Monday, September 30, 2013

life is for the living

The sun rose this morning to a beautiful fall day. Quite perfect in fact. Perfect despite the shearing pain that has sat at the back of my throat for the past 7 weeks. Seven weeks ago today I held Winona in my arms for the last time. Memories are everywhere; the trail she left on my belly, the smell of her hat boxed up in my room (in hopes that the smell never leaves it), videos and pictures. These are all we have left from the five days life gave us.

Sometimes, even when the sun rises to reveal a gorgeous fall day, I hate life for taking my daughter away. I hate that I was that 1 out of 10,000 people to have lost their child to Trisomy 13. I hate that all around me are people with healthy babies, siblings, families. I hate that I have only a memory left of my daughter, a memory so small it feels like it could just slip away. I fear that my memory of her, held in my hands close to my heart, will grow weaker until it slips through the spaces between my fingers. And then what will I have left in this life?

My mom told me that "life is for the living." Life is breathing, building, loving and trusting that things will work out as they should. Life is living each sunrise that you are given, acknowledging each token of hope. Life is also vulnerable to pain. We all experience pain and loss. It is figuring out how to keep on when life takes away. We are the living. Life is our gift.

"I feel the equivalence of pain and beauty, how each precipitates the other. I realize that its this paradox that makes me love the world; its this that makes me want to pinion my own tiny scrap of time or to hold my life in my arms as much of it as I can gather, like daisies." excerpt from the book Shadow Child, an apprenticeship on love and loss, by Beth Powers

Monday, September 23, 2013

the uselessness of nostalgia

Nostalgia was a word I always battled with in graduate school. I would throw it around unaware of the weight it would bear, especially when using it in the presence of my art history professors.  In her book On Longing, Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Susan Stewart looks at our desires and the "social disease of nostalgia," where  the present is denied and the past takes on an authenticity of being. Nostalgia is a sadness; a longing for something that is inauthentic because it is not part of a lived experience. It looks towards a utopian past, which only exists in an ideological reality. The point of desire that nostalgia seeks is the desire for desire; an absence of the mechanism of desire. 
I just returned back from a weekend at home where my youngest brother was married. My parents farm always hits a soft spot with me, especially in the fall. It is nostalgic. A very sentimental longing for the past; memories of childhood on the farm. 

While my parents farm is one of my most favorite places to be, the present is not. I have to constantly remind myself to be present, even in the midst of pain and suffering. I want to fast forward to another time or go back to the past before Winona. While I know that I am wasting my days, hours and minutes thinking about months from now and months ago, anxious energy just keeps me moving away from today, from this very minute. The uselessness of nostalgia. Nostalgia directs us away from the present and accentuates the reality that ALL things are temporal. None of us have what we have today forever, nor will we continue to have what we had forever. So is it possible to just watch and listen, taste and smell, all that we have this very minute?

"May we go back, then, to the floor of pebbles beneath the water and the fish in the sunlight's ripping net. . . . and watch?"-Alan Watts

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I should have mentioned in my previous post (up in my tree) that the tree I sit up in is a deciduous tree. An important distinction to make because these trees are ever changing. They offer a different view once a new season rolls around. Six weeks after Winona's passing, we are now in the midst of a new season. After a long hot, and pregnant summer, the fall air and rain is a welcome change. And a changing season marks the passing of time. The past six weeks have been the longest and hardest I have ever encountered. I am a different person than I was six weeks ago, and the view from up in my tree is also a different one.

About a year ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote about "seeing through the leaves." I wrote how while out for a walk with my oldest daughter I started to see things I hadn't noticed before. The fallen leaves begun to open up things that were once hidden. This is me today. As I sit still perched in my tree, I have begun to see a new view. The state of grief evolves from day to day. But it is also true that my deciduous tree has begun to reveal a beautiful view; that I was so blessed to have carried, gave birth to and met my daughter Winnie. That she has given me and everyone around me more than any of us could have ever expected. That she is an angel who has taught me all about the fragility of life, and that life is not without death. She has taught me love, for that is all she ever knew, and for that I am grateful.

It is true that what I do with my grief and loss of Winnie is up to me. The loss of Winnie was much like the loss of leaves on deciduous trees. Leaves fall as an act of nature, out of anyones control. Losing Winnie was out of my control. But I can still decide to see the fall colors, and then empty branches covered in snow, and then tiny buds growing to reveal a rebirth. For life keeps moving, out of our control. It is the view that we can decide on.

Monday, September 9, 2013


forgiveness is.

one of these days i will start painting again. one of these days i will cook again. one of these days i will smile at the pregnant women i see and women with new babies. time will not stand still. my canvas, my presence, will not be empty. this will be me standing here down from my tree. i will be here and ready. i will forgive the past for taking so much and for the future giving so little. and art, the present, will again be about all that is beautiful and broken and tragic and forgiving. it will be about life, life and death, the deepest darkest depths of life.

"forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different."

sleeping canvas.

Everyone is tucked in under the night air. The crickets begin their chorus to the orange gleam of the streetlights. My midwife told me that most women go into labor in the middle of the night. When the rest of the world is asleep, these miracles begin to surface.

Sleep is something I have been thinking a lot about lately; how much of an opportunity I have for it these days but how little I use that opportunity. Ironically, I am up, unable to sleep, because I am thinking of how little sleep I should be getting.  I expected a year of no sleep and while I was slightly anxious about this, I am now overwhelmed and anxiety ridden with the amount of time I now have to sleep.  I imagine waking up every two hours to nurse, filling the empty space between my arms. I imagine my friends, (most of which just had babies) sleepwalking between beds, exhausted with the filled space of their hearts. For them, sleep is emptiness.

Sometimes, emptiness and sleep go hand in hand. Once you are able to empty your mind, you can find yourself more able to sleep. But emptiness can also be terrifying. An empty canvas has an unknown past and future. An empty canvas has a presence just waiting to find relevance. It is quiet emptiness that strangles; stillness that creeps up every nerve in your body awaiting for something to break. What is the present? The present should be sleep. The present should not be sleep. The present is an empty canvas.