Reaching the Shore of a Home Far Away

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I tell the doctor I have stopped meditating. I say it not as a rebellion against taking care of myself, but as an indication of the extent to which the thumping in my head has disrupted my life. Sitting in silence and observing the thoughts wander through the throbbing caverns of my brain is not possible without magnifying the bounding pain. I become nothing but a pulsation of mindmatter.
So instead I take my mindmass into the pond. “I have been swimming a lot” I tell her.
I wonder if she is understands the connections I am making…

Long ago, when I first sat on a cushion, I believed it was to quieten the mind. These days I tend to observe instead where it takes me. Just as I do when I am making my way across the pond. A thousand thoughts topple headlong into the swirl, some to be gobbled up by the bubbles I expel, others drowned by my feet flipping them over and under as they flutter along. The mindmass of pain is muted by the rhythm of body and breath; the distraction of my surrounds. I drift along the surface of the world, my alligator eyes observing each side; the green forest until I reach the tranquil waters of the furtherest cove.
The morning following the third anniversary of Jesi’s passing I am gliding through the middle of the pond when I am over taken by an unexpected sensation. I feel a swelling in my chest, a knowing beyond all doubt that only I, only here in the middle of this deep body of water, can connect my three children, two on earth and one in heaven. And it can only happen through the pureness of the motherlove I hold in my heart for them. For it is the mother that bore them that has that ancient connection to her children. And in Walden I connect with Jesi, a place she loved as much as I. This moment of love bursts forth inside me as I continue to glide along the surface of the pond, uninterrupted in the rhythm of my stroke for some moments, until inevitably I am pulled by earth force back into the water I am negotiating. The cool I am immersed in becomes real. The sandy shore to one side, the forest necklace to the other. Uninterrupted I still slide on with alligator eyes above the water, peering into the deep dark emerald jewel I have been gifted. Further into the cove, almost magical, the sun peaks out from behind puffy white clouds, spreading her warmth on the velvety surface. I reach beneath me, a chill crawls up my arm, the changing water temperatures with the depth. Simultaneously I am gripped by some force I cannot know which pulls me into a mechanistic churning and breathing, the rhythm taking over. And as I watch the sun twinkle and sparkle she sends fine silver threads of silk, a hand spanning the forest to the water’s surface. The threads cast a spell enough that I have no will of my own. The sensation of Jesi’s presence is so strong, hovering somewhere at the end of those fine silk threads of sun splinters, somewhere far far up in the heavens… so strong I find myself calling urgently Jesi, come back.

It has been three years since Jesi left us and I will never give up wanting her back.

I am in the cove now and heading straight for land. A single figure walking on the bank breaks the spell. I sweep my arms in a circular turn as not to interrupt the rhythm and turn to make my way back to the only home I know.

Jesi, I know, inhabits another far away.

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Swimming in Fragile Waters

When I leave the main beach the bubble man is playing Pied Piper to a gathering of kids. I watch as large colorful contours float aimlessly above the trees shimmering with pinks and blues, colors not present in the sky. The clouds threaten rain. The sand below already sodden and turned dark with it.

The swim ropes and buoys bob aimlessly. The lifeguards perched on their stands in their bright red shirts survey the empty spaces of their jurisdiction. The pond, fringed with pollen ebbing and flowing like yellow lace along the shore is old and grey beyond it.

I am wearing a light shirt over my bathing suit. I carry only a plastic bag with goggles and cap and a towel bundled tightly against whatever weather may break while I am swimming. Yesterday I threw off the neoprene, surprised at the increase in water temperature to the degree my body was comfortable. But today the temperature is lower and the sun absent. I do not feel cold though. My stroke feels unbalanced as I reach through the dark opaque green into the depths below.

I do not look up. There is no need for when I swim I am have horse eyes. I turn to breathe and see left then right but never where I am headed. Now I am nearing Throeau Cove and I remember two days ago hearing voices and looking up to find a dingy with a young man standing watching me. He is calling out, “Hey. Watch out.” I am heading straight for him and his fishing buddy and under ten feet from him. I look up, “Thanks,” too startled in fact to feel fear until I change course and realize what a headache I would have if I collided with his boat. Now I see something grey to my right. And in my next breath one to my left. They are similar but the right one is closer, resembling a tire with bright orange flaps. A dark line extends below it. I see what I think is a black shape hanging longitudinally from one side. I am not sure as I am breathing and turning and I don’t get long enough to really look. Fear rises into my throat. I grew up in Australia and was taught to be fearful of black shapes in open water and although I am not in an ocean the terror rises faster than the logic to quell it.
I turn left and raise my eyes above the level of the water enough to see the beach, Sandy Point and a row of diver fins lined up along the rocks. It’s John, the words take shape inside my head. I have seen John the past two days as I have been coming or going. We trade greetings in the car park. John free dives in Walden and tells me about water temperature. I swim on.
About five strokes past the divers I startle. A turtle makes for the bottom of the pond. My first thought, “Is this a snapping turtle?” I have heard they can be pretty vicious. But it is his shell and tail which I see paddling away from me. So my quickened stroke eases and I realize he is actually quite cute.

Looking back on this swim which took place a couple of weeks ago now, I realize the fears I hold inside have been emerging lately. I wonder whether this is a function of increasing age or whether it is that I have come closer to my own mortality as a result of losing Jesi.

It has been nine months and I think of her always. I know she is present in ways I cannot conceive. I believe she protects me while I swim. But I also know that it is up to me to protect myself. Yet there is an increasing fragility inside me; an intimate knowledge of the potential I did not sense so poignantly before.

I do not think I am alone in feeling this. I think it is the mandate of all mothers who have lost children. The natural order of our lives has been shaken and needs to be reassembled in some way we will never quite come to terms with but neverthless learn to live alongside.

Walden Memories On Christmas Day…

We arrived at Walden around noon. It was Christmas Day and the car park was vacant. The air was warm for late December. The clouds had been chasing the blue across the sky since I woke around 7 am. Now they stretched into thin wisps. It was the most sun Boston had seen for a week or more, and it was glorious. Kari my sixteen year old daughter was with me.
“I don’t want to stay too long,” she announced. “I always think of Jesi when I am here.”
I understood. I did too. It wasn’t that we were trying to forget Jesi. It was just it was our first Christmas since Kari’s twin had passed in early September. It was too sad and it was difficult enough on Christmas day.

Once on the sand Kari and I split up. We had planned to walk the beach in silence. I headed to the water’s edge. Drawn to it by something I didn’t quite understand. A voice inside me asked: Are you in the waves washing up on the shore? I stood staring at them. Nothing answered.

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I looked up. The sky still a deep powder blue with white cotton spread across it. Are you in the strands of cloud spread across the sky? I asked it. Nothing answered.

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I walked along the shore, watching the old trunks of trees rolling to and fro in the water. Are you in the soddy wood strayed from its roots? I asked. Nothing answered.

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I turned to look toward Kari. She had stopped walking and was now standing in the middle of the beach facing the water. Her legs were tensed as though they were clamped together. As I walked up to her I saw the look of concentration on her face. Her brow was deep with furrows. Not those of a sixteen year old, more like those of an eighty year old. I bent in toward her and kissed her forehead in the middle of those undulating waves of tension. Her face relaxed. I stepped in front of her and wrapped my arms around her tight. First one arm, then the other. We stood clasped together for some moments until I moved around to stand beside her, also looking out over the water, my arm linked in hers.

Then a strange thing happened. I bent down a few feet in front of her and pushed my index finger into the saturated sand. And I started writing. Jesi we miss you. We love you.

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Then I stood back up next to Kari and took her hand in mine. We stood there for some minutes until three tourists came toward us and asked a question. Where was Thoreau’s house? I didn’t want to talk, to answer the man. But I did. He wouldn’t understand. Kari remained silent. The man had red hair and a colorful scarf wrapped around his neck which was blowing in the gusty morning air. He looked over to where I pointed to show him the location of Thoreau’s house, the replica and the original site. Then he backed toward me, as though the wind was blowing him. Aware he was walking back into where I had written on the sand Iasked him not to tread on my message.  He looked startled and turned, bending and attempting to resurrect the final ‘u’.
“It’s ok, you don’t have to fix it,” I said in response. “I just don’t want you to tread on it.” He apologized, perplexed I imagine, and moved away.
Kari and I continued to stand and look at the message in the sand for quite sometime before we resumed walking. Then the idea came to me out of the wind.

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I returned to the car to find Jesi’s angel card which I carried with me always in and placed it in the sand next to Jesi’s name. I almost wasn’t going to leave it there. The laminated card would almost certainly end in the pond. But when I placed it there and asked Jesi what she wanted and she answered inside my head. It belonged at Walden, just as she had that last time she visited in May, just before she went back into hospital for her transplant. Standing in the water, on the wet sand in her bare feet, picking them up high like a stork as the cold water ran over them.

memories of Jesi at Walden

memories of Jesi at Walden

When I walked up the ramp I knew that somehow the angel card would find its way into the heavens, carried by the winter breeze and not into the pond at all.

Soul Searching Walden

I sat in the back seat of my van, trying to make my cold weak fingers work enough that I could get my ankles out of my wetsuit. I had to laugh, being so drawn to Walden, to swimming, despite the water temperature dropping, probably below 60 degrees by now. The work of swimming is now less than the work of getting dressed and undressed for it.

It was Thursday. I had put woolly gloves on immediately after my swim, struggling to make my fingers work to get them through the correct spaces. It’s the cold. It makes them weak, perhaps arthritis, I’m not really sure.
There is another measure, the pinky finger on my left hand tends to stray. I can will it to return to lie alongside my left ring finger but the message doesn’t get “delivered.” The colder my hands get, the less able I am to bring my fingers together.
And the funny thing is, my swim friend has experienced the exact same symptom, also on her left hand.

The air was 57 degrees on my car thermometer when I parked just after 3.00pm. A lot warmer than it has been since. I have not swum since.
It’s not easy to give up though, and I have a criteria I tend to adhere to. Three swims when it just “isn’t fun anymore” and I literally throw in the towel for the year. That usually happens when I have to put gloves on. Just around the next water temperature plummet as denoted by a series of cold miserable weather days.

But I haven’t gotten there… yet. Tuesday and Wednesday almost made it. I was exhausted, and after a really great swim on Monday (I took Sunday off) my shoulder ached. The comparison didn’t feel good. But I was still swimming 30 to 40 minutes. And typically I cut down the distance and time I am in before I cut it out altogether.

At this point you are probably thinking “Why do you do this?”

I drove past Walden this morning. It was around 9.00 am and the air was 44 degrees. I looked down from the roadway, my eyes automatically drawn to the water. I could tell there was a slight breeze, the surface not totally mirror still. A portion of it was ruffled like slightly kinked hair. I immediately wanted to be in it. Especially when I spotted a swimmer coming back along the east shore. So I started thinking about what it is that draws me, because, to be honest, I don’t like the cold.

Recently I have had a fascination, wanting to understand what happens to the soul, the spirit, after the body expires. It is driven by wanting to know where my daughter went, the child I nurtured, cared for through four years of cancer. She passed away recently. Aged 16. I wonder if it is like this for all mothers who lose children. I know it is crazy as I believe she is no longer suffering. I believe the spirit she shared with all of us who knew her is now free. But I want to know that she is being cared for in the spirit world.

Crazy, eh.

When I am freely floating in Walden, I am in another world. I no longer inhabit the world of man. There is harmony in bubble blowing, and the gasped mouth breathing. There is the balance of left, right, roll, rock. There is freedom in the floating and the gliding.
I am no longer tethered by gravity. I am in the outer space of water, an embryo in the womb of Walden.
I am fascinated by that other world.

So I go to Walden to look for her…

Forever Lost.

I cry..still. This morning I cried into coffee, so by the time I get to Walden I am dried up. But today, swimming, I think I will make it back to shore only crying on land. I am wrong.

I swim with friends who understand. We swim down the flank of Walden. The water cools, so it is the best this way now. It is, after all, October.
I edge out toward the center. Watching the shore drift further and further away. The waves beat and butt my head but I am happy. Sometimes I want swimming to reflect my life. Sometimes it does.

The image of Jesi, an angel, watches from above. The image of Jesi, my buddha child, her eyes closed, her face serene.

There is nothing easy about loss. Even if you look from the spirit inside yourself. There is little consolation at times.

I swim, stroke after stroke, the water telling me to go on. Jesi would want that. Keep living where she could not.
I am almost home now. And I marvel I have not cried.
Then it happens. The screaming into water echoing bubbles. The short snorting breaths, water up my nose, from one breath into the next, the flood inside my goggles. Tears sloshing lenses. Turmoil. Is it wind? Is it waves? Is it loss in me?

It is.

I cry into bubbles blowing desperate sobs, Jesi you can’t have left us.
Four weeks now is forever. And she is forever lost.