What perches in your soul?
Journal | Week of October 31, 2022
For those new to this e-community, I offer my readers weekly snippets from my daily writing (tidied up a bit ;-)
October 31, 2022 | Monday
After the B-12 shot that always makes me exhausted an hour later, simple decisions seem less simple. I’m in the grocery store circling the bouquets, struggling with a choice. Do I look like a rabid animal? The woman nearby is glancing my way and clutching her cabbage fiercely.
Is joy worth $5.99 or $6.99? How much am I willing to spend on a week’s worth of joy, assuming I use that little packet of white powder that extends a bouquet’s liveliness. Flower cocaine, my mind whispers, because making yourself laugh is another path to joy.
As you move along the spectrum of wife-caregiver, from more wife to more caregiver, you need a vase of wild colors in the kitchen. I go for sunflowers, thinking of my sister.
Little Sister spent hours this summer in vast Pennsylvania sunflower fields, such a good grief place. Her husband’s lung collapsed on Easter, he died on Mother’s Day, she had a spot of breast cancer removed a couple weeks later, and this week she’ll have a section of one lung with a carcinoid tumor removed.
I’m not one for profanity, but *uck has landed lately as a possible way to express what I’m feeling. I so want to be with her this week, and I need to be here with my husband.
Recently, I actually Googled, Is it possible to be cloned? Yes, sort of.
Dolly, a sheep, was the first mammal to be cloned from another sheep’s adult cell in 1996. Forgot about her. Hello Dolly, what was it like to be a clone? Did you feel like one being in two places? A product of science rather than sheep love, she died ironically on a Valentine’s Day. So far, and thankfully, no human cloning.
Instead Sister and I talk through the magic of a different kind of cell, our cell phone signals. I linger in the yard by the pond, chatting across a continent. Fear, yes. Optimism, yes. Silly distracting stories, yes, yes, yes.
Then, knowing it’s time to let go of the conversation, but not wanting to, I notice the cats under a huckleberry bush, clearly captivated by something. Lizard? Gopher? Garter snake? Beetle?
“No, Kitties! Not good.” My sister still on the phone, the mother of three ginger cats, is listening. My tiger cat has downed an Anna’s hummingbird, and my torti-girl is curious and excited. Still fluttering and dazed in the mulch, the hummer looks like this-year’s bird, learning the hard lesson of cats.
I scoop her up gingerly, making my hand a cave, her tiny face peeking out, the quick pulse of her body a feathery morse code telling me she’s very hurt. “Why can’t we have trick-or-treaters like other people?” I say to my sister.
We exchange our I-love-you’s. Then I take a photo of my handful of hummer, capturing the shimmer of the bird’s fledgling magenta gorget striping her throat, and text it to her. Another healing we can both hope for.
November 1, 2022 | Tuesday
Cold and rainy. Living in droughty California, we all look forward to water falling from sky. Not me, not this morning.
Last night, giving my husband the opportunity to feel like his professional self again, the raptor rehabilitater and leader, I’d tapped into his hurt-bird wisdom. A hummingbird isn’t a raptor, though if you were an edible insect or a bee competing for a flower’s nectar, you might disagree.
“A box with a cloth,” he advised. “Put her in there, and let her rest in darkness overnight.“ Feeling her tiny orb of warmth in my palm, I asked, “What about getting hungry and thirsty. Hummers have such short lives, isn’t a night, especially if painful, terribly long for her?” “No,” he answered, in his weary, end-of-day tone. “She’d be sleeping anyway.”
Now, cold and rainy, windy and still dark, too. If she’s still with us, I can’t release her into a storm.
Is she still with us?
As I enter the room that holds my box of hummingbird, whispering, “Good morning, Tiny Bird,” suddenly a high-pitched chirp. “Good bird! Thank you, Tiny Bird!”
Then a mind-voice, Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. Is it me channeling Emily Dickinson, or have I rescued a bird-poet?
Unfolding the box flaps, Tiny Bird is perching not in the soul, but on a bunched-up mound of tea towel. She’s leaning against the cardboard wall, her feathers disheveled, panting. “Hard night, Tiny Bird?” She needs nourishment, so I close the box and the room. Hmmm, how can I feed you?
The house is more unkempt than it’s ever been, though like all things we don’t want, it still has its benefits. In a corner by some photos, I spy the hand-held hummingbird feeder I’d bought for my husband for Christmas. After many months in one spot, unused, I’d stopped seeing it, until now. Serendipity!
Filling the feeder with sugar water, I carefully tip Tiny Bird’s needle-like bill into the opening surrounded by a spray of fake, red petals. Wishing I had my glasses on, I lean in, looking for the thread of her tongue, the fine print of a hummingbird’s story.
Soon she shakes her head. Enough. She’s glancing around. My fingers no longer needed to steady her, they let go.
Suddenly she lifts herself out of the box, a motorized whirling past my head, circling up to the ceiling light, then to lampshade, and while my whole body gasps, she flutters into a wall and down. My heart in the soles of my feet, I pick her up without a struggle, offering more sweet water.
She’s clutching the fleshy pad of my fingertip. That’s good. She’s holding on. Tiny Bird wants to live.
To keep on living, you must want to keep on living.
I nestle her back in the box, though still in the cave of my hand, helping her sip whatever sweetness she wants until she shakes her head. Settling her down on the tea towel with the feeder beside her, I leave her to rest in box-darkness until daylight and calm.
Mid-morning, the storm dissipated and the clouds bright, we take the chirping box out onto the deck and open it. Up she flies, up and up, landing on a redwood limb. “Godspeed, Tiny Bird. Heal. Let your wings tell the wind your amazing tale of cats and giants and how you almost died but didn’t, flitting free into another day.”
November 2, 2022 | Wednesday
The ocean is loud today, as if living inside a conch shell.
I am the ear that hears as well as the roar and rush.
The tide is a wave of sound finding me through five miles of trees, the inner and the outer vibrations coming together.
A confluence within. But a confluence of what? Sound is energy, as are you and I. So, we’re all in this together.
“To stand inside the voice that quakes . . . .”
This phrase arrives in all that ocean thunder, something Arielle Schwartz, a psychologist, mentioned in a training on post-traumatic growth.
I’d written it down as a question: What is it to stand inside the voice that quakes?
The ocean offers a partial answer. The voice and the quaking are one.
November 3, 2022 | Thursday
I wake wondering how Little Sister feels as she steps through the hospital doors this morning.
Ahead of her, there’s the nothingness of anesthesia, as her animal body, meant to carry her though this life, lies still and silent on a table under blazing lights. I imagine the strange knives and silvery tools on a tray to the side and the robot on her surgical team. Does it whir or rumble as it works? A four-hour procedure, everyone’s attention is only on what’s insider her.
Shouldn’t we all have such attention? Both to be seen for what’s inside us and to see others that way, too?
I’m wondering about Tiny Bird now, where she may be after waves of rain, the threading of her wings through the openings of immense trees and endless, damp air. It’s a good sign, her flight.
Little Sister, you still have your wings.
All morning I work in my office, feeling my heart beat, my personal clock keeping time as I wait for news that she’s okay. My niece texts, “Mom’s out of surgery and headed to recovery! Procedure went well.”
At the window, a hummer dips his head in and out of a lingering fuchsia, the buzzing loud, vibrating though the glass. Not Tiny Bird, yet there in all that humming energy, the possibility of her, thriving.
November 4, 2022 | Friday
Last night, I talked to Little Sister. Post-surgery, parts of her still very numb, she was surprisingly animated. I listened to her with my entire being so happy and relieved and hopeful and full of longing to hug her with real arms rather than an iPhone emoji.
We are a funny people. Even in despair or worry, we find what’s funny. She tells a very personal detail, and three thousand miles apart, we’re giggling together. Giggling. How long has it been since I’ve giggled, or even used the word, giggle?
When the universe is unfolding as it should, hummingbirds hum, and sisters giggle.
November 5, 2022 | Saturday
Missing my father, gone since 2006. His birthday is coming again on Monday.
How many times have I tried to write about him, my mother, my beloved others disappearing into the mystery called where-did-you-go? Pulling out an old journal, this:
Time makes a cataract of memory,
the sharpness of loss softens,
the pain, vague.
If I tell about your dying, it’s really
a story about me, the space that was you,
a hollow place within.
Each of us is a little book
of others’ stories carried
Finally only one story,
I love you and you left me
Here, telling it over and over.
November 6, 2022 | Sunday
Today our household feels blue.
Where did that come from, that blue means something is off, emotionally or mood-wise? So many stories and scientific studies about the color blue connected to sadness, but what’s true?
Looking around my room, I’m a greenish person. Out the window, the weeping cherry tree is a flourish of luminous yellow-orange and the red maple near the waterfall is more a pink salmon, its leaves ready to drop any moment.
Okay, not so blue after all.
A kind and upbeat man I knew, blind from birth, used to greet me with the phase, “So good to see you again,” When asked how he stayed so positive, he replied, “Oh, I feel blue sometimes.” Missing one eye completely, and the other wearing a glazed, far-off look, he said he felt light. Though he’d never seen color, he sensed that light had dimensions.
Popping in earbuds, I listen to Sarah Vaughn sing, bluesy and full of longing. Surprisingly, I feel really good. I’ve always loved music, planning at 17 to be a composer. But. Too busy lately, my world’s been lacking pianos, guitars and basses, trumpets and flugelhorns, a poignant lyric.
Thinking of a client, a singer-songwriter, I pull up a recent clip she sent. I listen, not as mentor-coach person, only as a human who could use a song right now.
Her guitar begins, then the music within her, the music that is her, joins in.
Her voice is beautiful, gentle, a tinge of sorrow and a lilting optimism all at the same time. She’s singing about reasons and no reasons for what just is. Then a shift, and she’s reminding herself she gets to choose her own reasons. I’m smiling at how far she’s come to know that.
No reason why the day began in blueness. What better path than music, my antidote of choice, to find my way back to what my blind friend, gone now, might call a better dimension of light?
I became transfixed. I caught myself being a cheerleader for our little hummer. And yeah, she got some sugar in her belly and sprang back to friends and family. Curious to know the next challenge, but proud she's got such a good cat story to share with her friends. I can almost hear them giggling.
That's for taking me out of the seriousness of life. I needed that my poet friend.
thanks so much for sharing your struggles. hope your sister's recovery continues! im sorry you couldn't be with her in person