Wednesday, June 16, 2021

 Dear friends-

Last night I got a call that no parent wants to get. Eden, my younger daughter, was in the ER after an incident with her poorly controlled rescue dog. She'd already gotten a bloody nose from being pulled off balance by her dog who lunges at other dogs, people, etc. This time she was knocked down, sustained a concussion  and a broken collar bone and a laceration on the back of her head. She lost consciousness briefly. Her friend was calling me to let me know where she was and to tell me that they are recommending surgery because the broken bone could potentially puncture her lung. 


(pause)


It was the middle of the night. The first flight I could get was this afternoon so I'm anxiously waiting to leave the house, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning out the litter box, scrubbing the toilet...you know, to stay busy. Thank goodness for credit cards. I called family to let them know. Her dad and my brother are stepping up to help her financially because she's self employed and who knows when she'll be able to work again. Thank goodness for them. Nancy, who just house sat for me, responded to my midnight text with -'sure, no problem, I'll stay and care for house and dog and cat'. Thank goodness for her friendship. She has two daughters too. She knows.


I'm trying not to cry but I just start up. I hate that I'm so far away. I'm grateful that we can fly again and I'll be there tonight. Our babies, we can't keep them safe, can we? Felix knows something is going on. He's very quiet and staring at me. 

I return on Sunday. My objective is to give the effing dog back to the shelter, get my girl set with visits and friends and food and trips to the doc, you know, all the things. 

We do anything for them, don't we?



I don't even know what I packed. LA is very hot. I don't care. I just want to get there. To hold her and tell her it's gonna be ok. 


In the ambulance I held you in my arms

you were small and limp

wearing a nightgown with light blue flowers

I thought you might die

sirens pitched through country roads

I was making deals

please take me 

I can go in her place

take me

I knew then I would do anything

mothers do this

they give all the bread to the children

so the children might live

they stand in front of soldiers with guns

they swim across with the baby on their back

everywhere, mothers are holding out their arms

walking forward into the burning fields

saying, take me so she might live



Sunday, May 30, 2021

 Dear friends-


Today I took my last vancomycin. The last one. I'm still drinking aloe vera juice and taking probiotics but no more antibiotics. Hooray! I walked all the way to Kubota Gardens with the dog and boy it was hard. I ran out of steam. I'm just hoping my strength will return. 

I pulled up all the spinach in the garden as it was bolting. Of course I ate all the leaves. I've also gotten strawberries, not so sweet because we haven't had many sunny warm days. Still it's such a treat to pick strawberries from the garden. 

I'm rewatching Glee, surely a silly campy series with singing and dancing and queerness and bullying and all. 

The elderberry is once again making oceans of tiny blossoms which will be berries for syrup. I'm ready. I have honey and spices and ginger. 

Some friends and I are getting together tomorrow in their yard. We're all vaccinated so we can hug and sit around mask-less. It's so weird to leave the house without a mask now. I know I can but I still carry a mask because I want to be in solidarity with those who are not vaccinated.

I volunteered at another vaccination site yesterday. We served folks from Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Vietnam and Honduras. We have loads of translation services. One of the volunteers from Kenya brought a boom box with great music and I danced, of course I did. We were outside under white tents. 

It's gotten much harder to reach people. We are now dealing with hard to find folks and vaccine-hesitant people. About 50% of Washington is vaccinated. What really hurts is throwing out vaccine at the end of the day. 

Anyway. 

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I don't know what we celebrate on that day. My dad was in the Navy. Many many humans have died and/or fought in wars, endless wars. 

I do know that for the first time, The White House recognized Vesak: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/vesak-white-house/

I do love me some Joe Biden.


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

 R.I.P. GEORGE FLOYD



Sunday, May 23, 2021

 An update on the sorry state of affairs over here. I'm better. Which means I no longer have terrible cramps and an unmentionable bowel situation. I am wrung out and weepy. My naturopaths have me drinking aloe vera juice, swallowing green tea extract, various probiotics, vit D and calcium and eschewing gluten :( and dairy :((.  How does one live without bread? And pie? And cookies? etc. 

They did give me a recipe for congee, which is the most delicious food in the entire world. It's white rice cooked forever til it's mush and then you add sauteed veggies and some ginger and broth and soy sauce and slurp it up. It honestly soothed my whole body. And I ate it for three days. 

I do lie around for hours. I make myself take one reasonable walk with Felix. The weather has been prefect, about 55, partly sunny and lush. I'm eating from the garden. No raw veggies so I steam the lettuce and spinach. I just can't let them go to waste. I am a wastrel. I could be writing the GAN (great American novel) or at least a book of poetry but instead I scour netflix et al. for anything I haven't already watched. Lying on the couch drinking tea and bemoaning my fate. 

I meet with my Year to Live folks tomorrow. I told the teacher I might have taken the assignment a bit too seriously. Next week I'm doing another vaccine clinic (I'll be fine. I've done two already and I wasn't feeling so hot for either of those.) I think I suck as a sick person. I vacillate between feeling useless and depressed to contemplating the meaning of life, all to no avail. I don't want to talk to my friends because they want to know if I need anything and I'm good. I don't want to talk about it. Then I think about my many friends who have/are dealing with chronic conditions or cancer scares and I think I'm just an asshole. 

Jeezus.

These are my unvarnished thoughts, y'know. I don't want advice. I don't want to complain. I just...float here in this sick/healing body with foggy thoughts and hyper sensitive feelings. 

If I'm perfectly honest, I'd say I'm waiting, being patient and trying to be kind to this uncertainty, this off-kilter physical experience. I'm dizzy, unbalanced (literally) and unsure of my strength. Before this happened, I would launch into the day, ride my bike, swim, walk and hike for miles. Garden and water. Give myself daily tasks to write and meditate and do good deeds. Now I'm emptied out. Depleted. I do think about what it is to die, the withdrawing of the elements from the body. Not morbid here. Honest. Just a reflection on the corporality, the frailty of the body. Its' impermanence.  

Floating, that's what I'm doing. Floating. Taking the time to really look at the present moment without my usual distractions. Maybe in the world but not of it. Interesting. Very interesting. Untethered. 

What is important? We've been there for over a year. What matters to us? What really matters? I'll be coming back down the mountain and maybe I'll have some stories to tell. 


Monday, May 17, 2021

Welp-

Just got out of the hospital. Why, you may ask? Well, remember the two week regimen of horrid antibiotics? Well, a side effect is an overgrowth of C diff, which is another nasty bug that causes a type of colitis. I'd been babying myself, probiotics, yogurt etc etc thinking I just needed to restore my poor gut flora while my gut got sicker and sicker and more painful. I'd call the clinic and I'd get an appointment for  three weeks away (!!!!) Finally after a night of fevers and horrible cramping,  I dressed and drove myself to the ER. When I got into the exam room with a doc, I just started crying. Not to be a drama queen but from pain and fatigue and relief. I was there for 8 hours, got labs, another CT, an IV etc etc. They wanted to send me to the hospital in an ambulance but I got a friend to take me.

Everything I read about C diff is pretty scary, it can return, it is contagious, it can kill ya. We're hoping for the best-it doesn't return, its just a dread memory but at least if it does come back, I know what it is!!

BTW conscious sedation is the bomb.

Jeez and we just started being able to hang out with each other. 

Raining here. I love the way the plants glow with the water they ingest.

Thankful for my many friends who helped out over the last few days. They are the best. 

Sunday, May 09, 2021

 Dear friends-

Happy mother's day to all the mothers out there, whether you have human children, fur children, beloved chickens and gardens and/or you regularly 'mother' yourselves. In fact, all of us. 

Micha visited with May, who is her beloved foster baby. May is 7 months old and a fat and happy babe she is. Micha told me she has never loved anyone as much as May. Don't we know that feeling!! May's extended family is going to take her 'home' after a futile search for the birth dad. Apparently the birth mom is MIA too. Micha is facing heartache, oh boy. Comes with the territory, doesn't it?

My computer is not letting me post photos (sigh). I'll have to mess around to see what I can do about that. Apps invariably want you to pay something. Or if stuff is 'free', it is terrible to navigate. Meanwhile the second richest man IN THE WORLD hosted SNL. The first host on the spectrum, ok, that's good, but jeez. Billions of dollars so he can build a rocket ship. I will continue to be astonished at unbridled greed and heartlessness. 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-wealth-reduces-compassion/#:~:text=In%20one%20study%2C%20they%20found,others%20on%20a%20regular%20basis.&text=In%20addition%2C%20their%20heart%20rates,feelings%20and%20motivations%20of%20others.

One doorway to compassion is through our own suffering. We are aroused by the sorrow of others because we too have been there. The rich suffer when they contemplate losing their vast wealth. Not a problem I think I will ever have...

I did another vaccine clinic yesterday. It was the Asian counseling center near my house and wowza. What a beautiful building filled with modern Asian/Pacific Islander art. Just splendid.

Nancy's birthday was yesterday and we met in the park where we always meet for her birthday. We sat on blankets, ate cookies and read poems to Nancy. It was a great blustery day with a soccer game going on, people with their kids flying kites and dogs chasing frisbees. 

I visited a 3 day old baby this morning. A fat, pretty boy with lots of dark hair. And his happy mother and mother-in-law. So sweet on mother's day. 

Time to walk the dog. I promised hours ago.

Much love to all. 


Friday, May 07, 2021

 Dear friends-

Wednesday I went to the Ethiopian Muslim Association mosque. We vaccinated about 60 people. The Imam guided us around, taught us to take off or cover our shoes, cover our heads. The interior of the mosque had a carpet that is designed for individual prayer rugs and there was tape on the floor so folks would be safely spaced. We women and men were set up in different rooms with screens  and folding tables. My companion Lauren and I chatted together between giving shots. She's a public health nurse. Some of the women were scared, most were stoic. Several had two scars from smallpox vaccine. All of them were refugees with identification cards. 

We were fed lunch from a local Panera. During lunch was a call to prayer. How beautiful, the words in Arabic. Men and women came in and knelt down praying. 

I know woefully little about Islam, nothing really. So I will study, at least to have some idea. 

I'm taking a course in comparative religions from Harvard, free to audit. The focus is Buddhism and I'm learning so much. All the different schools from Pure Land to Tibetan, so different from one another. 

Humans are a mystery, right?

Tomorrow I again attend a 'pop-up' vaccination clinic for half a day. 

I continue to be amazed. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

 Dear friends-

I wished a bunch of people a happy mother's day and my daughter told me it's next Sunday. My response-the early bird catches the worm.

Sheesh.

And so it begins, right?

Waves of the pandemic, like waves in the ocean. Some bigger, some smaller. Some knocking us over and tumbling us around. And so on with that metaphor. 

We are thinking it's maybe over but it's not, not for a long time. I knew that last year, I just knew. This illness would grab us and shake us and threaten us in spite of vaccines and health precautions and all. And so many of us would die. 

The spring continues to bless us with her beauty. Maybe I'll get more than a handful of grapes this year. Judith and I went to Cougar Mountain to hike and we saw wild bleeding hearts and trillium and tracks of a deer. Felix got gloriously dirty. 

My sister called and asked if I still performed weddings and of course, I still do. She wondered if I were available next October and of course I am. She then told me she's getting married. WTF. She's been dating this guy in Florida for several months and he's a retired teacher from the Bronx with kids and grandkids and he's a widower and he is very fit for a 74 yo guy who bicycles and likes to dance and she sent me a photo of the two if them on New Year's Eve. And she's been totally silent all this time!!! He came on the phone and I said, Brooklyn? The Bronx? He replied, "two block from the Yankee Stadium." Annie's attended a Seder already. He's a very tall, slender man with his arm around my sis. 

Whaddya know. I am delighted for her and jealous too. I'll get over it. I mean, how lovely to find someone during the plague years to play with. Going to Florida was a smart move. So I guess I'll be helping them with a wedding in the fall. I got excited about going to Florida (Mary!) but they think they'll be in NYC. 

And that's it from the Pacific NW. Wednesday I vaccinate some folks. 

May all beings find happiness and the causes of happiness.

May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

May all beings experience the joy that is without sorrow,

And may that joy never leave them.

May all beings live in balance and in harmony,

freed from greed and aggression,

Believing in the equality of all that live.




Tuesday, April 27, 2021

 Dears-

I just started a 'program' called A Year to Live. The book is by Stephen Levine. With my dear friend  and Dharma teacher Mary Stancavage. On Saturday she led us in a meditation that set our 'death day', 365 days from 4/25/2021. We have daily practice and we'll be meeting once a month, until we die. 

One of my writing group called it 'morbid'. Granted, I'm two days in but I have thought often about this season. Spring. Will this be my last spring. How can I enjoy it completely. Last year allowed spring to unfold for me in the most intimate and illuminated way. Daily I attended to buds unfurling and weeds flourishing. The vegetable garden was bountiful. The elderberry was prolific and lush. With the fear of death hovering over us all, moments were more brilliant, our very breath life giving or life ending. 

Right now from my window a crow is perched on the top of a maple tree. Unconcerned with the ending of her life. We humans know we will die, just not when. But I know when (hypothetically). I want to be ready to meet it. I don't want to be like my friend James who struggled and suffered and was overcome with fear at the end. 

As I said to a therapist many years ago, "I don't want to be afraid to die because I was afraid to live."


Much love


Friday, April 23, 2021

 Dear friends-

I was diagnosed with a nasty GI bug and put on 2 weeks of horrid meds, which I have completed. Made me feel terrible. Still dealing with the repercussions. There will be a recheck to see if I'm 'cured' and then life goes on. At this point, replenishing my poor gut with fermented foods and probiotics. 

My healthcare provider offered NO help. I know you know. If we want to know what is wrong with us and we want to improve our health, we have to be proactive and do it ourselves. Dr Google helped me to understand what the bacteria was and suggested ways to recover. That's why so many of us visit naturopaths and acupuncturists and chiropractors. Western medicine is so inadequate. 

Of course, western medicine has made amazing advances, for example-vaccines for covid. But who has access to vaccines? Who gets to live and who dies? The inequities are so obvious. I'm lucky. I got vaccinated early. Unlike so many of my fellow citizens. 

I've registered to help with the vaccination effort in Seattle. Just waiting for my 'assignment'. I've asked to work in my neighborhood, which is largely Asian and immigrant Somalis and Ethiopians. 

I guess I'm just angry this morning. 

In other news, I attended another birth yesterday with our young midwife, Emily. It was the family's fourth baby. A strapping boy. She's a pediatric resident and he's a stay-at-home dad. They plan to return to Alaska to work in the Alaskan healthcare system. I'll go visit them on Sunday to see how they are doing and check in on their babe. I wish every mother had access to the type of care we provide. Back in the day, I thought that home birth with midwives would change the world. Ah, my young self. 

We moved the dogwood from the front of the house where it never bloomed to the back of the house and it is covered with blossoms. It needed to be cooler and out of the sun. What do we each need to thrive? 

Apropos of nothing, here is my new Website: mayasgarden.org.

I think it is very pretty. 

May you all be well and safe today. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Dear friends-

I'm back from the wilds of California and Oregon.  I drove many miles in my spiffy new car, blasting tunes and stopping occasionally to pee. Can I say? There were LOTS of folks without masks at rest centers, Safeways and gas stations. WTF. I know many of my fellow brethren distrust vaccines but jeez. How hard is it to wear a mask?? I know, I know. But the numbers of dead are so huge, our little brains or compassionate responses cannot handle it. Unless we know someone who has died, some of us just don't care. I can't comprehend the numbers but  I care, of course I do. Signed up to help with the vaccine effort here in the great NW. I give shots, I can give shots or whatever they want me to do. 

Driving through southern Oregon and into California, the views were breathtaking. Literally. I kept saying, 'holy shit'. Bluest skies, and mountains, some still with snow. Just gorgeous. Mount Shasta area, damn. Every time I drive through there I think I want to move there. I did also pass through burned acres, many burned acres. 

Eden was surprised to see me. She was confused, thought I was her sister at first. Hot springs, Pinnacles National Forest and a stop in Eugene to see old friends. Loved it all. 

Unfortunately I also got news of results from my endoscopy. I have H pylori, a nasty bacteria that causes ulcers and stomach cancer. Awesome. Many of us, maybe 1/2 the population harbors this dread bug. Anyway, I'm taking 5 pills twice a day for two weeks. Yuck. One of them makes my mouth dry and taste nasty. Fun times. Until I'm done with the treatment, there's no point in taking yogurt and probiotics. And I feel less than stellar. In fact, I'm planning to spend today in my bathrobe. I have to make myself take the dog out. But I'm grateful I have a diagnosis and it could be way worse. I've helped my friends who have had cancer and THAT is truly terrible. 

Anyway, I'm glad to be home. It's a typical day here, grey and rainy. I must admit, being in all that California sunshine was lovely. But the magnolia are blooming and so are the daffs. 

May we all enjoy our bodies, in whatever shape they are in at the moment.

Monday, March 22, 2021

 Dear friends-

I would like to complain and then I'll stop, k? 

It's cold and rainy here. Every day. Ug. I am a tolerant woman but sometimes it's just too much. My sister who has braved northern NY for years is now in Florida and planning to move there. I get it. Florida summers might be a bit much but she breezes out of the house in shorts and sandals while I'm up here gearing up in rain clothes and boots (again). Sigh. 

And I'm to 'isolate' until my endoscopy tomorrow. Covid test negative. Well, there's that. 

It's not dribbling outside. It's actually raining big rain drops. I know, first world problem. But day after day, c'mon. 

Because I can't leave the house until my procedure except to walk the dog (there's nobody out there, trust me) I have one day to get myself together to leave for Cal. 

Oh gawd, I am truly whining. 

In other news, I give a bit of money to causes I care about. They are monthly donations that come out of my account automatically. You may know that I facilitate two weekly meditation groups and one of the participants sends me money for each session. I always offer these sits for free and I told her she didn't have to send money but she does, every week. So I just pass it on to Buddhist nuns, a Dharma teacher and the Duwamish tribe (for 'rent') as I am living on their unceded land. 

See how that is? 

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”                                                                                                                                                      MLK

It adds to my understanding of karma, which I partially understand. The idea of passing it on, passing it through. That how we are in this life affects everything with implications for the future, our descendants and theirs and so on. And we're reaping actions from the past, sometimes the long past. Maybe there is 'instant karma' but I think that is a truncated understanding. 

We don't know how far and wide our goodness and generosity will travel. I do know it feels good to do good. To be a good person. I have often said that I don't know about enlightenment (or nibbana or nirvana or whatever). I aspire to be a mensch, a yiddish word for good person. 

I'm starting to counsel women who have had traumatic birth/postpartum experiences. I remind them that I'm not a therapist and I don't charge for listening. That is what I do, listen. I had my first person last week and I have another woman before I leave. Trauma lodges in the body and telling the story can help. I don't try to fix it or minimize their experience. I listen with kindness. There is so much pain in this world!! In a tiny way, perhaps this activity can alleviate a bit of suffering. 


Friday, March 19, 2021

 Dear friends-

I'm listening to Gabriel Byrne reading his memoir, "Walking with Ghosts". Beautiful writing with an Irish brogue. 

I talked to Dena, my brother's wife a few days ago. We told each other to stay in touch. What does that mean, stay in touch?

I talked to Eden this morning. She has a new dog who has behavioral problems (ha). She noted that we talk to each other more now. And it's true. As hard as it is to change the habit of a lifetime, the pandemic has changed my ideas of self preservation and self protection. Just as my brother turned his back on all of us, I did the same thing to my younger siblings. And, I now know, to my kids too. Parting from them was so painful and in those years when they went back and forth between their father and me so unbearable, I would close up...

So here I am, a mother who regularly talks to her kids. Eden's month with me loosened up our relationship too so that connection is more solid as well. 

I'm in a writing group now so I'm writing much more. It helps to be with others who are writing. One woman knows her word count (!). I fear I don't understand the relevance of that but maybe it's a publishing thing.

Time for a spring walk with Felix. He is sitting by the back door looking out. It's his Buddha pose. 


Sunday, March 14, 2021

 Dear friends,

I am reminded anew that my/our childhood was, in a word, fucked. My older half brother is in a memory care center and he is currently dying. I have not laid eyes on him since the 80's when my youngest brother invited all of us to visit him in Philly to meet his new wife and step kids. It was there that I learned that Dave (oldest) was told that his mother was dead when he was a child. Later found out she was very much alive and he tracked her down and developed a relationship with her. Stated that he hated both our parents, especially our mother. At the time, I thought, jeez, they're both dead. Now after all this time, I know how the damage done has long lasting effects. Dave effectively stopped communicating with the rest of us and we all scattered to our separate lives.

Geoff, youngest brother, spend that weekend completely drunk, as was his custom. Needless to say, it was not fun. My sister and I escaped as often as we could, to drive around the neighborhood and get away from the drama. 

So learning that Dave is not long for this world, I reached out to his wife. I have no quarrel with her, remember her as someone who was kind and loyal to Dave. There is much more to Dave's story (military school, jail time) that I won't go into here but suffice it to say, he survived by leaving and never coming back. We all did in our own way. Too much toxicity. 

All this to say. I've been thinking about him ever since my sister called with the news. Memories of him when I was quite small and the 'golden child'. He might have hated me, envied me, I'll never know. I idolized him, esp when he was in high school and I thought high school was the height of glamor and sophistication. I do remember several scenes of abuse and cruelty involving my mother and him. 

In the last several years, my middle brother has made a concerted effort to befriend and repair our fracturing. Dave wanted nothing to do with us. Geoff was gone to suicide. But we three-me, my sister and Dirk, have made an effort to connect and communicate. It has not been easy. But we've seen each other, we call each other and we stay in touch. I think all those years of pain and sorrow kept us running. Now we've decided to stop and stay. Before we too shuffle off this mortal coil, we can say we are family together. We may be weird as shit but we survived, we made lives for ourselves and we didn't perpetuate the damage. 

Dave's wife may not want to talk to me. So if she doesn't, that's ok. I can write to her, to apologize, to offer her good memories of her husband of over 50 years, to connect. And that's something.

 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

DOMi & JD BECK - Live at The Moroccan Lounge, DTLA 1/18/2020


What the actual fuck. Listen to the whole thing. The kid on drums is 16...

Sunday, March 07, 2021

 Explanations May Vary

                                                                       from Stories That Could Be True

Tinnitus. That's what it's called. One moment she could hear perfectly well. Then the mishap. Something stupid, really. She had been digging up bachelor's buttons in the garden. Ubiquitous blue flowers that spread everywhere, hard to contain. She was in her muddy garden clothes and big boots. Breaking up the root ball was hard work so she stood on the edge of the shovel, wooden handle in her hands. Jumping up and down when the handle leapt from her hand and whacked her on the side of her head. A shattering of the bones of the middle ear, a rupturing of the tympanic membrane. Sound was suddenly gone, like water in the ear. If she hopped on one leg while tipping her head, she could feel water drain out of her ear canal after her swim in the lake. But this was different. Permanent.

What returned was a high pitched whine, a thousand mosquitoes. A loss of stereo. No more discernment of direction.The audiologist told her the brain makes adjustments between her hearing ear and her deaf one. But if someone called her name, she could not tell where the sound was coming from. Right? Left? Behind her?

Ambient noise made conversation impossible. She said what a lot. What did you say? It's too noisy in here. I can't hear you.

When one of the senses is lost or destroyed, the others compensate. Deaf/blind people have an enhanced sense of touch. Their fingertips translate and record. When she delivered a baby for a deaf/blind woman, the mother and her deaf/blind friends absorbed the experience with their hands, their very skin. They felt the newborn's tender body. They smelled blood and amniotic fluid and latex gloves. They held and hugged each other. They talked with their hands.

Gradually she adjusted. She could still hear, after all. Sometimes the ringing was so loud, she couldn't ignore it. It was irritating. It filled up all the space in her head. After a while, she noticed whole days would go by without her attention captured by her loss. That's how she thought of it, her loss. Her mother had lost her hearing as a young child to the mumps and meningitis. She and her siblings grew up speaking slowly and distinctly so her mother could read their lips. This renewed compassion for her mother, a difficult woman. How had she raised five children? She couldn't use the phone. She couldn't hear music or car horns. How did she drive safely? How did she know when her babies cried?

Crows were easy to hear. They were loud, their croaks creaking hinges. She lived on a ridge line by a greenbelt and hundreds of crows flew overhead twice a day. They went north in the morning and south in the evening. She thought about it as going to the office during the day and coming home to the family at night. She imagined trees along the banks of the Green River thick with crows as the sun set.

Hearing loss is invisible. When she had surgery for torn ligaments in her knee, she became acutely aware of others using crutches and canes and wheelchairs. There was a bead, a thread of recognition between her and someone else who hobbled. Her injury was temporary. For others it was their lived reality; the persistence of stairs, the pitch of hills, the narrowness of doorways. Even getting out of bed, using a toilet, taking a shower became a prolonged process.

Then the plague happened. Everyone in isolation, hoping to stay healthy. Masks, distancing, obsessively watching the news. How many dead in Europe, in India, in New York? Nursing homes emptied out, refrigerated trucks to hold the bodies. Wave after wave of deaths, people dying without family or friends to witness or comfort. The planet shrank.

The ringing grew louder again, more insistent. As she sat in her living room day after day, waiting for something, anything to swerve or change, her ear roared. The crows cut through the buzz that was more like a shriek. Distant traffic from the freeway could have been the ocean. Sirens were a reminder that death stalked her town, her street; scything the old, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged. Days turned into weeks into months. The calendar became a new year. And still enforced loneliness.

If she put on headphones, she could quiet the restless ear for a time. She took walks. She noticed the rise and fall of the garden through the year. She became attuned to the timing of flowers and plants. Daffodils sprouted before tulips. The dogwood bloomed later and preferred cooler weather. Honeysuckle was prone to aphids. Peas and spinach could be planted early. Carrots and beets needed to spend a long time underground before they were big enough to harvest. Seasonal change became more vivid. She noticed humming birds often. She watched the elderberry flourish bouquets of tiny flowers that gradually became purple berries which she made into syrup. Good for the immune system, they say. She thought to herself, maybe good for the immune system in the before times.

Relentless. The howling in her ear was relentless. It was there when she slept. It was there when she woke. She welcomed the crows and their raucous conversations. She turned her attention skyward in the morning and at night. She bought a bag of seed for songbirds which the crows helped themselves to liberally. She had heard that crows recognize faces and she wondered if they still could with masks. She did notice a few crows waiting for her when she went out to throw a handful of seed in the driveway.

At night, she would stand on her back porch facing the greenbelt to hurry the crows home, especially if the weather was turning and the wind was cold. One night she stood there a long time as the light faded and the street lamps from the town below flashed on and off through the wavering trees. As it grew darker and the sky turned to indigo, large clouds billowed, forming and reforming, obscuring then revealing the Big Dipper. She experienced a feeling of being untethered. Was she moving or was the sky? The clouds were moving fast towards the North as if they had an important meeting and they were late. She imagined horse or pig or fox but as she continued to watch, clouds began to elongate into human shapes, trailing long night shirts or winding sheets. As her sense of familiarity enlarged, she began to hear voices, indistinct and cacophonous. Murmurings and laments. She clutched the railing as she continued to look up.

The dead. Hundred of the dead, thousands of the dead. Lifted from their lives swiftly and brutally. The virus that stalked the land prying elders, children, young men and women from their solidity and purpose into this endless trail of sorrow. Flying overhead. She could hear them. She could see their cloud bodies being drawn inexorably to some magnet, some point in the atmosphere beyond her sight or understanding. Perhaps they were being pulled by the North Star. And they were speaking, singing, wailing. For who had spoken for them? Without memorial or funeral or the touch of a friendly hand, they were gone.

It is said that the dead roam the earth when they are unlamented. It is said that clouds weigh thousands of pounds. They are made of water. Water is heavy. When they come close to wreath mountains, hikers will walk through misty air. And clouds descend as rain until the water is lifted up and they reform as clouds again. One of the movements in TaiChi is called 'cloud hands' which is a sidestepping motion while waving the hands in slow circles. . It mimics the movement of clouds as they appear and disappear.

As she stood there in the dark, she listened intently, willing the storm in her ear to form into discernible words. The great unwinding. Was it the suddenness of their deaths? Was it the collective fear of the living? Was she being summoned?

Faster and faster, clouds hurried along. She stood, unable to move, feeling the cold air on her face.

Rain. At first small scattered drops, one drop on her hand, another in her hair. Then it began to rain in earnest, wetting and then soaking her sweater and jeans. The cloud shapes dissolved into an amorphous mass as the rain obscured her vision. But the voices continued their insistent chatter. She closed her eyes as the rain dripped off her glasses and ran into her mouth. She felt herself absorbing the disembodied lives of the dead. They were touching her, flowing along her skin. She could feel their weight, their sorrow, their confusion and lost direction. How had they found themselves in such company, so many of them? She turned her palms over to catch the raindrops, willing herself to stay, to stand in the wet dark.

Eventually she went inside, stripped off her wet clothes and went to bed. She couldn't sleep. She lay in the dim light of her bedroom with her eyes open. Listening. Waiting.

In the morning, she arose to a streaked pink and gold sunrise. Puddles stood on the deck and in the garden. She had forgotten to turn the wheelbarrow over. An inch of rain had collected there. She slipped on her gardening shoes and went outside. Before she tipped over the wheelbarrow, for a moment she saw clouds and her face reflected in the rusty water.







Saturday, February 27, 2021

Darlings-

Yesterday was my birthday and my friend Nancy has been staying with me to give her daughter at break (daughter from Germany, both in a 1 bedroom house, a bit cramped). Anyway, so so great to eat together and hang out. And she made me an apple pie for my birthday. The secret to good crust? a pound of butter. And she added cardamom to the apples. Let me say, hells to the yes. So delicious. 

So I hiked with Judith on Tiger mountain, swam, got a massage and ate pie with my friend. Perfect, just perfect.  


Signs of spring are afoot. Crabapples are blooming by the gate. Green shoots in the woods. A bit of sun today, just enough to coax us out of the house. I may go to a birth tonight. Lordy, it's been a while. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Dear ones,

We had 20 inches of snow last weekend and now there are a few little piles of snow here and there. We were fine, unlike Texas. Texas is truly horrifying. 

My yard last Saturday. 

I bought a new(er) car. A bigger car. A car I intend to drive to California some day. I've even allowed myself to get a wee bit excited about this idea, me tooling down the road, listening to tunes and singing along. My sister has decided to move to Florida (Mary!) so if she really does, I'll have to visit her during the dark and crappy months of cold and rainy Seattle. 

However.

I have solar panels which did not save me from an astronomical electric bill. And the system was not communicating with a program that tells me monthly how much power the panels have generated. I changed my WIFI months ago and kept getting messages, which I ignored. That bill came today and I hit the roof, as my mother would say. I decided to reconnect the reporting system to my new WIFI and some curse words were uttered, you can be sure. I was yelling at the computer, at my phone and to the power box hanging off my house.  I had screwdrivers and a hammer, none of which I needed, by the way. I got so frustrated and all the while I was thinking, jeezuz, not so peace and love Buddhist of you, are you. 

BUT I FIGURED IT OUT. Without losing my shit completely and without a man to do it for me. 

I didn't lower my bill. I'm saving my wrath for Monday when I can call the power company and rant. 

The same thing happened with my new printer. I was bracing myself for hours of fun trying to sync up the printer to the computer and it was ridiculously easy. Easy as pie, which I wish I had right now. I have to wait for an event to make pie because I can't eat a whole pie by myself. Well I could, but I'd be ashamed of myself. Cherry pie is the best or maybe lemon meringue or blueberry. 

My birthday is on the 26th. I might have to have pie, regardless. I'll be 71, an age I never thought about before. That's officially old, right? Still not feeling it. 

All fully vaccinated, y'all. 


 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Thursday, January 21, 2021

 Dear friends-

Well we watched the inauguration crying a little and laughing a little and listening to a 22 yo Black woman OWN the mic and her words for all of us. And we saw Barack and Michelle and the Clintons and even Mike Pence. And at night we watched some pretty splendid fireworks and people with their arms around each other, the people we voted into office in their finery and we didn't even care that they didn't have a big party with swishy dresses and music and champagne. And we heard our new president speak some powerful words with his faith, his heart and as my friend Rachel said, maybe he can be a spiritual leader, this man of sorrows. I hesitate to go there because he is a politician but, damn, he knows loss. And grief. 

Today is the day after and Biden is doing his best to right some wrongs, rejoin the WHO and the Paris Climate Accord and reverse the Muslim ban and reunite children with their parents and streamline citizenship for thousands of undocumented folks who harvest our food and wash the dishes and work in a multitude of ways invisible to many of us. 

He can't hurry up the distribution of the vaccine but he can tell the truth about how many more dead there will be and when, just when we might get to a place where fewer and fewer of us are dying. And maybe then our front line workers can get a good night's sleep and have breakfast with their children. 

We have lost so much. And Biden spoke directly to the loss of life. As horrifying as those numbers are, telling the truth is what brings a kind of respite to our hearts. We know...but being gaslighted for 4 years has hurt us more than we can know. The long nightmare is not over but we can begin to awaken to start tending to our wounds. 

Of course, it ain't over, the damage. We have seen what is before us. Once again, a great racial reckoning, a turning to systemically change systems of oppression. We have seen the ugliness in our fellow citizens. Now is not the time to go back to sleep. The State will continue to kill and imprison Black and Brown folks unless we stand on the front lines to protest and refuse to sanction by our inaction. 

This might be a rant. Or maybe it's all we've been saying for these many years and months. Maybe it is a collective howl. 

Most forcefully yesterday I felt the loss of all those lives, men and women and children of all colors and privilege who died from the virus because of the callousness of one man. The ghosts in all our cities and towns urging us to show up and be active in our lives, for goodness and healing and love. For that is our birthright, the softness and brilliance of our hearts. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Dear friends-

I've been off on a (virtual) women's retreat with two of my favorite teachers. There were about 40 of us, sitting and walking, chanting and being silent. And no internet or cell phone. I allowed myself a chance to read and so I finished the John Lewis biography. What a splendid and beautiful man he was. The book "Walking with the Wind" is thick. His life was long and eventful. He moved us along. He loved us and this country. And non-violence was his light. 

I've just made a lasagna. Because I live alone, I don't get to cook epic dishes like I used to when I had children at home and there wasn't a pandemic. My friends down the road have agreed to let me cook for them sometimes and I'm delighted. So far we've enjoyed squash soup, miso soup with ginger, flourless peanut butter cookies and a loaf of bread. When this hefty thang comes out of the oven, I will ferry most of it over to them. They're gonna give me some curry although Deanna admits they don't cook much. I am eyeing an olive oil cake recipe that sounds great. 

It's been gray and overcast for days. We've had enormous rainfall too and last week a storm blew through here with 50-60 mile an hour winds. I woke up to a loud bang !, a big flash of light and driving rain pounding on the windows. Many folks lost power and there were lots of downed trees all over the city. And for some inexplicable reason, my mattress warmer turned itself on...maybe it got scared?


These are, unfortunately, only part of my next knitting project. Uh-oh. I should probably stick to hats. 

The 20th is upon us. 

Thursday, January 07, 2021

I know.

Another terrible day.

So many people dying in California.

Berserk white people, mostly men, in DC. 

Loss.

There were three people in the crowd who had 'medical events' and they died. I saw that one of them was receiving chest compressions and I thought 'heart attack'. 

Of course. When our hearts break, from pain or loss or anger, they may stop beating. That fragile fruit, hanging within our ribcage. So easily bruised, frightened, damaged.  

When we rise up against one another, with our righteousness, there is a darkness that overcomes us. Whenever I heard a friend say she hoped Trump would die from the virus, I felt it like a blow. I shrank from the thought. Somewhere he is a trembling human. All those men swarming the capitol building are humans, with the same needs and cares and worries like mine. 

Today I put on my wetsuit and met a bunch of women by Puget Sound. They were in bathing suits and t-shirts and yoga pants. We stood, paddled, floated in the 48 degree water for 20 minutes, enough time for my hands to go completely numb. Makes getting out of a wetsuit rather challenging. Came home and got in the hot tub, drank hot cocoa and got into bed with my electric mattress pad turned up. 

Of course, people who threaten others for their ideological beliefs or misadventure, misunderstanding or confusion...well, there are consequences. Nothing is ever 'lost' forever. Racism was never 'gone', it was just buried. The laws of cause and effect are eternal laws. Karma, if you will. Karma actually means action and it is said that our actions are all that we truly have. 

Going into this new year, we can choose. I think of Mary's chickens and her love for them. Or Elizabeth's writing. Or the beautiful music and quotes that Sabine publishes. All of us here in this little virtual community enrich and care for each other. Yes, there is so much despair. But there is standing in terribly cold water and feeling the body rising to meet the challenge. Our hearts can rise to meet the challenges of our broken and troubled world. 

Sisters, I love all of you.

Beth


Friday, January 01, 2021


 On Eden's last day, we hiked the Mt Washington trail. It SAID it was 8 miles round trip and a hella lot of elevation gain. We groaned and complained on the way up. When we hit snow and ice, we decided to turn around. Without reaching the summit, we still did 9+ miles. Ha! A wee bit sore the next day. 

Then Eden somehow packed everything into her car and left for LA. She's with her sister now in the Bay area. The first morning as I lay in bed I thought I should get up and make her some coffee...but she wasn't here. 

How can we explain the love we feel for our children? There are the usual tropes. We've all heard them and they are true. There is no other relationship like it. A child, born from our bodies, grows up and becomes who they are, distinct from us and yet, we see glimpses of ourselves repeated. I can't decide if it's a peculiar kind of narcissism or concentric circles of our interconnection. Eden and I share a warped sense of humor, the kind where we 'get' each other. What joy that is. A side eye from her conveys a volume of meaning. And yet. And yet she inspires me. Music she has introduced me to. Her activist anti-racism. Her sparkling intelligence. Her love of adventure. Her conversations with my dog. Her sublime silliness. Her last command to me "Momma, don't die before I see you again!"

Dear girl, I'll do my best. 

Three days ago, I got the first Moderna vaccine. I go back for the second in a month. I was instructed to sit in my car afterwards for 15 minutes before I left to see if I would have a reaction. So I sat in my car, sobbing. It was relief and anguish. Relief that maybe I could see clients in person again eventually. Anguish that so many folks will be waiting months to be vaccinated. That a combination of my 'status' as a health care person and the fierceness of my boss and serendipity led me to a pediatric clinic where there was a line of folks waiting to be vaccinated on a pair of folding chairs out in the rain. The 'rollout' is a hot mess. Another legacy of the outgoing chaos. 

But.

Happy New Year to all. 2020 was surely a terrible, bad, not very good year. It will take a long time for us to recalibrate to-we don't know what is ahead. 

In the meantime, I'm gonna suit up and go swimming in Puget Sound tomorrow with the other cold water lunatics. 

Love and kindness all around.


Naomi Shihab Nye reads "Kindness"