As it turns out both my parents have died in the month of March, one late in the month, one early, nine years apart. In the wake of my mom's passing on March 3rd I find myself reaching out again, the way I used to do, to the unseen beyond what I see to ask: where is she? out there? anywhere? If someone we loved with an unsurpassed depth has died it feels at the very least like an anticlimax not to know what, even though the personality may disintegrate, the individual's escaped energy has drifted into if in some degree intact. Are they somewhere else or are they a part of the whole nearby surroundings or, as some people believe, are they reduced down to an essence and recycled into someone newborn? But I find myself in no hurry to get caught up in disciplines, or organized religious teachings, in pursuit of what must be indeterminable till we die. Knowledge if there really is any on this topic would be my hope, yet it might come at a crippling price.
Old folks in the chilly latitudes have been said to die, more than at any other time, in late winter, faced with mounting hardships of the kind that prevailed in the era of fireplace heat. Now, just upon the spring solstice the whole time period we're in has the feel, not to mention the look, of an aftermath, golden snow-mashed stubble out this window replaceable in my mind's eye with an essence of all colors blending not the way mixed paint blends into a drab splotch but into something dark yet luminous, winking multi-hued, no tone quite lost, the emblem of a gentle accommodation of all strangeness. She maybe turns a little to and fro, like something hanging, with glints of color as if remembering through the rememberer. This is how she may linger in my memory for as long as I live.
So by now I am at home again in late March, the look of the land comparable with other Marches and Aprils in a soothing continuum that, in the case of so many energetic people, impels them beyond that static-seeming region in impatience and boredom. My mother was a continuum the way emotionally stable people are who have absorbed a lot of cultural history and acquaintance throughout a career followed by retirement. In her last weeks as I took care of her and enjoyed final conversations, I went out on the net or outdoors and brought bits of what I found there to distract and intrigue her however much or little possible. Through the need of movement I walked many circuits via the sidewalks, once taking a neighboring state park's trails, near her building spying a flicker browsing on a staghorn sumac still crowned with berries. The flicker was a tie with the growing season in the Midwest and Canadian border region where I'd be returning when this momentous interlude had run its course. Several evenings, as I explored the allegorical imagery of Angels in America on two DVDs, I absorbed the background for the scene in heaven, an imaginary place seeming to have nothing to do with my mom, peopled with souls that appeared to have lived nowhere near as long as she did. Heaven in the movie had stone ruins and the kind of hush that is common to high vaulted places including California redwood groves, basilicas and, frequently, halls of government. Heaven's people were faded, at complete ease and in no hurry wherever they walked. My mom by now was outspokenly impatient to die.
The sun-soft and misty portrayal of heaven followed me like a comfort down to New York City where I drove a load of inherited furnishings for Lea, my daughter, and back westward through Pennsylvania and the Lower Midwest and up the varying roads northward. The ruins tell of places both missed and yet to be seen, since I've never been to Europe or to the pueblos or like regions of America. Stone ruins affirm that not everything we've either alone or jointly effected in this world goes away but stays, upholding the grace we envisioned for it in our designing, that is itself a part of our character. Cracks, broken edges and tumbling chunks bear evidence of our limits as the world goes on, incorporating all that we were and left of our handiwork. These ruins that I drew and painted were part of what I showed my mother in her last few days, and are everyone's history; the sumac is a tree of troubled, reworked soil and the flicker signifies ever-returning opportunity.
Flicker in a Crumbling Gateway