After our babies and children die, so many things change- our bodies, our minds, how we view the world, our address book, our vocabulary, how we communicate. We all deal differently, and perhaps also similar in some sense. There is this soreness and tenderness that we understand, yet we speak in different voices- which is what makes this community beautiful.
I suspect sometimes I read, to find one who is most like me, or the “me” that is going to be. For a time the label of “the woman who had a stillbirth” or “the woman whose baby died” seems to be branded, impossible to shake off. After a time I feel I ought to transcend that, be that, accept that, and then become something bigger, something more.
I am a wife, a mother, a woman, yet I don’t feel I am all of those, and none of those define me or truly speak to me.
I guess I am lost.
And I start to read into everything, latch on to other people’s words and experiences, and try to find myself somewhere, or at least get an idea of the potentialities.
Recently we got a book from the library called Gates of the Wind, by one of our favorite authors Kathryn Lasky. It tells of this old woman called Gamma Lee, who lived all her life in this beautiful place where it was never too hot in the summer and never too cold in the winter, and where a river flows through the village. Everyone in the village exclaimed that it was the “best place in the world!” But Gamma Lee packed up her stuff, and with her faithful mule, Louise, decided to find the source of the river, high up in the windy mountains, called the Gates of the Wind.
It was no easy journey but she arrived. Except it was not the end of the journey. Yet. The wind was fierce and unfriendly and did not wish her company. Gamma Lee was thrown about, knocked flat, and the house she built was blown into splinters, overnight.
It was hard, the wind on her, but Gamma Lee observed how the grasses and reeds bent gracefully in the wind and she built a new hut from supple reeds, the roof a bed of sweet green grass. Instead of blowing the hut over, the wind became a song as it blew through the reed walls.
Gamma Lee found a way to plant a garden while the wind plotted to unearth her efforts. Again, she looked to nature and found a way to keep her plants and flowers. Finally, they made peace, Gamma Lee and the wind.
Gamma Lee would never call the Gates of the Wind the best place of the world, but neither would she call it the worst. She, her faithful mule Louise, and the wind simply passed the days together. Days that stretched into months, and then years. She has a swing from which she sail right out through the Gates to fling herself right onto the wind’s chest. It was said that “she grew reedy and ruddy and supple, and her hair blew loose like the veils of mist at the river’s source. As time went by, Gamma Lee became as much a part of the wind as the current was part of the river.”
We all loved the story. We talked about the sense of adventure, being complacent, and determination; how to overcome difficulties and what it was like to be challenged by the strong wind and how Gamma Lee could swing right into the wind’s chest. All the while in my head, I thought of my journey after Ferdinand. I was always a little afraid of becoming stagnant. But the divergence in my path galvanized by Ferdinand’s death was not what I expected, or wanted, either. I felt, by no choice of my own, I had to head for this place, not unlike the Gates of the Wind, where I had to learn to be supple, and yield. To find the strength within me, and it was not by being tough and meeting everything head-on. It was about leaning into the pain, and making friends with the dark. The part of Gamma Lee becoming part of the wind, though, I took to mean Ferdinand, myself, and all mortal beings. One day we are all dust, no matter what, and we’ll be a part of the wind- the dirt, ash and finely ground bones blowing about.
The story ended with a little girl asking her great-grandmother, years later, if Gamma Lee was indeed true, if the Gates of the Wind existed. And the old woman, who lived next door to Gamma Lee, replied that most certainly she was real, and “crazy, too.” She wondered why would someone in sound mind leave the best place in the world to go live with the fearsome wind. But the little girl asked, “Why not?” and she determined to follow the river, as Gamma Lee did, to find the Gates of the Wind, and Gamma Lee. And when she did find the place and the woman who had become the wind, she would keep on going, to see what lay beyond.
I liked how the story ended. There is a beyond we all can look to. It’s got to be there, somewhere. maybe we will meet again, there.
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