Monday Morning Musings:
“Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—”
“Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending circle. Everything is connected.”— The Stranger, Dark (Netflix series)
I listen to the silent sounds,
a voice inside my head
remembered phrases—and the laugh—
that echoes without reverberation
the birds call and sing the melodies
I cannot sing
with human voice, nor fly
to treetops, or into clouds.
Where do they go?
What do they think
of the shadow’s encroachment?
Is it an annoyance
to be interrupted
or more? Are we intruders remembered,
discussed? I watch the crows gather and caw,
“One for sorrow, two for mirth,”
they follow me, it seems
with strident calls—
beware or remember?
What am I to do?
And so, I listen, watch, write
of yesterday—and tomorrow.
We walk through corridors,
where the past sits behind locked doors.
Clothing, furniture, paintings—so many paintings!
Scenes frozen in time
upon a canvas,
the artist looked, remembering,
translating memories into color and form
each brushstroke, a touch from the past,
the whole, a memorial
to what was—
this life now reduced to her things.
We travel over bridges, rising
over a river of ghosts
through time and tides,
we go about our lives,
carrying on our daily routines
cooking, cleaning, working, loving
when we can
we erase some backstories,
some will never be known.
Like birds, they’ve flown into the clouds,
drifted away, gone
never to be seen again,
but we may find a trace, a feather
of what was
like pentimento, the traces of a laugh
left in the paintings’ vivid hues.
My siblings and I have been paying for a storage unit for my mom’s things. Because she died in April—of Covid 19-related complications during the worst of the pandemic in this area, we could not be with her or pack up her belongings. For some reason, movers were allowed in, and all of her things were packed up and put in the storage unit my sister rented. So, masked and keeping physical distance, we’ve emptied the storage space, an emotional experience. We have not yet held a real memorial for her.
Merril’s Movie Club: No movies this week. We finished Dark, a three-season German series on Netflix, which my husband and I both really liked, even though we were totally confused. If you keep with it, the very last episode does explain and tie things up. We started watching The Twelve, a new Belgian series on Netflix, which explores the backstories of the jurors and the people involved in a murder case—actually two different murder cases because a woman is accused of killing her best friend many years before and her child more recently. We’re about halfway through it, and we both like it, and it has a wondering who committed the crime(s).
Also, I read The Women of the Copper Country, a historical novel by Mary Doria Russell. Her books are all well-researched, but she is also an excellent writer with a great ear for dialog and character development. I’ve enjoyed all of her books. This one focused on the copper mines in upper Michigan and the strike in 1913, led largely by the women there. I knew nothing about these mines or the strike, and yet it also seems very relevant. I’m able to get books from the library now in a contactless system.
What an emotional, tough time this must be for you and your siblings. It seems surreal at times to think this is happening (unfolding?) as it is here. I’m glad you have family to help with the unpacking. Your pictures and words are beautiful.
Thank you so much, Cheryl. I appreciate your kind comment and thoughts. Our enclosed porch is filled with paintings. . .
Oh Merril, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this has been. Please know that I’m thinking of you, and I hope having some of your mother’s possessions will provide the comfort you need. As always, your words and photographs are beautiful. xo
Thank you, Jill. I appreciate your comments so much. ❤️
So beautifully melancholy “Like birds, they’ve flown into the clouds”!
drifted away, gone
Thank you very much, Rene!
You’re so welcome, beautiful words.
Beautifully done. The emotions run the gamut as we go through loved-ones things. My cousin held my great-aunt’s funeral this past Saturday – I was working so could not attend. They had it outside, using a pick-up truck as a food station – rather novel idea and worked to everyone’s advantage.
Thanks so much, Dale.
Pick-up truck as food station is interesting. I hope we’re able to have some sort of memorial some day. What would have been my mom’s 98th birthday will be in August, so I’m going to do something then–not sure what.
My pleasure, you know that.
It looked like they made the best of it.
I sure hope you can as well. Your mom’s birthday would be the best! Sending out good vibes.
Thank you! ❤️
“My cache of ‘Followers’ has disintegrated so if you are still interested
in reading/replying to fresh posts here you’ll have to refollow. Sorry.
You express so much here and beautifully! So sorry for the loss of your mother. Wishing you peace at this time…
Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Emotionally shattering: Sifting through your mother’s things amid the pandemic. As a blog reader, you know all about clearing out two houses of my deceased lived ones. Like you, I had my siblings as companions. So sorry you could not say a proper goodbye or hold a service. At least not yet.
I’m sure you will find just the right niches for one or more of your mother’s paintings.
Thanks, Marian. I do remember how you cleaned out the houses and what a chore it was–physical and mental. I did not really have my siblings as companions. One sister and her family went on another day. One sister was with us (in separate cars, and no hugging).
My younger daughter has promised to deal with all my art when I die…little does she know!
I still can’t reconcile these terrible lonely deaths with no way to truly mourn. That is the worst part of this virus.
Sending hugs. (K)
Thank you so much, Kerfe, for words and hugs.
We all have all taken some of my mom’s paintings over the past few years, and when she moved into the assisted living then nursing home, we went through more of them. What we have now are mostly her best, plus some more valuable paintings by other artists that she had hanging on her walls. It’s still a lot of paintings!
It accumulates. I’ve lost a lot of it along the way, and there’s still so much…
“…the traces of a laugh/left in the paintings’ vivid hues.”
It’s good that you are already hearing the laughter in your mother’s paintings…embrace that bit of Agrodolce Vita.
My deepest condolences to you on the loss of your mother during this cruelest of times.
As I read your poem and commentary on the photographs, I felt that it was about the many ways we try to process grief and was moved by it. I am so, so sorry about your mother.
Thank you so much, Liz. I truly appreciate your kind thoughts and words. And I’m moved that you were moved.
You’re welcome, Merril.
I love your Mom’s painting Merril, the lines and colour of it. Vibrant, like your lines. Thank you 🌺
Thank you so much, Susan! ❤️
So very sorry for your loss Merrill. This plague has been so costly to so many. The loneliness of the passing due to contagiousness of this thing feels like we’re in the middle ages. Hope you found some solice going through your mom’s things. Your poem felt like you have some good memories. Stay strong.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Pat. It’s been over a year now, so the initial grief has passed–though this is her birthday month, so I am thinking of her a lot. Covid did make everything so much worse–sort of unfinished, since we could not say goodbye to her, and still never had a proper memorial.
Maybe once you’re able to have a memorial there will be more of a closure.
Thank you very much, Pat. 💙
Such heartfelt reflections on an arduous task. You Mom was quite a painter.
Thank you very much, Derrick.
I hope you’ll forgive me if this seems like an odd direction to take this, but here goes.
Do memories, and the events that live within them, exist on another plane? When we consider them, sort them, try to surmise the truth they hold, do we change or diminish them in any way, or are they like crows, taking amusement at our attempts to affect something that is beyond our reach?
Hi Ken–I don’t mind at all because that’s the kind of thought I have. I think it’s why I love stories that bend time and space so much. I don’t suppose I can actually answer your question though. Memories changes with remembering–there are definitely false memories, so perhaps memories do exist somewhere on another plane. Or perhaps, they exist, changed, within other timelines.
They say an event (a story) changes every time it’s told, so I’ll imagine they exist as both original and various renditions over time, each waiting for the opportunity to be heard again.
Yes, that sounds reasonable.
Sorry I missed this. Her life reduced to her things. I know exactly what you mean. It’s such a desolate thought, but it’s what happens.
Oh, thank you for coming back to this! Yes, I guess it is what happens to all of us. It’s the way it happened in this case though made it worse–several rushed moves, and then everything packed willy-nilly in storage. Some of her stuff was broken. Just so sad.
The whole episode was tragic. And I’m not sure I understand the logic of it. If someone is dying they’re hardly at risk. But even in the best of worlds, we leave our things behind and they become what the survivors hang onto.
Yes, it was tragic, but it was everyone else at risk going into the nursing home/assisted living. And of course, she got Covid from someone there.
Some of the care homes here put themselves in isolation. The staff never went home for three months.
That’s so sad. Things were very disorganized where my mom was.
I think they have been everywhere. Nobody was prepared for it, and places like care homes used individual initiative.
Yes–here more disorganized because each state, county, etc. had its own guidelines and rules. My mom’s place was already understaffed, which we didn’t realize till she was already there.
I had hoped there would be a shake up in the way elderly people are looked after. It’s so iniquitous that the private homes (and they are almost all private) make millions for their shareholders! And they make it from milking people dry who have no other option, and not even delivering basic care. They should rot in jail.
I think the ones here that are not private–as in the VA (veterans) places are even worse. There seems to be a great variation here, but they are all so expensive. And the people who do most of the actual caregiving are certainly not making much money. I think both facilities where my mom lived were fine (if expensive) for people who are in pretty good physical/mental shape.
That’s the awful thing. The employees who do the real hard work are paid peanuts and the owners and shareholders pocket huge sums.
Oh my, “movers were allowed” in the facility, but not family. I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how debilitating this isolation is for the elderly. Don’t we know it! Sounds horrible, I suppose, but I’m so glad my mom doesn’t have to live with the confusion of isolation now, where suddenly her family no longer visited, and she didn’t understand why. I feel for you, going through that storage. Beyond sad. We are traveling to DE for a Celebration of Life service, finally, for my mom at her church. All of her family will be there although not sure about my son/her grandson. Flying from CA seems too scary right now. But, I’m so ready for us all to laugh and cry together. Then on to the OCNJ beach to celebrate her some more. Very scary – is it safe? But comforting for us all. Thinking of you! xo
Thanks so much, Pam. I feel for you, too. Yes, beginning in March, no one was allowed in the facility, and she died in April. And of course, we would have been terrified to go inside anyway. I was wondering if you’d be going to OC. We saw younger daughter, son-in-law and their puppy briefly yesterday–we did a garden produce exchange. No hugging, stayed apart, and stood outside in the heat.
A garden produce exchange sounds delightful. But the no hugging part – SO hard. Not sure how I’ll accomplish that this coming week, but will do my best. ❤
P.S. I must read The Women of the Copper Country. I like Mary Doria Russell’s novels. Very different and fascinating. The Sparrow series was incredible.
The Sparrow is one of my all-time favorite books! I’ve liked all of her books, too.
Ahh, I got it on the second read, which was out loud. I think I should read all poetry out loud. It seems to sink in, better.
Your mom’s painting at the end is fabulous.
The whole thing about cleaning out the locker is a heartbreaker. I’ve cleaned out my mom’s apartment and my in-laws homes when they passed. I tried not to keep much, but Norm kept a lot. His parents were artists, and the art is easy to keep.
So, I’ve been getting rid of as much of my junk as possible. Yet, it seems no matter how much I give away or sell, the shelves and closets are still full.
The poem is wonderful. You seem to present all the questions that can’t really be answered – life.
Take care, Merril, and thank you for this beautiful poem!
Thank you so much, Resa, for this thoughtful comment. My mom had so many paintings–both her own work and that of others. We and other family members already had some of her paintings. We had to get rid of some of her stuff when she moved to an assisted living facility in January. Then movers just packed up all her stuff in the midst of the pandemic when she died in April, and it all got piled into a storage place near my sister’s house. The Covid situation has made everything just that much more awful. 😔
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