Archive for March, 2007

Owls and a funeral

Last night as I was putting fresh sheets on my bed I heard a great horned owl talking outside my window.   So I grabbed my binoculars and rushed outside to see if I could see where it was perched.

I waited, and soon the call came again.  Across the street, down on the corner there is a huge old maple tree.   Up on the very top of the crown, I could see a dark splotch that was not twigs, and focused my attention there.   It was not a great horned owl, it was two of them, and as I watched they preened each other, and talked in low intimate tones to each other.  

I ran in the house to get Jim, who watched them for a while.   Then the male flew away swiftly to the south, leaving the female.  I imagine he was off to fetch her a nice tidbit.  The cardinals have this behavior too.   The female waits while the male goes off to bring her food.   In my mind, this breeding behavior is important.  After all, if you are going to be sitting on eggs incubating them, it is crucial to know that your mate is a good provider.

The flickers do not perform this sort of ritual.   They raised babies in a dead tree right outside the kitchen window, and what they did was take turns incubating.   Whoever had the night watch was relieved about an hour after dawn.   After a couple of hours to forage and stretch wings, the watch would change again.

This morning we buried my friend’s son.   It was a very old fashioned funeral.  When the notification went out it was, “We are having a funeral.  Bring your shovel.”  He was in  a plain pine box, beautifully made by a woodworking friend.  

Anyone who wished to talk was welcome.  My friend asked me if I could give a reading.  After much agonizing and research, I edited some of Kahlil Gibran’s writing from The Prophet.

Then Almitra spoke, saying, We would ask now of Death.And he said: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

What is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from the restless tides that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

There are no graves here. These mountains and plains are a cradle and a stepping stone. You are not enclosed within your bodies, nor confined to houses or fields. That which is you dwells above the mountain and roves with the wind. It is a thing free, a spirit that envelops the earth and moves in ether.

Forget not that I shall come back to you. A little while and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body. A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me. If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song. And if our hands should meet in another dream, we shall build another tower in the sky.

We lowered him into the deep grave, and then many shovels made fairly short work of the pile of dirt that needed to go back in. 

It has been my observation over the years that it is much healthier for the living to participate in the actual burial of loved ones.   Leaving an embalmed body inside a coffin in an open grave for a back hoe to cover does not really provide the necessary closure.   I’ve been to both kinds of funerals, I prefer this sort, even if we did get sweaty and have dirt on our shoes when it was over. 

Now the healing can begin. 

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News of the Day 28March2007

It has been a very productive day.   It has been a beautiful warm spring day, with lots of partly cloudy going on.   It may shower tonight, not that we really need it right this minute.   I harvested the spinach that I wintered over in my cold frames.  It made an extremely impressive bowl full in my big stainless steel bowl, but once it was blanched it only made about two quarts.  A large quantity of aphids died in the process, but I rescued all the lady bug nymphs while we were out in the garden. 

I started working on mulching my hosta bed in the southwest corner.   There was a lot of frost heaving there, and many of the miniatures desperately needed to be re-planted.   I got that job about 25% accomplished before I had to start doing the morning massages.  

The vegetable garden is looking good.  The carrots are not up yet, but this is no big surprise since I only planted them two days ago.   The peas I uncovered a couple of days ago have found their fence and are starting to climb.   I have a lovely lettuce patch going right now, about 4 square feet that has 8 different varieties in it, the spring lettuce mix from Cook’s Garden.   I will plant some mesclun mix this evening once I am done doing massage.  

Jim and I cut up another good sized pile of limbs for firewood.   Probably another half a cord worth.  While we were doing that we noticed that the wisteria vine is going to be spectacular this year.   Last year was the first year it has ever bloomed, and since it has been on the place 8 years that was pretty exciting.   There were only a few blossoms, though.   This year it is going to be covered and I can hardly wait.

The flower news is below:


There is lilac in the left background.  The long arching branch is red bud.   In front is a very sweet smelling shrub that lives below my window.  I think it is weigela, but I could be wrong about that.   Just to its left is grape hyacinth, and peeking over the edge of the vase are some primroses that just started blooming today.   The four daffodils we have today are, from left to right, Thalia, Pink angel, Decoy, and Elizabeth Ann.   Of course there are a lot more narcissi blooming out there, but I thought I’d just show the latest bloomers.

Lots of breeding behavior is going on out there today.  The cardinals are courting.   The most dominant males have sorted out who owns which section of the yard.   Now they are trying to attract a lady, and their antics are amusing.  The robins are also trying to figure out where to nest.  It is a tough real estate market this year, all the good nest sites fell out of the trees during the ice storm.  

Well, my client is here.   Gotta run.

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I just don’t know how to tell this story.  It is long and complex, and yet much of it is such a common tale that it almost seems trite.  In spite of the regularity with which we hear these stories of broken homes and broken lives, no one is asking whether or not it is a good idea that it is so easy for people with children to get a divorce.  I have read of studies that seem to indicate that children are actually better off psychologically if their parents “make it work,” even if there is conflict going on. The exception to this is homes where actual abuse is occurring.  Then the children are better off if the parents get divorced.

The young man I mentioned yesterday was a child of divorce.   His mother had three children by three different fathers, and he was the middle child.   The early years of the divorce were not good.   There was a lot of anger, the mother said and did manipulative things.   His father lived in a different state because he could get work there and could make his support payments that way.  They saw each other during summer vacation from school.

He had managed to graduate from high school.  He hated school, wanted to drop out, and was miserable for his last two years, but did finally get his diploma.  Once he was out of school, he started working full time for his dad, who is in construction and also does landscaping.   They were building a house for his dad and my friend, and he was very involved in the project and excited and happy about it.  The new house included a room that was going to be his.   My friend says he seemed happy, liked working with his dad, they got along well, and their relationship had never been better.  

They had noticed that he had lost some weight in the past few months, but there was a lot of hard physical labor going on and he had recently grown taller, so it didn’t really concern the adults.   And there were mood swings, but he was a teenager.   They do do that.

The young man had an older half sister.   Last Wednesday, she took an overdose of pills, and he was the one who found her in time to call 911 and save her life.   She is now in a hospital being treated for her overdose, and is scheduled to enter rehab for drug addiction.   She has been using oxycontin and snorting heroin, it turns out.   The fact that this suicide attempt had happened was not reported to my friend and the boy’s father, for some reason.

Saturday morning, they were working on the house.   They were doing roof work, and the boy seemed uncoordinated, out of it.   After he nearly fell, his father told him that he needed to stop working, that whatever was going on, it was too dangerous for him to be up on the roof.   The boy blew up, there were angry words, he called his dad a few names because he would not reconsider and let him continue working that day.   He left the place, screeching his tires on the way out.   A while later, when he got home, he called and apologized, told his dad he wanted his check for that week’s work, and wanted to be back on the job the next day.  Materials for building were not available, so they decided to take Sunday off and get back to work Monday.

Then the sister called from the hospital, told the boy’s father what she had been doing, and confessed that the boy had been doing the same combination of drugs along with her.   She was afraid he would end up like her, and she wanted to notify them so the adults could confront him with his drug use and get help for him.   And so, that is what they did.   A series of three hour-long phone calls ensued.   The first was stormy and full of denial.  The second and third were conciliatory, thoughtful, loving.   Help for getting off the drugs was offered and accepted, plans were made for continuing the work on the house, it seemed like things were on the right track, that they would get through this challenge.

The next morning, they called the boy to check on him.   He was fine, happy, excited to get back to work on Monday.   His mother left to go visit the sister in the hospital, a two hour drive away.   A phone call came to him from a buddy of his who was coming over that afternoon, plans were made by the two for what they were going to do.   One hour later, he walked over to his grandfather’s place, took the deer rifle that was there, went outside and lay down with it, put the muzzle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.   His younger sister found him shortly after he had done this, probably went over to see what the shooting was about.

Who knows what his mother said to him before she left?   Who knows if he was “really” okay when his dad and stepmother called to check on him?  Was he high when he talked to his friend on the phone?  No one will ever really know, he didn’t leave a note.

So what is the lesson here?  Love your children.   Support them.   If they are telling you they are really unhappy in school, believe them.  Get help for them if they have had to go through traumatic events.   I know, many people do not believe they can afford counselling.   I would ask them, can they afford to have their child kill himself or herself?

Make it your business to know the signs of drug use, drug addiction, and depression.  Do not rationalize weight loss, mood swings, lethargy, bad grooming, or sadness that won’t go away.  Hopelessness and boredom; unexplained irritability or crying; loss of interest in usual activities; changes in eating or sleeping habits; alcohol or substance abuse; missed school or poor school performance; threats or attempts to run away from home; outbursts of shouting; complaining; reckless behavior; and aches and pains that don’t get better with treatment are all signs of depression.   Thoughts about death or suicide are also an indication of depression.  If any signs of depression are present and the person threatens suicide, take it very seriously. 

In addition, a teen who has had a close friend or family member attempt suicide or successfully commit suicide are at a high risk for suicide themselves.  I did not know this until just recently.  Maybe if the adults had known this the boy would not have been left alone.

It is better to confront drug users in person rather than on the phone.   It is a whole lot easier to lie to people and get away with it when you are not in the same room with them.  Once you have confronted a person who is using “heavy” drugs like heroin or oxycontin or methamphetamine, and told them they must get treatment, it really is not a good idea to leave them on their own before they get that help.   Detoxification and withdrawal are extremely serious physical issues, and a young drug user should not be left to face them on their own.  

No one knows what sort of despair this boy was going through, alone in his mother’s house as she was off visiting his sister following her suicide attempt.  He probably felt that he had seriously disappointed his hero, his father.   He may have been going through withdrawal pains.  Or, he may have gotten high again and been filled with self-disgust for his own weakness.   He may have felt like it was impossible to learn to be straight.  He may have been having hallucinations. We don’t know, we will never know exactly what he was feeling the morning he decided to take his life.

We do know what his parents are feeling.   Pain, grief, anger, guilt, regret, shock, and grinding eshaustion are just a few of the gamut of emotions they are going through right now.  

I pray you all are well. Thursday morning I have to go to a funeral and help bury the remains of a young soul who had great promise, promise that will never come to fruition.  May you never experience this.

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There has been a huge shockwave traveling around our social circle today.   I am so sad, devastated, horrified — all the words that do nothing to truly communicate the depth of the feelings I am carrying.

A 19 year old boy committed suicide yesterday morning.  

It begins as a tale lived out by children all over this country.   His mom and dad divorced when he was young.  He lived with his mother, but spent liberal amounts of time with his father.   After his father remarried, the boy was loved and supported by his step-sister and step-mother, who is one of the truly wise, gentle and beautiful souls of this world.  Of course, I would say something like that, since she is my best friend, soul-mate, soul-sister.

It’s a complex situation, these things usually are.   There were drugs involved.  I want to tell you all the story as a cautionary tale, but will not do it without permission from the family.  Suffice it to say it is sufficiently tragic and horrifying.

My friend’s version of the Ruckert poetry that Mahler used for his text:  “We talked to him on the phone two hours earlier.  He was fine.  His mother talked to him right before she left the house, she says he seemed to be fine then.  He was very tidy.  He went outside, lay down,  put his 30-30 in his mouth and pulled the trigger.   What makes a 19 year old person DO THAT?”

I don’t know.  But we should find out.   Teenage suicide is an epidemic in this country.

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A few days ago I visited Kate’s blog. She was responding to a challenge issued by Carol, who wanted gardeners to post pictures of their garden shoes.  It has taken me a while to get organized to do this, I have been very busy.  

But, without much ado, this is a picture of my garden shoes in situ, along with some river shoes and a few of Jims shoes.


I thought I should do a formal portrait.   As you can see, none of my garden shoes are new, and I have a pair for all seasons.  Other than my favorite pair, which are not in either of these pictures, the ones that probably get the most use are the cross trainers.


My very favorite garden shoes are pictured below.   They always fit, didn’t cost the earth, don’t get stiff when they have been wet, are easy to clean, and don’t wear out. 


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