’s her last,” he whispered almost looking up at us, slowly shifting his weight before staring into space. “Wish I knew how long she’ll have to be there,” he added, making eye contact, trying to smile, wanting it to all go away. And that was it. There was nothing about why she was drinking so much or why she’d relapsed. Just that the beach was not the right place for her, well, them. “There’s too much temptation with a 24 hour party scene,” Wade admitted. He mentioned them possibly moving and that he might have to sell his old boat. “Wanna see?” he asked hoping we’d agree. With a reassuring smile, I looked at Wade to see which door we’d go out. We followed him down the back stairs, under the house to the renovated boat. I recognized his joy mixed with grief as he pulled back the custom cover to show us his treasure. I’d felt the same unwrapping the tissue paper that covered my new clothes after bringing them home from my favorite boutiques. In his eyes, I saw his connection to it all: the restoration and care. The things that mattered to him were clear. In that moment and for those two days, we were surrogates for Jen. It was obvious how much he missed her, but not her drinking. Missing her because of her drinking seemed especially hard on him.

We grabbed fountain sodas and a bite to eat before the three of us went out on Wade’s boat. It was nice being on the water until the salt air came at me so fast that I could hardly breathe. “I’m gonna give her all I’ve got,” I thought I heard Wade say as he pressed on the throttle. Was he referring to Jen or the boat? I wondered stumbling back. As I tried to find my footing, I looked up at the two men. What am I doing here? It wasn’t right and it wasn’t because of them. I tried to put the uneasiness out of my mind. Looking out at the ocean, focusing on the deep while keeping it light, I didn’t say much and I couldn’t wait to get back.

Later that evening as we got our fill of beer and fried food on the patio of a fish camp by the sea, I felt empty. I turned from Wade and Guy. I wanted to excuse myself but I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to be alone or, if Jen were around, I’d like to spend time with her; she’d understand. Looking out at couples talking, walking hand in hand along the beach, I noticed them looking down at their feet. I watched as the pairs of footprint shaped pools disappeared and it made me want something real. I would settle for a meaningful passing connection, a brief, but open conversation, just a hit of something solid. I needed someone, something to ground me.

After we left the beach and went back to the house, I ignored the tugging in my heart and deleted the scene of a true relationship in my head. I was becoming a master at it: distracting myself with whatever was nearby, and right there was Guy. Maybe it was just me. Maybe he wasn’t so bad. Even if who he was didn’t excite me, I could try to bridge the physical gap. If we kissed HARD maybe that would pierce the tension and I would get my steamy interlude on the sand. I wanted to be satiated for a bit.

As I changed into my bikini and grabbed my matching towel, I saw myself in the mirror, well, my body, not me. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right, and, as long as I didn’t look into my eyes, the consequences were as far from my mind as the work emails and unpaid bills. And I did look damn good! I was going to be a sexy make out star. And I was. It was, as he admitted, the hottest make out session he’d ever had. Our moonlit montage by the sea was somewhere barely above PG-13. It was just kissing, petting, no clothes came off, but it was sizzling. Evening became a late night and we were the only ones left on the beach. The stars were taken over by clouds as he grabbed my towel and shook it off. The fire followed us back to the faded beach house where the tension was resolved, the pressure released. Burned out, I tried to rest, but the emptiness was still there, resonating. Weightless, detached from my body, it was desolation. Nothingness. I had deserted myself by the sea. I was stranded with no night guard to protect me. Abandoned and dark, I was the dismal nighttime beach drifting off to sleep.

The next morning, it was rough facing the day—especially the guys. I had a headache and snuck into to the kitchen for black coffee to help me fain any feeling other than despair. After a few cups of joe and a day’s worth of Adderall, I was able to join the world, including Wade and Guy. I got ready and packed my bags before the three of us went out for an early lunch at a seaside dive.

The place was empty and I could feel Wade anticipating the same as we talked about leaving. I wanted to give the men some time alone and I needed a moment by myself so I walked out to the cloud covered beach. It felt right, with it just me. The bottoms of my feet did not burn against the sand. My shoes stayed on. The bathing suit, that barely got wet, was packed away with dirty clothes. I did not bring my towel. There was nothing to place in the soft sand. I did not sit, look out at the ocean, and lie back with my eyes closed seeing only red. It was all grey. Sober. A slight chill came over my skin from the breeze and sticky air. I kneeled and looked down hoping to find something to hold and take home with me. I noticed a tiny grey and white shell, already with a hole in the top. Even though I hadn’t done creative work in a while, with the shell in hand, I wanted to make something again. I would transform the shell while keeping her the same. Tiny and easy, I could see the piece resting beautifully in silhouette. Understated, natural, nothing showy, I envisioned. Just simple and honest. In that moment of clarity, it’s all I wanted to be.

March 1st, Making it Through

Mom and Me

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March 1st is special. Making it here means that I have–one again–made it through the hardest part of the year, winter. Since Mamaw passed away in 1989, I’ve dreaded Christmas and, since living in Alaska, I’ve struggled with winter. November through February is a tough time. “Just hang in there till March 1st,” I tell myself every year. Well, I made it! Again! March 1st! Here we are!

As good as I am at connecting things, it only struck me just today that my special day for making it through the dark period is also my Mom’s birthday. Since she passed away in 2003, I haven’t done much to acknowledge her birthday. March 1st has meant that spring with all the sunshine, warmth, and goodness is upon me. It’s my day of celebration for making it through the tough time.

Today, as I was looking for an old photo to go with a story I’m working on, I came across a birthday card from Mom. The card was from 1989, a front runner for Hardest Year of My Life. Mamaw (Mom’s mom) had suddenly passed away earlier that year and things at home were precarious, at best. I was in shock after Mamaw passed and there was no solace to be found anywhere especially at home. Seeing 1989 on the card brought up all the feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, and heart-being-ripped-out pain that I was feeling. 1989 was a bad, bad year.

Before finding this card today, I was waiting for a story to come to me, something to help me convey how thankful I am to have not only survived all the difficult things I’ve gone through, but how I am a better person for having experienced all those things. We don’t grow without struggle. This is something I didn’t understand until these past few years as I’ve chosen to go outside my comfort zone to get to the extraordinary things I knew were waiting for me. Growing up, I didn’t have a choice, but I do now. I could have played it safe and stayed put in an easy place, but that wouldn’t have been my life. It would have been me living someone else’s life. My life has afforded me opportunities to forgive big stuff and to learn what happens when I pray for my eyes to be taken from worthless things. It’s so good to be here. I’m me, the real me! I’m not someone who wants the white picket fence or happily ever after. I want realness, risks, and raw truth telling. I want the courage to say, “God bless you, but kindly get the f*** out of my way” to anyone trying to tell me I can’t live my dreams. Even though I still have work to do, I am living my dreams, basking in the warmth, and never dimming my light. I’m finally loving myself and I have such amazing love in my life.

I read mom’s message again as it fully reaches me for the first time today. She tells me that my struggles will make me into the person I have become. Here’s what she said:

7/30/89

Dear Dana,
I’m sitting here thinking how our lives have been changed during this past year. I’m sorry that your home life has not been the security and strength that is so necessary for a good foundation in life, but I know with your determination and intelligence that this will not be a stumbling block for you but a step forward in your endeavor for your goals.
Always reach for your goals, don’t look back, go forward and when you reach that mountain top be proud of your accomplishments. I know you will make it. Always remember that no matter what happens in any ares of our lives that I love you very, very much. You have been a blessing to me and I am so proud of you. Keep up the good work. Always keep God first in your life, remember He is always there for you and He will and can carry you thru all phases of your life if you will just let Him. Happy Birthday, my sweet Dana. I hope this is a wonderful year for you. With all of my love, Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom! I made it through! And this is going to be my best year yet!

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If you are struggling, it sucks! I’m not gonna sugar coat it. It is painful. I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. Please also keep in mind that something good is on the other side. You will make it through. Peace and love to you, Dana

Mamie Flower Necklace

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Mamie Flower

Dean Martin was near and dear to Mamaw Mamie’s heart, but, after Jesus, she held only two things sacred: time with her family and cleanliness.

When I was young, we would drive to Eden, NC most Sundays to visit Mamaw Mamie. After we pulled into her gravel driveway, as soon I could, I’d get out of the car, make my way up her front porch steps, and wait for her to come to the door. Wearing a simple house dress and a spotless apron, she would greet us with the same pure joy radiating each time. She smelled clean and sweet. I’d wrap my little arms around her and squeeze her tight. She felt like a cross between a stick of soft butter and those melt in your mouth biscuits she made. She was warm and comforting.

On the surface, there wasn’t much firm about her. She was almost blind, a widow by the time I was born, and, well, about as loving and compassionate as a person could ever be. She was truly Christlike. A print of the Last Supper hung on her wall. I’d seen that print in lots of other places, but when I was at her house and looked at Jesus, I really saw Him. I saw Him through her. She was my best example of Jesus’ love. Through the years, Jesus and I have had a strained relationship, but Mamaw Mamie’s version of Him has always been with me. I can see Him now with His arms outstretched, eyes cast down, not judging, just loving me. The energy at her house was different from that at home. Mamaw Mamie’s house was a holy place. There is no doubt that it was because she spent so much time reading the family Bible (that she used to record all of our names and birth dates) and praying for all of us, her family.

Sundays we got together at her house. Those that couldn’t make it would often call and we would all talk to them on that heavy old rotary phone of hers, but it was usually a full house. After the big eaters arrived and we had lunch, the women would stay inside cleaning up and the children and men would go out on the front porch. Mamaw Mamie had a traditionally Southern front porch with a swing, rocking chairs, and steps that led down a short distance to the road. There was good concrete, next to the quiet street, for sitting on while catching ants in empty medicine bottles and picking tiny flowers. We knew better than to bring the ants in, but we would repeatedly attempt to bring in some of the tiny flowers we picked for Mamaw Mamie. That’s when we we’d get the chiggers talk. Chiggers were mysterious creatures that apparently lived on flowers in Mamaw Mamie’s yard. I never saw a chigger and wondered what kind of bad experience she must of had with them.

Usually, when I showed her something, she’d say, “How ‘bout that!” or “Isn’t that somethin’!” It was different when a chigger infestation was on the line. “Oh, Lord! Go put those back outside!” followed by a sweet request for me to wash my hands. I would go back out, past the front porch, and toss the flowers in her yard. I’d make my way back up the porch, into the house past the heavy old rotary phone, and through the back bedroom to the only bathroom in the house.

I secretly loved washing my hands at Mamaw Mamie’s house. There was ceremony involved. It wasn’t just washing my hands, it was washing my hands thoroughly (I learned the word thoroughly right there at her bathroom sink) with warm water while scrubbing them vigorously. There was as special blend of diluted lysol and water beside the sink that was used as an after rinse to kill any remaining germs and she always had a clean towel available for drying our hands. I accomplished something each time I washed my hands at Mamaw Mamie’s house. I had communed with cleanliness and a change had come over me.

After a successful and fulfilling hand washing experience, I might find myself melting candles onto napkins with my older sisters, watching The Wizard Of Oz on that TV that still ran, or flipping through the National Enquirers that Mamaw Mamie kept for stories about Dean Martin. After some time, I would tire of the art, movie, or literature and we would start loading up.

Saying goodbye took a really long time. It was exhausting and sweet. My favorite part of the goodbye ritual was going in search of something in Mamaw Mamie’s front bedroom. This was never done alone as it was a guided tour into an inner sanctum. It was the room that held all the things that were less Mamaw and more Mamie. The tour started with Mamaw Mamie going to get the key from a hidden spot. It took her forever. I waited right up at the door, as close as I could get to it. My imagination was already in that room as she placed the key in the keyhole, turned the key, and opened the door. Finally, the door opened wide enough so that I could follow them inside. We entered with reverence and, although I obeyed and mostly kept my hands to myself, I wanted to run my fingers along the chenille bedspread, look in all the drawers, and open every little box. That room had a texture different from the other rooms. Mamaw Mamie’s front bedroom had its own energy. Whatever it was that she was looking for was never the thing, it was just a MacGuffin allowing her to reminisce about her life. Mom and Dad would comment on something, a photo, a figurine, a piece of furniture and there was always a story, albeit sometimes short. The shorter the story, the more I wanted to know. Maybe it’s because I was too tired or too distracted that I don’t recall any of the stories, but I did feel them. Her stories were young, a window into who she was before all of us came along. The light that filtered through those thin white curtains and filled room was the same light I saw come through her as she shared, visiting places she didn’t often go. Some of the stories made me wonder about that red lipstick she wore when we took her out somewhere. Was she wearing that same shade when she was a younger Mamie? Back in the day, did she court a man as handsome as Dean Martin? What did Grandpa Roy look like when he was young? Was he her Dean Martin? I’ll bet she let him bring her flowers.

Today, I’m little again and back in that front bedroom standing next to her. Feeling the tufted fabric against the back of my hand, the room’s energy fills me. I see a sepia-toned Mamaw Mamie looking at a Technicolor trinket, allowing herself to be there, wherever it was, again. Mamie’s lips begin to color red and her a tall, dark, and handsome man appears. Music plays in the distance. A tiny flower blooms, her soul lights up. She picks the delicate pink flower and lovingly presses each petal against the page of a bound wax paper book. She carefully uses masking tape and a grease pencil to write the date, location, and the name of the handsome man she was with. She closes the book, places it in a special place in her heart as her hand spreads across her chest. Her spirit dances as music fills her front bedroom, her soul, Mamie…

Like a flower bending in the breeze

Bend with me, sway with ease

When we dance you have a way with me

Stay with me, sway with me

The Year of the Slop Bucket

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Mamaw kept the slop bucket under the kitchen sink. The bucket, the ritual, it was all curious to me. I didn’t understand it, how waste thrown at the edge of the garden was going to help that garden grow.

It was a just a mess and extra work for Mamaw. She’d have to get the bucket out from the cabinet, walk it down the back porch stairs all the way to the garden, and sling it. Splat! Just more debris on top of the shriveled up, rotten stuff from days before. The sight, sounds, and smells I remember well like so many other things with her including the bright green leaves from the radishes poking out nearby. Mamaw would help me pick and wash those pretty red root vegetables. I liked everything about radishes: their color, size, taste and special little spot. They were located in their own mini garden at the edge of the big one. That small garden, like Mamaw, was there just for me. The two gardens, the slop, Mamaw, and me were all there together under the persimmon tree.

Black and squashed, most of the ripe, fallen persimmons looked like the old rotting waste that lay at the edge of the garden. Sometimes, Mamaw would collect a bunch of just ripe persimmons and make a pudding. It was old people’s food, but I liked it. It was sweet and something you couldn’t by at the store. I only wanted the crunchy corner pieces, but I’d eat some from the middle if I had to. I liked watching her make it. That wooden masher and colander were vintage, like her and her food. Taking a bite out of Mamaw’s pudding, I’d think about the black smashed persimmons down by the garden and the decaying slop. It was honest, real, that decay and growth. Even though it seemed strange, I knew where it came from. It was as authentic as anything I’d seen in my young life.

This past year, 2015, was the year of the slop bucket for me. It was real, raw. Stuff got dumped on me and I dumped stuff. I discovered mini gardens still growing. I found comfort with the decay as I enjoyed the sweetness of life. I’m getting my hands dirty again and sinking my teeth into my truth and relationships. Mindful of the cycle, growth and death, I’m living like I want to die, with dirt underneath my fingernails and a bit of my husband’s flesh between my teeth. There’s more dumping to come in 2016. I’ll shed more layers and choose to become more vulnerable as I let go. It’s real work with so much more to be done. I’m rolling up my sleeves and salivating cause 2016 is going to be a bumper crop!

Memoir Necklace, Chapter 1

 

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It all begins with heart, where I feel you and she feels me. My heart knows the story. It is the keeper of my memoir.

Mine is a bleeding heart. Sanguine, it becomes like the surface of the moon. I find it covered with craters from the blows and dusted with rock formed from that which, only yesterday, flowed from deep inside of me. With no air to breathe, I return.

To recall the love that stitches together my life, giving hope, examples, and art. Buttons mending the wounds. Watching her sew, I’m there, lost in reverie.

Running my hand along the seams, I reach the basin left by lemon drops on my soul. I tell my friend how she makes me feel. Did she get it? I don’t know. That precious, scorched space, once safe, did fill leaving only a trace.

High above the mountaintops, I breathe in days and hours spent in meditation and prayer after my heart was finally forced open and soothed with love. Prepare me, God. Give me strength and courage to live and be free. Let love sustain me when the air is thin. It has. It will.

Smooth. I feel the tiny space I held open for love, now, fused with goodness and light. Stronger than before, it was well worth the wait. I am saturated. My heart is lush. Tender. Ripe.

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Each sterling silver and 14K gold bead used in this necklace is handmade and designed just for this piece. The entire necklace is covered in a patina that ranges from heavy to light. The metal beads are wrapped in with 1.5 mm to 3mm labradorite beads. Some of the handmade beads are tiny like the one, here, on top of my finger.

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Human Heart Bead-front

This sterling silver bead is slightly left of the center of the necklace. It is the focal point and the largest of all the beads included in this necklace. The human heart bead turns over to reveal the backside which was designed to look like the surface of the moon.

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Human Heart Bead-back/surface of the moon side

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Buttons and Stitches Beads

These small oval and short bar beads are made of sterling silver and 14K gold. They are included throughout the necklace.

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Lemon Drops on my Soul Bead-front

This bead is sterling silver fused with 14K gold. A droplet was cut into the sterling silver bead and 14K gold was fused at the opening. On the front of the bead, the droplet form remains. The 14K gold can be seen on the back of the bead.

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Lemon Drops on my Soul Bead-back

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Prayer Meditation Bead-front

This one is less obvious than the others. It is sterling silver with 14K gold fused to the top. I see a person in prayer covered in a prayer shawl or a blanket. Her arms are wrapped around her.

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Prayer Meditation Bead-back

The back side of the Prayer Meditation Bead is sterling silver. The raised mountain appears shiny and contrasts with the dark patina.

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Fused Heart Bead-front

This bead was made using the same method I employed with the Lemon Drops on my Soul Bead. Instead of a droplet shape, a heart was cut from the sterling silver bead. With the Fused Heart Bead, the 14K gold can be seen on the front and the back of the bead.

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Fused Heart Bead-back

Thank you for taking the time to read about this necklace. It is special to me.

Johnny, Laurie, and the bees

My work

 

People often ask my why I work with these tiny beads. I’ll tell them that it’s meditative, often really quiet. With the work, I find lots of free association, deepest desires, memories, and prayer. I thought it would be neat to write something to help folks understand what it’s like for me. So, here you go:

I work and find what’s there, what comes to me. Each bead held, wrapped is a prayer I send up:

peace

gratitude

bees

the crying child in the distance

my dad

being with grief

my sweet, witty husband

his daughters

their needs

the tree outside my window

the countless pink blossoms

being here

being present

being at peace

BREATHE

those whom I have loved

those I have hurt

those who have hurt me

release and

BREATHE

I am sorry

I love you

forgive me

thank you

forgive

forgive

forgive

BREATHE

I belong here

doing this

now

I am worthy

I know now

years looking outside

finding it within

this is my intention

to create to be alive, fully awake

and help her, the one who will wear this, to also know

to find new life

to claim her worth

to heal her pain

and know she is loved

loved

loved

BREATHE

Johnny Cash and why he wore black

For all the prisoners who have long paid for their crimes

still there because she’s a victim of the times

these times

BREATHE

we are all worthy

set us free

help us set ourselves free

help us find our keys

KEY

Laurie

how kind she was to me

our backyard

green grass

swinging in the hammock between the big trees

peace

gratitude

bees

Dear God, I give you all of these.

Reach for Me

Daddy's Hands

Lying awake too early this morning, I stare up, into the darkness. My mind is unable to reconcile all the things that are happening, the new uncertainties. In bed with my husband by my side, to my left, I feel his warmth. Unwilling to wake him from his sound sleep, I gently offer my right hand out from under the sheets. As my desperate mind struggles, my soul reaches for help. With my palm turned up, God, the Universe, knows that I’m in need. Maybe, especially this morning, one of those who have passed will come take my hand, reach for me. I feel a coolness in my right palm. Maybe it’s the AC, the tiny fan beside of my bed, or Mamaw, Mom, Mamaw Mamie, or the one who just recently passed, Dad.

I think of Dad, his hands, and how he used them. The old home movie of him making mattresses plays in my head. He’s so handsome and strong. I recall his special way of holding his props, coffee cup, cigarette, and keys, as he paused to watch birds eat a few seeds. I see his manicured fingers pulling the lawn mower up the steep bank in front of our house. I remember him popping the hood of my car to check the oil. Each time three dips and wipes to make sure he had an accurate read.

My mind goes back to just over a week ago. As Dad lay in his hospice bed, I admired his handsome hands that I held in mine. I noticed that my nails had gotten long, which only happens when I haven’t been doing the things I should. I considered my life, creative work, and why I’d placed so much on hold. I wondered, did he ever do the same? “Daddy, did you ever want to be and artist, or do anything creative?” I asked. “Yes,” he said, “I liked to draw horses when I was young.” That was his simple response. With those few words he told me a lot. He was a bit of a dreamer, much like me. We both love being outdoors and prefer buzzing, living things with wings to those that talk. I think of how strong and gentle he was, how he paid attention to details.

This morning, I imagine Dad drawing pictures of horses as he longed to be out, free. For him sanctuary was a blue sky, green grass, and colorful birds in the trees. I daydream for him. Dad quietly asks the horse to come down, gently reaching his hand out to barely pet her nose. He whispers to her, “Shhh, shhh, it’s ok.”

As the sun comes up, my husband, reaches for me, and pulls me in tight. I embrace him. With my right hand clinging to his arm, I feel his warmth, his life. I know that it’s all unfolding as it should. My husband and I are not alone, our needs will be met. There is comfort in his arms.

I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you

I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you

I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you

“Forgive, forgive, forgive, Dana,” Graciela would say while gently pressing her fist against her heart. As I was choking back tears, exhausted from the storm inside of me, Graciela would repeat it over and over again. Telling me her story of forgiveness, my Colombian angel’s eyes filled with love. The words she spoke in her thick, soothing accent were honey on my wounds. As Graciela held a safe place for me, I performed my hurt, pain, fear show detailing all of the uncertainty, unknowns arising out of my sudden life change, my move to be with my now husband, Gary. I was at Graciela’s home, sitting across from her, looking for answers to figure out if I would batten down the hatches or run away. Being uprooted was making me come undone, or I thought. I had no idea that the hurricane stirring in me had little to do with my move and everything to do with the fact that I had not forgiven my mom.

I sat listening to Graciela and cried hard. It was full bore ugly crying. She found something for me to cry into as I ran out of the tissues that I had packed for myself. There were so many tears. As I sat across from Graciela, the tears streaming down were not as much for the little girl Dana morning the loss of what she, I, never felt from Mom. I cried most of those tears years ago as I was preparing for and going through EMDR therapy. My former partner, David, did an incredible job of holding a safe place for as I morned the loss of a childhood that never was. The tears I was shedding in front of Graciela were the start of me finally letting go of the resentment and bitterness that I harbored for my mom. Graciela’s “forgive, forgive, forgive” was starting to get through.

Seeing Graciela’s bright eyes and being around her light encouraged me to forgive. I was fortunate to see Graciela many times, often at her daughter’s home where I was staying. One day, Graciela gave me a card that read “LO SIENTO, TE AMO, PERDONAME, GRACIAS” on the front and “I AM SORRY, I LOVE YOU, FORGIVE ME, THANK YOU” on the back. She told me to keep reading it over and over. She said it would help me. During especially difficult times, when I felt powerless over the storm inside of me, I would pray, asking God for help, pull out Graciela’s card, and repeat, “I am sorry, I love you, forgive me, thank you.” Sometimes I would say it to myself and sometimes to Mom. I’ve kept the card close since Graciela gave it to me last fall and I often hear her voice, “Forgive, forgive, forgive, Dana.”

I was only a few months ago, soon after Gary and I got married, that I felt the burden of unforgiveness lift. It was a powerful summer day when I told Gary that I felt as though I had forgiven my mom. Amazing things started happening right after I embraced my new state of consciousness. By forgiving Mom, I was able to shed an old version of myself and, with the newness, extraordinary gifts have arrived. The release of the resentment and bitterness has calmed the storm and allowed space for a previously unimaginable Love. I am opening more and more each day as the dust settles and I go deeper to clean out other, often old, areas of my life. I look for what I still need to forgive and let go. As I do, I feel lighter, lifted above all the years of the old me. This new version of me looks forward to continuing the work of cleaning out and letting go. Lighter and lighter, without all of the old burdens, I have a new perspective. Up here, the air is clean and clear. It’s possible to breathe easy, now.

Thank you, Graciela, for sharing your love, your story with me. I am forever changed.