This is Boquila trifoliolata, it is a vine that grows in the rain forests of Chile and Argentina. It is unique in that it takes on the shape and texture of the host it inhabits. It does this to survive;to keep from being eaten by leave eating creatures.
“And that’s the wildest part: It doesn’t have to touch what it copies. It only has to be nearby. Most mimicry in the animal kingdom involves physical contact. But this plant can hang—literally hang—alongside a host tree, with empty space between it and its model, and, with no eyes, nose, mouth, or brain, it can “see” its neighbor and copy what it has “seen.” (Robert Krulwich, Curiously Krulwich)
My latest layer of grief is not unlike Boquila trifoliolata. Sneaky little bastard it is. It hangs and clings and creeps into the empty space between me and my being. It does not need light, water or abundant sunshine. It clings to sadness. It loves the dark, and it wraps around memories, like the true vine it is, in an attempt to choke off the living.
It is kudzu on steroids.
I am afraid, said my daughter, that I will one day not be able to remember what he looked like. What he sounds like. That I will not be able to remember him.
I know, I said.
And I can feel the vine tighten.
She went on to say how much she thinks of him when the air smells like it does in these dog days of summer, when we plan for travel as we used to do,our family of three, this time of year, and she makes note of all the things he has missed these last almost four years. In her own hidden ongoing grief, she too knows the start of school means the start of another year when our lives changed forever. To the days we will not get back.
I wish I could talk to him one more time, she says.
And I feel the vine in my throat, pulling on the tears, reaching up to grab hold of the screams that do not come.
I know, I said. I am still angry.
I know, she said. Me too.
I look ahead and know all the things he will continue to miss, and the vine wraps around more sadness. This vine, this continual host sneaks up and without warning, has within it’s grip, reminders.
It’s life. This is life with the enormity of loss.
I chop down little pieces of the vine when the physicality of grief is tangled in with the physicality of life. My natural defense is to keep moving,work harder, run more miles, walk further, cycle faster, clean more, throw out, tidy up, make decisions, make meaning, just keep moving.
Fight or flight has been a combo platter for me. Lucky me. I fight or take flight depending on the mood. This leaves a mark. And the vine keeps growing.
I don’t want to do this anymore.
I don’t want to do this anymore, I said to my analyst through tears and snotty sobs. One day there is balance and the next I am searching for a level playing field. One day I am in the affirmative and the next I am quiet and full of questions. What is this? What is this fucking thing?
She looked at me and said,
This is life.
You are in the living. You are in the living of one parent who passed away, a husband who took his own life and another parent who is facing his own quick decline and death. You are mother, daughter, sister, woman. You are love and loss, fear and happiness, anger and abundance, change and change maker. You are a conscious decision maker. You made conscious decisions a long, long time ago, I suspect, she said, from the moment you were born, to step into the living, not knowing where it would take you and here you are, still in the living, doing everything you can to move through. You work on the physical body of pain, you work on the emotional body of love and loss, and you move through. You grieve and you give gratitude. You are in the living.
This is life.
There are some days I can feel the vines of isolation, loneliness, and fear( oh hell yes, it is fear) creep, creep, creep up through my conscious decisions. As if, these vines need to hold onto all of this host until there is not one ounce of oxygen left.
I forget to breathe. I forget what breathing feels like. Why can’t I remember what breathing feels like? Did you know when you silence your sobs, you forget to breathe? Why when the heat hangs like a thick curtain and August slips into September am I not able to breathe? Why am I not able to cut down these fucking vines; prune them away from my arms, my legs, my heart, my guts? Unleash the leave eating creatures! This sneaky little bastard grief, deep in your guts grief, takes time. I know this. I am the gardener, I am tending to the soil, trimming back what I can , when I can. There is good, there is so much good. But,oh these fucking vines.
This is life. In the living, in the loving, in the loss.