Polio blogs 5: In which my reintegration into life lurches along

When Boston’s Children’s Hospital deposited me and my small bag of belongings onto the  sidewalk with my mother I was about to leave a place where all the other kids had handicaps like mine, and the adults had the job of equipping us to get around in our new state of paralysis.

Nobody asked questions about “What happened to you?” or “How come you can’t walk right?”  Everybody knew and everybody had their own stories.  We were equal opportunity story tellers.

These were pre-highway days, when this thirty mile trip was bumpy and twisty — perfect conditions to induce car sickness.  As my mother piloted our way home in an old black Pontiac through Boston’s twisty streets, then out onto state roads where the speed limit was no more than 40 mph, I sat beside her, being not-so-quietly upset.  In between bouts of retching I looked at the various homes and small businesses we passed, feeling entirely ready to set out on my own changed terms.  If my stomach would just behave with all the stops and starts, my mother’s uneven foot on the gas pedal.

Too bad I couldn’t get into the back seat of the two-door sedan.  I would have been less carsick there.  And too bad for my hungry mother, who had missed breakfast and wanted to stop at a shiny silver diner for a tuna sandwich.  “No, NO!” I screeched at the sight of the parking lot.  The thought of food smells was intolerable.  The poor woman went on with her long fast a good while more.

Now the memory is almost surreal.  Us in the ancient two door Pontiac, Mother bravely coaxing the best performance out of it that she could, this tiny, noisy me beside her clutching a bowl to my chest.  It should have been a joyful occasion.  Maybe it was, on some level, but her nervous driving and hungry, brain fogged condition coupled with my stomach upset and imperious behavior suggest, now, several excellent reasons why she was so happy once I’d grown up.

In looking back I’m struck by how different a six-year-old’s views are from those of my current age group — the folks with silvery hair and lots of crinkles in their faces.  Or maybe not so different for some of us.   The only thing I feared then was getting carsick again. Now I’d probably fuss about how people would react to my new status as a mobility challenged individual.  Or — more likely — I’d just want lunch.  Having conquered car sickness.

It wasn’t long before I learned the respect of dry, dust free floors, how much safer they were for wooden crutches than floors with slippery things on them.  It wasn’t long before I learned how to pick myself up via chairs with my new, rigid legs in the metal braces that you couldn’t bend when you were standing, or trying to.  And it wasn’t long before I got tired of displaying my latest black and blues from my various splats to the floor.

For outdoor exercise it was now my job to plod, in a wobbly way, down the street where I had formerly flown, leaving my slower grandmother behind.  Now she was speeding ahead of me, frequently pausing to let me catch up.  Donny simply ran circles around and around us.  Back and forth, ahead and behind.  Up and down the hilly spots — daring me to follow him.

Barking dogs and vicious ones were something I had to learn to handle, there was no getting away from them.  Somebody’s big grey goose waddled through a fence to bite me.

I took the whole thing as it came, figuring that I just had to get the walking thing under control and the good adventures would recommence.  Don’t look at the dogs, keep plodding.  Imagine fresh goose eggs, or roast goose for dinner…

Happen they did, speedily, since the hospital had released me soon before I was due to start first grade in the town’s elementary school.  And there lay the place where my rubber met everyone else’s road.

I became the novelty in short order when my mother chauffeured me to the school that her architect father had designed.  The teacher, Mrs. Hastings, was aware that I was coming, that special adaptations would become necessary, and she had gathered the entire class in the parking lot to greet me.  It was quite something for me to see how perfect they were, no  crutches or wheelchairs, legs moving, standing on their own.  To them I was a wonder in leg irons and Buster Brown shoes.  What I remember is smiling at them all with true bliss because I was thrilled to be back in the “real” world once again.  The fellow handicapped children recently so close receded.  This, before me, was the world I had been so much longer accustomed to, what I had been longing for over the past  year spent mainly in hospitals.

March of Dimes poster
One of the many March of Dimes posters that were around when I was seven or eight years old

Yet it wasn’t long before I was rather missing my peers at Children’s Hospital, wondering how they were getting along.

 

At first I was to be allowed only half days on the grounds that it was fairly difficult to get up and down from the hard little wooden chairs in the classroom, and that using the bathroom — nothing was handicap friendly back then — took about fifteen minutes and a great deal of effort.  A room “mother” had to stay with me.

The thing about leg braces when your legs are paralyzed is that you can’t bend your knees in getting up and down — or you will simply go down all the way to the floor — so you wind up shoving up hard with your arms.  This takes not only practice, but developing serious arm muscles in a hurry — and my arms had also been paralyzed for a while, and were slowly regaining to near normal.  You also need to fine tune your sense of balance, to keep your mind on it a whole lot more than you did before.

Recess was the highlight of my time in the first grade.  It was fun to leave the stuffy classroom in favor of brilliant autumn days, to share stories with a few friendly kids, and wonder why it was that some others were careful to keep as far away from me as possible.

And so my re-introduction to “normal” people and places became gradual rather than sudden immersion. My time in school was cut short that first year.  For the reasons above, as well as for frequent trips back to Boston for checkups that took entire days out of my learning schedule.  Plus I was growing fast enough to need new braces and crutches, and that process also took much time.

A couple of experimentally minded doctors decided to invent a back brace, and I became an early guinea pig.  I was duly suspended by the neck from a hospital ceiling to be casted, then a couple of weeks later presented with a hideous wrap around of solid brown material that covered my hips, had rods with screws to adjust their length running up from that lower piece to two arms that wrapped around my ribs.  Tightly, very tightly.  Sitting down in that thing was well nigh impossible.

That back brace squashed my rib cage for life.  Its purpose was to prevent later scoliosis that would result from the few working abdominal muscles being stronger on one side than the other.  The brace failed miserably in that respect.

Back to the beginnings of my bizarre elementary school education:  The school principal, an old family friend, volunteered to come to our house a few days a week to tutor me.

 

Barr-Buschenfeldt brace
This is similar to my brace, although mine was an earlier prototype.  This is the back of it.

These arrangements were fine with me.  Nobody was bringing me flowers and toys any more, my brother was happier and it was awfully good to be home again.  Miss Lillian Dunn was lively and fun when she would look at the work I’d done for her, and she never got tired of answering my endless questions about anything from hand writing to how tadpoles shed their tails and where were the stars, really?

But her endless patience could be hard on her — once or twice she passed out during our sessions in the living room.  Miss Dunn had diabetes and she did not always remember to eat something before heading to our house.  I have memories of my mother rushing in with glasses of orange juice for her.

Which all was of much interest to me — adults also have trouble with physical challenges, and they don’t all show.

By the time second grade began I was more than ready for the school’s physical challenges, and had been brought up to speed about why it was that some of the kids had been avoiding me.  They were being firmly indoctrinated by parents in the imaginary perils of being around someone who had had polio.  They thought I would give them the disease.

My mother, the public health nurse, had spent quite a bit of time, while I was at home during the first grade, in contacting and visiting some of the families who thought I was still contagious, explaining how once a person had gone through the acute stage of polio the virus became inactive, and would remain so.

For my part I adored hearing the stories she brought back from some of these visits.  Never a gossip or a bit malicious, my mother shared key explanations of people’s backgrounds, what contributed to their misunderstandings.  And no doubt to other things they thought.  She had compassion for those who had little education and a lot of hard work in their lives.

And then there was the German woman, who had a daughter in my class.  I will call her Mrs. J…  My mother merely noted that Mrs. J had once “taken care of the German soldiers during their off time.”  And let drop the fact that, in company with a German officer or two, she had gone skinny dipping in the Rhine during Allied bombing — glasses of champagne at the ready.

I wondered what kind of care of soldiers that was, exactly, but Mother never answered with more than a glare.  It was obvious that science was not something that mattered to Mrs. J, and that was the reason for her daughter giving me a very wide berth at school.

Decades later, when I had my first newspaper job, some long-time fire fighters told me about how visitors to the J family home were sometimes shocked on approaching to see a bare butt sticking out of a kitchen window, the owner doing her business.  That was, evidently, Mrs. J.

What a crazy town I was trying to re-integrate into!  It’s a good thing that I didn’t know the half of it at the time.

Emmie and Donnie in Maine
Here’s a photo of me a year or two after I got out of the hospital, visiting Maine with my brother, Donald

 

 

 

 

 

Seek and find… The Blessing Way

clouds with dove
Clouds with dove

 

Whenever I go through the door looking for poop

That’s what I find — the dogs have provided plenty.

 

Should I pass through seeking a rainbow

I may not find one, but I will enjoy the search,

 

finding little things not otherwise seen, like leaf buds swelling.

Through today’s door I was not looking for spring or its winds,

 

but they were waiting outside, howling and hissing through the big trees,

while collared doves rowed along beneath wavy clouds.

 

This wind pushed me through a different door,

the door of musing over how a life is well lived.

 

Words shared by a Diné (Navajo) elder, Wayne Wilson,

began to etch out a map, clear over clouds in the mind.

 

Teachings of the Blessing Way

Ha ahwiinit’i – Be generous and kind
K’ ezhnidzin –
Acknowledge and respect kinship and clanship
Hane’ zhdindzin –
Seek traditional knowledge and tradition
Hwil’ ili –
Respect values
Ada hozhdilzin –
Respect the sacred nature of the self
Hazaad baa ahojilya –
Having reverence and care of speech
Hazho’ o ajists’ aa’ –
Being a careful listener
Aheeh jinizin –
Being appreciative and thankful
Ha hozho –
Showing positive feelings towards others
Dloh hodichi ya’ atehigii hazho’ o bee yajlti –
Express appropriate and proper sense of humor
Adil jidli – Maintain a strong reverence of the self
Ha naanish ajil’ iinii bizhneedli –
Maintain enthusiasm and motivation for one’s work
Ha naanish baa haa jinizin –
Have respect and care for one’s work
Hanitsekees k’ ezdongo ajosin –
Having a balanced perspective and mind

salvia
Flowers yet to come, with spring

Houses, Apple and me

Lately I’ve been lax about my blog.  The decision to try selling my house again naturally brought on a cascade of events.  And then my 16-month old iMac started what seems like death throes.

Apple and me, we go back to 1998 when I was a tech at AOL in Albuquerque, getting more tired by the day of fixing other people’s virus infected Windows systems.  My young teenage daughter had friends with the knack of attracting viruses to her Windows system and I was distinctly unenthusiastic about coming home to yet another clean-up.

In those days most everyone I knew had Windows, even though the first personal computer I ever met was a cute little box-shaped tower with the necessary keyboard alongside the new thing around — a mouse.  The first Apple Macintosh.

If you’ve been reading my Polio blogs you know I have a rebellious streak as wide as the Rio Grande.  Could be deeper, too. …  One day during a drought I observed a bunch of ducks walking across the river,  and showing some leg in the process …

So I traded in my Acer 98SE desktop for one of those cute and colorful early iMacs.  Eventually my daughter got a Mac, too.  Peaceful times for techs ensued at home.

Macs of increasing complexity have seen us through ever since.  There have been a few head-scratching issues, but the only fatality (apart from old age) occurred when a glass of water spilled over a laptop keypad.  But we knew exactly what precipitated that event.

No such luck with my youngish iMac.

It had been having issues ever since El Capitan went in at the same time its one-year warranty ran out. (Blog on that matter is here.)  As usual I didn’t buy an extended warranty.  My general view is that companies that push customers into buying those things aren’t standing very tall behind their products.

Since September I have called Apple more times than can be remembered.  At least ten times, with generally long periods of troubleshooting.  Long enough that I thought I deserved a nap when the work finally ended — and I’m rarely inclined to doze off during the day.

They sent me two different keyboards to see if they would fix some typing problems.  Like all the other things done previously these appeared to help.  For a while.

Last weekend the iMac quit fooling around with keyboard problems in favor of demonstrating a clear internal problem of its own. Up there on that iconic aluminum pedestal.  Uncontrollable scrolling set in.  With every program I opened, from Preview to iTunes and iPhoto, Pages, Safari and Mail.

You need to watch 21,000 photo thumbnails flying up and down to understand the state of dizziness that whomped me.

So I called Apple one more time.  After all, their senior techs had said a few times to call back if the wired keyboard didn’t fix the issue for good.  This Monday I got a woman who was entirely pleasant as she told me in forty different ways that “You have done everything that can be done.  There us nothing more that you can do.  I don’t want to waste your time doing those things over again.”

Did you notice how neatly she shifted responsibility for the machine’s breakdown from Apple over to me?

For once Apple failed to send me a survey after that call.  The one I would have loved to rate!  Do they have a trick in their phone system that automatically routes certain repeat callers to the “I am so sorry” queue?  The folks who don’t ever have surveys sent about their success in helping you out?

The Apple Computer Death Squad.

Well…  I have chosen in my life not to wallow in misfortune.  Any wallowing allowed is directed towards preventing problems by the application of common sense, and the dogged persistence of a stubborn New Englander in believing we can get through anything if we try hard enough.

On my puny Social Security check who could afford a shiny new Apple anything?

However, my digital life has been entirely in the Apple-sphere for years on end.  I do now use Windows 10 occasionally — to check how the other side lives.  For me, really, it’s hard to adjust to that less integrated world when you’re accustomed to Apple’s streamlined style.  I mean integrated in the sense of hardware and software harmonizing with a pleasant lack of drama.

So — fuming about predictability — soon enough there was I, ploughing through Apple’s offerings, falling victim yet again to their marketing porn … er, wizardry.  Among other things I learned that it shouldn’t be a bad thing for credit card averse me to utilize a line of credit offered through the store.

So…  Welcome to my new, entirely portable digital world.  A 12” MacBook Retina with 512 GB of flash storage, a different yet comfortable keypad and trackpad.  With Just One Single Port.  Which you use for everything from charging to backing up data and connecting a separate display or TV.  With dongles, sold separately.  With fiendish cleverness Apple avoids an intermediate price between one which only converts the USB-C to a USB-3, $19, and the AV version that includes the TV capability along with ports for charging and USB-3, $79.

I don’t own a TV, so I ranted with no shame in front of the dogs for a bit.

It was, at least, easier to manage that one USB-C port than I would have guessed a week ago.  Supposedly these ports will be Very Big in the future in all sorts of computers.

So here’s my first historic post from both a home with a For Sale sign out front and a tiny laptop ready to hit the road to California with me and the dogs when the time comes.

The dogs, it must be admitted, were edgy about this morning’s photo shoot of my spectacularly clean and tidy domicile.  Must have worn themselves out trotting after the realtors involved because ever since Elf and Opus have flopped down and checked out in favor of a good afternoon’s napping.  To be followed by a pleasant, even if bolted, dinner and early bedtime.

One of these days I hope our roles will be reversed, for once,

We replaced some of our cozy messiness as soon as the realtors left.  Happy sighs on that score.

Me, sitting here listening to the music of Buffy Ste. Marie, Mary Chapin Carpenter, David Bowie and Julian Bream, sounding good via a bluetooth speaker or on the MacBook’s built in speakers.

I watched ever greyer skies close in over the rugged West Mesa while the neighbor’s rough looking tiger cat kitten prowled around the field across the street, looking for lunch.  Or maybe dinner.  Are my dogs too well fed?  …  I wouldn’t change a thing for them.  Then down came darkness and a band of mixed rain and snow.

But I did break with tradition and get the extended warranty for the new laptop.  My trust in Apple’s gorgeous products has been just a bit shaken around lately.

Let the real estate project begin.

Onto a new path

’Tis another washed out, grey day dawned in the high desert.  An anticipated big snowstorm failed to have its way with us.  Cheers for that.

Firing up Apple Music on my iPad Mini first thing this morning, my fingers found their way to an album from my long ago folk music names.  A Joan Baez collection called Farewell Angelina.  Bob Dylan’s song.

Listening to Joan B’s Spanish music makes me happy, while her early music sends me off into a time warp when the struggle of life was to assert myself in an unaccepting world.  As soon as I could find whoever myself was under all that surface manner.

It was a time of bravado, over reacting to slights from would-be employers and landlords who openly denied me opportunities in fear of my very visible handicap.  It was a time when I smoked cigars in places such as Boston’s Symphony Hall, wearing a safari hat and sacklike granny dress.  One day while I was doing that a blue-haired, mink-wrapped woman glared at me at muttered, “I particularly detest people on crutches!”

It was a time when I listened to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s brilliant oratory in Boston, when I bought a 12-string Martin guitar at a street corner at Boston Gardens, and thundered away on it with and without others.  I carried my guitar on my back at the Newport Folk Festival, where I ran into Joan Baez and her husband, David, again.  The first time was while I was at Boston University.  She had dropped out of that school to pursue her music and was considered a radical at the time.  Her message to us who considered the radical path for ourselves was, “Drop out.  Do it.”

I didn’t drop out and I never followed anyone else’s political agenda.

That said, back to today’s slo-mo doings which will have far, far reaching effects upon my quiet little life.

No sooner did local radar show the last clouds slipping completely past than something way up there tossed mega tons of hail upon us.  White covered all there is to see out the windows.  Street, roofs, open land, driveway, bushes.

Thirty minutes later it was gone.  Two hours later, flaming sunshine.  Quirky!

Today I set in motion the process of selling my house.  Just before we got that hail.

I’ve done this before, with some good fortune. though the summer before last it was all but sold, when, days before closing, the buyer was denied her mortgage.

house for sale
In the summer of 2014

I liked my realtor, and she comes to meet with me again next week.

Farewell, Angelina, the sky is folding

and I must leave fast

My dad’s family set foot on the East Coast of what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts when the Mayflower landed.  From that day forward they made themselves into landowners by means fair and foul.

To this day my father’s people have owned homes, businesses, land enough to comprise an entire town.  Less is known about my mother’s people, other than that there were a lot of Quakers, some of whom were wealthy.  They were also homeowners and both families had plenty of politicians over the centuries.

The American way.  My families were big on that.

So here I go, selling the last house that I will ever own.  Launching a new phase of life as a renter, most likely of a corporately-owned, way over priced little apartment somewhere in the Silicon Valley.

This is to be near my daughter, my only close living relative.  She and I both look forward eagerly to the change, whether we can afford it or not.

Those old views from the 1960s will fly through my mind like so many mosquitoes.  Fight the greedy establishment, stand for the rights of the little people, don’t believe a thing a politician ever says.  Live lightly on the land, love the people, share flowers.

In doing this I’m saying farewell to the way of life practiced by all those forebears of mine.  Given the financial output required to live in the Silicon Valley — and me with Social Security for income — what I’m selling is the last house for me.

I’m pretty sure that will be just fine.

When I think of the years my late ex husband, Yakov, and I spent in apartments in New Mexico, California and Massachusetts what comes to mind is how carefree we felt.  No leaky roofs to fix or lawns to mow.  We spent more time out and about, doing things we loved.

Farewell Angelina…  A vivid memory from Carlsbad, New Mexico, 1977, where I first explored the famous caverns — learning that nearly five hours plodding up and down the underground world with crutches and braces  stretched my capacity to sacrifice sunshine.

In Carlsbad I also learned to shoot.

…Perched in the sun

Shooting tin cans

With a sawed-off shotgun

And the neighbors they clap

And they cheer with each blast

Hey, I did that in the wide open desert!  And it, too, was a bit of bravado by me.  My chosen religion strongly discourages ownership of weapons.  If a life is being threatened you may do what is necessary to save that life, if it be another’s or your own.  If you live in a place where a gun is necessary because of genuine threats (large carnivores come to mind) they are alright.  Well, my young self decided, I may never own a gun but I will for sure learn how to handle the things.

Today I can only marvel at my neighbors, a man with a herd of young male relatives visiting him most of the time.  Regularly a few of these fellows trot out of the house bearing big guns, in camo.  Off to shoot at deer and bears…? To me an AK-14 seems like excessive force against animals.  And I  don’t object to ethical, efficient hunting for food.

Dylan, though, he was a prescient song writer way back there in the 1960s:

The machine guns are roaring

The puppets heave rocks

The fiends nail time bombs

To the hands of the clocks

Call me any name you like

I will never deny it

Farewell Angelina

The sky is erupting

I must go where it’s quiet

These days I have friends of my age who are packing a few belongings and selling everything else, leaving the USA for more economical and friendly nations.  Like Panama.  Evidently countries that have felt the sting of revolution in the not distant past feel safer than home in the US, where just about anyone can own as many assault weapons, handguns and other weapons as they can find room for.

In California I became an avid bird watcher, and when a newspaper job failed to materialize in my vicinity I set up shop in my living room as a carver of birds and animals.  Yakov hauled them to about a hundred craft shows and galleries, where we sold them, then later paid our bills.  Rent wasn’t so impossibly high in those days.  While doing this I formed a life-long love for the Golden State.

There’s no need for anger

There’s no need for blame

There’s nothing to prove

Everything’s still the same

Just a table standing empty

By the edge of the sea

Farewell Angelina

The sky is trembling

And I must leave

And so, an adventure begins!

My father’s war memories, laid to rest

birthday flowers from Jericha
Birthday greetings from my daughter!

Today, which happens to be my birthday, might have dawned all white and poofy outdoors, but instead Mother Nature provided a pleasant surprise:  Rare and gentle rain washing away leftover snow piles from ten days ago.

A fine day to sit by the kitchen window with a hot cup of fragrant oolong tea, episodes from life floating through.  Tropical memories were particularly vivid this bleak New Mexico day.

A synergistic conflation of Hawaiian family adventures popped into my mind like a big, beautiful hot air balloon brightening a dull sky.

I grew up in Massachusetts with my dad’s collection of Hawaiian music playing often on the living room stereo system.  Slack key guitar, pahu, ukelele, I loved them all, especially during those horrid winter hurricanes known as Nor’easters.

My father had been sent to the island of Oahu after a long, grueling post as an Army medic in the Philippines during World War II.  Raised with Quaker values, he put off his enlistment as long as he could.  Right up until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  From his description (and a bunch of old letters he wrote while there) it is clear that the Hawaiian time was the best in his life, up till then.

I had a tourist pamphlet that purported to teach potential visitors a bit of the Hawaiian language.  Most particularly how to pronounce it.  I fell in love with the name of a tiny fish:  humuhumunukunuapa’a.  AKA Reef Triggerfish. So greatly did I esteem this name that I bestowed it on a plastic pinto saddle horse standing on my bedroom mantelpiece.  I loved that horse, with a narrow gold-leaf sticker affixed to his rump, reading Moosehead Lake, Maine.

An all around lover of great places, wherever they may be, that’s me.  My bucket list of places to visit features Tuva alongside Botwswana.

But on with Hawaii.

A few decades after Daddy’s Hawaiian vinyl records spun mental magic I was delighted to land on a genuine Hawaiian beach — Haunama Bay — which features not only palm trees rising from soft sand, but also a glorious reef close to shore, where turtles swim alongside bright fish.  I had been transported there from New Mexico in order to take part in my daughter’s wedding, and on this day I could watch her swimming to the reef with several friends, cool beneath a friendly coconut palm.

hanauma-bay2
Haunama Bay, fisheye lens view, from a tourist  website

(Tourist website)

Enthusiastic as she had been about me clambering into one of the plastic, fat-tired wheelchairs available for differently-abled visitors, one look at a chair made me clutch the armrests of my power renta-a-wheelchair ever more firmly.

“I could get into that thing,” I pronounced, “but it would take six beach boys in speedos to haul my butt out.”

And so I was allowed to people watch near the tourist tent, shaded by my big cowgirl hat and a palm tree.

Serene it was, till my roving eyes fell on a commotion at the far end of the beach and the reef.  A bunch of those colorful young fellows were running that way — my first suggestion that these weren’t just any old beach boys.  Soon a hefty pickup rumbled right by me, four more good looking dudes in Hawaiian print shorts in the back.  Twenty minutes after that it returned in solemnity, the crew laboring over something in the bed.  As they got closer I realized it was CPR they were doing.  The main guy stopped pumping on a bulging chest just before the truck pulled up alongside me.

“You have to keep going,” said another, in the flat voice of one who knows there is no hope.  And for a short while revival efforts continued, till abruptly the medical crew abandoned the pickup, heading towards a distant ambulance for a gurney.  Which left me free to examine the dead man.  No stranger to the sight of dead bodies, me.  He was a middle aged Japanese person in swimming trunks fully as bright as any others around, but he had obviously been in the water a while before his body was brought to shore.  Large red welts covered his cheeks and neck, perhaps from jelly fish bites.

“Welcome to Hawaii, Miz Em’li”, said my stern inner companion.  “You knew that tropical paradise has its dark moments, too.”

My spiritual self began saying Baha’i prayers for departed souls; I wondered how he came to his end here, with no family or friends apparent.  The beach was covered with small groups of people, lounging, running, swimming, laughing together.  Everywhere.  Why this man alone, with no one at all to follow him?

I never found out, as the Honolulu newspaper did not carry a word about the man who drowned at the bay one March day that was lovely in the patented Hawaiian manner.

But this mysterious Japanese man lying so alone in the back of a pickup truck, he had me there to care about him, to pray for his progress from this life, whoever he had been in life.

This morning I remember Haunama Bay, my joy at being in Hawaii at last, at being with my beloved daughter, the sense of adventure so strong.  And what became, to me, the honor of being present for a solitary Japanese man shortly after he left this world. Someone was there to pray for his good journey into unknown worlds.

My father was never able to talk about his Pacific experiences as an Army Medic, much, until I turned 30.  Then over dinner one evening his inner floodgates opened to pour enough information upon me to assure a long stream of sleepless nights.  His life-threatening bouts with malaria were the least of it.

Later on I realized that the prayers that came to me while sitting beneath the Haunama Bay palm were also to lay to rest what my father had finally told me about from the war, his war.  The graphic explanation for his long standing hatred of so much about Japan.

Pearl Harbor was another spot I visited in honor of my dad and the soldiers and sailors who died there and in other places around the Pacific Ocean, their families left without them…  But beautiful Haunama Bay, teeming with life and rich colors, was the place where I said goodbye to my father’s war stories.   Time to move into another, positive, more creative view of Earth’s many nations and tribes of people.

My ohana (Hawaiian word for family, big family) now is united in love for all mankind.  Including my father’s spirit in its place that is nowhere and everywhere that my heart is.  Peace and love to you, Horace West Lee, cranky old Yankee man that you were at the end.

Aloha.

*+*+*+*+*

A Baha’i prayer for the departed:

my God!  O Thou forgiver of sins, bestower of gifts, dispeller of afflictions! 

Verily, I beseech thee to forgive the sins of such as have abandoned the physical garment and have ascended to the spiritual world. 

O my Lord!  Purify them from trespasses, dispel their sorrows, and change their darkness into light.  Cause them to enter the garden of happiness, cleanse them with the most pure water, and grant them to behold Thy splendors on the loftiest mount.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Below lies the USS Arizona as seen from the memorial constructed above it.  This is only a portion of the roll of honor, listing the names of those who died on it during the Pearl Harbor attack.  While sitting by the hole in the floor that allows clear views of the rusting vessel I was joined by a couple dozen people, from many nations.

Animals and weather

Like many a descendant of farming families it is my habit to crack an eye open long before dawn to check the weather — online, in my case — before getting out of bed, and either make plans to arise soon or sleep another several hours, depending on the results.

This morning my weather apps warned of snow and rain arriving by  afternoon, then piling up through the night and the following day. With the possibility of more white stuff for the next four days.

Argh!  Can I  turn into a bear for a while, and hibernate?

Animals were at it this morning, for whatever reasons.

My grudging wheelchair roll down the road for emergency groceries followed a hasty peanut butter and jelly whole wheat tortilla with strong black tea and a banana.  Happily I was not sufficiently engrossed with indulging my dislike of snow that I would have to shovel to miss the takeoff, from the middle school athletic field across the street, of eight large, very large, birds with long, long necks.  Sandhill cranes, and whatever were they doing in a short grass area like that?  In the middle of a little city, to boot?

In six years here not once had I seen a crane except high overhead.  Really high. At my last place they hung out all winter in a huge alfalfa field across the narrow street from my place. Seeing them in this unsuitable habitat years later felt like a visitation, to me.

In kicked my mystical being with a question.  “Do cranes need reasons you can understand to do what they do?”  Which immediately closed doors on my left brained habits, sneaking in an unscientific conclusion:  “They are here, close enough over my head to show me all of their larger feathers in detail in order to inform me that things are not as bad as they might seem.”

Forward barged the inner optimist, “In fact these Sandhills landed across the street from your house this bleary, dreary morning in order to let you know how good things are going to get.  Soon.”

Thus encouraged I sat in the middle of my street to observe the cranes fly  over the rail yard toward the east mountains, where suitable fields exist.  The whole thing took less than a minute, not long enough for me to set down my shopping bags, take off my gloves, fish out the iPhone and snap a decent photo.

This is the same person who has long regarded the sight of a Great Blue Heron flying along as good luck.

 

Every winter, cranes fill the skies, heading for the fields all around us.
I got this photo of Sandhills flying over my larger place south of Albuquerque a dozen years ago.  It was a day similar to today for cloudiness.

Next up for my attention roiled up angry yowls from a pair of fighting tomcats on a side street.  To my amusement the screeches caused Peewee and Conan, the friendly black and tan mixed breed and glossy black rottweiler next door, to pop up and down along their fence, catching glimpses of the combatants.  Jesus, their person, has put handmade wrought iron railings atop the low concrete wall around his family home to keep the two former Houdinis at home.

I hadn’t seen cats fighting here in some years.

My grocery mission proceeded without much else of note till I had left the store and was passing a popular breakfast and lunch café.   Before the front door stood a big black dog, nosing a crumpled burrito wrapper.  The moment she spotted me she trotted over to take up a position beside my chair for the next few blocks.  Whenever I turned my head to get a better look at this big puppy — for she was very young — I would meet a gaze that seemed to hold detachment and something that I had trouble interpreting.  Big puppy craziness?  Surprise?  Hurt?  Had she been thrown out?  In the middle of town wasn’t it more likely that she had slipped her collar?  For there was the clear imprint of a collar in her neck fur.  Perhaps she had been left home alone for the holidays?  Shiny fur, no more thin than lots of puppies that size.  Rangy more than thin.

While I mused over what to do should my large companion choose to accompany me all the way home she abruptly veered off down a side street as though she knew where she was going.  Which I very much hoped that she did.

The encounter left me, for the rest if the way home, saying silent prayers for abandoned animals roaming streets in bad weather.  For the ones whose people leave them out full time despite the weather, with little or no medical care and just enough food to keep them alive.  Furry doorbells.

Elf and Opus might not, despite my mixed state of mind, have been quite as thoroughly overjoyed to see me back again had I been accompanied by a temperament-untested dog three times their size.

They were delighted to join me soon afterwards in the back yard, where we basked for a few minutes in the warmish temperatures, and I rejoiced to see icicles and snow from last week’s storm dripping fast from the north slopes of the roof.  That snow and ice is long gone from sunny areas.

old snow
To remind myself that snow does melt I took this picture today.  It’s my back yard, and the snow line shows where the house blocks the sun from hitting the ground this time of year.

The northside melting was still going strong shortly before the sun went down around 5 p.m.

Tomorrow will tell us how things actually turn out between my inner optimist and the weather forecast!

To blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown.  ~Baha’i

Opus the photobomber
While I was taking the picture of ground and snow, above, the usual family photobomber popped up in front of me.  Opus!