Letting Go


"...to live in this world


you must be able to do

three things - to love what is mortal;

to hold it


against your bones knowing

your whole life depends on it;

and when the time comes,

to let it go,

to let it go..."


Mary Oliver


To love what is mortal or what is a part of our mortal soul; land, love, family, ancestors, and to have to let go is one of the most difficult things we do as humans. And yet, it is a burden of loving. We will all have to let go at some point of that which is dearest to us. It is the singular truth that all philosophers and theologians agree on: everything eventually changes.


A lifestyle, a relationship, healthy or not, can be hard to let go of. What we are accustomed to becomes precious, difficult to imagine being without it even though it is the best way to move forward. Even though, we know in our bones it is time to find the next path.


I recently had to let go of a family property, land that had been in my family for over 100 years, land that I was brought to as a baby every summer. Land I brought my babies to when they were little. Land that my great-grandfather had given my grandfather, who in turn gave it to my father, who in turn gave it to my sister and I. On this land I ushered my father and mother into their last days.


This land is a part of who I am. My love of poetry, art and nature began in this place. But, that is not all that this land held for me, there is a more unseen part, my personal struggle and trauma that occurred on this land. Invisible to most but real for me. I was also letting go of the unsaid, the secret shame, the darkness that I have carried throughout my life. My shadow.


To be able to say good-bye, I had to find a way to honor it all, to make space in my heart for the love and the hurt. For the questions and the answers. The process was beautiful at times, filled with memories and stories. It was also difficult and messy and uncertain. It was not easy. There were tears, anger and deep sadness.


Recognizing the needs of those who are living now required acceptance and love. This was a process that needed ritual to honor the ancestors and the truth of who our family is now. Since the beginning of time, humans have used ritual to let go, to mark an important event or transition. I prepared for this trip, I packed my bag. I put in my bag small talismans, old photos, writing and art that symbolized what I wanted to release, what I wanted to honor and blessings and gratitude for the land that had been a part of our family for so long. I also brought with me a vision of my future. Knowing that these small symbols would guide me.


I found places to bury my ghosts and demons, release them back to the land, to free myself. I found places to leave gifts and messages to the land going forward, to free the land. I made time each morning to write and make art, sorting out my emotions and finding my heart. I polished and scrubbed and cleared the space for a new era, in turn clearing myself to be able to see into my future.


In my version of Mary Oliver:


....I held it against my bones knowing

my whole life depended on it;

and when the time came,

....I let it go,

...I let it go.




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