Janet Aalfs and her sister Linden, 1995.

Janet E. Aalfs, a Hampshire County resident and member of Straw Dog Writers Guild, is founder/director of Lotus Peace Arts (, a founding member of Valley Women’s Martial Arts, and was the 2nd poet laureate of Northampton. Her writing is widely published, and her most recent book of poems is Bird of a Thousand Eyes. 


Snow on Forsythia

Light in a single
snowflake sings
light enough
for me –

this heavenly web
of infinite weight clumped
on sunbright blooms could bring
Beauty to her knees.

Unfurled I’ve seen
these mourning hours
the heavy melt
that yellow flowers

may lift again –
in me.

Words cannot adequately express the depth of my gratitude in this COVID-time, and at all times, for the creative web of support that both roots and buoys me. Through community involvement I’ve internalized collective strength, and learned that isolation, different from solitude, is injurious to the human spirit. My sister’s recent suicide reminds me how powerfully healing these connections are.

On April 11th, while leading a morning Taiji/Qigong circle in Childs Park – 10 people with physical distance – I noticed a familiar Gazette photographer across the field. “Hi Kevin!” I hollered and waved. He shouted back, “Looks good!” to which I replied: “It’s filling a need!” That evening I would find out that my sister Linden was unresponsive in Emerson Hospital’s emergency room. She died on April 13, the day Kevin’s photo was printed. In that image, our arms curve upward, and a heron soars beyond the frame. Giant white pine trees stand behind us, symbolic of resilience and longevity in Shuri-ryu Okinawan karate, a movement language I’ve practiced and taught since age 21.

As the days passed full of coping and making not-in-person arrangements, I slowly began to rise out of deep shock. When I realized the photograph’s wild synchronicity, I sent Kevin an email to thank him. He sent me back the kindest message. In the meantime, on April 19, a vast and glorious group had joined my wife Janis and me at Childs Park for a moving meditation, and in energy waves from locations around the world, to honor Linden and all of our dear ones who have passed on.

In these pandemic circumstances, life’s beauty and grace keep offering silver linings. We have received a flood of messages in many forms to help ease the pain of grief. Our mother, Joann, who is 97 and truly well cared for in the memory unit at Linda Manor in Leeds, knows in her own way what has happened, and is clearly in spirit contact with her eldest child. May we all continue to flourish as our hearts weave stronger in love.

Amazing Grace
for Mary Linden Aalfs Welch, 6/3/1951–4/13/2020

the journey now requiring
countless arms as one
like a dogwood toward
the golden arc of sun
minus the flowers
minus the hands holding bouquets
minus the
we had no way
to gather
our mother close
to a century old
on the other
end of the line
for a spell
her voice encrypted
like an iron bell
finally said to me
you’re not dead yet
but now I see
days before it happened
she could hear
her other daughter
sinking underground
as the dogwood
in fierce and delicate tones
sang to be found