Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Remember

Mother and Child

Just last week, I took this picture at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The photo I photographed is mother and child, beside the child's coffin tree. In the Chinese village where the original photo was taken, the tradition is to choose such a tree at a child's birth. When the child grows into old age, she will order the tree to be cut down, carved and hewn, made ready for her eventual burial.

One week later, I learn that my gardening grandmother has need of such a tree. A few months short of her 95th birthday, she leaves me to remember her. So, I do, with this small excerpt from my book. Thank you, Grandma, for holding me close like Mother and Child. For leaving me with memories so dear I set them down to share with the world...

When I look out across this river, I see the cliffs and mountains that shelter a special place…a house I loved to go to as a child. Inside its walls, pickles and jellies poured off shelves and pies marched from an ancient oven—cherry, apple, rhubarb, peach. On its property, berries swelled into round moons of pleasure. Vines curled, climbed in the clefts of rock walls. Trees swayed and bowed, dropping fruits into my eager hands. I stained my lips purple with mulberries, dirtied my nails digging potatoes, tripped through golden grasses chasing tiny blue butterflies. My grandmother rose early to care for this place, donning denim overalls and shading her face with a wide straw hat. She sweated dark circles around her neck and armpits, perched red-faced on towering ladders to prune and shape. She combed the lake in her rowboat, lifting lily pads like fainted water nymphs to build a pyre of amber green beneath the flames of the sun.

Photo of Mother and Child (original photo by Lynn Johnson), by L.L. Barkat.

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31 Comments:

Blogger Kim said...

LL, You could have entitled this piece, "Conversations in Art 3, Mourning = Art," or "A Life Well Lived = Art" or "A Life Imprinting Another = Art."

Condolences...Kim

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Dianne said...

And aren't memories like these art of sorts, that make our lives more beautiful? Thank you for sharing them with us. My condolences too.

4:09 PM  
OpenID spaghettipie said...

I'm sorry for your loss - what a beautiful memorial you've erected for her. Just this morning we also found out that my husband's grandmother passed away. What a day of remembrances.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. When I read about your grandma in the book, I remember being impressed with how special she was to you. I'm so glad you have those words about her.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Michelle Van Loon said...

Your grandma's nurturing ways planted something wonderful in your soul, just because of who she was and the way she lived. I, too, an so sorry for your loss.

Thank you, Lord, for this grandma's life and her gifts in her family's lives. Please comfort them now as they mourn.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Loving grandmas are so special. Grace and hugs all over the place, when they're not making things from scratch.
They make us feel safe as children, and usually like the most important people on earth. (And as far as I know, they never lie in that.)

I am thankful your Grandma was a safe haven for you in her lifetime. I am sad that you are having to say goodbye to her.
I'm sure she gave you much more than she thought.

5:19 PM  
Blogger HighCallingBlogs.com said...

I'm sorry for this loss for your family and pray God's merciful comfort would be with you as you move through grief.

6:14 PM  
OpenID samwrites2 said...

L.L.,
I grieve at your grief and enjoy your memories generously shared with us.
Sam

7:45 PM  
Blogger A Musing Mom said...

So sorry to hear about your grandmother. What a beautiful memory of her. Sounds like she's left a rich legacy.

8:25 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

sorry to hear about your loss.

so thankful for how she nurtured you, and for your poetic remembrance here.

peace,
*k

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Ann Kroeker said...

I started Stone Crossings on the plane today and just seconds ago read those exact words, stopped at the end of that introduction, set the book down, and came on here to write my blog and link to you.

Then I read this. The same words, remembering your grandmother.

I'm sorry, L.L., to hear of your loss. I'll finish the chapter later through a different set of lenses.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous heather said...

I'm sorry for your loss, and I look forward to meeting her in the resurrection.
This is a beautiful memorial but even more beautiful a memorial is your life, a testimony to her love and faithfulness.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

LL, So sorry for your loss. Thanks for the wonderful memories. Makes me glad all over again that our kids will grow up in the same home as one of their Grandmas -- the one who bakes and sews, no less.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I'm really sorry LL - I know you were so sad to loose her presence with you in the same way it had been during your younger years - and then to loose her physical presence also, it is a great loss indeed. Perhaps though, sometime in the future, you father will gift you with her stone and then you will remember her as she was, not as her life has ended up.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

PS - with Craver around the corner, there is NEVER a dull moment!

12:20 AM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

LL, that was beautifully written. My condolences. May you have perfect recollection of the sweetest times.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Grieving with you L.L. Much love to you. May the Lord comfort your whole family.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

That's a beautiful tribute.

I'm sorry for your loss.

12:07 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Beautiful memories are a priceless legacy. I am so glad her legacy in your life is one of warmth and love and that you will have those moments to cherish.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

i'm sorry, l.l. how amazing, to have this tribute to her in your printed words. i'm sure she carried your love with her always.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Your grandmother must have been quite a woman, Laura. I know you'll miss her. May the God of all comfort, comfort you as you adjust to having her in your life only as a memory.

Becky

2:42 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I'm sorry, L.L.

Wonderful memories of her here. It's so good to have good memories of grandparents, as I can testify to, as well.

Good to reflect on their lives and love to us. I wonder if she was able to read that. Beautiful words.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

no words... sitting in the quiet with you... remembering... and feeling gratitude for all that's been given...

with love,

Ann

7:18 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

LL, my condolences. May God comfort you and your family in your loss.

BTW, I wish I knew that you were in the DC area - perhaps we could have met in person.

10:58 PM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

i am very very sorry, l.l.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Lynet said...

I shudder a little at the thought of a 'coffin tree', but it's a slightly awed shudder, to think that people would plant and love emblems of their mortality. There's something beautiful about the acceptance.

My respects to the good woman you have lost; my sympathy to you.

8:17 AM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

what a beautiful portrait in words, this excerpt about your grandmother and her home. i can tell it was a special place, tended with care. as your memories will be, also...

love to you....

8:53 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

Beautiful memories. Beautiful writing. Thanks for sharing.

10:48 AM  
Blogger 23 degrees said...

And I thank God with you for her as well, this sheltering and loving soul, and I grieve along side of you at her passing.

Praying for His peace to guide you through this time of grief, my friend.

1:14 AM  
Anonymous a.anjeanette said...

So sorry, LL.

How wonderful that your tribute to her was etched in Stone Crossings before she passsed.

Alease

8:47 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Thank you all for your kind thoughts; as always, you are an encouragement to me.

4:40 PM  

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