Ghost Cats

I’m in the process of moving to Maui at the end of this month, and I’m selling my home and many of my belongings.  It’s been keeping me busy and full of a mix of emotions.  Yes, of course I’m happy and excited to be moving to Maui – paradise as everyone calls it…Now don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful, and know that I am truly blessed. I feel grateful for my nearly 9 years in Tucson, and the many gifts I’ve received, the opportunities, the community, friends, and how my work has blossomed and grown. I know it’s time to leave, and am grateful that my time here is complete, and the universe has “assigned” me to such a beautiful new home, one I’ve been waiting for for many years. It is time.

And, it’s hard, this leaving. Part of the process of clearing out means I’ve been going through all the rest of Elizabeth’s things and and giving away much of them: clothes (she had a LOT of them, as anyone who knew her is aware!), jewelry (also a great deal of jewelry she’d bought, been gifted, and made herself), personal belongings, art, and writing, as she was always a journal keeper and saved all her writing, which I’m so grateful for, and ALL of which I keep!

Going through her clothes has been the hardest, as they are possibly more intimate aspects of her even than her writing. Elizabeth had expressed herself through clothing since she could first crawl to the shelves and pick out her outfits! Her many personalities were expressed, and she still had her shredded pink Converse high tops from her punk days, her many pairs of high heels, and then clothes. Clothes to dress her school self, out dancing with friends self, going on a date self, getting chemo self which she also wrote about here…As I was despairing about how to find a home for all her clothes (that didn’t fit either me or her sister), I got an email from Felice, a friend and teacher of Elizabeth’s, who is about the same size, and whom Elizabeth adored.  I asked if she’d be willing to take them, and she said she’d be honored, and would also distribute them to friends who might like some! I felt Elizabeth at work behind the scenes helping me…

Everywhere I go in Tucson I am reminded of time spent with Elizabeth, from the cafes where we often met for coffee and conversation, to the hospital, cancer center, naturopath’s office where she received treatments…it is bittersweet, these memories and this leaving. As I leave behind the places with sad memories, I also leave behind reminders of our time as a family, of our closeness, of her homes, her friends, her jobs.  I know the memories are with me, and Elizabeth is alive in my heart wherever I am, but those tangible reminders will not be part of my daily life – a relief and a loss, at the same time.

So today, while my house was being held open, I went to a movie, a chance to rest that was much needed. The only one playing that appealed was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which I’d heard nothing about. I believe Elizabeth was guiding me to see it, and I’ll tell you why.  First, it was wonderful – funny and moving, a movie about transformation and Life, just what I needed. I really felt her presence, and started to cry during a scene towards the end.  An amazing photographer has climbed high in the Himalayas, waiting patiently for an elusive Snow Leopard to appear so he can photograph it. He speaks of how hard they are to see, and that they are called “ghost cats” because of this. I was immediately brought to Elizabeth’s fascination with and love of snow leopards, (all cats, but especially them), and a video that she had had shared with me, that we’d watched together over and over, delighting in the play of snow leopard kittens in a zoo. In an amazing reading someone had done from Elizabeth’s photo, the woman had said that she is “still drinking mint juleps (a line from one of her poems) out of silver goblets and is finally with her snow kitten”.  In the film, the photographer chooses not to capture the moment on film after all that, saying that sometimes he prefers to just take in the moment…beautiful!

I felt that Elizabeth had guided me to this film, as a way of connecting with me. I’d been feeling like she’s been far away, but also feeling like I’ve been SO busy that I haven’t had time to be quiet and notice her.  This was the first time in a while that I was not engaged with others, and she showed up.  Thank you Elizabeth, my ghost cat – here’s the video for you, though I imagine you can now enjoy snow leopards anytime you like!

Deconstruction and Re-creation

“Death is not a separation but a different form of communion, a higher form of connectedness with the community, providing an opportunity for even greater service.”  ~ Malidoma Somé

I’ve not written here for a long while, and I’ve been missing it, but also dreading it, for a few reasons.  One is that I want to write about Elizabeth’s death, and how we cared for her body, and that has felt difficult to begin.  Another reason is that I’ve been afraid of “running out” of Elizabeth’s writing to share, as it is a finite source. Though there is an abundance of her essays and poems still unearthed, some part of me feels that she will die again once all of her writing has been shared here…I feel a need to savor each piece. And I know there is no hurry from all of you, but there is an internal message to continue, and when I ignore it, it gets louder and creates more tension, so I am listening.

And last, I’ve been very busy, as I’ve been getting my home ready to sell, and planning to move to Hawai’i. I’ve known for a long time that I would be leaving Tucson, but didn’t know when, or where to.  During the first year after Elizabeth died it became clear that the time was approaching, but that I needed to stay here, in the city that she loved, and in the home where she last breathed, at least until the one year anniversary of her passage.  First though, I had a revelation – I realized that some part of me believed that if I left here permanently, Elizabeth wouldn’t be able to find me.  Now, I know that she is with me wherever I go, and she lets me know that she’s with me often, answering questions when I ask, and showing me signs that are clear it’s her presence.  This felt like something else.  I’m not entirely sure about past lives, but this felt like it was from another lifetime, a long-ago memory that surfaced: that of being a mother in a home that had been under attack, perhaps had been bombed, and it was time to leave or else risk dying myself.  But in this memory, my child had left the house, and I was afraid that if I left, she or he would never be able to find me again, and would be in great danger and feel abandoned.  It is still a vivid “body memory” and moves me to tears, and it feels like possibly a past life that Elizabeth and I shared.  Once I realized that some part of me was carrying this belief, it started to loosen its grip, and I knew that I could leave this home, and not be abandoning my child.

So a couple of weeks before the one year anniversary, it became clear that the time has arrived for me to move to Hawai’i, and that there is great energetic support at this time.  (This has been discussed for years, as my partner is from Hawai’i, and we’ve spent a lot of time there, as it is where we have a second home and offer our spiritual retreats.) Once the anniversary date passed, on September 23 (and that is another post!), I set a date to put my house for sale, and started readying it.  This meant giving away anything that I wouldn’t be taking or putting in storage, and putting away most personal photos and spiritual images – and there were a lot!  I did it in stages, and it was many-layered.  Each round I’d think I was done, and then realize there was a whole other layer to clear…  I’d had an altar set up for Elizabeth since she came home from the hospital into hospice, that now held her ashes, along with some of her most precious belongings, things from her altar at her home, gifts from friends and family, and several photos of her.  I knew that I could leave it up, but over several weeks it seemed to take itself apart, bit by bit, until I realized that it was no longer needed at all.  She is with me always – sometimes so close I can’t believe she’s gone, and at the same time farther away, my memories less vivid, my sense of her presence as more diffuse…

Elizabeth Blue, altar, Lucia Maya

One Year Anniversary Altar – 9/23/13

One of the ways Elizabeth sends me messages is through music.  In my recent busyness, I find that my grief is present less often, but emerges from a deep well of emotion. When I’m alone, and quiet, and still, it emerges, often from a connection to Elizabeth through music or an image. I listen to Pandora, with about 25 stations on shuffle, including a wide variety of musicians.  Every once in a while, when I’m missing Elizabeth to the core of my being, and talking to her, asking how is it possible that she’s not here anymore, and a song will come on. A few songs in particular: Here Comes the Sun, and Angel from Montgomery are two – songs that I know Elizabeth loved and that she knew were my favorites as well, and I am brought to my knees, with sadness, gratitude, and joy, as I feel her letting me know she is there, seeing me, connecting with me, and comforting me.