Saturday, May 31, 2014

Grief and gratitude

It's funny how close grief and gratitude can be, how they can inform and weigh upon each other.

A few weeks ago, my Romantics students and I had a pretty great class looking at This Lime Tree Bower My Prison, by Coleridge. While I am by no means a die-hard Coleridge fan (I'm more of a Keats girl myself), I loved working through this poem with my students, and I was particularly touched by the notion that, if you're open to it, you can find beauty anywhere. This concept of openness is, I think, a useful one, and one that I try to engage with daily in my life, especially during challenging times.

The week after my encounter with the Lime Tree Bower, I started chemo, and my wise and beautiful friend Peta (who's had her own experiences with the Big C) somewhat telepathically reminded me that being in gratitude can be a powerful healer. And indeed it did help me, in the weeks after the chemo treatment, when I was feeling like I'd been run over by a bus, to focus my energies upon the things I was grateful for, both great and small, rather than just feeling sorry for myself. 
The love of my family, the care and compassion of my community, my gorgeous farming-lady, the surprise of finding a pair of pink borage blossoms among the blue, a day-bed in the sun on which to lie, abundance in the garden, a flock of galahs flying past the window of my hospital room making a LOT of noise, good food, happy chickens, a swan-shaped troboncini-squash, sunny days, kisses from my kids.
I had wanted to write a blog post about some of these things, but I have a strange relationship with gratitude, especially as it exists within the blog-world context, where it sometimes detracts from (or even stands in place of) rigorous or even thoughtful engagement with the reasons why we, in the privileged west, have the opportunity to be grateful and then write a blog about it. So I held off.
And then one of the most unimaginable tragedies befell one of my most beloved friends: the loss of a child. My gratitude, instantaneously, was deepened, sharpened and tainted by grief. It's a multi-hued kind of feeling and it exists and operates on so many levels, and I am so so sad for so many reasons, not least of all because my dear friend is right now experiencing an unimaginable pain that I am so completely unable to ease. 

I am deeply honoured that one of the things I made for little Lucien is going to be used in his funeral rites, and I am crocheting and writing now to ease the pain in my heart and also to honour the love that his spirit inspired. I wish I could do more, but I can't.
This blog is a journal of sorts, and I felt that to continue writing posts about craft and building a cooking and living without acknowledging this tragedy and the shift of emotion it has provoked would be a betrayal. So here it is - a little garbled, perhaps - my musings upon sadness and love and grief and gratitude. It might not seem like it, but they're closer friends than you might think.


  1. I'm sure someone has written the words more eloquently, but to me love and loss are a double edged sword. You can't feel the pain of loss without having felt the depths of love. I can't imagine the anguish of losing a child - it's my worst nightmare. But the love I feel for my kids also surpasses anything I could have imagined before they were born. My thoughts are with you and little Lucien's family right now. And thank you for such a heartfelt blog. : )

  2. oh my heart. (that's all I can manage right now...)

  3. Unimaginable, indeed. My heart goes out to you all.

  4. I'm devastated to read about Lucien. I never met him, but I had a special place in my heart for this dear little boy, born just a month before my own. My deepest love and condolences to Lucien's family.

  5. Oh Annie, my heart goes out to you, much love to you and those you hold dear, I'm so sorry for your friends tragic loss xxx

  6. Gratitude as a healer - what powerful words and thoughts to dwell on. Lots of love always, Han xo

  7. Beautiful, painful, truthful words. Thank you.