Wednesday, June 6, 2007

'tis a gift to ....

I got home late last night from my little jaunt to new england. the primary reason for the trip was to visit my dear friend judith whose husband died last fall, he was way too young and his death was way too sudden. I knew on some level the visit may be a bit difficult. I haven't seen judith since last june when andreas was alive and well, unfortunately I wasn't able to go to the funeral as I had gotten word late and was unable to make arrangements for travel. whatever sadness or difficulty I might have experienced, of course, paled compared to the my friend's situation - I am still with my love and my friend is a widow. retelling stories of one's loss and grief is hard, but I hope that it is also healing. I could offer little comfort other than my presence and my belief that there is truth in the saying 'sorrow shared is halved and happiness shared is doubled.' I hoped my visit would be a gift to judith as we engaged in a weekend together halving and doubling life's offerings.

in a way I 'prepared' for my visit with judith. a couple months ago judith told me she found joan didion's new book "A Year of Magical Thinking" to be a powerful and helpful aid for dealing with her own grief. the book follows joan's inner and outer journey during the year that follows the sudden and unexpected death of her husband john. it is a remarkable book, beautifully crafted and absent of any sense of morbidity or self-pity one might expect. knowing how important this book has been to judith I read it (actually I listened to an unabridged audio version of the book which is how judith 'read' the book and what she recommended I do.) in my studio I always have an audiobook going while I work. this 'read' I admit was a bit bizarre; I listened to didion's book while I was working on one of the 'healing quilts' which are in fact 'aids' for fran who is still in the midst of dealing with the loss of her much loved husband and I selected this book to 'prepare' for a visit with a friend who is actively wrestling with grief over the loss of the love of her life a mere six months ago. whew! doesn't it seem that life is surreal at times?

on my way to connecticut I was running ahead of schedule and found that I actually would make it to southern new england by early friday afternoon. never one to pass up a gift I immediately seized on the opportunity to visit hancock shaker village. hancock has been a spiritual touchstone since I discovered the place twenty-five years ago. when we lived in connecticut, I made frequent sojourns to hancock. I loved wandering the grounds and tried to visit once or twice a year and over the years made it there during all four seasons - june was always my favorite month for a visit. whenever I visited I would wander with camera in hand and reflect on the shaker affirmations which over the years have become some of my own affirmations for daily life ( e.g., ' if you would have a lovely garden, you should live a lovely life'; 'love is little, love is low, love will make my spirit grow.' 'hands to work, hearts to god'; and of course, the simple gifts song) . we moved to cleveland almost ten years ago and I haven't been back. albeit cleveland does have 'shaker heights' and it's own shaker historical museum, but sorry to say, it is nothing compared to hancock! hancock was on my list of places to get to this trip east - but I imagined I would end my trip with a visit. to begin my trip was definitely the best way to start - the place always centers and refreshes and taking pictures has long been a personal form of meditation and prayer. and now I'm digital how exciting is that! another gift for in the digital age 'film is cheap.' the visit was a simple gift and maybe a little more preparation for my days and years ahead.

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the beautiful's a very, very special place, as is the area that surrounds it.

cfrank said...

How nice to see pictures of the Shaker Village. I was born in Pittsfield and frequented the Village every couple years while growing up. I love Berkshire County and miss all my relatives there. We usually visit MA and VT every summer but are not able to go this year.

Ms. Mamma said...

This is really lovely. Your blog is lovely.