In Memoriam

May 29, 2012 Candace Morris 7 Comments

I struggle to precisely describe the relationship.  She's my best friend, sister, spiritual journeyer, soon-to-be aunt to my children, life partner. Her mother passed away last week, and it has been one of the hardest things to watch Jessica have to endure -  from the initial shock at the beginning to the disappointing lack of ritual at the end.  Our country deals with death in such a sterile, un-spiritual manner.  The body disappears and we are left floundering to find closure on our own.   She needed something more, and I had an idea.

The evening before the memorial, Kelly took my request and did all the prep necessary to set up a personal ritual for Jessica.  She began with a personal cleansing with sage.  The sage, held preciously by abalone, was to be lighted and spread all over Jessica with a sacred animal's wing.  Each item has its own meaning and purpose*.  Afterward, Kelly spent the next hours applying henna to Jessica's left arm and neck.  Each symbol she chose had a specific message for Jessica. It became her war paint for the memorial to occur the next day.  

Jessica has something ferocious and mystifying about her.  Her blood runs purple with royalty, pumping hard and fast.  Her body cannot contain her.  She deals with her pain honestly, without apology or self-consciousness.  As I watched her address the crowd of people present to honor the life of her mother, I marveled at the poise that comes only in the wake of mourning.  She has been cleansed by fire, brightened by torrents of tears, renewed by the support of others.  I nearly had to cover my eyes for her blinding presence. It feels too sacred, almost embarrassing, too private and pure a thing to witness someone genuinely just BE, especially when that particular state of being is shrouded in the black of mourning.

Her husband spoke words at the end that still send shivers through my bones.  He broke through the polite composure of memorial services, and instead lead each individual soul - one by one- through a battle cry, each of us into the wellspring of our own personal grief, not only at the passing of Denise, but also the confrontation of each human with the notion of death.  

I've said many times that there is no way to mourn death appropriately.  But somehow I feel that, if there were, it would look exactly like how Ben and Jessica do it.  Soulfully, honestly, fiercely, courageously embodying the pain and letting it wash through them instead of living in denial or allowing themselves to be comforted by trite phrases and empty promises of an afterlife no one really knows exists. 

During the personal sharing of Denise's family and friends, I composed a memorial of my own.  I am not one prone to public speaking, but I am one inclined toward the permanence of words.

Denise's passing seems particularly poignant to me as I anticipate becoming a mother.  I knew her as a mother, and have always revered and deeply analyzed how she managed this.  Jessica spoke highly of her, loved spending time with her, daily connected with her via phone calls, and aspired to be like her.   I wanted to see the formula she used to produce such a sustainable mother/daughter relationship.  I assumed they got along because she and Jess were like each other.  That was not the case - it was Denise and I that had more in common personality wise: Type-A, very organized, deeply mysterious and introspective.  That a woman like her could exist having created a woman like her daughter encouraged me so.  For instance, I genuinely thought that in order to be a good cook, I had to emulate Jessica's kitchen personality.  Denise taught me otherwise - and like so many people said this past weekend - she helped me realize the potential inside of myself.  Never doing it for me, only nudging gently and pouring me chardonnay, but still - I love to cook now because of Denise Green.  Specifically, she taught me to drink while I cook.  Four years ago, I cooked my first soup and all the while sipped a martini through the process, somehow trying to imbibe Denise's spirit itself.  Now, each meal begins with the glorious sound of a Chardonnay bottle popping open, a pouring of one glass, and the enjoyment of her presence standing right behind me, imbuing my spirit with cuisinal courage.  For the rest of my life, each time I open a bottle as I prepare to chop, dice, and julienne, I will commune with her spirit as I cook for my own family - the far-reaching effects of which no one can fathom.  Since food is essential for survival, it seems inconceivable to continue living without Denise, the one who feed us.  However shall we manage...

As she lived well, so shall she be remembered well.  Cheers to you, DMG.

* Abalone = Emotional protection/balance, Barn Owl = wisdom, seeing hidden things, associated with the underworld, Sage = used for restoring personal energy field, depression, and the expulsion of negativity.


The Bottom Falling Out

May 23, 2012 Candace Morris 5 Comments

Joel and I recently completed a 7-week series of birth classes based upon the book "Birthing from Within."  The instructor said something that I've been musing upon.  She said that in labor, you will be tempted to just lose forget your breathing, your pain-coping practice, your mental endurance required for full relaxation during rest periods.  She then said, "So just lose it."  Something about this notion of fully embracing the fall into the abyss resonates true in my being.

There is no appropriate way to birth a child.  There is no appropriate way to mourn the death of your mother or mitigate a divorce or face terminal cancer.  All there is is the bottom dropping out, our own personal dark cavern of fear that we all must face, and face alone.  No one can bring this child into the world for me.  No one can mourn Denise for Jessica.  Maybe we should stop trying so hard to grasp at the sides of the cave, to stop desperately reaching for that hand of help.  Maybe we should stop looking all around us to see ourselves in other's eyes.  Maybe in this dank space, there is no welcome mat for the ego.  We are all degraded to our primordial selves through pain and grief.  Why is it when we feel like screaming that we instead gently weep?  Why is it when we feel like scratching out the eyes of our soul, instead we make to-do lists?  Why, in god's name, when we feel like dying, do we politely sip our hot tea by the fire?  We keep ourselves so tightly wrapped up in all these civil emotions and try to sell others on our facade of health and inner peace - even in the hopes that we will believe ourselves to be evolved beyond primitive despair.  Perhaps, in the imagination of our souls, what we really need is just to fucking lose it.  To scream bloody murder, to scratch and scratch until we bleed, to die - bit by bit as we fall into the well of our worst fear coming true.

Wouldn't it be a relief to hit that bottom and feel solid ground again, despite our nursing broken bones from the fall?  It is only in being at ones lowest that we can, in any possible way, forage a way out.  There are beautiful organisms that can only thrive in wet, dark conditions.  There are things we will never discover about ourselves and others if we spend our lives avoiding and repressing the realities of pain.  Once we stop being so damn afraid of the engulfing blackness, then, and only then, can we realize that our eye-sight has keenly adjusted and we can see more clearly than ever before.  That sight will no doubt reveal that you are indeed strong, that you are humbled to being a collection of particles, and that there is great comfort in ultimate release.  That sight will be the very thing we need in order to climb out of the abyss.

Additionally, when we see our loved ones bordering on their own soul-drop, we must let them.  I will keep watch at the entrance to ward off predators.  I will yell down often to encourage your return, for of course the abyss is no place to stay - there is more life to live once you emerge.  But I refuse to advise you to avoid your fears.  I will let you go and trust in your strong soul to give you what you need.  Once we stop trying to save others, keeping them from doing what they need to do because we ourselves have the greater need of being helpful in crisis, then will we know our true substance as friend, wife, mother, daughter, teacher, human.

That substance, fellow humans, is a gorgeous, miraculous mix of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon atoms.  That this amalgamation can have the awareness of self, much less the evolved ability to endure and grow from personal suffering, blows my mind.

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well 
That, for all they care, I can go to hell, 
But on earth indifference is the least 
We have to dread from man or beast. 

How should we like it were stars to burn 
With a passion for us we could not return? 
If equal affection cannot be, 
Let the more loving one be me. 

Admirer as I think I am 
Of stars that do not give a damn, 
I cannot, now I see them, say 
I missed one terribly all day. 

Were all stars to disappear or die, 
I should learn to look at an empty sky 
And feel its total dark sublime, 
Though this might take me a little time.” 
― W.H. Auden


A Mother's Day Brunch

May 13, 2012 Candace Morris 2 Comments

A gorgeous mid-day heat
Frozen Bellinis
Arugula and Parmesean Salad
Pan fried Rosemary Pancetta

To my mom here, at home, and universally,
Your DNA is becoming more and more each day.

To human life
and brunch.


One of the best

May 11, 2012 Candace Morris 5 Comments

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Yesterday, while waiting for my body to metabolize the ridiculously sugary drink I had to imbibe for my glucose tolerance test, I finished one of the best books I've read in my entire life. I know I've mentioned it a few times here, but I have to say that I felt this book was written entirely from my own thoughts!  Have you encountered an artist, musician, fashion designer, blogger, or author wherein you found a piece of your very own soul in the alchemy of the work they produce?  While I love to read, and do it often, it is rare that I find such deep camaraderie with an author.  While this book is also a NY Times Bestseller, I feel deeply gratified that it isn't what anyone else is reading (aside from some esoteric erudites I love), hasn't been made into a movie, and isn't popular because everyone loved the TV show.  I want to buy this book for everyone I know.  However, since this isn't possible, I want to share some particularly thrilling passages - and you will probably see why I loved it so.

Perhaps the most beautiful description of writing I've encountered:
Chapter 18: Ryabinin
In reference to Levin's working in the field (Anna Karenina):
"It is getting hotter and hotter, Levin's arms and shoulders are soaked in sweat, but with each successive pause and start, his awkward, painful gestures become more fluid.  A welcome breeze suddenly caresses his back.  A summer rain.  Gradually, his movements are freed from the shackles of his will, and he goes into a light trance which gives his gestures the perfection of conscious, automatic motion, without thought or calculation, and the scythe seems to move of its own accord.  Levin delights in the forgetfulness that movement brings, where the pleasure of doing is marvelously foreign to the striving of the will."  
She then equates this to writing:
"What other reason might I have for writing if it did not have something of the art of of scything about it?  The lines gradually become their own demiurges and, like some witless yet miraculous participant, I witness the birth on paper of sentences that have eluded my will and appear in spite of me on the sheet, teaching me something that I neither knew or thought I might want to know.  This painless birth, like an unsolicited proof, gives me untold pleasure, and with neither toil nor certainty but the joy of frank astonishment I follow the pen that is guiding and supporting me. In this way, in the proof and texture of my self, I accede to a a self-forgetfulness that borders on ecstasy, to savor the blissful calm of my watching consciousness. "

On Grammar:
p. 159
"Personally I think grammar is a way to attain beauty.  When you speak, or read, or write, you can tell if you've said or read or written a fine sentence.  You can recognize a well-turned phrase or an elegant style.  But when you are applying the rules of grammar skillfully, you ascend to another level of the beauty of language.  When you use grammar you peel back the layers, to see how it is all put together, see it quite naked, in a way.  And that's where it becomes wonderful, because you say to yourself, 'Look how well-made this is, how well-constructed it is!  How solid and ingenious, rich and subtle!'  I get completely carried away just knowing there are words of all different natures, and that you have to know them in order to be able to infer their potential usage and compatibility.  I find there is nothing more beautiful, for example, than the very basic components of language, nouns, and verbs. It's magnificent, don't you think!"

On the beauty of trees:
p. 169
"I began to understand why I felt this sudden joy when [he] was talking about birch trees.  I get the same feeling when anyone talks about trees, any trees: the linden tree in the farmyard, the oak behind the old barn, the stately elms that have all disappeared now, the pine trees along wind-swept coasts, etc.  There's so much humanity in a love of trees, so much nostalgia for our first sense of wonder, so much power in just feeling our own insignificance when were are surrounded by nature.  Just thinking about trees and their indifferent majesty and our love for them teaches us how ridiculous we are-vile parasites squirming on the surface of the earth-and at the same time how deserving of life we can be, when we can honor this beauty that owes us nothing."

Oh such beautiful musings interwoven in a simple and heartbreaking plot.  

p.s. I also have rekindled my love affair with the Seattle Public Library, and my goodness it feels good to stop purchasing and go back to borrowing.  Use your libraries!!!


Musings of a Mum: 27 Weeks

May 08, 2012 Candace Morris 2 Comments

Baby Star Scout,
I hope you've been savoring the brain food I've gorged upon lately.  Your brain is working overtime these next few weeks to connect its synapses and form tissues, and I find it coincidental that I have also experienced a resurgence of academic inspiration and cerebral activity.  I am reading so many good books! I can't wait to tell you about them.  I think the brain is the sexiest organ a human can possess, and so even if you do turn out to be the world's next Gisele, know that I will do all I can to show you the worth you posses internally.

As Mother's Day approaches, I've been fantasizing more and more about how we will relate.  I've been in many leadership roles throughout my life, many of them dealing with the raising of children.  However, I've never seen myself perform as a mother, and despite the innate confidence from past experiences and a the general knowledge of relating to babies, I am still wise enough to know that I will be clueless most of the time.  Will I continue to despise how irritable I can be with your father?  Will I always struggle with wanting to control you?  Will you become Type-A, simply due to my neurotic linear tendencies?  Despite doing all this work to check my expectations of the kind of human I want to produce, will I still be unable to make my thinly-veiled opinion a positive resource in your development, or will it crush you on several occasions? Oh my god.  What if you don't want to go to college?!!!  And here's this thought, since no human is guaranteed a certain number of years on this planet, will I be able to enjoy the now with you instead of continually working to form you into a future version of yourself?  The truth is, I can imagine all manner of scary person you could become, for there are many archetypes of human I greatly struggle to love.  However, what I keep reminding myself is that I've been given a keen third-eye.  This vision has served me well especially when teaching, as a good teacher is required to see past the facade of a student and into their true, child-like self.  May it be that I always see your spirit and soul, may I be given the clearest vision of the honest, beautiful you.  When I forget this person as she screams at me at age 6months, 6, and 16, may the cosmos remind me of it.  I have no desire to avoid mistakes; I simply desire that you leave our nest in full possession of your parent's love and support of whomever you decide to become.  It's a bonus if you are also a cool person, but by no means a requirement for our love.

Humanity is the most gorgeous, most tragic of evolutionary endeavors. My atoms love your atoms, sweet little miracle.

Your dad and I also remarked to each other recently that you will have such a different childhood than either of us did.  For one, you will be exposed to parents who drink! ;)  Also, you may not be the outside kid Joel was, nor the worrier child I was.  Organized religion will not be the culture in which you grow up, as it was for us both.   I suppose I always knew this, but it's so strange and fascinating to think about all the things that will form you into YOU.

You are moving SOOO MUCH!  The other night, you performed a synchronized swimming routine for your father's hand.  While disturbed by these movements, (you will understand when you see the movie "Alien") we are also much enamored by them. Additionally, I can feel myself entering a lovely time of pregnancy.  When women say, "I loved being pregnant!" it is most likely this time they are remembering.  Only, it took 6 months to get here!  I am proud that I was gentle with myself through the journey.  

Just keep doing what you do, and I'll gladly co-exist for as long as humanly possible,
The Voice


Edible Plant Sale

May 05, 2012 Candace Morris 3 Comments




I know I am in the minority in the nature-loving blog world when I exclaim how much I love living in the city.  But Seattle is unlike any city experience.  It completely protects and provides for my introversion and solitude, but also presents opportunities for intelligent culture and gorgeous scenery.  Today we walked three blocks to an Edible Plant Sale and were immersed in a world of urban farming and family life.  The stroll was filled with all manner of sensory pleasures from blooming jasmine to tart lemonade to quintessential Seattle little girls wearing contrasting patterned tights and skirts.   

You know, as Joel and I anticipate the greatest of lifestyle changes come August, we've been intentionally taking advantage of spontaneous outings and restaurant feasting, full-well knowing how impossible it will be with a baby.  It was therefore tremendously refreshing to realize that today's indulgence would have been just as feasible with the baby girl in Joel's arms (who incidentally refuses to contribute an opinion to a baby carrier, he will just carry her everywhere, "it's what real men do."  Cute, but oh man is he in for a world of pain).  It's nice to know that not everything is going to be turned on its head.

Afterward, we continued our Saturday indulgence with a trip to Buffalo Exchange, where I praised the fashion gods for loose-fitting shirts that are so ubiquitous these days.  Before returning home, we enjoyed a delectable lunch while sitting in a sun-filled Beirgarten.  

May you find a wonderful way to waste a day,