This post is in memory of my Great Nana Florence. She passed away peacefully at 90 years old. I really wish I could teleport home for a few days to be with my family right now. International living definitely has its drawbacks at times. She was very ready to pass on, so that is somewhat comforting, but of course you can never be completely ready to say goodbye. I will miss her gentle but powerful presence in our family. She was incredibly sweet and kind, but she also raised 7 kids on a rural island and had to be tough as nails. Here are a couple pictures: above with my niece Kali, and below with the 5 generations of women in the family (my niece, sister, mom, grandma, and great-grandma). That's right, she is holding her great-great-granddaughter Emma. I'd like to dedicate a song to my Great Nana. It's called Ella Mae, by Greg Brown. There is a version where his daughters sing it in harmonies, and it is really beautiful. The song reminds me of her- maybe not in the details like the name of her husband or dying shortly after him- but in the general way of life that it portrays. A steady, hard-working time when people lived closer to the land, watching birds, digging in the garden, smelling like bread, and being a beacon for their family with their love.
Ella Mae - the redwings returned today A little rain fell in the morning The afternoon was clear An' that song you loved to hear Was filling up the fence row where the birds all go To talk over their long journey and sing.
Ella Mae - all the gifts you gave Tremble in my life like a startled deer You gave me my Pa Who is in me as you are And the southern piney hills The clear water and the running rills That tumbled through the lives of us all.
Six big men and one big strong woman You and little Grandpa David raised up there They all had families We all come back to see you You hugged us all in turn Cocked you head and said we'd grown And touched us with your hands That smelled like bread
Ella Mae - it's a clear warm summer's day The young birds are trying out their wings Ah it's something to see them try To get up there and fly And my own child is bound to do the same Today she learned three birds' names.
Ella Mae - I can see you plain as day Sailing out like a ship to your garden In your old wide-brim straw hat With a long handled hoe in your hand. pausing at the gate I see you look south to the pond A long time quiet smile on your face.
Ella Mae - when your David went away After cutting brush all day long Well, your life just slowly closed Like a worn out autumn rose You could not find the bread You could not make your lonesome bed Or really do a thing but rise and go.
Ella Mae - the redwings left today Passing in a long cloud of wings They're headed down your way They'll be there in a couple of days They'll sing that song you loved As they fly above Your resting place by David in the pines.
I'm a writer and editor in Seattle. I started this blog in 2008 to chronicle my travels in Latin America, and continued writing through jaunts in Europe and Asia.
Now I'm back where I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and can't stop hiking to fire lookouts in the Cascade Mountains.