Today is November 18th. We just got our first big snow of the year and Baba Yaga’s candle is burning low. The autumnal spirit of Samhain— solemn, yet raw and energetic is giving way to the quiet time before the holidays. The nights feel so much longer now and the natural call for rest as we go deeper into the season seems to be shaking my sense of what was a very palpable, tangible idea at the time for how to go about writing this series of posts. I thought I knew how I was going to transition into Part 2. I thought for sure that the writing would flow so easy; quick and unobstructed on its natural path to completion. However that just hasn’t been the case— now after over a week of trying to shift from Part 1 to Part 2 with some manner of cohesion, I think it’s time to let all ideas about how I thought I was going to write this go and use this space to remember my Grandma Bond. If the pieces fall into place as I imagined in the process then great— if not, then I’ll just trust that they’re falling where they need to fall and let that be what it will be.
Time can be a burdensome thing. We know it’s ticking all the while as we go about our day to day and do our best to shuffle in the grind of all the things we have to do. Always a sobering reminder, we count our milestones from one decade to the next and ask ourselves all those questions about what we’re doing here and why— weighing often our obligations to our sense of purpose and finding where the pieces fall with every decision and every second that goes by. However a constant reminder it may be though, I have learned that time is never more jarring in its insistence upon itself than when we lose someone we love. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone we saw or talked to everyday, every week, or once a year— while worlds apart in difference and complexity depending upon the person and relationship, the bottom line is the same in that when it comes to the time we had, it just never feels like it was enough.
Me and my siblings didn’t really spend a whole bunch of time with our grandparents while we were growing up. We lived almost three hours away from where they lived in Clayton and our mom and dad both worked a lot when we were all still really young— life was very busy and that’s just how it was in our case. I could go on about feeling at times as though I missed out on a lot of things— but now that it’s going on almost a full month since working on this and really sitting for a long time in this space of remembrance about my grandma’s, I know that missing out really wasn’t the case. In fact there’s a kind of beauty in growing up some distance away— in how almost every memory I have with them is imprinted so perfectly and that it was all the best things that we got to experience with them, because every visit was so special. It was true when we were kids, and became true for me all over again in the past couple years.
Usually when we visited our Grandparents in Clayton we went for a day or stayed for a couple of days at the most. Once though, me and two of my brothers were there for weeks after our family lost our house in a fire. Three of us stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Bond while the older siblings stayed with mom and dad at my Aunts house. I was around six years old (I turned seven while we were staying up there) and the fire was something that in the beginning seemed to just roll off of my shoulders for the most part. It happened— but then we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s and everything seemed like it was alright. I remember waking up early every morning to hear my Grandpa Bond laughing with Grandma and some of my Aunts and Uncles in the kitchen. He had a great laugh, and he laughed a lot— really he always sounded a lot like dad to me, and I think that that’s what I owe some of my peace of mind to following the fire. His joy had a kind of contagion that seemed to just catch to the people who were around him, and where all that laughter was in the morning was probably the best place for me and my younger siblings to be at at the time.
When I wasn’t out and about with my aunts and grandma during that stay or playing outside with my brothers, I remember being happy to spend my time at the table, doodling on notepads and chatting away with all the family that was milling in and around the homestead. My dad had eleven siblings—many of whom lived close by with their own families and who helped out with the cows and horses on my grandpa’s farm. That being the case the house was always busy— or full rather. Either way I was happy and contented to simply be there, and that feeling I think is what carried me through what might have otherwise been a pretty tough time for a kid.
As the weeks went on though, even though I talked to my parents and my siblings on the phone a lot and at that point I’m sure they came to visit at least a time or two, I remember having a really bad day when I sat at my usual spot at the table, and what had become the comfort and familiarity of the Bonderosa just couldn’t quite reach me. I missed my parents and my older siblings and I was terribly home sick. The loss finally hit me, and I had to come to terms then in my own young mind that the home I had lived in all my life had burned and been destroyed, and though I knew that my parents and my siblings would all be together and in a new home of our own, it wasn’t going to be the one I had always known— I would never see home again and for whatever reason, in that moment that morning, I was confronted with that. I told grandma I wasn’t feeling good then went away to the living room to have a good cry. I thought I would sit alone for a while, but grandma followed after me and she brought along a pen, a piece of paper and something to write on.
She didn’t sit with me long or fuss or say too much. She just gave me a hug and asked if I was missing home. I told her yes, and so she handed over the supplies she had brought with her and suggested that I write a letter to my family while I sat. I had been talking with them on the phone regularly, but I didn’t question her advice. Really it sounded like the best thing to me at the time and while I don’t remember at all what I wrote to them, I just remember that the writing of it helped.
While I scrawled out all my words I could hear grandma talking to one of my Aunt’s, who I guess must have asked after me:
“She’ll be alright,” I heard her say. “She just misses home is all. I wondered when she would.” Her voice was calm and she chuckled, and I remember there being something really soothing about her ease in the face of what felt like a great deal of angst to my six year old self at the time.
My whole world hasn’t fallen apart. Everything is going to be okay— I don’t remember exactly what I thought but I do remember how I felt, and if I could put it into words, writing out that letter felt something like that. My grandma raised a lot of babies after all— I’m sure she knew that a bad day was bound to happen and clearly she was ready to take care of it. It would be some years though before I fully realized for myself why she might have gone about it the way she did.
I never knew when I was a kid that my Grandma Bond loved to write. In fact, back when I started writing I always thought it was my dad whose footsteps I was following in and where I got the writing thing from. Little did I know though that my grandma had been working on all kinds of writing for years— from poems, to stories to articles she wrote for local papers and websites. That being said I’m pretty sure now that it was me and dad both who got the writing thing from her.
Either way my grandma was a natural creative— a weaver of sorts whose sense of family and storytelling seemed to spool from some common intuitive place. When I first read her poem “Dreamer’s Moon” I realized that I never really knew what her goals and aspirations were back when she was young— she never told me. Yet her writing spoke to this ability she had to just sort of let go and trust that her life would lead her to all the places she ever needed to be. I don’t know if writing was among the things she alluded to in her poem or not but if it was, she made it abundantly clear that her family never got in the way of it— that sort of weighing of obligation and calling against the clock didn’t seem to factor in as a source of angst for her. I don’t say this because she’s a mom and a grandma and we all know how much our mom’s and grandma’s love us— but because every piece she ever wrote was based entirely on family and where she lived. Grandma Bond took a lot of pride in her creations— be they her kids, her writings or her paintings and I think that’s part of why I never really knew about her writing until I was well into my teen years. She never talked about it— to me at least it was as though she just went about her very quiet way of creating it and sending it around to people until one day there was just a whole huge pile of it sitting in front of me.
Those couple months at the Bonderosa, though during a time of hardship for my family were some of the most memorable times I spent with my grandparents. While I was growing up we would still go for our usual visits to Clayton a couple of times a year and us and our grandparents would always pick up where we left off. Yet what followed after I grew up and left home were many years in a row where I didn’t see anyone from dad’s side of the family at all. Those were the years when Facebook first became a thing, and so while I was busy with college and work, social media helped me feel as though I was maintaining some sense of connection with my dad’s side of the family. While true, it’s still nothing at all like spending time with them. Meanwhile the years went by until suddenly what happened in Clayton was a lot of loss in a very short span of time, and I realized that I hadn’t seen any of them in years. What was left was the realization that I had lost touch with them, that I no longer felt as though I knew who they were, and that I needed to reconnect with my family.
The person I reached out to was Grandma. I was nervous at first— not because I thought for a second that I wouldn’t be welcomed back, but because of what was a very acute sense that somehow I caused myself to miss out on a lot of time that I could have spent with them. Now some of them were gone, and I didn’t know anymore how or where to pick back up. First I started by just messaging grandma and writing back and forth with her. Then we started talking on the phone— usually at least a couple times a month though there was one point for a little while when it was close to every week. Eventually from there I found myself going up to visit more and more and going with my dad and my siblings whenever we could make it out there together.
It felt good and right to be back at grandma’s table again— family milling in and out of the house as always. Though a lot had changed over there years, there was something so good in seeing that that much had not. Grandma’s house was still full, and I loved spending the afternoon’s listening to her and dad talk whenever we went up.
She and I didn’t really talk much between the two of us during our visits over past few years, but we never really had to. At that point I was there to listen— I knew that she was going to tell me things, and this we understood. Our commonality has always been in knowing the importance of story and how and when to let them unfold, so I just went with dad whenever I could and listened to the two of them talk and remember about about their lives. Sometimes she would look at me with a grin during some funny story and slide a few pictures across the table while she told me about all of the people— some were really beautiful photos of family from almost a century ago, along with some love notes written between my great grandparents and some of these she let me take home— these were such a gift. Her and Grandpa must have kept them for a very long time.
While I was there she talked a lot about Grandpa Bond, as well as Uncle John and cousin Keith also; all who the family lost during those years when I couldn’t seem find my way back to the Bonderosa. Though I missed out on a lot of years and STILL to this day have a hard time keeping the who’s who in our huge family straight (Grandma’s clock on the wall of all her twelve children with pictures as numbers according to birth order was always a great cheat sheet— now at least I think I’ve got the aunt’s and uncles sorted out) everything she remembered about them has helped me know them more than I did before, and this too was a gift— and I hope she knew just how much of a gift it was to me.
I like to think that she did, though.
One of the last times I saw her was when we spent another afternoon of pictures and coffee and lots of laughs between her and my dad at the Bonderosa. It was getting to be around 3:00pm and we planned to leave Clayton before hitting too much traffic. Dad went out ahead of me to warm up the truck— I had done a lot of listening and was struggling somewhat awkwardly to get my boots on. As I did so I caught her looking at me from the table and it felt like she had something to say.
“I don’t always know how to say things, but you’ll never know how much it means to me; you coming up here again.”
“I don’t always know how to say things either, but you’ll never know how much it means to me, too.”
We shared a quiet chuckle at that exchange, and that was it— I got just a couple more visits with my grandma before she passed on March 27th 2018.
Shadows can be tricky beasts— sometimes we think we know when we sit down with a pen and paper, a paint brush or a therapist how we’re going to go about illuminating all the things the lie in the darker shades of our minds. I always knew quite consciously that I harbored some guilt over not going to see grandma and grandpa Bond more. I felt that I had missed a lot and gotten to this point where somehow, I had lost touch with a wonderful family who I no longer knew— my own family, and for a long time I didn’t know how or where to pick back up and reconcile that within myself. But then I reconnected with my grandma and I thought that because I had, writing about her would be so easy. All these weeks spent sitting at my computer day after day, lost and feeling completely stuck in uncertainty didn’t have a thing to do with lack of inspiration— I’ve been writing long enough to know that where you get stuck is where the shadows of the mind come to do their own work on you, and they do it by way of lethargy, indecision and long hours of staring blankly at your medium of expression, not knowing quite how to tap into the source of what brought you to your laptop, or easel and canvas, or clay. Finally after so many weeks of sitting in that isolated and often frustrating place, it was finally yesterday (November 21st; my dad’s birthday) that I sat down and all the words flowed, just like that— all in one day. Now that they have and I’ve gained the benefit of hindsight as I bring Part 2 to a close, I know where I began to stall in writing about my grandma was rooted in some shadowy aspect that has something to do with feelings of unworthiness— not on the part of my family, but just of my own in feeling so long like I didn’t know enough or of having enough time with her to write a remembrance. Still I knew if I just showed up long enough and did the work, it would all fall into place in some beautiful way.
And it has.
When I sat on the couch and cried all those years ago after the fire, I don’t think that grandma brought me a pen and a piece of paper because she herself was a writer. I think she just always had good insights and intuition about the children in her family. For another kid she might have told them to go outside and play. For another it might have been a paint brush that she handed over. Another still, she would have asked grandpa to go saddle up the horses and take them out for trail ride.
It think all it was is that she just knew her family— she knew me too, and I knew her. Lots of time would pass before seeing her and grandpa between visits when we were kids but when you’re growing up it doesn’t matter. I always just strolled into grandma’s house like I hadn’t missed a beat. But then you grow up and you get busy— time becomes an issue and before you know it, you’re struck that somewhere along the way you’ve disconnected from some people who you love. When that happens with family it can be an incredibly disorienting realization— really in some ways it’s as though you lose sight of your own sense of self and where you came from. Then before you know it you find yourself adrift in the world without a place of returning to that brings you back to center. An actual place like the Bonderosa yes, absolutely. But I’m talking more of an internal place— a kind of knowing about family and the people you love where you understand that time really isn’t an issue at all. You are family, and you are and always will be connected.
My grandma wrote “Dreamer’s Moon” sometime in the mid 90’s— I think just a couple years after our long stay in Clayton following the fire. I hadn’t read it myself though until shortly before she passed, yet it seemed so familiar in a way that I couldn’t quite peg at the time;. There was something in her words which immediately stirred a feeling of connection and of an inner place of homecoming, though I didn’t know why. Somewhere between the time of sitting down to write this and now, it became so clear and I had to take a moment to look back on a piece of writing of my own:
The Dream Weaver
THE DREAM WEAVER
I fell asleep to chase the Dream Weaver,
Since then i haven’t woke.
The world keeps on spinning
As i watch the lives around me grow.
Love is found, babies are born,
Seasons change and i am witness to it all
Because i can’t stay on the ground.
‘When will i wake up?’
The old woman at the spindle laughs.
‘Half way in the world, always in the sky.
Life is made rich down in the dirt my dear.
How can you hope to move on Earth
While you’re running through stars,
Chasing The Dream Weaver?
~Melissa Bond, September 25th, 2008
Blog post link: The Dream Weaver: September 2008
Somewhere in my early twenties I lost my way back to my grandparents house, but everything was alright. Family is bound by something stronger than time, and hours and days spent within the same proximity of each other. Those things are important— they’re how we make our memories and at at no point should we ever lose out on those if we can help it. Still I’d like to think that the same intuition which lead my grandma back down that old country lane under the dreamer’s moon was the same one that brought my own gaze up to the sky too, during a time when I felt as though I had lost her somehow.
Now I know that I never did— I think if anything it was my own intuition back when I wrote “The Dream Weaver” that was nudging me in my grandmothers direction. She always was good at following her her instincts about things and letting herself be lead and wound wherever it was that she needed to be. Maybe she knew too.
She always was a weaver anyway— it took me some time to follow my own intuition, but it led me back to the Bonderosa. I sat there with my grandmother and she told me so many old stories… and now I know that it was in all the stories of all the words written down that we would always find a way meet each other again…
And the same winter moon and the same stars still shine, in my world shaped by forces much greater than mine.
“When will I wake up?”
The old woman at the spindle laughs.
Half way in the world, always in the sky. Life is made rich down in the dirt my dear. How can you hope to move on Earth while you’re running through stars….
Chasing the Dream Weaver.