ALL THINGS LITERARY. ALL THINGS NATURAL.

A blog for those who desire a more creative relationship with the natural world.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Equinox Tribute to Our Father, Loren Dunton (thank you for understanding this slightly off topic post)



My father died at high noon on the Spring Equinox, a time of earthly balance when day and night are everywhere the same. The following is a tribute...

Written March 20, 1998: I have emerged from the shadow of my father’s death.  A year has passed, 365 days of darkness.  The noon sun of the Spring Equinox rises high—illuminating memories of the comet Hale Bopp streaking across a night sky one year ago. 

My soul had no heart for spring last year.  I found no joy in the spiraling call of the red-tailed hawk, in the raw-boned bucks of the new calves, nor in the straight-up leaps of the long-legged lambs.  My spirit dwelt in sadness—stayed anchored to the twin calf lying frozen beneath a snowdrift, reached inside this dark place of loss as I had reached inside the dying ewe, my hand as desperate to pull life from her womb as I had been to draw meaning from my father’s last breath.  Neither was within my grasp.

A new spring has arrived.  I am standing on the shores of the Missouri River.  Canada geese skim the river’s rippling, wet skin, pushing against her southward flow.  They lift from the water and fly a hundred feet north, then dip back onto the water only to drift a hundred and fifty feet south.  The river teases them, and they allow it.  When the time comes to spread their wings, they will shake her from their feathers, and Vee their way into the future.

This shadow, cast twelve months ago at high noon by my father’s death, anchored both our spirits.  Perhaps it is his impatience to get on with living that causes my own wings to yearn for flight.   Must I let go of my grief in order for him to Vee his way into the next realm?

Go, Father, Go!!  Discover the next adventure awaiting you.  You have parented me well.  I no longer fear drifting downstream.  Remember how you loved to feed crusts of bread to the seagulls as they swooped down onto the deck of the Alcatraz ferry?  The sharp beak of one drew blood from your finger – his coup your badge of courage.  The price one pays for living, you seemed to say, these wounds of the flesh.  Pay them no heed. 

I’m waving, Dad, can you see me? 

I recognized your voice today as I etched I love you into the sand on the beach of the Missouri.  I heard you say “No tears, Baby” and though I cried a little, I will shake this sadness from my soul as the geese shake the river water from their feathers—one drop at a time, one day at a time, one spring after another.

NOTE: Texas Tech University has become the official archival repository for the History of Financial Planning and is collecting documents about the profession and its founder Loren Dunton, nationally recognized as the "Father of Financial Planning."  Read more about the Loren Dunton Memorial Award.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Memory of Love ~ Finding Wholeness



When the four-year-old daughter of Frank Bures, contributing editor to Poets & Writers, asked him to tell her about the sad and scary parts of his life, he did.  As a writer and editor he understood the power of narrative, yet he didn’t understand why his daughter listened so intently to every story “as if her life depended on it.”  And then he realized she was really asking, How do you live in a world with sadness and fear? And how can I?

He tells this anecdote in his article “The Secret Lives of Stories: Rewriting Our Personal Narratives” (P&W, Jan/Feb issue, 2013).  He points out that the underlying, utilitarian reason humans are hardwired to tell stories might be because our survival depends on knowing WHAT CAUSES WHAT—a skill even the most sophisticated computer does not yet have. 

In Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder tells about trying to write a war memoir about the time he spent in Vietnam when he was twenty-three.  “During the first year after I came home, I told a few stories that suggested dark memories of combat.”  But he hadn’t been in combat and was embarrassed by his indoor job in communications.  Unable to write the memoir, he set the idea aside.  And every year for fifteen years he dreamed that he received orders to go back to Vietnam.  It wasn’t until he finally formed a more truthful relationship between who he was then and who he is now, that he could write the memoir.  He hasn’t had a single nightmare since. 

I just finished reading Linda Olssons beautiful and unassuming novel, The Memory of Love.  Two parallel stories, about the same woman but at different times in her life, unfold almost like the unfurling of a leaf—the underside less glossy, more vulnerable, hidden from view.  The first story is told through the eyes of Marion, a woman in her early fifties living on the rugged coast of New Zealand. Her heart opens unexpectedly when she finds Ika, a forlorn, abused boy lying face down on the beach.  The second story, told in third person, is about young Marianne.  This childhood story rises from the pages as organically as it rises unbidden from older Marion’s subconscious. 

Young Marianne’s story is filled with the same questions that the daughter of editor Frank Bures asked.  How do you live in a world with sadness and fear? How can I?  But young Marianne had no father to ask.  She could not make sense of a world where WHAT CAUSES WHAT had no causal relationship.  The world was an unkind place and the only way to survive was to separate from herself.  Marianne became Marion. 

Yesterday at the Denver Woman’s Press Club, Cara Lopez Lee and I hosted a Sunday writing salon, TheMemoir Mansion: Truth Dwells in Many Rooms.  We talked about how we had each structured our memoirs, Cara’s a braiding together of three different strands in her life, mine following more the pattern of what Joseph Campbell referred to as The Hero’s Journey in his book Hero with a Thousand Faces. 

Campbell teaches us that the kingdom of the divine world and the kingdom of the human world are actually one.  “The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know.”

The forgotten dimension.  I sometimes refer to this as “the place where two stories meet.”  It is the place where Marianne and Marion meet.  Where the young solder from the Vietnam War finally met the older, seasoned Pulitzer-winning author—where Tracy Kidder met Tracy Kidder.  It is the place I tried to find in the first story I wrote at the age of 13 on a train leaving Rome in 1965. It is the place I searched for when writing In Search of Kinship. It is the place I search for even now as I write this.

When we are brave enough to seek this hidden dimension—to find the beauty in the pain, the grace within the fall from grace, the god within the beast, the prayer within the unholy—our stories begin to unfurl fully, revealing the side of ourselves that reaches toward the light, and the side of ourselves that knows only darkness.  It is the place of Wholeness, the place of Joy. 

Note: The Memory of Love is a 2013 Penguin USA Paperback Original.