Sorrow and Papermaking

38638483_10156965956833352_5371637849609207808_nPaper pulp has a gelatinous feel to it.  I stir it with my hand, dip a small plastic tray in and pull it slowly up through the cloudy water, a fine layer of pulp settling across the inset screen.  I lay a piece of screen on top and press the excess water out with a simple tool.  I peel off the mesh and blot the new paper with dry linen and take it out into the sun to dry.  I do this over a hundred times, while my weeds remained rooted in the garden and supper is left unprepared.

I am grieving, and grief for me needs a task; some blank stretch of mindless handiwork that will accommodate the billows of pain that have me awash inside.  When I had a miscarriage years ago I tore out our dining room floor to expose the 100+ year old wood floors beneath, removing tile, wood planks, sub flooring, and thousands of nails, one by one.  I sweated, I cried, I wrenched nails, and heaved chunks of plywood and boxes of broken tile.  I don’t know why it helps me.

38667153_10156965952828352_2152906791535509504_o I have a coal bucket that serves as my trash can at my work table.  It was full to the brim with paper trimmings from wrapping soaps and cutting labels.  I was taking it to my paper recycling bin, and my grief whispered, “We can use this.”



There was a couch we couldn’t get out of.  It was blue and outdated and deliciously soft and enveloping.  Andrea and I were marooned within it, our pregnant bellies anchoring us firmly.  I remember our husbands laughing as they pulled us up and out of there.  We were all on the cusp of a new adventure; beginning our families.  I rested my hand on her belly, and she on mine; we felt those babies moving about as we melted in Pennsylvania’s late summer heat.

I hugged that baby tonight; he who now towers over me at nearly fifteen years old.  I hugged his five younger siblings one by one, and tears choked my voice, and ran down my cheeks, and dripped on these ones who feel like my own children.  I hugged my dear friend and sobbed, there under a late summer night’s sky, with our many children saying their own goodbyes, crying their own tears.

What an enormous thing love is.  What a precious thing is friendship.  I thank God for all of the goodness of it; I hold onto Him as these dear ones move away, far away.



Can something of beauty, of use, come from a waste can of scraps?  From old newspaper, paper flour bags, junk mail, envelopes from bills, and used notebook pages?  Is there redemption here?

I tore it all into bits.  I soaked it overnight.  My grief waited patiently.



We’re all a mess, this little community of ours.  We are knit together, and this separation has us frayed, torn.  It is pain, thorough, inescapable pain.

I walked through their home, through rooms nearly emptied, and every space had stories that I could see and hear and nearly touch; the past recalled in the space where the memory was formed feels ever so present.  I’ll never be in that house again; I won’t live those memories in that space again.  I could barely look at my friend, at my dear friend.

I have said goodbye, under that late summer night sky, and hours later here I sit; me and a hundred sheets of beautiful paper.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s