Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sunset Years

When I visit my mother in the multi-level Care Home she lives in, I have occasion to meet many of the residents there. And they are always willing to share a bit of their life stories or small bites of wisdom they've gleaned through a lifetime of living.

There are so many stories in that is almost bursting at the seams. Each resident has unique experiences. Each resident suffered joys and despair...each resident is an encyclopedia of knowledge.

The women are more hesitant to tell their stories. They are more accepting of their state, of being alone, of being infirm. It takes coaxing, sometimes, to win a smile or a hello from them...even when they are in a group, it is mostly silent, with a giggle here and there.

But their eyes show their interest or humour. One particularly garrulous English lady, who has a wry sense of the ridiculous, shrugs off her lifetime stories, preferring to tell me, instead, that she finds it very odd, as a former chef in a well-known hotel, that she is reduced to eating the "pap they call food" here, in the residence.

It does no good to remind her that the beleaguered chef of the facility has what must seem like a gazillion different menus for each resident there. There are diabetics, heart patients, GERD sufferers...the list goes on and on.

It is mostly the same story from all the women. Their eyes light up when food is mentioned...most of them were good cooks, putting meals on tables for most of their lives, for their families. They know what good food should taste like. And they have little sympathy for the chef.

The men are different. From childhood on, these men have been fed by the different women in their lives. They are used to eating what is put in front of them. They are grateful for it; their food arrives on time, with no fussing in the kitchen with implements that feel strange in their hands.

But each and every one will tell me how good their mother's cooking was, or their deceased wife or gentleman told me that wife No. 3 was the best cook, out of the five wives he had. She made the best cookies, too, he tells me. And he tells me, further, that the food in the residence isn't the best he'd eaten, but he can no longer eat many items anyway.

And he rolls his eyes, and says...Whatcha gonna do? Indeed.

I remember taking my father-in-law out for dinner, when he was in care. He had fantasized over what he would have in his favourite restaurant for weeks before we took him. Short ribs...he could taste, long before he actually sat down in the restaurant, the silken gravy, the succulent, tender beef, the mashed potatoes with Spring Onions and the wonderful, wonderful green globules of Peas, cooked to perfection.

He ate the whole plateful of food, and would have licked it clean, had he not been as fastidious as he still was.

And then disaster struck. It started with a rather loud gurgling, slushy sound coming from Dad's innards...and suddenly we were dashing back to his care facility, through rush hour traffic, Dad moaning and saying he couldn't hold it...

And he didn't.

But did I mention how fastidious he was? Calmly, after moving to his wheelchair out of the car, he tucked his pants into his socks...saying...There, that should keep it in.

And then, he allowed us to wheel him back to his room, somehow still managing to look kingly and dignified. I had never loved him as much.

Often, I wonder how I will be, when I am in my declining years, living in a care home. Women and men have changed; no longer are the roles in life so well-defined. Men cook, clean and care for their families with ever more frequency, women are often the family earner. Gender no longer determines the role in life.

Computers are an integral part of lives, these days...not so for the seniors of my mother's generation. And computers allow us to visit every corner of the World, keeping even the infirm well informed at a touch of a finger. I will have my computer keeping me in touch with the way of the World.

And I like to think I will still be interested in telling stories, to anyone who will listen to my slow, halting, elderly speech. To my out-dated ideas. To wisdom I have garnered through the years. I still like to think my eyes will show my emotions, when speech and brain don't mesh...

And I like to think that my generation...the sixties generation...will show what seniors can do, given the choice. Perhaps a lady chef will be invited into the kitchen to share her knowledge...perhaps by sheer numbers, we will all be invited to share our collective wisdom, on whatever it might be. Perhaps multi-level care homes will be places that are revered for the people who live there...the people who have different ideas...the Yoga teachers, the musicians, the writers and sports authorities, the builders, the artists.

It seems to me we evolve with every generation. I hope when the time comes for me to choose a Care facility for myself, they will be perceived a little differently than they are today.

In my sunset years, I want to be able to look forward to where I live, as a child does with a promised trip to Disneyland. Is that even possible; is there a shift that happens when I become very old?

When I become very old, does it instantly somehow mean I will close my mind? That I will no longer be able to accept circumstances? It is all very well for me, now, to state that I will be different, when I am not there yet, in my declining years.

It is another one of my unanswerable musings, another one where I will have to wait to find out. But I want to remember that once upon a time, I had a positive outlook towards life, mostly.

I want to carry this goal forward.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Finally, finally, when I wander through the garden, I hear the sound of Bees. For a long while, they were conspicuous by their absence. Even though the weather was warm periodically, the Bees didn't trust it...and stayed warm.

I had heard stories of the disease that had struck the Honey Bee, stories of whole hives being wiped out by it. Stories of more than 50% of hives destroyed. I felt anxiety, this Spring, when no bees arrived; I searched for reasons. Was it the building going on next door? For awhile, the birds were gone, too, as a result of the noise of construction.

I ran across a quote from Albert Einstein...“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the
globe, then man would only have four years left to live.”

It hurts and frightens me, deep in my Heart and Soul, when I think of no Bees, no companionable buzzing amongst the flowers. I wondered, for a long time, this Spring, where our Bees were...not even the Mason Bee showed when the Plum tree blossomed. I was worried about our Apple Tree, but Comfrey came into bloom...and suddenly, the buzzing of the Bee once more became background music.

And then, the Raspberry patch bloomed...and the hum grew louder, deafening me as I walked past. All types of Bees were busily at work; from the bumbling Bumblebee to the Honey Bee, a few Wasps as well...and many Mason Bees. All found their flying becoming labourious; their legs were a deep golden orange from their stash of pollen.

But they carried on. Grabbing each and every morsel of pollen to finally trundle off back to their hives, I could see the distraction each and every bloom in the garden they would detour, even as loaded as they taste one more time.

Bees remind me of Aristaeus, of Greek lore. Born the son of Apollo and a mortal woman Kyrene, he was given to Mother Nature who fed him on nectar and ambrosia. He was educated by the Dryads who taught him the practical to curdle milk for cheese, build bee-hives, and cultivate olives.

When Aristaeus reached maturity, he was taught by the Muses to heal and prophesy; he learned to hunt whilst watching over their sheep on the Plain of Phthia. He consulted the Delphic Oracle of his father, the Sun God Apollo, and was told to visit Keos. While there, he ousted murderers who secretly lived amongst the inhabitants, who were suffering a plague. He killed the murderers, saved the people, and was greatly honoured.

But it seemed this was all in a day's work for Aristaeus. He continued his humble way across the countryside, visiting communities which had further tasks for him to fulfill, no matter how small.

He is considered the savior of Bees. At Tempe, all the Bees began to die; Aristaeus consulted his mother, who told him to capture Proteus, an old Sea-God. He was to force Proteus to tell him the reason for the Bee's demise.

Apparently Aristaeus had a romantic tryst somewhere, during his travels, which resulted in the woman's accidental death. Aristaeus was being punished; he made amends by offering various sacrificial beasts to the angry deities. Out of the rotting carcasses, a swarm of Bees arose, which he captured and placed carefully, with his knowledge of Bees, into a hive...thereby assuring the Bee's survival.

He continued on, eventually founding the city of Aristaeum, where he died, honoured for his wisdom.

Aristaeus is the lover of the countryside, friend to all Beings. To him, no task is too much or too little, if it furthers and serves the life of Mother Nature. He is kind and dependable, working long hours without much reward for matters concerning him. He will do any task assigned him impeccably, firmly ensconced in the ordinary tasks of life.

He's not greatly glamourous. Aristaeus is capable of huge contentment...whatever he achieves is always realistic, logical, and with humble aims. He is not out for pretensions of divinity.

And neither are the Bees. When Bees are everywhere, it is easy for me to forget how integral they are to our very Being. But their absence this Spring spoke louder than any front page news.

But today, this warm, sunny day, they are out in full force, buzzing from Clematis to Viburnum to Comfrey to Chives...on and on, ever more pollen enticing them, their duties seemingly so tiny in Mother Nature's scheme of things.

Aristaeus knew better.

I am learning the same.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Birth Day Memories

She would have been thirty-three years old, this year on May 24, 2007.

What would she have chosen to be, if she was alive? Would she have found her feet, as a single mother? Would she have openly embraced her passion for dance...for children and animals...for music...for Mother Nature?

Would she have come out of her shell?

Would she have become a teacher, perhaps? A doctor or a nurse? Would she have followed her mother, into an alternative healing route?

Perhaps she would have taken her love of writing poetry a bit further; perhaps she would have wholeheartedly embraced horticulture, in all its many guises. Perhaps she would have become a master herbalist.

The possibilities for her were endless...but she couldn't see them. Strong gates and fences kept her away from a clear path; she couldn't climb the hurdles, or find an unlocked gate.

She gave us Bree; some- times, as Bree grows older, it is difficult for me to differentiate between the two...Bree looks and acts so much like her mother, it startles and unbalances me.

Would she have eventually found her Prince? Would her marriage ceremony have involved lilacs...her favourite flower? Would she have had other children...a whole passel of kids to teach with her sensitive, gentle wisdom?

These are the questions that parents who have lost children ask themselves, over and over again. As each birthday arises, I watch for signs of Katrina; she walks closely with me in the month of May. She visits in the form of a small, brown Bird that insists on keeping close company with me. She visits in the form of Eagle, circling low over me, as I work in the garden.

She visits in the first Rose...a deep, dark red Rose that shines in the mass of greenery surrounding it.

And she visits in the form of deep, loving energy I can feel as a physical weight. She watches very closely in May.

So I know, intuitively, that her hand is involved in everything her family does. Whatever need arises, from the smallest to the largest, Katrina is a powerful ally.

When Katrina died, someone told me it was a waste. I said no, she had done and taught so much throughout her short life...a gift like this could never be a waste.

I believe she had done what her soul had set out to do. She was needed elsewhere, but her energy still lingers. I can't see her, other than in dreams, but the tie between us is strong. It is un- breakable.

Katrina already was a success. But still I muse, thinking and seeing her as a 33 year old woman...a woman heading into her prime years. A woman who is happy, healthy and content...just a more mature version of her at 23 years of age, when she died.

And that's the imprint she leaves behind with me, now, when she visits.

Wisdom. Maturity. Sensitivity. Eyes that see and know. The surety that all is exactly as it should be. Peace and calm. And finally... accept- ance of where she is.

She is an ongoing gift to me, her mother, one whom I know I can count on with no reservations.

Happy Birthday, Katrina, my dear.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tiny Wonders

I met a woman I know slightly, as I walked through town the other day.

We stopped and chatted for a bit. I knew her from Yoga; we had formed a friendship since we were partners in forming various poses.

We caught up with each other's lives, as neither of us go to Yoga anymore...Tai Chi seems to be more our style. Older bodies, you know.

She caught herself, as she told me about the various life events that had happened recently to her family...none of them joyous ones.

She commented on how, when we look back on the times in our lives, we generally remember the difficult occurrences, while the small pleasures get overlooked...and forgotten.

I remarked that perhaps the big, effervescent joyous ones don't happen as often as the large, doleful times. But she said there were so many small joys in her life, and those small joys made life bearable. But would anybody be interested in hearing how she had watched the first hummingbird at her feeder during this barely there Spring?

Would anybody be interested in the fruit tree that had blown over during one of this Winter's horrendous Wind Storms...but even with its roots bare and damaged and open to the Sky, it was covered with blossoms, more than it ever had before?

And would it keep people's attention, if she told them about her grandson, who, after being held back in Grade 2, finally grasped his lesson concepts...and was now at the head of his class?

She laughed and said she didn't want to be a Pollyanna...

I have always felt an affinity with those of us who notice the little, bright lights in life. The ones who delight in watching the waves hit the shore, sometimes slowly, and sometimes with a huge, thundering splash. Gardeners watch small miracles all the the unfurling of a Butterflies' wings, in the families of Birds, whose greatest joy is finding a large Worm, in the Daffodils and Tulips that bloom so brightly even in the face of terrible, inclement weather. And I enjoy hearing about them from others.

I notice, however, that recounting the tale of a small miracle brings embarrassment to if noticing such a small slice of life is not worthy of mention.

It shows the sensitive nature of the person. And sensitivity is not much admired in a rough, tough world, where hiding emotions is more the norm. Unless the person is very comfortable with himself, it is perturbing to show this inner part. The part that still insists on seeing wonders.

A strange thing happens, when this kind of vulnerability is shared. Almost furtively, their eyes darting away from mine, until finally a level of comfort is reached...they will tell me of an amazing occurrence in their lives. And wait for my reaction.

It is always a smile, and another similar story from me. Before I know it, the person's energy field lightens, becomes brighter, more wondrous! I watch a surprise weight being lifted off shoulders. I am the lucky recipient of many stories of budding awareness of Mother Nature and her miracles.

We parted, my friend and I, each with a lighter step, each having reached another step on the ladder to friendship...

After all, Pollyanna is one of my favourite characters.

Monday, May 07, 2007


There's an Education Carnival going on at Blog Village. Kilroy, known for his promot- ional and success- ful abilities in the world of blogging, has started a meme, called, with much creativity, Kilroy's Education Meme.

The questions led me back to my youth...all morning I thought about the most influential teacher I had in Grade School. Each teacher, each year, had something to teach me I remember to this day.

The first question..."What was the name of the teacher that was most influential in your life from Grades K through 6?"....had me naming one teacher after another. Miss Daily, in first grade, taught me independence. Miss Daubney taught me to read, Mrs. Bjune taught me to tell stories...and Mr. Ruttan taught me, finally, in the sixth grade, what arithmetic was all about.

It strikes me we did mostly crafts for Art, in grade school. The art teacher that was to show me my love of drawing and painting would not appear for a couple of years. And there were other teachers, too, during these years...teachers who had never seen the inside of a classroom, some who could barely write their names...who taught me about the natural rhythms of Nature. These teachings formed my path in life.

The next question..."What subject did you favor in high school?"...wasn't difficult. It was always Art, under whatever name the curriculum called it that year. One year it was silk screening, not one of my favourites. Another year, I took pottery, and loved it intensely, looking forward to it as I dressed in the morning. The slippy, slidy feel of the clay was immensely satisfying to me. Mostly, we had to use the wheel. But I loved to sculpt free form figures...beings that were born with the help of my hands.

English formed a close second. These were my favourites, these teachers who taught High School English. I want to tell them, now, that I must have learned, I must have taken in the lessons these so very strong teachers had to give me. It may not have felt or looked like it at the time, but I utilize those tools, those lessons, every day.

It was the sixties. Free-thinking times...times that were not to include any University, but times that threw lessons at me, much the same as a teacher who threw constant quizzes. Unending quizzes, ongoing, one after another. As I look back I see how one decision led to another in my life, how one crises taught me how to deal with the next. It showcases my belief in the Ultimate Plan in my life. Kilroy's question..."Did you attend a university and if so, did you attain a degree?" ...brought me to an accept- ance of not going to uni- versity, finally. The times were what they were, I fell into a few deep holes...and it's okay. I was destined to learn what I could through living...learning acceptance and peace on another path.

Kilroy's next question..."Do you learn best through books, by watching or hands-on?"...again had me pondering. I've come to the conclusion that I learn both by watching and hands-on. I have learned to read beings by watching; I have also learned just by doing a thing...the teaching in the process.

"Has education been an ongoing process for you? How do you feel about that?" the next query. And of course, it has. I would not have believed it in my twenties, but I have actually acquired more knowledge than I had back then, in those sure years of youth.

I have taken university courses in both Painting and Creative Writing, and I expect, when life settles down, I will continue doing so. Both these subjects have a lilt and a song to them that I love.

And Mother Earth and her beings, of all natures, combine to create the biggest teacher of them all, for me.

Kilroy asks for seven people to continue this meme. I have named just three...Jackie from The Vegan Diet and Herbs and Oils; Goatman from pretty moonbeams, and The Artist from Winsome Gunning Art Walk and A Green Earth.

This was a great trip into the past... these questions bring up all sorts of memories, both good and bad. Who would have thought an Education meme could produce so much inner searching?

Thursday, May 03, 2007


A couple of days ago, when the framers were just finishing their job on the house next door, when the generator that gave their screeching tools power never shut off, when the sound of air nailers left my dogs in a permanent state of neurosis...our roofer showed up.

There was nowhere, now, for the dogs and I to gather our wits, to pursue our normal everyday lives seeking as much peace as possible.

Even when the workers gathered their tools and decamped for the day, the dogs loitered inside, dogging my footsteps, refusing to go outside. I used Rescue Remedy, rubbing drops into the backs of their heads. They quietened; with Spirits inside dampened, they lay about the house, eyes wide open and aware.

But they know and like our roofer, who made it his business to get to know each of our dogs. He was someone who, even if he made noise, was our yard, and therefore offered protection. The dogs accepted him as their own; especially when a bread crust found its way into Nate's mouth. Lucky, who should by now have not a hair left on his body,due to copious shedding, is still a little doesn't interest him at the best of times.

The unrelenting noise...the screeching of the saws, the drone of the generator, the sound of the nailer giving continuous shots, the roofer throwing down bundles of shakes, making pictures, lights and everything not tied down's Bedlam here.

My normal quiet that is well-suited to reflection and writing and solitary pursuits, is thrown off-balance. At the end of one day, I could feel my body reflecting the booming sounds it was being subjected to. I was jumpy and ill-at- ease.

I could no longer write for long... even in the far-off world I inhabit when I write... even there the noise found me, throwing off the muse, making her toss her hands in the air, and leave for parts unknown.

And now, in tandem, in a sort of hellish ballet, the hammers ring and thud, banging, banging, banging. In self-defense, I turn gentle, sweet music up high to cover the drone of the generators.

I contemplate putting in a claim for hearing aids, to the builder next door. Surely, his workers must be wearing ear protection, I thought, until I hear Led Zeppelin blasting out of their boom boxes at seven o'clock in the morning... and realize their hearing is already gone... along with their manners.

It's an old neighbourhood where I live, with many pre-war homes and cottages. This big house being built towers over us all, with one window looking down directly into my back garden.

There will be little privacy, if the new owners happen to be a tad nosy!

But the high roof line gives balance to Grandfather Tree; he no longer looks lost, a lone Tree reaching for the clouds. This big house being built gives even more presence to Grandfather.

I decide if I am living in Bedlam, I must adapt. The noise is tiring; I could get more rest. The noise is unnerving; I could go down to the beach for an hour. And most of all, I remind myself, the noise will end. It will not last into eternity; there will come a time when workers will leave a pristine new house next door and our roofer will finish.

Peace will once more return to Bedlam.