Archive for July, 2010

Dear Ferdinand,

a few days ago your sister asked, “Do you think that Ferdinand knows that we love him?”

Of course, I told her, of course you do. You are fiercely, and gently loved. We never stopped, we never forgot. We still ache for you, and every moment we wish you were physically here with us.

Long ago I wrote that I did not think time was linear. And so one day I will meet someone and look into his eyes and know that he is you. And you will nod, to let me know that he is you. And often when I cannot fall to sleep at night, I lay in bed and think of you, and how that meeting will look like.

The last one was like this:

You knocked on the door. I opened it, and there you stood, a dashing young man with shoulder-length hair. You threw down your backpack onto the living room floor and sat down to remove your winged boots, knowing of course that we do not wear shoes at home. You shrugged off your jacket and told me, “Do not wash on warm, else the stardust and moonbeams will come off. I wanna keep them. Smell, you can smell them.” And I took your jacket in my hands and bent my head over to smell. Stardust and moonbeams. And the jacket still warm from your body heat.

And you walked in and behaved like you lived with us all along, you knew where everything was. You told me you think you’ve had enough of star-traveling. You were hungry, yes, and would love a hot bowl of miso soup. And you said you hoped I would soon bake you the best chocolate cake I ever can. You chattered along, telling of impossible stories and humming a tune occasionally. You grinned, you smiled, you laughed. Then you stood still, looked at me deeply, your eyes twinkling and you gave me a big, big hug and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. You came home, like you never left.

You never left. Ever in our hearts. We love you.




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in the early months after he died, i always felt the path ahead was long, dark and winding, whatever dimness of light ahead leaking from the door to death. alongside the path, snarled branches to tear, gigantic roots to trip, thorns to rip. perilous, winding path.

after a while, i see that the road does not just lead on and on, it comes back, again and again. spirals. we’ve all talked about that. stumbling a bit further from the pain and memory, then suddenly finding one back at the same point again, a little removed sometimes, time doing its work perhaps.

until one day recently, I was making accordion folds with my origami paper, trying to put together a kusudama flower. back and forth, back and forth.

it provoked memory of a performance I watched while viewing a documentary not too long ago. you have to watch it, you have to, it is amazing.

but he is playing winter. Ferdinand was a summer baby, so i looked for summer and found it. and my soul stirred and my heart slammed and the missing came in huge waves.

back and forth, back and forth. squeeze, release, squeeze, release.

simplified, that is the essence of the accordion. the bellows. the accordionist squeezes the bellows, pressurizing the air within, forcing it to escape, which in turn gives music to notes. the harder the squeeze, the louder the emergence. it is the accordion pleats, made from cardboard, cloth or leather, that allows the bellows to swell and collapse, varying the volume of the music played.

and so is grief, at least mine. back and forth. swelling, collapsing.

but never truly silent.

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When I was de-cluttering the laundry room I found this box filled with origami- not the paper but finished products. They were the samples I made to display at an origami funshop I led at an Unschooling conference that we attended in 2006. Because I was de-cluttering with a vengeance I decided to throw out most of the samples and take pictures of a few memorable ones. These paper things had survived the road trip from Phoenix to Albuquerque and back pretty good (plus the fondling of curious little fingers) but that did not soften my heart one iota. I snapped a few photos and then walked straight to the recycling bin. Amongst the memorable ones were:

A large box with lid with four compartments within.

To populate the compartments I made a miniature butterfly, birds and a tulip.

Tulip in a vase, and this mystery box where you can hide something in.

And I know you are shivering in your boots at the sight of this scary dragon.


Two weeks ago I visited a friend and we were talking about Ferdinand and Val said, “Please stop talking about him. It makes me sad.”

And so we stopped.

Sophia kept asking how many days more to Ferdinand’s birthday and why do we call it an “anniversary” and she said, “It makes me both excited and sad when the date draws closer.”

Talking about coincidence of dates, we found out on July 27 and he was born July 29. Did you know that Vincent van Gogh shot himself July 27 but did not die until July 29? I read that in that suicide book, and found it rather fascinating.


As I looked at those origami samples, I recalled the events around them. They are markers. A few months before that conference we had bought our cabin. A week after the conference I left with the girls to Germany to stay with my in-laws for six weeks, during which time we decided we will have a third child, and the rest, they say, is history. It was 2006, a very busy year for us, that culminated in November with the surprise of Ferdinand’s pregnancy.

Often, I recall events based on the fateful date and year. I do not say it out loud but that’s how I recall things, and I suppose everyone has their own markers.


Today we are finally overcast after the continuous heat. I have no faith that rain will descend from the sky though I read that historically, July 20-27 has been the time when evaporated water in the atmosphere reaches its annual maximum. Maybe that’s why yesterday a few drops of hot water fell from the sky when I went out to the recycling bin. But that was about it, a few miserable drops.

What’s your weather? What’s your marker?

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extreme heat advisory

One may not reach the dawn

save by the path of the night.

~ Kahlil Gibran, in “Sand and Foam”

The voice on the radio informed me that the city is on extreme heat watch, until 8pm Friday night. That is a freaking long time to watch the heat. No respite, not even in the long nights. The sea may swallow the sun (or so it seems) but the heat will continue to sizzle and dance on our skin and hot fingers will continue to wrap around my scalp and my neck and when there is a breeze, it comes from the big oven behind that mountain.

So we hide at home, stock up on popsicles and drag out the ice-cream maker. Drive 25 minutes one way to get god-awesome milk so we can make ice-cream so good it saves our souls. I think of the ancient Chinese poets, with no access to the modern comforts of air-conditioning– And so they threw the doors and shutters open, plant thick groves of bamboo, and hung up scrolls of ink paintings that depicted snowy mountains, a lonely hut standing in a blizzard, waterfalls gushing down steep cliffs and lush green with the wind rushing through it. And they drink tea, warm. And they go on imaginary journeys, through those ink paintings. And pen poems that lamented the relentless heat.

Sometimes all we can do is to deal, in the best way possible, tongue out panting, swiping sweat from our brows, knowing that summer will pass. Then the glorious Arizonan fall and winter will arrive, and we can be smug about being here.

You just gotta get through it, the end will come somehow. You can grind your teeth down to powder, sit back and relax, clench and curse, OM and meditate, but you will get through it, somehow. The long tunnel of summer will eventually spit us out; darkness is not eternal, neither is sunshine.

I have had no tears yet this month. Maybe the heat evaporated every molecule of water I have in my body. But the truth is that I am focusing on other things as well. And I have been busy de-cluttering and boxing things up. Just to see how little we need. I did call the hospital and the nurse told me they would love to have more cranes again, how the birds had added to the garden and how people had asked and how she enjoyed telling the story about Ferdinand and the cranes. This afternoon I will venture into the perilous hot cave of our garage and fish out the box labeled “Cranes” and start working on them. Another remembering.

I spoke to a counselor and she talked about how many people will think it has been three years and I have Lyra and so it will be OK but I will know it is not truly OK. And so on. She also talked about the great lessons our children can teach us. And she made sure I was not in denial, after she expressed surprise over my lack of tears. She thought by a certain point in our conversation I would have cried already. Please do not put up a wall, she told me. Please face it, please do not go into denial.

I am not in denial. But I have been distracted. I know what is ahead and I know there is no path leading away from it. I need to head straight, and through. I will come out bleeding and shaking,and then it will be behind me, until next year.

Not that I forget the rest of the times, the grief had just transformed, my life had changed; I had changed.

And I thought this morning, I think I had cried most of the tears out in the first year that he died. After that, it just became hard to cry some more.

I think before Ferdinand’s first anniversary I went for a reading and was told that I may have forgotten but in one of my previous lives he and I made an agreement about this. It was to happen and I agreed. I looked at the reader’s face and wondered if I was insane then. But yet I also believe her.

Two days ago, on our way back from the cabin I read this quote from Eckhart Tolle:

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.

It was an appropriate footnote. So funny how sometimes everything seem to just align. I am not fighting it. I am not trying not to feel grief, and I am not trying to summon it either. It is not customary to cry on the day itself if the emotions are not there.

I told the counselor I was not in denial. I live grief daily, just like I live joy daily, they are but two sides of the same coin.

Though July does seem like an awfully long month, especially with the heat, so still and stifling.

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words are meager

A week ago my friend’s mother died. I cried with her and for her, for her mother was not just her mother, but her very best friend, and much, much more. I have never spent a lot of time with her mother but I feel I know her, because her spirit is so huge; every time I interact with K, I feel I am interacting with her mother. She has baked for us, and sewed for us and she knows how I drool over the clothing over at Chasing Fireflies and had offered to try to duplicate some for me, if I would just let her know which ones I lust over. And I had thought once I got my stuff straightened out I would start taking sewing lessons from her, starting from threading the machine, and sewing straight lines.

Only she got sick. Her kidneys gave way, then her liver, and everything fell apart soon. She fought, so hard, but her body had had enough and ready to take leave of the dusty realm. All her three children were with her, and said their goodbyes.

But, K said, mom did not get to say her goodbye. She was too sedated, she never came to again. And her voice broke on the phone, and my tears rolled with hers, and we sniffed in unison.

I wanted to tell K we have a condolence card for her. I just need to send it out. Except I also don’t feel like, because it feels so stupid.

I spent a long time in the store with the girls, looking through every card. All were crappy. Meager words that echo deep with emptiness, because really, those card writers also do not know what to say. (Who knows what to say? I don’t.)

Nonetheless they printed “For Your Comfort” on the front of the cards, with either flowers or sunset alongside. Really? How would a $4.95 card bring comfort, even if it were printed on recycled paper? They all say the same things- may you find hope, may memories bring you peace, love goes on and similar things. All Bull crap to me.

As I picked up each card, glanced over the front, opened it up and then put it back, I started to heave.

Even if those words were meager and empty, they reminded me of what I do not have- memories of my son. I strain to hear his voice, stare hard to find his smile, but I have no memories, other than the pregnancy of course, and how the horror unfolded and when the world collapsed. How I wish I had some other different memories.

Words are meager. I have written many lines here, thousands of words. Trying to understand, giving up trying to comprehend, trying to find hope, trying to find my feet, trying to feel my heart and writing down what I feel. I told myself this is how I honor him, our grief and his memory.

But oh, meager, meager words.

In memory, with love and respect. Because words cannot express. But perhaps the trees and rocks know.

(Picture taken during Colorado trip.)

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I thought to build a house for my son, right inside my heart.

As I pondered the details I heard him say, no, no, mother, you love me but you cannot house me in your heart.

Don’t you see? I am bigger than your heart, just like you are bigger than your physical body. I can embrace you from anywhere, because I am not trapped in anything. I am free, and so are you, mother, so are you. Your soul, your spirit, they fly, leap and somersault, and I am like that now, mother, I am like that now. Don’t you see? Your soul is bigger than your body, how can I live inside your heart? You will have to seek me everywhere, for I am everywhere. I am the wind, the dust, the stars. I make you sneeze, blink and cry. No, don’t seek me, because I am everywhere. Just breathe, and I am there with you. I do not need a house, mother, I do not. I am free, and so are you.


Sometimes, it seems, when love is so so big, that it cannot be contained, it just is more… difficult.

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