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,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mourning Dove

The birds are acting differently lately; starting to sing and chirp, flitting and circling each other in the air and just being more visible in general. They must know something that the rest of us in Maine are only hoping will come again as we dig ourselves out from under another big snow storm that got covered with freezing rain and turned everything into an impossible ice block.

Spring, and renewed hope and rebirth. But today I am dealing with another death; our friend Reg died yesterday morning. Brain cancer beat the best again ... when it's a grade 4 it always seems to win eventually. A good friend asked me if this was giving me flashbacks. Yes, it is. And I'm grieving again for my friend, his wife, G, and his entire family that includes a ten year old spitfire of a boy.

On my early morning run today I came upon a bird kill; an explosion of feathers in the middle of the trail. No blood spots, no tracks so I suspect the predator to be the Red Tailed Hawk I've seen on several occasions in this area. I looked closely at the feathers, some kind of song bird .... and as I hovered over this mass of feathers, with the downy ones blowing away over the hard crusty snow, I heard the haunting Oo-wah-hooo, hoo-hoo of a Mourning Dove. How perfect, a Mourning Dove on this day when my tears are freezing to my cheeks. As I hunker over these Dove feathers I'm enchanted at how beautiful they are; one is small and brown with a dark eye-spot on it, another, a wing feather, is black on one side of the hard center vane and white on the other side ... the yin/yang of life.

Morning .... with the dove feathers scattered at my feet and a few in my hand ... mourning.

Jim use to hear that mournful call and say "Morning, Dove". I whispered this call to the lonesome dove calling from the tree line as the sun began to rise. I whispered to Reg to say hello to Jim for me. I whispered to my fist full of feathers how sad I was feeling with this new mourning.

Loving you all back,