Saturday, October 23, 2010


"Can you help me find my keys?"
"I'm sorry. What are "keys"?"
"Uh - keys. You know. Keys. Car keys."

Shaking his head. "No. Sorry. I'm not familiar with that phrase. Carkees? Can you explain what you mean by that?"

"Keys. I need them for starting the car," pointing at the car, sitting right there in plain sight. He looks past the car to a set of trees, nodding knowingly, like he has any idea what I'm saying, as though I am completely daft.

Getting upset, and very annoyed. "KEYS. How am I supposed to explain keys? Where have you been that you don't understand keys? I have to find them, and I can't find them. Where the hell are they; I can't leave until I find them."

"Okay, okay, calm down. I will find them. I will find them. Tell me what they are, and where they are located, and I will find them for you. I don't understand why you need them, but obviously, you are very upset."

Blank look. Incredulous look.

"I don't see why you're getting upset with me. I am trying to help you. I told you I will find your keys, you just need to explain to me what they are and where they are."

"If I could tell you where they are, I wouldn't need you to look for them."

"Well now you're just being rude. I can't help you if you refuse to tell me where to find what it is you're missing."

(though this scene sounds rather plausible given what often really does happen, it's fictional. I was just thinking of how tired I am of trying to explain to very earnest people what this is like, who and what I am missing, trying to describe me to people who don't understand what I'm saying, and I am so tired of trying to explain and explain and explain what used to not need any description at all. It's like being asked to find what you need, then un-find it again, after teaching someone what it is and where to find it, so they can then help you after you've forgotten again. Or, to have spoken russian, only to have a brain injury that makes your native language temporarily unavailable, and to get it back, you need someone who speaks russian - but no one even knows what russian is, and they are irritated with you for not being able to teach them, because they only want to help. So now, you are supposed to suddenly access your Russian, teach it to someone else, then go back to being brain injured, so that they can then help you to heal. Right. Okay, enough analogies. For now.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Honoria turned from her contemplation of the ocean. "Miss Mado, she got through the darkness. She knowed love has to work itself all the way through the dark feelings; you can't go round them they has to be gone through, all the way through."  ~ The Other Side of the Sun

I didn't get to make cake until Friday, Matt's birthday. I didn't mean it to be that day, but it was.

It was pouring. The dog did not want to go out. We drove the tiny eighth of a mile to the dog park instead of walking, because it was so windy and he hates to get his feet wet in puddles. A man opened the gate for us, a very sweet man, who had apparently spent the night in the shelter at the dog park. He talked to me about his dogs, how much he loved them, how he was with them when they died. He asked about our dog, and I told him how Matt had crouched down in front of his kennel at the shelter and told me, "he's the only dog in here." I told him how we wanted an older dog, in order to give him a good last few years. The man said how important and kind that was, how special it was to adopt a creature knowing you are facing the end sooner than you'd like. He said, "you and your husband are good people." During all this, I managed to not cry at all. I was, however, trying to talk myself out of offering him a ride somewhere. I tend to pick up strays, and I've learned that a sweet, gentle homeless person is sweet and gentle until you get them in the car, when they become tenaciously resistant to getting Out of the car. Instead, I offered him the umbrella I had in my car, because he said he had to walk across town to meet his girlfriend. He said, "that's so kind of you. In return, I will sing you a song about your dog. I am really good at songs. I can make them up instantly." He told me that he would have a song by the time I came back from the car.

I came back. Handed him the umbrella. Left my rain-averse dog in the car. The man was standing inside the shelter. I was outside in the rain. He said, "so okay, tell me about your dog. What do you love? What makes him special to you and your husband?" I stopped. I stared at our dog, standing on the driver's seat, looking at me. I started to cry. The man said quietly, "Oh. We are sharing a moment here. Okay. You don't have to say anything. No. Tell me what it is about your dog." I didn't even think. I just blurted. "He is who is left. My husband died. And it is his birthday today."

The homeless man was quiet. He turned away, he turned back. He put his hand on my shoulder, "I mean this is all honesty: god bless you." He continued to say, crying now himself, "I am trainwrecked. How long has it been? How long ago?" He asked for Matt's name. He said, "Okay. I will mention the pup in your song, but this one is for Matthew. This song is for him, and for his wife."

He stood there, composing himself, steadying himself. He pulled a harmonica out of his bag. He started wailing away. Then his voice, clear and loud, as thunder started rumbling at the tree line, and the winds picked up. Man, he had an incredible voice, a raspy, blues voice. He sang a song for my love, directed to the clouds, to the heavens. He spoke for me. "Matthew, thank you for your life. Thank you for the love you brought to me. Thank you for being here. I know you are gone, but you are not. I know you wipe the tears from my face while I sleep. I know you are here, and you're gone. You are holding me, I know you are. You are gone, and you're not. Remember all the trips, and the days in the sun? We had such a good life, I will always be your wife. It is so hard for me here, but I will not go out, I will not let my light go out. I will try. The puppy and I will try. I am out here in the rain with him, for you. Thank you thank you for your life. I will always be your wife. This is hard and I love you, and I know you are free. I know I will be with you again. This life may be long, but I will see you. I will see you soon."

He sent up his words for me, words I could not sing, and I whispered, "Happy birthday babe. Happy birthday."

There were several verses. The song wiped him out. After he was finished, he told me that his best friend drowned 8 weeks ago. I'd read that story - "transient man found in the water off the docks." I had not, and did not, tell him how matt died. He talked about the shock, and how he found himself losing time, blanking out. He asked me to keep him, and his dear friend, in my prayers, and he would keep Matt and me in his. Then, taking the pause in the rain as his opportunity, he walked off for his morning coffee. I sat in the car with our dog, and sobbed.

Happy birthday, babe. Can you believe that man's voice?!

66 weeks ago today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Just now realized that it is, by date, exactly 15 months. Today (without knowing the date), I pulled the honey supers off of our beehives, for the second time without him. Date schmate, I go by the Sundays, but still. Especially as I was not planning to do this until later this week, and changed my mind.

That's all. Just 'huh.'

Monday, October 11, 2010

anti-rant rant, overwhelm, radio silence.

I am back, earlier than planned. I am cranky, exhausted, over-stimulated, crowded, disgusted with people, incredulous that this is my life, that matt is not actually here anymore, hyper-sensitive to sounds, touch, sights, pretty much anything and everything. I left a tea mug and a couple of dishes in my sink before I left, and the sight of them makes me want to smash windows. Yeah. Too much. No respite. I mean, other than washing them and being done with it. Matt is not here to make me laugh, to cook dinner, to listen to the whole goat school adventure, to wonder with me about peoples' interpersonal skills and lack thereof, to - with no effort or explaining necessary at all -  understand exactly why I am fried and so tired of people I am seriously, again, contemplating vows of silence and social abstinence. That I know there is no comfort, and no one who is My Family here in this world, does not help, though it is true.

Anyway. Long hours of driving, not in my own space, a hyper dog, going through places where matt and I have been knowing how not here he is now, leaving said dog at my folks, more driving, and arriving at an Inn that made me want to drive the 3 hours all the way back home and scrap the entire thing. I was tired and hungry and in a region where the most edible things you can find for dinner are at the Rite Aid. I apparently made a huge assumption that the room I booked at the inn was the top of the line room, with private bath and balcony, as according to the website price list, I paid more for three nights than even that room's set price. Huge assumption. I got the bottom of the line room, top of the stairs, next to the shared bathroom, with a shared balcony. Prices were apparently jacked up for the weekend. The first night, there alone with no other guests, I was woken up (I think) some time in the night by a male voice (the innkeeper's teen grandson, I think) near my door saying "now, where will I sleep tonight?" I have a vague recollection of shouting "you are too loud!" before going back to sleep. The next night, the room adjoining mine was occupied by a woman yelling something about the position of her much quieter roommate's "pee bottle," and the blasting television. The other occupant must have said something about keeping her voice down, and she shouted "I refuse to be quiet just because someone else is next to us." Long, long night. I didn't bother staying for the third night.

Goat school was a mixed bag. I learned a couple of useful and interesting things. I also learned that I know quite a bit already. I learned that day long sessions, without my own home and my things and my routine to go to for comfort take far too much out of me, still. There were couples there of all ages, sweet little families discussing how and where they would build their barn together. I felt sick. There were little clutches of people making small talk and asking each other questions during breaks. I felt sick - and curious. Would there be any questions whose only answer would be that matt died, or could I get by without divulging that? I did not mention it to anyone the whole weekend, which was interesting. Interesting to watch myself give truthful answers to questions without actually giving any information, and to watch people stumble a bit or look expectant when I didn't give a lot of detail or respond as would be expected. I felt like I managed to be there without actually being present, which was weird in and of itself. I realized it was Sunday around 10 am on Sunday, Sunday #65, and I had to leave for awhile.

The two people running goat school were exhausting; well, the wife especially. Her rants against everyone and everything were highly dramatic with a lot of shrieking. Her husband's rants were more pointed, specific, and less dramatic. He is a Southern Baptist minister, and my favorite parts were when he blessed our meals, and when he spoke gratitude to god for everyone assembled with him. Prayers were one of the very few times neither one of them was slamming someone else. A partial list of the people and institutions judged, criticized, slandered, and flat out insulted: anyone raising goats commercially in the entire state, other than them; the entire population of the southern part of the state; poor people; people on food stamps; artisan cheesemakers; the under-educated, and then hours later, the over-educated; people who mix their own grain for their animals; people who bring their does to another farm to be bred, those who bring a buck to their own farm to breed their does, and those who use artificial insemination; the university cooperative extension; the Maine organic farmers and growers association, and their annual fair; people who let the public come to their farm (though there were 45 members of the unsanitary public sitting outside their barn); the state licensing department in general, and several specific, called-by-name individual inspectors. People who raise Nigerian dwarf goats. People who give wormers by injection; people who don't know what a wormer is (even when you are at a class to learn these things). People who eat cabrito (kid goat); and anyone, anywhere, at any time who does not agree with their practices, judgments, or assessments. Oh, and my very favorite, in the last chapter of their goat school handbook, they spent several paragraphs ranting about how people who couldn't spell and had no knowledge of basic grammar had no business being in the goat business, let alone writing about it anywhere, at any time. This after pluralizing nearly every word in the preceding chapters with an apostrophe (ex. "chapter's"), and ignoring most basic grammatical rules.

For them, the whole world is stupid. Though I will admit I often share this very same view, it is not the bulk of my teaching style. They had no idea who might be in their audience - the cousin of the dairy inspector maybe, or a colleague of the extension educator.  From personal knowledge and relationships, I know that much of the damning evidence they gave against certain individuals is completely untrue, and only shows their ignorance.  They could have offended large swaths of people and never even known it - those people would have just walked off, angry and disappointed. Several hours of this lack of gracefulness - well, sucked. By the end, when they were staunchly not answering someones very legitimate question - if we're not supposed to go to someone elses farm to breed our does, and we're not supposed to let anyone elses animal on our farm, and you feel artificial insemination is an over-priced guaranteed failure, what are we supposed to do to get our animals bred - I finally interrupted. Because I am also bossy and opinionated. Because I am also a teacher, or I have been, and you ALWAYS have an opportunity to teach with kindness and respect rather than meanness and exclusion. Because it is never okay to ignore someone because they don't understand what you've said, especially when your double-speak is confusing to your audience. I answered the guy's question, and gave my own little rant about self-education and the importance of relationships in the farming/breeding community. The goat school instructor loved it, and thanked me. Weird. Later he told me how much he hates it when people judge others. Oy. I have a heavy dislike of ignorance and un-gracefulness in people in general, but I do try to keep it to myself.  Or at least, I try to keep it down. But then, maybe I am just as self-clueless as he was. Maybe I do all those things I hate in other people, without realizing I do. If I was clueless, how would I know?

All of these things have taken me over - the ugliness, the food, the inn, the people, being in part of the state that shows what often comes with poverty and low education rates, being surrounded by all of it. The coarseness of people - to each other, to animals, to anything - has always been overwhelming to me. Matt was/is the same way. Fortunately, being so overwhelmed with the grossness of human actions usually took one of us at a time. The other understood, without speaking, without explaining, without trying to fix it or change it. Now, when it takes me, there is no one who knows, I feel surrounded by ugliness, and matt's gigantic hole in the world gets bigger and bigger and worse and worse.

Just writing this out calmed me down a bit, so at least nothing has been broken. I do seriously wonder if complete radio silence with all other humans is a legitimate path for me. I have had one beautiful moment, one, in maybe even the whole 65 weeks, where I stood inside someone elses barn, watching such pretty cows stand out in the yellow sunset mist eating their hay, and knowing how beautiful the light was. If it was mine, if I could have gone in, right then, to my own home and my own woodstove and sang to myself and the dog, knowing my own herds were safe and contented, no other people around, I might have even been happy. So hard to have any kind of life, to care about anything, to want anything, to believe in anything, to not be so beaten down by people who are not matt, not the life I lived before, to be overwhelmed with the coarseness and meanness of the world, knowing I have no home here anymore, no comfort, no one who is my family. I am just so tired of carrying this weight, drinking from this cup, slogging through with this backpack on - to use a whole lot of images to just say that I am tired and I want to go home.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I woke up with this stanza in my mind...

Around the lip of the cup we share, these words,
My Life Is Not Mine. Rub the cup across your forehead.

(and then I looked up the actual poem:)

Spring, and everything outside is growing, even the tall cypress tree.  We must not leave this place.

Around the lip of the cup we share, these words, My Life Is Not Mine.

If someone were to play music, it would have to be very sweet. We’re drinking wine, but not through lips. We’re sleeping it off, but not in bed. Rub the cup across your forehead. This day is outside living and dying.

Give up wanting what other people have. That way you’re safe. “Where, where can I be safe?” you ask. This is not a day for asking questions, not a day on any calendar. This day is conscious of itself. This day is a lover, bread, and gentleness, more manifest than saying can say. Thoughts take form with words, but this daylight is beyond and before thinking and imagining. 

Those two, they are so thirsty, but this gives smoothness to water.  Their mouths are dry, and they are tired.
The rest of this poem is too blurry for them to read.

—from The Essential Rumi