“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.

Big Tiny News

I have never written about my year in review before, I think because I always seem invested in what keeps unfolding right in front of me. I’ll initiate writing about this year and see where it leads me.

It has been a very hard year for most of us. As safe and healthy and boostered as Kendal is, there are breakthrough COVID cases occurring and we have staff shortages, food supply issues, rising costs, and unexpected crisis to address just like everywhere else. We are becoming more resourceful, thrifty, and engaged in novel ways. New residents arrive and deal with the reality of Kendal today as opposed to the more open and dynamic Kendal they remembered from pre-pandemic times. Still, no one has yet died because of COVID, though some have passed with COVID as a co-morbid condition. We all do come here to live well and then to die, with the support and care of those who are employed by Kendal. Every single person has gone above and beyond their original job descriptions, including the residents. It is inspiring and it has been challenging and occasionally daunting to keep rising to the occasion.

We move on, and I have to say we seem to be a quieter community. There is less visible bustling activity though we strive to keep functioning, advising, entertaining, and engaging ourselves in new venues. We interact more online and also with some hybrid committee meetings. Gradually we congregate in person, masking carefully, with people holding microphones for us rather than passing them around as we sing or come to share an event. When a positive diagnosis is declared among residents or staff in the more restrictive Care Center where I live, we don’t shut down completely anymore. We cannot keep preventing visitations from friends and family and ask only that people show a negative test result before they come inside our living spaces. So far, this system is working.

As I wrote in my last blog, my personal health issues have meant that I am once again adapting to my own changes. I try to take on each day with open assessments gauging how much I can safely do. Perhaps I am once more stabilizing a little and the last few days I have tolerated being busier with fewer repercussions. Holiday greetings are given and received, and I am able to meet more friends face to face. When I ventured outdoors on my electric scooter in the unusually warm December weather, I heard lawn mowers at work and delighted in the fresh cut grass perfume.

I have saved the biggest tiny news for last. I have a new grandson, Sebastian, born on 12/8/21. He is healthy and gorgeous, and tiny and vulnerable and has completely reorganized his new household as newborns do. His two-year-old brother Max initially responded in Hallmark moments of gentle interactions, curiosity, and with his one-and-two-word vocabulary, began to process actually seeing the baby brother that everybody had been talking about for so long. “Mama home. Hosible.  Doctor. Tummy. Empty. Baby brudder. Sebastian.” Then he sucked his thumb and thought about things for a minute. He reached over and touched his brother lying across his mother’s lap and his own legs. “Eyes. Nose. Mouth. Arm.” He gently pointed to and touched all the parts and thought about things some more. And life went on as he climbed off the couch and ran around to play.

Mild jealousy is slowly creeping in after six days of sharing his home. Max is by nature a thoughtful child but- he is also two years old when conquering the world and identifying it all as his, is exactly the right developmental behavior. As all siblings know, time will lead them on a journey of rivlary and love and sharing their childhood experiences together with their parents. I am delighted to be able to watch their paths unfurl for as long as I am around to watch them grow up together. I can’t wait to see who Sebastian is in his own right. He was born with startling platinum blond hair- a great thatch of it. It will likely darken over time, maybe replaced with darker hair altogether, or maybe he will retain this glowing angelic mop. I am not posting pictures to respect the family’s privacy, but this grandmother says he is truly adorable.

Meanwhile I am a happy grandmother and so proud of my daughter and son-in-law as they navigate the realities of an infant and a toddler and jobs and childcare in the midst of the turbulent world that we all share. I am stretching my heart open and holding the sobering crisis of our country and planet at the same time. I endeavor to witness, breathe, stay present, and live as fully as I can without despair or feeding fear and dread into the world my grandsons are inheriting. Life goes on and I get off the couch and go play even as a big, tiny, viral unknowable has taken up permanent residence in my world.

Back again

I haven’t stopped writing I just was not finding my way to enter it into a post. Some of the hiatus was about a month of bad pain. My old back issues reconfigured as a neurological condition called caudus equinus. The caudus is the end of the spinal cord and equina is named for the “horsetail” of nerves that emerge from there. The symptoms are evidenced in a particular pattern from the low back into all the areas of the body that would touch a saddle if you happened to be sitting on one. Given the pain, numbness and tingling that result from this rare condition, having had MS and spinal stenosis in the past (no longer active), no one could have spotted it within those conditions until now. In my case, I believe my caudus is recently inflamed increasing pre-existing old symptoms to flare up. I also managed to displace some ribs while leaning over my windowsill (!) and the pain from my chest merged with the inflammation in my back and instead of two separate hot fireplaces of pain, I was one conflagration. I was on painkillers for a while which greatly reduced the fires and then I could feel the slight return of sensation in my equina nerves again. In any event, I am back to my basic back pain which is tolerable, and I am able to increase my mobility and sit up at the computer to write more.

I will include one of my favorite summer poems that I wrote from a collection called Stopping by Ponds on a Summer Morning (homage to Mr. Frost).

6/12/21

Day Makers at Buttonbush Pond

The conductor raises his baton

from absolute stillness

the whispering chatter

of surrounding leaves

drops with the breeze

then

we begin

lone percussive woodpecker

bass gulp of a frog

buzz of insects

warning cry of a redwing blackbird

chuckling robin

myriad trills and chirps

fugues interweave

my breath and heartbeat

part of the orchestral morning

brought to you by

Day Makers

Judi Bachrach

I also include the lyrics of a song that took months to emerge, just in time to sing for the holidays. Next year I have a friend who is going to help me set up a podcast so that I can sing my songs or recite a poem as well as write them down to share. I am no singer, but I write songs in my head and sing them since nobody else can do it for me. Here is the song:

Find Your Way Children, Children

Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Children, find your way





Maybe you’ll climb a mountain

Maybe you’ll cross the sea

Maybe you’ll stay and plant your garden

Wherever you may be

Don’t let fear hold you back

Or tell you what to do





Anger only grows in fear and

Anger will poison you





Reach for love to make real changes

Love makes your dreams come true

Reach for love, love, love, yes, love will see you through




Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Children, find your way





If you slide back down the mountain

You lose what you thought you had

Your ship won’t sail, your garden won’t grow

The whole world makes you sad





Don’t let sorrow hold you back

Or tell you what to do

Embrace your sorrow, you will find

More joy inside of you





Reach for joy to make real changes

Joy makes your dreams come true

Reach for joy, joy, joy, yes, joy will see you through





Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Children, find your way





If your heart is broken

If your body fails

No more gardens, no more mountains

No more ships to sail





Pain is all you’re feeling

Feeling pain just everywhere

Ask for help and it will come

Don’t give up, and don’t despair





Reach for one thing that you’re thankful for

Giving thanks is what you can do

Reach for gra-ti-tude, yes, giving thanks will see you through





Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Find your way children, children

Children, find your way





If people are always fighting

If people are always at war

If people are always greedy

Always hateful, grabbing more





Don’t let the war inside your heart

Or let fighting be your way

Stand up strong where peace must start

Inside you every day





Be the peace to make real changes

Make your dreams of peace come true

Be the peace, peace, peace, be the peace that lives in you





Find the love children, children

Find the joy children, children

Give your thanks children, children

Children, live in peace





Find the love children, children

Find the joy children, children

Give your thanks children, children

Children, live in peace

Judi Bachrach

Finally, here is my poem with my friend Rebecca Cardozo’s marvelous photos which is part of Kendal’s Winter Solstice celebrations. Once more it will be part of an inhouse TV channel prerecorded program though we are inching closer to auditorium gatherings once again.

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1V1_lBDXi9lXJkcMcVr9uracP9DJd3Z2O/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=100755859289511988714&rtpof=true&sd=true

Click on the link or Copy this link and see if it opens for you. Glad to be sharing here once more. More coming….

The Trip Not Taken

Diary 9/12/21                                 

On September 13th 2001, my husband and I planned to leave for our meticulously planned two-week trip to Tuscany. It had been a delightful destination for him when he had gone years before with a male friend of ours. It had seemed the perfect place to celebrate my fiftieth birthday. We had to plan meticulously because although I was more mobile with my MS compromises twenty years ago, I still would have required a wheelchair for lengthy walking. And a wheelchair meant not having to traverse too many quaint cobblestone streets which meant a careful itinerary to share with me at least a few of his favorite locations and some brand-new ones. We found online international support for free wheelchairs to use on arrival at the airport. The map of Italy we had folded and unfolded to travel each road with our fingers was left worn and tattered during the months before the much-anticipated event.

September 11th. All flights were cancelled. Our friends in Europe, giving workshops or traveling, were frantic to come back home. Even if we had been able to fly out in in a few days’ time, it would have cut enough into our already short vacation time to render it moot. Every single Italian host and hostess in every venue refunded all of our deposits. There was a warm swathe of caring for Americans during this tragedy. They did not forget how many Americans had supported them and died during the war.

Besides, Richard and I both had psychotherapy clients directly and indirectly affected by this event. Calls started coming in over the next few weeks to begin coping with the unimaginable. Because Richard also had a Manhattan practice as well as the one we shared in upstate New York, a flood of new referrals kept calling him. Anxiety, despair, depression, grief, illness, rage, and PTSD all required his care. What was the loss of a balloon ride over vineyards and olive orchards landing in a field with a champagne breakfast compared to the losses endured in this deliberately public act of mass slaughter?

My father died in a car accident seventy years ago on the eleventh of September. I was born eleven days after he died with over one hundred bones broken in his body. My personal history of loss resurfaced for a while in the aftermath. Grief was heavy in the air along with the fumes of a desire for vengeance, a justifiable retaliation for The Enemy. The chaos of that time bleeds into the current situation of ever more catastrophic losses. Biden has touted the unity of our nation after 9/11. But the widely differing seeds of action to address terrorism were already there. The “patriotic” call for hate and violence vs. the call for genuine national/international political self-reflection for viable boundaries and repair was simmering. It boiled over into an ongoing largely fruitless war which further mucked up our image on the world stage. The long war cost the lives of many more thousands of civilians “over there” as well as leaving thousands of our own soldiers dead or maimed for life.

Those same divisions in the need for action now show up in our ‘war’ against each other with the foe being a deadly virus. Who do we hate, who do we blame, to whom do we deny any impulse of understanding, who do we manipulate into being an ally made in our image? How do we grab what we can while we can? How do we manage our own affairs, dire as they are? There are no easy, no quick, answers.

I do have faith that there is an order in the universe. Much of the time, I am as blind and wounded and overwhelmed as anyone in knowing where that coherence may be found. During the planetary chaos we are creating, it is only clear that each of us must find a center we can trust, hold to and act from. Surrendering to that point of singularity, the still stable point of infinite potential within myself, within us all, is the most important journey there is for me. May we be guided by Love in action.

Though in retrospect, I must say that our envisioned trip to Tuscany was the best trip that I never took. Despite the terrible associations, I still remember it fondly.

Another Anniversary

8/8/21

This morning I woke up feeling inexplicably happy. I don’t believe that I’ve heard a recommended time limit for widows to stop memorializing their wedding anniversary. Our wedding itself I have described in an earlier anniversary blog. I clearly remember several other special anniversary celebrations – our fifteenth in the backyard of our home in Red Hook N.Y. was a particularly joyful one with our older daughter and her cousins dashing around, and the one where Richard and I renewed our vows to one another inside the circle of hemlock bushes that were barely knee high in back in 1970. When we held a private recommitment ceremony, climbing back up the familiar wooded hillside in Shady, NY, the hemlocks were towering over us in their frothy greenery. Our fortieth was when we introduced our new son-in-law to our friends who didn’t attend the Texas wedding….well, there were all the other parties and special dinners on this date in August. I was always sure we’d at least reach our sixtieth anniversary, given that we were so young when we were married.

And that was not to be. Today is what would have been our fifty-first anniversary. I look at Richard’s photo taken in his fifties on the summit of Mt. Blanc straddling France, Italy, and Switzerland and I summon his visceral warmth through seeing his intensely present gaze. Dutch friends of ours had invited us to stay with them in their vacation home in France to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary and this picture I have on my bedside table was snapped by our friend Daphne on a daytrip to the mountain overlooking the entire area. It was our last big vacation and a joyful occasion to celebrate relationships.

Today, I am reflecting on the nature of love. The intimate dance of a marriage over years of sincere hard work tracks the growth of us as individuals and how we nurtured both of us within the partnership. To have been schooled in that university with Richard was such a gift. We received from and gave to each another in equal measure. Our strengths and weaknesses became less and less the focus of how to love and be loved. We cultivated the belief that love between us could become less conditional based on our behaviors, and more of a constant anchor, a given mutual well of sweet water always available to draw upon. As I was more and more challenged by my chronic declining health, we learned to navigate some rough roads. Parenting two very different daughters pulled us together as our priorities shifted as a family. When it was Richard who developed life threatening cancer, it was another huge lesson of how to stay in love, day to day, moment to moment, right up until his death.

During the periods of isolation during this pandemic, I am acutely aware of the loss of the deep and easy companionship that Richard and I had co-created. There is no one else in the world who can remember events and episodes the two of us shared over those many years. No one can ever walk with me again who could hold the depth of understanding of who and what I am becoming as I continue aging which he never will. No one else remembers our treasured private jokes and personal triumphs. I have dear old friends who knew Richard and me together from our early days, but theirs is still an outside perspective. Memories of that past life are now mine alone.

Today I am beginning to understand that the intimacy of love that I remember is still available to me. It Is not just based on shared life experiences. It is not just in relationship with another single human being, but within the single human being that I am. When I summon the love that I felt for and from Richard, it sets up a resonance within my body/mind/spirit. I had such very good training in the best of conditional human love, that exploring unconditional love leads me on, and takes my hand, my mind, and my breath away. I find that this love is not as confined nor is it dependent on anything or anyone else. It is often unnamed, simply showing up inside my room this morning or when I was outside looking at one of Kendal’s many ponds smelling so sweet after a rain-washed night. It is in my ninety-eight-year-old neighbor’s struggle to rise up out of her chair, the high school aged dining servers bringing me my dinner tray as we once again are unable to dine with others during the latest shutdown. Love is in the faces of the overworked short-staffed nurses as they are back to COVID testing us twice a week among all of their many other duties. We are united in love by hoping that no one else at Kendal tests positive. Love is listening to sad news reports as I sip my morning tea. Love is when I am wide open to living fully all that life entails.

A Reckoning

7/27/21                                             A Reckoning

The first Kendal resident (who is living in the Care Center) just tested positive for COVID. The community is shocked and saddened. Thankfully, this person is already recovering in a negative pressure room in a hallway specifically designed to prevent any possible spread of contagion.

We had been so careful and so lucky. We are sobered. We all slid back to stricter safety measures. We remember that vaccines are not 100% effective, that we produce fewer antibodies than the young, that the emerging variants are more contagious. I am restricted from accessing the rest of Kendal again for two weeks. But I am also well cared for, safe. I am trying to get my arms around the ongoing nature of our long journey. I am calling on the wisdom of love, the strength of compassion.

 Books of Reckoning

The gray fog of isolation swallowed you whole

weighed down by loneliness, severed by separation

arms and hands too disabled to reach out









Restrictions imposed on you slammed shut door after door

complaints erupted in helpless defiance of safety vs. freedom

the need to know whose facts justified those rules









You struggled to comprehend the sweep of what we lost

inspiring reinvention, rewiring, redesigning

seeking reconnections new and healthy

on top of still sturdy foundations









Despite these individual reactions inside of our community bubble

so far, not even one of us or those we gratefully employ

died from this still evolving virus









The days of reckoning our books, our health

find us in good standing so far

though it is not over, and we were never suffering alone









The world beyond lost millions- Millions-

one million children orphaned

half a million without grandparents

we all are orphaned by the loss of ideals, by kindness submerged in fearful hate









Losses-Losses-Losses

the entire World Body ravaged by a pandemic

reckoning results of ignorance and greed

that are not over

all is coming due… and yet









Look to our young and old hearts, shaped by this same sere crisis

unfold into the future

nothing is foretold

all is in the telling









May we be held accountable

May we be sustained through clear vision and nurturing

an abundance of true stories reckoned worthy to be told

around new hearths

for generations upon generations









by Judi Bachrach