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Tidings Of Comfort and Joy [Dec. 17th, 2014|09:34 pm]
Newport2Newport
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I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
--Walt Whitman


It was when our mutual friend Katrina Kenison introduced me to Amy VanEchaute's blog, My Path With Stars Bestrewn, that the seeds of a friendship were planted. In a later entry, “While My Pretty One Sleeps," Amy wrote a gorgeous tribute to her beloved Momma, who seemed to me the stuff of fairy tales. At once magical and ephemeral, Amy's Momma reminded me of my sweet Nana—not mirror images, mind you, but similar in all the places where light exists and love makes itself manifest in the world.


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Amy's Momma with Maymer, 1973

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My Nana, early 1970s

Though we are separated by distance—1,900 miles, more or less—my subsequent conversations with Amy brought us closer. Over time, I came to realize just how much we have in common. Our personalities are uniquely our own, but we approach the world with a shared sense of wide-eyed wonderment, are attuned to music about Mother Earth and her creations, and words that whisper to us the wisdom of Transcendentalists, matriarchs, and the Eternal All-knowing.

A few weeks ago, when Amy posted a picture of the Victorian-style wreath she’d created as a Christmastime homage to her mother, I wished aloud for a memorial spot where I could visit Nana. Amy expressed similar regrets about her own grandmother. As fate would have it, “Maymer” is buried in a cemetery less than nine (count 'em, 9!) miles from my house.

Right then I realized that we’d ventured into that serendipitous space where wishes are sometimes granted, the realm of possibility where you don’t dare blink, lest you miss all the fun and magic. “I’ll make her a wreath,” I heard myself say, “I’ll find Maymer’s grave and lay it there for you.”


Get this: I’d never made a wreath for a loved one before, much less a total stranger! So what? My inner voice asked. I answered the challenge by grabbing my car keys and heading to Michaels. Not for me, something purely decorative…I'd pull together thematic elements! The circular shape would speak of unity—the joining of hands across the miles, a warm embrace in absentia. And the sturdy evergreens would represent our grandmothers’ character: strong women who endured hard times without complaint, who embroidered the fanciful into the everyday, and who sowed seeds of grace in every word and deed.

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Behold! My first-ever homemade bow! See the tiny angel? She represents Maymer and Nana, spiritual giants of short stature. In the curve adjacent to the gilt-edged bow, I placed creamy white roses, as fair as our grandmothers’ porcelain complexions.

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Here and there, I scattered various gifts of earth and sky, to help illustrate the underlying meaning of this circle: Hope, that thing with feathers; pinecones that represent growth and renewal; a sprig of cedar that symbolizes strength and healing; holly that speaks of loving sacrifice; and twining ivy, to depict the precious memories that cling to the very fabric of our being.


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On these scrolls are written the songs of our heart: "Deep Peace" for Maymer, and “His Eye is on The Sparrow” for Nana. I tied them together with a tussie-mussie of forget-me-nots, tiny blue flowers that grew prolific in Maymer’s garden and inspired Amy’s momma to write this gorgeous haiku:

Like my mother’s eyes
Twinkling from the garden path
Blue forget-me-nots.
©Marjorie Neighbour, 1982


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I then clipped two candles on the upper right corner, humming as I placed them among the greenery: These little lights of ours, I’m gonna let ‘em shine… Sprigs of mistletoe are scattered at the base of the candles, for who deserves bunches of kisses more than a beloved grandmother?


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A chubby bird hovers mid-air, a shimmery gold confection that catches the sunlight with its feathers. Into its bosom, I tucked a pale pink rose from my backyard garden—a secret treasure of the sort that I suspect Nana and Maymer loved best. Over time the petals will fade and crumble, but as with our most cherished memories, their essence will remain.


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Here’s how my finished wreath looked, lovingly placed as it was near the cedar tree where Maymer rests.

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I discovered nearby yet another wreath, created with bougainvillea flowers by Mother Nature herself! It’s a very unusual arrangement, which makes me wonder if I was meant to stumble upon it in my walk across the grounds.  And just beyond the reach of my camera, a songbird flew from tree to tree, chirping when it landed but never lighting long enough for me to get a clear glimpse of it. Felt more than seen, it was identifiable only through the sweetness of its song. “Like the soul,” Amy suggests to me later.


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Sunset at the cemetery

This wreath is truly a gift of the heart and of this season. It honors the circle of life, a miracle with no beginning or end, and brings tidings of comfort and joy to both the giver and recipient. In the same way that the Winter Solstice turns back the dark by lengthening the days, this gift has swaddled us in warmth and light—new friends who feel as if we’ve known each other forever, pulled by our grandmothers into a wordless embrace that is nothing less than divine.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jamarattigan
2014-12-18 03:16 pm (UTC)
Loved this post so much, Melodye -- the story of "meeting" Amy and how quickly you bonded -- the serendipity of living so close to Maymer's burial site (!), and of course the beautiful, loving gesture of making a wreath and placing it.

The circular symbolism of the wreath reminds me of the lei -- it also speaks of an embrace, unity, and love everlasting. "A ring is round and has no end . . . " I remember loving that rhyme when I was little. :)

I love how you carefully selected all the elements for the wreath and how each has a special significance regarding both your Nana and Amy's Maymer. Also love Marjorie's haiku :).

Truly, this is what this season is all about. Spreading joy, unselfishly where we can, honoring those we have lost and continuing to celebrate their lives. You are such an inspiration. We need more people like you in the world with such a generous heart. :)

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[User Picture]From: Carol Federlin Baldwin
2014-12-18 03:31 pm (UTC)

your post

The wreath and the love and time that went into creating it and writing this post are beautiful. I'm also impressed how you can get around and do all of this with your bum foot! Carol Baldwin
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 01:08 pm (UTC)

Re: your post

It's as they say, "Where there's a will, there's a way." It wasn't easy by any means, but boy howdy, was it ever worth it!

Merry Christmas, dear Carol. Wishing you all the best that this moment, that all of 2015 has to offer. xo
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[User Picture]From: newport2newport
2014-12-25 12:42 pm (UTC)
I didn't know that about the lei, but now that you mention it, Jama... Amazing, isn't it, the way so many of our most cherished talismans & traditions find their refrain in other cultures?

Thank you for these kind words, which, of course, made me cry. (Happy tears, but still.) I'm awestruck, again and again, by the miracle of our friendship. I treasure it, and you!!!
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