Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cemeteries and Guru Ants




Over the weekend I did something that should have been done around Memorial Day. I packed a bucket up with garden gloves, a spade, scrub brush, plastic bags and a gallon of water and headed off to the cemetery to tend to my husband’s grave marker. If the sod around the stone isn’t edged once a year, it wouldn’t take long for the entire stone to be covered over with dirt and grass. Location, location, location---like buying a house, when you pick out a gravesite location matters. Don’t buy one in a low spot. Of course, we didn’t think of that when my husband and I picked out our site. It’s in the same row as plots our friends bought and that pleased our funny bones to be neighbors when we die. Don is there waiting all by himself. Well, not exactly. He grew up near the small town where his ashes are interred and he delivered newspapers to most of the houses, back in the days when newspapers were the kings in the media world. He knew a lot of the people buried in the cemetery. He also trimmed trees and cut the grass in the grave yard for an entire summer of restitution for a juvenile crime. Hint: Don’t move city-owned picnic tables into the river. Yup, the guys in our row at the cemetery will have much to talk about when they reunite.

It was a pleasant day, sunny but not too hot and I got the edging done without taxing myself. Last year I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep up the stone’s maintenance but this year I realized my recent strength training at the gym made the chore not only manageable but almost meditative. I was so in the zone of what I was doing that when I walked back to the car I was surprised to see another woman was working less than 50 feet away. I’ll have to go back another day to affix a Snoopy trinket to the corner of the stone. It was too wet to do it while I was there. But I don’t know why I keep that tradition going because by fall some little kid will have peeled the trinket off the stone. I use Crocs shoe charms and if you hear about an old woman mugging a little kid to get the Snoopy charm off his shoe it will be me, taking back was as taken from the cemetery. 

I picked Saturday to go to the cemetery because there was an art show going on in the community pavilion in town and I wanted to know if any of the artists knew of someone who teaches painting. At the sponsoring group’s table they took my email address and I was told one of their members does hold classes. (Fingers crossed.) After checking out all the artist’s work I walked across the street to a hot dog place that overlooks the town’s damn and garden park. With my lunch packed to go, I went out their back door and ten steps later I was connected to the nature trail. I found a bench in the shade about a block away where I could watch the swans and kayakers go by. The trail was busy---bikers of all descriptions, skateboarders, joggers, dog walkers, fly fishermen, and people pushing wheelchairs. I’d done my share of pushing a wheelchair and walking the dog on that trail but a bad tick season made me stop doing the latter and Don’s death, of course, ended the former. It wasn’t a sad day of memories although earlier when I turned into the cemetery I was swallowing hard the way you do when you think tears might spill. That brief moment made me wondered if that was the reason why I’d put off doing my spring chore until mid-summer. But it wasn’t. I just got too busy.

As I sat by the river a slight breeze carried the sweet scents of summer and I glanced down to the cement pad my bench was sitting on and I got side-tracked watching a black ant carrying off a shredded pickle longer than he was. It had fallen off my hot dog. A piece of shredded cheese was near-by. I picked it up and put it down in the path of another black ant but he just walked over it and before I knew it I was engrossed in the curious dietary preferences of ants. Pickles and bun bits, yes. Cheese and onion, no. I thought about giving them a few drops of my Coke but I’m pretty sure that would have been akin to yelling “THE KEG'S HERE!” in a college frat house. Without planning it, without consciously commanding myself to relax and live in the moment, to mediate myself to a place of peace, it happened anyway. I was both in and of world, a god to ants in the same way some higher power might be putting ‘pickles’ and ‘cheese’ in my path to see how I’ll react. They say the benefits of Mindfulness (living in the moment) are: It reduces brain clutter, brings better force in your life, lowers stress, helps you better understand your pain and connects you with the world around you. I get that. I got that tenfold on Saturday. After spending over three hours between the cemetery, the art show, lunch and playing mindfulness games with my guru ants, I went home and took a long, dead-to-the-world nap. ©


“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” ~Eckhart Tolle

41 comments:

  1. Great quote.
    www.rsrue.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks. A lot of truth in that short sentence.

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  2. Pretty sure that Don was sitting right next to you saying " thanks Jean. You did a great job and it's beautiful."

    Have a beautiful Wednesday Jean, my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Don was the grave tender in his family...had a whole string of graves in various cemeteries to do each spring. So I feel if I didn't keep up his grave he'd haunt me big time. LOL

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  3. Jean, you were busy but very present that day. I admire how you work at keeping yourself healthy in mind, body, and spirit when it would be easy to just let them all go. You remain engaged in Life, and actively so. You're so self-directed and motivated.

    Thanks for being an inspiration. After a tough year, I've been looking within a great deal more to see what I'm made of. I have some work to do, I know, and it helps to have some guideposts.

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    1. You are sweet to say that. To get philosophical here, when 'pickles' and 'cheese' are thrown down in our paths, we either go over them or move them out of the way. I've come to understand in recent years that it's a never ending job...that working on yourselves.

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  4. I really like your pickles and cheese analogy. You took a difficult day, made it productive, thoughtful and instructive. Well done.

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    1. The ants taught it to me. That's why I called them guru ants. LOL

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  5. I find myself, in my old age, really liking my times of being in the moment. I now see images in clouds like I did when I was young and I, too, watch insects and birds. I like being near the stream because watching the water run over the rocks is very meditative. We can start with personal peace...maybe we can then spread it!
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. What a wonderful world that would be is we COULD spread peace and tranquility one person to the next and keep it going.

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  6. I have been fascinated with ants since a child. I like to put down crumbs in their "road" and see if they take them along. I can just hear Papa Ant proclaiming to his family, "Look what I picked up for supper today!!" A veritable feast.

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    1. I can live without them but if I'm going to see them I'd rather they be the big black ants like I was watching on Saturday. I'm sure I made a lot of papa ants happy that day.

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  7. Just reading this lowered my blood pressure and deepened my breathing ;-) This week, I heard a story on NPR about "forest bathing" -- which is not actually taking a bath in the forest, but immersing yourself in the forest environment for a brief, but leisurely visit in order to reap the health benefits of connection with the natural world. I'm a true believer. My leisurely walk through my garden each morning is a kind of "garden bathing." -Jean

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    1. A forest or garden environment 'bath' really would bring about a sense of tranquility. You choose wisely when you decided to retire in your Maine house.

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  8. What a great summer day. Amazing how often you notice your new muscles! And your hotdog put me in the mood for one. Just finished a late lunch!

    Guru ants, indeed!

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    1. I really do notice a lot of small changes that add up to a big difference. It was a great day.

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  9. It is quite comforting tending to a loved ones grave like this, a great time to remember, reflect, and feel like you are doing something special for that person, yes Don would be pleased.

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    1. He'd probably say, "What took you so long to get here?!" Many Memorial Day weekends we'd go from cemetery to cemetery to tend graves, even if it was raining.

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  10. What an inspiring post! I wish I was at that stage of acceptance, as you are. Many times, I still inwardly rage at God for leaving me bereft, at this stage in my life, when I crave companionship. The hot tears of sorrow still flood some nights - i'm glad of that as it relieves the inner pressure. I keep myself busy (although you're more industrious) to keep painful thoughts at bay. ~ Libby

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    1. I am at a place of acceptance. I have talked to widows who are 15-20 years out and they say the a hole will always be there. For me, separating the emotions of grief from the emotions of loneliness makes a difference. The former requires acceptance and the latter can be changed if we work at it.

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  11. PS: Your reference to Don's teenage misdemeanour made me think along the lines of the Victorian's adage: 'Reformed rakes make the best husbands' for your husband comes across as a very good man. ~ Libby

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    1. Love that adage and it was true with Don. We need more juvenile judges like the one he had that summer. The others never got caught and he didn't them out if I'm remembering the story correctly.

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  12. I experience such pleasure when I see your newest post in my mailbox. Each feels like a visit with a really interesting old friend. They are full of wisdom, entertainment, and laughter. What a find you are!

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    1. You don't know this but I am much better in writing than I am in person. It really bothers me that I can no longer be as quick-witted and wise when I'm talking face to face like I could be when I was younger. The thoughts are still there but don't make it to my lips as often. And that explains my obsession with blogging twice a week.

      Being the expert painter that you are you'll probably get a few laughs out my next adventure---painting classes start in early August. The instructor asked what my goals were and I said to get over my fear of starting over and eventually to finish some portraits I was working on 17 years ago, before my husband's stroke. And I e-mailed her images of the three portraits. She writes back that I need to work on proportions but "no problem, just opportunities." Of all the things I knew I needed to do or change, proportions didn't even make the list! Talk about making me even more apprehensive. So now instead of worrying about layering colors and mixing paints I'm trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with my proportion! I'm going to start class with a landscape where we can't come to blows over the size of trees. LOL

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    2. I don't get laughs out of the trepidation you're feeling, because I feel it myself. A lot. Did I mention watching YouTube painting demos? Big fun and I learned a lot.

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    3. I watched three this afternoon. I wanted to make sure I remembered how to prepare a canvas with Gesso and ground color, then got side tracked. I'm decided to work on to subject I want at home and do the required landscape in class. It's getting REAL!

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  13. What an absolutely beautiful day Jean. I know it wasn't perfect because you were at a cemetery, but boy you made the best of that whole day. You made me laugh at out loud at my desk when I read "Keg's here" I could visualize that. :-) And finally that is the most perfect quote. I love to be still and don't make enough time for it. Thank you for reminding me.

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    1. I may have to go back and give the ants that "keg." I almost felt guilty giving them all that food and nothing to drink.

      I love that quote, too, and I looked at a lot of them to go with this post.


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  14. OOH and I wanted to say that it was so nice to hear that all that exercising/strength training is paying off so well. Makes it all the more tolerable - in my mind anyway, doesn't it?

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    1. I still don't like exercise but the benefits do make it tolerable.

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  15. I haven't seen one of those big, black ants in many moons. Maybe our fire ants have eaten them all up, or maybe they just don't like our soils down here. In any event, I laughed at your ant-ics. We used to put down this or that in front of them, too, just to see how they'd respond. And even though I hate doing it accidentally, every now and then I'll stir a fire ants' nest, just to watch them go nuts. It really is so interesting. In less than five minutes, they can have the mound repaired, and be back inside. If there's someone to bite, of course, they hang around longer, and compete with one another to see who can cause the most pain.

    There's an analogy in there somewhere about citizens poking the D.C. anthilll, but I think I'll let it rest for the time being. :-)

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    1. We have a lot of big black ants up here and they never bothered me. You have oak trees, you get them. But fire ants! I've never even seen them and I don't want to. They'd probably be like bee stings and kill me.

      Your analogy, works for me. LOL

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  16. Can imagine visits to your husband's grave always brings many thoughts and memories to mind. Glad you could nourish your mind, body, spirit that afternoon with your activities. Ants, bees, some of our small insects can be fascinating to watch as you so aptly described. You seem to be making the most of this summer as you're adapting to making new plans when those you had in mind were altered. Getting ready for a painting class sounds right up your alley. Hope you can enjoy painting once you start without creating too much pressure with expectations of yourself.

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    1. I don't have to go to the cemetery to have lots of memories and thoughts of my husband. Not a day goes by that I don't have them. But not in a bad or sad way.

      I hope the class goes well. I know I'll have fun because one of the Gathering Girls is taking the class as well. But as for managing my expectations, I'm not as excited as I was a first. If it just gets me started paining again, it will be a success.

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  17. A beautiful, calming post. Thank you.

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  18. Sound like a wonderful day of fine memories was brought...Coffee is on

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  19. Thank you both for stopping by.

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  20. The last quote is so perfect for this world at the moment. We all try to fit too much into the day.
    I can't imagine what it's like to lose the one you love, we have been together since 1961 and as the time comes nearer we both dread it.
    Briony
    x

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    1. The quote is such simple advice but so hard to do.

      Love your crazy quilts in your side panel on your blog!

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  21. Hello again, you asked about the little dog. It is a crochet dog and I got the pattern on the internet, I think you should still be able to find it. The best bit is adding the 'fur' that's what makes him look so life like.

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