Living Memories ~ Mom’s Birthday

As many know, today is my Mother’s Birthday. This day always feels strange to me. A yearly reminder of how young she was when she died. The last birthday that was uncelebrated. A another year gone by without her. It is not the hardest of the anniversaries, but perhaps one of the more complex to share. There is the joy of knowing that on this day, many years ago She was born. The awareness that for 50 years on this day – was one of great celebration across a few generations. Mom always loved a good get together. Bonfire if it was nice after riding horses. A scrumptious dinner of her favorites. Sometimes friends, often just family – always a party. Only to be changed on one day forever. Now its infinitely more complex to try to share. The love is shadowed by loss. The joy is held in grief. The smiles tempered by tears of pain that have no end.

Yet it feels significant to share.  To hold the awareness of these particular dates. To actively live with the loss and pain instead of it locked away in some deep corner of our minds. Many Red Maples were planted on the Farm in Tennessee and around. We watch these trees (and many others that she loved) grow each year. A reminder of how powerful a Life is even after death. The far-reaching tendrils of love no matter the denseness of the darkness. Her Children growing into adults. The stories told of her passed down as they become Myth. What a Life to have known.

Bittersweet this day of living Memory. To have such joy born from the love of a Woman so strong and beautiful – that even as children we knew we were truly privileged to call her Mom. To have such terrible grief that deadens life itself with the enormity of its weight, the awareness of what humanity is willing to do to one another and in particular, to those who shine the brightest for us.  Can we love enough to feel the joy within the pain? Can we stand with integrity of ourselves, to allow us to claim the grief that is there, to not shy away from a pain that is soul deep? I choose to remember as much as I can. To have this ongoing dynamic living memory of her now, and not just then.

~Joannie.

Advertisements

8 Years Today

I did not write last year. I still feel conflicted about that. I was busy with the distractions of life, sure. But mostly I just couldn’t bring the words up. I couldn’t write about how the 7 year mark brought little shift around the grief, anger, despair and rave once again about the pain of it all. I also couldn’t find the words to express the new ways I was experiencing life both in an enjoyment of and anguish. Reflecting upon this time last year, I see where I was deeply entrenched in the Patterns around my various traumas and simply had nothing to say that felt acceptable to write the World.

I am unsure that this year’s post will be any easier around the expression piece. Yet I am writing.

I don’t have the acute agony to write about at this point. It feels normal. It is there. This agony. Is it still considered acute? It is more like void that can never filled. I have come to realize that is simply a part of my baseline of being in this world. Many days I enjoy life, I smile, and even laugh on occasion, and the agony is still there. I’ve learned that having one emotion doesn’t ‘cancel out’ or ‘even the field’ on another. If anything, in the last couple of years I’ve learned that in order to truly be present and feel any of the ‘desirable’ emotions like joy, happiness, contentment or peace; I also have to be open to the pain, grief, anger and despair that is often up. This often seems like entirely too much to truly feel in one moment. At times, I sit in complete silence, unable to wrench a single sound from my throat even as every muscle in my body contracts from waves of anguish and rage, somehow shackling all movement but the tremors of tension my individual muscle groups exude. Grief and despair seem to suspend my actual heartbeat, time doesn’t exist here, what gasping breath I can get is gone in a second and the weight on my chest lasts an eternity. It is utter agony. My physical body literally can only experience the various emotions I contain for so long before it tries to tear itself apart. As someone who has been run over, crushed and dragged by horses many times; I feel I can honestly say the expression of ‘I feel like I got run over by X’ and it is exactly how my body feels after such intensity.

In all honesty this ‘dark’ anniversary from an outside perspective looks pretty quiet. I may not sleep much around this time – but I’ll fall asleep for a few hours rather suddenly from what I’ve come to see as simply sheer exhaustion from witnessing the various thoughts and emotions I experience instead of just reacting to them. I’m often too tired to do things I really enjoy – like hunting a spot to view the Northern Lights outside of the city. Years past I’ve often judge myself harshly for this type of weakness. For ‘allowing’ this date to dictate me so, to miss parts of a class or the start of the Iditarod yet again. Instead, I have come to a wary place of peace around the fact that grief has its own timeline – and doesn’t give a rats ass what the world or the people in my life think it should be.

I personally struggle the most with being around people on this day. I really do not care to force a smile because it would make someone else feel better. Or to put a little ’emotion’ in my voice so it doesn’t come off as less than alive. I also have no desire to inflict my frustration at the lack of understanding and space upon those who probably do not know or may not remember why I am extra dark today. Most of all, I simply do not want to feel more than I already do on this day, to be around people and their own stuff. This year I have many things I could do, and few things I want to do. Choices like being around various friends and events, or space and quiet.

A sleepless night has left me with no profound words to share – only that this day is here. 8 years of eternity since I heard my Mother’s laugh.

~ Joannie

 

Supporting My Friend Carleigh

Some of you may know that I have this amazing friend from way back in the day – when we were just teenagers at ‘Coyote Tracks’ the nickname of the organization called Children of Earth Foundation (Cotef) which at that time was based in New Jersey. It is the youth nonprofit that was created by Tom Brown’s Tracker and Wilderness Survival School. Carleigh Fairchild and I became friends during the summer programs and while it was years later that our friendship realized its full potential, we are great friends for life.

12654191_10208748701376317_8681790483029732955_n-2

Carleigh & Joannie in a Hawaii Waterfall

Carleigh has done quite a few cool things with her time thus far on our Planet. Starting with Coyote Tracks as a kid. She has hiked a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Took classes with Earthwalk Northwest in Washington state. And more recently enrolled in the WildernessFusion program where we are in the same class (which has been a freaking blast) together. Being the two crazy Alaskans who fly the furthest for these classes 4 times a year is a bonding moment in itself!

Last year Carleigh was one of 10 people picked to go out into the wilderness to survive for up to a year all the while filming their experiences for History Channel’s ‘Alone’. Season 3 takes place in Patagonia and they were dropped a couple of weeks before winter set in. I recommend checking it out – even with the over the top reality tv show feel it has. Most of the people on it are real and have a passion for being in the wilderness. The winner gets $500,000 and some serious bragging rights. Season 3 just finished airing and Carleigh was so close to winning! Two people were left when she was sadly pulled by the show because of her low body mass. There is a lot of speculation going around that it could have been rigged and wasn’t fair. I do agree that the runner-up really should get a little extra money for their efforts and perhaps more when it’s practically a tie. I don’t claim an opinion about the show being rigged or not, but I do know that History Channel left themselves open to a lot of backlash by how they portrayed the final weigh ins and pulling Carleigh out. Showing one person’s BMI but withholding the other is not okay, especially when its the female contestant being scrutinized by the all-male medic team while there is a plethora of gender and women’s rights issues all over the News. Leaving themselves open to so many potential avenues of attack just doesn’t fit. I am confused History Channel. Many of the viewers are confused and downright pissed. While I believe that Carleigh has more than earned monetary compensation (outside of the small stipend every contestant was given) for her time out in the woods, 86 days to be exact. She was expected to film 40 hours a week AND survive alone off the land indefinitely. I have absolutely no ill will towards Mr. Fowler who did walk away with the win. I only wish him and his family the best.

An incredible amount of people have been touched by Carleigh’s presence on Alone and inspired by her state of being. As her totally biased friend – I whole heartedly agree, Carleigh is freaking awesome. During the finale, such an outpouring of comments and posts were made for Carleigh that Shaun (my partner and also friend to Carleigh) got a wild hair that night and started a Gofundme for Carleigh to celebrate what she achieved. Shaun gets the credit as this was entirely his idea. The Gofundme is just a way for people to reach out, if that is what they feel called to do, and support Carleigh. The Gofundme is taking off much quicker than we initially expected and overall is well received. Being the internet, there is of course those who react to the idea that money is being given away – which I personally find fascinating. I always wonder what makes a person think their opinion matters when it isn’t their cause or their money involved.

Link to the Gofundme:  Celebrating Carleigh

I am sharing this with all the people I can – as many of you also know Carleigh. But for anyone who received this link and doesn’t feel called to give money its OK. If you feel called to just share it – that is great! No expectation here just because I wrote about it on my blog. I’m simply supporting one of my best friends and bringing awareness of what she has accomplished.

~Joannie

Joy in Grief – Mom’s birthday. 

This day arrives as it usually does for myself and I believe most of my siblings, quietly with grief and memories of a time when we had celebration. While it was and is in subtle ways a joyous date, there is great sorrow. Today is my Mother’s birthday. And she is not here. No phone calls to be made. No cards to write. No meals served with love or visits to be had. Not even Grandparents to call on their daughter’s birthday. It is sad, this day. It is lonely. It is also full of memories of when it was bursting with life. This contradiction we live in. It could tear one apart. 
I don’t feel overwhelmed by this date. Once, I believe I did. Now it arrives with a quiet awareness of what is and what was. I am painfully familiar with this Place, where the deep bottomless well of grief resides. Most of the external world cannot see it. I rarely bring these notable dates up within my day to day life. I wonder at that. How hard it still is to share. Within the context of my siblings and a few close friends it is almost always acknowledged and never forgotten. This feels good that outside of our crazy external world, there is still connection of what is real. What continues to move us.

I cannot find happiness or peace on this date. I also do not feel that I need to. For I can find joy – not in the traditional sense of ‘happiness’ but in the upwelling of emotion that has flavors of gratitude, delight and appreciation for the years we did get. For the context of this grief is to have known the other side of pure joy. I may not smile much on this date, but I can feel the love that is still present even after these years of sadness and despair. I don’t know what it looks like for everyone, but rare it is that I have seen a Mother so wholly loved as mine was and very much still is. How can this not bring tears of joy and not just sorrow? 

This pain we feel, it’s very real and soul deep. Words skip along the surface like stones on a stream, never sinking below the easily seen shallows and ending up on the other bank. Being told to only remember the good times is dismissive of our pain. I cannot say in place of my siblings, but for me, it is okay if you cannot connect with my pain, my grief, my reality. But do not ask me to separate from it. Do not ask me to smile for your sake. Not all of us can run from a lack of comfort, please do not burden me or my family with an inability to be uncomfortable with loss and grief. 

If I could- I would gladly hug each of my brothers and sister and tell them that I know the joy in the pain on this day. And that it is okay if they do too. That whatever it is they feel, it is okay. These feelings and emotions do not need to define you. Instead I am 4 time zones away and hope my words will reach them. I hope they find something in the ways I am able to be there for them. 

I have love on this day. I have grief and acute sadness. I have joy and a bittersweetness of memories. I have appreciation for those who see and a lack of patience of those who cannot. I don’t know what else I could give my Mother on this day other than just being me. For that is all she ever wanted for every one of her children – to have peace, love and purpose in their lives. To find joy. And mostly, to be who we are. And to grow. 

Happy Birthday Mom.

This grief, it tears apart my heart, just as the love around you keeps it going and strong. This contradiction I live in. 

~ Joannie

Changes to the Blog

As you might have noticed the Blog is undergoing some changes. I think my time away from writing has gone on quite long enough. While I am not entirely sure what this revamping will bring in terms of writing content – I am sure it will be a little different from past posts. At this stage I really cannot make anymore large posts that are primarily photos – I no longer have space with WordPress. At least until I decide if I want to shell out cash for said media space. I am also setting up ‘Pages’ that are static (on the front menu) as I have been getting more and more people who I’ve never met as readers, and having context for my posts seems very useful. The ‘Author’ page for example is now the Back Story page, with sub pages like the one for my Mother. Hopefully I will add to these soon in the ways that I feel called. I also felt a need to really spend time on the ‘Places along the Journey’ page and create sub pages for each Place that has been significant for me along the way, both past and present. This will continue to be a Personal Blog for myself – and while I tie in plenty of other people, places, groups, and the occasional product or author – it is and will be foremost my thoughts and experiences. Hopefully with this intent I will actually be churning out regular posts as well as filling in some of the pivotal moments that I haven’t covered from the last 2 + years. That said, I’m only human so don’t be surprised if this is a struggle for the next little bit.

More to come!

Close to a Year

“Time Flies When You’re Having Fun” is an often quoted statement. In a way, I completely agree. Life has been chaotic, amazing, trying, exciting and sometimes just plain busy. It’s been almost an entire year since I’ve last written. Even just a mediocre sparse update about how I’m ‘busy’ but good overall. I think there is probably a multitude of reasons for this sabbatical. Some of which are; I got even busier with less down time during 2015.

My class homework with WildernessFusion became even more time-consuming than previous.

Shaun moving to Alaska and living together meant I was naturally busier with more outside social things and have had less drive to write.

Time sped up. My days have been constantly fuller be it work, people or just trying to catch up. Time seems to be moving quickly and often at a rate that I sometimes find hard to stay present with. Working multiple jobs often feels like this to me.

Some days there simply isn’t enough time for all the things. The phone calls that have to be made by 1pm because of the time differences, the bank/business/store errands that have to be done before they all close – but working later into the day means there is only a couple of hours to get to everywhere at the most traffic dense time of the day.

In addition to all the practical reasons, I’ve also been struggling with ‘what’ to write. Often I simply don’t want to share what’s been on my mind because it’s not always happy or nice – and/or I don’t have the energy to create an ‘adventure’ and ‘fun’ post with all the details and all the cool pictures (which takes hours to sift through, reduced the top choices to a more reasonable number that I can again try to trim so I don’t spend just 24 hours alone uploading large picture files) that while I love when I can crank one of those out for all that want to know what I’m up too – sometimes the mental energy just isn’t there (which has been a lot in the last 2 years). I often have the image that I’m pathetic and shallow if I openly discuss whatever challenges and trials are happening in my life when I also have all these amazing things going on.

Simply stating this feels a little gross, I’m sharing the stuff that I dislike about myself and are my ‘reasons’ for not writing or posting picture adventure posts. But Alas I want to work on my writing and this is one of the few avenues that I can seem to find some words in.

It’s 5:30am here and I’ve yet to sleep much. Shaun and I both have today off and there is a list of things to be done, hikes to be had, dogs to be walked and our lives to be lived. Something I actually enjoy more often than not these days.

~ J

Constant State of Transition – A Quick Note

I am on a plane yet again flying north back to Alaska (River too). Work – the doggies are in need of me. While I am not thrilled to be leaving Shaun, I am ready to see mountains, my ‘Alaska family’ as I refer to the Gardners and a couple of other very close people I am lucky enough to have in my life. This year started off in a state of transition and shows no signs of stopping that trend. My name as a ‘Dog Trainer’ has spread and I continue to be able to make travel and work..well, work. In only a few weeks, I will be flying back to the East Coast for more dogs and to spend time with Shaun.

My time is rather largely shared between Alaska and the East Coast. This is both awesome and exhausting depending on how much sleep I’ve had. I continue to find people in all sorts of places to share things like rock climbing, a festival or just a cup of coffee. Occasionally the stars (I mean schedules here..) align for people whom are very dear to me and we can get together. Recently I had a very short but still sweet visit with Lorien. Sadly my siblings and I have been unable to make it work – but I am hoping in the coming months that will be rectified.

The main thing I’ve come to realize is the difficulty of writing on the blog, returning phone calls, emails and such when one is in a constant state of transition. If I haven’t been quick to respond or you feel ignored, I am sorry and hope that one might understand that is it quite unlikely a personal thing. I will say for those who may need to get a hold of me for whatever reason – a text saying ‘Need to talk’ will get you a callback faster than an email or voicemail will.

The constant change of time zones, climate, driving style (east coast verses Alaska is a VERY different set of challenges), personalities of the people I’m around (in the Gardner house I can say fuck anytime of the day, in my relatives space not so much), and even worse – food option challenges, tends to leave me a little discombobulated. I wouldn’t trade it for staying in one place in the least, but I cannot say it is easy or leaves energy for other things at times. All in the trials of being a Wanderer.

I hope to add more content soon (but I’ve said that a few times before..).

~J