Monday, October 30, 2017

ANNELL LIVINGSTON: AUTUMN ~ A TIME OF REMEMBRANCE

Autumn is often a time of remembering,  a season with moments of nostalgia. I have noticed this theme in some of our recent poems, and noticed that Annell Livingston, of Some Things I Think About, has been writing a series of poems that capture the many moods of autumn very well. I asked her if she would chat with us about this and happily she said yes. As fall can be cool and crisp, pour yourself a hot beverage, and pull your chair up close to the fire. Let's dive in.







Sherry: Annell, I was moved by your recent poems, by their theme of autumn, reflections, remembering, and loss. Would you like to talk about this a bit?

Annell: For me there is something melancholy in autumn, that hovers at the edge, just out of sight.  It is a time for so many good things, the color of the season, the temperature is cooler, apples freshly picked.  The aroma of spice in the air.  So much to love, but in taking inventory, we realize something isn’t here.  Old friends and loved ones leave a longing.

Sherry:  Autumn always affects me that way, too. I love the beauty. It is my favourite time of year. Yet there is such nostalgia for years gone by, and for what has been lost.

Your poem, “It Died in the Autumn of That Year 2014”, spoke of this, as you remembered your mother’s death. Let’s take a look:


It Died in the Autumn of That Year 2014

my kitchen in the casita       is small          only the 
smallest refrigerator   

will fit the tiny cubby  squeezed into the corner   it was five 
years ago    
            
the refrigerator died        i was in texas        my mom 
was sick  
                 
i was there to be with her    in the autumn of that year   
the monarch butterflies

covered the tree in the front yard    they drained the last blossoms     energy for the last leg 
                      
of their trip home to mexico   most days were sunny  the sky 
blue-gray

the color of my mom’s eyes    i was there six weeks     a 
tender time     
                     
the last time for my mom  her death was peaceful 
one morning        
she took three breaths

she did not exhale                that was it                 that 
was the goodbye

after her death              we cleaned her house for
the last time        
the refrigerator, too

strange what ends up there      who put it there     where 
did it come from

what was it            questions hung in the air        no one 
to answer

a storm had come in           when i returned home
in the snow          
my refrigerator was silent 
                               
it chilled no more                it was also dead                  it was 
as if death

followed me home            wanted to be my friend         was not 
through with me

there it sat                      quietly reminding me            of where 
i had been

what had happened         my mom had died         i would not 
see her again

sears would replace           the refrigerator         but could not
replace my mom

October 10, 2017      


Sherry: So moving, Annell, the time you spent at your mother’s bedside as she lay dying. It is such a privilege to companion someone through that time, especially one’s own mother. The three breaths – the last goodbye – struck me, as I read.

Annell:  I wrote it almost as it happened.  It was in November of that year I went to her home in Texas to be with my Mother.  The morning I arrived, the Monarch butterflies covered the low coquet tree in the front yard.  The blossoms were dying, end of season. The butterflies, were sucking the last juices before they began the last leg of their migration on the way to their home in Mexico.  

My Mother was a tiny woman, and she grew more beautiful each day, before her death.  When she died, she lay in her bed, like a glowing pearl.  A beautiful woman at peace.  She lived to be 96 years old.  And probably that was a long enough life for anyone, but it seemed too soon for me.

Sherry: I love that she grew as radiant as a pearl. They say as we live, so shall we die. Your mother must have lived a very beautiful life. 

Annell: As women, it is said, we become our Mothers.  To say goodbye is such a tender thing.  I am so grateful to have been there, to be with her as she took her last breaths.

In the poem I used that unknown thing found in the refrigerator, to say, “at death, questions hang in the air.”  Questions you didn’t even realize you wanted to ask.  And there is no one to answer.  It is the silence after.

Upon returning home, my refrigerator had stopped working, and would work no more, just like death.  With a little shopping, the refrigerator would be replaced.  But not my Mom, there would be no replacing my Mom, she left an emptiness in my heart, that cannot be repaired.


The beautiful Issa,
named for the Japanese poet

     
Sherry: So poignant, Annell. The theme of autumn, in the poem that followed this one, lists all of the sights, smells and joys of autumn so beautifully. It also touched on memory and loss, remembering your son, whose death followed your mother’s. (Truly, life is hard.)  It is such a beautiful, tender poem.


AUTUMN…               my favorite time of year           new mexico ablaze

the mountains              red, orange and yellow             leaves falling gold  
     
a cool wind blows        snuggle into my jacket              a fire in the kiva

the smell of pinion burning      pumpkin pies cooling       on the back porch               

the sky a clear blue       green chilies roasting                hot, medium or mild
   
crisp apples                  in road side stands            melancholy plays at the edge

list what is here            what is missing                         …a small blond boy

grown to be a man       still my own                             my son...

October 9, 2017

Sherry: This poem knocks me out, my friend. Yes, he will always be your beautiful boy. What is it about autumn that carries our thoughts back to those long-gone days? I have been doing my own remembering, under the amber sun. Maybe because this time of year was always the start of school when our kids were young. I miss those years. But I am so very grateful to have had them!

Annell: Though it a worry for every parent, I don’t think I ever really thought of my Son’s death.  That would be impossible, he couldn’t die before I would.

Something I found about the death of a child, (and they will always be our children, even though we recognize they have grown to adulthood,) is that all the memories, of the past seem also to die at the moment of death.  Before he died, I could remember so much of his life, as a baby and as a small child, to his growing to be the man that he would become.  These were joyful memories, but now there is a period at the end of each thought that wasn’t there before.  And that is his death.

He was a beautiful blond child, straight and tall.  Full of wonder.  He grew to be a beautiful young man.  Willful, with a mind of his own, and near his death, he grew more beautiful each day.  It was in the spring, I was aware of honeysuckle, and butterflies.  And the day he died, I thought I saw butterflies fly from his fingertips.

Sherry: Oh my goodness, how amazingly beautiful. His spirit, flying free. 

Annell: Like most Mothers, I was young, I thought I “knew.”  But it is not until they are through with us, are we prepared to be parents.  They teach us a lot.  I realized at his death, he was my teacher, and it was through him I learned the lessons I needed.  If I could do it again, I would certainly be better prepared. 


Sherry: That is my regret, also. That I did not have the strength and wisdom as a mother that I have had as a grandma. No one does. Yet we were strong, and we gave our children everything we had. One can do no more.

The following poem reveals your strength and wisdom so clearly, Annell.


We Leave Traces in Our Wake

my path is a mystery           i don’t know        and know that i 
do not know

the winds of change            swirl around me           a storm on the horizon            

there are signs of danger ahead       we each struggle       to know                      

to understand                           …and yet…            
we continue                  to travel               

the road we are given            we lift each foot        and place it 
on the path

leaving traces               in our wake              we list the possibilities             

we live on the fringe        our power is limited     we look to the 
stars for inspiration     

October 8, 2017   
                        

Sherry: It so often feels like that: we take one step after another. Amazingly, this leads us on a journey beyond anything we ever could have dreamed.

Annell: Your words are true.  We don’t know, and yet we continue.  The current times are very troubling.  So much we do not know.  Some days, I wonder how can we continue?  And yet, we do. 

Sherry: It is hard, these days, to see surfacing old pathologies we thought we had left behind. Sigh.

I was so pleased to read the following poem, which reflects my own philosophy so well. With all of its grief, its losses, its fleeting years, in autumn I am most grateful for the gift of living in this very beautiful world. Let’s sink into the joy of this poem (and enjoy one of your recent art works as well):


Fragments Geometry and Change
#229 - 30" by 30" acrylic on canvas



We See A Wonderful World Before Us

life is not to be endured       rather to be lived            in 
gratitude

we are given much        perhaps yesterday was    a missed
opportunity

tomorrow you will have   another chance     sometimes the way 
is not clear

but given time      and a new perspective             we see with 
new eyes         

a different path appears     not the old dusty road     we have 
been traveling

we do not accept the petty hate     of the patriot      we stir the cauldron

chant the old chants         of the ancients                the future 
is our vision

we are told               it is too late         yet, we see a wonderful 
world before us   

October 8, 2017  


Sherry: That says it all, Annell. I love the stirring of the cauldron. Time for the Divine Feminine to rise!  All my life, I have been in love with the beauty of the natural world. No matter what happens in our lives, our eyes lift to the heavens, take comfort in blue sky, in clouds, in stars. “We see with new eyes.” Indeed, that is the true journey of our lives. We live, and  are transformed.

Annell: For me, all the answers are in nature.  When we are troubled, we can go to nature, the forest, near streams, ascend mountains, look to the stars.  We step outside.  The fresh air touches our skin, we are reminded where we are.  We come back to ourselves and we take another step.

In the visual arts, the more autobiographical our work is, the more others can relate, and this is true in poetry as well.  I seek the truth in my poems, but like Emily Dickinson, I want to tell it with a “slant.” The poem is different from direct speech, simply because it is a poem.  It is in poetry I can talk about my deepest thoughts, and feelings, without self-consciousness or apology. 

Thank you, Sherry, for allowing me to talk about my life and my poems.  I have suffered loss in my life, just like everyone else.  But, I am lucky, I live in a beautiful place in the world, Northern New Mexico, land of enchantment.  I have already lived long, have dear friends.  My life is full of love.  Can one ask for more?

Sherry: Well, we can. But it is true, we have been given so much, have lived such rich lives. It is amazing to look back at our journeys, which were beyond anything we might have dreamed.

Thank you, my friend, for another wise and uplifting chat. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your poems, your art and your life. You are inspiring!


We hope you have enjoyed this feature, poet friends. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you! 




21 comments:

  1. I so enjoyed this time with the two of you. The poems touch my heartstrings. In spite of this troubled world the simple pleasures continue to enrich our lives. We have much for which to be grateful.

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  2. I so agree, Bev. It is the beauty of this world that keeps me going, keeps me Looking Up!

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  3. Thank you Sherry, for this chat with Annell. I have been reading her poetry for years and have enjoyed watching her grow, experiment, and find her own unique path through this world of words. As first a visual artist, she brings a different set of eyes to the table and that becomes quite clear to her regular readers. And thank you, Annell for allowing us to see through your very personal words. Autumn is my favorite season as well, and you paint it with deep emotions,

    Elizabeth

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  4. Love this chat too.. so much to love when you share something so touching as death... and I do agree that autumn is a time to contemplate change... great to read-

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  5. Thank you Sherry! Your post seems interesting as we discuss Autumn and longing and loss. You honor me.

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  6. It is you who honour us, my friend, with your trust, sharing your deepest joys and sorrows - so often they are one and the same, as we both know. I knew your words would resonate with many. While autumn is my favourite season, to me the most beautiful, it is also a time of remembering years gone by, with gratitude and a pang in my heart. Thank you so much.

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  7. Dear Annell, seems, my life is a part of yours too, though we live so far away. You're an inspiration.
    Thanks sherry.

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    1. Yes, Sumana We are one. Holding hands togeher, from far away.

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  8. A beautiful interview ... compelling and heartfelt. 'It Died in the Autumn of That Year 2014' is an incredible piece of work. I have read it through several times. It is very difficult to confront the pain of loss - let alone, to speak to it, with such sincerely of feeling. Great job on this, Poets!

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  9. You are an amazing authentic lady. Your poetry is touching and inspirational Thank you for this interview

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  10. This is simply an exquisite collection of poems. Thank you ladies!

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  11. Annell, your poetry is so very moving. I really liked the poem about your mother. You are right - the life of one's mother is always too short. And the poem about your son took my breath away. You mentioned seeking the truth in your poem, but strive to tell it with a slant. I like that way of expressing it. I think it expresses very well how you write. I enjoyed reading all the things you had to say -both in comments & in your poetry.

    Thanks, Sherry, for another stellar interview!!

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  12. You are most welcome, my friends. It is my pleasure to bring our poet friends to you every week. We have a pretty wonderful community here, I do believe.

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  13. Love the poems chosen for this interview. Nice to see you here, Annell. You are a talented artist as well as poet. I always look forward to reading your work.

    Excellent interview, Sherry. Thanks for letting us get to know Annell.

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  14. Oh Sherry and Annell this was so wonderful. I have always felt melancholy during fall...grieving loss in my life....and your autumn poems Annell are so deeply beautiful and profound. And the last poem, We See A Wonderful World Before Us, speaks to me...gratitude, not accepting hate and seeing the wonderful world before us....perfection! It is how I try to live my life now. Thank you both for this wonderful interview, sharing your poems Annell.

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  15. I'm moving back into my life from a time of loss, and I nearly missed this! These poems speak to my condition--the loss and the blessings, the sense of someone missing, the link of ancient rituals to now and the future. Gosh, you two, thanks for putting this together.

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  16. You are an inspiration Annell - a great interview

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  17. Annell.. I love the unique form and ease with which you write.. your attitude to life is such an inspiration. Thanks Sherry for this interview.

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  18. What a beautiful conversation between you both! I loved reading it all, and of course the poems, and feel calmer and happier, somehow, for doing so. (Not that I wasn't calm and happy; only now I am more so.) Many thanks to you both. For me the most moving of all were the poem about your mother's death, Annell, and the things you say about it here.

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