The forest is green with moss and ferns. Fiddleheads near the stream are ready to harvest and the maple trees dropped their tiny red flowers on the forest floor. Trout lilies finish their season just as Trillium begins theirs.
The dogs love to run along the trails, but I climb the hill to Vic’s Red Oak. They willingly follow me. I stand at the granite cairn where Vic’s ashes are buried and listen to a Red-Winged Blackbird call from the swamp at the forest’s edge.
Vic died on June 3, 2008— many years ago and oh so recent. I’ve learned to carry the grief of death near the love that still supports me every day. There’s enough room in my heart for both. I don’t grieve as I once did, but when the lupine leaves spread in the fields and the hummingbirds return, the presence of Vic’s absence pierces my heart.
In the forest near Vic’s cairn, I search for moments of peace in this time of war. The wildflowers comfort me in a world of anger and cruelty. I forget nasty politics and climate catastrophe and breathe in the peace of now. Don’t we all need peace breaks in order to carry on the work of saving our world?
Willow stays close and sniffs around in the old oak leaves. Disco searches for a perfect rock. I quietly thank Vic for loving me and read a poem we often read together, a poem that became my prayer and practice:
When men and women come together,
How much they have to abandon! Wrens
Make their nests of fancy threads
And string ends, animals
Abandon all their money each year.
What is it that men and women leave?
Harder than wren’s doing, they have
To abandon their longing for the perfect.
The inner nest not made by instinct
Will never be quite round,
And each has to enter the nest
Made by the other imperfect bird.”
~ Robert Bly, Listening to the Koln Concert (2nd half)
Vic and I read this poem to each other on our 39th anniversary and I read it to him on our 40th, just a few weeks before his death. The idea of giving up the perfect is as powerful in my aging years as it was when we were newly married.
After reciting to the cairn, the Oak trees, and the birds, I walk down to the stream so the dogs can splash and drink while I harvest fiddlehead ferns. On the way home, I check the Bluebird nesting box and find three almost perfect blue eggs.
This time of year awakens the grief I felt in Vic’s last month when he was clearly dying. The grief is accompanied by a burst of spring beauty in Nature. Each side helps balance the other. Do you have times of year when grief feels most difficult? What helps you hold a balance?