Spiritual Journey: Revenants

with thanks to Chris Margocs for hosting October’s Spiritual Journey Thursday. Chris invites our group to write about those who have passed and left something behind in our hearts, in preparation for the upcoming holidays of All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. She says: “As a person of Celtic heritage, the idea of the thinning of veil between here and the hereafter on these days intrigues me…”

—Me, too, Chris.

*******

The stirrings begin with the first breaths of cooler air.

As September gives way to October, while the trees and grass are still green, before any obvious turnings of yellow, orange, or fiery red, they appear.

I sense them most often at doorways. Portals.

There, on weatherworn sidewalks, a smattering of fragments from dead leaves surreptitiously dropped—I can never tell exactly from where—comes to life just as I approach. A soft rattling, a lifting, a sudden swirling… the upswept pieces begin dancing in a circle.

Fairies, I think.

And then I think, Children.

Small children delight in collecting such things, bits of leaves, tiny twigs, acorn caps, a butterfly’s bright-patterned wing, cicada shells. Nature’s cast-off scraps of life. In the hands of a child, they become treasures, magical objects, if only for a moment, in the mind of the child.

Watching the leaf-bits dancing in a circle, round and round and round again, I wonder if invisible children are at play. I almost want to linger long enough to hear them laughing…for there’s a stab of joy in it that I cannot explain, a piercing longing, a wild freedom…why should I perceive these things?

I wonder, then, about memories, so like the leaf fragments rising anew at the portals as I continue walking through the stations of my life, here to there, there to here…it is real, this revenant of my own childhood, the child that I was, holding onto the treasures that were given to me, reliving the precious bits that remain. As memories swirl round and round, I delight in them, in re-immersing for a moment in long-ago moments with people I loved, who loved me, who sheltered me, sustained me, prepared me…and who are gone but never far away. I see their faces before me, their eyes shining. I remember their stories. I hear their voices: I love you.

People die. Love does not.

Autumn comes with its fiery promises, its contrasts, its losses; trees will soon release their fragile organs in hopeful glory of surviving the winter. They shall sleep until spring, until the reawakening, life made new.

I walk on, remembering, wrapping gratitude round and round me like a hooded cloak, still sheltered, sustained, loved, awed by the beauty that deepens around me every passing year.

The stirrings begin with the first breath of cooler air.

Dancing revenants of what was, hinting at what is to be.

Perhaps they are whispering Allhallowtide.

The baptism

Faith of a child

pure and bright

trusting the shepherd

for guiding light

*******
in celebration of my granddaughter’s baptism
by my pastor-son

“Behold our God shall live with us, And be our steadfast Light,
And we shall e’er his people be, All glory be to Christ.”

—Dustin Kensrue

Ten months

My beautiful Micah, this is what you are like at ten months old:
noticing everything, babbling (na na na is, in fact, part of Franna)
mimicking, clapping, squealing, discovering your tongue
and crawling down the hall to see where I’ve gone
—I am right here, little beloved, rejoicing.

My beautiful Micah

Milestone

Happy Birthday to the Baby Boy
a gogyoshi

You have been in the world
for twenty-five years
exactly 9131 days
and I am grateful
for every single one

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 
Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.
1 Samuel 1:27-28

On this day

Nine months
since you entered the world
making mine
exponentially beautiful
every single day

Three years
since your Grandpa
had a massive heart attack
while driving
and the deputy sheriff
came to tell
your future dad, uncle,
and me (Franna)
that he’d run off the road
and was being taken
to the hospital
where we were told
he’d been resuscitated

they weren’t sure
he’d make it

he did

Grandpa lived
to see you
love you
and call you
“little angel”

I say
there must be
some mighty ones
all around

Micah, 9 months, looking up at her Grandpa

Eternal summer: memoir poem

with thanks to Jennifer Guyor Jowett for the Open Write invitation on Ethical ELA today: “Share your summertimes with us, whether it’s within the memories of your childhood or the place you are in right now. Take us there. Include sensory details to evoke the spirit of your summer.”

I have written lot about my childhood summers. Today I try a bit of reframing and recapturing the magic…

*******

Eternal Summer Reigns

Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?

—Mr. Tumnus to Lucy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I live it every day of my life, summer.

By some great magic I am still a child
returning to my grandparents’ house
so deep in the country some people say
it’s at the end of the Earth

for me, ever the beginning

a place of woods, holding their secrets close
a place of enchantment, outside of Time
a place of belonging, of sacrifice

where ghosts of the past live again
in Grandma’s stories

there’s her Papa, tending bees
never getting stung
her Mama, picking cotton
and dipping snuff

her brothers and sisters
(eight in all)
playing softball
or piling in the goat-cart
to be pulled by a white mule
named Jenny

there’s my grandfather and his brother
courting my grandmother and her sister
gathering at friends’ houses
singing and make taffy

my father, being born
in a tenant farmer’s house
—Cotton-Top, they call him,
for the color of his hair
when he is a toddler

babies born into the family
some stillborn
(Daddy’s voice…Would have been
so interesting to see
what my double first cousins
would have looked like
if they’d lived)

—I live them every day,
the stories.

I am the stories.

Every day I am a child
unpacking my suitcase
for the summer
welcoming the ghosts
walking the old dirt road
eventually covered with gravel
from phosphate mining rejects

bits of ancient history
crunch beneath my feet:
shark’s teeth, some tiny and sharp,
some as big as my small palm;
coral skeleton, white chunks
embossed with lacy flower designs;
whale eardrums, curiously curved fossils
—with these, whales heard
their own stories, too
now, they are 
part of mine

and above all, above all
from the surrounding woods, bending near
keeping their secrets close
the crescendo and decrescendo
of cicadas

the true song of summer
and the sun
and living
and dying

and returning.

By some great magic I am still a child
still listening, still living summer every day
and forever
in that sound.

My grandmother in the summer of 1959, years before my birth. This is the setting of my idyllic childhood summers to come, beginning a decade and a half later. I would stay for a couple of weeks each year and never wanted to leave. Grandma fostered my love of reading, writing, and story. She drove me to the tiny county library at the beginning of my summer visits and helped me haul out the armloads of books I selected. She saved magazines, Mini Pages, and National Enquirers all year long for me.

We walked the old cemetery in the clearing diagonally across from where she sits in this photo and the graveyard of the church around the bend, where her parents are buried. As we read the stones, the blazing sun casting our shadows across them, Grandma told me the stories.

The fossils in the gravel of the poem were real. I found handfuls of them in the road here when I was a child.

Cicadas are an ancient symbol of immortality and resurrection. I write of them often because of their connection to this place. Their loud, rattling chorus was ever-present in the background of my childhood summers; the sound remains one of the most comforting on Earth to me. It’s a call of the sun, love, belonging, and home. There’s a myth about the goddess of the dawn, Aurora, asking Jupiter to grant immortality to her lover, which he did, only the goddess forgot to ask Jupiter to also grant her man eternal youth. Her beloved continued aging until Aurora finally turned him into a cicada. If you look closely at depictions of Aurora, you will see the cicada. Why tell this story here? This morning, before the dawn, before the cicadas woke to sing, I saw Jupiter shining high beside the moon. Then I sat down to write to this prompt of summer celebration, reliving halcyon childhood moments with my grandparents at their home, a place where my generational roots run deep in the earth, where my father grew up…an old, far place in the east, named Aurora.

For me, ever the beginning. Eternal summer reigns.

*******

thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for providing a place to share our stories – for we ARE our stories

Ceremony


We gathered together
moms, dads, grandparents
lots of baby siblings
to honor
our kindergarteners
with pomp and circumstance

a milestone
of accomplishment

here we are,
a normal crowd
cheering, applauding
babies adding their
newfound voices


then giving an ovation
for the second graders
who were present
and assisting
because their ceremony

didn’t happen
in the spring
of 2020


little morning faces
shining with pride
as their families stand
honoring, rejoicing
celebrating

all of our
living through