March 21st ’18
Every so often I pull back. I slowly drift away from all writing, the last to go is the Memory Jar I fill throughout the year with quick thoughts and reminders of who, where and how I am.
It has been a month of Nor’Easters, too much snow and cold, hunkering down. Every week so far has featured a day when leaving the house involved trekking to the shed to start the snow blower and counting the daylight hours.
Spring arrived yesterday but the warmth and smell of the earth is absent. So if I haven’t been inclined to document daily movements, I’m to be forgiven. It’s been a month of feeling as if I’m on hold. Alice’s health is failing, my thoughts of a new career have slipped back behind the reality of loving the one I’ve got, and my creativity has flowed into other areas.
The annual Chamber Gala is upon me. This is my third year working on this event. I’ve learned a lot about raising money, filling seats and organizing an affaire. Last year while planning the Gala, I was in a dark place. It was the only thing on my calendar prior to my plan to depart this life. My sister showed up on the snowy deck outside my kitchen one night. She was the only one privy to my decrepid state of mind. I startled at the sight of someone lurking in the pale moonlight. She vowed not to try to dissuade me but merely to see me before I took my life.
Obviously, I got past the well of despair; I do not care to dwell on it here. Much of my anxiety was as a result of not knowing how I would survive the coming months; House on the market for a year, no steady income, dwindling resources and no immediate end in sight. I have the luxury of looking back, remembering and feeling strong about my survival.
So the annual Gala now signals renewal to me. It is a fun exercise in planning when I get past the stress of expecting too much of others and just putting my shoulder into it, attacking the details. Tickets sold out three weeks prior, sponsorships and raffle donations are woefully lacking. Go out and get it done, don’t rely on email, phone messages – look people in the eye, tell them what you are doing and ask them to help. Amazingly simple concept, but alas, I hate the thought of sales.
Here’s to missing the fourth Nor’Easter and watching the ground emerge through the ice and snow.
She was sitting with the Sing Along Group when I arrived. I tried to catch her eye and when that failed, I slipped into her room to wait. The singing stopped so I wandered back out to the living room. This time she looked up, confused and obviously struggling to reconcile my presence.
“Hey Mary! Let’s go out for a walk. It’s a balmy 40 degrees and the sun is trying to come out.”
“Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I’m doing now. It’s raining isn’t it?”
Another resident smiled up at me then leaned in to Mary. “It’s a lovely day for a walk. I’d go out if I were you.”
After several minutes of coaxing, she pulled on her coat while I hunted down her hat, gloves, and walking stick. In the truck as we drove away she was still muddled. “I just don’t know from one minute to the next what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s all so confusing.”
“You are doing what you want. After taking care of your whole world it’s your turn to be pampered and just enjoy the day.”
“I don’t want to be pampered.”
“I get that. It’s hard to let go and let others take care of you but you raised five beautiful children and now you can take a break from being the caregiver.”
“Five?! I have five children!? Well, that explains some of this.” And from that point on I was privileged to watch the cobwebs clear from her mind. Our walk along the river proved easy and ice-free. A clump of young oak trees provoked her – “That one is saying ‘I was here first!’ Don’t they look like kids fighting over a favorite stool?” The faint blue tinge to the hollows of melting snowbanks delighted her. Memories and thoughts flowed along the path as we walked.
On the drive home we passed several wicket signs announcing a local church’s Easter Egg festival. “2018 Helicopter Egg Drop! Well that certainly sounds messy!” she remarked. I couldn’t hold back a giggle. We arrived back just in time for her to join the group for lunch. “Mary! You’re glowing. How was your walk?” the nurse declared as she held out a chair for her in the dining room.
In Praise of Mud Season
Suddenly, bare brown patches of earth and rocks are appearing. The soft deep blanket of snow that has covered my world for so many months is receding and pale shoots are thrusting upward. In much the same way, all of my existence has been under layers – layers of blankets, layers of clothes; my skin is pale and fragile, my spirit has been hushed.
A full moon is building and new month cresting. The influences are palatable around every turn when I quiet my mind and suck in the fresh air. A walk with Mary today made me acutely aware of the gurgle of the streams, racing down the hills between boulders and rocks, gravel and sand, emptying into the lake. Our view across the water was softened like an impressionistic water-color by the billowing clouds of fog as the warm temperatures assaulted the weak frozen defenses of the pond’s surface. A blue jay screeched overhead. “Oh Hello!” Mary remarked. We searched for green shoots among the leaf litter and detritus of the snow plow’s tracks along the side of the road.
Though we parked in front of the house, I didn’t invite Alice to join us. Mary has become more doddering and I now feel most comfortable with an arm looped through hers. Alice too is now more erratic on our walks and I fear both would be too much of a distraction. There is joy in how each of them sees the world as we stroll.