Goldengrove un-Leaving

I woke up in a bad mood a few Fridays ago, ready to go Tasmanian Devil on the first troll I came across on social media. Saturday wasn’t much better, cluttered with little tech problems that felt like assaults on my dignity. The predictable speed bumps with my Work in Progress became insurmountable rock walls, so I did what I usually do in such situations and started a new manuscript. So there, Sycamore Dorning.

Even that didn’t help.

Then I came across an opinion piece by a guy who’s living in NorCal and watching–again–while climate change devastates the wilderness and communities he loves. He mentioned that Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve is “wiped out,” and I had to stop what I was doing and fetch a tissue.

Armstrong Woods was a bucket list destination that I actually got to see. The biggest, oldest, most wonderful trees I have ever met live there. I am a rabid fan of big trees generally, and to me, that was a holy day spent in a holy place. That place is lost forever, along with some trees more than a thousand years old. The whole woods is gone, and the word for what I am feeling–about the trees, about the planet, about faith in democracy, about human life–is grief.

In the midst of successive overlapping crises, I have failed to notice all the loss. That failure to notice is normal, a coping mechanism that allows us to function while battles rage. This is part of the reason why soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder just want to get back to their units. We hurt less inside when we have an external threat to focus on.

But the hurting must be dealt with. That came home to me when I saw all the 9-11 memorial posts on social media. We lost thousands of lives that day, lost our innocence about the price of making enemies, lost a little faith in humanity, and much more. This year has been like 9-11 twenty times over in terms of unanticipated loss of life, and that’s without politics gone nasty, wild fires, global warming, and 10 percent unemployment.

We have lost loved ones, faith in hallowed institutions, and tremendous swathes of natural resources. Individually, we’ve lost income, businesses, property, and for many who have survived the virus, lifelong health. We are awash in reasons to grieve–and in reasons to support one another and look for common ground.

Putting the grief label on my irritability and sadness helps a little, but I suspect focusing my sorrow and anger on action that restores the light will help more. I will plant more trees, I will get on my federal representatives about passing a carbon tax, I will support organizations getting out the vote. I will stop and visit with my neighbors when I’m  perambulating, and ask those living near me how they’re doing.

And isn’t it interesting that I just published a story about a hero struggling with episodes of the mulligrubs? What are you grieving, and how do you honor that grief or use it to motivate you to action? To three commenters, I’ll send signed print copies of My Heart’s True Delight.

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28 comments on “Goldengrove un-Leaving

  1. 1
    Teenie Marie says:

    There’s a lot to grieve, isn’t there? Hard to put down in writing too because it seems so vague, so selfish, so non-specific as to be non-existent.

    Am hugely grieving not being able to sing in public with my singers and friends. I didn’t realize how much of my identity is wrapped up in being a choral conductor. I am trying to cope by having weekly Zoom rehearsals with my choir and singing with my Undergrad and Grad School Alumni chorus, via Zoom, also about once a week. It helps but it doesn’t replace the real thing.

    Not being able to see my 92 year old Dad is difficult for me too. My brother and sister live close enough to keep track of him, and so does one of my sons, so I know he’s okay. I just wish I could see him.

    I am not a huge party girl, but I do like entertaining friends and family for special occasions and holidays. We have been observing every holiday we can with appropriate food just to keep in the season as we continue *on hold*. I look forward to hosting large family holidays again, despite the work.

    I grieve for our country and our former way of life and our values. I pray for us, all of us, to stay safe as we go through these difficult times.

    • 1.1

      Often when you comment here, it’s as the choral conductor (or as a mom and wife). If you have another job, I don’t think you’ve mentioned it here. One of the most wonderful things about the Mennonite congregation I joined decades ago was the four-part congregational singing at every service. Nobody had to learn “part-singing” (except for the recovering Catholic in the crowd) because they all heard it from little up. I think that is just the most marvelous legacy, but now… no singing. Churches around me are meeting outside, or at the fair grounds, but no singing.
      Of course you miss it. Of course you do.

  2. 2
    Marianne says:

    Labels help. A label got me some meds that help with the mulligrubs, Very recently a label got me a round of wonderful stuff that is taking care of a persistent case of bronchitis, I didn’t realize was wearing me out. But I don’t like admitting to grief.

    Music helps. That said, “I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.” ~Agnes St. Vincent Milllay

    • 2.1
      Susan G says:

      I haven’t sat at my work desk or seen my work friends since March18th. I have settled in quite nicely to a new work from home routine and I do NOT miss the commute. I do feel the loss of my friends. One of my friends messages me every day- just to check in. I miss our chats and our walks. I miss the sound of my work neighbors laugh and the smell of my managers muffins and cookies. She brings in baked goods when we are busy. And trust me- they are delicious!

      I miss seeing our friends. Not being able to host Easter dinner bothered me. Not being able to have lunch and watch the boats in Scituate this summer bothered me. I am going to host Thanksgiving for our small friend group. And my husband and I are going to drive out to the Scituate light house and watch the boats this week.

      On top of all the other local, political and neighborhood news, my Corgi Rose has cancer. We were going to have a loose tooth removed but her blood work indicated something was off.
      And an X-ray indicated a mass on her spleen. At 14, she’s too old for surgery and chemo.

      Rose is not in any pain and is still a happy girl. She insists on her walk and eats her dinner and then looks for snacks- typical of a corgi. I am taking on day at a time with Rose and enjoying each day with her. That’s what this pandemic has taught me enjoy your family, your friends and your pets and take it one day at a time.

      • 2.1.1

        Sue, I am so sorry about Rose’s diagnosis. That is the absolute last, last thing you needed now. I wish her a soft landing when everybody is good and ready (which will be never), and a much easier 2021 for all concerned.

    • 2.2
      Susan G says:

      Marianne- I am not exactly sure how my comments got attached to yours. I apologize. I can’t delete it. Susan G

  3. 3
    Mary T says:

    I had to look up the word mulligrubs because I was not familiar with it. I don’t think of my sadness so much in terms of grief or anger. It seems more like worry and anxiety and just general sadness. I have been housebound for some time now – even before the pandemic. I did not get out a lot before but it is even worse now. I miss seeing my dear ones in person. Some of them have some serious health problems also.

    I work at combatting the sadness and worry the same as I always have – with prayer and keeping a positive attitude. I just have to work a lot harder.

    • 3.1

      Well put! I’ve lived alone for most of the past twenty years, and it always requires some coping, some Plan B’s, and Plan C’s. Now… I’m onto Plan F’s and it’s getting old.
      But this too shall pass, and really, I have much, MUCH to grateful for (including blogging buddies!).

  4. 4
    Maureen says:

    It is uncanny that I read My Hearts True Desire and subscribed to your newsletter today of all days. For the past 25 years I have grieved the loss of my husband and the father of my children. On this exact day, September 26, 1995 he was killed in a car crash on his way home from work. He was only 42 years old. My son and daughter and I became the three musketeers. We nurtured each other with love. Over the years we suffered with the mulligrubs and blue devils. My children are adults now and I am a grandmother. The debilitating bouts of melancholia are gone but even after all of these years, today is still an especially difficult day. We honour our grief by honouring his memory. We love and support each other through all of life‘s ups and downs. We are still the three musketeers.

    • 4.1

      I am sorry for your loss, and glad you came across True Delights when you did.
      This day is special to me too, now that I see the date. My late god-father, a man who opened his home to me as I embarked on adolescence (and his barn to my first horse!) was born this day. He too was killed much to young in a car accident, and is still much missed by his six children and me.
      The universe is a strange and marvelous place.

  5. 5
    Brenda U K says:

    I was born in a small seaside town on the South East of England seventy three years ago.Three years after the war ended It took many years to get back on our feet.I can remember wearing my cousins out grown clothes,never having anything new.Aunties knitting cardigans that lasted years and caused my skin to itch.Rations on certain foods and having a special bag of broken biscuits for a penny.Now we see some of our young people protesting because they can’t party because of the pandemic restrictions.Sad that self first blocks out awareness of what is going on around them.America is in my thoughts and many over here can’t believe the battering you are living through at the moment.I wish you all find the strength and courage to find a way through.Out of sorrow the seed will renew and the forests will live again.A different history to begin for future generations.I read Ash and Della story and felt for them all the way and what a roller coaster ride you took us on.One of your best.Thank you.

    • 5.1

      Glad you enjoyed the story, Brenda.
      I know many here have said, “Can you imagine what a complete mess we’d make of something like the London Blitz with all this, ‘My rights!’ and ‘You can’t make me!’ baloney? We would not have lasted one week.”
      We need rhetoric as inspiring as Churchill’s and instead we get social media memes and troll farms… Guess from that perspective, we could be doing much worse.
      The sad thing is, most Americans–and most Republicans–support wearing masks, distancing, and hand-washing. Most of us are taking this seriously, but the loud and opinionated have done much damage, and we are paying a high price.

  6. 6
    Susan G says:

    Susan G says:
    September 27, 2020 at 5:32 am
    I haven’t sat at my work desk or seen my work friends since March18th. I have settled in quite nicely to a new work from home routine and I do NOT miss the commute. I do feel the loss of my friends. One of my friends messages me every day- just to check in. I miss our chats and our walks. I miss the sound of my work neighbors laugh and the smell of my managers muffins and cookies. She brings in baked goods when we are busy. And trust me- they are delicious!

    I miss seeing our friends. Not being able to host Easter dinner bothered me. Not being able to have lunch and watch the boats in Scituate this summer bothered me. I am going to host Thanksgiving for our small friend group. And my husband and I are going to drive out to the Scituate light house and watch the boats this week.

    On top of all the other local, political and neighborhood news, my Corgi Rose has cancer. We were going to have a loose tooth removed but her blood work indicated something was off.
    And an X-ray indicated a mass on her spleen. At 14, she’s too old for surgery and chemo.

    Rose is not in any pain and is still a happy girl. She insists on her walk and eats her dinner and then looks for snacks- typical of a corgi. I am taking on day at a time with Rose and enjoying each day with her. That’s what this pandemic has taught me enjoy your family, your friends and your pets and take it one day at a time.

  7. 7
    Make Kay says:

    Yes, I am struggling with the grief for our former way of life, which I don’t think we’ll get back. Grief about the views around me which I believe are sorely incorrect and hurtful. And grief for our planet and its ongoing devastation.
    Grief and anger, actually. More anger than sadness most days, if I’m honest.
    I meditate. And I try to soldier on.
    Sigh

    • 7.1

      I’m angry a lot too. Then I recall that the first acid rain lawsuits were brought by Welsh farmers in the 1760s, trying to hold the foundries responsible for turning the skies black. A lot of worthy fights go way back, and we won’t win them in a day.
      So I’m angry, but I will also persist.

  8. 8
    Pam says:

    I am so sorry for your grief, and happy for you that you are taking constructive action, which will make you feel less helpless and will help to improve our current lousy situation.

    I did read an article about the trees and it may not be quite as dire as the first article indicated. Some of the redwoods burned but not all and not the General. I hope the stewards of that park do the prescribed burns discussed in this article as the lack of them have contributed to the problems.

    https://www.ktvu.com/news/crews-working-to-protect-giant-redwoods-at-armstrong-woods-in-sonoma-county

    • 8.1

      Thanks for that, Pam.
      So much of what’s going amok seems to be “a lack of resources.” Oregon has adopted a “let it burn” attitude in part because they have to reserve their firefighting capabilities for safeguarding human life. There simply aren’t enough resources to take on the wild fires properly.

      But we have the resources to build the F-35….???

  9. 9
    Anonymous Griever says:

    I grieve for my parents who are dealing with Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. My father had to be placed in a home this year and my mother is distraught. I grieve for my own health which is moving in a direction I don’t want it to. I grieve my marriage. I grieve my own mulligrubs and life-long severe anxiety. I grieve for the planet and that so many people do not take environmental issues seriously. I grieve for the US. I grieve that so many people can not see the pain, grief, suffering, and injustice imposed on others. I believe that somebody else’s point of view is as valid as one’s own and deserves to be heard and honored. I believe we need to move forward not backward. I believe we need to start listening more. I grieve the lack of kindness and compassion I see all around. I grieve corporate greed. I grieve a medical system that can’t take care of everyone equally. I grieve the human belief that what humans want is more important than animals or the environment. I grieve that they (that elusive “they” who, for my purposes here, are those that do these behavior’s) believe they can live and build anywhere with impunity.
    I have more things that I grieve, but I’ll stop here.
    I grieve that I don’t have answers to help fix any of what I grieve.

    • 9.1

      I get overwhelmed too. As you say, the answers are elusive and complicated, but I agree with you: We can all listen more than we speak, we can offer respect to those who differ from us. That’s a big step in the right direction.
      I also plant trees and support tree planting organizations. Without clean air… not much room for our kind on the planet.

  10. 10
    bn100 says:

    Would be nice to see family and friends

  11. 11
    Glenda M says:

    I think the main thing I am grieving is the loss of empathy and willingness to listen to ‘the other side’ to find a way to work together and find a common goal that will benefit people (and the environment) – especially when it comes to politics. Sometimes, OK most of the time, it is important to just shut up and listen – even if it is only so you can more effectively argue your side of a discussion. You never know, you might find areas you agree on and find a starting point for working with the other person. But, I know this is not news to you Grace with your background in mediation.

    I know a lot of moderates and people who do not trust politicians. Some of the most outspoken people I know are ones who did not vote during the last election cycle. It is my not so humble opinion that if you do not vote when you are able to, you lose your right to complain. Go and vote even if you don’t love the candidates. I’ve been wearing my mask and t-shirt celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment a lot. And had some great conversations with people who didn’t know about it only being 100 years that women have been able to cast their ballot.

    I say we need to comprimise and work together, but we do also need to believe in science and do everything we can for the environment. A sensible person doesn’t trash their own home. We were up in the Grand Teton area just a week ago. There was smoke from the fires in the western states that extended all the way into the Austin area. Money has to be allocated towards forest management so that this doesn’t continue to happen so often. I have signed petitions and drafted my own emails for my congressman and senators. I will also be casting my vote during early voting as soon as it opens up.

    • 11.1

      I know young people who disdain to vote because “the whole system is corrupt.” I want to take their righteous young heads and bang them together like a pair of old muddy boots… Turning up your privileged little nose at the system doesn’t exactly hasten its repair, does it?

      • 11.1.1
        Glenda M says:

        I have heard SO many reasons not to vote recently: the system doesn’t work/is corrupt, I’m too cool, I’m too radical, no one cares what I think, I don’t like any candidates, it’s too much trouble, a revolution is coming so it doesn’t matter . . . . Like you, Grace, I want to shake some sense into the people with these attitudes. I wish I knew how to get the message across to them.

  12. 12
    Amy Ikari says:

    Happy Sunday! I am still grieving the loss of my mother from earlier this year. Plus several friends are going through epic bought of cancer and I am sad to see the closure of so many businesses. But mostly I am saddened by the increased hostility and lack of kindness. As a minority it is impossible to not hope and pray for change. I also am just trying to be as kind and compassionate as I can. Loved your books!

    • 12.1

      Thank you for lighting the candles you can light, and yes, I feel the loss of the restaurants too, and I hardly ever go out. It’s just something wonderful, to sit down with a friend and have somebody bring scrumptious food to the table so you can focus on socializing while you enjoy a good meal. That is a mighty lovely way to spend time with other people, and it has been put in serious jeopardy by this blasted virus.
      Maybe next year, at Panera…

  13. 13
    Sarah says:

    My father has cancer, after an long and healthy life, which he was diagnosed with 3 years ago. Through the treatments he tried to keep a good attitude and tried to look forward. Now as he is declining, he sees only quarantine for his remaining time. It has taken away his hope. With the winter soon upon us, he will be housebound but for medical appts., not that he was going places, but he could be outside and have visitors on the patio. So, I am stuck re-calculating risk as things will need to move indoors. Is it only zoom for his last months, or do I visit? I am losing his last months and find that is a strange kind of grief that will only get more complicated when he dies.

    I am also trying to do what I can do to limit my environmental impact. Composting, planting more trees, having a victory garden of sorts.