You needn’t worry that I will importune you. Words explode and swirl upon the page. It’s more likely that I’ll say blankly “Who?” Since I enlarge upon a fascinating stage. Approaching two years since I was taken sick, on oxygen I wrote a poem of farewell. Career ending injury: nature can be such a dick. Breathing is important. Absent it is hell. I am still healing. I hope that I can ski. I am lucky that my fatigue is relatively mild. My oxygen can go 9000 feet up where I’ll see muscle dysfunction truly makes me wild. Friends and family gather close and gather far I feel blessed beneath a lucky star.
We can work it out, the song says. But no, maybe not, not always.
Trauma bunnies together. Walking. Why would you walk with me, I am so down? Oh, you are a trauma bunny too. Walking on the beach, slowing down, looking at rocks. The walks get longer and longer. You bring FOOD and tell me I have food insecurity. I laugh. But it is true.
Comparing notes about childhood. You say yours was worse. Yours was terrifying. You ran away over and over and over, but came home. Small children need food and shelter. You get older. A neighbor says if you run away now, you will never stop running. You do not run away permanently. But you still run.
My childhood has no bruises to the skin. But the bruises to the heart are a nightmare. You finally say that I win, my childhood was worse. But I was not trying to win, I want to say. I was just telling you as you’ve told me.
We have both survived damage and coped. I have the resource of a grandmother with money who paid for medical school. I apply without telling my parents, after my mother says, “You don’t want to be a doctor. It’s too much work.” I am a poet, a writer, being a doctor so I can study people and have children and be certain there is food. Job security. And food security, true. With a husband or without.
You fight school all the way, but when you are told that you will be a failure or in jail, you decide that you will prove them wrong. You are still proving it. You won’t tell how you make your money, not to the locals, but the new car every two years tells them you have money. And it’s the wrong kind of car: a liberal car for a professed conservative. It stands out.
We start playing trauma bunnies after six months. You want me to come to dinner and I turn New Yorker and direct: is this a date? You are surprised. I set the boundaries and you think about it. And say yes.
But trauma bunnies is not as much fun as the beach. We get close and intimate and then you run. When you run, I run too: the other way. I don’t chase you. You haven’t experienced that before. You keep coming back. Why aren’t I chasing you? Because I too am a trauma bunny, remember?
Back and forth: close and far, together and apart. All holidays become times when you run, so that I will not be part of the family. I announce that I am now your mistress and you can’t be with my family either. Back and forth. Closer and then you refuse to come to my son’s wedding. Far again.
You say the summer will be very busy. You say your focus is music. You say we can go to one beach. One beach? For the whole summer? I run to europe and you are surprised. I ask, are you too busy to have me around? No, you say. But when I return, you have a friend staying with you. Intimacy disappears.
I am tired of it. My daughter is here.
At last I bring up sex: are we done with that?
No, you say. We have visitors.
Wouldn’t stop me, I say.
You say, sex is still on the table. Then you hem and haw. You say sex is not important, you can take or leave it. The friendship is more important. Well, the friendship is most important, but sex IS important to me and hello, it’s damn insulting of you to say you can take or leave it. Leave. This is all triggered by your yearly family get together. You need me at a distance so you won’t be tempted to invite me. You don’t want me there so I am distanced again.
And I am done, done, done. I dream of a small child, a wild woman, a woman doctor and someone new: a quiet woman. I think about the quiet woman and I ask the other three. Yes, they say.
The quiet woman is the adult. Not the mask of the professional, not the wild defense fighter, not the small child. The small child has healed. She is the connection to the Beloved, to the source of the poems. She blesses the others. The quiet woman takes over.
The quiet woman takes over. She says goodbye, farewell, Beloved keep you and bless you, you may contact me any time.
You are in your cave alone and do not answer.
You may end up there, alone, alone, alone. You want freedom most of all, you say. Another song: freedom is another word.
Yes it is. People can change and grow. But some want to and some don’t and sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.
Yes, says the quiet woman. Sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.
Fade to quiet.
I took the photograph from a canoe at Lake Matinenda in Ontario, Canada.
For a long time I think I am a werewolf, but I am not controlled by the moon. But I can get angry. And then I remember this poem and think “Not a werewolf. An ogre.”
Butterfly Girl Comes to Visit
She is so beautiful with her wings multicolored many splendored lights caught and multiplied as she flutters
I freeze I am an ogre Huge and clumsy I know from past past many times Not to touch you My rough fingers have brushed the tiny feathers from your wings You cry in pain and your flight becomes erratic My kiss is just as bad Rough lips If I move the wind of my passing blows you against a window You fall stunned
I hold and crush the box of feelings that can hurt you Sorrow, anger, fear, dismay Even fatigue turns my aura red And scorches your wings
I hate to cause you pain
Fly butterfly girl My baby needs me, my pager rings My ogre husband stirs The effort of holding still plain on his face I can’t hold still much longer
I wrote about the two dreams I had one night, with seven people. Two babies, a boy and a girl. Two professionals, a woman physician and a male policeman. Two rebels, a woman and a man, the man lying or at least misleading the rebel woman. The rebel woman trying to do something that she suddenly realizes is not important and is, in fact, foolish and dangerous. And a quiet woman.
I have been thinking about the quiet woman ever since. My Meyers-Briggs type in medical school came out INTJ, but we are not one thing or another. We have preferences, but we all have to use all the skills. I can be extroverted. I had to work on feeling, that was the really difficult one for me after a frightening childhood. I can pay attention to facts though I sweep them into the intuition very quickly. Medical school is facts and facts and facts, except then there are parts that turn out to change as science changes.
The eighth person is a quiet man. He is not present in the dream. I am thinking about him. I wonder if I will have another dream when I am ready.
I am attending some workshops on line for treating trauma. It is quite fascinating. They talk about working with clients who have aspects like my dream: a small child with trauma. A “fake adult”, aka “adaptive child”, with the tools that the child develops to survive in their childhood. Helping the “fake adult” recognize that some of coping tools may not be helpful or necessary any longer. First, they thank the “fake adult”, for protecting the traumatized child and for surviving at all and for not giving up. I think this is so important, to acknowledge that we have to thank that part of ourselves that did what it had to, that did what it could, to survive. And this can include things that we are ashamed of or fear that others would hate us for if found out. We had a temporary doctor at the hospital who described being a boat person escaping Vietnam at age 8. They were picked up by pirates. “We were glad to see the pirates, because we had run out of water. If the pirates had not picked us up, we would have died.” So there is perspective: death by dehydration or pirates? And she went from a refugee camp and then through medical school and became a physician. Survival and success and I hope that she is thriving.
I like it when a dream has such recognizable symbols. My now retired Unitarian Universalist minister says that we can sit with dreams for a time. What do the symbols mean to me? What is the dream telling me? My dream is in part telling me that I do not need to have the rebel woman lead: she can rest and let the quiet woman take over. And that I am very tired of rebel men who mislead me or run away. I woke up and thought, oh, yes, I see! I am tired of that and ready for change.
Change and transformation can happen throughout our lives, at any age. I welcome it.
Blessings and peace you.
The photograph is Sol Duc and Elwha enjoying doll bunkbeds. And acting like siblings do sometimes. And then they curl up together.
Trigger warning: non graphic mentions of date rape, child abuse. A dark story for the Halloween season.
Mr. Smith is telling me about his daughter’s addiction to meth when the commotion starts.
He doesn’t seem to notice. I ignore sirens because the fire house is 6 blocks up the street, but I hear hooves. And people in the waiting room. Loud.
And Mr. Smith…. appears to be frozen mid-sentence. Uh-oh.
I am not frozen. I open the exam room door.
Artemis is there. Breastplate, feather headdress, inlaid turkish recurve bow, and she is not wearing a lady like toga. She is wearing armour. She is grinning at me.
There are lots of people milling around the exam room. Horses outside. I suspect 200. Or more.
“Quaaludes.” says Artemis.
“Ok.” I say. “Um.” I am thinking about the DEA. I get my paper prescription pad. Controlled substance, of course.
“We’re going to do a little pillaging.” says Artemis. “Kind of like date rape. Only in reverse.”
“Happy to help.” I say. “Uh, Bill?”
Artemis grins. “Well, he’s not the only one. You’d… well, you probably wouldn’t be surprised, would you.”
“No,” I say grimly. There are men in the waiting room too. That’s a bit of a surprise. I know two of them. Attended their funerals. Aids.
“I need enough for all 200 to…. well, discourage date rape and Cosbying.”
“So 600? Or 1000?” The DEA will throw me in jail. I write the prescription. Artemis touches it and it blooms in her hand, to 200 prescriptions.
“Don’t worry. The pharmacy is in Hades. The earthly DEA won’t have a problem.”
My receptionist is frozen too. I nod towards Artemis’s band. “I thought it was virgins?”
“We were all virgins once,” says Artemis, fierce. I can’t argue with that. She smiles again. “Thank you. We are going to have some fun. Sweet sweet revenge.”
I don’t really want details. My imagination is way too active. “Blessings.” I say.
“You too.” She turns, holding up the prescriptions. “Mount up!” Two women are riding velociraptors. Some of the horses have wings and other have horns. Three glow red and breathe fire. Some people are riding stags. They all have bows.
“You do need a bow.” says Artemis, looking back at me. “You’re a good shot.”
“Ok,” I say. I watch them leave in the air. The air starts looking a little thick and I go back in the room with Mr. Smith. I return to my position as best I can remember and then…
I thank the agates that I’ve found at the beach. They teach me. I butt my head against things over and over and the agates say, we are harder.
At last I agree: you are harder.
We don’t change, say the agates.
My feet are in the sea. The waves laugh in and out softly. They don’t argue. Sometimes they are not soft at all: when there are many stones, the stones crack together rolling as the water washes back into the sea. Stones sounding like coins, like bells, like music.
The waves and I. We are mostly water. The sea and I change, slowly. The deep part of the sea changes, slowly, while the surface weather is sunny or stormy. The sea may throw up huge waves on the surface, but the depths change slowly, deep currents.
The agates change too, whether they like it or not. The stones are smacked together, cracked, smashed. If they don’t crack in half, they still are worn smooth over time. The rough spots are changed. Sometimes they break. We don’t change, say the agates, but they lie.
The sea changes suddenly when the earth opens and molten rock rises in the sea. Piles up, fire and rock, pouring from the earth and building a mountain until it hits the air: a new island, a new idea, a fiery sudden change. The waves spread from the fiery center, smacking the stones harder, further.
Thank you, agates. You say you don’t change, but you lie. Water wins, always. Water flowing, evaporating, floating, falling, freezing, sublimating. Water changes and water wins.
Don’t be afraid of change, stones. It does no good to resist. You can be knocked together by water until the rough edges are smoothed, you can be melted in the burning core of the earth, you can be crushed into a new form by the movement of the world. Don’t be afraid. Thank you for teaching me.
When I was married, my husband described my parents as “Time-Warp Beatniks”. That is a good description. We had no television until I was nine and my sister was six, because my parents disapproved of television. This lack made me even less social at school, even though I was never ever good a small talk. I still don’t understand the small talk code.
My mother disliked Barbie, so she conspired with her brothers. We had five girls and two boys in my maternal cousin generation. My mother got the four younger girls all 8 inch china dolls, instead of Barbie. The next summer, the younger boy got one too, since the girls were all sewing and building furniture and generally going to town with them.
I was also given the doll in the picture. She was my grandmother’s china doll, Katherine White Burling. I do not know who sewed the dress that she has on, possibly my great grandmother. The stitches are by hand and tiny. We understood that the dolls’s world was in the late 1800s and since this doll came with a wardrobe, we sewed doll nine patch quilts and my grandmother helped make demure pantaloons for our dolls.
My sister and I did manage to score Barbies eventually, though our china doll world was much more full. The china dolls went with us to Ontario, to Blind River, Canada, where my maternal family has shacks on a lake. We were all allowed to use scrap wood to build tables and chairs and benches and beds, as long as we PUT THE TOOLS AWAY.
Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, Evelyn Bayers Ottaway, was a brilliant knitter. She taught me to knit at age 8, but it didn’t really take. I learned again in Denmark and still knit. Grandma Ottaway knit elaborate Barbie clothes on microscopic needles. I still have a few of them. They were in the late 1960s and early 70s and really beautiful. One was a tiny knit stole, with a mohair, lined with brown satin. My china dolls stole it from my Barbies. Or perhaps there was an exchange, I don’t know.
The hand sewing came in handy. I have had surgeons ask me where I learned to stitch. “Doll clothes,” I say. They tend to look confused at that.
At one point I had a patient here who was indigenous to the area and age 104. She told me, “When I was in my twenties, even if I dressed like the Caucasian women, they would get up and move to a different pew if I sat by them in church.” I apologized. She told me not to worry, things are changing. So in the photograph, the woman behind my grandmother’s doll is an indigenous weaver. There is a tiny baby on a cradle board. They are having tea together. That is wishful thinking on my part, but we are allowed to wish for peace and work for harmony. Two cultures, still trying to come together with respect.
Refugees welcome - Flüchtlinge willkommen I am teaching German to refugees. Ich unterrichte geflüchtete Menschen in der deutschen Sprache. I am writing this blog in English and German because my friends speak English and German. Ich schreibe auf Deutsch und Englisch, weil meine Freunde Deutsch und Englisch sprechen.