2023 Mycelium #12 Of Grief and Joy

Grief is so sneaky it can pop up when you are unprepared and like a chameleon might even reveal itself once you have befriended it dressed as anxiety or pain. News of a great tragedy can unlock conversations of friendship, memories of joy and deep anger of unfinished business. I’ve learnt over the years not to try and push grief away. There have been times when I have been in awe of the number of tears a human body can create and still be upright, and times when only the most hilarious and ridiculous joke could relieve pain and times when all that has seemed completely impossible had become a distant and fading image in a photo album.

Grief catches me off guard. I can be like a kamikaze fly ending up in a spider’s web, drawn in by an invisible invitation that catches me while I am buzzing around minding my own business. Before I know it I am entangled and only by being still, I have any hope of getting out of the sticky fibre. I discovered recently webs are made of protein, no wonder they are so tough, so strong.

In the underground world of grief we are connected through our collective and shared stories of ones we might love and have lost, places that are changing, climate impacts and the grief of losing a part of ourselves, growing older, someone we love moving away.  I grieve for youth not mis-spent.

The mycelium of grief has connected a whole lot of friends, stories and past experiences this week with the sudden and tragic death of an activist leader I knew well. Unexpected and devastating. The news has rocked at least two generations of feminists. It has taken me back to my deepest values of friendship and care. I have sent quite a few messages to check in on others around me, regardless of whether they knew her or not.

Being alive and loving is a part of the grief equation I know well. Trying to make sense of the why, the how, and the when, I understand a lot less. There are always questions, unfinished business; I don’t like those at all and they sneak up on me too pretending to be part of the grief experience, but they aren’t, they are actually thieves cashing in on the purity of sadness and taking advantage of vulnerability.

I don’t think there is a cure or a prophylactic for grief, but maybe there is an antidote? Hearing the sounds of little people laughing is always joyful, hearing glorious sounds of nature, wonderful musicians, seeing anything of beauty, listening to a poem, seeing a tree laden with fruit, noticing the waves rolling in as the sun sets … splendid affordable medicine.

I’m setting an intention to stumble into joy.  Ada Limon, poet laureate for the US this year, wrote this lovely poem about watching a groundhog. She said she felt envious watching the creature eat her tomatoes with such confidence about being safe and becoming satisfied.  The spasm of joy that escapes is a gentle contrast to the demands of requests for commentary on matters of the world. Nature and music for me, continuously offer up moments, to revel in a gasp of delight; mycelium for the soul, and healing, post a tangle, in a web of grief. After all, like the groundhog in this poem, I think we are all doing what we can to survive.

Give me this

I thought it was the neighbor’s cat back
to clean the clock of the fledgling robins low
in their nest stuck in the dense hedge by the house
but what came was much stranger, a liquidity
moving all muscle and bristle. A groundhog
slippery and waddle thieving my tomatoes still
green in the morning’s shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
delight? A stranger writes to request my thoughts
on suffering. Barbed wire pulled out of the mouth,
as if demanding that I kneel to the trap of coiled
spikes used in warfare and fencing. Instead,
I watch the groundhog closer and a sound escapes
me, a small spasm of joy I did not imagine
when I woke. She is a funny creature and earnest,
and she is doing what she can to survive.

Copyright © 2020 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 16, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

In memory of a much loved unionist, activist, feminist – Michelle Hogan

In April 2022 I posted this photo and short reflection below for Michelle in memory of her mother Dorothy. I sang at Dorothy’s funeral and retold a story Dorothy shared with me of their children singing in the car on long trips. I will be remembering her and John as well when we farewell Michelle this week.

Daisy chains weren’t a part of my childhood, although there were attempts at making dandelion ones with zero success. This photo however is of polycalymma stuartii, the poached egg daisy. It is an Australian daisy found on sand plains and dunefields. This clump was at the Arid Botanical Gardens in Pt Augusta Barngarla country and taken in 2014. Every time I visit that location I think of a fierce warrior of feminism and her relationship with her God and her faith. Dorothy’s ashes are scattered there and she loved the desert. Lovely to unlock this memory of her with today’s prompt. In electrical and electronic engineering, a daisy chain is a wiring scheme in which multiple devices are wired together in sequence or in a ring and I think Dorothy did that too – she brought people together in all kinds of sequences that were novel and created many rings around her. I am sure she is still missed by those who loved her and the way she wired her ideas together! Vale Dorothy.

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