Top

Poetry and Ritual House Cleaning

The last visit to my childhood home in October 2018  was made just before all visual reminders of this personal history were set to be bulldozed. I have come to understand this was an opportunity to seal the past through a ritual cleaning.  I did not think of it as such until after it was completed. 

During the process I was reminded that long, long ago I wrote a poem  that contained the lines:

Send me a dozen long-stemmed obsidian blades 
I will cut out my own heart
tribute to all that can never be

women wash the dead

–Nancy Hill, from Three Archeologies of High Tech Death,

I thought of these lines when I was in my brother’s house.  I picked up obsidian glass nodules (sometimes called Apache Tears) and projectile points collected by my grandfather and squirreled away  by my brother. 

As a person who tries to be logical and rooted in scientific understanding of situations, I have been confounded lately by understanding  these past written words can be viewed as harbingers of recent experiences.  

Yet we work with the words give to us through life experience.  Sadness based in futility and acquaintance with volcanic glass and archeology are parts of my verbal tool kit.  

I might be able to disregard the illogic of my thoughts,  but I have also noticed a significant difference in my dreams.  For decades and decades I had constant repetitive dreams that were variations on a theme of sorting through old dressers, drawers, closets, and of finding old coins and ceramics. Since cleaning the antiques out of my brother’s home I stopped having these dreams, or at least of having  no recollection of having these dreams.

This seems odd to me because the dreams were somewhat prescient of going through my brother’s home and finding meaningful family objects that I thought were long gone.  I now conceptualize these dreams as prodding me toward this action I recently completed.  I knew what I needed.  I tried to achieve it in dreams.  The opportunity to carry out the needed actions was unlikely but against all odds presented itself.   

I am uncomfortable with being confronted by the mystical constructions that the human mind is wont to create when facing inexplicable or contradictory facts or feelings.  

I was able to say good-bye, achieve closure by physically closing out the material culture of my family. 

I am fortunate to have had this opportunity to ritually take control of the remnants of  my family’s story due to the importance my family placed on family history. My mother kept tight reigns over information, then my brother, as Mom’s estate executor, took control over all the significant family photographs, documents, and possessions while he was developing dementia. I always felt I had no control when it came to family and those few times I acted to take some control, there seemed to always be an act of sabotage against my efforts. It was very much an all or nothing attitude rather than an open and cooperative ethos.  

Though there is no fortune being the last surviving sibling of a large family when I could reasonably have a third of my life still to live, I am so very fortunate to have inadvertently stumbled into the closing ritual I apparently needed.  

I am so very fortunate to have inadvertently stumbled into the closing ritual I apparently needed.