August

buttonbush in bloom

End of Summer Insects

By day cicadas

By night crickets and katydids

Where did summer go?

Cattails

Thicket of cattails

A breeze rustles them to song

Green, brown, gone to seed…

I have been adding to my pages of haikus whenever they strike me. At last, the nights are just chilly enough to hint at the coming fall. Early morning bird songs are already greatly diminished, and insects fill in the chorus. Flowers are luxuriating and lawnmowers growl whenever rain clouds disappear.

Where did my summer go? Well, it isn’t gone yet, and I am getting outside on my scooter to enjoy what is left of it. July was me in my room, recovering from a fractured sacrum, so the ability to sit up long enough for 30 minutes on my scooter is a real joy. Fresh air and my daily vitamin D are inhaled with the smell of ponds and woods that I pass by on the paved paths around Kendal. Having grown up in, and then Richard and I building our house in the forests of the Catskills, I am nostalgic for the smell of northeast trees. It smells different here in Ohio, and I miss lying on the ground feeling tree roots entwining beneath me and walking on my own two feet next to a mountain stream.

There is a covered walkway here, a wooden bridge that connects the perimeter road around Kendal to a pathway that leads into the main building. It cuts through a patch of woods before it crosses a swampy vernal pond surrounded by buttonbushes. (see photo above) I often pause my scooter and sit on the bridge within the shaded leafy woodsy area that lies beyond the side rail fencing. I turn off my electric motor and breathe. Sometimes there is surprise- the forest floor hops away as a tiny bunny, a fawn lies in its mottled nest, a woodpecker drills above my head. Or I hear the call of “Birdie, birdie, birdie.”

Convocation of Cardinals   8/1/22

Three male cardinals

Pecking on the forest floor

Know the pope is ill?

I move on towards another larger pond and the stress of our world softens in the wide expanse of sky and water. Allowing my peripheral vision to encompass the big picture reminds me that healing is possible, probable, when given the chance.

This is also the month of my 52nd wedding anniversary. Hard to remember being 18 years old and entering into marriage. What it meant then, what it means now- I am still learning from all the years of materializing partnership, parenting, and beyond into the growth as the widow I now am. Gratitude for it all.

Room 37

In reviewing some of my past posts, I have mentioned the context of our personal dramas playing out against the backdrop of the national and international stages. I will include my personal drama that began two weeks ago and is now very slowly abating. I should be a lot better in another 6 weeks or so. I’lll keep you posted….Judi Bachrach 6/22/22                          Room 37

I fell inside of my room using my rollator to cross an area rug, an act that I had accomplished safely many, many times before. I fell backwards as is my wont, always on my left haunch from years of neurological compromise on that whole side. At first, I got back up and even took the time to clean my-handmade-by-Tibetans-in-Dharmsala rug as my container of yogurt and fruit salad had spilled off my rollator and onto its’ red corner. Aghast at the mess, I successfully cleaned it up, and made a new batch of food to bring to my lunch meeting. I sat through that only feeling a little sore as is usual after a fall. Then I sat through a lovely memorial for an hour. And then the pain kicked in. Sharp acute nerve zingers that were not at all usual.

By dinnertime, I suspected I may have a fracture in my lumbar or sacral area. I knew unless I got it checked out, I would fret. Not that anything special is done about it- but I have a need to understand what is happening in my always changing body issues. I asked an IL friend if she would drive me to the local Mercy Alan hospital so I wouldn’t have to pay for an ambulance. We were shown to a private (too hot) ER room to wait. We saw a kind male nurse who took my information and said he would set up a CAT scan for me to verify any damage.

In about two hours I got the scan. It was painful maneuvering into a wheelchair and on and off the exam table and onto the CAT platform. But I did it and the scan is quick and easy and then more waiting until the radiologist read it. Finally, we heard that there was no sign of fracture and the hardware for my fused L4-5 vertebrae was alright as well. Both answers were a relief and four hours after we had arrived, we got back into the car after breathing the soft moist air of the evening. It was only a little cooler than inside the room, but the air was fresher for not being inside of the ER. A brave boy with a broken arm had cried and went home with a cast shortly before we left. Profuse thanks to my friend for hanging with me for such a long wait. And then…

The next day my body was in more pain. The pain medication they gave me at the hospital is only slightly above Ibuprofen levels and I had refused the steroids they also offered me because of a past negative experience. Usually, steroids make you feel that you are up to any challenge and can conquer the world as it benignly reduces inflammation. But I had had three days of IV steroids for an MS exacerbation years ago. I had a historic abreaction- my MS weakness had scooped me out like an empty paper bag. The steroids made me typically talkative, hungry, and red-faced, but also FURIOUS. I was an angry empty paper bag. I wouldn’t let my husband help me over a curb when we went to the high school graduation of a friend’s daughter. I turned and irrationally yelled out, “Don’t you dare touch me,” which was more than slightly embarrassing as we were both known as psychotherapists in this crowd. Oh well. So, I was reluctant to take the steroids again. Even though we produce our own natural steroids, taking it in a concentrated dosage directly reduces inflammation and can be used in conjunction with antibiotics and other drugs very effectively.

The reputation of the local hospital is that it is not that of a tightly run ship. In the morning, as I

was in more pain than the day before, my nurses suggested I get to the hospital in Elyria for an MRI. I have had many MRI’s in my life to see if my MS had produced any new lesions. It hasn’t for many years, but my latest neurologist of course, had me lie in the loud knocking, honking chamber for a whole series from head to pelvis not long ago. This one would be specific to just my lumbar region and wouldn’t take very long at all. An ambulance took me there as I didn’t think I could handle sitting up in a car and anyway I would not want to have anyone wait with me again for another unknown length of time.

Good decision. What a busy place the Elyria ER is. I was shown into a curtained room pretty quickly and nurses, registrars, and attendants came and went for about 2 hours before a doctor appeared. She asked good questions and realized I wasn’t an easy read due to past neurological issues and operations for stenosis both in my neck and lower back. She suggested an MRI to which I said yes, and this is was why I had come. I was then rolled out of the room on the hospital cot and placed in the hallway. For six more hours.

A sea of busy people surrounded me. From doctors to nurses, attendants to janitors, everyone had a job to do rushing back and forth, socializing on the run- planning a party, describing the last patient, and then over the loudspeaker- FULL TRAUMA IN ER, repeated three times right over my head where I had been parked. Faster chatter of “Car vs. motorcycle,” and another said, “Actually it was a motorcycle that ran into a car.” Soon a man was wheeled by me and he was saying,” I was just driving along when this 15-year-old girl on a motorcycle run into me…” He was bleeding around his arms but was clearly coherent. A short calm of activity before the next storm included a question asked of one another by some attendants. “What bottom feeder in the ocean would you be?” “A shrimp, well, not a lobster…,”and more answers of obscure creatures from those that knew their oceanic bottom feeders.

Another trauma announcement. “57-year-old man, some drinking, fell on the kitchen floor and is totally unresponsive.” Ambulance drivers arrive, unload and scoot out of the way. Soon loud garbled angry ranting was heard, so I presumed the man was now very responsive. A nurse running by commenting to her friend, “The wife smelled of alcohol, too.” A son was heard to say- “They wasn’t drinking much, ‘cause I only saw two cans…”

In another curtained area a diabetic elderly father was lovingly visited by his adult children all day. “Well, dad,” the son said, “the truck was only $500.00 a month for four years but he ain’t telling it like it is. Gotta be at least 8 years. Ya know he ain’t good with numbers.” His father agreed and there were many truck comparisons discussed for quite a while until the son had to go back to work. A kiss followed by,” Love you, dad. “Love you, too, son.” An ebullient daughter arrived next. She worked elsewhere in the hospital and described in detail her father’s morning to his doctor, until the time that her dad had called her after she had left for work and said he didn’t have the energy to pick up the remote to the TV. As a loving caretaker she made sure the nurses and docs had the full picture of what he had and hadn’t done to bring on this sudden weak spell.

Later in the afternoon, (I considered him a kind of an invisible friend of mine as the hours ticked

by) I heard a doctor scold him for his sips of soda and two doughnuts that he ate yesterday. Protests and some muttering about his daughter, but my friend was good natured about it all. It was a tight knit family that supported him. I was glad for him.

My legs were so weak that I could not make it to a restroom and use it by myself. I snagged a passing nurse and asked to use a bedpan. Maybe 45 minutes later a really lovely nurse that was appropriately named Summer (it was the first day of summer) came to my rescue. Since I was right out in the hallway, where could she safely roll my wide cot without bumping into all of the other wide carts, laundry bins, ambulance cots, and wheelchairs to give me some privacy?  Aha! A plastic sheeted hallway that was under renovation.

We could hear workmen inside the translucent covering, but urgency overrode modesty. Summer was professional, discreet and a really good driver of hospital carts. I made it safely back to my wall space which further demonstrated her parallel parking skills. I was now famished having only had a small salad before I was whooshed away from Kendal at around 2:00. I mentioned to several people rushing by that I needed something, anything, as I had a hunger headache and was feeling faint which is a trick since I had been lying down the whole time. “I’ll get your nurse, I am not your nurse, not just now…”

A nurse did come by to prick my finger to see if I was diabetic. I said, no, I am just very hungry. “Just checking and see, your number is good,” she threw over her shoulder as I held the ball of cotton over my bleeding fingertip. And then another trauma patient was admitted with “brain activity” later spoken of as a stroke. I saw the woman in question wheeled by and she couldn’t answer any questions and could not squeeze a loved one’s hand. OK, a hunger headache will not be the death of me.

All of a sudden a transport woman appeared by my cot announcing, “Hi, I’m Fran. I am to take you to the MRI now.”

“Great”, I said, pushing away a fantasy of eating, well… anything by then. It was around 6:00. Fran told me that my wall space was called room 37. Good to know but it had taken her a while to find it. She actually got me into a wheelchair despite my screeches of pain and told me the MRI guys were great and if I wasn’t wearing any metal I probably wouldn’t have to put on a gown. Good again, as transferring had been painful and undressing and dressing seemed an impossible task.

Down to the bottom of the hospital where all the mysterious radiology arts are performed, Fran deposited me in the bare waiting room. One cheerful chatty man came out after he and his partner had been discussing the merits of the rock music that their current patient had chosen to listen to. They didn’t like it as much as the Hungarian folk music an earlier client had asked for. Ah, the bounty of the internet through earphones. He asked me what music I wanted and from previous MRI experiences I said I’ll just take earplugs. He earnestly suggested, “How about ocean sounds?” I said, “OK, yes, ocean sounds were fine.” He was glad I agreed.

 I used the wait for my turn to move my upper body after lying around all day. The guy’s partner

peeked around the corner and said, “Wheelchair Tai Chi. Cool.” I did not disabuse him of my coolness as drained and in pain as I was. They were both indeed nice guys.

Finally, I somehow crawled up onto the MRI bed, got a bolster under my knees, and lovely thick padded headphones. I was handed my call button and slid into an apparently brand new “Siemans Healthineer” MRI machine. It was as spacious as a tube could be and the glide in was ultra smooth. The ocean roared and gurgled in my ears and the powerful magnetic noises were as minimal as this machine could ever be. 25 minutes later I was rolled out, a star patient who did not move, and the pictures were fine. Next up the was the wait for a radiologist to read them. No idea when that would be as I have always been told after this kind of photo shoot.

A different transporter came for me and to return me to room 37.  By this time, I was determined to eat something. I had looked longingly at the snack machines as we whizzed by them when we headed up in the elevator. We arrived upstairs in the middle of the shift change. Smells of dinners were just cruel, and someone had baked a cake for the surgical residents for some occasion. “And what do you guys do when you are not on call?” Some flirting, some cake, and then the sea of talking people dispersed and it was quiet again. My time for demanding food had come. Wait, was that my very own nurse still on duty? It was!

I said loudly, “Sorry to bother you, but I have been here for a very long time and I am starving.” The nurse took pity on me. Usually a healthy vegetarian, I immediately devoured the sliced turkey on plain white bread but skipped the can of Sprite and pretzels she had brought me. That sandwich was enough to quell my pounding head. Uh Oh. I needed to use a bedpan again. I saw my nurse rushing away and I said, “Sorry, but now I have to use a bedpan.” She said, “You keep saying sorry, but I’m not feeling it.” She said it with a very slight smirk which was Ok as long as she provided me with the means to relieve myself. She found a privacy screen to surround my cot and that was enough for me, and at this point, who cared? Not me and surely not all of these official body mechanics swarming around room 37.

At about 9:00 a new doc arrived and the privacy screen was long gone. He said, “Good news, the radiologist saw no fractures and your fusion hardware is fine. We will put you on steroids and the previous script of Toradol should help with the pain. I will work on your discharge papers.” I now accepted the steroids gratefully however they may change my personality. I had to have some relief from the inflammatory pain. I had a shot of my painkiller (stronger than taking it orally) and swallowed the steroids.

½ hour later, the papers were deposited at the end of my cot. When my nurse flitted by she saw them and said. “Good, you can go home now.”

“But how? I came by ambulance.”

“Well, we will call you an Uber.”

“I said, look at me. I can’t sit up in a car.”

“Isn’t there someone you can call ‘cause waiting for an ambulance takes a long time.”

“I have a daughter who lives in Lakewood but she is exhausted from her non-sleeping baby. And I can’t get into and sit up in a car.”

Another sigh from the nurse. She came back a minute later saying, “I always feel bad for people

who have to use an ambulance. They said they might be here any time from 11:00pm until midnight.”

I blanched, but what choice did I have? In another quiet moment I looked over at the woman in the nursing station who had been manning the phones all day on her very long shift. I told her that I thought she was a whiz and a wonder to be so organized with fielding doctors, administrators and anxious relatives all day. She thanked me and another man came in and asked for some papers. She indicated they were on the table over there. He said something about that being sloppy. The woman shook her head and pointed at me. “Uh unh. According to her, I am very organized,” and gave me a wink.

Thankfully, the ambulance arrived to load me up on their gurney at 10:30. Goodbye ER room 37. I was so grateful to be on my way home. The SCC (Stephen’s Care Center) night staff welcomed me home and due to steroids, I was able to actually shuffle with my rollator to painfully but successfully to use the bathroom on my own with intense care. Wow! In the morning, still feeling the help of steroids (no anger in sight) I participated in the Olympic event of a shower and got dressed and fixed breakfast verrrrry carefully. (I only scored a 2, but hey, it was the Olympics.) Satisfied with accomplishing a few normal human activities, I went to bed. After 3 hours of lying around I got up to use the john, and…my legs collapsed and down I went, directly on the same haunch. Bad immediate pain. My call button didn’t work! I crawled onto the toilet, relieved myself somehow and pulled the call button cord on the wall above my head.

The sense of strength I had enjoyed was gone again. I now had to have two people lift me on and off a commode. I am not able to get out of my bed on my own. I have to ask for every little thing I need and am so grateful I am attended to by someone who calls me by name and isn’t rushing anywhere. After a day of misery adjusting to the sudden loss of all independence and unabated pain as the steroids wore off, I woke up this morning with a steroid afterglow.  This time I called on my nurses to do my morning ablutions as I will not misread the temporary relief of strength to attempt standing on my own until my legs can obey a standing order again.

Last night the head nurse came in and said a new MRI report indicated a possible small fracture in my sacrum was found. I can tell you that from my own Goddess-like senses, that yes, I knew I have a fracture or otherwise I would not have lost the capacity of bearing weight in my legs. And the acute sharp pain? That is a new pain for me, and a fracture is the only thing that makes sense. There is no other treatment except for time to heal it and as sitting and standing depends on a sacrum, I won’t be doing more than short supervised experiments of those actions as bone and muscles heal of their own accord. Isn’t that amazing? The body wants to heal and it shall.

And to end with a small miracle, my older daughter came for a visit outside the ambulance entrance here today with my 6-month-old grandson. He can’t come inside as he cannot wear a facemask. I transferred to a wheelchair with only slight pain in my left knee which had gotten torqued from my second fall. I sat for a full 15 minutes of non-stop talking with my daughter and singing baby songs to his smiling face with two brand new teeth to show me in return.

Slowly but surely my recovery is in sight. And my 2-and-1/2-year-old grandson who was napping at home thought I needed a piece of cheesecake that he told me on the phone that he had liked “very much, very much”. My daughter also brought me a scarf my older grandson had picked out from Spain where they had visited last month. The final healing food was two chocolate chip cookies that I had seen him make last night on FaceTime with his mother. Watching him contain himself from eating chips out of the dough was a hoot. I now will check to see if my cookies still contain any chips. Little rascal.

I am glad to be back in the SCC in room 602.

July

The beauty of fireworks exploding outward in streaks of color, the anticipation of each boom and whiz, the technical ability to create multicolored images that are suspended in the air before they are diffused into the night sky, all make for a display that is impressive. But to think of my country’s anthem, “the bombs bursting in air” makes me very uncomfortable with the creative use of explosives. I understand that wars are fought to establish boundaries and political power gains that may not be crossed. But I cannot reconcile war with my desire for an end to such a violent means of being human within a society of other humans. Surely after thousands and thousands of years of warfare and slaughter, we might have found another way to respect the needs and betterment of all people in all lands.

Apparently not, for here we are unable to reconcile raging divisions in America “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” let alone stop the vicious determination of a Russian autocrat to crush and swallow his sovereign neighbor, Ukraine. Because we have become so technically advanced in the art of weaponry in the form of nuclear weapons, we do not dare push the insane man dedicated to that conflict- in case he decides to obliterate the world faster than climate change will.

As a species, I am hoping we have given ourselves enough time to continue to evolve beyond our more primitive instincts. I have hope that we will. I am not necessarily thinking it will happen in my lifetime. We have a long way to go. May my baby grandsons become part of that growth. May new leaders emerge from this split from reality, from cause and effect, from shirking responsibility for global cooperation to guide us away from short sighted destruction to a long-term sustainable creation of a new society of equals.

Yes, that sure sounds like a fairytale. There will always be inequalities of one kind or another. There is need for balance between opposing views and we seem to be reaching a tipping point that negates exploring that possibility. Us and Them, Right and Wrong, Progressive and Conservative, are mortal enemies, and are no longer seen as potential partners for solutions to the very real needs of our world. When will the pendulum swing away from this madness?

This 4th, I am unsure if our town will be holding fireworks. There were some shaky legal issues. Fireworks are expensive and the insurance must be astronomical. Not all people in our town have enough food to eat or can be given the healthcare they deserve. There are people in my town who are hungry and hurting and barely getting by. Giving them fireworks to celebrate our country’s freedom from England’s rule might not be the best use of resources. They might be better served by strengthening the systems that are supposed to support them. It is hard to cheer for the path America has taken. Freedom is best served with a strong dose of responsibility to the whole of our community. If our individual freedoms come at the cost of taking away someone else’s it cannot be truly free.

Here at Kendal, we have our own rituals of a very homemade parade, of recumbent trikes and pets and a whole brigade of lawn chair enthusiasts who open and fold them and clack them on the ground with amusing precision as they march around the circle before our main building. That is always followed by the thoughtful remarks of a long-term resident, entitled, ‘Towards a More Perfect Union’. I am always touched by his wisdom and his deep faith in reaching for that goal.

June

June. It used to be the month we celebrated my husband Richard, first as a father on Father’s Day, and then a week later for his birthday. Now it is a month for memories and four years after his death, sweet nostalgia. My daughters and I have each our own Papa-stories and I look forward to sharing some of them with his grandsons as they grow older. I am thinking today of our time down by the Sawkill river that bordered my grandmother’s field in Shady, N.Y. We moved boulders out of the way together to make small swimming holes contained by our newly constructed rock dam. We often cavorted there as teenagers, young adults, and later as parents when we brought our two daughters to experience the joys of a Catskill mountain stream.

I have always been stunned by the unfolding beauty of June. The excitement of early spring bursts of color gives way to fully leafed trees, exuberant newborn critters, and a steady progression of flowers no longer worried about sudden frosts but perhaps a dry spell. So far, we are experiencing unusually hot weather for northeast Ohio but nothing like the deadly heat in the south and west of the country. We also do not lack for water where I am- Kendal at Oberlin was built on wetlands which required strict legal adherence to the proper way to construct our seven ponds around the campus. Water lilies abound at the edges of the ponds and the waterfowl have easy access to the grass and lawns that surround them. Rows of goslings line up behind goose and gander for swimming and grazing lessons, with little regard to our human presence. Frogs glurk and croak while the occasional turtle steadfastly makes its way across your path. June.

In contrast to this orderly blossoming, our world is painfully engaged in war, political, and financial upheaval, while COVID still flourishes in its destiny of viral mutation. Islands of sanity prevail as the January 6th committee hearings are staged for primetime American audiences- but who knows if reason-based reality TV will make a difference when it comes time to vote. Our Ohio governor has made it legal for schoolteachers to have 24 hours of training for them to have guns in the classroom. It is very hard to bear the mentality that supports such thinking. It is easy to say things like America values guns over children. Or that it is easier for an angry young man to get legal assault rifles than a frightened young woman to get an abortion. True, as of right now, but I am wary of all reductionistic thinking. I do not want to feed soundbites on either side.

I know where I stand but find the work of keeping my mind and heart open as we head into this heat wave of anger a fulltime background to my daily life. Getting outside on my scooter as often as I can to circle Kendal’s campus is my touchstone to ground that inner work. I have been writing many haikus whenever a thought strikes me. I write about everyday happenings and find the structure of limited syllables a great support in saying what I mean to say in a clear and direct manner. So, I’ll end with this one from May:

Morning Raga   5/23/22

The drone is mowers

Songs of praise from all the birds

The tabla, my heart

May

Celebrations in May 2022

May 01: May Day, Beltane

May 05: Cinco de Mayo, Kodomo-no-hi (Children’s Day in Japan

May 08: Mother’s Day, V-E day in Europe, My youngest grandson’s fifth month on the planet

May:09 Russia Celebrates End of War (different time zone)

May 26: World Dracula Day (who knew?)

May 30: Memorial Day

Here we are in May. The earliest spring flowers in Ohio have been and went and now we are well into the next phase of bushes and flowers and leafing trees all anticipating summer. We had early morning frosts last week, but it feels as if those may not return and we might finally settle into enduring warmer weather. Or not. It is hard to predict what the weather is supposed to be like anymore.

And it is hard to predict what will happen on the geo-political front as well. We are dreading May 9th with good reason. What will Putin do to show his policies are succeeding in confronting the West? It is frightening to contemplate as he continues to decimate what he can of Ukraine. We are cheering the Ukrainians on as we watch the destruction of their country in sadness and horror. The world focuses on their valiant struggles for freedom and democracy vowing support and unity in unprecedented ways.

Meanwhile in America, we are watching the erosion of our own fundamental democratic ideals. The insistent rhetoric of lies has become acceptable to the Republican party. (By no means are Democrats always truthful, but this current trend is on a different scale.) Truth is no longer the basis for making a case for your beliefs. The efficacy or lack of efficacy of proven results in government no longer matters. The fear of living in such a distorted world is rampant and fear is the food that feeds autocracy. When the world runs amok people crave rigidity to counteract being so out of control. Much of the world is leaning towards or already in the grips of autocracy. We might well be on our way there ourselves as we appear to be so apathetic as a nation.

Now we know about the leak of the Supreme Court draft laying out the archaic reasons for overturning Roe vs. Wade. Perhaps it is my turn to feel like the minority as millions of other Americans have felt for so long. Some small percentage of ultraconservatives  will sigh in relief as their beliefs are confirmed, while mine are devastated. I live in a progressive bubble in a progressive college town while in my state of Ohio senators in Trump’s camp are being voted back in.

What to do? Where lies hope? I explore my own fears and hopes. How do I contribute to fear or hope in my daily life? Where do I turn away from facts and insist the world be as I want it to be? Where do I make a difference and contribute to the world? How do I participate as an American and as a world citizen?

I invite myself to the party of hope and belief in the fundamental truth of love. This month, l’d rather celebrate that in whatever large or small ways that I can find.

“April, c0me she will”…

“April, come she will…”

Simon and Garfunkel’s song comes to mind as do so many others (I used to sing madrigals and well remember John Dowland’s “April is in my mistress’ face… but in her heart a cruel December). This invigorating seasonal change for those of us who live in a temperate zone is always a thrill. I have often said that we tend to think of spring as two or three days of perfection. The sky is blue, the sun is warm but not too hot, gentle breezes are waltzing with the daffodils, the multi-colored tulips, and fragrant lilacs while the season unfolds within a palette of myriad shades of green. Of course, spring also means snowstorms, icy roads, buds frozen never to bloom until next year, and endless dreary rainy days when even the dogs are quick to do their business and just want to stay inside.

We hold ideals of spring up to the reality of the unpredictable nature of the lions/lambs of March and the rain/snow showers of April. As with all ideals, we prefer the gentler kinder version compared to a prolonged seesaw of temperatures producing crocuses and astonishing wind gusts of tiny blizzards. (On the other hand, yesterday we were graced by a sudden rainbow.) We need to keep all manner of outdoor clothing accessories close to hand in our overstuffed closets and entryways to suit all weather whimsy. Now if you are living in a temperate zone of the southern hemisphere, you are well into the beginning of winter. Your shorts and sandals are sleeping, and you are anticipating the delights of the cold weather activities that we here in northeast Ohio have gratefully left behind.

Ideals and reality become sharply illuminated whenever there is a crisis to draw our attention to the current level of threat to our beloved preferred values. Our fearful attention is being drawn every day by headlines and news reports that are revealing massive changes in our world right down to significant ripple effects affecting our daily lives. We are forced to pay attention to these dramatic events. Helpless, horrified, outraged, giving what we can, paying attention to as much information as we can safely ingest without self-harm, filtering truth from fearful speculation- we each are struggling to find hope in hearts already broken open by our personal lives and now, more and more visibly, by our collective lives.

Life includes all of the above, every single day of spring and winter, gentle and disastrous. It is seasoned by human ignorance, by we who are both so resilient and creative, as well as so very cruel and destructive. What personal ideals of yours have been tarnished or trampled these last few years? What was a final straw? Was it the pandemic, the shooting in your neighborhood grocery store, school, or concert, the virulent wildfires and tornados, the evidence of rabid hatred and denial that keeps uncovering how broken our most basic systems are? It is not hard to find multiple wrongs and defilements of my wistful illusions about the well-being of my state, my country, and my world.

I summon my ideal spring day from past memories but trust that this year, there will be at least a few new ones to add to and refresh the imagery I love. When it arrives, I will recognize it and abandon myself to its delight as best I can. How grateful I am that I do not have absolute dominion over the weather. The desire for control is dictated by fear. There is such rampant fear abroad in our world that autocrats everywhere are offering their rigid exclusive controls as the only salvation from chaos. I choose not to feed my or anybody else’s fear but rather acknowledge that spring will or will not arrive whenever or however it chooses. I choose to embrace all of life’s adventures as best I can. We are asked to trust that we have what is needed to meet each new day, in each new season, no matter our inherent preferences.

I wrote this song over thirty years ago but could only remember the chorus and the first verse. I recently wrote two verses to complete it anew. (It is rather breathy because my posture is very poor lately.)

New Leaves by Judi Bachrach

1) New leaves are growing everywhere

    Down on the ground up in the air

    I know, it’s for us to share.

Wrapped up tight against the sun

They will unfold them everyone

Until their growing is done.

Chorus:

Higher than the year before

Greener, grander, more and more

Changing ’til the very end

Then falling to return again.

2) Palest yellow, deepest green

   Every color in between

   April is painting summer’s dream.

Leaves of every shape and size

From the mud up to the skies

The earth is inviting us to rise.

Chorus:

3) Spreading roots beneath the ground

   Tendrils sprouting all around

   Wherever the light can be found.

Over ruins, over walls

On mountaintops, by waterfalls,

We grow towards the light, as it calls.

Chorus:

Living Here

I received an email today that featured a photograph of empty baby carriages and strollers lined up at the train station in Poland placed there for Ukrainian refugee mothers arriving with infants in their arms. It broke me open, and I wept.

With the Ashes, Peace 3/7/22

I cannot leave a baby stroller at the train station

for Ukrainian mothers fleeing to Poland

I cannot open my nursing home here in Ohio to house them

I cannot feed the millions of refugees

hold their hands to

absorb their shock and devastation





I can leave hope on the tracks

for my own baby grandchildren

to carry forward into their lives

open my heart to bear witness

to bloodshed and violence

feed peace into the turmoil

of my own war-torn mind

I can only absorb my shock and devastation

from the chaotic world we share

from losing the country I thought I safely lived in





And with the ashes of our world

intentionally cultivate peace. Peace. Peace.

We live here in our time, in this world. We each bring what we can, where we can, as best we can, every day. For this I am grateful. That I live in a community where I am safe and valued and cared for is a gift I do not take for granted. We move on and need our lives to reflect our commitment to living as fully and as engaged a life as we can. I am astounded every day at the life stories and talents my fellow residents bring.

As a community, Kendal has been changed by the long adaptation to the pandemic. We are less interconnected through community gatherings. Although we are now able to meet in public spaces and eat together without masks or the mandatory six feet distancing, there are many among us who are fragile and feel that it is still not wise to mingle so freely. There has been a tendency to stay home in cottages, apartments, or rooms rather than attend newly sponsored lectures or concerts in the auditorium. Now that many presentations are videoed and played directly on our internal TV channel or zoomed, people often choose to stay and watch in the comfort of their own dwellings.

We are healthy and aware of these choices and we are proud of our resilience. The Audio visual teams work very hard to bring programs to us all in this new format. Sometimes they are hybrid shows-performers have the satisfaction of smaller live audiences while many watch the same show on their TV. The next annual celebration at Kendal is called Spring Fling, and the theme this year is Dance! I wrote a very silly spoof of a waltz to the tune of Daisy, Daisy, an old favorite. I include a video that the waltz- meister taped of me and my piano player Betsy while the AV group was filming us for the event. He will have three couples waltzing in a line dance to my song and the tape will eventually have cuts of me and Betsy and the dancers sliced together to create a whole piece. I gather the women will dance on oblivious to the increasing frustration of their partners as the verses indicate. I was wearing a mic and my voice will hopefully be much more clear and articulate than what my friend’s phone picked up in this clip. I include the lyrics here and it will give you a taste of life here as we approach the inevitability of spring.

Berserker’s Waltz for Spring Fling 2022 (to the tune of Daisy, Daisy)

Waltzing out winter, here at our Spring Fling.

I’d love to understand you, more than anything

The mumbles behind your mask,

make it hard to ask

Our hearts seem to click, so please tell me quick





The results of your last testing.

Darling partner, give me your answer true

Do you have Omicron or happen to have the flu?

Behind your mask is the answer

I love that you’re a good dancer

At six feet apart, you’ve still got my heart

But you just won’t give me a clue.





Darling partner, perhaps this just won’t work

I wish we could be closer, but I don’t want to be a jerk

What should happen next?

Maybe I should just text?

Call me lazy or maybe half crazy

It’s enough to go berserk.






Love and Remembrance

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of my husband’s death. I celebrate Love and loss and grief and gratitude. We had rented a funky house that became an unlikely temple as Richard’s death journey proceeded to his final breath. Our former home had been packed up and sold. The lease on the rental was up just a few months after his memorial, so my daughter and son-in-law quickly and efficiently helped me secure a place to live in Kendal at Oberlin, a wonderful continuing care retirement facility near their own new home. There was a final flurry of marking boxes for storage, auction, and “Bring to Ohio”. I know for sure one box I had meant to keep was lost in the shuffle of that final push, and it surprises me when something I did not know I had saved turns up at random moments in my room. Opening up some documents I needed for bringing my old will up to date in Ohio with a new lawyer, a paper slipped out onto the floor.

It was a lovely handwritten note from a couple who had stayed at the Hope Lodge in Manhattan at the same time as Richard did, accompanied by his childhood friend, Cliff. Hope Lodges are well set up free accommodations for those out-of-town patients undergoing cancer treatments in various cities. Richard was heading into his final stage of preparing to receive stem cells for his small B cell Lymphoma.

He knew it would be the hardest part of his treatment yet. After the fact, his main oncologist said, “Yes, we bring you as close to death as possible before implanting the stem cells.” Although Richard seemed remarkably well after the many months of basic chemo and radiation, this powerful next step was intended to kill all of his bone marrow, hopefully to be replaced by growing his own brand-new cancer free cells. He would be like a newborn infant with no immunity. As I was unable to be with him because of my own weakened state of health, Cliff decided he would fly out from his home in California to escort Richard to and from Manhattan and stay at the Lodge and support him for the time it would take to complete the grueling process.

As Cliff remembers, “It was a very tender time.” This is the note I discovered just two days ago.

Dear Judi and girls,

My name is—. My husband is —-. We met Richard at Hope Lodge this past year.  My husband was battling cancer, too.

            We both want you to know what an impact Richard had on us. In the kitchen at Hope Lodge we would sit with Richard and Cliff, sometimes talking, sometimes quiet. Richard’s mere presence conveyed compassion, humility, and strength. He shared his love for his family, his beautiful home and his horses.

            To observe the friendship that he and Cliff shared was also very moving. What a beautiful gift they shared for all these years.

            We pray that you are staying strong. Know that you and your daughters are in our prayers. Also know that we are so grateful to have crossed paths with Richard and therefore you. The fond memories of him will stay in our hearts forever.

                                                                        Sincerely, ———-

I am grateful for the reappearance/synchronicity of that heartful message. Happy Day to honor Love.

My techie friend did indeed show me how to plug in a recording of a song I wrote on this blog. I put the lyrics in a former blog, titled, “Back again” on November 6th My thanks to Robin for this. It is a very rough recording of, Find Your Way, Children, Children. I’ll keep at this to do cleaner versions of some songs as I go. Love, joy, thanks and peace to you.

Two Great Transitions

Two Great Transitions

I wrote to my daughter about the impending death of my friend recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because she gave birth to her second son just a month ago, she texted back, “Yes, the two great transitions: birth and death.”

I was not physically with my daughter during her labor, but I was psychically tuned in the whole 24 hours. The news of her safe delivery of a healthy child brought such joyful relief to me. Holding Sebastian a few days later was a marvel. How is it that a new human being emerges from within such a tiny earth-bodysuit? His endearing oceanic features swirling around the tireless effort of nursing and digestion melted the supposed boundaries between us. Holding a newborn has that effect- the sweetness of no apparent ego softens the heart with the utter vulnerability infants offer to their caretakers.

Four weeks later I had the great honor and privilege to sit with my friend as he breathed his last. He had been having digestive difficulties since September, but until he violently vomited all Christmas night, his doctors had no answers for him. After that horrible experience, he underwent more elaborate tests and a tumor in his small intestines was finally discovered. Given that the cancer stemmed from his pancreas, it was a terminal prognosis. After giving him a stent through the tumor to allow him to maintain a liquid diet, he was told he had had 5-6 months to live. He came home and seemed to tolerate this arrangement for a couple of days. Then he was stricken with bouts of intense stomach pain/nausea.

It was a matter of hours before his condition further worsened and within a day, he was actively dying. He had moved from his home to a room covered by skilled nursing just down the hall from me so he could be rehydrated. After a day of agony when no medication could ease his distress, his hospice team put him on morphine to curb his pain and to naturally speed up the death process. Yesterday, his wife asked me to sit with him so she could take some time to eat.

After sitting with my husband during his death, I took one look at my friend and knew he was very close to the end. No longer conscious, eyes unfocused and gasping for breath, I sang to him because it was what we shared most together- singing folksongs and listening to him play his guitar. From my own Hospice volunteer training years ago, I remembered that hearing is the last sense organ to go. I sang songs he knew and towards the end, found myself singing melodies and words that emerged just for him. His moments of apnea increased and when I told that to the nurse outside the door, she administered some more drops of morphine. His body relaxed deeper into the bed, the space between breaths lengthened as he lifted his shoulders once or twice to expand his expiring lungs. After a few more quiet gasps, he was gone.

My friend was an adamant atheist. I quieted any of my own beliefs as I watched him leave. But that Great Transition of leaving the earth-bodysuit behind, is a powerful magnet. When that which animates the body departs, it feels like a pull towards Other. Whatever you know or think you know about what happens next is filtered through our human mind. For me, it feels like a withdrawal to somewhere that is not frightening, but more peacefully spacious and to me, like Home. I am glad he is wherever he is or isn’t and no longer suffering. The Hospice team was sweetly efficient and respectful.

His wife returned quickly when she was summoned. I was reminded that many people die when their beloveds are not present. It seems easier for the dying ones to let go. She and I are friends on our own behalf, and there were tears and hugging and gratitude that in the end, though there were no long months to say good-bye or enjoy final experiences, neither was there prolonged suffering. I think many of us would prefer to leave that quickly and not count down the days we may or may not have left. Some people beat the prognosis and live quite well, months or even years beyond their supposed expiration date. But many more do not.

I can say that I had already determined to finally get my will transferred from New York to Ohio in the new year. I had arrived here in a widow shock fog over three years ago. It was past time to do this. After asking advice from my brother-in-law, I found a highly recommended lawyer that many Kendal folks use. I woke up this morning with renewed vigor to do to do what I can in taking care of all practical matters before my own Transition. The office of my new Ohio lawyer called me to say they had received the copy of my old will that a friend had dropped off for me in town. I am going to add my two grandsons into this new document, as they were not yet even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when this former will had been written twelve years ago.

The two Great Transitions of birth and death remain a mystery and are full of potential sorrows and joys. I am grateful for my life and today, even grateful for the unknown chapter of transition that awaits me. I think I’d like to have someone sing songs or play music for me when I am leaving as well…

Here is one of my friend’s favorite songs. I sang it in his honor last night in our Song Swap music exchange we have every couple of weeks. The hour of singing we shared was a moving tribute our pivotal folk-singing friend.

The New Year

We have already stepped into the new year on Day 2. It is as full of unknowns as any other year, only it includes unsavory ingredients we’d rather not have to cook with. Yet here we go into the kitchen. The old adage is that we cannot control events, but only control how we respond to them. We certainly cannot control how others respond to them which has caused friction between family members and friends over the holidays. Plans resist fluidity and last minute adaptations which are the only sensible means of navigating our way through the turmoil caused by flight cancellations, sniffles that turned out to be COVID, or that one of the people in a proposed gathering is suddenly far more cautious than the others. Did you get tested? When? Do you trust the test?

Standing up for your beliefs around preventing the transmission of the Omicron variant can be pitted as “wrong” against a differing point of view. Feelings are hurt when you are not validated, and given the amount of disinformation and shifting timelines of valid scientific recommendations that are out there, one could pick and choose ‘proofs’ that are contradictory. “Too many cooks do not just spoil the broth”, but may inadvertently spread the virus.

What to do? The future has other unpleasant variables that cannot be ignored. The political fragility of democracy in America, the planetary crisis that is ever growing in intensity, and the deleterious ripple effects of human beings living on a constant edge with one another all contribute to a sense of overwhelm. Our personal dramas continue against the struggling world. One day I feed on the sugar of my delicious baby grandson, and the next I have no appetite because my good friend at Kendal has a 99% sure diagnosis of pancreatic cancer with perhaps some months to live. The full test results are still not in.

All of us have a tory to tell. All of us have had to cope and flex and renegotiate our priorities. I encourage everyone to find ways to share the stress with trusted people in your lives. As a natural introvert, I am learning to reach out more to others. Despite my physical limitations, it nourishes me to open my heart to listen to the complaints, worries, and struggles that fellow Kendalites are dealing with. It is a mutual human need to share. I take my own turn within my closest circle. I also will restart therapy sessions with the wonderful psychologist that works at Kendal. She and I are on similar spiritual paths and having lost Richard as my intimate partner, I know how easy it is for me to glide over the bumps in my road without paying attention. And I do want to pay attention.

I sat down to write a song for the New Year. I wrote several versions and scrapped them all until this one got baked into a satirical cake. Some of you already heard this song and I am working with a techie friend in a few weeks to be able to warble the melodies for you to hear on the blog.

New Year Waltz 2022 by Judi Bachrach

Here we are waltzing into a new year.
Do we drink champagne?
Do we cry in our beer?
It’s hard to get cheerful
or any more tearful
We’ve all heard an earful about this past year.

We can try dancing while six feet apart.
It won’t stop the beating 
of my loving heart.
Counting out 1,2,3
starts us off swimmingly.
No stepping on toes, we’re apart from the start.

Singing inside the K 95 mask.
I can’t understand you 
or tipple from my flask.
But you don’t want my spit,
Or risk us both getting sick
Keeping us healthy is quite the dry task.

Let’s waltz out the old and sing in the new.
There’s no looking back
Skip the year in review.
Moving ahead
means more zooming in bed.
So let’s waltz out the old and sing in the new.
Let’s waltz out the old and sing in the new.


I received this short prayer yesterday. (Thank you Judith G.)
In all bodies health
In all hearts, love
In all lives, joy
In all the world, peace.