The flag is at half mast again, a symbol of our mourning for those who were violently taken from us.
I moved back to my hometown eleven years ago. Tom’s father and my mother were entering the final chapters of their life stories. We needed to be a part of their stories.
We moved into my Tom’s family home. Two blocks to the east was the hospital in which Tom and his twin brother, Billy, were born. Billy died the next day. The hospital is now an assisted living facility.
Two blocks to the west is the duplex in which my grandparents lived and where, when I was eleven, my uncle invited me to sit on his lap, I accepted, and he molested me.
These past eleven years have been an emotional buzz saw for me.
My first task when we returned was to turn the family home into one that Tom and I could live in.
Tom’s mother spent the life after Tom was born stuck in a la brea tar pit of grief—that stage where we feel abandoned by god. She alternated between being angry that god would do this to her and despair that she would never be in his grace again since she could not accept that it was his will to take her baby away from her.
She’d died two years before we returned to Livermore.
Grief permeated the house. The curtains hadn’t been open for years. She’d saved every margarine tub and plastic bag that came into the house. Any loss was too much for her. Underneath a pile of newspapers that dated back 50 years, I found the telegrams that congratulated them on the birth of the twins, and the ones that came two days later offering condolences.
Her’s was a horrific story to be stuck in.
I cleared the house of grief, opened it to light, and brought beauty into it.
I believe it is a Navajo saying that if you don’t see and feel Beauty all around you, you are out of balance.
I thought Beauty abandoned me the day my uncle molested me. That is, I think, the biggest wound left behind after a rape or molestation. Shame and humiliation banish Beauty. The house we moved into was a good metaphor for that feeling.
As I chose colors, looked for the right granite for countertops, turned a mundane fireplace into a centerpiece, I was allowing Beauty to guide me. Beauty and I turned the yard that had been abandoned for years into a park-like setting. The shed Tom’s dad used to polish rocks became my Writing Shed.
I didn’t know until I just wrote that last paragraph that, in healing the house, I had healed myself. I discovered that Beauty had never abandoned me.
Tom and I are now readying the house to sell it. We are heading north to Sequim, Washington. I pulled the Wolf card from my Animal Wise Tarot deck the other day. It says that Raven is connected to Wolf—Ravens follow wolves, the book says. Raven’s mythology is that it goes into the darkness, finds the light, and brings it back. That is creation. The northwest, where we are moving, is rich in Raven lore.
My time here in my hometown has been a bit like running a gauntlet. But that is why I became a better writer. By delving deep into grief that was Tom’s mother’s, and then into that that was mine, I found my way back to balance. I went into the darkness, found Beauty, and brought her into the light. Creation.
I watched the parents and family members of those who were killed in Newtown yesterday, telling us by their presence that we should not turn away from their grief, we should not avert our eyes from their pain. Their courage breaks our hearts open.
If we listen, if we see, if we are willing to feel, we can restore our nation to Beauty. We can change the story.