The Autumn equinox is tonight… days and nights are of equal length. If only it felt that way. The nights seem twice as long. And the season of long nights is just beginning.
But that also means that the time of day Sandy and I loved most seems to come around sooner every day… twilight. Dusk…. when the sun has gone down and the light softens… everything gets quiet… the colors are muted, the edges softened. The world seems at peace. We would sit in the garden, drink red wine and watch the light change and fade. Sandy loved this time of day. And now I love it even more. I look forward to the twilight every day… wishing it could somehow be dusk all the time. It’s when I feel closest to Sandy, knowing she is right there next to me… watching the last sunlight on the mountains… listening to the river and the crickets.
Though these nights are getting colder — our first frost was this morning — I still have a ritual of watching the twilight fade, lighting the candles in our garden, and lately building a campfire in the copper fire bowl, watching the stars and the cycle of the moon… wrapped in a wool blanket and playing my Native American flute for her. This nightly ritual grounds me, keeps me breathing. The daytime… when I’m at work, talking with people, going to the grocery store, all those “normal” things we do — it all seems surreal and distant and often meaningless. As if I’m just going through the motions, trying to function and survive until the evening time. And then everything seems more real… Sandy’s presence around me, my grief and loss, all the memories… the twilight and the long nights are at once comforting and painful.
To borrow from Greg Brown, one of our favorite singer / songwriters, in the dedication of his most recent recording, something that could have been about Sandy… “I build a fire and stare into it, to be with you. To hear your stories, your laughter, your sadness. Come sit with me by the fire. Let me play you a song. Your laughter shook your whole body. You were strong and quick to help people in trouble. Life is lonely, we can any of us get too lonely. I feel those who loved you gather round. I hear us singing for you. When we gather round, you are there by the fire. So don’t be so lonesome now. We hold you in the circle. Hunker down. Lean in…”
Here’s a photo of Sandy from a hike in the mountains we did in September, 1989… our first fall together…
Prayers go out to my sister Megan.
And a toast to our friends Bill and Peg Stark, married for 69 years…
Bill died September 7 at 94. Peg is 89 and still going strong.
We’re all gathered around the fire.
A short note to let you know that our friends Mike and John, who have been cycling from Alaska to Argentina to raise money and awareness for brain tumor research, are just two days away from completing their 16,000 mile journey. (See blog days 13 and 14 in November for background of how Sandy and I met them).
They are less than $1,500 short of their goal to raise $50,000 for the National Brain Tumor Foundation. If you can donate a little in Sandy’s honor, you would be helping a great cause.
Their website: spinningsouthward.com (I’ve also had a link on the left menu since November)
SEE PHOTO of us with John and Mike in November 2005, at Half Moon Bay on California coast.
Waves of grief and sorrow…
when I think of life without Sandy by my side.
Waves of warmth and clarity and knowing…
when I feel her presence all around me, helping me to put one foot in front of the other… and honor life and living.
Waves of gratitude and feeling blessed…
to have had 17 years with her, my best friend and soulmate. The perfect match. The woman of my dreams.
Attempting to write anything now is so difficult. My thoughts and emotions tumble… the motivation ebbs. This was for her, not me. But Sandy wanted me to keep writing. And I want to keep writing. And so I will. We were working on a book idea which I will continue on with.
I have been spending most of my time in our garden… watering and tending to it by day… lighting candles, watching the cycles of the moon, listening to the coyotes howl, sipping our favorite red wine and playing my Native American flute for her by night, often all night. It has been one month since she died, though time has no meaning for me any longer — minutes are hours, hours seem like days. And the nights are long, very long. Everything is slow motion. But friends and family come around for visits, I ride my bike with friends and of course take the dogs down to the river for swims on these hot days. And I have been working on some projects around the house that Sandy and I had wanted to do. I also started back to work part-time this week.
But being away from the garden and our home is difficult. There is comfort here. And I feel Sandy here in everything I see or do… which is at once painful and comforting at the same time. But mostly comforting. She is still with me… and always will be.
I guess now would be a good time to retell a couple of the messages from Sandy that I talked of at her gathering party….
Yellow balloons had played a significant role in our lives in the weeks before she died… there was the trip to the grocery store, three weeks before she died, to stock up for all the people coming to her wake — we wheel Sandy into the store in her wheeelchair and she says, “We have to decorate this damn wheelchair!” So we go to the flower section and buy 13 (her lucky number) yellow (LiveStrong color) balloons. So there we were with this gigantic bouquet of yellow balloons floating above her wheelchair while we shop. And then at the LiveStrong Challenge in Portland we ended up with some yellow balloons which we left at a friend’s house on the way home. And of course we had yellow balloons at her celebration. Three days after Sandy died her brother and his wife dragged me out for a hike on a trail near our home. I wanted to get to a large rock that Sandy loved to sit on. About halfway there, a mile or so up the trail, I look down and laying next to the trail is a yellow balloon, string still attached, and the balloon had popped into this amazing flower-like shape. That balloon is now on the little shrine of photos and favorite things of Sandy’s that I have next to our bed.
A few nights later… a friend and I were sitting outside about midnight, talking about Sandy. I had gone into the house to get a glass of wine and was walking back outside, feeling very depressed and crying, wanting a sign from Sandy, to know she was alright. I looked up at the night sky, and said aloud, “Now would be a good time…” Just as soon as I said that, a huge shooting star, looking more like a comet with a long wide sparkling tail, shot across half of the sky directly overhead. My friend shouted out, “Wow! That was incredible! Did you see that?!” I replied, “Did I see that? I prayed for that…”
And I have had other encounters and messages. Some have been humorous, well sort of. One night I had stayed up all night in a chair in the Garden of Friendship… watching the sky, thinking about Sandy. As daylight came I found myself looking up at a couple of dead branches overhead in our big tree. Sandy and I had joked for years “yeah, we better cut those down before they fall and kill us.” Well, something prompted me that early morning to climb up to the top of our 20-foot ladder, with a 12-foot pole pruning saw, and get those branches down. One of them I had to cut. The other and largest one (six inches in diameter and 15 feet long) was already broken off and hung up in the tree branches. It had been there for years and looked like it would stay there forever. I thought I would give it a little tug with the pole saw just to see if I might have a chance at pulling it down. I had barely touched it with the saw (12-feet over my head, and I’m at the top of a 20-foot ladder) when it came crashing through the tree branches, almost taking me off the ladder, and hit our garden furniture in an explosion of branches, breaking a piece off of a chair, right where I had been sitting. I looked out at the rising sun and all I could say was… “Thank you, Sandy…”
So she’s out there, right here, watching out for me still. Though I’m sure she had to close her eyes when I was at the top of that ladder.
I guess I’ll end with this for tonight. And I will keep writing, even if no one is out there reading it. I don’t want this blog journal to to become about my grief and sorrow and loss. I want it to continue to be about Sandy… with memories, thoughts and impressions of her. To honor what she was all about… living. So please join me in that sharing.
Here are the lyrics to one of our favorite songs that our friend Dan Maher sang at our wedding and ten years later at Sandy’s celebration…
The Call And The Answer
You are the call, I am the answer
You are the wish and I am the way
You’re the music, I the dancer
You are the night and I am the day
You are the night and I am the day
You called and I ran
Wild as the wind which rows across the moor
All we needed is each other
With the eagles we will soar
You and I we’re like two rivers
Run and fall down to the sea
When we meet we’re lost forever
Lost forever you and me
Lay your head upon my pillow
Let your heart beat close to mine
There’s no past and no tomorrow
Two hearts lost in space and time
The full moon is beckoning me back to the garden.