Coming Home

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Magnolia blossoms March 2012 Finger Lakes

Magnolia blossoms, the next morning

Not long before midnight, I put on my miner’s lamp and tour the yard like a one-eyed Cyclops. It’s March 19, 2012, usually a time for snow on my hill in the Finger Lakes of New York, but instead of snow, I look toward the earth and illuminate pale snowdrops, purple crocus, and delicate dwarf daffodils. I walk toward the vegetable garden and lift my head to shine the beam on cascading forsythia and then I inspect the swelling lilac buds. Saving the best for last, I walk toward the white magnolia, tip my head back, and catch a glimpse of red Mars before peering into the precocious white blossoms. The night is so warm that the flowers still share their erotic sunlit scent. The peepers serenade from the swamp across the road.

“Home, home. I love being home,” my heart sings her favorite song. Then I go inside and wait for the grief to hit before I go to sleep. Instead, I fall asleep. At dawn on Tuesday morning, still on California time, I am still waiting for the psychological crash. It does not come.

I know my history. I know that when I return from a trip, I am hit hard by grief and loss. I know the sinking gut, the inability to breathe, the girlish helplessness, the desperate longing. Where is Vic? my body asks even though my husband has been dead for more than three years. Why isn’t he here? He should be here.

I prepared myself for the inevitable meltdown in the San Francisco airport, during the late long flight to Newark, in the Newark airport eating a miracle salad I found in a food court, waiting on the runway for the plane to fly, and in the Ithaca airport where no one was meeting me. I kept talking as I found my Suburu in the parking lot and drove to Wegman’s for a few days of salad and yogurt.

“Be still,” I crooned to my soul, remembering T.S. Elliot as I drove across the Finger Lakes National Forest and entered my driveway.

The house was standing—always a relief. The dogs were at the kennel until the next morning. I was alone in midnight beauty with swamp serenades and sumptuous scents.

The crash? It did not come.

Something has shifted after so many years of grieving. Instead of Vic’s absence, I feel the presence of this land, my sanctuary, my writer’s retreat, my nourishing home on this earth. Instead of tears, the Venus/Jupiter conjunction dazzles me as it sinks toward the western horizon.

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20 Comments
  1. Tears and joy that something has shifted…smiles and hugs to you, Elaine.

  2. Grief has been a constant companion for so long. Your essay made me hopeful there will be a day when the crash, it does not come, and home is solace enough.

    • I wish for your grief to lighten, too. For me, there is no hurrying the process. Grief comes in cycles–moments of more light and joy followed by a spiral down for another lesson in the human condition. Out my office window this morning, the bluebirds began feeding their newly hatched brood. They give me hope for new beginnings.

  3. Elaine, my dear buddy,

    Reading your post, my heart hovers in no-space between grief, relief, wonder and, especially, gratitude, knowing you so well and so long.

    Have a look at my newest, just published today (been hacking at it for about two weeks).

    Love you,

    F.

    • Hi Fred, Thanks for reading and wondering. I’ve been watching for a new post from you. I tried to subscribe a number of times and will try again. Sending love to the host desert from the wet greenlands.

  4. Hello, dear Elaine,
    It’s lovely to see your blog.

    I’m glad to see the comfort you’ve received in the simplicity of spring flowers and your own land.

    Having myself known the mysterious cycles of profound grief — always missing my beloved daughter — for over a fourteen years, and now working with others integrating personal trauma and loss, I’ll be honored to follow along your journey, as a mostly silent witness.

    May you be ever blessed with mindfulness, insight and compassion.
    In friendship, Nanci

    • Thank you, Nanci. I know you have learned deep and hard lessons from your losses. I admire your clarity and honesty about the grieving process.
      I am honored that you would like to “follow along,” silently or with comments when you are moved to make them.
      An easy to find and use “subscribe” button was put on the blog page of my website today. I hope you’ll be the first to use it.
      May there be peace in us and in the world, Elaine

  5. Thanks you Elaine for your words. Your piece left me feeling a full range of tender emotions. As always I so appreciate your capacity to move through a wide range of real feelings associated with the messy up’s and down’s of life.
    I loved the movement at the end, from tears which didn’t come to being dazzled by the Venus/Jupiter conjunction.
    I love how vividly you make Nature the healer.
    And this “… filled with swamp serenades and sumptuous scents… wonderful!

    • Thank you, Lauren, for your loving and encouraging response and for moving through the ups and downs of love, death, and new life with me. Many blogs in the queue along with a new and easy subscription button on the blog page. Subscribe if you’re so inclined. Sending love to you in CA.

  6. Beautifully written, and more, so deeply felt. It’s been a long road and I continue to be inspired by your loving presence you give to yourself and I am heartened by this new place you now find yourself in.
    Love you.

  7. Dear Elaine,
    You write honestly and eloquently about your soul: its truths, its processes, the beauty and healing gifts of its earthly home. I look forward to reading more of your soul-filled words! Jeanie

  8. So lovely to hear all of your words Elaine. So lovely. I can feel it in my own heart as I begin a visit to my 93 yr old Mom in Santa Barbara and met her new more diminished self and consider a possible move to a level of higher care for her.
    Yes Our hearts!
    SO MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALWAYS!
    Lori

    • Thank you for your affirming words, Lori. I wish you well with your mom and the difficult decisions that often come toward the end of life. My next week’s blog is about experiences with my mom. All went well after we got the right help, but sometimes it is hard to figure that out. Always a sad time.
      I recently went to a Marion Woodman Foundation conference at La Casa de Maria just south of Santa Barbara. Exquisite part of the world.
      I’m thinking of you in CA and hope you’ll return home with essential decisions made or in the works.

  9. Two years. How much has changed! The truth conveyed in this wonderful essay is timeless.

    • Thank you, Jill. Changes in the weather from that spring when everything flowered in March. Changes in where I am with grief. Changes in my writing and the new focus the book brings. Big changes for me and also for you.

  10. This is lovely, Elaine! You have never sounded like a beginning writer, even in your first blog post.

    And how far you’ve come since then! 🙂

    • Thank you, Marian, I already had a book in final stages when I began blogging. I’d kept a journal for years and written and published many women’s health articles. After Vic’s death, I wrote my grief in a class called “Writing through the Rough Spots” (I still attend this class after 9 years). I poured out stories and memories of Vic’s illness, my grief, our marriage. I wrote to support myself, but slowly realized I had a book. I polished those stories and began shaping them with lots of feedback from my writing teacher and a book development editor. The blogging began while we looked for a publisher. I like that first blog, so I’m glad you did, too.

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