Born in the sign of water

Fujifilm GFX, ISO 800, FL 90 mm, 1/125 sec @ f/11

 

If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
It’s kind of a special feeling

When you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover
Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change

Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it’s there that I feel my best

The albatross and the whales they are my brothers
There’s lots of those friendly people
And they’re showing me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration

Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change

I’ve never been romantic
And sometimes I don’t care
I know it may sound selfish
But let me breathe the air

Let me breathe the air…
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it’s there that I feel my best
The albatross and the whales they are my brothers

It’s kind of a special feeling
When you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover
Time for a cool change

I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change

Thanks to Little River Band and their song Cool Change – for adding a sound track to my life.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

 

             Royal terns, adult and young.  Fujifilm X-Pro2, ISO 600, FL 400 mm, 1/1000 sec@f/11

I’ve been on the coast for just a week now.  With 2 dogs, I’m doing a lot of beach walking and I pretty much have the beach to myself because it’s been cold. The cold doesn’t really bother me (although Abba has to be bundled up or he refuses to set paw outside) and I’ve really enjoyed the solitude.  Unfortunately, not only has there been an absence of human beings but the birds have obviously been tucked in somewhere because I haven’t seen them around. One of my best memories of beach time is watching the pelicans nose dive like a bullet into the water, followed by their awkward, gangly rising out of the water with fish in beak.  So, I have missed the birds.  But that has been changing the last 2 days.  I’ve seen sanderlings (I just love to watch them scampering around in the surf) and laughing gulls, brown pelicans, and today – royal terns. I noticed two of them – an adult and a young one that seemed to be in a confrontation.  I choose to believe that it’s a teenager talking back to his mom but it was fun watching their behavior.  I’m glad the sea birds have come back to the shore and I’m looking forward to seeing even more of them.

I also saw a few members of the human species today.  Two couples were making their way – very, very slowly – from a beach entrance to a spot closer to the surf.  They all looked very old. One woman was using a cane and the other woman was being actively assisted by one of the gentlemen.  The other gentleman was carrying chairs.  I was walking toward them so I watched their slow progression and eventual arrival to their destination.  And while I was watching them and their slow but determined progress, I thought how brave they are.  At their age, falls are always a worry.  Joints are painful and stiff.  But there they were – slow, halting – but by God, making their way to the surf and the view they wanted.  By the time I had gotten closer to them, they were sitting at the surf line.  The women cooed loudly at Abba and Jackson so we had to walk close to the group so that petting and admiration could be delivered, which the fur-kids loved.  Now that I was very close to the group, I saw they were as old as they had appeared from a distance. But they were smiling, curious about me and the dogs, and asking lots of questions.  What was my name?  Where did I live?  How long would I be here?  Wasn’t it a gorgeous day?  Happiness just bubbled around them and they seemed to be living, truly living, each second of the time I was with them.  I’m sure that is the attitude that permeates their existence.  It is that zest for living that propelled them – aching joints, slowed reflexes, diminished vision and hearing – to the moments they wanted by the water and with their friends.  

I found them inspiring.  I hope that I can carry the same zest for life and appreciation of every moment that I have, despite the frailties of an aging body.  Brings to mind one of my favorite Stevie Nicks song, ‘Landslide’.

Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older, too

Dust to dust….

I will never forget the first time I saw someone die. I was a very naive, very inexperienced 3rd year medical student. Up to that point, I had only been in the classroom and the gross anatomy laboratory where my focus of study was on the long-dead, well preserved human body. I was doing my first clinical rotation in the hospital and I was assigned to the emergency room.

A man was brought to the major trauma room by emergency medical services. Although he was not much older that I was at the time, he was well known as a ‘frequent flyer’ in the ER because he was an alcoholic and a drug abuser – cocaine being his preferred addictive substance.

Within 2 seconds of his arrival, he was surrounded by circles of ER personnel – nurses, techs, doctors. As a medical student, I was the lowliest member of the team and occupied the outer periphery of all those circles of people. My job was to watch, fetch, and stay out of the way.

The man was attached to monitors that displayed beat to beat heart rhythm, blood pressure, respiratory rate. Intravenous catheters were placed in both arms, a urinary catheter was inserted into his bladder, oxygen cannulas were placed in his nose, chest radiographs obtained and blood samples taken. All of this within 7 minutes of his arrival. When it was obvious that he was not going to immediately die, the medical team began dispersing to analyze all the data. The plan in place was ‘expectant observation’. If anything went awry, all the equipment to which the patient was attached would immediately begin alarming.

Ten minutes after his arrival and I was now the only person remaining in the room with the man. He was pretty agitated, thrashing around on the bed, and I felt pretty helpless watching him. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do but decided that maybe a few words of comfort would help so I advanced toward the stretcher.

Suddenly he sat bolt upright on the stretcher, pulling tubes and catheters and restraint straps with him as he violently propelled himself up. He looked straight into my eyes and said, ‘Please don’t let me die!!’ Then – he died. That is to say, his heart quit any functional beating, he stopped breathing, and he lapsed into unconsciousness. Pulmonary edema foamed from his mouth and nose and every alarm in the room was shrilling.

The entire medical team rushed back into the room and I was unceremoniously shoved into the corner. Everyone was shouting and equipment was being pushed and pulled. The ‘thumper’ was started – a machine that was placed above the patient’s chest with a piston that pushed up and down on the chest to massage the heart through the chest wall.

All to no avail. His heart had fibrillated – a chaotic, functionless spasm of cardiac activity that did not propel blood through the system. Then, his heart stopped all activity and even after 30 minutes of frantic effort by the medical team, never restarted. The ER physician finally ‘called’ the code – he asked the team members to stop what they were doing, looked at the clock, and pronounced the time of death. Once again, the entire team, moving almost like a single entity, exited the room. The doctors begin dictating all the events that had transpired, the nurses gathered material to shroud the body and arrange transport of the body to the morgue, and the ER secretary began the long series of telephone calls to the medical examiner, the police, organ donation, family members.

Once again, I was alone in the room but now with a corpse. I was stunned. Up to this point in my life, I had believed that no one was really aware of the moment of their death. That dying was just a slow ebb of life away from the body and consciousness ceased long before the actual moment of death. The only experience I had with death up to this point was being with my beloved pets when they needed to be ‘put to sleep’ and it was always a very sad, tearful, but quiet, peaceful death. The moment of death occurred AFTER sleep – one was not aware of it at all. I guess that’s the only experience I had of death.

I had never experienced this violent, wrenching, tearing tug of war between life and death. I had never known anyone that was acutely aware of the moment their life had ended.

I have since witnessed many, many different ways of dying and I know that some ways are better than other ways.  I know that some go ‘gentle into that good night’ and some do not.  I don’t know how many of my patients were aware of their moment of death. Who are we to say what transpires in the mind of someone in the last few seconds of life? Perhaps, we are all aware of that moment.

But I will never forget the eyes of the man who looked right into my eyes and begged me not to let him die and I, helpless to intervene, served only to witness the moment of his dying.

 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

On eating coconut butter on toast

 

This coconut butter is NOT what I had as a child.

I got taken by the wizened, wrinkled, sun-dried woman at the Florida roadside stand.

‘Cause I REMEMBER coconut butter.

That’s when Momma made beds in the car and Daddy drove all night.
When I woke up, I saw palm trees whisking by, past the car window.
And then the cottage – with the funny windows and tile floors
and the window AC chugging out cold air
into rooms that looked nothing like home but felt like family.
And the sand, everywhere, everywhere.
Seagulls plaintive cries.
And the siren call of the ocean.

Daddy said ‘Not now’ and Momma said, ‘He needs to sleep’
But still we would run screaming through the dunes to the water.
And both of them would follow, laughing.

Daddy would crouch down in the waves so that the water was at his chest.
He would pull me onto his knees.
‘Get ready’.
I would crouch down on his knees, most of my face under the waves.
1, 2, 3 – Takeoff!!!!
And he would push up, up, up on my crouching butt as he stood up
giving me wings to fly.

I swear to you! My head was in the puffy, white clouds and when I looked down
the water glittered far, far below and then my heart thumped, thumped, thumped me back down
and I hit the water and all the splashes around me sparkled
like diamonds in the sun.
‘Do it again, do it again!’

Coconut butter on white bread toast was so good.
Momma and Daddy hugging each other in the corner of the kitchen.
Like I didn’t see them, ha!

My gloomy sister scalded red.
She never tanned, only burned.
The rest of us brown as pecans in just a few days.
My brothers with identical crewcuts but nothing alike
Fighting over plastic ‘diver dan’.

This coconut butter is NOT what I had as a child.

Daddy saying ‘I don’t like the covers too tight on my feet’.
My Daddy that lifted me to the clouds is barely there.
So small, a tiny, tiny little swell in the white bed in the white room.
I can see him fading away right in front of my eyes.

And my Momma says nothing.
Just the beep, beep, beep of the machine
Tying her to the life she no longer wanted.

This coconut butter is NOT what I had as a child.

Diana Davidson, 2017

 

The Ties That Bind

Fujifilm x-pro2, ISO 300, FL 50 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/3.6

Do not cut those ties

To those you have lost.

The blade hurts beyond bearing

And cuts more than you know.

Let those ties fray rather

In the winds of passing time.

Thread by thread

Strand by strand,

Time wears the fabric down.

The first to fray is need;

Wiry like old roots,

It shrivels without feeding

Becoming dry and brittle

Before finally snapping

And becoming dust

That the wind catches

And blows away.

The next to go is illusion:

Flashing through rainbows

Of coloured pasts

That become slowly

Monochrome and clear.

You see things as they were

You see the truth

A skilful pen and ink sketch

Showing the bare lines

Of what there truly was.

Anger goes next,

Serpent-strong, writhing

Shrieking with fury

Dull red and thick with misery;

It grows quiet, finally

Stills its thrashing

Lies quiet and subdued.

You look again,

And it’s gone.

Each strand that bound you

One by one wears out

Frays to nothing

Snap!

It’s gone.

And when each tie is gone,

You may find that one alone remains,

Bright shining silver,

Gleaming in the kinder light

That time will bring you.

This is the thread that never frays

Never breaks, never snaps.

If at the end of all the threads

This one remains,

Then leave it be.

Cutting this one

Only cuts your heart.

-Vivienne Tuffnell

A bridge too far?

Fujifilm x-pro2, ISO 600, FL 50 mm, 1/250 sec @ f/3.6

 

Bare feet.  Hot sand.  Solitude….except for a tiny wag of a tail named Abba.  Allows one to properly view the trajectory of one’s life.

Fire in the sky

Fujifilm X-Pro2, ISO 5000, FL 50 mm, 1/60 sec @ f/3.6

The fire in the sky smolders in the breaking waves.

The dark ash of the ocean cradles the blaze.

Night is not falling, it’s dying in a firestorm.

Diana Davidson

Imagine

Fort Morgan Beach, Alabama

“Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

Happy 76th Birthday, John Lennon.  You left us too soon.