Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blind Birds and Neck Braces

The night my husband slept in the hospital with a broken neck, I came home to an empty house dark and dulled by silence. It was past midnight, late September and windows were still open from earlier that day. Earlier that day, I had made a quiche, walked the dog, read a book and mopped the floors. It could have been a day that would have passed and been comfortably forgotten. But standing there in the kitchen with one light on, it seemed as if I was on an island. Far from family and too late in any direction to call, anyone. All I could do was start the dishwasher. Perhaps it was out of a need for normalcy or a response from being overwhelmed, simple tasks to complete in times of stress are satisfying. But I think I needed to hear water, any water moving to put me asleep. 

I grew up on a small peninsula, Leelanau Peninsula, and the fact that it is surrounded by Lake Michigan, countless bays and swollen with inland lakes, makes it feel more like an island. My parents live on a peninsula within a peninsula so water is not just part of the view, it defines every direction. Water is not a boundary, it becomes more of how you learn to place yourself. It's not just in a sense of physical direction, but also water defines time. Seasons are merely changes with the inland sea. November brings freighters off of the big lake into sheltered coves, February builds ice layered into frozen caves from waves trapped in sand, and August harbors warm currents for swimming. Time passes as the water changes, cycling yourself as you grow. Here, it is clear to see how we are water, ebbing and flowing, where you yourself move into constant change. 

Water has also given me sight in times of feeling blind, even if it was the faint sounds of a dishwater in a dark house, I could be reminded of something familiar. I could believe time would pass, maybe even have faith that there is something good to come from change, even if it is tragic. And it was tragic, my husband working in the woods where a Lodgepole pine fell on his head. Hours later, he was lying in a hospital bed with an IV in his arm, a broken neck and thankfully a refusal to be anything other than just kind. For two days, when he was awake, he just smiled, never a harsh or hurried word to anyone. He was gracious and proud even with a neck-brace on. The last day in the hospital I sat with him on his bed and gave him cups of water while we watched the sunset over the Clark Fork River and it was then, that I finally cried. Maybe I cried because I finally knew he would be okay. He would walk, he would ski, he would be still here and our time together would continue.

It will be six months tomorrow since the accident. It will also be seven years tomorrow that Greg, my husband, lost his father in an avalanche. But today, today is St. Patrick's Day. A day of feasting, drinking and remembering our noble islanders, the Irish. It is a day for many to remember their heritage, their homelands, and their relatives who crossed the Atlantic with nothing but hope to grow something more than potatoes. Not only was I raised on grassy dales surrounded by water, I grew up on Donnybrook Road. My heritage is more Irish than Dutch with my mother's maiden name of Doyle and my own feisty need to practice poetry. The connection of Ireland and poetry seems as seamless and as old as water shaping lands. An island where tragedies rise and are remembered as something not to be forgotten, but as some gift to by guided by, to find strength from, to sing songs and to above all to be placed in a poem. 


She finds a pigeon, dead 
on her way home. She's drunk,
swears she can find her front door 
by following the stars.

But there it is, feet curled, taut
with it's eyes gone. She picks it up
the still body, covered in gravel 
and warm. Cupping it's chest,

she feels an echo of a pulse,
a pebble skipped into a shallow pool.
She puts it in a box with rosemary,
not knowing what to do with anything

born-again. She feeds it oatmeal
and drops of water and waits
for it to do something. Fly,
coo or shit, but it just rocks

back and forth like this boy
with dark glasses she watched 
on a bus, who sang in perfect pitch.
Now she hears the song 

of a meadowlark without asking
the world its name.

No comments:

Post a Comment