This morning I ran into a friend who knew I’d just started school. She asked how it was going, with a comment that “You’re smart to be doing that!” “I dunno,” I replied. “Crazy might be a better word for it!”
What she actually intended to comment on, I believe, was the fact that the medical field is one that currently holds a lot of need – and, consequently, a lot of opportunities. But at this stage in the game (3 weeks in), I’m feeling pretty much, well, insane.
It is good, in the grand scheme of things, and I do not question the decision…yet ;-) But it is nothing less than a mad swirl of assignments and tests and brain-synapse-firings. Getting home late at night is quite a shift for our old early to bed habits, and Peter and I are both consumed with the effort of adjusting.
Last night we lay in bed while I tried to read something that would get my mind off textbook material; but my eyes refused to focus and my mind refused to calm down, while Peter gallantly attempted to stay awake. He has that coveted gift of being able to instantly fall asleep when in the prone position (should I elaborate with my new knowledge of appropriate medical terminology for each position one might find oneself in? Recumbent?Supine? :-); but he kindly attempts to stay awake with me on these late nights. His reading pick was the rabbit feeding book I gave him for Christmas. “Want to hear something interesting?” he asked. I put my reading down, happy for the conversational interruption. “Sure.” “Rabbits have two kinds of poop, and one kind they eat. Kind of gross, I know, but interesting.” Indeed, I was intrigued, and asked him more about it. As he talked, I sidled over closer to him. “All this talk of poop is making me ‘kerat-y’,”I said, referring to an interesting little medical terminology tidbit I’d told him about a bit earlier.
I winked. He chuckled.
And that’s all she wrote …


a death

January 16, 2020

Life didn’t stop for death.
This morning we lost one of our herd. The kid that I birthed with my own hands, scooping her little body out from behind the breached stillborn.
Later I told Peter that she had better love me after that. And I think I did favor that little one, with her tiny body (she was always much smaller than her sister) and her silky white fur. Her death is a bit of a mystery to us – perhaps some sort of animal version of failure-to-thrive?
For much of yesterday, while I was away at work and then class, Peter worked to try to save her. He kept her warm in the kitchen sink, fed her milk and maple syrup with a syringe…did the best he could. I heard the weary guilt in his voice when talking to him on the phone. “There’s nothing you could have done,” I said, “no way you could have predicted this…” I understood his emotions, though, feeling my own version of them for being away, for leaving him to care for her. But at the end of the day we knew that we had each been where we needed to be. And that we had done the best we could.
This morning we lost her. Before burying her, we laid her on one of the raised beds in the garden. I knelt beside her and stroked her face as she took her last few breaths. I told myself it was just the natural way of things in life on a farm; we always say that we think of our animals as livestock and not pets. Yet for all my stoic ideals, I still cried. The tears fell onto her little body and then onto Peter’s shoulder while he hugged me. He dug a hole there in the garden and laid her down. I began to sing, and he joined me. “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong . . .” We covered her little body with dirt and then our lives went on.
Life didn’t stop for death.

a life

January 6, 2020

I sat in my car waiting for business hours to begin, feeling a generalized sense of annoyance-and of embarrassment over the trivial nature of the things that had been annoying me (discomfort because of the winter chill, too many waves in the swimming pool, loud or annoying sounds, uncomfortable items of clothing). Each time I feel this sort of annoyance I’m struck by a sense of what can best be described as shame …shame over how, well, American I now am. I’m annoyed about things that others in similar situations can do nothing about:
Annoyed by a cold that I can easily remedy with the push of a button or change of location. Not so long ago I was in a country where there was no such thing as central heating, so that we would bundle up in hats and scarves, indoors or out, when snowfall and freezing rains came…
Annoyed by a swimming pool that gives me the luxury of a lane designated for easy laps, when I used to attempt such swims in pools populated by loud partiers. Once I was stopped in mid-stroke by a woman wearing fishnet hose and a bra top, holding a cold beverage in one hand while prodding me with the other …
Annoyed by dogs barking at night outside our rural homestead. Five years ago we tried to sleep in a bed that shook in time to the beat of the restaurant across the street. Unaccustomed to the level of sound common there in west Africa, I got out of bed one night, pulled my robe over my night gown, and marched across to speak to the manager. “We have a schoolchild in the house, and the volume level is just not suited to a residential area!” I scolded. He smiled agreeably at me. “Of course, Madam,” he replied. “No problem…”
Pleased with my success, and at the noticeable decrease in volume, I returned home with a smug smile. As soon as I had closed the door behind me, I couldn’t help but realize that, not only had the volume jumped right back to its previous level, but that it seemed even louder than before. Peter, unfortunately, had suspected as much…but knew better than to try to dissuade me from my crusade.
Suffice it to say, I should be old enough, and wise enough, to know better by now. I should be able to roll with the punches and not get so bothered by 1st world problems. But I don’t.
So sitting there in the car I fidgeted with discomfort at my present reality. I was an annoyed and bored American. And I felt the shame of that reality deeply. Sharply.
In typical Western fashion, I pulled out my phone. I told myself I would use the time productively. I paid our water bill. I responded to a few emails. And then I was at a loss as to what else I could do with the remaining 10 minutes.
I opened a newsletter I get from a writer I follow and clicked on a link for the “best photos of the year.” I figured if I was going to be wasting time I might as well be looking at something nice. Scrolling down a bit, one photo made me stop with a catch in my throat and a startled intake of breath. I stared at the faces and looked for information about the shot. All it gave me was the artist name and a link to his website. I went to the site and looked for his bio. It gave a brief story of growing up intending to follow one career path but, after the death of his father, deciding to follow his passion of photography. There was nothing indicating a location. I tried the “contact” button. This time it gave me a single, one line address. I knew the street. For 4 years I biked past it daily, down the street from where we lived in Ghana.
This moment felt like a miracle to me. A small miracle perhaps; but a miracle all the same. It took me out of the apparent mundane of the moment and reminded me of the mystery that is the daily life of each and every one of us. Did it make me feel like I should be back in that West African life? No. As tempting as it is these days to miss the “importance“ of our life overseas, I actually do not believe that it was, in fact, any more important than the daily business of life here where we are.
Here, in this present reality, my husband and I were given the gift, one short week ago now, of participating in, simultaneously, both death and new life. If that is not a mystery-and a miracle-I do not know what is.