This Is Our Unmasking

In those moments I permitted myself to feel the discomfort of all that has changed around me, all that has changed within me, and to grieve all that will never or cannot ever… be returned to me.

I approached the doors to the funeral home to find a young staff waiting with a thermal scan aimed in my direction. I leaned in slightly and on gaining her nod of approval of my afebrile status, was ushered forward to share my personal info with the woman behind the plexiglass window. This was my first celebration of life during these unusual and confusing times.

And it changed me.

Moving to the left I found myself staring into a space where seating was paired, two side to side with six feet to the next set, on both sides and behind. The stagger of the chairs bewildered me for just a moment, due in part I suppose to my expectation of how this should be. I stood there glancing about the room, not certain what to do in the absence of a grieving family standing to greet those who were there to pay respects to their loved one. I will admit to a pang of panic in not quite knowing what was expected of me in that moment. My husband indicated the familiar face of the Reverend officiating and I found myself steered in her direction with some relief that I could comfortably stand close without fear that I was encroaching on a bubble I didn’t belong to. The presence of another known friend found me taking the seats that sat six feet behind his own. The arrival of the widower permitted me my need to reach out, to return the requested hug and to share my sorrow at the loss of his beautiful spouse. I will admit that I have never been a fan of the family greeting line; to me they force the grieving into a position of accepting touch and comfort in a time when they are most fragile and at risk of shattering. It was a surreal realization for me to suddenly recognize that despite my distaste of the typical practice, I still stood there seeking its tradition.

Taking my seat once again, I glanced about the room finding only eyes to greet me, the masks dutifully drawn to the bridge of the nose, glasses perched and clouded or raised to sit on the head to clear the vision of the breath that steamed it. I felt that I had landed in a different place, a different time with a brand new set of rules of both behavior and engagement. I peered into the eyes of the older lady seated six feet to my right and smiled quickly realizing she wasn’t aware that I had done so at all. I felt sad in that moment that we had missed the opportunity to meet on that smile. Perhaps she had smiled my way also, and I missed it too.

My dear friend the Reverend stood to take her place at the podium, and I fell silent to listen to her words. As she moved through her eulogy, and the children stood to speak, I was quite stunned to find myself reaching up to wipe away tears that have never come easily to me. I am not that person. I am not that crier; I share in painful expressions of loss and pain on a daily basis, making this a highly unusual occurrence. I sniffed deeply back to pull it together and immediately found myself right back to tears dampening the cloth that covered whatever facial expression existed beneath it. I could feel the familiarity of the trembling lips, the attempt to then pull the lip between my teeth, as if that motion could stop the flow of fluid now freely escaping my lower lids. But this time the attempt ended in failure.

And then it hit me.

My mask had afforded me the vulnerability to be honest. Yes, I was pulled into the stirrings of emotions listening to a family share stories about a wife, mom and grandmother whom I respected deeply for her love of life despite her egregious health battles, yet a woman I hadn’t been blessed to know well at all. Her story and her fight to live shared over social media by her loving husband whom I knew well enough to be honored to be asked to share in the celebration of her well lived story.

In the short time that followed, I allowed myself to both partake in the words I was hearing, and in the thoughts of the losses I had encountered myself over the year(s) that just passed. With eyes dampened in tears, and the stain of eyeliner marking the trail, I glanced again around the room and found a comforting reality that I was not at all alone. Without the expressions to guard the tears, the tears were more truthful than I have ever witnessed. I felt each one, and became part of a whole in a way I could have never imagined possible. In those moments I permitted myself to feel the discomfort of all that has changed around me, all that has changed within me, and to grieve all that will never or cannot ever… be returned to me.

During a 45 minute celebration of life, I cried for the year(s) that I lost. The year(s) that we lost. Seated hidden beneath my mask, I bade farewell to the experience of what once felt real and felt a stir of hope that something better will fill the holes that these losses have left behind.

Behind my mask I found my pain, and I gave it permission to leave me. My wish for you is that you find your own, that you allow yourself to let it free to absorb into a piece of fabric that protects the vulnerability beneath. My wish for us all is that on the day that this ends, that we can turn new and beautiful faces to the sunshine.

My hope is that you find yourself immersed in the opportunity to understand and know yourself entirely before these strange times come to an end. My hope is that you find solace enough beneath the mask to give truth to what you grieve.

There is no joy to be found in the heavy loss of precious life during these present times.

But there is joy ahead for those that will understand why we have shared this together.

No one can see your lips trembling. Go ahead and grieve.

With love and light

Tania

The Ghost On The Bridge

Sometimes just a stroll across a bridge can ease the discomforts of the present time. I did that yesterday. I hope you enjoy taking this walk with me today.

The Ghost On The Bridge

I suppose he built the small bridge of a familiarity, perhaps a time long past that he wished to resurrect into the time of now. Whatever the reason, I found myself standing in my Aunts backyard yesterday staring at this delightful structure that the neighbor had placed to share both his yard and her own. It covered no water, simply grass grows beneath it, but for me it brought back the sounds of the bubbling of a small creek from so long ago. I took the hand of the ghost that beckoned me and moved over the familiar arch of the wood plank and landed in a place I once loved. The yard around me suddenly bloomed into floral, to my left the Cape Cod inspired small white home appeared, and all of discomfort of 2020 evaporated into the smile of old Mrs. White as she followed the path to greet me. I call her old because in the time that I knew her being just a child she was 105 and had lived four lifetimes. In truth she was likely no more than 70 yet her deep wrinkles, the testament to hours tending her gardens, created the illusion of someone much older.

My Nanny lived across the road from this fairytale place in a small cottage that smelled of sulphur ,the sink and bath drains a testament to the old well water that created the inevitable rust stains. Instead of doors she had the beaded curtains so popular in the 1970’s, and each time I walked through I would walk slowly allowing each bead to fall off me as if I were entering some magical space. I loved it here. At times we would simply stay close to the cottage for the day, and would wander outdoors. To the space in between her home and the next, a large marsh area that gave birth to what seemed a thousand baby toads. I carried a large pickle jar, lined with grass and collected my new friends. If I overfilled I would laugh as the top toads used those below as springboards on which to propel themselves back to the ground. It was not uncommon to find me filling my pockets when the jar became burdened. I always released these small creatures back to home at the end of my adventure. To the back of the cottage a collection of old vehicles, parked haphazardly with a big yellow bus the focal point in the middle. This bus became the fodder of my imagination as I would climb aboard and sit alone dreaming of where it might one day take me. In my mind I painted it with peace signs and pink flowers. In todays world this heap of old metal would be removed, too dangerous for small children, and part of me wonders what the children of today might miss in not having an old bus to build dreams on.

Then we had days where we were to visit old Mrs. White. As we would walk down the long laneway from the cottage I would get excited as the weathered fencing would appear. There was, as you might imagine, a small gate that pulled outward and to this day I can still hear the creak that opened into wonderland. I would always run first for the broken down bridge that spanned the tiny waterway beneath it. Large trees overhead gave the sense that I had walked into where the fairies lived. Old Mrs. White would be across the way, bent over whatever bloom she was tending, and would always stand up and wipe her hands on her pants as we approached, launching into a conversation about something or other that would light up her wrinkles and remind me of crinkled tin foil. On some Sundays after church she would host her infamous pancake breakfast; the highlight of my church experience. To this day I believe my Nanny only went because it was something to do, or she wanted to catch drift of whatever gossip might be swirling in the small Meadow Lilly community. She was far from the religious type, yet nearly every Sunday she would sit in the pews as old Mrs. Whites son delivered his sermon, while I would color pictures of Jesus in the Sunday School below. But pancake day with Mrs. White was always the day everyone looked forward to. She was the quintessential witch of the time and the mother of the pastor. I wasn’t so much excited over Jesus but to me she was everything I hoped to become one day. The old lady in the white house, with the weathered lean-to buildings that housed her wheelbarrow, her garden tools and a plethora of old jars of odds n sods.

I would often catch on our walk over, the tiny toads and deposit them beneath the bridge. If she ever noticed she never said a word about my filling her yard with the little amphibians.

As I stepped back over the bridge yesterday I stopped and gave a grateful wave to old Mrs. White. For the reminder that when times are more difficult than they once were, that we can find some solace in old and familiar places. The reminder that some bridges should never be burned but left to stand waiting for us to cross back into a fairy tale of old buses, baby toads and the old lady that lives across the way.

In love, in light, in laughter.

Tania

It’s Time To Let Go Now

September is no longer peering into August, but now standing at the open door. The breezes will cool, the rains will wash out what was stuck with humidity, and the days will grow shorter. What must soon die will first delight us with its splendor and then without resistance will fall to the earth to create a vibrant blanket of mosaic influence.

There are some that are struggling with releasing the summer sun, with letting go of the waters edge, of the sunsets and the barbecue. More so this year than any other, I have noted the shrill sound of discontent as the rains start to move in and the temperatures dip into hoodie status. We complain as if we are being further punished after a less than typical summer; as if the usual swing of the seasons should instead stand back until we have received what we feel we deserve.

It’s time to let go. Time to release the notion that we are owed anything more than what the universe is capable of providing.

Take a moment over the coming weeks to walk among the trees before the hues herald the end of this cycle. Don’t wait for the colors before you decide to look closer. Go now. Stop and peer into the branches, note the leaves and how they have dried, have cracked or have broken under the weight of the summer sun. Hold a leaf between your palms and note the bumpy texture where the tree tried to heal the small holes created by the insects that could only live by taking life. See the wonder of how this living thing tried to pull the edges together to be whole once again.

We are not so different as humans in our attempts to soothe what has created our cracks, to want to keep it together. To want to band aid our holes, to airbrush our pain, to stand strong and tall in the face of all adversity. What makes us different is that we add to the weight by holding on to what drained us, what drew from our roots and what took small pieces of our whole. It’s as if we believe we might be stronger than the oaks and that everything that is broken is ours to keep.

Are we smarter than the mighty oak?

Maybe its time we take a lesson from the tree.

The trees have so much wisdom to impart if we would take the time to listen. The trees intuitively understand that in order to nourish the seasons ahead they must release that which no longer serves them. To continue to be an integral part of the eco system, of the universe, of the air that we breathe, the trees must let go of all that they have experienced in the season before. How long would our world survive were the trees to grown thick and gnarled with what harmed them? How much nourishment could possibly be left to nurture the new while the parched drinks so deeply from the well?

What do we lose if the trees stop letting go?

What do you lose if you stop letting go?

So like the wise tree, take time over the coming months to reach down into the roots, to bring sustenance to the experiences that have grown you. To acknowledge each one lovingly with a splash of color that reminds you that each and every tear and fracture has its own role in creating what you are becoming. Paint brilliance to each moment. Bring life to all that you have given of yourself to sustain another, for all the times you curled away from the harshness of the winds.

The timing of nature is perfect. As the tree begins to wane from the weight of giving life, the cool rains appear to release the pigments of the palette. The tree now stands in the splendor of what it has learned for a short time before the winds move in to pull away each broken tendril and drop them to the earth below.

Oh the things we can learn from the tree. From the cycle of natural. To understand that what grew us must go below us to now act as a foundation on which to stand. Forever a part of our system but now giving of nourishment not draining.

Take a stroll once the colors drop. Jump into them, crunch them into the soil. The trees are gifting you the beauty of what they have given of themselves to make way for the new growth to come.

Be like the tree. For a short time stand in the brilliance of what you have given and stand proudly.

Be like the tree. Drop what you no longer need to make space for more life to follow. Crush what parched you and create a new layer of root.

And lay bare for a time to the cooling winds to soothe where it still stings.

The tree of life is every tree. The cycle of life is etched into its trunk not into the fresh shoots that appear in the springtime.

It’s time now to let go. To release the notion that you owe anything for a time.

Be a tree for the season and heal for awhile.

In love, in colors, in light.

Tania