AUGUST 16, 2009 3:00PM

Finding Their Way Home: The Preview

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When we set out on a road trip to my grandma’s house five years ago, we had no idea what the fruits of that afternoon would be. My mom had driven out before us and was sitting in the garden with my grandma when we pulled into the driveway. My Uncle Bobby was making a racket in the kitchen as he completed the mise en place for a late afternoon meal.

 

 

Road Trip
 
 

Michael and I had just celebrated our twelfth anniversary. Not ones to splurge on extravagances, we persuaded ourselves to purchase a special gift in honor of the occasion. It required going deeper into debt, but it’s something we had been longing to own for years, ever since we first dreamed about making documentaries: a videocamera.

 

I still remember the epiphany. It was the summer of 1998, and we were driving a U-Haul through northern California after a failed attempt at moving to San Francisco. That’s an excruciating—and excruciatingly long—story, so I won’t go into it now. Michael and I had stopped to eat at Wendy’s in some small town on our way to Oregon. I think it was Weed. After climbing back into the U-Haul cab, one of us, I’m not sure who, brought up the idea of making documentaries about ordinary people. Like the cashier at Wendy’s. I don’t know what it was that struck us about her. Perhaps it was her perfect everydayness, her quotidian plainness. A little plump, dishwater blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Nice. Quiet. American girl.

 

The ordinary was fresh in my mind, as I’d recently written a piece about it for a collection of essays on words, published by the now-defunct Santa Barbara Review Publications. In the essay, I quote one of my journal entries from 1993: “My characters are the ordinary and the common, the oft-neglected and forgotten, the vessels of beauty and originality that go unnoticed or ignored.” This longtime penchant for the ordinary is partly what drew us to our favorite artists—Eavan Boland (favorite poet), Brian Friel (favorite playwright), Mike Leigh (favorite director), and Cy Twombly (favorite visual artist).

 

We didn’t have the term for it then, but we later realized what these portraits of ordinary people should be called: home documentaries. Home docs for short. Like the subjects themselves, the videos would be humble and unpretentious, shot on a run-of-the-mill mini-DV camera. No tripod. No lighting. No wireless or boom mics. Just me and a crappy videocamera.

 

Six years after the epiphany, that crappy, blessed videocamera for which we are profoundly grateful came into our lives. We’d only had it a few days, and I had shot maybe five minutes’ worth of experimental footage around the apartment. When the day came to drive out to my grandma’s, I grabbed the still camera (which only has enough memory to hold about 24 photos) and the videocamera, with no real conscious intentions in mind. I just knew I wanted to bring them. Later, I would find out why.

 

 

Road Trip Montage 1
 
 

I caught snippets of the road trip along the way: stills of blue sky and clouds, forests fringed with magnificent redwoods, schoolbus parking lots, and passing semis, lumber in tow. Every time the camera ran out of memory, I had to delete photos to make room for more. Until there were no more pictures I was willing to delete. So I moved on to the videocamera. About half an hour before reaching my grandma’s, we stopped at Taco Bell and sat eating in the parking lot. While Michael finished his burrito, I turned on the camera. I noticed there was a seagull roosting on top of the KFC/Taco Bell sign. I zoomed in. It wasn’t a very good lens, so the video started dancing out of focus whenever I got too close. But I experienced a stirring sense of wonder as I drew impossibly close to the seagull, whose darting, curious eyes made her seem eerily aware of my voyeuristic presence hundreds of feet away.

 

 
Road Trip Montage 2
 
 

During the last leg of the journey, I shot random footage of the ocean, the guard rails, the small town where my grandma lived. I put the camera away just before our arrival. Now I almost wish I hadn’t. It’s those unrecorded moments that are gray spots in my mind. I remember walking with my grandma as she gave me a tour of the tiny house, but I cannot remember what she said. I know there was something about the exhibition of works on paper Michael was having that summer. And her mild embarrassment at the messy state of her cramped home. And her garden. Her beloved, cherished garden, which brought her a deep sense of joyful peace.

 

 
Road Trip Montage 3
 
 

It was our first time visiting the home my grandma had moved into over a decade before. We rarely travel, so it took us five years to make the long drive there after moving to Oregon. We can never bring ourselves to abandon the creatures who have come to depend on us, so every journey must end back in our own apartment that night, caring for our animal children. Travel is also challenging for Michael because of his Asperger’s. And we’re generally too obsessed with our creative projects to do anything but work when we have the opportunity to take vacation.

 

Workaholic that I am, I managed to bring our creative projects with us, while hardly realizing it was happening. After about ten minutes of catching up with my grandma, Uncle Bobby, and mom, we decided to drive to the beach. As we pulled into the sandy lot beside the driftwood-littered shore, I reached down and picked up the videocamera.

 

 

Michael climbing on the driftwood tree
Michael climbing on the driftwood tree
 
 
 Only I didn’t tell anyone it was a videocamera. My mom and grandma just assumed it was a still camera, and I didn’t contradict them. I just started shooting. And everyone went along being themselves, none the wiser. My mom eventually figured it out, but by then, she was acclimated, so she remained unselfconscious. My grandma and Bobby didn’t seem to care much one way or the other, and Michael was his quiet, artistic self despite being in on the secret.

 

 

Bobby making a funny face
Bobby making a funny face
 
 

Nothing really extraordinary happened that afternoon. We took a walk on the beach, conversed in the garden, and enjoyed a supper prepared by Bobby. It wasn’t until Michael and I got home and watched the footage a few days later that we realized this record of an afternoon at my grandma’s was a surprisingly coherent narrative. Most striking was the number of compelling themes that emerged in our conversations—particularly tying stories about insects into themes of family, aging, home, mutability, and friendship. Michael, who is the most demanding critic I know, said he thought the footage was actually good enough to run as is, sans editing, even. That sent me off on the idea of doing an as-is documentary series. But that, again, is another story.

 

I did a rough cut of the documentary in iMovie in time for my thirtieth birthday, so that was satisfying. I had selected the score from Michael’s existing compositions, and he was rather dismayed when he saw pieces intended to stand alone being paired with video. I would later be glad of his disappointment, however, because three years after the video was first shot, Michael composed a hauntingly exquisite score for Finding Their Way Home. Meanwhile, we embarked on the editing and post-production process.

 

 

Mom sitting in the garden
Mom sitting in the garden
 
 

During the summer of 2007, we zealously attacked the documentary, with hopes of finishing a rough cut in time for my mom’s birthday in October. We could scarcely wait for my grandma to watch it. I told her about the beautiful, poignant score Michael had composed for it and said we were getting close. Almost close enough to begin sharing. But not close enough to finish before it was too late.

 

Just three hours before receiving the phone call, we had been immersed in editing Finding Their Way Home. So it felt like we had spent the entire day with my grandma when my mom called to tell us she’d had a stroke. It was strangely incongruous to think about having just watched my grandma playfully drawing faces in the sand while she lay in a coma nearly 200 miles away.

 

 

Grandma remembering something sad
Grandma remembering something sad
 
 
After my grandma departed the soft animal of her body on Tuesday morning, September 25, we didn’t know if we’d ever be able to watch the footage again. We roiled in a sad-sick brew of grief and guilt and regret and heartbreak that kept us paralyzed for weeks. We soon realized if we didn’t dive right back into Finding Their Way Home, we might never be able to bring ourselves to finish it.

 

Opening the file for the first time and seeing my grandma’s mischievous smile nearly burst our hearts with bittersweet sadness. But it was also a profound gift. The more time we spent with my grandma on screen, the more healing we experienced. Only she could make us laugh like that. Medicinal, indeed.

 

We did manage to finish a rough cut in time for my mom’s birthday, but not until the following year. We found that, however healing, the grief was still too fresh, so we temporarily turned to other projects until summer 2008. My mom cried when I gave her the DVD for her birthday last October. Only she couldn’t bring herself to watch it. She still hasn’t. I guaranteed she would laugh more than she cries, but that hasn’t made her any more ready to watch it. Which is fine, because we still had a lot more polishing to do.

 

And polish we did—through November, and December, and early January. On January 5, 2009, we burned a master copy. Three days later, the brand-new Seagate hard drive we had transitioned to during Thanksgiving weekend failed. We lost two months’ worth of work on the documentary. When I called Seagate to inquire about data recovery, they transferred me to their subsidiary company, which provides this service at a cost. $1,700 to be exact. This despite what we later learned: that defective firmware had rendered the drive unrecognizable, and the failure was occurring in over a third of these models. The good news is, the data is supposedly intact, just stuck on an invisible drive.

 

Grandma Pull Quote: Im the poorest of letter writers. Well, once I start I tend to go on and on. Its just starting that Im so poor at.So once again, Finding Their Way Home lay dormant. We were faced with either recreating two months’ worth of work from our last backed up copy (stupidly, I had performed a backup prior to the crash—but to an archives folder on the same hard drive!) or doing battle with Seagate, a task I would typically undertake with vigor. The idea of my worst fear coming true, however—the inaccessibility of our creative data—had so deflated my spirit, I could not bring myself to pursue it. At least right away. So we turned to editing footage for other, shorter home documentaries.

 

Then, in the spring, we had another technical crisis. Our old Mac experienced a meltdown. One of the two CPUs appeared to be failing, or perhaps it just looked that way because of a faulty system upgrade. Either way, the computer was unable to make it past the gray screen without hiccuping indefinitely. Since 98 percent of our time is spent working on creative projects on the computer, we made the rather desperate decision to buy an iMac a few days later. We will be paying off the debt for months, but we were able to resume work within the week.

 

The software, however, was another matter entirely. We spent weeks searching for the installation discs for various applications, including Final Cut Express. In the instances where we found the discs, we had difficulty tracking down the serial number. Final Cut, which Michael had purchased for my birthday several years prior, proved exceptionally elusive.

 

So the summer vacation we intended to spend working on the documentary was instead spent on other creative projects, mostly writing. That and the quicksand vortex otherwise known as OS. Now our vacation is over, and we’re still prevented from working on the documentary. The wait has been almost unbearable. Then last week, we found a discounted version of the latest Final Cut Express, and we somehow cobbled enough together to order it. A couple of months too late, perhaps, but we take comfort in knowing the software is en route. Scheduled to arrive, appropriately, on our seventeenth anniversary this Tuesday, August 18.

 

Enough months have passed that we are actually excited about working on the documentary afresh. Instead of seeing it as an attempt to laboriously reconstruct two months’ worth of lost labor, we are focusing on the opportunity to create a newly inspired work of art.

 

In the following letter to her sister, my grandma talks about the children’s book it took her years to finish. She wasn’t about to give up just because the first publisher she sent her manuscript to rejected it. Like the documentary we dedicated to her, “It was too much work to just let it lay.” 

 

 

Grandma telling a story
 

 

October 31, 2000

 

Dear Beth,

 

I’m the poorest of letter writers. Well, once I start I tend to go on and on. It’s just starting that I’m so poor at.

 

I talked to Angela yesterday and she seems worried about you. She said you’re not doing so well. Of course, now I’m worried too. Please keep up the fight and get well. I’ll pray for you.

 

I expect you know Angela is in Eugene now, renting a room for herself and her dog. At least the room is for her. The dog stays outside. I think she’ll be here on the weekend to pick up her cat.

 

I’m taking care of her cat, Peanut, a lovely and loving animal. He stayed under my bed for about two weeks, just making secret visits out to eat and go potty. At last he decided Bobby and I weren’t cat-killers, and he came out to eat, go potty, and be petted. Now he sleeps on top of my bed, and often cuddles up to me, if I happen to be in my bed. I’m there a lot.

 

I think I told you I was having an operation. It worked, but boy, am I tired! I’m being bored a lot, because when I’m tired, I don’t do anything much. My eyes get tired reading, because of those cataracts. I guess I’ll go to the eye doctor to check again whether he thinks I’m ready yet for them to be removed. I didn’t want to get my eyes checked until I was sure I wouldn’t die from the operation. I didn’t, as I said.

 

I’m making a cross-stitch picture for Steve and Roberta. It’s their last year’s Christmas present. (I’m behind). It took me months to get a new needle, since Gold Beach doesn’t seem to have the right kind of needle. I finally got some in Medford, when I went there for Wendy’s birthday. Needles disappear always, but now I have a large enough supply to last another year.

 

Is this letter making you tired? I don’t think it’s interesting, but I’ll go on.

 

It was really nice to have Angela stay with us for a while. I hadn’t seen her since she was about two. She and Margie were so funny then. They reminded me of Budge and Toddy. It’s tragic that she got Crohn’s disease. She’s such a nice person to have to deal with that. She gets pretty discouraged sometimes. When I talked to her yesterday, she hadn’t been feeling well, at all.

 

She said she really likes Eugene. In parts of it, she feels like she’s in Wisconsin. I guess if we hadn’t been born in Reno, we would have been born in Eugene, where Mom and Daddy planned to live after they got married. Mother said the preacher that married them liked them so much, he asked them to stay and take care of his house while he went to some religious conference somewhere. They liked Reno so much, they decided to stay. I don’t know if she told you about that, but it’s something I remember her telling me. I wish I knew more, but at the time she felt like telling me things, I wasn’t so interested. At least I remembered a few things.

 

Did I tell you I finished my book? I submitted a couple of chapters to Simon and Schuster, but they weren’t interested. I will, some day, submit it to another publisher. It was too much work to just let it lay. After all, I started it in 1993, I think. I didn’t work on it all the time. Just in spurts. I can’t concentrate on one thing long enough to accomplish much. I think I would be a good writer if I could carry things through. At least, I finished my book, if nothing else. I don’t know how many things I’ve started and didn’t finish in my life, so I am proud of my book.

 

You can lay down now, or lie down. My teachers never could teach me which was right. I have finished this letter.

 

Remember, you have to get well. It’s important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: If you missed the introductory essay and would like to read more about my grandma, you can do so here. Future posts will be added to the list in the left-hand column as they become available. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

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What a fascinating story, though very sad. I really liked the video preview and I especially liked the musical score! Eerie, atmospheric -- and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this story.
Melissa, I can't believe I'm first! I simply love these posts about your grandmother! And you and Michael. And others in your family. This is important stuff--I hope you continue it for a long, long time! And I hope you let us see the finished video.

Your grandmother is so beautiful and so full of life and laughter, it does my old heart good just to look at her! I think old people, who've lived fully in their old bodies, are stunning in their natural beauty. My mother was like that--worn and old, wrinkled and dry. And each wrinkle told a story. She died just 3 years ago--I was lucky to have her around so long--and I still miss her.

So thank you for this. I look forward to many more! Rated. D
@Steve:

“What a fascinating story, though very sad.”

It’s an honor to know you found it fascinating, Steve. I hope, ultimately, the story of my grandma’s life will be far happier than sad. She would’ve appreciated your sense of humor and gift for satire :-)

“I really liked the video preview and I especially liked the musical score! Eerie, atmospheric -- and beautiful.”

I will share your thoughtful comments about the music with Michael. The entire score approaches an hour and a half in length and while all of the compositions share that atmospheric beauty, the tone ranges from heartbreakingly poignant to whimsically delightful, as is appropriate for a film about my grandma. Sadly, we have been battling technical challenges on the musical front, as well. For years, we have been seeking the perfect alchemy of software and hardware that will enable us to mix and master Michael’s hundreds of compositions to our satisfaction. We are closer than we have ever been after a decade of working towards this goal, but we are still missing a decent reverb. Hoping that will fall into place in the next few months, so we’ll be able to properly mix and master the score, as well as his other brilliant works.

“Thank you for sharing this story.”

And thank you for being the first to rate and comment!

—Melissa
@Yarn Over:

“I can't believe I'm first!”

Whoops! Looks like Steve stole the rug out from under you ;-)

“I simply love these posts about your grandmother! And you and Michael. And others in your family.”

That’s wonderful to hear. Thank you, Yarn Over!

“This is important stuff--I hope you continue it for a long, long time!”

I’m glad you think so, and believe me, I have plenty of material to keep me busy for years :-)

“And I hope you let us see the finished video.”

Yes, we most definitely will let our OS friends know when it’s available for viewing.

“Your grandmother is so beautiful and so full of life and laughter, it does my old heart good just to look at her!”

She would be tickled to hear you say that :-)

“I think old people, who've lived fully in their old bodies, are stunning in their natural beauty.”

I absolutely agree and find a gorgeous luminosity in those silver hairs and storied wrinkles.

“My mother was like that--worn and old, wrinkled and dry. And each wrinkle told a story. She died just 3 years ago--I was lucky to have her around so long--and I still miss her.”

I’m so sorry for your painful loss, Yarn Over, while grateful you had such a long, beautiful relationship with your mother while she was around.

“So thank you for this. I look forward to many more!”

Thanks for your enthusiastic encouragement, and I’m looking forward to working on the next one!

—Melissa
The scale of this work is vast and deep. I have been looking at this site and am extremely glad to see this.
Can't wait to see the finish.
What a tribute to a grandmother Melissa.
Wow!
Melissa, this post, your home doc, everything ... just fills me with wonder. Your grandmother, reflecting as she sits on a stump[?] looking out at the water is mesmerizing; Michael's score compelling within a sincere beauty. In my basement, I have a tape recording of my son, Adam, due to his illness [1991], it's the last time I ever heard his voice... reading your grandmother's letter, especially, "You can lay down now, or lie down. My teachers never could teach me which was right. I have finished this letter." brought tears, as I haven't finished my "letter." Someday my sadness will let me listen to his voice again.
We are artists; inspiration often finds us. Thank you.. rAted!
That was wonderful ,so full of living. Thank you for sharing your life and your Grandmas with us. It makes me want to accomplish more than sitting around and waiting for life to happen. Thank you
Just beautiful - the subject, the film, the score, and the love that is creating it all. It reminds me of walks on the beach with my grandmother, and the letters she wrote, and the conversations we had. Wonderful work, M&M!
@Mission:

Mission! It means so much to receive a comment from you, knowing how painful it is for you to type. I’m moved (and feeling a little guilty :-) that you went through the effort to leave such a sweet comment. I only hope you’re enjoying some success with the dictation software now!

“The scale of this work is vast and deep. I have been looking at this site and am extremely glad to see this.”

Thank you, Mission, and I am extremely glad to see you here.

“Can't wait to see the finish.”

Same here! To the extent that anything is ever actually, truly finished . . .

“What a tribute to a grandmother Melissa. Wow!”

I so appreciate your taking the time to type this thoughtful comment. Wow to you, as well :-)

—Melissa
@Chuck:

“Melissa, this post, your home doc, everything ... just fills me with wonder.”

Mr. Mustard, your comment touched me deeply. You know how much Michael and I respect you and your work, so your words carry a great deal of weight.

“Your grandmother, reflecting as she sits on a stump[?] looking out at the water is mesmerizing; Michael's score compelling within a sincere beauty.”

I love the way you describe this scene and the score—I agree, and I like your term “sincere beauty.”

“In my basement, I have a tape recording of my son, Adam, due to his illness [1991], it's the last time I ever heard his voice... reading your grandmother's letter, especially, ‘You can lay down now, or lie down. My teachers never could teach me which was right. I have finished this letter.’ brought tears, as I haven't finished my ‘letter.’ Someday my sadness will let me listen to his voice again.”

Your comment fills me with tears as I contemplate the preciousness of that unheard, quietly waiting voice. I hope we will be honored enough to be witness to your experience when you do allow yourself to hear his voice, once again.

“We are artists; inspiration often finds us. Thank you.”

Beautifully put, and thank you, dear friend.

—Melissa
@Lunchlady:

“That was wonderful, so full of living. Thank you for sharing your life and your Grandmas with us.”

Lovely to see you here, Lunchlady, and welcome! Thank you for the affirming comment and for expressing your appreciation.

“It makes me want to accomplish more than sitting around and waiting for life to happen. Thank you”

That’s a wonderfully inspiring response! I look forward to reading where your adventurous attitude leads you.

—Melissa
@Owl:

“Just beautiful - the subject, the film, the score, and the love that is creating it all.”

Oh, Owl, you are so attuned to both beauty and love. We cherish you and your generous words.

“It reminds me of walks on the beach with my grandmother, and the letters she wrote, and the conversations we had.”

I would love to read more about (and by?) your grandmother. I already feel like I know her a little bit better after reading this comment, and I can certainly see her kindness reflected in the wonderful human being you have become.

“Wonderful work, M&M!”

Thanks, Owl :-)

—Melissa
Some things in life are so achingly beautiful and poignant that you can't tell if your heart is aching because it is swelling with the beauty or shrinking from the sadness.
On the face of it there was a lot of mundane information here. Your schedule, a trip to grandma's house, inevitable breakdown of appliances... and yet contained in this vessel of ordinaryness was joy and sadness and wisdom in just the right amounts. It just goes to show that the premise behind your ordimentaries is a good one. Keep it up.

Oh yeah I wanted to say about the ants- no they aren't lonely but we are lonely for them. Or at least lonely for ourselves and it is easier to touch the pathos of life through a medium. If we feel it too directly it may be crippling or even deadly. There is so much wonder in the world, both good and bad, that we can't contain it in one life and see it best through the eyes of others. At least that's what I think but then again I'm no ant.
“Some things in life are so achingly beautiful and poignant that you can't tell if your heart is aching because it is swelling with the beauty or shrinking from the sadness.”

Oh my goodness, Tijo—this poetic comment achieves that very achingly poignant beauty you describe, which captures an experience almost impossible to articulate. Amazing.

“On the face of it there was a lot of mundane information here. Your schedule, a trip to grandma's house, inevitable breakdown of appliances... and yet contained in this vessel of ordinaryness was joy and sadness and wisdom in just the right amounts. It just goes to show that the premise behind your ordimentaries is a good one. Keep it up.”

“ordimentaries”! I love it. And I am so relieved you feel those details actually rose to a greater gestalt that merited their inclusion.

“Oh yeah I wanted to say about the ants- no they aren't lonely but we are lonely for them. Or at least lonely for ourselves and it is easier to touch the pathos of life through a medium. If we feel it too directly it may be crippling or even deadly.”

What an exquisite observation, Tijo. Indeed, I think this is the very inspiration behind metaphor, storytelling, and the metonymic attempt to grasp at reality through fragments and symbols. Those imaginative projections into the lives of others, the adoption of abstractions—these methods allow us that stick-length distance you refer to here as we cope with the deeper, more heartrending truths of life, pain, and loss.

“There is so much wonder in the world, both good and bad, that we can't contain it in one life and see it best through the eyes of others.”

This reminds me of something a friend of mine quoted a while back, but I’m not sure of the original source: “There’s a lot of wisdom in wonder.”

“At least that's what I think but then again I'm no ant.”

Hahaha!

Thanks for these soaringly beautiful contemplations, Tijo.

—Melissa
While some see this as sad, I see this as a celebration of a wonderful woman.

Every post I read of yours, I kick myself for not doing the same with my grandmother, having always put it off thinking that time is forever and no one passes away in your reality.

While her story will be told, I have lost many anecdotes in my mind.

Here's to you.
your mom is lovely just the kind of lady we would have pictures of in our childhoodstory books - makes you think happy thoughts and tht picture of Michael atop the driftwood tree is perfect poster material for me. missed not seeing the photographer.

wd read in detail later. all your pictures have a clarity that I enjoy, like the world washed and cleaned and presented to viewers, like it is all taken after a huge shower. hope you have a nice day.

Imiss the others, wonder what happened to those people
What a remarkable family. Your grandmother seems so magical. Something tells me her magic lives on in you!
@Manchu:

Delighted to see you here, Manchu, and welcome! I’ve felt guilty that I’ve been enjoying (and rating) your writing but haven’t yet found time to comment, as is the case with so many whose work I appreciate here.

“While some see this as sad, I see this as a celebration of a wonderful woman.”

That’s wonderful to hear, as that is exactly what I am hoping people will come away with.

“Every post I read of yours, I kick myself for not doing the same with my grandmother, having always put it off thinking that time is forever and no one passes away in your reality.”

I’ll try to hold you accountable to that by encouraging you to write about her in future posts!

“While her story will be told, I have lost many anecdotes in my mind.”

If you can get ahold of a videocamera or at least an audio recorder, just have her start talking, and the two of you can help jog each other’s memories. Even better if someone else—perhaps one of your parents?—can join in and help patch together the fabric of your collective memories. My mom and grandma helped each other remember things they had forgotten, and the three of us together were able to weave a pretty coherent fabric over several years of videotaping my grandma (these were more straightforward interviews, separate from “Finding Their Way Home”).

“Here's to you.”

Cheers, Manchu, and thanks again for stopping by.

—Melissa
Wow, Melissa, I... I... damn it! I speak three languages and I can´t use any of them right now! Wait, give me a second, I´ll try to order myself...

The video is delicious: subtle and "ordinary" in the best sense of your wonderful essay: so humane, so simply deep and trascendent.
The music! Michael, that music is enthralling, it´s stirring, it opens secret doors within and gets to the heart. My God, Michael, what a generous composer you are.

And then the story behind the project itself: the dreams and frustrations, the huge effort "a pulmón", your unrelinquish decision to go on no matter what, like the little ant saved; God bless you two for your inner strength and courage, and for the belief you both have in art, in YOUR art.

Finally, the letter: I was already feeling a lump in my throat before I started reading grandma´s letter, and I ended the letter with tears coming down. Do you remember the song I posted yesterday, the one by Mercedes Sosa? Well, grandma´s letter reminded me of that song:
"...I´m a lot of holy things
All mixed up with human things,
how can I put it . . . mundane things."

Thanks for your art, Melissa and Michael. And please go on, dear people; what you do is a jewel.

Kisses,
Marcela
@ Nabina:

“your mom is lovely just the kind of lady we would have pictures of in our childhoodstory books - makes you think happy thoughts”

She’s very shy, so I hope she won’t be mad at me for posting this! Perhaps your sweet comment will help alleviate any embarrassment she might feel when she first sees this :-)

“and tht picture of Michael atop the driftwood tree is perfect poster material for me.”

Hehe :-)

“missed not seeing the photographer.”

Sorry :-) That’s the problem with (and privilege of) being behind the camera ;-) There was one interview shoot we did at a park where my grandma, mom, and I were each reading poems we had written in our childhood. My grandma (or was it my mom?) made me get in front of the camera to read my poems, so maybe I’ll post that here later . . .

“wd read in detail later. all your pictures have a clarity that I enjoy, like the world washed and cleaned and presented to viewers, like it is all taken after a huge shower.”

What a gorgeous description, Nabina, and thank you!

“hope you have a nice day.”

Same to you (or is it night for you there? :-)

“Imiss the others, wonder what happened to those people”

Yes, me, too! I learned NF is embroiled in a thesis but hopes to find time to return soon. AS may be off sailing. Not sure about JE—hope he’s doing okay. I’ve dropped notes to all three of them but have only heard back from N.

Take care,

Melissa
@Lois:

“What a remarkable family. Your grandmother seems so magical. Something tells me her magic lives on in you!”

I’m so happy to see you here, Lois, and thank you for your generous words! I agree there is something pixielike about my grandma. Michael refers to the blue hoodie she’s wearing in FTWH as her Smurf outfit :-)

—Melissa
@Marcela:

“Wow, Melissa, I... I... damn it! I speak three languages and I can´t use any of them right now! Wait, give me a second, I´ll try to order myself...”

Hahaha! That’s one of the best compliments I could imagine, so I think you’ve done a damn fine job of expressing yourself, Marcela :-)

“The video is delicious: subtle and "ordinary" in the best sense of your wonderful essay: so humane, so simply deep and trascendent.”

Now you’re making me speechless! This is just gorgeously worded, and so sweetly moving.

“The music! Michael, that music is enthralling, it´s stirring, it opens secret doors within and gets to the heart. My God, Michael, what a generous composer you are.”

I agree! Thank you for articulating this so beautifully. Michael is modest about his work and has difficulty accepting compliments, but I will be gathering up all of these kind words into a bouquet for him :-)

“And then the story behind the project itself: the dreams and frustrations, the huge effort ‘a pulmón’, your unrelinquish decision to go on no matter what, like the little ant saved; God bless you two for your inner strength and courage, and for the belief you both have in art, in YOUR art.”

I love this connection you’ve made to the ant! And we so appreciate the inspiring enthusiasm you have shared for our art, both here and at our other blogs.

“Finally, the letter: I was already feeling a lump in my throat before I started reading grandma´s letter, and I ended the letter with tears coming down.”

You are going to make me start crying, Marcela!

“Do you remember the song I posted yesterday, the one by Mercedes Sosa? Well, grandma´s letter reminded me of that song:
‘...I´m a lot of holy things
All mixed up with human things,
how can I put it . . . mundane things.’”


Of course I remember that magnificent song, and I was indeed drawn to those particular lyrics. What a moving comparison!

“Thanks for your art, Melissa and Michael. And please go on, dear people; what you do is a jewel.”

And thank you for your eloquent expression of your appreciation, Marcela. You, too, are dear to us, and we treasure your rare soul.

—Melissa
Sometime in the future Earthlings, too, will have the invisible equipment (or will it be a skill?) to record their ever flowing present time and review it later or play it back for others. Until then they are at the mercy of faulty computers and fading personal memories. Excecpt for writing, of course, which is not new but still the most profound invention they can be rightfully proud of :-)
The ordinary truly does become remarkable.

I enjoyed this immensely.
So Love Grandma is also metaness and The Yellow Starlings? It's getting hard to keep track.
wow, guys. this is profoundly beautiful, the video and the writing and the photos. all of it. a miracle happened, just because it's you two!! my freaking speakers worked! so i was able to hear michael's poignant score. mourning music. it's fabulous. and, god, to get to hear michael's voice and see him close up??? what a treat!! what is with you, girl, with your hair all in your face so i can't see it? what were you thinking? you should have realized that i would want to see your beautiful face and hear your voice all these years later.

i'm so happy about you finding the discount software. i'm sorry you're in terrible debt. god, i am almost speechless, and that never happens. the talent that you both possess is almost scary. what was the art in michael's exhibit? the lovely drawings he does on metaness? or something else? i've always wanted to be able to draw, to do cartoons especially. tried but no, it's not there. and to create music. mostly to be a fabulous dancer because i crave attention. :)

this is exquisite. i can't wait to see the whole thing. i wish your mother could watch it. she would laugh as much as she'd cry. she woudl celebrate her mother's life instead of focusing on her death, which is what so many people get stuck on. richard would hate it if i did that. if i thought only of the huge loss and not the laughing and the fabulous sex and the creative collaborations and the friendship, the unconditional love that we gave each, which neither of us had ever had.

of course i now want to hear about the failure to move to SF, in parts maybe. i love you both soooooo freaking much. love love lvoe and gratitude
m&m, my heart is aching right now. im' sorry. i love you both. please PM me if you get a chance. i'm attempting to write a light piece about small miracles and blessings and gratitude. so many tiny wonderful things have happened. the girls and i attempted to go to farmer's market. my poor Ella-V got terrified of all the people and their feet so i got her the hell out of there. no more going when it's crowded. only at the end when we can get free stuff. but we ran into Lillian!! this 75 year old hippie who is so lovely and loving. she has my card and had called but i couldn't pick out her number on my stupid cell phone. so my braving the crowds, which i hate too, was worth it. she was delighted to see my and my pack and me her!!! she loved the vintage necklace i was wearing and the black fringe bag. i love fringe from my hippie days. i never get compliments on anyhting here. i'm old and all that. now i haev all her contact information! i adore her. i just have to get on a sleep schedule that corresponds with her and other humans, not just vampires and bats. love love lvoe and gratitude. thank you for this brilliant piece. it brought up Lillian again for me, after my massive sleeping, and other lovely aged people whom i've know in my life, been blessed to know, like Beatrice Wood. love love love
last thing because i am selfishly hijacking your post.

HAPPY 17TH ANNIVERSARY ON TUESDAY!!!!! wow, what an accomplishment these days. and to be not only marriage partners but creative collaborators??? wow. love lvoe lvoe
Melissa, this is an amazing story and what an undertaking! I know your grandmother must have been the perfect grandmother. It's wonderful that you had the foresight to do all of this and you are one creative lady!

I'm sure your mom was thrilled with receiving the DVD and I can fully understand why she hasn't watched it. I would be the same way, just too painful. She will keep all of the memories alive in her mind. Beautiful pics and video and you are so lucky to have had such a wonderful grandma! Makes me miss mine. Keep up the great writing!
Fascinating post: your dedication to the task is worthy of Grandma.
Melissa, This was so touching and sensitive. All of it! The look into your relationship with Michael, and his relationship with music!

Grandma was very loving and so honest. I'll be waiting patiently for more!
Rated
Just an amazing journey.

"We can never bring ourselves to abandon the creatures who have come to depend on us, so every journey must end back in our own apartment that night, caring for our animal children."

This sounds so much like my daughter and her partner. She always has a house full of little furry creatures that she has saved and can't bear to leave them.

This was such a beautiful journey.
Thank You
Rated
This is finely-crafted writing that reads with a natural calm; it has a resilient Voice that persists despite obstacles like we all believe we do, true or not; a brave Voice that admits to petty delays and minor affectations. I love the Love in this, for Grandma, for Art, for creativity itself.

And your Grandma is real here. You honor her, her garden, her own struggle to be an artist, without sentiment or false urgency.

A truly great piece.
Your grandmother is so inspiring. I have a children's book I've been contemplating. It's already written, just need my illustrations honed. Thanks for giving us this portrait of such a wonderful woman. Now I'm off to watch the video.

I can be very forgetful so want to wish you and Michael a happy anniversary in advance. What a blessing the two of you have become. Peace, Robin
Michael's music is great!
This is the most stirring and moving thing I've seen in a long time on OS. You have a true gift for telling us about your Grandmother, and the music is perfect. Rated!
The more I read about and watch your grandma, the more I feel like she is a part of my family, too. I loved reading this post about how you came to make the documentary, I look forward to seeing the completed version someday. It is such an act of pure love to do work on a project like that after she has passed.

Happy anniversary, by the way!
This was just lovely...a treasure to read.
This is so incredible--what a journey and what a story. I realize how wonderful it would be to have a video camera right now--if I could afford it. I want some footage of my children. I highly doubt whether they want footage of me, however! Still, I also realize how difficult film is and how much film projects take and how you really need a partner to bring them to fruition. I was a screenwriter for many years and did have a video camera briefly and did do some footage that I liked but creating a story with narrative just proved to be more than I could handle alone--I realized that projects like this really require a group or at the very least, a partner. I've found that writing is cheap and wonderful and doesn't requite much--altho nothing beats a visual image. A picture speaks a thousand words, though your words here really touched me. Thanks.
I loved Grandma's comment in her letter: " I wish I knew more, but at the time she felt like telling me things, I wasn’t so interested. At least I remembered a few things." So true, for most of us..when we finally realise the value of listening, many of those we wish to hear from/about have stopped talking. It is an object lesson in "children should be seen and not heard"....!
Thanks.
Beautiful post - leaves me quite and contemplative - still. A sincere and passionate depiction of your experiences with Grandma. The feelings beacon and resonate with me, such is the depth that I read in this post.

"Remember, you have to get well. It’s important."

This portion speaks aloud and sounds to me more like a Truth written rather than advice. I really enjoyed this - thank you for the post!

The music was superb and the writing heartfelt. I haven't been around much but will keep sneaking in and out as life lets me :)

peece,
dj
@GalaxyMan:

“Sometime in the future Earthlings, too, will have the invisible equipment (or will it be a skill?) to record their ever flowing present time and review it later or play it back for others.”

As you know from metaness, one of my superhero names is The Recorder, so this would unquestionably be one of my defining skills. Now I just need to get bitten by a radioactive recording device . . . ;-)

“Until then they are at the mercy of faulty computers and fading personal memories. Excecpt for writing, of course, which is not new but still the most profound invention they can be rightfully proud of :-)”

An absolutely lovely thought, and inspiring, as well. Fantastic to see you here, GalaxyMan, and we look forward to your next episode of intergalactic humor!

—Melissa
@coffeegyrl:

Welcome, coffeegyrl!

“The ordinary truly does become remarkable.”

Absolutely. The more I meditated on the word itself and the concepts it signified while writing about “ordinary,” the more amazed I became by how this word encompassed the ineluctable experiences that tie all of us together, both physical and spiritual.

“I enjoyed this immensely.”

I’m thrilled to hear that, and I’m grateful you took a moment to let me know you were here.

—Melissa


@Emma:

“So Love Grandma is also metaness and The Yellow Starlings? It's getting hard to keep track.”

Tell me about it! And I’ve even been tempted to start another catchall blog for my more random writings (sociopolitical diatribes, poetry, recipes, whatever). My name is Melissa, and I am an OSaholic ;-) An intervention has been mentioned in hushed tones by at least one friend (admittedly a fellow sufferer). Meanwhile, the juggling act goes on.

—Melissa
@Theodora:

“wow, guys. this is profoundly beautiful, the video and the writing and the photos. all of it.”

Awww, thanks, Theodora.

“a miracle happened, just because it's you two!! my freaking speakers worked! so i was able to hear michael's poignant score. mourning music. it's fabulous.”

That’s wonderful! I’m so glad you were able to hear it properly.

“and, god, to get to hear michael's voice and see him close up??? what a treat!!”

An extraordinarily rare sighting :-)

“what is with you, girl, with your hair all in your face so i can't see it? what were you thinking? you should have realized that i would want to see your beautiful face and hear your voice all these years later.”

Haha. I presume you mean the metaness avatar? Well, if I ever get around to creating my catchall blog, I’ll try to pick a clearer pic :-)

“i'm so happy about you finding the discount software.”

So are we! Can’t wait for it to arrive tomorrow. You know what we’ll be doing for our anniversary :-)

“i'm sorry you're in terrible debt.”

It’s not half as terrible as it used to be, thankfully, and we’re trying to keep it that way. But sometimes, the inevitable happens, and you’ve just gotta bite the plastic.

“god, i am almost speechless, and that never happens. the talent that you both possess is almost scary. what was the art in michael's exhibit? the lovely drawings he does on metaness? or something else?”

The exhibit was called “storytelling” and comprised hundreds of works on paper with mixed media (acrylic, pencil, crayon, chalk, pen, etc.). They’re different from the digital works at metaness, but there is definitely a family resemblance. Each piece actually incorporates handwritten text, as well, which represents the first interpretation of the abstract image. They’re breathtaking independently, but seeing hundreds of them together in a window-lined gallery was a truly wondrous experience.

“i've always wanted to be able to draw, to do cartoons especially. tried but no, it's not there.”

Don’t give up, Theodora! If the desire is there, you need to find a way to express it. The main thing is not to expect immediate perfection. Just create. Mainly, play, and see where the artistic adventure leads you!

“and to create music. mostly to be a fabulous dancer because i crave attention. :)”

Hehe—I can totally envision a choreographed number with your wonderpups :-)

“this is exquisite. i can't wait to see the whole thing. i wish your mother could watch it. she would laugh as much as she'd cry.”

I agree, and I hope she will get to the point where she is ready. Maybe by the next final cut :-)

“she woudl celebrate her mother's life instead of focusing on her death, which is what so many people get stuck on. richard would hate it if i did that. if i thought only of the huge loss and not the laughing and the fabulous sex and the creative collaborations and the friendship, the unconditional love that we gave each, which neither of us had ever had.”

You’re so right about focusing on the LIFE of the person you love. I’m grateful you and Richard were blessed with such a beautiful relationship and that you continue to treasure the gifts you experienced while he was present.

“of course i now want to hear about the failure to move to SF, in parts maybe.”

Maybe in a future metaness :-)

“i love you both soooooo freaking much.”

We love you, too, Theodora. Thank you for everything—including this unbelievable surprise!

“i'm attempting to write a light piece about small miracles and blessings and gratitude. so many tiny wonderful things have happened.”

That sounds delightful!

“the girls and i attempted to go to farmer's market. my poor Ella-V got terrified of all the people and their feet so i got her the hell out of there.”

Oh no!

“but we ran into Lillian!! this 75 year old hippie who is so lovely and loving. she has my card and had called but i couldn't pick out her number on my stupid cell phone. so my braving the crowds, which i hate too, was worth it. she was delighted to see my and my pack and me her!!! she loved the vintage necklace i was wearing and the black fringe bag. i love fringe from my hippie days. i never get compliments on anyhting here. i'm old and all that. now i haev all her contact information! i adore her.”

That’s fabulous news!!! She sounds wonderful, and we can’t wait to read more about her in your post.

“i just have to get on a sleep schedule that corresponds with her and other humans, not just vampires and bats.”

Hahaha! You sound like Michael ;-)

“Beatrice Wood”

Tell me more! Maybe in the post about Lillian?

“last thing because i am selfishly hijacking your post.”

Hehe :-)

“HAPPY 17TH ANNIVERSARY ON TUESDAY!!!!! wow, what an accomplishment these days. and to be not only marriage partners but creative collaborators???”

Thank you, Theodora! We are continuously grateful for the blessings of both.

love love lvoe!

—Melissa
I had a wonderful grandma too and I wish I had more video and pictures of her. I still haven't been able to watch what I do have and it's been years since she passed away. My grandma was like a mother to me. I understand why it's hard for your mother to watch the video. What a wonderful way to express your love. Can't wait to see more!
@Pamela:

“Melissa, this is an amazing story and what an undertaking!”

So nice to see you again, Pamela, and thank you!

“I know your grandmother must have been the perfect grandmother.”

I think so :-)

“It's wonderful that you had the foresight to do all of this and you are one creative lady!”

Not so much foresight as blessed happenstance (combined with still-small intuition).

“I'm sure your mom was thrilled with receiving the DVD and I can fully understand why she hasn't watched it. I would be the same way, just too painful. She will keep all of the memories alive in her mind.”

Yes, I remember one of the first things she said afterward was how glad she was I had shot all of that interview and documentary footage. I do hope she will be able to watch it someday. It’s like getting to spend an afternoon with my grandma again.

“Beautiful pics and video and you are so lucky to have had such a wonderful grandma! Makes me miss mine. Keep up the great writing!”

Thank you, Pamela, and you’re making me miss her even more!

—Melissa
@AtHomePilgrim:

“Fascinating post: your dedication to the task is worthy of Grandma.”

What a wonderful comment, and thank you so much for coming by again, AtHomePilgrim!


@junk1:

It’s an honor to welcome you, Julie! I’ve been enjoying your poems for quite some time now.

“Melissa, This was so touching and sensitive. All of it! The look into your relationship with Michael, and his relationship with music!”

That’s delightful to hear, and I’m so glad you were moved by it.

“Grandma was very loving and so honest.”

What an accurate assessment!

“I'll be waiting patiently for more!”

Can’t wait till I can find time to work on the next one!

—Melissa
@micalpeace:

“Just an amazing journey.”

I am so happy to see you here, micalpeace! You always brighten a blog :-)

“This sounds so much like my daughter and her partner. She always has a house full of little furry creatures that she has saved and can't bear to leave them.”

Sunflower sounds like such a kindred spirit! I am so thrilled for her and Legend and wish them every blessing in their new marriage.

“This was such a beautiful journey.”

Thank you, Mike, and again, I appreciate your popping by.

—Melissa
@Greg:

“This is finely-crafted writing that reads with a natural calm; it has a resilient Voice that persists despite obstacles like we all believe we do, true or not; a brave Voice that admits to petty delays and minor affectations.”

Wow, Greg, talk about finely crafted writing! What a beautiful comment and a wonderful introduction to you. Welcome, and thank you for being here.

“I love the Love in this, for Grandma, for Art, for creativity itself.”

This is one of the biggest reasons we love OS—all of the kindred creatives who share our love for art, for creativity, and for wonderful grandmas :-)

“And your Grandma is real here. You honor her, her garden, her own struggle to be an artist, without sentiment or false urgency.”

You’ve said so much in so few words. I treasure them and look forward to reading more of your work.

“A truly great piece.”

Thank you, Greg, once again.

—Melissa
@Robin:

Your presence is always a blessing, Robin, and it’s a pleasure to see you here.

“Your grandmother is so inspiring. I have a children's book I've been contemplating. It's already written, just need my illustrations honed.”

It would be immeasurably meaningful to both my grandma and me if this blog somehow encouraged you to hone those illustrations. I can’t wait to experience your enchanting book!

“Thanks for giving us this portrait of such a wonderful woman. Now I'm off to watch the video.”

Thanks for living as a person of integrity and heart and inspiring creativity—all attributes my grandmother exhibited and would recognize in you.

“I can be very forgetful so want to wish you and Michael a happy anniversary in advance. What a blessing the two of you have become.”

That means so much to us, Robin, and we feel the same about you.

“Michael's music is great!”

So glad you think so! I’ll pass that on :-)

—Melissa
@zumalicious:

“This is the most stirring and moving thing I've seen in a long time on OS.”

That’s an amazing compliment coming from the woman who wrote this heartwrenchingly beautiful piece!

“You have a true gift for telling us about your Grandmother, and the music is perfect. Rated!”

It’s wonderful to see you here, zumalicious, and thanks for your incredibly kind words.

—Melissa
I hope you finish your documentary. It would be a family treasure .
@Melissa:

“The more I read about and watch your grandma, the more I feel like she is a part of my family, too.”

That’s appropriate, since we feel you are a part of our family, Melissa!

“I loved reading this post about how you came to make the documentary”

So glad you enjoyed it! I was originally just going to post the preview, but then I realized it needed a little background, and by the time I was done, I had a novella!

“I look forward to seeing the completed version someday.”

So do we! ;-)

“It is such an act of pure love to do work on a project like that after she has passed.”

What a beautiful statement. Love is indeed the primary driving force behind our work—and our life, really.

“Happy anniversary, by the way!”

Thanks, Melissa! Appreciated your words over at Theodora’s, too. I like how you joined “eachother”—very appropriate :-)

—Melissa
@teendoc:

“This was just lovely...a treasure to read.”

It’s such a delightful surprise to see you here, teendoc! Welcome, and I’m glad I could provide some reading matter that didn’t make your head explode ;-)

—Melissa


@Mary:

“The camera is our first, and maybe last, shot of eternal life. We talk a good game of life after death, but our only proof so far is the camera. Letter, journals, and books aid in memory, but there is nothing like a picture. Perhaps now a trite expression, but ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.”

And your words are worth a thousand pictures, Mary. I love how you are so skillful at working with both mediums (accented by a biting sense of humor!) in your sociopolitical analyses. As always, it’s a pleasure to see you and read your thought-provoking comments.

—Melissa
@Poet of Logan Square:

“This is so incredible--what a journey and what a story.”

Thank you, Poet, and I’m thrilled to welcome another newcomer!

“I realize how wonderful it would be to have a video camera right now--if I could afford it. I want some footage of my children. I highly doubt whether they want footage of me, however!”

It is quite wonderful, and even if they don’t know they want footage of you now, as they grow older, it would be a priceless gift to see the mother they remember from their childhood captured on video. Even if it’s a crappy videocamera you purchase on ebay for a steal :-)

“Still, I also realize how difficult film is and how much film projects take and how you really need a partner to bring them to fruition.”

Yes, I never would’ve been able to come this far without Michael’s brilliant editing skills and aesthetic contributions, not to mention the score, which carries the soul of the film.

“I was a screenwriter for many years and did have a video camera briefly and did do some footage that I liked but creating a story with narrative just proved to be more than I could handle alone--I realized that projects like this really require a group or at the very least, a partner. I've found that writing is cheap and wonderful and doesn't requite much--altho nothing beats a visual image.”

So true, and I do agree that fictional narratives can be onerous, especially if you’re relying on actors and all the millions of infinitesimal details. We have many projects we would love to work on in that vein, but we’re so far away from being able to do that, we’re trying to just stay focused on ten things at a time ;-)

“A picture speaks a thousand words, though your words here really touched me.”

As yours did me!

—Melissa
@AnnMarie:

“This is beautiful.”

Thanks, AnnMarie! Fabulous to see you over here.

—Melissa


@Hazel:

“I loved Grandma's comment in her letter: ‘I wish I knew more, but at the time she felt like telling me things, I wasn’t so interested. At least I remembered a few things.’ So true, for most of us..when we finally realise the value of listening, many of those we wish to hear from/about have stopped talking.”

What an insightful comment, Hazel, and that line also resonated quite profoundly with me. Your observation reminded me of one of my favorite poems by Eavan Boland, “What We Lost.” It is so appropriate for the subject matter of this post in so many untellable ways, I’ll quote it in full below and let the poem speak for itself.

“It is an object lesson in ‘children should be seen and not heard’....!”

Interestingly enough, Boland has a coruscating collection of essays titled Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time.

Thank you for your lovely comment and for giving me an excuse to share more of Boland’s luminous work!

—Melissa


What We Lost
by Eavan Boland

It is a winter afternoon.
The hills are frozen. Light is failing.
The distance is a crystal earshot.
A woman is mending linen in her kitchen.

She is a countrywoman.
Behind her cupboard doors she hangs sprigged,
stove-dried lavender in muslin.
Her letters and mementos and memories

are packeted in satin at the back with
gaberdine and worsted and
the cambric she has made into bodices;
the good tobacco silk for Sunday Mass.

She is sewing in the kitchen.
The sugar-feel of flax is in her hands.
Dusk. And the candles brought in then.
One by one. And the quiet sweat of wax.

There is a child at her side.
The tea is poured, the stitching put down.
The child grows still, sensing something of importance.
The woman settles and begins her story.

Believe it, what we lost is here in this room
on this veiled evening.
The woman finishes. The story ends.
The child, who is my mother, gets up, moves away.

In the winter air, unheard, unshared,
the moment happens, hangs fire, leads nowhere.
The light will fail and the room darken,
the child fall asleep and the story be forgotten.

The fields are dark already.
The frail connections have been made and are broken.
The dumb-show of legend has become language,
is becoming silence and who will know that once

words were possibilities and disappointments,
were scented closets filled with love letters
and memories and lavender hemmed into muslin,
stored in sachets, aired in bed linen;

and traveled silks and the tones of cotton
tautened into bodices, subtly shaped by breathing;
were the rooms of childhood with their griefless peace,
their hands and whispers, their candles weeping brightly?
@David:

“Beautiful post - leaves me quite and contemplative - still.”

How wonderful to know this put you in a meditative state, David.

“A sincere and passionate depiction of your experiences with Grandma. The feelings beacon and resonate with me, such is the depth that I read in this post.”

This is all the more meaningful coming from one whose depth of soul and kindness of heart have touched us so.

“‘Remember, you have to get well. It’s important.’ This portion speaks aloud and sounds to me more like a Truth written rather than advice.”

Yes! I felt the same way about it. It seems so simple on the surface, yet there is a significance that trembles underneath the seemingly mundane words.

“I really enjoyed this - thank you for the post!”

And I really enjoyed your comment :-)

“The music was superb and the writing heartfelt. I haven't been around much but will keep sneaking in and out as life lets me :)”

I can certainly relate to the relentless tide of deadlines, so I’m especially honored by your presence amidst the madness.

—Melissa
@Jenny:

“I had a wonderful grandma too and I wish I had more video and pictures of her. I still haven't been able to watch what I do have and it's been years since she passed away. My grandma was like a mother to me. I understand why it's hard for your mother to watch the video. What a wonderful way to express your love. Can't wait to see more!”

Your grandmother sounds like a beautiful human being, Jenny, and you clearly treasure her deeply. I do hope you will one day be able to bring yourself to watch those precious fragments, as it can be one of the most healing ways to process your grief.

Thank you for visiting and sharing your empathetic words.

—Melissa


@Faith:

“hope you finish your documentary. It would be a family treasure.”

I do, too! Thanks for stopping by again, Faith, and for letting me know you were here.

—Melissa
I am so glad that you took that footage of your grandma. I think we only have my grandma on video once, something I hope to change at the next get-together.
You are both so creative! It is inspiring!
"Do they get lonesome?" What a question. What a charming video, and thanks for sharing. I have not read the post yet but am up for the night, so will comment again in a short while.
I guess it is an ordinary story, but with lovely turns of phrase and that letter. What have we lost with no letters to hold in your hand and to talk about your and your life and your cat and your town. This post says so much that there's not much I can add to it, just that I hope some day to get old enough that people start loving me again, and I'll be wise and sweet too. Thanks so much.
Beautiful music to go with a beautiful story.
Melissa, I so much admire your tenacity, both you and Michael. I would have likely displaced my frustration on Seagate and gotten nothing else done! This is a lovely post, exquisitely sad yet revealing of real hope, coupled with the joy or remembrance, that will continue to grow out of the grief of your Grandma's passing.

The writing is spot on, the short video excellent, and the pictures paint as well as do the words.

This is growing into the most memorable of tributes. I salute you.

Monte

PS: sorry so late getting here, but do know that I will always get here and to your other blog posts when you alert me.
ANother extraordinary post. I loved it all - the video and pictures - especially the pictures of Michael on the driftwood and Bobby making funny faces. That slice of time with your grandmother is a treasure, and while I can't imagine the frustration of losing two months worth of editing work (the horror!) I am confident that the newly created version of the documentary will be fabulous.
@Delia:

“I am so glad that you took that footage of your grandma. I think we only have my grandma on video once, something I hope to change at the next get-together.”

I’m so delighted to see you here, Delia, and I hope you do change that at your next get-together! I would love to read more about your grandma and hope you have an opportunity to record some of her stories and memories.

“You are both so creative! It is inspiring!”

Thank you, Delia. You are an inspiration to us, as well, and we look forward to reading the next chapter in your significant journey.

—Melissa
@latethink:

latethink! So lovely to see you here.

“‘Do they get lonesome?’ What a question.”

Indeed! I love my grandma’s questions. Her curiosity and uniqueness of vision gave her a wise and childlike perspective.

“What a charming video, and thanks for sharing.”

Thanks, latethink, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

“I guess it is an ordinary story, but with lovely turns of phrase and that letter. What have we lost with no letters to hold in your hand and to talk about your and your life and your cat and your town.”

You’re so right about the letters, which reminds me of your lovely piece from a few weeks back.

I’ve often lamented the fact that my grandma and I never got a chance to email each other, as I think there are so many more stories she would’ve gotten to share that way. But I’m also grateful for those handwritten letters—there’s something so much more tangible about that connection with her. As she said in the letter I included in my first post, “Grandma can actually still write with her fingers. Wow! With a pen!”

“This post says so much that there's not much I can add to it, just that I hope some day to get old enough that people start loving me again, and I'll be wise and sweet too. Thanks so much.”

I don’t think you have to wait till you’re old for any of that to happen, latethink :-) I think many people here would already agree that you’re both sweet and wise—and well-loved.

—Melissa
@Mama Lou:

“Beautiful music to go with a beautiful story.”

Thanks for the kind words, Mama Lou, and it’s wonderful to welcome you!

—Melissa
@Monte:

“Melissa, I so much admire your tenacity, both you and Michael. I would have likely displaced my frustration on Seagate and gotten nothing else done!”

Well, believe me, we did indeed do that! And there’s still too much anguish tied up with that sense of loss that we’re finding ourselves focusing on new but related projects, not quite ready to dive in again as I had hoped. I think that’s partly because I’m still wanting to allow time to recover that original data before giving up and starting over.

“This is a lovely post, exquisitely sad yet revealing of real hope, coupled with the joy or remembrance, that will continue to grow out of the grief of your Grandma's passing.”

Your comments always touch me so deeply, Monte. You have such a beautiful way of expressing your poignantly precise observations.

“The writing is spot on, the short video excellent, and the pictures paint as well as do the words.”

Thank you, Monte.

“This is growing into the most memorable of tributes. I salute you.”

I’m really savoring this opportunity to spend more time with my grandma, and I’m grateful others are enjoying the journey, as well.

“PS: sorry so late getting here, but do know that I will always get here and to your other blog posts when you alert me.”

You never need to apologize, Monte. I have fallen behind myself and have truckloads of posts I’ve rated but have not yet had a moment to comment on (like yours!). The list is getting longer with each day, and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to fulfill those good intentions. But I do appreciate and admire your diligence in getting here, as well as the gift of your loving words.

—Melissa
@dustbowldiva:

“ANother extraordinary post.”

Thanks, dustbowldiva, and I’m so thrilled to see you here!

“I loved it all - the video and pictures - especially the pictures of Michael on the driftwood and Bobby making funny faces.”

Hehe :-)

“That slice of time with your grandmother is a treasure, and while I can't imagine the frustration of losing two months worth of editing work (the horror!) I am confident that the newly created version of the documentary will be fabulous.”

Thank you for the vote of confidence, dustbowldiva :-) We started working on the DVD extras since it’s a necessary part of this project, but it doesn’t yet require us to recreate any work. I’ll be sharing those fragments of interview footage here as we work our way through.

—Melissa
Sorry it has taken me a week to come and view this but I'm glad I did. Your grandma is lucky to have such a wonderful storyteller making sure she lives on. Another beautiful entry.
@GJI Penguin:

“Sorry it has taken me a week to come and view this but I'm glad I did.”

As I told Monte, you never need to apologize for arriving late. I’m often guilty of it myself. I’m just delighted to see friends whenever they happen to meander over, if at all. It’s impossible for me to keep up with all of the posts I have on my wishlist, so I understand when others can’t, as well!

“Your grandma is lucky to have such a wonderful storyteller making sure she lives on. Another beautiful entry.”

Thank you, Ger, for the moving compliment and for your participation in this project. I still hope to someday read more about your wonderful grandparents.

—Melissa
Had I not read your favorite poet down below I may not of understood your sense of aesthetic, though it speaks of a simpler time, a better description would be to say it has a zen quality. It is reminiscent of a friend's drawing (who was studying to be an acupuncturist) of a stone fence in graphite. Though a fence usually gives a sense of keeping something out or caged in, this drawing though depicting stone was so meditatively drafted there was a different narrative all it's own. If we can truly make something ordinary extraordinary, then I think we've accomplished a true art. Keep going!
@Anne:

What a gift to find this note on an earlier post! Thrilled to welcome you, and thanks for your lovely words.

“Had I not read your favorite poet down below I may not of understood your sense of aesthetic,”

Always a delight to meet a fellow Boland aficionado!

“though it speaks of a simpler time, a better description would be to say it has a zen quality.”

What a wonderful compliment, Anne.

“It is reminiscent of a friend's drawing (who was studying to be an acupuncturist) of a stone fence in graphite. Though a fence usually gives a sense of keeping something out or caged in, this drawing though depicting stone was so meditatively drafted there was a different narrative all it's own. If we can truly make something ordinary extraordinary, then I think we've accomplished a true art.”

This is such a beautiful image! You painted it so well, I feel like I’ve actually seen it. I’m picturing a staccato, asymmetrical pattern of stones planted in the sand, the waves washing through the openings as the tide comes gently in.

“Keep going!”

Okay :-)

—Melissa
This, in your grandmother's letter and as a tag, resonates:

I wish I knew more, but at the time she felt like telling me things, I wasn’t so interested. At least I remembered a few things.

I've yet to devise the fiery symbol, alas.
I remember seeing the video before, but you've expanded it richly here. It's good to see your love for your family Melissa. I've always felt lucky that I landed in a good lap. I see you did too :)
@consonantsandvowels:

“This, in your grandmother's letter and as a tag, resonates: ‘I wish I knew more, but at the time she felt like telling me things, I wasn’t so interested. At least I remembered a few things.’”

Yes! I almost made that the sandwich quote and in retrospect, perhaps I should have. Oh well. So glad it called to you.

“I've yet to devise the fiery symbol, alas.”

Let me know when you do! I want first dibs when you put it into mass production ;-)

—Melissa


@Julie:

“I remember seeing the video before, but you've expanded it richly here. It's good to see your love for your family Melissa. I've always felt lucky that I landed in a good lap. I see you did too :)”

Thank you for your loving and comforting comment, Julie! Your gentle maturity and good-natured demeanor likely came, at least in part, from landing in that good lap. Interestingly, both lap-landing and Nurturant Parenting are addressed in my most recent post :-)

—Melissa
You can meet a lot of interesting people on road trips, when I was little I made a lot of road trips with my family but unfortunately we did not have a video camera to record the beautiful landscapes. It`s a great idea to make a documentary about ordinary people you meet on your road trips, I plan on making Honolulu sightseeing tours this year and I will take the video camera with me, maybe I will make a short documentary.