Thursday, August 13, 2009

Square 49: Forest friends

Square 049

One morning Brenna and Tory had gone in the canoe, and I found myself alone at the cottage. Solitude can be a fertile space, but I had let trouble and loneliness overtake it. I turned to yarn for solace, opening the bag of many colours, seeking stories. The variegated yarn from Fleece Artist suggested all the colours of the forest outside these cottage windows. I took it onto the deck and began to knit a square.

A chipmunk came to forage for seed under the bird feeder nearby. Chipmunks here are lucky. Brenna as a little girl took a dislike to the larger, saucy red squirrels. Roaring and shrieking, she would chase them into the forest. They would return of course, chattering and mocking her from the branches, perpetuating the cycle of mistrust.

But the quieter chipmunks she welcomes with handouts. This year I notice her regarding red squirrels with more reserve. Time and experience teach us patience.

My peaceful little companion watched me with dark dark, lucid eyes and unconcern as it handled bits of food deftly. I spoke to it and knitted the first four rows while the tiny creature stayed. The rich golden-tan of the variegated yarn resembled the chipmunk’s main coat, so I used black and pale gold to describe the stripes, white Lopi for the belly.

Danny and I hand-dyed the gold yarn here at the cottage a few years ago using autumn beech leaves.

After the chipmunk vanished, a tribe of chickadees came to feed, chattering and squeaking softly. The forest had supplied the companionship I needed, and so injected its own stories into my own.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Square 48: Mom's moon

Square 048

When Mom died, I mostly felt relief because of the time and way it happened. She had been fighting cancer for about five years. During the last year we knew it would be terminal, but except for the side effects of treatment it did not seem to impair her mental and physical state until January 2008. The doctor had prescribed morphine for pain but it had affected her badly, so she stopped. She really didn’t need it.

Near the end of that month I went for a visit. She could still get up and around without the use of oxygen or a walker, carry on conversations, and enjoy music, movies and food. Breathing had become a little difficult, but she was not in much pain. Since trying morphine she had been having unpleasant delusions that made her anxious. Sometimes she said things that didn’t make sense, and sometimes her speech was garbled. It was difficult to witness in someone who had always been lucid and sensible. Still I was grateful for some good conversations during that final visit. We expected her to live a few more months, but it would not be an easy time for her.

On the evening of February 20, Dad phoned to say Mom had slipped away. He and their friend Cathy were eating dinner while Mom rested quietly on the couch nearby, and when he got up from the table he noticed that her skin had turned grey. It was that peaceful.

Then I had to call other family members, friends of my parents, and especially my daughters. I spoke to Marian and Brenna briefly, promising to call again later.

Then I went and picked up my friend, Sylvie. I was becoming agitated and wanted someone nearby to keep me company.

Back home I talked to Dad again and received more information. Then I called my daughters.

There was no answer. I left a message.

It was hardly a thing to be alarmed about, but under the circumstances I began to panic. Where were they? What had happened to keep them from the phone?

After pacing for a few minutes, I pulled out a box of photographs. Sylvie went through them with me and I told her stories.

Finally the phone rang. It was Marian.

“Go look outside,” she told me.

I had forgotten it was the night of a lunar eclipse. My ex had taken the girls down to the beach in Port Hope to watch it for a while.

I went downstairs and opened the front door. The eclipse was still complete, the blood red full moon just beginning to grow bright along its leading edge.

Marian said, “You know how Nanum was always planning things for everyone to do? I think she chose to leave on the night of a lunar eclipse so we would all have something to do.”

Sure enough, when I spoke to Dad again, he had taken time to look at it. And later I learned that my mother’s two youngest sisters had spent the evening together on the phone, in Ontario and Nova Scotia, watching the moon together.

I let Mom go with the full moon, but it returns. I think of it this way: every month she goes on a journey around the world, and whenever I notice the full moon, I take it as a sign she is dropping in to say hello and see how I am doing.

At first I kept count of Mom's circuits, but didn’t experience much grief. I was glad she had gone and become part of nature again, without much effort, as she had wished.

Lately, some 18 months later, some situations have made me miss her. It was this story about the moon that let me and Joyce cry together the other night. I find myself weeping unexpectedly, which I didn’t do when she died. But as the summer moon sweeps low through the southern sky I am reminded she is at peace. I don’t need to remember to count moon cycles for her sake. It is best for our lives to carry on and let her memory pass over us.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Square 47: Settling in

Square 046

On a Sunday afternoon we arrive for a blessed visit at Lake Fletcher. With me are my younger daughter Brenna and her boyfriend Tory. I am looking forward to six relaxing days here, not altogether peaceful because my two children and their attendants require ferrying back and forth, but they are old enough that we can carry on meaningful conversations in the car, so the time is not lost.

I deposit myself in a chair on the dock. The weather is warm and humid, the sky softly overcast with incipient rain. The colours of this square describe perfectly the water, sky and dark band of forest across the lake.

I want to claim Fletcher’s calm but as I sit here knitting, a certain family issue presents itself. Instead of quiet, waves of anger begin to wash over me. This is not what I want, but I cannot avoid the matter. It will continue to present itself during the week ahead. I mentally dive into the peaceful, cleansing colours of water, but no matter how deep I go, the annoying script keeps playing in my head.

After dinner, Brenna and Tory canoe to the island and I am alone in the still, darkening cottage. I walk down the forest path to visit our neighbour, Joyce. She was Mom’s best friend from high school, like an aunt to me.

She welcomes me and we sit until midnight on her new, comfy couch talking about Mom, my children, her family, my dad and his new girlfriend, my creative endeavours (she thinks this blanket is a remarkable idea), and all the comings and goings of life. One particular story about Mom makes us both cry. I have told it to friends, but only Joyce can fully appreciate it. After talking with Joyce heart-to-heart for three hours I have released some pent-up emotions. I am ready to settle in and let the spirit of the lake absorb me.