Weeks ago, I was walking by the pier across from Ithaca’s Stewart Park Pavilion, a favorite place of my daughter Marika. Friends had told me it was the time of the year when the veil between the physical world and the non-physical, or spiritual world, was at its thinnest. Meaning, if there was any time to reach out to my daughter who died, it was then. Not that I wasn’t already singing or talking to Marika almost every hour of every day. But it would be the best time to listen for her, to maybe hear her. So I was walking in the rain, in the park, with my camera. Looking for the spirit of my daughter.
For years it had felt like Marika was watching me, sending occasional messages. But I haven’t been able to feel her, her presence, lately. Mediums had never really sensed her, so long ago I gave up seeking their help in finding her. People told me I was trying too hard or not trying hard enough. I was not open enough or not sensitive enough. Ask Spirit for a specific sign, friends more experienced in matters of the afterlife advised. But there’s no way I’ve ever been able to ask my dead daughter to leave an empty parking spot for me at Wegmans, or to send me a heron, or even just a feather. Although, if any of these ever happen to appear I’m more than likely to thank Marika for it. Mostly though, these days I go about believing her spirit is out there but doesn’t want to be bothered.
In Stewart Park a seagull was perched on a rail at the end of the pier. It watched as I slowly approached with my eyes hidden from view, glued instead to the bird’s image in the LCD screen of the camera. Aware the gull could fly off quickly at any moment, I began singing to it, in the hope of hypnotizing it to stay longer. A Kate McGarrigle song had been stuck in my head for days after seeing the Linda Ronstadt movie, a song I used to sing to my daughter when she was very young:
Some say the heart is just like a wheel/ When you bend it you can’t mend it/ But my love for you is like a sinking ship/ And my heart is on that ship out in mid-ocean.
I never got to see the bird, except through the camera. Viewing the digital images later in Photoshop, I was struck by how close it was to me. Without focusing on me, it had been aware of my every move. It didn’t take off until I looked up to meet it eye-to-eye.