Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Love Letters to My Life #41: A new possibility opens up buried grief

Sunday morning on Garden Street

(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my joy-filled life.)    

Change comes in many forms from the slow creeping rise of oceans to the sharp cataclysmic fractures of the earth or fire-spewing volcanic eruptions. Aging is a slow form change, advancing cell by cell, obscured by the blur of life until time and the river sweeps everything away in one last heartbeat moment, leaving a barren but fallow griefscape for those left behind.

I am in Santa Barbara. It’s not where Richard died; it’s where we lived. Its streets trace our former life like lines criss-crossing the palms of my hands. I’m left wondering how I will make new paths in this deeply furrowed soil as I plan the return to our place, the place we claimed when love was new, where memories of shared sights and sounds, loves and losses, roll in and out like morning fog. 

This Thanksgiving season of his death is especially poignant as I walk through the inescapable past; every step a paper cut memory: the what-ifs and if-onlys, the words still unspoken, the remembered hopes and dreams of yesterday, the finality of change that has no tomorrow. 

With this possibility of returning with new skills and dreams as well as deeper wisdom, softened and strengthened by grief, I tug at the door so firmly closed years ago. The beauty of this place floods in mingling with the pain, the tears, the joy and heartbreak. Years of solitude and carefully controlled sorrow shatter into a what-now confusion as this place I adore invites my return, alone, without the love and the man who brought me here so many years ago. 

 All the things I know, all the wisdom I’ve gathered, cluster like monarchs on a somber day: colorless things waiting for warming sunshine before spreading their bright wings and continuing on their way. I know that sunny day will come to me also; I just have to walk forward into this gift of life, this one more chance to live in the only place my heart calls home.

Richard and baby Ava (now 20)

Sunday, November 7, 2021

A strange land: No passport needed

 There is a place, just across a border, a border unmarked on any map. It is a paint-splashed place just beyond the norms of here and now, this and that. A place where discarded televisions, old tires, left over cars, empty paint cans, and unleashed freedom dance their way into art. It is a disordered place of chaos and beauty, of yin and yang, a defiant, blatant physical rebellion against expectations of square-cornered control.

In this place lives a tribe of misfits, the rejected and rejecting ones: dreamers, painters, sculptors, wild-eyed visionaries, hoarders and protectors of the debris of the commercial world, pontificators, dropouts, over-dosed crazies, shattered geniuses, potential messiahs, and a greeter named Wizard … all skipping blissfully and blindly toward the promised land at the tip of Maslow’s hierarchy, attempting to create heaven on earth in the midst of an accepting but unyielding desert.

In East Jesus over the past two and a half years, a type-A woman named Dot has created an entrepreneurial empire that sprawls over several abandoned and relocated trailers, including a 3,000 book ArcHive, a boutique housed in a repurposed school bus, an art emporium, and a blind-eyed chicken.

These are pioneers shaking off their past as they stake their claims in the name of art and freedom from a broken future. Their place has many names:

Salvation Mountain - Slab City - East Jesus - Bombay Beach ...

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Been There Voices - Anita Perez Ferguson - How do you manage prolonged exposure to grief?

After teaching my weekly class at the Ventura Post Acute Care Center I wrote:

Your pain and sickness
Distress my spirit.
Seeing you erases
The smile I washed and ironed Especially for our visit.

How do you manage
Prolonged exposure to grief?
I cannot store up enough cheer to last the journey.

** Anita Perez Ferguson, Santa Barbara, CA, young adult historic fiction author

Click here for more about Anita and other Been There Voices  


Been There Voices is about us, our lives, our successes and failures, our joys and sorrows, our lessons and our gradual, hard-won wisdom. We have survived and thrived throughout whatever has come our way.

The reasons are arbitrary and not intended to dismiss half of our population, however, this project focuses on the stories of women, and begins with fourteen women, well-polished grains of sand on the beach of life, tumbled by the waves of time until their light shines through, offering their stories, joys and sorrows, to the ocean of wisdom.