Monthly Archives: July 2013

Healing from Loss: Worrying

ARGO  “We’re not going on the Sunday morning hike. It’s going to rain this morning,” say Dennis and Virginia who drive me each week. So I’m on my own and need to make a decision. I check multiple weather reports that promise thundershowers later in the day. I call for opinions about the chances of rain and for directions to the site. Everything I’d laid out for the hike is put away and brought back out again as I waver on whether to go or stay home.

“Suki, what do you think?” I ask my dog. “Should we hike? It could be muddy. What should we wear? What should we bring?” I love to ask Suki questions. She cocks her head when my voice rises. Her tail flutters when she hears familiar words like “hike” and “cookies.”

           The hike will only take 2 hours but with or without rain there will certainly be mud. Will I fall on a slippery downhill section? Will I be able to find the meet-up spot without Dennis and Virginia’s help? Will it rain? Should we or shouldn’t we go, I wonder?WETSUKI1   Finally, Suki and I take off for the site with a carload of extra towels and gear. It will be a nice drive even if we don’t stay to hike. I am still questioning Suki as I find the meet-up spot a half hour away in the hills of Caroline. There, 23 hikers and 5 dogs mull around greeting each other and watching the sky.

“Okay, it’s time to start,” says Stephen. And then the rain begins.

It pours as we march away from the cars. The grass is slippery. There are huge puddles on the trail and everything quickly turns to mud. Right away the wet seeps through the seams of my raincoat. Soon my waterproof boots make squishing sounds with each step. Suki’s belly and paws turn black and on her back I can see the pink skin of my normally fluffy white dog. For the first 10 minutes as we hike I keep track of the twists and turns in the trail with the intention of turning back if the rain doesn’t stop. But soon it becomes apparent that we will get lost if we leave the group. So we are committed to continuing. At least until others decide to quit.

Suki looks up at me doubtfully through eyebrows plastered down over her eyes by the rain. But there is nothing more to worry about. We are already muddy and drenched and the rain is not about to stop. So Suki shakes herself out, I laugh with a friend, and we hike on.

“Well that was fun,” I say to Suki later, back at home, after baths and blow-drying, laundering, lunch and a nap. “Now what can we worry about?” But I already know: the upcoming first public reading from my book. From which chapter shall I read? What should I wear? Will I stutter over my words? It’s only 8 minutes plus an introduction but will I do something embarrassing?

            If you’re in Ithaca, come find out.

            Book Reading

         Sunday, August 4 at 3 PM

         at Buffalo Street Books

         in the Dewitt Mall in Ithaca

            I’ll be there come rain or shine, after the Sunday morning hike. What do you like to worry about?

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Healing from Loss: Summer Memories

LILLYLAYERS“What a sweet dog.” Two women bend to pet Suki when they see her wagging her tail and pulling at the leash to come closer. Suki’s eyes light up and the strangers love that this little dog is so happy to see them. But as soon as she is close enough to be touched by their outreached hands Suki looks away from them and drags me off to investigate another group of people. She could go on endlessly sniffing out crowds like this.

            “I guess you’re not the one she’s looking for,” I say, embarrassed and trying to make light of it.

            Unlike Suki, I don’t need to search for Marika. For me she is so often nearby, just hidden in the deepest folds of the world around me. Folds and levels and layers that occasionally yield a tiny earring lost long ago, a familiar sound of her trying on jeans in the dressing room across from mine, or a memory of walking in a field of fireflies.

            When I go to pick blueberries there are children sitting in the shade of the bushes eating from their buckets. They are tired and hot and they beg, “Mom, when can we go?” A scent in the air beckons me to look more closely at the nearby daylilies. Marika made drawings of flowers with all the parts labeled. She picked daylilies and daisies for me once and cried when they wilted. The summer is filled with sweet reminders of our times together.

            Sometimes I hear her still. In my dreams or in moments of dilemma she tells me, “Get a life” and “Don’t worry” and “Get over it, mom.” So I push myself, I go to events I’d considered blowing off. I focus on the positive. I hug Suki. And even though some of the memories make me sad, I have faith that everything will be fine.

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Come to My First Public Reading

When I read aloud to my friends, the words take me away. I trail behind the sound of my own voice on a soft wind that carries me over oceans and mountains, into deep gorges and dark pine forests. All the sweet and savory, whispering and roaring, bland and textured words pour out of me while I pretend I’m a bird with a million songs. I want to lull my listeners to peace at times and spew angry fire at them at others. Occasionally I peek up from my pages to see eyes begging me to continue. I am tall and strong then. The healing powers, the power to move people, and the power to live on grow in me. I lose myself and find myself in what I write and then read. And I feel hope. It’s back. And hope implies future. So I look forward to the sharing, and love the book like it’s a daughter, and carry on.

READINGMy First Public Reading

Sunday, August 4 at 3pm
in the Dewitt Mall between Cayuga & Tioga Street, Ithaca (607) 273-8246

I will be one of 8 writers reading new works, 8 minutes each.

Exciting and free event.
What part  should I read?
What shall I wear?
If you’re in Ithaca please come and listen and say hello afterwards.

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Healing From Loss: Giving Blood

DADI don’t know how many pints of blood my daughter received during her almost-three-year battle with leukemia. Marika had many transfusions to keep her life going. And she kept going for a good while with college, road trips, concerts, and music. She partied, sang, and stayed out late nights. She lived like the lights could go out at any time.

“But Mareek, you shouldn’t … you can’t … you … but … but …, ” I’d say and she’d just roll her eyes at me and say, “Mom. Get a life.”

Stuck in the hospital so much those years, often there was little I could do for her other than hold her hand or rub her feet. But one day in the cafeteria I saw a sign for a blood donation event. That’s when I first started giving blood. It was something I could do. If not directly for her, at least I could give back to the American Red Cross that was giving so much to my daughter.

“Look what I did,” I said to her proudly afterwards, showing off the “I GAVE BLOOD TODAY” sticker. She didn’t roll her eyes at me even though I was wearing my sticker in the middle of my chest like a five-year-old. She smiled. She’d given blood several times herself in high school, before she got sick.

Parked flat out on a table at a local blood drive, I wait and stare up at fluorescent lights. I think back to all the poking Marika had put up with. She hated shots and needles.

“Are you okay?” a technician asks.

“Yeah. I’m just squeamish around needles,” I say, hugging myself. I remember how Marika always grabbed my hand whenever her veins were surveyed and stuck.

“Are you okay?” the tech asks again after she nicks the side of a vein and another technician rummages around to get the right spot. I grit my teeth. I squeeze and release the tiny foam football they’ve given me and count to five in between, as instructed. I think to myself that Marika should be at the center of all the attention and fuss, not me. I’m the one who is supposed to stand by and hold her hand, rub her feet, ask if she’s okay. The other technician’s face is suddenly over mine. I try to smile through tears that well up in my eyes.

“Are you all right?” he asks.

“I’m okay,” I answer, flexing my toes, squeezing and releasing the football. One-two-three-four-five. One-two-three-four-five. One-two-three-four-five. “Are you getting enough blood?” He gives me a thumbs-up. I smile and wipe the tears that run down the sides of my face.

It’s always like this. Three or four times a year now I give blood to honor the memory of my beautiful feisty daughter. It shakes me apart every time. But sharing blood is part of my new life. It’s something I can do. It helps me and someone else in the world feel better and keep going.

What does this photo have to do with giving blood, or Marika, or healing from loss? Well, I wanted something cheerful. And a few weeks ago I found this very special photo of my father which was taken by one of my children when (s)he was very short. My father would be proud of me for giving blood today.

What makes you nervous but you go ahead and do anyway?

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Healing from Loss: Complicating Life

GREENHERONSfinal  “I’m sorry. I have this effect on people,” I say as my photography instructor’s head drops to the desk and she holds onto it like it’s cracking. It’s the last day of the class. I’ve asked for help with my final photo project which now fills my computer screen in a convoluted overworked mess. She is speechless so I continue.

THISONE            “I don’t know why I always have to make things more complicated.” She pulls herself together and resolves my problem in a couple of clicks on the computer. “Why can’t I just go easy on myself once in a while?” I whine.

Days later, for this week’s blog I photo-shop an intricate scene, triplicating a green heron on the pond, and importing and laboring lovingly over a two-layered background of flowering shrubs. And then I decide to include the almost-untouched original shot, which could have worked as well on its own. There’s a terrific compulsion to work until I can’t see straight and everyone else around me drops from exhaustion. Is what I do ever going to be good enough?

It may not be perfect this time. But I will allow myself to feel satisfied. It’s not quite nine o’clock and I’m going to hug the dog, lay low, think positive thoughts and paint my toenails.

How do you complicate your life?

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