Friday, November 27, 2009

Getting Things Right

Dad had died and I had his violin; I decided to take
lessons. One of the bank tellers where I worked
mentioned her aunt was a music teacher. She gave
private piano and violin lessons. Her name was
Margaret Bailey and she lived on Bailey Road just
off the Back Caribou Road where the stretch was
hilly farmland, quiet and crispy cold in the winter
time and sweet and sunny in spring and summer. I
would drive from our place on Main Street in
Presque Isle and take the old road that was curved
and hilly and come to the bottom of a long incline,
which was the crossroad where Bailey cut through
Caribou, turn left and drive about another quarter
mile to the old farm house -- big and white.

Margaret lived there with her sister Maud. I was in
my twenties then, Margaret must have been
pushing sixty, and Maud Thaw was widowed and
surely pushing eighty. She was stooped over with
a dowager's hump and had been a school teacher
for many decades. She was always smiling. Maud
moved much slower than Margaret, who was a spit
fire, full of loud laughter and burning energy. She
had married her music, her flowers and her dog
Fenriese, who barked ferociously every time I
drove into the yard.

Week after week for three years, I went for my
lesson. Margaret and I exchanged muffin recipes,
and Maud would calm Fenriese by petting him and
having him lie down beside her at her feet on the
kitchen floor, while we sat at the table sampling
muffins before the lesson.

Margaret was enthusiastic and positive about my
progress on the violin and never once berated me
for my lack of practicing, but encouraged me time
and again , feeding me new music pieces, enticing
me with "Danny Boy" and "Liebestraume" and
"My Wild Irish Rose." She played piano and I
played my pieces on violin. She would say, "Next
week, we'll play a duet. I'll play violin with you."

We managed to have fun even though I remained
recalcitrant as a musician.


Nothing to be done except the saying Yes to
the definitions -- those handed to me and
those I make up for myself.

These defining patterns are the perimeters,
the map, the borders, the box, the area I
navigate, function, live. Some of it is
chosen, some not.

But this is home -- conscious and

These trees are my trees. These streets are
my streets. These people are my people.

The studio apartment in which I bathe and
cook and write and sleep; this man I love --
whom I have chosen and who chose me;
and the something bigger who chose us

In School

The school of life! Perhaps, it's all about
learning the principle of the thing -- the
issue -- the cause.

Term limits, for instance. Sometimes it's
important to vote on principle.

If we want a democracy, and the people
who voted voted against term limits, but
the incumbent still overturned the term
limits so that he could run again in the
election, and he was rich enough to
convince many influential folk to encourage
their constituency to vote for him on the
basis of the good he was able to accomplish
-- and perhaps he is the better candidate, but
the way in which he went about running
again defeats all that I value, then I vote on

But, I learned that in the school of life and
hanging out with social justice minded
people who were against war because
human beings get killed in wars.


She wore a navy blue dress that flared. There was
a wide red belt around her waist, which emphasized
the flare in the dress and her feminine figure, which at
that time was more trim then in later years. She wore
red high-heeled shoes and carried a red leather handbag
that matched the shoes. She wore a navy blue hat with a
brief net veil that came down just below her eyes and nose
and her gloves were navy blue.

Mom was careful about every detail of her appearance
and mine and Dad’s too. She straightened his tie; he
liked that. He cared about his appearance too.

I wore a yellow princess style coat with a yellow hat that
also had a brief veil coming down in front of my face. I wore
white see thorough nylon gloves and black patent leather
shoes and white socks. The coat had a row of yellow buttons
with just a touch of pink in them and there was pink in the
coat’s collar. I held a small black patent leather purse.

Dad wore a light beige suit and brown shoes. His tie was
wide against his starched white shirt. There was beige and
brown in the tie and a small gold tie clasp kept it in place
and centered on his shirt when his jacket was buttoned or
unbuttoned. We were pleased with the way we looked.

Mom wore her favorite perfume, “My Sin” by Lanvin. It was
a small gold bottle about the size of her lipstick container. The
the bottle top was black. And the image drawn into the gold
bottle was of two very tiny figures – one on its knees and the
other stooped over it in a kind of seated round position – as if
the scene were of a penitent and confessor. The robe of the
confessor engulfed the smaller penitent figure as if a pardoning
were taking place.

Mom wore bright red lipstick, and her hair was dark brown.
Dad had grey salt and pepper hair, very shiny in the sun.

My hair, blond originally, was turning into light brown. It was
shiny and shoulder length in a pageboy with bangs.

We were off to church on a Sunday morning in Soldier Pond.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Time Cut Off From Time

“A Time Cut Off From Time”

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 10/14/09

That’s how it felt when I went to Fran’s place out in Mattituck on Long Island. We did whatever she felt like doing or we did nothing at all. I ran a few errands for her or defrosted her little refrigerator. It was our time together and as the end grew closer, she told me how much she looked forward to my coming on the weekends.

There was no knowing how long Fran would live after she renounced the chemo and radiation. The pain grew bolder and she fed herself her own meds. Fiercely independent, she maintained control for as long as she could. Hospice grew tired of her calling them. She was afraid of being alone, I’m sure. She knew I’d come whenever she wanted me to, but she would send me away too – wanting me to go back to the city. She’d be okay.

“Let me know,” I’d tell her. “You know I’ll come.” I used up all my sick time and personal days from work and I was hoping to hang on to my vacation days. But, I had those for her as well if she wanted and needed me to come out to her.

I guess I’ll always feel I could have done more, I should have gone out there to be with her, but I needed my job too.

Because she wasn’t a close enough relative I couldn’t take a leave of absence to be with her. But, I would have stayed anyway if she needed me to. She didn’t want me. She kept saying, she was saving me for later.

But, the weekends were ours. I grew to looking forward to spending time with Fran. She was easy to be with. She probably held back on her meds so that she’d be alert enough for us to go riding. She had to give up her driving – a really big deal, but she did it. She was brave and so dear. I drove her van. We went to the shore – the sound, the bay, and on good days and when Jim was free to come, we went to the South Fork to see the ocean.

I tweaked her big toe. “I’ll see you soon, Baby Doll,” were my last words to her when Jim and I left the hospital on Sunday. I spoke with her briefly on Monday. “I love you very much,” I told her on Monday afternoon. “Who said that?” She responded on the other end of the line. “DeAnn,” I said. “Tell her I love her very much too.” “I will,” I said. She was confused from all the morphine, I knew.

On Tuesday morning I called her. “I can’t talk right now,” she said. “I’ll call later, Sweetie,” I said. When I called she was asleep.

On Wednesday, I waited and called the nurses’ station when I knew they would have checked in on her. “She’s resting comfortably.” “Thank you,” I said.

At 11:20 A.M., Dr. Emanuele called, “Fran went to heaven at 11 this morning.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"What Am I Doing Here?"

July 22, 2009 Authentic Writing Workshop

I'm celebrating! Yes, my new found right to life inspires
me so that I may even do stuff I always found impossibly
taxing -- like practicing the violin.

At dinner this evening at our favorite hang out Jim and I
were playfully interrupted by our neighbor Helen, who is
a free spirit if ever there was one.

She walks around the East Village playing the accordion
and singing songs in French and German. She'll play
whenever invited and even on the sidewalk outside your
window if she so feels moved.

I accidentally referred to this violin I have, which belonged
to my father. I did take lessons years ago, but I started as
a young adult in my twenties and never stayed with it because
life happened and I moved around and away from my teacher.

I found new teachers through the decades but never really
stuck to it. Anyway, Helen got all excited! "Here's my
orchestra!" She exclaimed to anyone who would listen
inside or outside the cafe.

The owner was also hanging out with Helen; they had been
talking. Helen, accordion around her neck, going on about
Jim playing guitar and she the accordion and now I the
violin. "I wouldn't go so far as to say I play," says I. "But
I did do a fair rendition of 'Danny Boy' at one time."

And Helen exclaimed, "That's it, we have a chamber ensemble.
We'll gather out here sometime and play 'Danny Boy!'"

It didn't seem at all absurd to me -- not even one tittle.


July 22, 2009 Authentic Writing Workshop

I thought I knew what it meant, but It turns out I didn't.
I had an addiction to aspiring to what I thought others had--
love, talent, attraction, creativity, a swirling of options
in life choices.

Belonging to the group, the family, the corps, the tribe --
having an identity, a partner, an achievement, a gift, some
radical way of being, I thought, was the way life had

Being really, really good at something provides an identity,
I thought, and gains you recognition to be part of a group
of writers, painters, dancers, singers. Being gifted in these
ways enthralled me more than being a teacher or social
worker or any other care-giving provider -- which I also
aspired to.

The unforeseen happened and everything changed.
Before I knew it, I was sixty years old -- closer to
eighty than to thirty -- even though on some level I feel
like I'm thirty-five or sometimes, due to generally good health,

Where did the time go while I was hoping and wishing and
feeling disappointed and feeling sorry for myself? Where
did the time go while I was eliminating all of my options
finding that everything I tried was out of fear of failing in
the only places I really wanted to succeed?

But the journey has proven fulfilling anyway. I've finally
said Yes to the unthinkable -- to things exactly the way
they are -- and now I belong to the communion of failures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Addiction has to do with it-ain’t-easy. It is dis-ease. Dis-ease has to do with not being at ease; not being comfortable with something, with life maybe.

All of these thoughts occurred to me when Sr. Labonte said to me for the first time, “You know, of course, that alcoholism is a disease.” Well, of course, I didn’t know that, and I was hesitant in buying that notion. But, gradually the idea that alcoholism is a disease did sink in and I accepted it. This was long after my father had died and long after the trembling nights when he’d arrive drunk and my mother would be very upset and they would fight and I would be very afraid that life was coming to an end.

Many of my relatives have not been comfortable with life; have found life difficult and so in part I have also found life difficult and have my own addictions, to chocolate, for instance and to relationship and the desire for not being alone, and coca cola. Addiction is an unquenchable thirst.

I grew to be very angry at my Dad over stuff that happened during our lifetime together; I was ashamed of him, of me, of my mother. The days of my childhood felt like life lived under a cloud, was dark and conducive to bone-crushing depression.

Addiction is delicious and ease-inducing and soft and comfy and like a hot fudge sundae or really, really good sex; it’s an ice cream cone with jimmies and oozing chocolate mouse doused in a hot chocolate pudding. Yum!

Addiction is films 24-7, cold beer and pretzels and getting fat, fat or staying thin thin with cocaine or heroin; feeling like it’s a party all the time. And isn’t life just that, a party where you feel free, free, free and un-responsible? Let me eat what I want to eat; that’s what I live for, a fattening, overstuffing, tasty, but only for a moment, meal!

Addiction leads down the road to the nothing that comes from nothing and all that presses down from life like judgment and anger and feelings of failure and feelings of inferiority and superiority and not meeting one’s goals and dying, dying inside with self-disappointment.

Addiction is a seeking for some relief from all the pain of self denigration and feelings of not belonging and feelings of never feeling like one could belong; the utter hopelessness of it all; it’s just too much to think.

And I am going out right now to get a double chocolate chocolate muffin with diluted hazelnut combined with decaf coffee!

Actually, I had a juicy naval orange instead! Whew!

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW by phone 3/4/08

The Person I Was Meant To Be

Ta rum, ta rum, ta rum, ta ra ra ra ra ra rum…. We danced the Mexican Hat Dance for Madame Beaulieu. I was meant to dance, to sing, to recite poetry. That’s all.

In Soldier Pond, Madame Beaulieu was the post mistress and the choir director for Sacred Heart Church. It seems I was in the choir from the time I could hold my head up and walk. I don’t remember even being in church as a young child when I wasn’t in the choir upstairs in the back of the church and facing the sanctuary and altar.

I also wept at Pere Desrocher’s homilies. He loved the Virgin Mary and could wax eloquent in speaking about her and how she was our heavenly mother. She loved us as unworthy as we were; she would always be present to us in our sorrows and our joys. We could turn to her.

Vers l’autel de Marie,
Marchons avec amour.
Vers l’autel de Marie,
Donnez nous un bonjour.

We sang in French, we sang in Latin. He was called the crying priest. He would get so rapt up in his words about the Holy Mother of God that I wept too. I wept and I didn’t care that the girls around me noticed. I was completely caught up in his words.

There would be choir practice after Mass and I would stay to sing some more.

And after school we practiced at Madame Beaulieu’s home in her parlor where she had a piano just off the front entry of the yellow house where all the mail boxes were located.

All the little children gathered in the parlor to sing and to dance in preparation for the minstrel show that was held in the church basement. I don’t recall what time of year it was, but I feel it was an annual event. And on this particular occasion we were rehearsing the Mexican Hat Dance; skipping and twirling. I would be singing my solo – Open Up Your Heart And Let The Sunshine In.

It took several years it seems before I would discover that the words in the song were not mothers never lose and fathers never win. The words actually were smilers never lose and frowners never win.

By then the demons had been established; they’d taken up residence.

DeAnn Louise Daigle year-end writing retreat morning 12/27/07

Something I'd Missed

So terribly unfair it seemed to me then, that I should miss out on my high school proms; I’d helped to decorate for the senior prom; the theme was “Shangri La.”

I was painfully in love from a distance and way too shy to let it be known. What I would have given to go to the prom with Bobby Gowan!

So unfair; some girls got to attend proms even when they were freshmen. And here I was a senior and I was going to miss this special senior prom – my own senior prom for which I’d helped to decorate. I tried pretending that it really didn’t matter, but it did.

When the song “To Dream The Impossible Dream” came out and was in the play “Man From La Mancha,” I was so deeply moved by it that several years later I would read the book Don Quixote by Cervantes. There must be something in this story that would touch me, I thought. The song touched me deeply.

To love pure and chaste from afar. These words touched me deeply. I loved every boy I’d loved in that way – “from afar.”

To try when your arms are too weary to reach the unreachable star. This is my quest, to follow that star no matter how hopeless, no matter how far. To dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star.

It was so beautiful, so painful, so magnificent. Later, I saw the play – a musical here in New York City. I got goose bumps when the song was sung on stage, and yet in the story, that this dreamer, Don Quixote, should be in love with a prostitute seemed to me incongruent and even repulsive until the actor sang the song “Dulcinea,” and it was the way in which he perceived this woman as perfect and beautiful just the way she was, without her having to change at all; his perception made her beautiful. And I longed for someone to perceive me beautiful, and I cried.

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW by phone 1/29/08

Always Adrift

"Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." – Carl Gustave Jung

I find compelling that what is done authentically on the outside must come from within. This kind of philosophy embraced by the transcendentalists among others, such as the psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, gives me hope along this way of most always feeling adrift.

All that beneath-the-surface stuff left me very unsure about my existence and my place in the world, as if I were missing what is essential. And, like so many in my generation, I did seek answers from the outside even though this split existed within me – that I felt drawn inside.

It feels like it’s pretty much remained thus with me – not that there haven’t been moments when I did feel I had the essential, and that life was promising, and adventure awaited me.

I’m always searching, questioning and wondering about the what-ifs of life. It’s often difficult to just be.

Never-the-less and not without some measure of angst, I managed to climb Hedgehog Mountain, a swollen hill in Mapleton, Maine where a woman I befriended years ago invited me to climb it with her. She lived rather primitively with no running water and only the bare bones of a house where she and her mother resided. Ella worked with me at W. T. Grant Company in Presque Isle, my first official full-time job as a young adult. I was eighteen. I would work there two years. The women I worked with were like so many mothers to me. With them, I was made to feel special and free. Among them, there was camaraderie with teasing and laughter that gave me a sense of wellbeing.

Not without angst, I managed a real hike up a mountain when I was twenty-four with David and some of his fellow students and professors from MIT. Together, we climbed Mt. Lafayette at the northern end of the Franconia Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, part of the famous Appalachian Trail.

Not without angst, in my early to mid-thirties, I hiked and climbed mountain trails in southwestern Maine and once again in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with sisters from my community; and in summers spent studying theology at St. Michaels I managed to hike in northern Vermont.

And now, not without a modicum of angst, and it growing less, I happily climb the sidewalks of New York City from the East Village to Central Park and sometimes beyond.

Except in rare moments, I feel too restless to allow nature to be the inspiration it used to be when I was too young to know a lot of things; and just a little later, even when it seemed – even to me – on the surface of things that I could have relaxed enough to allow nature in, I remained unable to do so.

DeAnn Louise Daigle 12/10/07