I accompany my daughter to the surgical center in predawn darkness. My three year old grandson is scheduled for a procedure. He wants a drink of water, which is not allowed before anesthesia. He is very focused on his need for liquid. When we leave the house his mother points to the moon, still high in the sky. He asks, ” Mama, can we drive right under the moon?” “Sure, Bud,” says his mom. He stops asking for a drink, the unpleasantness of his thirst forgotten for the moment.
It’s the early 50’s. My mother walks me to school those first few months. There’s a sharp recollection of leaving her side to walk across the schoolyard to enter the building with other children. A feeling of being overwhelmed by ‘bigness.’ No looking back or crying for me, though. I want to learn about the world.
air raid drill
a tiny caterpillar curls up
under a leaf
Neurosurgery rotation. All the older students say it will be depressing. We arrive on a Monday morning in October, not knowing what to expect. Orientation includes a tour of all the rooms. Most are occupied by patients who do not respond to ‘verbal stimuli.’ “The patients may not be able to answer you when you speak to them, but they may be able to hear you. Talk to them,” the head nurse says.
cold winds arrive
I am assigned to a patient who is comatose and unresponsive, even to painful stimuli. I am told he is a policeman named Patrick who fell down a flight of subway stairs chasing a criminal. His Irish face is swollen and bruised …from the fall or the surgery…I don’t know. His head is swathed in white dressings and he has tubes from almost every orifice.
into deep water
Gathering all the supplies I will need for his care, I return to his room. I look into his face for a long time. I take his vital signs and begin his morning care which involves a complete bath….eye care… mouth care. …tube feedings every few hours, turning him from one side to the other… skin care….suctioning. Before I begin each procedure, I explain what I am about to do and, if true, I assure him that it will not hurt. There is no response.
to find my father’s
gift of gab
I tell him about the weather and the view out the window. Eventually, I talk about myself. I wish, for some reason, that I could sing. Alas, I can not carry a tune. Still, it is a skill I wish I had at this moment….. to comfort myself, I think. No one comes to visit him during visiting hours and since he is my only patient, I stay with him through the afternoon, until the end of my shift.
someone lights a candle
I am surprised at the depth of feeling that I have for this man who never utters a word, who I know virtually nothing about and who may die soon, according to the head nurse. Still, I hold on to the possibility that somewhere in his damaged brain there is some cognition. I feel compelled to honor that as long as he is breathing. My heart space opens to this possibility of shared compassion.
I am four or five. It is warm and the fragrance of the blooming privet hedge tickles my nose. Visiting Grandma, which happens often, she lives only blocks from our house, my mother’s Uncle Willie is at home when we arrive. He is old with a surprisingly full head of gray hair and a round, fat belly. He always makes us laugh and today he is taking my sister and me for an ice cream cone.
the soft feel of chalk
on my hands
As we set out on our stroll, Uncle Willie holds each of us by the hand. He is walking slowly and there is no reason for my short legs to hurry. As we amble, his grip tightens on our hands until we squeal with delight. We know the game. He will not stop squeezing until we say, ‘uncle.’ We play this game until we arrive at the soda fountain.
just the right amount
of music at noon
I try to eat my ice cream quickly, before it drips down my arm. It is a losing battle and Uncle Willie helps keep it from getting messy. I taste the cold sweetness of Butter Pecan and the crunch of the sugar cone. I laugh and lick and lick and laugh. He teaches us how to push the ice cream down into the cone. I finish my cone and begin our walk back. In spite of sticky fingers, he holds my hand tightly and I giggle once more.
I open the Times and force myself to read a few headlines. The news is all bad. Guns and death. War and disaster. Protesting pro this and con that. Yet another, unqualified candidate announces a run for the presidency months before the race. No doubt we’ll have another election that resembles the Kentucky derby with twenty odd dark horses trampling on the issues . . . blah blah blah. I slam the paper shut and rant out loud a bit before the slant of the sun on the fence distracts me.
I have a weeping cherry on my property, visible from all the windows that face the back yard. It is about 20 feet tall and sixteen years old. It inspires me in every season of the year but especially in spring when it becomes a cloud of pink. The tree was a gift from my mother who used to love weeping cherries. She no longer remembers that she loved these trees but I do. She is ninety-two and is losing more and more of herself each day.
forgetting her grandchildren
one by one
My six month old grandson came to live with us for about five months last winter. He and his parents were waiting for their new home to be ready. All winter and into the spring, his favorite pastime was to watch the tree branches moving with the winter wind and then the gentle breezes of early spring. When the cherry tree bloomed, he was mesmerized.
perfectly still –
a baby watching
pink blossoms sway
My daughter, who also watched the garden unfolding from winter into spring, was bitten by the gardening bug – a legacy from her grandmother – my mother. By the time she moved into her new home, she was dreaming about the garden she would plant. Although my mother will never see her granddaughter’s garden, her spirit will reside there. Perhaps her great-grandson will come to love gardening too!
The pilgrims who are trudging through winter at the moment, are nearing the end of that particular journey. They are weary and tend to forget to be grateful for the silver mornings of late February and early March. The sun, slowly wending its way back to the North, shines silver through the bare gray branches of the deciduous trees. What is left of the snow sparkles as it slowly melts. Even the gray sparrows, beginning their annual dance of procreation, dart in and out of the trees, seemingly capturing pieces of the sunlight, with which they build their nests.
bitter cold morning
the blackbird sings!
Just when I am too full of winter, just when the thermometer drops again to 10 degrees F, and I am on the verge of forgetting to be thankful for what IS, along comes a singer in the woods to remind me to say – Thank you, God. Click HERE to see the haiga I created yesterday after I heard the red-winged blackbird’s lovely song on my morning walk.
A poem-maker lives with silence, happily straining to hear what the trees whisper to the raindrops. It is winter and the rain is welcome. It arrives with warmer temperatures and the scent of the ocean.
After Christmas, she receives a gift – three gifts, really. A daughter arrives with her husband and new baby for an extended visit while their new place is made ready.
Silence departs to make room for the guests. The poem-maker puts aside the pen and listens to the new sounds.
The baby gurgles, squeals, giggles and trills along all day, even singing himself to sleep. She hears her daughter sing – and everyone joins in the song…. and the laughter. Soon, she can even hear her own heart singing. And it sounds like the gentle patter of winter rain on the roof.
A certain shy poet was wandering around the internet one August afternoon in 2012. She stumbles into Haiku Heights and decides to give haiku a whirl. She composes a three line poem and nervously posts it with all the ‘real’ poets at Haiku Heights. Shortly after, September arrived along with the invitation to write a haiku everyday for a month. The prompts were stimulating, the other poets were encouraging and an addiction was born!
The muse at Haiku Heights, whose pen name is Leo and whose real name is Vinay Ravindranath also blogs at I Rhyme Without Reason. He has indefatigably stimulated an international band of writers with weekly prompts for several years now. In April and September he hosted a marathon of daily prompts. It has been quite a fun ride!
I am sad to see this wonderful weekly haiku party come to an end but I wish you well, Leo. Thank you for turning me on to haiku!
in late autumn
the crickets are silent –
a sudden sadness