Archive for October, 2016

Sweet October Melancholy

Mom's final resting place

It’s been a particularly fine start to October here in the Appalachians.  I love October–autumn and spring are both seasons of transition, and I love the feeling of constant change in the air this time of year.  I find myself more reflective as a result, caught up in memories both joyful and sad, caught up in the ineffable mystery of time, how the past is now an illusion but once was as real as this moment.  None of us would be here without our pasts.

I know I’ve posted this poem a few times here, but felt the need to re-post.  I scattered Mom’s ashes this time of year, and things keep reminding of her and Dad this year, more so than in some Octobers past.  So here goes . . .


Crossing the Styx

*a reflection on scattering Mom’s ashes at Paradise Beach on Lake Superior

We picked your urn
Not so much for the outside, an elegant cloisonné midnight
But for the inside, the warm turquoise of a robin’s egg
I imagined you surrounded by this blue, the blue of the best summer days, and felt comforted
But like a bird in the egg
Grief changes and grows
Until it needs to hatch
Escape its confines and scatter
Fly away on the wind and explore infinity
We kept you in the egg too long
Our hearts yearning to trap you just as they remembered you
Stopping growth
Stopping grief
Stopping time
Stopping change
A human futility, to imagine we have the power to stop ourselves
The power to stop our surroundings
To stay in the chrysalis
To stay in the womb
To stay in the egg
To stay in the warm safe dark
Long after we have outgrown it
Change happens when we aren’t looking
Infinity steals into our dreams at night, into the cozy darkness of our mortal eggshell
Whispering surrender to the inevitable
Dreams of water and spirit
Water flows everywhere, undermining all barriers to its course
Countless individual drops joining to form a mighty whole
Water is change
Your last dream was of water
The day before you died
You said you sat on the rocky verge, staring across a calm lake
The constant ripples comforting you
With the ever-shifting eternity of their pattern
Your urn was heavier than I expected
A huge egg of grief I carried like a baby
As I trudged along the shore
The pebbles of Paradise Beach ringing in my ears
I woke to life on this beach
My earliest memories of this place
Yours too
You wiled away many joys along Lake Superior
Sketching its infinite moods
Bathing in the rare northern sun
Building stone homes for the spirit people
Now I bring your ashes here to rest
The ashes of the body that once carried mine
Carried the first spark of me
My first mortal home
I now carry
I cry as I look out at the lake
My tears blurring the edge of the silver water from the gray-white sky
Until there is no horizon for my grief
I try to think of a prayer as I open your urn
But the shushing murmur and lap of the waves conversing with the shore
Seems prayer enough
So I remain silent
Struck by the sacred wild of this place
You scatter easily over the water and rocks
Glad to finally hatch
Glad to finally become one with the lake you dreamt of so long ago
You soar out free over the silver ripples
Until your soul rises from your ash and finds its fledgling wings
A single gull’s cry in your endless wake
As you chase the horizon of forever

~Karen Nilsen

copyright 2014

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