A 30-day solitary performance to commemorate my mother’s life
7:25am Sun touching aspen leaves as I begin this private ritual. “I put down this burden.” A few moans, hums. I carry the stone to the cemetery, place it at the site, stand, pick it up again and return to the Sisters, where it sits, waits
7:50am Hurry, hurry. Late. Walk fast. “I put down this burden.” Pick it up quickly, race back, trying to be conscious of my breath. Put “Mom 1925-1964” up in the cemetery and on the sister's chair. A short brisk walk.
4:25pm Sun and clouds. A perfect fall day. The dance of wind. My colleagues traveled with me to the cemetery, where I crouched, squatted. Brought back seeds for The Sisters and scattered them.
11:15am Preparation of ritual space. Preparation of the body. A slow savoring walk. Large woodpecker at cemetery's edge. Sitting. Eating. Washing stone with water. Clouds rolling in and cooler wind. She was with me less on the walk.
8am Waning moon over western mountain. I WANT to put down this burden, but I carry it still, perhaps will always carry it, and will need to return again to claim what is mine and to release what is not. Squatting, face to sun, against the aspen.
8:35am Already too late in the morning to hold a constant thought. Only breathing and stepping. A jay squawked and came close while I crouched against the aspen. Empty ritual, but a ritual nonetheless.
7:25am Sun not up, except on the peaks and tips of trees. Ritual acts: breathing, walking, sweeping, sighing. Dogs barking furiously, as I say “I put you down,” and “I carry you still.”
7:20am Sun holding the mountain in orange, barely touching the aspen tips. I enact the ritual of carrying, putting down, picking up this burden, this sorrow. Or, picking up, carrying, putting down . . . in a daily cycle.
5:15pm No relief. She simply was not there. Not there to help resolve conflicts. Only there to punish. Sorrow weighs. When is acceptance? (She suffered too, and could not bear it. She died — or killed herself — in 1964.)
3:45pm Sun, traffic, hazy sky. For the first time, I plan to leave her here, in the cemetery. “M.E.C.H.” The unfamiliar. I mourn the fact that I never knew her as a healthy, energetic, intelligent woman. Sounds of jet and car.
8:30am Sun my companion: eyes open, skin safe. I brought the stone to The Sisters, taken from the cemetery as shadows danced on the surface. (It was beautiful there.) The PLACE of art is in our daily lives. Ritual repetition and variation. A breeze and the leaves begin to fall.
9am No sun today, but clouds and drizzle. Putting the stone down, I observed the discrete rings of water drops. Gentle. Birds, but not many. Three people. 1.25 miles on the pedometer. No words today, only the action of walking, breathing. Not even many thoughts, except that I do not want to talk about this, to anyone, until 30 days have passed.
5:47pm Darkening under gray clouds after a day of gray. Entering the cemetery, “ma mmm ma mm.” I left the stone today and felt relieved not to have hitting my lower back and sacrum — the place of spanking (pain). Friendly dogs in the park.
7:10am In dim light under the waning crescent moon. Humming as I entered the cemetery. No backpack, just this heavy stone, held in front of my chest and carried first under one arm, then the others. This stone is heavy. I enact the burden of sorrow.
6pm Under darkening sky with a brief tinge of pink . . . I walked, carrying the stone at my belly. A revelation . . . . I put her down in the cemetery tonight and walked home with a sense of relief. Then, sweeping The Sisters, cleaning, cleansing. I am tired and hungry.
7:30am Sun brushing tips of trees. Dog companion part way along the route. I picked up the stone and carried it at my belly and on my head, under lightening sky. Thoughts meager. I am more than half way there.
7:10am No sun at this hour, but pink clouds, and on my return, pink mountains. Carrying the stone in the backpack, I barely noticed the weight — so familiar it is. This morning I simply touched the gate, and placed the stone in the rock hole beyond The Sisters. (Thinking about infinity.)
11am Midday overcast, in the cemetery. I have not conducted a ritual like this for a long time. I experience the weight of my sorrow each day, in the stone's weight. And I follow the yearning, listening to the imagination's desire. Soon I will walk with both MECH and PEARCE and experience the weight of two.
8:30am This morning for the first time, I have thought more deeply about what Mom may have experienced as a young woman in her early 20s and late teens. Barriers. No encouragement to develop her goals. (What did she DO between 18 and 24?) A bright woman without options for her life.
7am The burden of stone has become so familiar that I barely notice it . . . just like the burden of sorrow (to say the obvious). I walked, holding the question of who she was in mind. To walk the question in question. Sun coming out of clouds as I returned, following my shadow.
6:30am. Clouds, a bit of color, white frosted ground. I did not enter the cemetery today, just kept walking. No special thoughts, no compulsive worrying about work. Only the steps, the ritual of the walk, of carrying this weight, again.
7:30am I took the stone to the Sacred Heart of Mary parish on South Boulder Road today, All Saints' Day. Low mass, then out to the cemetery, by the crucifix. I have few words to describe this experience with Toni and Susan. A joyous morning.
6:20am Gray sky, sun not up yet. Sounds of cars moving down the canyon and a squirrel’s trill. All Souls' Day: the day Catholics honor, bless, forgive those who have died. I have come to the cemetery to sit, to remember, to mourn. Forgiveness? This is harder to embrace, to bring forth. How could she have done anything else? Perhaps forgiveness and release come with this deep acknowledgment. How could she have done anything else, given her time and heritage?
6:30am Snow, fog, and a glimpse of blue sky. My back hurts and the stone is heavy. I want to put this weight down! I followed critter tracks into the cemetery, nearly to the aspens. Then followed tracks around the wetland. Stopped several times to try to open my perception.
8:30am I squat against this aspen, watching the play of color on the snow, brilliant crystalline colors. Then, standing up, I hear myself: “I want to leave you here, in the cemetery.” I want to put down this sorrow, this weight that I carry in my heart and on my back. (My mother who was not mothered, giving birth to my mother.)
7:30am Cloudy, spitting sky. Snow expected. As I picked up the stone in the cemetery, I thought, “I am tired of this weight.” I anticipate putting it down, burying it, later this week. Walking, I found it difficult to keep Mom in my consciousness. A tragedy, the kind of American tragedy that is all too common.
5pm Walking into dark, chanting and carrying two stones. I have been carrying this burden long enough. I have been carrying this burden long enough. I have been carrying this burden long enough. I have been carrying this burden long enough. I have been carrying this burden long enough. I have been carrying this burden long enough. I have been carrying this burden long enough.
7:15am Very cold and cloudy. I have become so accustomed to the stone's weight that I do not notice it any longer. Walking becomes trudging, continuing because I have to. I am eager to put down this weight, this sorrow. It is time.
7am Sun this morning. I carried the stone to the cemetery, where I put it down and picked it up 29 times. Back home, I wrapped it in linen, sprinkled it with cornmeal, and began piling rocks into the hole where I had put it. I topped the rock pile with a few of the special stones I had found, perhaps to mark the beginning of a rock altar. Gathered water from the ice-covered creek and poured it over the stones. Swept. Sat.
7:15am Sun again for this final day. I walked a circle. At the cemetery gate: I have walked for 29 days to sit inside, to acknowledge the weight of my sorrow with a stone weighing 12 pounds. Now, I want to release this sorrow and to release my mother. Six candles, sage incense, water, prayer, a rose. Absolve, quaesumus Domine, animan famuli tui Mary Elizabeth Clark Haynes. I forgive you. I release you. I release my rage. I release my sorrow. I release you. I release my sorrow. “Said twice means I mean it!”