In the garden…

I’ve seen the green shoots in the garden that no one wanted. The snow keeps smothering and then melting just to smother again- like the covering grief. We are not sure whether to welcome the newness of the transitory precipitation of sadness or whether to nestle in and pray for thaw. Still, the garden is growing. The promise of blooms keep us waiting despite the cold.

A few months ago, our community quaked with the loss of a young citizen, friend, and daughter. Charlotte was six years old when she was struck and killed by a truck on a quiet city street in the middle of the day. I didn’t get the news until the evening- a friend phoned while I was painting at my shop. Alone, my response was one of fury, of rage. I screamed. I roared into the absurd night. And then I gathered courage and sought out shared tears.

Charlotte was one of the children in our little “yurt school” cooperative. Full of fire and glitter, she burst into every space, romanced every flower, and choreographed the wind. She danced with abandon, shared with gusto, and stood her ground like an oak sapling.

How do you explain the death of a child to a child?

The next morning, with mussed hair and sloppy pajamas, we sat with our boys. I slowly and quietly explained to them that our friend Charlotte had been in an accident and that she was taken to the hospital and that she had died. I watched my five year-old’s eyes change as the words clicked into place, their meaning contracting and expanding the muscles in his small face. This was the most frightening moment: The realization that I would never fully know what mechanisms were at work, what cogs were turning and what internal parts of him had just transformed. Again, I was angry and fearful. What has changed in my son? Is there a stony crust formed somewhere deep in the recesses of his trusting heart? Has the muscle of his love for others grown stronger? Is the acid of this senseless loss bleeding into his veins? There was no way to know. The line of distinction between the person-hood of mother and child revealed its rich ink.

We raise our children to let them go. Each milestone becomes a landmark on a course of departure. But we all carry the hope, maybe even conviction, that the route circles back, that somehow our sons and daughters are on a ship riding the tide that ebbs, flows and returns.

So when our faith returns an empty ocean, a broken vessel, then what?

Our perceptions are always changing. Our gratitude, sustaining. And still we search for what is beyond our vision, beyond our understanding. We linger on the hopeful shore: mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, sisters and brothers. And we fill the tides with our tears and change the course of ships with the moon of our love.

No one wanted to plant Charlotte’s Remembering Garden- we didn’t want to have to re-member, we wanted the moment to be alive in her presence. Over one thousand bulbs went into the cold earth on a rainy morning. Hands caked with mud massaged them into the soil. And now we wait for spring, trusting that the season will change and bring her joy to us again, again.

char run

 

 

 

If you would like to hear more about our experience of how we’ve walked with our children and community through this tragedy, please feel free to be in touch. Leave a comment or send me an email trouble.trace@gmail.com.

Storylines

Like the tireless push of blood and air, stories wind their way through our bodies. Systems of disorganized movement, words and images, supplant the actual with memory. And as the streams turn to rivers and seas, we form cyclical connections with those who listen, who speak, who drink in the narrative of our collective journey.

During my time in Australia, several years ago, I learned about the Songlines of that continent’s original people. Through song-stories the people navigated the land and shared their history. The fluid of stories guided these ancient people through the tides of colonization and into the sharpness of invasive cultures. Paintings, songs, words carried the children of the Stolen Generation back to the heart of their homeland.

Hope resides in stories shared.

In my childhood summers I found light in the musk of old books. Creased and tucked into the lap of a mouldering armchair, surrounded by the swirl of dust and old glass, I would read for hours. I was finding a way home. I was listening to the storylines converging like a wild river.

Through the electronic hum I have managed, in my adulthood, to find those tributaries of rushing words. One such place is The Moth. “True stories told live (without notes).” Started by a cousin of mine, under the curtains of Spanish moss in Savannah, it has become a community of believers in the power of sharing stories (There is a free podcast available as well as youtube videos.). The Moth has been an important catalyst in the movement to reclaim our stories. And that movement has expanded to Charlottesville through a nascent organization called Big Blue Door Jam.

On Thursday night, my good friend Charlie told a story, his story in front of the Big Blue Door.

Listen to Charlie’s story

(Warning: This story contains adult themes and language and is probably not suitable for those under the age of 17.)

It was powerful to hear. Funny, dark, humble- it carried us, the audience, along the shores of who and where he has been. Past the fearful night of addiction and isolation, into the lull and push of tides changing. I was so proud of his honesty and thankful for the opportunity to listen. The storylines wound around our warm bodies in the small gallery, like the old wood of a sturdy ship.

Little Free Library

Our library in the news! -click for video-

I happened upon the Little Free Library community completely by accident. In my research for some consulting work, up popped woodworking plans for the construction of what looked like a cross between a dollhouse and a dog house, with a door and a shelf or two. Odd, intriguing and when I read further, utterly genius.

The concept is simple: take a book or leave a book. Anytime.

Started in the Midwest (US) a few years ago, the number of Little Free Libraries has grown to over 2500 across the globe. To read more about the movement please visit www.littlefreelibrary.org.

Our library was a composite of evening chalkboard drawings, compiled materials we scrounged from our own collection of odds and ends, and generously donated materials from local cabinet shops and exhibit builders.

When the post was set, the paint dried and the mascot installed, it was time to invite the patrons. The boys went around knocking on doors and passing out bookmarks with the info about our Grand Opening! The shelves were filled to capacity within hours.

The stock is always changing but never empty. We have met more of our neighbors and have connected with a broader global community through shared love of reading, books and stories.

Come on by and see for yourself, the library’s always open.