release

poem: release

I can’t do it, Beloved

or no
I don’t know how, Beloved

release old grief, I am told

I am to have the intention daily
to release old grief

it sits in my throat
aching lump, knot, old
I don’t know how old
is it from before birth
I haven’t looked up whether antibodies
to tuberculosis
cross the placenta
attacking

Kell kills
that is one of the antibodies
that can kill a fetus

I have the grief
a tiger by the tail

at first I was afraid
that releasing it would lose
some core part of myself
that the me I have built
is the nacre, a pearl
wrapped around a core of grief

but Beloved
I try to listen
I try so hard to listen
to have faith
why pay for help
without attempting to follow
the ideas
unless they are so clearly wrong

conversation
with myself
the past the woman the girl the child the fetus
let the grief go
gently

Beloved
maybe I am not gentle enough
full speed ahead
maybe I need to cradle the grief more
rock it, comfort it, thank it
grief, you protected me so much
from the patterns in the family

Beloved
maybe I need to thank the grief
before I let it go

9/21/17

Falling II

poem: Falling II

I can’t fall
until I let go

my cousin says that people learn
to stay away from angry people

I am hurt and then let that go
and think, yes, she is right
my cousins say over and over
that I am too angry when I’m not angry
until it makes me angry

my cousin gives good advice
I let go and stay away
it’s not my anger

I thought allopathic medicine
was where we listened to the patient
I let go of that too, disillusioned

a family member wants to be free
I let go

I let go of you slowly
I let go of coffee
I let go of sitting next to you
I let go of seeing you daily
I let go of asking
I let go of driving by

I let go of hope

I have not let go of longing

I think that I can fall
without letting go of longing

it is only a thread
like a spider’s web
thrown into the universe

I don’t think it will stop me
from falling

Falling

Poem: Falling

I was asked to write a poem from the perspective of the angels in my dream. I have posted this once before, but not with all the other Falling Angels poems. It is a sequence of poems responding to a dream.

Falling

We are stars
We are born
We are made to burn
We flame
We explode or burn out
We are made to die

We are angels
We are made to fall
We all fall
We are white falling in black space
Or black falling in white space
If you prefer
It doesn’t matter
It is the contrast that is important
There is no light without dark

We are angels
We are made to fall
We all fall

Do you fear
your fear?
your anger?
Your grief?
falling?
death?

We fall for you

If you reject
your fear
your anger
your grief
falling
death

We will fall for you
We accept falling

All must fall

If you accept
your fear
your anger
your grief
falling
death

We will fall with you

You will fall with us

Covid-19: Emotional weather

I do not think of emotions as bad or good. None of them are bad or good. They are information, controlled by electrical impulses and hormones, evolved over millions of years (or endowed by our creator, for those who swing that way).

I don’t dismiss emotions. I listen to them.

I think of myself as an ocean. There is all sorts of stuff happening in the depths that I don’t understand. Probiotics, for example. I don’t take them. If not for penicillin, I’d be dead many times over, from strep A pneumonia twice and other infections. I don’t think we understand probiotics yet. We don’t understand the brain, either.

The emotions are the weather in my life. I don’t really control them but they don’t control my ocean, either. Some days are sunny and gorgeous and then a storm may blow up. I am afraid of hurricanes, one destroyed my grandparents’ house in North Carolina, on the outer banks. I think all the cousins still mourn that house. And I miss my grandparents too, all of them. And my parents and my one sister.

See? The weather got “bad” there for a moment, but it isn’t bad. Storms have their own beauty though we hope to batten the hatches and that not too much damage is done. Maybe there is rain, scattered showers, sun breaks, a lenticular cloud. In the Pacific Northwest on the coast, the weather can change very quickly and we have microclimates. My father lived 17 miles away, but inland from me and in a valley. It was warmer in the summer and colder in the winter.

My goal with my weather emotions is to pay attention to them, let the storms blow in and out, and try not to harm anyone else because of my weather. When my sister was in hospice, we had a sign up in my small clinic. It said that my sister was in hospice with cancer and that clinic would be cancelled at some point with little warning. Patients were kind and gentle with me. And then it was cancelled, when she died. I got cards from people. They were so kind, thank you, thank you, and I could barely take it in. My maternal family then dealt with grief by having lawsuits. I don’t think that is a good way to deal with grief, but we just see things differently. Maybe it’s the right way for them. I don’t know.

Whenever I was having internal emotional weather that stirred me up, I would tell my nurse or office manager. Because they will sense my weather and need to know what is up. I had enormous support from them during a divorce, while my partners treated me horribly. My nurses and office manager knew me and my partners didn’t. My partners distanced me as if a divorce were catching. Whatever. Their loss.

Sometimes patients sensed that I was upset. I could tell by their faces. If they didn’t ask, I would. Bring the emotions out. Reassure them that I AM grumpy but not at them. Stuff in my own life. No worries.

Sometimes clinic is about a patient’s weather. They ask if they can tell me something. Often it is prefaced by “Maybe I need an antidepressant.” or “I feel really bad.” When they tell the story, usually I would say, “I think it is perfectly reasonable and normal that you feel angry/hurt/shocked/horrified/grieved/upset.” And then I would ask about an antidepressant or a counselor and most of the time, the person would say, “Well, I don’t think I need it right now.” What they needed was to know that their weather was NORMAL and REASONABLE.

I am seeing things on Facebutt and on media saying that mental health problems and behavioral health problems are on the rise. Maybe we should reframe that. Maybe we could say, “The weather is really bad right now for everyone and it’s very frightening and it is NORMAL and REASONABLE to feel frightened/appalled/angry/in denial/horrified/confused/agitated/anxious or WHATEVER you feel.” This weather is unprecedented in my lifetime, but as a physician who had very bad influenza pneumonia in 2003 and then read about the 1918-19 influenza, I have been expecting this. Expecting a pandemic. Expecting bad weather. This will pass eventually, we will learn to cope, be gentle with yourself and be gentle with others. Everyone is frightened, grieving, angry, in denial or in acceptance. The stages of grief are normal.

Hugs and prayers for all of us to endure this rough weather and help each other and ourselves..

I took the photograph in color. My program made a black and white version. It looks like the back of a stegosaurus to me, a dinosaur now living as a mountain.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: rainbow. Because sometimes the rain and sun combine to make a rainbow.

Thank you for the music

I have been in Rainshadow Chorale since 2000. My father, Malcolm Ottaway, was one of the eight people who started it in 1997. He and my mother moved here in 1996. My mother, Helen Burling Ottaway, died of ovarian cancer on May 15, 2000. Rainshadow agreed to sing a Byrd Mass for my mother’s memorial. My father asked if my sister and I could sing in the chorale for the memorial. We were told yes. I had moved to Port Townsend at the end of 1999.

After the Memorial, I asked if I could stay in the chorale. The answer was yes and I have been in it ever since.

Our director, Rebecca Rottsolk, is retiring from the chorale after our next concert. She has picked favorite pieces. I have sung in nearly every concert since 2000, though I couldn’t sing in the one right after my father died in 2013. He followed my sister, who died in 2012. My throat wouldn’t let me sing that one.

So Rebecca, thank you for the music and thank you for being a wonderful director and forcing us to level up over and over. I am sending you peace and love and joy.

And everyone else, put this concert on your calendar.

Rainshadow Chorale practicing outdoors wearing masks in a fine rain. Dedication.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: thanks.

where you can’t find me

Poem: where you can’t find me

It is easy with you
All the places you’ve been offended
Where you haven’t been treated right
A bike shop
Food co-op
Coffee shops
Restaurants

It’s easy to hide my physical body
Where you can’t find me

But what of my mind and heart

You always feel it when I go

I go to the Beloved
I give up
I cast myself into the abyss
Grief, denial, loss, bargaining, abandonment, hopeless grief
I throw myself over the cliff
Over and over
I resist
And then let go

It’s not wings
Because the cliff is a waterfall
I don’t want wings
And the Beloved laughs

Wings form
I refuse to fly
I won’t I won’t I won’t
I fall towards the water

Each time I wonder
If this time the Beloved will not shift
I hit the water

Safe again
Scales and tail
And I can breathe

And swim free
To the sea

grounded

Poem: grounded

grief is an ox
that stands in the room with me
and overshadows
everything

no
grief
is a plow
pulled by an ox
I try to guide it
in the furrows

no
grief is the heavy ground
the plow turns it
the ox pulls
I guide it
in the furrows

no
I am grieving
I let it be close
I don’t push it
in to an ox
in to a plow
in to the earth
I let it in
I grieve