In Transit

Good morning the Fellowship of the Farmy. I am in California for the holidays.

I apologize for not being available lately. I had a number of issues (wrong word), things (even wronger), unavoidable challenges? to deal with and my head space got crowded as things came to a head. My Dad commenced to shuffle off his mortal coil ( his words) and I was unable to be with him. The Matriarch ran into some health issues and was in and out of hospital. All this coincided with me reconfiguring my workload at the mill so I could re-assign a number of my responsibilities to other members of staff allowing me to focus on baking and customer care and orders.

Then the new Variant loomed, a couple of other issues made themselves known and all of a sudden it became too much. I saw Burn Out, broken Break Down and Screaming Bloody Heamee Memees looming on my horizon. I was not coping. Not sleeping. My face developed an invisible twitch just around my mouth. I could not see Dad ( him dying in New Zealand and me in USA). I was not able to visit Sandy in hospital. I had to keep reminding myself where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. Even my conversation developed gaps as I struggled to find words. I could feel my heart beating so hard I could feel it with my hand. I was melting.

So I went on the defense. I fled emotionally. Concentrated. Dug deep. Hunkered Down. Became very Still. Froze. Like the way a piglet does when she gets a fright. Removed myself. All those things. It helps to stand on one foot and pause. Just watch things play out through a port hole. To freeze and listen hard. To retreat. Think. So I did. But it was hard on everyone else. And I am sorry for that.

My mother in law the Matriarch was recovering at speed thanks to Johns care but then my Dad died. I thought I was ready for the tectonic shift of losing the last parent. But when I was told that my Dad had died in New Zealand – even though I knew he was dying and even though I knew covid would ban me from saying a decent goodbye or helping my siblings with his send off, or attending his funeral or baking bread for his wake or raising a glass in his honor or any of the things the oldest daughter should do, even though I knew these things – I was more angry than I think I have ever been in my life. Wild spitting destructive anger. I was deep in my mental pause by then so I had no valve for the fury that rose into my mouth, blinded my face and took my words. I silently carried rubbish bags into my room, shut the door and commenced to clear it out, for two days I sorted through years of detritus and threw stuff into the bin bags.

I was sick of it all. Sick of all this stuff. Sick of all this plastic. Sick of all this ownership. Sick of this comfort. Sick of pretending to be sweet and malleable so as not to upset anyone. Sick of being so far away from my children. Sick of this damn virus. Sick of walls. Sick of me. I wanted to bite and glare and shake this off like a wet dog. It was a dangerous rage this one. It could burn stuff. Break people. So I threw that into a rubbish bag too. I piled the bags up into the corner of my bedroom to wait and flew to California.

I think I am hard for myself to know.

I have looked at these paragraphs for over a week now and wondered if this is overly dramatic or quite true.

I need to calm down for about a year.

( I did not discard everything – I put the oil-skin hat and coat from Dad, art from Mum, recipe books from my grandmother, the hand made coffee mugs and glasses gifted to me by different children, a bowl and a knife, bench scraper and bowl scraper all into one box. In fact it was a curious and consuming exercise. Possessions have levels and once I began to let go of each level a whole raft of useless things followed behind clattering into rubbish piles. But gifts from the ones I loved I kept. My cameras and written words went into another box. I have kept some clothes because otherwise I will be cold (and they are useful for wrapping fragile objects) but I don’t like most of them. My clothes no longer reflect who I am – they have been overwhelmed by millwear, and comfy culture).

Anyway as I breathe out here in Visalia, with my son and his children, I remember that life (as Shakespeare and you and I know) has chapters in it, episodes, dynasties. I loved being a stay at home mother, being a single mother of many, being a teacher, a friend, being involved in the film industry, being a mother of adults, learning to farm and succeeding, being married,

But now many of those descriptions have the word absent in front of them. Absent mother, absent teacher, absent friend, absent daughter, absent sister, absent wife, absent film, absent writer. Absent me.

The time has come to try and turn my absent into active.

So now I am forcing my life into its next Act where I am determined to blend it all together. And I am burning the trail to get there. I want to be active not absent. Writing, baking, moving and learning. Working alongside my children and grandchildren and sisters and bothers too. I almost loitered too long. I allowed a gap to widen between my selves. I almost lost my people. My country. Myself.

Now I am determined to move to and get to know each of the youngest members of my family and create a present relationship with each of my children and my brothers and sisters. I want to rekindle my old friendships and work harder to keep my present ones alive. I am going to try and stir my life back together with all its eclectic ingredients and bake it.

I will continue to work for Janie’s Mill remotely – taking that show on the road – by teaching, baking with, writing for and supporting her customers and in turn supporting myself, as long as they will have me. That in itself a a huge piece of work and I relish the challenge.

My possessions will decant back down to my two old suitcases. Two phones. My office into a satchel. I will create a new rhythm to my old life. One that is no longer absent. John might get so sick of my darting between countries feeding my families and working from remote locations, that I become homeless again but that is his right and my risk. Active and absent. It is a hard ask.

I am in California now, flying back to Illinois tomorrow and will return to California in February to help with the children for a month, then back to Illinois in March, then late March I will travel again and go to New Zealand for a while, NZ is on course to open without supervised quarantine Feb 13th. But I will need to self quarantine. If they close the doors again I will go to Australia. I look forward to Canada opening up. I am back in the game.

And of course – as ever – I am taking you along for the ride – if you want to come.

So there you have it.

Act V


PS – I am working in Black and White as an expression of my personal mourning period for my father. I think we should give ourselves permission to grieve as long as is necessary. Grieving and mourning is not all about uncontrollable tears it is also about respect and goodbye and time. And Dad taught me by using black and white photography as his medium. So I will create black and white images as my goodbye.

84 Comments on “In Transit

  1. Cecilia, I am so sorry for the passing of your father, your last parent, your last hold on your own childhood. It is hard, it is wrenching, it is sorrowful, it is anger-producing. It makes us stop and ask, “What do I want? Who am I, really? Where do I want to be?” If you haven’t read Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed,” now might be the right time. When my Mom passed, my last parent to die, I felt exactly like you do. Wanting to be connected, truly connected, to those I love. That takes effort, intention, courage and love – especially love for ourselves. I read “Untamed,” and learned that to love myself first is key, to never abandon who I am in order to make others comfortable. I can’t wait to follow your journey.

    • Thank you Karla! I will find this book. And I am so grateful to hear that you and I had similar responses. It will be a journey for sure! Thank you again.

  2. I will hold you close in my prayers as that is all I can do for you.
    I hope you are able to move forward with clarity and some comfort.

  3. You write from your heart Celi- such a moving column. Being from Australia but living in the US, I understand the pull of the country and society we grew up in, even though my parents are long gone, and my children are here. I have a yearning to go ‘home’.

  4. You write from your heart Celi- such a moving column. Being from Australia but living in the US, I understand the pull of the country and society we grew up in, even though my parents are long gone, and my children are here. I have a yearning to go ‘home’.

  5. I’m very sorry to hear that your dad died, especially with the pandemic going on and closed borders. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Hopefully the world will get a bit better in the coming year. Best wishes, MD.

  6. I felt it coming, Cecilia. I wanted to say something but couldn’t find the right words. You have survived this and are coming out the other end. I know that rage. It happened after my mother died of a terminal illness. I knew it was coming but the grief of losing someone who could never love me was unbearable. I was married to someone just like that and at 62, ended my marriage, had my sister and daughter rescue me as the illness from my rage and grief (profound Bells Palsy) made me incapable of staying upright, driving or ever working again. I never recovered my health which is why I so worried about you. I could feel it brewing deep down. I ache for you but know you have found a path through this so much healthier than you even know now. You owe us nothing. Keep taking care of yourself and it will reflect on the rest of the family. I wish you all the best in the new year and in your new life. Sending love and big squishy hugs.

  7. My heart goes out to you.💕 I adore your strength, determination and inner motivation – the journey you laid out will give you exactly what you need to be you!

  8. Oh Celi, such difficult times. I see how being the amazing woman that you are you have spread yourself thin and are just about stretched out. Your “In Transit” plan sounds like a wonderful one, with wide open, loving horizons in the future. No doubt a difficult plan to embark upon, but one that will bring you much growth and new learnings and reconnections. And of course we want to come along with you! The Fellowship of the Farmy will always be here for you, and thankfully, you for us.

  9. don’t know if you can receive this; growth can be odious; but joy and awareness hover waiting for you; you are awesome; i live in altadena, ca; have traveled all over, Russia, siberia, ukriane, not like Club Med; it is relationship that counts!

  10. I’m so sorry about your Dad. We dont realize the planks of invisible support the idea of our parents are until we lose them. It skews your view, it makes you feel off balance when the support beam of their existence is gone. I’m glad you have a plan for rebuilding your internal space. I hope it works and that you are always flexible enough to change the course when it gets rocky.
    When I lost my mom I did not have either a plan to fix the huge wobble in life it caused or the flexibility to change course. I imploded and lost nearly everything.
    I hope you find joy in 2022.

  11. Thank you for your heartfelt sharing of feelings and frustrations! Your future awaits you and you will do well! Take care and keep on writing! We love you!

  12. Since becoming a member of the fellowship years ago and travelling with you down many roads, through goodness and hardship, I have held fast to the examples you show us: your passion and devotion for everything you do; your deep commitment to kindness and caring; your never-ending ability to move forward with courage, and your honesty above all. You MUST be you, it is the only honest way to be. I cried reading this post, knowing that you have found yourself again. You deserve nothing less. Love to you Miss C.

  13. Family is the most important thing in the world along with your health. I regret not spending more time with my family who all passed away when I was only 40. I can only imagine how hard it was for you not to be there for your Dad and be there with your family.

  14. Charlotte has said it better than I ever could. I have never known anyone who has faced each of days with such strength, honesty and conviction as you have. Not easy! To not be there with your Dad was gut-wrenching. That prayer I used to make fun of–you know the one–ending “the wisdom to know the difference” I’m a little more tolerant of these days. Maybe it’s my age. Can’t be maturity! Dear Cecilia, I wish you a wildly effervescent, fulfilling 2022!

  15. Your words are so inspiring. My own mother is still alive at 94 in the USA, and I am here in Australia. I’ve done all the self talk about the possibilities and I wait. Maybe I will see her again, maybe not. We go through these life changes and we have to try and make some sense of it. As Mary Oliver said:
    It could mean something.
    It could mean everything.
    It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
    You must change your life.
    —Mary Oliver

  16. “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”– Haruki Murakami
    I have felt this building for quite a while. Fresh from the first anniversary of my own father’s death, I can confirm that it makes you reassess. You need to do you, to remain true to your core, to the ones you love and the things and people that have meaning for you. No one who truly cares about you wants you to live against your true nature and values. Sorry, too many ‘trues’,.. All the feelings of dissociation caused by our need to stay safe and isolate are just exacerbated by profound losses, and I commend you for recognising and dealing with what was happening to you in a powerful way. Not all action has to be constructive. Sometimes, destructive, or perhaps selective, is a better way if it’s what works for you. And when you have quieted your mind and your over-beating heart, we’ll be here, for whoever and wherever you are on the other side of the storm. We love you, Miss C.

  17. Dear Cecilia, I am so sorry for your loss. (I know when my Dad passed away it was an awful jolt that lasted some time.)Put that loss together with this wretched plague and it’s a wonder you’re able to operate at all.
    I know I haven’t been around much the last year or so but issues here to deal with also, but I have been following you and look forward to your continuing blogs to see what life brings you. In the meantime know prayers are finding you from here, so hang in there ~ Mame

  18. For everything in life there comes a season . . . thank you for allowing us to share the first steps of the next chapter in your life methinks many of us have seen coming . . . step by step . . . . much love . . .

  19. I remember back when we were hoping Daisy didn’t have mastitis being incredibly attracted to your tenacity, and through the years I’ve continued to look forward to the honest, open grit you always show. I’ve heard the yearning for family and home. So cheers to another Chapter or two of your amazing story. I hope you will take us for an adventure or two.

    All good vibes …

  20. There is a wonderful book called Consider This, Senora by a woman named Harriet Doerr. Not only does this book have some of the most beautiful passages of image-evoking prose I have ever read, but Harriet Doerr didn’t publish her first book until she was 74. She had lived many, many chapters before writer ever came about. As I read your soul-bearing post, I thought about Ms. Doerr. I obviously didn’t know her, but I don’t think she could have created the beauty she did at 74 without having lived all the other chapters in her life–the wonderful and the terrible and the everything else. I only know the you that you choose to share with us here, but maybe this is you. The beauty you will create will come because of and not in spite of the many other chapters in your life. Be well.

  21. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad’s passing and the sea change that has wrought on you mentally, physically and likely spiritually. I hope that you can find the time and space to let yourself grieve. To set aside the expectations of others and your own. To be good to yourself. I will pray for you and your dad. May 2022 be kind to you.

  22. I am so sorry to hear about your dad’s passing, and that you couldn’t be there with him. This virus is not fair, for everyone missing milestones and family contact. The closed borders are tearing families apart. I pray that the borders in NZ will reopen again soon, but I am almost afraid to get my hopes up. My family had booked from NZ to come to see me in February, and already the opening has been pushed out until March at the earliest. I felt something of your rage when I heard it, and had to take a step back and some deep breaths. Zoom and telephone calls can only do so much, when you need contact with those who know you best. You sound like you have worked out what you need to do for yourself, I wish you all the best for 2022 and hope that it is a better year than 2021 for everyone 🤗

    • I understand that anxiety! I feel it too! Just reading that they changed the opening date fills my belly with tension. My back up plan of Australia stops me getting too afraid.
      Let me know if you hear of any changes.

  23. Oh Celie, take care of yourself, I know your rage. I lost my John and thought I dealt and moved on. Then the pandemic and some health issues and the rage was still there, simmering with no discernible target. I wanted to curl in upon myself in denial and now, coming on four years since that awful day I frighten myself with the thought, is this all there is? So I am trying to slap myself back into the living, I know I am blessed and fortunate. I try every day to remind myself of the blessings I have and be grateful but sometimes it is so, so hard. So Celie hang in there, we all have to learn to dance in the rain.

  24. Here’s to calming down for at least a year and absent into active!! I have re read this post a lot cuz it hits home to me in so many ways!! You will have us all to shout out too! Take care of yourself!! My dog Wren and I will toast a big “ blowing out breath” on this last day of December for you!! You take care!!!

  25. That was quite a read! I felt much if the same pain, anguish, and rage that I am feeling of late. Even tho I have not lost a loved one. I am incredibly sorry for your loss 💔

  26. So sorry to hear about your Dad. It doesn’t matter how old we are, or how prepared we ‘think’ we are … being orphaned is a dramatic milestone. When my mother died I had to work through a tremendous rage. Ours was not a close relationship – and my rage caught me totally unaware. Our hearts speak through our bodies … Your honesty and dedication to self reflection and sharing have blown me away … again. xoxo

  27. I’ve been watching and wondering… realised I’d been holding my breath waiting, exhaled as I read your brave and candid words that describe the process and energy shift that comes from making a decision from the gut. The Fellowship comments confirm how important no matter where we are that we share our stories and support, as we experience life’s events or are [trying] to prepare. I had a visceral reaction to the news of your Dad’s passing because I know one day it will be me and my Dad and complicated and messy and irrevocable. I’m here for the ride with you… in whatever way you need… your company and The Fellowship are a constant and sustaining presence ♡

    • I agree- I think it is important for us to have these conversations – I had no idea that my anger at losing dad was in a way normal. So good to have The Lounge! Thank you again!

  28. Sending you blessings and love from Aotearoa. I feel the agony of your father’s death and you not able to be there. That, on top of all the rest, named and unnamed.
    In the shamanic traditions dismemberment precedes a great transformation. You have been broken into pieces and in that process have discovered what really matters. I wish you well with gathering yourself together in a wonderful new form. And I hope the doors of Aotearoa open to you and you can land here safely and be restored. I am imagining you on the beach, being soothed by the waves.

    • Thank you so much Juliet. And yes. I long for the beach- preferably a wild beach day. I am not sure I am ready for calm waters! Take care. Let me know if you hear of any changes in the rules. I need to start looking for a little cottage to do the home self quarantine- for late March- not sure how that works yet.

      • Thank you for this sharing: deep, searing and honest. Having lost both my parents now, Dad second, my heart is with you. I so admire your willingness to look for ways to heal and rebuild yourself, to find where and what and who will help you process and heal and LIVE with joy and love and all the complicated feelings that come with it. Thinking of you!

      • Airbnb places should be available once school holidays are over ie from the start of Feb. I’m sure you will find something. I guess in the Wellington area?

        • I am still not sure how the rules will go. Will I be able to just walk out and rent a car and drive to an Airbnb – or cab it and have groceries delivered?
          I will be flying into ack. So I am
          Thinking an Airbnb somewhere close to the airport- much as I would love to quarantine on a beach!

  29. Such difficult times. Recognise what you really need, no matter how strange it may seem, then do it. We are all supporting you here. We recognise ourselves in you.

  30. Celia, this was raw, truthful, and painful to read. I will accompany you in prayer. May 2022 be the beginning of doing what you need to do for healing of peace of mind and heart. God bless you. You are loved.

  31. My sincere condolences on your father’s passing. My dad has been gone since 1990 and my mom since 2005 and my spouse since 2020. I hope John understands and will stick with you. I only had step children who are busy living their own lives which is as it should be. I have always been rather solitary so being alone doesn’t really bother me, i find I need the peace of it. I am looking for a place to move to (somewhere like Watseka or Rantoul) if I can find a place that fits and is affordable for me as I simply can’t stay on this blasted hill the rest of my life and the landlord is planning on selling, so a good time to leave this wretched city behind for good. I am awed by your openness and honesty, it takes guts to say what’s really in your heart. There is really only this moment in our lives, we get so wound up in the daily goings on and lose the moment. Keep following your heart and your gut and you’ll be okay. It may not be comfortable but it will be what’s right for you. All the very best.

  32. Cecilia, I know I am a stranger on the interwebs but I am so glad you are doing this. I felt this was the way for you and stopped myself from saying so many times as a stranger we have not that right. You sound happier even on a page of written words. Does that make sense?
    So sorry about your father journeying on. It’s hard to be a orphan and It’s good your going to reconnect with your siblings. It’s even harder being a orphan when your the last child standing. My brother unexpectedly walked on Xmas eve and this was not a journey I was ready for. Looking forward to watching your new adventures.

  33. Hello Celi,

    Read the book Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. There is a movie too that follows pretty close to the book. Reese Witherspoon.
    I have to do some time being incarcerated soon, 90 days, and I’m choosing those days to be my Wild.

    • 90 days of reading wild things. Have you ever read the book about wild women – what was it called – women who run with wolves. Yes, that’s it.
      Thank you for the book tip! I will find it today. You take care now. You are good people.

  34. 1. I want to come. 2. You are not being overly dramatic. I have felt the same way. 3. I know that panicky feeling. It is changing me as we speak. All the time. 4. Sending love.

  35. Black and White images are appropriate – and wise. Clarity, calm, and analysis comes from shuttering distractions – as in color in pictures – you can see so much you overlooked before.
    I wondered how long you would be able to keep it up over the past year. So much – to hide behind as a coat to shield agains the storm or as comfort. Everyone hits that moment eventually (I also did. I understand – especially the need for stillness.) – the wise recognize it take steps to reorganize and make necessary changes.
    You are never ready for your dad to leave. Never ready to become an orphan with anchors gone. But you find a way to hold them close yet move forward even if haltingly
    I have worried that you have been so far from so many dear during all this.
    Fingers crossed you can get back to New Zealand and touch lodestone.
    Your plans so far are intelligent choices. Take care. Fight for yourself. Everything else will then fall in line and be well
    Sending encouraging warmth and positive supportive energy.

  36. Hello from New Zealand. I don’t want to add to your “blackness” by writing many words requiring a response. Just remember we are your tribe and are here for you. No response required. JB

  37. Transitions are sometimes very slow and easy, and other times knock the breath right out of you. I am so sorry about the loss of your father. My mother and I were not very compatible, and my father was killed by a drunk driver when I was 20, so I lost the parent that I was closest to. Almost 50 years later I still mourn his lossalmost every day. But you are correct that life has many chapters, and I am glad to be with you on your new chapter. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to travel along with you. Hugs to you!

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