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

The Belle of Belfast City

Arms wrapped around fall, a tumultuous summer, the wounds of travel, transition, death, grief. Grim worlds of wakes in Irish settings, Irish flags in fresh ground, the foundation of a family strong and crumpling and molding together beds of grass and my grandmother’s marble funeral urn turquoise, a color she chose, so beautiful on an August morning.

Her gift to me a clock that always keeps time, royal purple of a queen who knew best the last year of her life, histories before. In a community hall, in an apartment she called her own, coffee sipped every day, all day black and there was still never enough time. Never enough time for sleepovers under quilted blankets, conversations over breakfast and so many hard candies, baskets full.

My heart broke the hardest six days after my 31st birthday. A woman who kept tabs on obituaries, of elder people in town dying off as if it were just another thing, as if she would never be next. That blue house on the hill, a place where love lives, the wood stove, the fire place, the dogs around our feet.

What I wouldn’t give for all of those hours watching the snow fall. Warmth is a place that lives in the heart of the people we lose. When they laugh, we can hear them for generations. Listen.

I can / eat as I go.

I am reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It has been one year and one half since my mother passed away. I am on page 65. She is talking about junipers and sage. She is talking about memory. She is talking about a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail on her own. There is a scene where she confronts her backpack as burden.
 

To the right of my blog post, the “About Me” section, replaced a long time ago, is a Denise Levertov quote: “I can eat as I go.”
  

My grief has been less harrowing than that of Cheryl’s account, because I think the time leading up to it was actually when I unraveled. But the wilderness is the same.

I turn 30 in August. I plan to be in California for the first time in my life.


I look forward to stepping westward.


STEPPING WESTWARD

by Denise Levertov

What is green in me 
darkens, muscadine.
If woman is inconstant,
good, I am faithful to
ebb and flow, I fall
in season and now
is a time of ripening.
If her part
is to be true,
a north star,
good, I hold steady
in the black sky
and vanish by day,
yet burn there
in blue or above
quilts of cloud.
There is no savor
more sweet, more salt
than to be glad to be
what, woman,
and who, myself,
I am, a shadow
that grows longer as the sun
moves, drawn out
on a thread of wonder.
If I bear burdens
they begin to be remembered
as gifts, goods, a basket
of bread that hurts
my shoulders but closes me
in fragrance. I can
eat as I go.