Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ten Questions on the theme of trees - still life 365

still life 365 is a unique art project for, about and by mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. still life 365 posts a piece of art every day by a poet, artist, photographer, crafter, musician, collagist, paper artist, filmmaker, painter, sculptor, fabric artist and ordinary person exploring grief through creativity. each piece is an expression of grief, survival, sadness, love and hope. still life 365 is intended to be a safe space for creative expression. still life 365 is open to anyone affected by pregnancy loss not simply parents.

1. When you saw the theme of trees for the month of September, what immediately came to your mind?

Barren, dead trees, we are coming out of winter here and the deciduous trees didn't have leaves yet. They looked barren and everything was so cold. Now only 4 weeks later, my Elm trees have flowered, we can see the new life. I know that barren doesn't mean dead. It is just such a long time since they seemed alive.
2. What kinds of words do you associate with trees?

Dark, strong, heavy, shade, wind, shelter, growing, silent, shadows, support, cradling,
3. Of these words, do you associate any with yourself?

Strong, heavy and supporting are word that I associate with myself. I am quite physically strong, I am not a delicate build, hence I relate the word heavy. I have always been overweight. Recently I have lost over 25kg but I still have an obese BMI. Supporting, I will help anyone who needs help, I am better at actions than words. Silent as I grow older I am better at holding my thoughts close. Shadows, there are shadows of pain left inside me that most people would not know exist.
4. Have you been an outdoorsy person throughout your life?

Yes, one of my favourite places to be out doors is located just 2 hours drive away. It is Wilsons Promontory National Park. Our family would camp there when we were kids for the whole summer holiday, there was no power (except for the amenities blocks). We ran wild, walked all over, swan and surfed went fishing and ate fish for 6 weeks. Our family has always had pets and for a while we kept farm animals and horses on a small property we had. I particularly love horses and dogs. I don't have any horses now but I walk my dogs most days in any weather, we have 3 dogs, 2 are Irish Terriers, and we have 1 very small Tenterfield terrier mix. The video shows Doug and Bella, it was before Erin came to live with us.
5. How has your relationship with nature changed since your loss(es)?

Walks at the beach became a favourite thing to do with my Husband after Thomas died. Its so peaceful there, everything is so big, the sky the water, it makes me feel small and my problems feel small. Photographing sunsets and the water is something I have never really done before he died, now I have many many sunset photos. I suppose I am trying to capture the moment. I am not a good enough photographer to really capture the beauty of my amazing environment on the Mornington Peninsula but that doesn't stop me trying.
6. Did you plant a tree or bush in honor of your child?

No I haven't. I have actually left my garden to die. We have been in the grip of a terrible 10 year long drought. There has been strict restrictions for watering gardens, people were having to resort to saving the water from their showers and washing machines to put on their gardens. Some managed to keep their gardens alive, most have simply pulled theirs up and replanted drought tolerant species. There has been too much death in my garden lately to plant a rememberance tree.
7. If you have planted a tree for your child, in what ways do you incorporate the tree into your life? If you haven't, what natural images do you associate with your loss? (Do you tend to it? Do you meditate or reflect under it? Do you places flowers by it?)

I prefer to reflect in the water and air (that sounds too airy-fairy) but we always think of Thomas as having flown away (like the hymn I'll Fly away). So birds cause us to reflect sometimes, not always, airplanes with double wings always make me think of him. On Thomas' second birthday when I was picking up his portrait from a local portrait artist, a magnificent Heron came to rest on the edge of the creek at the bottom of the garden. He waited a while and I took his picture before he flew away. The lady artist, Meredith said that it was an extremely rare sighting, and she had lived there for more than 40 years. We are having Thomas' memorial plaque made with Australian Native birds on it.
8. Trees have also been used to represent families. Talk a bit about your own family tree.
I have researched my family free. Its pretty straight forward, our family originates from Worksop, Nottinghamshire UK. Then "our branch" travelled to New Zealand, and then generations later, to Australia. When the family tree gets to me, the branches get into a big tangled mess. There is a break (divorce) unwed parents, and death, and that just relates to myself and my 4 children.
9. What are your feelings now about family trees and exploring your own lineage?

I found out a few things about my predecessors when researching my family tree. There were a couple of births to women in their 40's and in 1880 or thereabouts giving birth in your 40's would have been very hard. Giving birth would have been a highly risky event during those times. There were some children whose births were recorded by the church but they did not appear on the census, I believe that means that they would have died. One family had a marriage recorded, with a birth just 6 months later, then the death of the mother a couple of days after the birth and a couple of weeks later the death of the baby. I was researching this information while I was pregnant with Thomas and it knocked me around a bit, I now know a little of the pain that they would have felt. I am thankful that it wasn't me living in those times, I am also thankful that I come from from people who were strong and healthy. My predecessors were Bricklayers and Bakers. I wonder if thats why I love bread, I don't love laying bricks though.
10. The rings of trees fascinate me. I remember learning that in hard years, the rings were smaller, or darker than in years of good water. Describe the rings of your tree.
I think that the rings of my tree are mostly all small and dark, I have been weathering a storm of some kind most of my life. This storm has been the hardest. I am coming up for my 4 year anniversary of my marriage. The first year I was pregnant, the second was the year Thomas was born and died, and from then there has been grief. They have all been really tough years. Every year I have felt like bailing out at some point. Every year I have hung on through my fight or flight times. I have chosen to fight to stay married. It has been one of the hardest things I have chosen to do.

Carrying and delivering Thomas and watching him struggle for life and then losing him has been the most defining experience, I am forever altered by it. It was such an expectant time, full of grief and hope. Grief for the things that were wrong and hope for the promise of the future. I find I am humbled, saddened, shattered, exhausted, shocked, angry, thankful, scared, in awe, dazed, and determined that Thomas' life will not become an event that I will find a way to harden up and get over. His life and death will be something that I will hold dear to me, keeping him alive in my heart. I want to remain vulnerable to my grief, to others grief for this reason.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Memorial Plaque

We went and placed our order for Thomas' memorial plaque today.

We decided on the Native Birds design. The Cherry Blossom stone and a grey finish to the plaque. We made a 20% payment and we will pay it off over the next 4 months. We just need to decide on the inscription.

I took some pictures at the cemetery while we were there. It is a very peaceful and pretty place.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Computer Grief

I was just reading this amazing poem on Still Life 365 and grief hits me.

I try and make a comment that does some justice to the effort of the writer, the depth of my feelings and the unfairness of writing a poem about a baby who died. And I cry.

My computer ends up being the witness to my grief most times. It is when I connect with blogs on my reading list that I allow my feelings to surface. Face to face with my computer its safe to grieve. My Hubby and son are used to it and they don't comment when I am crying and reading or if I sit here all night long, they have stopped asking why.

Most of the blogs I read are written by women. Most of their readers are women gauging by the comments. Most of the authors and I have the death of their baby or significant loss in common. We mostly have grief in common. Everybody expresses their grief differently and we are often in different places based on our family's needs and our own needs. But I find that there are these fundamental places that grief takes all of us. Heartbroken and inconsolable the feelings of loneliness and forever altered, permanent differentness is stamped on each of us. We all struggle to jump back into the human race, and we do so as it is required, with varying levels of success but we are all changed by grief. The blogging community is a lifeline for many of us. I wouldn't say its a lifeline for me, I have met one lovely babylost mum (Hi, how are you going today?) but I haven't got any face to face, email or phone friendships from this community. I feel quite lonely.

I am used to being lonely, I haven't written that so that people will behave differently either. I have always felt lonely or alone, my first memory of feeling lonely is in the middle of Primary School. I was probably 10 or 11. Grief is a different kind of lonely. People don't understand why I am still so deep in grief when they have already moved on to the next thing in their lives. So I hide it. I separate myself. I don't know any other way to behave like I am normal. Their kind of normal. Hiding it doesn't work though, because nobody wants to bring it up in case it upsets me (as if I have forgotten all about it, like loosing $20 at the beach last summer), I end up grieving all alone, except for the blogging community. I am validated by them, I feel what they feel, therefore I am not mad, and the normal that I have to pretend to be is the real madness, and the blogging community validates that too (thank you everyone). I don't really have to make personal relationships to get that validation.

My family have all done so many things since my little Thomas came along. There have been overseas holidays, deaths of significant pets, children maturing and leaving home, first jobs, new jobs, qualifications earned, holiday celebrations, major health issues, family businesses sold, relationships ended, divorce, home renovations, new governments, relationships started, babies born, family breakdown, absent fathers, changing churches, money trouble, to name a few. People move on to these new places, but I don't. I don't move on, I cant move on, I am tethered to the place and time of Thomas' birth and death. I can experience those other things and reluctantly I have been present for many of them but I will always affected by the dates 17th October 2007 and 29th February 2008 and the days in between. I will never drive past one of the major hospitals in Melbourne with any other thought in my mind. I understand now that there are people who will never ever get this. I am very happy for them because they will never know this pain, they are spared.

I sit at my computer and catch up on Blog posts and comments in the mornings usually and also some evenings. Some bloggers take professional photos and post heaps of them, so I as the reader get a visual experience along with a story. The art blogs are inspiring and the artists make it look so simple, I am inspired to spend some cash on art materials, then I get stuck. Some write from their vast storehouse of experience of grief plus their infertility, or their parenting journey, disability and homeschooling, home makeovers, craft and food, weight loss, the list goes on. I want to know about people and I really enjoy reading. Blogs affect me, I like it that way. Each blog is like a never ending interactive book, until it ends or goes private. I wonder if there are any blogs in my reader that will still be there in the years in the future. I hope so. I wonder if mine will still be there.

I am not obsessed. Well, not as much as I used to be. I spend a minimum of 4 to 5 hours a week reading blogs, usually more, hence I rarely post on my own blog. Time is not the only reason I don't post very often. I find it very difficult to be actually honest about myself in a way that tells my story and shows my personality in a positive light. Also I think I have something to say then I second guess myself and I stay silent because I don't think anyone will want to read what I have posted. Blogging is such a one sided conversation, and when it's about stuff that is in the vulnerable places of my spirit and my soul I want it to appear as acceptable so I don't have to carry more pain. I am so tired of pain, it is a well worn feeling that has shaped my core. I don't want people to feel sorry for me and to be put into the too hard basket, I want people to know who I am without having to add more pain. I want to be liked.

I sometimes wonder if I just let all my stuff out onto my blog if anyone would even notice or care. I don't think I have any non-following family members who reads. But I can't write a personal grievance here, just in case I upset someone.

There are some amazing writers out there and their stories lead us into cultures that I will never get to experience first hand. I am very happy to experience them second hand via a story. I really love stories. I believe grief is important work and I want to be part of the validation process too. For my own sake as well as yours (the reader). I write this post because it means that I have to feel bold to feel OK about writing my opinion and feelings. Even though my writing is nothing special and I don't make many typos, and my photography is average, (because I usually haven't charged the camera and use my mobile phone instead) I continue to post bits and pieces. Sometimes I feel like my voice is not adding anything to the mix. Today I am putting my opinion forward and trying to honestly reveal some of me.

Maybe its because I read Rachel Simon's Angry Day and I related to it, and I cried.