Realms of the Soul – November 2019
November’s Realm is a gathering of valued gifts that my wife and I have received, objects we have found in nature, and items that elicit memories that grouped together, take on the feel of a collection of stories told around a winter’s fire.
November, in our northern climate, has a sense of being a gateway to more emotive recollections and spiritual feelings than I am aware of in the months of spring and summer. This month’s Realm is a gathering of personal objects and symbols that reflect and honor these feelings and my renewed awareness of the textual transitions in nature. And, as is the case in the assembly of every new Realm, the gathering of objects and symbols recreates stories, memories, and experiences that my wife and I wish to retell ourselves; bells whose notes we wish to rehear.
My intent in sharing brief descriptions of the personal meaning these objects have within our life is to encourage others to find and gather their own symbols. The description of the creation of the presentation board in this month’s Realm, the sources of certain items, and the costs of this month’s Realm appear at the end of this article. *
In November of 2011, while visiting our youngest daughter and her husband, I went running with their dog Ace, a beagle whose distracted nose and need to lift his leg to mark our journey allowed me, in the lingering warmth of the Arizona sun, to have multiple rest periods. At one of his stops his nose found a baseball that had become hidden by the leaves and debris under a scrub. He picked up the ball for the briefest of moments before dropping it when a rabbit jumped from a nearby bush. We resumed our run, I with a leash in one hand and a plastic bag and a baseball in the other – Ace with the scent of rabbit directing his legs.
The ball returned home with us to Oregon where it resided like a talisman in the upper drawer of my nightstand, a position which attracted the attention of our Labrador Lucky who was large enough to look down into the contents of the drawer. We had a ritual before bed. He would press his nose to the drawer; I would open it and say, “Careful…that’s Papa’s ball.” He would tilt his head sideways, take the ball out of the drawer and carry it carefully into the room – dogs know ownership – and they know games. I would say, “What have you got? Have you got Papa’s ball?” He would pretend to guard the ball, holding it gently enough to only make the slightest of teeth marks on its surface. I’d say, “Better put it back in Papa’s drawer.” He would fake resisting a couple of times, run with it into the living room and then return, pushing the ball in my direction with his nose. He would then jump onto our bed and while watching me return the ball to the drawer, circle into a position for sleep.
Lucky and Ace have become good friends – though they never met until their spirits and teeth marks began to share the ball in the drawer of the nightstand beside my bed.
We’ve been raking mounds of fallen leaves and pruning roses; dividing clumps of spring-blooming bulbs. Lichen from the trees in woods behind our house have mixed with pruned rose galls and berry-like rose hips. Birch branches to clip into small chunks are plentiful. To add a cleansing fragrance to the sauna, I collected and saved some Eucalyptus leaves from a rest stop where Kathy and I stopped for a picnic breakfast on another road trip to Arizona. Together in a bowl, the leaves, the pieces of lichen, the rose galls and hips, and pieces of birch limbs – in addition to visually nodding at the spirit of fall – resemble the debris under the scrub where Ace discovered the baseball.
The clay dog in this month’s Realm was made by our youngest son forty-two years ago when he was eight. It was his intended Christmas present for us. He gave the sculpture to us shortly after Thanksgiving. He was excited.
It feels – particularly with its raised hind leg and my memories of the stop and go run with Ace – as if it was created so long ago to belong in this month’s gathering of treasured objects.
The wonderful glass marble resting in the pedestal of a warming dish that I found at a thrift store was a gift from a friend who has recently had multiple health problems and losses and who we are keeping close in our hearts. The brass marble, which I have painted into multiple fall-like still life’s, was given to me by the father of a friend.
The decaying nails were discovered years ago during an early winter, archeological-like dig at the site of a rumored stage coach stop. I was in the company of a warming flask of Johnny Walker Double Black whiskey and my brother – in- law who now lives in a memory care unit far away from the excitement we shared that day at the turning of dirt in a shovel.
The two small ceremonial-looking vessels were long-ago kept from being put into boxes labeled, “Donations.” We didn’t know what my wife’s family had used them for – incense maybe – ashtrays perhaps. In the present they host tiny candles and memories of Thanksgivings with my wife’s family so many years ago.
November. We are standing at the gateway to winter; the door to reveries of past experiences and future memories.
Gather your stories and light their presence in your life. Honor your memories, the gifts of love and friendship you have received, and the sorrows and losses you have experienced.
Find courage in the journeys you have taken. Let your survival and resilience give you faith in your future.
The Realms you create do not have to look like works of art. Your life is art.
*Assemblage, costs, and sources:
The stage for November’s gathering is a scrap piece of 11″ x 24″ x 1/4″ press board covered with a sheet of gift paper found at an art supply store. I glued the paper on the board with spray mount adhesive and sealed and polished it with clear paste furniture wax. Under the board I glued two strips of 1/2″square wood to give the board the appearance of floating above a table’s surface. The cost for the paper was $4.00. The board, glue, and wax were all items we had around the house. The brass “platter” with ball feet is a candle base we found at a thrift store for $2.00, as is the elevated potpourri bowl which, as I can best remember, was on sale on a senior day for less than $5.00. Glass votive holders are available at craft stores for around a dollar as are small bags of stones like the ones we used to evolve the potpourri warmer into an incense holder. All other objects in this month’s Realm were found, made, or received as a gift.
Go hunt and gather. Learn about and rejoice in your own story.