Friday, October 29, 2010


It's been difficult lately to find the time...or the inclination... to write. I write oodles of essays in my head, as I go about the daily chores, but so far, none of them have been written on paper...or, I guess, these days on the computer.

I'm not sure if the Muse is taking a break, or if I'm just too busy these days to find the time to sit and listen to her, writing all the while.  Then, again, much of what I experience during the day I am unable to write about, at least publicly, because of confidentiality rules with regards to Hospice. But there is one place where she will visit, disregarding all the rules...

As I sit with patients, the ones who are unconscious or in a coma, I write what might be called poetry. The atmosphere in a dying person's room...the strong, like a powerful light. It's all-encompassing. I am completely present with the patient, then, completely focused. If the family is in agreement, I will give Reiki. I find it enhances the Light. The difference in the patient's well-being is palpable.

The Muse creeps in quietly, with great respect, during these times. She nudges my arm. My fingers begin to tingle, wanting to curl around my favourite pen. It is not long before I rummage through my tote for my moleskine, hoping all the while that there are enough empty pages left in it for me to fill. Once again, I have forgotten to change the notebook for a new, untouched one.

I rub my hand over the crenellated, worn leather of my moleskine, given to me so many years ago by Graham.  It's pages are filled with observations, sketches, reminders, essays...and suddenly, poetry.

Now, poetry and I have never gotten along. I admire others' poetry I read, wondering how so much emotion, discovery, and beauty can find their way onto the page, and still make sense.

And so, it is strange that I should now write very bad poetry in the rooms of the dying. But the urge to do so is really strong.

Before I write anything...even bad poetry...on the days when I'm sitting quietly with someone who is not lucid, I sketch a very quick drawing of the person. The drawing is only for will never see the light of day...but sketches like these remind me the personality in the bed is still alive, still with us, still here. His dignity is supremely important.

Dying people have a special glow, a wondrous beauty about them. Faces seem to relax, once the diagnosis is made, the skin becoming clear and smooth. Most are pain-free at this point, sometimes for the first time in a very long time, if the patient has been ill over a lengthy period.

My drawings, then, are simple ones, shadings and lines and criss crosses. Sometimes, the lines are jagged, torn. I will draw their hands...I love to draw the hand. Most people, by the time I see them, will have relaxed the tight fists so apparent when there is still hope left within.

Faces become a mixture of mostly lines, shadings, sharp angles and planes. I draw where the sharp, black pen leads. It is peaceful...the room takes on a certain hush when a vigil is begun. The sounds of modern living in a care home are muted, far away...I am present only with the client and my pen.

When I am finished, I feel so much more comfortable with the client. The itch to know, the itch in my fingers has been appeased.

But only for a moment. Only long enough to check my patient, who by now...has become a friend.

And then. Then I want to write poetry, of all things. It is not exactly as if I want to write it. It is what comes out. And it is quite startling to me.

Words appear in my handwriting, words that are, at times, soft and gentle. At other moments, they become lethal and angry. And there are the grey ones, the ones that hush and moderate, the ones that seek balance and patience.

It only takes moments. And during the minutes I am in the zone, during the time it takes to write, I am fighting off an onslaught of emotional energy. I am well protected; I sense it is only a little more of the knowing of my friend.

I feel at peace, then. I hold my patient's hand, rub his chest, place my palm on her shoulder...with each touch, there is more calming, soothing energy imparted and I notice, as a result, an easing of lines in the brow and forehead.

And when I leave, when my shift has ended, I don't feel hypocritical when I say to my client I am glad to know him...because I do. I know him well. 

There is a downside...isn't there always? It is difficult to say goodbye with finality, when I leave. Sometimes I want more than just a few hours with a particular client. Rarely do I get what I want, in this is out of my hands.

But. I have received a great gift. I have written long-forgotten words, I have drawn an image...a thought...of a life, the lessons, the gifts the dying person experienced.

And, never to be forgotten, I have made a friend.

It seems the Muse has not been ignoring me, after all. She comes when it is necessary.

She comes when I need her abilities to see me through the strange places I find myself exploring, these days.

The strange...and quite wondrous...World of Poetry.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Timely Holiday

Having just returned from driving approximately 900 miles return to see friends who live in the Kootenays, I have to tell you, in my opinion, at least, that I reside in one of the most stunning provinces in Canada.

As we drove, the colours from the turning Leaves became more and more startling. Leaves have mostly dropped where I live; as we drove further South, some Trees had only just begun to turn. The hues became almost psychedelic in their brilliance, along with the rays from a golden Sun in an intensely sapphire-blue Sky.

We drove to Revelstoke, in the eastern part of the province, near the Rockies and then turned South along Hwy. 23. This is a very quiet, country road where there was little traffic...but oh! what incredible views we had as we drove through Mountains and travelled beside huge Lakes.  The Water glittered in the strong Sunshine and turned darkly sullen and angry when Clouds obscured the face of Sun.

We drove through Valleys where little light ever appeared...yet even there, the golden leaves offered a gentle glow. Mountains arose straight from the road in many areas. In others, lovely shiny, black Shale Cliffs rose high.

Gorges and Canyons and high Mountain roads made me turn my face away from the edge of the road, the odd time. These roads were narrow, with few concrete barriers...when we met any kind of large vehicle on this twisty, turny road, there were times I closed my eyes.

But just as quickly as we came into mountainous areas,  Valleys and pastoral farms appeared. Coming from the brownish-shaded, arid Cariboo, seeing these luscious, flat green fields made me blink my eyes. Could anything be that green?

I was awestruck by the numerous hot Springs in the area. Some have been developed; my favourite place of all must be Ainesworth Hot Springs. One can wander deep into large, warm Caverns, with warm Water swirling around one's legs. Its walls are smooth, calcified. It reminds me of what a womb must feel like to an infant. This is Mother Earth's womb.

There were tiny, unincorporated villages dotted here and there. And the larger centres...such as the towns of New Denver, Nakusp, and Kaslo...were so endearing in their funky outlook. I had the largest, freshest hamburger for lunch I can remember having for awhile in Nakusp from a tiny, roadside stand.

Burbling Creeks and Rivers fed the Lakes,  their origins from the large Glaciers dotting the area. Small ferries trundled back and forth, taking travellers over the stretch of the Arrow Lakes to connect with the highway on the other side. One ferry, across the Lower Arrow Lake, from Needles to Fauquier, took no more than a few minutes; all ferries were part of the highways, and therefore no cost was involved.

I love road trips such as this one. On the way to Queen's Bay, our destination on Kootenay Lake, there was no lack of conversation. Graham and I solve the problems of the World, as we drive. And we are accustomed to long drives...our trips to the Coast have prepared us for lengthy car jaunts.

We drove through Lumby, a town much changed since I drove through it last, many years ago. I silently said hello to my friend Priscilla, who writes about Salmon conservation for her blog the Xpress and lives in this pretty little area.

We drove to our destination in one day; on our return, we divided the trip into two days, staying in Kamloops overnight. We spent the next morning shopping, before returning home to our two Dogs, who were being looked after by our wonderful sitter.

At times, there is nothing better to do than to go where Spirit moves me. The highways and roads we took were hardly planned, yet the reward at only taking a road less travelled was bountiful. I am not all that fond of mountainous terrain, but the Ranges we travelled through, so close to the Rockies, have changed my mind. Perhaps I have not known Mountains in their Fall finery.

And my Father lived in Nakusp for many years. I have many of his I understand why he loved the Mountains so. He was an artist. Even I, many years away from when I held a paint brush in my hands, felt a distinct urge to paint what I saw before me. How could you live here...and not somehow have the urge to translate Nature's beauty into some artistic form?

I found the populace who live amongst the tall Mountains a different that has not forgotten how to live off the Land. Quietly and at peace. In one town, for example, the people have voted for no cell phone usage.  

I noticed, as we drove through the small Villages and Towns, that there were many, many hikers and walkers about and few vehicles. There is a taste of the old days here...days when I belonged in the hippie culture and life seemed more serene and slow and self-sustainable. It seemed to be, at any rate. 
And I believe this is why I am so attracted to the area.

It feels as if I've gone back in time.

It feels like home.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Taste of Fall

I have difficulty believing Winter is almost upon us. Living in the Cariboo, I have found Spring and Autumn to be of short duration. Already, most Leaves have fallen off their Tree, to cover the ground beneath with a patchwork blanket of gold.

Most mornings, there is also Frost...not much, yet, mind you...not enough to bother still blooming late Flowers, Kale or Carrots. But Tomatoes are finishing their life cycle in the little cold frame greenhouse,  in which it is usually ten degrees above whatever the temperatures are outside.

The Magic Apple has been picked, polished and eaten. It was the best Apple! We cut it in half...within one or two bites it was gone...a small taste of Autumn. We are awaiting the results the Magic Apple has promised to bring...

It seems as if there was hardly any Summer weather this year. By the time Lakes in the area warmed up enough to swim in comfortably, smoke obscured Sun's rays and breathing was difficult.

And, as soon as the smoke lifted and left, the weather turned cold and stormy. To be sure, it warmed up again, but many degrees cooler. A month before the calendar said it was supposed to, Autumn weather arrived.

Animals are travelling down from higher valleys...Deer and Moose are becoming quite common along the highways. They travel through our property, as well, along with the predators who follow in hopes of a meal.

Those predators surprised me the other day. When I came home from a Hospice vigil, I gave both Dogs a bone, as a reward for being good and staying home alone for quite a few hours. They each took their bone to opposite ends of the house, to lie on the Grass and enjoy their chew.

I made myself a cup of Tea and took it out onto the deck, to sit and think about the morning and let sadness dissipate...

The weather was warm and sunny...I could hear crisp, yellow Leaves swish as they fell, to join their compatriots already on the ground.

But, other than that, there was only the silence of Nature. I could barely hear the construction on the highway far below me, which is unusual.  After the bustle in the hospital, the calm soothed me.

It was the kind of afternoon where the hum of Bees and Wasps could easily induce a drowsy slumber, but after a morning away, I had things to do. I did not heed the call for a nap.

I stared mindlessly across the property to a huge, old Stump which still exists even following  attack after attack by Bear and Bug.

But there was something different this day about that Stump.

I've just purchased new glasses; I cannot believe the difference compared to my old ones. I can see!  Without blurring! And so, what I may have missed with my old glasses, I saw with sharp clarity the difference concerning the old Stump.

There was a dark Wolf sitting in front of it.

I thought it was a Dog at first. I tilted my head to see better...but it was Sun's rays which glinted off of golden eyes that made me sure.

He sat in the shade of Trees surrounding the Stump...he was almost undetectable. But once my eyes focused on his, the shape and colour of his body became more apparent.

He sat very still, his ears tilted forward, his nose in the Air. My first thought was where were the Dogs and why had they not sounded an alarm?

I can only surmise that they were busy with their bones, with the Breeze coming from the North, blowing Wolf's scent away from them.

His colouring was very dark. His long front legs were stiff, full of tension. His ears were long and perked...when his eyes met mine, I felt the now familiar jolt inside. That jolt always happens when an Animal visits and our eyes meet.

He did not stay long. When he stood, I watched in awe. He was big...I believe he was the biggest I've seen here. I prayed the Dogs would continue with their bones...there is no way either of them would survive an encounter with this Wolf.

His eyes never left mine. I was afraid to move. There were many thoughts racing through my mind...Would Wolf jump the fence and attack the Dogs for their bones? Would the Dogs finally realize Wolf was there and decide on a foolish confrontation? And...why did I not have my camera?

One of the thoughts I had was that this Wolf could never leave soundlessly, with all the dry Grasses and crispy Leaves strewn about. But he proved me wrong.

He wheeled about, his head turning back, his eyes still locked on mine. And then, oh so silently, he melted into the brush, as if he had never been.

That's when Magpie appeared.

I haven't seen a Magpie here, ever.

According to my Bird books, he ranges all the way to Alaska...there should be no reason for his absence here. In fact, when I moved here, I was looking forward to seeing this sassy Bird and interacting with him. He was very rare on the Island, if he was there at all.

He sat on a branch above where Wolf had settled.  I watched him for a bit...he was not there long...and I marvelled at this Bird, who, in the 1930's, evaded efforts to exterminate him.  He was thought to be a threat to crops and livestock.

The thing that drew my eye to his appearance was the flash of white I saw as he settled on another branch in the Tree above the Stump.

Such a whiter than white belly he had! I wondered how long he had been there...had he arrived along with the Wolf?

I couldn't find anything in my research with reference to the two of them commonly travelling as companions, but I am convinced anything is possible.

After someone I have sat with dies, it is not uncommon for small miracles or sightings of wild Animals to occur. Usually, there will be a message involved as telling me the deceased is well and moving forward on their new journey.

And then, there is the personal message which the Animal represents, as well...

Winter and extreme weather is indeed almost upon us. But before it arrives, I hope I have many more Animal encounters in a day just like this one...the day of the Wolf and Magpie.

We are intending on taking advantage of the cool, crisp mornings and the warm afternoons by taking a trip to the Kootenay district of BC. During that time, I will have no computer access.  I will be back in a few days..