Sojourning with Grief-Portals, Stories, and the Slow Process of Unpacking

Marking the first stop of my nine-week sojourn in Glasgow, Scotland as I being my “re-sojourn.”

Marking the first stop of my nine-week sojourn in Glasgow, Scotland as I being my “re-sojourn.”

Reminded of an Anniversary Date

My body moves in water more like thick, embroidery floss through a needlepoint canvas than a dolphin crossing oceans. I am not a proficient swimmer but water feels familiar and lap swimming is as much a spiritual practice for me as exercise. Only after completing a restless hour swimming on Monday the 15th did I become aware that day, July 15th, marked three months since I took my first steps on the shores of Scotland. I couldn’t settle into the present moment of water flowing over my shoulders, spilling down my spine, and splashing behind my kicking feet, but I didn’t know why. Instead I was distracted by the pain in my left leg that lingers since I fell hiking over two weeks ago; frustrated I can’t walk this land and reacquaint myself with these trees and hills. Distracted by strands of past conversations that dropped into my head, following them into thickets of brambles that poked and scratched me and serve no purpose but to hurt. Back and forth I swam, trying to release the distractions.

Distractions. Frustrations. And then a while later the “aha” came as I made the connection. I am missing my Celtic land. My heart land. The newness that came with discovering both the external environment and my internal landscape and how that stirred my soul. Knowing I can’t rush this returning home and yet yearning to return to my other home. Restless. Unsettled. No wonder part of me was subconsciously looking for distractions, even uncomfortable ones, on an anniversary date.

Border crossing at Glasgow Airport, my entry point “home.”

Border crossing at Glasgow Airport, my entry point “home.”

Transcribing my hand-written journal from my sojourn. Sometimes it is difficult to read my own writing! There are times I have to stop and just rest in what I wrote. And remember the beauty, the stories, the feelings that arose then and sit with the ones stirring now.

Transcribing my hand-written journal from my sojourn. Sometimes it is difficult to read my own writing! There are times I have to stop and just rest in what I wrote. And remember the beauty, the stories, the feelings that arose then and sit with the ones stirring now.

There is a meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Paper Portal Into Remembering

I am slowly transcribing my hand-written journal entries onto the computer. Wandering back and forth through the paper portal. I scroll though my photos, another portal. I find myself back there and linger. I witness myself discovering. New perceptions. I am full of curiosity. Focused on the external landscapes. I engage with people and listen to stories of loss. A common theme throughout my sojourn. The self I am now talks to the one back there. “Now me” is proud of how open I was to the experience. And I am only through the first five days of transcription! It was all new. And I feel a tug of loss. Of missing the breaking open of each day and seeing with fresh eyes and no routines.

And… And “Sojourning with Grief” is becoming more. Expanding. As if I came home a beginner’s version of an origami swan poised on the water, now being unfolded and being refolded into a new complex, design with wings open in flight this second time through.

Reentering the Sojourn

A gift I received upon my return was a map of Britain and Ireland with map pins. The giver offered that I could mark where I had been on my sojourn. I finally put it up in my bedroom this weekend in a space where I would see it first thing upon waking and could drift off to sleep viewing it even in the imagining of darkness as I closed my eyes. When I realized the timing of putting up the map and my swimming insight, I understood what I needed to do. I needed to place the pins in the map corresponding to their three-month anniversary dates and in a way, remember my journey via the map and pins. July 15th I placed the first pin in Glasgow, Scotland.

Glasgow, where I had one afternoon and a night before moving on to the Isle of Mull. Where I found a cemetery (Glasgow Necropolis) and cathedral (Glasgow Cathedral,) the first of many I would encounter over the next nine weeks. Noticed the daffodils were in fuller bloom than the fading ones I left behind and marveled at the difference a 10º latitudinal change could make in the seasons. Gazed at tombstones, many unreadable and wondered about the stories that are buried beneath. I would be discovering my own stories buried within as the weeks progressed.

Glasgow Necropolis where daffodils sway among the gravestones. photo by anne richardson

Glasgow Necropolis where daffodils sway among the gravestones. photo by anne richardson

Stories of Loss—Always Evolving

I was gone nine weeks. I’ve been back four. I’m still unpacking stories. My own. And those I heard along the way, given as gifts by strangers and new friends. My evolving story doesn’t have a tidy beginning, middle, and end. There are days only a line or two emerge from my internal waters. Other days I have nothing at all to offer and am reminded about the invitation to “go slow, very slow.” I have occasional dreams that offer to take me back into my old ways of being, but even then I firmly say “no.” The only “going back” I am doing is into the exploration of my sojourn. Grief, my wise mentor, offered so many lessons along the way and I could not receive them all. When I stop and reflect, Grief is there in the midst of my missing, my yearning, saying “Now love, one more time. Slower. Deeper. Come, sojourn with me.”

Old architecture reflected in new. A fitting metaphor for my sojourn. Glasgow, Scotland. photo by anne richardson

Old architecture reflected in new. A fitting metaphor for my sojourn. Glasgow, Scotland. photo by anne richardson

Finding My “Selves”

So, the Sojourn continues. From home. At the beach. In coffee shops. It will be longer than the nine original weeks. These blogs will be interspersed with other posts from Nurturing Your Journey. Because I am reemerging slowly. As someone close to me said upon my return, “You have not come back changed. You have come back more of yourself.” More of my “self.” Or “selves.” I felt comfort in the statement and I continue to ponder it. For there are parts of me that have changed—or maybe shifted is the word I’m looking for. I’m still sorting it out. Re-sojourning will be part of discovering who that is.

Where Loss Can Lead

Interesting to ponder that the original impetus for my sojourn was my mother’s death, a loss, and all that has been invited into my life since then. My sense of both my parent’s presence on my sojourn was strong and I sense they will continue to be along for the ride this time around. You’re invited to keep following along, too. Let’s see what else my mentor, Grief, has to show me.

gratefully, anne


Reflecting on Your Own Loss Journeys

As you reflect back on losses in your own life, how have they taken you on an internal or external journey that led to discoveries? Consider one that is rising to the surface as you read this. What invitations were offered by this loss? What ones did you accept or decline? How would it look to “re-journey” through this loss and reflect on how you are experiencing it today? Be gentle in the loss you chose to journey with. Ones that are triggering or traumatic may not be appropriate for this exercise without professional guidance.


Upcoming Workshop

"Flowers flowing through transition.” Elk Rock Garden at Bishop Close, Portland Oregon. Photo by anne richardson.

"Flowers flowing through transition.” Elk Rock Garden at Bishop Close, Portland Oregon. Photo by anne richardson.

Recognizing & Honoring Life Transitions

Please join me for my next workshop, Recognizing & Honoring Life Transitions, August 10th from 1-5pm in SW Portland. Click on this link to register. Here are a few details to spark your curiosity:

We transition from the wet womb to open air, sucking in first breath. Relationships form. Some endure. Some end. Our sense of home and belonging shifts. What gives life meaning—school, career, family, beauty, creativity, service—ebbs and flows as we age. Our lives are full of transitions. Some weave in and out of our world seamlessly, going unrecognized until years later. Others create a temporary loss of balance. Then there are the transitions that leave you feeling like the GPS of your life has gone haywire.

Taking time to recognize life transitions by naming them can offer relief, release, or an invitation to honor a part of your life journey that you may not have considered relevant.

In this workshop, you’ll be introduced to the archetype of the labyrinth as a tool to reflect on your life transitions in combination with written expression and other creative means. No writing experience is necessary to participate!  This workshop is in partnership with Portland Women Writers (http://pdxwomenwriters.com/) and is for women or those who identify female. Workshop is limited to 12 participants.

Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the workshop or any of my other services.