Tag Archives: Denise Levertov

Ah, Grief…

I shared the poem below several years ago when my angle on grief was different. But I think of the metaphor often these days, because the grief I know is a thing in itself, a changeable being that has to be reckoned with.

Last week I saw its resemblance to an illness of the body, which in fact it is in part. A malaise or pain that comes and goes, and when it goes you forget that the underlying problem still exists. Then you get ambushed. Here the metaphor of the poem doesn’t sync with my own; maybe if I become more hospitable to my grief it will become the sort of companion the poet is hoping for, not a thing waiting in ambush, but a faithful-friend kind of creature that can even “warn off intruders.”

I think this is christ good shepherd lghappening. I see that not only am I on the path to acceptance, of the loss of my husband and of my new life, but that one stage of the journey is the acceptance of the grief process itself, and of its demands. A canine in the corner aptly describes something I would not naturally welcome.

Yesterday was rich and full of encouragement — several times because of my pangs of grief — including this meaningful note from Mrs. Bread after Little Goldfinch revived and flew away: “We all need quiet to regain our senses.” She knew I was having that healing kind of day. My dog (see poem) seemed to rest relatively content in his corner. As I wrote in the original posting:

May all our hurts bring us to Him, and may we experience the comfort St. Paul writes about in II Corinthians:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

TALKING TO GRIEF

Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider
my house as your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.

~ Denise Levertov

 

Lettuce and other summer playthings.

ivy alligator 6-16

LIVING

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

–Denise Levertov from Summer: A Spiritual Biography of the Season

This book, edited by Schmidt & Felch, is helping me to remember to treasure these days I have with my grandchildren again this week; this time they are staying at my house. I have a few photos, too, that show glimpses of peaceful moments, which seem way too few.

jed water 6-16

Yesterday I made play dough for the first time in decades, and the pot of sludge simmering on the stove was just one of the most interesting things that I forgot in the constantly distracted state in which I live these Grandchildren Days, and I went outside to help someone with something. The one other adult in the house smelled the same aroma of burnt toast I was smelling and turned it off. Kit departed an hour later for the summer so now I am back to being the only adult.

I was able to salvage at least two-thirds of the play dough, and made four pastel colors with it. I added scents using some essential oils. I don’t know if it might have been less sticky if I had paid closer attention to my project, but Scout and Laramie had a lot of fun with the dough. They also got it all over two sets of clothing each, plus a fair amount on the floor, and I am content to buy the store kind from now on.

gl 6 P1040723

<< Chairs to discourage Jamie from climbing the stairs.

The children are enjoying all the birds that come and go throughout the day now that I have the kind of garden birds like. When we sit at the dining table we can watch them at the feeders and fountain — and one good thing is that on this visit, there has been no testing of the rule against children playing in the fountain. It’s not to be touched. “It is for the birds, and for us to look at and listen to.” I emphasize how yucky the water actually is, from the birds, even though it looks clear.

We walked to the library yesterday — that is, Scout and I walked, and Ivy perched on the front of the BOB stroller where Jamie was strapped in. It’s about a half-mile away, which was just about right for our entourage. The warm air carried the scent of the juniper that lined our path, and we stopped to pick of off needles of the different forms to compare.

My town’s library has a stellar children’s area, which these country children much appreciated, for its size and design. Ivy took a turn on each of the horses as reading chairs. We spent some time in the the outdoor area with a giant granite boulder for climbing, and wished we had brought our lunch, and swimsuits for the water play area.  Maybe we will go back tomorrow for our non-book activities.

lib 491

Children always want to drop things from my open hallway upstairs, which wraps around and looks down on the entry below. Through the decades the rule has been the same: the only approved droppables are paper flying machines or balloons. So today, lacking any grandpas or uncles, I had to learn how to make a paper airplane. Internet to the rescue! And I did a really good job! Even Scout was super-grateful.Ivy wash 6-16

That was just this morning, and afterward Scout went with his other grandmother for the day, which is why I have a little mental space to think and write. The children who remain are, miraculously, napping at the same time.

But earlier, it was the perfect opportunity for Ivy to do some housekeeping just the way she likes it, in and for the playhouse that she considers Her House. To practice cutting with scissors, to have some water play, and reading with Grandma, all without big brother interference.

One thing I loved about Seventeenth Summer, which I recently finished reading, was the way no one in the story felt the need toIMG_2499 manz be doing Special Things every week, in order to enjoy the season and the time off school and regular routines. People have jobs and housework, and the tomatoes need to be picked. Many of us like to be home washing the dishes these evenings when a breeze is blowing through the open window, and the sun sets late. And of course, working in the garden in the cool of the mornings, and sitting under a leafy arbor in the afternoons.

Margarita Manzanita is in her peeling season. >>

Ivy and Scout like to notice all the trees and flowers and even ask me the names of them. I’ve told them they may pick anything in the front yard, because it’s all coming out soon, but nothing in the back, except the lettuce that has bolted. So they have played with lettuce. And I did give Ivy a calla lily stem to use as a gasoline hose for filling up the tank of “her” Little Tikes Cozy Car.

gl 6 toy pop up men

This toy with four bouncing men is one of Jamie’s favorites, and it has been a favorite of dozens of children in my house over the last 28 years or so. It actually belongs to Kate, and was one of the few things that she as our fifth baby received new. I am so glad I found it for her back then, and that somehow we have preserved the set, because now I don’t think the Toy Police would allow it; a child might shove a little man down his windpipe.

I’ll leave you with a few more words from the introduction to Summer‘s collection of stories, Psalms and readings on this blessed time of year. I’m certain that children have some perspective on leisure that I have completely lost and probably can’t relate to, so I do not try to write from their perspective, even if they are a big part of my summer.

“The Psalms themselves declare the pleasures of leisure, in which we may sing songs and play music in moments when we are not in our work routines….to step back for a moment from our self-importance and our drivenness to provide a larger perspective.”

“…It is delight; it is merriment. It is a pause in the action, a moment to let this thought come: maybe I am not so critical to the world after all… a humbling time when we might dare to believe that stopping and looking round us might be more important than driving toward the distant horizon.”

a breathing

The End of Sleep

The eyes are about to open.
Through fog, Sleep crosses the great water—
See how it sails in the little boat?
Slowly, such a long journey,
Bits of light
Catch colors in the mirrored hull.
Beneath the glassy surface, a glimpse
Of your dreams: the lake, the boat, with you
In it. Now a shadow
Falls over you: above the surface,
The figure of Sleep
Has leaned over its boat.
Hear Sleep’s feet plop in the shallows—
It pulls the boat to shore.

— Elizabeth Twiddy

This morning as I neared the shore of full consciousness, what I saw through the fog was myself, getting dressed and going to church for a Presanctified Liturgy. I was full of happy anticipation. Then I pulled the blinds open and was surprised to see, not the sunny and warm skies of the last few days, but thick and cold white fog.

I’ve read many people who say they love the fog, and I thought of them right away, wondering why I couldn’t be like them. Then I remembered the foggy days of my childhood when in the winter the damp cold would settle over California’s Central Valley like a perverse blanket. Not your normal blanket that makes you cozy, but something more like a conduit of chill. My fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Wicks, who came from South Dakota, said she was never so miserable in the dry winters of her youth as she was in our “temperate” weather that froze her to the bone.

The natural and normal tule fog that emerges from the ground after the first winter rains became a dangerous foe once I learned to drive and became aware of all the car crashes on the highways that are a frequent accompaniment to the season. I became familiar with the stiff neck you get peering intently through the wall of white trying not to run into something.

But this morning in March, all of that is far behind me, and for the Valley-dwellers it is likely passed as well by this time of year. So I thought I would look for a poem by one of those fog-lovers. The fog that’s outside my window is still a little too cold for my old bones to thoroughly enjoy, but I’m working on it. After all, it’s another part of our earthly home that is filled with the breath of God.

The Breathing

An absolute
patience.
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
uphill.
White
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear.

~ Denise Levertov

Grief in its corner

Maria posted this poem recently. I am putting it here for the sake of my friend Mrs. Bread and anyone else who is dealing with a loss. Whatever person or gift or intangible that has been taken from us, the reality of it needs to be faced and known in the light of the goodness of God — even in the presence of God. May all our hurts bring us to Him, and may we experience the comfort St. Paul writes about in II Corinthians:

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

TALKING TO GRIEF
 
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
 
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
 
You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider
my house as your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog.
 
~ Denise Levertov (1923-1977), English-born American poet