Does Old Nan Live in the Bay?

It is 1:00 p.m., Sunday, December 16th , 2007. My niece, Sheralynn Nadine, has dropped by with her children, six year old Stella Ruby and four year old Jaxon James.

Maarten and Sher

As they run up to greet me, their voices pale against the wind.


“Hi, Grantie Nadina!
Are the waves big in Old Nana's Bay?"
“Let’s go see,” I say, clutching their hands along the path to our home’s cliffy waterfront.
‘Old Nana's Bay’ is the name the children gave to the cove Maarnada embraces. Back in February, 2004, when Stella Ruby and Jaxon James were almost too young to remember, they stood on the cliff top with us for my Mother Ruth’s memorial ceremony. Their Uncle Ken videotaped the scene. Way below, their Uncle Jamie read a Celtic prayer from a little boat which their Mama Sher’s cousin Troy rowed, while his brother Trevor scattered Old Nana’s ashes over the calm water. After they had grown a little, when Stella Ruby and Jaxon James watched the video, they said, “That’s Old Nana’s Bay!”
Maarten’s Eagle and Whale's Tail sculptures hug Old Nana’s spirit on either side of the bay. Just as we reach the Whale’s Tail, a gust hits six year old Stella Ruby, tipping her sideways. “Hang on to the stone base here,” I say to her, while bracing Jaxon James against my legs.
“Wow! Look, Grantie Nadina! A seal!” And there she is, head held high, riding the waves.
Later, staring at the froth of whitecaps from the safety of our lower living room, Jaxon James ponders Old Nana’s Bay. As though speaking from the depths of himself and the Bay, he asks "Grantie Nadinaaaa, does Old Nana really live in the Bay?
Is old Grandpa there too?" His words rattle in my head and reverberate around the room.
”How did you know Old Grandpa, Jaxon James?

Bill, Ruth and Bonnie

Jaxon James sits calmly crosslegged on the large window sill. Elbow lounging on knee, he draws his forearm up, drops his chin into his cupped hand, and slowly rolls his eyes up to meet mine. "Old Grandpa was a soldier,” he says. “He went across a bridge and then went underneath and took a bomb apart."I look up at Sheralynn, wondering how Jaxon James knew this. "Remembrance Day," she says. Jaxon James stares silently out the window, and then looks up at me.
“Grantie Nadinaaaaa, why did Old Grandpa want to be a soldier?"Such a big question for a little boy. Pondering, I sigh, and with my out breath, the answer flows. "A long time ago, some people were fighting over wanting each other's land.

Stella and Jamie

Old Grandpa wanted to save the landowners from the bullies who wanted to take what wasn't theirs. Like your Uncle Jamie who is a policeman. Uncle Jamie stops angry people from hurting us."Jaxon James scurries up the three stairs to the living room above, scrambles into one of the burgundy swivel chairs, and snuggles next to his sister by the fire.
“Would you like to see a picture of Old Grandpa in his soldier uniform?” I ask. "YES!" they answer in unison, wiggling and wide-eyed. I show them the picture of my father, Bill Stewart (Old Grandpa), in uniform with my mother, Ruth (Old Nana), and my older sister, Bonnie (Stella Ruby and Jaxon James's Granny.) Bonnie is just a baby on Old Nana's young lap. It marks the day Old Grandpa left for the Second World War. “Look,” says Stella Ruby, pointing at Old Grandpa. “He doesn’t look like an Old Grandpa.”
“Nope, he can’t be an Old Grandpa,” sniggers Jaxon James, wrinkling up his nose until it hits his laughing eyes. “He looks like he could be Momma Sher's brother,” says Stella Ruby, “like Uncle Jamie. And look, Jaxon James, that Old Nana has dark hair and she’s young, and very beautiful, like Momma Sher.”Jaxon James points at the baby. "Granny Bonnie was a baby?"
Yes, sweetheart we all began as babies," I answer. They sit very quietly, wrapping their thoughts around Granny Bonnie as a baby. Earlier, we were practicing Stella Ruby’s new ballet and tap lessons. Jaxon James had watched at her dance school.
Stella Ruby announced, “I like ballet best.”
"Yes," said Jaxon James, "we like ballet best".
"Well, I like tap best,” I said, as I started tapping my toes to the beat of my words, “because as a little girl, I was very good at tap dancing, and ballet was harder for me". I brushed the ball of my foot forward, and then dragged it slowly back.
"I like shuffle hop down best," Jaxon James said. So I did a few shuffle hop downs. "Jordan was a tap dancer but he is dead now," Jaxon said. Jordan had given Jaxon James his black tux with tails.
"Yes,” I said, “Jordan was a great tap dancer."
"You know Jordan?" Jaxon James asked.
"Yes, your Momma Sher told me about him." I cramprolled. Up, down, tap, tap, tap, tap. I stomped. Up, down, heavy tap, tap. Then I shuffled. Shuffle, hop, shuffle, hop, tap, tap.
"Grantie Nadinaaaa, you're not going to ever die are you?"
“Yes, sweetheart one day I will, but just like we do with Old Nana, Old Grandpa,
and Jordan, when you think of us with love, you will feel all of us in your heart."
"Yes, said Stella Ruby, dancing around us. “I feel Old Nana in my heart."Jaxon James’ little hand hovered over his heart. “I feel Jordan in my heart because I love him." We had danced back to the question, "So, Grantie Nadinaaaa, Old Nana doesn't live in the Bay?"
"No, honey, Old Nana is now a spirit. She can watch us from Heaven, or she can go anywhere she wants. We might not be able to see her, but we can feel her in our hearts.
”Jaxon James’ little hand cradles his heart. “Yes," he sighs. "Grantie Nadinaaaa, when you die, I will feel you in my heart."
"Yes, sweetheart, you will, but Grantie senses she won't be gone for long, because she is going to ask to come back as a baby. She wants to live on Earth again."
"Yes, said Jaxon James, “I was a baby once, and I had bad hair. It stuck out here and it stuck out there, but I like my hair now."
"Yes, dear,” I say, "You have great hair."We share a little butternut squash soup with corn chips. Topping our meal with a windmill cookie takes the conversation to Holland and soon to pictures of Old Opa and Old Oma. Momma Sher will find the children a globe for Christmas, so that Stella Ruby and Jaxon James can spin it around for stories about other countries. The children point to the dolphin table.

Jaxon and Nadina

“Are those seals?”
“No, sweetheart,” I explain. “A dolphin has a long, dancing body with a fin and a tail that looks as slender as ballet slippers. When dolphins swim, they twist and dart, and leap elegantly in and out of the water, but they never go on shore. Seals, though, have bodies as fat as butterballs, big, round, liquid eyes, and a fat tail and flippers that they use to galumph around on rocky shores. Let’s go look for other dolphins in the house.
”We hunt around together until they spy more of Uncle Maarten’s dolphins sculpted from wood.
“Ooooh! Look at that!” cries Stella Ruby, pointing to a glass dolphin ornament hanging from the Christmas tree.
“And there’s Grantie Nadina. And Uncle Maarten. Oh, how funny! Look at his face. It’s like a cartoon in bright colours. And here’s everybody else, too!” Stella Ruby examines the miniature plastic ornaments that Momma Sher had made of each of us, one by one, over the years. She turns to her mother.
“Will you help me make some of these, Momma Sher?”
While at Maarnada, Stella Ruby has been drawing, folding little birds out of napkins and cutting Christmas snowflakes and Santa’s out of sparkly wrapping paper.
“I’d love to do that with you, Stella Ruby,” says her mother, squatting close as they stare up at her old figurines. Uncle Maarten lifts Stella Ruby up to see the little Mexican Nativity Scene. She reaches out, fondles the figures, and moves them forward, back and sideways like chess players.
“My teacher, Mrs. Horn, is taking our gifts to the children in Mexico.”
“That’s the spirit of Christmas, isn’t it?” I say.
“Stella Ruby, what would you like for Christmas?"

Jaxon in the garden

“A purse."
“What colour?"
“What size?”
Stella Ruby shapes her hands into a small rectangle.
"And with a handle, not a strap".
"Anything else?" I ask.
“No, that is all”.
On their way out, they stop in the front garden to climb on the rocks and look at the ponds. The first pond was completed the day Stella Ruby was born. In the Tea House, which is now the Faery and Angel house, I received the message of Stella Ruby's birth. The children run over and, against the rules, stand in a special oval of gravel. Just as a reminder, Uncle Maarten’s voice booms, "But when the gravel is raked to look like water, no one walks on it."
“No. We couldn’t walk on water, could we?” says Stella Ruby, laughing. Before she leaves the gravel, she covers her footprints. The wind is still blowing as they run up the path with Momma Sher to the car. Uncle Maarten returns to his stone studio to work on a seal pup that will emerge in our living room gallery on Winter Solstice.
We’ll call him Buddy.


Her story of Old Nana's Bay....


In Cincinnati, Ohio, when my mother, Ruth, was four years old, her Mother, Hannah, died. Of Swedish decent, Hannah was only thirtyfour years of age, having birthed nine children, seven of whom had survived. Ruth often told me that she’d seen her Mother’s spirit fly out the window, so I have always sensed her spirit, too. I would feel her presence most often when a family member was dying.
“Call your mother and let her know that I am with her,” Grandma Hannah’s spirit would say. So I would call my Mother Ruth.
“Grandma Hannah is with you,” I would say. My Mother never felt it strange.
“Thank you,” she would always say, “I can feel her too.”

Nadina and Ruth

The "Circle of Wise Women" once told me that when Mothers die before their children are grown, or if there is other unfinished business, they will return to guide and assist. Oftentimes, they will incarnate in the next generation. If there isn’t a blood line, they will even birth into other families to be close. When my Mother Ruth died, she was the last of Hannah’s children here, and like each of her two older sisters, she had visions of the family waiting for her in Happy Valley Heaven. At her request, she was returned to the womb of the great Mother Ocean. Her ashes left a fleeting trail, like sand poured across the water. That night, the full moon created another path, casting its glow over the ammonite.
We who still had lives to live lit candles in her memory, giving thanks for her light which we would forever and always carry in our hearts.
Maarnada is a thin place, a point of land where the Sea, Earth, Sky meets. Where the Sun rises and sets, and the wild pink roses grow along the bank, the veil between Heaven and Earth is as fine as gauze. This is particularly so at times like Winter Solstice, Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries. One may hear the spirit of the ancestors blowing on the wind, murmuring about things gone by, or whispering the promises of hope and light in each new day. From the first moment my feet touched this sacred land on September 1st , 1978, my heart leapt from my chest to meet the land that was calling to me, and I began remembering. At the golden age of sixty, the wisdom has grown inside me, and I have been asked to share the stories.

Nadina - Storyteller of Maarnada



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