Learning from Laughter and the Trees: The Gift in Their Voices

IMG_2589.JPGBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

My mom died New Year’s Eve when I was 19. We knew it was coming so that Advent as we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” each night before dinner, I paid attention to the voices. I knew them so intimately- the tones and harmonies that our four voices made together. It was the sound of home and I ached to imagine how our singing would change with just three voices. So each night I zeroed in on the sound of my mom’s voice- desperate to not let it be forgotten. Memorizing deep within, in hopes that whenever I sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” that I would always hear her voice within it.

Continue reading

Learning from Laughter and the Trees: Under the Apple Tree Again

IMG_2463

Grandpa, Cedar, and Isaac digging the hole for Scatters under the apple tree.

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

The rain is pouring down with periodic rumbles of thunder. It is cold and the sun has set, but we can tell that there is a need in Isaac’s heart to make this trek. We put on hats and shoes and give into the rain as we walk down the street and into the backyard of my dad’s house.

It’s too dark to see the loosened soil, but we bend down low and Isaac says, “This is where we buried Scatters.” Cedar, who is almost two, bends down too and after a minute looks up at Erinn and says “Meow” and points to the dirt. Erinn says, “Is this where Scatters is? Did he die?” Cedar responds, “Meow die.” Continue reading

Don’t Forget to Feed the Loas

The Light of the WorldFrom Elizabeth Alexander’s grief memoir The Light of the World (2015). This is the conclusion of the final lecture she gave to her “African American Art Today” class, just one week after the sudden death of her husband:

“Don’t forget to feed the loas” serves as an entreaty or opening salvo and refrain in Ishmael Reed’s great novel Mumbo Jumbo. The phrase articulates the imperative to remember to honor the deity-like ancestral forces that guide us through our contemporary lives. The offerings on their altars may be fruit or flowers, chicken or wine; when taken metaphorically, offerings may also be found in the form of art and the calling of names that honors our dead and keeps them near… Continue reading

Dad and Dan

bill r.jpgBy Bill Ramsey. May 1, 2016.

Dad and Dan, an unlikely pair
to walk across heaven’s threshold
a week apart, a world apart.

Way back when Dan’s burning action
kindled my conflicted conscience,
radically realigning my course,
Dad foresaw impending danger,
a tableau of “G-men” ascending
his steep suburban driveway
in pursuit of his willful son. Continue reading

Learning from Laughter: The Pumpkin that Cried Tears

isaac pumpkinBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann as part of her series on parenting- Learning from Laughter.

With the table covered in newspaper, the three of us began carving pumpkins. Isaac embraced the gunk helping to pull it out while the Halloween music played and the moon shown out the window. When it came time to cut the faces, I sat beside him and asked what he wanted. We drew it out together in marker. He told me he wanted square eyes and a triangle nose. Out of the blue he insisted that the pumpkin have a mustache. Then I asked about the mouth. Do you want a smile? “No. It’s a sad pumpkin.” I tried to draw a sad mouth. Then he said “Pumpkin crying.” He was asking for tears. I carved out some tears falling from the square eyes. He smiled in total delight and pride at his sad pumpkin. Continue reading

Your tears know where they come from.

lix nBy Sarah Matsui

For: Liz Nicolas, one of my dearest people and one of the most distinctly human individuals I know.

Dear friend, your way of seeing can be
as much burden as gift; I know
you know.

When tears threaten to swallow you whole:
Know you will not be overcome. Learn and relearn to
find the counterweight you need. Continue reading