Wednesday, May 13, 2020

So Long for a While

In April, as we here in the United States settled into the COVID 19 shutdown, friends from Minnesota called to ask how the crisis was affecting me. I told them truthfully that, except for not being able to buy whole wheat flour for bread-making, I’d noticed little change. As a result of a field-of-vision Glaucoma test in October 2016, I no longer drove and had become somewhat of a recluse, ordering groceries delivered from Hy-Vee and other sundry items from Amazon. 

However, during April, as I explained in my April 30thposting, I had my own form of shutting down. Because of vision concerns, I had to stop watching television, reading, and using the computer. On April 30thI returned to the computer, wrote the posting, and began that week to visit your blogs and catch up—a little—on what had been happening in your lives. That was so enjoyable for me—reaching out to read your lives and to comment on your fortitude and your stories of living within the shut-down. 

However, things have changed again. I had a bad fall this past Monday evening, wrenching my back and right ankle and hitting my right elbow so that my upper arm bone was shoved into the arm/shoulder socket. Painful. The fall shocked me. For over an hour, I could feel myself trembling inside. Then, to distract myself from listening to the “what if” questions that came with the trembling, I sat down at the computer and began to play spider solitaire—to which I’d become addicted last year. 

I forgot to set the timer for the 30-minute session my regimen (described in the 4/30 posting) demanded. So I played obsessively until, all of sudden, all the playing cards blurred so that I couldn’t see either numbers or symbols. Looking up, I found everything blurred. This, too, scared me. I had sat here at this computer on Monday evening and played solitaire until, as is said, my eyes glazed over. Had I done any permanent harm?
Does straining our eyes result in damage to our optic nerves? 

(In December 2015, when the pressure in my eyes rose to the danger zone, the nerves were, according to the specialist, severely and irreparably damaged. Since then, Dr. Ann and I have worked together to retard addition damage.) 

The upshot of my feckless foolishness it that the next day, Tuesday/yesterday, I kept experiencing moments of blurriness that obscured the delineating lines of my furniture and home.

So here’s the new regimen: No turning on television except to “listen” to PBS Newshour even weekday evening. No reading. No using the computer. Instead, I will listen to audio books—I’ve enjoyed so many in the past eight weeks—declutter/reorganize all the closets, drawers, and cabinets throughout my home, and bake loaves of yeast bread (now that I have whole wheat flour), and, with white flour, make quick bread. All to go in the freezer. 

Because of the virus, my appointment with Dr. Ann has been rescheduled from May 22ndto June 8th. Please note that I’ve used the “no comment” option for this posting as I plan on turning off the computer until after that June appointment. 
You know, I feel that this is a fallow period for me. A time when seeds of possibility—newness—are germinating in the deep center of myself where Oneness dwells. Perhaps, it is a time of germination for all of us. Given that, I find myself hopeful for the future. And so, I’m ending with one of my favorite songs, sung by one of my favorite singers. 

Please take care of yourselves and stay safe. Please know, too, how much I appreciate your virtual friendship. I am so fortunate to have come to know all of you through blogging. 


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Becoming a "Sleeping Beauty"!

My last posting appeared on Sunday, March 22. Since that time I’ve neither posted nor read any of your blogs because four health concerns have modified my life. Of these, only one kept me from writing: my compromised vision due to Glaucoma. 

In past postings, I’ve explained that on December 9, 2015, the pressure in my eyes went into the danger zone of the high fifties: 56 in the left eye, 59 in the right. The acceptable pressure is usually 15-17. At 20, most ophthalmologists prescribe Glaucoma drops for their patients. 

On that December day, the high pressure so alarmed the ophthalmologist I saw regularly that he immediately sent me to a specialist an hour away. I was told that I had to be seen within five hours or possibly lose the vision in both eyes.

The specialist saw me immediately even though that meant that several really “patient” patients had to wait an hour or more for their scheduled appointments. Working with extremely thin needles on my numbed eyes, she brought the pressure down into the forties, then scheduled procedures for the following week. During that week, my vision dimmed dramatically.

Since then I’ve twice had stents placed in both eyes and been on the following regimen: Glaucoma drops 3x a day; anti-inflammatory drops 2x a day in my right eye; lubricant drops 6x a day in both eyes.

That’s been the routine until a few weeks ago. My vision is always somewhat blurry—as if a sheer curtain or a smear of Vaseline covers my eye. However, when I’ve worn reading glasses there’s been no blurriness with e-books. That changed in the final days of March. The iPad type—no matter the size—was too blurry to read. (I haven’t been able to read the type of paper books since 2015.)

I called the specialist’s office and spoke with the tech I’ve come to trust for her clear explanations and discerning questions. Because of the Corona virus, the specialist was taking only emergencies, however, my vision concerns did not meet the emergency standards. Instead the tech wanted me to rest my eyes. I was to stop watching television, reading e-books, and using a computer. In other words, I had to cease any prolonged focusing.

Thus, no writing of blog postings. No reading of blogs.  No writing of memoir.

For much of April, I closed my eyes and listened to audio books; cooked soups and casseroles and froze individual servings; listened to PBS Newshour with eyes closed; visited with family members and friends by phone; and quickly scanned e-mails and Facebook in the ten minutes I used the computer each day. Also, I napped, dozed, and slept often.

That continued until the blurriness with reading subsided. When I called and reported this to the tech, she asked me to go on another regimen: I could focus again on the computer, television, and iPad, but for no longer than 20-30 minutes at a time. Then I was to put lubricant drops in my eyes and keep them closed for twenty minutes. 

So for doing any prolonged focusing, here’s the routine: 30 minutes of television, computer, or iPad use followed by 5 minutes doing drops, 20 minutes listening to an audio with eyes closed, and 5 minutes for whatever. Half-hour on/ half-hour off for a chosen focus session—morning, afternoon, or evening.

I’ve been doing this now for about ten days, trying to get used to it. I haven’t blogged because I’m also trying to get caught up a little on the memoir writing.  But now I’m ready to re-enter the virtual world that awaits me in your blogs! So “read” you soon.

Peace. And I so hope that all of you are well.
 FYI: This regimen will continue until I see the Glaucoma specialist on May 22. Then we'll go from there.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the illustration for Tennyson’s 1830 Sleeping Beauty poem.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A "New York Times" Opinion Article on the 1918 Pandemic and Nuns

Friday evening, in the midst of the daily corona-virus updates on confirmed cases, deaths, and recoveries, I felt a reluctance to watch the national news and PBS Newshour. Yet a sense of urgency accompanied that reluctance—a real need to find out how I can help others (beyond staying here in my home). 

Daily, I find myself thinking of all the refugees in the world, especially those in the camps in Syria and those traveling north from Central America, hoping to find a new life in the United States.

In every city, the homeless are especially vulnerable. I fear that when the virus settles in among the refugees and the homeless the numbers for those dying from this pandemic will dramatically increase.

Daily I read the digital New York Times to keep abreast of what is happening, and Saturday I found an inspiring story that took me back to my convent days. In the memoir I wrote about those eight-and-a-half years, I fortunately didn’t need to write about a pandemic, but I hope I showed in some way the generosity of so many of the nuns.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, long after I left, a number of those in the Benedictine convent where I made my vows traveled to El Salvador and Nicaragua to help the farmers who were being threatened on all sides. 

The nuns from that Benedictine convent and from many nunneries here and in other countries have always reached out to help others through their teaching, nursing, social work, response to the AIDS epidemic, food pantries, counseling, visiting prisons, setting up food kitchens.

They live the recognition that “everywhere there is one, and never two” as the German poet Gertrude von Le Fort wrote during World War II. 

In the midst of that war, she knew that we are one. We may fight against that truth. Resist it. Deny it. Ridicule it. Go to war over it.

All in vain, because always and ever, we are One. 

This Oneness is never more apparent than today as together, around the globe, we all face a crisis that unites us no matter who we are or where we live or what spiritual tradition we follow or what the color of our skin is or our sexual or gender preference or our social status or our economic comfort or discomfort or . . . our political philosophy and party. 

No matter what we’ve thought divided us, we can today embrace the realization that we are one family, sprung from the hope for survival and the need to clasp the person we thought of as the “other” or “them.” We are, as so many are saying, "in this together."

Within the labyrinth of our mind and the chambers of our heart, we can embrace those who have seemed "other" and proclaim —for all the globe to hear—“I am One with this person. We are One, never Two.”

I encourage you to read the article published in the opinion section of Saturday’s (3/21/20) "New York Times" about how the nuns of Philadelphia responded to the 1918 influenza. As this opinion piece, written by Kiley Bense, shows so clearly, Philadelphia was hard hit, but its citizens, including those nuns, stepped forward to heal the sick, visit those who lived in fear in their homes, and comfort the grieving. 

Called by their mayor to help, they responded. Each of us needs to find our way to respond. For many of us that way is to stay at home; to practice social distancing. But for some, the clarion call is to put their own lives at risk. They are the heroes of today. Or, as the Roman Catholic Church might say—the saints. 

Here is the URL for the article. I hope you have the time and the inclination to read it. It brings with it a deep belief in the basic goodness of humanity and the compassion that this crisis calls forth from the deep center of our being. Peace.

All the photographs are from Wikipedia. 
I'm grateful for their free service to us.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Poem on Coronavirus by Brother Richard Hendrick

I’d planned that this Sunday I’d begin the final postings for my experiences with psychics. I’ve shared my first and second experience, and I want to share with you’re the experience I had last March that caused me to, in a way, lose myself for several months. 

However, this morning, I received an e-mail from a friend who’s still in the convent. Both of us will be 84 soon. She lives at the convent with many elderly nuns; I live here in my home with three cats. 

But both of us are deeply aware of the crisis our world is facing today. So instead of writing about my life, I want to post this heartening and inspiring poem that Barbara sent me. It illustrates so well what Mom used to say to me—that out of all things comes good. 

Richard Hendrick wrote the poem. When I looked him up on Google, I discovered that he is a Capuchin Franciscan brother living in Ireland and he posted his poem on Facebook on Friday. His wisdom touched my life today and filled me with hope. I hope his message reaches millions of people. We all need to embrace what he is saying. Peace. 

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise you can HEAR the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet the
sky is no longer thick with FUMES but blue and clear.

They say that in Italy people are SINGING to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may HEAR the sounds of families around them.

They say that in the West of Ireland a young woman is spreading fliers with her number through the neighbourhood so that the elders may have someone to call on.

All over the world people are SLOWING DOWN and reflecting and looking at their neighbours in a NEW WAY.
All over the world people are waking up to the reality of how big we really are, to our interconnectedness and to how little control we really have.
Waking up to what really matters, to the power of prayer, meditation, kindness, caring and Love.

So we pray and remember that while there is fear, there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation but there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is sickness but there does not have to be disease of the soul.
And yes there is pain, suffering and death but there can always be a rebirth of community, peace, harmony and love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live today and now.
Pay attention.
The birds are singing,
the sky is clearing and Love
always encompasses us.
Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able to touch across the empty square...... SING and give thanks for your life and all you have.
by Richard Hendrick

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Correction for the 2/23/20 Posting

Today, I’m deviating from my recent decision to post every other week. The reason? Last week, my posting gave an inaccurate impression of how A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Storycame to be. I realized this when I read the comment left by Jean and when I reread the ending of my 2/23/20 posting. 

Toward its end, I introduced a psychic who knew nothing about me and still said, “You’ve experienced great sorrow recently. The death of someone. Not a human. A cat. She’s your soulmate. It’s like your heart is broken.” Then, she told me that the cat and I were going to write a book about our relationship and it would touch the lives of many people. 

Ending the posting, I wrote: A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story happened.

All that is factual. What I failed to add in order to help readers appreciate what actually happened is the following: Dulcy died on Thursday, July 6, 1989. Two days later, I woke from a deep sleep and felt compelled to go downstairs to my computer. 

Once there, I placed my hands on the keyboard, unsure of what was happening. Then my hands began to move. These words, like tickertape, appeared: “At the end, all the matters is love . . . my love for my human and hers for me. I have planted the memories of our life together in her heart. She will find them there when I am gone and they will comfort her.”  

I hadn’t composed those words. They came unbidden. For the following week, I sat down at the computer each morning, unsure if Dulcy would continue. Astoundingly—to me—her words came each day. I said then and I believe now that the words came from Dulcy. That is, they came from the deep center of myself where Dulcy and I are One.

A week after Dulcy began to share our story with me, I got up from the computer and stood in the doorway to my office. Once again, unbidden, came words I hadn’t known I thought. Out loud, I said, “This book is going to be published. It’s going to be published by Crown. And it’s going to touch the lives of a lot of people.”

At the time, I didn’t even know if there was a publisher named “Crown.” I just knew with a fierce certainty that Dulcy was giving me the story of our relationship. This was her final gift to me. My final gift to her would be to see that it got published.

I called a neighbor to announce the wonder of the words that were coming. She, a published author, scoffed at what I described. “You’ll have to throw it all away,” she said. “The first draft’s just trash. That’s all you have. Trash.”

Her words wounded me, but I continued my vigil at the computer. Dulcy’s words continued to come. Still, the ridicule niggled my confidence. I’d never felt competent as a writer; I thought myself a hack—a hack who was unworthy of the gift Dulcy was giving me.

That’s the background for my early September visit to the psychic. When we met, she knew nothing about Dulcy’s daily gift to me. So when she said that Dulcy and I were going to write a book about our relationship and it would touch the lives of many people, I felt freed from my neighbor’s dismissal. 

The psychic’s words matched mine; they shored up my own intuitions. They gave me confidence that the book would happen. That I was being true to Dulcy.

PS: Next Sunday, I hope to write about the 2019 psychic whose words I let cast a blight on a year of my life.