Monday, July 16, 2012

Peace Envoys

I’m sitting outside with Mario, on our back patio. It is near the end of the day. Mario is reading. I am looking around our yard. It’s not really “our” yard. We don’t own it, but I have lived in this place longer than I have lived anywhere except in my parents’ house. It feels like ours.

I am looking up at the Kuan Yin Peace Garden.

Kuan Yin is holding her concrete fan with her left hand and looking out toward me, yet not at me. The angelica I planted near her is stunted, probably from the acidic soil. Near Kuan Yin is a concrete birdbath and shells my neighbor gave me. I wish more flowers grew around her, but I don’t want to think about what’s “wrong” every time I look at her. Just like I don’t want to look at my yard or gardens and think, “I have to cut this, weed this, plant this.”

I just want some peace.

I created the Kuan Yin Peace Garden some years ago, after 9/11, when this country was about to go to war. I had to find some peace in all the strife. And my landlord had just “trimmed” the Doug fir, causing all sorts of creatures to scatter because he’d disturbed their homes. My peaceful backyard felt like a mini-war zone. And it looked like it. So I found Kuan Yin and the bird bath and some flagstones and I put them near the butchered Doug fir. In time, plants grew, all volunteers. Now it is quite lovely.

Kuan Yin

I feel as though I need a Peace Garden again. I need to unwind the knot in my belly. I recognize it. The last time I had it was when my father had heart surgery. The time before that was when my mother died. Now I think it’s an accumulation of work stress and working too much, not having enough down time. I need swaths of time where I don’t do anything but stare at the sky or listen to the wind through the trees.

Doesn’t everyone?

So I’m unwinding.

I’ve taken time off from work. For two weeks I’m going to try and not do any library work. I’ll try not to go into the city so much. I’ve gotten rid of my TV service—did that a few months ago. Trying not to read or hear any news. I was walking on the Mystic Trail nearly every day, but that made the knot worse. Every day I encountered some human being who was disruptive, rude, alien.

I’m not a people hater. I’m not one of those people who hates my own kind. I don’t prefer animals over people. I am almost always happier in the woods than I am in a crowd of people, but I often prefer being in the woods with my own kind.

Hmmm. But how many humans are my own kind?

Trees feel like my kind. My plants feel like my kin.

Lately, people bother me. I am angry most of the time. I wonder why people can’t act in a way that doesn’t annoy or harm me. Even as I think such thoughts I want to laugh because I know it’s ridiculous, but I don’t laugh. I’m still annoyed or angry.

Recently I lost my tribe. At least, it feels that way. It battered me a bit, this loss. The details aren’t important. I feel unmoored. Haven’t got back on my feet—or maybe like the Old Mermaids at first, I haven’t found my land legs yet. It was such a surprising thing to happen.

Ah well. Let’s not pick at that wound.

I can see my garden from here. My gardens, plural. The marigolds are so bright next to the greens. I put up a fence and hung prayer flags all around. They’re not actually prayer flags. They are pieces of fabric I ripped and then tied onto the fence so that the deer wouldn’t hurt themselves in the dark and the night. I don’t know if that works, but I did it.

Kuan Yin and garden

Next to the vegetable garden is my massive and amazing rosemary bush, along with my sage bush and lavender bush. This is the first time the lavender bush has bloomed in several years. It was damaged in a storm when we were in Arizona one year. I was going to cut it down afterward because I thought it was dead, but I left it. Now it’s in bloom again. Near to the bushes, I recently planted a tobacco plant. I love being surrounded by warrior and healing plants.

Maybe they are my peace envoys.

As I gaze up at these plants, as I think about them and listen for their whispers, my mood lifts. I believe plants can heal anything. And I believe they know everything.

Yesterday, the knot was so tight in my stomach I could barely breathe. I took one of the quilts my father made for me and I went outside. I lay next to my medicinal herb beds—near to the comfrey and black cohosh—and I put the quilt over me. Closed my eyes. Listened. Felt the grass beneath my fingers. Breathed, breathed.

Later I got up and went to my rosemary bush. I lay next to her for a long while. She’s been with me for more than twenty years, and I felt like I was spending time with an old friend.

When I got up from the rosemary bush, a bright yellow and green spider was walking up my arm. She was so beautiful I nearly gasped.

This morning, I got up and spent time with my plants, watering them, feeding them, pulling “weeds.” I talked to them, sang to them, even as I was pulling some of them up, explaining why I did this and that.

Afterward, Mario and I walked down to the river. I was glad it was just Mario and myself sitting on the shore and watching the Columbia River move toward us and then away and then toward us and then away.

Once we got home again, we worked. I am most at home and happiest when I am doing writing work or when I’m out in the woods. Today was a work day so that’s what we did. I finished editing Whackadoodle Times. Then Mario worked on the covers for The Rift and Pricked: A Jane Deere novel. We used one of my photos for the The Rift and I found a photograph on dreamstime that I liked for Pricked. I want the Jane Deere covers to have a grunge fairy tale-like flavor, and I think this cover starts the series out nicely.

Now I’m listening to the day unwind. Too many dogs are barking. Machinery in the background. But I breathe, in and out, in and out. I look up at Kuan Yin. She looks so peaceful.

Of course, she’s made out of concrete.

She’s also surrounded by greenery, mostly plum trees. Behind her are blackberries, a young hawthorne tree, several young cherry trees. Towering above her is the Douglas fir.

All is well, all is well.

I look over at Mario and he smiles at me. I smile back.

I know peace will come to me again, too.

(Here are the covers we worked on today. These are jpgs so the detail isn't good. These are first drafts for the covers. My name needs to be smaller on The Rift and some other things on Pricked, but so far, so good.)

the rift cover

pricked cover


Terri Windling said...

You still have a tribe in the Mythic Arts field, Kim...among all the readers who love your work, and who share your love of the land and the stories it contains. Though these are rough, challenging years to get through for all of us writers/editors/illustrators whose books aren't on the Bestsellers list, we're still here, we're still creating, and that still matters. Sending you love from Devon this morning.

Test Blog said...

Peace to you Kim, we all need to take time away... like a walk-about, good for the soul.

You're inspiring me to do the same, I'm as tight as a wound-up spring!

Gail N-K

Kim Antieau said...

Thanks, Gail. Yes, I'm on a staycation walkabout. ;-) Hope you're taking care.

Thanks, Terri. I needed to hear that! It did my heart and soul good. Much love to you. (I see you daily in the art work around my house. Every night I fall to sleep to Sleeping Beauties, whether I'm at EW or here.) You are right--I have to remember others are out there doing work of meaning and beauty. Thanks for reaching out. It means a lot.

Love to you both. xoxo

kerrdelune said...

Terri is right, love - you have a loving tribe, and this old mermaid is right in front, swishing her tail, tapping her drum, sending you loving and healing energies. Rest and be well...

WOW, two new books - I must have them as soon as they are published. I am so glad that you continue to send your precious words out into the world. Where would I be without you?

All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.