The Rituals of our Remembering

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)

The Roads we Travel

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)
 
 
 
 

Then I breathe

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

On death done well.

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.