I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 12, 2015

An unsettled week

I don't know what kind of bird it is
There's a reason I don't go on bird counts. I can hardly recognize any of them, with only a dozen or so of the most common ones easily recognizable to my eyes. When I was at the tulip display gardens last Wednesday in Skagit County, I kept hearing this bird in the tree above me. Its call is a long chirr repeated over and over. Using the telephoto lens on my camera, I was able to capture this shot, which delighted me. It was a beautiful day and the bird was singing his heart out. I know just how he was feeling.

I got somewhat behind in my routine last week, since it was such a busy one. Having been in that class both days last weekend started me off with the feeling of being behind. Since both days were simply beautiful blue sky days, I wished I had spent some time in the garden, but I was cooped up learning about death doula duties. When I wrote last week's post, I was halfway through it all. Sunday was spent learning how to prepare a dead body for a vigil. In the old days, the person's body would be displayed in the parlor for a day or two before being taken out to the cemetery for burial. Nowadays it's all different. I learned about advance directives, so that I can make my wishes known and followed upon my death.

Having prepared our wills, my husband and I thought we had taken care of all the details of the death process. No, it's not true: there's more to be done. Although the rules for disposition of your body are different for every state in the US, you can download a copy of the advance directives for your own state here, at Caring Connections. I learned about the green burial movement and other options. I had planned to have my body cremated, not realizing that embalming regularly takes place beforehand. It's all rather confusing as to why in the world you would need to embalm a body that will be incinerated and not viewed, but apparently funeral homes often find numerous ways to charge the grieving family for services they didn't realize are not required.

Anyway, by the time the two-day class was finished, I was overwhelmed with all I had learned. For one thing, I learned that most of what a death doula does here in Whatcom County is related to the immediate dying process and the days that follow death. When I volunteered for Hospice, by the time the dying person had reached that stage, my job was done; I simply supported the primary caregiver by staying with the person while he or she took a much-needed break. I'm going to have to rethink what my part might be in this process. Take a look at the website for A Sacred Passing and what is offered. For now, I am in the process of preparing my own advance directives and figuring out what it is that I want for myself. That is taking some time.

Of course, as soon as the class was over the weather turned rainy and blustery again, so the garden still remains untended, which is weighing on me as planting should be done soon. And then the next fine day, Wednesday, I drove down to Skagit Valley to visit the tulips and spend time with a wonderful family in the tulip gardens and fields. I put up a bunch of pictures on my other blog here, but still, my day was filled to the brim. No time for the garden.

Thursday was spent on my regular hike with the Senior Trailblazers. It was a hard one, more than ten miles and lots of elevation as we summited Stewart Mountain on a poorly maintained trail. It was another beautiful day, and I collapsed when I came home with little desire to do much more than rest from my exertions.

And then the weather turned rainy and blustery again, just when I had time to garden. Yesterday was totally uninviting, with wind and heavy showers interspersed with moments of sunshine. I went on my usual Saturday walk anyway and got pretty wet. Then I went to the movies with my friend Judy and saw Woman in Gold with Helen Mirren. Although the reviews have not been stellar, we both enjoyed this true story very much. If you go to that link, you'll see that the audience enjoyed it much more than the critics. Sometimes I think I'll stop reading reviews before I head off to the movies, since I cannot figure out what critics are looking for in a movie. But what am I thinking? Birdman won Best Picture this year, after all.

Looking back, this week started off feeling off kilter because of the class, and then it just got more so as the days went by. Now I am starting a new week, and the process of writing this post has already helped me put into perspective what has caused me to have the sense of being behind and struggling to catch up. Partly it's because my entire schedule has been altered by events, with little chance to get my regular exercise (and we all know how much I depend on it for equilibrium). Driving around a rental car for the past week also didn't make me happy, as it was so different from my own car. I am NOT a fan of cars without much visibility out the back, making me totally dependent on the side mirrors.

My own car, which I picked up Friday, looks beautiful with its shiny new bumper and headlights, and now that I've gone through that particular unpleasantness, I can start fresh. And this is a brand-new week, with what I hope will be lots of routine and some actual time in the garden. Today I might jump ahead and get out to the garden store to buy some flowers and vegetable starts for the upcoming planting. It will make me feel better, I just know it will, even if the plants don't get into the ground for a few days. Who knew that digging in the dirt could make me so happy? Certainly not this person who is just getting ready to experience her fourth season as a gardener. I'm still a neophyte with much to learn, but it's wonderful to pull out weeds and see lots of worms and rich dark earth under my hands.

And look! Another post written, even if it's a bit uneven this week. It has been a perfect mirror for me to look into and figure out how I want to proceed with this brand-new day, looking ahead to a Sunday that belongs completely to me, to spend however I choose. My only scheduled task, this post, is now behind me. It's time to say farewell for this week and to wish you, my dear readers, the very best of weeks ahead. It's a beautiful time of the year in both hemispheres. I am sending you a virtual hug, since it's the best I can do through the internet, and I do hope you pass it along to someone you love.


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Here's to a new week!

Linda Reeder said...

I do believe that is a robin sitting up in that tree singing its song of joy. They do that.
I'm expecting my visitors on Tuesday, and so I am a bit unsettled preparing for them. Why do I feel nervous? Unfortunately the weather doesn't look so good in the forecast for Tuesday. Maybe we'll luck out. The rain I expected yesterday, Saturday, never materialized here in SeaTac, and while blustery, it was a lovely day.
We do need to think about death arrangements too - not something attractive to think about in this season of new life and renewal. I will follow your link and see where it takes me.
Happy New Week!

Far Side of Fifty said...

You can start out this week with your usual schedule! I will follow your link... and see what Minnesota has for requirements. We are in the process of picking a plot at the local cemetery for our ashes:)

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am back. That is the paperwork for the Advanced Health Care Directive that we already have...it was a whole bunch of paperwork! I was glad to complete it all and our local clinic has a copy in our records.
I think your bird is a Robin...I am still looking for one in our yard. :)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I can see why that photo delighted you! What a neat shot to get with the bird so far away. Speaking of neat shots, to everyone reading this comment … If you haven’t done so already, be sure to use DJan’s link to her other blog and check out the tulip photos. Awesome! They are so great … I think DJan just saved me a trip driving up to the Skagit Valley tulip growing area … over an hour drive! I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get any better photos. Now, I’m grateful for the links to check out putting together directives for burial. I’ll bet most people fail to give this the attention it deserves. Without directives we leave those left behind with a big burden to figure it all out. Thanks for the info. Your Thursdays with Senior Trailblazers are pretty serious … I’m definitely not ready for a 10 mile hike with lots of elevation! Gotta work on that! :-) Congrats on getting your car back … To me, the worst thing about getting into an accident (if you’re not hurt) is the INCONVENIENCE you know you’re going to experience getting the car fixed. It’s great when it’s all done and things can get back to normal. Hope all goes well with the gardening and you have an excellent week ahead!

Tabor said...

Definitely a robin..now back to reading the rest of your post!

Tabor said...

Sharing the love...!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know what you are going through. A different lifestyle can indeed throw you off. Enjoy the rest of the week.

Elephant's Child said...

It sounds like another busy week. Which would leave me on the overwhelmed side.
I love grubbing in the garden - and am definitely leaning towards an eco-funeral myself. I may have to postpone dying until my state accepts it.
I hope your new week is slightly less full and that the weather plays nice...

Arkansas Patti said...

That is an LGB (Little grey bird). I am worse than you at identifying birds. The only other one I know is LBB (little brown bird). Ok I can spot a hummer.
So glad you are getting back to your gardening. That has the best healing powers.
Also glad you are finally back in your own, shiny car. Ahhhh.

Red said...

I would think that most people have no instructions whatsoever as to what happens to them immediately after death. A friend was with her mother when she died. The friend felt she was going to be arrested as the local powers asked her many questions and requested a detailed minute by minute description of the last hours and the hours immediately after death.My friend was most shocked and surprised.

The Furry Gnome said...

Hope you have a less unsettling week! I too thought it was a Robin. I'm sure I can see some dark orange underneath there.

Glenda Beall said...

I feel for you driving around in a rental car. I hate to give up my car and drive one I'm not used to. I hope my Ford Hybrid will last as long as I do.
I did my gardening this afternoon when the weather was cool on my deck. My garden consists of containers of flowers, especially red geraniums which flourish in the sunny part of my upper deck. I hope your schedule gets back on track and the coming week will be beautiful for you. Now, I'm going to look at your tulip photos.

Rita said...

What a scam! Embalm someone who is being cremated!? Ridiculous. I'm glad you told me that. I have some paperwork I need to fill out for my hospital system that I haven't done yet. I am going to check out this site link, too, to see what they say about North Dakota now that I don't live in Minnesota anymore. Thanks, Djan. What a lot to take in from your class. May take you a while to mill on it.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I thought of you often while I was visiting my brother in hospice care, and I keep meaning to write a little more about his hospice experience. Didn't know that a death doula was so focused on the death process but I guess it makes sense as a parallel to what a birth doula does. Still, I imagine you might want more involvement before that final stage. Whatever you decide will be a whole new adventure, in any case. Have a great week, DJan.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Hay, I'm all for uneven. Sometimes they make the best writing. I can imagine that class being rather unnerving, but sounds like you got back in the groove by writing the post. Cheers to you.

Sally Wessely said...

As usual, your post gives us much to think about. I am so easily upset in my equilibrium that I totally understand how you were feeling in this post.

I will look at this site when I get a chance. Those decisions are so hard to make. I don't want my children to have to make them for me. I know how difficult it was to make decisions like this after Julie died. Thankfully, my family and I made them together. That made the process easier for her father and me.