Facing death is never easy.
No matter how the loved one departs. But when the ones you love are taken violently, it casts a different shadow.
With poetry I find it is easier to express the feelings, these deep emotions we ride like a wave after losing a loved one. Inside the glassy cavern, alone, afraid – one could drown here – one faces their own darkness and their shadow and emerges the hero, the heroine of their own story, but here, where prose is the communicator, I find it more difficult to choose the words needed to articulate what I felt yesterday on that mountain I rarely frequent.
Unlike Patrick Larkin ( and countless others, there), I do not ski and frankly, I’m not too keen on cold weather and snow. But yesterday as this community converged on the mountain that Patrick loved, I found myself part of a collective, revisiting those dark labyrinths and winding corridors of time and fate.
Loss and grief – the collision with mortality – the endings that signal new beginnings. The fragility of life we are reminded of when someone dear is taken from our midst.
Yesterday Ted Wiard also reminded us of the value of community and love during times like these; of the love Patrick had for his family, his friends and his community; his love of the mountains, of travel and adventure. His commitment to a meaningful life; a sustainable life – practicing what he preached – his work ethic born on his grandfather’s Minnesota farm and how that translated to his life here, and of course, the ‘Cup.
Ted himself also practices what he preaches and is currently mentoring and guiding a few people quite close to my heart. He is a hero of mine. After the shattering loss of his first wife and two young daughters, he has healed his own unimaginable heartbreak and grief, and has devoted his life to helping others through their own labyrinths of loss.
Golden Willow, the healing center and retreat he founded, is a blessing for our community and beyond. Ted is a Taos Treasure. He lost his mother earlier this year, so is in the midst of his own grieving, but yesterday, he was present for us all with his own, generous heart, wide open.
Andrea sat with Oona and her mother in front of Ted (three generations of Dignity), as the few friends she had asked to speak took their turn. We were again reminded of life’s fleeting nature as each of them talked about Patrick.
Jonah Salloway eloquently delivered a sensitive and classic eulogy Patrick surely would have approved of. Well written by someone he considered a close friend, it included a short bio of Patrick’s life, along with personal memories, stories and the qualities which made Patrick who he was. It was heartfelt and also heart-wrenching, to hear Jonah speak of the sense of connection Patrick imparted to him; the sense of belonging.
A long time friend whom he had met quite by chance on a ski lift somewhere, teared up as he spoke of Patrick’s loyalty and generosity. His heart. Another broke down as he tried to express what Patrick had meant to him. It was excruciating to witness the collective pain in that moment, as we all crowded onto the deck at the St. Bernard, as the midday sun blazed down.
My daughter Genevieve told us all about life at the “Cappucino College”, and made us all smile as she recounted her decade long education in crema and customer service. Patrick did well. After a decade in his employee, my laziest kid became an entrepreneurial dynamo as well as a damn good writer with a meticulous sense of detail. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Tomorrow is her birthday and I’m so grateful to be able to celebrate it with her.
Stories always help at gatherings like this; they assist us in traversing the pathway back to life, the singular memories and amusing anecdotes can offer insight into the character of the person that passed away, and help us to reflect on the good times, rather than remain steeped in sorrow. The sense of connection yesterday was profound. There was so much love on that deck. Thank you Ted. And thanks to all who shared so much of their own tangled emotion, spirit and soul, in story and song.
Surrounded by children and grandkids, I felt extraordinarily blessed to be a part of this remarkable community and I came away knowing that Andrea and her daughter will be just fine, embraced and supported by such loving arms, and hearts.
When I got home, I realized that standing outside in that blazing midday sun, wearing a t-shirt, I had a mega sunburn! Thank goodness I’d thrown a cap in my bag, so my face was somewhat protected, but my arms and chest were bright red. After pouring a cup of vinegar into a hot bath and soaking for twenty minutes, I slathered myself with Toni Leigh’s Oshara face cream. I’ve long used this product on my face and together with the serum it’s my go-to skin care. Toni, an Ayurvedic Herbalist, lived in Taos for many years when she founded Desert Blends of Taos, the Spa, Body, Bath Skincare line that includes Oshara.
I woke up this morning with the redness all but faded into tan, and no burning. Toni’s products are currently being rebranded, so the labels will soon change, but the fabulous product made from local, wild-crafted botanicals remains the same. You can find them at Cid’s in Taos. Up here, our skin truly is “ravaged by the elements” and yesterday, mine certainly appeared that way, but thanks to Oshara’s magic, it healed overnight!
Toni has formulated her line specifically for the High Desert climate which is Vata Pita according to Ayurveda and during the time that I worked for her here in Taos, I came to know and appreciate her deep knowledge and understanding of Nature’s medicine. The plants are prayed over and approached with respect and love. As they should be, as all sentient beings should be. But most importantly, this stuff works. It protects from, and heals sun damage.
That relentless sun enters balanced, harmony-seeking Libra today at the same time we celebrate the Fall Equinox. This means that day and night are equal in length, causing us to search for balance and equilibrium in our lives. Right now, we could all use a little of both.
This morning as I walked along the acequia, I gave thanks to the mountain for family, friends and this truly blessed and sacred place we call home, for the people, flora and fauna that gift us with love and healing and when I returned to my studio to make coffee and check my emails etc. I saw Ted Wiard’s post on Facebook; I’d liked an image I’d seen last night, but today I noticed it was captioned “Spirit” along with “Ted’s Toolbox” (hat, flowers, tissues and glasses.) The flowers were the same marigolds that I photographed outside the ‘Cup after Patrick was killed.
The World Cup has been festooned with garlands of them, inside and out, ever since. If they are cleaned up or removed, they reappear.
“They come when we are not here,” Marianne Fahrney told me when I went in for coffee last week. “In the middle of the night.”
The Neem Karoli Baba Ashram is no doubt a source of the sweet culprit.
Flower Power wins the day, in every way.
For more information on Ted Wiard and Golden Willow, please visit the site linked below.
Toni Leigh’s plant magic Desert Blends products are available at Cid’s in Taos. Please visit her site below as well.
Top and bottom images taken on my iphone. Ted’s “Toolbox” lifted from his Facebook page.