The Stones, Sketch, and Poem

Lee’s transformed ashes arrived at the funeral home this week and since the director there had never heard of this way to handle remains, he took a look. We all agreed in his office that these were quite nice. He helped put them into my car because the box was heavy and it occurred to me when I saw them on the back seat that it was exactly where Lee sat on his last ride in my car…from one care home to another. It was nice having him back there again.

Sliding the box open there was a large muslin bag and small ones for “sharing”.

A large plastic bag of sixty assorted sized stones.

The process is mixing ashes with porcelain or something similar to then make the stones.

They range in size from a bit over 1″ to 2.5″. Nice sizes for tucking in.  The texturing of divots was a nice touch. Speaking of which, they feel very nice in the hand. I put one in a bowl he turned, two little ones in a large bowl with other stones and references to stones. I did this because it holds, among other things,  stories in tiny stone sized books made by his favorite students who came to the house for private workshops…two to five days, where he did all the cooking for us and made parts for our art projects in his shop. He would love being with them again.

I put another in the liquor cabinet in one of the drinks glasses he made from wine bottles. It is close to a bourbon which would make him quite happy. A small one will be tucked into the back of the hot pads drawer with the last pair of kangaroo hot pads I bought him in Australia. He got a set from each trip I took because they were easy to tuck into luggage at the souvenirs shop.

He would have picked up a stone like this to bring home for me to sit with others we collected. Now Amy and Patrick are planning all the places to put his stones where they have fond memories important to where they grew up and their dad’s involvement in a particular community. Patrick will keep some in his work shop so Lee is there and as usual covered in sawdust.

I want to talk his friend that always came over to fix things and keep Lee laughing at silly jokes into to keeping one. I think Lee would love being in that friend’s toolbox to keep on listening. Speaking of men who work with their hands, I showed the stones to a couple of guys who put my floor in last week and returned to do some touch ups. They were completely impressed with the idea and after a bit of hesitation, they each handled some. They laughed and thought of what their wives and kids would do with their stones as they rubbed their hands on them. Lee would have enjoyed that other working men handled his stones.

And this past week saw another Tasmanian Basket Gathering. So I worked along with them from here by drawing one of the necklaces that my good friend Jude makes while she sits with the rest making baskets.

By now some of my Australian students have gathered at Halls Gap in the Grampians Range to get busy with their workshops I no longer teach. I hope they continue the routine of calling me to share not only what they have done all week but also the things they are working on in the house we always rented together. They are so talented. I miss them. My home has a good amount of their gifts and work sent over the years. And my last stitching project I worked on with them hangs high in the living room over wood block prints of men in the aging process.

What follows is the longest poem I have ever written but I woke up one morning this week with a need to get it all down. I read it at the poetry meeting yesterday and received wonderful comments on their returned copies.

My Room                       S. Webster


It is the right size to move around in.

Easy to access the spaces of daily life.

But the best part, the very best part

are the doors with hard-to-turn knobs.


They require a bit of wrenching.

But only after considerable thought as to why,

why do I need to get in?


I have built a sort of Memory Palace.

You know, the way to remember

before letters printed on pages.


Every day I stand in the large open space

or sit in a comfortable chair.

And decide which door to open.


Do I want to go through the one on the left

nearest the window?

Childhood rushes about in here.

Riding bikes, jumping rope,

checking my Babe Ruth watch to see

if it is time to head home for dinner

after stuffing the wrapper of a Tootsie Roll

into a pocket full of the day’s collection

nestled in pocket lint.


I will skip the next door

of adolescence and teenager.

It holds all the pressures

of trying  to find myself

in a world of expectations.

Being lost amid roads to everywhere.


My hand reaches for the door

of fresh motherhood,

of painting walls with favorite stories,

pushing marigold seeds

into dirt-filled egg cartons,

tossing snowsuits on floors

so small arms and legs can wriggle

into place as they lay down on top –

and try to get back up. Smiles.


No, not today


I move on to the next

and think how much this interior space

resembles a small town roadside motel.

Behind every door

Is someone else’s unfolding story.


If I open this door it is like a

Cabinet of Curiosities.

Filled with objects and quickly dashed notes

of how to say in forms or on a page

all the thoughts an artist/writer cannot keep in.

Some expressions so strongly felt

they required a burial after exposure

to others outside that room.

It wore parts of me completely away

and quickens my breath with the memory.


There is a door to the parting of ways.

The natural way of life, and choices being made

to keep a life simpler

by learning to say good-bye.

A favorite shawl hangs just inside,

held together with patches

of what was happening.


There is a new door that opens

into mostly empty shelves

where I store the dreams I can recall.

The ones that wake me up with lost passions.

Like the one this morning of me

and a tall, thin man in black who never

returned my gaze because the air around us

was so charged with feeling.


I asked my doctor recently if those who die

in their sleep could have been reacting to a dream.

We looked hard at each other and agreed

no one ever came back to tell us.


So here I am.

Making more space for me,

Rearranging the furniture in this room

surrounded by doors,

Keeping a path open

between access and closure.


So I will leave it here and go do something exciting before the next blog. Probably finish assembling the Scrabble story. Maybe sew something, maybe draw, maybe just talk to the cats or take myself out to dinner. Maybe bake something that makes the house smell wonderful….maybe a lot of things….

Til then…