Coyote Calls

Once again I try and counter someone’s fear this time in front of my house. I feel stupid and frustrated in my attempts as this woman is walking down the street at a fast clip. We have both reacted to the sound of a coyote crying loudly and plaintively, and for her it is the voice of a killer and to me it is reassuring that I can hear Coyote’s call close in the canyon below. I am curious and want to record the sound. I was wondering where they are this time of year.

The woman is out for her morning walk and starts rushing down the street and spots me and tells me she hates that sound and I say “I don’t”. She tells me how they killed a dog on La Playa and how her mother saw a coyote attack a deer. I comment that seldom occurs  but feel an obstacle I create between us because for her the fact that it happens at all means she wishes they were eliminated from the hood and she is frightened.

I stand and realize I am fearful myself because I am trying to defend the future of coyote. I know urban coyotes kill cats, dogs and a child was killed many years ago that became the poster story of coyote’s demonic endeavor. The  intersection of domestic and wild, territory, ours and theirs, and how we both inhabit the landscape is ever present and a challenge.

Finally I stop, and I look at her, she at me and see her blanched complexion. I become aware of my attempt over the last week to confront fear and confusion in the emotional life of someone who is not me,  has another reality, and soften realizing I am doing it again.

Finally I say to her I know Coyotes can be hard on cats but they will not attack you and she says “that is good to hear” and continues up the road.

I often wish people would not walk down this end of our dead end street towards the canyon because of the small corridor we have for coyotes, turkey, deer, owls, hawks.

Where I once lived in New Mexico a couple moved into the complex I lived at the far end of for six years. They had a tiny dog. We  lived in a rural more removed area not urban. The dog was a hostile pest, and would run at my dog’s legs. Lupine rarely responded but if she did the little dog would bark madly, and run back onto their porch. But a dog with wolf in her like Lupine is going to be the big bad wolf given anything she does.

Lupine prior to this would lie out front and because of her presence less wild animals would  wander into the complex but the woman wants my dog confined. One day I hear Lupine whining, a short time after the woman is in a panic, her little dog is gone. I let Lupine loose and quickly she goes behind their place. I follow her, and realize coyotes snatched the dog.

It is a late autumn afternoon and maybe the coyotes were freer to come down at the end of complex without Lupine roaming the length of the land. The dog should not have been let out of the house this time of year to roam unattended but it is sad her little companion is gone no matter how much of a nuisance the dog could be.

Lupine lived for nearly eleven years. During that time I saw mostly little dogs go after her. Some of the dogs even walked under her for protection or affection. She was either adopted by these dogs or maligned. On walks I experienced more fear of small fierce terriers in attack mode as they slipped out of their owner’s hands towards us then any large dog I might see in the distance.

Because of Lupine I learned more about wolves, coyote, rescues, sanctuaries. I understand both the prejudice and entrancement with wild animals. There is a range of naive adoring of these animals, and also a lack of decent information about them thus allowing them to be continually misunderstood. But today I am also adding to these problems with my attitude towards this woman’s discomfort about coyote’s cry.

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Skunks and Peanuts

Baby skunks waft down the narrow path on the side of the house. It seems the skunks are digging up the peanuts the Jays have so carefully buried. They juggle the shelled nuts in their hands and deftly kick dirt out of our planter pots until one falls over. They seem a metaphor for the last several days with skunky feelings being dug up inside of me as I try and track what will happen next with my brother. Families all have their sagas, and history and ours is not unique in that department. But I wonder as the meteor shower persists in the sky and the haze seems to obscure the magical falls and glides across the sky how my own visibility is blurred by suspicion and criticism.

My brother is going to be discharged from the facility the end of this month but he is scared he will have to stay because his wife is suggesting that as the next step rather then come home. It turns out the facility would not keep him there anyway because he is too functional and  for now there are other plans in the offing and he will have a trail run at home.

My response to the whole dilemma is to try and figure out another person, his wife, and something is obscured in the process, the love and trust we have had over the years. I wrote out my feelings after a long talk with my brother and his concerns, along with other input and created my own “case” development of another person’s motive and how it plays into it. The upshot is I am up against myself even though I may feel I am in a battle with another. There is no battle just the difficult world of finances, home health, safety and the inability of one person to really carry the load even with my help. I think the word “my” is a good thing to see clearly since I certainly can create a scenario based on what I feel is right, and not be very realistic about their lives and dynamic.

I would like to win the lottery so that I could have a large enough place for us all to live, a guest space for a caregiver and pay for it all, video equipment, and of course continue to help wolves, murres, litigation, that helps counter the stupid decisions being made about our environment,  and my friends. But each day there is something that adds more wealth to our lives. one of which is not writing emails when a crisis is at foot. Unfortunately my process writing got sent accidentally and it made a big “ouch” as my sister-in-law put it. We have found our way out of it and I am grateful for this and my family. Also I am glad I am able to remain open and listen. I hope that continues to mature, and expand with age rather then contract.

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Carry On

Screen Shot 2018-08-14 at 8.11.46 AMDriving home from my movement class I pull over and talk to my brother. During class I think about Rich and see myself in his room at the rehab center and move and breath for him, with him. I can see the whole place filled with beds of people all breathing using what we call in class “theta” and “hu” breath to either calm or energize themselves.

Before going to class I meet up with a friend visiting family here in Santa Cruz along with her son who has arrived from Colorado.  In the past her son and I have talked about many things and are catching up in person for the first time. We talk about magnetic healing and a company he works for that he respects, about the lions he visited in Africa a year ago at a sanctuary for them. One story is about a white lion. This lion would watch him and sometimes they would talk to each other on the other side of the fence. One day he places some grass through the fence and in very large cat like movements she plays with him and he begins to cry. There is something about this large wild cat just playing with him that touches him deeply. Maybe it is simply the acceptance of his presence and he hers in a mutual dance of communion for a tiny bit of time before each will return to their worlds.

Rich is in mourning for his life and what he cannot reach anymore or touch upon. He recoils at the thought of his wife having to live with the miserable process his body is going through rather then experiencing the trips they have not been able to take when she retired from her work.

Tonight at the rehab facility he describes the feeling of being in a prison, held in place, and marking time when he will get out and go home. He is not sure what will sustain him once he is home or if this experience has prepared him for anything worthwhile or useful to make his being there more “successful.” It is a very large and painful pause in his life, and I too see very little it offers him or his wife.

In the course of the conversation he asks me about hospice and how fast they can come if death is close at hand but he is quiet and says to me,”you have to carry on you know” and “our love is a given, you know that too.” I feel the tears come, and like my young friend holding the grass up for the lion I can see my brother is on the other side of the fence while we are holding something between us. I am suspended and sustained by his voice, his words and our relationship. I tell him we are not far away and will be with him, and he reminds me that it could not play out that way, I may not be there in person. He is letting me know I am there already, and to trust this most of all.

Everything is as delicate as a few blades of grass and yet that vulnerability is one of the most solid things life has to offer us while we have it. It is an impossible spiritual journey and not one answered for me easily by faith or a defined practice but often palpable in nature, in kind words, in the spaces between, the stopping and starting of a heartbeat.

I thank my young friend and his mother for tracking me down for a visit while they are here, our short time together is the right pause in the midst of my attempt to get things done. I thank my brother and his wife for including me in this part of their lives without reservation.

 

The Russians are Coming and Tsewa

My brother Richard cannot sleep well because of his new neighbor. The rehab facility after ten days since he has been a new resident still has not moved him out of a dorm room and the existing neighbor in that room, Bob, yells loud day and night until they sedate him. Recently Bob has slept more at night so they both have quiet.

Mid week after being placed on a speaker phone as a participant at a staff  report I re-iterated some needs that are not being met for Richard. The answer to my requests seems to be that the space between my brother and Bob is now punctuated with a new patient in the room who is Russian, speaks no English and has a constant flow of chatter with family all hours. Ironically Bob yells “cool it” to these people, and Richard lies there distressed and tells me “I do not speak Russian”.

Another layer to Richard’s lack of ease is his wife who has gone daily after I left  twisted her ankle badly two days ago while walking their tea cup poodle, and cannot come to the center. She has been iced out. Eventually a friend plans to take her to see Rich but for Rich it furthers a sense of abandonment and hopelessness.

It is cumulative for Rich but the physical repercussions from the procedures to alleviate the distress now are worse then the issue. I can feel his voice fade. His phone charger is still missing so they take his phone at night to re-charge it since he cannot reach the phone in the room along with the fact he cannot reach his own feet to put on his own shoes.

I am reading a book my friend gave me about tenderness and warmth in Buddhist practice. There is a word in the Tibetan language, “tsewa”,and the word expresses the practice of the flow of warmth and tenderness  we are capable of from our hearts. While reading this I looked up at the drawing on the wall I made in pastel quite a while ago I call the “heart of nature.” The image is about protecting and caring for the last free flowing river in New Mexico, the Gila River. The pastel is a fox curled up in the foreground, and sleeping peacefully, and a heart in the background with a soft dreamlike flow of river water coming downstream behind the fox. I think of the sound of the river both comforting and nourishing.

Tonight I not only feel no flow but my breath feels tight. I am like many rivers that have unfortunately been damned. I remind myself that damns can be taken down or in the case of the Gila need not be built at all. The free-flowing Gila River can remain free to nourish the body of land, birds, and trees that support the valley.

There are better ways to care for our rivers, and in turn the river of our hearts in our territory which can move by “tsewa” or radical tenderness. I imagine the river moving from a small trickle to a larger flow. I begin to feel the waters washing over my brother, the people in his room, others around me, and also onto myself in order to unfurl my hand, and so we can all rest.

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Everywhere I go birds hold me in place.

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The trip down to see Richard is lovely and bright but hot. At the rest stop I pile some pine nuts for the magpies and jays to relish. On the way back I leave grapes and blueberries to give them some cool bite of fruit, and moistness. They always punctuate the journey down to see my brother and sister-in-law.

First night we arrive and have dinner in a small Italian Restaurant close to the hospital. Rich is sitting up in a chair when we arrive, and the nurse puts her head in sheepishly and says we got him up. I had called earlier in the day about how he was not getting out of bed and has been there a week for evaluation. For someone with a movement disorder this is deadly. It turns out his room mate has been in bed for five days and his wife is distraught. The next day is long and arduous like this one but finally he can be transferred to the rehab facility from the hospital for more intensive care and focus in the rehab center.

An ambulance arrives and two strong men come to put him in a gurney. it has taken most of the day for this to finally come about. My partner and I drive across town to where they are taking him ,and when we arrive and go to his room his bed is lowered to the floor and he is lying there huddled up looking like a tiny frightened and lost child.

He has also been placed in a long dorm room with a man screaming his head off at the other end of it and a large air conditioner drowning out any other sound other then itself. I ask the staff if Rich can get out of bed for dinner, and see where he is, and it seems to be against the rules to put him in a wheelchair because he has not been evaluated but we stick around until a sweet PT comes to make that possible. We take him around the facility and to the patio where the temperature has dropped from 102 to a milder 85. My partner goes and gets some food for us ,and dessert for Rich and we share a meal as they bring him a pathetic enchilada and I share my turkey burger with him which is mildly better, and we laugh.

I do my best the next day to meet everyone and know the ropes, see more PT. Rich has been constipated for days and so on his second trial run at PT he has to run and things are short circuited but at least he walked some and got very cleaned up.

It is just plain miserable to be in the place he finds his life and body but we are hoping he can gain some strength, his wife has time, and rest to get things organized at home and in a month he can go home.

We have long talks about many things together and he leans into me and tells me how he can re-learn about his sister. I spend time with his wife and it is a good visit. The feeling is we can try and work as a team but I know how that tatters and tears under the weight of his condition even with all our good intentions and plans on his part.

When we leave to go home we stop on the way in Santa Barbara for the Fiesta. Seeing the happy kids, the wonderful stallions mane flowing in the wind and the seashore all seeps in despite the sharp heat. We end up in a small Mexican cafe, and then across the street to a party store where a young girl guides me around all the traditional Mexican decorations, and we fill our basket for our wedding event and drive towards the north.

This evening I finally make it to our beach and the sky has a river of sooty shearwater shorebirds moving in the thousands. I watch them float over the sea and land in a place that is only defined by their presence. Much like the magpies they locate me whether it be at a rest stop on 101 or in the sand of my local beach. I stare out staring at the distance that is immeasurable but the love that moves back and forth from here to my brother. I know he would laugh at the cocky walk of the magpie and quietly take in the migratory dance of the shorebirds winding up and around in front of me tonight.

 

Back to the Woods

Gila, New Mexico has one of the last free flowing rivers in the Southwest. Small environmental organizations continually try to protect the river from being damned and also try to protect and also re-introduce some of the inhabitants of the river corridor be it potentially the home of the Mexican Gray Wolf or presently with the birds, plants, fish that need to flourish.

Three students worked devotedly on protecting the river and in the process of doing that work they were killed in a freak plane crash on the way to do a survey along the river in 2014. I met one of the students, Ella-Jaz, as a child who wanted to read a poem she wrote in the first Gila River Festival we organized. As an artist working with conservation groups I wanted to have an event that brought art, science, literature, conservation together and create a venue for locals and visitors to come and celebrate and learn about the river.

Ella-Jaz Kirk at the age of six was already a fine writer and eager performer but was shy that particular day and so I stood with her and read her poem. When Ella died along with her two friends and fellow students, Ella and Michael after I had left the valley I was deeply saddened.

This last spring, four years later, I received a CD of an album comprising Ella’s songs and other musicians that both contributed their music and helped orchestrate her music in this project. This month I am working on promo for their CD Ella Jaz-Fly Free. It is my honor to do so. This is the final version and have put it on my site. It is based on one of the songs in the album,”Back to the Woods.”

July 21 News from the East

IMG_0961.JPGA dear friend’s husband died of a heart attack. Gordy was a man of vision. Anne shares more about this in the obituary about the many projects they completed together in their community and his personal exploration as an artist. The metaphor for their projects is an “open field” which are places that something new can flourish, grow, develop, transpire in a creative fashion.

“Gordy believed that a space is for imagining, whether you were an artist making a dance, or a farmer plowing and planting a field, a person walking around a farm, a child looking at the snakes coming out of a moist hollow in spring, would help make a world you would want to inhabit.

Anne is a fine poet and therapist.

Presently, a gallery and research space is alive and contributing to their town, a 120 acre farm harbors young organic farmers in an affordable work, and living space, as well as a after school program that is for children to make, imagine, share, and express in nature. Many more gifts have been given to the community through their work that bring opportunity and comfort to others.

They lived their lives together as parents, artists, while standing in their own work and expression. Both of them shared the heartache of a daughter dying, challenges with serious illness, and sustained all of this together along with their projects in the town.

In the eighties I has my first one woman show in their space in  a large building in center of town. It is always amazing to view work all up at the same time, storied and seen, felt by the audience. They gave me that first opportunity on my own. I felt like I was in a natural, open setting and watched the work unfold as a piece.

Anne and I share a love and fascination with crows and ravens. I just finished a small book about crows. I shot photos of crows on telephone lines in town.  Crows and ravens lives are “on the line” as nature diminishes but also so are we.

As I was about to send the book to Anne  I was not sure what address to mail it to but the return email  let me know that Gordy died two weeks earlier. Anne wrote; this is a really perfect gift for Gordy and me at this time, he with the crow spirit and me on earth trying to inhabit a life with his body not here.

The same day in town I came across a tree filled with crows chattering to each other. I know the many gifts given to others and to me by their friendship as individuals and as a couple in my life. I imagine the crows feel that way too.

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Another Year Later-Brother and Sister

_DSC0033Another Year Later-July 2018

Moving back to Santa Cruz has been important.  I am closer to my brother. My brother Rich is dealing with a mystery illness that after ten years and several not relevant treatments has a name, Parkinsonian Supra Palsy. But the best way to describe is it his brain and body are not in touch so he is able to walk less, basically shuffles, freezes at times and has to sit down, he often falls in slow motion.

The steps from shuffle to cane to possible transport chair have galloped along during the years. He is my big brother but I am his big sister now, helping with advocacy, pushing the envelope for needs that have to be met, asking questions, seeing what is out there.

My sis-in-law/sissy, Carol just tries to do normal, take him to coffee, appointments and get prescriptions ,and not fold under the emotional pressure of what next and how do we do all of this. We are a small family but a resonant one and I deeply appreciate being able to share and be there with them both.

The process we have gone through medically reminds me of Lupine dog and the mis-diagnosis, a surgery that made things worse, and spread the cancer, and not knowing where the support was beyond” just take these meds” which seem to just tax the body in ways that can make it hardly worth it to try.

Luckily with Lupine the last months of her life we were able to find means to help her with a better end. Slowly with Rich we find means and have no idea of the end. But finding reliable help has been not easy, seeing if we are as they say”on the same page,” often a comedy of errors.

Rich does best at night. Carol goes to sleep early, he stays up late and he during that time he thinks better, and less in a fog or deep freeze mode. We often talk at that time on the phone.He is totally there with his humor and his calm, and a often wry but kind way.Rich has patience I have very little of in life in general, and it is great he can complain and if need be take it out on me.  I love holding him, and making him comfortable in some simple way in some off moment when we are together in person. Rich makes jokes about the apothecary that takes up their small bathroom shelf as an alternative to steroid cremes or digestive aides I keep sending them or bringing when we drive south to visit.

I say “we” because I have a partner to be, Jim. I met him when he came to visit his brother and my good friend and I was sweeping outside. I know, it is true, he swept me off my feet but now he helps hold my brother upright, since he is tall and strong, when Rich cannot stand on his feet.

One escapade we did with Rich was with a well known Doctor doing research with medical cannabis: boy, what a disaster for Rich.  We enter the office and the Doctor is enthusiastic and hands me a tincture to have Rich try but not just one squirt but another as we sit talking a bit later. We leave and go on our merry way.

After the appointment Jim and I take Rich to have a sandwich. Suddenly in the parking lot while we are walking to the car my brother cannot stand, and I press my body against him and a car,and he is hallucinating, dizzy, frozen. We drive to his home, and at home he sees beings or apparitions, and our faces look funny to him.

It is four hours or more later he settles and I leave a message for the Doctor. It is a bad trip and his body is so sensitive that just CBD with negligible THC wipes him out trying that later. He is not a candidate for this kind of intervention but the hope is anxiety, sleep,more balance, could ensue. The hope is all set aside and the funds that I raised selling some charcoal sketches from my father’s movie days on the original Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman go up in smoke. I do my best to not find parallels in both stories of Joan and my brother but being a former Catholic can add to the menace of comparison.

Selling the art has its own story. Craigslist is interesting, you never know who you will meet or where. It turns out we meet a person in a parking lot in Ventura by a Denny’s and he is into film memorabilia and we talk about health, care, my brother and the art. I sell the charcoal boards, and it is enough to pay for the experiment in weed for Rich. Rich and Carol still have the tattered drawing of Joan looking at us inspired and suffering on the wall of their home. As part of the deal,I shoot photos of her for this collector so that he can make what he has to sell more valuable as part of the set drawings past.

I think of the exchange of the drawings and the treatment “possibility “as a gift from my father who would have liked the effort. Many other artifacts have turned into small projects and the last one is a book I titled”How to know a big brother,” and it is made up photos of us growing up and text describing the qualities and silly things that I recognize about Rich. I see those qualities now in what I  continue to recognize  in he and I. Maybe it is the most important thing we can offer each other over time which is that knowing.

I still know Lupine in series of animal shelter husky dogs we help find foster care, and a home, and I know Rich in this point in time and he me. The heart is very clear in its ability to recognize what is real, authentic.