Monday, October 31, 2005

Experiences to last a lifetime

Some months ago
I visited
The Isle of the Ancestors
I met her there
She was the Ferrywoman
She has been gone 5 years
Five years Sunday 30th Oct 2005
Her son Chris
Picked some roses from her garden
He put them in a vase
On the table looking out
On to HER garden
Now his to look after
Red,Yellow,White & Orange
So beautiful,very old roses
I met her on my trip
To the Isle of the Ancestors
Many months ago
We chatted long & wisely
I told her He (Her Son)
Was well,I was looking out for him
She was content,she said
She had no pain from the Cancer
That ravaged her body for many years
He is not smoking cigarettes she said
No, No, No ,I said, she knew
I was telling the truth
She had known me since I was a new born
In October 1936
She was my neighbour,my friend,my boss at work
She was my Mothers Guardian
When I was not there
She was the one who looked after
Neighbours in her street
She was the chicken soup maker
She was the neighbour we all
Need to have
She was Maureen Ferguson
An Irish woman with a
Firey Spirit.
She is Chris's Mother.

Lois (Muse of the Sea) 1st Nov 2005.

Catching Up With My Brother

I have looked forward to this night for the past several weeks. There was so much I wish I had said to my brother before he died. Who knew he would die so young. I was just beginning to know him as an artist. He was a fairly quiet, reserved person, so I thought giving him his space and not pushing for information would allow him to gradually open up to me. I know that pushing wouldn't have helped any, but I do regret not being more communicative on my part, even if he didn't answer my e-mails.

As soon as the sun set, I was at the docks waiting for a ferry ride to the Isle of Ancestors. There was only one ferry ready that early. The ferry captain looked at me with knowing, gentle eyes, got me settled, and kindly left me to my thoughts. I searched my memories for glimmers of Stan. He was 7 years older than me, so we didn't interact much as kids. Even when we were older, he had his life and I had mine. By the time I hit high school, he was taking some part-time classes at college. Everything I was doing was elementary to him. He was a certified genius. After high school he went to a school to learn drafting. He worked with a band doing their lights and sound. He went to college to learn computer programming and that's the industry he remained in. I remember him writing programs for games on his computer. He let me play one with him once. I beat him, so he deleted the game. It was obviously too random if I could beat him. ;-)

As the ferry approached the Isle, a shiver entered my body. I remembered the fire in the cave when I visited here before. I told myself it would take the shiver away, even though I knew the shiver had nothing to do with a chill. I was plenty warm. I wobbled a bit standing up so the ferry captain helped me ashore. I stood on the sandy beach for a moment to regain my balance. I assured the captain I was alright because she said she wouldn't leave me otherwise. I knew this was just nervousness and fear, though I wasn't sure why I was feeling this. I wasn't meeting a monster or learning a hard lesson. I was just meeting my brother to say those things I wish I had said years ago.

The ferry far from view, I watched the stars and the moon shimmer on the water. I sat down in the sand for a moment and took in deep breaths of the night air. I calmed my nerves and reminded myself, all will be well.

I headed down the familiar path to the stoney entrance to the cave that would bring me to Stan. I wondered if he would be here already or if I would have to wait for him. I wanted to run through the caverns to the meeting room. Knowing I would be disappointed if he wasn't there when I arrived, I held myself back, just a bit. Along each passageway I strain my sight in the search for a shadow, a profile, a hint of a presence. When the entryway finally comes into view, I can't see the fireplace or the meeting table. I had forgotten from my previous visit that you never know who is in the room until you enter and sit at the table. I pause at the entrance, take a deep breath, and enter the room. There, at the table, is a hooded figure. It's just got to be Stan! He couldn't have let someone else take his place this evening. Not this time. Not tonight.

I slowly make my way to the table, praying with each step that my visitor is Stan. There's so much to say, so much to much left undone. Please, don't be in death as you were in life -- closed off from me.

Trembling slightly, I sit at the table and look down at it's well-worn wood. I look for a hand on the table and see a man's hand. This has to be Stan! I look up to the image in the photo Stan took of himself in June. This isn't his best picture, but it's the most recent picture I have of him, so I suppose that's all I can see. I reach out and hold his
hand and look into his eyes. With tears rolling down my cheeks I cry, "I'm sorry!" My sadness shows as concern on Stan's face. "I know you didn't want us to be sad, I know you wanted us to throw a party in your honor...but I am sad. I know it is selfish, but I wasn't ready for you to go! I wasn't prepared. I thought it was all a fluke. I didn't know your cancer was so bad...but, you didn't let us know."

Stan nodded with a sorrowful expression on his face. He was about to speak, but I knew I needed to say all I had come to say or I would never get it out.

"Stan, I love you. I know I never said that when you were alive, and that was stupid on my part. I care about you. I wish I would have shown it in a million ways. I wish I could have been there for you. I wish I would have told you so many things, like, you are one amazing artist. I admire you and your work. Your images inspire me and amaze me. I wish I could have talked with you more about your art and your photography. There was so much I could have learned from you. I was hoping we could work together as artists as we got older. But I never said any of this. I thought I had time. I don't know why a little red flag didn't go up when you first mention having cancer. I should have said more and done more THEN! And now it is too late. I'm sorry."

I looked down at the table and wiped the tears from my face. I could tell Stan was surprised...that he didn't know how much he was cared for and respected and looked up to. He squeezed my hand, holding it tight. I saw a tear of his splash on the tabletop. I looked up to his eyes again and saw his tears but noticed he was smiling.

"You don't know how good it feels to be here and hear you say those things. There's nothing for you to be sorry for. You did as much as I allowed you to do. If you would have tried to do more, I wouldn't have let you...I may have even gotten angry with you. I didn't want anyone to do anything because I didn't want to believe I had cancer. I didn't want to believe it could beat me. The more people did things for me, the more I knew I would resign into the disease. I thought I was smart enough to beat it. I thought if I did everything the doctors told me to do and added a few natural remedies, too, I had nothing to worry about. Robin beat it! I could beat it!"

His tears came harder and faster. Now I understood why he couldn't let the cancer take its course. He had to be in control and take his life before cancer did. He couldn't let cancer win. He never believed it would get as bad as it did...and since it had, he couldn't let it continue.

"I'm so sorry cancer ended your life. I wish doctors had better answers. I'm sorry you felt so defeated. Your last days must have been hell on earth."

"They were the worst days of my life. But since then, it's been all uphill. This moment, here with you, though it brought back the pain of my last days for a moment, it has also brought me great joy. I'm sorry I won't grow old with you. I'm sorry we won't share our artistry together. You do know that I will always be with you. I know it sounds trite, but I will. You have the photos I've taken. Use them. Let them inspire you. We can still colloborate with our art. Use my photos to create. My spirit, my vision remains in those photos. They will guide you to look deeper and create."

"I hope I can do your photos justice. They will not die with you. I will continue to share them with others so that they may see the beauty of your soul."

"I know that whatever you do with my photos, you will only make nature's radiance shine through even more. From what I've seen, you aren't a bad artist yourself. I know your intensions are good. I can see the goodness about you. By the way, your spirit glows in an abundance of color. I wish I could take a picture of it so you could see."

"I think I can see least a little, just by your description."

"Anyway, I know you'll do wonderful things with my photos. You can't go wrong when you intensions are good. Use them as you would an artist's palatte. Have fun! Celebrate the beauty of nature. I am thrilled to give these to you. And I know you will treasure them more than any money I could give....which, you obviously know, I had nothing to give."

"And I wouldn't want your money, Stan. If I could wish for anything, it would be for you to be be happy and be here to share in the joy I'll receive working with your get your see with your artistic eye."

"Like I said, I'll be there in every photo. Listen. You'll hear me. You'll witness my artistic eye. You'll learn more from my photos than anything I could have taught you."

"I will listen. I will try to hear you. I'll do my best."

"And that's all you can do."

"I love you."

"I know you do."

I knew there was nothing more to say. I was drained of words. I was filled with his presence and knew I could carry on his vision. I was thrilled by the opportunity to use his photos in my art. I knew, no matter what obstacles may be ahead in dealing with the legalities of it all, it will all work out. Stan will be watching over the situation and will make sure nothing keeps me from working with his photos.

I have some mighty big shoes to fill, is all I could think as I made my way back to the ferry. Stan's artistry is amazing and he was always so humble about it. The spirit of understated greatness accompanied me back to North Star Studios. I spent most of the night on the roof reliving my conversation with Stan as I watched the stars and planets. I knew Stan was there, in the sky, riding the shooting star I saw heading towards the horizon at dawn.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

All Souls Night on The Isle of the Ancestors

Tonight the veil between the worlds is said to be thinner than any other night of the year. On the Isle of Ancestors tonight I was met by my Grandmother and Great-grandmother, who helped me rewrite a poem. I visited with my Grandfather and considered the difference between memories we form ourselves and memories that we learn from others. As I wandered across the Isle, I came to a rippling stream where I was not at all surprised to find my father fishing.

Not all ‘ancestors’ on this Isle have passed beyond the veil. Just upstream from my father, I found my mother casting her line across the riffle in the fading twilight. “What are you doing here?!” I asked, surprised.
She smiled and answered, “fishing.”

The following poem was written for my mother, Zetta Benson Peterson. On her next birthday she will be ninety. Besides being a first class fisherwomen, my mother was a professional dancer and a dance teacher, as I was myself. When she was carrying me, she couldn’t keep down anything but water-cress and lemon-lime soda. She has always said that I “entered dancing.”

I Learned

They would ask me . . .
How long have you been dancing?
When did you begin to learn?
Were you four?
Who did you learn from?
What lessons did you take?

I danced
I said . . .
Before I drew my first breath
For my dancing soul learned joy
Before my mortal body was complete
I danced
I said . . .
From the beginning
I learned
I said . . .
From the heart that beat around me then
A halcyon heart full of sunshine and peace
In the safety of the dark and warm
I first felt the promise of a world of love
And I danced . . .
For joy

~ Edwina Peterson Cross ~

The Fisherman's Daughter

Defining self. A fascinating proposition. Who am I? Am I my name? I have a couple, which one is me? As you can imagine Winnie and Edwina are not the same person at all. I write under several pen names as well. Is one of those really me? Do I define myself by what I do? I am a poet. I am a writer. I am an editor. Do I define myself by what I love? I am a dancer. I am a Stratford Shakespearean. I am a lover of Celtic Music. Do I describe myself by my imaginations whirls? I am an aspen dryad. I am otter. I am twenty to thirty characters stranded in various predicaments in sundry halves of novels and pieces of short stories .I am the three hundred and sixty others that are in my mind trying to make their way to the page. Do I define myself by my harsh reality? I am a diabetic. I am an asthmatic. I am a Fibromyalgia patient, an arthritic, a migraine sufferer . . . no, I'm not going to choose that one.

Do I define myself by my relationship to other people? I am mother. That one definitely seems the most basic, the truest of blood, bone and heart. But doesn't it describe half the population of the earth? "I am a Fisherman's Daughter," someone said. My Daddy was a fisherman. Does that make me a Fisherman's Daughter?

Today is my Daddy’s birthday. He has been gone from us now for several years and I miss him. Am I, indeed, a fisherman's Daughter? A professors daughter? An intellectuals daughter? An authors daughter? A public speakers daughter? A politician's daughter? A gardener's daughter? A singer's daughter? A story teller's daughter? An athlete's daughter? An artist's daughter? An Aggie’s Daughter? A Sigma Chi’s daughter? Yes, I am a fisherman's daughter. I am all that and more, because he was all that and more.

My Daddy stands in the silver Logan river in his brown chest waders and the river slides around him as if he is an organic part of it's flow. The sun backs up against the western mountains and the sliding silver water burns brilliant with sudden shimmering gold. The mountain tops swallow the sun and twilight fills the canyon with purple sage stillness for just an instant . . . then the wind comes up, flowing clear and green down the canyon and it kisses a riffle on to the surface of the water and the fish start to jump. Then my Daddy clamps his pipe in his teeth and casts his line out into the river; the filament disappears in the sky, snapped into the glisten of the last burnish of sun. My Daddy is a big man, an athlete, a football player, but when he casts a line, he moves in a single graceful arch that could be a dance . . .wrist, arm, shoulder, back, line . . . line . . . line . . . FISH! Up on it's tail in the last glitter of the setting sun; a rainbow trout dances backward toward my Daddy's net splashing a kaleidoscope of river into the evening air; a kaleidoscope of memory that smells of fish; that smells of canyon; that smells of leather, bay rum and pipe smoke; that smells of pine; that smells of sage; that smells of twilight and summer, that smells of home.

Edwina Peterson Cross
October 27, 2004

I painted my Daddy, Dr. Edwin L. Peterson, on top of one of his own oil paintings


My earth memories
Are vague
In soft distorted pieces
A child’s telescoped thoughts
That bring me small scattered pictures
Of an old, old man
My few childhood recollections
Are fuzzy far off images
Of white hair
And faltering steps
But, these broken fragments are not the reality I hold of you
I have found the clear, clean truth of you
Preserved and honored in so many different thoughts
I have heard the whsipers of your gentle words
For they echo in my mother’s heart
I have felt your peace
Still flowing strong through the house you made a home
I was taught the power of learning
By the woman you loved
I learned the power of love
From the daughter you taught
I feel your legacy
When my throat closes with emotion
When my heart swells with joy
I feel your touch in my blood
As I realize in awe
The sweet strength of tenderness
The powerful promise of love

And today
In the still silver hush of dawn
I sense a soft warm wind that gently lifts the corners of the veil
I feel hymns of love wash over me like a blessing
And I listen
For your voice

~ Edwina Peterson Cross ~

For My Grandfather, Serge Ballif Benson

The Bonnet

I wrote this poem thirty-five years ago. It has been published several times and I have had two different people tell me that they have it in their homes, framed on the wall. I’ve never been I never liked the way it ended. The original ending was short of what I meant, it was just wrong and I’ve never been able to fix it, partially because the original version was in my head and I couldn’t get around it.

The poem is written from a story told to me by my Grandmother, Melinda Caroline Nelson Benson. It tells the story of the bonnet that her Grandmother, Karen Marie Jensen, carried across the ocean and across the plains from Denmark to Utah. Karen came to Utah with a handcart company, having to literally push all her belongings across the plains. Crossing the long prairies and several different mountain ranges, the company had to constantly lighten their load, leaving belongings all along the trail. In Denmark, Karen had been a seamstress, an artist who did the finest needlework on expensive clothing and linens. She brought with her a bonnet that she had made, a confection of silk, satin and handmade lace that she felt was the most beautiful thing she had ever created. No matter how hard the trail became, or what else she had to leave behind, Karen would not leave her bonnet. It was a thing of beauty, made by her own hands and she said that no matter what happened, she would take into her new life something of grace and beauty, as a sign of faith and hope. The “I” in my poem is my Grandmother, the old woman her grandmother. My mother still has the bonnet as well as the rocking chair that my Great-grandfather made, held together by whittled pegs, because they had no nails.

I visited the Isle of Ancestors and was met by Melinda and Karen, two women of learning, courage, spirit and heart. Both women believed strongly in knowledge and beauty, in hope and faith. Together the three of us rewrote the ending of this poem. It came out in rhyme, and now carries the meaning that I originally intended for it, but have been unable for thirty-five years to find.


The Bonnet

I walked her home
For I was young and strong
And I felt good for giving
My arm to one that shook with age

She sat in the sturdy rocking chair
That her husband had made
With just a knife
For they had no nails
And told me of “The Crossing”
And I felt good for giving
A minute of my youth and streaming life
To listen

She showed me the bonnet
Lovely still, though out of style
And told me how she had carried it
Through the dirt and the rain
And I looked
And wondered about giving

She wove me a wealth of wisdom
While I sat at her feet
In my first understanding of life
With aging silk and satin
A treasure of trust in her shaking hands
The beauty she would not leave behind
Still mirrored in her soft old eyes

She taught me the truth of tomorrow
Living means giving in age or youth
Knowledge and beauty are seeds of hope
And dreams are the birth of truth

~ Edwina Peterson Cross ~

For My Great-grandmother - Karen Marie Nilson Jenson
My Grandmother - Melinda Caroline Nelson Benson
And My Mother - Zetta Benson Peterson

All Soul's Night Greetings for all my Ancestors

To mark All Soul's Night I took a ride with Baba, in her black swan, to the Isle of the Dead and met the Queen of the Serpents who guards the entrance to the underworld. I took a small vile of pure Castalian Water, collected at Delphi and we drank to creativity. The Serpent has blessed all travellers on the Soul Food Silk Way.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Return to the isle of the Ancestors

I have come again to the Isle of Ancestors, for recent events have made it imperative that I do so.

My ferrywoman, the strong and capable Maeve, rows me across the bay. She senses a change in me.

``The last time you came, there were gaps and mysteries in your ancestry,” she said. ``I take it some of those gaps have been filled now?”

``Yes,” I said. ``And there is something I have to know.”

``I hope the island can provide the answer for you.”

I was so impatient I slipped getting out of the boat and splashed up to my waist in water. Maeve, laughing, helped me to my feet and sent me on my way up the beach.

At the apple grove, I squeezed the sea water out of my skirt as best I could, and then hurried on to the stone doorway.

The scene was just the same as before – the great hall, the dying fire in the centre, a hooded figure seated nearby. But as I sat down and said, ``Greetings ancestor”, this time I knew it would be very different.

The hands that drew the hood back from the shadowed face were my mother’s hands – I knew them so well. The face that smiled down at me was my mother’s face – her eyes, her mouth, her thick wavy black hair.

But it was not my mother – it was my grandmother Hilda, whom I had never met in life.

``I knew,” I said. ``I knew you would be here.”

``I’ve waited a long time for this myself,” she said. She clasped my hands in hers, and I told her what she was longing to hear – about my mother, the baby she had been forced to give up for adoption, the daughter she had searched all her life. Her story was a sad one, but common for the times she was born into, when young mothers were still ruthlessly separated from their children and told they would `get over it’. No woman should ever be punished for having a child. Hilda had never gotten over it. Finally freed to marry the man she loved, she and he had gone on searching for their child, longing to be reunited with her.

Tears flowed down Hilda’s face as we talked, that face that was so like my mother’s. The photograph we had been said showed a still young woman overshadowed by a sadness she could never escape. Now, as the tears flowed, I prayed her soul would be at peace. But there was one question I needed her to answer.

``Grandmother, many years ago – before we knew about you – my daughter spoke to a medium, who said there was a guardian spirit watching over us. All she could say was that it was an older woman, a shadowy figure – a grandmother. We weren’t certain who she meant until we saw your photo. Have you been with us all this time, and we didn’t know?”

Hilda wiped away her tears. ``I never stopped looking for my daughter,” she said, ``and when I found her, I could not leave her again.”

The gift we gave each other was something precious beyond price – a first and only embrace – until we meet again.

My collection


Tokashiki Island, Japan

I am showing off my collection of shells. But what I like most is the silhouette of an overlook pavilion in the distance. For me this is the Isle of Ancestors. This is my mother's land. It is like a dream in sunshine. The waters are so clear I thought I was snorkeling in the movie Finding Nemo.