Ode to Umberdove


six months ago you died,
how we miss you.

this is the first sunflower of summer
a gift of remembrance.
I want to show you my garden
in all it's ramshackle glory -
the sun soaked, grass-hopper
nibbled nooks and crannies;
slice up fresh tomatoes for us to eat
cook you eggs any way you like them,
scoop a spoon of raw honey from our bees
for us to lick clean; I'd tell you about the granite
boulders on the hillside, 
point out the calls of native birds,
as we hear them - and I'm certain my
little boys would find you beetles and grass seeds
and tree sap "rubies" for your pockets,

and I catch myself thinking,
you didn’t know her that well -
and it’s true I didn’t know you
as other people did, I’d never met you face to face -
but some part of you I did know, 
and the kindred I felt was warm and embracing
through computer screen, cables, satellite, seas -

nine years ago in a cloudy world wide web
I met you and a handful of other vibrant women,
a sisterhood of penned words,
of blog posts, banter in comments, in email,
made objects, videos, photography -
I was never made to feel inferior, or “too young”,
in my art I felt encouraged, in my words I felt heard,
in my smallness I felt wanted, in my losses I felt held,
in my triumphs I felt celebrated, 
a kind of acceptance and comeranderie that this
introverted soul could bear gladly, reciprocate. 
the closest thing I'd felt to having peers.

six months and I hold old postcards from you,
a stone with birds you painted, circling,
a feather you collected and posted,
I re-read comments you left on my photographs,
the memory of your voice six years ago, on the telephone
when outside snow was falling - 
these are but tiny memories of you,
and I tuck them safely under my skin,

so many of your sage words ring fresh in my ears -

"To pause and see the small glories of everyday
are truly what makes a life overflow"
"I honestly believe this is the most
important and holiest work that can be done"
"Self care is always the right choice."
"I've said it before, but we are such walking miracles:
we are not perfect, we are not whole.  
We are lined with the wear of existence,
skin scarred, hearts cracked open.  
But if we are very lucky, we fill those cracks with gold
and go on living, ever more beautiful for having been broken"

I see you now, confessing to a life well lived,
dancing wildly in a green scarf, making beauty in ink,
reminding us of grace and new beginnings -
I dream of you, stroking Candace’s hair,
holding Brad’s hand on a walk, loving your body in spite of cancer,
picking strawberries with a feather behind your ear,
tickling the smelly tummy of a dog, savouring the seasons,
laying out crystals and bone on a wooden table,
kissing me on the forehead -

what stories we will tell about you, Umber -
we will tell our children;
her bones were branches than unfurled at her finger and toe tips
they gave her sweeping curves, a regal height -
her heart was part horse hair (for painting)
part silver sterling (for smithing), part star dust (for gazing)
her words kindled flames in the hearts of her readers,
yes, even the stones at the river bed
could answer her call to kneel before the altar
of joy and goodness and pain and beauty -
her laugh could split atoms,
and her art could make bitter hearts cry,
in the middle of her spine was a point
that when gently touched, two wings would appear,
we never saw it but we heard from the old pine trees,
and the hawks and the larks,
the jaybirds, the cuckoos, the owls,
the oaks, the redwoods too -
she could be seen flying, star-flanked,
just before day break on clear autumn mornings,

(you knew, my favourite kind of mornings)

six months ago you left this earthly tent,
and the word love doesn’t come close
to how I feel about knowing you
and being known by you,
or how we miss you -
or the gratitude we feel
for all the wisdom and beauty
you've left in your wake,

bless you now and forevermore
friend, Kelly, Umberdove. 


p.s. Kelly's blog - read it all and be full.