Wednesday, May 29, 2013

the punies

It has been raining hard off and on in Vermont for the last several days. It has also been cold, enough so that I had a fire in the wood stove.  The outcome of this state of affairs has been an attack of the punies.   The punies is a state of smallness,  weepyness and probably a certain amount of self-pity.  The later symptom is understandable but not particularly helpful or admirable.  The punies are somewhat debilitating as all tasks become absurdly daunting and all events equally catastrophic. Hence discovering that the cucumbers have mosaic virus, Mount Sinai billing office has gotten it wrong again and the lawn mower blades need sharpening are all the same and worthy of surrender on my part.  I had a wonderful conversation with a women from yoga that I don't even know her last name but she is also a widow.  We sat outside after class and I started to cry for no particular reason except that I had the punies and she nailed it immediately.  She talked about how it took her a month to just get to the grocery store. She also said that when people asked her how she was .. her first response was to say  " i am grieving" but that made others feel badly .  And then she said remember .. that this is time when you are no longer who you were and you have no idea who you are going to become. ..  The punies are just part of the process.  So maybe when some one asks me how I am .. i shall say puny and unfolding .  

Saturday, May 25, 2013


There is a tired phrase - wayfinding  that is glued to all sorts of things including climbing gear but the real meaning of wayfinding goes back to the Polynesian navigators who in fact formed the basis of Gardner's multiple intelligence theory. The basic deal is that there is a unique group of people who have the ability to navigate across vast unchartered oceans by memorizing star patterns, wave patterns, and wind. They also chant and sing as they go.  It is the most wonderous quality. The navigator "wayfinds" across the oceans of the Pacific by understanding where they are by the set of the stars, the action of the waves and a song. The navigator stands up for the whole journey only taking the occasional cat nap.  Amazingly enough, they found their way to the most remote island in the world which is Hawaii without benefit of sonar, gps, or maps.  Hence wayfinding is about stars, courage and staying awake.

There are many lessons to be learned here.  My wayfinding is all about learning to be alone and positive.  A great friend of mine and I had a conversation about the melancholies how they can fuel creativity and ideas but in the end we are really blessed.  I am not a big fan of using that word as it feels well .. sort of far right but the idea is genuine.  Tom and I were lucky to have each other, we were lucky to come home to Vermont .  Now I need to figure out how to wayfind on my own. Learn the star patterns, the wind, and the wave sets and set the helm to places that make sense to me and our family. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


We celebrated Tom's life on Saturday.  Friends came from all the corners of the earth and from all the parts of our life. The ceremony was under a big tent on a blue bird day in Vermont.  We faced the woods and the sugar house. The speakers were former students,  child hood friends of our children, his brother,  his best friend and our megs.  We were led in our comments and deliberations by our dear Shin Buddhist friend from Hawaii.  We chanted and prayed prayers of love, grace and gratitude. We sang songs from the Muppets and one about the beauty of firewood.  The kids did a Kalua pig in a stone immu they built in the ground.  It was amazing.  We toasted him under the dark night sky with good scotch around a blazing fire.  Folks came together who had not seen each other in years and years and they came together because Tom and had touched their life in so many ways.  As one speaker said,  all the really important things i learned in life, I learned from Tom.  Others said that Tom was a father when my own was not.   It was glorious and painful.  Some one asked me to explain what happened and how I felt about all this.   As a former boater,  I explained in the most accurate metaphor I know.  Tom had a dangerous mandatory drop, he ran it hard, fast, and with incredible grace and skill.  But in the end it was too much he just lost the brace. 

Only 50 percent of people with his illness survive a BMT.  The disease is rare and treatment problematic.  We gave it everything we had and left nothing on the table. For that I am grateful and proud of us as a couple.  As in life, we paddled hard finessing drops, boulders and keepers. We had one hell of a run.  Now I have to figure out how to paddle this boat solo.  It will be a challenge but one that he would say.. birdie you can do this - how hard can it be?   we will see.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

grief spiders

Tom and i lived in hawaii for about 5 years plus a little when the kids were small. We built our own house, lived in a tent and drove a red rambler named Hot Lava which we bought for 200 dollars.  It had one windshield wiper but could carry lumber on the roof racks like a champ. These were fun and adventurous years for us.  Hawaii however has this rather terrifying creature called a cane spider.  They love to fold themselves up like an umbrella and hide away in various spots that you would not expect.  One of their favorites is the sun visor of your car.  They are generally nocturnal hence they cruise around doing spidery things during the night but come daylight they try to find a dark preferably safe place to snooze.  The visor of your car is perfect.  What is not perfect is that you could be happily driving down the road and pull the sun visor down to cut down on the glare and wham out hops the cane spider right in your face.  If you are not careful you can easily drive off the road, or cliff or into the side of another car.  Accidents prevail .   Grief is like the cane spider.  It tucks itself away - held at bay and just when you think you have it together it leaps out at you.  It finds you suddenly in the coop when you see another retired couple chatting over coffee.  It finds you in frustration when trying to start the lawn mower that requires more strength than you have.  It finds you in over heard conversations about "jim and I are just back from ..".  It finds you when Vermont is achingly beautiful and the all of missing is almost too much.  Like most things it is possible to adjust. We managed to anticipate the cane spiders eventually and check the visors before starting out on the road.  Hopefully that will be the case with grief.   

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

a ninny meter

If I could invent anything at all I would create a ninny meter.  The ninny meter would be a tasteful ring that would be given to all married couples on their wedding day. It would have various indicators that would perhaps change color appropriately to indicate when one person is being a ninny . There should probably be a gradation from ninny to total jerk - perhaps total jerk should be say .. pulsating red?   The ninny meter would be a big time saver, especially in long marriages like ours. Over the course of 41 plus years there were lots of opportunities for being a ninny and a jerk.  You can not put two strong personalities together for a life time and not have that be the case.  Leave it to Beaver is a myth.   The advantage to the ninny meter is that it would be a short cut over the rough and stupid spots. Spots that in retrospect were so idiotic you almost can't believe you cared.

I thought about it today quite a bit . As Tom's illness grew more intense we abandoned the small stuff to savor our time together.  I saved his voice mail messages so I won't forget the sound of his voice.  His pictures are everywhere. What brought all this to mind is the top of his bureau. Tom was not a super tidy guy. Every night he emptied his pockets and put all of it on the top of his dresser until it practically toppled over.  His dresser cost 60 bucks and belonged to a college student. We bought it in grad school.  Tom was a simple ( but complicated) man.  In any case at one point i was desperate to clean up the top of his bureau and get a new one. One that was maybe in Vermont, would look lovely in our room.  He said.. Birdie leave it alone - i like the one i have.  My ninny meter would have started to glow, but then he was alive and here and present.   Now his dresser sits just as he left it - cluttered with nails, receipts ,  tooth picks and matches.  It reproaches me for my need to clean it up and it will probably stay just like it is for a long while yet.   The ninny meter would have gathered that time up and spent it better.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To be worn while gardening

A mysterious package arrived a day or so ago.  It was from burlington NC and I knew I had not ordered anything.  I opened it up and it was a present from my dear buddy Annie.  She sent me a pair of the most outrageous blazing rhinestone earrings and a bottle of wine. The note on the earrings said  -  to be worn while gardening.    The next morning I got up and put on my grubby jeans, tom's worn out paint spattered shirt AND my earrings.  It was a STUNNING ensemble .. all i needed were gold wellies with sparkles on them and a pair of bunny ears.  I went out to weed and water .  The earrings made rainbows every time the sun hit them.  I was literally surrounded by rainbows that bounced off every surface.  My friend Brad arrived with his girlfriend to take a shower. I tossed my head and he was "blinded by the light".   "Oh my god birdie, what are those things? If Tom could see you now - They go so well with  his shirt"    We sat in the driveway in the early morning laughing.  It felt good.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

peaceful moments

This morning i was up before first light and made myself a mug of tea. We have a porch swing that is made in Maine and is a replica of the bunks that sailors slept in in the forecastle of sailing vessels. It hangs on the porch in the corner and faces east. It has a gentle sway, comfy pillows and a blanket.  This morning was particularly lovely and still.  Big Tom turkey gobbled from the woods. The woodpecker started to hammer away at the dead tree by the sugar house. A wren has taken up residence in the rafters of the porch and was busy arranging her nest. The light eased over the green mountains and filtered across the lower meadow . It was a  peaceful  gentle way to begin the day.  Tom wasn't quite so far away this morning but seemed almost here somehow in the way the light hit the field, in the early breeze as the sun came up.  Moments like this give me hope that all is not lost .