On the Crest of the Wave

Today I finally got over to the Como conservatory like I’ve been wanting to do all winter, utterly ready for an emergency dose of green and warmth and whatever serenity I was hoping to find. Unfortunately for my introverted self, I was nothing short of disappointed to find the complete chaos I had walked straight into, warmish Sunday afternoons apparently being the most popular time to haul in strollers full of babbling children eager to pull off mittens they’ve been wrestled into all winter.

So I shifted my focus into full fledged people watching. And trying not to step on any oblivious toddlers.

If you’re like every other Twin Cities dweller and have been to Como, you know that one of the first sights you see when you enter the massive greenhouse gardens is the Crest of The Wave fountain centered in its own little courtyard, the barefooted statue of a woman seeming to leap into the density of trees scraping the glass walls. I want to spend the whole afternoon gazing at her, taking mental notes for the poem I want to revolve around her. Pulling a dingy 1976 penny out of my coin purse, I flick it off my thumbnail into the fountain’s top tier with a wet plink, wishing my feet were as light as the dark figure carved into such bliss.


On the wooden bench to my left sits a small woman reading, her black hair rocking along with the baby she holds. She seems alone, and I think of how this is the place I would sit if I found myself that way. Through the automatic doors race two small hispanic girls, pressing themselves against the low bowl collecting what streams off the statue’s feet. The bigger girl bends her torso over the lip, raking her fingers through the clear water, letting it pour over over her palm. With no hesitation, she cups her hand, avoids the penny’s glinting at the bottom, and scoops the water into her mouth. She is oblivious to my or anyone else’s shock, and looks confused when her frazzled mother grabs her by the ear and pulls her away.

In the sunken garden, pendant flowers and lillypads float on the narrow pond, and my eyes are actually dizzy from the pink freckled lilies, violet pansies, and white roses so perfect they unfold like pearl kaleidoscopes.The crystal like walls slope into a glass Taj Mahal, slender coniferous trees trimmed liked manicured fingers line the interior as columns.  A woman with a camera around her neck and white hair walks in and exclaims, “Why, doesn’t it smell delicious in here?” and as weird as it sounds, it does.


A two year old with brown, curly pigtails steps with one foot only on the shallow steps that lead up out of the garden as she and her dad count aloud 1, 2, 3, 4. When she trips, her arm goes taught in her father’s thick hand, her knees never scraping the stone. She points at the electric orange koi fish with their Fu Manchu mustaches, their rubbery, tunnel lips blowing kisses above the water.

And all around people are peeling off coats like old skins, shedding the cold and gray February slushed they tracked in. I cross my legs on the bench and watch them, the change in the air making them perk like the plants in their water mist, me feeling restored  from just observing it all. I lean into a ballet-slipper pink flower I don’t know the name of, the smell of raw honey and jasmine in my lungs.

I’m content here among this life that’s being tricked into blooming. The plants that have no idea of the environment they’re beating or the cold that presses up against the sun-soaked windows. They have no idea of all that is working in their favor, they only put down roots and stretch themselves as far as they can reach. As they are meant to.

As I think I am meant to. As I find the place that allows me to bloom just the same.



After the Fact

On the aisle side of a middle pew, feeling small inside a breathtaking, originally Catholic church building, I am sitting with a open journal on my lap, not paying as much attention to the sermon as I should be. All around me, dark wooden beams scale white walls, curving into high domed ceilings, light suspended in lanterns, fixed on metal chains leading upward.

Chopin rings from the classical piano being played in the front of the church. Near the piano an original painting, a 7ft. canvas framed with the color of canyon red dirt, holding a depiction of the woman Jesus met at the well. She is crouching, low on her heels, back bent, her hair the same color as the dirt. But her arm is reaching upward. A delicate hand holding her clay jug like an offering, tilting it back until water rushes forward, nearly spilling over, ready to wash over this lowly figure in the dust.


The last month and a half since my cousin’s suicide have been some of the toughest weeks of my life. At this point in time, I can feel some of the heaviness, the pressure of it ease off me in ways that I couldn’t afford before. But there are also days, more like moments, when something just hits for no remarkable or explainable reason and all of a sudden I’m crying in class, at lunch, in the middle of my professor’s office.

And after these last few weeks of tears and writing and phone calls and prayers and frustrating, emotional conversations, this is what I’ve learned about grief. And that is that there is absolutely nothing that can quiet the pain and the sadness, and there is nothing to make it go away. There is no remedy, there is no treatment, there is no cure.

But there is healing.

The only, only thing that can heal what so thoroughly breaks us is the knowledge, the realization that we are not alone.

When the same professor that I break down into tears in front of takes the time nearly every day to ask how I’m actually doing, I am not alone.

When the school councilor I’ve been seeing goes out of his way on a Saturday to email me a blog post he found about grief, I am not alone.

When I read poetry, when I read others’ intimate experiences, when I can feel what I don’t have to sum up into coherent sentences, I am not alone.

When a dear friend takes me out to dinner at India Palace, and over curry chicken listens to everything I could possible say, willingly enters into my story without fear or hesitation, holds every jagged, broken piece of me, I am not alone.

And when I am sitting in church this morning, and the light is igniting the stained glass ivory and gold, producing warmth I can’t feel, I read among the azure and the ruby laced window, a scroll inscribed with Blessed are the poor in spirit.

When the people stand and pour out Aleluia, I actually have the breath to join them. And with those words, my skin feels lighter and less like my own, and again, I am crying, but I try not to get caught up in mopping them with my sleeve. When I just let them leak out of closed eyes, let them wash away all that I’ve been holding on to, let this warmth, this light, this voice wrap around me, there is healing.

There is the realization, the reminder. I am not alone.