Death and Cottonwoods: Everyday Magic, Day 10

I sit on the back deck in the sun, shade and wind. All I hear is the cottonwood, tall and leaning a little toward the house, the leaves half green, half shine. To my shame, I must admit that in my mind I hear the song “Honey” recorded by Bobby Goldsboro in the 60s (voted on CNN as “worst song of all time”) and its lyrics of “See the tree, how big it’s grown/ But friend, it hasn’t been too long, it wasn’t big.” The song came out in 1968 when I was eight, and I thought it was the best thing I’d heard, excluding all recordings by the Monkees.  And no wonder: this cottonwood volunteered up when we moved here 15 years ago.

I’m digressing, but then again, death will make a gal do that. Mark is gone, and just today I got word from one of my closest friends that her mom, also my friend and a exquisite landscape painter to boot, died after outliving her cancer prognosis by years. One of Joan Foth’s paintings wraps around my book The Sky Begins At Your Feet, but most people know her work from the cover art for William Least-Heat Moon’s Prairyerth. She had a way of seeing the sky particularly that changed how I now see the sky, especially when I’m in the mountains. Joan pointed us toward the horizontal stretches that reach across ranges of rock or the tall expanses of color and movement towering up from the Flint Hills.

What moved me the most, though, was what Joan and I talked about a year or so ago on the phone: the birds and the trees, the wind and the sky — what you can see right out the window when you stop enough to look. She was positively ecstatic about watching, which was a bonus for her in her final years when moving and doing weren’t so easy. The more you watch, the more you stop seeing what you expect and start expanding your perceptions beyond the confines of your thoughts and thinking.

So today, I’m watching the big cottonwood, the wind coming in waves, and the biggest waves so loud and so light-dappling that I can only look up in awe and let it sweep clean whoever I think I am. I’m also saying to both my friends, Mark and Joan, and with no disagreement that “Honey” is probably the worst song ever written, “Honey, I miss you.” Already and always.

Photos: top one is the base of the cottonwood early one spring, middle is my book with Joan’s painting, and bottom is Joan’s painting, “The High Road.”

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5 responses to “Death and Cottonwoods: Everyday Magic, Day 10

  1. Exquisite heart wrenching post, Caryn. How appropriate that one of Joan’s beautiful paintings is on your book. Already and always, indeed…

  2. Beautiful blog post, beautiful. Caryn, I have come to realize, after the death by cancer of my very dear friend Robin, that death is never an ending — it’s only a significant change in a relationship. Listen to the wind in the cottonwood leaves, and you will hear whispers beyond the hearing of your ears, and you will know that you will never be alone. It is exactly as Chief Seattle said: There is no death, only a change of worlds. We perceive in the physical realm, and want to keep connection through our five senses. How I miss hugging my Robin, seeing her smile at my latest story. And yet, she’s there — in the whisper of the wind — assuring me that someday I, too, will touch eternity.

  3. carynmirriamgoldberg

    Thanks Kiesa and Kelley, and yes, it’s all true — “What falls away is always. And is near” (to quote Theodore Roethke

  4. Thanks for being you, Caryn, super communicator, compassionate coordinator and voice of caring and sharing at times like this. Our KAW family provides such nurture at such a deep level. Thanks for words that speak my mind. It is exactly 6 months ago ( about an hour ago) that Micah’s heart was taken from his no longer needed body and flown to a 47 year old man whose life continues.
    Micah, Mark and Joan, now on the other side are continuing their journeys. And we, here in Earth School , ours. Glad we have shared, and continue to consent to travel together. Maybe this is how Micah’s degree in Sustainable Community Development guided him and continues still as we experience what developing sustainable community really means.

  5. carynmirriamgoldberg

    Thank you so much for your beautiful comments, LaVetta. Yes, this is what community really means also.