Of Death and Dying

My mother-in-law passed a few nights ago, and when the news came my wife, daughter, and I huddled together by the bed and said little. We had been expecting her death day after day, night after night, and now that it was over we waited silently in the finality of that knowledge.

It was raining that night, and when I went alone later to the main part of our house, the sound of the rain drumming on our metal roof seemed especially melancholic, and I instinctively went to a window for its rare comfort: the sadness,  the melancholy, my mother-in-law’s last years with dementia, my Mennonite backstory, the cold fact of death and dying…

And this, too, a memory:

How once in Pennsylvania when I was very young and playing by the creek that curved through our farm, I spotted a fish. It was on the surface of the water and close to the bank, and I could see its eye. Knelling down on my hands and knees, I reached into the water for the fish and hooked it to the line of my homemade  fishing pole. And then, the fish dangling in front of me, I raced up to the house to show someone. Walking directly into the kitchen, I called out the news:

Look! I caught a fish!

My mother, turning to learn my meaning, stopped what she was doing and immediately started laughing. She had both hands at her waist, elbows out.

I caught it, I said. A fish.

But Wilmer, she said.

What?

You caught it by the tail. Are you sure you didn’t catch it dead?

I caught it in the creek, I said.

Yes, but…

But she was laughing and smiling and I, suddenly understanding everything, rushed out from the kitchen for the creek, where I unhooked the fish, threw it into the water, and watched it float away upside and dead. When I reached the willow tree where I often played, I squeezed through to its dark open cavity and beat my fists in the darkness. And wept. And said those words the hired men sometimes said.

Pig Skull (again)

Quetzal showed up yesterday (I don’t know why) with a skull we found years ago somewhere on the farm. I remembered later that I had written about it, had posted it on some rendition of this blog, went digging to see if I still had the writing, found it, and so here it is, its second life.


Pig Skull

A skull turned up one morning at our house during an extended Sunday brunch we were hosting for our neighbors. Dave, who lives on the next farm over, had taken the kids for a walk in the woods, and when they returned, they had a skull, a medium-sized, off-white, animal skull that, while broken distinctly into three pieces (cranium, mandible, and single tooth), fit together perfectly.

For awhile the skull was the kids’ thing. They chased each with the point of the tooth; they tricked it out in my new Tingly hat; they pretended to make the jaw bone talk; they bickered over basic holding rights. Continue reading

A Truthful Account of Things

Just took the photo fifteen minutes ago. And growing (flourishing)  inside the middle house is live spinach and baby kale and the first sign of arugula. So let it snow to my waist, the winds wail. I’ve got greens, spinach salad w/today’s eggs, and at least 20 more baby carrots. Baby carrots and a blizzard! See them there on the table last night haloing plates of kale, roasted walnuts, and goat cheese. And an hour ago Quetzal and I snowshoeing up to the waterfall, and Quetzal and I both leaning in close in the snow, face to the water, drinking, snow-water drinking, down from all sides of Saddleback Mountain, that cold earth love that catapults you well into your 90’s and erases all but the darkest of your sins, soul savior, homeboy…

…take the chain off your brain…

Doodle wop a-rat-a-tat boom
I’ll make the sound of a jet plane zoom
Doodle wop a-rat-a-tat boom
I’ll make the sound of a fire

You got to believe in somethin’
Why not believe in me?
You got to believe in somethin’
Why not believe in me?

What have I, I done to you
To make you mean
And treat me the way you do?

Go on and wave your flag, brother
Start your revolution
I’m willin’ to let you do your thing
Tell me why are you plannin’ a compromise?

Oh, you got to believe in somethin’
Why not believe in me?
You gotta believe in somethin’
Why not believe in me?

Take the chain off your brain
Take the chain off your brain
Stop, take a look at yourself
Stop ridiculin’ everybody else

You’ve got to believe in somethin’
Why not believe in me?
You got to believe in somethin’
Why not believe in me?

Lyrics by the Pointer Sisters

Chins Up, Homesteaders!

Just came across this. From the Wall Street Journal Magazine.

Chins up, guys. Really.

Can This Mask Make Jet Lag a Thing of the Past?

The Lumos Smart Sleep Mask, funded by Stanford and NASA, claims to have a cure for your long-haul travel hangover

 

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