Saturday, March 12, 2011

MARCH 11, 2011... A QUIET BALLET IN THE SNOW.....


With snow as fresh and deep as it is in this surprise March storm, thickly coating everything, Mother Nature seems to push a mute button. This night is exceptionally quiet here in my valley.

I pass my library, and through its windows I glimpse the distinctive man-made artificial moonlight that blesses most of my winter nights. I'm startled; the ski hill is open and operative again!

In the weeks since the recent heavy rains, the hill has been dark and apparently closed for the season. It must be that enough of the snow base remains that this bountiful snow has made the hill ski-worthy again, at least for a night or two.

Before my wondering eyes, the slopes are filled with skiiers... a hypnotic panorama that's more like a ballet, rendered strangely silent by the sound-insulation of snow.

I brew a cup of coffee and sit at the library window, enjoying the show.

Friday, March 11, 2011

THE LORDLY HEMLOCK CLOTHED IN WHITE...

 
My eyes today behold the lordly hemlock,
its upper branches tall enough to pierce the sky,
its arms so weighted down by snow that falls
so heavily in feet and not in inches,
that the hemlock's curving arms
seem glued against its trunk.
 
I know this aged tree;
already it had reached a lot of height
when we first chose this property in 1992
and set our home here.
 
And so I know this evergreen will stand, 
not the least impatient, 
encased in snow and ice
until it sets the moment
when it has had enough
of this cold foolishness.
 
And then, if I am lucky,
I will see that moment when
the sturdy hemlock slowly raises up its arms
and shrugs away the burden.
 
The ice and snow will fill the air with drama,
and the tree will stand again in native green,
peaceful and unharmed.
                      ---Rose Moore 3-11-2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

FROM BEHIND THE HEADLINES, A REAL PERSON EMERGED...

A recent flood in northeast Ohio resulted in one death---a woman in Norwalk who was work-bound in the early morning darkness when her VW Beetle convertible was swept off the road into a fast-moving stream. She had called 911 from her cell phone, and rescuers arrived quickly but not quickly enough.
 
Her neighbors would miss her; and so would her family and friends and her Cancer Society colleagues and patients. But in reality, as tragic a story as this was to hear and read, this woman was a stranger to most of us.  Before her death, we had never known her name or any details of her life.
 
And then this photo appeared, and it was widespread in the news.  It shared with us a slice of a good woman's life, presenting her before us from a happy time---an everyday scene of a woman and her dogs, off for a joyful ride in the countryside before our long, brutal winter had erased our beautiful Ohio autumn.
 
So poignant was this casual portrait, it seemed to bring her to life; I impulsively saved it to my g-mail file. Somehow---completely unplanned---it ended up in my screen-saver gallery, and now this haunting image appears before me every day among my own favorite personal photos.
 
I will not delete it; somehow this woman is no longer a stranger to me. Her name was Lisa.



(Direct comments to Rose at randrmoore@gmail.com)

Monday, March 7, 2011

AN AFFAIR OF THE BRAIN AND THE HEART...

"And here's the thing: Regardless of how miraculous a recovery may be, no one is the exact same person afterward. While I'm thrilled when people say, 'You'd never know Bob had been injured,' he can tell you how he's changed and what he does to compensate... " (from Parade Magazine, in Lee Woodruff's story about her reporter/husband Bob's brain injury).

I know about some of those kind of changes. In 1995, my own brain injury came in the form of a massive cerebral hemmorage that even involved my brain stem. As the big yellow Life Flight helicopter carried me away for special help, my husband was rushing to the same destination on the roads below; he had been told at the local emergency room as I left that, if I lived, I would likely be a shell.

I am not a shell now and I wasn't a shell then. I never lost awareness of the world around me, though I could not "download" my thoughts and responses... I could see the depth of worry on my husband's face as I was carried off... From the air, I worried too, about his safety on the roads below... And I remember how frustrating it was for me, a lover of the sky, to be trying to tell the Life Flight crew that I wanted to sit up and see the blue September skies around us as we flew. I realized the words I was trying to say were not getting through to their ears.

As Lee Woodruff wrote about her husband Bob's brain injury and recovery, she talked of many things that had changed for her husband and herself; they changed for Bob and me as well. But they didn't change the love between us.

If I were to write a book about the ways I coped and compensated, I would title it, "An Affair of the Brain and the Heart". It would be a story of the steadfast love and support of my husband and friends. Mine wouldn't be a mournful memoir at all; it would be a funny book. And it would be much longer and more in-depth than what I can include in this blog.

A lack of short-term memory---something that had always for me been as sharp as my long-term memory---became a daily enemy I worked against intensely. In the memoir, my husband would be a central character. I would describe his gentle joking that I had become a "cheap date." He could rent a movie and show it to me several times; until the third showing, I would think I was seeing a new movie!

I would write, as well, about the day I proudly reclaimed my longtime checkbook and bill-paying duties. I wrote the checks and figured the figures with great effort and care; it seemed to take all day; actually I believe it DID take all day. My husband checked things carefully and told me I was "right on!"

Moments after I sent out the checks and made the deposits, I realized with horror that I'd put the mail in the night deposit and the cash envelope in the public mailbox on the square! With great embarrassment, I called the bank and post office. The bank was the easiest; the local post office was dicier. The postal people ran out and retrieved the cash from the mail box in the nick of time as the regional mail pick-up was opening the box! This would not be my last humiliation in that early period of my recovery.

I had always loved the Biblical quote, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord." Now my injured brain did not enjoy any noise at all, joyful or otherwise, and I seemed to have lost the ability to discern where a sound was coming from. That seemed to make me an unwilling captive of noise; it was all around me and I existed WITHIN it. That contributed to something else... brain fatigue!

A balm throughout this was my great good fortune to be recovering in a new home in a beautiful setting; we had built it ourselves because we loved the land upon which we had set it, and the land was now a consolation that brought me peace and patience and its own sort of joy as I recovered. Our eldest son kept our family business going so my husband could be with me, night and day. And he was my motivation.

Description of my self-created coping mechanisms would include the trail of paper plates I left for myself each day, to find in the morning---my strategy to train myself, plate by plate, to follow the things I needed to do to get through the day. I wrote on the plates and my husband suspended them from strings at our doorways. As I made mistakes, my husband wisely and lovingly let me make them. I cherished and shared his humor through it all. It kept my own sense of humor alive.

Reading had always been my joy, but it took a bit of time to teach myself to read again. I arrived home on our 35th anniversary, and Bob set before me the neatly stacked news magazines that had arrived in my mail. To my surprise, I couldn't read them! The words looked like Greek, though I knew they weren't. I spent days and nights thumbing page by page, TRYING to read. I refused to give up, and soon my word recognition began to return. Trouble was, I read my magazines BACKWARD for a time. If I'd been Chinese, with their backward writing, that would have been fine.

I was still doing a newspaper column (and still am). Writing has always been a part of my spirit; it's a great part of who I am. I was able to keep my column going, but only because I had years of written histories and essays and information tucked away on my computer. These are what I sent to the newspaper at first... though someone had to teach me again to turn on the computer and retrieve them!

After six months I was able to drive, but not alone. My spatial senses had not fully returned, and that was adventurous! By summer I was able to drive alone, and I was as excited about that as I had been when I passed my driver's test as a teenager.

For a time, my sense of direction was out of kilter; it was amazingly easy to get lost in places I had known since I was a child. At first I drove my husband's work truck because it was equipped with a built-in phone. I would call and say, "I see a sign that says such and such; where am I?" And he would tell me. I re-learned my old neighborhoods and routes by accidentally wandering off the beaten path so often.

Early on I told my doctor firmly I didn't have amnesia, and all she said was "hmmm." A week later I told her I did have amnesia. Apparently I hadn't realized it because I had forgotten a lot of what I was supposed to remember! I also had a problem recognizing familiar faces, particulary in a crowd, and if anyone who's reading this has ever felt snubbed... well, it wasn't intentional.

I laugh to recall the day a neurologist used flash cards with photos of items, to test my progress in language recovery. In identifying the photos of the items on those cards, I went through many associated words---Frankie Vadnal... squeeze box... music... (etc)---and then on the tenth word or so, I victoriously announced with great elation: "ACCORDIAN! IT'S AN ACCORDIAN!" I don't know whose grin was broader; mine or his!

For the short-term memory problems that interfered with language re-development, I discovered the computer I had accepted so grudgingly would now become my friend. On the screen in front of me, it would hold each word, each sentence, each paragraph my mind would have lost as I began to write again. It even helped with reading recovery.

Writing will never be as innately swift and easy as it had been all my life, but it did return; it just took me longer, and still does. And what did it matter; I was never paid by the hour! Within a few years, when two of my columns were submitted (unbeknownst to me) to the annual Cleveland Press Club competition, BOTH columns won awards (first and second place) in this all-Ohio event with national judging panels. No one will know how shocked I was when I received the calls from the Press Club, informing me.

I still miss such things as my formerly photographic memory, which never did return. Until I lost it, I thought ALL people had photographic memory and encyclopedic knowledge. It would have been oh-so-humbling if all people did have that, and it was only me who didn't. As it was, I would find my self-effacing self-imposed humiliation often enough.

All these years later, life is normal now; at least as far as anyone can see. But then again, I like to joke that at 70 I can make a slip of the tongue or search very hard for a word or phrase or train of thought... and well, it's just a senior moment; who DOESN'T have them?

Some things are better than ever. One of these being a certain go-with-the-flow mellowness; an appreciation and enjoyment of each day and each season; an ability to appreciate the highs and ignore the lows, to savor the good and shrug off the bad; and not to worry unduly about things I can't change.

If some would say I'm Pollyanna, let it be so. All these extra years have been a gift. What a waste it would have been to complain about the things I've lost and not to see the things I've gained.

And now I end this shallow reminiscence of my recovery with a quote of my own:

"Learning has always been my pleasure; it has always been my joy;
I wish I could unlearn and start again."


Those were the last lines of a poem I found in my casual journals.
When I noticed the date on that poem, I laughed.
I had written the words just two weeks before what my doctors referred to as "the big bleed."

(Rose About Town needs to tell you she has never before written publicly about any part of her own experience with brain injury; and may never do so again. She was inspired by Lee Woodruff's column this weekend and by her ongoing prayers for the recovery of Conresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and her own brain injury)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A WREN ON THE PORCH....

We used to say the birds who spent their winters around our property were our winter flowers, and through all four seasons we carefully maintained many feeders, with different kinds of seeds for all the different species.

And so, even in our valley winters when white is usually the dominant landscape color, we enjoyed the astonishing variety of birds that visited our bird cafeteria.

About five years ago we stopped feeding the birds in ANY season; our woodland property also had lots of rodent mammals, and the feeders were attracting them TO and INTO our house in great numbers.

We did make a point of changing our gardens and landscaping to provide seasonal food for our flying friends. And, of course, we included a variety of plant species to provide winter food as well.

But as the seemingly endless deep snows of this winter wore on, it at last became apparent to us that those natural foods were either depleted or buried out of reach beneath the snow-pack.

One morning in late Januaary, we noticed a wren had begun to seek shelter in our porch area. We would sit quietly with our morning coffee, so as not to spook the wary little bird as he searched for nourishment in dried plant heads in the front garden. Obviously, those "cupboards" were bare, and so we broke our own rule and began a discreet feeding program for our feathered daily visitor.

Each day we would finely chop a small amount of peanuts and set them close to the big planter at the edge of the porch, where the wren liked to hide. As dawn appeared each morning, so would that wren, and we'd watch as he earnestly ate his breakfast.

On the few mornings when we didn't see him---perhaps we had slept past his breakfast time---we would worry that he had become a victim of winter or predators. But then he'd always return.

Last week the wren "introduced" us to his mate, and then there were two appearing daily for breakfast.

Wrens aren't new to our porch. Each year for some time, a wren couple has set up housekeeping at some location there. One year it was in one of my garden boots; another year it was in a wreath on my door; another year in a planter of dried materials...

But NEVER, for whatever reason, have these sprightly little birds set up their seasonal home in the little wren house designed and installed on a sheltered wall of the porch by Bob the Retired Builder. Even though Bob used the specific measurements for wren houses... and even though I attached an address label...THE WREN FAMILY!

We know this variety of wren doesn't migrate, and we wish this little couple luck in avoiding predators and living long enough to set up housekeeping.

And we hope they will choose our front porch. Better yet, the small house that was built for them.


(Rose About Town assures you that spring's on the way. Comments accepted at randrmoore@gmail.com)