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,