In the shadow of Autumn In the season that invites retreat With red leaves shed like tears To pool beneath The ages old arms Of ages old trees We light a candle We light a candle for you Who loved the flickering promise That dances in the flame’s orange-blue heart We light a candle to remember you And the long winding past of all the mothers who came before Present in every cell of our children And their ancestors to come Connected across the seasoned rhythm of time In the rituals of our remembering We light a candle A touchstone to the natural order of things Ashes to ashes, dust to dust But for a moment Bright, alight, full of life Dancing against the inevitable darkness of the night Sharlene Zeederberg, in memory of Jenny. (Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash)
This is the road The yellow brick road The highway road The speedy road The road down which we run Towards the mirage of some future self The self we would become This is the road The barren road The straight and narrow road The road that leads us on To the walled city of our ambition To the place where we belong This the road down which we march With heavy hearts And a purposeful, determined air Awareness fixed solidly on the horizon And the promises lingering there This is the road on which we gamble Every breath of life Eyes on the prize, Desperate to arrive To shout with triumphant decree I am here Let me in I am here Let my life begin This is the road To the distant land of hopes and dreams The land of tomorrow’s imaginings Did you trip, did you fall? Did you wonder at the emptiness of it all? Or did you stop and hear nature call? And in the silent stillness see At last The criss-crossed tracks Of opportunity Lightly pressed into the fabric of the universe Inviting traces to unknown places As faint as smoke As revealing as curiosity Did you suddenly awake to find That is not the only road for your mind That is not the only way To traverse life To move from yesterday to tomorrow To deal with all her inbuilt joy and sorrow There are other pathways to explore Other ways to think and be and more Other ways to find yourself Not at the centre of it all Not at the centre at all. Here the narrow path Turns sandy underfoot Washed fresh by the prana of the sea The pulsing beginning of you and me Eons older than our collective memory There the steep incline to breathless mountain tops That almost touch the sky Reward the explorer with a vista Full of galaxies that stretch beyond the breadth of human time Yet fill the human eye And here and there And everywhere The moss-covered lanes that stumble into the silence of forests Where the whispers of ancient contemplation Echo in your footsteps And every breath you take connects you with the beginning and end of time, And every breath taken in between By every living thing Of which you are merely one moment In an endless stream Sharlene Zeederberg - Covid Poems (2020)
When anxiety comes upon me Like a fluttering little bird Wings beating against the cage of my chest Then I breathe I breathe the calming breath of nature’s forever connection From the stars that birth the building blocks of us To the leaves that sway in the breeze I breathe into the space between things The space between the you and the me The space between the me and the trees The space between the womb and the grave And all the things we perceive As separate. And nature breathes with me She ripples in the wind The invisible wind That caresses your skin And the curve of my cheek As we watch the waves rise and recede Standing on the beach made from a thousand yesterdays Bridging the boundary That is but an illusion Of time And ego And perception I breathe into the space of invisible connection I breathe away the illusion of the space between I breathe stillness into the fluttering wings of the shuddering bird Caught in the cavity of my chest. Sharlene Zeederberg, Feb 2020
I reflect on my dad, as always, as we approach the anniversary of his death. How is it seven years have passed already? I had to look it up. It seems impossible, but time is relentless. It moves us away from things and blurs them in our memory. I have the sense of him often in my life, but I have made it a ritual to actively remember my dad at this time. Each year I deliberately and determinedly relight this metaphorical candle in my mind, to keep his memory alive in the expanding experience of my life.
As another family friend finds himself in the same place, I reflect on how well my dad died and the value his dying time gave to his life, and to all of ours as well.
My dad had a good death, in the end, when the struggle and fear had run its course and acceptance had sunk in. Sometimes I think he lived more presently in those last few months than ever before. In this sense, cancer gave my dad a gift. Given time to die, he had time to come to terms with the battles of self-doubt that had left ravaged scars across his mind since he was a young, abandoned child.
I have many wonderful memories of my dad from his dying time. Making light of things at a family dinner, crooning into a corona bottle-turned-microphone, and turning our teary dread into laughter and smiles. He threw himself an “I’m dying” party and looked on with utter surprise at how the lounge room overflowed with people. Free from the ego focus of achievement and concerns with what others thought of him, he was able to see how connected he was into his community. With an end date clearly on the horizon, he had time to know with utter clarity that he was loved – wholly and completely, exactly as he was.
We – his children and his wife – never left him alone in those weeks and months. Not even in hospitals or the hospice, not even overnight. Not while he slept, and most certainly not while he was awake. We juggled schedules and long-haul flights and stood vigil with him as his body slowly decayed. He was surrounded, always, by his family – the thing he valued most in life. In private we wept – oh, how I cried in the dark on that kitchen floor – while he had long overdue conversations with his brother, his friends, his family. How he would have loved the funeral – with every seat filled, his sons and those he considered the same, weeping while they carried his casket. With so much to reflect on, so much people wanted to say, he almost missed his own cremation. The irony of that would have made him rumble with laughter. He was late for everything.
I don’t believe in fairy tales. I know that the bits of matter that made up the pattern of consciousness that was my dad have been re-absorbed into the universe, perhaps already recycled into other lifeforms. But I move my arms through the air, through the universe itself and know that everything that made him is still here, somewhere, scattered through the fabric of existence. And it is a comforting feeling, a connecting feeling to know that we are all part of this same fabric, regardless of our origins, our rituals or our stories. We are connected through time and space to everything that is, or was, or will be.
All of us, everything from newts to mountains, from dolphins to dinosaurs, from the leaves on the trees and the sand on the beach will one day find ourselves, again, in the belly of a star. But before then we have this gift of consciousness with which to love, to think, to question, to laugh, to hug, to cry, to explore, to be kind, to learn, to grow, to appreciate, to create. Just this moment, a minuscule millisecond of the universe’s heartbeat, in which to live with awareness. May we all live more, and fear less.