five years on   19 comments

Posted at 10:48 am in Don, being alone, future, loss, memory

As I have written more than once or twice in the past, photographs work like time machines for me. A moment’s glance and a whole scene, conversation, or even an entire day or week can be recreated. Today’s post involves some jumping around through time. If you will bear with me, I’ll explain where I’ve been and where I am now – body and mind – which as you might guess, don’t always inhabit the same sphere.

As you may recall, my last post contained an update on my travels. I have been in the southwest for a few weeks. My random wanderings are now ended and I am somewhat settled in Bisbee – about as settled as I ever am these days, which isn’t saying much.

Today is my birthday. It’s an event I no longer celebrate and acknowledge only as the anniversary of the definitive diagnosis of Don’s cancer. I was going to write something about that today, but then I went back and read the post that I wrote three years ago and thought, “Wow, this says it all and I can’t do any better.” By the way, the above image is of the birthday card which Don gave me during his stay at the hospital – as described in the above-linked post. I keep the original card safely stored in a filing cabinet at my home up north, but always carry a photocopy among my personal effects in the van during my travels.

There are a few things that I would like to write about today as I think they are worth saying. The first has to do with time. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that I have something of a fascination with time. To me, it is a fluid medium that flows first one way and then another. In my mind’s eye, it’s like one vast ocean that laps upon one continent’s shore while simultaneously lapping upon another. Events and memories float within its swell, occasionally pushing up in one place and then some place else. As I have discovered over the years, there is no means to predict or control such appearances. They just happen. When they do, they can awaken powerful responses – some pleasant, while others might best be regarded as malevolent demons.

Back in September, I wrote about an annual hiking trip that Don and I made on our anniversary. While back home, I planned to do that hike. However, in spite of my best intentions, some poor weather and other obstacles prevented my hike. Although I am not much for omens, I decided that perhaps this wasn’t the year to repeat our hike alone. Instead, I returned to one of our other favourite places – one that always seemed magical in many ways. In the above photo, my van is parked in the meadow above a spot where we often launched our canoe. For those who remember my old Burning Silo nature blog, this is the site of the boiling rain which I wrote about and linked to a video clip back in this post. One thing that was not mentioned back in that post was that our visit was about the last of the good days before Don became too ill to leave the farm.

So, a day or two after our anniversary, Sage and I set out on a favourite old trail. It felt strange to be there alone without Don or Sabrina. As I watched Sage inspecting each object along the trail, I had to keep reminding myself that she had never been to this place and knew nothing of its history or importance to me. It’s a sensation that is with me almost constantly – this confusion over who was or wasn’t with me when I was here or there. Many times, I feel Don or Sabrina moving about on the periphery of my senses. In the past, I struggled to keep it all sorted out. Nowadays, I just let everyone come and go as I realize that it doesn’t much matter to anyone other than me.

Of course, I encountered many familiar sights during our circuit of the lake’s edge. I stopped to rest awhile at a spot where Don and I would sit and talk any time there was something troubling in our lives. It is a place where we could gaze across a peaceful bay to a little treed island with a large osprey’s nest atop a tall, slender snag. It still stands there, so I took this photo from about the usual place where we would have sat watching osprey come and go as they fed their young. On this day, the nest was abandoned for the season.

I also stopped to lay my hand upon the skin of one of the great Beech trees along the path. Unfortunately, much as the cool, smooth bark felt good beneath my palm, I looked about at the many fallen Beech now decaying on the forest floor – struck down by a disease specific to these trees. I recognized one beautiful giant that I last saw standing during my final hike on that trail a little over four years ago.

The sight of the dead Beech made me feel quite sad for all the losses – both personal and more universal – that have marked the past five years. Over time, I have come to understand what an impact such losses have had on my thoughts and outlook. I no longer regard anything as permanent or enduring. To me, life resembles something slippery and elusive – a thing that appears solid and tangible, but that glides quickly and easily through your fingers like a fish wriggling to return to the water. You may believe that it is yours for keeps, but that is only an illusion.

And so I ended my hike about the lake. I had brought a lunch and the fiddle along, so found a shady spot to sit beneath a gnarled apple tree that was probably part of an old orchard on the farm that is now returning to nature. I ate and played a few tunes in this place away from the ears of anyone other than Sage and the birds and insects that rustled and chirped about me. Five years on, I am still here – vastly changed, greatly worn, but at least marginally recognizable.

Written by bev wigney on November 29th, 2012

19 Responses to 'five years on'

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  1. Happy birthday, Bev! Very moving account indeed.

    Larry Ayers

    29 Nov 12 at 11:05 am

  2. Bev, despite your ambivalence about your birthday, I shall celebrate it, and you, nonetheless! I read your words and understand, at some level, the struggles you endure. Today, I hope you can celebrate that you are able to wander through, and describe, beautiful experiences so that your friends and followers can reap the rewards of your adventures.

    John

    29 Nov 12 at 11:35 am

  3. TIKO GONE: NEXT MORNING

    I even
    Expect
    You to
    Get up to see
    Your own body
    Lying
    On the grass.

    FWS, 6 km S Williams Lake, B.C., 29 July 1989

    fred

    29 Nov 12 at 11:35 am

  4. thanks, Larry!

    Bev

    29 Nov 12 at 11:36 am

  5. John – I will be celebrating in my wn way – will go to an annual pit firing at the community college near here.

    Bev

    29 Nov 12 at 11:39 am

  6. fred – Yes, that is just how it seems. thank you for posting your verse.

    Bev

    29 Nov 12 at 11:40 am

  7. ***********************************************
    Yeah. And Fred – thank you.

    megan

    29 Nov 12 at 12:52 pm

  8. and – that post from 2009 – I hadn’t found you yet back then. Brings me back to those early times, when we were all “younger” at this (for massively lack of a better term). I feel like I’ve forgotten how strongly I needed to roam and travel (and could not for various reasons) – how intense in a good way it was to travel where I could, driving and waiting to hear what there was to hear – birds and woods and trees and all of that. How much more present I seemed to be. I may be better “functioning” at this point, but I feel I’ve lost things I can’t desribe or name.

    megan

    29 Nov 12 at 1:06 pm

  9. megan – Those are very interesting observations. This morning as I wrote this post, I was thinking about how differently I see the world these days. I would describe my state of mind as being hyper alert back then. Now, it seems more as though I am seeing the world through “old eyes” that don’t care quite so much. I keep hoping that my old sense of wonder will grow stronger again, but as is the case with with so many aspects of my life, there is a dullnessand well as a sliver of apathy that seems to get in my way. I suspect that this is the result of yet another coping mechanism – to dull the pain and hurt so that I can continue to function. Although that may be useful, it leaves me filled with a great deal of sadness at my inability to feel happiness, joy, excitement and so many other emotions that now seem to hover in the distance like some form of mirage. Thank you leave writing about your experiences, megan. Much food for thought, eh?

    Bev

    29 Nov 12 at 1:29 pm

  10. Happy Birthday, Bev. I hope you can go on and enjoy the years you have left with new experiences and new loves. It’s hard I can imagine to lose someone after so many years together and so beloved but that’s the lucky part that you had that. Now I hope this year finds you letting go of what was for what is. What you are feeling though sounds like so many I have heard. Be kind to yourself. You are a lovely lady

    Rain Trueax

    29 Nov 12 at 2:42 pm

  11. Happy Birthday Bev…wishing you happiness and contentment…with new adventures around the corner!!
    Judy xoxo

    Judy Pollock

    29 Nov 12 at 3:51 pm

  12. Hi Bev, you certainly have a knack for hitting the nail on the head! Much of what you say I can relate to… coming from the woodshed I occasionally glimpse my departed brother Ben walking ahead of me carrying a huge armload of wood as he was want to do… my old friend Randal joins me in my dreams… and many others I have dearly lived come and go at the periphery of my consciousness.

    Listening to your words and looking at your picture suggests to me that at least some of the pain you (and I ) are experiencing is survivor guilt – why have such wonderful people had to die, while we still survive? We have done nothing to deserve this, they were at least as worthy of life, if not more.

    If this life is more than a random series of events, if it has some actual meaning that is beyond our comprehension in this finite physical existence, then we are still here for a purpose. That thought is what keeps me trying to make the most of each day I have left. I suspect it may also be why you write and post such a thoughtful blog, and continue to participate so fully in your community. May we all be around for many more birthdays to come! The world needs the love and wisdom of it’s elders. Carol and I love you dearly Bev, and are particularly glad that you are still here with us. Take care and remember that you have been happy, and so can be again. This too shall pass.

    Jim Poushinsky

    30 Nov 12 at 12:25 am

  13. Each time you write about an anniversary date I am moved to a place that is mostly without words, except those of gratitude. Thank you for this post — especially the self-portrait in the shady grove where you played your fiddle, and the birthday card that carries Don’s words.

    am

    1 Dec 12 at 10:08 pm

  14. Rain – Thank you for the good thoughts and wishes. Yes, it is very hard to lose a long time partner. I have spoken about this with friends who have had siomewhat similar experiences. We may carry on, but there is always a part of our lives that remain entwined with the past. However, I do work at not letting what was prevent me from living life in a forward looking way. It can be difficult at times, but it is necessary for survival.
    -
    Judy – Thanks! I hope never to stop be adventurous!
    -
    Jim – Lately, I dream of Don very frequently. For the first few years after his death, the dreams tended to be very sad and morbid – mostly vivid hospital dreams. Now they take place in other locations – often out in the countryside somewhere. I suspect that my mind is gradually sorting out the memories of our years together and managing to deprioritize all the terrible hospital stuff at the end – thankfully. I think that, when enough time passes and my feelings and recollections are not so vivid and strong, it will be easier to feel happier about things and maybe some of the apprehensiveness that shadows me all the time will stop dominating my thoughts. It has been a long haul – this rebuilding after a colossal loss – but I carry on.

    Bev

    2 Dec 12 at 9:26 am

  15. am – Always, I know that you will understand what I am feeling. Truly, there are no words that can fully describe this place where both of us spend at least part of our days. Some things are now very different and we will never return to that state that was before. That is true for everyone, but some events are premature and disturb what is probably the natural order of most lives. As you know, accepting such change and carrying on requires a great deal of energy. Each year, as I acknowledge these anniversaries, I try to look back to see how far I have come. I can see that I am moving forward, but also see that the pace has been quite slow and with many pauses and detours along the way. That said, I am gradually feeling better about life these days – more creative and optimistic. I hope and sense that you are too.

    Bev

    2 Dec 12 at 9:44 am

  16. I missed your birthday by a bit, Bev – but thank you for sharing it with us. It’s good to feel introspective on our birthdays – to ponder who we are now and how we got there – to think about time and change, and identify or affirm what is essential to our being. I like to do a painting outdoors on my birthday – not always possible, but it’s something I like to do for myself, to be the artist Aleta on that day.

    It’s also important to me to feel deeply the losses that others experience and to think about these losses as if they’d happened to me – to come as close as I can, anyway. That’s why your writing about your feelings has always been so precious to me, Bev – so like a gift so that I may exercise myself in the sense of loss because it is a very real part of the world we live in. Living in the moment does have a special intensity, a joy of living – but if one never stops to detach and reflect on time and change and loss and pain, yes and even death – one will not be prepared for all of those things that are inescapable, part of the fabric of existence. I know there will be loss, and along with the joy of living I feel it’s best to prepare for it. I cherish you, Bev. There is no one like you.

    Aleta Karstad

    3 Dec 12 at 10:09 pm

  17. I think a lot about life and death these days. It’s part of getting old, I guess. When my father died, a friend tried to comfort me by saying he was in heaven and I would see hima again. But I know he’s gone. Everything he was is gone, and the only place a trace exists is in the minds of the people who knew and loved him. In some sense, and it’s a real sense, he continues to exist in my mind. I can’t touch him, but I can feel the roughness of his unshaved face when he hugged me. My dog Jesse died about 25 years ago, but my hand still has the memory of her bony head and soft fur. I like to think that those sensory inputs transferred some of their selves into me (after all, how else do we experience someone other than by our senses?), and as long as I live, in some way, some part of them still exists inside me.

    Mark

    5 Dec 12 at 9:13 am

  18. Aleta – Yes, death is a very real part of life. It’s easy enough to be so caught up in our daily routine that we don’t consider that we will eventually, or perhaps more immediately, have to deal with loss. While it is good not to dwell on it. For a long time, I have felt very aware of how quickly my life can be changed – the early death of my father and now Don, make me live very much in the moment and to make decisions based on my knowledge of how little the material means when you lose someone close to you. Your perspective shifts so greatly. Anyhow, it is good to read that others gain something from these writing. Thank you.

    bev wigney

    5 Dec 12 at 11:36 am

  19. Mark – I agree about how we experience someone through our senses. I’ve also given this a lot of thought over the past few years. I can still “feel” people who are close to me. Also, some of their belongings can bring them back to me so vividly – for example, when I used to use my dad’s shop tools, I would always have a feeling of him being around when I was holding a tool while working. I suspect some of this is why I feel like Don and Sabrina are around when I am in places that were familiar to them, or when I’m using our camping gear, etc… It is somewhat comforting to experience these sensations.

    bev wigney

    5 Dec 12 at 11:41 am

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