Friday, June 4, 2010

Wisdom in small places

When Lucy died, I suddenly understood the context of "Grieving Woman" side character in movies. The wailing woman. The clicking group of Arab women. The fainting mother. The drunk. The psychotic bereaved mother. The angry, adrenaline-infused mother bear. The chronically depressed mother. The strong rock of the family. I felt like all of them.

I had a deep need for the sacred. Something painful. Something beautiful and tragic. I remembered the Jain nuns, such strict vegans that shaving one's head, as is custom for monks, was thought to be cruel and certain death to the lice. A nun pluck each hair from her hair, one by one. The monks pluck the hairs from their face, one by one. I wanted to wrap myself in orange linens, rock, click, and pluck each hair. Then I would become bald, austere, emotionless and silent.

My grief has been the complete opposite of that. Angry. Loud. Messy. Emotive. Fat. Depressed. Lazy. Everything but sacred.


The other day, while driving through this God-forsaken humidity, I watched a smiling homeless man wheeling a cage full of found objects through an intersection. He was blowing thousands of bubbles with some kind of hand-held bubble machine. Cascading over the cars and people, static from the traffic and heaving with exhaustion, my daughter exclaimed, "Look, Mama! Bubbles!"


I think I have a Black Thumb of Death. I killed bushes, the hearty kind that every jackass in the country has against his foundation. Azaleas fear me. So this year I am cultivating a garden of "native plants". Plants I did not sow. Plants that are beautiful and not very needy.

Weeds are only a matter of one's perception.

This year, the flowers are abundant and gorgeous. I will not pluck their unsanctioned beauty. I will not force my beds into an unnatural union. Daisies I planted a few years ago sprouted, next to the wild yellows. My clematis has exploded in purple elegance as a backdrop to the tall grasses of my once barren vegetable garden. My grape plant, which was nary more than a leaf or three last year, has overtaken our fence and covered the mass of brown dirt.


I have begun to find routine in this new life with baby, toddler and dead daughter. I have taken time on the computer as Thor has begun sleeping more regularly. I have begun painting and crafting more regularly again too. It is all jizos. Mizuko jizos. I collage them. I paint them. I illustrate them.

I paint jizos when I miss Lucy.

Yesterday, I painted a prayer jizo painting. In my scrawly handwriting, I wrote the prayer. That is the wild card. The prayer. After I have finished the painting itself, I write the prayer. It can easily destroy the whole painting. When I stood back, it read:

Mizuko jizo, heal my mounds.

A few months ago, the amazing Jenni posted this quote on her blog, "What most people don’t understand is that holding, seeing, touching our dead babies is the 'fucking highlight' of this experience: it’s the living without them for the rest of our lives that is truly awful."

Yeah, that.


  1. Glad you're finding a routine. Those damn letters look similar, and when you're really into it, sometimes the mind just flips something.

  2. Indeed, it's the "living" without. The life that goes on, and on, and yet again on.

    Your garden sounds lovely and natural, letting the plants dictate their whereabouts. That's my favorite type of garden.

  3. i wish i could remember who i was quoting. it was in the comments section of someone's blog, and it was months and months ago. i feel like it must have been a real straight shooter like niobe or monica, but i just can't remember. anyone want to take credit?

    i know what you mean about grief getting angry and messy. i think those spaces are just as valid and important as the holy and silent spaces, though. i like how this is kind of being reflected in your garden right now.

    *mounds* i'm sorry it ruined your jizo painting. but honestly, it made me smile. i don't know about you, but after this loss there are a lot of extra mounds on my body that could use some healing. :) xo

  4. Whoever said it, thank you for the quote - i think i now understand what has been eating out my heart these last few days.

  5. It was charmed girl who said that line. I remember reading it on her blog and I think I have even quoted it before myself. It is perfect.
    Glad you're finding your groove as a mother of three - with one misssing.

  6. I think about that quote often. She's so right.


  7. That quote is so true. (((Hugs)))

  8. Your garden sounds like exactly my cup of tea. And the said quote: yeah, totally. Back when I came home from the hospital (without my son) I thought the hardest part was behind me... when I really had no idea that this was the fucking highlight. Well, I found out soon enough...

    Sending big loves! xoxo

  9. Love that quote, isn't that the truth?

  10. I still have the beautiful Jizo you painted for us framed on my bedside table. I love it! I'm glad to hear that you continue to paint them.

  11. Here's the link to where the quote comes from. It's 100% Charmed Girl.:)

    Your garden sounds beautiful. I just tried to 'help' mine get some more structure and ended up killing the kids well loved and growing pumpkin. Damn it.


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