pretty soon...

there will be just 2 of us that can
pick up a phone
or get on a plane
to visit in person with each other.

it feels very curious and strange.

JOHNSONGIRLS

As it looks right now
it will be the youngest and the oldest of us
to continue muddling about in this "sphere".

i just returned home from visiting
the sister who lives a continent away and
is in her final hours
although
she keeps surprising us
"rallying" as they say.
Gratefully, she stayed long enough for my big sister and me to visit
and bask in her smile and sparkling eyes.
The state of her mortal being confirms that she will depart, soon.
The last 8-9 years have not been kind to her body and mind.

She is 70-something.

So startling to acknowledge that number.

My niece
the one i chased on my hands and knees when she was 2
and i was 10
is a marvel and a wonder:
she teaches high school "home economics"
(or whatever they call it now)
full time
and has been the one to drive her mother, my sister
90 miles one-way to the doctor for chemo and the dozens upon dozens of other visits.
She is the one who has held down the fort
the 3 times her father was air-lifted to the hospital for his medical emergencies
while raising her 4 children
and juggling crazy family dramas, celebrations and church duties.
She laughs easily
it's a family thing we all cherish.
It's what has "gotten us through".
She is married to a gem of a man
who helped me cross the divide
between the sister i last visited in 2005 and who she is today.

i sit here
humbled by
their reality, their stories, their bravery
trying to remember what it was
that was so important
before i got on the plane

 


One of Her Gifts

It is Kelly's birthday and as i've been preparing our celebration
(which means stocking up on favorite ice creams to consume in her honor,
a tradition she observed in memory of her father who could tell you where
to find the best versions in nearly every major city in the country)
a very tender memory came to mind...

For Kelly

First of all
you need to know that her father, Peter
is a gifted muscian.
His favorite instrument is the organ.
Secondly, you must understand that Kelly
was her father's only daughter and
she, too was musically gifted.
Her instrument: the piano.

We all know
on some level or other
how music
well...
how music can change us...
alter one's self like nothing else can.

If you have ever been so moved
then i do not need to explain
(i couldn't, anyway)
that Kelly and her father are connected
on a level so few of us ever experience.

And yet
you also need to know
that Kelly is the last person to
say anything about any of her gifts.
She is chatty, very witty
not ashamed to be silly
does not suffer fools gladly
and
like her father
a BIG tease.
In other words:
they are anything but boorishly serious muscians.

They rarely talked about it.
They both played at home, daily
mostly for fun
Peter favoring any number of traditional American
folk songs
usually bursting out with boistrous vocals, as well.

Many years ago
when the family was living in San Jose, California
and Kelly was a teenager
(i think she was 16 or 17)
i was visiting for the Christmas holidays and
disappointed that i had to fly back home late Saturday night
before church services on Sunday when
Peter and Kelly were to perform a piano and organ duet.
Happily, there was time for me to join them
for an afternoon rehersal before i had to leave.

Kelly's mother, other aunt and i
went over to the chapel with them.
They asked us to sit in the back
to listen and give feedback re: volume and balance between the two instruments.

They both played a few bars
Peter adjusted something or other on the organ
they tested those few bars again
and then
father and daughter looked up at each other
then back to the sheet music
and muffed the beginning.
Kelly sputtered
they worked out a new cue
and then
began again.
This time, Peter smiled
and they continued on...

i do not remember the name of the piece.
It was by one of those classical composers whose name
i should probably remember also.
i'm afraid to try and find and listen to it performed
by anyone else.

It was...

Luminous.
That is the word that keeps coming to mind.
Their music filled the cool, dark, reverent space
and it washed over and into each of us.
The three of us sitting in that last pew
could hardly speak we were so ...

i was so happy
to have been a witness to those moments
to be with family
alone, in that space
with Kelly and Peter as i'd never experienced them before.

i can see her now
if she were listening to me tell you this
she would shrug
rattle off the name of the piece
and then quickly ask, with a gleam in her eye,
"When do we get the ice cream?"

Happy Birthday, Kelly!!



Van Halen and The Clapping Song

Bird angel

i see angels all around and above


and today i'm celebrating that young
golden boy who stole my heart

who i created this blog for
because he loved to see so many
of the things i do.

And, one of my favorite things about
that young man
was his eclectic taste in music.

i remember the impassioned musicappreciation lesson he shared with me one evening on his last visit to this garden...all about the fine art of wailing guitars, Van Halen and what sets them above all the rest.
Then, half an hour later, he was singing the praises of bass-baritone Paul Robeson. Then, he went online so i could hear another of his favorite songs:

  

That boy is a delight!!

Happy Birthday, Dear Jon!!


Dear Pamela and Kelly

In honor of my big sister Pamela's birthday and her daughter Kelly's "angel day" i am posting a few photographs of trees that make Greenwood special

Pamela loves trees and misses living here in the northeast where
we are rich in arboreal delights

i know she would be charmed by the puddles of spring beauties flowering
in the lawn of the sycamore allée

Puddles of spring beauties

and the pristine blue sky-light illuminating the soft pink dogwood and new leaves of the giant chestnuts

Dogwood and chestnut

And walking beneath these, i can hear her say,
"So that's why it's called a copper beech"

Why it's called a copper beech

Kelly, who adores her father and mother would be looking for the fruit trees
(of which there are only ornamental ones)
and asking all sorts of practical questions
while her mother continued looking up, all around, and sighing with contentment.

Pamela loves her home, which was near her daughter's
but has flown in the company of good friends to tour Eastern Europe
where
i trust
there are many, many beautiful grand old and new, young trees
marvels and wonders
music, art and histories to pull her mind and heart out of the grief
if only for blessed moments of relief.

Dear Father in Heaven,
You have asked a lot of our sister, taking three of her children and her husband back to where You are.
Please wrap Pamela--who has always put her full trust in You
in Your comfort and love
especially on this day and all the rest of her days here with us.
You have asked her to endure much and therefore we trust You will honor her unwavering faith
and continue to buoy her, and to help her find solace and balm in the company of her friends while she journeys.


Jumping here, then over there

i wake
discover, mid breath
that it is easier to breathe.

my hopscotch memory
skips over the tense days of the last few weeks
(reflecting, with knew knowledege, i now recognize it was months)

i remember your other nickname
"Short Circuit"

Kirby curled tail oval

for your twitchy tale--a dancing plume peculiarly yours
and how, each time you stood under the empty
piano bench that serves as our coffee table
it played a delightful bumpity ditty.
(camera photos are rarely very good, but often what is in hand)

Smiles coming more easily now
hopping back lightly over anxious days
to the all those moments to choose from
(even the ones that leave the jute rug in my workroom with a shredded hem:
"Bad cat!" i say
and you look up at me not the least bit worried
until i stomp my feet and pretend to attack with clapping hands
as you trot off
tail high)

the mind jumps back again
to this place where the clenching ache is slowing loosing its grip
and i see you
and the rest of my family who move lightly
walk silently where you do

Amazing Grace.

Even as i shake my head
knowing i'll never stop finding ginger cat hair
here, there, everywhere
Thank you, Kirby.

Thank you dear friends for your kind words here and elsewhere.


i keep seeing him

out of the corner of my eye
curled up on this chair
or that one
or the corner of the bed
or stopping, suddenly
to carefully examine
as he did everytime he entered the room
the suspicious fringe on the rug
before leaping over it
and sauntering in.
i keep waiting to hear his voice
engage in our daily banter.

This sweet boy, Kirby, like his brothers and sister before him
will live with me forever.
i am one of those who, but for a very few exceptions, will choose the company of animals over humans everytime.

   K


Long story short, we expected this sweet boy to rally, like his brother did, after vet visit and new thyroid meds. But there was a deeper, hidden problem...and his health declined quickly. So, Uncle Ted (our vet) came to the house Sunday and we said good bye to our dear little friend. i'm so grateful that it was a gorgeous day so that i could prepare a place for him in the garden.  Afterward, we sat in the sun and listened to a very sweet little finch sing him to his happier place.

17 years is a nice long time...can hardly believe it's been that long.
What was life like without him?

As a kitten, his nickname was "Motor boat"
because he walked around purring, loudly.
He was our little shepherd cat, who waited at the bottom of the stairs and
herded us up to bed.
He would not settle down until we both were both in for the night
was always there to greet us at the door when one of us was away
sat on the "cat tree" and talked with us every night as we fixed dinner
was the world's best mouser--just two days before, he was on duty and caught one (poor little thing, but as always, you were so proud)
twice daily he and his brother raced around the house,
up and down the stairs, rumpling rugs, up and over books and tables,
until just recently.
When napping during the day, if you came into the room where he was
he would lift his head and "meow" hello, and often keep on talking.
He made sure to spend time with each of us, every evening, then
curled up on the couch with his head resting on J's leg.
Such a sweet fellow
Such a good soul

The house is so heartbreakingly quiet now
The shock is finally beginning to wear off and
a new wall paper on this machine coupled with sweet memories
are filling my head.
Thank  you, Kirby.
Hope you're having fun with Nicolas and McKenzie again
and enjoy Obadiah and Benjamin, too.
i'm sure that Cheri, Jon and Kelly are having fun with all of you.

Kirby and his brother Spike as kittens
Kirby and Spike as kittens


i find it nearly impossible to write these next words:
My sister has said good-bye to a third child. Cheryl Kellene Paine Vella.
Those who have been visiting over the years will remember
my post 16 months ago about my nephew Jon.
His sister--generous, loving, opinionated, happy, friendly, gregarious, fiercely competitive player of family card games, always-thinking-of-others--has joined him in that mysterious-to-us "next place." Their older brother passed away 1985 (or there bouts), shortly before Kelly was married.

Theirs is one strong, never-loose-faith family.
i cling to their apron strings, hoping with all my might that it's all true.

Here are Kelly and Jon, about 36 years ago. This photo is just so Kelly. As someone said at her funeral services, if there was a baby nearby, it was soon in her arms.

3 November 1973 no. 3

We have always been a close family, but Kelly and i had become even closer this past year. And for the past couple of weeks...after she went into the hospital...i've been holding my breath. Unable to concentrate on much beyond the absolute "must do" deadlines, the Facebook game she lured me into, and watching the chimney swifts in the sky above the garden.

Their mother, my sister, has the strongest spirit, deepest abiding faith of anyone i know. She would say something like, "this overwhelming sadness is only our near-sightedness. I know I will see and be with them again."

For me and my adopted sister (Kelly's other "favorite aunt") on this side of the continent, the garden was our refuge on the day we received the awe-full news. It was a glorious, cool, spring morning. A brilliant sky. A soft breeze. And dozens of song birds eating, bathing, flying through.

And yet...and yet...this world grows just that much lonelier.

I hide myself within my flower,   
  That wearing on your breast,   
You, unsuspecting, wear me too—   
And angels know the rest.

                                    Emily Dickinson


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it...

                                    ee cummings

Lucy, when you get around to this...i'm so sorry that you know too well how this all feels.


Dear Friends,

i started this blog several years ago when i saw what artists were doing on the Internet, and how well photographs usually appear in this medium (i've always loved viewing photographs with light passing through them rather than reflecting off their surface). Once i got going, i immediately wished to share it with my Best Friend...my "Best Boy" ...a nephew. He has always been one of my dearest fans and his delight/enjoyment was my chief reward and i was always eager to see what he thought of each post. Then i told a few more "old friends" and then began posting on your blogs and have enjoyed this curiously addicting communication.

Dear Friends of the Internet...The Boy has left us. Not of his own accord. He certainly didn't want to...after all, he had just found the love of his life last spring and married last fall. But...
i've been struggling, trying to find the words to say this without using the words
"his heart failed him"

For a couple of weeks, he prepared himself to be placed on a transplant list. Then "last chance" treatments seemed to be helping. But, that's the way it goes sometimes...just when you think things are getting better...the bottom drops away.

so this is just me trying to say to those of you who have been kind, supportive visitors
i had to say something here
i couldn't just keep posting and not
because this silly little fun thing was first and foremost one of the tender ties between The Boy and me

i know that all of you know this type of hollowness
and i know he knows all too well
loss is something he knew too early, too often
and now again.

There is a list that keeps rolling around in my head:
the heart of the matter
ya gotta have heart
it takes heart
heart of gold
brave heart
heartland
with all of my heart
from the bottom of my heart
heartache
heart sick
heart broken
always in my heart
bless his heart
true heart

i will not keep saying, "he was"

He is gentle, funny, a tease, a flirt, truly guileless, and always in my heart, my eyes.
He has tremendous courage.
He has heart
He never gave up.
He is all heart.

in our joys and in our sorrows...
how curious
how strange
that i would end up using this blog
with and for the heart.

Jonathan Gerritt Peter Paine
because of you, i am slowly becoming a better me

this photo was
taken about 25 years ago

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