healing haven

September 10, 2008

Whose Hands?

Filed under: memoir,poem,Pythian Games — by thalia @ 4:42 am

 

I remember her hands, slim and graceful,

gently rounded fingernails

sometimes painted with a soft rose nailpolish,

sometimes cut up from yardwork or from building something.

 

Hands that could wield a hammer or a needle,

 pounding work or delicate work,

                sometimes doing construction as when building her house

                sometimes doing embroidery or cruel needlework.

 

 

Hands that made crocheted gifts for Christmas one year and

hand drawn with the recipient’s interest painted on tee shirts the next. 

                sometimes making and carving candles

                sometimes making beaded flower arrangements for all.

 

Hands that hammered two by four’s

hands that carried large cement blocks

                sometimes up scaffolding while building a chimney

                sometimes making a retaining wall.

 

Hands that made things from scratch

hands reddened from boiling water or strained black raspberries,

                sometimes making tofu or bread

                sometimes canning veggies and making jellies.

 

Hands that hammered wallboard

hands that spackled and sanded each wallboard joint

                sometimes painting ceilings and walls

                sometimes slapping on tar to waterproof basement walls.

 

Hands that danced through the air

as explanations needed visual expression,

                sometimes in graceful dancing

                sometimes in pointed conversations.

 

Hands that changed diapers

hands that delighted to convey love to others through touch, 

                sometimes to hold and caress

                sometimes to massage and heal.

  

But what has happened to those hands?

Whose hands do I now see?

                sometimes bloated from water retention

                sometimes aching from too much work

                sometimes not seeming like the same hands of yore

                sometimes I wonder: whose hands are they?

 

They are my hands now: aging, not as graceful

hands that convey the passage of time,

                sometimes still able to massage and heal

                sometimes to make bread or draw

                sometimes to build something or paint

sometimes pull weeds and plant.

 

More likely than not they are dry, needing lotion

or aching from too much writing or weeding

                always wanting to impart love and touch

                always wanting to distill a little more beauty

                                into gardens, or recipes, or creative gifts

                                into life, work, people, love.

 

They are my hands now—no one else’s

 I am proud of the legacy they reveal

                only to those who have the wisdom to see

                life enhances, not detracts, from the beauty of hands.

   

 

June 15, 2008

Circus Memories (5)

Filed under: fiction,memoir,Pythian Games — by thalia @ 7:04 am
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Adjusting her satchel diagonally across her neck and shoulders, she found the wet coolness of the satchel’s outer material felt good.  Somehow, this day seemed a lot hotter than when she set out. The plastic lining of the satchel and the plastic zip bags should have kept everything within dry.

 

She scrambled up the embankment, as well as an overweight older woman could scramble, arriving at the top somewhat out of breath and with dirty sappy hands from grabbing at the shrubs for some balance.  She arrived at the top, repositioned her clothing and satchel.  Whew! Now, where am I? and where is that music coming from?

 

 She looked around and listened.  A path ran along the stream bank with the music seeming to come from the right.  OK, let’s go and see what we see.  As she ambled along the pathway, she took note of the trees and wild flowers.  Among the familiar flowers, some seemed to be those of the Ozarks, and some from her living in the Northeast.  But some were entirely different.

 

So very different!  Wonder what they are? On the way back, if there is a way back, I’ll look closer.  Follow the music.  Reminds me of the circus figures I made for Essie for Christmas.

 

 

I sure enjoyed researching, drawing then painting and cutting out the figures.  Fun designing what to use and how to do it.  Two layers of oaktag (now called poster board) glued together was the perfect thickness so the figures could stand up.  Tried to get the same stuff Dad had used on my set years ago, but no longer available. 

 

It was so nice to hear that Essie enjoyed playing with them.  She really enjoyed my putting her face on the horseback-rider’s body.  I remember all the fun I had playing with my figures Dad had made for me.  Now I was making circus figures for my granddaughter–the Wheel of Life.  So many good memories for me and I hope, for her.

 

The path moved away from the stream and now joined with another.  Three children were ahead, probably coming along the other path, hopping and skipping along.  The music was louder and now she could clearly hear the brass band playing marching music.  Anticipation and memory quickened her blood.  She remembered her first visit to a circus at Madison Square Gardens in New York City in the 1940’s.  The overwhelming sights and activities in the arena upstairs—truly a three-ring circus—and the overwhelming sights and smells while visiting the animals in the basement of the Garden.

  

 The whole trip into the City with my family was exciting: going on the bridges over water and into the tunnels under water to enter Manhattan.  So many new things to experience.  And the wonderful circus music making your body move like a puppet on a string.  She couldn’t help skipping and moving to the music she now heard. 

 

One of the boys stopped and turned around to look at her.  She could hear him say in the honest/cruel manner children sometimes have: “She’s old.  Why is she coming here?  And why is she skipping?  She looks silly.  Let’s get out of here.”  He grabbed the shirt of another child and they started to run away. 

 

Momentarily deflated, she hung back as they darted ahead.  Now it was her weight and her age that occasioned some ridicule for being different.   As a child it was being too skinny, dressed in mostly hand-me-downs from cousins, too shy and quiet.  Later it was being too good and smart, then having children and staying home to be with them instead of working, then… then… then… always something.  But now it doesn’t bother me the way it used to.  I know my own worth and why I was like that and the struggle to overcome all the odds.  I know who I am and where I am going.  Well, I may know the essence of who I am under all the who’s I can be, but I may not know where I am going right at this moment.

 

She came upon two objects nailed to a tree: one was a circus poster that caught her attention.    

 

 

 Yes, that is who I need to be right now.  A young girl who can skip and run and even… maybe…  ride a beautiful horse, just like that.  I always loved to ride horses, but I may be too large for one now.  But a young girl would be perfect, like Essie.

 

She moved off the path into a clearing behind some bushes.  Looking around, seeing no one, she closed her eyes and thought of her granddaughter’s face on the bareback-rider’s body: slim, young, agile and enough balance to stay on the horse as it pranced around the circus ring.  This will be great!   Finally a chance to really ride horses and yet be so graceful.  I see myself on a beautiful white horse, just like that one.  Flexible enough to leap from horse to horse yet mature enough to be responsible for the care of the horses.   Yes…

 

Yet as she could feel her body shift into its new shape, and the pounds drop off, she suddenly remembered the other sign on the tree.  “LEMURIA” 

 

What did that mean?

 

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/06/15/circus-memories/#comments)

 

June 8, 2008

An Old-Fish Story – 3

Filed under: fiction,Pythian Games,shape shifting — by thalia @ 8:11 am
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Where were they going?  And why are they all going together?

 

She turned around and scrambled even further along the ledge.  Many varieties swam by: trout, bass, crappie…   Oh, and there’s a catfish.  Don’t usually see them all together.  I wonder if there is a gar although they are not usually in fast moving streams but in brackish backwaters.  I remember being so surprised when I first saw an alligator gar and how it looked like an alligator with its long snout with a double row of needle-teeth in the upper jaw.  I read up about them and their average size of 3-7 feet.  That one reprint in the paper of 10-foot long gar caught in Mississippi in 1910 was amazing.   

 

Gars are a primitive species with fossils found going back to the Cretaceous period about 145 million years ago to about 70 million years ago. What would it be like to have a direct line back for so long? But they are so ugly.  That’s unkind.  I bet they consider themselves just fine, or even VERY fine.  And the gar would be large enough to carry my satchel.  Good thing everything is in plastic-zipped bags – just in case.  

 

She sat on the ledge, feet dangling into the water, well aware that if a gar was present it might bite her leg thinking it was a flopping fish.  Gars, so old yet still around and surviving well around here and further south.  Do they have awareness or any sense of who they are?  The skeleton picture of the gar showed teeth in a bit grin, or so it seemed.  Like the wolf dressed as the grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood.  What big teeth you have…

 

Before she realized, she slid into the water, satchel, scales and all.  Other fish darted away obviously aware that gars eat fish and even crabs.  She understood their reluctance to travel close but it still hurt her even though she knew gars were solitary fish.  She always seemed to want to connect with any and every thing.  She could sense the difference between “her” feelings of being different and the gar’s acceptance of being who he was.   

 

The slight wriggling motion of the gar swimming made her nauseous for a few minutes, then it felt natural and free.  It was much easier to move through water than to walk through air because of gravity.  And the rhythm of swimming was quite soothing.  The feel of the water as she glided through actually felt very sensuous on her skin/scales.  Do fish interpret that feeling as sensuous?  Maybe not, since they don’t know of anything else and know nothing to compare it to as I do.

 

She could see a narrowing in the cave wall where the fish were heading towards and then disappearing into.   Ok, here we go!  A dark passage with spotlights on the side, here and there, as sun shone through.  Possible outlets for springs.  Springs are a good source of wells for farmers and settlers.  Are any of these hot springs?  There are many hot springs that were used and still are, for healing and pleasure, in the Ozarks.  Even Native Americans gathered here to recover and bask in the warm, soothing waters.  

 

One sun-lit area loomed larger than the previously seen ones.  It was off to the right side where the main tunnel divided.  She decided to check that one out as she saw some fish heading over there.  She swam to the same area and was suddenly outside.    

She popped up close to the surface but still retained the gar body, remembering that gar have an air bladder so they can breathe air for as long as 2 hours.  Being close to the surface to draw in air also made them vulnerable as an easy target for bow-fishermen.  But she wanted to see if anyone was around before surfacing and shifting.  Seems clear. 

She wriggled onto the pebbly bank and checked to ascertain how well the air bladder worked.  As her tail, flipping her ashore, caught the light’s reflection, she thought of how some Native American tribes, like the Seminoles, Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee participated in ritual dances and song surrounding the gar, and many liked to collect the gar scales, which were hard like armor.

 

She lay still, now breathing air.  She watched and listened.  She could see the other fish moving along further with the current of the stream.  She could hear the sounds of water running over rocks and the usual forest sounds.  But what is that?  A hum—something else.  Just sounds like a humming  noise.  Maybe the gar can’t hear things above water the way humans would.

 

She allowed herself to change back into her regular form so as to listen better, even though she knew her hearing was getting worse.  But it still had to be better than the gar’s.  Sounds like chattering well off in the distance—people chattering and music.  What kind of music is that?  Not any popular music like country, rap, hip-hop, reggae, rock and roll, big band, or even classical. Whatever is that?  Sounds familiar in a way, in a sort of nostalgic way… like when I was a child… sounds like circus music! Real circus music!  Where am I anyway?  Where have I traveled  to?  And when have I gone to? Since I can’t go back against the current so might as well go on.  It’s been years, but I’m going to the circus!

 

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/an-old-fish-story/#comments)

 

 

 

May 31, 2008

Tunnel of History – 2

Filed under: fiction,Pythian Games — by thalia @ 8:30 am
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I reach for a stone to drop down the well to check where the water level is.  The one I pick up is covered with seashell fossils from when these Ozark Mountains were under oceans millennium ago.  I place it in my satchel to add to the others I’ve collected.  It always amazes me that here, in the middle of the United States, there was once ocean.  Finding another plain stone, I drop it and listen.  No ‘splash’ of stone hitting water, but instead, the sound of ‘plop’ onto dirt.  OK, not a well but a tunnel as the stair-ladder indicates.  What else will I find?

  

Fixing the flashlight to attach to the side of my neck with the bandana I always carry and have used in this manner before, I free my hands for going down the narrow pieces of wood.  Turning around, I gingerly step backwards and down the first rung, using my arms to balance and thinking perhaps, I should get down on all fours and ease down.  I am no longer as agile as I once was.  I decide to use an overhanging branch as leverage to step down the second rung, then the third and fourth as I check for dry rot on each.  At last my hands can grab the wooden steps, trying to avoid splinters.  Finally my head drops below the level of the surface.  The flashlight shines brightly on the close earthen walls.

 

Ouch! What’s that?  My right hand gets cut as it moved to gain another purchase on the ladder.  An arrowhead!  When is this from?  I pry it out of the earth and examine at it.  As common as they are around here, I still thrill to unearth one.  Is it Osage, Caddo or Cherokee?  Hard to tell.  Could be from the very early days when many of the American Indian tribes criss-crossed this area either for hunting grounds or summer camps in the hills.  Or maybe from the Trail of Tears, or “the trail where they cried”, which passed through this area as over 1,000 Cherokees led by John Benge trudged through here in January of 1839.  I’ll put this into my satchel to check out later when I get back.

  

Finally I reach bottom.  I detach my flashlight from its cloth holder so I can maneuver the light better.  I fold up and place the bandana back into the satchel, then look around.  I’m standing in a dead-end of a tunnel that appears to slant downward from here.   

 

Do I dare go further?  I’m intrigued by all the recent TV programs on the Manhattan underground and London underground, and all the various tunnels for systems under cities for pipes, electric, water, sewer and subway systems.  Even underground cisterns as in Masada and New York City, and underground shelters in Roman times and in London in World War II – all fascinating!  Yet this is creepy, too.  Where does this lead?  What else is down here?  I think of all the stuff nightmares are made of: darkness, bugs, spiders, monsters, the unknown.  I think I should go back.

 

But what if it’s part of the Underground Railroad?  Or an escape route during the Civil War when the North/South line moved back and forth across this area?  I decide I’ll walk just a little further.

 

Cautious steps, one after the other, all going down a slight slope.  Something skitters nearby, causing me to stop as my heart pounds and I move my flashlight towards the sound.  It’s only a salamander.  How pretty!  It looks like a clown with those black polka dots on a bright orange smooth body.

  

A few more steps and I stop again as I hear another noise, but this sounds like water lapping softly onto the shore.  This intensifies as I continue along. 

 

Then I step into what appears to be a large cave with a rock ledge running along one side and expanding past a pool of water that is mostly calm but with just enough motion to create the lapping sound.  Is water flowing in?  I watch, but the water isn’t rising.  Maybe it is flowing in and out? 

 

Aiming the light so it follows the ledge out over the pool, I see some things piled there.  I climb up and walk out further a bit on the solid ledge.  An old bashed-in tin cup, maybe for getting pool water to drink?  Someone hiding out waiting to connect up with the Butterfield Stagecoach, which passed nearby?  Back here, near the rock wall, a pile of feathers interspersed with bits of disintegrating cloth… no, it’s burlap sacking.  Maybe this had been someone’s sleeping pallet… for a slave dreaming of freedom?  for a soldier dreaming of peace?  for a settler dreaming of escape?   

 

And of what do I dream as I stand here in this tunnel of history?  Of the interconnectiveness of all things, the ebb and flow of life, the weaving of patterns, the wonder of it all.  But mostly, of the even bigger Wonder beyond it all!

 

My reverie finally breaks.  A little further along the ledge, I see a pile of charred wood and something half buried in the ashes.  How long ago was this fire snapping and crackling?  What’s this?  A partially burned wooden carved fish!  Symbol of Christians being here?  Fisherman?  Fish in the water? 

 

I go to the edge and peer into the deeper part of the pool.  Yes, I see fish swimming, but they seem to be moving with a purpose, as a school of fish, from left to right.  Is that how the current flows?  I watch closely.  Yes, it is.  Yet I don’t see an opening into the cave.  Must be underwater.  I’m not a very good swimmer.  I think I’ll turn back.  This has been adventure enough and gives me plenty to write about.

 

But where are these fish going?

 

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/tunnel-of-history/#comments)

 

May 25, 2008

Into The Well – 1

Filed under: fiction,gardening,Pythian Games,shape shifting — by thalia @ 8:52 am
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I finished glancing through a Toscano catalog, enjoying all the beautiful sculptures suitable for putting in the garden.  Most everything was too expensive for me to ever buy, but just looking always inspired me with garden ideas more suitable for my budget.  So I then decide to wander through the garden, as the various possibilities were still fresh.

 

I wander through the flower and vegetable gardens, around the huge wild rose bush in bloom, past the honeysuckle overgrowing the old fence, and roam through the back gate onto the rest of the property, all wild and abandoned.  Clumps of daisies and cluster of late-blooming daffodils poke through wild grasses and tumbled stone, evidence of caring habitation in the old homestead that had been here years ago.  Part of the local stone chimney was evident, now a haven for snakes and other critters.   Giving the chimney a wide berth, I move behind it toward a particularly beautiful setting of blackberry flowers cascading on prolific branches.  They seem to form a circle with an opening in the center, but as I walk around the perimeter, I’m not able to penetrate within.  Something smaller was needed to avoid all the thorns… Yes, a bee.

 

I throw my garden/woods-wandering satchel over the blackberries wall and shape-shift into a bee able to fly between branches to avoid the thorns.  But the overpowering fragrance calls to me to stop and collect some pollen.  And then I fly to the next flower, and the next.  Wait a minute… I’m a bee in order to egress to the center, not to stop at every flower for pollen.  It can be hard to become something and not get caught into all the aspects of that something, all the instincts and attachments.  Focus… focus…   

 

I shoot straight to the center and see a round wooden plank cover lying there, encrusted with moss in places.  A metal handle pokes out of the center, so I shift back into my overweight self and pick up the satchel.  As I glance around I think back to the catalogue I had just seen and remember one of the items for sale entitled “The Dweller Below.”  This sculpture by artist Liam Manchester portrayed a legendary boogeyman rising from beneath the streets of London through a manhole cover.

 

\

 

 The sculpture gave me second thoughts about pulling the cover off, but really, what do boogeymen roaming the city-streets of London have to do with a well in Ozarks country.  Grunting, I pull off the cover and peer within, expecting to see water below.   Instead, there are stairs leading down into blackness.  What is this?  Not a water-well which are common around the farms here, but a passageway.  Where does it lead?  Could this have been an escape route in case of attack from rustlers or Indians way back?  How long ago was that homestead here?  Maybe it’s  more of an escape for during the Civil War when the North and South fought heavily in this area.  Part of the underground railway?  Where does this lead?

 

I pull out the flashlight from my satchel, glad the batteries were new, plus I had extra in the bag.  I tie a Kleenex on the tip of a nearby branch as evidence I was here, just in case… 

 

 

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/05/25/into-the-well/#comments)

 

April 18, 2008

Questions for the Doctor

Filed under: memoir,Pythian Games — by thalia @ 3:04 pm
Tags: , ,

 

Let’s see now.  What else should I ask?  Where’s that list?  Oh, yes, so far I’ve got:

 

  • Is it really cancer?  That word, cancer, sounds so unreal.  Mom and Dad had cancer so I guess it’s possible or probable that I would also.  Should that be the first question?  Well, it IS the first question. How can it not be?

 

  • How big is the tumor?  I didn’t even feel it or know it was there.  How can it have been growing inside me and I not know it?  Just like Mom’s brain tumors growing big and no one knowing they were there.

 

  • What, exactly, is adeno… adenocarcinoma of the uterus?  What a lovely sounding word, yet isn’t lovely to have.  ah-den-oh-car-sin-oh-mah    Just rolls off the tongue.  Could even be the name of a character in a story.  Adeno Carsin Oma was the grandmother (yes, the Oma) of five delightful grandchildren.  Oma loved to hold them when they were babies, but now they are growing up and don’t want to be held as much as to have stories told to them, particularly of the time when…

 

·        Could it be benign?  Or must it be malignant?  What will I tell everyone?  And coming too close after Sis’s operation for a benign but dangerously placed tumor near her pituitary gland.  I’m glad I had a chance to be with her during her recovery last month, but how will everyone deal with me having cancer right now?

 

  • How long have I had it?  Growing inside, like my fingernails grow, like my cells grow, like all the life processes go on inside without my awareness.  A part of me wants to just get it out quickly, yet… really… it is just doing what is its nature to do.  Grow, survive, reproduce, grow more.  Just like us humans as we take over the earth thinking we are the important ones…free to kill animals and destroy forests and oceans…Who has the right to be here? Or maybe we all have the right to be here in this world of  duality.  Maybe we are all struggling souls.

    

  • What is the treatment?  Treatment?  Is treatment necessary?  What exactly are we treating?  Something that will continue to grow and take over my body and all its processes.  Something that is doing what it is designed to do at the expense of the “me” I know.  So many other aspects of my body have changed over the years, is this the final change?  Or can it be altered?  What is the right thing to do?  I sure don’t know what is best for me spiritually.  What is “Thy Will”?  What is best for my spiritual self?  What lessons are yet to be learned?  From what choice?  What is “Thy Will”? 

 

  • Surgery?  Initial difficult shock for the body then 6 weeks of rest at home, then a long scar downmby belly.  If they can get it all, that’s the end of it.  No cancer and no more uterus. And after all my uterus has done for me – what a shame.  This seems to be the course for now and then we’ll see.  Six weeks of rest sounds good – a chance to meditate and mull and relax at home where I love to be, looking out at the garden and the clouds drifting by and the birds twittering and the butterflies and bees  as they enjoy the flowers.  

 

  • Chemo?  Radiation?  We’ll wait and see about these possibilities until after the surgery is completed and the biopsy results are back.

 

  • How long a recovery?  Is there ever a full recovery?  Perhaps physically, but how about emotionally?  I would think that experience stays with you forever, particularly if it becomes part of your personal growth.  And I would hope that something of this nature becomes an aware-part of personal growth.  What is the point of it all if not?  Part of the process of having us ready to move out of this world when it is our time.  Dying to live – living to die.  The only choice can be “Thy Will be Done!”

 

I guess that’s all the questions I can think of now.  I’m sure that others will come to mind as I listen to the doctor’s replies.  But I had better not misplace this list.  They say that you have just a few minutes of the doctor’s attention, so I want to have the essential questions ready–the important medical questions the doctor will think are relevant.  The rest is up to me and “Thy Will.”   

    

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/questions-for-the-doctor/#comments)

   

April 13, 2008

The Shape Shifter

Filed under: Pythian Games,SoulCollage — by thalia @ 6:50 am
Tags: , ,

 

Who am I? Who am I really?  What is my essence?  She wondered as she looked at herself in the puddle reflection.  She saw a pale child soaring through the skies, totally in tune with the white horse with silvery outstretched wings.  The puddle rippled and stilled, revealing a young woman in flowing white robes and moonstones circling her neck floating amongst the stars.  Yet she knew she was now perched on top of the slow-moving green-brown box turtle, a tiny woman with earth-tone skin.  And yet again, she was the middle aged (some would call her a senior citizen or maybe even a crone) much larger woman of pudgy features and developing wrinkles.  So, who am I, really?  Could I really be all of those people?  Have I been all of those people or am I now all of them, able to shift back and forth? 

 

For years, she had been aware of her ability to sometimes appear one way and sometimes another.  But it seemed that circumstances called forth the transformation: perhaps a winged horse and angel rider appearing at her grandparent’s upper floor apartment window ready to take her for a midnight ride around the city and the church steeple; perhaps a squirrel calling her to enter the tree hole and wind up scampering on the branches while feeding on sunflower seeds; perhaps the vastness of the ocean drawing her forth into the mer-person to swim and soar in the deep waters; perhaps the sounds of the Space-Between and the Sight of Him enticing her spirit-wisp towards That Star;  perhaps…; perhaps…; perhaps… all those other times when her form changed in response to some stimuli.

 

Or perhaps, there was no need for the stimuli to generate the transformation.  What if that shape-shifting ability was within herself?  Perhaps she could just visualize and become the shape she needed for further growth.  

 

She knew she needed quiet time to explore this facet of her being: quiet time to reflect on the best way to use her talent and not to squander it.  A place for her to come to discover who she really was; a place that was a healing haven.   Perhaps Lemuria was that place.

 

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/04/13/the-shape-shifter/#comments)

March 29, 2008

A Squirrel’s World

Filed under: fiction,Pythian Games — by thalia @ 2:03 pm
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In response to a prompt at Pythian Games: 

My fingers find it hard to plait the daisies into a chain.  Reacting to the weather, they are swollen as well as just being pudgy.  I remember having no trouble doing this until recently.  Someone is watching!  Who would be out here?  I slowly look up and glance around the circle of trees where I am sitting.  No one there.  A slight motion at the corner of my eye catches my attention and I peer closer to observe a small brown squirrel peeking out from a hole in the base of the oak tree.  He watches intently even as I glimpse his tail moving in the dark.  I don’t see any others—just the one.  Is this the greedy squirrel who always eats all the birdseed?

He seems to take a deep breath as he says, “If you are going to come, you better put your best clothes on.”  A talking squirrel?  How can it be?   He scampers a bit closer and turns sideways, his bushy tail seeming to beckon me on.  “Are you coming?  No time to wait.”  He moves into the dark opening.

 

“I won’t be able to fit.”  How is it I am talking to a squirrel, much less worrying about fitting into the rotted hole?  And if I need to follow there is no time to change clothes.  That doesn’t make any sense.

 “Come, come.  No time.”  He disappears into the tree.

My curiosity aroused, I crawl over to the small opening and look inside.  Nothing there.  I cautiously extend my hand in to see how far back the hole goes.  As I do, I notice my hand appears to change, just like putting your hand in water and watching the refraction caused by different densities of air and water.  I pull it out and watch my tiny hand with thin fingers revert to a plumper hand with signs of aging.  In again, a little further, to see hand and arm shrink to.  Would the rest of me shrink, too?  Would I be flexible, once again, able to play like a child, to climb trees and run through the woods?  Like an adult able to climb onto the house roof to help build a chimney?

Without making any conscious decision, I surprised myself as I stood in the hole, not at all cramped.   What had looked to be pebbles on the ground just outside the tree-hole now appeared to be huge boulders out there. 

“Are you coming?” punctuated by a exasperated sigh.  I squinted into the inner recesses of the hole and discerned the squirrel with upraised tail – now bigger than I was.  For the first time I noticed how sharp and long the nails on his front feet were.  Gulp!  I’m so small – no match for an angry squirrel.

“Come!” he commanded, and started climbing up the inside of the tree.  I followed as best I could, grabbing onto protrusions formed by natural and, perhaps unnatural, means.  Sap and dirt clung to my hands and feet, dropping onto my clothes.  I was glad I hadn’t dressed in my best clothes.

Concentrating, to be sure I didn’t fall, I nearly bumped into him.  He stopped at another hole and then stepped out.  I followed, with more caution, but also curiosity.   My hands, for all the dirt and sap and activity, felt better than ever.  I could climb without my back hurting.  What happened to my glasses?

I flashed back remembering this: standing on a branch of the apple tree in the “little woods,” pausing to look around and see if I had time to climb higher to avoid detection in “hide and seek,” reveling in the smell of the apples and woods, observing green leaves against the blue sky, hearing the sounds of birds and squirrels scurrying about their business, feeling the tree bark as I held on.  Much of my childhood was spent here, delighting in the freedom of climbing trees, running through the woods, and building forts.  A welcome contrast to younger childhood years spent in an apartment being told not to make noise and disturb the sick man below.

I stepped out, balancing easily on the branch, following the squirrel who then said, “Watch how I do it.”  Before I knew it he threw the top part of himself off the branch as he held on with his hind feet.  His front paws grabbed the sunflower seeds in a green birdfeeder hanging from the tree.  One paw held onto the feeder tray for stability while the other stuffed sunflower seeds into his mouth.  A few quick mouth/nose wriggles and the hulls flew out, falling to the ground.  

He ate mouthfuls, then hoisted himself back upright.  “OK.  You try it while I get seed from the other feeder.  He trotted onto a smaller branch as it bent closer to a different feeder as he moved to the end.  He took a flying leap onto the top of the feeder, overshooting and falling to the rocky ground.  I gasped as he shook himself and then darted into the hole, reappearing at the top and heading out to do it again.

“Don’t watch me.  Get your own!”  He flew off again, judging the distance correctly this time.  I decided squirrels were use to getting their food while hanging upside down as I watched him as he hung upside down and gobbled seed.  The annoyed birds chirped their disdain for his gluttony and impatience to eat.

A black-capped chickadee flew at my feeder, startling me, grabbed a seed and flew off like a ribbon waving in the breeze.  I always liked to watch them politely take one seed and fly away so other birds could also partake.  So unlike squirrels who gobble everything until nothing is left. 

I moved over to the feeder,  and sat down, with the branch close to the crease of my knees, slid back and let myself down as I did years ago when I would play on the monkey bars at school or in the trees.  Will I get nauseous? or fall down?  But as I viewed the world upside-down, I felt great.  Everything looked so different from this perspective.  So much more to wonder about.  I took a seed, broke the hull in my teeth, separated out the hull and ate the sunflower nut.  Delicious! And now I knew why squirrels seemed to be so greedy.  With all the work and energy it took of getting into position to do this, more than one seed needed to be eaten to make it worthwhile.  So I ate slowly.  My deliberate movements eased the fears of the birds so they started to come around even with me there.  A tufted titmouse even landed on my outstretched arm as a perch, finding it easier to reach the seeds.  I longed to stroke a bird but didn’t want to upset them.

I was so engrossed with the living, colorful bird collage I jumped when Mr. Squirrel appeared on the branch next to me.  He appeared to be upside down when in reality it was me.

“Well, do you understand now?  Why we gobble a lot?  I’ve heard you asking why as you filled the feeders, thinking we were greedy.  You used to chase us away from eating but have relented and allow us to ear from two of the feeders, at least.  You even greased the feeder poles but that only kept us away for a short time until the cold solidified whatever grease you used.  It takes a lot of work for us to get the seeds.” 

I had swung back upright so I was sitting next to him.  We watched the other two squirrels and the inordinate number of birds flitting about as they determined pecking order for eating.  They ignored me as if I were of no consequence… and at my present size, I wasn’t.  Tiny, covered with dirt and sap to which seed hulls were stuck, what could I do?  Well, I didn’t want to do anything but enjoy being a part of the picture I always enjoyed watching from my window.

“It’s getting dark.  Time to retire to my nest.  And you should go back.  Who knows what would find you a tasty morsel… an owl?  a raccoon or a possum?  even a snake?”

“Thank you for inviting me.  It’s been so wonderful.”  I pirouetted along the branch as I moved closer to the trunk.  I allowed myself to tumble down even as Mr. Squirrel ran up and over a few trees to his nest.

“Could I come again?  Maybe visit your nest?”

“We’ll see,” resounded faintly.

I danced around at the bottom in the hole, did a few back flips (because I could), then took a deep breath.  I inched out of the hole, watching my body revert to the now familiar bigger, heavier, aching body.  I found my glasses in the dirt. I picked up my daisy chain and hung it over the doorway, as an offering, a blessing, a hope.

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/03/29/a-squirrels-world/#comments)

March 14, 2008

Pythian Games Identity Poem

Filed under: memoir,Pythian Games — by thalia @ 6:36 pm
Tags: , ,

I am from German sauerbraten and Jewish chollah bread, from Easter eggs and matzo, from English roast beef and Russian borscht, from American cheese macaroni and English Yorkshire pudding and French crullers.  I am from a diversity of foods from the various cultures crisscrossing in my ancestry.

 

I am from a home with a white picket fence that I scraped and painted every summer, or so it seems.  A home where my mother was always there to love us unconditionally and welcome us home as she was available every day after school to listen; where my father was the only father on the block to play stick ball with all of us kids in the neighborhood, and took me to movies and museums; where the family all went camping, even making our own first tent, stitch by stitch, together.  I am from a family that camps and plays and works together and does many things “from scratch.”

 

I am from lilacs and lilies of the valley and violets in the house yard; from feeding pigeons and squirrels in the park; from ‘don’t make any noise’ in the apartment to run free in the woods at the house; from apple trees and oaks in the woods; from asphalt on the city apartment roof to playing kick the can in the surburban street; from homemade jelly and pickles and breads and cakes; from handmade finished real-room for me and a schoolhouse for my dolls, and with a fort, a castle and paper-mache dinosaurs for my brothers (and thereby, also for me).

 

I am from a diverse cultural and religious family with roots through my mother’s mother of German Catholic and her father’s side of Jewish Russian.  My father’s side was English, Scotch and French Protestants.  My mother’s brother married the daughter of a Baptist minister.  My father’s large sibling family later consisted of an atheist, a Christian Scientist, a Catholic, 2 Protestants, and 2 agnostics.  I amalgamate all this, and delight in the differences. 

 

From my maternal strong-willed grandmother who in the early 1900’s as a teenager enjoyed being pulled around Central Park in New York City while sitting on a large block of ice, and a maternal retiring grandfather who, in his youth, rode a motorcycle and ran liquor during Prohibition, being shot at by the Coast Guard; from my tiny paternal grandmother the strength to raise 8 children (one died when young of whooping cough) with hardly any help or money, and a paternal grandfather who went out on strike in sympathy with other new subway-railroad employees in the early 1900’s in Manhattan and then stayed out in principal when everyone else returned to work after compromising safety issues, and spent the rest of his days at home being largely ignored by his struggling wife and children.

 I am from strong, independent and idealistic stock simmered in a well-seasoned sauce of love.  But with a sprinkling of fear also: fears of losing my father in World War II, about my mother, grandfather and I being killed if the Germans won because of our Jewish background, of being bombed by submarines lurking in the waters just off Manhattan; of fears of not having enough money to raise 5 children, of my never being perfect enough to always get 100 on tests, of speaking of that which contradicted the white picket fence image.  Strong enough to move away from birth family as my husband and I literally built our house ourselves, nail by nail; strong enough to move to Arkansas to hopefully live off the land and do everything “from scratch” once again; strong enough to leave after 33 years of marriage and create a new spirit-enhancing life for myself even as the fears emerge now and then. 

I am from tradition, even if diverse, with some eccentricity and individualism for a measure of spice.  I have taken these ingredients, re-combined them to make a very untraditional life for myself: a New Yorker now living in Arkansas, a former Catholic now a devotee of a spiritual teacher, a married woman with children into a woman now with children and grandchildren but also with a female soulmate, a stay-at-home mom into a full-time employee, a previously thin, active, athletic person into a heavier, older, grayer, more introspective, more interested in being than in doing, a seeker searching in many directions now a more balanced, well-rounded, individuated person. 

I am from many and now am becoming One. 

(see also http://pythiangames.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/identity-poem-2/#coimments)

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