Perhaps the Gods gave us ravens to provoke and remind us how foolish it is to assume an all-knowing human ascendancy over nature or anything else for that matter. There is no doubt that our curious descendents will, like ourselves, be lured to the woods and streams beyond the city to, as Thoreau said, "confront only the essentials of life." Raven comes to remind of us of the essentials.
15 Years ago she was in dire straits with a limited education, no money, and desperate to make a new life for herself so she set out to test Robert Fulghum’s theory: “Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”. Working with only rudimentary materials, curiosity, (need, of course), and a wealth of natural creativity Stephanie began her career as a self-taught experimental artist. Her work was eventually sold into private collections worldwide and she opened her own art gallery to promote the work of artist’s with disabilities, such as herself, in 2006. The gallery was a growing success, however, she and her husband chose to close the gallery late August of 2007 after the sudden tragic death of their daughter Seanna. Stephanie raised Seanna and her younger sister from pre-school to high school with much love and gratitude, but the younger child chose not to become “daughter” and is no longer part of Stephanie’s life today. Currently Stephanie is working on the largest creative project of her life: figuring out how to survive and thrive after the loss of her children, her second family. Her visual art and writing helps her with that equally sad and exciting but monumental task.
Are you altogether gone?
Can’t you whisper in my ear
Were you the owl in last night’s dream
Or the strange old woman seer
Before I can let you go
I really need to know
Are you altogether gone?
Just whisper it in my ear
no desire to begin
no desire to be gone
no one waits for me
no one hates for me to be alone
quiet and unrequired
to touch kindly
a day or a year could pass now
and no important love
will be missed
but all would be well
if I could rise right now
and wash my beloved’s hands
Stephanie Hansen copyright 2008
Losing an ordinary child is one thing. Losing an autistic child, or a child with a brain injury, is like losing your secret entranceway into a whole other fascinating world where everything has life in it if you only look closely enough, and listen intently enough, and wait long enough. Seanna was not an ordinary child, and after washing her hands doing all other such small personal care things for her daily for over ten years her death left me feeling profoundly useless. Not long after writing the above poem I went looking for and found a companion who needed my constant attention and touch the way Seanna did, someone who follows me around and waits eagerly for my return.
Enter Kelly. A very beautiful and astoundingly friendly old dog needing a new home for her last years. I wasn’t looking for an “old” dog, but I couldn’t resist her. She’s not doing well right now at all, a fact that is breaking my heart, but at the same time it filling my heart that I am able to bring her the comfort she needs. As well, it is giving me the chance to heal a very deep and very old heartache.
I thought I had a story to tell about a teddy bear. But the minute I picked up the pen, I realized the real story was about anything but the bear. Long before I had a most beloved bear, I had an idolized grandmother. Angela Oakes. She was small, like me, and very quiet. A saint in a sea of…not so much sinners, I suppose, as angry, fearful, misguided family. And, Lord, but she was my savior. She did not show much interest in the things I did, but she was ever vigilant of the things I didn't get. Like forgiveness. And praise. And most of all, touch.
I was in the habit of being shoved aside. I say it was "my" habit because I believed then that I was always doing something to inspire that form of ignorant rejection. Gramma would witness the rough dismissal and remind 'whoever', "Children need to be touched. Nicely." She said it just like that: a pause, and then a gentle yet emphatic "nicely". She said children were meant to be held and to hold things themselves. That's how she came to be in charge of the things I held.
I never had to reach back in my memory to recollect who gave me which bear; they were all gifts from Gramma for birthdays and Christmases. However, the year I turned nine there wasn't going to be any bear from Gramma. She died in November. Of course, I was utterly devastated. I lost my true love, my ally. Nevertheless, the closer it came to Christmas, the more I fixated on the fact that I wouldn't get a gift from her. Confused and filled with shame, I struggled to understand the selfishness that belied the reality that she had been everything to me.
On December 25, my Aunt Lois, with whom Gramma had been living, arrived at our front door carrying a cumbersomely large maple-brown teddy bear that outsized me by a good few inches. She presented it to me and waited, obviously expecting to see wide-eyed jubilation. The only feeling that gift inspired was what I've come to know since as despair. I thought the offering was proof no one understood the profundity of the loss of my best friend. I thought they were trying to buy away my grief.
Eventually, sensing the general source of my upset, Aunt Lois read me the card attached. "To my Stephie, from Gramma." Several months earlier, knowing she was dying, Gramma bought the beautiful bear and ordered it hidden away until Christmas. Knowing, as deeply as she had known me, how desperately I would need something to hold onto then. In her wisdom and her kindness, she provided me with a lot to hold onto ever since. Most of which I can't even touch.
Every birthday, every holiday, I wrack my brains trying to think of something special to give my youngest stepdaughter. I am never able to think of anything more special, more useful than a teddy bear to hold…a teddy bear to remind her of who loved her and how she was loved.
Stephanie K. Hansen Copyright 2002
by Stephanie Hansen
Stephanie Hansen likes to come to the Temple of Solace to palliate some of her sense of loss and grief. It is the perfect retreat.
Take the time to visit the Temple of Solace at Soul Food and find a place to express loss and grief.
The Soul Food Cafe and the Temple of Solace are not just for those who are feeling isolated because of circumstances such as that which I have experienced. It is quite simply a refuge, a safe place to retreat. Visitors to the Temple may be searching for some kind words as a result of a loss of a job, a way of life, an empty nest, the loss of a teddy bear, the death of a pet, the loss of property, loss of a way of life, a lost muse, a sense of abandonment: about almost anything. Personally, I have found that kind words can reduce me to tears, simply because I am not as accustomed to kind words and kind actions as I am at steeling myself, putting up my armour to protect myself from the pain of what feels like rejection.
When you arrive at the temple, choose a rug from the pile Monika Roleff has provided, wrap it around yourself, rock and keen or wail if that is what you feel like doing.
"What have you done with the garden I entrusted you with?" asked the creator late one night, as she sat with me under a sky filled with stars.
"Why I have done many thing" I replied. "See that constellation over there! That is the Soul Food Cafe. And the brightest star in the constellation is the Temple of Solace."
The creator, who has often felt in need of solace herself, who has had caused to wonder about the merit of what she has created, who has, herself, puzzled over the folk who have never really appreciated the nature of her work, smiled a knowing smile.
We sat, relaxing, drinking some of the mead she had bought with her and admired the collective handiwork, talked of just what is possible late in to the night.
Heather Blakey - Soul Food Cafe
Click to join The Temple of Solace