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What Came to Me

What Came to Me

I took the last
dusty piece of china
out of the barrel.
It was your gravy boat,
with a hard, brown
drop of gravy still
on the porcelain lip.
I grieved for you then
as I never had before.

-Jane Kenyon

The photo is of me as a young girl sitting on my father’s shoulder.  I have shared some of my journey with him here before — his layers of addiction, his inability to offer unconditional love, his narrowness of vision.  This is a part of my inheritance that I continue to name and own.  His grief and despair flow through me, rising and falling like the tide, and I make space for them within me.

Joy and wonder are there too.  I hold the objects that belonged to him like a talisman pressed into my palm, pointing me in the direction of a wide landscape of unlived possibility. I follow this compass for him and for all of my ancestors who were bound by fear and a rejection of their deepest longings.  I live into my own delight for his healing and for my own.

My father died just over 13 years ago.  Last summer I journeyed to the land of his birth, a place he had to flee at age twelve, not knowing he would never return again.  There I encountered the vulnerable little boy he once was. A boy who walked barefoot along the edges of the Baltic Sea, whose heart must once have been as wide as the ocean and raced with excitement in his chest in wonder at the beauty of it all.  And I discovered he is still very much alive, running across hot summer sand, relishing the cool breeze through his damp hair, arms spread wide, eyes closed, turning slowly.  In quiet moments I turn with him, revolving around a stillpoint within, and I hear him whispering that he is free, that I am free.

The next Poetry Party is on Monday!

© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts

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9 Responses

  1. This made me sob, with your richness in naming and owning your inheritance. I have begun some overdue processing of family issues and these words will help guide me. Thanks so very much.

  2. Thank you, thank you beautiful women. Such grace to read your encouraging comments here. These words poured out of me last night while I was feeling exhausted. It was definitely an experience of discovery while writing.

  3. Christine…
    That was so unbelievably touching. I, too, share the journey of layers of addiction in my father. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  4. this is so profoundly beautiful. if this came to you yesterday then i have no doubt why you were discombobulated AND filled with grace. lovely. so very lovely, my “revolving” friend. :-) xoxoxo