Crowz Nest

Because it's time... as it was once before.

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Location: Port Murray, NJ

I'm a bit old to be starting out in life again, but that's where I am. Sadly. Or gladly. It's where I am. Come along. Watch the fun. Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Coming of age

When my husband announced he was leaving me one sunny Sunday morning in August 2004, I was already motherless. I realized that when, in the midst of my agony and confusion, the one person I wanted was my mother. But the one person I hid this from was my mother. It took me weeks before I felt strong enough to tell her. She adored Bas, felt that he had really stepped up to the plate in caring for her. She did not know and could not have understood that she and her growing health needs were just one more burden, one more facet of my life from which he had already shut himself off emotionally, and that, when he seemed present for her, he was actually as disconnected as it is possible to be.

In the months that followed, despite the pain of the wound I'd been dealt, I found that I had to simply put my aching heart down, and learn the meaning of being present for my mother. As her hallucinations consumed larger and larger portions of her reality, as her physical abilities slowly declined, and her bank account rapidly evaporated, her role in my life shifted.

She is my mother. She will always be my mother. That is who she is. But now, she is no longer completely who she was. It is now at least a month since I have seen her fully conscious. She sleeps most of the time. It is anything but a peaceful sleep. In her sleep she cries out, and struggles, and pleads for things to stop. And she talks. Oddly, her speech is far more coherent in her sleep or her delirium than it is when she's really trying to relate to reality. When you can understand her words, she is in some other place. When you can't understand her, she is struggling mightily to tell you something which, you can tell from the scraps you manage to catch, actually does have some bearing on what is going on around her.

In her sleep, she calls names. Most often, "Mama." We, her kids, never called her "Mama." She was "Mom," or more often "Mommy." It was her own mother who was "Mama" to her. Her mother died in 1977. In 1977, my mother was 51 years old - two years younger than I am now. Now I know what I didn't know then. She was too young to lose her mother.

The other names she calls are "Isabel," and "Helen." Isabel was her mother's sister, 15 years older than my mother, and more like an older sister to her than an aunt. Almost without fail when she speaks Isabel's name, she rouses enough to open her eyes and look at me and ask, "Isn't she beautiful? Didn't you think she looked beautiful?" It is the voice and question of a little girl. I can only imagine the Isabel, not yet 20 years old, that the little girl who was my mother is seeing.

Helen is Isabel's oldest daughter. She is 15 years younger than my mother. When my mother speaks of Helen, she smiles and laughs, and says, "She's a bugger, isn't she?"

And my father's name, either as Chet, Chester, or Daddy, is another that my mother speaks in her sleep or during her hallucinations. Her own father was "Pop," and while we were growing up, she often called my father Daddy. I know she's talking to him. While I was feeding her her lunch on Christmas day, she clenched her teeth against a forkful of mashed potatoes and refused to eat anymore. When she looked at me, I wasn't sure she was "there." Suddenly, she raised her head as high as she can these days, and called, clear as a bell, "Chester, are you awake?" It made me laugh, and I was swept back to the living room of my childhood home. I could see my father sitting in the armchair which is now in my own living room. His legs are crossed, his hands folded on his knees, and his head is lolling on his chest. He's snoring. And my mother walks into the living room, ready to go wherever we were about to go, or ready to serve dinner, and she says, clear as a bell, "Chester, are you awake?" His head snaps up, his eyes open, he winks at me and he says, "Of course, I am. I was just resting my eyes." My mother was 65 when she lost her husband. I have lost two of them, though neither to death. I know, as intimately as it is possible to know another's heart, that she was not old enough to lose her husband.

Yesterday, I sat on my mother's bed in the skilled nursing home in which she lives, after having wheeled her out of the common room in which I found her, muttering and crying, half or fully asleep, sitting in a row of wheelchairs facing a television which was playing to no one, despite the full room. I thought perhaps we'd manage a few moments of connection and a few words of conversation in the quiet of her own room. She was never with me at all, and for the first time, I never got her to say who I was. So, I held her hand, and I studied her face, and when she got agitated and began to cry, asking for whatever nightmare she was living to stop, I spoke quietly to her and assured her that she was fine, that I was there, that nothing bad was happening to her. She would quiet. And I studied her features, watching the invisible side of her dreams, delusions, and nightmares as they flitted across her eyelids, or drew her mouth down in fear, or made her smile or scowl.

I can see my whole life there, on that face, in that frail hand. The circle has closed, as I have changed her diaper, and cut her food, and wiped her chin. As I try to calm her by bringing her breathing down to match mine, I see my past, when she did the same for me when I was a child who could not sleep, or felt afraid. And I see my future.

I can't see who will be holding my hand. I only hope there will be someone, and that whoever it is, whoever chooses in one moment to be the tether between this place and the next for as long as a tether is needed, will feel the same fullness and love that I feel in those quiet moments when all baggage is set aside, and sharing between mother and daughter is truly open. So, in this moment, left with no choice but to fully be there or not be there at all, I choose to be there. This is an unencumbered connection. This is just about as honest as love gets.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Nearly Perfect Day

I drove up to Connecticut yesterday morning to spend the day with Joe. We were going to have a late breakfast and spend a few hours together. On a whim, at the last minute, I threw my hiking boots and parka in the back seat, thinking maybe we'd end up driving around and stopping somewhere. I'd rather have had them with me than regret not being able to hike into some of those pretty woods because I didn't. We drove into a park, overlooking Lake Lillinonah. Joe spotted an eagle soaring over the water. The eagle alit on a tree just across the water from us. We weren't close enough to get a good shot.
Even with zoom on my feeble little digital, this was the best we could do. You can just see the eagle as a black dot on a branch in the middle of the image (you can click for a closer look,) but it'll do for memories. I know it was there.

We decided to see if we could walk in a bit closer, but the CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH of our boots on the crusty snow was far from the shush shush shush we needed not to spook it, and it took off. We did have a chance to watch it swooping over the lake from a distance for a bit, but we soon got back into the car and started driving around the lake. We went past a picturesque little farm near a corner, and took the turn up a short hill just beyond it.

We stopped and almost turned around when we found ourselves on a little cul-de-sac, but there was a locked gate across the mouth of a trail up at the end that begged our attention. There were no signs prohibiting entrance, so we decided to hike in a bit. That turned out to be a good decision. There was one set of footprints going up, and the same set coming down, but otherwise, aside from coyote tracks, deer tracks, and racoon tracks, the snow was unmarked and we were alone. We hiked up and found the remains of a small building - just a brick chimney and a corner of the foundation, where some charred beams showed us there'd been a fire. There was a strange little stone tower, short and wide. A small entry led into the interior, and it had one internal wall bisecting it, with a small opening between the two halves. It had clearly had a roof at one time, but gave few clues as to its original purpose. Best guess was it might have been for silage of some sort. Joe said it clearly had some age on it. It was wrapped with some sort of pipe, the purpose of which eluded me, but Joe tells me it was reinforcement, put there to hold the stone in place. We couldn't figure it out, but it was fun to poke around in it and wonder.

Further on, we came upon three walls of a stone foundation left of what had probably been a barn. Interesting to think there had been a farm stuck up there on the side of a mountain like that. I remember in history class in elementary school, reading that farming had been hard for the settlers in New England because of how rocky the soil was. Pretty clear how tough it must have been when you're actually walking around on all that granite and quartz.

Coming back down, the views of the lake were spectacular.

The little farm we'd passed on our way up was tucked right up against the lake, and from up above, it was even more picturesque than it had been from the side of the road.

What a spectacularly beautiful day it was. Nothing feels better than to be dressed just right, such that your hands, feet, and trunk are comfortably warm, but your face is glowing with the cold. Nothing feels better than that except to look at your companion and realize you are exactly where you want to be, next to the person with whom you want to be, and so deeply present in the moment that you wouldn't choose to be anywhere else on earth. There is no feeling that comes closer to perfection.

The only thing that keeps such a day from achieving total perfection is that time moves too swiftly, and the day comes to an end. With more time that flaw is erased. Perfection lands lightly upon memory, and the day remains with me forever. Perfect.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back by popular demand...

Puppies grow. Inexorably. Inevitably. Grow. Back by popular demand, Stone. By all accounts, an extraordinary little guy. Popular vote says that Stone was the cutest thing ever as a little puppy. I say as a not so little puppy he's still got a lock on the title.

Bridget's little guys have grown, as well, and they also are still officially too cute for words.

Pups can't look much happier than that if they try, can they?

One thing about Springers, though, they've also got a lock on "goofy."
How's this for a lapful of goofiness?

Compare expressions of lapful of goofy Springers or penful of happy Springers with expression of solemn, thoughtful GSD pup. Delightful range in Canis domesticus, no?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Will the madness never end?

I've been knitting. And knitting. And knitting. And knitting. It started early in December, when I finished a baby gift for a friend, and felt at loose ends. I decided to stop by the store and see what kind of fun yarn I could find to play with. I discovered that there are lots and lots and lots of fun new novelty yarns out there. And once I started playing with them, I discovered that they were really fun to work with, yielding really surprising results. So, I went back to the store and bought more, and made more.

I made dozens of scarves and I made shawls, and I knit until I'd poked holes in my fingers. And I kept knitting. And knit some more. And I'm not done.

Now there's a pile of knitting on my armchair - three shawls, two done, one nearly so. And there's a scarf peeking out from beneath them. I made my friend Katrene a shawl out of Lion Brand homespun yarn, which comes in such yummy colors and works up so quickly and beautifully that you can't decide which color to buy, so you buy more and more and more, and end up making a shawl for all your other friends, and for yourself, too.

I made scarves out of eyelash yarn, which is really funky looking stuff in the skein, which you cannot imagine will yield such amazing results. I made three, one for each of the students who work for me. And I made another two, one for each of my nieces. Here's my beautiful but camera-shy niece, Alison, modeling hers on Christmas day.
I made myself a black one with red peeking through to go with my black leather jacket, and then I made myself another one, just like Alison's, which is black with shades of raspberry and umber and pink, to go with my raspberry cordouroy jacket. Then, I made my friend, Deb, a black one with shades of blue and purple.

And I made mountains and mountains more. Through it all, faithful by my side, laid The Crow.

Deep, deep sighs, and soulful looks failed to stop me and bring me out of my knitting mania. I'd look over, and there she'd be, trying as hard as she could to convince me that throwing a tennis ball would be a much better way to spend hour after endless hour. She's not yet convinced me. The thing is, which I can't explain to this patient and sad face, there's a zen about knitting that's simply absent from hurling a soggy tennis ball over and over again. I can't explain it, except to say that the more I knit, the calmer I feel. Oh well. Never mind. I have to stop blogging now, and go finish another shawl. (And if you click on each of the photographs, you can see more detail in the knitting!)