Last year, a poem I published in the We’moon datebook brought a handful of new readers to my sight. I have been touched to receive a few, delightful, emails from readers who were moved by the poem and requesting to read the piece in its entirety, as an excerpt was used by We’moon. I am tender and humble in my heart as I think of others, unknown to me, reading my words and feeling moved to write me, what a gift this is. I have been too long in coming to this post, to share the poem. However, time moves as it does and I have been swept hard into the currents of change, time moving more quickly and more strangly than one could imagine. And now here I sit, nearly a year later than I planned, fingers typing away at these keys once again.
So I shall share, here on this page the full version of the poem, but first it seems only right and necessary to share a wee bit of the story that it birthed from, the story of my grandmother, and of me and a little bit of magic that remains in the world and is concentrated in the forest…
I never met my maternal grandmother, Marjorie Helen Miles, to be Marjorie Helen McClelland, once she wed my grandfather, Roswell Dunlop McClelland. I have wondered if Marjorie McClelland ever really felt like her name to her, or if, in some secret chamber of her heart, my grandmother had always remained- Marjorie Miles, as I had , even after 11 years of marriage always remained, Marianna Iverson. Now divorced and having legally reclaimed my name, I can say without doubt, that we shall never be seperated again.
Having never met Grandma Marjorie, all I know of her life is constructed through the stories of others. Yet she stands strong in my mind, heart, and memories. The stories I carry are like treasures to me, little jewels of knowing. Her service for the American Friends(Quakers) in WWII, her skilled hands, eager mind, adventurous spirit, and also, her sorrow, loss and regret.
This woman that is my Mothers Mother, who gave me the greatest gift, my own Mother and my own life… all the stories she carried in her, so many we will never know. I seek to see her and know her through the way she lives on in my Mother, and my Auntie, I feel a pull and a connection that is palpable, I have even in spaces of great expansiveness felt her behind me and heard her whisper in my ear…there is much in this life that we cannot explain. I myself have given up trying, better to live in the mystery.
I, being a bit of a seeker and one to delight in the occasional silent meeting with my God, am intrigued by my Quaker line, and long to know more about these relations. It has been fascinating to learn of my Quaker relatives connection to Oregon history, as pioneers in the late 1800’s to an area near where I now live, Scotts Mills, an incredibly beautiful place in the world, lush Willamette greenery, springs and streams, gentle pasture, this is where my people settled .
I wonder what that little place was like back then, and who was pushed out to make space for those white settlers. After all, we are living now on occupied territory…I can’t allow the amnesiac quality, the seductive dream of the bravery and strength of my kin “settling” the west to lay claim to me. There is so much more to this story, and there was consequence in my people arriving here, I may be some of that consequence.
I wonder at the forces at work that cause it to be that, this poem I will share here was written on land less than 80 miles from Scotts Mills, this poem written about the death of my grandmother whom I never knew, written on the sweet land of this Willamette Valley, land her father, my great grandfather, Walter Miles, lived and grew on, in his childhood all those long years ago…
There is so much to wonder, and so little to know. Knowing being so concrete, I have less and less of a desire to cling to its stability and form as I age. In the timeless words of dear Anne Shirley Cuthbert, it leaves too little “scope for the imagination.” I am willing to suspend knowing in favor of wonder, and surety in favor of possibilty. In this case it is highly possible that the words I type here on this page are able to travel to the ears of my Grandmother. In case this is so, I will take this small moment to say, “Grandma- you color all my days with your wake, and I am so grateful to be of you and your kin. All the days I live I will carry you with me, in the secret chambers of my heart. May this poem be pleasing to you, I am forever in your debt and glad to stay that way. The braid of beholdedness weaving us always together. I love you.”
My Grandmother said-
“Nature is my temple.”
And so I worship there as well.
Cathedrals of green canopy above me,
prayer rugs of Violet and Clover at me feet,
the blessings of life giving Holy Water.
These are my sword and shield,
my crown and chalice,
When Grandma was dying,
we moved her bed out of doors.
To the garden,
under the edge of the green cathedrals boughs.
The place where she could see,
the face of God above her.
She lay still for a long time,
just looking up- and then,
almost silently whispered,
Green fills my spirit as I think of her,
My hands become hers, brown with soil,
rich with life and food.
I draw her from the Earth,
Root, Stone, and Bone.
All she left unfinished, now lies in my lap.
I release the mantle of her sorrow,
and we both are freed.
I have only one wish left-
May my last words be,
4 thoughts on “Grandmother”
Soul pleasing offering to your grandmother Marjorie, Marianna. I could picture her throughout the reading. Seeing her as we picked cherries, soon to become a pie, from the cherry tree in upstate NY, or blueberries with everyone ending up with stained lips as all the berries never made it into the plastic totes strung around our necks. Her delight at my surprise at the taste of asparagus picked by her in her garden and on the table 10 minutes later, what an explosion of flavor. She told me that asparagus was one of the vegetables that looses flavor so quickly it was a shame everyone didn’t get to have it really fresh. I never saw her happier than when I saw her in her garden. Much like your mom is today. You and your sister Sarah share that same glint in your eyes when out in nature or working in the garden. Majorie must be smiling.
Thank you Dad, for reading and for your beautiful share here. I love knowing these small beautiful stories. And you still love fresh asparagus! I will now, always think of this when Mama brings in the fresh asparagus fro dinner in the spring, and you sit with a contented smile and a full plate. We are truly fortunate to share these times and I am fortunate to have you to share the stories with me, It means so very much.
I tried signing in to my account and posting these comments- which it told me I had successfully done and was attempting to duplicate- but I don’t see them under “Grandmother” where I wrote them. Wanted to share them here in case they don’t show up and I’m unsure why:
I love that I’ve found you and your writing; all through braiding sweet grass and a shotpouch creek and the spring creek project search, and your same draw to search out and the serendipitous writing residency that resulted! You’re a kindred spirit, I know it. Quoting Anne (with an “e”) sealed it, but your writing style, the language in and of your heart and soul, a writer just because you are, not because of training; and feeling an imposter but stepping toward anyways, and loving nature and her healing qualities that move so deeply to write, and on and on. So many riches within your writing, I feel I know you. And would like to! And relate to! I love my husband dearly, and yet hesitantly we married , after 14 yrs together her and hesitantly took his name- for our future family- but felt a sacrifice; deeply. And thought maybe my feminist values, and perhaps, but our names are so deeply who we are and what and how we carry ourselves through this world. I took his name, but key all of mine- Allison Carolina Elliott Page. Because those first three names are strong and poetic together, no?! I love your questioning and longing for knowing the woman your grandmother was. I shall create an ancestor candle for my altar too- currently so overwhelmingly devoted to plants! Keep writing- as if it’s a question! I look forward to following along, and am just south in Eugene should we ever be in closer quarters I would look forward to meeting you! Thank you for sharing.
Sent from my iPhone
Dear Allison Carolina Elliott Page, your name is like a poem, and your words fall softly on my heart this blustery rainy morning. Thank you so much for writing to me, and for reading and enjoying my words. I feel so much kinship with you, simply from your open heart and share in this message. I would love to connect in person and have a juicy conversation at some point!In Fairweather I travel south quite frequently to hike and forage, perhaps we could meet up and have a cup of tea and a walk and I talk or something of that nature. Many blessings to you!