Christin's Words from Sunshine Hill

If it is to be music
you must be present to it, must offer to it
a profound self-remembering.
-from Altar Music

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Today, August 31, my mother would have been one-hundred years old. I'm grateful for the words of Kathleen Jesme, Mama's dear friend and mine: "It's that time of year, again, when I think much of your mother. She was born and died in August, and I think she was an August person--redolent with life, golden, richly hued in temperament and personality. She was of the moment when everything reaches its fullness, that same moment at which it begins to fall."

It's true. She lived life at its apex, a stance not always easy—maybe never easy. She could see the chasms all around her, the way the darkness filled them while she danced there in the sun. "This is the first year I failed to dance the New Year in…" she commented in her diary at the beginning of 1931. That was the year she discovered she was ill with TB and would spend over nine months in a TB sanitarium. Much of her life was like that, I think—the moment of fullness just before the fall.

Some years ago I wrote a still unpublished memoir about the two of us which began like this:

After she died in 1993, I put my letters from Mama in plastic page-savers, organized them by date, and stored them in a black loose-leaf notebook. It’s here, by my chair on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. If I begin to read a letter, my mind calls up her voice. I don’t do so often, not because I don’t want to hear her, but because I do, and the pull of her upon my heart reveals another cord that never broke.

Mama’s old typewriter sits on a little stand against the wall in front of me, under a photograph of her from 1923. I’ve placed two dried red roses behind the corner of the frame, because of her name: Alyce Rose.

Her letters bear the personal marks of her now ancient Smith Corona. Some of the lines are skewed to the side. Some letters aren’t inked as well as others. She used a ribbon divided between red and black so she could emphasize certain words not only by the pressure of her hands on the keys, but by color.

I’m older now than she was then and I’ve observed her future right through to her death and past her death almost fifteen years. But her letters—the word—connects us in a moment outside of time, a concept the poet T.S. Eliot explored extensively in Four Quartets: "Burnt Norton," moving toward his description of the locus of an eternal moment, the gathering of past and future into his famous "still point…"

“The words are in my fingers,” my mother used to say, and her words collapse time. Instinct warns me that by following the trail of her words, I will walk the path not only of her life, but of my own. Do I want to make that journey? Does it matter what I want? Must I follow it, regardless? The word is where the dance is. Maybe if I follow her, we can dance together upon this trail to that August Apex that her life represents.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


When it comes to family, the Weber's have it pretty much down to an art form. I can say this without a terrible arrogance since I was not born into them, but am there by choice. So let's just say I feel pride and a whole lot of love to be counted among them. Family fills my mind and heart today because I just returned from a reunion.

We've been getting together every other year since 1985. I missed that one—not yet having become part of the family, but I owe my life to it since, as a result of their mid-life get-together and a discussion about "old girlfriends," John decided to find me again.

It's a big family, scattered across the continent, so depending upon who has volunteered to be host, we've found ourselves trapping Dungeness Crabs off Camano Island in Washington State, fishing for tuna off the Pacific coast in California, eating deep fried turkey for Thanksgiving in Louisiana, picnicking in a park in Denver, gathering around the pool in Minnesota, playing in southern Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains—the Rogue and Applegate valleys, swapping stories and meeting more distant relatives in Wisconsin.

This year we went to the Gulf Coast of Florida, to Grayton Beach where the sand is fine and white as powdered sugar, with no oil globs that any of us could see.

 Jim and Laura rented a large beach house with a mammoth screened in porch overlooking the sand dunes and the high surf. On Sunday a tropical depression came down from Georgia to stall right over us. I now understand the inglorious metaphor "buckets of rain."

There it is again. Rain. Rain seems to be a prime image of this journal. As I see it right now, it became an enclosure for this year's Weber Reunion—a veil of care that surrounded all of us. No family is without its suffering; maybe every family is a microcosm of the world.

Job's have been lost. Businesses have closed. David has cancer. Tede's once keen mind is losing its bearings. Brothers and sisters in "my" generation have passed from this world, and though their names remain in our hearts and our stories, their chairs are empty. But all around the emptiness rain falls. Through rain the children run, and we laugh to see them, our hearts filling with something that defies loss. And though one by one the elder Weber's stand where the surf pounds, thinking of those whose "absence is our perpetual company," young shouts and giggles interrupt our reverie, and we turn to lift our children in our arms.