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Come Spring

The dog was awakened this morning before 7:00 AM by a pair of deer walking in the woods behind our house. Whether he heard or smelled them remains a mystery to us because the woods are quite some distance from the house, and deer are largely silent creatures. The dog howled and barked up a storm; the deer remained indifferent, placidly searching for something to eat on the cusp of Spring. As they moved out of sight, the dog settled back down, but now the rest of us were all awake.

Stealthy Deer

Days like this I wish I was more of a morning person. I’d like to think I have a shot of having the house to myself in the wee hours, but as long as my eldest lives here, this will never be true. He is a very early riser, I will never beat him. As soon as he knows I am up he will come in to chat. In his eighteen years, he has not figured out that I don’t deal well with talk in the mornings.

In the years when I was commuting to Boston, I missed so much of the activity here on the island. When I would drive out to the highway, I’d think about the fishermen and the dock workers, and the people opening up their places of business. I missed so much of the community experience working in an office among the cubicles. Now that I am home and have the time, I am less interested in the community. It’s too cold to be out and about in the early morning without a real destination. I am too tired for the community to ask anything of me just now. I don’t get the local paper anymore, I’ve dropped out of all my committees, and this will be the first year in twenty that I am not going to Spring Town Meeting. I’ve become the hermit I once expected to be in my 20s. Now if I were writing productively, this would be a good thing.

So instead of people and projects marking the days, I have nature that I can see through my window. Surprisingly, there’s an awful lot of it, even in the winter. We’ve had coyote visitors, and the other day a fox crossed the street and bounded through our yard. We’ve had turkeys and a kestrel. I’m waiting to see an owl. Snowy owls winter in the area, and some of them are quite used to humans as long as we don’t get too close.

I’m taking the deer as another sign of Spring; mostly because I have not seen them all winter. I read somewhere that their stomachs adapt to the seasons – tolerating the leafless branches in winter and seeking softer fare in the warmer months. It’s still too early for leaves or even buds. We have had a few warmer days here and it is amazing how much lighter and happier I feel when I can sit outside even for a few minutes.

Now, at the end of the day, it’s raining as I write this and a local weather site I follow is suggesting that the patter at the windows is actually sleet. This is when I am glad to not have anywhere to go. I can stay in this evening and write.

Health Care · Politics · Writing Life

Rabbit (rabbit, rabbit) Holes

We got through January. One month of winter down; two months to go.

This meme spoke to me.

I maybe slowly regaining my equilibrium. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been really tired, sleeping a lot, and somewhat worried about it because the last time I felt like this, I was much sicker than I am now. Though I’ve never been a morning person, I have gradually been getting up earlier and less frequently craving a nap for most of the day. It’s been hard to tell whether it’s the fact that I don’t have anywhere to be and am bored and depressed, or if it’s the new medication I’ve been given to steady and slow down my heart rhythm. The doctor says it could be a little bit of both.

I am starting to develop a routine for most days. Mornings are still slow, as I usually have no one but myself and the dog to attend to. L and the boys are gone for the day. I try to eat breakfast, even though I am no fan. I read. After a shower, I either run errands or make phone calls to doctors, insurance companies, and the mail order pharmacy. This is a part-time job for someone, and I wonder how people with full-time jobs manage it. I think these companies must believe their patients are all retired with nothing better to do. So frustrating! If I still have the energy in the mid-to-late afternoon, I may get to write something.

Taken on a warm, sunny, June 1st. [Sigh]

Lately I’ve been thinking about the many rabbit holes I could be winding my way through. The wonder of a writing life, I’ve often imagined, is the myriad directions that research could take me.

One of those rabbit holes is surely healthcare. Between my own frustrations, the vague idea that I might write a book about my transplant experience if it happens, the fact that it appears to have been a major factor in the mid term election and may be again in 2020, I find myself wanting to really dig deep into the policies. I want to better understand the various proposals, and how their backers think they will work.

The need for better solutions for our country is so great. Just in the last few days I’ve seen testimonials on Twitter about relatives losing their lives because meds were so expensive, fighting to get appropriate nursing care for a patient with a long term and eventually fatal disease, coordinating phone calls between insurance company and “out of network” hospital. At the root of all this is the cost of meds and care. Why are they allowed to be so expensive? Why do we pay more than twice as much, per capita, as other industrialized countries and have nowhere near the best quality? How do we bring prices down?

Another rabbit hole is for more of a fiction project I’ve been contemplating for years but never had the time to pursue. The good and the bad thing about this one is that there is research to be done in my grandmother’s town, bringing back lots of memories. There used to be a fairly famous resort hotel in that town, and that whole culture is fascinating. Imagine being able to vacation somewhere for a month, or the whole summer. We can’t really do that anymore.

With the 2020 election gearing up already, I am probably going to write more about politics. I’m also starting to read more about publishing in magazines, and though I’m not sure my one time fantasy of being a travel writer will ever come to pass, there is all sorts of other stuff that captures my interest. As always, I just have to pick a direction.

Family · Life on the Island · What I'm Reading · Writing Life

Family Structures and Strictures

The birds are busy at the feeder this morning, perhaps in anticipation of tomorrow’s snow. Among them is a large Red-bellied Woodpecker, nearly twice the size of the other birds out there. He’s been around quite a bit this winter, but it is always a treat to see him contrasted so brightly with the myriad brown birds that we normally get in the colder months. It is for visitors like this that I insist on maintaining the feeders in the winter, even though seed isn’t cheap.

It’s midmorning and I’m having the last of the real bagels with my tea. Even stale they are better than supermarket bagels. I feel lucky to be able to get them every once in a while. I consider what I might be able to get done today after I have decided that my morning reading is complete. I’ve just started Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys. She is one of the most prolific writers I can think of, and yet this may be the first book of hers that I’ve read. I vaguely remember being assigned something of hers in college, but I don’t remember what it was (a poem, maybe? a short story?), and like most of what we read as English majors, it was dark and depressing. I’ve not tried anything of hers since.

I picked up Mulvaneys from the hospital exchange cart, and I will probably bring it back there when I’m done with it. Hospital book carts have saved my sanity more than once last year and I try to contribute to them when I can. You don’t really sleep much in hospitals, you might as well have something good to read. I’ve now taken to packing books whenever I think I’m going to be admitted, but I almost always get through the ones I bring.

My grandparents with their five children.

So far, I like the Mulvaneys and the simple, almost religious optimism that holds their lives together. Yet, you know their happiness is tenuous, that something awful is going to happen that rips apart their carefully constructed lives; like a squirrel dashing through the dazzling but delicate web that took a spider so long to build. When Oates describes a non-central character’s effort to set his own children against each other, I stop and seriously wonder if this is common in Irish families, as it was certainly recognizable in mine.

This gives me something to think about in my own family and my own writing. Growing up I had this dollhouse that I played with well into my teens. My sister was four years younger and constantly begging me to play with her, which is part of the reason. The other reason, I didn’t realize until many years later, was that the dollhouses (there were three of them) served as a setting for the stories in my head. Those stories were almost always about the kind of family I wanted, rather than the one I had. The family in my head was always large, active and social. They enjoyed each others’ company had each others’ backs.

For decades I’ve wanted to set a story in a multigenerational family with a summer house. I have such wonderful descriptions of the place, I could make you want to go there. the place itself is a character. And yet, I can’t do it because moving the story forward would mean that one of my characters would have to do something horrible to another. I can’t bear to imagine what that thing might be although I have plenty of examples in my own family.

For a writer, there’s a lot to explore within the disintegration of a family. Society would like us to think that these are unbreakable bonds, but they fall apart all the time over money, abuse, resentment, and the smallest things can become the last straw. After those bonds have been broken, what makes them worth trying to repair? Or is it just easier not to?

This has been on my mind a lot since my cousin’s death around the holidays. I suppose there was an “event” that precipitated our all falling away when we were kids, but in truth, fault lines among the adults already existed. That my mother’s generation never thought those sibling bonds important enough to repair saddens me when I think of it. Yet, my own generation is similar. We all live in different states, we have very different lives and we would never reach out to each other for help. It’s just the way it is.

Perhaps I imagined this might change after many of my cousins started to reach out to each other, mostly on Facebook. Maybe my surprising anger at her passing is not just about her age, but about the fact that she won’t have a chance to be a part of that.