Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Empty Spaces

Nature abhors a vacuum.

Empty a space out completely and it will scramble to inhale debris from nearby to right this imbalance.
I have been dealing in empty spaces these last few weeks.

In my yard, I have inherited years of neglect and invasive species run amok. My husband and I have donned work gloves and overalls and cut and cleared and dug and pulled ever since the weather turned nice. Wild blackberry, Morning Glory, buttercups, dandelions, English Ivy, bamboo. We have wrestled with the roots and fingers and suckers and vines of all the many ways Nature has to fill in all the empty spaces with abundance.

It's not enough to clear it out, though. By the next morning, the insistent tiny green invaders return. I don't want these brambles and strangling vines out of control and rampant to take over my space. So I dig some more, with purpose. I plant sturdy plants with delicate names: Lobelia, Meadow Sparkle, Coral Bells, Blue-Eyed Fuschia. I set and mulch these tiny plants with great promise. They will, with the proper tending, one day be giants. They will expand to fill the empty spaces with color and scent and riotous flowers. They will stave off the wildness that encroaches from around the edges.

There are places where the Ivy and Morning Glory have won. Their roots and tendrils are so old, so gnarled and thick, so pervasive that I can't eradicate them without uprooting trees or bulldozing the fence. In honesty, I don't want to completely eradicate them. They are tenacious and beautiful as they seek light and purchase by whatever means possible. My daughter and I have erected a fairy hut under the trees. A tepee of bamboo poles, wound with twine where the vines can wander free and create magical green, undulating walls and a shady reading or picnic spot for the summer. A place to let the vines be what they are and do what they do best and where we can live in harmony.

Today I am tending an empty space that used to be filled with grief and sadness. It would have been my father's 67th birthday today. It's a date that I cannot, will not, ever forget. It's a date that, for a few years, brought keening grief and a remembrance of things lost. But today it brought me quiet contemplation and gratitude. I held my pruning shears in strong hands, protected by my tough leather gloves and saw my dad in that. I taught an art lesson to small and excited children, using words and concepts too difficult for them to grasp and then letting them free with huge black paper and sidewalk chalk, succumbing to the joy rather than the technicality of art. I saw my dad in that. I prayed and meditated on Scripture, and I saw my dad in that. I looked in the mirror at my unruly graying red-brown hair and my wide and crooked smile and I saw my dad in that. I see him in my husband's strong and intelligent gentleness, in my son's sense of humor and the dimple in his chin, in my daughter's sense of discovery and passion for experimentation, in the paintings that hang on my walls, the books that sit on my shelves, in the very words I write.

I have inherited a wild space within. It is easily overrun with the invasiveness of bleak emotion. It can be strangled and choked with thorns and brambles if left untended. I get this expansive, barely controlled heart from him. This fertile ground where worries and crippling compassion can volunteer, out of place, overnight. From him I also received the tools to keep these empty spaces full of color, full of life, and full of promise. He left me his faith, his creativity, his passion, his dedication and his belief in hard and necessary work.

He left a giant empty space when he died; a space that for a while, I believed would swallow me whole. But after several years of clearing and tending, there is no empty space. His presence runs like vines through my entire existence. And I spent today quietly continuing to train those vines into their places, appreciating their presence without allowing them to overtake my whole life. Creating a place where I can be who I am, do what I do best, and live in harmony with my loss.


  1. Beautiful, TL. I hear you loud and clear and vow to use this to remember my Dad gratefully too. Hugs, Lovely.

  2. I am so sorry about your dad. I think you inherited great gifts from him and I am sure he is proud.

  3. Oh, yes. We have a choice: to tend those empty spaces or let them be barren wasteland. I tend mine too. This was beautiful.

  4. Poignant piece that resonates with me -- at the moment, I am feeling empty but not a bad empty. There is a huge hole in my life and I am not sure why it is there. I don't know what, if anything, it needs to be filled up. I'm not even sure I want to fill it up.

  5. Beautiful. I remember reading about your Dad before, about your loss which you articulated so crisply and warmly. How lovely to give thsi tribute to him at Father's Day weekend.

    As for the spaces we fill, yes.
    As for the wildness that persists, also yes.

    Take care, you are so beautiful. xo

  6. Nice, give the vines one part of your yard and rehabilitate another. Not sure if they will agree to the separation.

  7. Gorgeous writing. I'm so sorry he is gone. Your dad has clearly left a strong and beautiful legacy.

  8. Living in harmony with your loss is a precious gift.

  9. So sorry I missed this until now. I am at a loss for words, but wanted to let you know I loved it anyway.

  10. So much here resonates deeply with me. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece.


Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello!