Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Tag: You Can Never Go Home

Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour – Thoughts on Letting Our Childen Go

Yesterday, I re-watched Steel Magnolias. Before the movie began, I knew that re-watching this film would make me cry, and I almost opted out of racking myself with that painful experience again. But I took the plunge, and I began to think about my own life. Julia  Roberts died in Steel Magnolias, and as a mother, I was tormented by the mother’s grief of losing her child to death. But I also began to consider that many parents lose their children in ways that do not involve dying. Children simply move on. They leave to marry and to begin their own homes or they leave to begin their own careers somewhere else. The bottom line is that our children leave. and as parents, we are left gripping the reality that we had simply been loaned a set of children–for just a short period of time–and that eventually, we were forced to let our children go.

“You can never go home again.” – Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe is correct in saying that once a child leaves, he can never really return to his childhood home again. Although most children keep in touch with their parents after they move away, they can never really return, and a decent mother doesn’t want her child to do so. But in some nagging, longing way, mothers remember and we ache for the days that we wrapped our children in soft, cotton blankets and brought them home from the hospitals. We remember their first steps. We remember baby food dripping from their chins, their highchairs, and from their hands and hair. We remember bathing our babies’ silky bodies and drying them and then laying them on top of our hearts–where we could feel them as they breathed. As mothers, we also remember slipping into our child’s room at night and at marveling at the sweetness of our sleeping child. We recall our children’s innocent but profound comments–the ones that allowed us to recall viewing life as only a child can view it. We remember the drawings and the paintings that they made as children, and we remember their going to school.

When my oldest child went to school, I grieved. Somehow I knew that both of our worlds had permanently shifted. For the first time, I realized that my child was not a doll. She was not mine, to keep. From that moment on, my child began slipping away from me and into herself. The transition has not been easy. I have discovered that it is often necessary for people to get mad before they can completely sever themselves, and that has happened in my family. I long for the day that my family can close its angry chapter and go to the next. That is the way that it is supposed to be: Our children are supposed to have their lives, and we are forced to have another. We know that, but still, we remember the fleeting moments that God loaned us our children, and we long.

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet….
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears….William Wordsworth
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Jacki Kellum Garden May 2017

Although many mothers always long for the hours when their children were living in their homes, a wise mother will transition, too, and they will find another home where they will live into old age alone. I am thankful for the years that I was a parent, but I am also thankful for the ever-renewing well of life and for my ability to continually find a new life without my children nested around me. My garden has become my solace.

Jacki Kellum Garden Gate in 2015

“When the hornet hangs in the hollyhock, And the brown bee drones i’ the rose, And the west is a red-streaked four-o’clock, And summer is near its close It’s Oh, for the gate, and the locust lane; And dusk, and dew, and home again!” – Madison Cawein

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Jacki Kellum Garden

“I divined and chose a distant place to dwell …
I pick leaves to thatch a hut among the pines
Scoop out a pond and lead a runnel from the spring
By now I am used to doing without the world
Picking ferns I pass the years that are left.” Han Shan

Jacki Kellum Garden

Yesterday, my friend shared a slightly bent version of an old Chinese proverb:

If you want to be happy for a night, get drunk.
If you want to be happy for a year, get married.
If you want to be happy for life, plant a garden.

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Relatively speaking, our years on earth are few, and hours that we spend agonizing because we do not feel accepted or appreciated or loved are simply hours lost. Because living can become painful and toxic, we need an antidote and a place to heal. My garden is where I go to be restored, and even during the winter, nature is my solace. My sunroom overlooks my side courtyard, and my greatest winter joy is to sit by my fireplace, watching the birds dipping into my oasis for food and water. Anytime that I can sit alone in nature, I am truly home–the home that will carry me through life.

“I leant upon a coppice gate When Frost was spectre-gray, And Winter’s dregs made desolate The weakening eye of day The tangled bine-stems scored the sky Like strings of broken lyres, And all mankind that haunted nigh Had sought their household fires.” – Thomas Hardy

©Jacki Kellum June 9, 2017

Tender

My House Is My Hideout, My Refuge, & My Home

When I am attacked by a case of social anxiety, nothing spells relief like H-O-M-E–not house–but home. The place where I currently dwell isn’t fancy. In fact, in many ways, it is downright crude; but my home is my haven–a shelter from life out there, a harbor from the arduous task of survival. It might seem that any 4 walls and a roof could serve that purpose–could offer a kind of refuge or a closet where I could hide from the world. Yet, while my house is far from adequate and while it lacks many of the creature comforts that I would enjoy, the things that make this space my home are far more complicated than that. Following is a list of some of the things and places that have transformed my house into my home:

  1.  My Garden

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Both working and sitting in my garden are probably the activities that most keep me sane. I have written blog posts in which I have tried to catalog all of the reasons that my garden is vital to me.  For exmple, there are health benefits in my being able to root around in the dirt and become part of what nature, plants, and seeds can produce.  I have built a waterfall, and the sounds that it makes are soothing to me and watching the cascading water is mesmerizing. I also have bird feeders and bird baths.  Being able to sit, just feet away from my feeding and bathing birds is an invaluable treat for me.  While not exactly part of my house, my garden is no doubt one of the areas of my home that I consider to be most important.

2.  My Sunroom

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A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.  – May Sarton –

During the spring, summer, and fall, I spend most of my waking hours outside in my garden. My sunroom is a place where things can continue to grow and bloom even when things outside are not, but  I actually built my sunroom to serve as my inside link to what I have created outside.

In my sunroom, there is a great big and soft loveseat-like chair that is situated just in front of a wall of glass that opens to my side garden, where I have planted a a bit of what I consider to be nature’s best.  My birdfeeder and bird bath are in view from this chair, and I can also see my cherub statue from there.  My sunroom has become the place that I sit, especially during winter, when I need to lavish myself with the healing balm and blessings of what lies outside.  When it snows, I especially love to sit in my sunroom, toasting by my fireplace, watching the world, as nature transforms her into a white and silent maiden.

Some days, after working in my garden, I spread a bit of bird food, go inside and pour myself a glass of wine.  Afterward, I come into my sunroom and sink into my sunroom chair, which literally seems to wrap itself around me.  Then I begin peering through the glass at nature as it unfolds on the living, big screen in front of me.  I think to myself that life just doesn’t get much better than this.  My sunroom is literally the window to my soul.

3.  My Fireplaces and Firepits

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“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If youre a pretender come sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
Come in!
Come in!

– Shel Silverstein –

My attraction to burning logs is complex.  In short, nothing transports me more than the smell of a wood fire.  I currently live in a suburb that has very strict laws against torching things outside, but before I moved here, one of the things that I most loved about fall was the smell of burning leaves; and when I was a child, I spent my summers at camp, where night time and campfires became absolutely mystical to me.  My fireplaces and my outside firepits are the ways that I keep that part of myself alive.

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains. – Diane Ackerman

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4.  My Studio

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During the winter, which is normally both brutal and long in New Jersey, I spend most of my active hours in my studio.  Every season but winter, I create outside; but when it gets cold and ground freezes, my studio becomes my garden.  It is the place that I myself go to grow–to listen to my own spirit and to follow its call.

Although I could paint and create in virtually any room of my house, having a designated studio makes the process easier.  If every time I wanted to create, I had to wag out my art supplies and then put them back up again, I simply would never paint again.  That being said, my studio is more than a set of handy shelves and other storage devices.  It is the cornerstone of much that makes me who I am.  Even when I am not painting, my studio is a shrine that reminds me that there is a secret and magical place within myself and that I have a package, waiting to be opened.

Being an artist is a way of Being–of Becoming Aware–of Increasing from Within–of Wondering–and of Inventing because of that Wonder.  – Jacki Kellum –

5.  My Bed

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If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.  – Gaston Bachelard

While I have a lovely sunroom and a terrific studio, the place that I do most of my recharging and creating is actually my bed.  Whereas my home is my haven, and my garden is my retreat, and my sunroom is my soul, and my studio is my shrine, my bed is a cornucopia of all of those things, in one integral place.

I am a very active person, but I am probably more mental.  I think and rethink everything that I do and then I research it on my laptop, chart it, notate it, graph it, plan it, and rethink it some more.  95% of the mental part of myself happens while I am propped up on the feather pillows atop my bed, which is truly a spot that transforms my house into my home.

You can never go home again. – Thomas Wolfe

When you finally go back to your old home, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but your childhood. – Sam Ewing

Fortunately,  our true homes are not merely the places where we lived with our parents.  Like turtles, we carry our homes with us–inside ourselves.  Our homes are actually the places where and when we are most rooted and most grounded.  During the better parts of our childhoods, most of us did experience a sense of home; and in my opinion, the only way that we can become happy adults is to find ways to reesablish that same essence again and again.

There are things that we can do to our houses that help us to recreate our senses of home.   As I look back, I believe that my true mission in life has been that of finding ways to make myself at home–wherever I happen to live.  I am currently residing in at least the 10th house since my childhood, and I have been fortunate in that I have learned to find ways to make each of those houses my home.  It is the only way that I know to actually live.

[Note: I first wrote this two years ago, and I hate to admit that during this past summer, I did not tend to and care for my garden, and I have allowed my sunroom to become cluttered with an never-ending remodeling project, and my spirit has suffered. My house is still my hideout. When I return home from a day of working or running errands, I still sigh in relief that I have finally been allowed to get home again, but I realize that without my gardening and my sunroom and my fireplace, my house is not my sanctuary. I vow to do better this summer and get back into my garden and back into my home.]

©Jacki Kellum February 21, 2017

Hideout

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