Monday, October 19, 2009

Cleaning house, Aunt Susan, and feeding deeply from the table

There is a family tradition, at least on my maternal side, that women in my family who are worried or upset tend to clean house. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill grab a dust cloth and a can of Pledge kind of clean, but a scrubbing baseboards, scour bathtubs with boiling water, dig the grime out of the grout kind of clean. I’m not sure why we do this: perhaps the physical activity helps dispel some of the worry and other uncomfortable feelings; or perhaps we clean with such vigor because we feel powerless over our lives and need something tangible to do with our hands to help us feel grounded.

Regardless of why, my bathroom is very clean. I can honestly say it is spotless.

On Saturday (Oct17), I received the bad news that a favorite aunt had died unexpectedly on Friday (Oct 16). She was an aunt by marriage to one of my maternal uncles. I love how marriage can bring new and vibrant people into our lives and families and she was certainly one of these! She had serious health problems all of her life but I, for one, had grown used to her rallying back to health every time. Every time. But not this time.

So she’s gone and I feel sad and feel very far away from my family as they negotiate this difficult time…

The sun was shining here on Saturday and while it is on the way to becoming very hot, it was quite pleasant on Saturday. As I was walking about, feeling sad about my aunt’s passing, and trying to think of a way I could honor her, I found this beautiful, beautiful tree. I had seen it once before, but had forgotten it. Here, in all of its glory in the beautiful breezy sunshine, I sat down with the tree to enjoy its beauty and honor my Aunt Susan.

As I sat, I soon realized that the birds and bees LOVE this tree. And why would they not? I don’t know if the photos show it well, but his tree is full of thick, yellow, comb-like blossoms. (And of course, I don’t yet know what it is, but will soon, as many of you are sending me field guides!!—thank you!). At any time it would fill with yellow canaries and they flitted from branch to branch, chirping away, enjoying the lushness of the tree.

As I was sitting, a bright yellow weaver-bird flew up and I could see that s/he was working on a nest. These birds are a favorite--Do we have weaver birds in the States? A weaver-bird is bright yellow with a black face and they collect strands of grass to “weave” their nests and there are often many, many nests in a single thorn tree. (The photo with the sun shining through a thorn tree has a single weaver-bird nest in the lower branches of the left side of the tree.)

I love these birds and adore spotting them.

This one perched relatively close to me so I could see her/him well. S/he literally turned upside down, and with its feet still grasping the branch, stuck its head down into the comb of one of these beautiful blossoms and took a big drink. I don’t know if the photos show it clearly, but can you see the little black dots that look like seeds? These are actually droplets of nectar! I squealed when I touched one and the liquid dispersed upon my fingers! This beautiful weaver bird was clearly “feeding deeply from the table.”

What a beautiful metaphor for Aunt Susan: she loved feeding people deeply from her table.

Aunt Susan loved good food, she loved preparing wonderful, lovely meals, and loved having people come to “feed from her table.” Her dinners, dinner parties, and out-and-out parties were anticipated and enjoyed. And her Derby Eve Party was nationally famous!

Her other great loves were her family, the company for which she worked for many years, travel, all things Japanese, and her grandbabies. She LOVED her grandbabies! Her whole face lit up when she was asked about them.

I felt upset in thinking about her no longer loving with her grandbabies when I realized that she loved them so much, she surely loved them enough for a lifetime.

As the lovely weaver bird finished its meal, I couldn’t help but think that Aunt Susan was with me, letting me know that she was still “feeding deeply from the table.” In this way, she reminded me too, to keep “feeding deeply from the table.”

Please keep my Uncle Larry and the rest of my family in your prayers as they move through their grief of losing this wonderful woman.

Best, Karen


  1. Truly one of the most beautiful things you have ever written.

  2. So beautiful that Katie had Robert to read at the funeral. special to all.