08 October 2006


an homage to velma jean* on the occasion of a rowan tree, planted for her on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, 26 September 2006.

the ancient ones declared that with both of your parents gone, then there is nothing between you and the sky.

it came so fast, the nothing.

unready for parentlessness, and stepping onto the soft ground, i wanted to sing that first taste of Joyce again – “Amen, so be it. Welcome, O life! I go for the millionth time to encounter the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race” – but i could never get the voice right.

i think of you, mommy, and your growing up with an outhouse and how that might have affected your view of the world, putting a heavy coat on over your nightgown, stepping out into the frigid night with shoes too big, and a little fear, perplexed that your little-girl body invaded the dream, forcing you out into the darkness, stomping all over your cloud as if it were nothing. and then to come back inside to the cold smell of a fire gone out, and sheets nothing like the warm ones you left. it made you a fighter, didn’t it. and there’s you all whipsmart, canning peaches with a taste of sunshine in them, throwing a barbecued crab feast in the driveway, and making the best damn pickles that lady ever tasted.

the ruin is fragile now, and charred. more of it blows away with every breath, and when you take a step, you fall straight through to the beginning of things.

with this tree, the earth gets busy on a new batch of life, and a piece of the empty sky fills up again. with this tree, back to your roots, my love. it might seem dangerous to plant a tree in such ground, but i have heard it said that out of the ashes a golden bough will spring, and rock us all a-bye.

amen so be it. welcome o life. i go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.

*b. 27 July 1922, d. 16 January 2006. wife of Fred and wife of Gary; mother of Janet and Judi and Don; grandmother of Scott, Danielle, Jennifer, Clancy, Sarah, and Gary; great-grandmother of Benjamin, Brandi, Amber, Casper, Ida and Hazel.


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