Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Soul Place

We'd been hearing about this place of hers in South Dakota ever since we met her ....back in the 80's.

This place.... two small cabins, one large shed, one double-holer outhouse....her father's former hunting camp .... on a piece of land near the itty bitty town where she grew up.... deep in the ruralness of the Black Hills.

As a married couple, they spent each summer here in this place...with their children, then their grandsons....connecting and reconnecting with relations, friends, swimming holes, hiking trails, and quiet.  It was a long trek each year, both geographically and otherwise, from their involved lives as university professor and public school teacher in a sizable town up in northwest Washington.

We knew, from the stories, this place held rich memories laced with history. For years we wanted to take her up on the invitation to visit.

Finally. This was the year.....this was the summer.

She told us to watch for the county line sign, then a big tin shed on our right... their driveway would bend off that narrow winding road just past the shed.

And there she was on the red porch, waving through the dust our tires kicked up .... smiling her love and hellos from every bit of her small but sturdy, almost 82 year old frame.

Three days ...with her... in this place.  Wildly wonderful, but not enough.  Not nearly enough.

                    On our first night there, as we lay back into the dark of the lower cabin amidst the hooty hoot of the owls outside, while half of me remained on alert recalling her comment, 'I hope you're OK with rodents!" my husband said across the quilt, "Well, this certainly is her soul place!"

Yup.  True.  We both knew it and felt its embrace.

For those three wonderful days ... (and still, actually),  I wondered about what defines a Soul Place .... what bullet-pointed items fall under that heading ....  what descriptions get the blur out.... what words articulate the experience....that palpable yet intangible experience that shouts Soul Place.

Was it that we were snugged in amongst family photos, memorabilia, tale after rich tale, furniture and artifacts from times past, abundant quiet, new faces that understood and shared our love for her, longings for a dear husband and father now gone from this earthly place, bird song, pine smell and breath-catching beauty?

Certainly it was present in that visit to the six building town where her Mom and Dad had run both the only store and the only gas station while she grew up with a beloved Grandmother some distance away.....and at the visit to the ranch that was home for her earliest years where we couldn't distinguish which weather-weary-but-still-beautiful building had been the house and which the barn... and at the visit to that peaceful ponderosa pine-smelling cemetery high on a hill where she and her husband will rest alongside one another some day....

Was it present here,  I wondered,  because internet, cell phone service and television reception were not?

Was it present here, I wondered,  because this strong wise woman has, it seems, done her own version of the Australian Aboriginal Walkabout... alone on this wild land much of each summer since her husband passed away?

I started a new book the night before we left ... one I had picked up on the trip.  In A Singular Notion, Renee Carrier describes her ranch outside the small town of Hulett, Wyoming as "not a ranch, not a farm per se, it is a place."  
"I love,"  she continues, "the Muiresque definition of a place as being a part of the environment claimed by feeling."

I dog-eared that page.

Certainly, my friend has deep and strong feelings for this place. It seems to breathe the very values she holds dear.
Or could it be the other way around?  Did her values come from this place?
Sort of a chicken and egg kind of question.

Either way ....what a joy to have and know a place that sings the very song your heart sings ....a place that calls you to remember what it is that brings you closer to your sacred self.

I treasure the gift of those three days with her in that place. They reminded me to live more fully into Rumi's words ....

Wherever you stand
Be the soul of that place.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Orange Cake

Orange Cake

A slice of the orange "W" cake sits before me.
Ice cream pools at its edges.
My fork lifts a bite.
I chew and swallow....not tasting.

Bubbles rise in the champagne along with the emotions inside me.
Toasts, tears, poetry bring memories of that day seven years ago.

His siblings, eating orange cake alongside us, watch, listen, ask questions, take it in.

We are two families, strengthened, perhaps even bonded, by this grief....
Gathered as one
Around an orange cake,
Longing for a little boy.