Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Fatherly winds


I keep a boundary around my personal life on this blog, but I felt I needed to write something about my father's death. It is just the strangest sensation, on the day you get the word. Many know what I mean, others will someday. You can't practice for it, as one person said. Thank you for the many kind thoughts already.


In the predawn morning when my father died, it was not raining but the branch of the Doug Fir outside the bedroom window was blowing. I ate yogurt for breakfast just like the day before when he was still alive.

On the morning my father died, I went to the barn like I always do, first stopping to let the chickens out for their daily free range. I fed Boone and brushed him, taking time to rub his underbelly since he's shedding and he likes it. I watchede the mother ewes and looked over the new lambs while they ate.

"I must name them soon," I think to myself.

For that one moment I forgot what day it was.

I drive to the feed store for supplies. It began to rain at 2:01pm Oregon time. Everything becomes significant on the day your father dies. I see old men everywhere, with canes. One is buying birdseed. Old men are like old trees - they die one limb at a time. I had that thought in my head for a year now, wanting to paint it, but never did.

My father was not a religous man, nor am I preferring to look to Nature and Higher Power as one huge university with health and wellness seminars.I'm a leaf, only with a different anatomy and make-up, and will someday crumble to the worms.

Picking up the phone that morning, I heard the voice say,

"It's happened."

Not, "He's dead," but, "It's happened."

"It". That's a huge "it".

Later in the morning, I asked out loud,

"Where are you? What are you doing right now?"

My crumbling leaf analogy didn't really help as I ran into the impact of this day. Please, do not write and tell me you know where he is. It's really his business now. It would be nice if someone told me, "He felt the need to get away and went on a road trip east." If he had just gone on a road trip, I wouldn't need to know what states he went to, I could fathom he was still on earth, grounded by body. Wearing clothes. Dog at his side. Camera in the back seat. But just a crumbled leaf with the worms, I just could grasp it - on the day he died.

I noticed how sensitive I was to the wind that day. I think there might be this one terrifying moment before death, where I'll struggle to stay on Earth, "Please, I can't leave you behind, Wind!"

All day long, movies played in my mind - of former holidays as a family, pleasant lunches, little moments that are stuffed over a lifetime in a memory book, old houses we remodeled, that night we drank 100 year old Armanac in Zurich as father and daughter and smoked cigars. You remember the oddest things too, like standing in line at the old Mann Theater in St. Paul when I was about 7 waiting to see "Sound of Music". And the night he came into my room and made me a deal when I was 8 years old - instead of me buying tickets to the Monkee's concert, which he would have to chaperone me on, he offered to buy me all three of their albums. I pondered, and recognized the albums would last longer than a concert and agreed. I now smile at his probable relief.

On the day my father died, he was 84 years old and safe in his home with his wife of 53 years and his little dog nearby. He was surrounded by items he could still recognize as important to him. And I was on my farm, sleeping next to my husband, surrounded by fields and animals and things important to me - ike the worms and the wind.

22 comments:

salmonpoetry said...

condolences, Katherine. this is a very beautiful tribute to your father, but losing someone is never easy. i hope that you and your family can find peace in his passing.

Juli said...

Those are truly beautiful memories. Thank you for sharing and may be peace be in your heart.

penelope said...

beautiful... beautiful...

my condolences Katherine.

Cathy said...

I know where your father is, my dear. He lives on in your memories and your art and your beautiful words.

Condolences and love to you and your family.

Alisa said...

my heart goes out to you. you are a lovely woman with lovely words.

coloredsock said...

oh my friend....your words and bits memories are beautiful, and now i have 'hey, hey for the monkees' looping in my head. i'm sending you a big hug. know that i'll LOVE hearing more stories of your dad as they come popping into your head! what else to say...xoxojenny

Maggie Sumner said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Balou said...

What a touching retrospect of that day and of memories of your father. It's truly a day that will remain vivid in memory. Been there. A hug from me to you.

Michelle said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Dad.

Riley said...

Thank you for sharing the tribute to your father.

Joan said...

Katherine, my heart goes out to you. Your tribute to your father speaks volumes of your love for him and his for you.
Peace,
Joan

Tara Ross Studios said...

Beautiful ,, wonderfully stated...

Mare said...

Dear Katherine,
It has been a year of loss for me too. My heart goes out to you and embraces you. I have a love of the wind. When i feel it brush up against my face, it feels like i am being caressed by all kinds of loving wings..You had a lovely relationship with your Father. That stays the same always...
PS- I loved the Monkees too. I still have my Monkee Spectacular magazines, loving kept in a special place...lots of memories...

brabarella said...

hello katherine -- thank you for sharing your experience -- we are the same age but i have not lost a parent yet and it is something i dread...but it sounds like you know where to find comfort as you grieve...i hope i do too when it's my turn...thank you again and i am sorry...
patricia

shepherdgirl said...

I want to thank all of you for your kind words and thoughts. It is very, very helpful to recieve notes like this at this time - thank you all very, very much. I have a lot of animal therapy around me, so all is well.

Judy Wise said...

Thank you for a beautiful post and my condolences too. Your words are healing to many of us who have also lost fathers (and mothers) and who think of them daily and are guided by having known them. I hope you find consolation in the days ahead.

Robyn said...

Your words are a comfort to me and I am sure your father would have been proud to read them. A beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

'grieve not,
nor speak of me with tears,
but laugh and talk of me
as if i were beside you..
i loved you so-
'twas heaven here with you.'

paschal richardson

this is what i think of sometimes, when i think of my papa. because he would have liked it, and i do, very much.
rose

Robyn said...

Whilst reading this post I thought of the words of an African bushman named Kxao Tami. I searched through my books and am so happy to have found them quickly to share with you.
"I'm climbing on a thread into the sky.
I feel a wind on my face as I fly.
It's a person's soul, this wind that turns, that changes."

Anonymous said...

This is an incredibly moving tribute to your father. I have tears in my eyes. He sounds like a wonderful man. My condolences.
Sharon

katie said...

what a beautiful sharing of your experience that day, the day "it happened". i have lost both my parents now, i feel them reading your words, my heart goes out to you in comfort. and the wind, yes. the morning my mother "left" us, (she died in a hospice cottage with me and my sister by her side) i looked up into the sky to see a trail of hot air ballons riding in the vast south dakota wind...mmmmmmm

Deb said...

This is lovely Katherine. I love the way you express yourself.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~