Over the years I consoled myself, joking that Dad wouldn't mind being nestled between the books he had written, and his presence had surely comforted our bereft and beloved stepmother. And now, on the wake of casting both their ashes into the salty sea air of San Francisco, I think back to scattering our mother's ashes among the Ponderosa pines nine years ago.
A few weeks ago, Gary Ferguson and his wife, consultant Mary Clare, stayed with us while Gary was on book tour for his new book The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness. The book is about Gary's remote journeys into the wilderness to honor a promise to his wife Jane before she died - that if anything happened to her, he would scatter her ashes in the wild locations she loved the most.
Over dinner and red wine, Gary, Mary and John and I talked about the complexity of life and love, and of death and grieving. "I learned the importance of community," Gary said, "and of the need to honor the mystery of it all. Beauty, Joseph Campbell reminds us, is what nudges us toward a new vision of ourselves as we come out the other side of grief. Community, mystery, and beauty - these three things formed the bridge for me."
I found beauty in the seagulls wailing over the soft wash of waves on the seashore, just as I found beauty today in the snow layering the boughs of the Ponderosas, the way their trunks bend to the wind without breaking, the way the earth holds their roots, and my mother's ashes.
But perhaps the most mysterious beauty of all is found in the way the human heart can choose to heal by choosing to love again, and again, and again.
Wishing you beauty, community, and a New Year imbued with the mysteries of the heart.
Note: Gary Ferguson and Mary Clare have begun a new venture, The Carry Home: Life Changes and Here You Are, offering retreats and programs designed to help people traverse life's changes with vision and integrity.