more waiting

Mid-May I started re-reading The Master of Hestviken tetralogy and this morning I finished the last volume, The Son Avenger. (see Changing Perceptions) My reason to begin reading it again was that I remembered loving the descriptions of the natural surroundings and the inner thoughts of the characters living in medieval Norway. Or so I thought. What stood out quickly to me in the first volume, this time around, was all the waiting Olav & Ingunn had to do to get matters settled so that they could finally be together.

In my “Eternally Terminal” post I commented on the waiting again, and connected it to the waiting theme in my current life situation. Little did I realize that the theme would keep coming around again and again in the four volumes. Waiting. Some things cannot be rushed.

Like many of the other characters, Olav was not to have a quick or easy death. He had a stroke and could no longer speak or use one side of his body. His son and daughter-in-law did their best to care for him as he lingered on for a few years. When Olav felt his death was near he struggled, inch by inch, to drag himself outdoors near dawn one morning without his family hearing him. He wanted to see the fiord once more. He finally climbed high enough to find a spot where he could see the water and the sky and be with nature. The next two paragraphs took my breath away:

The immense bright vault above him and the fiord far below and the woods of the shore began to warm as the day breathed forth its colours. Birds were awake in woods and groves. From where he lay he saw a bird sitting on a young spruce on the ridge, a black dot against the yellow dawn; he could see it swelling and contracting like the beats of a little heart; the clear flute-like notes welled out of it like a living source above all the little sleepy twitterings round about, but it was answered from the darkness of the wood. The troops of clouds up in the sky were flushing, and he began to grow impatient of his waiting.

He saw that all about him waited with him. The sea that splashed against the rocks, rowan and birch that had found foothold in the crevices and stood there with leaves still half curled up – now and again they quivered impatiently, but then they grew calm. The stone to which his face was turned waited, gazing at the light from sky and sea.

What a profound moment of intense awareness… It reminded me how when playing in the woods as a child I never felt alone, sensing and delighting in the energy of the trees, my friends. I now feel I was led to read this book again so I could pick up on this message about waiting. Patient waiting is definitely not one of my strong points! I’m impatient for my father’s suffering to end.

I’m also impatient for menopause to arrive, because I’ve been assured, by older women who have been through this and by my neurologist, that my hormonally triggered migraines – and they are the worst of them – will disappear. Every time I go several months without a period my hopes climb a little higher, only to be dashed as they were yet again last night.

Both these things I wait so impatiently for are part of nature. Maybe like Olav I can learn to become more aware of all of nature waiting with me. To let nature calm me down and soothe my frustrations.

Poor Olav. When his family discovered him missing they came looking for him and when they found him unconscious they carried him back to his dark little bedroom and there he died a couple of days later. They meant well…

muggy ↔ migraine ↔ mulling

6.4.05 ~ Eastern Point

Yesterday the first muggy day of the season arrived, and with it, not surprisingly, a humidity-triggered migraine. As I thanked the Universe and Science for Zomig nasal spray, I turned on the air conditioner and then shot the potion up my nose and snuggled up on the couch to rest while it worked its Magic.

So much for zipping through my chores to spend an afternoon in the blogosphere!

But I mustn’t complain!

Migraine had been the center of my life since early childhood. And since I had colic and some scientists think colic (and motion-sickness, too) is a form of migraine, I suspect I could quite honestly claim that migraine has plagued me since infancy. The only sustained relief I had until four years ago was during my pregnancies. Turns out progesterone quite nicely cancels out the estrogen dominance factor that is my strongest migraine trigger.

Finally at the age of 49, my sister, who also suffers from this neurological disorder, as did both of our parents, dragged me to a neurologist and for the first time in my life I came away from a doctor with some effective tools – three different drugs – two for prevention and the Zomig to abort the headaches that break through that line of defense. Believe me, I had already tried just about every natural remedy under the sun, and badly wished that one of them would have worked for me.

6.4.05 ~ Eastern Point

Some choices are difficult, trying to weigh the various factors. When I run the air conditioner it bothers my conscience. But the Zomig is so powerful that it causes liver damage and I’m only allowed six doses a month. So I can’t just run around recklessly ignoring my triggers and taking Zomig every day. One must always pay the piper, one way or another. So the air conditioner is on and I will obsessively keep my eye on the dew point from now until late in the fall. Any chance to open the windows on a relatively dry day I will seize!!!

Sometimes it’s still frustrating being the one who succumbs to anything my hyper-sensitive nerve metabolism senses in the environment to be a trigger. I often feel like I’m walking around on eggshells. Too many triggers to list here – some I can avoid, some I cannot.  Zomig is for those. It has given me much more of a life than I had before!

Took a quick look at the calendar as I recorded yesterday’s dose – nine days since the last dose. Pretty good! It’s not all that bad living in a bubble of sorts, keeping the menacing triggers “out there.” And if I tire of the great indoors I can hop in the car and go down to the beach, where the humidity doesn’t seem to collect and settle, and breathe in the healing energy of the sea.

eternally terminal

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
wheelchair ramp built by my son and my brother-in-law ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Whenever I make the hour drive north to sit with my father, I use the time to listen to my iPod play list, set on shuffle. It’s kind of like drawing cards, I listen for messages in the string of songs it “selects” for the day. Since I have 1,328 songs on my “car” play list, there is always something “new” to contemplate. Or, if Dave Matthews’ The Best of What’s Around comes on (I have fourteen versions of it, including studio demos and live performances), I might hit the repeat button again and again to energize myself with the sentiments expressed for dealing with an often discouraging situation.

Yesterday I started connecting some dots… Last week I wrote about changing perceptions and mentioned the tetralogy by Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken, a story about the lives of Ingunn and Olav, set in medieval Norway. I mentioned all the waiting the characters had to do. This week I started and finished the second book, The Snake Pit, and started the third, In the Wilderness.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I like to read have a theme or a focus, like art, history, nature, photography, places, poetry, quotes, writing, etc. And at times I feel left out because I can’t seem to find a theme for my blog. Others seem to have more time to pursue their interests, careers and dreams. But at this point in time my energy is focused on waiting!

Last month, when writing about the volcano in Iceland I observed that years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
dianthus ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Well. Isn’t dying a part of nature? Doesn’t it sometimes take a very long time to die? Am I doing my best to live in harmony with this reality? In The Master of Hestviken, when a character became incapacitated or gravely ill, his or her family would take turns “watching with” the one who was bedridden. Sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one was an honor and not considered a waste of time. Surely other pursuits were neglected and other plans put aside, but that was the way it was done. Even if a person lingered near death for years, like Ingunn did at the end of her life.

So I think this will be my focus, what I think about and what I observe around me as I “watch with” my father. Emotionally refreshed, I arrived at the house my parents built themselves when I was a preschooler, and went inside.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
captain’s bell ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After greeting everyone, I went to use the bathroom. I couldn’t help noticing next to the toilet what appeared to be a plunger made out of a silver-toned metal. Huh?? Could not comprehend what I was looking at… So I picked it up to move it out of the way and it started ringing very loudly! It was a huge bell!! It struck me so funny – what on earth was a bell doing next to the toilet? The more I laughed the more it clanged and I heard my sister asking, “What is she doing?” and then my brother-in-law teasingly inquired, “Do you need some help in there?” Haven’t laughed so hard in ages!

Turns out it is Dad’s new bell to ring when he’s alone and needs someone. The little bell he had previously just wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone up and it was getting to be too hard for him to pick up and grasp. Beverly found this “Captain’s Bell” somewhere and now he’s back in business.

Now that I had arrived my brother-in-law took off for parts unknown and the grocery store. As he is the primary care-giver, a trip to do errands and go food shopping is a real break for him that he enjoys. My sister had been up much of the night with Dad, so she went upstairs to take a nap. And I brought Dad’s bell back to him and began “watching with” him. We talked for a little, he’d ask about the book I was reading and I’d tell him a bit about it and then he’d fall asleep. Twenty minutes later he’d wake and ask another question and then he’d fall asleep again.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After a while, the cat, Bernie, started yowling to go outside. Dad suggested I take him for a walk in the woods, so I did, knowing that monstrous bell would wake my sister if he needed anything. Bernie and I had a splendid walk! I had hoped to encounter Harriet, a wild turkey hen who has been hanging around lately. I think we heard her, but I couldn’t see her.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
spruced up space to store canned foods ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Something else was new in the house. My parents had always used space between the studs in the wall of the stairway going down to the basement for storing canned goods. I did a double take as I walked past the opened basement door. My brother-in-law had dry walled and painted the stairway and added shelf paper under the cans! I thought of Kathy’s ‘playing with your food’ blog and snapped a picture of it.  🙂

In the evening we were all amused by the antics of two adorable baby red squirrels who couldn’t figure out how the adult red squirrels made the jump from the tree to the bird feeder. No good pictures – they’re fast little things!

The joke in our family is that Dad is eternally terminal. (Fear not, he finds this very amusing coming from a family with a delightfully dark sense of humor.) His “little” sister, who is 80, came to visit him from Maryland last week. She says he’s like a potted plant. Every time it seems to be almost dead it revives with a little watering and/or plant food. Maybe he’s a succulent. There’s no way of knowing when the end will come, but I feel a little more settled now about making the best of whatever time there is remaining, the best of what is now. “Watching with” Dad.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
potted succulents on stone wall built by my dad ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

my mother

Write something, anything…

Tonight there will be a full moon. Today is the day my mother died, nineteen long years ago. She was only 59. I was only 34. So young, the both of us. Fifty-nine seemed like such a long way off then, and here I am now, at fifty-three, wondering at the last nineteen years, each day so long in the living and yet the years speeding by. My son is 34. I look at him and try to imagine him motherless, as I became at his age.

It’s amazing that I still miss her so and often wonder what life would now be like if she was here… Somehow I want to do something in her memory, but I’m not sure how…

Elisabeth J. White

Mom was a nature lover and avid bird watcher. One time she found a baby owl that lived in our bathroom for a while until it was ready for release. Our childhood was spent camping, canoeing, and hiking. She was a physical therapist and loved to read. If she wasn’t outside, she had her nose in a newspaper or book.

Her high school classmates said of her: “With charm of soul possessed by her, she rules herself.” So true. Until I left home, I was unaware of the “war between the sexes.” My parents had a true egalitarian relationship. Mom disliked cooking and it was unremarkable to me that Dad did the cooking and Mom mowed the lawn. They modeled interdependence and mutuality for me and my sister.

She loved her grandchildren, my children, and took each of them separately for a special week-long visit at Grandma’s before she was too ill to enjoy them. After her special visit, my then ten-year-old daughter declared her intention to move in with her grandparents. Her grandma gently explained to her that it wouldn’t be as much fun if she was living there full-time.

Mom didn’t have any sons, so she adored her grandsons, who were thirteen and fifteen when she died. My older son was her little shadow and loved following her around, helping to feed her chickens, weed the garden, pick vegetables for dinner, or whatever else they found to occupy themselves out there. There was a special bond between them and he took her death the hardest.

It’s kind of funny, Mom had no interest in art or interior decor. My sister and I, who have more of an eye for balance and color, were continually exasperated at how she arranged the furniture and how nothing seemed to go together. One day while Mom was at work, my sister took it upon herself to make new curtains for the kitchen, paint it and put down some pretty shelf paper. Mom didn’t seem to notice and merely shrugged when my sister pointed it out to her and asked her if she minded. We later learned that her mother, who was an artist, had tried many times to give her daughter a hand with the decorating, but her efforts were for naught.

Some things skip a generation, and if my sister and I are like our grandmother, my daughter is very much like my mother. Especially in the wanderlust department. Mom loved the adventure of travel, and as Dad puts it, she dragged him to Greece to live for a couple of years when an opportunity to do that presented itself. And they took trips out west and through Canada to explore another of her passions, the culture of Native Americans. They also took a trip to the Ukraine, the land of my father’s ancestors.

First Congregtional Church Cemetery, Harwich, Massachusetts

Yes, I still miss her and her Seminole skirt. Had she lived I’m sure we would have found her rumored New England Native American ancestor by now. Yesterday I immersed myself in genealogical research, which was an occupation we both enjoyed. My goodness, what would she think of all the online research now available? When she died she was learning to use the online genealogical bulletin boards that seem so primitive now.

Well, I could go on, but this is long enough. Somehow I think my mother knows that she may be gone, but is by no means forgotten. And that I’ve learned that all we have is now, and that when all is said and done, that is enough.

a secret garden

Yesterday Janet and I took a three-hour stroll through the Connecticut College Arboretum, and I came home with 147 pictures! First we made our way through the native plant collection…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
tulip tree ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

… and then hiked through the woods, noticing the abundance of mountain laurel and flowering dogwood under the dying hemlocks, which used to rule the forest. Finally we made our way to a secret garden hidden in a corner of the arboretum, the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We opened the gate and were soon greeted by a Cheshire cat, who let us know that it ‘didn’t matter which way we went’ in his lush and untamed neck of the woods. He appeared and disappeared as we explored the maze of paths, drawing our attention to various wildflowers and settings.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Janet will have to identify some of these flowers…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We were surprised to discover that maidenhair ferns have black stems – the black and green contrast was striking!

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
“Who are you?” ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

See the cinnamon sticks in the cinnamon fern?

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
cinnamon fern ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
star of Bethlehem ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
lady slippers ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
~ William Blake
(Auguries of Innocence)

There are a couple of Jacks-in-the-Pulpit (aka Indian Turnips) in this picture if you look carefully – they’re not fully in bloom yet.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
Jack in the pulpit or Indian turnip ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
yellow birch ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
May apple ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
waiting patiently ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Sadly, all the hemlocks are slowly dying…  new life is taking hold under bare branches…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
hemlocks over wild phlox ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
he was so tame and affectionate ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

The Cheshire cat disappeared before we could say good-bye.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
an enchanting garden ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

After this delightful sojourn we sat and rested for a bit and studied our map. We still haven’t seen the whole arboretum, even after three hours! So we’re planning another visit in a month, when different things will be in bloom, and of course, we hope to come and see Shakespeare-in-the-Arboretum in July, too. Plans made, we then headed for Ruby Tuesday and quenched our thirsts with two strawberry lemonades each!

changing perceptions

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book when you were young and felt one way about it, and then watched or read it again 20-30 years later and felt a much different way about it?

Henry Fonda & Katharine Hepburn ~ On Golden Pond

One particularly striking time I noticed this it had to do with the movie, On Golden Pond. I must have been about 24 the first time I saw it and I identified completely with the daughter, Chelsea, and her many complaints about her difficult childhood. But when I saw it again, in my 50s now, it amazed me how petty she seemed to me now, and how much empathy I now had for her aging parents, Norman and Ethel.

This came to mind earlier this week when we went without power for 24 hours due to an electrical updating project at our home. I remember loving the tetralogy by Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken, a story about the lives of Ingunn and Olav, set in medieval Norway. Again, I identified with Ingunn and her chronic health problems and the descriptions of her inner world. So I decided to start reading it again during those 24 hours off the computer.

I’m three-quarters of the way through the first book, The Axe. What surprises me is that I do not remember all the trouble this orphaned couple had coming together or how long it was taking for their marriage to come about. There was a lot of legal uncertainty, a clash between the age-old laws of the land and the new laws the new church was trying to set up. A lot of waiting. The author is skillful drawing the reader into the agony of the waiting. I had forgotten how tangled and frustrating the situation was!

The other surprise is that there are so many characters in the story that I’ve got an almost unbearable urge to write a genealogical outline for the main families, just to keep the relationships straight in my mind! No doubt these details didn’t interest me in the past… But I have discovered that I am not the only one interested in the cast of characters, there is a list of the characters and their relationships at Wikipedia! I’m amazed…

It feels wonderful to be immersed in a very good book again.

goose family walk

Reading Terrill’s blog post, Canada Geese on family swim day, reminded me of a blog post I wrote last year, so I decided to post it on this blog today. The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 25 May 2009:

5.24.09 ~ Beach Pond
5.24.09 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday we were about to start our morning walk in the mist when we heard a clap of not-too-distant thunder. So we got back in the car and decided to watch two Canada geese families weather the storm. One family had four little ones and an unattached aunt or uncle spending time with them. The other family only had two goslings, and they were smaller than the four the other family had. Not sure if they were younger or just smaller for some reason. Dad had an awfully ugly and uncomfortable looking tag around his neck. They were all strolling along at leisurely pace, grazing on the grass…

When the rain started the smaller goslings made a mad dash for their mom, who indulged them for a bit by letting them huddle underneath her. The larger ones looked curious and flapped their wings a few times, imitating their parents. Then they all stood quite still for several minutes, facing into the wind and thrusting their chests out in front of them. After that they decided to ignore the rain and continued walking and feeding. When one of the small goslings got to a small puddle that had formed in the grass, he walked in, but when it got deeper he was surprised and suddenly started swimming, almost tipping over! He looked just as surprised when he had to start walking again!

Wish the pictures had come out better, but I did learn a few more things about my camera. Fiddled with settings and kept wiping rain drops off, and got petty soaked in the process. I know Canada Geese are pretty commonplace, but they were still a wonder to observe more closely than we usually bother, to take the time to enjoy them.

by the sea

It’s been another rough week – will things ever settle down? Dad is not doing well at all and seeing him in so much pain, or else so drugged up that he’s incoherent, leaves me with a pit in my stomach as I stay helpless to relieve his misery. It’s at times like this that it seems like being there couldn’t possibly be enough, although everyone tells me that it does make a difference.

It’s way past my bedtime and I’ve been sitting here at the computer emailing family… And fiddling with a different theme and name for this blog. As if that would change anything. Edge of the Sea suddenly sounded so sharp to me, like the edge of a razor, or the edge of doom, or the edge of night. By the Sea sounds so much softer and comforting. I simply couldn’t rest until I changed it.

None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

~ George Harrison
♫ (All Things Must Pass) ♫

Larisa: Master of Social Work

Larisa Katherine Rodgers

Storrs, Connecticut, May 8, 2010
University of Connecticut School of Social Work
Master of Social Work in Case Work
Mental Health & Substance Abuse in Social Work Practice

Tim and Larisa
Larisa, Aunt Lil and Barbara
5.8.10 ~ Dima, Larisa, Mookie, Alyssa

The sad thing was that Larisa’s most ardent supporter, her Grandpa, was not able to attend, and neither were her Aunt Beverly and Uncle John there, because they remained home to care for Grandpa. But Auntie Lil braved the pouring rain and was pleased as punch to witness the grand event. We all went over to the house afterward and had a little party inside to celebrate and tell Grandpa all about the ceremony.

My parents met at UConn, when my mother was an undergraduate and my father was a graduate student. Dad got his PhD there, too, when Beverly and I were little girls. My sister attended UConn, too, where she met her husband, John, another UConn grad. Beverly went away and got her PhD at the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology. I have a feeling Larisa might follow Beverly’s path and go for a PhD at some other university. It will be fun seeing where her next adventure will be!