There is, within you, the living green. It reaches through the weight of death, a tendril of truth and freedom. Sunlit joy and the weeping of rains nourish its hopefulness. Reality is the wall over which it climbs, clinging only enough to move upward. Its finger stretches to touch another hand, in the growing grace of belief. Someday, it seems to know, the hands will clasp—within, without— when walls have crumbled and everything again is green.
(This is a poem about the ineffable urge to write, to express the colorful wonder of wakeful living on the black and white of a page.)
Scribble something out, the voice says. All this light and color, swirling. Feel the rainbow with your face. You thought it impossible, mere wishings of a child. But you know you are part of it, now. You. You are the pot of gold.
No matter if the page is white and ink, black. The color is within. Find the words, and write them.
Perhaps others who are color blind will see and suddenly, will feel rainbows on their skin, sense the breaking wave spray in fall’s first light, the near-frozen breath of some sleeping hollow, moist transience on the watching eyes of trees.
Write it down. Make of this wordless wonder a watercolor story scratched out in the ashes of a mind which touched the sun. All but the spirit has burned away.
Weep. Write. And your black ink tears may show someone their rainbow.
Late, sitting in my car, impatiently tuned to the loveless morning news, wordlessly wondering if I had within what the day would surely require of me, I saw her limping toward the school bus, quietly following the others, not calling attention to herself (Except to her sheer mountain-faced courage and the bated breath of hope), slowly, steadily making her way with book bag and a sack of lunch. The others boarded, and I wondered if it would be hard for her to see them walking along with ease, not thinking of requirements, not having to wonder if they could do it, this simple stepping up into the bus without stumbling or falling, without needing help to a seat or dropping their bags or squashing someone’s sandwich, without being embarrassed for making the driver wait, and be late for the next stop, without everyone looking, not saying what she knew they were thinking. I wondered what had happened, a stroke or a bleed, head trauma, a fall from a bike or downstairs, or, God forbid, a push or a punch. Had love run away from her? Had someone not helped? I didn’t know. But I wondered this about her life. And the news droned on and the stop sign retracted. And I saw her raising her own flag, in my mind I saw this, against the gray morning sky. I witnessed her belief and her strength and her resiliency. I saw it flying above the news of politics and callous self-centeredness and unregarded pain and the authentic unheard cries of souls. And I thought, yes, I can do this. I see her. I believe. I can step up into the day with her help. With her holding onto my paralyzed heart.
To raise awareness and combat stigma, I won’t be sharing any statistics today. I’ll be making no predictions.
Instead, I offer these thoughts, and an admonition:
—I believe the greatest among many losses associated with Alzheimer’s is the loss of relationship. —I believe the loss of relationship is fueled by the stigma of presumed lost personhood of those living with Alzheimer’s. —By faith, I believe personhood is innate, inherent, and inviolate; thus, it cannot be affected by Alzheimer’s at the foundational level. —Personhood is intrinsically and fundamentally relational. —This belief fosters the provision of compassionate, dignifying, affirming care for those living with dementia, and nurtures meaningful relationships.
Please believe that persons living with Alzheimer’s are still persons.
Please seek relationships with them. Please connect with them. Please remember them, and their care partners. Please help to create a culture of compassion.
A picture’s worth a thousand words for those, once blind, who see; who hear, even in creeping things, songs of eternity. Who feel, in tremblings of the earth, footsteps of Love, Divine; who sense, within chaotic winds, the Maker’s grand design. Who, in the fabric of themselves, in body, mind, and soul, feel threads of living energy that make the thunders roll, and set the stars and planets in their courses, with a bang, that wrote the lyrics and the tune the Heavenly chorus sang upon the night incarnate Love shot through the Earth to dwell, proclaiming, for all time, this truth: All’s well, and will be well.
The cold house sleeps. Outside, summer swelters and respires. Waking, I take to the floor, thinking in terms of coffee. A window, set between extremes, stops me. I watch. A street light flickers and glows. Crepe myrtle fingers etch their secret messages to the gutters. Something darts. A distant dog is barking. Is anyone, anywhere awake? I wonder. Then I am mesmerized. Droplets of fog condense softly on the window pane. Contrasts. Crosses. Silhouettes of limbs. Shards of light soften in the mist, blending the darkness into grays. So many grays. The passing of time. Life is increasingly gray and foggy. But it slow dances and glows. I breathe on the glass my lungs’ air. Darkness. My gift for the light. In this inhaling, exhaling moment, the light comes into me. Photons with molecules, their escorts. And the human becomes a living soul.
Life is like an elderly couple sitting in a pair of rockers on their porch in a small town. By them skate two students carefree after class; a lurching dog barks in tow, chasing the rabbit of time that hides in each moment. A little clapboard house of faith sits quietly on the corner for the poor and hurting, holding God’s breath in its lungs for sabbath exhalations. A few streets over, a siren sings its urgent call to intercessory prayer, and two hearts answer. Sparrows, wrens and titmice flit through shrubs and roses they planted together one spring long ago, when young love refused to let anything fade away. Gnarled and thorny now, the garden holds their tiny winged elegies like raindrops that shimmer on the leaves. Next door, pots clank in preparation for an evening meal, and they think of family gatherings, filiality, empty chairs at empty tables and hoped-for happy reunions. As the sun drops slowly behind the belfry to the west, they take each other’s hands and talk about faith, friendship and forgiveness, peaceably present to themselves, and their faces turn the same shades as the sun-stroked sky.
This morning, I’m thinking of all the dogs I’ve had in my life. Of course, there were the Sams. Three of them. Two beagles and a mix. I barely remember Sam I. When viewing old photos, some of that Sam comes back to me, out in the dirt, playing with my dump truck, a cool tongue in the face. Sam II helped me through kindergarten and grammar school, defended some forts against marauders, and chased one truck too many. Jody, a Spitz mix, was a friend true as any I’ve ever known. He sat waiting for me each day after school. I could see him jumping straight into the air when I topped the red hill, curly tail whooshing the afternoon away for Nana’s chicken and dumplings stewing in a pot of pure delight. He liked those little slick chicken soppers as well as I did. Being an only child, I ran with Jody and his friends, talked to them a lot. And they knew me. They knew me. Jody wandered off and went blind. I caught a glimpse of him a few months later, called him, but he wouldn’t come. Briefly wagged his tail, but didn’t jump. Then he was gone. Sometimes, I see him. Little Sam III was a beagle pup we got my parents around their retirement. Used to sit in his chair hugging his blanket, one corner in his mouth, kneading it with his paws, like dough. He seemed to think it was his mother. I think he was a decent surrogate for me after I left home. Then some time passed, our girls came along, and we needed a pet again. Heidi, our miniature Dachshund, found us one fine day as we examined a litter, she being the runt at the back, and pooped on Ellen when she picked her up. The wand picks the wizard, of course, and Heidi had chosen. The last fifteen years have been a beautiful being together with her sweet girl self. There’s still a good bit of that poopy little pup inside her, the one I put in my coat pocket and took to the nursing home to visit Dad after he got Alzheimer’s, knowing children and pets and hymns and old photos and biscuits and prayers and painting and Carol Burnett Show reruns gave us the best chance of finding him. Sure enough, when he saw her little Black and Tan face, the fog was lifted and the blind man came back when we called him. Now, each morning when she greets me, tail wagging for cheese, looks at me after each bite, and smiles, I come back home to myself and to my kin, in gratitude. I feel Heidi and Jody would have liked each other, come to think of it. Thank you, dear God, for the pets with whom we can share our lives.
Old houses give would-be photographers much material with which to work.
Light, shadow, and old houses are friends from way back. They remember the same things when no one else is left to recall them. Having been together for a long time, each knows the ins and outs of the others. They’ve nothing left to hide. And they wouldn’t want to, anyway.
So, it’s fun to get in on their stories. To catch their unseen angles. Their rare views. Like a mailbox past the porch rail by the road, casting streetlight shadows between a gap in the the living room curtains.
Or the bedroom lamp, eccentric as an old aunt, shedding her lights like handfuls of trinkets for each niece and nephew.
Mason jars in the window, a little bit askew, like folks standing in an unemployment line.
Hard edges surely are softened here. The light knows when to speak sharply and when to whisper. And it’s the whispering that’s the louder, to me.
So I prick up my ears, pull out my camera, and wait.