Grief, Praise, and Gratitude

cornucopiaThanksgiving. . .a time for gathering in the harvest and celebrating the bounty.  A holiday devoted to gratitude, for gathering together family, friends, neighbors–family by blood and family by choice–to give thanks for all we have received.  A time for feasting and football (or Pictionary, in our case), gleaning, cleaning, and cooking.  Getting stocked up and settled in for winter.

The horn of plenty can also be filled with heartache, grief, and loss at this time of year. . .a cornucopia of pain that overeating and imbibing and numbing television viewing will not empty or relieve.  I know–I’ve tried!  Autumn is a difficult season for many because of the loss of light and the onset of colder weather.  It is the beginning of the big family holidays: Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s.  It is a sad time for those of us who have lost family and other loved ones, especially recently.

New Mexican writer and teacher, Martin Prechtel, visited Blue Hill in September and read from his newest book, The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise.  In the book he expresses what grief is–and what it is not:

Grief is what living beings experience when what or whom they love dies or disappears.

Grief is not what people feel when they lose what they want, or lose what they want to happen, or when they don’t get what they think they deserve.  This is only disappointment.  Not the same at all (very important not to confuse with grief).

Grief ismell of rain on dusts natural; to grieve the loss of what we love is as natural as peeing, eating, singing, dreaming, running, or looking under rocks for bugs to feed your frog.

More importantly, grieving is necessary: when there is real loss, grieving should never be avoided or postponed; grieving is absolutely necessary. . . .

Grief is not a preference, for choosing to not have grief when grief is there is to defer and burden someone else with having to do your grieving.  This makes the world a sick place. . . .best to grieve when it’s time, to save the world a lot of war and trouble.

Grief is not sorrow. . . .Grief is active. . . .Grief is movement.

Grief has a sound; . . .grief is the sound of being alive.

Grief is not depression; a griever is not depressed.  Depression comes from not being able to grieve, which converts our losses into violence.

Grief is the best friend of Praise, because Praise is a grandiose griever!

Praise is Grief’s voice and neither ever disappears. . . .

–Martin Prechtel (excerpted from pp. 3-6)

I wrote the following poem after reflecting on my time in New Mexico this past spring–and being inspired by Martin’s talk and reading from his book this fall.  I offer it up to you, gentle reader, for care and comfort of any sadness, grief or loss you are feeling at this time. . .for your healing.  May you take time to feel, to grieve, to just be.  May you face and move through your grief actively.  May the rains wash you clean and release your emotions.  May you be filled with joy; may you praise and give gratitude for being alive and for all you have received in this life.

“Rain on Dust”

Northern New Mexico
The smell of rain on dust
after years of drought
of hardship
of longing and grief
That dust that gets into your everywhere
in shopping bags
under the car seat
in your eyes
into your psyche
like a teardrop on the edge of your eyelash
like an old friend’s name on the tip of your tongue
It’s in you
It’s part of you.

A dust you can’t deny or run from.

The dust of longing.  The dust of grief.
Mother Earth baring her soul.
Sangre de Christo mountains in spring
Blood of Christ streaming down to the desert.
Climate change
shift  shift  shift
Scenery change
shift  shift  shift
Personal change
shifting constantly shifting
Like the shift that hit the fan-
tastic desert landscape
Rain on dust
Cacti blooming bursting
like they haven’t seen in a generation
O’Keeffe-colored clouds
burst across
the expansive canvas sky
crying I
Raining down praise and joy and gratitude
on the dust of grief and desire.

© Eileen Mielenhausen

May you be blessed with everything you need at this time of Thanksgiving!


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