Sunday, October 30, 2011

Turn Turn Turn

We did the work that needed to be done: cleaned out her apartment; moved furniture into storage; tied up those last loose material ends that tether a life to the living. Then what? We didn't even realize that we were in a daze until we started to rise out of it. We finally took a breath and talked about how it all happened so suddenly. While it was happening, it felt crazy and long, like forever. But then, it was over and the calendar said only a week had passed. Seven days. How is that possible? It felt like years.
So, we resume our regular lives, simultaneously changed and unchanged. I think that's how it should be, or not, what do I know? We went out to the Yuba River on Saturday and took a nice hike. The weather is spectacular, a quintessential autumn, the perfect October day. The river rushes over those granite rocks with a force that continues to shape the canyon. The sound is overwhelming and good.
We've been cleaning up the garden, harvesting dried beans and the last of the tomatoes. We still have butternut squash on the vine, but the delicata have been put away with the potatoes and onions. The nights have gotten very cool, and the days are definitely socks and sneakers weather, long pants and a sweater too.

And for some reason we want to sing, "turn turn turn,"albeit without any heavenly references.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose …
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted...

We read that Steve Jobs' last words were: Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.

And, so it goes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The View From Hospice w/Update

Roger's 90 year-old mother* is dying. She's been actively dying since last Sunday, October 16th, when she ended up in the emergency room after a fall. We went to the ER, but she no longer recognized us, or Roger's sister and brother. Her mental capacity had been diminishing for several months, but this was a rather precipitous decline into full-blown dementia in a short amount of time. She had a compression fracture, but it was deemed not life threatening. She had bronchitis, also not life threatening. She spent the night in the hospital, and then Roger and I moved her to hospice care on Monday, October 17th. During the ride in the car she was like a child. She said, "Nice car. Pretty day. Nice car. Pretty day." The above photo is the view outside her hospice room. The double doors open and her bed could be taken out there, if she wanted to be in the sunshine. Last Monday, we thought that might be a possibility.

But on that Monday, she ate only four spoonfuls of jello and was deeply agitated. She could see the beautiful outdoors from her bed, but was not lucid enough to know she could go. On Tuesday, she had chocolate pudding and repeated "choo-choo, choo-choo" and "teacher teacher" for several hours. She no longer looked toward the doors or windows. On Wednesday, she had more chocolate pudding and drops of water delivered by a small straw, she said "I like to dress up" for several hours. Since Thursday- NOTHING. No food. No words.

She is on morphine and ativan.

We are waiting for her to die. She is on her own exit plan and timetable. It is an interesting thing to consider-- someone's permanent exit from life. Watching her do this is a lesson for us about utter stress and exhaustion; sadness and anticipation; love and forgiveness. We talk to her quietly everyday. We've read that the ability to hear is the last sense to go. She does stir a bit when people go to her bedside. But so much of her has already been relinquished that her eyes see nothing familiar when they flutter open for a second. She is a heartbeat in a body only, nothing else seems to be left.
And we are waiting for our first grandchild to be born some time in the next two weeks. Reminds us of Bob Dylan's: (s)he not busy being born is busy dying. Ain't that the truth.

*Roger's mother's 91st birthday is Tuesday, October 25th. We're wondering....

Update:
Roger's mom passed away Monday, October 24th at noon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nineteen Years Later

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary. According to the internet there is no traditional gift associated with this anniversary. So, I guess that means we get to make it up ourselves, which we do anyway (renegades that we are!). We always celebrate our anniversary with a special bottle of wine, not a particular wine, but one that catches our attention by vintage and vineyard. This year it is a local 2008 Zinfandel from Nevada City Winery. I'm making an Indian dish for dinner, a variation of Chicken Makhanwala, a delicious cream curry. We bought a fantastic garlic naan to go with it. This is going to be a very spicy feast. Nineteen years requires this kind of celebration and attention.
We just got back from a very quick trip to Santa Cruz, the place Roger and I lived for 15 years before our life-changing moves to Port Townsend and then to Grass Valley. It's been two years since we've been there. We didn't remember it being so crowded and crazy with cars and people everywhere. Even the short respites on the beach were spent among throngs of surfers, other walkers, and dogs chasing things into the waves. There was never a moment of silence. Not one. Still, we loved sniffing the flowery fragrant air and seeing jasmine and datura, sweet peas and scabiosa in bloom. A complete delight for our senses.
One of the very coolest things about being back in Santa Cruz for those 48 hours was the fantastic coincidental arrival of the monarchs. It's amazing how much we took these sights for granted, and now it has become a rare feast for our eyes to see them again. Lucky for us, they were everywhere.
Then, we were back home. Beautiful skies. Katydids on the old squash leaf, and a lizard in the sink. Nineteen years and the greatest gifts come for free.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Autumn's Other Colors

We had our first rains of the season, and then the quintessential days of autumn arrived. Temperatures are in the 70s, and the air so clear it stuns our senses. The leaves are just starting to turn, and the corn stalks have been laid to rest. The sun is rising farther south perceptibly everyday; an amazing transition is underway with an obvious sweep.
I think the thing that surprises me the most right now is the insect activity. Everywhere I look butterflies are taking in the last of the flower nectar. They go from gaillardia to chrysanthemum, basil to tomato, dandelion to sage. I'm finding caterpillars climbing the outside walls, or making their way across the endless desert of decking, or wandering through the dry grasses down by the pond. The dragonflies are darting in and out of everything and everywhere. They're almost as big as the hummingbirds and hungry all the time.
Of course the frogs and lizards disappeared during the three days of rain, but when that sun came out again the activity was breathtaking. Baby lizards are scurrying everywhere, including in our laundry room (rescued Sunday morning!) and the frogs came out of hiding to bask in the sun on the water iris foliage.
Soon, too soon of course, all of this will end. Bare tree limbs will bend under snow and we won't even see the ground for days at a time. The silence and stillness of winter will bring its own beauty, but I know I'm going to miss these sights, those colors, these wings.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Wednesday's Words: A Change in the Weather

Sometimes a whole lot a nothin' happens. The sun rises in a cloudless blue sky day after day. Temps soar into the 90s, and the tomatoes put out more fruit than anyone knows what do with. We quarter and freeze them. We cook them down into a thick rich sauce. We contemplate oven drying them. We are lulled into the torpor of endless summer dreaming. Tomorrow we'll gather the last of the summer squash. Tomorrow we'll pick the ripest tomatoes. Tomorrow we'll make the final batch of pesto.
Then it happens. The weather gods in the far north blow a fierce wind that gathers storm clouds from the sea. The high temps drop 40 degrees from one day to the next. Rain is on the horizon. The shining green garden looks sallow against the gray skies. And just like that, summer is over. It's not going to be hot hot hot again until next year. Bye bye summer heat.

Hello wood stove fire. It's become second nature now for us to keep an eye on the weather. Even in the long dry months, we check to see if thunderstorms are headed our way, and with it the threat of lightning strikes and summer fires. One day last month, there were 1300 strikes in the Sierra. It happens, just like that.
So, we knew the cold out of the gulf of alaska was headed our way. We took a long look at the nearly five cords of wood that were piled up here and there, and strategized about where to stack it all in the new woodshed (which Roger did not ever write about, bad Roger, bad Roger). I helped a bit with that task, but my stupid crooked old neck doesn't like all that bending and looking around, so Roger did most of it. Took him about 2 1/2 days, but what a great reward followed that great effort. Now when we look out the window we see our woodshed full full full, three rows deep and 16 feet wide of winter warmth.
Come what may… we are ready. Well, except that we still have a ton of tomatoes that we don't really know what to do with… ah well, such problems are the dilemma of bounty.