Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Books I Own

A few years ago, feeling oppressed by possessions, I sold, gave away, or threw out most of my books (and many other things). Since then I usually read library books or pass new(-used) books on when I'm done with them --often in the Little Free Library boxes around town. But I always have a few of my own, each for its own reason.

These are the books in my bookshelves now.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Wild & Lost

I.  Wild

To make a good movie of a book, you have to re-vision it. 

Wild is a good book: a young woman, Cheryl, sets out to burn off the painful accretions of her life by hiking 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Along the way she remembers the death of her mother and the failure of her marriage. 

Wild, the film, which I saw last night, illustrates the book faithfully. In reverencing the source material, however, the film doesn't enlarge it, it reduces it, like photos from a vacation.  The movie's not bad, but it plods along literally, telling us Cheryl's backstory in flashbacks; it doesn't translate it into the natural language of film: images & sounds. 

If I were to film a book, I'd start by asking, How could this be made as a silent movie? 
How far can the pictures–– faces and color and light and movement–– carry the story? 

Where visuals can't, can nonverbal sounds? 
Music? Or, must we resort to words here?

Along with that, I'd ask, What can we strip away? What's the kernel?
John Le Carre has said he doesn't mind movie makers cutting his books; it's like making a bouillon cube from an ox. 
Of course some films of books would still be wordy, such as To Kill a Mockingbird--though don't the images stay with you as much as the story?--the child's hand sorting objects in a cigar box; the reveal of Boo, ghostly, behind a door.

But Wild was too wordy---the words crowded out the weirdness of memory, of nature.
Memories don't present themselves in set-designed flashbacks.

_______________II. Lost Opportunity

I'd have liked to see Wild presented more like the wordless All Is Lost, also about a person alone in the wilderness (Robert Redford, at sea). 

Wild, of course, is about the memories we carry as much as physical survival, and All Is Lost is not concerned with emotional baggage.  In fact, Lost was too stripped down for me--without the inter- or intrapersonal, I wasn't terribly interested. 

Still, I was held by the film mastery of Lost, and it has stayed with me, while what I took from Wild is disappointment. Mild disappointment.
Cheryl isn't wild in the film, she's packaged.

III. Breaking Nature Open

The movie that best gets human nature in nature is this year's Force Majeure. Comparing it with Wild feels unfair, like comparing a sincere beginner's efforts with an Olympic performance. 

The story is, a shiny Swedish family goes on an Alpine ski vacation, and during a controlled avalanche that seems to be out of control, the father flees, leaving his wife and children in harm's way. 

There's dialogue and scraps of music, but featured is the sound of machinery ceaselessly running to control natural forces: explosions set off to release snow build-up; humming fleets of machines to groom the slopes; creaks and groans of tow pulleys, moving ski-walks.

The sounds are ominous, but the ski resort's machines work.
What breaks down is the social machine, and it's a thrill to watch the aftermath.  

Wild, in contrast, has the force of a refrigerator magnet. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: Reading


Darn. I'd intended to keep track of what I read in 2014 but quickly I forgot. 

So... just some random notes

I read a lot of graphics (novels, memoir, nonfiction)––my favorite is Fluffy by Simone Lia about a bunny oblivious to its human daddy's anxiety––and, this fall when I started my new job, books about dementia (once, both---the excellent graphic memoir Tangles by Sarah Leavitt). 

In a search for lighter reading, I tried and failed to like Joanna Trollope and Joanne Harris, but I did enjoy Meg Woliztzer, especially The Wife, a novel that's satisfyingly bitter, like turmeric.

Loved the early Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, which triggered sensory memories of preliterate childhood, and MHL's far darker YA book Emily of Deep Valley.

I felt grateful to Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, also YA, for reflecting how I experienced internet fandom and girlhood, even though I didn't experience it until I was in my 40s.

Christopher Isherwood, The Sixties: Diaries 1960–1969
Some of his observations about life with his much younger (30 years?) lover, Don, remind me of life with Mz (we're not lovers, but she is 30 years younger than me).
Favorite line that made both of us laugh: "Do I hate Don?"

I listened to the audiobook of Wil Wheaton reading Redshirts by John Scalzi--a funny take-off on Star Trek

books by artist Maira Kalman
new discovery--poet Lorine Niedecker (thanks, Orange Crate Art!)

Ongoing: I continue to enjoy reading the obituaries in the Economist--never the same old thing

Right now I'm reading a collection of movie reviews by Pauline Kael. I've read many of them before but her sharp opinionated style is fun to read.

[Photos of me by Mz, who is always sneaking up on me.]

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Assistant

An incident with my favorite resident today. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Panna Cotta Is Jello

All those times I paid the big bucks for a tiny cup of panna cotta at an Italian restaurant, I figured cooking it was a delicate process involving steam baths and candy thermometers. 

Imagine my surprise to realize it's as easy as making jello... because it is jello: 
you just add unflavored gelatin to cream ("panna") or milk!

Recipe here.

For Christmas Eve dessert, I drizzled melted apricot jam on top.

The apartment cleaned up nice (if you didn't look in Mz's bedroom where my mattress and all our junk got shoved), and bink brought a box of Christmas crackers with whistles inside that played different notes, to toot Christmas carols on (chart provided):
This morning we exchanged presents (which includes the paisley shirt I'm wearing, and Lynda Barry's new book):
...and academic explorations of fan culture.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Favorite Night of the Year

Christmas Eve is magic. Dear friends will be coming over for dinner. I'm making something simple and quick.
The bigger challenge will be cleaning up the apartment this afternoon.

And now, I will bike to work on this warm (34ºF), wet morning. I wish we had snow, but I like that the Greenway path is free of ice, though it kicks up so much grit my bike is coated. 

Mostly the path follows the railroad and is a beautiful ride -- takes me about half an hour. This is what it looked like yesterday. The red bit is the corner of my rain poncho.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Clowncar on the Front Line

Blog banner ^ by Clowncar

I work and write from the sidelines of life with dementia, where Activities offer a much needed R&R&R (rest & relaxation & recreation). My longtime blogfriend Jeff, however, whom some of you may remember as Clowncar, lives on the front line: 
his middle-aged wife, mother of their two teenage daughters, has early onset atypical Alzheimer's. This year it forced her to moved into a nursing home.

I asked Jeff if he'd guest blog here. This is his report from the front lines, as of yesterday.


My wife didn’t recognize me today.  I have been expecting to cross this particular threshold for over five years, with an odd mix of dread and wonder.  There was a moment this afternoon, as I held her face, where she pursed her lips for a kiss and I gave her one, so somewhere inside that tangle of neurons she must have known who I was.  I am holding that moment close. 

I found her crying when I first entered her room, though I was assured that doesn’t happen too often.  When I sat next to her bed and put my arm around her as I held her hand, she put her head on my my shoulder and clung to me.  I don’t know if that was due to her recognizing me, or simply an inchoate need for comfort. 

She doesn’t make eye contact, with me or anyone else.  I have never seen her do this before, and it is unnerving.  It is not that she is avoiding eye contact.  Her gaze is sometimes wandering, or entirely absent.  The nurse attending to us said she has not seen this in many patients, so it might be peculiar to her particular flavor of dementia.  She seem to have problems with depth perception, reaching out for a spoon or a cup and missing it by several inches.  Sometimes she reaches out to something when there is nothing in the vicinity.  This may not be a fault in her depth perception, but a hallucination.  I have never seen her hallucinate before. 

Another new behavior is her mumbling nonsense words. Before today she was often non-verbal, or would get three or four words into a sentence before losing her train of thought, but she always spoke in actual recognizable words.  Today she was mumbling, and while you could occasionally pick up a sentence fragment or two, most of it was unrecognizable, a tale told in a foreign tongue.

The last few weeks have seen her agitated and aggressive and unhappy.  She has been bounced from her nursing home to the ER and back several times, with neither institution willing to take responsibility, and was finally transferred to a behavioral unit about an hour away.  Her drug regimen has been interrupted and off schedule, tweaked here and there, one drug added, another taken away.  All that stress—the changing locations, the disruption of her drug routine--seems to have stripped away what little remained of her personality. The real her. My real wife.  Or maybe personality is an illusion, and the veil has simply been lifted.

There is, of course, that kiss. She saw my face close to hers and pursed her lips to kiss me.  So it is not quite true to say she didn’t recognize me today, for in that one moment she did.  Some piece of her is still inside, resilient and unyielding, attempting to break through all the mental static.

I don’t know what will happen next.  All I know is I have seen this day coming, growing ever closer, picking up speed, a rolling train, tracks rumbling.  Today is that day.  We have arrived.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Flying Solstice Goat

At home yesterday, Winter Solstice, while I finished stitching up fifteen hot pads so the Sewing Group can hand them out to aides and staff this week, we got busy decorating for Christmas.

Mr Robinson, the goat, wanted to be the flying angel.
––––––––––––The final touch...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Groundhog Hot Pads

When I walk on the floor at work every morning, people look at me receptively but without recognition, like, "You seem friendly... who are you?"
It's like stepping into the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character has to relive the same day over and over and over again (except I'm there by choice and I could leave).

It's a little odd to start at the very beginning every single time.
Truly, if you have Alzheimer's every day is the first day of the rest of your life. Sometimes, every minute is.

I relate to the Bill Murray character when he tries too hard at first to make things go "right", the way he wants them to.
At first I tried to make every Activity a vaudeville act. I didn't let things unfold on their own. 

After 2.5 months, I've calmed down... Sometimes I let the residents be, on their own or with each other, and it turns out I'm getting done some things that needed doing. This afternoon I sat at the sewing machine while the residents watched Oklahoma and finally finished sewing up a few more hot pads, with fabric the residents cut:
Blogger Crow sent some of this fabric ^ to us as a gift, and all the fleece filling sheets inside too! (Bless you, Crow.)

I had thought the residents could give these hot pads to family & friends for Christmas, but only about a third of the women regularly participate, and I don't want to create ill will by unintentionally leaving someone out. I can imagine two families sharing an elevator and one having a hot pad and the other not...

Today I decided that it would be logistically easier and in some ways nicer if we give a hot pad to each of the dozen nursing assistants instead. Godknows they deserve heaps of thanks and praise.

Aaaand... another entry in the Famous Person Bitten by Animal Co-star category, from here (Lady Gaga bitten by a slow loris a few posts back).

P.S. This is blog #200 in 2014. How 'bout that? It's #1,748 overall.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Life in the Cold

Me, standing in front of the bus this morning, tugging on the hook on the bike rack that holds the bike in place: "@*%$!"

Bus driver gets out of bus, comes to help me. Tugs to no effect. "These get frozen sometimes. Sorry, you can't put your bike on, it'll fall off."

So, no big deal, I locked up my bike at the bus stop and I'll bus home, but I prefer to bike off work stress. 

On the bus, a young woman tells me her screen door was frozen shut this morning. We laugh that people in Arizona don't have to deal with this.

"My sister-in-law's from Texas," she tells me. "Once when she came up to visit, her windshield frosted over, and she didn't know what to do so she threw hot water on it! Luckily it didn't crack... but of course it didn't help."

Grand and Glorious

(WAVES =Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service)

Well, yesterday was pretty OK: 
my moment of glory came when I was wiping down the Activities room and a resident came by, took a whiff, and approvingly said, "Bleach! My husband is going to love you."

Many residents with Alzheimer's, however, have lost their sense of smell (classic symptom)--now I know for sure because even standing next to the bucket of bleach water, when I asked, they said they couldn't smell it.

Marz said I smelled like a swimming pool when I came home, and I have the inevitable splashes on my black trousers (of course I'd worn plain black, even knowing I was going to be using bleach... (Z: because it's much cheaper than alcohol)).

Then in the evening bink took me along to costco and I loaded up on heavy things like t.p. and laundry detergent, ...and it's a grand feeling, in its way, to be prepared. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"This is going to be wonderful."

Boy, I don't feel that way ^ at all.
The week before winter solstice, the anniversary of my mother's death, sometimes weighs like a lead suit... It's been twelve years, and I didn't expect it to be heavy this year, but the combo of giving a lot of myself at work plus the unusually gray wet weather is depleting my cheer.

I believe in giving sadness its due but this feels more like a hungry ghost sucking my life force, not an honest sadness.

A while ago, I was muttering at work that something wouldn't turn out, a resident said, "Don't say that! Say, This is going to be wonderful!"

I usually resent people telling me to cheer up, but when someone with Alzheimer's says it, well, it gave me pause. Maybe I'll try that, I thought, and filed it away.

So, this morning, I am pulling it out and making it my mantra. And now I am heading out to the bus (rain yesterday + freezing temps overnight = bad biking).

As I wrap this up, it occurs to me, maybe I should feed the hungry ghost, even if it's an imposter of honest grief--I'm going to leave some grapes out for it---that seems like something it might like. It can make Minnesota grape salad! 

Have a wonderful day!

No, really. I'm going to try to.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Minnesota Musters Its Wits

You heard about #Grapegate, didn't you? 
The New York Times published Thanksgiving recipes from each state, and for Minnesota, they picked Grape Salad (with sour cream & brown sugar, broiled, yet!). Thousands of outraged Minnesotans wrote to complain. 

I happened to see the piece, and while it never occurred to me to write to the NYT about it, I did think it was off.

A recipe with fruit and dairy, sure, but more like this "Fruit Salad" I once ate a ton of at Thanksgiving:
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can pineapple bits
a tub of Cool Whip
1 bag mini-marshmallows

Imagine my delight to see my choice confirmed by Maud Hart Lovelace in Emily of Deep Valley--one of the Deep Valley books, which are practically documentaries of life in Mankato, MN, in the early 1900s.

The year is 1912, and the socially awkward orphan Emily is  is fretting over what to serve a group of girls she has invited over.

She thinks,
"The other girls served such novel refreshments––cheese fondue, shrimp wiggle, rice pilaff, and marvelous concoctions of marshmallow, pineapple, and whipped cream mixed together. They learned about them from their mothers who served such things at luncheons."

Take that, NYT! Minnesota's own Joyce Lamont even has a recipe for a similar Pineapple Molded Salad in her book. >

(Speaking of weird, though, Emily ends up serving friend frogs legs.)
I read Emily of Deep Valley for the first time last night and loved it better than any of the related Besty-Tacy books.
Unlike them, it's quite dark---after high school Emily can't go off to college like the rest of her friends because she can't leave her grandfather who raised her. (He seems to have some kind of dementia--it is mentioned that Emily is used to having the same conversation with him over and over.) 

Once Emily's friends leave town, "Depression settled down upon her, and although she tried to brush it away it thickened like a fog.

She only begins to emerge from it when a Shakespeare line pierces the fog:
"Muster your wits; stand in your own defense."

A good Minnesotan sentiment.  _______________________________________________

[It doesn't matter and Emily never mentions this, but it's from Love's Labour's Lost.]

Nasty Things: Flu Season

"The kids from downstairs daycare can't visit today," I told one of the grown-ups, "because some of them have the flu."

"Oh, their poor mothers!" she replied.

It's not fair but it's true that nice things are nicer than nasty ones.* 

This woman can be hard to work with because she's always asking for her family. (The problem being, I'm struggling to balance the needs of the many with the needs of the one, and she's a "one".) 
But she's also nice and considerate to others--she pats me on the arm--and I go out of my way for her when I can; whereas with a less nice person, I tend to choose the needs of the group.

I'm going to go out of my way tomorrow to clean the Activities Room where I spend most of my time. Sanitation is not all I would want it to be at the residence, so I'm going to do it myself.

Or, actually, I hope, not by myself. Lots of the women seem to enjoy housework (or, maybe, to find it reassuringly familiar?). 
I expect some of them will be willing to don rubber gloves and help wash down all the surfaces with bleach water.
* "Nice things" from Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim, a book which Marz comments "is not itself full of nice things."

1965 bleach ad from here

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Darling Gift Tags from Prehistory

One of 9 gift tags > > >
my archaeologist friend Dr H. is offering--free download at her site––of her cartoon versions of prehistoric engraved burial plaques from Portugal and Spain. 

Bear, You Complete Me

me with a bear pillow made by the Sewing Group at work
I. The Bear Project

I didn't expect doing activities with people with dementia to be so much fun. Tiring, but fun. It's entirely different from being a nursing aide, when I had to get (or try to get) people to do certain necessary things, like eat. 

No one has to do activities, and a lot choose not to. Those who join in are usually pretty happy to be there. 
(Usually. Moods fluctuate, and one day a normally happy woman slammed her scissors down in anger. 
So then we did something else.)

People are really into these bear-pillows we're making to give to kids. The fabric is printed with a bear, as you can see. The sewing group cuts them out, I sew the pieces together on the machine, and the sewers turn them right-side out and stuff them. 

People like making them more than hot pads, which are a bit too abstract. The bears are evident at each step of the process, whereas the hot pads only come into being at the end. Still, people enjoy handling the fabrics.

Some people who don't want to or can't do any of those steps come sit with us and keep us company. The other day, The Sound of Music was playing in the other half of the room, and we all ended up singing a lot too.

II. On Display

I'm conflicted about taking photos at work.
For about a month, I stopped taking my camera into work. Until then, I actually hadn't realized that legally, for privacy, we're not supposed to take photos of people. I was misled by the fact that the business maintains a FB page, residents who live there sign photo releases, and the Activities Dept. (my boss & me) are supposed to take & posts photos. 
The page is for families and, the for-profit company acknowledges (though not on the FB page), for marketing.

It's weird to me that they post photos of people with dementia who don't understand what FB is. Their families OK'd it, though, and it does provide a sense of connection, I admit, which is important.
I still don't know, though... I think a lot of the people I work with would not want to be seen in the condition they're in.

Recently, an aide suggested we put up a photo board in the activity room, and I think that's a great idea. Visitors and the residents themselves can see what's been going on, and if someone doesn't like a photo they're in, we can easily take it down. As it is now, they don't even see themselves on FB.

I've just started bringing my camera in again, for my own sake, so I can get a sense of completion.
People without short-term memory don't--can't--care about the completion of projects. I could take the bears apart every night and we could re-sew them the next day, and that'd be fine with them. (well... "fine" only because they wouldn't realize it).

At first I thought it was just the families who would benefit from seeing a finished hot pad or bear, and that I was planning such projects for their sake, but I've come to realize that I need to see some results too, or my efforts start to feel uncomfortably pointless. 

So, for now, I'm recording what we're doing for my records, and just this week I gave my boss some FB photos that are complimentary of the residents, that show our work, and that I took with the residents' permission. Next week I'm going to take my laptop to show them their photos *on* FB and see what they say.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Walk Slow. Talk Slow.

Walk slow, talk slow. Marz came up with that slogan for me at work. I've slowed down a little, but sometimes I get into such a spin, even the residents tell me to slow down.

"Have you stopped for lunch yet?" one asked me. "You need a break too."

Another said, "Stop! Take a deep breath!"

I need to accept that I can't spend time with everyone, every day. But in the next few days, I do want to at least offer everyone the chance to send a Christmas card to a friend of family member.
 My original ambitious plan had been for everyone to make a Christmas card. About a dozen people did, in fact, but I'd have to do one-on-ones with the others (because they don't like group activities, or because they need more guidance) to get them done, and I just don't have the time.

Yesterday, instead, I bought 70 cards at the Thrift Store (10 cents each!), and I will offer people a choice of two or three designs.
I will do this in a relaxed manner. Yes, I will.

Then, if I have time, I'll go outside with a couple people who love to walk. It's warm: 40 degrees!
I read that if people with dementia get 20 minutes of direct daylight, that reduces symptoms of agitation and sleeplessness.
(I'd say, for people without dementia too.)

Not only do I not have time to go on walks on worktime, in MN often it's way too icy and cold. So I want to take advantage of the warm weather. 


I shall imagine myself the lovechild of a slow loris + Mr John Wayne:
 P.S. Lady Gaga reportedly bitten by a slow loris on set of new video

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"all these lovely things"

"We know all these lovely things," she said, 
"but," spreading her hands in frustration,"where can we put them?"

--S., living with Alzheimer's 

Art Sparker pointed me toward an interesting possible response:
artmaking at places like Creative Growth, including the work of artist Judith Scott > > >
 "a visual artist isolated from outside influences as a result of the impact of deafness and Down’s syndrome."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

And say, OK then

I took the bus past the Capitol in St. Paul yesterday morning on a field trip with the residents, . . . and then in the middle of the night, I took the bus back to meet Senator Paul Wellstone, to ask him how he keeps working for the good, against the tide, when so many haven't. 
In my dreams, of course. Wellstone has been dead these dozen years, like my mother.

He leaned into me, put his head against my head, and recited a poem, so quietly I couldn't catch the words, but the feeling was like the feeling of Kaddish, a Jewish prayer traditionally recited in its original language for the dead. 

I learned Kaddish after my mother died, from a Hebrew-speaking neighbor.
The first thing that surprised me about Kaddish is that it never mentions death. It says something like, "the key is in the window."* 
(G-d made this; all say, so be it.)
The second thing is that it says it in Aramaic, not Hebrew, so even Hebrew speakers don't understand the words they're reciting.

I woke up out of the dream a little late, but in time to write this down before going to work. 

This is the world I live in. 
OK then.

Water + ink in midair ^ by calligraphy artist Shinichi Maruyama
*quote from Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The 8:34 a.m. Bounce

OK, I feel better.
Those of you who are teachers are laughing at my last post:
underpaid? overworked? isolated? poorly supported in work you love?
Welcome to our world!

Anyway, on the way to work (I have to get started in a minute), I thought I'd at least talk to my boss about my concerns, and otherwise seek out reality checks---I really don't want to build up such a head of resentment that I boil over.

At least I don't have to teach to tests..

From here 

The 7:24 a.m. Bumble

Marz and I watched Rudolph last night--didn't remember it at all from childhood. What a freaky story--I loved it! especially the line, "Bumbles bounce!" 
(Even though what happens to the Bumble, having all his teeth extracted by a hermaphrodite elf dentist, is really gruesome and surreal.)

I woke up feeling bumbly, having dreamed I was being paid $1.44/hour. 

I'm just starting my 3rd month at work. I'd thought I'd be OK with my low pay: 
with the 15-cents raise I negotiated for my starting salary--all they could pay, they said, "to someone with no experience in activities"-- I make $1 less per hour than the City paid me to check coats & bags.

I see my job as a paid internship, to learn and get experience with people with dementia. But I guess I'm building up some resentment.
Trouble is, I'm getting experience, but I'm not learning much except what I teach myself (which is a lot), and what the residents I work with can show me (which is also a lot, but not, of course, analytical).

 Most of my coworkers don't seem to know more about dementia than I do––some, less––and those who do know more are busy and I rarely see them.

My boss tells me I'm wonderful, which is nice, but I don't want praise, I want some on-the-job training, which they implied I'd get (since I had "no experience"). Instead, she seems to think I'm already doing everything right––researching, planning,  shopping for and leading activities, from stretch class to sewing group––and has nothing to teach me. 
(Could this be true? Is this a pitfall of being a middle-age worker with a young boss?)

I'm not sure what to do about this low pay, no training. 
If nothing else, I'll just keep reading and watching videos about dementia, learn by interacting with the residents, and look for a better-paid job in 10 months. And bounce like a Bumble.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tie Up Your Sheep

I bought a sandwich baggieful of mismatched teeny Christmas ornaments for $1 at the Thrift Store today. When I came home, I set up a wee creche at the base of the tabletop cone of sparkles, also $1, also from the Thrift Store.

Someone had wound gold wire around the sheep so it could be hung on a tree. Though the sheep looks like a fiery-eyed prophet, possibly named Cujo, the care with which it is tied up is worthy of entry in my file Humanity Is Not All Bad.

It's unrelated, but it reminded me of this saying of the prophet Muhammad, a saying I've always liked:
"Trust in God, but tie up your camel." 

You know, don't bug the deity with the stuff you can do for yourself; or, don't think being all one-with-the-divine excuses you from mundane tasks. 

A Buddhist saying along those lines is, "After enlightenment, the laundry."

The version I heard in the Catholic church is, a guy prays his whole life to win the lottery. He never does, and when he dies and goes to Heaven, he confronts God, saying God should have rewarded his faith.

God says, "I would have, but you never bought a lottery ticket."

Word, God, Rock

 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." --John 1:1, KJV

I.  I've always loved the opening of the gospel of John, but last night I was lying on the couch staring into space and it occurred to me, what if we lived in a culture where Word wasn't God?

Would we be so very afraid of going "out of our minds"?(dementia: de = out of + mens = mind)

Polls show older people fear Alzheimer's more than cancer.
Of course the Big A comes with all sorts of horrors––"memory loss" is just the tip of the iceberg––and is scary enough on its own. 
Still, I wonder . . . what if we, as a culture, weren't so worshipful of intellect? (I don't mean Americans value intellectuals, but we generally supervalue the take-charge  functions of the brain).

R: God on Top: Diagram of Perception by Robert Fludd, 1619
L: Baby in water, from World Water Day
I got thinking along these lines because my father recently told me that he will end his life if he gets dementia because, he said, "I value my intellect too much. I see no point in life without it."

We've never agreed about this, but I understand his identification. He was a professor of political science. 

One of our biggest fights when I was a teenager was over my question of whether rocks have souls. Actually, the disagreement wasn't about whether or not they have souls, it was about whether or not it was worth asking the question.
He said it wasn't: if we couldn't figure out the answer, it wasn't worth thinking about.

But I've also been disturbed by the Protestant Christian pastor who leads a worship service at the senior residence once a month.
Only a handful of people attend, and about half of them live with Alzheimer's. It's my job to hang around with them. 

The pastor talks and talks and talks. She makes no concession to the fact that half the congregation can't understand what she says. (I almost wish I didn't: her Thanksgiving sermon was on the theme of "our" Puritan heritage.)  

After that service, I asked my boss if the pastor knows she's talking at people with dementia.
My boss said yes, she's told her more than once. 

"Can I wait in the hall and just stick my head in now and then?" I asked.
She said I could.

I'll bring my prayer beads and try to get out of my mind.

"Monk at Golden Rock," (Burma/Myanmar)" by David Lazar

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Is This?

A mysterious donated item: do you know what this is? I don't!
It's stamped "sterling", and ... is that mother of pearl? The narrow end obviously is meant to slide into (onto?) something, but what? A cane? A baton (it'd be awfully heavy, though)?