Climbing, climbing, climbing. One step at a time. Ever upward. The rise and fall of my steps easy over rough ground and patchy turf. Cool air moves passed my lips. I inhale the night, fill my lungs, exhale. Each breath is as smooth and rhythmic as my gait. Still, I climb. Tireless. A modern-day Sisyphus, with no stone to push, yet no end in sight.
Climbing, climbing. Step after step. Up and up. With nary an aching limb or rapid beat of heart. Grass gives way to patchy snow — a haphazard quilt of green and white. Until the snow’s mantle consumes the slope, uninterrupted. And when, at last, I reach the top, my step neither slows nor falters — not to consider the path chosen, or exult in quiet isolation at the climb accomplished; not to take in the view of the vast night sky from the peak.
I simply — easily, one foot after another — step off the edge…
…as effortlessly and as resolutely as I had climbed…
…without quickening pulse or gasp of breath…
…and tumble down…
— C.Birde, 4/17
in the woods today —
but for vermillion rush of Maples’ budding,
and wind scraping Autumn from pale Beech leaves,
and reverberating chorus of Spring Peepers’ awakening,
and whisk of garter snake slipping past pond’s lips,
and chipmunk calling the season to order,
and rain of woodpecker’s laughter.
in the woods today —
but for my intruding step,
“Tourne Pond” — C.Birde, 3/16
Hawk and Sparrow —
along the fallow edge they flew,
with wings and talons slicing
that perimeter unseen.
A dance of opposition —
capture and escape;
Unison of hearts intent
Flash of yellow,
thrust of taloned legs —
Sparrow cries alarm.
beating earth and air.
Confusion of color —
ivory, woodland rusts and browns.
But Hawk cannot extract his prize,
cannot pull it under, out, and up
and lift away in flight.
Release is unexpected —
talons unclutch and liberate;
Sparrow streaks to ruffled safety
within the bristle of nearby hedge.
Beyond separating glass —
among fenced and netted stones
of slumbering, tongueless garden —
Nature’s urgent tug and pull
and I am Witness.
“Hawk’s Calling Card” — C.Birde, 1/16
I’ve lost the apple, can’t find it any where. I describe it to them — such a remarkable apple! How could I have lost it? So unusual. Perfect in its imperfection. Though its one side was misshapen, the other held the profile of a man, of Abraham Lincoln.
“Is this it?”
He hands an apple to me. Can it be? the one I dropped and lost mere moments ago? Yes! The weight of it fills my palm. I hold the curve of crisp fruit in my left hand between thumb and forefinger, and turn it back and forth to behold again its remarkable shape.
But…it’s changing…losing its blush of red and green hues; softening beneath my fingers’ grip. Slowly, it reshapes itself into something fleshy, pallid, disturbing. No longer an apple, I now hold what looks like a shrunken, knobby head. A mashed face that sprouts mismatched ears. The narrow spaces behind those ears are filthy with crud. Beneath my fingers, the head moves and shifts and wriggles. Features still uncertain, it stares back at me with dark, bead-bright eyes. No longer a thing of wonder, it is now utterly repulsive.
“Apple Abe” — C.Birde, 12/15
“Young Beech” — C.Birde, 12/15
A young beech gathers sunlight in its parchment leaves and whispers of an Autumn reluctant to depart.
The air is sweet with toasted leaves
and glass-cool breeze against
While time unspools in eddying pools
and restless heaps about
I walk through snapshots,
of pasts and presents, overlaid —
lone, caged bears,
peaked and slender monuments;
Raking seas of leaves
in mountainous heaps,
Hikes through mazes,
tall and golden;
Small hands growing,
A hundred knocks and more
upon our door
in a single night —
My aging, ageless self sees
each image simultaneous;
Concurrent moments captured
amid the blaze of Autumn-colored
“Autumn Leaves” — C.Birde, 11/1/15
“Autumn Reservoir” — C.Birde, 10/16/15
Slowly, the Reservoir refills,
its shoreline diminishing,
as a narrow ribbon of water twists
and dashes around worn-smooth stones
Boulders for stepping stones pressed
against the Tarn’s edge;
Smooth waters dimpled and pocked
with browned lily pads and
rusted grasses rippled
by insistent breeze;
Break upon woodland
of lump-barked ashes,
rough maples and fine-needled pines
lit by fleet, dappled light;
Rock- and root-strewn path
of hard-packed earth
carpeted with fallen leaves
The air, wildflower scented —
asters, goldenrods, and hawkweed;
Leopard frog amidst the leaf mould;
All sounds of humanity,
except our own,
Last night, I discussed the dream in my previous post with a dear friend of mine. She is familiar with Jungian Dream Analysis and knows me well enough to apply her ability and insights to my zany dreams. Having her objective viewpoint to help decode my dreams has been a real gift over past years. I tend to get so caught up in a dream’s narrative and detail, I’m often unable to see its symbolic language, which was particularly true in this instance.
My friend pointed out that during our recent conversations, I had said specifically that I felt “cut off” from my son. In mid-August, he began his sophomore year of college, and for numerous reasons, I thought it would be easier to adapt to his absence this year than last. Having a year under our belts and being familiar with the terrain now has overall decreased any anxiety we previously had experienced. He is a good fit for his college of choice, and all that that entails, including the friendships he’s made there. I had assumed, since there were fewer unknowns this year, that the transition would be easier. But ease is no replacement for presence. I miss him.
Seen from this perspective, my dream’s symbology makes much more sense. It was populated exclusively by women — a small group of nurses, and many other female patients who were grieving and pained, having had whole or partial mastectomies. Women nurse their children at the breast. These women had been literally cut off — precisely the phrase I have been using when I describe how I miss my son.
I still miss my son, but now the dream’s disturbing imagery has been diluted and translated into something I can understand. I am grateful to my friend for her keen perception. And I am very grateful to my husband, who suggested the tonic to help alleviate my sense of distance and disconnect — FaceTime.
White-tiled floors, white-walled corridors. I push through the Hospital’s double doors and arrive at a busy nurses’ station. All the women behind the counter are dressed in blue scrubs, and one harried individual looks up at me. I tell her I’m here for my mammogram appointment. For a moment, all activity stops as the women stare. One checks a clipboard for my name, and doubtfully asks when I made my appointment. My answer doesn’t suit the question; I tell her I’m overdue and found the number in the phone book. She is surprised to find my name on the list, calls one of the other nurses to take me to my room.
My guide leads me briskly through another double door that swings shut behind us as we enter a large, dim area. There are rows of beds here, lined up against the curving walls, and each bed is curtained off in the same dull, flat blue of the nurses’ scrubs. I must hurry, or the nurse will outpace me, but I notice that in each bed we speed by lies a sobbing woman. Many of them clutch pillows to themselves in obvious pain. Most, if not all, wear dressing gowns soaked through with blood. The aisle we hurry down is haphazardly cluttered with tables, each of which contains a shallow, aged-white vessel that resembles a large, elongated marrow bone. The vessels vary slightly in shape and size, but each holds a dusky-pink liquid that bubbles and pops like thickened mud.
In an instant, I realize all these women have had mastectomies, full or partial. When I looked up the phone number to make my appointment, I must inadvertently have dialed the breast cancer unit. I’m stunned. So much pain and suffering. Why is no one helping with the patients’ pain? Why haven’t proper sterilization protocols been used? I do not belong here.
The nurse stops in front of an occupied bed — a woman lies in the fetal position, hugging a pillow to herself. She registers our presence through her pain and tears, and gingerly crawls from the bed. Her look at me is poisonous. The nurse tells me I must wait here, in this rumpled bed with its tangle of blood-stained linens. She hands me a lead-lined wrap to protect me when I am eventually x-rayed. On the back of the wrap, written hastily in clumsy block letters, is the word “maggot”.