Returning to Life

It is Spring again. The Filianic and astrological new year has begun. This year began with a Lunar Eclipse, which on a personal level feels a bit appropriate. My usual joy at the beginning of Spring is dampened by the sadness of the passing of my grandmother last fall.

I think one of the difficult things about life in the modern West is that we have lost the notion of mourning periods. There was a time when there was a proper amount of time to be “in mourning,” and rituals for coming out of mourning, with periods of “half mourning” and “light mourning.” When reading modern wisdom about grieving, we are told that it is individual and different for every person and every relationship.  Yet, I think that mourning is not really the same thing as grieving. I think that mourning is the pause we take in our lives out of respect for the person who has passed, and the ending of mourning is when it is right to “come back to life.”

Spring RoseWith that in mind, with no modern conventions to fall back on, I decided that Winter would be my period of “mourning” and that I would try to “come back to life” in the Spring. I am still quite sad, particularly as my grandmother loved Spring, but I will always be sad from time to time. My grandmother was an important person in my life. It is funny, because she never really taught me (or her own children) much. She tried, but she had no patience. She would hastily explain things, and if you did not get it the first time, she would give up with a disgusted “Ach!” and take what you were doing and do it herself. Yet, despite this, I learned so much from her. There is very little that I do that I do not still hear her voice telling me stories or giving wise counsel.

Even now, in my front yard, I see a lesson that she left.

For the past several years, Mormor (“grandmother” in Swedish) and I lived in the same two flat, which was owned by my aunt. In the front of the house, there was a lamp post, which used to be a working gas lamp. Mormor thought it was ugly. She researched, and she found that it would be costly and perhaps dangerous to remove it, so she devised a way to make it beautiful. Last spring, she planted roses around it with the plan that they would climb and cover the post.

Throughout the Summer, she carefully tended the roses, and she made sure that they did not stray too far away from the post. This was an interesting lesson in itself. It seems in order for roses to climb, they have to be held close to their source.

By the time that Autumn came, the roses had covered the post and bloomed gloriously for Mormor’s ninetieth birthday.

KIMG0073Mormor passed a little over a month after that, right before the first snowfall.

The roses bloomed until that very day. They became covered with snow, and they left an almost magical image, as the petals could be seen on the snow.

2015-11-23 07.40.27Yet, time passes, and now it is Spring. As if the roses were left to teach another lesson, they are starting to grow back again.

2016-03-28 10.52.03I guess it is time to come back to life, as well as to honor and care for what Mormor planted and left behind.

Autumn Blessings

I have a confession to make. Autumn has always been my least favorite season. I know that all seasons have their own beauty, but I have always had some trouble appreciating Autumn. I have never been all that fond of Winter either, but in Autumn, the days get colder and darker and the coming season is Winter. Even through the cold of Winter, the days are at least getting longer and brighter, and Spring is on its way. I often start to feel a little sad as Summer winds down and by November, I am often battling deepening depression.

Yet, this year, for the first time, I experienced one of the main blessings of the Autumn season…the Harvest.

I hope that the reader will indulge me a little in boasting about my grandmother. My grandmother has always been an amazing gardener. She is going to be ninety this fall, and she loves to garden. Even when she lived in the North Side of Chicago, she managed a substantial vegetable garden in a tiny backyard.

To be honest, I never had all that much interest in gardening. I have never even been able to keep houseplants alive. It may be because now we live in the same building as my grandmother, so I see the garden every day. It may be that reading the Little House on the Prairie series in Japanese inspired me. By the way, I have just finished 大草原の小さな家, “Daisougen no chiisana ie,” “Little House on the Prairie,” and I have just started プラム川の土手で, “Puramu kawa no dote de,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek.”  I also recently read Farmer Boy in English. In any case, whatever the reason, this year I participated in the Harvest for the first time.

I learned how to make tomato sauce, barbeque sauce, apple sauce, and apple butter. I learned how to blanch and freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter. I baked several rhubarb, raspberry, and apple deserts. It was quite a busy time.

The abundance of food turned out to be quite the blessing. This October, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday, and relatives from Sweden came to stay with us to celebrate. My mother also came in from California and stayed with us for about a month. The abundance of food was really useful in feeding all of the extra people.

Today, I started feeling my usual Autumn depression. I felt sad as I raked the leaves and watched the sun go down before it was even 5 o’clock. Yet, then I went back inside, and I cooked taco salad using the last of the green peppers and tomatoes that my grandmother had dried over the summer. Now I am making apple sauce using the remaining apples that were stored in the refrigerator.

The garden is now gone. Our full freezer has emptied out. We still have green beans, green pepper, sliced apples and rhubarb in the freezer though, as well as a couple of containers of apple butter. We also have dried herbs and tomatoes that were carefully preserved by my grandmother.

I still feel a little sad, but I am also feeling intense gratitude to Our Mother, who provides for us every year. It was a good Autumn, I think.