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 energy...is 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 me...it 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 case...it 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.