Musings from the Midwest

Author: gabrielereplogle Page 1 of 3

Grief- Picture Books for the Broken Hearted Young & Old


Grief comes to us all, in many shapes & sizes, to various degrees, and to greater depths.

It is that basic human experience of loss.  Some are profound, some unspoken, some life-altering. Sometimes it’s the loss of a pet, the loss of a grandparent, the loss of  a relationship, or loss of a community.  It can be the loss of a friend, or family, or even a foe.  Sometimes it’s sudden, sometimes traumatic, and sometimes it’s a relief.  There is no right way to grieve.  There is no formula, but there is solace in finding a way forward together.

I know many in our community are grieving and are also looking for resources to help their children through this sad time of loss. 

Here are some of the great books I’ve seen recommended to offer as a starting point to help a child understand or discuss grief.  Whether you use a book, or just talk together- make sure to leave room for them to talk.  What does your little (or big) one have questions about?  What do they want to know? How do they feel?

The safest place a child can be, is a place where they know they can ask anything and go through life together with their trusted caregiver.  Even when the answer is “I don’t know”… they know that together we may not know, but we are together and they don’t have to wonder alone.  These books are also for those religious and non-religious.  Too often simple answers can bypass the emotions and questions we have.  So no matter what your “answer” is, listening to the person in grief is one of the most important ways to show love.  Also, while many of these are children’s books, they can obviously be profoundly healing for adults- many of us who are raising our inner child to learn to grieve as well. 

 Sending love to you all as you seek to find comfort in the wisdom & stories of others who have also loved and lost.  ~Gabriele Replogle

NOTE: Several of these books can be found on YouTube and have been read aloud for viewers to hear and see without cost.  Also, many have used copies on Ebay or other used book sellers other than Amazon which provide cheaper options so you can buy more than one to find the right fit for your family.  Many of these books are also available at your public library and if they aren’t you can request them to be purchased for use on your behalf and others.

For ALL:

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst 

Over 1.5 mil copies sold the #1 recommended book for children and parents and translated into 17 languages
“This is the story of the String (made out of love!) that connects us all. The Invisible String book series offers children a tangible understanding of love and teaches the world about the String that ‘even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it in your heart and know that you are always connected to everyone you love.’” Goodreads

Tear Soup ages 5 + by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen 

Don’t be fooled by this somewhat dated cover. This classic book 2001, has been reprinted several times and packs quite the potency declared by its great recommendations on Goodreads and beloved by adults and children.  The authors are a mother and son who have worked in hospice care and know grief well. An easy pick up to read 56 page book. This book tells the story of an old wise woman who after a loss, decides to make a special batch of tear soup- to which she adds memories good and bad, silly & sad.  This is one of the books that seems geared towards older children, it’s reading level is grade 3 and up.  Again and again when I’ve seen people ask for recommendations for books on grief- this is one of the most highly recommended- tried and true.  It also has available companion workbooks.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.

Sometimes the best way to someone’s heart is through metaphor, if that is the case, this is the book for you.

“Appropriate for all ages—from toddlers to adults—and featuring beautiful nature photographs throughout, this poignant, thought-provoking story follows Freddie and his companions as their leaves change with the passing seasons and the coming of winter, finally falling to the ground with winter’s snow.  

An inspiring allegory that illustrates the delicate balance between life and death, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf has helped a generation of readers navigate death and dying, grief and bereavement, the passage of time, and loss of a loved one.”Amazon

“An incisive, sensitive exploration of the questions of life, death, mortality, and immortality uses the leaves of a tree as symbols of enjoying life to the fullest and accepting mortality with dignity and equanimity.”Goodreads

For Kids:

I Can’t Believe They’re Gone by Karen Brough

“Join the mouse family on an emotional journey as Bear, their empathetic companion, helps them navigate the complexities of grief and its unique expressions.

In this beautifully written picture storybook, children will discover the stages of grief, common feelings, and meaningful ways to honor the memory of their loved ones. With tender storytelling, this picture book reminds us that emotions aren’t good or bad, right or wrong; they just are.” Goodreads ~This 2023 book is the Winner of the Firebird Book Award in the Children’s Grief Book Category.

If you or your child are coping with loss, find solace within these pages, knowing you’re not alone and that healing and hope are possible.

Feeling all my Grief for ages 3-8 by Kim T.S.

Written from a secular perspective this 2023 book has all 5 stars on goodreads and 5 stars on Amazon.   In conjunction with the other Feel my Feelings books, this book on “Grief focuses on universal truths about death. It reassures kids that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, scared, worried, confused, or a mix of feelings when someone we care about dies. When we give ourselves time to heal, we can soon make space for gratitude, happiness, and love as well.Key – Secular, non-religious, and non-scientific- Written in soothing, rhythmic rhyme- Validates all types of feelings and ways of dealing with grief- Avoids euphemisms so as not to confuse young children- Vibrant and endearing illustrations with diverse characters- Approved by grief counselors and professionals- Includes a grief journal at the end with reflection prompts” Goodreads 

Everywhere Still ages 4-7  by M.H. Clark

Another newer book: 2023, Everywhere Still is more generally applicable to grief whether permanent or temporary- loss of parent, moving, pet, and helps process the emotions one carries through that process- knowing we can keep them close in our hearts.

The Memory Box ages 4-10 by Joanna Rowland

This shorter 32 page book (2017)  addresses  the common concern that we might forget the loved one who has died.  In the story the child creates a memory box with written mementos and objects to commemorate the loved one. This book is recommended and adopted by parenting blogs, bereavement support groups, hospice centers, social service agencies, military library services, church groups, and educators, The Memory Box offers a very simple approach to overcoming loss, separation, and disappointment while also giving support and encouragement that children easily understand.” It also has a journal that you can purchase as a companion. This book is written from a Christian perspective.  This book comes highly recommended 5 stars on Amazon and 4.4 stars on goodreads.

Always and Forever by Alan Durant

This short 32 page story written in 2013 is simple for the youngest readers but impactful for all readers.  In it Mole, Hare, and Otter have a hard time adjusting to the loss of their friend Fox “until Squirrel reminds them of all the good times they shared in the past–reassuring them that Fox will always be alive in their hearts and minds.”  This book is simple and about friendship- how we can all come together during a loss. Reviewers write it is easy enough for a kindergartner and profound for all ages.


I Miss You:  A First Look at Death ages 3-7 by Pat Thomas

Not all grief books are simple enough for toddlers.  This book written in 2000, is a short 28 page is part of “the A First Look At series and promotes positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers, and encourages kids to ask questions and confront difficult social and emotional questions. Books feature appealing full-color illustrations on every page plus a page of advice to parents and teachers.” Goodreads Reviewers who appreciated the book like how it talks openly about the various ways people die, and also includes sections “What about you?”that promote interactions and dialogue between the readers and listener.  This book was written by a psychotherapist and a counselor.

Something Sad Happened for ages 2-3 years by Bonnie Zucker

Written for those developmentally very young this book explains in very basic terms death and loss and even provides places where the reader can insert names to personalize the book for the child.


The Most Beautiful Story  by Brynjulf Jung Tjønn 

This book is written by a Norwegian author, and I should note that many American readers find it not to their liking.  However, if you have an older child who appreciates a more abstract and imaginative story this could be a good choice. It is artistic and does not leave with easy answers, but through its storytelling uses imagination to cope with loss.  

“At night, Vera, whose brother recently passed away, visits Syl, a magical creature who has the power to tell stories that reframe and thereby help heal the trauma of the past. In this dreamlike story about loss and acceptance, Syl, in a redemptive act, helps the young girl remember her brother as he was when he was alive.”  Goodreads

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

“Once there was a girl whose life was filled with all the wonder of the world around her. Then one day something occurred that caused the girl to take her heart and put it in a safe place. However, after that it seemed that more things were empty than before. Would she know when and how to get her heart back?” Goodreads.  

Written in 2010, this book is short 32 pages, and while it is written for children, seems to have a more nuanced lesson which not all younger children will grasp.  Although there are many readers who commend the drawing to word ratio and find it very beneficial for young and old alike. One reviewer states  “My heart couldn’t handle the tenderness of this beautifully illustrated story! :’) It’s a short, simple yet introspective tale of a little girl dealing with the loss of a loved one. Kudos to the writer for handling a sensitive topic like death with such warmth and kindness. 💓” Fatima Farzeen

Cry Heart, But Never Break ages 3-10 by Glenn Ringtved

Published originally in 2001, is a tale that is an international best selling book on grief.  Written by a Danish author & illustrator Cry Heart tells the story of four siblings, who are aware their grandmother is gravely ill and they “make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.” Amazon 

“Although Ringtved is celebrated for his humorous and mischievous stories, this contemplative tale sprang from the depths of his own experience — when his mother was dying and he struggled to explain what was happening to his young children, she offered some words of comfort: “Cry, Heart, but never break.” It was the grandmother’s way of assuring the children that the profound sadness of loss is to be allowed rather than resisted, then folded into the wholeness of life, which continues to unfold.” from Maria Popova’s review 

What Happens When We Die? By Joseph Raphael Becker

This book is for the scientifically curious.  In this story the children, after seeing a bird die, learn about atoms and energy that lasts forever.  It has strong use of imagination to learn what the science says about death.  One reviewer writes, “The laws of thermodynamics combined with poetry, art and the human desire for continuity to explain our relationship with death. Brilliant!” Sabrina Alexander Goodreads  While it says it is written for ages 4-7, readers say it is appropriate for older kids as well.

When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge Heegaard

This is an older book, 1988- short 32 page book written in “a practical format for allowing children to understand the concept of death and develop coping skills for life.”  This book has places to draw and is designed to be a therapeutic tool for the child to cope through talking together about their grief.  Reviewers state it seems more appropriate for children ages 6-12. It was written by a psychotherapist. As a workbook, it might be more beneficial to work through a few pages at a time.

For the Traumatic Death:

A Terrible Thing Happened By Margaret M. Holmes

A gently told and tenderly illustrated story for children who have witnessed any kind of violent or traumatic episode, including physical abuse, school or gang violence, accidents, homicide, suicide, and natural disasters such as floods or fire.

Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but soon something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous for no reason. Sometimes his stomach hurt. He had bad dreams. And he started to feel angry and do mean things, which got him in trouble. Then he met Ms. Maple, who helped him talk about the terrible thing that he had tried to forget. Now Sherman is feeling much better.” Goodreads-  This book also contains an afterward with more resources focusing on specific events.

If Anything Happens I Love You by Will McCormack & Michael Govier

This is a young adult graphic novel (2022) based on the Academy Award short (2020 found on Netlfix) with the same name. If Anything Happens, I love you, is a novel “that follows two parents as they reckon with the loss of their young daughter, Rose, in a school shooting. Readers follow Rose from “above” as she watches her parents slowly break down under the weight and pain of their loss. Throughout the novel, Rose’s soul seeks to help her parents reconnect. We learn who Rose was and how much life she lived in her short time.  By incorporating a wide range of characters, her boyfriend, teacher, and her cat, Rose is able to introduce healing into the lives of the people she left behind. If Anything Happens I Love You may be a story about loss, but in it we see ourselves—in the grief, the pain, and, most importantly, in the fight toward human connection, love, and acceptance.” Goodreads

For those just looking to introduce their children to the full range of emotions & empathy.

For those who just need a book to share that emotions have a safe place:  This is a great book for babies on up.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerffeld 

“With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustrations, The Rabbit Listened is a tender meditation on loss.

When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs.

Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.” Goodreads

Movies to Move You

I really love this goal I made for myself this past year of watching 40 movies with female leads. It was really a treat. I also realized how truly rare it was to have women lead in movies– even until recently. There is SO MUCH work to do in this field it’s astounding- but, at the same time- we have also come so very far! I would say, TV series now are doing much better at casting women leads, and it makes me wonder if there is more of a strong hold on cinema due to whoever runs/funds movies and the cash that is necessary. It is so imperative that as women we are represented as we are on the screen as we are in real life and not merely objects for the beholder. May we continue to write women with the complexity and bravery they deserve!

  • 22. Frida (2002)
  • 23. Yours Mine & Ours (1968)
  • 24. Bend it Like Bekham (2003)
  • 25. The Wedding Date (2005)
  • 26. Steel Magnolias (1989)
  • 27. Fargo (1996)
  • 28. You People (2023)
  • 29. Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
  • 30. Molly’s Game (2017)
  • 31. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
  • 32. Joy (2015)
  • 33. Bad Sisters (2022 season 1)
  • 34. The Kids All Alright (2010)
  • 35. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
  • 36. Interstellar (2014)
  • 37. Still Alice (2014)
  • 38. Lady Bird (2017)
  • 39. Barbie (2024)
  • 40. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000)
Red Bud Tree

As the world turns..

Turns out being forty isn’t half bad. Already, I sense my big girl panties fitting just fine and when you’re comfortable in your own clothes you’re better at taking no nonsense. I know and like who I am, I am happy I am me. Not a bad place to be at half life. Or 1/3 life? Who can know what the future holds? Maybe I’ll be one of those lucky 120 year centenarians to get a Smucker’s shout out. Do you know they say happiness (after taking a dip in mid life) just continues to increase?

Today, I am trying to convince my husband to let me buy a tree to plant. It’s on clearance, but spending money always makes him grimace and I always have a project. 🙂 But where’s the fun in life if you don’t spend a little MONEY?! I’ve successfully moved my outdoor plants in and we’re trying to prep for the LONG WINTER- which is actually at the moment, feeling like an extended summer/fall. Nearly each day my thermometer on my computer says “record high”. My fire ring in the backyard has been unused because who wants to sit by a campfire when it’s 70 degrees outside?

I want to a plant trees for my grandkids… time keeps on turning and we keep rolling down the river of time. Inflations high, but what’s the cost of not living, and not planning for a future? Not sacrificing now so there are trees to climb? As my dad reminds me, “the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago”, well that and the fall. Look out yard, my shovels coming for ya.

A Woman Lead

In my 40th year around the sun, I wanted to be inspired and celebrate the strong women in the world who have made a difference.  Each woman should know she is a leading lady in her own life- empowered to make her own decisions and have bodily autonomy. It is nearly impossible for us to make progress when we forget where we have come from.  

It was a subtext of my upbringing that women’s rights had really taken things too far, rather than not far enough. According to this teaching, our freedom is that we are free to follow God’s law, and in so will be blessed, but apart from that- we are pawns of evil.  This God is inherently male and his disciples and leaders, also full supporters of patriarchy.  But if patriarchy is not the plan and God is neither male nor female, then we must consider women to be endowed with the same rights as men.  Freedom to flourish in this world.  It is sad to me that I can be a woman who was raised to wish she were born a man, not because she despises her gender, but because she despises the hurdles continually put in their way for success.

I am but a mere beginning student in the fight and struggle for gender equality.  But the more I learn the more I am enraged, enlightened and empowered to continue our fight not only for women in America, but around the world.

I am working on watching 40 movies to instruct and move me- movies where women lead, some fun, some serious, some historical, & some inspirational.  I’m 21 down and 19 to go…What movies have moved you?


  1. 9-5 (1980)
  2. Norma Rae (1979)
  3. Alien (1979)
  4. Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
  5. Miss Congeniality (2000)
  6. Hidden Figures (2016)
  7. Legally Blond (2001)
  8. Wild (2014)
  9. Harriet (2019)
  10. Sound of Music (1965)
  11. Aliens (1986)
  12. Philomena (2013)
  13. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
  14. A Star is Born (2018)
  15. 27 Dresses (2008)
  16. Women Talking (2022)
  17. Woman King (2022)
  18. Suffragette (2015)
  19. Thelma & Louise (1991)
  20. Little Women (2019)
  21. Color Purple (1985)


It’s hard to write when one feels they are unraveling.  How do I bring these untethered threads together for a snappy blog post?  While my tapestry of the faith I clung to and worked my darndest to be the most colorful, the most creative, the most correct, the most extravagant of faith weavers is being pulled at and undone, I feel like an onlooker.  What do I do with all this yarn?  What will I make for my future? Can I create something new, while the old has become undone?

There is the inherent grieving.  The confusion.  The disappointment.  My tapestry was not the gift I thought it was.  I realize those carefully chosen designs were not for me, but created for others.  Those woven words and carefully constructed beliefs were spun for others. Directions of proper size, color and design granted by others. I feel no longer like the advanced master weaver, but someone who is now unsure if they can even pick up thread again.

As cliche as the saying has become, I am woke. I cannot slumber again.  I cannot close my eyes and unsee what I have seen. Yet, I still yearn to make and create.  My patterns are no longer chosen for me, my form given freedom.  My space offered up to be something only I can sustain.

Piles of string, tangled, undone. It takes work and time to unravel the unraveling.  Will I be patient and do the work, or shall I throw it away in search for something new, or give up the weaving all together?  I’m sad. I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted. I’m lonely. I’m weary.  Yet, I am here. I am hopeful.  I am determined.  I am grateful.  I am what I am.

How do you reveal the piles of string on the floor without the scorn of the tidy folks, the experts, the pattern followers, the dutiful weavers?

Where are the safe places to be undone? Where is my guide in the new form? I take comfort in the other souls who have marched to their own drum or gathered scorn from their tribes.  Oh how I despise to be despised. I love to be loved. I love to be the good one.  The leader…. But not today. Today I must just be me. No goals.  No when I …. then I… soon I can… just now, in the uncertainty.  I let the string fall. I didn’t pull it, it was pulled…. But I must let it rest. It’s undone.

A fire for all.

Like a large log pulled from a raging brush pile, I felt my faith fall from the fire.  A fire that I no longer wanted to be a part of.  One that seemed bent on spreading like the wind and wreaking havoc on the world around it, rather than its intended purpose of life giving warmth, hope and security.  My fire was hot and for a while, my embers glowed and burned, but alone in a damp cold world there was seemingly no way to keep them lit. My deep blue flame and hot orange flickers slowly cooled to a glowing red ember, and white ash.  Charred from my time in the fire.  I was spent.  Used and seemingly unuseful.  I could no longer light or produce flame.  

I lay there disheartened. Cold. Forgetting for a while what my purpose was.  Confused, perhaps I was never intended to burn anyway.  Perhaps the fire was no place for a log like me.  And yet, I wanted to burn, I longed for the flame, but I was wary of contributing to a fire that was more destruction than in granting life.  I wanted to be a lit with possibilities for a future, a flame where those who found themselves near it were welcomed, invited to take shelter from the harshness of the world.  Perhaps a fire to use it for cooking sustenance to carry on their rambling journey.  Or maybe just to enjoy it for its inherent beauty and warmth.  To sit. To ponder. To watch and just be.

Yet my log, now alone,  was too large, too strong, too forceful to be reckoned with.  I was not a twig for the flame, but a thick trunk to be used for the long burn.  The wind was still howling or not present at all, providing no hope to light again. The dampness of the earth provided no hope for kindle and I had no desire to roll back to the raging fire I had fallen from. 

My only hope was to start again. Somehow on my own now, with the skills I knew of what was needed for a flame.  And so I began the arduous task of chopping my log into pieces. Dissecting it into sizes that could catch spark.  Painful, but necessary if I wanted to burn again.  I had to deconstruct to be made to burn. Finding kindling to add hidden in unusual places, where I hadn’t looked before.  I would never again be what I was, but I had the potential to be what I wanted to be.  

I was no longer engulfed with smoke and overcome with the cackling roar of an uncontrolled blaze that was almost unaware of it’s destruction and oblivious to the cloud of ash in it’s wake.  I dared to be a light, a place of warmth.  A spot where one could rest, and find solace and cheer amidst the storms of life.  A place where others could also be lit without being burned by an uncontrolled rage.  A fire where there was space to gather around and find fellow friends.  A fire that beckoned one to  sit, to gaze into the flame in wonder, or a spot to stargaze and hear the night groans of the forest.  A fire for all.

Forgetful me

Oh, I forgot,

I am only supposed to love a neighbor who looks like me,

and a foreigner with the same theology,

and only those with power who can favor me,

and screw the sick with their infirmities,

and love the money and not those who labor for me,

and scream for liberty and condone shooting sprees,

and chant to lock up those who disagree with me,

and snuff out lives of black and brown bodies

and lock children in cages to separate families,

and spread lies and mistrust on life-saving vaccines,

and spread my virus freely with all the songs I sing,

and deny entrance of those who look different based on my comfortability,

and protect at all costs the patriarchy,

I’m sorry, I forgot, please forgive me.

I forgot this “real” version of Christianity,

Power, fear of strangers, guns and blasphemy.

Excuses are like…

I never feel ready to make New Year’s resolutions on Jan 1st.  Somehow the week between Christmas and the turning of a calendar doesn’t seem to be enough time to evaluate and create actual goals for a whole other year.  The non-stop insanity of costuming, creativity and curating of holidays that start at the end of October, with additional demands on parenting that only stops at the end of December, leave very little brain space left for making a path forward.  My sugar comma from the holidays is barely lifted and sure, I could promise I’d lose those pandemic/holiday pounds, but should I?  They seem perfectly content with being my companion for my book reading, instagram scrolling, meal-fixing, laundry-folding, child-tending self. I’m not preparing for the Olympics, people! Do I really need to shame myself for hibernating for the long winter? I’m a mammal doing my thing.  

Sure, I can make some better choices, or try what hibernating animals are doing and actually fast at the end of my feasting (& maybe I will try intermittent fasting, sounds like a blast…don’t eat while sleeping -done!), but let me just encourage you all out there, it’s maybe OK to be OK with where you are.  The just TRY HARDER approach only works for some and for the rest of us it’s just a crock. You can try harder and just be on a spinning wheel.  And sometimes we are trying harder on things that should just be accepted as hard and move on. I have a middle aged body and I will look middle aged. Apart from some miracle skin cream or injecting myself with freezing toxins– my wrinkles will remain and deepen with laughter and grimaces as the years progress.  And yet again in February we are reminded to once again turn the page as the Lunar New Year is celebrated worldwide.  Another gentle nudge of washing up and setting right things for the future, to put on our new clothes to welcome what is to come.

I love the statement I saw online where someone said they don’t try and make their bodies fit clothes, but buy their clothes to fit their bodies. This also isn’t a post shaming those who are trying. Props to those who are trying different things, loving their bodies by tending them, or moving them or giving them different fuel for the fire.  It’s not wrong to have a goal, to set achievable accomplishments and feel good about getting there.  But let’s be kind with ourselves.  The path to happiness may not be pants that are a different size, but may be the little affirmations along the way that we are worth the time to tend to ourselves, worth the time for tasty good for us food, worth the time for playing and doing things that bring us energy and life.

My inability to lose weight while not currently doing any of the things that count as “trying”, may not be a surprise, as apparently just thinking it would be ‘nice’ to lose some pounds doesn’t equate magically waking up to my former 20 year old self. I’m in a debate with myself. Do I set a goal to lose weight and fail, or do I not set a goal and just let time and life take its course? Or, do I set a goal of intentions on how I move and how I do my day and how I feed my body well and let the chips fall where they may?  How do I do a post about weight and being a woman with intentions and not cause a shame filled, guilt trip, or simplistic approach to the gravity of our identities which involves loving & caring for ourselves?

A friend a long time ago said “excuses are like armpits, they all stink.”  But maybe that’s not true.  What if excuses are like armpits and they’re all natural and we shouldn’t be using aluminum deodorant anyway and maybe should just get used to our natural aroma?  Or maybe we need to find natural methods that help us with the root of our problem rather than masking and blocking the right answer for a healthy sweet smelling body? What if the excuse is just a sign that we don’t have the tools we need yet?  What if the excuse is because we are conditioned for a certain outcome that maybe we need a permission slip to just accept?  What if part of the journey is learning what to accept, when to accept it, what to challenge, when to challenge it, what to infuse with our life giving energy and what to release?  And that just can’t be figured out by January 1, but is a lifelong, yearly challenge, a day by day journey, of moments by moments of mysterious moods and mindfulness that get us from who we are now to who we soon will be, whether our pant size changes or not.

Last Tree Standing

Strong, resilient, defiant- our tree next to our house always seems to be the last tree standing clothed.  Others gave up their fancy robes and are now baring their branches to the sky. 

Not our gal, she remains clothed in splendor, unwilling to give up her orange robe–either afraid to shiver longer through the winter months, or protected from the winds that have stripped the other neighborhood trees. She scoffs at the others who have been chastened to move on to the next thing.  She laughs at the days to come. 

The leaves cling to her branches. Browning now. Shriveled. Dejected. Unyielding, they hang on. 

I can’t tell if it’s pure tenacity keeping them attached, or if it’s the deep care and love and nutrients provided for them, that have kept them from their inevitable release.  

For a few brief moments in time leaves clutter the yard filling it with color and texture, begging rakes and leaf jumpers. Inviting play, inviting work.

Wet, sloppy fodder for the master builders of all things winter. Little critters prepare their dens. Little children prepare their piles. Little humans prepare their plan of attack. 

The unfortunate ones who’ve scattered too close to our front have found themselves blown, chopped, mulched and bagged for another foreign land.  They are forced to bring nutrients and life to a place that has never known their beauty. 

Others will remain next to us, until the parks mower man arrives to do it’s best to help them onto their next death, their next life, their next mission, their next meal for the million of a critters who we can’t see beneath our feet– providing all things for us tirelessly and without glory.

She knows it’s coming. The cold. The wind. The bright blue skies more visible through her barren branches.  Blinding sun. Frigid temps. Wet. White. Snow. Providing the best blanket winter can offer to her until the world invites her offerings of green once more. 

She’s been here before.  She’s seen these days come and go.  “‘Tis a season,” they say.  As if a season can’t be long and unrelenting- a million moments in every day, hundreds of hours every week, and weeks that seem to stretch for miles before the promised light at the end of the tunnel arrives. 

She braces for this journey.  Is she ready? It’s lonely but for the few brave souls who have found a home in her branches, thanking her for the gift of safety for the days to come.

She is. It’s time. One. Last. Drop. Welcome Winter.

You come as an inevitable guest. Not always invited, but inescapable, predictable and necessary nonetheless.   She welcomes you- season of hardship, of stark contrasts, of monotones and maker of ear-muff days. 

I welcome you because you too are part of my journey. A companion to my life. An environment for my… good…despite or maybe even in it’s pain.

Fall of Reflection

This fall has been a time of reflection for me.  A chance when life has slowed down enough with more kids in school, and a friend watching my littles once a week, I finally have a little space for myself.  I’m dubbing it my “Sabbatical Year of Self Care.”   While I do have hopes of writing more and getting research done during this time, it’s also a time for me to just focus on my emotional, physical, and spiritual needs rather than looking to constantly caregive for others.  I’ve needed this space and this space needed me- a carved out nook in time and space where I can focus on just being.

It’s been a space for grief.  A space for joy.  A space for wonder. A space for anger. A space for friendship.  A space for others to look after me. 

Fall break last year in 2020 had been such a gift- it was a burning fire of glory in a full on pandemic. The trees had never been so beautiful, all peaking at the same time on my parents farm.  It was nature in a healing way that sometimes only experience outside can provide.  It was connection with my family after isolation and lockdowns. I had just started taking an author class to learn how to try and do this thing called ‘writing’ professionally. It had been a time of hope and dreaming of the future.

This year I was able to go back and enjoy the farm once again.  It was a strange parallel from last year.   This year it was rainy, gloomy, the trees were green and resilient to change due to the warmer summer.  My recollection of starting my author school and commitment to writing left me somewhat discouraged that a whole year had passed and yet still I had nothing ‘major’ accomplished.  My time with family was just as nice and despite the dreary weather the kids had found fun rainy day activities like performing plays in the barn loft and swinging from the rope swing.  And ironically while the year before had been so bright and beautiful the constant sunshine had made it more difficult to capture the beauty of the trees.  It’s the gray skies that allow the richness of colors to pop and come alive to our eyes.

I had to remind myself, that although a year had passed and nothing major to show for it, I had lots of little things to show.  I had rejoined social media and broadened my circles, joining new communities online.  I had deeper friendships with people I had spent time with and reconnected.  I had started reading again, enjoying the words of others.  I had even started a blog and website.  While those weren’t necessarily the accomplishments that felt like a giant pat on the back, it’s a realization that they are the stepping stones that added together are a big deal. The idiom: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, brings me some solace.

While disappointed that the trees wouldn’t show their vibrancy while I was there, I had to recognize, they too were at the whims of the climate around them.  The warmer summer, the humidity in the air all factoring in.  They are forced to adjust and peak when it is their time, when the environment has assisted in this spectacular task of losing their chlorophyll in preparation for the winter, some producing anthocyanin -red pigment, an antioxidant protecting it for what is to come. (The carotenoid produces the yellow in leaves, anthocyanin and carotenoids- orange, anthocyanin and chlorophyll produce brown.) I’m encouraged, that like scientists who until recently thought there was leaves were merely being unmasked, that now we know anthocyanin is made. A reminder that even in preparation for death there is work to do.

In my life I may not understand why my peak is taking longer and what these deaths are in preparation for, but that doesn’t mean my soil isn’t richer because of it and next year conditions might permit an even fuller display of glory and growth.

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