dark places

theodorkittelsen.december

“December” by Theodor Kittelsen

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair; and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
~ J. R. R. Tolkien
(The Fellowship of the Ring)

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
~ Max Ehrmann
(Desiderata)

first snow

theodorkittelsen.november

“November” by Theodor Kittelsen

I am younger each year at the first snow. When I see it, suddenly, in the air, all little and white and moving; then I am in love again and very young and I believe everything.
~ Anne Sexton
(Letter to W. D. Snodgrass, November 28, 1958)

Deer Tidings

white-tailed yearling by Greg Thompson

Once upon a time I was as curious as the yearling above, and in possession of a keen sense of wonder. The mysteries of nature and spirit were intertwined in my young mind. One early wordless memory I have is of lying on the cold winter ground in the woods and eyeing a little princess pine peeking through the snow. I was astonished at the connection I felt to the small precious life, and how thrilled I was to be aware of its presence!

My parents and grandparents were nature lovers, but from an early age I was locking horns with my scientifically minded father over the existence of the supernatural. It distressed me to no end that he refused to believe in anything that he could not measure in physical terms.

One afternoon when I was six years old I had a dazzling moment of transcendence when I encountered a stag, although I didn’t know enough to call it that when I later tried to tell my parents about it. As I was walking alone up the heavily wooded road from the school bus stop to my house, I strongly sensed that someone was watching me. When I turned around to look I was at first startled to see a huge stag with magnificent antlers. He was standing in the road, quietly staring at me, as if he recognized me, as if he knew exactly who I was. I was struck with awe. Completely enchanted, I was not at all frightened. In fact, I decided he was my guardian angel. A fatherly figure. Something about his presence was most reassuring. I never forgot him and have often felt his presence in my life, especially when spending time with my maternal grandfather in the years to come.

white-tailed buck at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

Forty-five years later, a few years after my grandfather died, I had wonderful encounter with another deer. (Some of my readers may remember me sharing this in November 2008 on my Gaia blog.) I was visiting my father at his house in the woods, where spotting deer, coyotes, wild turkeys and fishers is not at all unusual. We were starting to watch a movie when my brother-in-law glanced out the window and noticed a doe in the yard, quite close to the house. Being so enchanted with deer I jumped at the chance to see one and went over to the window to look at her.

She was so beautiful with her large soft eyes and large ears lined in dark brown. Our eyes met and she stood there transfixed for a very long time. I could not take my eyes off of her. After a while she lay down and continued to stare at me, occasionally looking about to see what a noise might be, but then fixing her gaze back onto me. She seemed so peaceful and I wondered what, if anything, it all meant. It was as if I had lost my child’s sense of inner-knowing for a moment. Then I started to worry that my looking at her so intently might be threatening her in some way. But she was tranquil and serene. At one point a buck appeared and walked right past her and started helping himself to my father’s rhododendron. My brother-in-law was going to go shoo him away but I begged him not to. After the buck had enough to eat he slowly retraced his steps and passed by the doe again, glancing at her but unconcerned with her behavior. She ignored him completely, and kept looking at me.

white-tailed doe by Steve Hillebrand

After another long while she stood up and started nibbling at the ground, looking at me once in a while. She slowly made her way downhill around the corner of the house, so I changed my vantage point to another window on that side of the house. She was now one story below me. But she looked up to the window and saw me again and started looking at me again with the same intensity as before. Her look felt so reassuring in some way and yet I felt the thrill of butterflies in my stomach. It’s hard to put words to it. She definitely seemed to know me. It was getting darker and darker until I could barely see her, and just at the point where I felt I could see her no longer she suddenly darted away. More than an hour had passed. What an amazing gift! Even my father had to acknowledge this was an extraordinary experience.

I did finally understand the doe’s message with some help from my Reiki practitioner a few months later. I’m keeping it safe in my heart for now. I will never forget this special doe and had so often felt her guidance while caring for my father in his declining years, as well as my mother’s presence, very strongly, in my life. And it was after the doe visited the house that my father, the skeptical scientist, started reporting that he had been seeing my mother. Sometimes he would ask where she was because he was certain she had just left the room.

white-tailed doe by Greg Thompson

Fifty years after my first encounter with a deer, when I was fifty-six, my father died in his sleep in the early morning hours of September 19, 2013, under a full harvest moon. My sister called me to let me know he was gone so Tim and I left to drive up to Papa’s house to be with our family. As we reached the end of the hour-long drive, we turned onto the same road where I saw my first deer fifty years ago. In about the same spot on the road, standing quietly on the side, in the moonlight, was a lovely doe. Tim slowed the car down and she looked right into our car, into my eyes. My mother was letting me know that she had my father now. What a feeling of relief and release came over me.

Beverly and I have often noted in the months since Papa died that neither of us have felt the presence of either of our parents. But Larisa has felt her grandpa’s presence down in North Carolina. And we all see in her new baby daughter, Katie, a remarkable resemblance to him, especially in her facial expressions and the way she moves her long arms.

As I continue to mourn the loss of my father I feel like I’ve grown to a place where I can embrace being in the elder generation now, a contented crone with my fair share of hard-won wisdom to gently share with my children and grandchildren. It’s a feeling of strength, stepping into the place where my parents and my grandparents once stood.

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junco ~ image credit: mike at luminosity.allthepages.org

A couple of weeks I put out a couple of bird feeders and have enjoyed watching the birds who come to eat. My parents and grandparents were avid bird-watchers but I thought identifying birds was a tedious endeavor when I was a child. However, these past few days I’ve been amazed to discover that some of what they taught me got stored in my memory files. It seems like every time a new bird shows up a name pops into my head, so I look it up and find it to be correct! I’ve always loved and could identify chickadees, but when an unfamiliar bird showed up the other day and “junco” popped out of my mouth, well, I’ve fallen in love with another little one.

I almost posted the first parts of my deer story several times since I started this blog, but something kept holding me back. After I saw the doe the night my father died it became clear that the tale had not been finished. Yet something still kept making it seem like it wasn’t the time to share it. After spending three weeks with my darling new granddaughter, though, it feels like the whole picture has now been revealed.

White-Tailed Deer

Steampunk’d Wonderland

10.28.14 ~ Old Lyme, ConnecticutSome of my readers may remember back a couple of years ago when Janet, her mother and I went to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme to see a fanciful outdoor exhibit, Wee Faerie Village: Land of Picture Making. And in 2011 the theme was fairy tale birdhouses, if I remember correctly. Last October I missed it but this year Janet and I had a chance to go again, this time bringing her friend Kathy, too. And this year the exhibit theme was Wee Faerie Village in a Steampunk’d Wonderland. As in Alice’s wonderland.

For those who don’t know what steampunk is – I didn’t and I had to look it up – it’s a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery of the Victorian 19th century rather than advanced technology. Think Jules Verne.

Local artists are invited to create fairy-scaled installations on the museum grounds for the public to view during the month of October. On the left is one identified as Cheshire Cat Reappears by Robert Nielsen & Billie Tannen.

For some reason I wasn’t much in the mood for taking pictures, so I left my camera in the car, and used my cell phone to capture some of the more appealing creations. (I seem to have lost my Muchness!)

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…part of Alice’s Celebration by Dylan & Ted Gaffney…

10.28.14.fairyAs we were wandering around Kathy happened to see something we hadn’t noticed before, a real live fairy! Her mother gave us permission to take her picture, after which the fairy scolded us and asserted that she wasn’t a real fairy. But we know better!

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the gardens, appreciating the lovely autumn weather and scenery. Lunch was very tasty at the Café Flo, where we dined outside and savored lingering in conversation on the terrace overlooking the Lieutenant River.

After we finished with the fairy village Kathy had to leave, so Janet and I checked out the indoor art exhibit, Life Stories in Art. We saw collections of the Tonalist and Impressionist paintings of Mary Rogers Williams (1857-1907), the intricate glass sculptures of Kari Russell-Pool (b. 1967), and the modern sculptures of Mary Lightfoot Tarleton Knollenberg (1904-1992).

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Anticipator by Matthew Geller…

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…part of Alice’s Celebration by Dylan & Ted Gaffney…

Katie by the Sea

10.25.14 ~ Outer Banks, North Carolina

…Katie’s first trip to the beach…

Dima & Larisa took Katie on a camping trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina this weekend. Larisa sent this picture and reports that the new family is enjoying bonding on their first weekend getaway, and Katie doesn’t seem to mind roughing it in her little travel bassinet. She looks like she feels safe in Daddy’s arms. No doubt she will grow to love the sea as much as her extended family does. ♥

penetrating the past

tree.cemetery

Genealogy becomes a mania, an obsessive struggle to penetrate the past and snatch meaning from an infinity of names. At some point the search becomes futile – there is nothing left to find, no meaning to be dredged out of old receipts, newspaper articles, letters, accounts of events that seemed so important fifty or seventy years ago. All that remains is the insane urge to keep looking, insane because the searcher has no idea what he seeks. What will it be? A photograph? A will? A fragment of a letter? The only way to find out is to look at everything, because it is often when the searcher has gone far beyond the border of futility that he finds the object he never knew he was looking for.
~ Henry Wiencek
(The Hairstons: An American Family in Black & White)

Recently Tim & I had our DNA tested for fun, to see how well our genetic material lined up with our known family histories.

The biggest surprise for me was finding out that I have absolutely no Native American ancestry! There was a story handed down that one of my mother’s ancestors married a Wampanoag Indian. So now I know why we were never able to find such an ancestor and will let go of that research goal. Another curiosity is that 13% of my ancestors came from the region of Italy and Greece. I had no idea!

dnaBarbara.pieBARBARA
38% Great Britain (my mother’s New England ancestry)
34% Europe East (my father’s Ukrainian ancestry)
13% Italy/Greece
4% Scandinavia (my Norwegian 3rd-great-grandfather)
4% Europe West
2% Iberian Peninsula
5% Traces of Asia Central, Caucasus, Finland/Northwest Russia, European Jewish & Ireland

Because Tim’s maternal grandfather was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants we had assumed that would be about 25% of his ancestry. But he’s only 2% European Jewish! And he also has a few Scandinavian ancestors. The only ancestry Tim has that I don’t have is a trace of Asia South. And the ancestry I have that Tim does not have is 34% Europe East and traces of Asia Central and Finland/Northwest Russia.

dnaTim.pieTIM
65% Great Britain (Tim’s New England/Nova Scotia ancestry)
20% Ireland (three of Tim’s Irish 3rd-great-grandparents)
4% Europe West
3% Scandinavia
2% Italy/Greece
2% European Jewish
2% Iberian Peninsula
2% Traces of Asia South and Caucasus

We are finding all this utterly fascinating! I’ve also been watching Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. It can be seen online for anyone who is interested. It’s amazing what researching the paper trail left behind by ancestors, combined with DNA testing, can reveal.

little baby

10.5.14.2254

…Nate and Katie, 10 days old…

You’ll have to forgive me for sharing another batch of pictures! I am home now from my grand adventure – a thrill of a lifetime! I had the joy of seeing my granddaughter born and the privilege of seeing her and holding her every day for the first few weeks of her life. I was delighted to have her smile at me quite a few times.

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…Katie, 12 days old…

One day while there I emailed Tim and told him how I wished we lived next door to Dima & Larisa. He wrote back, “I am NOT moving to North Carolina!” And I do agree with him – I don’t care for the hot, humid, sub-tropical climate down there. On my flight returning home, when the plane came down from the clouds and I could see Boston and the harbor, a tear of happiness came down my cheek. Home sweet home – New England! I was gone for six weeks, the longest time I have ever been away from Tim and home. What an incurable homebody I am!

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…Katie, 15 days old…

But there will surely be many trips to North Carolina in the future, and the kids have promised to come up north for the winter holidays. Maybe we will show Katie her first snowfall! She has such bright eyes and when she’s not sleeping she is gazing around, taking in all the sights and sounds. Pure awareness. Babies are a gift of spirit…

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…Katie, 20 days old…

Zoë missed me. Last night she slept on my lap for a couple of hours and protested with loud meows when I tried to get up to go to bed. But she followed me to bed and snuggled until I fell asleep. I think all is right in her world again.

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…Larisa and Katie, 22 days old…

I see you young and soft oh little baby
Little feet, little hands, little baby
One year of crying and the words creep up inside
Creep into your mind
So much to say
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (So Much to Say) ♫

katieandme

…one last snuggle, Barbara and Katie, 23 days old…