Mourning Quartet

Raising Sand (Krauss and Plant), the Essential Leonard Cohen, and Dogwood Winter (A.J. Roach) have been the official mourning albums at The Barn. The 4-discs that make up this quartet have driven me to tears, dried my tears, and reminded me of the love I had for Doug aka HMO’Keefe.

We just completed the Great Ash Dash of 2014 in which we scattered his ashes in the places he loved.

After telling me he wanted to be cremated, I asked him what I should do with his ashes. He paused for only a second or two before saying he wanted to be scattered somewhere in Arizona.

We took it beyond that. His daughter, sister- and brother-in-law, and I traveled more than 1500 miles about the Southwest scattering his ashes in the places we knew he loved – California, Arizona and New Mexico – in the places he studied and loved.

There are some ashes still and I intend to scatter them in the garden. He may not have loved West Virginia, but West Virginia loved him. His daughter, Carruthers, has some ashes too. She’ll scatter them in more places that he loved.

There’s been closure as a result of The Great Ash Dash of 2014. I’ve been listening to the 4 discs all night. I hear “I’m your man” and smile instead of crying. It may be premature to think so, but I sense that mourning is over.

Plant and Krauss drove me to tears every single time I listened to “Read the Letter.” The song summoned everything I wanted to tell him, but didn’t . Between the words and the notes was every thought, I-love-you, secret, promise, endearment unsaid. I can listen to it now and think of the things that were said and written. The quartet of mourning CDs are, at least at this moment, nothing but beautiful reminders that I loved deeply.

A.J. Roach reminded me of the beauty of family and love, the longing for home and someone to hold.

I’ve listened to these 4 discs weekly since June. I don’t think that’s going to end anytime soon. What will change is that instead of mourning, I will celebrate the love we had.

A desert, an oasis, green hills and home.

029 (2)I’m home from the Great Ash Dash of 2014.  It was such a good trip and I hated for it to end; however, driving up the hill on the way home from the airport, my heart just thrilled.  It is so good to be home.  I’ve wallowed this day away for the most part.

I did manage to do some laundry and sort through the nearly two-thousand photos that one of my traveling companions took.  With my bum foot I found it hard to take photos.  Balancing a heavy camera to focus puts more stress on a body than the fully-able realize.  Fortunately, Mr. Paparazzi took care of the problem.  Some of the photos I did take were of one of my childhood homes.

746 (2)1047 Bluegrass in Vista, California was my stomping grounds for 1st and 2nd grade.  While I have few memories of that time, I do have some.  I can remember attaching a quilt to the chainlink fence in the backyard to make a tent.  I can remember a scary goose following me home from school and I can remember playing with snails in the side yard.  I can remember posing with my brother in front of the house.  I was wearing a pair of my mother’s high heels.  (Even as a small child, I was into shoes!)

743 (2)When my parents bought the house it was brand new and the show house for the neighborhood.  Bluegrass was a cul de sac of new construction.  Behind our house was a small orange grove and farm replete with chickens.  The neighborhood itself was lush and green.  Most of the residents on the street took pride in their yards and the masses of geraniums were planted so that a ribbon of them undulated through all the yards.

My mother was an avid gardener and I can remember apricot roses and calla lilies taller than me.  I also remember their scent and her dislike of the snails that intrigued my brother and I.

Returning to this place was interesting, but also a little sad.  The neighborhood is run down and evidence of California’s long drought showed in the absence of gardens, geraniums and lush grass.  Still, it was a treat to visit.

756 (2)I haven’t been in California, the state of my birth, since I was 10.  Going back with adult eyes all these years later was sweet.  Besides the house in Vista, we also visited the town of my birth, Twenty-nine Palms, California also known as 29 Stumps.

We stayed at the 29 Palms Inn, established in 1928 and the site of the oasis for which the town is named complete with the fabled 29 palms.  In the middle of desert, there was this oasis with turtles and humming birds and lush vegetation.  No wonder people think oases are mirages.  This beautiful, verdant spot was set against the spare, brown desert.

764 (2)HMO’Keefe once wrote at length I a letter to me about his love for the desert.  In the letter, he lamented ad refuted the idea that the desert was empty and dead.  His eloquent words made me love the desert I couldn’t remember.   I was disappointed on this trip to learn that I don’t love the desert.  I want to.  It seems that I should.  But the desert did seem empty and dead to me.  I kept thinking that with a little compost, some seeds and water, the desert landscape could match the sky for sheer majesty.  Perhaps the fact that I was born in a town named for an oasis explains why I so love the green of West Virginia and its mellow hills as opposed to the browns and rusts of the flat desert.