Oh that sound…that sound.

A cacophonic symphony of frogs, birds, and forest rises from the green lush view outside my window at early dawn.

My mind drifts upon the fog back to a distant rainforest, the sounds carrying upon the light breeze of memory. The cool damp night air grips my lungs, my shoulders, my skin. It reluctantly gives weigh (sic) as its foggy embrace lets go slowly from the deep green blanket unfurling from a long winter’s sleep, released in a tsunami of sound and fragrant damp spring. I sigh.

That sound…that sound…

It fills my ears with nature’s symphony, as I dream of another place and time.

The cool moistness of the air fills my lungs and I breath it in deeply, grateful for the damp balm as it coats my airways, and soothes my soul.

The cool damp music of the early morn will soon give way to an incessant red heat, of this I am certain.

But for now, I travel back to that other place as I pull the blanket to my shoulders, made heavier by the damp night air, an embrace from beyond the veil, a fog whose feathery tendrils drift across the lush green landscape.

That sound…that sound…

Oh don’t leave me…

that sound…

Written Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bedroom in new home

“Are you done grieving?” It wasn’t a question for me. It was asked of my father by a recent friend. She asked my dad as they shared lunch and talked about the new house we’ve been building and what she’d seen.

Later, Dad shared the question with me and it got me thinking about it. I answered him quickly at first: “Does anyone ever stop grieving?”

He mentioned his reaction to hearing the song: “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel. It had been a favorite of my mother’s. And just a week before she died, the last time we heard her say anything, she sang some of it when a visitor – a complete stranger to my mother – asked her in her slumber if she had ever heard the song. As the visitor began to sing the first few words, my mother began to sing with her.

When it came on the radio, out of the blue, as he got to an intersection he began to cry. Just like that. No warning. It just hit him, now 18 months later. Does anyone ever stop grieving? No, I said to dad. We just begin to change the way we respond to the memories, the triggers. We get to the point where we can smile and sigh, rather than cry. It can take awhile.

We just begin to change the way we respond to the memories, the triggers. We get to the point where we can smile and sigh, rather than cry. It can take awhile.

Even now, for me, five and a half years after Keith passed, there are times when that inevitable moment stops my breath. A song, a number, a phrase, a space, a memory… and I have to pause for a moment, take it in, reflect, and consider the possibility – is this a message?Pay attention, I tell myself. He’s still there, just on the other side of the veil. He’s still with you as real as the bearded little man laying beside me now. There are times when I still feel his touch, a gentle one on the shoulder, a soft caress to the cheek as if a kiss made of air.

Sunset over snowy field and woodsThe triggers still come, a song I hadn’t heard in awhile played recently and I had to stop and listen and nod. “I will wait, I will wait for you…” sang Mumford & Sons. The song had just been released the last summer Keith was alive. I had put it on the playlist that became the soundtrack of the summer. “You can’t let me down now” sang Bonnie Raitt in another soulful tune that filled me with guilt and sadness for not having saved Keith from the pain he endured. Then there was “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes, a song that came out the year Keith and I were able to see them play live in concert.

These tunes and several others cause the air to slip out from my lungs momentarily, my heart to tighten in my chest. The difference now is that they don’t make me cry like they once did. The tightness lets go quicker and a soft smile slowly curves the corners of my mouth and I breath again, lovingly touched by the soul of my deepest connection in the spirit world.

There are times when I may also feel a bit irrational, where anxiety steps up and clenches my nerves tightly. Last fall I had been asked about going to a conference this winter. It was one that I had attended in March 2012 and co-presented with Ferris doctoral students along with the then president of the college where I work. It was in Philadelphia and I’d wanted Keith to join me but he couldn’t. He hadn’t been feeling all that well and felt the pressure of some work he needed to do. I wasn’t happy about his not feeling well, this uncured bronchitis or whatever it was. But he clearly didn’t have the energy to travel so I backed off. The conference, however, has somehow been cast in my mind as the “beginning of the end” for Keith.

So it was with a sudden attack of anxiety that I couldn’t immediately bring myself to register for this event when asked last October. Steven had had a health scare around the same time and I had a sudden feeling of deja vu, a path I didn’t want to travel twice in six years. Fortunately for Steven, the potential for liver problems was caught early enough and has led to him cutting way back on his alcohol intake and it has made a noticeable difference.

I had a sudden feeling of deja vu, a path I didn’t want to travel twice in six years.

Still, though the moment had passed, the anxiety over the association between this conference and losing a husband remained. Irrational, yes. But real enough that I put it off while still watching the deadline for the early bird registration. So when the moment came this week in a meeting with the VP to discuss conference travel, I was relieved when she supported my attending a different conference, one that would take place in Austin, Texas at the end of May. I would plan to take Steven so he could visit with his son, and I’d lead a contingent of faculty to the conference. It looked like something I could sincerely enjoy doing. The anxiety slipped away and replaced by a sense of giddy relief.

But then Dad mentioned the question asked by his lady friend: “Are you done grieving?” and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The answer is: No. But life still moves forward and we must go with it, or risk losing the opportunity to live the life we’ve been blessed with to the fullest.

Peeking over the edge of the camera view, I am standing at the square near the river that runs through the center of Ekaterinburg, Russia, May 2012. Seems nowadays I am peeking over the edge of a new journey.


Dreaming off the edge…

I woke this morning (1/4/13) with a start. My heart was still pounding from the last remembered scene in my dream. It was about 9:20 am, a little while before the alarm I’d set would go off, but about 90 minutes after I’d fallen back asleep after letting the dogs out for their morning constitution.

Although I cannot recall all the details of my dream, as with other dreams I’ve written about, I’ll try and share what I can here:

I was driving on an elevated highway heading towards a fork in the highway. I didn’t know which way I should go. Beyond the view of the two diverging ramps, all that was visible was blue sky. My speed was not in my control, and the vehicle – I think it was the truck for it felt higher off the road than my car – was moving at a very fast pace. I started to panic and reached out to both sides of the car, both hands outstretched could reach the door frames. I remember thinking “how is this possible?” I shouldn’t be able to reach both sides, am I in a covered motorcycle? No. I realized I must be both driver and passenger. As I was cruising very fast towards the split, I could finally read a green and white highway sign which said “I-75 North” and a curved arrow pointing towards the left. I remember thinking “Grab the steering wheel and turn” but when I reached for the steering wheel, it was too late and the momentum took me straight off the highway into thin air. I never hit the ground. I remember seeing it very very far away, as if falling from a high altitude airplane when the landscape below is still very abstract. It seemed to be rushing closer but remained very far away. I awoke with my heart pounding, still feeling the terror of the experience. But it wasn’t the same as a terror born of fear. It was terror from uncertainty, exhilaration, and fear of the unknown. Not fear of an impending death.

What do I think of this dream? Several things come to mind based on experiences going on in my life. First … the New Year means new directions. But I’m not there, and I am not quite sure which way to go. But I am heading there at great speed! I have committed to exploring building a new house out at Perry Road. Just the preliminary design stage first and potential zoning variances. Greg Mason is working with me on this. He had begun working with Keith on potentially renovating the farmhouse but we gave up on that due to its extremely poor condition. I also began to peek at dating websites to see if there are any understanding widowers out there in my age range who are looking for an occasional companion for friendship, dinner, a movie, maybe other shared interests. I was discouraged. But Stassia is providing some advice in this new dating style that didn’t exist the last time I was dating back in high school… in the 70s!

Another point of note is that I was alone in the car – driver and passenger were both just me, alone. Keith was not there as he had been in my previous “driving” dream. And as I shot off into the air in my vehicle, I realized I was in this liminal space – between spaces. Between control and uncontrol, between heaven and earth, between now and future, ending and beginning. It is that space when you’ve lost the momentum of the direction you were heading, but haven’t begun to fall to the ground yet.

Other memories to consider…
And one last coincidence that might have a connection: My last night in the USA before flying to Fiji the next day with the family, I was on an elevated highway, I787 which wraps around the city of Albany, NY, the family’s plane tickets on the seat next to me, the kids waiting with Grandma at the Hilton. Just a mile from the hotel, I narrowly missed being killed by a wrong-way driver on the rush-hour holiday traffic-filled highway. Following behind a gasoline tanker in the right lane, I saw him swerve and hit his brakes, and I followed suit. But then I saw the wrong-way driver heading towards me and the vehicle to my left. The errant driver hit the small truck right beside me instead, killing him in a swirl of spinning vehicles, flying parts, and eventual fire. I braked hard with my car stopping only 50 feet from where some of the wreckage finally stopped spinning. Keith and his dad were about a mile behind me in his truck and didn’t know how close I’d come. But they were stuck in the traffic for another 3 hours while police and firetrucks came. I was interviewed by police and newspaper reporters both who took my film from my camera – once I’d realized I couldn’t do anything to help the man who was dead under his car, I grabbed my camera that still contained the “going away party” photos on a roll and started taking photos of the scene realizing that it would all have to be moved to make way for the emergency vehicles (the journalist in me).

Once the police gave me the go-ahead, I attempted to make my way to the hotel. The only exit was an on-ramp being used for the emergency vehicles. One came towards me lights and sirens going, and I stopped to the side again, shaking and beginning to cry. But I then started off again and made my way to the hotel. My mother-in-law and daughters were there, but Keith and his dad would be another 2 hours stuck in the traffic. When they finally arrived, they went on about the accident and I told them how close I was. It became clear it was not my time. The film loaned to the police and the newspaper was processed and returned to me the next morning before we left for our flight. That was August 30, 1991. Flying out on the 31st, we arrived in Fiji on 9/1/91, exactly 21 years to the day from when Keith would die on 9/1/12.

Symmetry and threads in the fabric of life

So there is symmetry in this story. In my dream, I am driving on an elevated highway that feels a lot like the one on I787. But I am the only car on the road. When we left for Fiji, we were leaving behind everything that was familiar to us, embarking on a journey that was new, exhilarating and frightening at the same time. And, when I was flying back from Russia last May, after cutting my trip short to be here with Keith when he got news from his liver biopsy, I remember trying to distract myself from thinking about why I was going home on this flight from Ekaterinburg to Moscow by snapping photos out the window of the abstract landscapes below. I still have these photos in hopes of creating new artwork from them.

I’m not sure of the meaning of all of this, but it seems obvious that I am at the start of a new and unknown journey. My psyche is frightened and a bit curious and excited, too. Like the threads that weave back and forth in a great tapestry, I seem to be heading back towards another destination, with details that sometimes echo of a previous path. I mentioned to my daughter that we had family who lived to their late 90s. So if I follow suit, I may have another 45 or more years to go, another lifetime ahead of me. It saddens me that I do it without Keith. But it also means I have another life to build. I hope to make it as fulfilling as the first half that I had the privilege to build with a very special and wonderful person.

Above: View from the Aeroflot flight from Ekaterinburg to Moscow, May 2012, after cutting the trip short to be with Keith.

20121203-001739.jpgPhoto above: Keith and me on my college graduation day in 1982 and also the day of my bridal shower. I was 21 and he was 24 years old, both so young and at the start of a beautiful 30-year marriage.

I haven’t dreamed in such a vivid way in quite some time. But as I awoke this morning after a brief sleep, I lay there stunned that my reality upon awakening didn’t match the dream I had abruptly left. I lay in bed nearly 20 minutes grasping at the threads of memory in an effort to return to the dream.

This morning’s dream occurs just 3 months after Keith’s death and must have occurred during that brief hour between 8:30-9:30 am this morning. I know it was not from during the night because I had gotten up earlier after being awakened by Lenny, my husband’s 18-month-old Silken Windhound, who makes it known that he needs to go out to relieve his small bladder by whimpering relentlessly next to my ear.

Although some things are fuzzy about the dream, some things are quite clear. I’ll do my best to relay these details here:

The Dream, 3 month anniversary

In my dream, there was me, Keith, Sarah and Anastassia, with the girls both grown as they are today. We were preparing for long road trip. It was AFTER Keith’s death… yet he was there, speaking to me. It seemed that the trip was as much for him as it was for the rest of us. The girls were there, too, but not so much talking, just along, watching Keith and I as we busied ourselves getting things ready. Keith was wearing a yellow polo t-shirt with wide white stripes and thin blue stripes and a breast pocket. The shirt would have been one of his nicer ones, though he always preferred ones with the pocket.

During the dream, we were loading up a station wagon – probably my old Volvo, but it could have been Keith’s truck. It seemed more like the bed of a truck. Maybe like an El Camino if it had a back seat. An El Camino might be significant only because it was the car Keith had when we first met. But the car in this dream was somewhat ambiguous.

We were piling things on top of each other into the bed of the truck/back of station wagon. Not boxes, but lots of tools, metal, wood and other awkward-shaped items that didn’t really fit together so there were lots of open spots between the pieces. Gaps that seemed ready to fill with smaller pieces but lay empty now.

Then we were at a gas station, and it seemed important that I had to put air in the tires of my bicycle. Keith was telling me it was important to do this now and helped me by providing instructions. That was when a young female attendant with curly auburn hair asked me about Keith and brought to my attention that this trip was happening with him after his death. I know this because I recall the conversation in the dream where I say to her:

“Yes, this will be hard to explain to my mother. But it’s simple really. It’s like that DNA thing…”

I can’t recall explaining much more than that. But it made complete sense… in the dream. It was natural for Keith to be there, for him to be a part of the activity and conversations.

And then – as I had done all summer – I was driving us all, Keith in the seat beside me and the girls in the backseat watching. I remember at the end of my dream, just before I awoke, I drove up over the bump of a curb before pulling out of the gas station onto the road.


Now for the analysis:

I like dreams for they are a place where the imagination and reality can collide, where nonsense makes sense, and where time is irrelevant. So when my dreams have been this vivid, I have tried to write them down.

This is not the first time I have dreamed of Keith. But it has been awhile. The last time was only a few weeks after he died. But I’ll save that one for another day.

A close friend who also has a strong interest in dreams and has been studying their potential meanings encouraged me to share this latest one. And I think his analysis is spot on:

Very interesting dream… The idea of taking a long journey is like moving to a new place or leaving a current state… The fact that the packing was not neat and organized, things won’t fit together well on this journey moving forward… Putting air in bicycle tires suggests the importance of managing pressure and maintaining balance… And finally, the curb is so suggestive that it will be a bumpy ride moving forward but you are not alone, with Keith by your side on the journey, and the girls close by. And no one is flustered.

Some might say that your animus has chosen the persona of Keith and is helping you to pack up and move forward.

It’s interesting to see the connections with my dream, my friend’s analysis, and some recent events. This week I was with another friend who turned a little close to a curb and bumped over it. I also took on moving the trailer with Keith’s truck for the first time on my own. Although I had checked and re-checked the trailer, it only took a half mile before I hit a bump and the trailer popped off the hitch, left dragging by the chains. Fortunately, nothing was damaged and I was able to get my daughter to come and help me get the trailer back onto the hitch. It was stressful, yes. So was backing the damned thing with that giant crewcab diesel truck. But I managed. Then I turned it over to others. That is the privilege I’m taking… choosing when I need to step back and let others take it on. I am trying to muster courage to do these things that I always took for granted that Keith did. But I am also mindful of my limitations, emotional and physical. It’s a self-preservation technique I am beginning to cultivate more intentionally.

So maybe the dream was a culmination of these various adventures from the week. And maybe it was, as my friend suggests, a psychic effort to bring Keith beside me as I journey forward. And yes, maybe there will be bumps in the road, and my daughters will be nearby to help. But I also do need to put some air in my bicycle tires. The bike sits upon a stationary stand but the tires are flat, making it unusable for picking up for a ride outdoors. But I guess it’s not a bad thing since the weather now turns to the cold winter with its long dark nights.

As for the young woman with the auburn curls, I know who that is. It is me as a young woman, the girl I was when I first met Keith. I’d even worked at a gas station when I was 17, earning money that winter pumping gas and checking oil at a full service gas station in order to pay for a new exhaust system for my first car. Hmmmm…. so the young me was attempting to give the old me a bit of a reality check.

But each day, I try and make some headway on this journey. I visit our Perry Road project, wander around to check the progress, check the locks, and listen to Keith’s wind chimes in their Himalayan harmony as they echo over the hillside facing the setting sun. I think about what I can build new here, a sanctuary that seems remote facing down the hillside, yet part of the family’s journey with my daughters and yes, even Keith… in spirit. With that in mind, I know I’ll find ways to fill the gaps while bracing myself for those bumps in the road ahead.


“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”

~ Khalil Gibran, The Prophet


Dear readers,

For the last three and a half months, ever since my arrival home from a shortened visit to Russia, I have been on a journey of a different kind, one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. While in Russia, the family emergency I left early for was my husband’s preliminary diagnosis of metastatic liver disease – i.e. liver cancer that is not the “primary” cancer source.

From the moment I arrived home in late May, I focused on ways to help my husband of 30 years find the care he needed. Unfortunately, without the earlier symptoms to warn us (he was not a smoker… ever), his disease had already progressed before final diagnosis in early June. He waged a brave battle, attempting chemo but making it through less than 3 full rounds before his body could no longer bear the torture of that kind of treatment. Even eating became a chore since the cancer had already spread to his stomach and spine, with the primary suspect to be in the lungs and pancreatic biliary system. To watch a loved one die is to have the ultimate feeling of helplessness and yes, even failure, because we were partners, always helping each other out, caring for each other during those challenging times.

But this was one that I couldn’t save him from. The fates, God, spiritual being that guides us on our path, whomever you follow, had something else in mind. And so my husband, who made it to our 30th anniversary, just after his 54th birthday, passed away on September 1, 2012, at home with his daughters and me nearby. We were relieved that he no longer suffered, that he was at peace now, going onward to continue creating and building and making art – all the things he did in this life – now in the next. But we also grieved, as we had all summer, knowing what was to come. We grieved for the loss of a husband and best friend. We grieved for a loving father, talented artist, a generous man and natural teacher. We grieved for ourselves. And we will continue to do so, while we also continue to hold him in our hearts and souls, a part of him that will never die.

So, while my visit to Russia was cut short, life gives us many different journeys to travel on. It will take time. But I know that I will continue to travel, bringing you, and my husband and my family along with me… even if it is not always in person, but in spirit. And I will continue to share that journey, too. Because when the stories are shared, they live on, connect us to each other, helping each other along the way. And they help me, too… Because there is a lot of healing to do…

Thank you, Spasibo, Vinaka vakalevu, Muchas Gracias…

– Mara

PS: Included above is a quote that a friend shared and which connected to me immediately.

PSS: If you are interested in seeing the talent and creativity my late husband had, his website will remain online at www.fulmerwoodworking.com. In addition, a scholarship has been created in his name: Keith E. Fulmer Memorial Art & Design Scholarship, c/o Foundation for Mott Community College, 1401 E. Court St., Flint, MI 48503. Contributions can be made payable to the Foundation for MCC, with note in memo “Keith Fulmer Scholarship”. Our hope is to nurture young passionate artists/designers who exhibit the same desire to incorporate beauty and craftsmanship into both form and function. That is the legacy through which we will continue Keith’s life’s work. With love, mjf