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Deep friendships that have lasted a life time. Friendships that have spanned a continent with unspeakable losses that frame their innocence and wonder. Grace-filled days. Music filled nights and weekends. Back-yard carry-in dinners at friend’s homes. Babies. Kindergarten. God-parents. Sharing of family ties. Flower and vegetable gardens. Workouts and saunas. Running and walking. Tennis. Afternoons in the Park. Music festivals. Exploring our pasts and deepening our present. Fixing our cars. Birthdays and breakups. Leaving and being left. Tears, laughter and personal triumphs.Yesterday morning I had an opportunity, when Lewis and I were picking up some potting soil and half-price mulch, to listen to a track from a CD of an old dear friend of mine.

Her name is Sallie. I haven’t seen her face for many years now, but I hear from her still and I think of her often. Christmas before last she sent me her latest CD. We were once in a strong friendship circle. There was Debbie, Ruth, and Betty and all the men. Boyfriends and husbands. And more.

We worked together and learned our craft of therapy together. Our lives moved on. Decisions were made. For Sallie, it was the West that called her, where the “rivers change direction, across the Great Divide.” Sallie and I loved to sing harmony and play instruments together.

She was the original Song Catcher. She went to all the festivals in West Virginia for many years and made friends with Hazel Dickens and others who sang the way my mother sang, the shaped note songs, the passed down musical traditions that can be traced back to their Celtic roots. In her group’s CD she sings them perfectly, the exact inflections of rhythm, the nuances of harmony and wording. I am but a connoiseur and enjoy the singing and the songs. She is the real artist.

I wanted her to stay. It was so hard to say goodbye. I cried and cried. Just as I did when Debbie left. And when we moved away ourselves.

My primary craft at the time was my work as a therapist, developing and directing a child mental health service, teaching family therapy technique with eager learners as my colleagues. We were each other’s teachers, and serious about it. We did not compete but revelled in each other’s growth and change.

We each moved on. But the grief went deep. And yesterday morning I cried for a long spell as I listened to Sallie’s sweet and clear voice. I put the track on repeat and listened over and over again as she sang these words:

Leaves are falling and turning in showers of gold

As the postman climbs up our long hill

There’s sympathy written all over his face

As he hands me a couple more bills.


Chorus:

Who will watch the home place

Who will tend my heart’s dear space

Who will fill my empty place

When I am gone from here.
There’s a lovely green nook by a clear running stream
It was my place when I was quite small
And its creatures and sounds would soothe my worst fears
but today they don’t ease me at all.


Chorus






In my grandfather’s shed there are hundreds of tools.
I know them by feel and by name.
And like parts of my body they’ve patched this old place
When I move them they won’t be the same.
Now I wander around touching each precious thing
The chimney, the tables, the trees
And my memories swirl ’round me like birds on a wing
When I leave here, oh, who will I be

Who will watch the home place
Who will tend my heart’s dear space
Who will fill my empty place
When I am gone from here

Music lyrics, courtesy of Laurie Lewis, click title above to hear and farm pictures are of my Grandfather’s farm
Click here and listen to Wild Coyotes, Sallie’s band, play on WV public radio show
and here is the http// address: wildcoyotes-stringband.com

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory