Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas '11

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
Putting up reindeer
singing songs of Joy and Peace
J. Mitchell

As many of you know, who have read my blogs over the years, I'm a PK ... that stands for Preachers Kid.  My dad was a Congregational minister.  Thus, Christmas was always a command performance; a really big hoopla with carol singing, open house, Christmas eve services and huge family gatherings.  I have very fond memories of Christmas's past and so I still love Christmas.

I was out trail running this morning with just my dog.  It's finally gotten cold in Maine and feeling more like December, still no snow, but this morning the ground is starting to freeze and there was ice on the puddles in the woods.  This morning I got thinking about my dad.  This time of year I usually do.  And I was remembering bits and pieces of growing up with a church as your playground and my dad as a philosopher and theologian.

Dad taught that the Bible was an amazing book of stories and the finest collection of oral history .... but some of it needed to be taken for the great story that it was and not taken literally.  His sermons were about human kindness and angels existing here on earth in the form of good deeds and offering a hand to someone in need and love to those who had lost it.  He taught tolerance and acceptance as this is what the Bible really teaches and what he believed Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad ... all the great philosophers taught.

Dad use to take us kids out every spring to find the patches of mayflowers growing deep in the woods and I fell in love with the intoxicating smell of this tiny woodland flower.  Dad would look at us with a twinkle in his eye and say "let's go hunt Lady Slippers!" ... and off we would trudge to count how many beautiful, pink Maine orchids we could find.  On summer evenings he would take us out to the knoll where we would lay in the field and stare up at the stars while Dad pointed out the constellations to us and talked about light years away and infinity.

When I turned twelve years old my dad told me I could now join the church.  Really?  What must I do?  "Well," he said, "you need to come sit with other people who will be joining the church at the same time and listen to my introduction and hear about what the church is."  OK, easy peasy.  So one evening I walked over with dad to his office in the basement of the church and sat my 12 year old self down with several other adults who were planning to join the church.  I listened and asked no questions .... but ....

The day before the "church-joining-service" I went to my father and asked if I could talk with him.  I bet I surprised him with my solemn approach and asking him to sit down and listen to me.  Not a frequent request from his most timid and quiet child.  I looked at my father, took a deep breath and said, "I'm not going to join your church".   Dad raised his eyebrows, pierced his lips and softened his eyes and said "OK, your reasoning?"  ... "well, you taught me to worship the scent of a Mayflower and you taught me that Lady Slippers are intricate art work of a Greater hand.  You taught me to watch for a falling star and how Orion's Belt got named.  You taught me that God exists in all of these things, outside in the woods and in the starry heavens and in my heart.  You taught me to feel love and awe in all that exists in the natural world. And now you are saying that we will worship God in this house with a steeple on it.   I disagree. So, I can't join your church."

And then I held my breath.

Dad starred at me, and slowly a smile came to his eyes and then to his entire face.  And he said "you're absolutely right."

With my fathers blessing I never joined the church.  But I went to "church" this morning as I ran through the woods smelling balsam furs, noting the gorgeous ice crystals formed in the frost heaving of the soil, and stopped to stare at the brilliant streaks of pink in the sky as the sun peeked over the horizon.  And I offered a prayer of gratitude for all that I have and all the love that I feel.

"It's coming on Christmas .... "  and my thoughts turn to my dad and the fabulous way he taught what it means to be "Spiritual".  How he taught me  to give thanks, every day and to count my blessings.  How he lived his life with gratitude and, especially, how to be kind and loving.

And most importantly he taught me that no matter what you call God: Jesus, Great Spirit, Buddha or Mohammad .... they all were preaching the same lesson.  LOVE.

Maybe it can be that simple.

Have a safe and joyous Holiday season.

LOVING you all back,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Small Stuff

I never read the book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, but I have always liked that title and love the concept.  And you know, I use to think that I lived by that concept ... that I really did not sweat the small stuff.   I'm starting to see that maybe I did get caught up in sweating all that small stuff ... and maybe some of this has actually changed ... and maybe this is a really good thing!

Being in this new relationship is such an eye opening experience and sheds new light in dark corners.  At 55 years old I certainly never thought I'd be starting over ... but it's wonderful and has me noticing some big changes that have occurred in my being.  Of course these changes probably came about during the eighteen months of caring for Jim.  As so many of you know, my house and life were turned up-side-down and inside out at this time.  There were friends who had volunteered to do whatever needed doing  coming and going in the house seven days/week.  One friend once asked me "how do you live with all these people in your house all the time?"  I remember looking at him and saying "I need these people here helping me.  How could I live without them?"

OK, it wasn't always easy.  There were Post-It notes all over the house: dishes in the dishwasher are clean, here's how to work the woodstove, please remember to leave this door unlocked, Jim's medicine and supplement schedule today is ...., don't use this light switch ...  and on and on.  My house was no longer my own but had turned into a very public, open house.  Trust me, I never minded this!  I truly didn't.  Life was so incredibly thrown into the air and all the pieces of the original puzzle were landing and strewn all over our world;  this public arena of a house was now the norm for us.  It was just how our life's puzzled pieces were landing and we lived with it.

And of course things got misplaced, things got broken, things didn't get put away .... for months! ... house cleaning didn't happen, things got spilled and semi-cleaned up.  And none of this mattered.  Not one tiny bit.  This was really, really small stuff in my world at that time.

So here I am with this new guy who comes with his own history and we're feeling things out.  Dave is treading softly around the house at times.  He broke a coffee mug and felt badly about it.   My response?  "I'd rather have you in my kitchen than that mug."  He spilled a glass of wine while he was cooking dinner for us and apologized profusely.  Since he was at a crucial moment in the dinner prep I cleaned the mess up and asked him why he felt the need to apologize so much?  Because in his history this would have made his partner at the time very, very angry.  OH!  I get it.   And as I thought on this I remembered years back getting really pissed at Jim for not paying attention and breaking a dish, spilling the wine, folding the towels wrong, not doing a task I had asked him to do immediately!  All of this ... all these old patterns of frustration and ways to get pissed off and .... sweating the small stuff .... have become, for me, just this ...  really small stuff that I no longer bother with.

You know what?  I find this very liberating.  I really LIKE this new part of me who doesn't care how the towels are folded, is delighted to have someone cook me dinner and could give a rats-ass about the spilled wine.  I no longer care if my napkins for a dinner party match or not ... I want to see my friends who are coming to dinner, and assume this is how they feel about me, and nobody cares whether the table is set for Martha Stewart or not.   I truly mean it when I say there is not one piece of stuff in this house that holds any kind of value when compared to this man who is here now.  Nothing is more valuable to me than this guy who is radiating warmth into the dark, cold corners of this house and bringing love and joy to my home again.

You see, that wine gets cleaned up and the glass refilled.  Those towels end up fitting into the closet regardless of how they got folded.  That coffee mug can be replaced ... but this guy bringing me the coffee in the morning can not be replaced.  That guy who got brain cancer and left me far too early can never be replaced.

Yup, I can honestly say, I do not sweat the small stuff anymore.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I've been wondering if I should change the name of my blog since I'm not really "solo" these days.  This thought process has unraveled some interesting bundles in my mind.  What does it mean to be solo?

For five days we sat in Hospice while Jim sank deeper into a morphine coma.  I was told by the hospice staff that hearing was the very last thing to go, so I conducted myself with the knowledge that Jim could hear all that was going on around him .... and I decided that he could also comprehend it all.  When friends would come into the room and want to sit by Jim I would go over and tell him who was here and that they would be with him for a little bit, and then I would motion for them to come over to the bedside and I would sit on the other side of the room with other family and friends standing vigil with me.

At night I would lay down beside Jim, touch his arm, his chest, his hand and tell him how much I loved him.  Tell him what an amazing human being he was, what an amazing life he led and how grateful I was to have been such an intricate part of it.  I would tell him that he could leave it all now, his fight with his disease was over. I would assure him that I would be OK, he didn't have to hang on for me ... and he could allow himself to dissolve into the heart of Buddha and leave his broken shell.

And on May 7th, 2010 he did just that.  I realized that he was completely solo.  No matter how much I attempted to comfort him, to let him know he was not alone in that room, in that night, in this journey ... he was.  There was no one else there for him in that final moment.  Only his spirit knows what that passing is/was.  And he did it ... all alone.

A few short months later I was kneeling by the birthing pool holding the hand of my niece, Jennywren, while she was in the throws of intense labor with her first child.  There was that final point where she looked at her husband, Jay - who was holding her other hand - and then looked at me and said "I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't!"  I put my head down onto hers and whispered in her ear, "Jenny, you HAVE to!"  There was no one else to do it.  She was on her own with this process, this journey.  And then she gave me a look that said "I could rip your face off" as she had her final contraction;  with a whoosh and a splash, little Skyla Mae shot into this world.

As the midwife caught this little being, that baby looked straight at me with a wide-eyed expression of "WHOA!  WHERE AM I?" on her face.  I'll never forget it!  And I realized at that very moment that this little person had to go through this process alone.  Connected by that umbilicus, yes, but there was no one else in that birth canal, no one else in that tiny body, no else was born with her at that moment.  It was only Sklya.

And, no matter how much comfort we offered to Jennywren during her labor she, too, was alone in her process.  Only she could do it.  Only she was in that birth zone with her pain and only she was there for that final push to bring that baby into this world.

No matter how many gather around us, ultimately, each of us is alone in our world.  No matter how many arms surrounded me in my pain and grief ... only I could go through my process.  I was alone with those tsunami waves, alone in trying to resurface and breathe again; I am alone now as I unravel these bundles of thoughts and memories.  Even though I have this new, amazing man who is so quickly becoming my dearest friend, who is now a companion to me and who has made the echoes in this house recede so that this old house feels like a home again.  Even with this ... it's still only me on this journey of mine.

We come into this world alone, and we leave it all alone.

Thus,  I'm keeping this name on my blog because I like it and because I feel we are all, basically, solo on our journey through life.

Loving you all back,

PS - thanks to David Lovejoy for this picture of me on Lobster Lake in the north woods of Maine.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


The stars are incredibly beautiful this morning. While I waited for the coffee to finish dripping I sat out on my deck for a few minutes allowing myself to get lost in their mysterious pin pricks of light.

Stars. Steve Jobs died this past week. At fifty six. Cancer. Once again the best of the best is taken too soon.

So many fabulous quotes of Jobs are getting shared via this internet system and on the very machines that he created. What an extraordinary man he was. I read a quote of his about being a genius:

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemaker, the round pegs in the square holes ... the ones who see things differently - they're not fond of rules ... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, the the only thing you cant do is ignore them because they change things ... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do it." Steve Jobs

It was probably very difficult at times for Jobs to be such a square peg, to have that brain that operated so differently from all others around him. But with his death I am learning of the integrity with which this man operated, even though he was such a huge corporate persona. And we are all hearing of this huge heart of his too. In a speech he delivered to the Stanford graduating class of 2005 he said:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There s no reason not to follow your heart."

Jim Daniels understood this those last few months while he lived so close to the veil, clinging to life but seeing death over his left shoulder. As compromised as he was near the end that man was grabbing for all the gusto that his life could offer him. He started to refuse to take naps so that he and I could be together and go for a drive, go visit others, sit outside in the early spring sunshine. The last fundraising event that was thrown for us was such a huge party and celebration and Jim danced all night with no embarrassment, no pride. He danced with abandon and joy .... and with all his heart.

I know, now, that he knew his death was close and he was choosing all that life would give him at that moment.

I too have learned so much from the experience of living with Jim's cancer; clinging to the pin prick of light that shone through his eyes during some pretty dark mornings. With this new relationship I'm embarking on I have witnessed this change in myself. Dave lived in Camden so there was a long distance dance that we were doing. He said to me, "we'll find our rhythm in this arrangement. We'll get through the winter and figure something else out." But I was the impatient one .... I operate from a different perspective these days. You see, I no longer believe we have all the time in the world. I've seen my life turned upside down with the snap of a finger. I've learned to believe that we only have today, tomorrow has no guarantees. Impatient ... yes! To live now, to grab for the gusto today, to appreciate all those pin pricks of light that sparkle through the darkness and to dance under the stars.

And so, we made the change and brought our worlds together.

Stars. SInce I don't know which of those up there this morning is my lucky one I send a "Thank you" to them all .... for this new laughter, joy and love ... again. And to the life that taught me to live in this moment ... this today.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tango On

Once again I need to thank all of you who sent me private messages regarding my last blog. It's always fascinating for me to see what words of mine will strike what chords with you. And the notes you send are so heart felt and honest that I feel incredibly honored to have you share your feelings with me.

And, yes, I plan to keep writing. As one friend said, "take us along!" And so, I shall.

I'm finding myself in pretty deep with this new guy who appeared out of the blue and so easily and quickly grabbed this broken heart of mine. To his credit he doesn't want to mend it but chooses to open up the parts that are still alive, still functioning, still yearning and willing to give and receive again. And he's doing this with such loving consideration, an openness to communication and a gentleness that has me floored. He's a lot of fun too and has whisked me off on several adventures already (other blogs perhaps).

But you know, after being with someone as long as Jim and I were together you get so you can just hit the cruise button. This new relationship feels like a race car on full throttle squealing down a winding, narrow canyon road! One small slip can send this all crashing over the edge. One of the risks of falling ... in love ... I guess.

I've always been willing to take a risk, to leap into the adventure without knowing what's ahead and grab for the gusto regardless. Fear of flying never stopped me from taking flight. Besides as one dear friend told me "what's the worst that can happen here? After all that you went through with Jim and all that you lost when you lost your Jim, what really is the worst that can happen now? Nothing will ever be as bad as that Mary!" She's a wise woman who I love dearly!

I have these moments of questioning; when I allow my head to go into it's Mexican radio station of jibbering I, for some stupid reason, turn off my hearts intuitive knowing and I go into that place of gasping with doubt. When this happens I remember a line from the movie Scent of a Woman. Al Pacino, who plays a blind ex-Army Sergeant, has asked a young woman to dance the Tango with him at a restaurant. She is shy and scared and tells him she doesn't know how to Tango and she's afraid of making a mistake. Pacino answers her with "that's the great thing about the Tango, if you make a mistake, you just tango on....."

It takes two to Tango and right now I'm loving this dance. But I do know that if I make a mistake then I can ... just ... Tango on.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, September 1, 2011


On September 7 it will be sixteen months since Jim died. Jim was horribly sick. He had gone from being a vibrant, athletic, intellectual man to a person who couldn't talk, had a lot of trouble walking, was unable to read or maintain the needed focus to follow the story line of a movie. All this was due to those damn tumors. He fought hard for 18 months but still he kept slipping away. I understand now that the crazy behavior he was demonstrating a month or more prior to his diagnosis was also the result of the tumors taking hold - but we thought it was stress and anxiety attacks. Thus I feel like I lost my Jim thirty six months ago .... or a full three years. It doesn't sound like much time when written out like that, but it feels like an entire life time in too many ways.

I wrote, in my last post, about how I am witnessing a transformation in myself. How I seem to be more open and receptive to connecting with people. How I am engaging more and shutting down less. I truly believe this is a gift that Jim gave me when he passed.

So in all this transforming and unfolding I began to talk to my nearest and dearest friends about possibly dating again. My best friend, MM, kept telling me to go on Match.com. I always gave her the same reply .. "Never!" Well, never say never. Somehow, at a weak moment I guess, she made the suggestion one more time. She told me that it would be good for me to meet some new people, to do a little harmless dating, to just hear men say nice things to me and get some of my groove back. I thought it might be an interesting study in sociology and, what the heck, it couldn't hurt - right?

She had me write out my profile just to see how it felt. I did this. Then she sent me pictures that she had of me with notes "this would be a great profile picture", or "use this one definitely!" So I now had a profile and several pretty good images of what I look like so .... I just posted it there on Match.

And immediately got an email from someone!
Now what?

This world of Match.com is certainly an interesting place. In this cyberspace you can poke, wink or favorite someone. You can also email via the site without ever knowing someone's real name or anything about them except what they are willing to tell you in their profile - which I was warned repeatedly can be pure fabrication. Here I was with an email from someone and I couldn't open it. I had to pay the requested fee to actually become an active and matching member of this Match.com world. Why was I surprised by this?

Alrighty then, I bit the bullet and signed on for one month.

Things became active very quickly and I began to do "coffee dates" - these are meetings that you agree to do with someone who piques your interest and you've emailed a few cryptic notes with to get more information. So you meet for coffee, or a glass of wine, and see if there's any chemistry for either of you. On my first coffee date the man asked if he could see me again. I was taken aback, I laughed and even said aloud "Oh my God, this is the next step isn't it? Gee-whiz. Can I think about it?" Poor guy, not the reaction he was looking for probably.

I began meeting some really interesting people as well as emailing with others; a professional writer who wrote me entire stories. I would get a cup of coffee and just settle back to read the emails from this man - who I never met. A back-to-the-lander from Vermont who had the IQ off the charts but was real down to earth and very interesting to talk to. An economics professor who was consulted by the Clinton administration on how best to get the country back on it's feet. A banker who has been a surfer for over 4o years. I was intrigued by the science of surfing. Those guys become geologist and meteorologists in their study of waves and where to catch the best ones.

With these meetings I realized that I had a very different agenda then most of these people on Match; sociology experiment was NOT what these guys were after.

But, you see, I was pretty certain that I was not going to meet anybody who I would consider a match for me. I had decided that I had found the love of my life and lived with him for 31 years ... something some people never find ... so I would be content with a nice, comfortable person who might not enjoy all the things that I do but I have a lot of friends to call on to go off and do said things with. Thus, I would be willing to compromise and accept that the next partner might not really be a true love, and that would be OK. I didn't know how I might meet this person but it sure didn't feel like I was going to find them on Match.com.

Then after only three weeks on Match I got an email from a man, DL, who lives in Camden. After our first "coffee date" where we hiked all over an island and talked for hours and hours I realized this guy was different. This guy and his big energy, sense of humor, adventurous spirit and zest for life felt like a match. As I told him, "the last time I felt like this about someone it lasted thirty one years!" And that pretty much sums up how I feel about this man. I'm amazed, shocked, over-the-moon, astounded and can't believe my lucky stars. To feel this twice in a life time seems so ... so .... abundant! ... and I feel blessed by the Gods somehow.

I've shared all this with a few of you in private emails and conversations. The encouragement and words of wisdom you all have shared with me have buoyed me up. Some of you reminded me that Jim would want me to be happy and would be delighted that I have found someone who has me feeling this again. Others have said how happy they are for me and still others of you have looked at me and said "you have a sparkle in your eyes again that was gone for the last three years. And my sister-in-law, Donna, told me at the end of a phone conversation that she could hear my voice again ..."I've waited three years to hear that voice Mary. If this guy can do this then I say 'thank you Dave!' "

A sparkle in my eyes ... yes .. I can even see it. And I'm twirling again. A Maple Key falling and twirling all the way down.

A big question I have is what to do about my blog?! It, obviously, is going to change dramatically. Do I keep writing because I love to write and this blog gives me the discipline as well as the space to do this? Do I write about my adventures, my crows, my observations and life? Do you all keep reading because you are interested? I'm actually throwing this out there to you all and hoping for some feedback on it! I mean this.

I continue to unfold and to open myself to all the unknowns that are offered me, still, always .... on this path called life.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I'm aware of a change in me these days. I'm not talking about moving on or healing more .... it's a bigger change and more about how I respond to the world and to others in my world. I've written before about how open and gregarious Jim was. How he would pull me out and into the party at times. How I could be closed down, shut off and let the introvert of my personality rule. I could do this because Jim was so extroverted and would cover for me.

But lately I notice that I am opening and far more receptive then I ever remember being. I am willing and wanting to make connections. And this silent change has me operating through my heart far more than my head. This is incredibly hard to explain ... but damned if I'm not going to try!

One example is how, in the past, I might see an acquaintance at the grocery store and rather then go over and say hello I would pretend not to see them and thus just keep moving along without having to engage with that person. I don't do this anymore. I find myself thinking "what would Jim do?" ... and sure enough, I'll walk over and re-introduce myself if need be and just quickly say a few words of recognition and ... well ... connect. And it feels really good to do this. I don't expect the person to remember my name, nor do I think my saying hello is going to make that persons day. But it makes mine, and I blossom a little more for having done it.

That's it I think .... this tight little bud of Mary Lello is blossoming; a part of my being is beginning to open and bloom a little bit. Oh I'm not saying I was a complete wall flower before - I know that's not true - but I didn't really reach out to people. I didn't need to connect with so many people and I would question why Jim needed to do this .. why he always did it. I am understanding it a bit now. Maybe, in that 18 months of such intense caring for Jim while he drifted away, the channeling his words and thoughts for him so he might communicate with others on some level through me, the helping him to walk, caring for his every need at times, a part of Jim Daniels fused into me. A bit of his spirit joined with mine and he left me with this gift ... the gift of wanting to connect more with others.

I'm amazed at some of the connections I'm making and maintaining. It's not like me ... but then again ... it is me now. It's all me now.

And many of you reading this are indeed one of these connections that amazes me and has me feeling so incredibly warm. Hell, even those of you on facebook with me .. some of you I haven't seen for over 30 years and some I've never even met in person and yet ... you have become a friend. You have reached across that cyber-space in some way and connected with me on such a deep level that I'm totally astounded by it. And, the blessing and gift is, I find myself open to it and willing to accept and allow it to happen and you are there and so willing to reach out and touch me. Damn!

This feels like pure grace. And for this, I am incredibly grateful to Jim Daniels who always demonstrated to me how to reach out, how to unfold and open with love and humor, interest and respect for all those people he connected so completely with.

And I feel my own connection now, with all of you.
And I thank you .. for these connections.

I am ... loving you all back,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One Child Born

My niece, Jennywren, had her second child yesterday. She and her husband, Jay, opted not to know the gender of this baby until it was born. A gorgeous little boy named Raife. I was in attendance with her first born, Skyla, last August 3, and Jennywren asked me to do acupuncture for her and be at her side with the birth of this second one also. Yes, August 16 - exactly one year apart - Irish twins as we say.

First off I have to say JW is an amazing woman. So much pain endured - and yet love conquers all doesn't it? I'm in awe of this raw, female power. I'm in awe of Jennywren who chose to go the natural route with both births, who was able to still crack jokes and sing along with "Sittin' on the dock of the bay" after a pretty intense contraction, who could look at her husband as that baby's head was crowning and mouth the words "I love you" to him ... and then begin to growl as the next wave pulled her into the task she must complete.

Yup, she amazes me and I'm in awe of this gorgeous, gutsy, funny, full-of-life, creator-of-life woman who is my niece.

I must tell you all though, as that baby's head was crowning somehow the big screen TV got turned on ... now, if you've ever attended a birth you understand this is a pretty intense moment ... and there , directly in front of all of us, in full color was a re-cap of the Red Sox! Frantically, Hanna (JW's sister) figured out how to turn this thing off so we went back to business at hand. When we were all just sitting around holding the new baby I shared what had gone on in my mind when the Red Sox came on during the labor. I told everyone that I knew this little crowned head was going to be a boy. When the TV magically turned on with the Red Sox, I figured there might be a tiny bit of Uncle Jim in this kid and that this little guy might be saying ... "Hell, if I have to poke my head out of here then I at least want to know what's happening with the Red Sox!" This brought a good laugh from the family ... but it truly was my very thought at that moment!

There is a bit more testerone in this family of mine that has a lot of powerful women in it. And attending this birth has me thinking of the song by Blood, Sweat and Tears (just realized how appropriate that is too!) and thus the title of this blog:

"And when I die, and when I'm gone,
There'll be one child born in this world to carry on,
to carry on"

The circles of life on this earth.

Loving you all back,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Crow calls

I feed a family of crows. Some of you know this, those of you who are on Facebook with me get to read about the morning actions of this little family pretty frequently. I've been feeding them for a few years now so I've observed three seasons of fledglings. When I first started with the feedings there was only one baby that year. A sweet little crow that had mom, dad and a couple juvenile spouses hovering over him/her. A very spoiled little crow.

This first crow was very brave and far less skittish around me, perhaps because it had grown up and learned to come into the yard when I called in the early morning and put out left over protein scraps. The mated pair - mom and dad - are loud and shrill and won't tolerate my looking up into the tree and acknowledging their existence ... even though they sit directly over my head at times. One good stare from me and they flee to a distant tree, screeching a warning for the world to hear "DON'T LOOK AT ME!" Meanwhile, the little fledgling would watch this tactic, look down at me, make a little "mew" sound as if to say "what the heck was that all about?"

This year there are two young ones. By late summer they are getting much stronger and more adept at flying. They still have a slightly brown head vs. the glimmering black of the adult. They are much smaller then their parents and haven't quite found their "voice" yet ... a bit of bubbling and chirping at times instead of a solid "Caw".

A friend gave me a crow caller - which I've tried out several times. It's hard to make it sound like anything other then a duck or a very loud fart - and my crows aren't buying it. But it's gotten some funny reactions! Because they have excellent memory for faces they know me now. Actually they know my car, my dog and can even recognize me on my bike with helmet and sunglasses on - more then some of my friends can do! But when I step out into the yard they will swoop in now, even when I'm not feeding them. So one afternoon I stepped out and waited for a crow to come into the nearby trees so I could try out the crow call. I blew into the whistle shaped caller and a shrill "quack" escaped. This juvenile crow tilted h/her head and looked down at me as though saying "was that you?" I tried it again. This time she ruffled her entire body and lifted her wings as if to try and shake off this weird noise coming from this human down below. The third time she lost patience and took off proudly demonstrating what a crow should sound like.

The other morning I went out to feed them. I had been giving them fat I'd cut off a pork chop. They really liked this food so when I stepped out they were clearly impatient for me to drop the food and go back inside. But I was waiting for my dog, Ella, to complete her morning business so I wasn't going in right away. The ruckus got louder until the entire family of six birds was literally yelling at me! Wow. I looked up at one and said "HEY! Ask me nicely!" There was silence immediately ... and one of the young ones looked down and gave that sweet little "cawk" sound. I said "thank you" and Ella and I went inside.

This little family of crows got me off the couch a billion years ago when Jim, who was not doing real well and had a lot of trouble walking, had fallen down the stairs and we had spent the entire day in the ER. Laying on the couch that afternoon when we finally got home I thought I might never be able to move again. But then this family of crows appeared. Being excited that I may have found their nest right outside my living room window I pulled myself off the couch to watch them ... and thus found one more tiny reserve of energy to keep going. On some of the mornings when I wake too early I will hear my crows in the distance and know that I'm not the only one up with the first light in the sky.

I'm finding more and more reasons to keep going these days. I'm feeling a new excitement about life again, something I truly didn't believe possible. And always I am in tune with the calls of this family of crows who share this neighborhood with me; who help me smile first thing in the morning, who watch and know when I have gotten out of bed, who recognize and tolerate my strange actions .... and talk to me when no one else is around.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Healing Happens

The picture is of me and my sweetheart of a dog, Ella, is out on Vinal Haven where I went to visit my wonderful friend Tina this July (2011). Her hammock is an amazing place to hang in the late afternoon. The best view from this angle is up into the deep green of the huge spruce that towers over this spot with the blue sky in the background. There was a breeze this afternoon so I actually had that comforter wrapped around me for a little bit of warmth.

Oh, and then, after Tina snapped this picture, she appears with a cold flute of Prosecco for me. Any wonder why I like to go out there and visit her?!

I was there last summer at just about this time. That was only a few months after Jim had passed and I was still horribly wounded. I remember writing about packing the car up and having the horrible awareness that I was the only pilot of this trip. The experience of driving up there, navigating the ferry, my gear and Ella without having Jim along was all new to me then ... and felt so difficult. This time, I didn't even think about it until after I got home. And this realization has me feeling that healing is happening, if I pay attention.

When I take my bike out for the first ride in the early spring after not riding in the winter months, the first hill feels so difficult. I have to drop down into the lowest gear and get out of the saddle to grind up the hill as best I can. After a month or more of riding I suddenly realize I'm flying up this same hill, still in my saddle and still in a high gear. Muscles flex, strength comes and there you are a bit stronger and more capable of attacking what was once insurmountable.

This is what this healing feels like in small ways. I still get hit with missing Jim - hugely! Just yesterday I braved looking at our old Ladokh pictures of when we hiked together in the Himalayas. Jim looks so fit and handsome, so happy with his arm around all the other trekkers on the trip with us. He was so incredibly loving and fun to be with. It felt good to view his images ... and then it hit; no big tears, but just a sigh and a whisper to him of how much I miss him. How horribly sad and lonely this can all be at times.

I imagine missing him will never really end. I don't know. I'm pretty new at all this. But I did notice out on Vinal Haven I was able to go out for a run this time, go into town and poke around the shops, stay up later, rise a bit earlier. But last year all I wanted to do was be in that hammock, starring up into the bows of that massive Blue Spruce and into the infinity of blue beyond.

Healing happens. Day by day. Week by week. One full circle around the sun at a time.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


It's light at 4:00 a.m. now. I know this because I was awake at 3:00 .. again ... and thought I could get back to sleep. But after laying there for an hour the morning light and all the troubled thoughts pounding around in my head had me feeling that I should just get up and see what I might accomplish versus laying there thinking about all this stuff.

There is much to do around this house as it's summer in Maine and I have found myself very busy with a lot of weekend mini-trips away. It's been really good, though I'm actually looking forward to having a weekend at home soon. Last weekend I went to my youngest sisters camp which is an hour out of Bangor along Route 9. I loved her directions - "after the funky little Airline Snack Bar and rest stop look for the weird radio tower and the NEXT double passing lane look for our camp road on the right, East Gish Road, the one with mailboxes and For Sale signs. I think it's East Gish Road ... anyway you can't miss it. " As my brother once said "whenever they say 'you can't miss it' you know you're in trouble!"

Route 9 actually runs from New Hampshire to Canada. The leg in Maine from Bangor to Calais is known as the "Airline Route" and was named long before any airlines actually existed. It's a dangerous and lonely stretch of road in the winter and the main route for logging trucks - which barrel down this road at startling speed. There is a two mile stretch in Hancock County that is called the "Whale's Back". I'm not really sure how it got this name but I do remember how my dad would drive along this section of road that had rolling hills; he would speed the car up so we climbed the hills with some momentum and then he would lift his foot off the accelerator just as we crested the top of the hill and your stomach would flip-flop, like it does on a roller coaster. Mom would yell at dad for doing this reminding him that "Mary is going to get sick", while the three older kids in the back would egg dad on. Inevitably we would have to stop so I could leap from the car and throw-up. Fun was over at this point, much to my siblings grumbling and my mothers "I told you so Jay" statements.

Jim use to drive this section of the road the same way come to think of it. I would tell him if I had to throw up I wasn't going to give any warning and he'd be in charge of clean-up. Sometimes this would get him to stop, but mostly we would both just get laughing.

Oh, I laughed so much with that man. I worry I'm already forgetting what his laugh sounded like, what his voice sounded like. How certain memories slip away from us because we just can't hold onto them ....

.... and other memories wake us at 3:00 a.m. and leave us sleepless.

Loving you all back,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Maine Islands

My friends MaryMargaret, Alice and I went out to Islesford, orLittle Cranberry, island this past weekend. There's something very magical about visiting an island in Maine. You don't have to exchange any money and they still speak the same language but you feel like you've truly left home and really gone somewhere for a little while.

I have wonderful friends out there who own a cottage that has been in Chris's family for years. As a young boy he grew up on this island so he knows all the nooks and crannies on this spit of land in the Atlantic. His boys now have the same history of wonderful boyhood adventures and memories of summers spent out on this island.

Everybody knows Chris and Marion so we name dropped a bit on our ferry ride from Southwest Harbor to Islesford; we aren't really tourists you see, we know people out here!

Last Fall my sisters-in-law, Donna and Stacie, and I went out there to stay in Chris and Marion's cabin. The island population drops dramatically after Labor Day and all the shops (all three of them!) close up as well. In the fall this island is a real haven; quiet and intimate. The three of us spread some of Jim's ashes off the rock beach down in front of the cottage. Jim, though not a "true Mainah" like myself, loved Maine and I wanted to have some of his remains in the Atlantic .... off Islesford was the perfect place for his carbon to return to the cycle.

Obviously this island is pretty special to me now. I found myself feeling a little melancholy when I first got out there. Jim's ashes are long gone from that spot. And I am coming to terms with this reality that Jim is gone from this spot .... here ... with me. But his laughter, his crazy faces, his lust for life and his loving nature are still here with me. When I'm not feeling so damn sad about this loss I can feel truly grateful for having had this man in my life for as long as I did. I guess "healing" will mean I can be in that grateful place more often then not.

Spending time on Little Cranberry Island is healing for me. Watching Eagles swoop over us as we walked around the point that was perfumed with the wild sea roses; playing cards on the kitchen table and laughing while the fog bank rolled in and out, in and out; kayaking to the dock for a drink on the opening night of the island restaurant (and walking home since the fog had rolled back in!); drinking coffee on the rock beach in the brilliant morning sunshine while listening to the gulls croon and the waves dance over these tumbled rocks.

This weekend I began to feel a strength seeping into my being. I became aware how my body, as it's own island, is getting more comfortable with her own ebbs and flows and understanding that, though I'm alone, I am blessed by a rich life filled with adventures, laughter and some amazing friends.

Thank you Chris, Marion and Adam for that wonderful weekend on your island and the gift of your friendship.

Loving you all back,
PS - And still I struggle with the lay out of my blog and the pictures! Top photo from left to right is: MaryMargaret, me, Chris, Alice, Tim, Marion. We are in Marion's island pottery shop. It's on the ferry dock if you get out to this island. Stop in, gorgeous stuff! The second picture is Lupines ... this field made us all gasp when we first saw it. Photo credit: MaryMargaret.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Hoya

I've had a hard time coming here to write lately. Not sure why. Not inspired and worry I'm getting a bit boring with this process. I bore myself with it sometimes. I've been told it's "normal" to want to just be done with this whole grieving shit and to just move on. However, like so many other things it seems to have it's own time line, one that I don't have much control over.

I'm slowly rebuilding this life of mine. Rearranged some stuff in the living room and cleaned an area that I had not gotten to for over two years. It was a pretty big project of cutting back my Hoya plant, which is a tropical plant that is a climbing vine and had gotten quite overgrown the last few years. The cutting my dad gave me long ago comes from a plant that originally belonged to my great grandmother - thus this Hoya is a family heirloom. It has gorgeous, big white flower bundles that have an intoxicating smell. One flower head will perfume my entire house, but only at night! A sweet, sticky nectar will drip from the tip of each segment of the flowers bundle (see picture). I believe it's probably evolved to be pollinated by bats. As fascinating as this is it can be one messy plant over time as the syrup drips onto the walls and furniture and then dust and crud will stick to that and ... ugh. So, cutting this plant back exposed the wall it's been climbing up for so long, which exposed the blackened old sticky spots. Cleaning the wall didn't work, I had to repaint the entire wall! It looks so much brighter and feels so much cleaner in this space now.

I laugh at myself because this half days project of cutting back the climbing vine of the Hoya, rearranging the furniture, cleaning, vacuuming and repainting this corner started out as my heading to my desk to try to organize and file stuff away ... which is in another room entirely.

The desk project still hasn't been attempted.

And this is how I function these days! A bit ADD really, heading for one project and getting so engrossed in something entirely different. There are still many, many projects that need to be tackled in this house and I still find myself running out of steam too easily. Still find myself hitting a road block composed of stuff. Some of this stuff, being Jim's, will hit me in the solar plexus and I have to walk away. Another day perhaps .... but WHEN will that day come? Seriously? When will I find the energy, the focus, the old me that could tackle big projects and complete them?

I know my Hoya will grow back the vines I cut down, that it will burst into blooms again at some point. All the new growth won't change the plant, but it will be different all the same. It's growth has it's own time line and not in my control.

I guess I see similarities in my Hoya and myself. I too got a haircut. I too weep - but only at night. The "old me" has also been cut down. The changes I am going through, so painful at times, is my new growth that also has it's own time line that I need just unfold into and not control.

I must trust that I too will bloom again.

Loving you all back,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Another Response to "widow"

My sister, Jayne, sent this to me via email. I got her permission to post it. It's so damn beautiful as is her writing. I share it as I seem to have too many friends right now who have also lost a spouse. This goes out to all of us.

Regarding your blog --I don't think of you as a "widow". It doesn't fit. To think of you as a 'widow', even though it may be your official status, aligns you, immediately, with death..... and that doesn't fit you, Jim, your marriage, your life ........ it isn't a true representation of who you are. Your marriage was vibrant, the memory is .... the photographs.... the long shadow and empty chair... the strength of the struggle to save every last step and breath..... the connection that you two shared in health as well as through sickness .... the shared, sad smile of resignation at the hospice..... the tears that have been shed for love and loss..... the beautiful, light, mystical promise of the bells that the nurse heard when Jim died.

None of it leaves you a 'widow' in my mind. You, and Jim, are much more the power of life lived than life lost. The friends that supported that long walk to the precipice ..... it was all about the precious journey, wherever it leads. I don't think any of it led to you becoming a 'widow' --- I don't think that word defines, at all, who you are.
That's what I think..... lonely, lost, wishful, alone, off-balance ..... yup.....

A friend of mine would never fill in the 'race' status on applications except with 'human being' -- somehow the options you're being forced to choose don't work either -- we need a new catagory..... maybe survivor, soloist, egregious, hopeful, wanderer.......I don't know.... widow is one dimensional and you're not.

Thank you Jayne!

Loving you all back,

Monday, May 23, 2011


Today on my facebook page I changed my status from "married" to "widowed". We all know what it means but how does this label translate?

In an earlier blog I wrote how a young man asked if I was married and I said "no, I'm a widow" and he crumpled and apologized. OK, that's one reaction. What are other reactions to it? And at what point does one become no longer a "widow" but "single"? Is a widow single or is he/she just not married? Since the not being married wasn't by choice they aren't really single?

It took me a year to change this status on my facebook page, though I don't know why. A hard thing to accept? Well, yes of course. Maybe I just don't like labels. Never have. It took me a long time to refer to Jim as my husband after we were legally married. We had lived together for five years before asking my dad to marry us and putting on the rings to make the visual statement. During those five years he was not my husband so there was no label for him. I don't remember if Jim struggled with calling me his wife or not. I always preferred being called Mary anyway.

So I am very curious what is the first reaction to "widow", what is the visceral response when someone says "I'm widowed"? Is it to always apologize? It's hard for me to get objective on it these days since I'm a bit close to the label. So I'm actually putting this question out there.

Loving you all back,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love - 'tis all

I went to a Cinco de Mayo party that a friend just down the road had invited me to. She assured me that it would be fine if I stayed for only a little while or if I just left without saying goodbye as it was only days before Jim's first year anniversary and I wasn't sure how I'd do in a party situation. I did fine, and I had fun.

At one point in the evening I was talking to my friends husband who said "Mary, you look fantastic tonight!" I gasped and said "really?". "Yes, really, you look really good". And then I started to tear up and had to fight back actually crying. We both got laughing as I know he didn't mean to upset me and I was so surprised that it had upset me!

Later, when I got home I realized what had happened. Jim was my biggest fan and, simply, adored me. He was always telling me I looked really nice ... and if I didn't he would tell me that too so I could change! But that simple, intimate conversation that partners have before going out for an evening is something I really miss.

And then she asks me,
Do I look alright?
and I say yes, you look wonderful tonight
Eric Clapton

And so this is what happened that night. It was so bittersweet to hear these words, spoken honestly, from a friend and I realized it has been a very long time since someone has simply said "Mary, you look wonderful tonight".

See? It's small things that I miss at times.
Oh, I miss the big things too ..... but those are for another blog. Tonight, on this cold, raw, wet May evening I'm remembering how much I miss sitting close with someone on the couch, in front of the t.v., and how I miss being simply and fully loved by someone. But I feel lucky to know that I was ... completely and fully loved .... by a pretty wonderful person.

For those of you who have it, hang on to it and consider yourselves the lucky ones.

Loving you all back,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Behind me

May 7, 2011 - the first year anniversary of losing the love of my life is now behind me. I had no clue what the day might bring but, as I've said in another blog, the 2-3 week lead up was hell.

Saturday morning of the 7th I woke at 3:15 a.m. - which was exactly the time that the Hospice nurse was gently shaking me to tell me Jim had passed. Even though we had all sat in that Hospice room for 5 days knowing and waiting for this moment the sudden reality of it took my breath away. It's so final.

On this first year anniversary I spent the day up in the mountains trail running up the access roads of the local ski slope, Sunday River. My girlfriend, my dog and I found ourselves almost to the top with black storm clouds moving in but the sun was still shining where we were. This sunlight with the clouds as the back drop is always so incredibly stunning, all the colors get so enhanced; the pink tips of the deciduous trees as their buds are just popping, the dark green of the conifers, the gray-black clouds. She and I just stopped, taking a moment to soak up this amazing spectacle with the mountains stretching out before us. And then there was a rumble of thunder so we headed back down a bit faster.

Jim loved light. He taught me about light. His photography was brilliant due to his understanding of light. Thus, the amazing light on this hike had me knowing that Jim was there too ... in some way he knew I would stop and notice the light.

It was a moody day weather wise and seemed to help clear out the darkness that had been hanging over me for almost a month. I felt a little lighter and brighter on the actual anniversary day. Not what I was expecting at all, but then I'm learning not to expect anything anymore ... just take it as it comes.

So, all the "firsts" are now behind me; the first Christmas, New Year, birthday, death day. I've been told it gets easier and I trust this and almost believe it. But I'm not sure I will ever stop looking behind me to see if he's there.

Thank you all for remembering, for holding me either in spirit or physically, for being there in so many different ways; I have been kept afloat in this turbulent sea because of all of you.

Loving you all back,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Spring in Maine is so beautiful and so well deserved for those of us who stick it out here all winter. Several species of trees are about to bust out into leaves that are fluorescent green as they first emerge. Cardinals are paired off and flashing their brightest red-coats. One is sitting amongst that bright green as I type this; startling in the color contrast. It's an overload of sensory detail out there at times.

But the flashbacks are still coming and most nights I seem to have cried myself to sleep. All the memories of these hard two weeks leading up to Jim's death are bubbling to the surface and freezing in single frames. It was two weeks of terror and resignation, deep sadness and grace, amazing love and ultimately letting go.

We were in the hospital for five days before the decision to go to Hospice was made. During this hospital stay my family brought in old Linda Ronstadt cd's that Jim delighted in singing along to (Jim's tumors inhibited his speech but oddly he could sing anything perfectly). He would reach out his good arm to me from his bed so I would grasp his hand and begin to dance with him; he would make the motion to twirl so I would dip under his arm and allow him to twirl me in and out and he and I would dance in this way.

Jim was having absence seizures at this point - where he would just stop and stare into space with vacant eyes for several moments. When those happened I would drop everything in order to be at his side when he came out of them, looking into his eyes I would whisper, "welcome back" and he would smile and mouth the words, "I love you". During one of these seizures I was across the room talking with friends but my sister, Karmo, and my niece, Jennywren, were sitting on the bed with Jim. We all looked up as we heard them singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to Jim as he came out of his seizure. The hospital room was filled with people but you could have heard a pin drop as Jim picked up the chorus and sang along with them. I can never hear that song without crying anymore.

So for me this first anniversary isn't really about one day; there's a full two-weeks leading up to that final hour when he passed with the sound of "tinkling of bells" according to the night nurse at Hospice. But the day certainly is an important and difficult bench-mark. I have no idea what I may do. My best friend has already set the day aside in order to be with me. I am so blessed with such good friends.

And thank you all who have been sending me private messages and reaching out to me as "the day" draws near. That incredible love continues to flow from all of you to me ... and from Jim too.

Loving you all back,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April, Come She Will

I've read, and others who understand have told me, that anniversaries can be hard. I know Jim's birthday back in January felt OK for most of the day but when I got nailed at a dinner party it nailed me hard. This grief shit is so unpredictable, sporadic at times and tough stuff.

I'm coming up on an anniversary and I'm getting nailed already. I was out at my mothers house to see my younger sister and her family who had come down from Bangor. The surf was huge, bigger then I can remember in a very long time; wild, surging, pounding and gorgeous. We had a wonderful day, I stayed for lunch and later in the afternoon the grand nieces all showed up and went to fly a kite out in the field. I couldn't join them. I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was so incredibly tired that I felt a tremendous weight on me and an inertia that was sucking me down. My family was saying "Mary looks like she's going to fall asleep!", or "Mary, God you look so tired". And I was, so tired!

Rather then join in the fun of kite flying on a gorgeous afternoon I just got up saying "I gotta go home." I kissed my mom and then just waved a hand to the other family members in the kitchen at that time. No going around to give everyone the normal good bye hugs ... just a quick "bye" and I was out the door and heading home. For some reason I did not want any physical contact with anyone. What was that about?

That night, as I laid in bed, I got hit by one of those huge breakers I'd seen roll in to crash against the rocks earlier in the day; it crashed against me so hard that I had to curl into the fetal position and hang on. What the heck is going on? It's still more than two weeks to the actual one-year mark.

Ah, but it's April. When I scrolled down to my 2010 posts and then to the month of April here on this blog (yes, you can do it too.) I see that starting on April 26, 2010 all the big shit began to hit the fan for us. This was the beginning to the end; the ER visits, the hospital, the Hospice.

You know, it almost feels like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). I work with war veterans doing acupuncture for them to help ease their PTSD and all the symptoms that are associated with this syndrome. I can't imagine what these folks have lived through but I hear of the flashbacks, the insomnia, the emotional swings and sudden angry outbursts. I am experiencing some of this now; all that pain, fear, weariness and unfathomable grief is resurfacing from all the memories in my cells.

As the Maple trees are coming into flower with those pretty little firecrackers of red and yellow explosions at the end of the branches and the crocuses are powering out of a still cold earth, and snowdrops wave their pretty white heads ... April in Maine still remains very cold and bleak for me.

"April, come she will"

Loving you all back,

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is this a movie?

I watched the movie "127 Hours" the other night. I was told by one friend "it gets tedious". I was told by another friend "it's good, it's all in the Canyonlands too, Mary" - an area dear to my heart. I knew the actor had won an Oscar nomination for the role. I figured if Tom Hanks could talk to a soccer ball for an entire movie then this kid could probably offer some interesting thoughts while stuck in a canyon with his arm smashed between a boulder and the canyon wall.

Here's the true story of Aron Ralston; a young man who does most of his adventure traveling alone, takes off for some fun in his beloved Canyonlands, which he seems to know like the back of his hand. He tells no one where he is or where he's going. A bit of a free spirit. I've been guilty of going for hikes alone with my dog, Ella, and not informing anybody of my plans. Although I've always gotten home safe I have questioned the intelligence of such a move on my part. Well, this kid never questioned it until he sudddenly finds himself in the worst of the worst scenarios. While running he stumbles down a tiny canyon, dislodges a boulder that falls down after him and pins his arm as the boulder lodges into the walls of this small crevice. His arm is literally trapping him in a canyon miles from anywhere, he's running out of food, has very little water and nobody knows where he is. As he says to himself "this is really bad doo-doo".

You can see the reality of the situation hit him over time after the accident occurs. And this is where the movie began to hit me like a ton of bricks .... in the past I would watch a movie like this and wonder what it might be like to have that kind of reality hit. What it would it feel like to suddenly realize the situation you were in is dire and you're facing life and death.
What goes through your mind as it sinks in that this is really happening to you! While watching this movie I found myself understanding exactly what this feels like. I realize that this is something I feel almost daily .... still ... that feeling of "are you serious? This is my life? This is happening to ME?" Whenever I see a picture of Jim's handsome face I get hit with this reality again.

I feel like a bomb has gone off in my life. When that bomb dropped on us, those first few months after Jim was diagnosed, it was the cover your head and try to survive mode. It was a whirlwind of doctors, treatment procedures, medicines and twirling in circles while being told which direction to move once the spinning stopped. Like the movie, this was the part where we were falling into the crevice and didn't know that boulder was coming down with us to smash us against the wall and alter our lives forever.

The first few minutes, after Aron gets trapped, you could see he had hope that he could move that boulder. He struggled like a trapped animal but he still believed that he'd get himself out of that little problem. But, as the reality set in, Aron would tell himself to "stay calm, don't lose it man". While Jim and I realized that those brain tumors had trapped us we never gave up hope that Jim would be able to beat it. If we stopped to get hit by the reality of our situation then the fear could be devastating and panic would set in. You never want to panic because then you lose your ability to move and think rationally and possibly save yourself. So I would take one step at a time, and I would tell myself to "stay calm woman, don't lose it".

Aron Ralston, as you may know, ends up cutting his own arm off after being trapped in that canyon for 127 hours. And everyone who knows this story asks themselves, "could I do that?" "Would I do that?" With Jim, the left brain tumors severely affected his right side. But when he had hydrocephalus he lost even more control of his right arm and leg and he couldn't walk by himself at all. He refused to use a wheelchair, which would be admitting defeat. So I had to physically get him up and hold him from behind with my arms supporting his arms and my legs supporting his legs. Using my legs as a shadow to his I would push his right leg forward to force that leg to take a step. Jim would then step with his left leg as I completely supported him. In this manner of push the right leg, step, push the right leg, step - we would "walk" to where he needed to be. How could I find the strength to do this? I felt it from Jim. I felt it in me. I felt both of our incredible determination to take that next step. And I never stopped to question whether I could do it or not; I just did it. I just did whatever had to be done. I would indeed have cut my arm off if I thought it could have saved Jim from those tumors.

Aron Ralston is now one-armed, but alive, and still living a wonderful adventurous life. I still have both my arms but feel my heart has been cut out and wonder if I can ever get that adventurous life back; can I ever get that sparkle and laughter I had with Jim again?

This is not a movie ... this is my life now.

Loving you all back,
PS - I haven't figured out how to put a by-line on the photos when I upload them. The picture on this blog is of Jim's sister, Donna, me and Jim in the town of Moab - just outside the Canyonlands National Park.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fear of Flying

It's not the actual flying that I'm fearful of, it's the no-fly zone; when flights get canceled and travel plans go down the drain. Traveling alone is hard for me these days. I'm flying for a vacation on Friday and the weather report is for a big storm, hitting the east coast Friday ... up to 8 inches in Maine! Damn, my anxiety is rising.

I've been incredibly spoiled when it comes to trips. Jim was a world traveler and able to navigate all the different scenarios that could possibly be tossed at you during an expedition. I remember when we were in Machu Picchu, Peru and standing on the platform to catch the train back down to Cusco. Jim spoke fluent Spanish and caught some conversations about the train being full. He went into high gear, went into the ticket counter and ended up behind the counter - in front of a line of other tourists - and negotiated our getting our tickets and getting on board. And the person he negotiated with was laughing and smiling with Jim. I also know that Jim didn't pay anybody off to do this, it was just his charming way that won us a seat on a too full train.

Oh, did I mention that this train, coming down this impossibly steep mountain grade, was having major brake problems? At every little stream or puddle the train would stop, several guys would jump out with buckets and throw water onto the brakes. We could hear the brakes hissing as the cold water struck them and smell the acrid, burnt aroma of over-heated brakes. Just a tad worrisome. But whenever I was with Jim it was always an adventure.

But I'm not with Jim anymore. I'm flying solo now in every aspect of my life, including this trip to the left coast to see dear friends who have seduced me into staying with them for some fun in the sun. While the weather shifts from attempting spring with bright sun and crocus's, then back to winter in New England with threats of 8 inches of snow ... it's in the high 70's in the Bay area. I could use some of that heat and sunshine right now!

So, I'm facing my fears. I tell myself people older, more compromised and disabled fly alone all the time. I can do this. I can! Why am I so fearful? I don't know ... it's just not the party it use to be.

Life is not the party it use to be.

Loving you all back,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Snails Pace

I'm up too early this morning. I haven't had one of these wake-at-3:00 a.m.-with-my-mind-racing kind of mornings for quite a few months now. It use to be my normal rising time while Jim was sick. Looking back on those days I'm not sure how I functioned with so little sleep. I needed those early morning hours though; the only time when I was not being asked to do anything for anybody else. Today there are different worries racing through my head. We all have worries.

I'm reading a book that my sister, Jayne, gave to me, "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. It's a beautifully written book with wonderful, simple illustrations of the snail. The author was suddenly stricken with autoimmune dysautonomia, a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, that leaves her unable to do much but lie in bed. Even sitting up is a huge drain on her. She has moved from her farm house in rural Maine to a small apartment where there is a "caregiver" tending to her 24/7. She has a few friends who come and visit her but as I get deeper into the book these visits are dwindling since her disease is dragging on and people have busy lives.

One friend had brought her a potted violet with a small, forest snail that she had found and placed in with the plant. This tiny snail is the focus of the book. The author can roll herself over from one side of her bed to the other, so she has days on end where she is able to just watch this small snail living out it's life. She has her caregiver go into the woods and gather plants and objects to make a terrarium in which to house this snail; a much better home then the original potted plant that allowed the snail to wonder at night and eat tiny, square shaped holes into stationary and envelopes.

What is so wonderful about this book is how the author compares her life to this snail. And, of course, I can't help but see comparisons of what Jim's life was becoming as his brain tumors took more and more of his abilities to function away. How hard he fought at times to come out of this encroaching shell that was isolating him from his much larger world .... how hard I fought to keep him connected in any way that I could. But there were those days when we just allowed ourselves to simply be, just let go of the fight. At these times we moved around at a snails pace always aware that the world was racing past us. Always aware that our world was shrinking as was our time together.

These early morning hours offer a simple world to me. No other lights on in the neighboring houses, no one else is awake, no phone calls to make as all the busy-ness that I must do today can't begin for several more hours. My world is a small shell; this wood stove, my coffee cup, a book.

And sometimes I wish it was this simple,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


The other day I looked out an upstairs window and was staring face to face with a small, Sharp Shinned Hawk, sitting in the Oak tree. He was gorgeous and seemed very content to have me looking back at him ... unlike the family of Crows that I feed who won't tolerate my looking at them for more then a few seconds. After a bit of time he flew from this perch into the more wooded area that borders my yard and completely disappeared when he landed on another branch.

Jim was drawn to hawks. He had some amazing, mystical and spiritual experiences with hawks and thus felt an affinity towards this bird regardless of the species. Now, whenever I see a hawk, I will think of Jim and quietly state his name as I believe there is a message being sent to me on the wings of these mighty predators.

I spent some time with an old friend of Jim's that I'm just getting to know now. I asked her how she first met Jim and she said she had hired him to do some photography for her so many years ago. She went on to explain how Jim had the most amazing ability to walk into a situation and disappear if he was photographing an event. People would become so comfortable with his presence that they would soon forget that he was taking pictures of them. We both laughed because Jim could also walk into a social engagement and let it be known that he was there and the entire party would migrate towards him.

The magic of Jim Daniels; the ability to be the life of the party as well as just disappear when he needed to .... much like this little hawk I watched that day. This hawk, sitting on a branch in the big Oak tree stood out like a hovering hot air balloon on a clear summer day ... but when he flew a few feet into the more wooded area and sat in the shadows he completely disappeared.

I believe in magic and animal totems and Jim checking on me with the sharp eyes of a hawk. I admit to having days when I wish I could just disappear, but I'm still here - for whatever reasons - missing the magic of that man.

Loving you all back,