Archive for the ‘John’s Photos’ Category

Going to Sun WaterfallThe essential insight I have to offer is this:  Grief changes.

You change and the grief changes, and it all flows, yes, like a river with its white water and frozen edges, its quiet stretches and unfamiliar banks (though some surprise you with their beauty). Then the river reaches the ocean, and what you thought you knew dissolves again.

Is it too dramatic to say that I beg you to remember that grief changes? Still, I make this plea.  Remember this when your emotions rise, when someone gives you advice, when you learn about the models and phases and essential truths of grief, even when you read my words that follow.

Because when you loose the one you love, you will hear things; they might terrify, they might comfort, but either way try not to be too attached to the feelings that rise.  Because change will have its way with you, and you will move again out into the water – with all its turbulence, with all its nurture.

When my partner John died In November 20121, I found myself immediately in white water; out of control, banging my head on hidden rocks. Desperate to right myself, I started reading down the shelf on grief at the library. Over and over again I read, “You will grieve forever.” This strikes me as a dangerous statement to make to the newly bereaved because when my loss was fresh I was utterly broken inside. I stood as my least resourceful self pulling these books from the shelf.

In those days, “you will grieve forever” pinned my life to a board of pain and I didn’t have the imagination to see anything other than that board bobbing and sinking in dark waters.

I struggled against this statement offered as truth. Wanted to say, “No, I will heal.” I looked and found the root of the word heal connects back to the idea of whole. I wanted to be whole again. But I wasn’t sure how. I needed something steady to stand on to start the search for this wholeness.

Because, yes, you do need – you can have – something to support you in the waters of grief so almost as much as I want you to remember that your grief will change, I want you to forget that there are no maps to grief, that no one grieves like you, that each grief is unique.

Grief, after all, is well-known terrain. Its pangs come only after birth, sex, and death on the list of human adventures we undertake or into which we are thrust. Surely, there is a story that resonates with yours and shines some light into the darkness that holds you. Maybe you would feel less alone if you heard that story.

The current in grief literature that emphasizes individual healing without timeline or clear markers grows from a positive impetus: to release us from following the straightjacket of a model or a proscribed timeline.  We are free then to grieve as we need.  But freedom is not our essential need at the beginning. We are too free, released from the known life and tumbling. The need is for places to rest. Yes, we still tumble, but we can find resting places to gather our strength in the stories of grievers from across the ages and across the street.

When John died I heard all these stories from people that I knew but hadn’t met. They told me about death in their life. Only then did I meet them. These stories helped me. A woman whose teenaged son had died told me about the strange and unavoidable pain of the grocery store, that this was the place where her heart cracked as she passed by the peanut butter jars. So when I tried to take the tea from the shelf and couldn’t, I understood, I knew, I felt less alone.

The Gods and Goddesses, too, might tell you their stories. You don’t need to believe. Belief is flimsy before death’s stirring of oceanic emotions untamable by the mind where belief lives.

I had beliefs. At John’s memorial circle, I read, “there is no birth, there is no death.” This resonated with my belief in the indestructibility of energy and the continuation of spirit. But then the days of absence followed, unexpected and utterly undeniable. Experience slapped my face: there was Death.

DGT IsisBut then there was Isis. When her husband-brother Osiris is murdered, she is wild with grief and seeks his body. Twice she works to bring him back to life. The second time she reassembles his mutilated corpse into a whole with a spark of being and conceives a child. Death overtakes her, but she makes something new from its reality. As I spent time with her story and her energy, she worked her magic on me.  I, too, had taken a journey to claim John’s body, and then had to reassemble -that is to re-member – who he had been and who we were together. Out of this, I wrote. Just words at first, but then they took the form of poetry, Tarot rituals, musings on nature. I, too, took something from Death.

The Isis tale is often told as one of her conquering Death, but this is not what I see in the story now. In the end, Osiris does not return to the land of the living. He becomes the God of the Underworld, welcomes the dead to their new dwelling. Although ruler of the Underworld, he is a green God who is also remembered in spring’s rebirth that comes out of the rest of Death.

Isis releases Osiris to his new calling. Though she sometimes visits him in the Underworld, she remains in the land of the living. She raises her son, seeks justice, offers compassion, becomes the Goddess of 10,000 Names. They continue their journeys but now in different places and with different tasks. There is no denying Death in her story. There is no denying Life in her story. There is both Life and Death and they are twined together into a knot of the everlasting.  

There are so many stories; perhaps you’ll need a different one to support you. You might need to see yourself in the mirror of the Greek Goddess Demeter who sits unmoving and brings the natural world to a halt when her daughter Persephone is taken to the Underworld. Later you might be inspired by the Norse giantess Skadi who when the Gods kill her father, storms their hall demanding that since they have taken him from her, they must give something in return: laughter and a husband.

Stories are dynamic. You don’t understand them as much as come into relationship with them and their invitations. They change when you change so they are as fluid as grief. They are a boat to ride in over the waves.

So that one day, you rise above to look into the water – calm or still raging – and see the fullness of your personal story. You’ll see its uniqueness – because it is true that the story of you and your loved one in this encounter with Death is utterly unique – and you’ll see its outline is the same as so many stories. And then you will be whole, not because you are fixed, but because you are part of a larger story, eternal rhythms, a cycle of Life-Death-Life. You are part of the Whole.


At this time, I believe this to be an early piece of a longer narrative that will include my story but connect it to others stories and examples of how to move through and with what I was calling grief for short-hand, but what I now call Love-Death-Awakening cycle. I’ll be sharing that narrative as part of my Dark Moon Circle monthly series, which will also include prompts for readers own movement to wholeness.  Sign up for that before March 16th to get the first installment.

[Image credits: Waterfall photo by John. Isis and Osiris is from the Dark Goddess Tarot by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.]


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I have started a series of poetic nature meditations inspired by the many wonderful photos I have.  I’ve been posting them to my Tarot blog, but they certainly fit the themes of this blog as well.  Periodically, I’ll let you know about the offerings over there so you can decide if you want to make a cyber trip.  Unlike today’s New England weather, travel is easy and there is no snow in cyberspace!

Gate of Water

John at Water Edge








Dream of Water

Trail of Cedars Close







Gate of Fire

Burn and growth 2 of Wands







Dream of Fire


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I had to disagree with Mary Oliver.

The Writing Room prompt by her was:  “Joy is not meant to be a crumb.”  But there is so much in a crumb so I had to to defend it.

And crumbs reminded me of the pictures of rocks and pebbles that John took when we visited Glacier National Park – and their power to shape the landscape despite their small size.

This poem in a slightly different version – yes, the editors helped me improve it – was published in Plum, the elegant on-line journal of Greenfield Community College.

Ode to the Crumb

The joy is in the crumb:

speck of cheese,

dot of bread,

slivered hint of once pie.

They stir up our hunger,

send a flare down

desire’s dark hole,

invite us to rise up again from here.

A crumb of bird humming

contends, hungry, with the bee.

Green-back glow and the long beak

sneaks into flowers with smooth insertion

until each is entered and emptied.

Crumble at my feet:

sediment raised from below crust;

its billon-year body shifted and smashed

in descending order:








A precise language for the making of crumbs

From the Old English cruma,

a word of obscure origin

traced back to the Latin

gruma, heap of earth.

And here language’s leavings

are larger than we’d dared imagine,

fill our pockets

with bits of earth and bread,

send us forward


our crumbs

& ourselves


Rocks creating pools

Three Crumblike Holes

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Night startles with stars,

the resolute and the falling

empty the cosmos

into our skin.


Hands dark in that night

caress the blue-black endless.

Your body might be also blue

with stars hidden inside.

Are you a mirror

or the blanketing sky?


Dawn deletes the stars one by one

until only the sun remains.


We are more alone in the day light.



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I want to find a layer of ice

That holds the shadow of air


From before the pop start of each car grew into cloud and roar

From before stacks in valleys heaved earth’s black insides up, out, and into day

From before carbon’s mutations slipped from soil to bird to wheat to breast to milk

From before rain’s clear-cold drops gathered lost slivers of death on their descent

From before the atom split and fell, bounced and rose from cages with bars too large


In that before

Light lies down with the ice

Walrus rests on clear banks

Bear still steps between flows

Picoplankton dances in whale’s maw


Here I touch cold as a prayer

Know nothing

And that is



Sun Over Dark Hill

[Note:  The Future of Ice is a book by Gretel Ehrlich in which she searches out cold/winter/ice and finds that it is disappearing.]


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Above the pond, geese on the hill

make their way through spring snow,

mark the bank with their webs,

dip below lip of land at water’s edge.

They disappear

I am left with sky

fallen into the pond.


A flock of robins,

red breasts bleeding

from branches

land on the hillside,

demanding that something be given

from the earth they know

softens to mud

below the white.


Geese emerge,

holding tight to their chests

any news gleaned

from the underworld.


Light seeps from clouds,

strained of bright heat

and folds down this day

at its corners.

Last picture John sent me

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February 13 – 26, 2013 in Gallery One at 1 Cottage St, Easthampton, MA
& on-line here on the blog

Reception: Saturday, February 16th from 5pm to 7pm with a poetry reading at 6pm

The Artists

Carolyn Cushing is a poet inspired by nature and slightly obsessed with cells, light, and the first flaring forth of the universe. In 2012 her manuscript Before and After was a finalist for the Philbrick Poetry Award of the Providence Athenaeum. She lives in Easthampton and has a studio in 1 Cottage St.

John Laux was passionate about technology, art, and nature. He created paper sculptures, crafted Christmas ornaments, shot holographs in a lab he created, and took photos on his trips to Nova Scotia and Montana. He architected websites for UMass and the Media Education Foundation. In 2009, he designed a Green Industry Map for Western Massachusetts as a special project of the Green Gateway, which he founded. His last position was as the AskNature Project Director of Biomimcry 3.8 Institute in Missoula, Montana. In 2004 he wrote about his many interests, “I know that I love to problem solve. Programming, mechanics, processes, solutions, science, and nature. I know that I want to study how things work, how to make them better and how to make them more sustainable. I know that I love to create art and that which brings to the surface form over function. I love things that not only function but that fit into their environment esthetically and mechanically. The term biomimicry comes to mind. Study the world around you and mimic how things work.”

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