“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.” ~ John O’Donohue
Who are these children
Who scheme and run wild
Who speak with their wings
And the way that they smile
What are the secrets
They trace in the sky
And why do you tremble
Each time they ride by ~ Steely Dan, Gold Teeth II
“A kindness of rhythm in your journey” – How’s that for a start to the day. I will most definitely, and certainly, and indubitably, contemplate that while I do my laundry this morning, down at the laundromat on the Pueblo. I love that rustic place. Moving forward . . . I made an error in starting this post; the cat was sleeping right through her feeding time, but that only went so far. Busy backson.
“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” Christopher Hitchens
Awesome sunrise here for my birthday. All gray and stuff. I love a cloudy morning, that’s all. Anxiety level is high this morning. Not sure why, or maybe its just a high cycle in The Illness. Living with The Illness is not fun some days. Some a challenge, and some simply dark. There is always light, of course, and I have many tools in my toolbox to bring it forth. I shall do so today. Nine weeks until my first SS benefit funds arrive. That’s the main thing. I am officially retired now. As of today. And on my birthday, with all of these blessings, I am allowed to indulge: an excerpt from my book, a snippet concerning my soulmate, who passed on in 1995. I have missed her sorely. Perhaps today, with this invocation, she might come to visit in spirit. I’d like that.
Once again I had entered the labyrinth of the Dreamtime. Fear and pain, at the prospect of viewing her dying body, were pummeling me in a way that made Hurricane Andrew’s fierceness look like a kitten’s scratch. I wore my brave face. And it turned out that Martha was excellent company. Some of the details of that trip to the mainland, to the hospital, remain sharp. The remaining feelings have a sharpness as well.
Martha had heard a tape of my songs, which I had given to Lori. After the accident Vivian gave me a tape of two of her favorite bands: The Romantics and Toad the Wet Sprocket. She explained that she had heard my music, and her tape was a sharing in return. The music was a point of connection that allowed us forget why we were traveling to Miami together, so a lot of our conversation revolved around music.
During most of that trip I was seemingly as oblivious as I had been the night I had been given the same ride in the back of an ambulance. But somewhere near the hospital the memories came back to me. In response to something I said, Martha replied, “It’s like true love: very rare, and very mysterious”. We were approaching the ramp leading up and into the parking garage for Jackson Memorial Hospital. The remark about true love had snapped me back into the present moment in a way that, somehow, I remember as being like Wiley Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons, regaining his awareness after one of his schemes goes awry. Vivian looked straight ahead as we ascended the ramp. She said, all hushed, “Life looks very large at times”.
Lori’s mom was already there at the hospital. I have no idea whether the concurrence of our meeting there was planned or not. But I remember her being in the ICU. It was a room of shadows.
My memory is of seven beds in there, but there may have been more. They were not like beds at all, more like highly specialized tables, spaced far enough apart that I could not truly determine whether or not they were all occupied at the time, but I sensed that they were. Each table had a large array of machinery at its head. Flashing multicolored lights, soft electronic sounds, cables, tubes, meters, and who knows what else. To me it was pure science fiction imagery, yet it was real. The feelings I had were well beyond description, even now. Seven damaged people, hanging onto life, there in the shadows, in a room that seemed more high tech showcase than healing unit – and I was there to see a woman with whom I felt true love. The air itself was chilled and dry. She was strapped firmly onto her own table. Various cables and tubes attended her. She looked huge! She looked titanic. And I . . . I felt uncomfortably small, the audience of eternal life.
I had a prepared letter to give to her, but the most important thing was that I had also brought the second wingtip feather from the osprey I’d found dead. The other feather had gone to Jeffrey, medicine for his broken neck. Jeffrey and Lori both shattered their C5 vertebrae. Overwhelmed by the immensity of what I was facing there in that room of shadows, I bowed to fear. I could not speak, nor approach Lori at all. So I handed the letter and the feather to Martha, and I stood at the foot of the table. Martha stood at Lori’s right hand, Lori’s mom stood to her left. There was no sign of life from her until one of them touched her hand. They each said a few things to her. Finally Lori started tapping her hand on the bed, quite adamantly. Martha figured out what Lori wanted and offered her own hand.
It was truly beautiful to watch as Lori began to spell out words, a single letter at a time, on Martha’s palm. Martha would speak each letter aloud at first, to verify the communicated information. Then she would respond. They conversed with few words, as only the truest of friends can.
Lori asked for was more medication. I couldn’t imagine the pain she must have been feeling. “You want more drugs?”, Martha asked. Lori signal a ‘yes’, but Martha was quick to respond, “Sure! You have your own little party and we are not invited!”. Lori raised her middle finger. The three of us who could, laughed. Laughter in the shadows.
After a short conversation Martha told Lori, “Ken is here”. Lori sobbed. Her whole body moved with the sob. I watched as her sob was swallowed and arrested by the intense pain and breakage in her body. It was heart-wrenching for me to see this. I was getting a glimpse of how badly she’d been damaged. Also I was getting a glimpse of the powerful feelings she still had. It was a sure sign of life, an affirmation. She would have been furious with me for being there. I was sure of this. But I was glad to be there.
Martha read my letter to her friend in a clear and caring voice. It was an optimistic appeal for high speed healing, complete with a gentle pep talk, all interlaced in a metaphor which came straight from the pinball table. She then laid the feather, briefly and gently in the palm of Lori’s hand. My attitude, fear and all, sublimated as the feather touched her hand. All I felt was the magic of the moment. The feather returns to the story later on. The magic never left. It is still with me, here today.
In many ways, that visit to the ICU stands in my memory in much the same way as my near death vision does: vividly dreamlike yet more real than daily life, more fluid than imagination itself. I remember none of the return trip to the islands. But the words of Toad the Wet Sprocket burrowed into my heart on that day. Even now, when I hear the song, tears rise in my eyes and I choke just a tad. Imagine a steady 6/8 beat with a sea shanty feel: “we spotted the ocean, at the head of the trail, where are we going, so far away”.
Peace out, y’all. Goof gloriously.