Category Archives: grief

Weeping Trees: The Healing Power of Nature

The amazing Green Diva Meg at GreenDivas.com, has created a quick sketch video (one minute!) of me making one of my watercolor/calligraphy cards, so exciting for me! It gave me a whole new and fun perspective on my work :) I hope you’ll watch it!

Also check out a be-you-tiful online course for Mothers and Daughters at the bottom of this post. There’s a generous discount code for all Nothing Short of Joy subscribers :)

Now for our regularly scheduled program… ;) my blog post: 

%22The Tree Couple.%22One of our trees, a Weeping Grandma Cherry, is losing limbs, losing life. I’m embarrassed by the flood of emotion… and I find myself hiding the tears. As I catch my breath, though, there is so much more to the story. There always is.

My hubby, Bill, has been warning me about her demise for years now, but I refused to believe him. He’d first declared it without much compassion, as if her death was a bother. It would cost money. It might fall on the garage. It might hit one of the kids.

Grandma Cherry Tree

See her sweet face?

Year after year, I’ve sat and recharged in her quiet shade, gathering my heart, breathing out the overwhelm, breathing in the peace. I’ve smiled into her gnarly face wondering how to practice her stillness. Under her calming pink parasol, I’ve written out my hopes and dreams. I’ve wept out my fears, anger, and despair.

Today, I wept for her. For the mysteries. For the violence. For the journey. For my Dad.

So many sad goodbyes in life – to those who move where I cannot go. These deep rules of heaven and earth, hidden in the rough bark of life. They leave their love, clues, and gifts in our own backyard.

“Everything I let go of has claw marks on it.Anne Lamott

One morning last year, as I was letting our dog, Merlin, outside, I was crushed by the sight – our restless neighbor had chopped down the colossal lilac between our yards. I reeled back in disbelief. In sobs. Every spring I’d reveled in this lilac’s scented curls. I’d gleefully waited like a kid, for her bountiful blossoms. I’d placed gushing vases in the kitchen and the bedroom just so I could bury my grin into her glorious purple perfume. The blissful smell of God-ness.

I couldn’t look at my neighbor for days.

amber sapAnd now our treasured Cherry is getting ready to fly away. Poison Ivy is creeping up her trunk, as if she has already been reclaimed by a greater night. Her amber blood oozes out from craggily warrior skin. As I run my hand across her Braille bark, some part of my soul understands the big Book of hers. Her silence craves a home in me.

For seventeen years we’ve been held safe in this home, this yard. My boys used to touch the cherry’s soft sap, in wide-eyed amazement. And after it hardened in the sun, they’d run their fingers over it’s glossy smile. They’d tug on her leggy branches to make it snow petals on their heads.

“Vulnerability is a portal to a deeper power.” Chameli ArdaghOne Spring, back when my sixteen-year-old was four, the wind was kicking up a perfect petal blizzard. My boy took one look and scampered toward the back door. As he burst outside, the sun simultaneously came out from behind the clouds. I called to him, “the sun came out just as you did!” He yelled back, “yeah, that’s because it didn’t see me before!” Then he ran through Grandma’s pink waterfall, with arms and heart open wide.

He believed, quite naturally, that the Sun cared. For him. That the Sun saw. Who he was. That God placed the sun and the stars and old cherry trees, for us. And these things, pulsing with life, somehow love us, because Life loves us. My boy didn’t question the synchronicity that day. Why do I question my grief when I’m feeling adrift? When the world isn’t what I want it to be?

I realize I’m trying to hold on to what was never mine to keep.

%22Be like a tree, let the dead leaves drop. .....~Rumi

When I hold on tight, it hurts more. That includes feelings. When I ignore ‘em, they’ll spew forth at the most inappropriate people and places. They’ll create dis-ease. They’ll separate me from me, and me from you.

Rejected emotions, like abandoned
inner kids, need to be accepted,
heard and honored. No matter how
old or annoying. Tears calm the
inner tantrum and clear the mind.
They set the pain free so we can let go. So we can trust the circle of life, again.

Until the next season.

“You have to feel it to heal it.”Our culture teaches us, and especially burdens our menfolk, with the notion that vulnerability makes us weak. I realize that this is hogwash… but… I still find myself ashamed of my deepest feelings, even though I feel stronger after I’ve acknowledged them. Even though they make me the most real. They deepen my compassion. Our common humanity. They open us up and pull us together, where we belong. As one.

 Cherry Tree Spence

My oldest sitting in our Cherry tree

I’m such a sapling.

Fortunately, I’ve had a loving Mom who knew the truth about feelings. But even with her gentle encouragement over the years to “have a good cry,” I still resist. And then a few days ago, Grandma Cherry dropped a limb right near my youngest son and his friend. And the dam broke.

“It’s time,” Grandma seemed to say, “to let go. Of the sadness you’ve been stuffing. Let it be.”

%22Everything happens for you, not to you.Byron Katie

 

I walk toward our three towering Mama Maples, who solemnly bear witness with me, bowing to Grandma. We watch her from afar, as if we might catch a glimpse of some holy spirit leaving us. As if the quiet would give up her secrets.

I remember the mourning dove pair that perches together on her high curves, and the crow clan that loves to gab and laugh up there. I return to these natural joys, often, when the world seems off it’s nut.

I wipe away the last of my tears. I hope my neighbors aren’t watching :)

Then I picture, said neighbors, joining me, without judgment or shame, to circle around Grandma, around the confounding mysteries, around the people and the things we love so fiercely. Around the life that can no longer be. Around the Greater Love that will always be.

I imagine the earth’s light coming up through our feet. Lifting us. The world. Higher – above the pain and the losses, to the joy beyond them all.

I thank the lilacs that once loved us, trees that breathe us alive, kids that teach us, a world that needs us, and Dad’s and weeping Cherry’s that leave us… better than we were before.

 I have watched the trees when they pray

click on the pic to read the poem :)

WHEN I AM AMONG TREES

by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Wishing you
green, green meadows,
cooling shade,
summer fun,
and wide open sky…
~Julie

Signs from Dad: Finding Blessings in the Broken Places

%22To these memories I will hold. I bid you all a very fond farewell. Billy BoydI’ve been wanting to write to you about my Dad ever since he slipped into the great beyond last year. Sitting here at the keyboard, biting my lip, I’m intimidated and perplexed as to how to tackle something so big. A whole lifetime. A sudden loss.

I’m worried my words won’t do him justice. My feelings are too fumbled. I keep rereading my straggly sentences – and deleting. Grief is such an uncharted journey. What I thought I understood about saying goodbye, pales in comparison to the reality. The questions. The unknown.

So I hang on to the signs.

The morning after Dad died, feeling shocked and heartbroken, I asked him to please send a sign that he was watching over Mom – that his spirit was alive and well. That we’d all be ok.

As I sent the prayer, I pushed the backdoor open to let our dog out, and there was sudden thunderous honking from a long V of Canadian geese! They were flying very low, the lead goose cresting right over our home – I flinched in surprise, but my heart hit the sky! I cried and I laughed – it felt jubilant! Triumphant! Holy! Dad’s answer was swift, certain and celebratory – a lot like he was. Is. A free bird!

%22We go to the grave saying, ‘A man is dead,’ but angels throng about him saying, ‘A man is born’.Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canadian geese are residents at my favorite pond, and after years of taking personal days there, to sit, write and just be, they feel like friends.

Julie & geese Hedden copy

That’s me and my winged friends at the pond :)

Last year, we even untangled a little gosling caught in fishing line. So on that bleak morning, a raucous and victorious V was the perfect messenger :)

In fact, Dad kind of reminds me of those geese. They can be bold and fierce – they’re not afraid to stand up for themselves or their goslings. They’re protective and proud parents (who are known to be black and white.) They hail from Canada where my mom’s family, and now all our families, have a very special summer cottage.

Since the first day without Dad, and that striking sign, I continue to ask for God’s reassurance that Dad hasn’t really left our lives. And Dad never disappoints. When I’ve asked, he has landed a flaming red dragonfly on my finger, sent sand dollars in ocean waves, perched a hawk right outside my window, and drawn a rainbow hawk in the clouds. (When I was a girl, his name in our Indian Princess tribe was “Thunder Hawk.”)

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. ~Tagore

%22fire rainbow hawk

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks ago, I had four blissful days to myself while cat-sitting at a friend’s. The morning I was leaving, I happened to read a post from Karen Noe’s newsletter ~ she recommended asking our loved ones for *without a doubt* signs that they are still with us.

So as I drove over to kitty-sit, I asked Dad for just that. Later in the day, I walked out into my friend’s beautiful backyard and noticed the woodpile. I thought Dad might send a chipmunk, which I adore. Although I don’t see them that often, I then dismissed them as too common to be *indisputable.*

But as I continued to walk, a chipmunk did pop up by the house… and then ran straight at me! I froze in place half wondering if a shy chippy would zip right over for a cuddle. It came within five feet. Wow. As it ducked under the shed, I laughed to myself… but not so sure that this was my sign.

Within a minute, something caught my eye in a nearby birch tree. I don’t know why I noticed it, really – the soft blush color was well hidden amidst the white and gray. As I walked closer, though, I saw her – the sweetest baby robin seamlessly camouflaged in the birch! See her? So precious, she melted my heart. The fuzzy white tuffs of new feathers were softly blowing in the breeze. Awwwwww! (You can see a quick video of her here, close-up! Sorry the video is sideways, I was too excited to realize!)

baby robin camouflaged

beautifully camouflaged baby robin :)

This is Dad’s work! He knows I’m a sucker for nature’s babies! I marveled and cooed and appreciated and photographed that adorable little robin.

As I turned to walk away, thrilled in my treasured discovery, a shadow from above caused me to look up, and there it was: a majestic great blue heron sailing across the sky! Another one of my heroines from my favorite pond. I could just imagine Dad cheering and laughing along with me!

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. Shakespeare

An old photo of my boys watching a V of geese!

Dad knows what I love, and from his heavenly place of camouflage, he speaks fluent heron, chipmunk & baby bird. He hit a loving triple play that afternoon, speaking *indisputably* to my soul.

Keep ‘em coming, Dad. I love you so much.

%22For all that has been - thanks! To all that shall be - yes! Dag Hammarskjold

wishing you victorious signs, comfort, and lotsa love, 

Julie signature copy

P.S. I wanted to invite you to a free online summit called,

The Intuitive Child, Nurturing The Inner Wisdom Within

❤  The Intuitive Child is hosted by my wonderful colleague, Abby Gooch, the founder of Life Force Connection. She’s a talented intuitive coach who helps her clients listen to, trust and act on the guidance their intuition provides.

I’ll be one of the 21+ speakers, so I hope you can join us! I’m looking forward to listening to all the interviews myself :)  Please register here. ❤ 

%22how fortunate are you and I who’s home is timelessness we who have wandered down.e.e.cummings