Gratitude Sunday: Dragons, Death, Dust

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.”
J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit or There and Back Again

Sunday Haiku
Yellow sun blue sky,
cheats me outside, cold wind streaks
through my thinning bones.

Sunday Musings
Did you remember to change your clocks back? Not you in Hawai’i or Arizona; you are probably the sanest people in America because you don’t have your body chemistry being mucked with twice a year. Since we are falling back it’s not too late unless you work today, and you might be early for the kick off on the Sunday football games. If you forgot, go change those clocks now so you won’t be early tomorrow. So many of our appliances are programmed to reset themselves it shouldn’t take long to find the clocks that need changing. A 40 year old clock-radio (still works, so why discard it?) at my bedside is the one I have to change manually.

During one of my five minute work windows this week I put on the new Dia de los Muertos bracelet I bought for my birthday month and dusted my dragons. This is a small family culled from the son’s little boy toy boxes. They are plastic, purple, silver, spiky, and horrible for small toys and small boys and big imaginations. Big imaginations don’t happen just in small boys. The dust made the dragons look like they were wearing velvet cloaks.

I also cleaned my mom-altar which sits next to the dragons. After my mom passed away I had this feeling of being haunted. Now her body was gone, Mom was everywhere and was always there looking over my shoulder, behind me, judging me, disappointed in me. A few days after mom’s memorial my aunt sent me a picture of Mom with sis and I. We were young; in the picture I’m wearing my first pair of glasses, which I got when I was eight. Sis is younger.

My sister took care of all the details of Mom’s estate. If you’ve not done this, it’s quite a job. I was the recipient of the wooden rosewood box mom’s ashes were originally in so there are minute traces of her body in the box. Part of what she was sits beside me all day. The box has her name on top, but I cover that with the burgundy velvet sack they put the metal urn in to transfer her ashes into the forever inurnment sanctuary (wooden box to metal urn placed in permanent niche). It all sits on the black velvet cover that came around the rosewood box. All of this needed cleaning and dusting. Halloween seemed appropriated. Dragons, death, dust.

When I first set up the mom-altar I placed the picture my aunt sent up against the rosewood cremains box. Suddenly Mom was facing me, instead of behind me. The haunted feeling stopped; now it feels we are having the same old civil discourse as before, speaking politely, sometimes disagreeing, me cussing, her cringing, but learning from each other nonetheless. She might not be here in her body, but I am still learning from her. The altar is next to my home work space so we are together every day.

Occasionally I have added to the altar and all those things needed cleaning as well. Some needed the trash bin, like the leaves that had disintegrated. Some needed the duster: the framed picture of Mom and her five siblings and their parents at Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary; the white and gold tassel angel that had decorated one of Mom’s memorial tables; a recycled cloth angel mom or sis had made from scraps or maybe it had been a practice piece but no less an angel, sis used it to beautify the top of a Christmas gift, she’s clever that way; a crystal hagstone found by my sister on one our beach adventures; a fingernail sized, jeweled owl pin encrusted with tiny pearls and emerald eyes from my mother-in-law’s jewelry box, both women smarter than one might know; an acorn picked up at the park where we held Mom’s memorial, so dry the cap has separated from the nut case. A heart pendant from my sis hangs from one side of the anniversary picture and from the other side an amethyst and shell bracelet from a beach trip with a childhood friend who loved my mom for nearly fifty years and opened Mom’s memorial service with a spiritual tribute. I almost tossed the sprig of lavender stolen from a neighbor’s bush, but it still smells nice, so it got a little dusting as well and back onto the altar.

The last things returned to the altar were two discarded claw husks and a whisker from my deeply mourned rescue kitty who died this last May. He came to us damaged and/or abused with open raw wounds; he was a long haired cat and when he choose us he hardly had any hair. He asked us if we’d love him and take care of him, and we said yes. He was the best. He’s buried in the yard so he will always be here with us.

I don’t have any physical parts of my mom. No fingernails, no hair. I have hair from both grandmothers. Maybe that’s morbid (William James would say I’m morbid-minded, but that’s another essay); I laugh when I think of what the people who go through my things after I die will think. The long thick auburn braid Grandma had cut off when she finally went to short hair, so long and thick it is stored in the cedar chest; how that hair was like copper and silver wire to wrap around a perm rod unless you left it long enough, and you had to soften the hair with perm solution just to get it to bend around the rod, and then re-saturate with more perm solution and hope half an hour later you had some kind of curl with the littlest rods you had. And Grammy’s soft white curls, yellowed now in their paper bag tucked into the corner of one of my cedar jewelry boxes, the last of the last perm cut before the next perm, angel hair so white and fine it took the curl in minutes and you didn’t dare look away. Muscle memories of touching the women who made me, the dragons, warriors, witches.

Neither mom nor I thought to save any of her hair, so I am grateful to own a bit of her ash. It was mostly short ends from trimming anyway. I don’t remember her with long hair, but I have pictures of her looking all glamorous in a Veronica Lake sort of style taken before I was born. I remember doing my mother’s hair before I was ten years old; she taught me how to wrap the rollers (still have some of those old creaky, early hard plastic, broken perm rollers – somewhere), how to apply the lotion, how to rinse the lotion from the rollers under a faucet using a small pitcher and tons of towels to keep the water out of her eyes, and how to apply and rinse off the neutralizer. I started beauty school when I was eighteen years old, and had a built-in model with her. She didn’t experiment with her style much but I could practice basic techniques. My grandmothers also allowed me to “do” their hair after I’d gotten my license. With the cost of professional hair care today, I know why; it wasn’t any cheaper for them back then when you live on the edge of money. How grateful I am to remember cutting and curling my grandmothers’ and mother’s hair.

I have many of Mom’s things, and most of the notes and cards she sent me over the years, odds and ends of her hand writing. I have things I know she touched and made especially for me, tiny stuffed rabbits, huge stuffed rabbits, medium sized stuffed rabbits, prayers she embroidered while she was pregnant with me I swear I made myself, the ones that hang on the wall over my bed. That connection will always be there.

Five minutes dusting, twenty minutes reminiscing, and the weight of my Dia de los Muertos bracelet was upon me. No, wait, it’s the dust. There’s so much dust, I can’t keep up. I have the hubster who complains about the dust being there breeding mouse-sized dust bunnies and when I try to remove the dust, he starts coughing and choking, complaining about stirring up the dust. Dusting must be done regardless. I break out in hives and then go have a good wash. It’s not so bad when I can open doors, but it’s cold here already. Cold does not affect dust. Dust still comes day and night, cold and light.

Six pm sunset Halloween night.
I notice an orange light
outside and step out to breathe fresh air after stirring up the dust.
Sun’s orb no longer visible;
cloudless sky alight with orange,
indigo and black streaking in around the edges;
between tree branches the sky jagged like a jack-o’-lantern,
carved, sharp, angular;
that time of night, crepuscular,
when shadows feel so much more real,
and yet, not real at all;
trees backlit like giants ready to step out of the earth the minute the light is gone.
car engines of moms and dads racing home before they take kids
to wherever the best trick or treating is;
local ghosties and goblins shrieking as they leave for treats or tricks,
and some households having parties all the party lights alive,
no spooks allowed,
shrill voices rise as each new ghoulish guest arrives;
the vibrating energy of excited painted costumed children,
the neighbor cat meowing to be let in,
not a single bird to be seen or heard,
air crisp in nose, on skin, underfoot.
Trees exchanging their fragrances with the night’s damp earth.
One croak from a lonely frog.
The scratch of a squirrel as it goes straight up the fence,
and disappears through a tree into another;
the cold coming through slippers through socks through feet;
dark climbing up your legs climbing the trees climbing the sky killing the light;
the cold the cold;
smiling crescent spotted through naked branches opposite the fading orange sky,
neon white yellow toothless;
the cold the dark.
I hear an echo, murrrph from past cat as I seek the warmth of the house,
as if he were still here.
the cold the dark the dust.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A cascade of red berries getting ripe enough to feed winter birds. Lemon and lime colors depend on the angle of the light. Creamy clouds of pampas grass. Flaming oranges and reds brighten in the late autumn afternoon sun. A ginkgo sheds its pale yellow leaves to show off its gray trunk.

Photo by Kristinoel Ludwig

White milkweed seed rests in burgundy winter pansies.

Photo by Anya Doll

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Tale (2018, rated TV-MA) with Laura Dern. ***Trigger warning: rape and child sexual abuse)*** A middle-aged woman realizes the “unique and special relationship” she’d been forced into as a thirteen year old was actually child sexual abuse. Not for sensitive souls as it depicts an enactment of rape of a minor child, for which the writer and director received both kudos and scorn. From my point of view I don’t necessarily think having it right in front of my face enhances the art or artistry of the production; in fact, I don’t see anything artful in depictions of rape. * Grateful for the harmless “fun” of the last of season one of The Dukes of Hazzard (1979, rated PG), to lighten my mind after all the heavy movies of how people treat each other.

Currently ReadingAdvice for Future Corpses (and those who love them):A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying (2018, death, terminal care) by Sallie Tisdale. I’m in the section about how to be and what to say while you are with dying people. It’s helpful. * Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams (2017, sleep science) by Matthew P. Walker. Beginning the chapters about how sleep helps with memory, some of the science of brain function is a little above me, but that’s one of the reasons I keep reading. If I keep putting this stuff into my neural net, one day it will congeal.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Easy access to my salsa dance video. I’m getting it. Doing it every day helps.
  • Increasing my learning curve with technology. Because techno-ditz drags her feet, but always learns. Eventually.
  • After two days of five minute work windows I finished scrubbing my bathtub.
  • Ibuprofen.
  • Semi-retirement, as Daylight Saving Time change isn’t so important or as stressful.
  • The son helping to change the battery powered silent clocks I can’t reach.
  • Silent clocks.
  • Experiencing a whirlwind of confusion in my little brain as I tried to remember which way the clocks go until I figured it out.
  • Becoming aware of the sound of ice melting in my glass. It’s the little things.
  • Sister recovering slowly but well after her recent surgery. Sometimes it’s the big things.
  • Stretching, stretching, stretching my money so I can pay property tax. It might be a food bank month.
  • Food banks when needed.
  • Leftovers, which mean I always have a meal in the fridge I know the guys won’t eat.
  • Mute buttons.
  • Remote controls, in general.
  • Fully feeling grief. It comes when it comes.
  • Mom’s birthday, November 22, 1929. She would have been 90 this birthday. She never gave up on me.
  • A couple ripe red pears, served with a smear of mascarpone. Mmmmm.
  • A sweet yellow bell pepper at the farmers market. Hubster cooked pizza that night. Perfect pair.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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