The Best Laid Plans…

Gang aft agley (go oft astray), as Scots poet Robert Burns wrote in 1785. In this case, very agley. We’re home tonight, not off on our two-week “time away” at Aspen Guard Station, the remote cabin high in the San Juan Mountains where Richard and I were awarded a coveted artist/writer residency.

(Aspen Guard Station  photo credit: San Juan National Forest)

Burns wrote “To a Mousie,” the poem that oft-paraphrased stanza comes from after seeing a mouse nest destroyed by a plow. The context seems apt to me because what sent Richard and I home on Sunday morning–instead of off to that tranquil cabin–felt like a cosmic plow destroying our carefully built nest: Richard, who is always steady and stable and strong–began seeing birds. Everywhere. Hundreds of them. The birds he saw crowded every fence post and utility wire, every tree and roadside cattail and chicory stem, everyplace a bird could conceivably perch–and some where real birds couldn’t. The birds were all dark silhouettes shaped like blackbirds, except ranging in size from those no larger than a house fly to the implausibly large ones on distant ridge tops. There’s an irony in his hallucinations: He loves birds and watches them all the time. These birds weren’t menacing, so he wasn’t particularly worried. Until he mentioned his surprise at seeing so many birds to me, and it was clear that I didn’t see them at all.

The birds followed us into Durango for breakfast, perching on every building ledge and sign and planter. They followed us to the parking lot outside the grocery store where we sat and talked, and finally made our decision. They followed us as we turned east and north, headed on the five-hour-drive home (I drove) instead of to the remote cabin an hour away with no phone, internet, or electricity. Home seemed the safer place to go. 

That was four days ago, and now the birds are gone. So are the other visual hallucinations, and the residue of the heat stress event the previous week that may be related to whatever storm has happened in Richard’s brain. He’s well, he’s lucid, he can juggle and derive the quadratic formula and navigate and tell a joke and do other things that demand complex brain interactions. He’s still the man I have lived with and loved for nearly 27 years–except that now he can’t recognize faces. Not including mine–well, not mine now, though there was one time…. And his own face, which was unfamiliar or at least seemed different somehow, is familiar again. But the faces of friends he’s known for years, people who he is fond of, don’t spark recognition. He parses their identity through contextual clues: gait, shape, voice, dress, surroundings.

Next up: a brain MRI and an appointment with a neurologist. For now through, we’re just laying low, doing our best to work on the writing and art we would have pursued in our time unplugged at the cabin in the aspen grove, and appreciating the sweet sharing of each moment, something we can still recognize and take joy from. 



On the good news front, I’ve been honored with not one, but two different blogging awards in the past two weeks: Morgan O’Donnell of the lovely and thoughtful Red Raven Circling blog named me one of her Kreativ Blogger awardees, and Matilda Butler of the lively blog-magazine Womens Memoirs tagged me for the Superior Scribbler Award. I’m honored. Thank you both!

I’m going to talk about the Superior Scribbler Award next post. Tonight’s for the Kreativ Blogger Award because it asks me to think about something very important to me right now: what I love.

After receiving the award, here’s what I must do:

1. List 7 things that I love
2. Link back to the blog that awarded it to me
3. Choose 7 blogs to award as ‘Kreativ Bloggers’
4. Comment at each blog to let them know they’ve been chosen

So, first of all, here’s my List of Seven Loves:

1. Richard
2. sagebrush, the fragrance of the region I call home
3. eating tomatoes still warm from the sun that nourishes my garden
4. paddling a kayak on quiet water
5. stories that inspire and teach me
6. my community, both humans and all the wilder lives with whom we share these landscapes
7. chocolate

Next, seven bloggers I want to recognize with the Kreativ Blogger Award because their work inspires and informs my days (in no particular order):

Sherrie York of Brush and Baren (you’ve got to see her art!)

Susan Tomlinson, she of several blogs, but especially for The Bicycle Garden (wry and wise)

Deb Robson’s The Independent Stitch (always worth a read)

Page Lambert (a recent post considers Deepak Chopra and vultures)

Susan Gallacher-Turner of Susan’s Art & Words (the title does NOT do this blog justice!)

Donna Druchunas (from travel as a political act to writing to knitting–in Lituania)

Sharman Apt Russell and friends’ Love of Place (you never know who you’ll read, but they’re always GOOD)

Thanks to you all for your words and work. We need every voice, every story, every bit of creative inspiration–now more than ever.


Richard just called me outside to watch the full moon rise over the Arkansas Hills, its form round and tinted pinkish-yellow with the smoke from distant forest fires.

BTW, he can still recognize the rabbit dancing in the face of the moon, ears flying. Can you?

Blessings to you and yours, from me and mine. Onward we go….