The Healing Web

Dear Elvis,

Today is my father’s birthday in heaven.

Full of the devil, with a wicked sense of humour, he could only be born on All Hallow’s Eve eve. The irony doesn’t escape me.

My father actually wasn’t a very tall man. His sisters were the tall ones in that family, but to me he was a giant among men. Yes, he had his flaws and challenges, who among us doesn’t? But in my eyes, he was the most handsome, funniest, strongest, and most respected father and man I ever knew.

And yet being 56 years of age when he died, and me only 16, in many ways I hardly knew him at all. My mom was very good at telling me family history. And for that I am thankful because it does help me to understand him better as a person. Life was not easy for my dad nor his dad before him; but he did have supportive people in his life, mainly women, who rallied around him and his siblings in times of stress. And when Stewart (my father) became an adult, it was often he who did the supporting and decision making for his West Brook family; he and his younger sister.

Those who grew up with him, his peers, spoke in awe of how he operated all kinds of machines when he was just a boy. I tell you, I often see him in my students, the ones who want to be anywhere but in school, yet have such keen knowledge of the way machines work, and are so very kind, and so very humble. And yes… even assholes at times!

Wherever he worked he was a reliable and loyal employee although I think he ribbed his young co-workers a bit too much as he became “the senior” staff. He received a commendation from the Atlantic Galvanizers’ Company, where he worked in the late 70’s, for his quick action in saving a fellow worker who fell into a galvanizing vat and would have surely died or been severely injured had he not pulled him out and provided direct assistance. Dad’s work meant a lot to him and both he and mom instilled the importance of integrity on the job to my brother and me.

He also made life beautifully interesting for us. Memories do fade after 38 years but in this time of Samhain, stories and images do rise to the surface. One evening he had us all in absolute stitches with his “interpretation” of various stories from the Amherst Daily News. He often assisted us with carving our jack -o- lanterns and always drove us around on Halloween when we were little, visiting with the Athol neighbors while we ran ahead collecting treats. I remember he would occasionally pick me up from “Explorers” after school and on one such evening, while I was waiting for him, I discovered I no longer needed training wheels on my bike as I could drive my friend’s two wheeler just fine! I could hardly wait to tell him when he arrived.

But perhaps the one image that comes to mind quite often is one Sunday night when he changed ends with me on the couch (a habit he had when we were watching tv). He rested his head on my lap, and I was so close to him at that moment. What I cannot remember is if it was the night before he died (he died on Monday, November 19th, 1984) or another Sunday night close to his death. I guess it doesn’t matter. It was just very lovely. And very special.

He wasn’t an overly demonstrative father; that was just the generation, so that memory is especially heartfelt (heart filling).

I often wonder what my life would have been like had Dad lived to a normal age. Not so much in what I would have done or wouldn’t have done, but more like what conversations he and I could have eventually had or how he would have helped me maneuver certain aspects of my life. I really missed having a father.

And many times I awake in the night grieving for Bea and her loss. Because if my Dad was a huge presence for me, try replacing hers.

When I began therapy after Pat died, my counselor felt it a good place to start with the traumatic passing of my father. It was a good call.

His death and Patrick’s became one in the same. It was time to do a helluva lot of work.

Yet here I am on his birthday celebrating the man, and the men of my life. Not only Dad, but Peter, and of course, Pat. I have learned that the veil between this life and the next is much thinner this time of year. That memories are sharper, as is the air, and the color of the autumn sky, and of course the falling leaves.

It’s like this powerful, healing web of people and memories that keeps me moving forward.

So today, I especially celebrate my father whose powerful presence I feel this time of year. So often, it is his handsome face and telling behaviors that come to me to make me laugh, perhaps to ponder, and to just plain admire.

I miss you and I love you, Dad. Always and forever.

Good night sweet Elvis.

Thanks for listening,

Melissa xo xo

the outline

Dear Elvis,

Today I am outlining trailing leaves on a rug border. I am hoping to finish it within the next couple of days as I am definitely on the homestretch. It’s a rug I have begun, put away, sewn on the frame, taken off the frame, re-worked… and the list goes on. Then I discovered white, curly, hand spun wool. I love women with white hair. Sometimes I buy the purple shampoo and make my already lightened hair almost white. It suggests wisdom and maturity, denim shirts and jingly charm bracelets. Faded pink lipstick. Relaxed but chic.

It’s kinda who I want to be.

So re-enter the rug. And the white, fly away hair. It’s been fun hooking this soulful woman who can still seek and find joy. The leaves I am giving an autumnal feel because fall and her months of October and November are where I find my joy. It’s during those months when I will find myself in our new home, to tuck in for the winter. It is the time of the lifting veil. It’s a time when the darkness envelopes you once again, and the nesting occurs, and the healing time is also present.

It’s soul cakes and All Saint’s Day. It’s “Day of the Dead”. The time for celebrating our lost souls- celebrate, not feel sad. For the sadness is now. I’d like to plough through August, if I could. Cooler weather, sweaters and pants. Let’s cover the garish nakedness of summer.

Outlining is a bittersweet activity. The wanting to get right into the beautiful colors of rhubarb and sparkling deep greens must wait. But outlining has its purpose, especially with those stubborn leaves and flowers, my nemesis! Outlining, like writing, and road tripping, is a way and a time to gather up your thoughts and plans. It’s a base or a foundation; a place to which you can return for clarification.

Kind of like blueprints. Kind of like home. Kind of like your favorite activity.

Just this July we took our “Sweet Caroline” to the beach. Our favorite family camping spot for many years. We had some good days, but not enough. Right now I am not sure if we will ever do it again. But we had to try. We had to go back to the outline of an incredible life. It cannot be avoided for the healing to ever be complete.

Elvis, I love your presence. You are part of the outline of my life. The filling in awaits.

Love always,


welcome to my world

Dear Elvis,

Over two years ago I began this personal blog and its first topic was you. It spoke of my mother’s love for you, but in this journey, I have discovered that my love for you and your story is just as strong, if not stronger.

One of my favorite performances of yours is Welcome to My World, the live, and only version, by you, from the Hawaii concert. It’s simplicity and beautiful melody are a luxury feeling that I return to again and again.

Your smile, your movements, your seemingly effortless approach to the song…well, they work together to stay etched in my mind, hopefully forever.

My world is my refuge; it too is simple and often melodious. It is gentle work and easy tunes. These are my choices.

When it no longer feels right or there is an unspeakable “something” in my heart, I look to my choices.

Recently, in consultation with my adult child, I bought a piece of property in Sackville, where I live currently. I was missing something. Or some things. Smells, a feeling, openness. I am hoping the property will contain, if only an inkling, of what was; and the essence of what will and can be.

It’s all part of a story which began 54 years ago. And now that ideas are settling in, I cannot wait to see where the story is going.

American artist Georgia O’Keeffe wrote about the fear she felt every moment of her life, and yet she never let it keep her from doing a single thing she wanted to do. I have often felt that fear and allowed it to not only stop me from doing what I wanted to, but let it pull me under to places I never want to re-visit.

I realize now that fear and courage, the longing for what once was, and the chance to move forward are all very much connected. It’s part of living.

And loving. Another American artist, singer/songwriter Paul Simon, spoke of a journey he took to Graceland, your Graceland. What he remembers is the love felt by others for you, as he reached the meditation garden where you are resting peacefully. He suddenly had his takeaway from this journey: people congregate to your world because of their love for you; but there is more. That love also means acceptance, thus Simon writes [he has] reason to believe we all will be received in Graceland.

Loving and accepting. Journeying and dreaming. Creating. These are also my choices. And I cannot wait to continue putting them all into action in the coming months.

I believe the options are endless where love and understanding prevail.

The spirit of Graceland exists within us all.

Thank you for this wonderful meeting place.

Love Melissa

Smelt storms

Dear Elvis,

The other day my colleague, Danny, spoke of smelt storms. The weather has been very uncertain here lately, and it was his educated guess that the smelts would soon appear in Bass River, so that spring would then settle in for real.

Thank you for that familiar conversation, Danny. It’s the small things that fill large holes in a person’s heart.

The river banks across from Jean Pugsley’s former Athol homestead, will soon be teaming with smelt fishers. They will start bonfires from huge brush piles, and they will literally camp out there, evening after evening, while “the smelts are up”.

And then, as if by magic, the smelts and the fishers disappear. All that remains of this travelling show is smoking bush piles, litter, and greening grass.

Let your soul & spirit fly/ Into the mystic (Van Morrison)

Sometimes life can be compared to a smelt storm. I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I would like to do a series of hooked rugs entitled The Smelt Storms.

When Danny spoke of the unpredictable weather that day, I felt validated and… relieved.

For I had my own clouds blowing in, as they do every spring, from late March until April’s end. It’s disconcerting and unnerving. It’s also my pattern of grieving: the sudden storms and raging, river fires.

The emerging shadow of the smelt run.

It is predictable in its fury, but it carries the promise of spring, and warmer days. It is short-lived. My heart will get righted again, and be that much stronger.

Life does move forward.

And the people I loved for so long and so hard, will stay with me, in the ferociousness of the wind, the shadow of the storm, and the greening of the grass.

And Danny…. have a fabulous retirement!

Love Melissa xo xo


Bubby Blackie

Dear Elvis,

Today as I scrolled thru memories on FB, I saw my Bubby, our Blackie, my beautiful kitty, whom we lost to cancer almost 2 years ago.

If Blackie had been a human, he would have been considered marginalized. He arrived in our Athol community, abandoned, yet determined to be recognized. Of all of the places with which he chose to fraternize, while on the lamb, he frequented the church yard, at the top of the Athol hill, perhaps THE most dangerous spot in Cumberland County, NS.

And then, quite emphatically, he crossed the road, then our little foot bridge, and that tiny little kitty entered our quiet little life.

I loved that cat. My Blackie.

But not at first. He was high strung (who wouldn’t be, he was abandoned after all).

He clawed us, and chased my feet as I made our bed in the morning.

He also liked to bite. And for some reason clawing at my hair and scalp was very popular.

He had attitude as well. Infused with Patrick’s personality, our Blackie could “cut to the quick”, and all I could do was laugh hysterically at his voice, his quips, his song choices, and the like.

And as he matured he came to be, what I always said, “quite a cat”.

I never owned a pet so in tune to my emotions. Many of those years that he lived with us were anxious ones. Job uncertainties, illness, so many issues that were considered “issues” at that time, plagued our happy home.

And yet, there was Blackie. He would curl up beside me, and be my support, a presence, while I slept off the slights, imagined or real; the losses; the simple exhaustion.

If it couldn’t be Pat…it was Blackie.

Bea and I have talked about the relationship between men and cats. I have said to her more than once that a good man, a gentle man, a kind and caring soul, will like cats.

I say this because cats, like empaths, will claw and bite sometimes, but only because we have been hurt, traumatized, misunderstood, or abandoned.

Men tend to gravitate towards dogs. I know that is stereotypical, I suppose, but those of a more controlling nature, perhaps enjoy the company of dogs, because of their loyal nature and trainable personalities.

Yet, I would argue, on our behalf (both Blackie’s and mine) that one will never know a truer, more valuable person (or cat), when you have earned our love.

We loved our boy Blackie, our Bubby, unconditionally.

And that is the only way to love.

Melissa xo xo

Bubby and Sissy

The Elvis Letters #

Dear Elvis,

Well, I have completed the second book in your biographical set by Peter Guralnick.

Part 1 was definitely better. And not just because part 2 outlined your steady decline.

I have read a number of accounts about you as your world spiraled downward, and their focus is always the same: the drugs, the girls, the endless touring and ailments. Not exactly how you might want to be remembered.

I was hoping for at least a different perspective or perhaps an exploration into some possible “whys”. But that did not happen with Guralnick.

I don’t know, Elvis. There must be more to say.

And I think there would have been had you been able to live a longer, fuller life.

So much is written about family traumas now, and people share their struggles with mental illness so that others will feel less alone and become stronger; celebrities and entertainers included.

For the past year and a half I have been receiving counseling once a month about my great loss. It became my narrative : my traumatic experiences, my narrowing down of events that have shaped my life up until this point.

Yesterday, Bryan, my counselor, reviewed the notes he had taken since November 2020, so that we could discuss key aspects from the sessions. A lot of work done; a lot of strength and power gained.

I can no longer imagine not having control of my own story.

Suddenly I realized and spoke it aloud, “this was my journey. I started the process out of need. It was my project. Not only did I “make it”; I made it.

In this same afternoon, I visited with fiber artist and business woman, Deanne Fitzpatrick, at her studio in Amherst, NS, to discuss my work and another possible journey (a creative one this time) supported by Deanne Fitzpatrick Studio.

Not surprisingly, my mind, and thus my rugs, often include roads and rivers that never quite end. Secret dwellings amid whispering copses of dark, blueish green spruce trees. The realization that home will always be with me, wherever I am.

In speaking with both Deanne and Bryan , I also realize that there is a story that society tells us about loss and life, and living- and then there is the the actual story: your story, my story, and how we are going to manage and perhaps (hopefully) flourish.

When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book, I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I have ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.

Elvis Presley

My dreams follow me rather than me following them. It has taken me a long time to understand this, not that I can really explain it. Every time I sit down to hook a rug or write fiction, the images of people and places are always the same, of people I know, or at least think I know.

And you, Mr. Memphis, are a part of that dream.

We are in this together. And If I didn’t know that when I began these letters. I know it now. Let’s see where this journey continues.


Melissa xo xo

Friday, January 14th, 2022

Dear Elvis,

It’s grand to wake up in my neighourhood. Particularly on a snowy morning. I flip on the Christmas lights to add extra sparkle to the street. Sally and I enjoy the sights and sounds of the people clearing their yards, cars moving along the trans Canada, followed by the intermittent silence. There is no time like morning.

It’s a challenging time in our world right now. If I were to forget that in this comfortable haven, I am quickly reminded when I see a gentleman, in his work attire, slowly walking down our street, wearing a white and blue surgical mask. People are afraid; mostly because they are confused. Whom do we trust? Who can we trust?

Elvis…. what would you say right now?

And then suddenly I am reminded of one of the few interviews you did in your lifetime. The Madison Square Garden pre performance interview. Blue suit, matching cape, abstract printed shirt, and silver belt. Your father was with you.

How could we not help but see your beautiful soul?

So now, I have gone a bit off topic. It happens. A lot.

During the interview you were asked about your views on war and conscription. I liked the way you handled the question. It spoke more to your character than any hard core answer ever could.

We all have some sort of opinion about the current state of our world right now. It’s okay to have different ideas and perspectives. We can even voice them. But not in a way that shames or belittles others.

It might even be prudent to take the high road at times. Especially where emotions run high.

Regardless of your intention that day, I loved your approach to the question, as well as your authenticity; your father’s too.

The nights are growing gradually shorter, and I believe there to be a light showing at the end of this long dark tunnel.

Who can we trust and believe in? Ourselves. To hang on a bit longer in a way that shows wisdom and kindness.

Stay real, my friend.

Melissa xo xo

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

Dear Elvis,

Happy Birthday, my beautiful friend.

Because that is what you are, in a nutshell, beautiful.

Elvis, I am reading again. Not just texts and FB posts. Books, good ones. After the Xmas rush, I stole into Coles (Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada) and bought Newfoundland’s, Donna Morrissey’s, Pluck. It’s a memoir. And I love it. I am at the part where her mom is having surgery, a mastectomy, and she has to leave her mom at the surgery doors. I remember experiencing the same thing with my mother. I walked with her as far as I could for her second breast removal- a precaution she had said. Anything for more time. And I remember sitting and hooking a spaceship for my nephew, Thomas, until the nurse came to tell me that she was in recovery, Somehow I had forgotten that until I read that part of Morrissey’s narrative this morning.

I had to stop reading.

I had forgotten because my mind has been full of other memories. Other loss, other grief. Morrissey, she relates the anxiety she was filled with at the time, the mechanical movements, Oddly enough, as I remember that time, today, I see it as Mom’s way of preparing me for what lay ahead.

Mothers and daughters, they know. They just know.

I have another set of books waiting in the wings. They are a two set biography of you- that soft writing about you that I have been looking for- where you are revealed as human. I would anticipate that there will be much about your relationship with your mom inside its pages, particularly the first volume. I think you were very close.


Your friend,


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Dear Elvis,

Last evening I began to do a bit of research and planning for a rug hooking class I am doing on the 15th. I have 3 eager participants whose faith in me and my teaching is most exciting and powerful. One does have to believe in themselves, don’t you agree?

I wonder if you only saw yourself as an entertainer? So much of what I saw of you involved the polished performances. Only lately have recordings resurfaced that show your ability to plan arrangements and perform in a more relaxed manner. I certainly hope you recognized your creativity and the value of your decisions.

Love Melissa xo xo

Sail on silver girl/sail on by/ your time has come to shine/ all your dreams are on their way