As I review the last few years of loss, love, travel, the memories flood back to me, the smells, the movement, the vivid color. I have been very fortunate.

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One vivid experience was during my visit to Moengo, a town inland Suriname, close to the Amazon. The trees were extraordinarily tall, thin, and tall. The buzz of insects and animals was thick, as thick as the brush underneath our feet, crunching as we stepped further inside. Without our guide, we would have quickly been gobbled up by the surroundings. The smells were rich of forest and dew. Flora and fauna twisting and twirling, free to move and grow as they pleased, lush.

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As we walked further into the jungle, he taught us, mostly with hand motions and by example, of how he and his friends would hunt and navigate the wood, marking trees with his machete, banging on the trees, clearing the brush. He showed us the fun he had, and has, inside this landscape, also demonstrating his familiarity, and comfort inside. A place deeply close to his heart.

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One of the last moments in our walk, he pulled on a hanging branch, hanging far, far down from heights beyond my imagination and began swinging on it. Our giggles erupted, the children inside of us begging to join in on the fun.

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All images are 35mm black and white negatives, copyright SMKM.

**Thanks to Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator I was chosen to travel to Suriname as part of their annual International Cultural Exchange program, 2016**

When my sister died, August 11, 2016, we decided to have a birthday party for her. Her 25th birthday was coming up, September 4, 2016, and we wanted to celebrate her, as well as come together, again. I wanted to plant a tree for her, as a way to honor her wishes of being cremated at The Farm (in Fairview, PA) and Harbour Island, Bahamas. I had her hair and would plant it with the tree to watch her grow.

This is the tree we found, a joyful, dancing Weeping Japanese Cherry Blossom Willow Tree. It blooms pink in the springtime, and was 11 feet tall. I hugged it immediately.

Fairview, PA

Fairview, PA

Claire's spirit rules all, she is present in all ways and most recently, my film.

The Ladies

 

2016- A year of great loss

But with a glimmer of joy

Let’s not forget the light in the dark

Two beautiful baby boys

 

Christmas has come for another year

Their first in the Bob Knox home

But as we gather for holly and cheer

To the Ladies, I dedicate this poem.

 

First, the woman of many names

Margie, Grandma, and Mom

Different roles, but to her the same

All fabulous, loving and strong

 

Always in style-the best clothes, jewels, and shoes

At life she was a winner

She early established the rule of twos

That is, dates per night, and drinks before dinner

 

She spun circles around all the boys

On the Rainbow Gardens dance floor

But it was Bob Knox who gave her a lifetime of joys

He was like no man she’d met before

 

With her six girls she was loving but strict

A true German through and through

They’d sneak out, have their fun,

But she couldn’t be tricked,

And they thought she never knew

 

Christmas Day was her favorite time

She created the ribbon tied boxes

She’s the reason we celebrate, gather and rhyme

The inventor of Christmas at the Knox’s.

 

Next, the woman of many locations

Across the globe she flew

A girl of action, of several vocations

Surfer and Stylist to name a few

 

She’d fit in as much as the day would permit

Her adventures were never done

And when I’d ask her how she does it

She’d respond, “Darling, I always have fun”

 

She brought people together, it was her gift

Each friend in her life essential

Secretly matchmaking, she was sly and swift

She made us all feel uniquely special

 

From camo to pearls, she’d transform with ease

You could never quite pin her down

If you’d sneeze in your hand or forget to say please

Ms. Manners would scold with a frown

 

Blonde and beautiful, from the crowd she stood apart

She had gumption and charm to spare

Cool, charismatic, and a great big heart

There are few as wonderful as Claire.

 

Margie loved it when she came and stayed

She watched her as she grew

In those summers a unique connection was made

She taught her everything she knew

 

Each Christmas they’d prepare, hang lights by the dozens

The reindeer perched on the shelf

They’d ready the basement for the guests and cousins

Mrs. Clause and her little elf

 

They were true kindred spirits, together ‘till the end

And now as they watch from above

Each happy moment is a message they’ve sent

Of their everlasting protection and love

 

And though they are here no longer

Know that they live on within you

With each day their legacy grows stronger

And the power of love will continue

 

 

---

 

Shannon McCain

December 25, 2016

Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine
Meltin' in a pot of thieves
Wild card up my sleeve
Thick heart of stone
My sins my own
They belong to me, me

People say "beware!"
But I don't care
The words are just
Rules and regulations to me, me

'Gloria' by Patti Smith

From 'Constellations' collaborative essay with Aaron Hill, 2010

From 'Constellations' collaborative essay with Aaron Hill, 2010

The inheritance and womanhood in a family

The traits, the gifts, the thoughts, the love that is passed down

The hips, the lips, the shoes, the walk

Crafting, creating, cultivating the history of the world

 

Knox is my name, Moody is the other, our passing through space and time

Has many layers, depth in this Earth, rays in the sky, brightness in the stars

Claire Gyllian born 1991, Mary Margaret born 1926

Claire Gyllian born 1991, Mary Margaret born 1926