Grace Notes #9 – These Golden Fall Days!

Well, if we had a bright red Breaking News banner here at Grace Notes, it would be this: We are thrilled to announce that we are now on the calendar with Belmont Books in Belmont, for an evening of reading from Grace Street and conversation with Maryanne O’Hara, author of Little Matches: A Memoir of Grief and Light, Harper One 2021. The date is Thursday, October 20, 2022, at 7 pm.

Please share this notice widely with friends, and family. Belmont Books and Maryanne O’Hara have been so gracious in arranging this evening, we really want to fill the place with friends of Grace Street and friends of books!

Maureen Callahan Smith in conversation with Maryanne O’Hara

Event date: 
Thursday, October 20, 2022 – 7:00pm

Join us in-store (79 Leonard St.) for an intimate discussion of grief with Maureen Callahan Smith! She will be joined by author and memoirist Maryanne O’Hara. 

Part of our tribe, in P-town, before Covid hit!

This past month has brought us to summer’s end, to harvest time, to the Jewish high holy days. A time of griefs and gratitudes.

Our much-anticipated vacation with the littles was cut short this year after Covid came to visit and decided to hang around for a few weeks. I was reminded of why we’ve spent the past two and a half years trying to avoid it.

On the flip side, do you notice how, after being in a place of feeling pretty darned sick, once you start feeling better, you have such a sense of appreciation? Like: YAY! I feel like myself again! It’s so easy to take for granted feeling more-or-less okay, and so I am appreciating the wake-up call of being glad to feel better!

Annika & me wearing our tiaras. She made mine of pink & yellow pipe cleaners.

This month also brought a pageant of grief and gratitude into our living rooms, as Britain and the world said goodbye to Queen Elizabeth, who was such a major player on the world stage and touched so many people’s lives. Having a love of history and historical fiction, I confess to being drawn into watching the events of today’s history unfolding. And whatever one’s thoughts are on the monarchy, on colonial England (and I did hear my Irish ancestors scolding in my ear: “You’re watching WHAT?!”), I found the sheer dedication and loyalty of the folks who “queque’d” for 14-20 hours in order to have a few moments to pay tribute, to be a moving spectacle.
It’s another reminder that in the loss of a person who has played a major role in our life story—whether for good or for ill—there is a part of our own identity that we are also revisiting and reshaping and mourning. Who am I without this person?  Who I am I now, how am I to be, going forward? In this instance, the vulnerability raised by those internal questions played out before our eyes, with the throngs and the family members on-screen. Such a loss also has the potential to resurface old wounds, old conflicts, old history which can be remarkably powerful and can present a significant challenge in a time of such emotion. 
Any of us who have been through our own such losses could only wonder at the composure needed at public ceremonies where one’s every gesture and wiped-away tear is being captured by high-powered zoom lenses and telegraphed around the world to be analyzed by the ‘peanut gallery.’ I found myself wishing, for all of them, for some privacy and plenty of nap time in the aftermath.

I love to draw on the expressions of other authors about grief and gratitude. This poem from Jan Richardson struck me as particularly beautiful.
A Blessing for the Brokenhearted
Let us agree for now that we will not say the breaking makes us stronger, or that it is better to have this pain than to have done without this love. 
Let us promise, we will not tell ourselves, time will heal the wound, when every day our waking opens it anew. 
Perhaps for now, it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating, as if it were made for precisely this, as if it knows the only cure for love is more of it, as if it sees the heart’s sole remedy for breaking is to love still, as if it trusts that its own persistent pulse is the rhythm of a blessing we cannot begin to fathom, but will save us nonetheless.
(From The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief by Jan Richardson, from Wanton Gospeller Press.)

So, how is your writing going? Is it something you’ve taken up, however fitfully, or returned to, or something you’re still contemplating? Or are you perfectly content with your other wonderful self-care practices?

I met a reader two weeks ago who later emailed me that, after years of thinking about it, and encouragement from family, she had bought herself a notebook and started writing. If you have also started journaling, are you noticing anything coming up from just this simple act?

For myself, I can say that I do not “get to the page” every day, as I have done at times in the past, but I do notice, on days when I do, that there is a definite feeling of quiet pleasure. Probably much like what some people feel on days when they run, or get in their yoga practice, or get out for a walk. There’s a comforting ‘click’ within, of some quiet but important call being heeded, or of receiving goodness you didn’t realize how much you needed!

Please keep in touch and let me know if/how the writing thing is going for you!

And finally, because September is an anniversary of the wedding (of ‘Patrick’ and Leah) on Inis Mor that opens and closes Grace Street, I thought I’d share a photo from that day that didn’t make it into the book.  (‘Liam’ taking the leap! Photo by Anthony Phillips)

 As the Jewish New Year begins, may you find yourself leaping into something that, wet feet, or not, wakes you up and and lands you in some place new.

  —   Maureen

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