When a dear friend called to ask me to come honor her husband’s life after his long struggle to live, I said, “yes.”
But the ask was for me to come later. The later was to assist in the most unusual of wakes. It was actually more of a walk.
David was the man she has spent decades with loving and being loved. They had lived in several homes together during those years but the last home they knew would be theirs forever.
David’s Day brought a dear friend he had grown up running track in high school who had flown from the heart of Texas. Relatives, friends and neighbors walked through the gate and began their communion with the place David and Gloria had made their own.
There on the side of a hill accessed on a private drive, was a home perched on the hillside, decked to view the magnificent Mt. Hood, present in their lives on the days with clear skies. No one thought to look for it that afternoon, until the day was ending, when suddenly they backed up and there above the chicken coop Mt. Hood joined us.
All 7 chickens were quiet that day, honoring the memories the walkers were holding as they rounded the corner and came within feet of their space. The route for each was personal. No strict guidelines. No arrows other than the ones to enter or those indicating where to park. Each person or group chose their own route.
Each would have the possibilities of grazing as they passed the trees full of ripening apples, pears, plums and found figs, and other bushes and vines ladened with blueberries, pink-lemonade berries, Marion berries and not yet fully developed grapes on the vines.
Shade could be found beneath the apples, the evergreens and the rhododendron, while the beds were full of all of the flowers the Portland, Oregon area can possibly support. The drama of the space allowed your eyes to focus on the center. And there were the yellow, fully in bloom Showy Goldenrod. The center space contained no trees and what I remembered, and my mother as well remembered on David’s last visit to Oklahoma to see our property, when we regretted not having brilliant colors all around us here on the prairie, he was clear and to the point, that these grasses were the greens that we need, they are the color we need and they would be accented by the colors wildflowers would bring, ever changing through the seasons.
It is funny to remember that so very clearly and to know that and these grasses drive me to restore the landscape and our native plants and give them space to return.
During this visit my old and my newest friend became tied together in my mind by a poet who, himself had died this year, Brendan Kennelly. When Mimi, came to visit just a week earlier, she brought a copy of The Man Made of Rain, with words she spoke aloud to Tar Creek, that we all need “to pray for the water of the world, the water is threatened.”
The little book packed easily and in the quiet moments of reflection before and even after the Walking Wake, the words written by the poet to describe the visions he had had after an operation struck me deeply.
So, in the middle of that field, seeing the golden rod blooming, I remembered these words:
“I am with
the man made of rain walking with him
through streets of yellow flowers
in the dancing light of exile
where happiness is possible and the edges
of the world are touched by what is gentle.”
In my work as an environmental activist, knowing the water is threatened, and always advocating for that threatened water and for the restoration of her surrounding lands, coming home touches me with what is gentle in a place all we need to do is bring the prairie grasses back.
I can’t help remembering loved ones, dear friends and believe I hear them saying to any who will listen:
“Something of me lingers
Where I am not.”
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
The Man Made of Rain, Brendan Kennelly, 1998