Discharged from Hospice

September 8, 2014

Time has just totally gotten away from us.  Osbeth had been on hospice, even had to be renewed for another 6 months when she wasn’t doing very well and her prognosis was she only had another 6 months.  But then she did improve enough that they discharged her!  Most people assume once on hospice, you die!  Not so!

In fact, many people improve with the comfort, nourishment, and attention that hospice staff provide for everyone in the family, including the caregivers: the patient feels their loved ones will be taken care of, they are no longer in pain as hospice nurses and doctors are pain management experts and can provide more relief than hospitals/home health.  With people from the various services and disciplines (nurse, aide, social worker, chaplain and volunteer) visiting a few times a week – these kind, caring, compassionate people listen and act to bring hope and joy and meaning back into the patient’s and caregiver’s lives, so much so that many patients improve and have to “graduate” from hospice.

The downside is that it then can feel like a loss since patient and family have come to welcome these hospice people into their lives, and now they no longer come.  But the patient has graduated back into life.  At any time, if their condition worsens, they can be readmitted into hospice.  It was wonderful while we had hospice, but now even more wonderful that Osbeth is doing well enough to be discharged.  In true Osbeth fashion, she is working on a list of things she would now like to do, write more of her memoirs is at the top of her list.

 

 

 

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Which hospice? What Questions to ask?

June 4, 2013

The next question to address, after Osbeth decided she was ready for hospice, was “Which hospice?”  There are a few in our area so I called each one and asked them to send me brochures.  I didn’t want to influence Osbeth in her decision by assuming she would choose the hospice I had worked for and recently retired from.  lt was an excellent hospice but Osbeth needed information on all the hospices for her decision-making.  What would Osbeth want to know?  So I put together a list of questions I had learned were important from working in hospice that were to be asked and discussed with each hospice over the phone:

1- DO YOU MAKE HOME VISITS? 

In the United States home visits are the rule, not the exception as it is in England, where the modern-day hospice started.   England used an institution based location thinking people would want the technical care received in a hospital.  In the US, where individualism is highly prized, people want to stay in their homes, even as they are dying.  With modern technology, medical technology can be coordinated within a person’s home environment.

2 – DO YOU HAVE AN IN-PATIENT UNIT?

Some hospices have an in-patient unit and some just do home-based care.  But those that do so may have respite care available for up to 5 days if the caregiver is worn out or if the family is going away for a wedding/funeral/family reunion and need a place for the patient to stay until they get back.  And some families find that caring for the patient at the end is just too much for them.  Most hospices do not have the financial means available to just keep a patient indefinitely who needs care but has no caregiver or no one willing to be a caregiver.   If a hospice says they will take the patient at any time other than for respite or at the end, be sure to have a written statement to that effect.  Most only take a patient into their in-patient hospice when they are actively dying.

3 – DO YOU HAVE STATE/MEDICARE CERTIFICATION?

The State Certification is necessary to operate within the state.  Most also have Federal/Medicare Certification in order to allow Medicare patients to be a patient in their hospice since Medicare covers the cost of hospice care.

4 – ARE YOU JOINT COMMISSION CERTIFIED?

Most people have no clue as to what Joint Commission is and why it might be important.  The Joint Commission is an independent group which monitors hospice and home health care to a higher standard than State or Federal/Medicare guidelines.   It is to your advantage to check if a hospice is accredited with Joint Commission.  Osbeth understands the importance of being with a Joint Commissioned hospice as she has heard me talking about the lengths we went through for training and perfecting skills when I worked in hospice. 

5 – ARE YOU A FOR-PROFIT OR NOT-FOR-PROFIT HOSPICE?

It is important to check out if the hospice is for-profit or not-for-profit because the main motive to be in operation is generally different.  Not-for-profits are mainly concerned about patients and families and less so about finances.  The reverse seems to be true regarding for-profits.  Just think about it – the answers you get from other questions asked fall into line about the two types.

I have to run now – Osbeth is calling for help with her food.  Will continue with more questions regarding questions for choosing a hospice soon.

Time for Hospice

May 19, 2013

5-18-13  Osbeth Time for Hospice-rot,lt

few years ago.  She thinks I should go for more tests, more surgery,  more chemotherapy, more of everything and anything.  

Elsie doesn’t realize that there comes a time when one is finished with “more” and ready to rest, ready for “more” of a different sense: the real experience of passing over into another realm.  So it is hard for me to admit I’m ready if they see it as a rejection of them rather than I don’t want to be a burden to them.  Some other cultures feel it is too much of a burden for the patient to decide so the eldest son makes all the decisions. That’s not the way I lived my life and not the way I’ll die my death. 

The choice being mine is easy because I am ready.  I’ve loved my life but now I’m ready for the journey to cross over into unknown lands.  Actually it sounds as if it could be an interesting adventure.   I feel that I am finally ready for hospice.  I’ve cried even as I’ve rejoiced at the prospect.  It is as though your final performance on stage is at hand, and you can still make it your best performance ever.  Will it be acting or real?  Or both?

Hospice will assist us by providing support of whatever services we want (we can decline anything but the nurses) here in my home and in my bed.  The support is not only for me but also for Nan and Elsie.  Nurses will come to care for my bodies needs with palliative care, not curative care (they will assist in keeping the symptoms under control, not try to cure the basic cause), aides will bathe me and change linens and educate and show Nan how to best move me and provide care, a chaplain will be available for any of us who wishes to talk with him, the social worker will help Nan particularly in helping prepare Elsie for my passing and then will assist them in dealing with their feelings of grief.

And would you belive they have volunteers? Can you imagine?  My word, people who volunteer to be with someone who is dying!  They are either crazy or very dedicated.  I’m not sure I want a stranger in my house since it is bad enough to have all these other folks coming in.  And an aide to bathe me?  Not sure about that, but maybe, if it helps Nan.  Her back is a problem for her.    We’ll deal with the nurse first and see if we want to include others if we like her.

Hard to decide but yes, it’s time for hospice.  For a nurse to visit, at  least.  Then we’ll see.

Finding Optimism from Within

May 6, 2013

Taking care of Osbeth, I’ve been fairly confined to the house.  I need to be available for her call via a bell ringing, at any time .  this makes it hard for me to really get into any projects of my own.  And needless to say, I get rather stir-crazy and bored with my life ass it is.  On top of all that, I am going through a loss of identity since I retired in order to care for Osbeth. 

The question has been, how can I retain a sense of self and optimism while being in the service of another (as much as I love her and want to be the one to care for her)  and having lost most of my contacts with friends and having lost my identity associated with work?  That is why it has been so long since writing or journaling or doing much of anything.  Just dealing with the-day-to-day practicalities is all I could handle most of the time.

Yet there were times within that period where I would wake in the middle of the night (Osbeth was sleeping through the nights then) and decide to do something for myself.   It was during one of those sleepless nights when I was on the computer that I stumbled onto mention of Pinterst.  I read about it, decided it seemed okay, and then signed up for the free connection. 

pinterest

I started to pin pictures onto boards related to subjects I was interested in: gardening (which I have always loved), history (the past fascinates me) , cooking (including gluten-free since Osbeth tested positive for wheat gluten and dairy),  art journals (something I always wanted to do), going within (processing and inner quiet is mostly what keeps me going), collage (where I am able to vent my feelings, both positive and negative, through visuals and working with SoulCollage and Kaleidosoul), the cosmos (incredibly beautiful and wondrous), faces (particularly of crones and others whose faces depict Wisdom and Character and diversity around the world), and so on.

It was something that could be done in small bites of time or longer periods.  And I delighted in looking at the beautiful nature scenes, art work, whether professional or someone just starting an art journal.  People from all over the world could join in sharing what gave them strength and interested them.  And many of the pins had information beneath or led to websites that imparted related knowledge.  Experts in mythology and history, antiques and astronomy imparted information; recipes for all different diets, whether gluten-free, vegetarian, paleo, vegan, raw, traditional; ideas for organizing or creating; whatever your interest – there is something there for you.  

And this led to Project Life, which could also be engaged in as little or as long or as interrupted as required.  But even more, it engaged my creative Inner Child and gave me a venue of expressing who I was – now – with all the changes, and with no one to tell me what they thought except myself.  My optimism was growing, and was from finding more of myself and allowing the real me to shine forth from within.   [And I am typing this on the computer – not writing in the journal]  It was finding optimism from within.

Optimism outside my window

May 2, 2013

Dictated by Osbeth to Nan who writes:

Osbeth - Optimism-rot,cr

this world.  Detachment has been her focus, not mine, just as Project Life has been her pleasure, not mine.  I’m certain that she will write more about it as she is now writing in the Journal.  [Nan: Yes]  I’ve lived life to the fullest, as my alter ego Flamozia, has indicated.  [Nan: see the post from January 16, 2009 entitled The Flame of Flamazia]  There is still much good in this world even though such horrible things happen, like the recent bombings in Boston, kidnappings, horrible wars, and of course, 9/11!   And even natural disasters from hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and the list goes on.

How can people move on with all the chaos around them, all the fears?  Some can and do; others can’t and develop all sorts of defense behaviors and addictions to deal with it all.   Some even crawl into bed for days and stay there, unable to deal with any of it.  A friend of Nan’s did that for a few days with the horrible happenings on 9/11, whereas one of my older acquaintances went into a deep depression precipitated by those events and the relentless broadcasting coverage .

I have always been one to feel it was my duty to pick myself up and get on with it (whatever it was) for the sake of the children or anyone else, and actually, for my own sake.  I have been on the brink of falling apart at times, but then I somehow see the good in people and the beauty of the world in spite of the problems even though the world is certainly different.  It almost is not my world anymore.  Respect, courtesy, and  common sense have been replaced by IM, BFF and OMG, to name just a few.

Over time I have gazed and mulled as I looked out various windows.  My favorite was looking out over the garden and watching clouds float by, or butterflies flutter by, or leaves wave in the breeze.  It was like watching a fish tank or the ocean waves roll in – very gently meditative.  Another aspect is watching the active lives of the birds, bunnies, squirrels, turtles, even raccoons.   

squrrel's nest in tree

squirrel’s nest in tree

Optimism: the ability to look for the bright side of things, the sunny side of the street, or as Elsie and the young ones say today, “have a super-sparkly day!”  All in all, a positive attitude.  Well, this nest is built high in the tree, swaying in the breeze or being hurtled around in the winds, subject to snow, hail, sleet, blazing sun: this nest symbolizes optimism for me.  I just can’t imagine huddling in that nest as the winds howl and the hail bombards it.

So I lie here and remember what I think Morrie said in the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Abram: that he spent a bit of time in the morning allowing himself to feel sorry for himself, even crying if feeling that.  Then for the rest of the day he looked at all the things he was grateful for, and continued to relay his thoughts and ideas to others who were interested.   A wonderful book with wonderful lessons! 

And a wonderful lesson from the squirrel who built that nest.

Ashes to Dust

April 29, 2013
 
Memories float back:
 
It was time to scatter Jerry’s ashes.  A few of us gathered in the woods near his house that brisk January 1st morning of 1995.  His ashes were placed in a large glass punch-bowl perched on a small table on the wooden pier Jerry had built.  It extended partway over his pond.  Since none of us had ever scattered ashes before and couldn’t contemplate our reaction to handling the remains of our close friend, a man who died way too young, we allowed for each of us deciding at the moment whether or not to participate in the ritual.

Flute in hand, Carol moved down the hill to stand in an open area near the pier.  The waves of mist and fog made it hard for us to discern her, but we were able to catch the plaintive notes as they drifted up through the Arkansas woods Jerry so loved.  This was his wish–to be scattered on his pond where he always swam in the hot summers, where he sat to meditate and contemplate.  The stillness and beauty of the pond and the surrounding woods were a balm to his spirit in an increasingly difficult world.  He had been diagnosed with cancer on his thigh; shortly thereafter his leg was amputated.  It never healed properly as the cancer continued its relentless spread.  How could someone who was so dedicated to living off the land and being independent, how could he deal with this huge impediment to his way of life?

Those of us gathered had tried to help Jerry on his journey and be supportive as he attempted to continue to live his chosen way of life.  Preparing food, cleaning his home, a cabin he lovingly built by hand, stacking firewood and hauling water from the pond for washing dishes, all these things were but temporary stops on his way to finally needing constant care in someone else’s home. 

And now we gathered to say goodbye, Jerry back on his land once more.  The seven of us strolled through the fog, following the notes of the flute down to the pond.  We each shared what we brought to read or say in his honor. 

Then a pause… a long pause.  Would anyone be able to scatter Jerry’s ashes?  I kept thinking I couldn’t possibly put my hands into his ashes… I had just seen him alive.  How could I do such a thing?  This was Jerry, his actual body, burned down to dust and ashes.  How could I touch those burnt remains?  Yes, I knew there was a Styrofoam cup on the table we could use, but even so, how could I dig into his ashes and let them sink into the water?   I knew very well the real Jerry was fine and beyond all this, but still, how could I honor his remains by scattering them?  Could I, even knowing it was what he desired? 

As I pondered my own images, my preconceived notions, I saw Carol walk to the table on the pier.  She scooped up some ashes in the cup and gently spread them on the water.  Another of his friends then did the same.  And another. 

Finally I was ready – sort of.  It was time for me to approach the table, but I still didn’t know what I would do or if I could do anything.  The crisp winter air tinged with woodstove smoke from other cabins sprinkled throughout the valley invigorated me to at least resolutely head onto the pier as it gently rolled under the weight of my steps.  The wood creaked a bit as I crept forward and then I stood before what remained of Jerry.  I took a deep breath in preparation…Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I plunged my bare hands into the ashes, letting myself relax into what felt right at that moment.  No barriers of gloves of Styrofoam to the experience.  And was I surprised!  The ashes were not all ashes.  There were chunks of bone throughout.  Ohhh, Jerry’s bones!  A moment of reeling with the knowledge; then came an infusion of energy.  I grabbed two large handfuls, flung my hands up and out, releasing ashes, dust and bone high into the sky accompanied with the cry, “Go, Jerry!  Go!”  He was free and flying to the heavens. 

The breeze seemed to reflect my exhilaration and joy as it caught the ashes and bone bits, carrying them further into the heavens before returning them to the pond Jerry loved.  I knew then that the phrase “ashes and dust” was a fallacy, a euphemism for ashes and bone fragments.  But I also knew a deeper truth. Jerry was not those ashes and bones; he was spirit and joy!

written November 27, 2008 and later published in Sage of Consciousness

 

Change

April 21, 2013
Osbeth's Journal - full layout

Osbeth’s Journal – full layout

Osbeth's Journal page

 ever needed on it  – it was the sense of privacy we were raised with; the respect for others’ privacy of possessions (including someone’s purse) and thoughts/talking (not interrupting) and energy granted in all things and ways. 

This change of literally writing in my mother Osbeth’s diary is an event that demonstrates many other changes which have occurred of late.   Where to begin?  I suppose I already have in my last post.  But here I am now writing in The Journal, Mother’s Journal, Osbeth’s View Journal!

I must gather my thoughts since the very act of picking up pen, poised to write here – in this Journal –  causes my heart to pound and beat fast as the memories rush in.  So why am I doing this?  It’s mostly to honor my mother’s wishes (she still has things she wants to record even as she is totally bedbound)  and partly to honor the fading-out art of handwriting itself (I generally use a computer.) 

People have always said that our handwriting was very similar.  As I look over what I have written so far and the pages previously done by Osbeth (as she has recently insisted on being called), I see this is true. 

But I like COLORS,

              pictures  pictures fm camera 5-25-12 butterfly Zebra swallowtail on choc mint ,

                        doodlings & swirls   doodling-cr   ,

and paintings      My Fearless Body-cropped better-cr half   to be included in whatever I now write, more of an Art Journaling effect.   A product, I suppose, from my creative endeavors I’ve been able to explore in the last few years even as I have been caregiving Mother (oops! I mean, Osbeth!) 

Maybe I should change the title of this Journal… No – even if I am doing the writing, I am a product of Osbeth’s Views combined with my own developed style and thoughts.  So, in the midst of other changes,  Osbeth’s View will continue!

Hiatus

April 7, 2013

It’s been so long since I have written anything here.  The Voyage is over, both the ship’s and mine, well, almost over for me.  I think back and recall so much of my life as I struggle to come to terms with it all.  What is the meaning of life in general?  What is the meaning of my life – in specific?  To whom do I need to make amends and what lessons have I learned? 

I watch the clouds float by – where are they going?  Where have they been?  Does anyone care, or even notice except for me?  Will anyone notice when I am gone?  I watch the flowering Bradford tree outside my window, now in full bloom, like snow against the sky. 

Will I see another winter snow, or a fall harvest garden, or a summer sunflower field, or even a spring planting?

I wait… and I watch.

We Die as We Live

August 10, 2009

Osbeth - long time-cropped

at least as much as I can be at this point.  I think there is always more one can do.

      I’ve been thinking back on the death of a good friend just before I left on this cruise.  He was a scientist, a marine biologist, always looking for the proof of a thing – any thing – every thing.  Yet he had Buddhist leanings in the later years.  True to his science background and investigative mind, he had studied many religions over the years and had decided Buddhism was what held his interest now – or as he said – he had a keen interest in Buddhism.

      When he received his diagnosis of Stage IV melanoma – he went online to learn more about it, even as he started chemo treatment with its slim odds.  Nan had suggested – after speaking to an experienced oncologist who said the chances are so slight with that diagnosis – that he confront his doctor about his honesty as to the prognosis and his recommending hospice – she knew that doc usually waited until a day or two before the person died to stop treatment and say it was time for hospice.   Allen asked the doctor, who then said that he would be straightforward about both the prognosis and hospice referral – NOT!    

      Heart problems developed which the oncologist said were due to his old problems related to his heart, later determined to have been brought on by the chemo.  Treatment slowed as the heart was dealt with – or attempted to be dealt with.  The trip to MD Anderson was discouraging.  The Medical Director at Nan’s Hospice said that his prognosis was very poor and he should start preparing for the end. 

      We had tried to tell him that, but his investigative side continued to play as he checked out other chemo and other meds even as he said he was ready to die and wanted hospice when it came time. 

      Nan had to be the one to tell him it was time – actually, it was past time – since his general doctor wanted him to build his strength back up since he was so weak now and the chemo doc wanted to still try other drugs.  And Allen wanted to research a nifty scooter so he could get around his apartment better. 

      We all tried to tell him that it was the natural progression of his cancer that was making him weak and nothing would make him stronger now.   But he loved his research, whether in science or in determining what to buy.  Nan realized that he needed this research into a scooter to feel in control of something since so much was being taken from him.  So we all waited even as help was gearing up. 

      One male hospice volunteer, an intellectual who was trained in zoology, went to visit and they engaged in a exhilarating exchange.  Another male volunteer was a Buddhist so could go and share that aspect and meditate with Allen.   And a female volunteer who did hand and foot massage was involved to provide support for Allen’s wife.  Allen had been a hospice volunteer so many volunteers were wanting to help.

      But hospice had to wait as first, the scooter was the focus and then building strength back up.  The doctor had actually said he should eat more – like a hamburger with all the fixings and a shake – since he was malnourished.  Duh! as the kids say. 

      Not eating is the body’s natural way to move beyond the energy needed for digestion – meat is the hardest to digest and the first item to be dropped naturally.  Allen tried, but just couldn’t eat that – or much else.  And he was beyond getting physical therapy to help, but that continued, also.

      Eventually, he was so weak that he finally accepted it was time for hospice.  And 8 days later he died.  At one point Nan had asked him what he would think if he went to visit a hospice patient who looked like him.   Allen acknowledged that he looked like he was close to dying and he would have wondered why he hadn’t gotten hospice earlier so he and his wife could have the support and education to make it a bit easier.

      Not only does not facing one’s impending dying impinge on the patient and family not getting the necessary support, it is also a grave disservice to the children of the patient, who usually goes along saying “I’m fine” so as to not worry the children.  A rosy picture is painted, particularly when the children live out-of-state, so they thing everything is fine.

      When suddenly, 2 weeks before dying the patient finally tells the children, they can’t handle it.  They haven’t been given the time to prepare and slowly come to terms with what is happening.  “It’s so sudden” they say.  And they are not ready.

      “We usually die the way we live” Nan has frequently said.  I understood better seeing Allen and his journey.  His few years of interest in Buddhism was not enough to override the long-standing pattern of being in control, being a scientist and checking out everything, doing things himself and not trusting that anyone else will do it right.  A course correction at the end helps modify, but doesn’t change, the destination.

      I still have some time.  What do I need to do?  Face it all – obviously the first step.  Accept it – I am going to die!  We are all going to die eventually, but I am going to die soon!   I think I’ll read that book, “A Year to Live” in earnest – from the beginning – again.  And do the work.  It is time to prepare!

Osbeth Almost Died

July 18, 2009

 

Subject:           Osbeth almost died

From:              Nannie109@aol.com

To:                   ClarisaT@yahoogroups.com

 Finally have a chance to email you and bring you up to date.  So much has happened.  Mother had an exacerbation of her condition and almost died.  On top of her ongoing condition she developed pneumonia, probably from sitting outside in the cool, night air so much, which almost did her in.  They wanted to air-lift her back home but I prevailed upon them to wait and allow me to be with her.  They finally got the pneumonia under control, and relieved her lungs of mucus so she can breathe again. 

 She will be allowed back into her room in a few days… IF she’ll continue the breathing treatments and using O2.  She continues to deny anything is wrong but did say she had a lot to tell me.  Unfortunately, she gets so short of breath when she talks, she still can’t talk much.  I was called back from the donkey expedition from the Valley of Bones.  I may or may not resume depending on Mother’s progress.

 When I arrived here, she was so pale, could hardly breathe without wheezing and coughing, her heart was racing.  She looked terrible and had lost weight.  She was scared enough to tell me (finally) where important documents were and what she wanted (burial, not cremation). 

 But as soon as she started breathing better and feeling better, she decided she was not only fine but had been fine all alone (no need for concern – what?  she was close to dying?  No way!)  She didn’t want to be alone with people she didn’t know but she also didn’t want my trip interrupted.  Her new friend Marlene, stayed with her until I returned.

 Elsie was so upset.  She thought it was her fault (the way kids do) for wanting to stay up late one night and watch the pod of whales surging by.  I tried to assure here it was NOT her fault (it turns out Mother was on the top deck, in the wind, without a jacket or coat on as she wanted to be part of nature, she said.)  Most assuredly, Mother has no one to blame but herself, but I wouldn’t even blame her.  With her probable limited time who wouldn’t delight to be a part of such an event?

 Fortunately, she seems to have reversed it all and will soon be allowed to return to her cabin.  She won’t like it but, between hiring a nurse, myself and Marlene, we’ll keep her company all the time.  Oh, Elsie wants to help, too.  She has been so helpful so far holding Mother’s hand, singing to her, reading to her, telling her stories and showing her the pictures she draws of what is happening on the ship.  They laugh over the outfits and shenanigans of some of the passengers. 

 And Marlene has been a gem.  Marlene tells me that, due to Mother, she has turned her life around because of Mother’s openness about death and dying (can you believe it?) and her wisdom in that area (is this my mother?)  I can’t imagine what Marlene is referring to.  Perhaps an alien was inhabiting Mother’s body while I was gone.  But it sounds like whatever it was, it was good for Marlene.  I guess I’ll find out as things calm down.

 I’m so sorry to hear that Madrue died.  I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for you to be the one to be direct with her about the time for hospice.  So many doctors simply cannot face it when they can’t “fix it” for someone, and so advise more and more treatment.  Of course, it doesn’t help that so many people, even those associated with hospice, aren’t ready to let go (they see it as giving up particularly if they had been a doctor or a nurse as Madrue had been before she became a volunteer eleven years ago.)  It’s hard enough to deal with ongoing deaths of people you don’t know but then come to love, but when it’s one of your own, as Madrue was, it is even more difficult. 

 You played it right, though, talking to her of “allowing natural death” since she was such a nature-lover, talking to her of nature and the help hospice can provide not only for her, but also for her husband and her daughters.  No wonder the most common comment on the family satisfaction surveys sent out after the death of the patient is “We should have gotten hospice sooner.”

 I remember reading an article about communicating a prognosis, particularly one that is terminal, is one of the least addressed in medical training even though the article also said the patient show less anxiety and depression when they are told they are terminal.  Patients need to know their symptoms (generally pain) will be controlled, and that their doctors are honest but not brutal with them.   The article ended saying that relaying a prognosis should be viewed as an ethical duty of the doctor to help build the trust of decision-making.

 Even though it should be the doctors telling the patient, actually in this case, anyway, it makes more sense for you to do so since you know her better and know metaphors (like dealing with nature) that would make more sense to her.  It is always hard to tell someone it is time for them to say their ‘good-bys’.

 Years ago, I wound up being the one to tell my father-in-law he was terminal and there was nothing they could do, since the rest of the family and the doctors wouldn’t.  My father-in-law had been raised in Italy as a sheepherder and better understood my speaking of whether he would want to be told of the wolf in the hills endangering the flock he was to take out than about terminal prognosis, diagnosis, etc. 

 “YES, of course!” was his response, so I wound up telling him that the doctors found he was full of cancer and they couldn’t remove it.  There was nothing else the doctors could do.  We cried together and shared a difficult moment that further cemented our bond.  (My mother-in-law later told me she didn’t ever want to know if there is a problem.)

 But the average person does not want to know the “Truth” much less have to make decisions regarding it, no matter how much they may say they do.  When it comes to things like dying, they prefer to deny what is happening, which is their right.  Even though they may have prided themselves on facing death, it manifests as an intellectual attitude rather than an emotional one.  The idea is right, the reality is not.  There is always something else to try or take, something else to think about, read about or, more recently, to check the internet about, rather than face the core emotion – “I am going to die!”  And I may well be the same, even though I hope not to be.  I hope I can learn from our patients and the people I’ve been honored to share this journey with.  But really, who knows? 

 Gotta go – keep on keeping on.  Give my love to everyone and take care of yourself.  You do great work.  I know how hard it can be.  People can either think one is a saint for working in hospice or a ghoul for constantly dealing with death.  We know it as a calling, a ministering no matter what our spiritual bent, we’ve chosen  (or it’s chosen us) that most don’t want anything to do with.  If we don’t share that final walk with people, who will?   We know: no  one should die alone and unloved. 

 Thinking of you,

Nan

Within the Bones

May 25, 2009

 

Subject:            Valley of the Bones

From:               Nannie109@aol.com

To:                   ClarisaT@yahoogroups.com

Whatever possessed me to embark on this donkey trip?  I should have stayed on the ship watching Elsie draw and the clouds floating by the moon, listening to Mother complaining of everything while denying what’s happening as well as waves slapping against the side of the ship as sea gulls call to one another, smelling Elsie’s crayons and Mother’s perfume with an ocean salt water background.  Instead I am on a donkey that is really too small for me, bouncing along a muddy forest path, having fallen behind my companions (since my donkey is so small and doesn’t move very fast) composing emails in my head of what I will write to you, Clarisa, when I return to the ship and have access to a computer.

At first I was delighted when a tiny white donkey with blue eyes (didn’t realize donkeys had blue eyes) ambled right up to me, nuzzled my hand and gazed directly into my eyes.  What a sweet donkey she was, and so connective.  (Reminds me of the box turtles I’ve found over the years in the woods that do not retreat into their shells but look right at your eyes, not your feet.)  I had had trepidations about a donkey trip but she allayed my fears.  This wouldn’t be so bad with such a cute donkey (not at all intimidating or threatening.)  Her eyes are so very expressive and soft.  (Makes me think of Elsie and that sweet young hospice patient.)

white baby donkey

The farrier at the stables insisted I should ride on this donkey, not walk alongside (I was thinking of my weight overwhelming her), so I did.  The farrier also said I could name her so I decided on Snowflake after my cat who also seemed to choose me.  I don’t think I ever told you this, Clarisa.  I remember we had to park the car in the dirt road since there was no driveway onto the property when we were looking for land to relocate.  We left the window half open for air as we tramped all over the 25 acres of meadow, woods and a section of huge rock boulders. 

When we returned, we found a scrawny, infant kitty was huddled on the back of the car having opened a package of cheese crackers.  Poor thing seemed to be starving.  We gave it some milk from our cooler and some real cheese, talked to her, tried to smooth down the rumpled white and dirty fur, and left her with another bowl of milk.  That was in spring. 

By fall we had returned, having bought the land, sold our house back east, and, with our heads filled with many new possibilities, had pulled our travel trailer down to live in it while making arrangements for getting a well dug and a septic system put in on the land.  We were finally back to the beautiful land.  What hopes and dreams we had for us to have sold our dream house we already built (literally, with our own hands, all parts of it), and to move so far away. 

We parked in the dirt road again, gathered what we needed from the trunk, turned around… and there she was… as if waiting for us all these months.  Somewhat bigger, looking a bit better, but waiting for us.  As we hiked on the land that fall day, and many days, weeks and years later, she followed us, obviously choosing us to care for her.  She loved to sit in my lap and purr as I stroked her, in the evenings.  I still miss Snowflake, 26 years after she made her choice.

And here I am with another Snowflake who chose me, and now I follow her lead.  She seems to know where she is going, but she just goes slower than the other donkeys.  Mother will watch Elsie but who will watch Mother?  There’s no telling what mischief she will come up with.

 We’ve been ambling along for what seems to be hours, during which time I think of these things I will email you, Clarisa, when I am able to do so.  The tree canopy thins out and we approach an opening in the trees.  Ahead stretches a huge area covered with such an assortment of things: tents in one area, people squatting on the ground digging and searching through rocks of all sizes, mounds that look like the Native American burial mounds in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and open areas strewn with rocks like in Pennsylvania where the glaciers dropped off all the huge boulders as they melted and receded during the Ice Age.  These rocks aren’t as large as those, but seem to be interspersed with something else. 

 This must be the Valley of Bones I heard mentioned… Those whitish sticks must be bones!  But so many bones?  I’m overwhelmed!  So much death!  But, how did so many bones come to be here?  Who were these people?  these animals?  What were their stories?  I guess this is what people feel when they think of death and dying and hospice (so overwhelming).  We hear it all the time, Clarisa, “How can you deal with it all?”  And of course the answer is – one person at a time – one person’s story so it doesn’t end with dying alone and in pain.  One person at a time; one bone at a time.

 Snowflake flicks her ears around (did I speak out loud?) and turns her head to look at me.  I reach out and stroke her neck.  She licks my hand, nods her head, and turns back as she moves gingerly, avoiding stepping on any exposed bones, along the perimeter of the area. 

 She proceeds a bit, and then stops and looks back at me, rippling the muscles of her back.

 “Should I get off now?”

 She nods her head.  How can she understand, yet turtles seem to understand at times, as do cats, and other critters.  I slide off the best I can and glance around.  I have no clue what I am to do here (excavate, dig, move bones and clear areas?) I let my eyes wander, trying to get a sense of where I am.  Snowflake gently paws next to a spot where some smaller stones are piled with a larger rock on top forming a ledge of sorts.        

 “Okay, I get it.”  I bend over and lift the top rock off and feel around the remaining stones.  Way underneath, under the ledge, I feel something both smooth and pointed.

‘Fragile’  I hear, and look at Snowflake.  Those same far-seeing, aware eyes gaze back at me.  Eyes that are not typically cat’s eyes or donkey’s eyes.  Who are these animals?

 But I carefully grasp the item and draw it forth.  How beautiful!  A white shell or bone – fragile and lovely – in the midst of mud and rocks and people looking like they are mining for gold (or Arkansas diamonds.)  I grab a blue cloth from my saddlebag and gently brush off the remaining dirt and mud.  There!  I can see it even better now as I check it out from all angles.

                                 alabaster murex-01-blue     

Each view a masterpiece!  What kind of shell is this?  Or is it a sculpted piece of alabaster or ivory?  It’s so intricate.  ‘No, it’s a shell.’  My thought or Snowflake’s?   I now remember seeing such a shell, an alabaster murex, and reading that the flanges kept the snail within from sinking into the mud of the ocean bottom, acting much like snow shoes do.  How magnificent!

 Holding the shell, ever so gently, with both hands cupped, I walk to a grassy spot at the edge of the tree line, and sit.  Snowflake lies down next to me.  I look from the shell to Snowflake and back again, wondering about the connection, if any. 

‘No coincidence.’  So what do a white shell, a white donkey and a middle aged woman – also white – have in common?  ‘Patterns – check for patterns.’  

“What kind of patterns?”  No reply.  I squinch around a bit to get more comfortable and my foot moves a pebble to reveal something white.  Holding the alabaster shell in one hand, I unearth the object.  Brushing off the clinging dirt, I hold it this way and that to discern what it is.  Not as fragile as the shell, but similar with spikes like the shell but a hold running through the middle, like a donut.  This almost looks like a spinal vertebrae, but just one?  I look around but don’t see any others.

 ‘Patterns.’ 

 “Tell me more.  Don’t just say patterns.”

 ‘Look!’

 So I carefully observe the shell in one hand and the vertebrae in the other.      vertabrae-cropped-blue alabaster murex-02-blue                                     

The life force/cerebral fluid flows through the vertebrae bringing life and awareness and consciousness to the body.   It protects the soft and fragile spinal cord within.  The shell protects the soft creature within.  I look from one to the other.  They appear so similar.  One is the housing for spinal fluid, the consciousness, and the other for snails of the ocean, the basics of life.  I think of the spinal vertebrae, protecting the fluid that connects us to life and to other levels of consciousness, other realities if we so choose.  I can feel my own awareness rise, as in meditation, moving up from the lower chakras to the eye center.

 I put my hands together, so shell and bone touch, completing the circle of my energy through my arms.  I feel a small jolt, as the energies connect and circulate.  And with that jolt… I know this shell is like those remembered many lifetimes ago, on the shores near Ur over 4000 years ago.  I remember how prized they were, and how some scribes used them to inscribe words of homage to the gods and the kings.  And I had ridden to the ocean in a cart pulled by an onager (somewhat larger and more horse-like than a donkey, and far more unruly with a stiff mane like a zebras and a black stripe down the middle of its reddish-brown color.)   I feel the intense heat. 

 I finally glance up to see Snowflake watching me.  She nods.  So once again I remember a lifetime.  The larger patterns reveal themselves once again.  Some would say its imagination, hallucinations, even craziness.  Those who don’t know me might say I’m on drugs, etc.  (They obviously don’t know me, Clarissa.)  I don’t expect others to agree with my interpretation – it is the kind of experience that each person needs to discover for themselves.  It is enough that after all these years I am comfortable knowing what I experience is true.  The struggle to reach this point has been difficult, but well worth it.  Fortunately, there are enough people around to support me even as they know how sane and ordinary I am (some would say even boring).  And now a little white donkey even agrees. (Who or what is this donkey?)  Something else to discuss woth you, Clarissa, when I actually complete and send this email to you.

Looking Within

May 7, 2009

 Osbeth-looking within-cropped

 further apart and then divorce, my body aging and acquiring various aches and pains- life simply isn’t what I thought it would be.  Yes, I know, everyone winds up with a life they never planned.  What is that quote?  Life is what happens while we are making other plans?  No wonder most everyone is bitter as they age.  Nan says I should work on attitude adjustment, but my way is realistic.  Why should I be happy and “Little Miss Sunshine” when even my own body betrays me?  My own body!  Why should I be cheerful – I can be the old grumpy dowager like in the old movies, who sits on the porch and refuses to return the children’s balls that come into the yard.  Ha!  the children don’t even play ball outside anymore – they are sitting in front of a computer playing games or texting on their phones.  No time for an old lady to even behave like an old lady stereotype.   

Sometimes I even would like to play ball with children, if they were outside playing.  I guess the Flamozia in me comes out every once in a while.  “Not often enough,” says Nan.  “Let your inner child out, Mother.”  But who wants to see an older, heavier decrepit woman playing? 

 How I miss that young body and its flexibility and strength, its loveliness and gracefulness.  I wish I were young again.  Enough of this.

 ***********************************************************

4:00 P.M.

I was so disgusted with myself and where I am in life, I decided to head to lunch.  Elsie said she wasn’t hungry and would just have an apple and that she wanted to keep coloring and drawing in the room.  She promised she would stay there so I left her for what I thought would be a short while.  Sitting alone at our usual table, I was surprised to hear someone ask if she could join me.  Perhaps a little older than me, this woman collapsed into the chair when I nodded – definitely heavier than me.  Her elaborate hairdo and make-up was obviously just completed.  At first I was really put off by her constant stream of chatter about all sorts of non-sense, punctuated by her touching her hair.  Why did she want to sit with me?  Just to have a person to blather at?  Her constant stream of bitterness and complaints almost physically pushed me away.  But her eyes seemed so lonely and pleading, so I tried to really listen in spite of what was coming out of her mouth.  And was I surprised!

 What she was saying was exactly what I’ve been feeling – alone and abandoned and betrayed.  I understood and sympathized with the words, but it was the tone that turned me away.  Is this what I sound like?  Is this what Nan has been talking about?  Do I come across like this to others?  Maybe there is something here I need to learn. 

 I let her talk for, what seemed to be, a long time.  A woman with one of Elsie’s new friends walked by and I asked her to check on Elsie so I can  continue to listen.  In time she wound down.  I guess she needed to get it all out to someone, anyone.  Then she sat there, hands in her lap except for the occasional touching her hair, shoulders slumped, head bowed, eyes downcast, as if ashamed of having revealed so much. 

 Marlene spoke of her heart condition and fears of dying.  I mentioned the book “A Year to Live” and what I was doing with it (very reluctantly doing with it, but I didn’t say so.)  She really seized on the idea and wants to work with it, so we spoke of what things she would want to do or change if she only had a year to live.  I told her this cruise was one of my “Year to Live” things, and spoke of my health issues.  Then she told me hers.  We spoke of disappointments and fears, of hopes and expectations, of what has already changed in our bodies and what will soon change.

 Elsie suddenly appeared, with her young friend and the mother behind.  “Gramma Othbeth, can I go with Georgina and her mama to watch the dolphins?  Please?  Please?” 

 The mother smiled and nodded.  “They are visible from the lower deck.  Apparently a school of dolphins are visiting.” 

 Getting my permission, Elsie reached on tip-toe and planted a rather wet kiss on my cheek, before scampering off.  Resisting my normal impulse to wipe my cheek dry, I watched her as the cool air works like a mordant to fix the kiss on my cheek – precious… so precious.

 I pulled out some slips of paper I’ve been carrying around in my purse for ages, and laid them out in front of us, smoothing out the wrinkles as I looked at my slightly swollen – some might say fat – fingers, remembering how thin and graceful they once were.   “My daughter uses these exercises in her hospice work, but they apply to anyone, whether actually dying or just thinking about life.  ‘Losses’ deals with some of the losses that occur as we age and approach dying, whereas ‘Fears,’ well, the fears surrounding death and dying.  Nan says to watch your own emotions and bodily reactions as you read them over – like your stomach clenching or getting butterflies or your palms getting sweaty – are all  indications of how you really feel.”

 Losses-wrinkled

Marlene lifted her glasses from where they dangled around her neck and leaned in, raising the paper to her eyes.  “Let’s do ‘Losses’ now.  This list really seems to reflect my thoughts and I feel braver doing it with someone else.  How do I do it?”

 “Go through each item, allowing yourself to really feel what the loss of that would mean to you.  Then rank those losses with #1 next to the most disturbing loss on down to #21 the least disturbing.  Here – put it in front of both of us.  I’ll write mine on the back of this menu and you can write on the page.  Then we’ll discuss it.” 

 A quiet time ensued with an occasional “oh dear!” or a heavy sigh or frustrated crossing out and rewriting.  Finally, we both put down our pens and looked at each other.

“That was harder than I thought.  Actually, for a long time I worked very hard not to think about many of these possibilities.”  Marlene’s hands now kept touching the ‘Losses’ paper and moving it this way and that. 

I recognized she released a lot of anxiety by flitting her hands about and touching – a very tactile person.  I wonder if she smokes as part of that restlessness.  Although she doesn’t smell of smoke the way most smokers do.  They worry about cleanliness and appearance, and then surround themselves in a cocoon of smoke.  I use food as my stress reliever, surrounding myself in a cocoon of fat to act as an insulator from people’s emotions .  “I know.  Nan says I work so hard to deny addressing these things I would have more energy if I faced the truth, and then dealt with it.  We fret over the loss of a couple of these.  Just imagine what it is like for someone having to deal with the loss of most, or even all, of them.  And yet we all have to deal with these losses someday.  What was your most disturbing item?”

“Loss of hair, naturally.  Wouldn’t it be the same for any woman?  I’ve always been very focused on my hair – getting it done, keeping it clean, how it looks.  My daughter can’t understand why my hair is so important, but it is.  Least important was loss of sex.  That’s been nothing but a pain all my life, one way or another.  What about you?”

I thought about her responses before answering, “I’ve looked at this a number of times and usually have hair loss as the least disturbing, but I’m not sure why.  In fact, when I thought I might have to have chemo, I planned to shave my head once hair loss started, although not everyone losses their hair.  Not to be able to see is always high for then how could I read?  And I do love to read.  Or see loved ones…like my granddaughter’s smile.  Today, the loss of the ability to speak seems worse.  If one is confined to bed, and then can’t even speak – no, that would be very difficult.”

 “It would be awful to have physical disfigurement – what about a mastectomy?     What kind of woman would I be?”

“You would still be you.”

 “A number of years ago, I realized, I tried to look good according to the dictates of the world, mostly composed by men.  And I reflected on how much men’s desires have ruled women and their views of other women and themselves.  Yes, I looked good.  But at what price to the real me?  There are so many things I ignored all my life – I just didn’t want to face up to what the reality was and is.  I feel better just talking about it with you.”

 “So do I, Osbeth.  Maybe we can meet more often and discuss all this further.  I’ve never had anyone who seemed to understand me or even to listen to me.  Everyone is in such a rush, it seems.  This cruise allows us to just be here, although there are certainly plenty of things to do, but I just haven’t felt like it.”

 “I should run and check on Elsie.  Maybe tonight I’ll think about the ‘Losses’ list some more – really think about it instead of avoiding it.  Nan is still away on the donkey thing, whatever that is all about.  Elsie goes to bed early which leaves me time to myself.”  I stood up.  “Would you mind if I hugged you?  I really appreciate our talking.”

 Marlene stood up and we hugged.  “How about tomorrow at 3:00?  Elsie will be taking a painting class for a few hours.”

 Marlene’s face erupted into a broad grin.  “That would be wonderful!  I’m always afraid I’ll run people off by talking about my problems too much.” 

 “The trick is to discriminate who to open up to.  Most people don’t know how to really listen.  See you tomorrow, then.  Have a great afternoon and evening.”

 After rounding up Elsie, listening to her story of what she saw (both real and imagined, although sometimes I do wonder), and getting her settled for a nap, I finally had time to write this.  Won’t Nan be surprised that I am actually addressing these issues and even, maybe, helping someone else in the process.   It is time to really look within, to look below the surface and deal with it all, pleasant and unpleasant. 

 Tonight, after Elsie is asleep for the night, I’ll sit on the balcony in the starlight and ponder it all further and deeper.

I am going to die!

April 27, 2009

 

osbeth-going-to-die-cropped1

                they can do for me” or… 

 

NO, it has to be “I AM GOING TO DIE.”  Even though it doesn’t say when or how soon, and it may be years and years, the very words touch the inner core of my existence here on earth at this time.  Even though I KNOW we come back again and again, I, me, this I, is going to die… whoogh… right to the core of my being.

 

I – me – this individual – this ego – this identity – I!  Yes, I KNOW I will go on in another form and all will be much better.  But the issues related to this ‘I’ – to this identity need to be squarely addressed.  The losses… the grieving… the preparation…  Yes, I already did much before my cancer and since, but there is always more to be done.  And this feel like it cuts to the heart of the transformation. 

 

Yes, I faced and accepted the possibility 7 years ago with my cancer, and was comfortable with whatever happened.  My preparation up till that point prepared me to face and accept whatever “Thy Will be done” turned out to be. 

 

A lot of emotional preparation has been done already.  Even though I realize more has to be done, I feel my fears right now need to be focused more in the practical preparation.  Lining up papers, organizing them so it is all is easy for others to get to and understand.  That will take forever.  Going through my things and eliminating “stuff” to aid everyone from having to sift through a bunch of things only I might think are neat.  That will take lots of time.

 

And I now have the time on this cruise.  Preparing for – I’m going to die!

 

 

Return to the Abbey

April 11, 2009

 

 

Drawn to the Abbey as an iron filing to a magnet…but drawn by what?   No immediate sense of having been here before.  Yet… yet something seems familiar.

 

The church in general… churches growing up?

But the smell of the incense carries me further back transcending time and space…

cathedrals… abbeys… flying buttresses… Gothic…medieval… Norman stone churches… wood churches… wattle churches… a grove of trees with the sunlight flickering through replacing the stained glass windows of later times… the figure of a woman of bounty replacing the figure of a man crucified…

 

Again the dualities: the warring of one extreme against another.

                What is learned in one is forgotten in another

                                When does balance come?

                Never as long as we run from one extreme to another

                                Just embrace both the moon and the sun.

 

                Worship a god now – spurn the female

                                Warrior or diplomat, all the same.

                Worship a goddess then – spurn the male

                                Amazon or mother, on each falls the rain.

 

                God is a man come down to earth

                                you must believe as I do.

                God is a woman with great worth

                                you must believe it’s true.

 

                It’s my way or else

               no room for love

                Only my way is right

                                God comes from above

 

* *********

 

Ellen Wheeler Wilcox:

So many gods, so many creeds,

So many paths that wind and wind,

While just the art of being kind

Is all this world needs

 

.

Hidden Within

March 29, 2009

 

 

Out on the empty deck, I watched the cloud wisps in the night sky.  I had heard some of the stories told by others on this trip about their trips to Owl Island and decided it was time to go myself.  Why had it taken so long for me to feel this way?  Usually I am ready at a moment’s notice.  With my shapeshifting ability I can blend into just about any group or environment.  So why the hesitation?

 

Perhaps it had to do with the goal I set for myself from the outset of this cruise: to dive deep within my un-consciousness and super-consciousness to unearth and deal with topics that might prove unpleasant, but still needed to be addressed.  In other words, to deal with the shadow side of myself.  And having watched the skies at night and seen the various birds winging towards the Island and the various fish swimming towards the Island.  I had seen what shapes I could choose to become.  Many were beautiful and graceful.  Many were what called to me in the past.   Many were of species what I would love to learn more about.  As Albert Einstein once said:  A human being is part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest…a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness… Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 

But night after night there was one that had me shuddering, so much so I would avert my head so as not to watch them.  I felt totally separated from them and couldn’t begin to free myself from this feeling to embrace its being.  One of the magazines I brought along even contained pictures I would come across and quickly turn the page, they repulsed me so.  

                              bats-ugly-cropped             

 Vampire bats!  Why?  What was it?  Yes, they were ugly—those noses were blunt and somehow repellent.  Yes, they carried the weight of dark side superstitions and mythologies about them.   Yes, they are connected with Dracula and Frankenstein, somehow.  Yes, I had never seen any except in the zoo so I had no direct experience about them.  Not even memories from the past.  I’ve slowly being reading about them, in very small increments since even the research carries their repulsive aura for me.  I think of Marilyn Ferguson’s quote: Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why?  Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, your fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if you explore them.

     

Okay, so let’s explore:  Vampire bats suck people’s blood – horrible to even think of.  Yet they generally don’t attack people but seek out mammals, farm animals. And they don’t really suck blood, they lap blood.  Vampire bats have special infrared receptors on their noses to sense warm blooded hosts, as do snakes.  Once located the bat lands on the ground and walks/ hops over to the sleeping host.  If there is fur on the skin, the vampire bat uses its canine and cheek teeth like blades to shave away the hair.  Then they use their razor-sharp upper incisor teeth to make a deep cut about 7mm by 8mm.    They then inject saliva into the wound which not only numbs the wound so the host doesn’t wake up, but also contains several chemicals that inhibits blood clotting so they can continue to access the blood for a longer period of time. 

 

Vampire bats only live in Central and South America, and not in Europe where so many of the Vampire bat legends and lore come from.  They only live about 9 years in the wild and in colonies, which is part of what I find repulsive since one but might not be too bad but many are beyond my comfort zone.   No, I just can’t shift into a bat because I have no love for them, not even a comfort level with them.  And you have to feel a connection and empathy in order to shift into anything.  The shifting is emotional and love based – not an intellectual practice. 

 

There goes an owl – yes, that I can do.  They can be so beautiful, and how I enjoyed seeing Hedwig in the Harry Potter movies, as she flew into the main hall and dropped letters for him.  Many owls have I watched over the years as they went about their business in the twilight hours.  An owl, with those big eyes,  maybe an owl…

 

Aloft on the currents, I fly to the Island.  Appropriate to be an owl going to White Owl Island.  I fly high to get a sense of the Island.  The moonlight reflects off the breakers as they crash onto the shore.  I wonder why it is called “White Owl Island.”  Many white owls perhaps?  Why would they congregate there?  Good hunting of favorite food?    I find an updraft and enter, being spun up ever higher.  As I circle within the updraft, I realize it is like using the zoom-out button on Google maps – everything gets smaller but I can recognize overall patterns better.  Ahh!  I can see the entire Island below.  That’s why… the breakers are forming a white outline all around the Island—the Island is shaped like an owl.  White Owl Island!  Of course!  It must have been named by someone able to view it from high above. 

 

The updraft current disperses and I can head for another island I spot nearby.  I land in a tree and look around.  Nothing particularly noteworthy here.  An owl or two, chirping night noises, a bat going by.   Then another and another.  Where are they going?  A cave?  Always good places to find mice for eating.  No! No!  I can’t eat a mouse – I know what it is like to be a mouse.  No hunting for this owl.  But other owls may be there, too.  I follow, flying into an opening in the rocks and enter into a huge cavern.  I am not comfortable being here; I can sense owls do not like spaces like this.  The bats continue on their way by entering another very small opening in the upper wall.  They look like Vampire bats.  Ugh! I’d like to follow into that tiny opening so maybe I’ll try to shift to a bat in order to do so.  Focus!  Concentrate!  Connect with bats… focus…  connect… No use.  I just can’t feel any connection with Vampire bats.    There is no fooling the true shape shifting process – it’s not a question of will power – the connection has to come from within and have love and true empathy at its heart.   

 

I fly as close as I dare and perch on a ledge near the opening.  And peer in.  The bats keep flying by while some land here and there, amongst a huge colony of bats hanging upside down.  I peer closer and see mostly baby bats.  Is this a nursery?  A place to leave the babies while the adults go to work, feeding?  The smell of the guano is overpowering; amazing that it is used in eye makeup but I can understand it  used as fertilizer.  But the adult bats seem to know which one is their baby.  I remember reading they just have one baby at a time – rather human-like.  And they nurse them for 9 months, longer than any other bats and many other mammals.  I see a few bats flying in with their babies clinging to the mother.  These appear to be the newer babies as they are smaller.

 

I watch… closely.  Some settle down and start grooming one another.  I never knew they were social enough to groom one another.  Others settle into nursing their babies, they are mammals, after all.  There is something special in that giving of oneself to another in that way.  Nursing was such a special time.  A few return with the coming of dawn and appear restless.  They do some grooming, flap a short distance away, more grooming, don’t seem to be attached to any of the babies, more grooming, and then, what appears to be kissing another bat.  Do bats kiss?  Oh, no – that’s right, they can regurgitate blood to exchange with another.   Now I remember reading adults need a blood meal every few days.  If they can’t get it they may contact another bat in the colony to induce a blood donation.  This mouth-to-mouth regurgitation food exchange looks similar to kissing.  This looks very connective.

 

One lands nearby – closer than the others, and I have a chance to see it better.  Still has a pushed in ugly-looking nose, but its eyes seem different…   

bats-eyes-cropped

or am I different now?   I definitely feel different about them since I have been observing their parenting, their care for one another by grooming, and their helping one another out after a hard night of work/hunting with no food.  But the eyes of this bat tell a real story I associate with other mammals.  There is something within that Vampire bat, an awareness.  I look at another bat nursing its baby – she looks over at me –  aware.  Yes, the same is there.  One after another I gaze at their dark eyes – going beyond their other characteristics.  Hidden deep  within the eyes is awareness.  Hidden within the ugliness lies beauty.  The eyes – soft and caring –aware – the  eyes…

 

Suddenly I am hanging upside down, a baby suckling, a low hum of noise as background, feeling safe and secure in the dim recess of the cavern even as a ray of daylight penetrates within across the floor, down below.  Just enough light to see what needs to be seen, what is hidden within.

 

 After spending the day sleeping, grooming, and nursing the pup, I hear wings flapping as one by one, then all leave to feed in the dark.  I feel sad leaving the secure confines of ‘home’ and venture out into the night air.  I drop down to the ground, not because my nose sensors pick up on  a warm blooded being to feed upon, but because I need a quiet place to reflect on what I had learned.  In time I shift back into an owl and head back to the ship.

 

On the way back I see a patch of white, not the white of the ocean breakers since this is inland.  I fly low to see what it might be and land on a low tree branch.  Bones, hundreds, no – thousands of bleached white bones scattered about, obviously dug out from the mounds of dirt covering this whole area.  Why has this area been excavated and not the others?  What was something or someone looking for in these mounds?  Whose bones might these be? 

 

Flying down to the ground to better see, I poke around with my beak.  What an array of shapes and sizes.  They look like an accumulation from many animals and people, not just one source.  Even some sea shells.  What are they doing here?  Maybe a flood or tsunami brought them inland.  Ohhh, what is this?  So beautiful!  This can’t be a bone yet it doesn’t look like any shell I’ve ever seen.  The skeletal remains of something that once lived.  How incredibly beautiful…with wings fanning out to the sides – delicate looking but could probably be lethal.  Too bad I can’t carry it back with me.  Hmmm… let’s see. here’s a protective space under a rock ledge.  Maybe with hands I could come back for this.  Oh, oh!  I hear people approaching and the braying of donkeys.  there…that’s covered well.  I’d better get out of here.  I’ll come back and see what this is.  Who knows what else is hidden within these mounds? 

  

 

Days later, one of my other selves, enters the ship’s store, baby-batscroppedimmediately seeing a postcard with a picture of two tiny, baby Vampire bats who need to be cared for, wrapped in a blanket or a towel.  Again, their eyes tell the story.  Or am I so different now I can see the beauty in Vampire bats?

 

love-batscropped      I also find a great T-shirt that tells it all:

  Vampire Bats Need Love Too! 

Don’t we all need love, no matter how difficult, ugly, or obnoxious we may seem to be?   And we all have a jewel of uniqueness hidden within.  We just need to look within the eyes.    

Friends

March 14, 2009

elsie-mouse-turtle-friend-rotated

Recovery

March 8, 2009

 

Subject:          Recovery

Date:               March 1,2009

From:             Nannie89@aol.com

To:                  ClariseT@yahoogroups,com

 

I can’t believe it has been so long since I heard from you.  You really only just got your electricity back on after the ice storm?  But that was weeks ago!  How did you manage without heat, light and your computer for all that time?  I guess living out in the country has its disadvantages at times, when electric and phone lines run through miles of woods and over mountains.  Eleanor had sent me word that Northwest and Northcentral Arkansas still have branch/tree debris poled on all the streets and that 40% of the tree canopy was lost.  Here are a few pictures she had emailed me from her property with each individual branch, no matter how large or small, encased in thick ice. 

ice-storm-09-branches

Sounded like guns being shot, she said, as some branches broke right away with the weight and others broke after the freezing rain stopped and the sun was out.  It was dangerous to be underneath trees, phone and electric wires, or building edges as ice crashed.  It was almost as if they were alive and throwing spears of ice.

   willow-on-deck              

 

All those beautiful trees!  How I love to drive around the rolling hills and winding, curving roads with all the rivers and lakes.  Such beautiful scenery – especially in the fall with the changing autumn leaves and in spring with all the variety of greens bursting forth.  Eleanor said that the piles of debris look like shoveled snow piled up after a snowstorm, where only the driveways are open.  The city is only now starting to compost the debris on the streets. 

 

She also said it looks like Halloween wherever you drive – no small branches anymore – they’ve all been broken off from the weight of the ice – but scarred trunks and large branches twisted and ripped off.  All that is needed are some bats, screech owls or witches to be sitting on what is left.  And maybe a harvest moon behind to silhouette.  I’m glad you will be involved in community efforts to plant more trees.  They will be needed if there is no house that doesn’t have a tall pile of broken branch debris in front.  It will be a long recovery from the ice storm.

 

Elsie’s been pretty quiet these days.  I try to draw her out to talk as we always did, but she almost seems overwhelmed by all the people – VERY diverse people – that roam the halls and are in the dining room.  She loves to play with her turtle and her mouse, although they sometimes disappear for hours at a time – one or the other – then re-appear, back in their habitat.  They seeme to enjoy each other’s company – Elsie, Tico the turtle and the “mouthe” as Elsie continues to call her.

 

Well, anyway, in an effort to connect with Elsie and since turtle and mouse enjoy togetherness, I built a 3-level habitat for them using large plastic bins I bought from the ship’s store.  I spoke to the engineer who allowed me to rummage in their storage piles and found what looked to be gutter covers to keep out leaves – 4 feet long and about 6 inches wide – hard but flexible and with holes throughout.

 

The plastic boxes – oh, about 3 feet by 4 feet and 12 inches high – were placed on 3 different levels – one on the floor, one propped on books to raise it about 6 inches off the floor to the side of the first, and the third on a low table 8 inches higher than the second and right above the first.  The long plastic gutter covers became ramps allowing them to walk from one level to the other after I cut openings in the plastic boxes where needed.  And of course, duct tape to hold the ramps in place.

 

The top level has a sunlamp and warming rocks for them to eat and bask.  The middle level contains a few upside-down shoe boxes with strips of cloth and shredded paper for nests so they can sleep in the dark.  The bottom level has water for them to drink and a sandy area that they can use as a bathroom.  It is so interesting observing them move about with intent.  Elsie watches them when she doesn’t have them out to play with.  And they seem to watch her drawing and coloring, which she is always doing.  Her pictures convey a lot of what she sees and feels.

 

Osbeth is going through the many trunks and boxes of her stuff that she brought on board with the express purpose of sorting through it all.  She saves everything.  After her recent problems, I had re-read A Year to Live and asked her if she was interested in exploring the book and its ideas with me.  Of course, she immediately said an emphatic NO!  – an automatic response to any of my suggestions.  So one day I just asked her what had she always wanted to do.  The response of “a long cruise” popped out.  So I checked ads and travel agencies.  Nothing seemed right until I stumbled across this cruise on the SS Vulcania – a long leisurely cruise – as quiet or active as one wants.  I brought the brochures home and casually dropped them on the counter, as if by accident.  Osbeth was drawn to the places on the itinerary and the spaciousness of some of the cabins available.  She wanted to go alone, but we insisted she have a companion – just in case.  Then she decided she just had to take Elsie – they have a real bond – and she said she would hire a nanny.  But I decided to take leave and join them.  I couldn’t not be with my daughter or my mother, as obstinate as she can be – for that long.  Who knows what tomorrow brings?

 

I brought up the book again at dinner last evening, asking her if she had read the book, or made a list of what else she would do or change if she only had a year – some possibilities for people have been to change jobs, start a hobby, do memoir/genealogy, go back to church or leave church, learn the computer to connect with people or forget the computer to be with people, learn ballroom dancing, acquire a tattoo, get married or get a divorce, and so on.  We actually enjoyed a great, lively discussion, where, as usual, she loudly put forth her opinions.  But at least she was talking.  Perhaps there was something in the wine, because she really got going not only on that topic but she plunged deeper than she ever has with me.

 

Mother admitted, for the first time, that she wished she had gotten divorced or at least had acknowledged – the abuse daddy had inflicted on me.  (WOW!  She finally even spoke of that.  As you know, real things have not been mentioned – ever.  Never has she spoken of that – that she knew or suspected it was happening.  It was always as if I was imagining things or making it all up.)  She said she wondered about what seemed to be our closeness, but just couldn’t believe it went beyond acceptable love between father and daughter.  Then, over the years, she suspected more but was busy with the new babies that came along and trying to keep a demanding husband happy.   When she was finally convinced, she felt she couldn’t survive with 4 children on her own.  In those days it just wasn’t done – before women’s shelters and support groups or even parents who would understand. 

 

I was afraid to try to get her back to the cabin to continue talking so Elsie wouldn’t hear, but I thought she would decide to return to her usual way and not talk anymore.  And Elsie seemed to be intently watching the others in the room.  Mother was on a roll, so I went with it.  Her voice did lower somewhat as she apologized – yes – APOLOGIZED – for not being there for me.  For not believing me.  For being afraid to make changes. 

 

Wow – I could hardly breathe as she spoke.  I had to consciously take a few deep breaths and allow her emotions and mine to ground out through my feet rather than be held within my body to create havoc within, as it did in the long-ago days. “Long ago, I thought those were the reasons and forgave you.  I’ve tried to tell you, but you would always stop me.  I know you were doing the best you could under the circumstances.”  Our hands automatically reached out for one another, touching in a way never done before, in my awareness.  We both cried.  With that, Elsie turned to us and, placing her little hands on ours, soothed, “It’s okay, Mama.  It’s okay, Gramma.  I wuv you both.”  I sometimes think she is far too wise and aware than a small child should be.  Such wisdom and love.  We stayed like that, holding hands, gazing into each others’ eyes, love pouring out of each and embracing each – encompassing each of the three of us.  Whew!  My eyes tear as I write of this.  We finally wandered on the deck and reveled in the moonlight and the stars, as we were all entwined with one another.  Then went to our cabins, hugs and reassurances to seal the changes.  And we all slept very well.

 

The next morning I woke and found a note slipped under our door.  Someone wrote that she had heard me talking about possibly work-shopping A Year to Live and was interested.  However, she didn’t sign her name, but I’m to place a reply on a pink piece of paper and place it under the third flowerpot on the upper deck near the gym – the one with the pink flowers.  I wonder who it is and what their story is. 

 

So many stories and so many types of recovery.  How long will full recovery take in each instance?  What blessings that it has even started!  

 

Osbeth’s Trunk of Memories

February 22, 2009

osbeths-trunk-pg-1-cropped

literally or figuratively, I’m not sure.  There are a few burn marks, particularly on one bottom corner (wonder what the story is there) and I see a gouge placed by a Sikh during one of my trips to India, actually the Punjab (although I can’t remember why for the life of me-I think I sort of recall one of the handsome Sikhs using his sword-always carried with them-to save me from being bitten by a snake – yes, that’s it!  (I hate it when I can’t remember things that were so vivid back then.  I guess that is why Nan is always telling me to write down my stories or they will be lost.  Nonsense! I tell her, I’ll never forget.  But I do.  Although I won’t let her know that – I’ll make up stories if necessary rather than admit I’m losing my mind – or maybe getting Alzheimer’s, which I dread.  Not only the losing  memories but thinking about brain cells dying and having blank areas in your brain where there used to be brain cells and memories, sounds frightful.  Holes in one’s head.  Ugh!  Not to remember that handsome, sweet man even when wielding a wicked looking sword – double ugh!!  The sword, or kirpan, reminds Sikhs of their duty to defend the weak and persecuted, and stands for justice, honor and righteousness) 

He certainly defended me from that nasty snake.

 

This is going to take a while if my thoughts wander off like that and I haven’t even opened the lid.  I love the smell of the old oak wood, a little musty and a little oak and a lot of old mixed together.  Just like old libraries or even that old hospital near grandma’s apartment, marble and wood but musty, old wood.  (It was years later that I remembered that probably being the first place I smelled that and loved it—no—it would have been the church across the street that I first visited before the hospital or the library.  Yes, the church with the smooth marble alter and lots of old wood pews and inside columns, along with the incense pervading all.  It was such a safe place as I sat between my mother and grandmother, listening to the beautiful music and hymns, and inhaling the incense and old wood.  I loved to run my hand over the warm wood, following the grain of the pews.  When we would go to light a candle I ran my hand over the cool smooth marble of the alter rail.) 

 

Touch has always been important to me: touching things like wood and fabric, like flowers and trees, but mostly people, to touch their faces, those cute little hands and toes of the children before they grew too big – like Elsie now – a loved one’s face, the nose, the lips, the hands.  Hugging friends while sharing comfort. Massages that stimulate and connect to the hands and feet  and muscles deep within.  Or the energy lying lightly above the body, to feel the connection to that and to work with it.  Such pleasures, all!

 

 I unlatch the hinges and raise the lid, allowing even more of old, oak mustiness to pervade the room.  The hinges squeak from lack of use, but hold the lid in an upright position.  (I hope it holds and doesn’t slam on my hand or head as I peer in.) 

 

The inside cover is lined in a red flocked paisley paper, and in the center is a picture of 3 women in, what seems to be, Victorian travelling clothes. 

 osbeths-trunk-w-photos-cropped

(I wonder if this was redone after the pirate days.  No self respecting pirate would want this.  Maybe there is something underneath, but I’d hate to ruin it if there isn’t.)  A cedar tray only a few inches deep sits on top.  That, too, is probably an addition.  The cedar doesn’t really go with the oak, but it is practical and helps preserve any clothes placed within the trunk.

 

Mostly loose pictures, postcards and papers dance around at will in here, each time the trunk is moved, forming and re-forming groupings rather like square dancing—do-se-does your partner and move on to the next.  Very prim Great-Grandmother hanging out with womanizer Great-Uncle  from Sweden (you know what they’re like); sweet Cousin Ida Belle rubbing noses with notorious (some say hussy) Aunt Vickie; floating postcard from Venice nestled with a picture of Mama’s dog sitting on her young legs.  Oh, the quirks of haphazard partnering.  And here’s a much newer polio card from 1953, warning  of signs of polio,  someone’s report card, a piece of beautiful stationary… yes, a letter I wrote my love – so long ago – when he was stationed overseas and I waited at home for him.  I decide to keep it all and look further later, so I lift out the inner tray.

  

An old black fringe shawl that had been my Grandmother’s and one of her tatted handkerchiefs (I wonder where the other one is?) are on top.  She would always have the shawl wrapped around her no matter how hot we all thought it was.  (Am I getting like that?)  And her hankie tucked into her sleeve for quick accessibility.  My mother always tucked hers under her watchband.  I prefer Kleenex to use but hankies to look at.  For many years I enjoyed a collection of hankies from the elder women in my life, many hankies with handmade edgings. (Everything seems to be moving towards being disposable – including me.  Soon, no one will know tatting or darning socks, or hand sewing – all lost arts.)

 

Underneath are a few old books wrapped together with twine and butcher paper: Elsie Dinsmore, a favorite when I was a child (you can tell, the cover is about to fall off and the pages are very yellow; and oh, Little Women  in the same condition – early 1900’s editions, both.   Elsie by Martha Finley and Women by Louisa May Alcott – where the covers flake off each time they are touched.  Maybe I should wrap them up to preserve them, but I love the feel of the old books as I wonder who else read them.  I’d rather read these old books than the new one on death and dying.  That one I’d rather forget about.  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, a 1914 copy, again with the cover barely on but an interesting intro page, containing a quote by Sir Philip Sydney: 

  great-expectations-cropped

And an old, little book my father found in Wiesbaden, Germany near the end of the War called Practical Hints on Paris offered to the American People through the American Red Cross (1919).   This contains a rather dog-eared map of Paris and the cover has many coffee stains (I hope they’re not blood stains from a soldier carrying it throughout the War).

 practical-hints-for-paris-cropped

 

 

I wonder if I can find the part of Elsie sitting at the piano as punishment from her father.  (Obviously a favorite of Nan’s, too, as she named her daughter Elsie, but she remembers a much different section.  Funny, how we each recall something different.  I guess it depends on who we are and what interests us or resonates with us.)  Elsie sits there, missing dinner, until she falls from weakness and cuts her head.  Through it all she feels her father is wonderful no matter what he does following his rather strict ways.  For some reason that scene has stuck with me all these many years.  Why?  Did something like that happen with me?  Am I even remembering it correctly?  All these questions come up like Nan revels in pursuing – yet here I am, wondering.  Maybe I can find the passage, and I think there is a picture, or maybe the image is so engraved in my imagination.  Why?  I just have time before dinner is served.  Let’s see… 

Back to Beginnings

February 1, 2009

 

 

Diving into the still, blue lake at the top of the mountain, I know I’ve taken a chance by not being able to carry the walnut Enchanteur gave us in case we can’t return back to the ship in time before it leaves port or are in trouble.  After having flown from the S.S. Vulcania to this Island and up the mountain, over both groups and individuals of people dancing and leaving offerings in the Temple of Carmenta, I’ve arrived at my destination, but know it could mean trouble.  The body I’ve shape-shifted into now has some capacity for diving into water to catch fish, but I will probably have to dive deeper than that.  I feel my wings pull flat against my sides to cut down on resistance–be it air or water, my beak closed and pointed as if to spear fish but really straight to aim as deep as might be necessary, my feathers compacted by the air rushing by, ready to cushion the impact as I change mediums, and to protect against the cold of deep water.

 

I dive.,,and keep diving through air and then water…still diving.

 

To travel to the home of the Original Ones – the First People – one must accept the risk of dying, to be willing to lose all of who you think you were and go back to the beginning, which may also be the ending… a circle… But for now–an arrow’s straight dive.

 

The pressure builds in my head, as it gets darker, the deeper I penetrate.  Continuing to dive, I place myself in the hands of the powers that be.  Is it the increased pressure pulling on my head and body or is my physical being undergoing change?  I can’t tell as I hurtle through what now seems to be a tunnel created visually as I speed through water; maybe the waters have been parted to allow egress for those crazy enough to attempt this.  I close my eyes to avoid feeling dizzy and disoriented.  Obviously I retain no control anyway so closed eyes completes the total trust in the process.  I let my mind relax, to allow the cerebral spinal fluid in whatever form I now occupy, to flow unimpeded, allowing every cell to be embraced by its contents and energies.  There is only darkness.  Then visions flash…accompanied by sounds…music of the spheres.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

space…swirls of dust

the tiny carbon-based cell hangs suspended

one cell, barely existent

one sound-light

splits | divides

duality

separation

more divisions…bacteria…archaea…fungi

plant cell with cell wall…nucleus…able to move

colonies…specialized cells…eat and excrete

organs…metabolism…DNA…reproduction

cnidaria…jelly fish…corals…skeletons…nervous systems,

insects…dinosaurs…birds fly

differentiated cells…parasites…amphibians

social insects…mammals…humans

amphibian fish-people with lungs and gills

energy harnessed…explosive release

Neanderthal…Cro-Magnon…cave man…homo sapiens

hot desert day…female walking down ramp…Mid-East…death

male Greek…dawn…where will sun rise…rainy…stones

building pyramids…king raping…slaves

Promised Land…camels…Romans…suicide

Jews…Christians…hate…strife

legend…warrior…castle…slaughter

handmaiden to Queen…France…England…burned at stake

Muslim…Hindu…India…massacre

self centered…abusive…female beheaded young

courier to Queen…sailing dreams…Armada

Dutch to New World…trapper…nature

Conquistador…rapist…Taos

Revolutionary War…Quaker man…non-violent

English soldier…India…stabbed

Civil War…negro female slave…raped

Sioux warrior…Sun Dance…war…cavalry

French dancer…poor…dies young…consumption

Russian child murdered…landscape of snow

male German…rich…WW II camps

abused female… processing

Cuban Missile Crisis…Kennedy killed…civil rights

man walks on moon…Vietnam…Gulf Wars

9/11…Twin Towers…Pentagon…Pa field

black man elected President of the US

…processing

 

* * * * * * * *

 

I come to on the grass next to the lake, a tattered bird, or am I?  No wonder they say the original people emerged from this lake, but perhaps they mean one can experience the original peoples journey through history.  Enough time with each scene to feel the feelings to experience the joy and pain of that time, to recognize the patterns that choice in duality create.  What was this?  A trip through time?  From the beginning?  Some might even say, a glimpse at past lives?  Head spins, ears filled with music (not really music, but basic sounds) which change with each level, beaten and bruised, physically or emotionally or both?

 

Who am I?  What am I?  More to process and learn.  Time to go back to the ship before it sails, but no energy to fly back.  Just think…relax…think of the ship…visualize the ship…focus on the being…relax…focus…

 

 

Quite A Ride

January 26, 2009

 

 

What?  Where am I?   She woke confused, nestled in something soft and warm-actually a bit too warm now.  She remembered being at Riversleigh, at a Christmas gathering, and enjoying some tidbits of food.  Trying to keep out of the way and to stay safe and warm, she had climbed up a red woolen scarf hanging down.  Moving about a pile of coats and sweaters, she crept into a perfect nest, where there was a gap, maybe a pocket of a coat, where she had protection all around with only a little opening for fresh air.  Sated from the bites of decorated Christmas cookies, pies and fruit cake, she fell asleep quickly.

 

She had awakened once when she realized she was moving quickly, but fairly smoothly.  She peeked out and saw the night whizzing by and smelled the night air.  She could hear the hoof beats of a horse and wondered when she heard someone say, “Wes..wespera.”  She must have crawled into the coat now worn by the rider, who didn’t realize she was there.  So she burrowed deeper and eventually went off to sleep again, rocked by the rhythms of the ride.

 

Somewhat later it felt like she was on the move once again well, more like the coat was moving  as she bumped along.  She tried to see what was happening, but everything was a blur and the sounds were deafening: people yelling, automobiles chugging, trucks clanking, heavy boxes being dropped, chains rattling.  She nosed down into the lowest corner, trying not to be seen and trying not to be afraid.  The fears, fed by the harsh noises, finally subsided, and she was able to rest again. 

 

But now she woke again as something large was pushed on top of her and something hard touched her head.  White, smelled like cotton, with colorful tatting on the edges…a handkerchief.  But it was blocking her air.  Suddenly she was tumbled about.  She pushed around the handkerchief once the motion subsided and peaked out…only to be startled by a large face with a big smile and huge blue eyes looking at her.

 

“A mouthe!  It’s a mouthe in the coat pocket!  Mama!  Look what I found!”

 

Hands gently scooped her up and set her on a flat, hard surface.  “Get some of the cheese out of my stash, Elsie.  Mice like cheese.  And get a little bit of water in that saucer-not much… Very good, Elsie.  Put it over here next to her.  She’s frightened.  Who knows how long she’s been in that pocket?”

 

“Can I keep her, mama?  Can I please?”

 

“Okay for now, but we’ll have to keep it away from Grandma Osbeth—she doesn’t like mice.  Here’s a good box with a lid.  She will be safe in it and she can look out.  I’ve seen some cats and other odd critters roaming the ship.  We can’t let her loose.”

 

“Can I name her?  Can I name her?”  Elsie was jumping up and down.

 

“Yes, you can.  But for now we’ll just get her settled in the box with some cheese and water.  Fetch the hankie from the coat.  She’s used to the smell so it will seem familiar.  Oh, and grab that newspaper from the chair.  We’ll use it to line the box and crumple some up for a nest.”

 

“How about Mouthe?  As a name?”  Elsie came close.  “Does she bite?  How do you know it’s a girl?  Is she a baby?  Where’s her mommy?  Why won’t Gramma like her?  She’s cute.  What…”

 

“Okay, one question at a time.  Let’s get ‘Mouse’ settled and we’ll answer the rest of the questions at dinner.  Do you have a fresh hankie?  Or is that Grandma Osbeth’s?  We’ll never hear the end of it if it is.  There you go.”

 

The voices moved away and the door closed.

 

I think I’m tired of being a mouse.  What next?  But the little girl will be disappointed if I change now.  Might have to wait for nighttime.  What kind of a ship are we on?  And where are we going?  I hadn’t planned on this.