very young

Sometimes a thought train follows me through a day. The other morning the folks at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford posted one of her quotes on Facebook that caught my attention:

I’d love to put the experience of fifty years at once into your young hearts to give you at once the key to that treasure chamber every gem of which has cost me tears and struggles and prayers.
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
(Letter to daughters, Eliza & Hattie, 1862)

It seems to express a wish that is common to all loving parents, to spare their children from learning things the hard way, to let their children benefit from the parent’s experiences. But parents somehow know that this is not always possible or even to be desired. Children will have their own struggles choosing paths to follow, finding their own adventures in the world. Some of the hard-won gems in our own hearts are simply non-transferable, being unique to our individual personalities and the way we have come to terms with life as we find it.

In the middle of the day, I found myself pulling out a well used book my grandparents gave me when I was very young, two and a half years old. Wondering what gems my maternal grandparents were hoping to give me… A love of poetry, certainly. When I graduated high school, they gave me Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. I soon found myself photographing the words my grandmother left on the title page for me to treasure some future day, which has come. When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne was my first volume of poetry.

HALFWAY DOWN

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn’t any
Other stair
Quite like
It.
I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up,
And isn’t down.
It isn’t the nursery,
It isn’t the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:

“It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!”

~ A. A. Milne
(When We Were Very Young)

Well, I’m a sentimental sort, so I smiled at reading: “The beginning of a wonderful adventure – with Milne.

Halfway Down was one of my favorites – how much I identified with that little person with all sorts of funny thoughts running round her head! When I was three years old we moved into the house my parents built themselves, and there was a staircase with a railing halfway up, open to the dining room. My sister and I were the youngest cousins on my father’s side of the family, and his relatives were a loud, boisterous and rather scary bunch, at least they seemed so to me, a frail sickly sensitive little girl, small for my age. Since relatives were packed into all the bedrooms for the duration there was no place for me to escape the over-stimulation! During their visits I sat on that halfway down stair for hours on end, except when required to eat or go to bed. I could lean back and hide behind the wall or lean forward and “spy” on the activities through the railing. On that stair, sometimes reading a book, I could “be” somewhere else instead.

By the time it came to start cooking dinner I was humming a Cat Stevens song from my teen years… Oh Very Young. Hmm — it would seem the day had a theme. There are days when I wonder what gems my grandparents would try to give me now, at this juncture in my life, if they could. Mid-life is kind of like that halfway down stair. I’m not old and I’m not young. I suspect there is no other stair in life, up or down from here, quite like it. A chance to stop and be anywhere, or somewhere else instead… Fading up to the sky like a pair of favorite old blue jeans…

Oh very young,
What will you leave us this time?
You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while
And though your dreams may toss and turn you now
They will vanish away like your daddy’s best jeans
Denim Blue fading up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever
You know they never will – you know they never will
And the patches make the goodbye harder still

lines on the sky

“Lines on the Sky” by Ane Lisbet Smedås

the whole world, wide
grazing land, the open spaces
wind across the land
and the sky, blue, high
~ Nils-Aslak Valkeapää

My friend Ane Lisbet lives in Norway and she took this amazing picture there on Saturday.

…project in the clouds those lovely unwritten stories
that curl and veer and change like mist-wreaths in the sun…
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
(The Writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe)

This is turning into a winter for the record books. I can’t remember the last time the snow didn’t melt between snowstorms. Connecticut is usually pretty drab, brown and gray for most of the season, with an occasional snowstorm to punctuate the monotony. It usually rains at least as often as it snows. I’m grateful, though, for the current wonder of looking out the window each morning and seeing snow on the ground. My view isn’t as spectacular as Ane Lisbet’s, but it’s my own little wonderland.

Last night Nate & Shea picked us up in their snow-worthy Jeep and took us out to dinner at Olive Garden — they now have a gluten-free menu. For a Monday night, the place was packed! We had a window seat and I commented that inside it felt like Italy but looking outside and seeing mounds of plowed snow gave us a reality check. We had a wonderful time!

When we got home we were so cold we climbed under the blankets with our clothes on and snuggled until I warmed up and Tim fell asleep. We had hats, gloves and extra layers on, but just walking from the nice warm Jeep to our front door chilled us to the bone. Probably all our blood had gone to our stomachs to digest the meal.

This morning it was 18°F — a heat wave! Swept a couple of inches of new snow off of the car in the dark for Tim. He left before sunrise… Big storm due tomorrow night. Must get food shopping done soon…

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive… From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences we see fantastic forms stretching in the frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Excursions)

the dark day

On May 19, 1780, my 5th-great-grandmother, Thankful (Nickerson) Weekes, was in Harwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, giving birth to my 4th-great-grandfather, her last child, Isaac Weekes. An anonymous recorder of our family history noted that this particular day was “The Dark Day.” My curiosity aroused, I was off to do some research.

What I found is that it is now known that there were massive forest fires burning in the western territories, which caused a smoky cloud to cast itself over the New England states. It was so dark that day that New Englanders had to light their candles and lamps at noontime. Of course then they had no way of knowing the reason for this ominous darkness during the day.

On Wednesday as I listened to Gov. Malloy’s inaugural speech, I was pleased that he went into our state’s contributions to history and that he mentioned some of our well-known historical and literary figures: Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Eli Whitney, and Prudence Crandall. And then I really perked up when he mentioned The Dark Day! This is what he said:

Abraham Davenport (1715–1789)

Perhaps nowhere was our character better defined than by Abraham Davenport of my hometown of Stamford when he spoke about The Dark Day in 1780. He was a public servant in Hartford when a mysterious episode brought darkness to the daytime skies throughout New England. There was a prevailing belief that Judgment Day was upon the land, threatening a shutdown of the Legislature, when Davenport stood and said:

“I am against an adjournment. The Day of Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

Today, we could use a few candles. Because as most people in Connecticut know, ours is not a pretty picture.

Another history buff! 🙂

adolescence in reverse

Egyptian migraine therapy

My body-mind is miserable.

I’ve had a “background” headache since July 8. It’s making me crazy, lurking around under the surface, waiting for a chance to break through and incapacitate. One dose of Zomig left to last me until the prescription can be refilled on August 7. I rail against insurance corporations, who think they have more right to decide what a patient needs than her doctor does. And who think $60 a month is a fair co-payment for six doses of a needed drug.

Appointment to see sympathetic doctor on Monday. Keeping my fingers crossed… Woke up this morning, head still stabbing. Should I beg my sister to give me some of her Zomig? We’ve helped each other out in the past. There have been times when I’ve only needed as little as one dose for a whole month. I call and put her on standby. Sisters understand…

Lately I’ve heard what I think is a very misleading commercial for Excedrin Migraine. While it can work sometimes, I don’t see how they can dare to guarantee that it will always work in half an hour. It might, perhaps half the time. And that bit about being #1 recommended by neurologists is hogwash. The first thing a neurologist will insist on is that you stop using Excedrin because people wind up taking it daily in increasingly futile attempts to treat rebound headaches.  When Excedrin Migraine first came out I checked the label and it’s the same acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine that is in regular Excedrin. Do they think we’re really so gullible? Or were my parents unique in teaching me to read labels thoroughly before taking any medication?

Caffeine. Well, I’m weaned from it for almost four years now so maybe it will work? Worth a try? I made myself a cup of black coffee and took my ibuprofen, which works better than acetaminophen or aspirin for this patient. It worked, for the most part. I can still feel the headache wanting to materialize. Maybe this will be a stopgap measure to keep most of the pain manageable until Monday so I won’t have to raid my dear sister’s stash. Still, I should probably get my eyes away from the computer screen to be on the safe side.

Pondering my predicament. I’ve been so careful to avoid triggers. “Why is this happening?” I cried out to Tim Sunday night, utterly frustrated. Slowly gathering my wits about me. I connect a few dots and recall that hormonal fluctuations are my biggest triggers and they (along with fluctuations in atmospheric pressure) I simply cannot control. Now I think this is perhaps some sort of menopausal last hurrah.

If you want to know where your power really is, you need look no further than the processes of your body that you’ve been taught to dismiss, deny, or be afraid of. These include the menstrual cycle, labor, and, the mother of all wake-up calls, menopause. The years surrounding menopause are a time when most women find themselves in a crucible, having all the dross of the first half of their lives burned away so that they may emerge reborn and more fully themselves. Menopause can be likened to adolescence in reverse – the same stormy emotions we experienced during puberty often return, urging us to complete the unfinished business of our early years.
~ Christiane Northrup
(Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical & Emotional Health & Healing)

I remember reading somewhere that the way a child handles the emotional work of toddler-hood will be the same way she handles the emotional work of adolescence. And now, adolescence in reverse. The mother of all wake-up calls. Must be what this nightmare is all about. A crucible. A month-long hot flash. Unfinished business. I wonder…

This morning I found a quote that spoke to me…

Everyone confesses in the abstract that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us all; but practically most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstances drive him to do. Even I would not write this article were not the publication-day hard on my heels. I should read Hawthorne and Emerson and Holmes, and dream in my armchair, and project in the clouds those lovely unwritten stories that curl and veer and change like mist-wreaths in the sun.
~ Harriet Beecher Stowe
(Household Papers & Stories)

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe

I have so many lovely unwritten stories. I need more exercise. I feel lazy writing this, I “should” be doing more to help with the elder-care or even doing my own chores. I think we all feel unmotivated or overwhelmed at times, but that’s not laziness in my way of looking at things. But do I really believe my own assertions about this, deep down inside? Harriet Beecher Stowe includes “everyone.” Somehow that comforts me to know that others need incentives to get certain things done, too.

And now, as I write this, a song comes up on my iPod playlist shuffle. Still can’t listen to it without crying…

Now, I’m sailing on back, ready for the long haul
Tossed by the winds and the seas
I’ll drag them all down to hell and I’ll stand them at the wall
I’ll sell them to their enemies
I’m trying to feed my soul with thought
Going to sleep off the rest of the day
~ Bob Dylan
♫ (Working Man’s Blues #2) ♫

It’s been a very long haul since Dad first fell in 2000. It’s getting harder and harder. And Auntie is needing more and more attention, too. Sometimes I think having to deal with menopause while caring for my elders is a double whammy and has made me more impatient and persistently irritable.

I’m tired!!! So often I “sleep off the rest of the day.” So often I fail to “feed my soul with thought.” I don’t have enough energy for elder-care and the “stormy emotions” of menopause!

Okay. That’s enough self-pity for one day. This too will pass, right?