Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hide and Seek

Martin Head...a pebble and sand beach on the bay of giant tides, secluded and tranquil on this day. Worth the rugged journey over rough graveled logging roads and desolate clearcuts.

Fog crawls up the cliffs and drifts just offshore, playing hide and seek with the nub of land - almost, but not quite an island - that gave the beach its name.

A lighthouse once played sentinel on the Head, guiding ships and barges up the Bay of Fundy, signaling the wharf that served a small settlement at this crack in a craggy coast - a settlement where workers chiseled copper and gypsum from the cliffs until there was nothing left. The rounded pebbles at my feet hold hints of these memories, but little else remains to remind of this era. Nature is forgiving and has a way of playing hide and seek with the destruction we cause.

Martin Head is still a busy place...but only in season. On summer weekends, crowds of partygoers run roughshod in ATVs, dirt bikes and Jeeps. People who take of the beauty, then leave their tracks and refuse behind.

Today, in solitude, with only crows and each other for comfort, we explored different parts of the beach - Pat where the cliff meets the sand, me where the sand meets the sea ~

I stood, wondering how we became so disconnected from the world at our feet, the life that breathes in our face. I stood facing the sea, my heart split wide open, turning my back on the ache of last year's tattered tarps, beer cans and box toilets. I stood, reaching for something I could not quite grasp, wishing to leave a piece of myself here...a piece that belonged, that I could come back to.

Bowing my head, a single stone at my feet rocked in the surf.

I was reminded of the words of David Weale, from his book Chasing the Shore. He speaks of finding stones in the sand.

"As I stooped again and again it struck me that there was a stone on that beach to match my every thought and feeling and far from being mute, each was calling out in its own way for communion with the ancient parts of me..."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gathering no more than enough

We went fiddlehead picking last week at our favourite creek bed. I've written about our fiddlehead excursions before. A couple of times. Gathering one's food from the wild - whether roots or greens or berries or sap - carries with it feelings of authenticity. It is almost as if by plucking what is good and wise and elemental and wild from the earth, that I can assimilate these attributes. My strength comes from the ground beneath my feet in so many ways.

Surrounded by the forest and clear tea-coloured streams, by the songs of birds and rustle of bare branches, we worked with a steady, relaxed rhythm...feeling for the telltale mound of unfurled crowns beneath a careless foot, carefully sifting through the alders and dykes of broken trunks and limbs washed downstream in the high water of spring freshets. Fiddleheads grow best in the sandy side lines of freshwater rivers and creeks.

Most of the ferns we found were small, with heads the size of marbles, a result of years of careless overpicking. We passed them by; I wondered how long before the plant could survive.

When we did find families of unfurled ferns the size of dollar coins, it felt like a bonanza. I found it hard not to pick all that was there. Because they were there for the picking. I silenced a voice from the past that said, "Well if I don't take them, someone else will."

But to take more than I need would deprive another. Would weaken the plant. So I was careful to leave the uppermost heads to unfurl into ferns that would feed the plant through the summer.

We do this so much in life. We take much more than we need. We accumulate more than is necessary. And we become burdened with the weight of it. I'm as guilty of this as the next. Recently a colleague, talking about growing her business, said, "There is so much money in the world, just waiting to be spent so why not go out and get it? It's there for the taking."

What if it were there for the giving? What if we lived with only what we need, then used the rest for a greater good? What would our world look like then?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What I cannot tell my mother...

My mother has always loved dolls. Baby dolls. She kept all my childhood dolls. Her house has dainty little dolls scattered here and there. At Toys R Us, she looks for the ones with the prettiest eyes.

She just plain loves babies. We were at a baby shower together, a month ago and I saw how she smiled and pivoted, looking around, seeking all the little ones...nudging me...'oh, look at that little fellow...' 'oh, that one...isn't she cute...those curls.'

It broke my heart.

All my mother wanted was to become a mother...and then after that, to become a grandmother. I have cheated her out of this...not that I wanted to, it just happened. Or didn't happen.

Actually, I had thought I'd dealt with this many tears and years ago, when we gave up trying. I fashioned a brave face for those times when, over and over again, I was asked when we'd be starting a family or if I had children. How I hated those questions. Callie-dog became my escape to the garden...."I have a golden"... small smile.

I became flippant. I eventually convinced myself that we were better off. Less responsibility, more freedom. It sounded good.

But that's just what you harden the tender spots to keep them from damage, to let them heal. But masks do not last forever. The empty place has opened up again in recent years. Menopause, I think, has made it real and painfully irreversible.

I haven't gone to a Mother's Day service at our church for three years. After a while, I simply could not bear all the mothers standing, while I remain seated. Sadness slaps me suddenly and swiftly, without warning. The other night, I was struck mute by a movie scene where a mom sat in bed reading a story to her children. I couldn't even put the pain into words. I can hardly breathe during these sudden tsunamis.

But recently, I've come to realize it isn't just my loss, but my parents' as well. I dreamed one night that my mother was giving birth and when someone took the baby away from her, she wailed with grief, reaching out across the bed...just wailing. It was a dream so excruciatingly real that it still haunts me.

I can't even tell her that I know how empty and weightless her arms feel. I cannot say the words. I don't know how to say them. I can't even acknowledge to myself out loud, that my heart feels so heavy.

Sometimes there are no words.