When you walk, Stride Go as if there were a miracle unfurling before you as if the Last Oasis lay waiting and you have known only Desert.
Create new Ceremonies to entreat wonder. Listen for the growing aria of that which lies waiting, wordless within you.
- D.C. McKenzie excerpt from 'The Quiddity of Surprise'
It remains to be seen, every day, sometimes each moment, how we will react to an ever-changing world. I have heard it said that the difference between the right choice and the wrong one is a breath and two heartbeats. How we keep to our vows should be a measure of our humanity. If we found a way to hold to the vows whispered into our tear-soaked pillows, vows shouted at riot cops, and vows promised to heaven, then we could stop the blight of famine and the terror of war. We could end rape. We could jail politicians who pillage and talking heads that terrorize. We could stop beating our wives and children. We could slow the feathery, galloping-horse heartbeats of uncounted homeless ghostpeople. We could make empathy mandatory. We could drag fear into the light and watch it burn. We could surrender.
I did not walk out of the hospital, ‘tis true, I rolled. I left with Michael and Gayle on the 29th of November, after a flurry of paperwork and Physical Therapy tests to prove that I was safe to transition from my wheels to the toilet, the car, the plane, the bed…I had to promise them, as they were getting to know me by now, that I would Not do any wheelchair to dumpster or cop car transitions. I have mentioned this already, but it is important: Pain Management, Physical Therapy, Walking, Running…Striding—These are not to be trifled with. I had to surrender to their process; I have to believe it will work. All of us rode a terrible, god-awful gauntlet in Miami, and we were happy to leave the field. There was some snow when I got home and the Ravens have come out of the hills for Dumpster Season. I am home in the 80-degree apartment, surrounded by snow and ice; a dichotomy I deeply cherish.
I stay busy by walking in small circles, complaining, exercising, and getting better by the hour. [bitching and moaning, pacing, healing, and writing to you, Dear Reader, with this lovely gift of a new Whip…Oh, how it gleams in the dark, my Mac…my, my Precious.]
And while it is true that I am getting my strength back, it is a shaky, desperate strength…not backed up with the hidden reserves I once had. This will come in time. On Patience: Sun-Tzu once said that if you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by. I am not exactly sure what that means to us now, but if my lost life will float by I'll wait by the river as long as you want, old man.
It’s a funny paradox, one that I still don't understand all of— but I had to surrender to pain and fear to finally make a friend of them. I had to clutch them close and stop wrestling, pinned down and smelling my own fearsweat, to finally accept something bigger than myself. It didn’t happen until I was home, alone in my apartment:
The enormity of all that had passed...surgery and epiphanies, all...just ground me into the floor and flayed me into wet dust. It held me down like so many of the bullies in my youth, vicious little bastards like Billy Bivens and Kurt Rosdell and Brady Miller’s asshole older brother, whose name I have burned out of my mind.
Truly alone for the first time in weeks all I could do was take my beating and weep. Yet to my sweet surprise it didn’t hurt all that much. I suddenly realized that I could grin at the pain bully and take its worst. You cannot hurt dust anyway. Dust floats, it swirls when one strikes at it. I will be as dust when pain comes. I can even be cosmic dust. Dust doesn’t keep score. It plays. Tempered on Fear’s own anvil, I have been taught what can happen to a soul who loses hold of empathy, as I once did.
The Howler broke my heart on the rack and nothing can really hurt me now, unless I let it. And let’s face it, some things just have to hurt. Superman or Green Lantern aint got nothing on me.
"I can very well do without God both in my life and in my paintings, but I cannot, ill as I am, do without something which is greater than I, which is my life--the power to create." -Vincent van Gogh
I am home now. Hospital is assuming the cowl of myth. Though as always among humans there are no Hollywood endings, there is still our lot of suffering, and I have mine. Although the burden of my lot has lessened now, and I feel human again. Perhaps over-medicated, over-stretched, a little like Bilbo Baggins when he felt like butter that has been spread too thin, drug too many times over the same miserable piece of toast. Physical Therapy is a twin edged mistress. All praise Her.
The first night of Rehab I arrived late, just in time to settle in to night mode. Nightime in Rehab is for waiting. It is for the resting of bodies and spirits, for the taking of meds, and for watching tv. I curled up in the cacophony of sick-sounds and blaring football, unsure if I could continue.
The next morning I discovered why they call it Rehabilitation. They broke me down and built me back into an awareness of Safety. Thou shalt not endanger the stupefyingly expensive Brain Surgery, Safety...Ohm... I love them and I curse them, and that is as it should be. I would not have walked without them. And I did, over 220' on a walker, when I stopped counting.
Now that I am home and back to work, I automatically began cooking my experiences down into verse, shucking them of their symbols and globbing new ones on. A word though, not all opinions are those of the author. In this work the subject retains some autonomy. Here then, without further jibber-jabber is Rehabilitation:
Part I: Jose
Have you ever wondered how it might feel to forget how to run?
Nurse Practitioner of the Dayshift, Jose told the story of He versus Car: his trauma was a debilitating hit and run.
They put cables and long screws in his head. They put needles in his arms, wires on his chest and a tube in his penis. Matter of factly, Jose said that he could hardly move.
Sunlight inundated room 718 of Jackson Memorial Hospital: illuminated every flinching detail lit every swarming corner where things that eat pain lurk in the daytime.
Jose stood, stripping the bed of its foulness. Washed in morning light, his golden-caramel face was solemnly composed. He spoke as he worked, glancing across to me occasionally, where I fidgeted uneasy in my wheelchair.
My hands— (when I stop paying attention to them) constantly seek the scar where beneath tight, fragile stitches, rough against my fingers, they burned out a tiny piece of my brain; the brainskin where they grafted a piece of someone who, having died, donated to me a priceless gift.
Turning again— his too shrewd eyes lighting upon me measuring with care, Jose picked up the thread of his story. He spoke of how he hated the Asian Man washing his ass and jewels
after an enema. He spoke of walking at last: with the long screws still in his head; of shuddering down a cold hall, the cables snaking away beside him; the tube trailing from his penis and the iv pole straggling next to him, small wheels squeaking.
He spoke— of walking alone to the bathroom one night of how he fell to the floor, bouncing hard, bouncing halo of screws and shocking pain.
Jose said, "The key to running is to have the will to keep walking."
He spoke then of lying on the floor with iv pole askew, its precious cargo scattered. Jose’s hands, everworking, paused.
His eyes—hard, black marbles glazed over with distant memory.
He spoke of the hated Asian Man lifting him gentle from the floor. How he wept seeing at last beyond the hated face. How he wept because he had finally learned to accept help.
“The birds, they sing at the break of day, Start again, I heard them say, don’t dwell on what has past away or what is yet to be.
The wars, they will be fought again. The holy dove, she will be cut again; bought, sold, then bought again… the dove is never free…
…You can add up the parts, you won’t have a sum. You can strike up the march, there is no drum. Every heart, every heart to love will come, But like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
-Leonard Cohen paraphrased lyrics from Anthem
Cutting plus Ten days. This was my last day on the Acute Care Ward. Tomorrow I go to Rehabilitation. No physical therapy today, but I did exercise and walk a little…just to use the restroom, and with Michael’s help…Not being able to get myself to the Can ranks fairly high on the list of large traumas and small humiliations…yet Perspective demands that I view this list with new eyes, and recognize that at least I have the option of walking and sitting, of pissing and moaning. When I count my blessings it is not long before I shut my pie-hole in shame and start doing leg lifts in bed.
For reasons I cannot explain, even to myself, this was a day for weeping. After waking to a particularly grim dawn, with the dripping-sweat tangled sheets drawn tight around me I watched the sun sparkle through the beige blinds of my window. In the right light they look like bars. Med techs came and went, drawing blood, measuring the vital, tidal changes of my body and adjusting the balance with potent medicines and food as they saw fit. I let this go on as if it were someone else, or perhaps an empty shell I had vacated. We found a cadence, they came, worked on my body and I was a pliant patient…they left and as if a faucet had been opened fresh tears leaked from my eyes. I resisted this no more than I resisted the gathering of my blood and rhythms. The funk lasted throughout the morning, only dissipating briefly when Gayle and Michael came over to help out, bringing also some sunshine and big love into my room.
Nevertheless, though I honestly tried to rise and be human, it was a poor attempt, made up mostly of self-centered fragility and exhaustion. Still, feeling real gratitude, I tried to repay their soulful efforts with trust. I set aside misgivings of hurting them further and tried to explain that I just didn’t feel like myself today, that something new and wicked has crept into my brainscape. Not to mention feeling as if I had just been smashed by a runaway train. There is something wrong that I can’t identify. And in the last two days it has grown from a nagging suspicion to an active anxiety. A small series of events, of gathered disappointments and too much pain set me up. Left to my self I opened the floodgates and let it all out, again.
Into this salt-strewn lament Michael came in the early evening, back from a teleconference to Alaska at the hotel. Bearing gifts, he brought a beauty of a Fuji apple, dark chocolates, and two perfect thank you cards that I had requested, cards that Gayle chose with her usual unerring insight and good taste. Moreover, he brought a breath of calm strength, as if he carried it like a cloak of peace wrapped about him. Just when I needed it most, he was there to ease me out of the knot I had twisted myself into. Gently, but with some intensity, he told me to quit keeping score and just play…hard. These words are still rippling around my mind, floating in my dream sea and changing all that they touch.
I can no longer stomach the fearful whining in the back of my mind. It is my Reptile Brain that is keening, the cerebellar offender so recently cradled in the hands of Dr. Green. The reptilian, hindbrain, mindgame whimpers now and mourns for the piece that Doc burnt away. My Lizard King self cares nothing for the frontal cortex, it cares nothing for the bone-jar body that houses it. It is eternally dreaming Jurassic desert dreams; dark visions of cold, scaled flesh writhing in a knot of slithery, buzz-worm love. Those dreams were interrupted ten days ago when light and cool air flooded onto that which was intended to forever remain in bone-domed darkness. And despite the knowledge that I am engaging in catastrophic thinking, there is a growing suspicion inside me that my cranial coral reef will never be quite the same.
Sometimes I hear my own voice responding to the wounded Lizard King, crooning in crocodile tones what all of us in here wish to wail out loud, “I am scared. Make it go away. Can I go home now?”
Given a choice I would rather be dancing in the moonlight, with the crunch of snow beneath my feet, and Raven song echoing in my head. And I will, after I learn to walk again.
What if all the people who could not sleep at two or three or four in the morning left their houses and went to the parks what if hundreds, thousands, millions went in their solitude like a stream and each told their story what if there were old women fearful if they slept they would die and young women unable to conceive and husbands having affairs and children fearful of failing and fathers worried about paying bills and men having business troubles and women unlucky in love and those that were in physical pain and those who were guilty what if they all left their houses like a stream and the moon illuminated their way and they came, each one to tell their stories would these be the more troubled of humanity or would these be the more passionate of this world or those who need to create to live or would these be the lonely ones and I ask you if they all came to the parks at night and told their stories would the sun on rising be more radiant and again I ask you would they embrace
Lawrence Tirnauer The Sleepless Ones -
Cutting plus Nine Days I walked to the end of the hall today, after making it to the nursing station yesterday. I walked under the ministrations of my Mistress in Black Scrubs, [well, almost, I had to stop a few meters shy when my lower back went into spasms] we went walker-weaving past the encouraging smiles of the Nursing staff, shuffling past clumps of medical gear and schmoozing doctors. I would not have made it at all had I not had the patient, empathetic goading of my Lady of the Lash.
Do not underestimate my desire to walk out of here; but it will only be accomplished with the help of dozens of people: doctors, nurses, nutritionists, dedicated health professionals all. And, of course, those who Dr. Green teasingly describes as my ‘cheer squad’ meaning my family and friends. I have a feeling the Doc neither says nor does anything lightly when dealing with his patients. There was a tone to his voice as he did it, and after thinking about it for some time I realized what he meant: Many times many are the patients who have crossed the boundaries of this ward without the benefit of a single visitor. And here I have the loving support of an entire clan. He has a way of pointing these things out obliquely, and I have decided that Doc Green has a penetrating insight as well as fantastic hands. I thought he was a little rough at times, especially right after I got out of the ICU, but now I realize, as did others, that it was no time to coddle me. I needed to be abraded back into life, that a pearl might grow in me, and they knew it. Though I worry about those closest to me, and about just how much this is taking out of them. It is a constant reminder that life is a circle, always coming back around to give us a chance to make better choices, to step up and do what is needed. As I watch Gayle move calmly about the room, doing what needs be done, I am filled with a sense of circular awareness, and reminded of my vow, written here in these pages, to step up and be a human. It is breathtaking, the knowledge of twinned frailty and strength that lies in each of us. Each kindness, each act of mercy we receive from another is an opportunity to give back the same. And fear not Mothers mine, both Gayle and Sharon, she who raised a changeling child into a good man, you will never have to look far for a son when you need one.
Thank Goddess…after a day of Physical Therapy and bed exercises in the evening, the Docs let Jimmy the Night Watchman [a nurse of boundless compassion and kindness, more on him later] bring me an early Darvocet, a slower, less goofy sibling to Percocet, which is the main narcotic we have been using to control my pain. And I easily admit I was greatly relieved to have something early, although I didn’t want to ask for it. Perhaps this would be a good time to take note of—
Dawn’s Daily Dope: I begin the morning, sometimes before sometimes after breakfast, with a lively cocktail of Percocet, Lyrica, Ativan, Lovanox (this injected into the scant flesh of my belly) Nexium, Coalasce and two big patches of Lidoderm, which are like a mix between cold salmon skin and a band-aid. The patches are time-released Lidocaine (a local anesthetic) that lasts 24hrs. I have come to love the slimy little buggers. These various meds are repeated at staggered intervals throughout the day, sometimes supplemented by such favorites as Biscadyl, for an easier, squeezier BM; or the much-feared Fleet enema, heaven help me. At 10 pm I get the intestinal joy of receiving all of these meds once again, as in the morning; in addition I get an extra cannon shot across my cranial cruise-ship by receiving 50 to 75 whopping milligrams of Elavil…which is a potent anti-depressant/painkiller/knock-out drug. I am dubious of this last one as you might guess, considering the dosage. Save for the last, I have purposely left out the dosages because they change like the weather.
Lindsay, friend-lover-teacher-confidant, wrote to me in an email the evening after she drove down from Gainesville the following words “…What I really believe is that the Universe, She does not rake someone across the coals, as She has you, without having something truly grand on the other side of it. Somehow I have faith in the mystery, and it makes me smile…”
I too smile wide at such a bold and glorious idea. Others may call it naïve, or wishful thinking, to suppose that there must be a reason for so much suffering, skulking all around us. Yet consider for a moment which reality you prefer to live in: One in which there are veiled reasons and onionskin mysteries…or a universe that is just a mindless place of action and reaction, a place of levers and fulcrum. Or lever and pipe if you will, while we are but circling a drain slowly. Long ago I chose the former. Though I do not pretend to hold any real answers, and too often I feel the spinning tug towards the galactic drainpipe. What I do know for certain is that the few glimpses I have been given both exult and stupefy me, terrify and inflame me; and that soon, soon my friends, it will be raking time again.
“We could have been anything that we wanted to be— And it’s not too late to change. I’d be delighted to give it some thought, maybe you’ll agree we really ought to.
We could have been anything that we wanted to be— Yes that decision is ours. It’s been decided we’re weaker divided. Let friendship double up our powers.
We could have been anything that we wanted to be— And I’m not saying we should, but if we tried it, we’d learn to abide it…
…Flowers of the earth, who could even guess how much a real friend is worth? Shake an open hand, maybe we’ll be trusting if we try to understand?
No doubt about it, it must be worthwhile, Good friends do tend to make you smile.
You give a little love and it all comes back to you. You know you’re gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do.”
-Paul Williams Paraphrased lyrics ‘You give a little love’ Soundtrack from Bugsy Malone.
Cutting Time plus seven days. Tonight the Howler has awoken again. Whenever she wakes, we all wake. Hobgoblin Pain is crouching on her chest, stealing her air and forcing the awful cries from her. I am torn, as I suspect we all are, between a desire to cradle her tormented body and yell at her to please…please God…Just Shut UP. Day and night the Howler is forcing all within the sound of her hoarse, broken voice to grapple with our own survival instincts and compassion, empathy—as if the two could ever really be separated. But here, in this land, that is exactly what is foisted upon us, from our earliest lessons: Might makes Right, the Creed is Greed, Me first and You later.
Even if you somehow escape this dominant paradigm, there will, at some point, come a Howler into your life, forcing you to choose. How often do we, can we, choose between a total stranger and ourselves? Is there a survival benefit, an evolutionary advantage, for Empathy? I have an idea that there is, and it is far more important than most of us realize. My idea, more and more a Belief, is that empathy is linked with our future, solidly connected with what we will become. Yet for so many of us empathy is a choice discarded when something happens, especially when the meds are late. The Howler makes hypocrites of us all.
Listening to her winding, drawn-out shrieking brings all of my own pain and fear to the surface, a short journey, and I try to drown out her cries. Yet still, beneath the music, I hear her. She sings an aria to death. The nurses whisper that she is close, she’ll die on this ward, in the room next to mine, or maybe next week in a nursing home. Slouching along the hallway, He is near, and someone has left my door open. I do not fear that He calls for me; no, I survived that dice toss. Instead, I fear that she will not resist him. While at the same time I fear that she will.
An Emergency erupted somewhere near me a while ago, the floor is short-staffed for the holiday weekend and Meds are more than an hour late. All of us here on the Acute Care Ward are hurting. But few are as stunningly vocal as the Howler. It is almost enough to make me run [okay. okay, stagger and crawl] into traffic and do a little howling of my own. Because when you get right down to it, down to the screaming, there it is: I want my medicine first. And I am wrestling with how I really feel about this. As I said, the Howler makes hypocrites of us all.
Michael [father by blood and heart] made it to town, rip-rarin’ to help get me on my feet. His presence completed the circle of family, the circle that will help me gain the strength to walk safely and clear the remaining cobwebs from my brain.
Today I walked again, although not without Vertigo or Ataxia…yet. Today I saw with my own eyes what lies beyond my door. Tomorrow I will walk to the nurses’ station. After that who knows? Maybe I’ll get to just walk right out of here and leave the Howler behind. Although if I resign her to memory then I will have learned nothing.
No matter where I go her screams will always stay with me. And that is just as it should be; it is in the forgetting that we lose empathy. It is in the dismissing that we carve a piece of ourselves away, the piece that is a key to our future. For we can be anything that we want to be.
“Time has come today. The rules have changed today, I have no place to stay, I’m thinking about the subway. The love has flown away; my tears have come and gone… Oh, my Lord, I have to roam…
Now the time has come, there’s no place to run. I might get burned up by the sun, but I’ll have my fun. I have been loved and put aside, I have been crushed by tumbling time…”
-Joseph and Willie Chambers
'Ghetto defendent. It is heroin pity, not tear gas nor baton charge is tough to take in the city...Kick Junk. What else can a poor worker do?
Cutting Time plus six days. I have to begin somewhere; this is as good a night to start afresh as any. Big love to my Sis for her entry, her words preserved the goal of this journal, kept it alive while I made some stab at recovery. My mind is slowly thawing. I walked today though still dizzy and ataxic, with nausea still grasping at me …it’s the second time actually, but we’ll roll back through the recent days—days of blackness and morphine laced, Jell-O puke, days of my family’s fierce and glowing love, days of rollercoasting faith in my ability to heal and deal—soon enough Dear Reader and all will be revealed. Dr. Green has performed a miracle and for the life of me I can’t understand how he does this, how anyone working in a hospital does it day in and day out. With a compassionate hand the Doctors, Staff and Nurses have wielded scalpel and whip; they have harnessed me, yoked me, to my own will to be free from Chiari. And I love them for it. All of the staff here, with my amazing family, refused to let me lie in bed and give up, as I very nearly did, after waking up. [like Shelly for instance, who worked for hours today, though she had ten-thousand pressing things to do, getting approval from Empire blue cross for the Rehab unit that I move to on Monday] It is to these people, and those heroes at home who have my back, that I dedicate these pages.
Six post-op days of mind-shattering pain and too much fear gnawing at my nerves have nearly ghosted me. But I live. Oh, hell yes, I live. Hammered into mewling putty on a Dark God’s anvil, yes…wrung out yes and even spooned-out, like a gourd from spine to skull…scorched, broken and remade…crushed by tumbling time as the Chambers Brothers wrote, I am still piecing the last days together.
Ah, but I am alive! And with so much to be grateful for…I beg you, bear with me as I continue this untethering of days
Today was also a day of comings and goings: Mom gone to Minnesota, Lindsay down from Gainesville…but this is too painful to detail now, later…maybe. I've lost count of the meds I am on...stuck in this room, sometimes I feel like a lab experiment running amok. Were it not for the patient love of my family and the tender whip-hand of Jackson Memorial's Angels I might slowly go mad; well, crazier than I am now, for certain.
It is late and Pain goblin is sulking in a corner of my room, crooning that we will always be friends. I drown him out with John Lennon, who speaks to me about the wheels. I finally understand. I just have to let it go.
This is not, of course, Don himself. I'm his sister, Elle. Lovely to meet you all. Anyhow, I thought it would be a good idea to let the folks who are following Don's Adventure With Major Surgery that it went well. His surgeon considered it a success, so that's a major hurdle right there. In fact, I just got off the phone with the mom and got to talk to him for the first time. All things considered, he sounds exactly as he should. As hard as it was to hear him slur his words and struggle out of the soft pit of pain killing drugs to connect a thought, it was still a relief to hear him talk at all. He was fading back to sleep as I talked to him. It's certainly odd for me to be on this side of it all, having been through my own Adventures With Major Surgery - four extremely intense abdominal surgeries and my friends have threatened to install a zipper in my belly if I have one more. So I can remember quite clearly how he feels and I want so much to be there right now. I will be there soon, for when he gets out of the hospital but not soon enough...So that's what gave me the idea to update his blog for him, because I know all of you must be feeling the same way. I will keep updating whenever I can until Don is well enough to do it himself. I'm sure I'll be taking dictation from him in no time.
We will know more about any possible lingering side effects as he gets well enough to come out of the pain killer haze, but so far so good. He even managed to keep down some potato soup today. Which is a *(#^$^@ing miracle since I know from personal experince that potato soup in a hospital equals instant mashed potatos with too much water added. Any of you who wish to send moral suport via comments to Don's blog, please do so and we will make sure that he hears all of them. It will make him so very happy to hear from you guys, and yes, that's a hint :-)
p.s. because the gene for perverse humor predicatably showed up in his siser, I simply must share a perfect cartoon with all of you. Be sure I will bring Don a copy. http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/cowandboy/index.html
Is it like this In death's other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone.
-T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
Five days. Twice I have tried to sleep, King Headache says No Soup For You…So, guess I’ll write an entry after all.
Less and less time. It is 2:30 am on Monday, but if Albert can say that 'Time is Bunk', then I can say it is still Sunday. For I cannot sleep and there are miles yet to go… Today I went out with Jenna and lil' Sofie and bought a few things to help get through three weeks in bed unable to lie on my back…a new pair of headphones, a new Miles Davis CD, a few movies. Later, with my baggage scattered around me, and sweet Jazz filling my room, I daydreamed that this was a vacation I was preparing for. My family and I, ducking out on winter before it has even really gotten started. Yet my body keeps insisting that I be in this moment, and who am I to argue after all. I wouldn’t willingly squander this moment or any other, given the poor alternative of having no moments.
I talked with a Healer on the phone today. Her bright energy came pouring through the fiber optics with potent compassion. While her words and wisdom need repeating, I am still processing and lack the mental spark right now to do them justice. But I felt lifted up; and reminded that despite what I may think of as flaws in my body, I am as the Goddess made me: perfect and imperfect, transitory and eternal, an organic transistor for love. Thank you C, I will carry your prayers with me.
I fell again, twisted my damn wrist and ankle. I thought I was well anchored, but there is no denying it, gravity sucks. I have to be awake in four hours, to get ready to see the Home Team Doc one last time. One more vampiric nurse, one more EKG and a chest x-ray. Poke me, prod me, turn the little key and watch me jerk…at least they are nice and give away lollipops.
I imagined that I would feel differently somehow when I could count the days on one hand. Maybe I do. I thought perhaps its symbolism might uncover a vein of new strength. Maybe it has. I can’t untether it now, and if I don’t stop soon I will just continue to babble. What can I say? King Headache needs a history lesson, how do I spell guillotine? P-e-r-c-o-c-e-t.
“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
-Thomas E. Lawrence
Six days. Today I broke the bubble of pain, before it broke me. Not to say that the pain went away. Although surgery will decrease the occipital neuralgia, I must remember that it is not a fix-all, there will be headaches and pain management. But hopefully not as bad as this.
No, what I mean by breaking the bubble is that…well, maybe I should begin at the beginning. As you may have earlier read I have been eagerly looking towards this day, my Grandmother invited my to the opera. [It is an art many claim they have to suffer through, if someone drags them along. I have loved classical music since I was young. Often to the puzzlement of my rock-roll, punk friends…even the Jazz heads, whom I count myself among, just shake their heads and smile. I prefer Schubert, Mozart, of course, most of the masters…chamber, baroque, I enjoy the oft overlooked darker works. And Beethoven’s 9th is orgasmic, when it is done right. My lifelong, most beloved piece is Schubert’s 3rd or Unfinished Symphony. If you have never sat down and just listened to it, you have missed a treasure of human art.] Tonight was a selection of Verdi arias. Yes, I wore my best suit, and a good thing too, for the others were all looking quite splendid.
Giuseppe Verdi was as brilliant, passionately political and as bizzare as any of the great composers, yet he had rare deftness, a subtleness that eluded some of his rather heavy-handed contemporaries. He worked to free Italy from Austrian rule and served in the Italian parliament for four years. [I was talking about the bubble of pain that has been smothering me for days, don’t worry there is a connection here] The outstanding Anchorage Opera performed a great selection, but it was the beginning of Act 1 that nailed me to my seat. From the opening notes, the music felt aimed directly at the pain and fear which has been dominating my life. I am in no way ashamed to admit that I was quickly driven to tears. Though yoked by pain in my seat, it was the sheer beauty of the music and the stunning voices that brought a lump to my throat and very soon the cathartic tears. They began with La Forza Del Destino, then the Aria: Il lacerato spirito from Simon Boccanegra.
I reveled in every note that followed, though unfortunately I had to leave the hall when they started in with selections from Aida at the end of the last act. By then King Headache was throwing a tantrum. Yet in those sublime minutes, when Verdi’s music washed through me, I was finally able to come to emotional terms with my pain. The pain hadn’t changed, was terrible tonight actually; yet something relaxed inside me that had been twisted, strung way too tight, for more than 18 months. It was a flash of pure acceptance and suddenly the viscous bubble isolating me just popped. I regained my weakened faith that even within my own orchestral agony there could be such beauty and joy, sang in the same breath. Though this is a poor description; it will do for now, at least until I can explore it further.
As well, I made a new friend tonight. Also invited by JP, we turned out to have a few mutual friends…Anchorage, though huge in space is small in community. When my headache and neuralgia had spiked badly, and I was beginning to wonder if I would make it through the whole performance, she reached out and took my hand. It sounds like a small thing. Yet it meant so much.
After the opera we stopped by a getting-out-of-Alaska party for Jackie; who is soon going to Alabama, there to homestead and be a mental-floss tycoon. I was thrilled to see a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in almost four years. Hours later, the potent energy for health and recovery that they infused into me is still thrumming through my spirit. I realized, yet again, just how damn lucky I am. To their credit, the shock at seeing my scrawny-ass, sallow condition (plus the oddity of scruffy me in a suit w/no hair) seemed to pass pretty quickly, or was well hidden.
Although I was/am sick and scared, they welcomed me back into a community, that I had sorely missed, with grace, love and some obligatory proof-of-brain jokes. (which I was actually glad to hear) What’s more they didn’t make a big deal about it…interested in what is happening to me, but not reacting with fearful pity…and for that I will always be grateful. Especially since I leave on Monday and won’t get to see many of them until I get back.
By the way, this goes for a lot of people who deserve much more than just a mention here, who in the last months have constantly dropped what they were doing and run to come help me.
And while I am at it: Big Love and Props the size of a 2-ton motor to my love Jenn Roseti, who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane today. Talking with her on the phone after she landed, I caught myself with a giant grin on my mug, a rarity these days. She dedicated her dive to me and I am honored. Someday Jenn, we dive together.
These last two entries have focused on my family and friends for a reason. As I head toward the launch pad all but the really important things are slipping away like so many autumn leaves. I love all of you. And in six days I get a fresh chance to show you just how much.
“It is true that every day has its own evil, and its good too. But how difficult must life be, especially farther on when the evil of each day increases as far as worldly things go, if it is not strengthened and comforted by faith.”
—Vincent Van Gogh
Seven days. I swore to myself at the beginning of this journal to exclude politics, except when relating a story. I now break that vow, but only with a tactful and inoffensive comment or two. Hey GOP: We told you at the RNC in NYC what would happen if you didn’t grow some ethics. Okay Democrats, we just threw a bunch of bullying, oil-fed pigs out. You got your second chance. Now Do Something.
Oh, and, hey Rummy. Screw you. Do you know what happens to guys like you in prison? Yeah? Good. So does the International Criminal Court. So, good luck with that whole War Crimes thing… [If you object to my opinions, just relax…take a deep breath…and click the comment link. Go nuts.]
I spent a good chunk of the day spinning my wheels; in a pain/med haze, trying to telephonically weave through a labyrinth of the Medical Industry protocols…pre-op tests need to be done that haven’t been done. Much of this back and forth, doctor to doctor, blathering had to be done from bed. So much of the minutiae involved in major surgery is left in the patient’s hands, in fact is specifically made the patient’s responsibility. It is hard to give up any shred of what remains of my independence. Even though good people [it should be noted here, especially my guardian angels: Mom, Gayle and Jenna] are willing to help, it is hard to ask for that help. At first I thought I was clinging to my life-long need for independence; then I realized it is more about the blows that such a wholesale loss of control over the simplest things have done to my sense of self-worth. People who struggle with illness don't isolate on purpose, it sneaks up and yanks us into a dark alley. We fight to maintain the illusion of who we were before, not who we are now. This is how things get twisted up and people who love each other get frustrated when dealing with the bureaucracy of disease.
It is frightening to catch glimpses of the cognitive changes in me, the fraying apart of my wits, through the reactions of people who love me and know me well.
So much has been taken from me, in terms of my ability to break trail in my own life. To have the gift of freedom of movement, and freedom from pain, that I used to enjoy. Yet In the same breath I must admit that I have gained a precious, invaluable new awareness as a result of this personal disaster.
Pre-Chiari, I lived in my own world, pursuing life based on what moved my heart: poet, civil-disobedience activist, stagehand, dishwasher…etc. I love my family, but I was emotionally distant from them, both branches. Not on purpose, just through a habit of self-involvement, that I never realized was occurring. Of course, they did notice, and feelings were hurt all around. Meanwhile, I just thought I was living my life, quixotically driving after the things I am passionate about. When I thought of this distance I always told myself that ‘they understand how I am’ or ‘they know I love them and…’ But I see now the thin excuse, the sour rationalization, this was. And also a lousy way to treat people who care about me. At last I understand what it means to step up and be a real human being.
When I came home my family embraced me; in fact, long before I came home Mom was keeping me out of poverty. They moved Heaven and Earth to get me into an apartment, even hooking me up with cable to whittle away difficult hours, they turned on the phone, listened to me whine...they did for me what I could not do for myself. They worked hard to never let me feel, for a second, that I was alone in this. Gratitude is a poor word for what I feel, but it is the best we have, for now. And just as important, I feel, is the awareness that I have gained:
There was never any distance between us, only the silence that I had created. Life rushes us along, and we think there is always time to make amends for the hurts we cause, that there will always be time to share the love we feel. And then one day someone looks at you and says Brain Surgery
When it happened to me the first thing I realized was that I could never get the time back that I had frittered away, not one second. I thought of my family and friends, how I wanted to know them all better. I wanted time to make things right. I am lucky enough to have been given that chance. Seize your chance now, before someone says brain surgery to you, or something worse.
Would I have learned this crucial lesson without the Chiari forcing me to see it? I want to think that I would have matured, eventually, enough to recognize the priceless blessing I have been given in my family and friends. And maybe I would have, but I know this truth: The malformation of my brain saved me from a malformation of my Spirit.
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
Eight days. I woke after a fairly long sleep to find that yesterday’s fall had horrendously jarred loose every cell in my body. I gave up early and took refuge in meds, flat cola, and a bit of tobacco. My body may feel like a bag of hammered shit, but my attitude is actually pretty good. Thanks mostly to friends and family who called, emailed or dropped by. Jenna and her baby grrl Sofie visited. Jenna is my sister, though we don’t share blood. And Sofie could make the devil himself smile. For a little while her squirmy joy and bright laughter drove off the thunderclouds. Mom came over and we had a good heart to heart talk. Then Jackie brought me a present and the happy news that she can help watch the crib and help my angel Kirsten watch Wingnut…If I think about leaving him I get all mushy. So, more on that later.
There is precious little time left until I leave, holy crap. The research has ended, I know as much of the Untethering as I can with out actually watching it happen to someone else, or going to medical school. Now comes the real work. Hope. Faith. Words that need no sentences to hold them up...the real symbols that dominate this journal.
Lord Byron wrote, “…But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence; the least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.” Despite the fact that I have many times agreed with that brilliant, arrogant, monolith of a bad-ass wordsmith; this time however I must refute him: [And don’t even let me get started on the miasma of sexist crap Byron spouted there…]
If you are bold enough to force Hope and Truth together, as you might two polarized magnets, you find yourself face to face with every brick you have ever laid in the wall we all build between the miraculous and ourselves. For the inexplicable, the wondrous reality of life is lying right before us, indeed, wonder is living within us. And what is hope but a yearning for just such miracles, in an Existence that daily feels hostile and given to spite? Though the betrayed and the jaded will scoff, I say that hope does not always spoil or wither at the touch of truth, just as often it glows like a bride. It is only our refusal to be vulnerable to the crushing of our hope that stops us from seeing that glow. Such cynicism as to make one call hope a harlot is the bane of modern life. I know of no one who has entirely escaped it. Cynicism, an infectious fatigue of the spirit, is infused into our culture; it is woven into our attitudes and painted onto the masks we wear to hide our true faces. Flaunted in the media and incited by our celebrities, this form of cynicism seems, paradoxically, to be a sickness born of privilege and affluence. Even such relative wealth as the poor in America toil for, which is great when viewed against the uncounted truly and abjectly poor living in countries all over the world. So too in this country there are people living in a wasteland, dying but for the mercy they have to beg for. This atrocity occurs on the same city block where the swells do a little shopping and stop for a latte. Lord Byron would love it here.
With my own eyes I once saw an emaciated man eating from a dumpster that was on the same road as…fucking within sight of…the Whitehouse. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this happens every day in every community. What, you ask, does this rant have to do with hope? Have the meds worn off and pissed you off into taking it out on us by shoving guilt into our faces? No. There is a thread here, frayed, tangled even, but stay with me. Cynicism, sibling of greed, is the reason why one human dies of hunger every four seconds. It is the souce of our disconnection with the wondrous. Cynicism is the midnight strangler of hope.
It is also the tool of the fear-goblin cackling that in eight days nothing will have gotten better in my brain. To Byron and the Goblin I say, Hope is a deep well, faith is the water. And I am drinking deep.
'Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.'
— Khahlil Gibran
Nine days. After the Untethering I will wake up Dawn again. Oh yes, there will be a new dawn…but as I think about it I realize that I don’t want to be a new Dawn. Or even the old Dawn. These long months of hell have changed me it is true, but I am the ultimate editor of these changes. By which I mean that it is not what happens to me, but how I interpret it, how I integrate these changes into that both ubiquitous and ephemeral reality of Self. It is as if I have been hammered on a forge, burned and quenched; but, rather than becoming brittle, I make the choice to be tempered by it.
Yet another appointment with the Doctor today, this one was to have the stitches removed from my neck. [See Whining Allotment, in the post Eleven days] As I was wrangling the wheelchair out of Mom’s trunk I made the mistake of not anchoring myself against the car. Stupid. It happened so fast that I felt like the ground hit me. Drop Attack is such an innocuous phrase, even with the word attack in it; but essentially what happens is that, like a mannequin, the strings holding you up are abruptly cut and down you go. Unlike falling down from dizziness, which happens too, this is more like a conspiracy of Chiari and gravity to stomp my ass. And along with being painful it is wholly unnerving.
This was a bad one. I landed on my tail bone, poor stumpy thing, twice fractured already, then my head bounced on the pavement. Agony. With the help of my Mom and two compassionate people who ran to my aid, I got onto my wheels and we made it into the lobby. By then word had reached the staff of the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Clinic [I spell it out fully because I have great respect for the entire staff.] and two nurses met us at the door. I was a shaking mess of tears and snot. Through the pain, all I could think was that I had just seriously fucked up, having hit the back of my head, right where my brain is malformed… Sensing an impending emotional collapse a nurse took charge and wheeled me back to an exam room. But not before I summoned enough presence of mind to let my Mom know that it was just pain from neuralgia, not some new horror. Seeing the pain of empathy in her eyes hurt my heart. [Though foremost I do it to regain my life, there is also a great desire to end what this is doing to those who love me that motivates me to risk the surgery.] Following a flurry of taking vitals and finding something for me to puke in, I found myself alone for a few minutes. And that’s when I lost my grip. I don’t pretend to any macho stoniness, a life without tears is as empty as a life without laughter. And believe me, I have cried over the Chiari now and again, but never with such abandon. I just sat there in the exam room and wept. I gave my self over to the endless stress of pain, the nausea clinging to my back like a leprous monkey, the fear and bottled-up rage.
And while it hurt, the release felt good. It was an eye in this storm of relentless illness.
Clichés are habitually ridiculed, often deservedly, but there is a reason they persist. Sometimes they are truth that has become tarnished by misuse. Tonight I am cherishing just such a truth: Thanks to the wonders of sativa, I am eating a hot bowl of savory vegetable soup, made with love by my Mom. You can suspect bias, but it is the best damn veggie soup on the planet. I can feel it binding with the percocet to untangle the damage of the day.
“…What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
—Crow Big Foot Blackfoot warrior and orator, Excerpt from his last words
Ten days until I wake up anew. Six days until I get on the plane, which due to the many pressure changes plays unholy havoc with my funky brain. While I may curse the pharmaceutical industry in the depths my black little heart, I’d like to give the inventor of Valium a big sloppy kiss. And I don’t feel the slightest guilt over wanting such medicinally induced Calm. [what a beautiful word. Hitherto, I have focused on negative symbols. Here is a positive symbol—Calm. It is not dissimilar to peace or happiness, yet is has a subtlety of its own. Calm, for me has come to represent acceptance.] No change in the TFP, King Headache had better consider what happened to Louis the XVI and Back Away From The Cranium!… No leaving the house today either, except for happily mandatory wheelchair romps with Wingnut in the snow. And believe me that is some funny shit.
My Grandmother, whom I am honored to consider a friend, has invited me to the opera on Saturday. A selection of Verdi arias, but I'm not sure which yet...I love surprises. If you can’t stand opera, well, I’m sorry for you…Get Stuffed We are going together, a crowd of blood-related theater fanatics…more on this later. The reason I mention it is because I can’t wait. I am dusting off my good suit, polishing my shoes…maybe I’ll shave my head early, a lady friend told me the other day that bald men are sexy. No matter what, I am going to make it to this event. It will be nice to get my mind off of my brain.
Which brings me to this. I should really address my growing death-thoughts. I am torn. When I back myself into a mental corner and say, “Cut the crap Dawn. You’re not going to die.” I feel the truth of it. It’s not cowardice that mutters sulkily, sullen and back-talking, feeding on my fear—It’s not drama either. I suppose this fixation is just another facet of a frightened human being, who, like every other Uber-Ape, is screaming to a silent Architect: Why? Step up, be a Deity, and tell us, why death, why rape, why heroin, why Alzheimer’s horror? Why can’t I learn this lesson?
Given the, some would say unfortunate, combination of being both a poet and Dawn, I have a tendency towards the dramatic. [Those who know me and are reading this are having a good laugh right now…] However, since I was hauled, kicking and screaming, out of adolescence most of this drama is honestly unintentional. Not to say that I fool myself into thinking I am above such things. Drama, when it is not a tool used to bring attention to oneself, can be an extremely effective tool to sway the hearts of others. For example:
On July 14th, 2000, with the help of some wickedly talented Activists, Heroes all, I forced the Alaska State Troopers and the Department of Transportation to end a protest by lifting a 1980 Dodge van off of the concrete-filled barrel that my arm was chained to. Let’s clarify: The barrel was lodged inside a gaping hole we had cut into the van, after removing the gas tank. I was underneath, wrist-chained to a piece of hardened steel deep inside the barrel. [Oh hell yes, I was scared. It was an incredibly stupid, foolhardy, yet utterly necessary act.] There were two other barrels, with two other good friends similarly chained across the highway. These, along with the disabled van, closed that vile, Goddess forsaken Tunnel. Fourteen brave souls blockaded the Whittier Tunnel to draw awareness to the pollution that automotive access is adding to the Sound. Pollution that many respected Biologists estimate will be ten times worse than the Exxon Valdez Spill. For years afterward, indeed to this day, folks occasionally say to me ‘I didn’t know about the danger to the Sound until you idiot Eco-nuts did that.’
When the cops rolled out that giant, bright yellow, Mother of all Front Loaders and picked up the van, right over my head and the 2 ton barrel connected to me, I was terrified. But I did it anyway. Because I believe that any stand we make is never in vain. It echoes. That is why Civil Disobedience Activists beat our heads against the four walls of Democratic Despotism, Apathy, Jingoism, and Intolerance. That’s why we endure teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets. That’s why we eat out of dumpsters when we have to and go to jail at the whim of a growing police state. And if you think I’m employing a little drama here, I’m not. In fact, I sincerely wish that I was…educate yourself, look for any Indy Media (that is the correct spelling) website, or go to www.ruckus.org and decide for yourself.
Okay, enough of that. When I get my feathers up I can be a self-righteous, pedantic bore. Please judge the content, not the mouth.
Isapo-Muxika, the Blackfoot Chief Crow Big Foot, his name was shortened by a white-eye to Crowfoot, was an extraordinary man. Both warrior and peacemaker in his lifetime, through his actions and wisdom countless lives were saved. I could not do justice to his legacy by attempting to summarize it into a story here. The Blackfoot in me, though distant by blood, sings loud sometimes. I urge you to read his history, especially in this time of rampant intolerance in our country. Humbly, to his words of life I would add:
The song of Ravens in winter’s hush The touch, the voice, of a loved one Being the one able to give a loving touch
This and more I will take with me in ten days. —End Transmission— Dawn McKenzie
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death's dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind's singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star.
Let me be no nearer In death's dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer—
-T.S. Eliot The Hollow Men
Eleven Days until I lie down and act brave, in a disinfected field of sterilized steel with clean, blue veils about me arrayed. A field where Angels wear masks and latex gloves; Oh yes, and head-to-toe, skyblue scrubs. And when Death shows up, ready to flip his grim coin, my Spirit will jump up and kick him square in the groin.
Forgive me the occasional doggerel; the traditional spelling of my name is Don and I have always taken a secret pleasure from its inclusion in the word Sardonic.
Once Dr Green has opened my head (a fact I incessantly slam into like an invisible brick wall) and parted the visceral waters, he will sew a dura patch into place. This will relieve the pressure and crowding. There are two kinds of material to use as a patch: cadaver or bovine. And you don’t get a choice; it all depends on the neurosurgeon. I was fairly clear of my own preference…dead person or dead cow, not much of a decision really. I found out that Dr. G uses cadaver dura and suddenly I had a brief thundercloud of anxiety. It wasn’t squeamishness that gave me pause, if we were talking about some other organ I would not hesitate…but this is my brain we’re talking about, my sentient sponge, my cerebellar carburetor, the Bonehouse of my mind.
Then a memory rose up and demanded that I look at this from the outside in. On September 2nd, 1996, my father Red McKenzie died. If I were required to be technical I would have to say that he was my adopted father, but the truth is that he was my Dad. As it should be, my family will infuse this journal more and more as we get closer to It, for I love them, and this journal is motivated by what really matters to me... so a note on my family: I consider myself to be among the luckiest; being adopted and blessed to know my blood family, I am a link between two wonderful families. And while I have a father that I love fiercely, I also have a Dad, a man whom I miss every day. And that same fortunate duality includes my Moms and Grandmothers, my Siblings, Aunts, Uncles…you get the point.
Dad died suddenly of a heart attack. He was on his way to a poker game, which means he was happy in that moment at least. He was an organ donor and his eyes and long bones went to someone who needed them. A piece of my Dad lives still, enriching the life of people I will never knowingly meet. And now I will be the one given a new chance. It is not that I feel I am a selfish person, but it is so easy to lose hold of epiphanies— I want always to remember that I have a choice, every day, to be worthy of this gift.
We pause now for my allotment of whining: On November 1st Dr. Manwiller, my GP, removed a pesky reoccurring cyst that was about two inches from Ground Zero of my Untethering surgery. Though the incision doesn’t really hurt, it only took four stitches and Doc was deft with the scalpel; alas the resection seriously inflamed the occipital neuralgia (read that as Terrible Fucking Pain) that plagues my neck and spine, a symptom of the Chiari. And it will not stop. I’m told that pain is comparable to a body’s Check Engine light. Someone should take this up with whoever did our wiring, because it sucks. They should be pistol-whipped.
There is no doubt that I am dancing around my fear tonight. Babbling might be a better word. Back in August, Dr. Green looked me in the eye and told me the truth. Despite a positive attitude, rallying to stay healthy, and every precaution I know they will take, I could still die on the operating table. There is about a 1% chance. Every day thousands take the same chance and live. My sister, who I deeply respect and admire, walked that gauntlet and lives to dazzle us all.
Yet, you see, this is my life. And there is a 1% chance that I will die in eleven days. Frank wrote, Face your fears or they will climb your back. Tonight, facing the fear I pray, “Let me be no nearer In death's dream kingdom… …Behaving as the wind behaves, no nearer—"
‘Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.’ —Helen Keller
Twelve days. Today has been truncated and crowded with howling. I slept from seven am until noon…woke up mid-vomit (yeah, it is scary) with King Headache stomping around up in my attic. I took my meds and managed to get back to sleep. I woke again at 2:30 to bright afternoon light and Ravens playing in the sky outside my window. When I pulled my self together, I got to thinking that a day is not defined by the rise and fall of Sun, or by the activities of those around me. Farmers and Bean counters may disagree but a day has little to do with sunlight or the tyranny of hours. Frank Herbert [It should be noted that Frank is my lifelong hero. Often I have to be careful not to accidentally plagiarize him. If ever you notice such, email me and I’ll give him his props.] wrote in Dune, the last thoughts of Leto Atreides:
The day the flesh shapes and the flesh the day shapes.
This sentence, the idea contained in it, has stayed with me from the moment I first read it as a young man. It has helped me through some hard times and has become my personal motto. It is a reminder that life is both gift and responsibility, speaking profoundly to the reality that even as the world is shaping us, we are shaping it. What form then, do we give this world? What shape do we allow it to make of us?
Another hero for me is Helen Keller. I doubt that I need to explain why, but beyond the obvious reasons there is a deeper one. I love her because even while she walked a path of hard-earned enlightenment, from her writings I think she accepted and forgave herself for feelings of anger in the void of her darkness…self-pity, resentment at her lot—all the frailty and ugliness that lurk in each and every one of us.
…days like this that my thoughts easily splinter. King Headache is having his way. Screw him. I’m going to play in the snow with Wingnut, my dog friend. He, above all others, knows how to have a good time. With him, an eternity can be packed into twelve days.
Remember remember the 5th of November, The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.
‘…And you may be sure not one leaf will lift itself from the ground and become fast to a twig again.’ —William Carlos Williams The Hunter
Though you may cringe a little, I have to smirk and giggle at this silly refrain — Only thirteen days stand between me and an aired-out brain.
Tonight Moon is full. Celebrate Her while we can, woo Her, beg Her. Swear to Her that Sun means nothing to us, that it’s just friendship…that we never meant to let Him come between us. Strange as it may sound, scientists have learned that Moon is leaving us. The gulf between us widens four centimeters (1.574803148 inches) per year. This may not seem like much, maybe a foot or so in a lifetime. And yet, in cosmic terms this is akin to slamming the front door on the way out…after setting your lover’s favorite clothes on fire. In a mere 800-900 million years we will be like an estranged couple accidentally crossing paths a party...there will no longer be any complete eclipses.
Do not speak to me of rationalizations, I’ve heard them: the rotation of Earth is exerting torque on Moon. This causes Moon to gain orbital energy, increasing the distance between Earth and Moon. Cause and Effect, with their grubby little fingers in all the pies, are slowing the rotation of Earth by 1.5 milliseconds per century. Like saying She always stole the covers, this act of quantifying and explaining is nothing more than sullen grief over a bad break-up. How long until, drunk and maudlin, we start calling Moon in the middle of the night and hanging up. Deep in the heart of every sycophant of science lies a refusal to accept that we are not the sentient center of the universe.
Yet we who trust Her, who bathe in Her light, we know of loss and broken things; we know of solace found in the ebb and flow of her cycles. We know that endings are beginnings. She is not really leaving us, She is leading the way. Shall we follow?
There are two hundred and forty shards of Albert Einstein’s brain scattered around the planet. And the deranged Dr. Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who cut it out (the mangy cur, the cowardly butcher) did it against the wishes of the great Brain Bard. True, this is in some dispute; his son Hans gave permission, but only after Dr. Frankenharvey had injected a 10% solution of formalin through Albert's internal carotid arteries and then caged his intact brain in a jar of even more formalin. He photographed it, dissected it into 10cm. cubes and preserved them in celloidin. Whereupon he set out to find someone to unlock its secrets. He circled the globe, cooled his heels on the doorsteps of countless scientists. He had a few takers but never the jackpot he had hoped for. What followed instead was indignity piled on indignity, at some point Dr. Diabolic hid the relic behind a beer cooler after he could find no one to study it. In 1978, after twenty years, it was rediscovered in some mason jars hidden in a cider box. Today Einstein’s brain is kept at Princeton University, waiting for liberation.
Our Prometheus, reduced to jars of grim preserves. He deserved better. We all do. Yet while I despise Frankenharvey, I understand his desire. How much of me, how much of the Dawn I know, resides in my cranial coral reef? Is there a chance Horrible Harvey could have ferreted out the genius of Einstein from the brain itself?
There is a good chance Dr. Green will want to take a small piece of my brain out, back in the area called the reptile brain, if he feels the dura patch isn’t enough. (Are you ready for this symbol? They call it Electro-cauterization) If he does take a chunk out, what branch of my reptile ancestry will burn away with it? But then again, do I really want to be in touch with my inner reptile?
I wonder if I will dream while I am under anesthesia. In thirteen days will I dream of lizards?