Far Beyond the Blue

In memory of my mother, February 28, 1958–March 19, 2011.

Cotton fabric, lollipop design, your color purple, my color blue, straight pins in air, a pin cushion skirt around my waist. It is the 1st of February, it is sunny in Chicago, a winter day, Rogers Park, the aquamarine lake not far east from here. Lucinda Williams released a new album today, The Lost Ghosts of Highway 20, you appear in the second to last track: “If There’s a Heaven.”

It’s been a long time. I am eating too many clementines, as if ascorbic acid could kill me. I am learning about sewing and sewing machines and I want to tell you about fabric shears and tracing chalk and measurements for my body, how I am proud of my hip size, how much joy I find in the work you lived.

Your birthday is in 28 days, there are 29 days this year, an extra one for memory, a day for ghosts, a pleasant surprise. I wish you could give me advice on the proper thread, on the best type of fabric, on a shorter cut, a better way. I forgive you for not teaching me.

I imagine stitches mend old memories, black with grief, regret, and anger. I imagine they piece together a world that is whole and not wholly broken, the perfect time to embroider a heart in two pieces. I have so much of your fabric. I need to tailor the edges into placemats and cloth napkins. Wine purple, orange, lime green, and dark blue with white stars.

Maybe it’s not a life that dictates eternity, but those who loved you and reorganize memory to honor good qualities of character. You were such a strong, sassy woman. A feminist in the 80s, in the 90s, independent in the 00s, in the way you could be. A Pisces addict, in the most terrible way.

Darkness and trauma dig deep. They cloud the lens. Five years ago you plunged me into outer space and I am now beginning to find which center the sun resides. I am beginning to sew a garden, grow a compass, plant an heirloom. Tomatoes not quite ripe on my windowsill, the way you would. Wait for the sun to make them shine.

A PLACE WITHOUT A PERSON
By Madeleine Barnes

A star drawn in my mother’s
dark blue planner
reminds me —
we need to be eased from place
to place. We need to be
eased from each other.

so when you go / you let me know / if there’s a heaven out there

Songbirds in Winter

Hearth. Woodland. A round of robins. A mythical Alpine Christmas creature resurrected. Wendigo. Gifts from my father. Faith. The snow as it melts from too much rain on the solstice. Prayers for so much blizzard.

I spend much of my time writing about the women in my life. This year, this season, I dedicate to my father. As the winter solstice wanes and the days grow lighter again, my meditation focuses on his steadfast nature, his resilience, his never-ending attention to light. If my mother is the civil dawn, my father is the moment just before.

The heaviness and weariness he wears on his face from hard work, how joy lurks in every crack of newly beginning wrinkles regardless of history. How I take my good humor from him, how we go to the turkey shoots every December. How the winter I discover Krampus (from the German “to claw” or “to seize”) is the same year my father’s impeccable aim shoots a 156 lb. buck in the woods of my childhood. When the animal hit the ground, its eight point antlers shot straight off its skull into the Massachusetts snow. A gruesome victory for a practice unrelenting.

How my father loves those forests, how his diligence shadows mine, his punctuality an earmark, his jest that of a master trickster well-intentioned. How his sadness sobers me because his resilience never exhausts. His excitement to show me new things never wavers and his stoicism listens every time I am angry, every time I am happy. I have seen my father’s small dreams manifest into reality with patience, even though I believe my sense of urgency comes from him.

He is the rural compass I never lost, the hummingbird feeder stationed outside every windowsill no matter how many times I lose direction. He is the reason the songbirds sing before sunrise. He is quick on his feet to greet them.

He is a round of robins in winter well prepared for the frost, awaiting good news.

“my father, who had no faith, but loved
how the long, ascending syllable of wild
echoed from the walls in celebration…”
— from “Aubade in Autumn” by Peter Everwine