Posted by: Blythe | April 21, 2009

Be Here Now

I stumbled across a beautiful poem by HT Wilson on a blog called “Words With No Names.” The poem is called Cancion.

This verse particularly touched me:

Looking straight ahead

she laments

“I don’t know what’s

worth remembering anymore.

I don’t know why I stored

any of these thoughts.”

* * *

It left me thinking –

What was it like when my mother knew she was losing her mind (and also aware that she was powerless to stop it)?

What was it like when it was so difficult to remember to put on the second sock (did it really matter?), but so easy to find herself huddled in a cornfield, singing songs to quiet her little brother, so her drunken father did not find them?

Some might live in the laughter of their youth – but she didn’t play those childhood games.

Could she have done something differently had she known this is where she would be? Would she have?

Could she have taken “possession of her dreams” a “thousand loves away?”

How she regretted decisions that changed our lives!

But did it really matter when the outcome was the same, regardless of the road taken?

Alzheimer’s is the thief of thieves…stealing our minds right from under our noses! (no wonder we couldn’t find them!)

Our minds are our tie to reality …  they are also our tie to unreality. When the mind is gone (and with it, all our memories), what do we have? Who are we then?

And is it not ironic, that if we get dementia or Alzheimer’s or any other form of senility, there is seemingly no escape … and yet the condition itself is an escape?

Is it so bad to live awhile longer in a memory of our choosing?

And if we are still able to reflect, will we say the past was “enough” – or will we say there was “enough” of the past.

Maybe the now is better.

* * *

Thank you, HT Wilson.

Posted by: Blythe | March 17, 2009

Steadfast as Changing Tides

Sunset at low tide
Sometimes things we do take us over familiar pathways that allow us to see them in a different light.

I recently found myself taking the exact same road and turnoffs to where my mother used to live. We were headed west to spend a mini-vacation at a beachside get-away, all to ourselves.  Our destination was actually further north; I have not yet brought myself to return to where she lived for so many years. I did not grow up there; I would not know anyone there today; but it was a place I had spent many weekends while my children were young, and just the thought of going there brings back a myriad of conflicting images and feelings.

It was like yesterday, knowing where to turn, knowing the small pit stops along the way, where to stop for lunch, where the bridges crossed the sloughs.

Admittedly, my mother and I did not always get along. I choose now to remember the good things about that time in our lives.

She loved the outdoors and particularly, the ocean. She loved to walk along the beach and feel the wind in her face. We would gather around the beach fires with friends, have picnics, fly kites, and on special occasions, watch fireworks. In my absence, she kept me posted on various changes around the bird feeder.  During the winter storms, she would call me and tell me that the snowy plovers were huddled in her front yard. That’s how we knew it was particularly rough out there.

My mother, a retired nurse, never really quit nursing. Whether feeding the birds or baking for assorted outreach organizations, she was always lending a helping hand.  She gave money to her neighbor dying of cancer to help him buy the drugs he couldn’t afford so he could have one last Father’s day with his family.  She volunteered to help people die.

Someone had to be there to help her die, too, and that person was me.

It’s not an easy thing to help someone die, especially someone you love. It is gut-wrenching. It made me question the inner core of each and every one of my beliefs.

Without a certain chain of events, this would have been logarithmically more difficult. At the age of 70, Husband #3 left her for an old childhood sweetheart; she floundered adrift for awhile, but then gathered her wits and her courage and took a gamble with someone who painted something he could not possibly deliver; in the process, she sold her home of many years by the sea and moved inland, just over an hour from where we live. And that gamble, which proved disastrous, was exactly what was needed for me to be able to help her during her final days.

Whether you believe in divine guidance or whether you believe in happenstance, I have come to recognize that this was just one of many “coincidences” that happened at just the right time in just the right place for things to work out just right.  It is not for me to say what is real or what is not, but aren’t our lives far richer by believing in something that connects us all? That this chain of events should happen just as they did was quite remarkable. I am still incredulous. I am still grateful.

And on our recent weekend “getaway,” I looked across the span of that wide open beach with the tide lapping the shore – so very much like the one where I had stood so many times with my mother – and I thought – Mom, you gave us something really special, just by being who and where you were, and I am still making sense of it all. You gave us fun memories with our children – your children’s children – the chance to run away from an oncoming wave, to fly a kite high in the sky, to build sea monsters in the sand, and to try to dig a hole to the other side of the earth.

But you gave us something more. Something that dawns on us as we watch the tides roll in and ebb away twice each day, as the sun sets on one side while the moon rises on the other, as we turn toward the light in the morning and turn away at dusk, and as the hardened beach grasses hold strong to the dunes even as they bend with the wind and as the sands shift around them.

That’s how we were. We were those colorful kites flying high amidst scattering clouds; we were the spinners twirling in a blur with ribbons flapping wildly behind us; we were the flock of Sanderlings suddenly flashing silver in the light, the gulls scrapping over a broken crab, the snowy plover hunkering down in the cold.

We were and are the breathing of the ocean. We are in the wind. We are the sand that changes but still anchors the land. We are the tides, coming and going but always here. Steadfast. Forever.

Thank you, Mom.

Posted by: Blythe | February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom

Hey, Mom – It’s Valentine’s Day. The day after my birthday. You forgot my birthday the last few years, but it’s ok. I didn’t want to make you feel bad by reminding you. And now you’ve been gone for over a year. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of you. Now I understand how love is eternal. Not to complain, but I have the flu, and I really miss you. Did I mention it’s Valentine’s Day?

Posted by: Blythe | June 17, 2008

Eagles in Flight

Eagle in a tree

Pair of Eagles
Coming at ya!

An amazing day! Eagles! A dozen of them! In my backyard! Go to the Whaletails site for more pics – or, for a slideshow, visit the Picasa site: Backyard Eagles

(best when turned down [or speeded up, depending on your point of view] to 1-second intervals – you can almost watch them fly in formation!) Incredible!

Posted by: Blythe | May 7, 2008

Low Tide at Crescent Beach

See my Whale Tails & Quail Trails blog for some photos from a recent trip to the Crescent Beach / Salt Creek area (Olympic Peninsula, Washington State). Low tide, great weather, and cute grandkids made it a perfect day 🙂

Here’s a sneak preview:
Crescent Beach, low tide
Too cute!
Anemone!Sandy toes

Hello everyone –

I have had trouble lately writing about my mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and our journey together in dealing with that gut-wrenching disease. It is hard to believe it has been nearly 5 months since her passing. I still think of her every day and in so many ways. I talk with her all the time. I play her music. I ask her to help me with problems. Is this normal? I don’t know. I do know that the garden is often a place of healing for me. Something about feeling the cold earth, something so very basic and so connecting. Pulling weeds with an absurd sense of order and control, I nurture my favored plants with loving attention, envisioning something of beauty in the coming months. My mother used to love to garden, too, and she left many behind – her small way of making the world a more beautiful place. She also loved birds, whether they were shorebirds, the backyard variety, or majestic raptors – but most particularly, she loved the little hummers. She had hummingbird calendars, blown glass hummingbirds hanging by the window, hummingbird magnets on her fridge, painted pictures of hummers on the walls, and of course, hummingbird feeders.

And so last week when Mother Nature must have been laughing as we dug ourselves out from an unexpected snow here in the Pacific Northwest – something we hardly see throughout the winter – I found myself talking to my mother, and we were worried about the little birds in this unexpected cold snap. I have several bird feeders around the yard, and I made sure everyone had plenty of seed. The quail were especially industrious at scratching around and were there morning and night, on schedule. As soon as the winds died down and the clouds parted, I hung up a hummingbird feeder. I wondered if I was too early, but within minutes, they were coming around. One even came right up and buzzed me as I refilled it. I looked at it closely. I could almost feel my mother’s presence in the vibration of its wings, saying, “Thank you for helping me.”

I posted more pictures of the snow, the garden, and sure signs of spring: the hummingbird, a frog, and cherry blossoms, on my Barbolian Fields blog. Hope you enjoy.

Posted by: Blythe | March 16, 2008

Paddling Dungeness Bay in Mid-March

Driftwood Frame

A quiet paddle today in Dungeness Bay.

This unusual piece of driftwood made a perfect frame of the outgoing tide.

You can read the full entry on the Whale Tails & Quail Trails site.

Posted by: Blythe | March 10, 2008

Late night bad poetry

Do you get a lot of e-mails from well-meaning friends and relatives who want to enlighten your life with poetry, inspiring photos, motivational speeches, or even just tasteless humor? I admit, there are times I am moved to openly weep, Read More…

Posted by: Blythe | March 7, 2008

Moles, voles, and vermine

If moles are a problem in your yard, I just might have the answer for you. See my latest entry in Barbolian Fields. Good luck!

Posted by: Blythe | February 28, 2008

Death and taxes

Two most certain and dreadful events: the death of my mother at the end of last November and the due date for tax returns, rapidly approaching. I will have to continue her story after I complete the latter. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

I can better relate to this variation on that line attributed to Ben Franklin and others:

“Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.” –Margaret Mitchell, in Gone with the Wind

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