Monday, 12 March 2012

The Elf with the Upside-Down Heart


OUR DEAR FRIEND THOMAS died a month ago. His thirty year old dragon-knot of a heart stopped its unique, time-borrowed beating one morning in January where, at home beside his beloved wife Lunar, he fell through. Too soon this was, too soon; and we are all left standing holding this loss that is too big and too sore to look at. Though his heart was configured back to front, it was one of the finest I've known. And now his wife and his small daughter must keep walking through their days with this absence shouting louder and bigger than I can begin to imagine.



Thomas was one of those wonderful people who are happy and awake to their every moment; an artist and archaeologist, a folklorist and craftsman, he dwelt a good deal of the time in a land alongside ours, and his way through was an intricately carved Dark Age gateway, woven from thirteen magical trees. 

Drawing by Thomas Hine - Galmearian Elder

Drawing by Thomas Hine - Elvish Globe

Drawing by Thomas Hine - Thread Spruce

I never actually had this conversation with him, but I know that our worlds were kin. His realm was peopled with peasants and magicians, who dwelt in smoke-filled thatched roundhouses, wore green and brown and had true hearts. His imagination was edged with Celtic knotwork which trailed, spell-like into his everyday, though spelling of the other sort was strangely quite unfathomable to him, and his handwriting could easily be mistaken for an untranslated prehistoric inscription.

Drawing by Thomas Hine - Elvish Map
Tom & Thomas at the Sticklepath Fireshow watching the puppets (made by Thomas) burn

Thomas teaches me archery

Thomas was tall and gentle, with a shock of wiry hair, and a quietness of manner that sheltered endless interesting thoughts. He would make artefacts from wood and hang them in the forest where folk may or may not find them and moss would certainly take them, he collected folk songs and children's playground rhymes, he delighted in making fires, he wrote repeatedly to his MP in support of Travellers, he made elf doors and conjured ancient tribes, he only told the truth, he was writing a book of local folklore, he taught me to shoot a bow and arrow, he played the fiddle, and knew more than almost anyone about the three hares. But of all things, he loved best his family, whom he treasured and honoured and cared for with a gentle and determined fierceness which was wonderful to see. 




Since Thomas died, I have got to know strands of him I didn't know before, as this wonderful community of ours weaves itself around his death and darns the wound with arms. I am astonished and proud of our village on the edge of the moor – I can see that it does well these hard hard things, and I can see that here those whose pain is the sharpest will continue to be cared for well and will be caught again and again when they stumble. I have valued enormously being able to share a grief with others who knew and loved our friend too, but each in a different way, so that in comforting we can exchange our versions of Thomas, and continue to get to know him from many different angles, even though he has gone. 

Thomas holds one of his elf doors

And I've valued the story of him, and found comfort in myth, as I so often do. That he is spoken of perhaps now on some kingly grey road by his Middle-Earth-inclined friends honours him and comforts me in an odd way, though I don't know whether it's true, and indeed I think Thomas himself believed death led to compost. The elf doors he made are dotted all over the village; there's one half way up our stairs which he made for us as a house warming gift and which we pass every night on the way to bed. I don't think we can say what death is, but I like the fact that Thomas left small doorways in hedges before stepping through.



And for a funeral, he had the most heartfelt and earthy handmade ceremony and celebration I've ever experienced. We gathered forest-coloured in our hundreds accompanied by at least two morris sides, Thomas laying amongst us in a handmade felt leaf cocoon as the children ran about him. 


 
The ceremony was made by those who loved him (and there were many, many), with words and music and art. We made our way through the village to the top of the hill carrying Thomas between us, as overhead flew birds made by the children, in honour of the sky burial he had wished for. 
 



On the hilltop, overlooking the land he loved so much, beside the hill where he and Lunar married, our friend was laid in the earth. I was supposed to play music at this point but failed miserably to summon any coherent tunes through my tears. The children sat and watched and placed earth and gifts in the grave along with the rest of us, and we walked back down the hill to share food and memories and music and art. 
 

It was an intense and real and moving day, and the days since have held our sadness which morphs as grief does, neither lessening nor leaving, just moving like water through the shapes of us.


Spring has been pushing up through these days too, and Thomas's daughter has turned two. I made a book which is currently being passed from household to household... in it we'll write and paint our memories of Thomas, we'll stick photos and tales, and create a treasure chest of this man for his girl when she grows and wants to weave the strands of her father which are hard to catch hold of into her hair.




Lunar now has a hard hill to climb, but not alone, and I am already inspired and staggered at the grace and strength and wisdom with which she has stepped out on this stony path. Artful wordsmith that she is, she has told beautifully and strongly of their loss. There was great truth in words she spoke at a gathering we had the day after Thomas died: she said that though his heart did not last many years, it seemed wiser to measure a heart in love rather than in time, and going by that measure, he was an ancient, ancient man.


I leave you with Thomas's words about himself, which I always liked, written for his emporium of elf doors:

Qualified in Archaeology, obsessed with folklore, in love with the land, besotted by my family. Devon my soul, Cymru my dreams, Gaia my love, twisted my heart.
This hill on which I live is alive with possibilities... 
Which path should I take?
The road compacted with footfalls does not grab me. I have never worn those heavy boots for long.
The road less traveled looks appealing - artists, musicians, storytellers. And yet...
And yet much more so than either is the glade between the paths, the ambling place, the twisted knot of flowers striving for the sun. 
Maybe I shall sit here a while, and dip my pen into the inkwell of the earth, doodle my dreams on the canvas of the sky...
I am here to live strong and real. 
So far I have done it.


84 comments:

Charlotte said...

What a beautiful remembrance of a very special person.

It is very difficult to part paths with someone who is dear to us and who leaves through that dark door far too early (we 'lost' my gentle uncle Geoff too early and in an equally painful way).

What I see you doing is that important remembering, celebrating and grieving. It does not go away, it alters.

Sometimes it is hard to talk and remember, sometimes it is important to do nothing else. It is right and fine to get angry, sorrowful and joyful all at the same time.

Thank you to your community for sharing this mans passing; you bless us with his tale. My very best to you all,
Charlotte

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

"... he only told the truth".

How well you have honoured your friend with this tribute. Thinking of you tonight.

Janine said...

This is such a sad loss but such a moving and beautiful tribute. I feel very honoured to have shared, in a small way, in the inspiration of your friend and your community. Well Wishes to you all.

EB said...

He has grown and touched many more by what you have written. Interesting, and beautiful, but I am sorry for your pain.

MISS PEACH ~(^.^)~ said...

Thank you dear Rima for sharing the tale of the life of your beautiful friend Thomas...what magic awaits him now that her has passed throught the Elf door...only time will tell when he greets you all one day on the other side.
Keep weaving your wondeful tales...a devoted fan from far away awits them...
Love Augusta

Joseph Magnuson said...

That post, the book, all of those pictures. A beautiful remembrance. I feel honored to have even read that post. Best wishes to all.

Thomas Haskett said...

Much love and sympathy, so sorry for you all.

carole said...

Some people live partly in this world and half in another. they seem almost fey,believers of magic,fairies and storytelling. if we are lucky enough to know a person like this we get to see life through thier eyes, fairy doors, paintings,music and a love for life and the dream of other worlds in the woods and our lives are richer and blessed to have known such a being.

SueRawley said...

Rima What a wonderful memories you have made for Thomas, Lunar & Pickle ,
I often read Thomas's Folk Lore Blog.
*
I send my Blessings & love to you all.....
Sue Rawley

Rochelle New said...

This is the most deeply moving story I have ever been told, and yet this man is a stranger to me. He seems to have been the type of man who could affect a person in a way such as this. I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such beautiful words and images. I sure it was not easy to do.

Much love and light to you and yours.

Robyn A said...

Dear Rima, how lucky to have shared in the life of such a wonderful man! As an 'outsider' I cannot presume to say more than I wish his wife and little one , all his family and friends, a blessed life remembering and honouring and living with the happy memories of his life.

Karin Corbin said...

He was a true pathfinder and your words will help guide more to seek what he found.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this posting, I did not know Thomas, but by seeing this I am inspired to be a better person and to live a more authentic life- I want to know you all-

A mermaid in the attic said...

I only knew Thomas through Lunar's words and pictures, but how mightily he shone through. I am heartened that such a man was laid to rest in such a magnificent and real way, surrounded not only by the people he loved and who loved him, but the land he loved too. And I am glad to know that Lunar and 'Pickle' have such friends around them now to make their journey a little easier. On the other side of the world, I felt so helpless, and yet so close to them both. Thank you Rima, for sharing this.

☼Illuminary☼ said...

Love is the finest tribute...
may you carry your love for him all your days...

Shelley Noble said...

An exquisitely written remembrance. A witness to how to live and how to honor and how to support those remaining.

An inspiration.

Oya's Daughter said...

Beautifully told - his send off looks incredible. As I had to say farewell to a dear friend on Solstice I can empathise with the pain and the fondness.

Ashe!

Linda Byrd said...

What a beautiful gift for his child, that book. This tribute to your dear friend, your heartfelt words, your beautiful photos -- could you perhaps print this post and include it in the book? I am moved beyond words, except to say that I will think of Thomas's wife and child often now, and will send thoughts of strength and blessing their way.

Martin said...

Such a moving tribute, Rima. My thoughts are with those who remain.

Ronnie (RR) said...

My heart goes out to you Rima and Luna too. You write such wonderful things about this person who seemed to have a special place on this Earth, who understood how things worked, who shared great love. His funeral looked to be magikal and I am sure you all did him proud. The book you made will bring great pleasure for his daughter when she is older looking back remembering her dad through others eyes to see what a wonderful person he truly was. I am so sorry for your loss, and for everyones loss who now do not get to met this wonderful man.

Lynn said...

A beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul.

Betty said...

What a blessing your friend has been to you all, he was an old soul in a young body I think and has left you all with a glimpse of another world. At the very end of your blog 'the five people you meet in heaven' Mitch Albom, greeted me - I had heard it before, wise and beautiful words and very appropriate to your friend. I hope you won't mind if I copy it for my own blog. Bettyx

Snippety Giblets said...

Beautiful and sorrowful, Rima. The book you made for Pickle is amazing and will become a treasured family heirloom. Wishing Lunar & Pickle much strength and love in the years to come. xxx

Lydia said...

This is so spellbinding, Rima. Every graceful word (yours and Thomas' at the end) and beautiful image made my own heart jump as if to tell me to live more deeply.

I am so touched by this post of yours and am wondering why I have let such time pass from my last visit to this one. Obviously, I would not have missed this one for the world.

The Faery Folklorist said...

A beautiful tribute, and i'm sure his daughter will treasure that beautiful book for always :)

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

It is hard enough to lose a loved one in the Autumn of their years, but when the young leave us it is unbearable. What a wonderful person - with Morris connections too - his twisted heart sounds like the purest kind there can be.
Kia kaha me te aroha to all of you who miss him. His little girl will be so proud to know how loved her father was.

laoi gaul~williams said...

oh rima, what a beautiful tribute to an obviously special man who touched so many hearts
xoxoxo

Alice ~ writer, traveller, boater said...

How beautifully you have written of your friend Rima. Lunar's words: "though his heart did not last many years, it seemed wiser to measure a heart in love rather than in time" will stay with me. Thinking of you all...

jen said...

what a wonderful epitaph, he sounds like a truly exceptional spirit. my heart goes out to his wife & child at this time and to you for the loss of a friend. after reading your words I phoned my partner to tell him I loved him and cuddled my baby daugther till she squealed. a loss I cannot begin to imagine. thank you so much for sharing this with us. jen x

olive said...

what a beautiful post about a truly amazing person.... you could feel the love in the words. His daughter will be very proud of her father and what an inspired gift for his daughter. I'm sure his soul will be looking over you all.... xxx

The Happy Peasant said...

How uncertain this life is, with his beautiful artist's soul leaving this world to go create in the next. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Thomas last year, to order a hand drawn calendar of his, filled with fairy doors, mythological fairies with bow and arrow, and the magic of the seasons. In our brief emails he struck me, then, as being a very special joy filled soul, one of the rare few who see beauty in every glimmer.

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and for Lunar's loss. ~Amy

jodi said...

It is so heartening to see such an outpouring of love from a whole community in remembrance, though I am very sorry for your loss. I hope time's hand will smooth over the grief, but never the memories. Warm wishes to you and your village.

wendy said...

oh my heart. beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. may he smile at you from within everything and may you be blessed to sense it.

Mel said...

What a beautiful story - truly sad and poignant, but also so very inspiring to see a life remembered with such love, respect, and celebration. Beautifully written and presented. You are a talented wordsmith.

Hermit Witch said...

Beautiful words and beautiful pictures that make real, for those of us who didn't have the fortune to know him, a beautiful heart.
I loved his Folklore blog and was stunned by his untimely passing. Lunar's strength and courage are an inspiration.

yoborobo said...

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful soul. I hope his family finds strength in all of you who love him.

Rachel said...

What a wonderful and moving tribute to your friend and what a wonderful and inspiring man.

The book sounds like such a special thing and I'm sure it will help Pickle to be immensely proud of her dad.

Purpletreebird said...

A wonderful tribute to a special person. Sending love to you.
Jess xx

Dan G said...

The door is the key. Through Thomas and others like him we catch glimpses of the far green country. Thank you Rima for the glimpses we catch through you.

Velma said...

rima, you make me feel like i knew this wonderful young man. thank you, may you and your community move through this mourning with deep caring.

Suzy Bloodstone said...

A beautiful, beautiful post...am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend. You have done him proud with this tribute Xx

noah said...

beautiful, thank you. blessings on thomas' spirit and to his family.

Mo Crow said...

Rima, thank you beautiful woman of big heart
the Book of Thomas is beautiful
your words and tribute move our souls worldwide
Fly Free Thomas and Fair Well to everyone you have left behind...

Heather said...

How sad that Thomas's life was so short. He must have been a very special person to have impressed so many people and his funeral was obviously a wonderful celebration of his life.
Your beautiful book will be greatly treasured by his wife and daughter.
My love and condolences to all who knew and loved him.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

I had wondered why you hadn't blogged for so long, and now I see why.

My heart goes out to you Rima for the loss of your friend, as it goes to Luna and her daughter, and to all those who clearly loved Thomas. He was committed to the earth in wonderful style and spirit, and the number of people present were clearly a testament to how highly he was regarded in his community. We must always try to remember that a good life shouldn't be measured by longevity, but by the quality with which it's been lived. From all you've written here, this one was lived with integrity, creativity and and passion. We should all aspire to be a Thomas.

Anonymous said...

How sad I am to hear of your loss. But how beautifully you write of his life and his passing... Anita.

Nothing Finer said...

Your heartfelt words and images about Thomas and his lovely little family has left me awash in tears. He was so lucky to have such a caring person as you in his life. This beautiful book you have created will do well as it passes through the hands of many and will surely be a comfort for a little girl who has lost too much too soon and it will help her find her own way of knowing her father, perhaps in more intimate ways than he could ever have imagined or imparted to her himself. Rima, I shall now follow your path and peer in on this wonderful space that you have created, as it is a very lovely place indeed.

Morna said...

Rima - You are flinging bits of milkweed fluff, all about the world - introducing us to this special man and his family and his world - and reminding us about Death and Life and Now. Thank you. xo.

farmlady said...

Somehow this doesn't seem like a "loss". Thomas made the lives of those around him more meaningful in his short time here.
This tribute is absolutely beautiful. The funeral was astounding.
We should all hope that our lives leave this kind of legacy.

Trish said...

Dear Rima, I am so sorry for the loss of your friend....a very,very special man it seems...and love to you for the beautiful book you have created for his daughter to treasure.
All love to you

Bimbimbie said...

Not for the first time has one of your posts left me with a sense of how your community is the very essence of what true community is all about Rima, and how bereft are the majority of us who may never experience such a one.

Sandie said...

What a beautiful tribute to a man I shall never know, but you brought him to life for me and many readers of this post who also may not have known him.
And what a life he had, with a community who are close and loving.

Thank you Thomas for just being.

Sandie xx

mirsini's creations said...

I feel deeply touched by your beautiful words for your friend and the ceremony you did to honour him. What a shinny elf he is...!! He will live forever through your hearts....HUgs..

Leanne said...

a beautiful heartfelt tribute Rima. It made me ache with regret that i never knew this man. I think the world would be richer with more like him, and i send a hug to his grieving friends and family.

Leanne x

WOL said...

Now is the time to comb out your memories of this man with the twisted heart and such beautiful hands, separate out the best ones and braid them into a lovelock to wrap round your heart.

anna said...

I am sorry to hear of your and Thomas family loss and I found this words I would like to give you, his friends and family:

"We did not come to remain in whole,
we came to lose our leaves like trees
the trees that are broken and start again, drawing up from the great roots." (Robert Bly)

Thank you for telling about Thomas!

Anna (who blesses every day that is given to her with her husband who has also an upsidedown heart - these hearts are very special)

gz said...

I too only knew Thomas through Lunar's writing.
Thankyou for writing this, Rima.
Thomas was a Blessing in himself.
He has been left in a good place where friends can visit and think.

Aleks said...

Hi dear Rima,Im moved to tears by this beautiful remembrance of a wonderful person and im so sorry that he had to leave you all too soon.Bon voyage Thomas! Love,light and peace
Aleksandra

Anthropomorphica said...

Dear Rima, my tears are flowing with this beautiful memorial for a truly extraordinary man, who seems in his short life to have lived a hundred years of rich experiences.
The warmest of wishes
Melanie xxx

Tammie Lee said...

my heart responds to your sharing with ache and yet more alive than before.

thank you for sharing the depth and beauty of love and feeling that you and all had/have for your friend with us.

your sharing has changed who i am, thank you.

sending light the the Clan of Thomas ~

zoe said...

i am so sorry for your loss, and so very sorry for his wife and child... it is heartening to see what love has already made in its wake; the birds are a wonder, and the book of memories will be a treasure for his little one.
thank you for sharing..

macook said...

Some people leave deep footprints in their path through life and we are fortunate to have known them. His kindness shines through in your pictures of him.
Many blessings on his family and your community. Thank You for sharing his memory with us..

Karolina said...

Dear Rima,
I am so sad to hear such heartbreaking news.I'm sending my love to all Thomas's family even though we do not know each other.There is comfort in knowing he is now in his own world and happy i'm sure,i'm sure that wherever he is now,he watches over his wife and his wee baby and i'm sure he will see her grow up even though we think he will not.As it was said before in certain wonderfull story,death is not the end,it is just the beginning...
Karolina

Nao said...

Holding you in my heart. What an exquisite song of a life your dear Thomas lived and your words so beautifully crafted. Love to you Rima and to Thomas's beloved wife and little daughter and to the community that grieves the passing of such a beautiful man.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rima,
I have been missing for a while your wise words.... But now I know the reason.... So very sorry....
We too have had a sad - sad a passing so recently. It was Victor a great gardener and a great guy whom we shall miss sorely.
God Bless
Di

Janina Vigurs said...

An ocean of love to your heart from mine.

Janina x

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely and true description of Thomas, thanks so much for writing it.

Jasmin

femminismo said...

Sorry to have never met Thomas. You've made him very real in my heart.

jinxxxygirl said...

Hi Rima!

I know this is not the perfect time for this and being at the bottom of a 68 comment list you may never notice it . But i awarded you The Versatile Blogger award! Just pop on over my blog and read the details and grab your button. Don't forget to read the little blurb i wrote about your blog. I'm so sorry for your loss sweety! Hugs! deb

acornmoon said...

I really have no words, nothing very meaningful to say at such a terrible tragedy. To loose one so young and full of life is so unbearably sad and unfair.
Your words and pictures convey such compassion for those left behind, may I add my condolences to all of you.

Coneflower said...

{{{Rima}}} I'm so sorry your friend, Thomas, is no longer here. Thank you for sharing his story with us.

Hita Hirons said...

By all accounts this man was sweet, sincere, special, magical, funny, brave and strong; what a terrible loss to your little community, especially to those of you who especially loved him. I read your post last week and his story has been in my mind very often since then. I started thinking about his elf doors and how someone's death forces you to look at what they were working on and why they were working on it; what is important enough to occupy that place in a life. Someone who cares enough to take time to make a tiny door so the little people can come in is dear to my heart, so, although I didn't know him personally, I salute his memory and offer my hope that his family and friends find the courage they need on the path ahead.

JohannaLuna said...

Dear Rima,
I, too, have wondered why you didn't write a new blog page for so long, and then came Thomas' and his family's story... thank you for your beautiful words, for honouring and remembering, for the book that will hold memories of who Thomas was for his daughter and wife...

Here in Germany we say "let's not be sad he's gone, but rejoice, because we met him, listened to his tales and held his dear hands while they were still warm." Separation is illusion, and I'm sure we will meet again some day.
He only spoke the truth - wow. What a wonderful, strong, whole-hearted person he must have been.
And as I, too, live in 2 worlds and pass between the other and this one (often meeting people in this world who don't understand and call me mad or laugh or even hate me for it) which means I may not return here some day - let us all remember to honour and love each other while we still see eye to eye. Let's strive to speak the truth only. Let us unite in our love for each other and for the land (I love Dartmoor as my second home!). Let's open the Elf doors and invite them in (I know they're not always lovely, but people are mischievous, too). Let us remember how special we all are, each and every one of us, and how important it is to share, to love, to hug, to touch gently and be open-hearted.
Thomas, I do hope to meet you when I wander on the other side of the hedge, and to listen to whatever you may have to say. Lunar, Pickle, Rima - all who suffer the loss, my heart goes out to you and this blog post, too, found me awash with tears. I send you a long-distance-hug and the blessings of one who, too, has lost such a loved one but can still feel him on the other side of the veil.
Much love to you all,
JohannaLuna

Anonymous said...

Dear Rima - thank you dearheart for your tribute to my lovely Thomas. He was a special baby, a delightful child and a magnificant man. I was priveledged to have aided his journey through the sunshine and tears. Now we are holding him through memories and stories that are new to some - and so he continues to be revealed to us. I am happy to find that your tale of Thomas's passing has reminded readers to hug their loved ones and marvel at the beauty of the world. Thomas taught me so much about loving and laughing and creating a rich happiness out of every day.

We all miss him terribly. The Pickle is a great comfort and joy - spangling and sparkling through the days. I see some of the qualities of Thomas in her and that makes us smile.

The grief that we each feel at the fact of Thomas no longer being with us in Body is ours alone, but it is good to know that we are each not alone in that grief - but supported and joined by our immediate community and a wider community who never had the great good fortune to meet with Thomas in person. We are lucky indeed.

With love and thanks,
Philippa

Linda said...

How heartbreaking to lose such a wonderful young man but how blessed you all have been to have had him in your lives...and what a beautiful ceremony that was I have never seen anything like it...

I have no doubt that for the young daughter, her dad will live on and she will know him thought all of you...

((Hugs))) Linda

Heidi Ann said...

wow, thank you so much for sharing this Rima. Very moving. love and love on your path. Heidi

The Flying Tortoise said...

My sympathies to you and your dear friends Rima.
I send hugs from the other side of the world...

Sam's Thots said...

You're rememberance was touching. Beautiful, gentle words. Like a tender, hug. Your love for your friend was felt and shared ... shared in memories of loved ones I've lost but never found such words to honor them with.

Karen said...

Rima, I can't imagine the sadness that you are all feeling. The beauty of your friend Thomas's soul shines clear and bright in this tribute to him. What a very special man.
The book is a wonderful idea for his daughter.
My deepest sympathies. x

Raggle Taggle Gypsy Girl said...

Sorry to hear about your loss, he sounds like he was a very beautiful being and a wonderful kind man..........Take care with your gentle heart....

Amy said...

Rima, thank you so much for sharing this with us. What strikes me is the, for lack of a better word, realness in the way your community celebrated Thomas and sent him on. So many Western rituals around death are stripped of the essence of the person we are remembering, are formalized and sterilized into something with no meaning. We should all be so lucky to have such a sending off.

Lynne said...

Rima, what an incredibly moving post. I never knew this amazing young man, yet I am stunned almost into grief reading your words.

Thank you for sharing your love and sorrow with us.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rima, I am so saddened to read about the loss of such a special man (I never knew him, but you show him so). Your book is a wonderful gift to his daughter, your post a wonderful tribute to him. I hope your pain eases and that you are comforted.

Love, Helen

Lunar Hine said...

Yes, Rima, you weave a true Thomas thread. Thank you, thank you. xx