An Elegy for Mark Sandstrom

For Mark—In Remembrance

In my office I saw the email shoot across my screen and it caught my attention. One of the women who was joining one of my programs wrote, ‘I think you may have been the celebrant for my husband’s funeral a long time ago.’

I found the ceremony on my hard drive that I had written for honouring the life of Mark Sandstrom… twenty two years ago. The anniversary of the ceremony was the following day! I wrote this haibun for Mark and for his family.

For Mark and the Trees—A Haibun

She chose a place under the limbs of the rainforest trees at the lookout above the valley for her lover’s memorial ceremony. The mist chose this morning to enfold us in a damp cloud that wet our cheeks and hung to the underside of the umbrellas. It was a day for gumboots and raincoats, lightning and thunder nearby. The rain skittered in from the sea and played with the light and glossed the leaves of the black booyong, Antarctic beech, bunya pine and brush box. We gathered 22 years ago and, as I write, I can still sense the cleansed air of the plateau; its bracing chill as we stood on the soil where he worked in his grubby green work clothes, his old hat, and a rollie on his lip. A nurseryman, he had planted thousands of natives on the plateau: black apples, bottlebrush, coolamon, lilly pillies, Davidsons plum, waratah, white gums, forest maples, forest oak—acres upon acres of native trees. In the canopy of his sweat and joy, the fruit dove with plum purple breast and green belly, and canary yellow underclothes, forages for this man’s bounty high above the ground calling, Wompoo, wompoo. Wompoo, wompoo.

Forests of tall trees

Planted by his caring hands

And vision, bear fruit.

In Remembrance—Mark Sandstrom 2001

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Mark Sandstrom