Those Whispers

There’s a young woman circling me. I can catch brief glimpses of her, as if shadows moving behind trees. Occasionally I can hear her whispered voice, but it may be the wind.

I’ve seen her walking above the sea alone, face lifted to the salt air. I know she feels cleansed, but I also see how gaunt she is. She’s simply escaped the mountains, but not whatever it is that haunts her.

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There’s an old woman waiting for her. A grandmother, or maybe great-grandmother, in her end days. Some say she’s lost her mind, but what some see as insanity others see as vision, finally clear.

It’s like writing. This young woman circling me, creeping up on me, whispering to me, isn’t real. Or at least not yet. But she wants me to tell her story because she can’t. And there’s some mystery there, on the wild edges of the North Sea, where she now walks.

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Some of you nod, recognizing the writing process, understanding that voice in the place where stories begin.

Others, who don’t understand the writing process, might hear this and think it strange, or wonder about someone who says they hear voices in their head.

But this…this is how a story begins.

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She’s too shy yet. She doesn’t trust me fully yet. She’s not ready for the story to come to me yet.

But she’s there, working her courage up to come fully forward, to step through the door.

And this…this is how her story begins.

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This Cusp Of Time

There’s a cusp of seasons, with moments when you don’t know what time of year it is. Yesterday was like that. If I closed my eyes, it could have been spring or fall. The air was cool and damp and smelled like earth. There were warm currents moving on the wind that took the chill off. It could have been the warmth of returning spring or a dying summer.

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The heavy rains lately have made the waters rise. The rivers are running full and fast. Waterfalls stream from rocks. The sound of water is everywhere. It’s the sound of spring and the sound of fall.

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The leaves have fallen. The bare branches could speak of new life barely starting to bud or the deep dormant sleep of coming winter.

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There’s wood smoke in the air. The scent could be from fires to take off the spring chill or flames to dry the fall dampness.

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I can stand there with eyes closed and imagine it to be whatever time I want it to be.

A time of beginnings or a time of endings. A time to think of new life or a time to remember life that has passed. In this cusp, I’m free to be in either world.

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So many of us are in this transition right now, this moment of pause where we stand, maybe slightly confused, maybe in grief, trying to figure out where exactly we are.

Where we have been.

Where we are going.

We stand in the middle of that bridge between, eyes closed, surrounded by rushing water and rising wind, and wait.

Maybe a little lost.

I don’t know if I’m waiting for what has been, or for what is coming.

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A Sister Day

I remember not understanding my sisters, not getting along with them, and at times being in awe of them. I look back over the many years at how our relationships have changed, and then look at how the relationships are changing right now.

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All of these photos are taken by Helen McPeters with her sister

In my memory there is a clear moment of transition in the relationship with my youngest sister. There was a day when she was hurting and I did the only thing I really knew how to do. I wrote a letter and slipped it under her door. It seems, looking back in time, that the letter, the moment of putting something into words, was the moment we became friends. The letters became like a diary between us, a way to talk without speaking, and a way that then led to spoken words. I can’t imagine life without her.

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I remember the awe I felt at the next sister. She talked back to mom and dad! She stood up for herself! She did what she wanted rather than what was expected of her! She was free and wild and mother earth and all the things I dreamed of being. And yes, somewhere along the line, I pushed her up onto a pedestal where she still remains.

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She used to ask me to hike the Pacific Crest Trail with her. It’s the one thing I feel I failed my sister at. So many excuses. Life. No gear. No money for gear. Not physically in shape. Fear. I dreamed of doing that hike, and still do, even though the impossibility of it looms large over the dream. But somewhere in an alternate universe we are moving through the solitude of the mountains together.

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The oldest sister was more like a mother-figure. She was the one we woke up in the middle of the night, knocking on her door because we were barfing or had a bloody nose or a nightmare. It’s hard to say this, but after many years of health battles, her time with us is shortening. During the coming days she will be moved from a hospital to a nursing home, which feels like a strange letting-go without loss. A sign, a symbol, an arrow hanging ragged and broken, pointing to what is to come.

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So I look at the sisters around me, at how they move through their lives. And I see these two friends of mine who are young and strong and beautiful and far from the ending of times. And I see how brilliant they are to prioritize their relationship, to make sure they have a Sister Day.

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Why did we never have Sister Days? Why did we never carve out a time when the four of us managed to get together? Kids and finances and distance and commitments were so important then. But now?

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What do you think when you picture a Sister Day? Some would think of spa days with pedicures and hair and manicures. Some would think of shopping and movies and a meal out.

All of the photos on this page are taken by my young friend on her Sister Days. They head out into a world few see. They go where there are no trails. They move through forest and mountains fearless, and I want to be them. I want to be young and with my sisters with the sky over us and the earth beneath our fingers.

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I want to listen to the youngest worry about spiders and dirt in her bedroll.

I want to feast on breakfasts made by the next sister, on her oatmeal and dried fruit, or her buckwheat pancakes.

I want the oldest healthy and her spirit free, riding the wind, circling us and watching over us.

I want a Sister Day.

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