Monday, May 19, 2014

eight months without you

On our way home from Lutsen, 
on the shore of Lake Superior 
I wrote his name in lake stones. 
My love and grief are so powerful
and so entwined around my heart
it takes my breath away.

I can wish for things to be different all I want, plead for this to not be our reality, for him to be returned to us..., but it will never happen. I took all his rocks home with me, not knowing exactly what I'll do with them yet..., but it's things like this that keep him close. It's all I have - create for him, grasp on to it, bring him with us wherever we go.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

white pine peace








































We came to Lutsen to run away, get away, escape the pain of the past two weeks.
We found a forest, a forest for me, what I was wishing for but never thought I'd see. My white pines protected and growing giants. I couldn't believe it this morning as we walked the Cascade River Walk, how much effort has gone in to save these trees.
Minnesota's reforestation efforts filled my heart with happiness and hope today, a rare feeling for this broken organ. It's as if my father heard my tears too, and lead me here to find a little faith again.

I'll post more on this forest walk when I'm not "away on a romantic vacation" and actually supposed to be at my computer. This update just couldn't wait. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

being frontyardovich 2014

Stopping to smell the tulips this morning, I took a photo using my iPhone's ProHDR app - which takes two photos using different exposures with a slight delay. The result is often kind of awesome.
Sometimes, I'll get ghosted images of things moving through the scene.

There's a small patch of tulips (and I think some lily of the valley?) popping up in the garden bed under the oak. Upon further inspection this morning and later again this afternoon with a measuring tape I am pretty sure I can fill all 17-18 feet of this space before we see another winter.

These tulips will stay. There's something about adopted tulips... Not sure who they are yet, but we're about to find out. I'm hoping to just work around them, leaving them as they are.

As for the rest... What the frack. No seriously..., those marigolds (upon further inspection) were planted in groups of three. Somebody actually put some effort into that. #headdesk Filler, I get it, but the lack of creativity in such an inspiring place sucks a little life outta me.

Yoga breathed it all back in and then some. Robin offers more than yoga; there's her background in massage therapy and understanding of anatomy, but it's more than that. I'm struggling for the words - too many things come to mind..., somehow today while trying to explain breathing and positions we ended up on ecosystems and the whole interactive within ones space and all the things within that space. The healing she offers encompasses not just now, my grief, my body and mind's desire to die, but all the things, everything from my very beginning: the sensitivities I have to chemicals (in food especially), illness and emotions that I thought would never matter, tragedies physical and emotions. Things I had put behind me: the c-section and difficult recovery from having H, the infection of 2009..., all of it revealing and relieving, finally feeling free to hope a little.
Last week, when I was as low as ever, feeling heavy and weighted by grief, Robin chose to weigh me down more with warm heavy blankets while in each position. The release was intense, I felt safe for the first time in days..., I fell into it and nearly fell asleep, crying, dreaming of my sweet baby Finn.
It's times like that I'm most grateful for my healers.

Today I think I can feel my rib cage for the first time in ... uh, years maybe..  I can breathe. Oh thank you thank you...
Taking my time to stroll up the hill, I stood in the playground at Hillcrest Park, on top of a jungle gym - joined briefly by a little girl who might have mistaken me for five. I twirled in my 360 panorama awkward way, pausing occasionally while clouds passed between me and the sun to maintain my exposure.
Up the hill with a view of the Lake, it's not the sanctuary that Waverley Park is, but it does the soul good for other reasons. When I got home I emailed the City to put in motion a memorial bench and tree for Finn in Waverley Park. 
I've thought about it for a while, and debated the parks. Waverley always wins, it's where my heart is, it's where Finn and I spent most of our time twirling around taking tiny planet panos. Hillcrest may be the view from his room, but I think if I was to find him in an urban forest it would be in Waverley. 

Back at home, I took what I hope will be the last photograph of this pitiful garden. Whatevertheheck weird weeping juniper thing trying to be something beside that nice rock it just got to get torn out. We're going to go for a more real look - none of these whackidoodle nursery experiments. It doesn't even understand what it's supposed to do: trained to go up and fall un-naturally, it's over grown and trying to grow upside down, rooting all around its "trunk." Why?
I did my best to photoshop out what's currently there, leaving the rock (I like that rock), and the tulips, with the oak anchoring one end, and the young blue spruce along the south side. The options are endless. I'm swimming with thoughts of sweeping spreads of spring bulbs - daffodils mostly, with tulips popping up from early to late season. Summer roses, butterfly flowers and soft colours, ending with a blast of autumn blooms in deep reds and oranges firing up the feet of the red oak.  
With 17 feet from the east to the blue spruce and 18 feet to the end of the bed under the oak branches, that's  lot of space. It won't take long though, and if I could absorb my entire wishlist from the catalogs spread all over my desk the dog ottoman it would be filled by the weekend. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

dear garden diary,

sunrise
10 May 2014
sunset
10 May 2014
From under our oak tree, the tree I see when I close my eyes, I've been creeping around watching things grow. Tulips are appearing, maybe some Lili of the Valley too..., not entirely sure who else. In the back - in the garden bed we're removing entirely to make way for dogs and two wind-breaking, privacy giving blue spruce - I'm finding hostas, daylilies, and maybe iris(?) but it's soon soon and cold for them to identify themselves. They'll all be relocated somewhere along the south border.

From under the oak I also find a great view of the harbour, the park, and our Wild Thing trees. As I began writing this post I was staring out the window, watching a man walk with a skip in his step across the park and as he passed the Wild Thing he tapped one tree then backtracked a bit to tap the other. Saying hello? 
Who else loves those trees as much as I do?

This is the May of April showers. The few nice days we've had have turned out backyard and shack into a garden in progress. Plants and pots everywhere, bags of planting mixes heaped on the back wall, tools leaning. It's beginning to look less like someone else's boring shrub garden and more like Amy's natural disaster. GRIN



Saturday was a good day in the midst of misery. An enormous number of plants followed us home from lunch, and I can't even be entirely blamed (Rohan is as bad as I am so long as he can eat it).

The evening that followed found me laughing hysterically with Cathy and Lori as the sun set, then sitting fireside with my best friend and best love until midnight. Warm enough to stay in flip-flops, cool enough to want to add leg-warmers to my ensemble.
What all this time outdoors has taught me is that wind may be a bigger problem than I had anticipated. It can be wild. When it dies down the air here is fresh, it has never felt settled - there are just too many places for it to swirl around, over and through. I'll have to make sure everybody has a buddy, a plant to lean on, you know. 

I spent today planting in a cold wind and a bit of drizzle a few feet from the fire pit:
russian sage 'peek-a-boo blue'
virginia bluebells
scabiosa 'butterfly blue
carpet phlox 'sapphire blue'
aster 'wonder of staffa' (blue)
clematis 'sea breeze (blue)
liatris 'purple blazing star'
lilac 'beauty of moscow'
echinacea 'emotion bright orange' and 'marmalade'
agapanthus 'blue globe'
achillea millefollium - yarrow 'red beauty'
anchusa azurea 'dropmore'
anemone hupehensis 'praecox'
lilium 'strawberry vanilla'

The pot of enormous size that lives in the corner of the patio was there when we bought the house, and I'm undecided about leaving it there. For now, for lack of a better idea it will stay (and because it's too damn heavy for anyone to move..). I've seeded a bunch of gourds and miniature pumpkins that should be strong enough to climb from the pot over the obelisk, and maybe strong enough to withstand the wind. We shall see.... 

cedar grove

It was my birthday, and I had some time between appointments and had some time. With the 30x30 Challenge in mind, I found my way into an urban stream. Thankful for my boots and comfortable socks, I stood in the middle of McVicar Creek, sometimes slipping a little getting knocked over by the shallowest running water, suffering a little vertigo for some reason.. 
Suffering great confusion over my photographic demands, my iPhone spat out a few uh, interesting, panoramas. I haven't looked at them all yet. 
The sky was blue and the creek was a swirling mas of bubbles and life rumbling around me. Sometimes a camera just can't capture it, you have to be there.
Where would we be without urban forest escapes? We're fortunate in Thunder Bay to be within minutes of them in every direction. From science at the Tree Farm to Centennial with rivers running between. It ties into why I prefer to be a pedestrian, or on a bike - so that I can take advantage of these escapes. 
Irritated drivers paying the highest price for gas get crankier waiting in dual Tim Horton's line-up for the worst coffee in the world - if only they knew a better perk was right there in front of their eyes, hidden behind asphalt. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

moving on mondays

Tim Tamashiro began tonight's Tonic show with talk of a dragonfly flying and this song, 
Steve Allee Trio - Dragonfly

Last week was miserable. I've been trying all day to say it's behind me, but really it's not, ...the weight of it is still here. Acupuncture for breakfast, grief counselling for lunch, a visit to the greenhouse for rejuvenation, ...totally exhausting.

I feel like I have a split personality - one completely consumed in grief, the other caught up in the season of gardening. Before gardening it was needlefelting, before that just fog... ..after Finn.
From not giving much thought to my new garden to finding myself more in-tune than ever is a little confusing, but I'm going with it - whatever it give me..., minute to minute, hour to hour, day to week to who knows. I'll never predict anything..

I'm going to ride this gardening wave. In my own garden I've never been more organised. Our new garden, our forever garden, has Excel worksheets with lists of all the new additions, and will include all that will be moved from Pearl, or added by friends. This time there's going to be a record from the start - better than this blog. 
(This blog would work better for what I wanted it to if a) I finished my thoughts and b) I tagged things properly so I could search it. I'm trying to be better at this.)
my pencil notes remain,
Excel worksheets are just an addition
There have been so many changes already, huge changes but hardly noticeable.. that's what happens when you take away boring. 

Damn I shouldn't say that. I've had serious heartache over the cutting down of the ash tree. Maybe it was my bad week. Maybe it's just my messed up emotions and attachment to everything. I just feel really bad for cutting down a (doomed but otherwise) healthy tree. My promise is to make up for is with a incredible edible annuals. And maybe blueberries.

I've also been planning other gardens, for other people. That along with being BMN in the social media world have allowed me to sort of step outside myself, outside the grief, and just be the gardener, think about the plants and be creative. It's what I've always done best, enjoyed the most..., I get to play with photography, share a little gardening knowledge, laugh a lot with Cathy. Who wouldn't want to do that? 

All of it together keeps me distracted in all the right ways. My garden plans are changing in my head all the time, new things come up, ideas..., more meaning to it all. Every step of this grief finds its way into my plans, creating a map within my garden that will grow and change along the way. 
Plants are arriving... I've ordered some specifics, some for names, some for colour, some to replace things we've had. On our dining room table is a little 'Beauty of Moscow' Lilac which will live near the house in place of one of these boring shrubs. It arrived today along with plugs and bulbs - phlox, asters, virginia bluebells...

The shack is full of plants, I have the kitchen table covered, an upright hot-house in the living room, seedlings growing, morning glories tendriling. The ash is gone, so is the cedar by the front door, stumps soon to be ground out. Shrubs will be adopted, soon it will be my blank slate, ready for our garden.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stars, music

Your Ex-Lover Is Dead
Stars ~ Montreal, Canada

a river to drown in, a forest for faith

I'm an atheist. Science has always made more sense. Religion just has better stories.

My father showed me heaven when we would walk through the woods along the Current River to Wishart in the morning. He and I watched a lot of sunrises through our living room window, which reminds me a lot of the living room window I watch the sunrise through now. Then, it would rise over the hill on the other side of the river which ran though the valley below. We would admire the white pines' silhouettes on the crest of the hill..., until developers on the other side crossed the property line and one by one the white pines disappeared.
That was probably the beginning of my interest in urban forestry, 
forestry, 
and what it means to destroy 
something that can't be replaced.

I loved those trees, my Dad loved those trees. He grew up in Utrecht, Netherlands during World War II; he starved, he watched his family starve, he witnessed death daily and destruction like none of us could ever really imagine. When he moved to Canada and could afford a home of his own he only wanted space, with trees and nature at every horizon. I really understand this need now.

Wishart Conservation Forest, which was adjacent to my parents' property along the Current River, was my playground. I used to count the white pines on the other side of the river on my way home like beacons. I was young, fearless and free; I could never get lost; the road was always in one direction, the river ran parallel, with Wishart on one end (with a crossing road), and North Branch Road on the other. Acres of trees, a rushing river (in those days), and all the forest animals were all I knew.
It would be a scene out of Snow White, if I believed in fairy tales. 
I tried to talk to a porcupine once who ran up a tree (in fear I realise now) 
but at the time 
I was just curious and friendly, 
like our dog, Zelda, who regularly came home with a mouthful of quills.

If there is heaven on earth, I think it's in a forest. The 30x30Challenge has been good for me, for this healing process..., especially now - in May when triggers find me too easily, 
they're so many and I'm just me. 
I do believe it's possible to still find half an hour of nature
 - even if it's only in my head.
Today I'm on the floor of Wishart surrounded by the smell of pines and moss.

It's no secret yesterday was hard. It was bad. My birthday reminds me of my mother, and her death last year, and how she would make some mention every year on my birthday about the great sense of loss felt this time of year. It made her feel bad.
Last year on my birthday the only nurse I didn't like insisted on singing happy birthday to me over her bed. I cried the whole time, wishing her to stop, seeing a look in my mother's eyes I still recognised. She didn't want to die on my birthday; she knew I'm sure..., I wonder how hard she fought to not die on that day.
My mother died two days later, on May 8th at sunrise.

I've wondered since the day after my fourteenth birthday - the day my mother's mother died, how my mom felt, how she went on with my day without letting on a thing, ....just learning of her mother's death. Helpless, confused, so so sad.... ?
She told me on the 6th, in the morning in the dark sitting on the edge of my bed. She had been crying, but stayed composed talking to me, letting me know.

My father died unexpectedly (but prepared for) two weeks to the day after my twenty-fifth birthday. A proud new Opa and ready to leap into the world of retirement and world travel, death took him before he even had a chance to breathe it in. From that day on the smell of spring has made me think of losing something huge - the irony, the Dutch in me, the tulips that bloom, the ones I'm about to plant..., yet spring still smells like death.

I wonder..., what will Finn's death to to my love of autumn? Will the coloured leaves always remind me of losing him? Or, will they remind me that he lived through my few favourite days in the year of all, the best - I've said it for years - September 30th is the best day of the year. The weeks before and after are great, peaking always around the 30th. I hope Finn keeps that fire alive in those weeks, when I'll look for him in leaves and find him in the painted foliage.

I received a lot of beautiful and thoughtful messages yesterday (some I still have to respond to); people who remember my mother's death, what the day last year meant, and what it obviously means now. Surprisingly, others had no idea what to say or do.
Heavily on my mind was (is) my mother. We went through a lot last year, fighting for a dignified death in a system of errors and swayed judgement. Keeping me going was Finn moving around inside me. I didn't have to worry about him because from the moment he could he let me know he was with me - always.

That's the difference. It's the difference between me and Rohan, me and anyone else who knows and loves Finn. I'm the only one who shared blood with Finn; he was inside only me - in more ways than physical. Last year at this time, while I said good bye to my mom for the last time, Finn was moving regularly letting me know he was there, bringing me peace.

Triggers, they're everywhere. In every tree from here to Duluth, from Family Day weekend to the day we drove home with the Outback with a back "big enough for three dogs and a stroller," every bit of it reminds me of being pregnant last year, the growth spurt he went through in May, my daily protruding belly, holding him and my mother's hand s she died that morning, being along with him on the balcony in Duluth a few weeks later as H and R slept in our hotel on Lake Superior.
A couple moths later we drove back and forth again, ...every time stopping at our favourite pizza place in Grand Marais.

I guess that was the plan for Sunday - drive to the border, get what R needs to pick up from Ryden's, go on to Grand Marais, enjoy the ride, take some photos, have lunch, drive home...
I subtly tried to talk them out of the pizza place the night before by noting that Hannah has never actually eaten at Sven and Ole's (not my favourite pizza place in Grand Marais, but obviously worth a visit). 
I'm not sure what happened, but the closer we got to Grand Marais, the more anxiety I felt. Finn and my mother are there in so many ways. Lunches with my mother and an infant Hannah, Shakespeare festivals with my mother and a toddler Hannah. Finn's dragonflies, the shops downtown where I bought some of his first things the first weekend we were "openly pregnant."

It was awful, my chest caved in. I didn't want to get out of the car. Again I had to resort to concentrating on breathing, like Sarah and Robin teach me to, go somewhere else..., I can't breathe. It's so hard to breathe.

Without lunch or leaving the car we headed home quickly and silently. 

Nobody knows what to do with me; not even my own family. Hannah, always optimistic, always compassionate, always finds a way to peace. It hovers over her. It's why I believe in her, and know she's going to be okay. I've never known anyone stronger. She's a rational thinker with artistic dreams, and I know she's going to be a change maker.
I try to stay out of her way - and Rohan's - when I feel as low as I do now. It's pretty clear I'm on my own in this. I'd rather have Hannah enjoy memories of hockey games with Rohan than watching me cry alone in a bathroom.

When she tries to become a mother herself, will she be excited, or will she be scared? Her brightness tells me (hopes) she'll use that forever optimistic sweet girl and be excited. ...But, she'll feel the grief. It's probably going to hit her hard. That's why I have to be here for her.
But, what if I'm not? What if Rohan isn't? The what ifs are a part of every thought swirling through my head every day. What if only.., what if I just did this..., what if he only did that..., What if the universe decides to throw another hard-ball at me?
Could I keep standing?

Cinco de Mayo, Day of the Dead...., that was the day I was born. For me it's not a day of margaritas and tacos (um, Canadaian Cinco de Mayo), but a day that reminds me of who's not here. I don't want a party, I just want a hug. There's a feeling of doom, like something bad is going to happen. I want to hold everyone close, but instead I have to let them go because that's what they want to do, need to do... .

I want to disappear to heaven, to a forest, where I can find the people who've left me and stop being afraid for the people who are still here. I want to walk with my Dad again in the morning along the river. I want to not wish for the day to end when I see a sunrise.

Struggling, treading water alone, drowning in tears.

Monday, May 5, 2014

i hear my tears

My tears fall with loud plops and splats. I can hear them now whether they land on the scarf around my neck or on the ground by my feet, ...I hear them. They're the biggest tears I've ever seen. Once, on our way into Hugh's office, I heard one land on the floor and looked down to see the puddle it created, somewhat amazed at my new superpower: super tears.

Most of me is miserable. I still see beauty in nature, enjoy sunrises and sets, love a pretty flower..., but I'm sad. Sometimes I think I'm the saddest person on earth. I'm pretty sure though that every other grieving parent feels the same.

I'm forty-one today. On my fourteenth birthday my mother's mother died. Last year, three days after my birthday, my mother died. Sixteen years ago my father died exactly two weeks after my birthday.

It's not a good day. It hasn't been for a long time. To me, it's the funeral season. The smell of the air, the sight of things trying to green up..., it all reminds me of loss. People have no idea what sort of anxiety this creates, and what it means to the fear of losing more.

Add the overwhelming grief for my little boy, who should be nearly eight months old right now..., it makes me physically ache.

I can imagine his baby laugh, and him crawling in the grass as I plan our garden. I can see his face clear as if he were here - aged perfectly to this time. I'd like to think of it as him still being with me in some way, but what it really does is emphasize the fact that he's not.

sweet dreams my angel Finn