In these times of U.S. terrorism at home and abroad, of an estimated 60 million displaced people (per the United Nations) around the world, land and sea confrontations in regions that overlie mineral wealth and persistent speech denying that there is a climate crisis, I feel like nobody's advocate so much as earth's own, let the people just blend cunningly into the many surface layers. A week ago I stepped back in time again, on my own with among family ghosts (not seen, though felt.) There are rocky, thin-soil places with dark nights and extremes of temperature where you can still lose yourself in the manner of a lone, last survivor, the matter facilitated by having no phone or electronics. My sister and I are heirs to a piece of shoreline known most of all for cliffs, boulders and cold water. Any neighbor was at least a mile away while I was there seeing about roof repairs, wandering among trees and rock outcrops, renewing familiarity with the features and voices of June, and ultimately painting the flower called true forget-me-not, Myosotis scorpioides. The plant crowds the borders of our up-and-downhill road full of seeps and swarming puddles and mosquitoes, and fills the crown of the road with early summer blossoms the size of your smallest fingernail, most sky-blue, some white, with a yellow opening in the middle like an eye-hole. My acquaintance with this region goes back to early childhood.
When we were growing up, the cars of family and friends came and went here, especially in August. For years our Daddy, our uncle and cousins sawed fallen trees for firewood with chain saws; an engine would be squalling or puttering some time or other between the clatter of one or the other gasoline-engine pump. Our pump filled two fifty-gallon tanks from the lake with water that for years was fit for washing and drinking, provided we treated a pitcherful with halazone tablets before we drank from it. Neither of us middle-aged sisters runs that equipment now; we don't want the bother of spark plugs, oil and gas, chokes, filters and small-engine repair because this stuff defines our incompetence. We carry our water, and there is a whole variety of benefit for me to hand-saw and split firewood with the exact same saw, sledge hammer and wedges our dad used to ply before we had the chain saw, even in Indiana in the 1960s.
Everything in the house or its distant, mouldering shed, and all the wavelets lapping or the surf, the Swainson's thrushes' song with the tonal quality of air blown through the valve of an inflatable mattress, the red-eyed vireo or the warblers in the tree crowns is a throwback to the 1960s and 70s for me, but I'm the one human being hearing it. The songbirds seem fewer in number than in those times, though the same variety is still around. I don't crave civilization but how did I get to be this single person left to talk to myself, read fiction and essays, wild plant handbooks and the French-English dictionary? I have moved on to a more innate lifestyle, leaving behind a man or two whose priorities will only ever differ from mine. Is this much independence really the choice of the many single women and men moving through and past their prime years? Often there would seem to be no choice, and that's true among many creatures larger and smaller than ourselves:
The spoor of a moose
So often I find I'm living on the glow of memory as much as anything else, with family dwelling in it, and wondering what's to come, and what course my inevitable dwindling process will take. But I have energy yet. The forget-me-nots were my best focus for new spring floral art, upon completion of a root system for the illustrated miterwort, a less than common plant growing on the land of my neighbor Deb in Minnesota. The drawing of the miterwort, or bishop's cap, is bordered with sprigs of forget-me-not.
Every day I'm reminded that what doesn't want to be forgotten is not lost, though its passage into memory was due process--this is the nature of change. In spite of calamity and outrages that fill news pages, the greatest share of death or breakup in this world, wrenching though the experience may have been, ends up taken as a parting of the ways based on foreseeable causes. One soothing realization has been that the sharpest grief need not be equated with depression, which I think grows out of aggravating circumstances such as anger at fate. Grief, apart from anything else, is a packet of emotion that can bulge, not necessarily crippling but able to grab at the core of a person quickly wringing the tear ducts in the next moment. It seasons the present with a powerful tang from the past.
The miterwort, Mitella diphylla
My forget-me-not is featured this way on the newest of my cards:
See the 'Card Images' page at www.epiphaniesafield.com
The text on the back is: Forget me not, though I recreate myself. It took me a while to decide between that wording and ...though I regenerate myself .
Days, weeks, months and years after the loss of someone dear, any one of us may still be thinking 'if you could only know what I'm up to/who I've become/what happened to me/her/him/them...in light of all the many things that may happen to re-shape one soul or the body that bears it.