October Light

A small celebration for Refugia, which celebrated its first birthday in September, and also received a New Mexico Book Award for poetry last week. I am honored (stunned!) that this collection continues to make its way in the world and to touch readers. I want to give a special shout out to Aaron Morse, the artist behind the cover art. Please visit his website to see the painting (Wilderness #2) in its entirety, and to treat yourself to his full portfolio.

In other book news, a few weeks ago I was supposed to be part of a reading and panel at the Montana Book Festival called The Earth’s Story is Also Our Story: Grief and Reverence in Poetic Ecologies. Could there be a more ideal panel for me? I mean honestly, what else is there to talk about? Unfortunately I was unable to attend at the last minute, but I encourage you to tune in to the video–the other panelists are extraordinary and it was a joy to enter into conversation with them and their work in preparation for the reading.

And, as it happens, I’ve been living through a season of grief and reverence in real time. This entire year has been a grief rite, it seems, but frankly, September was heartbreaking. The west coast fires broke my heart. The correlating songbird die-off that plagued New Mexico’s backyards and riverbanks broke my heart. And most devastatingly, piercingly close, the sudden loss of my dear friend’s husband breaks my heart open every day.

A year for apprenticing to sorrow, indeed.

I remember sitting around a campfire back in normal times, under a big moon with a handful of very wise friends. One, perhaps the wisest among us, asked about despair–the despair she sensed in her teenagers about the climate crisis, a despair that echoed through all of us. It seemed at that point that there was something to be done, some way forward, some way out of that pain. If only we could find it.

Now, I think of despair as pure invitation, and the answering grief as its only remedy. Therein lies reverence, therein lies healing.

I painted these retablos of Our Lady of Autumn at the beginning of September in a meditation on impermanence, death, and cycles of renewal. This was before the birds began to fall out of my apple tree, before Breonna Taylor was denied justice, before our friend passed away.

Now these ladies remind me that we are bathed in light even as we bear skull beads on strands, passing them between our fingers in prayer. They ask, as poet Tanya Holtland asks in Requisite:

“What in us needs to die first / for the rest to continue living?”

4 Replies to “October Light”

  1. Happy Birthday, Refugia! And congrats on the NM Book Award– I can think of no more worthy work than yours! This post is beautifully expressed… a year of grieving indeed… Love and deepest blessings
    my friend!

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