Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An honest continent

Life's an incongruous mix of shimmer and chaos these days.

Something's up, though not necessarily amiss - each day a birth, a death. Back-to-back these dual pronouncements come, sometimes calmly and quietly, other times in a hot and bloody rush. With every arrival, a departure. With every departure, an arrival.

A trusted mentor reminded me recently that one of my life tasks (as he - and I - see it) is to 'burn up the past' so that I can more fully inhabit the present. For all my fiery independence, I am one of those people pathologically wired into loving 'for the long haul.' As time goes on, I realize that this does not necessarily imply wisdom, generosity or capaciousness. There are times when an imperative like this can become a trap for both self and other, a bind that speaks more about enmeshment than connectedness. Such 'love' can be more suffocating than emancipating. L also suggested that if we are to nurture our soul's 'true efficacy' we need to live in as invested and unencumbered a way as possible. Love with neither expectation nor attachment. . . While this notion resonates powerfully with me, there are times when I don't feel particularly well-equipped for the (t)ask. Like now, for instance, when I find myself soaring and plummeting, capable of deep joy and generosity one moment and unspeakable twistings of the heart the next.

Yesterday was a tough day - much of it around revisiting the past in an attempt to make peace - again - with the 'old order' so as to be more at peace with the new. Regardless of one's relationship status, there is always Relationship Humus asking to be sifted through. And, well, some bits on our personal compost heaps take longer to break down than others. There's nothing for it but to trust that sooner or later, with a careful mix of diligence, cut worms, spades and good faith, even our darkest material can be turned over and put to good use; the foetid and fermenting can (even wants to?) become generative, informative, transformative.

I laid my precious cat Sage to rest yesterday. He was the dearest, most complex wee creature. I loved him. We had in common a burning need for solitude. His small, handsome body will not be laid into the earth - at least not yet. He's to be cremated and in time I will dig his ashes into the soil and plant a renewable Sage bush for him in his favourite patch of garden.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. . . Of course, Sage's death brought a myriad other griefs into the room. Over the years, loss has been a persistent theme; I've tended to think I have to be brave and firm-footed - stoical even - but not so, yesterday. Something in me cracked open and I felt as though I was finally able to weep years of unwept tears. There was some relief in giving myself over - unapologetically, noisily, un-prettily - to the catharsis of snot, puffy eyes and freely-flowing salt water... I wept because I had every good reason to in the moment, but of course I was also weeping for past losses and, too, for who knows how many other unknown, undeclared reasons.


My older brother Alan died in 1984. He had an incredible gift with animals, his love and empathy towards them a language all its own.

Here is one of the poems I wrote for him but that speaks no less to others we have loved and lost.



You warmed my blood
for years I kept an eye
on you. Now I tell myself
Death at least is
an honest continent
a simple compost
of history and bones.


Chisel an altar
out of mourning.

When stone thaws
and herons dream

unbind your feet
and sign yourself.

d. 15 June 2010, aged 12 & 3/4


"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea."
Karen von Bliksen-Finecke


  1. The poem for your brother is beautifully written. I to have lost my brother, and I think it was my hardest loss to deal with. Sage was a magnificent cat. I am glad that you had a day to cry the tears uncried. :-)

  2. Oh Sage looks so adorable ...12 1/2 - a good age. But what a loss. I remember the same kind of thing happening to me when I lost a cat (run over on London Street, back in my flatting days in Dunedin; 1972). He was only half grown. A ginger kitten I'd named Ethelred. At the time I wept for a whole day - I was inconsolable. (My father had died only 4 years earlier ... my Granddad had been dead for not even a year at that stage ...) Yes, grief like that is cleansing and cathartic, and gathers.
    I adore that poem for your brother. It caught at me - in my throat and chest. Its the kind of poem that causes you to hold your breath while reading.
    (I have a brother Alan - my youngest brother).
    Go well dear Claire.

  3. Dear, dear Claire,

    I hear you.

  4. Thank you, dear brave friend. Feet are being unbound, and tears...

  5. As Carrie says that is a beautiful poem.
    I especially enjoyed the sparse use of words .

  6. Thank you for the words, Claire, and the poem: spare, simple, moving.

  7. Oh god I am so sorry about Sage your beauty your protector and friend. Our ground time here will be brief.


  8. I don't think replying to blogs ever gives much comfort, but I know I'm not one to do it. I never had the chance to mourn for my mother's death and have been stuffing losses, while choosing relationships that would assure them, all my life. The few times I've sobbed have been such a relief.
    I clung on like a mad person to the last relationship, and undoubtedly really the last, which had really been doomed. I couldn't let go and I really understand why, but neither could I truly mourn it because he had meant an uncalcuable (damn, spelling) amount.
    I don't think it's possible (and not just for my neurotic reasons) to love without expectations since we're these fragile humans with such complex needs. but I think the ideal would be to find a relationship in which you can sort out the reasons for the angers (submerged or not) and disappointments and misplaced expectations..etc.
    anyway, perhaps it's not a human relationship loss that's causing you grief under the grief for your beloved cat...
    but whater, I send you the best possible wishes..

  9. In the first instance, what greater gift can we give/have than to have truly loved. The loss process, with its pain and complexity - is it part and parcel. Is love a divine and crazy capacity, not despite but because loss is intrinsic, inevitable? These questions I ask myself again, in response to your tender, evocative and brave blog. xx (Sage, warm mecurial creature, nameste, hello, goodbye.)

  10. Sending love from Seattle. xxoo --T.

  11. Dear Carrie -the brother/sister relationship is a 'primary' one; I feel for you in the loss of your sib. When my brother died, a big part of me was devastated. At the same time, the oh-so-resilient parts of me kicked in; I was angry often and for a long time. And a part of me headed off on a necessary journey into the wilderness. It took a while to find my way back, and a deep process of disentangling and retrieval had to occur. And ultimately, I like to believe there's a return - or a going forward - to a different form of companionship, of the ongoing journey?

    Thanks for coming by, Carrie.

  12. Dear John - thank you. Our common, uncommon stories . . .?


  13. Dear Kay, Mim & Penelope
    You have such a way of being present.
    Thank you.

  14. Hi Richard - welcome. And thank you for your comment. There were screeds of poems before this one, written over many years. When this one eventually arrived fully formed on the page, I felt a sense of settlement and relief as though something had come full circle.

  15. Helen, thank you - lovely to find word from you here. I'm so pleased you've linked in with the Tuesday Poem community, too. Looking forward to reading more of your poems... L, C

  16. Dear kind Rebecca - thank you.
    Heart to heart.
    L, C x

  17. Dear Melissa, as always I admire and value your candour. You go straight to the heart of things.

    When you say you've been '. . . stuffing losses, while choosing relationships that would assure them, all my life. . .' my own bells go off. Ah me. It seems to me we keep drawing to us the lessons we know we need for our ultimate integration and emancipation? Some things, we have to learn and re-learn - and re-re-learn? It can be tough going, but our good faith endures and along with that, surly progress is ultimately ensured? I choose to think so!

    Everything boils down to 'right relationship' in the end, don't you think? With ourselves, with others, with the environment, and so on and so on... I do believe that we cross paths with the people we do for good reason/a higher purpose. When it comes to loving and losing, on a personality level the pain can feel intolerable. On a soul level, perhaps one of our tasks (particularly when it comes to our most intimate, significant relationships) is to learn to trust that there is a deep 'working out' going on? That on a core level our soul (for want of a better word) has our best interests at heart and really does know best? This doesn't mean the journey won't be fraught, of course.

    I wonder whether 'peak' experiences (all too often experienced within relationships) are as much about the depths as they are about the heights?

    The heart is a vast territory -- exquisite, ruthless, challenging and illuminating?

    Whew. I don't know how much sense this makes, but these are the thoughts that came up...

    Love and thanks to you in Massachusetts.

  18. PS - Melissa, you wrote '. . . I think the ideal would be to find a relationship in which you can sort out the reasons for the angers (submerged or not) and disappointments and misplaced expectations..etc.'

    Here, here (hear, hear?).

    Yes, yes and yes.

    And thanks again. xx

  19. Dear PamelaMM

    "The loss process, with its pain and complexity - is it part and parcel. Is love a divine and crazy capacity, not despite but because loss is intrinsic, inevitable?"

    Love is a divine and crazy capacity, oh yes. A wild and peace-making privilege, too?

    Much to you
    C xx

  20. Thank you, T. Clear - sending Tasmanian-flavoured love to you today (yes, I'm writing from Hobart, an entirely new landscape).
    L, C x

  21. Your Sage was a beautiful boy, and I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure it was good to shed the unshed tears, I've been doing that recently for my parents. Your post and your poem leave me with a lot to think about.

  22. Sending love, and big, strong cuddly hugs your way

  23. Dear Carol - thank you for your message. It can be helpful to surrender to tears, even years later... When words can't be found, tears become another way to honour the one(s) we have lost. Warm greetings to you . I, too, am sorry for your loss.

  24. Hi Vanda - thanks for the big, strong hugs. Mmm. They are just what I needed xx

  25. "The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea." Karen von Bliksen-Finecke