Loss and Love

point of departure
Point of Departure by Joy Murray

Friday, I woke up to the chirping of a fat little robin fledgling on the window sill by my bed.  My bed is level the window, so it looked me in the eye, and chirped, asking perhaps if I knew where it’s mother was.  It hopped down into the garden and picked around in the dirt, grabbing at sticks and stems in the mulch, but not getting the worm I imagine it was craving.  Soon a slender adult robin swooped down and chirped at the fledgling, then they hopped off, chirping together.

I was still in a state of sleepy, dreamy fog.  I wondered if it was Mary Ruth’s soul, being carried by the little clumsy bird, til she found her new life.  Many cultures believe certain animals carry our souls after we die, until we find our new home.  One summer, I was followed around by blue dragonflies, in the sense that everywhere I went I saw one close by.  Right above my head, on my friend’s car windshield, on the porch when I went outside.  I was convinced it was the same dragonfly, and not part of the abundance of dragonflies we had that year.  I thought it was my brother, keeping an eye on me, protecting me, from where ever he went after he died.

I know this is magical thinking, but I like it.  I think it’s healthy for us, for me, to have stories and myths to believe when we lose loved ones.

mary ruth visit 2 (2)
Mary Ruth Robinson at 102

I went with 2 of my friends to see Mary Ruth in her nursing home on Thursday.  I’d called Mary Ruth a few times, but there’d been no answer.  I called the office, and they said she couldn’t answer the phone anymore, that she wasn’t eating, she was sleeping a lot, and that she was talking but not really making sense.

I asked if there was anyway we could visit her.  We couldn’t visit on her 104th birthday because of the virus lockdown.  But they let us come last week.  They took our temperature.  We were given masks, gloves, body wraps, and shoe covers.  They disinfected my wheelchair.  We could go in the room two at a time.

The last time she was sick, she still looked like herself, and the last time we visited, she was well and telling stories, participating in conversations about books and current events.

mary ruth visit
Four Friends

But this visit, she was not herself.  She was skeletal and shrunken, her eyes small and cloudy, and set deeper in her face.  She seemed to be staring out from some far away place.  She was mumbling and I couldn’t understand her.  We brought some music and played a little for her.  I stroked her arm and told her I loved her.  My friend said the same.  Mary Ruth tried to understand, tried to respond, but she said to my friend, “I have to go with him.”

I stayed in the room but my friends changed places, and the other friend came in with her high sing songy voice and said hello to Mary Ruth, and that we love her.  And clear as a bell, Mary Ruth loudly said I love you, too.  Then she sunk back down into herself, doing what she had to do to leave that old body of hers.

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Mary Ruth’s Hands

I wondered how she would be if Marfan’s disease hadn’t crippled her so badly, bones deteriorating for the last 3 decades.  When I met her, she was 6’3″ I think.  Tall, strong, impressive, and gentle, kind, and adventurous.

In her 90s, she lost one foot, and over time her hands had finally stopped working altogether.  Up until recently, she was still alive in so many ways, but the physical struggle was hard, and the isolation of the nursing home was hard for her, though she made many friends among the staff and residents.

And yesterday, Sunday, July 5th, she left that old body behind and went on to her next life.  Complications from old age.  I like to think she is flying around somewhere, or that she is in that place of sunshine and beautiful plants she spoke of when she was sick over the winter.

You are my friend, you are my spiritual grandmother, you are always in my heart.  I learned so much from  you, you left me braver and smarter.  You gave me a way to accept pain and loss.  You built a bridge to help me cross over obstacles and to not let anyone steal my need for justice, for peace.  You gave me a way to live up to my name.  You gave me joy.

Thank you eternally for living your best life and sharing it so freely.   Thank you for becoming one of the best parts of me.

spirit bird
Spirit Bird, Watercolor on papyrus, by Joy Murray 2013


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Where New Flowers Will Grow

The thing I learn over and over from plants is the miracle of resurrection. They lose their leaves and flowers, they die back.  And then in spring, when all that was before has turned into a dark rich compost, they come back, nourished by what appeared to die in the fall.

I only had a brief time in my life when I could actually garden in a yard.  As my disability progressed, I found I had to content myself with a container garden on the various porches and patios I’ve had.  The result is no less miraculous for that.

In my present home, each year, I wait for the first warm days and start cultivating bright flowers with intense colors and interesting shapes.  One of my friends helps me plant a few beauties by the porch —  and she tends to my elephant ears, which seem to love both the soil and heat of my front yard.

Every day, just about, I got out on the porch and check on my little garden, my happy place.  Most years, I try to get a hibiscus and a bougainvillea.  This year I found a beautiful golden hibiscus and a dark pink/fuchsia bougainvillea.  A friend also got me a red lily.  I also have dipladenias, petunias, cannas, morning glories, celosia, coleus and other delights.

And Tuesday morning, I went out to check the plants and get my morning dose of color, but something wasn’t right.  The lilies were gone.

Probably bloomed Tuesday morning

Oh, no, the bougainvillea was gone — the one that just developed an aberration and was sprouting white flowers along with the pink.

And the golden hibiscus — gone.  So my biggest most valuable potted plants were gone. 

They probably would have taken my white dipladenia but it was staked and tied to the porch railing so it would vine along as summer progressed.

With all the chaos going on in the world, with people dying, getting hurt, being abused — the theft of 3 plants off a porch hardly seems like much of a problem.  But it really hurt me.  It was such a mean and petty theft.  How could whoever stole them be proud of them if they had  not nurtured their beauty and brought them to bloom?

And I worry that whoever stole them will not take proper care of them.  It couldn’t have been a homeless or drug addicted person.  The plants were too big and too heavy for any one to carry very far.  Some one rushed the porch in the night or the early morning, stole the plants and put them in a car and drove away.  Feeling quite entitled and smug, I’m sure.

So, it’s taken me about til now (2 days) to get Zen about it.

Part of it is that I feel like there are fewer and fewer pleasures in my life that I can manage on my own.  Tending my garden is one (arting around is the other.)  But I can let it go now.  Everything comes to an end, sometimes before we imagine it will.  I like Helen Keller’s quote:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.”

A dear friend brought me another hibiscus — a coral pink Painted Lady.  One flower, lots of buds.  There aren’t any more bougainvilleas to be had this year.

The thing is though, last fall, I brought in my bougainvillea and my red hibiscus from my porch, and over wintered them indoors.  The red hibiscus did well this summer and had just finished a blooming cycle, so it wasn’t decked out in blooms Monday night.  The bougainvillea didn’t fare so well, but I gave it a severe pruning a few weeks ago.  It looks like a stick with a few leaves randomly pasted on it.  But I see that there is new growth just beginning to bud out, which is where the new flowers will grow.


I know this because I tend to my plants.  I watch and nurture them.  I breathe in their gift of oxygen.  I don’t think the person who stole my plants will get nearly the pleasure out of them that I did.  I can grow new ones and I doubt they can.  And those stolen plants, they made me really happy, which I doubt is an emotion the thief ever feels.




This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.





Thoughts about This and That

I’d like to thank all the new followers I’ve gotten in the past few months.  I appreciate you taking time to read or at least skim over my blog.  I’m up to 234 followers, not a multiple of 5 number, the numbers we usually celebrate, but I feel extra grateful today.20200612_162014

I also want to apologize for not always being able to read or comment on your blog in return.  My plate’s pretty full now and I have less time for reading than I used to.  I’ve also put myself on computer time limits.  I have a tendency to spend too much time on social media, and reading blogs, then I don’t get my own writing and painting done.


And it’s summer time.  I enjoy being outside, roaming the neighborhood looking at people’s gardens.  I also tend to my own porch garden.  My apartment faces west, so in the evening I like to tend to the plants, then sit out there and read a book.


It seems like the safer-at-home quarantines would give me more time to do everything, but think instead it’s made me tired and made me unmotivated to get my work done.  Practically everyone I know is going though the same thing, or they are in states of such high anxiety that they can’t create.  This is natural, these are traumatic times and even though we’re given a gift of time, it’s come weighed down with insecurity about our future.


I’ve been encouraged by the response of people to the brutal murder of George Floyd.  That whole week was horrible with the stories that came out about Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.  A tipping point was reached and I’m glad to see so many protesting. And for the first time in my life to see businesses eager to make Black Lives Matter statements, even if they’re not all really committed to hiring more African-Americans, especially at the executive level.


The movement to restructure the way we police our communities has enormous potential to keep the public safer, allow the police to have less stress in their jobs,  and allow the community to feel a vested interest in their own safety and health.

It won’t be an easy or a painless process, but if we keep it going, we may eventually get out from under the shadow of Jim Crow, and move forward as a more just nation.



I can’t imagine how difficult it’s been for African Americans to live all these generations in a country that doesn’t recognize that their lives matter, to not have the same legal protection, and to have no trust in the police.  I pray that will finally change.  Or move closer to justice.  I’m so very proud of the brave African Americans who are not backing down, who are using protest, art, music and education to get things growing in the right direction.


I have an art show planned for September, but at this point I don’t know if it will happen in the venue I’ve reserved.  We may have to use some creative thinking to get that going.  It may be another studio show, but maybe we’ll set it up in the yard, so people can move easily and keep social distance.


So I just wanted to check in, give my thanks and thoughts, and share some pictures of my garden.


More art and stories to come soon,


This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.





New Painting: Fiery Woman

“No Amount of Hatred Would Put Out Her Fire, by Joy Murray, 5×7, Acrylic and ink on stretched canvas (sold)

Inspired by the brave people fighting for racial justice recently, pushing forward what generations have been striving for.  On her lower lip is the word love, I don’t think you can see it on this copy of it, but love is there.


This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.