Earth Etude for Elul 18 – Reflections on the Seasons of My Mourning
by Leslie Rosenblatt
Almost a year ago my husband Marty succumbed to the ravages of cancer, leaving us on a Fall evening in October. Although this event was not unexpected we had been hopeful that he would live longer with Hospice in place. We had no idea how very sick he was and how soon the end would come.
He came home from the hospital for the last time on Yom Kippur. Just days ago we had sat for a festive meal at our dining room table. Marty was anxious to teach Nina and Gideon our then 4 and a half year old twin grandchildren about those things that distinguished the Jewish Calendar from the more usual Gregorian calendar. “The Jewish Calendar was determined in large measure by the phases of the moon,” he said. “Many of our holidays come with the full or new moon.” There it was, the reference to the outdoors, the place that Marty was most content. He held up the two calendars, side by side. The Gregorian Calendar had pictures of kittens and the usual names of the months, January, February March. The Jewish Calendar marked the year 5773 and its year began with Tishrei. “Here we are at the birthday of the world – the beginning of a new year.” What could four year olds know or understand of all this? But we listened and we celebrated the joy of being together. We blessed the candles, the wine, the round challah and dipped apple into honey so that we might have a sweet year. These acts we did together. And then, as we had done for so many years, we ate a festive meal, brisket, potato pudding, fresh vegetables, fruit.
Marty died on Wednesday, October 3 and was laid to rest on October 7, a Sunday and erev of Succot. Thus the shiva was terminate by a festive holiday. How would I mourn? Two, perhaps three weeks later I decided to return to Hamlen Woods, a conservation area where we had walked when Marty was healthy and a place to which we returned as we thought he was healing. There I traced our steps, experienced the closeness of nature, the beautiful, radiant light of Fall and began to soothe my soul. I have walked almost every Wednesday, and other days as well. My walks are meditative, reflective and full of conversation. Each day I bring a stone, or pick one from my walk. I hold it in my hand, caress it, feel its sharp edges or smooth finish. It has traveled with me, through the beautiful light of Fall, the biting cold and snow of winter, the heat and humidity of summer and now again I can anticipate the Fall. Acorns fall from the oaks, an occasional golden leaf from the beech is there on the path, the Fall will come. I kiss the stone and place it on the marker “Given to the Sudbury Valley Trust in memory of Paul M. Hamlen – 1960.” I love you Marty, rest well.
This year has been a struggle – but I am strong. I will my endorphins to flow – those “feel good” neurotransmitters tide me though this time. I have found comfort in these familiar surroundings. I have found beautiful big birds here, the pileated woodpecker and the blue heron. Frogs shriek and turtles slip off logs, back into the pond. I have seen the beaver and mink. I have found the same friendly faces of dog-walkers, grandparents with grandchildren, even friends from the Temple. I take nothing for granted. All these have given me strength and confidence and hope to continue to live life with fullness and meaning.
Ode to Hamlen Woods
The day is steamy, yet the pink water lilies stretch their petals toward the sun.
The pond is still, no cat’s paws cause the surface to ripple.
The heat has caused the edges to evaporate, leaving mud at its periphery.
Look carefully and you can see the bulging eyes of a green frog,
Move too quickly and with a shriek and a jump he has vanished.
The sky is clear and blue, a small cloud passes by,
A tree swallow catches its lunch – mid-air.
From a small bridge look down, there under a lily pad,
A fish takes refuge in the cool of the shade.
What a very glorious thing to be a part of this peaceful place.
Leslie Rosenblatt is wife, a mother, a grandmother. She is a registered nurse and patient advocate. She is a lover of nature and can be found outdoors most days, observing and enjoying nature.