Friday, April 3, 2009


April 2, 2009 trailing

“….Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:….”

(Ode: Intimations of Mortality by W. Wordsworth)

This is the gospel according to my mother. And gratefully, it is the gospel as I understand it, according to my Creator. I am blessed to have the two be comfortably reconciled, so that I did not have to abandon one to be at peace with the other. My mother taught the gospel in whispers. In touch, both tender and disciplinary. She taught it in the way she worked, in the middle of a fishing stream, in the front seat of the car. One of the most beautiful things she has taught me is how to grow; regardless of age, in spite of past mistakes, without reservations that result from pride. I have watched her and learned. She knew, as I know, that the little ones who emerged all wet and quivering, attached to the motherland, came with heaven in their wings. Their infant silence was a gradual forgetting, but I could always see it in their eyes, a far off gaze as if there were something brighter beyond their mother’s face. I see it in our little Ruby, though with her emerging laughter I have noticed her eyes connecting with ours more and more, so that soon the scene of heaven behind all of us will be dark, though no more distant. It has an element of sadness, knowing her heaven home was so recently left; and yet it is also quite lovely to know that she is given to us wholly and without reservation from her first creator. Such an amazing trust!
When our kids were young my mother taught her grandchildren to love well patterned words. Not just the patterns, I suppose, but also the messages in them. Mom understood, and still understands, the natural usefulness of bribery. So she made a deal with her dozen or so kids, and any of their friends who also called her Gram. She paid them to memorize poetry. There were rules, and you better darn well follow them to the tee! These were the rules:
1. You must stand with your shoulders straight and look Gram in the eye.
2. You must accurately recite the name of the poet and title of the poem.
3. You must recite without flaw at least eight lines of an epic poem, for the youngest ones, and as you got older that number increased.
4. You must be able to express your feelings about the poem with sincerity.
If you were able to do that, then Gram gave you five dollars. That’s a goodly sum of money for a six year old. (Heck, that’s a goodly sum for a fifty year old these days!) Thereafter, each time you recited the poem, following all the same rules, you were entitled to a quarter.
Now on Memorial Day we will gather around the graves and Johnny will be able to recite In Flanders Fields for us. Sarah can finish these words: “Between the dark and the daylight, when the light is beginning to lower….” Walk up to any of Gram’s grandchildren and ask them to recite a poem, and surely one will come up like bubbles in Ginger Ale newly opened. It will come rushing to their minds and their hearts at once, and I can almost guarantee you they will, somewhere in the back of their thoughts, be remembering their old Gram. They’ll recall her handing them a crisp five dollar bill, then placing her weathered hands on their cheeks and pulling them into her, kissing their pink lips with hers and saying, finally… “Do you know how much I love you?” and following that, always, with the words “Who’s your best friend?”
If any of my children are perhaps reading this blog, would you mind answering that question? I just want to make sure you know it.
Thank you, mother of my heart and my body, for teaching me to love words. I will hear for eternity your voice speaking the first poetry I ever wrote. You made it sound so much sweeter than it ever really was. Thank you for giving me strong arms to nestle in, with hands that gathered heaven's trailings and tucked them into my blanket. I feel them with me still.


  1. I have been faithfully reading your daily blogs and they have given me what I believe to be a rather personal and special insight as to who you are. Not many people would be comfortable with this, but I'm so happy that you have done this. My only hope is that once Lent is over, you may consider writing once a week, since I am just one of the many who really appreciate your words.

  2. When we were all younger and Mom had many demons to fight, she often quoted Henley's Invictus, which as Kate know's is the Latin word for unconquered. I remember years later while visiting in the living room of the condo she told a friend she no longer needed to quote this poem. She had decided that in her life she was not the lone master of her soul. Her faith, which has always been strong reached a higher level and she said it was not until she fully turned her life over to her Master did she find peace.

    Thank you Cori for your writings. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for your love. I love Gram. I love her kids and their kids and I love you!

  3. Thanks Limpy, and Bob-
    Its nice to know someone is reading this risky thing I am doing.

  4. not only reading it, but devouring it - and by doing so....finding that insight, peace, solace and strength some of us so desperatly need.

    Thank you - please don't stop... I don't do "cold turkey" very well.

  5. I remember gram quoting "stopping by the woods on a snowy evening" word for word, while she was in the hospital, before she really said anything else.
    i like these posts. thanks for doing them.