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A Healing Winter Walk – A Photo Poem

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My world is muted, not colorless as many mourners report.

All brown and grey and silky white. Gentle colors.

winter walk.clematis seeds

winter walk.hydrangea

winter walk ice crystals

There are patterns and intricacies visible only in winter, when life has seemingly stopped.

winter walk ball

winter walk.twirly thing

winter walk.leaf pattern

There are reflections of life in the muddy water and tiny buds despite the thorns.

winter walk muddy pond

winter walk bud

winter walk.thorns

I am walking through a long, bare tunnel. The cold air echoes in the emptiness.

winter walk.tunnel

As I emerge from the darkness, a surprised robin surprises me.

He’s here early.

He tilts his head towards me, all attention as if I’m a worm underground, which he decides I am not.

He flits from branch to branch before flying off, beckoning me to follow his melodious call of spring.

winter walk crocus

Postscript: I decided I wanted a clearer photo of the flower bud, so I went outside and traipsed through the slushy snow only to find that the hydrangea buds had turned black in the recent arctic blast. Ah well, I guess that’s why they call it seasons of grief. The good news is, this made me laugh. Also, the crocus is from last year. But I know they’re coming . . . 

One day at a time.

Strolling into the Future

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He’s walking fast, Starbucks coffee clutched in his right hand, rolled black umbrella in his left.  As he strides past me — confident eye contact, slight nod, no smile — I can smell the fresh scent of his morning shave and shower. His posture is erect, made more so by a tightly tied, tidy backpack. No lose straps here; he’s all business. Although he’s dressed in khakis and wearing gym shoes, everything about him says suit and tie.

I, on the other hand, am strolling. A teabag tag dangles from my dented and decidedly uncool thermos mug, and my umbrella swings in lazy circles from my wrist. I’m wearing my hiking boots because they are the only walking shoes I have that don’t hurt my feet.

He’s headed somewhere. I’m headed nowhere.

Boots on the Ground

Boots Going Nowhere

Church Lady

I spent last evening organizing greeters for my church and preparing to lead an Advent Quiet Day later in the month. I read my Bible and did my centering prayer meditation. I wrote a couple of memos for a local environmental group, had a cup of chamomile tea, and went to bed with a heating pad because I was sore from the gym after a four-month hiatus with broken ribs.

When did I become an achy, middle-aged church lady? One who strolls while others stride? Sipping chamomile instead of espresso? I used to be cool; I really did.

Way Cool

Way Cool

This transition to the other side has been gradual.

Why, just the other day I was striding the halls of Congress doing my best impersonation of a mover and a shaker. I was becoming like the young strider. Creating myself, shaping who I would be in life, looking eagerly to the future.

Unbecoming

Now, I’m unbecoming. Well, not in the traditional sense of the word. I do still shower and brush my teeth. Rather, I’m dismantling the ego-driven, competitive persona that built a successful lobbying career. I’m taking the time to heal childhood emotional wounds that have always caused me to be less than who I wanted to be. I’m stripping away the character traits that used to serve me well, but which now only make me wince.

I’m processing, reflecting, and writing. Most of these young folks don’t have time for that. They hear the call of success, whatever that might mean for them. Nothing wrong with that — it’s what they are supposed to be doing at this time in their lives.

A Call to Aging

I’m still figuring out what I’m supposed to be doing in this phase of my life. We all have unique cycles of call in our lives, right up until we breathe our final breath. Learning how to navigate aging is one of our most important calls.

Tick Tock, Tick tock

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

I’m not there yet. There’s a lot I want to do before I’m deposited in a rocker to relate and re-relate stories of my youth to a circle of what I’m certain will be enthralled children. I’m finishing up my Masters in Writing and might be doing some teaching in addition to becoming a famous author.

OK, maybe I am still shoring up my ego in some ways.

But I feel pretty good about where I am and where I’m going. I don’t think I’m going to be one of those bitter older people who resents the young. Yeah, I wish my feet and knees didn’t hurt, but I don’t begrudge the spry among us.

I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences to be back in striding mode. Even the grief, loss, and failures are golden. They help me empathize with other people who are going through those things. The Bible says you comfort the suffering with the comfort you have received from God. God has been there for me, and now I can share that comforting spirit with others, whether or not they personally believe in God. That’s a calling to aspire to.

A River of Love

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I’ve done everything they say to do. I went to church, worked out at the gym, went for a walk, drank plenty of water, called a friend. I wrote.

A River of Tears « melanielynngriffin.

At church yesterday, the kids came in at the end of worship time, as they always do – shaking tambourines and banging on little bongo drums. I looked at the teachers shepherding them in, and I wept.

A friend hugged me.

At the gym, I was on the stretching machine, thinking, well I may not be able to control random unfathomable violence against children, but I can control how I treat my own body. You know, positive talk, affirmations. Then a school bus pulled up outside the window, and I looked away before I saw the kids get off. But the tears still came. I had a tissue tucked in my waistband, just in case.

Walking the paths of my neighborhood, I heard children calling to each other across the playground, and I saw young mothers pushing strollers. Did I imagine the tightness in their bodies? Were they really bent forward just a touch, ready to shelter their babies if something should fall from the sky? Or was it me, hunched into myself, not wanting to connect, afraid to look into their eyes and possibly encounter more pain?

I hadn’t wanted to go for a walk today. I didn’t want to do anything. But when I stepped outside, Mother Nature was right in sync with my soul. It’s a grey day, and very foggy. The mist carries a chill that goes almost all the way into your heart. But not quite.

Thank God, not quite.

Grief warms the heart.  It’s the flip side — the loss side — of love. And love is God’s fire. It is eternal, and it connects every single one of us together, like that river of tears I wrote about.

“There’s a river of love that runs through all times. There’s a river of grief that floods through our loves. It starts when a heart is broken into by the thief of belief in anything that’s true, but there’s a river of love that flows through all time.”

Lyrics by Sam Phillips

Thanks for letting me share. So – how are you coping?

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