Friday, March 26, 2010

Going From Room To Room”

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 3/20/10

The store was downstairs. The front faced the road, which was never paved. Mom blamed the lack of business to that fact. It seems the town had voted on paving the other road, the one that led directly over the bridge in Soldier Pond. Across that bridge were three more stores to choose from. Our end of the village only had the one store. We still supplied several families – even those up the hill that led to a fork with Eagle Lake going south and Fort Kent going north. We were situated just east of both larger towns. That would have meant Fort Kent on the right and Eagle Lake on the left if you traveled up the hill to the fork from the store. On the way to Eagle Lake you came to the small settlement town of Wallagrass – Soldier Pond fell officially within the district of Wallagrass Plantation.

When you walked in the front of the store, you pushed in a heavy wooden door that had a glass window from the waist up if you were an adult, chin up or nose up or above your head depending on how small a child you were. Upon entry, there were nail barrels on either side for people to sit on and chat. Later Mom would add an old stuffed rocker on the left side of the entrance, and my dog Chillie would love to climb into it to nap in the sunshine that flooded in through the large windows on either side of the door.

The cats Blackie and Mitzie also liked the warm seat. Only those two cats were allowed into the store; the others stayed in the shed or roamed outside, and Dad cared for all the animals. He fed the cats in the shed and Chillie in our kitchen upstairs. He gave treats to them all in the side- store where he cut the meat.

Upon entering from the front, you were faced with aisles of canned goods on the left and bread and pastries on the right. Cereals and other boxed goods as well as baking products were on the wall shelves on the left. Against the wall on the right was a cooler for milk, cream, butter, soft drinks, and after the beer license, beer.

Mom was hoping someday we’d get a freezer for ice-cream, but we never did.

Behind the counter straight ahead and toward the rear of the store, was a whole wall of candy bars in their respective boxes, open and leaning forward displaying their contents. Right next to that display and directly behind the cash register were cigarettes packed in neat rows in a glass case and next to them were wall shelves of all kinds of medicines, elixirs and tonics for spring, cold remedies, aspirin, rubbing alcohol and the like.

Right next to the counter where the penny candies were also on display near the cash register, was a glassed-in white meat case displaying fresh meats, red hot-dogs, blood sausages known as (boudin) and cold cuts, and cheese.

A great white scale was on a counter next to that. Here were weighed all the bulk goods: bolts and nuts and nails, the meat, and cookies from the glassed-in cookie case that held the coconut cookies and pinwheels and jelly-filled and date-filled and ginger snaps too. Underneath the scale were brown paper bags of varying sizes, very small to very large.

There was a red metal peanut machine that stood on a pedestal in front of the counter with the scale. For one penny you could get a whole fistful of beer nuts. A bubble gum machine with jaw-breaking blue, red, green, yellow and orange balls filled the inside of a yellow stand with a clear thick plastic dome right next to the peanut machine. For one penny, you could try your hand at breaking your jaw. I was allowed one ball when my cousin Barbara came to visit in the summer from Biddeford, Maine.

In an anti-room on the right and just off the main part of the store, there stood the large square kerosene tank. In that same space was a wall of cubby holes filled with various sized nails and nuts and bolts, spikes and screws. On a shelf above the kerosene tank were kerosene lamps for sale. There was a pickle barrel and a salt pork barrel and two more nail barrels for sitting and chatting away the minutes. There were overalls hanging on one wall, mostly for men, but some for children too; there were work gloves and large red handkerchiefs on shelves with brimmed caps and a few brimmed straw hats for working the potato houses and fields. There were hoes and shovels leaning up against the wall and brooms and dustpans too.

The back door to the store led outside through the heavy wooden storm door and screened door where stood a long wooden bench for people to sit on and talk. The red gas pump stood by the side of the road; the Flying Horse emblem on a round white disk at the top. The car garage was out there too attached to the shed and just below the porch outside the house, which extended onto the fenced-in lawn up on a knoll and facing the water and the houses and fields across the water, including the schoolhouse now painted white, which had been red when Mom attended. Potato houses were lined up next to each other and down the embankment from the unpaved road and just above the railroad tracks, which were up a smaller embankment from the water’s edge.

Back inside was the side-store room through another doorway directly in front of you as you stepped in from the back entrance and past the kerosene tank now behind the opened storm-door. In this room, Dad cut the meat that was kept in the meat case and in the meat locker, which was located in that room. He had a butcher table and sharp knives and thick brown wrapping paper with white twine for wrapping. In that room, were kept cases of empty soda bottles and in season, fresh produce like onions and grapefruit and oranges, pears and peaches. There was a rack that held brightly colored envelopes of seeds with pictures of the product on the outside of the envelope.

There was a wide window sill as well, where you could sit in the sun and look out of the tall wide glass window. Outside the window and directly across the road was the small grey building referred to as “the office” and more potatoes houses stood in line along the tracks. You could also see the water and, in winter time, the section that was scraped and used as an ice-skating rink. The evergreen woods and hills stretched out to infinity. We played cards, Old Maid, in that window. We played jacks too and laughed and sometimes ate potato chips and drank soda.

The cellar door, a trap door in the floor, opened up; and a stairway led down into the dark earth basement where one light bulb with a pull chain hung from the ceiling and where the furnace was located and where Dad had nursed a sick cat or two or three over the years. He fed them canned milk and they came out looking picture-perfect after having survived awful cat fights in the woods. Dad fell down those same cellar stairs and broke his cheek bone when he drank too much one time. Then, he had to wear glasses permanently.

Behind the counter where the scale stood in the store proper was another door that led to the back-store, where cases of empty beer bottles and soda bottles were kept, and there was a large heavy old brown desk always over-loaded with files and papers. On the desk was a massive Underwood typewriter, which I loved to play with and on which I would write my small story books and poems. The room reeked of the smell of beer and soda, but I stared out the window that looked into the tall grass from the hillside, where we slid down in winter time and where the apple tree stood with its most fragrant spring blossoms. My apple tree, and I fought for it too, yelling at the boys who climbed it and ate the green apples, never allowing them to grow red.

The stairs – that went up to where we lived and into our kitchen on the left, and out onto the screened-in porch on the right – were just outside the back-store. A door that led to the shed was also there at the foot of the same stairs, as well as, another screen door that went outside to where the bench was and near the store’s rear entrance.

In the store proper again, Dad had an office behind the counter and to the left as you walked in through the front of the store. You couldn’t see it immediately until you walked up to the counter to pay for your purchase, but you could hear the music emanating from the sometimes staticy brown radio. The office was behind a walled-in section. It was a small office. On the wall hung a pay phone next to the large scenic wall-calendar. There was an old oak desk, a black phone and a swivel chair. This is where Dad read the morning paper from which he then made his daily tongue-in-cheek pronouncements goading the population who visited. A large filing cabinet stood against the wall. On top of the cabinet was a grey wire rack with clips that held all of the unpaid bills from the local poor people.

We were all poor – in varying degrees.

“What I Was Supposed To Do”

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW w/Marta 3/13/10

I felt I never pleased her because I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do – and it stunned me when one of the sisters said to me at breakfast, where we were supposed to be silent in the Motherhouse refectory, “Just say what you think; just say what you believe.” Why had I been so stunned? Well, I was stunned and embarrassed because it occurred to me when she said this to me, that I’d always been afraid to say or think or believe the wrong thing, the unacceptable thing. Like wow! Here was this very bold, very intelligent, funny and never-lost-for-words sister telling me now at twenty-nine years old that in essence I should be thinking and speaking for myself, not mouthing stuff to please others, whether they were the traditionalists or the progressive-thinking bunch with whom I now found myself surrounded.

Where was I in this foray? What stand, in fact, was I taking? Obviously, I was sitting with Sister M and company; a table I chose. And these folk wanted passionately to do away with silence – along tradition-bound practice in religious life – intended to extend the sacred space we had just left – early Mass in the chapel upstairs. The new theology was about recognizing that every space was sacred space and every act by human beings – the act of speaking itself – was sacred as well. I do think we were all a bit nervous, a bit intimidated by the long-standing-centuries-old tradition for keeping silence at breakfast. But, some of us were less afraid than others and were eager to move ahead into twentieth century new theology, which actually had its roots in the past. It was more interpretation that was happening rather than totally new theology, but a view to tradition in practicing what we felt was truly intended; what the Jesuit founder meant when he said seeing God in all things and all things in God. We were, as Sisters of Mercy, very much instilled by the teachings of the Jesuit tradition, and we up-and-coming young sisters were trying to do exactly that in our own way. Some of the older sisters also understood this; others were miffed to high heaven and just viewed us as impertinent and letting the secular society dictate to us a way of living that went against what we had been taught – what we knew deep down to be right.

It was a hot time! And tempers flew hither and yon at community gatherings and meetings. Professionals were brought in to teach us how to communicate with one another. Many sisters said nothing – kept so much inside and were confused. They feared that their whole lives had no meaning if all this change was happening around them. The Latin Mass, gone; the long floor-length habits, gone; going places in a car unaccompanied, gone! Their world seemed to be falling apart. So in came the enneagram and Myer-Briggs – instruments to help us come to know and understand ourselves. It seemed an insult to many – since for decades they’d believed they were the brides of Christ and were totally given to God – and that was enough. More impertinence!

But, what stunned me was my own inability to know myself and how for guidance I looked around me and though I knew deep down what was right and true for me – I needed concrete examples of others living out what I wanted to live out for myself.

So Sister M kicked me hard that morning at the refectory table, because I’d been looking to her and to Sister A and others as examples of how to live authentically my own truth in this topsy-turvy world of change.

My mother, my dear mother, had made it hard for me to know how to please her. She so wanted the best for me, but she stifled me too. Perhaps that’s why I so looked inward. I really don’t know. Being inward was my temperament also, I think. I was different from her yet I was like her too in some ways. We both loved beauty and balance and neatness and order. But, she felt distant to me too. When I was very young I felt she really didn’t want me around. If I’d said that to her later when I was older, I think she would have been very hurt. I don’t think she realized how dismissive she was of me. Now, I think she felt guilty a lot and perhaps ashamed too that she had committed such a sin and I was a constant reminder to her.

I know now how painful her life had been – not without its moments of joy, but, she lived with a sick man, an alcoholic and no one saw his behavior as an illness; it was seen then as something evil and bad that my father was doing, and my mother could do nothing about it. They loved each other and stayed together and lived in the struggle bereft of understanding – or maybe they did understand and accept their reality. My father, who was not my biological father, was a very kind man and not one who would have intentionally hurt anyone. My mother knew this. And when I grew angry with him, she advised me not to because there was nothing he would not do for me. He loved me so much, and I knew this to be true.

Maybe love does conquer all. The old clich̩ is profoundly true Рperhaps.

And maybe all the turmoil we were experiencing in religious life had to happen in order for all of us to accept this truth once again.

It seems the turmoil that appears in personal life and in the life of society is a kind of earthquake, that forces us to come to our senses, to come to what really matters!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nothing Better Out There

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 3/11/10

Sometimes there is something better out there. Clichés are sometimes accurate. The bird song outside my window this morning is spectacular, and it is outside of me, but it’s my ability to appreciate the song, inside of me, that fills me with wonder.

Everything is out there and everything is inside also. When the inside is in sync with the outside, everything is best.

Whatever I’ve noticed around me, whether the woods, birds, wind, or waves, if my interior world was not at peace I was not able to appreciate and have a sense of wonder for my surroundings, but nature is a curious thing. It grabs you by the lapels and swings you around to its own way of vast perspective. Nature has power and magic that heals the interior spirit of a person.

Being out in nature does sooth the soul; there is a connection; a recognition of the self. Human beings are part of nature, not separate. I found out last Saturday that this is a basic belief of Shintoism, the far Eastern ancient religion and philosophy.

I was at a Zendo taking a course in Ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangeing. It is a contemplative and quiet exercise that in the end reflects the person’s interior world.

Isn’t that what we really seek in religion? We seek to have our inner world reflected back to us. There must be something sovereign and stately and filled with grace and unsurpassable beauty in the interior that makes us passionate for having it all reflected back to us.

This morning my religion is bird song and even the helicopter fluttering overhead gives me a sense of permanence and place here in the golden city of my being.


DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 3/9/10

Frosting on the cake on a big plate with little plates all around makes a party. Pink petals in the frosting and green leaves. It’s Lent and my birthday. The exception to the rule; today, I can have cake and soda and a bit of candy too. My birthday always falls right after Lent begins. That’s just how it is. If Mom were truly strict about it, she would not allow this one digression. She is strict and she does allow for this one digression.

Oh, happy me! Only, on all my birthday pictures from little girl days, I don’t look happy one bit. What was happening? Was it that there were just too, too many of my peers in the room, I was no longer the center of real attention? They were all conversing and joking and laughing, but I felt left out. I always felt a bit on the margins, a ways away from my cousins and friends. I felt different from the beginning, it seems.

I was happiest with warm sunny summer days daydreaming in the swing, running to the woods with my cousin Carl and building camps and playing imaginary games. I was happiest with my animals, Pepper and Mitzy and Blackie the cats, and my dog Chillie. Finding kittens in the shed all in a ball on a burlap bag made me happy; Mitzy looking content while feeding them; the smell of the dusty shed was a clean smell. It was outdoorsy though not quite. It felt natural.

I did not like the smell of the beer bottles in the back store, all stacked in cases. Returnables. The smell of the soda bottles made the smell of the beer bearable.

Something Changed

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 3/3/10

I was in the shower several years ago now, when this strange song came to me. It moved me so deeply, I began singing it and tears rolled down my cheeks as I did so, and something inside me softened, softened -- ever-so-subtly, it was almost imperceptible. I only noticed it after I stopped singing, but I did not want to stop singing. The song, it seemed, was singing me. It was in French. What did that mean? That I sang in French? It felt like a connection to my childhood and my childhood friends -- a time of wonder and questioning and mystery and fear and anxiety too.

But the French felt singular, felt unique and universal all at the same time.

It felt like some deep, deep cry had welled up and it could only be expressed in song. The melody, I found haunting and the words even more so. They were mysterious and filled with wonder.

Et les petite enfants, (3 times), ils vont chanter, ils vont chanter. Repeat

Et les petits enfants, (3 times), ils vont danser, ils vont danser, ils vont danser Repeat

Et les petits enfants, (3 times), ils vont chanter, its vont danser. End

It went on like this for about a half hour, I think, as if I'd been in some kind of trance; and something deep inside me softened, something changed.

Three-Ring Circus

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 2/13/10 w/Marta

Color. Right away I see lots and lots of color. The non-subject, non-topic for me always inspires something even if it’s nothing at all. For some reason – mysterious to me – this non-topic inspires dislike.

Perhaps because circus reminds me of the closest thing to what I experienced as circus. The Northern Maine Fair, which took place in Presque Isle for all of my growing-up years was not something I especially enjoyed, although I was expected to enjoy it. I disliked the fast, tortuous rides that turned the body in every possible posture—the very thought of which made me physically ill. I didn’t even like the idea of the so-called more gentle merry-go-round with its tall colorfully painted horses. You’d never get me on one of those.

I did accept, at least, one time riding in one of the booths that were also scattered among the horses on the merry-go-round. I felt dizzy afterwards. My aunt went with me.

The one and only thing I did enjoy was the pink cotton candy. And someone in the family, usually my uncle, winning some kind of little doll or toy animal on a stick for me to carry home after the day was over delighted me as well. These were the high points.

The fireworks at night, I dreaded most of all. I loved the colors and beautiful forms in the sky, but the noise made me terribly nervous and was too much like thunder for my liking. It was closer than thunder and so much the more nerve-racking. I don’t remember Mom and Dad taking me to this affair. I do remember my aunt and uncle, who were visiting from New York taking me. Sometimes my Maine cousins were present. It’s all a blur. They would have been there, of course.

I do recall one year when my closest cousin Carl coaxed me into the tilter-world. He said, “It’ll be fun. See, it’s not so bad.” By then, I was probably ten or eleven years old. I figured I should give this a try. Maybe it will be fun. It was not.

I found myself certain I was going to die during this awful whirling business. We sat inside something like a cup-and-saucer-shaped enclosure and held on to a metal bar, while it began slowly at first to turn and while turning being whirled around along with other cups and saucers on this metal platform that was also moving round and round like a giant turn table. I must have been out of my mind to agree to this. I screamed at the top of my lungs, it seemed. But no one heard me. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to get off. I couldn’t even hear myself scream, the sound of the whole thing drowned out every other possible noise. I think my cousin Rita was with me in this thing. Each cup and saucer held only two people. When the rig finally came to a stop, I tried to pretend I was fine. “Get up,” she said to me. “It’s over.” You could have fooled me. I was seeing green. Everything was green. I did get off the thing, but whirled around for the rest of the day. I was sick, sick, sick – and knew then, that I would never, ever get on one of these rides again.

But, I think a few years later, I rode the roller coaster. Then, it was for sure – never again.

There are things in life that are worth trying at least once, but then, there are things that are best well-left alone. Later on, I would trust my gut more than what others of my peers would insist was great fun.

Perhaps I missed out on lots of fun, but I think not. Not for me. I chose my own spaces and places – even if it meant I was more of an observer than a participant. Even when it came to marriage and children; if I had really, really thought that would have been fun for me, I feel sure now that I would have tried this. I know all of this better in retrospect from my current vantage point – so many years away from adolescence and young adulthood – all of which was hard labor for me to navigate. I’m so relieved now to have it all behind me. I am pleased with things in my life just as they are right now.

I have questioned, I have explored, I still do, but with less of “my life depends on it” feeling inside. I never married. I have no children. I’ve felt sad about that in the past.

I have a very significant other in my life. It’s really quite wonderful that we’ve found each other – different from one another as we are – we also share some common threads that bind us. I don’t feel the need to examine all of it that closely anymore – even as I write this – I have a propensity I know to do just that. But, that too is growing less and less.

It’s hard to put into words the really close stuff. Some distance is required to get some kind of expressive hold on it.

I read a quote by Erica Jong not too long ago. Something like this. “All we humans need in life are something to eat, something to drink and someone to love us.”

I like that. It’s not someone to love that she says, but someone to love us – which I think is more honest and true. To feel loved is the most wonderful thing in life. We’re always saying or hearing that we should love one another. Love is a verb. It’s important to love someone. It’s important to love yourself. But it feels ever more true to me that we need to be loved. And that means that we also need to let love in; to believe that we are loved; that it is true when someone says they love us; that they really mean it. But, again that implies that I must do something. I have to be able to let the love in. I’m getting weary of doing so much. But in order to eat and drink, I must work, so it’s no surprise that I must work also to allow someone to love me.

Letting someone love me in the way they want to love me without my dictating the way I want to be loved is also my work. But it’s a work I can enjoy and a ride I can tolerate even if it is a bit of a tilt-a-whirl or tilter world.

In A Group

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 2/10/10

It was a year ago this past January that you and I went to the little pond not far from Wayside, where you lived, and where you had worked for the good part of thirty years. You recounted to me how as a young child you came out here and sledded down the hill with your friends and how this little pond would freeze up and you’d go ice-skating.

Well, here we were in the van when a flock of ducks flew in from, it seemed, nowhere and landed on the icy pond, and with their webbed feet attempted to walk on the ice. There must have been about twenty or thirty of them.

A smaller group broke out from the larger flock; they were determined to walk along the pond’s edge. The others remained still – watching. These daring ten or so flip-flopped on the ice sliding along, stopping as if to size up the situation and then begin again.

Undaunted, they walked on the ice and their bodies cast a shadow that was simply too much for a photographer like you not to notice. You walked to the pond with your camera and shot away. I, cold, on that frosty morning drive, remained inside the van and watched you watching them.

I have one of the black and whites here now. I’m looking at it, Fran, and I’m remembering how we delighted in that moment.

Other People's Stories

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 1/27/10

They do interest me, like a good film offers me a great escape from my own paranoia. I find other people’s stories can be wonderful life lessons for me. I find other people’s stories inform me of my own story. I’m not ashamed anymore like I used to be. I’m not as timid and scared of risk-taking as I used to be. I’m not so wrapped up about what other people will think or say about me like I was when I was fifteen and shy, shy, shy – seemingly afraid of my own shadow.

Now, there’s an interesting phrase – afraid of my own shadow. And well I should be. What lurks in the shadow is a fearsome thing. Writing assists me in meeting my shadow head-on; my envy, my jealousy, my longings and selfish pre-occupations, my guilty delights.

Writing is a pressure-release-valve that allows me an exploring debit card by which I’m not permitted to take out and put on paper more than what’s in the bank. It’s my bank of life experience. I’m not allowed to write other people’s stories and pass them off as my own. I could hardly do this, since I cannot know first-hand other people’s experiences from the inside – and for me what’s inside is all that really matters.

We All Have To Go To Sleep

DeAnn Louise Daigle 1/25/10

We all have to go
to sleep sometime.

We may not be ready
or we may.

It won't matter.
When the time comes

and come it will.
We all have to go to sleep.

For The First Time

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 1/23/2010

Poets House. After about five minutes of looking around and then sitting down, I realize, clearly, that I hadn’t come here to read other people’s poetry. I had come here to write my own.

I came in and was greeted by a young man probably in his twenties, “Welcome. Is this your first time at Poets House?”

“Thank you. No, I came in September at the opening.”

“Would you mind signing the guest book?”

I signed my name, filled in my e-mail address though I doubted they could read it. People generally have trouble reading my e-mail address when I write it. I made a small donation, went to straighten out my looks in the restroom, and debated as to whether or not I should hang up my coat by the entrance, leaving it there while I went along upstairs. There were about three coats and jackets hanging on the clothes rack. I decided to carry my two hundred dollar feather coat upstairs.

The cushy chair by the window is wide and easily supports me and my coat and my bag as well. It’s quiet … very quiet, and the staff tip toes on the wooden floor.

Suddenly this feels like a sacred space. It holds art and it invites art to be made here. There’s only the droning sound of the air system. The windows overlook the Hudson River, the playground in the foreground and New Jersey in the background on the other side of the Hudson.

People are jogging along the boardwalk and parents and children – only a few on this cold yet sunny Saturday morning – are in the playground. Parents are pushing swings while children enjoy the movement while parents converse among one another. Other children are quietly playing in sandboxes and some are rocking in a kind of single see saw while others are skipping about.

Lots of jungle gyms are empty for now. It’s like watching a silent moving picture show. The window glass blocks out the outdoor noises.

The icons in this sacred space are shelves of books containing the words and phrases of artists. No stained glass windows here. Plenty of daylight from the long windows fills the lightly painted space where white and yellow walls reflect light back on itself and throughout. Long florescent suspended ceiling light bulbs hang over the stacks down away from where I sit.

My pew offers a splendid view.

Now, there are more running children in the playground and the jungle gyms are being used and parents walk around after their tiny progeny. Signs that read Stop and Raise Plow and No Standing Anytime line the side street where cars are parked and not parked along the playground space. Street lights – the old fashioned kind – line the side walk too. These are not gas lit like in the old days. They are electric and probably on a timer set to go off at nightfall. They give a pretty and romantic feel to this whole outdoor space.

Cabs drive by – all silently. The trees are bare of leaves and I know spring and summer will change the view. These trees will obscure some of the river view and some of the New Jersey panorama. What a great soft and silent space this is! I am delighted to be here.

Two helicopters hover above the Hudson and a jet leaves its silken stream across a lightly blue and yellow sky. Children slide down the curved and winding yellow slide and a tiny little fellow runs back to his red stroller.

A boat named Zephyr is heading up the Hudson. And a few people are walking dogs. Now, children – older ones – are running up the yellow curvy slide – young boys about nine or ten years old. They’re running and jumping on and off the jungle gyms like the boys back home did on the railroad cars. Boys – full of energy and daring.

A man is parallel parking a car across the street and does it with admirable ease.

A woman runs out of a car to jump the low divide and into the playground. A man leaps over the same divide; looks like she’s relieving him. She’s come to be with her child in the playground. There are two children and she’s up on the tiered platform with them. And Dad just returned. All four of them are now up on the jungle gym-like platform.

I am delighted to be here.

I must go now; grocery shopping to do and errands to run. Jim and I plan to see a movie later.

This is my first time writing at Poets House. I will return again.

Leaving What Was Known

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 1/20/2010

I felt an amazing inner freedom that was more exuberance than anything I’d felt in years.

It was warm and sunny, I was heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the bus ride down Fifth Avenue. I’d just left East Harlem and talking with Teresa. We had gone for a walk in Central Park near the Reservoir.

I’d just told her that I was leaving religious life and had initiated an appointment with our then Major Superior, Sr. Laboure. She had wanted me to wait a month before our next meeting. This entailed a trip to Portland, Maine, where our Motherhouse was located.

Teresa had been wonderfully understanding when I’d told her. I had been a bit anxious about her reaction. But, it turned out that she was deeply supportive of my decision, knowing it had not been made lightly.

I admired her for her commitment to service and great love of the people who were homeless, her dedication to working with them and her love of teaching. I admired her clear-sightedness. I guess she saw that I was beginning to develop my own clear-sightedness, and she rejoiced with me – even though neither one of us knew where my life was going.

I clearly was taking charge and though nothing was formulated by way of a great deal of planning just yet, we both felt the rightness of my decision to leave religious life.

Perhaps it was in her great joy for me that I found inner freedom to at last trust myself. It was this that was so extraordinarily exhilarating on that sunny Sunday afternoon.

I was free at last!

Even though I was asked to wait a month, I knew my decision had been made and it was as good as done. I would be free to explore this world and God on m own – taking with me all that I had learned and creating the space to learn more and more and more.

Declaring Independence

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 1/20/2010

I don’t remember how I got the ball rolling on this issue, but I do remember the early morning at the School of Prayer, waking up and thinking, weighing the pros and cons of leaving.

In front of me outside the third story window, I looked at the Twin Towers rising above the trees in Washington Square Park. They were magnificent. Such a statement of imagination and possibility! I would miss this view.

I would miss – maybe – the early Morning Prayer and meditation together in community. I would not miss the rush that followed. Prayer and meditation were supposed to prepare us for the day, but often these practices felt artificial due to the momentous responsibility that required our earning a living for the good of all.

I never did integrate the contemplative with the active while I remained in religious life, and something inside indicated to me that I never would – if I stayed.

Hadn’t I committed for life to the community? Would I be happy continuing to live in this way? I had learned earlier that I did have options. But once you make a commitment, do you still have options?

I had lived on my own before. I had paid the bills, the rent, phone, electricity and heat. I knew how to do these things. I had had a checking account and savings account. I had lived on my own before. I knew how to shop for food and clothing. I had lived alone.

I was familiar with all those feelings from a past of almost twenty years before, and now I was about to do it again in a similar fashion – leaving what was known for what was unknown. I had to do it! It was about choosing life over death – once again!

On My Own

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 1/16/10

Boston meant I was on my own for the very first time. No curfews, no supervision, no classes to attend. I would need a job to pay rent; that was the practical piece. I also needed to eat. But after that, the field was open. I could walk the city, observe, write, dream, hope, fall in love … or not.

Mom and Dad were thirteen hours away by bus ride north, Aunt Rill and Uncle Jerry, my second parents, practically speaking, were five hours away south by train.

I was on my own in regards to my daily life, and this was like breathing rarefied air, seeing clearly with no impediments.

I was no kid. At twenty-three, this was where and when I got my first apartment. I could fix it up in any way I wanted. So, I bought unfinished furniture that I could sand down and antique. A table, two chairs, a dry sink, which would be my dresser; I could store my sweaters and shirts and other folded clothes in it. Yet, it did not look bed-roomy.

Since this small studio apartment was my home, I wanted it to look homey. The table had leaves that folded down, but would also turn into a larger table if I needed it. I would have to get a sofa bed. I wanted a long sofa, which would fill up the wall space and provide plenty of sitting space for guests. And, of course, a rocking chair – a wonderful wooden chair, which I painted black and stenciled the upper back with colorful yet dainty flowers, red and pink with green stems. I painted gold squiggles on the arms. I loved the way it looked. I bought a small padded cushion for the seat that matched the predominantly red braided rug for the floor space. When I moved in, I had brought one suitcase, one portable typewriter that Dad had bought me when I was in high school, my bible and a hair dryer. A small radio/TV set that Dad felt I just had to have also came along. This was really impressive. I’d never seen one before. The screen was about five inches and the picture black and white.

I slept in my friend’s sleeping bag until I found just the right sofa bed – a soft gold and black patterned material. It was perfect! The antique painted furniture when finished was a dark wood looking like oak. It took several weeks to complete; each coat having to dry before the next color was applied. This was now September 1972. I had arrived in August.

Boston was where I’d come right after high school. I had studied at a fashion retailing school for a year. I’d returned home to northern Maine afterwards, knowing I’d return to Boston, hopefully soon. I’d get a job, work. Save my money and return. Someday.

I would write and I would live in the city. Someday.

My best friend had gone to Bates College right out of high school and she met her husband-to-be there. I got a job at W. T. Grant Company, lived at home with my parents, insisted on paying rent (they kept protesting), and saved as much as I possibly could so that I would return to Boston. Someday. That was in 1967, so I’m digressing.

It was in the summer of 1972 when Linda and David had settled just outside of Boston in Norwood, and I was on my way to New York to visit Aunt Rilla and Uncle Jerry. I stopped to see Linda and David. David was studying at Harvard School of Medicine and Linda was teaching math at a high school near where they lived.

She and I went into Boston and walked around the city. I took her to places I’d remembered from my experience there in ’66 and ’67. I so loved the city— the music of its traffic, its tall buildings, the freedom it inspired, the possibility it offered.

Linda challenged me when she said, “ …then why not move here?” “I will someday”, I said. “Why not now?” I had saved money. I could do it. I could. Mom was still working. Dad was getting older, but he was fine at the moment. His heart seemed good after several years with a pacemaker. He had made medical history in Maine when he became the first to receive a pacemaker in the early 60s at Portland’s Maine Medical Center.

This seed of possibility had been planted in my mind. The whole time I was in New York, I thought about it. Linda was very practical and she had an answer for every question I had posited that might have stood in the way of my move to Boston. I would do it!

I did do it! And after a week, with Linda’s help, I’d found an apartment. I would find a job within two weeks – and then the rest became mystery. I had no idea how all of it would unfold. I was on my own!

The exhilaration of being on my own was sheer ecstasy. And I would let nothing interfere with that feeling. The heartbreak that would later follow could never take away that first sheer, exuberant, foot-lifting joy of independence. That would remain firmly planted forever – though tucked away for a while. It has remained … and will, I know.

What Happened

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 1/13/10

It was the turn of phrase like turning a corner. It was the sound of the word spoken aloud that brought a tingling sensation up my spine, the back of my neck to the frontal lobe. I was awakened. I was awakened.

There’s no quiet explanation for this occurrence. Silence says it best. Yet, the urge remains for me to explain and so to acknowledge that words affect me greatly. I always knew I wanted to write, but write about what? I could never say. It eluded me.

Only when I placed pen to paper would it be revealed what I would write. There’s intense excitement in this for me. But, it’s no way, practically speaking, to earn a living.

Practically speaking, how could I support myself – pay rent, eat, buy clothes – only the necessities, mind you, but they are necessities. This remained for years and years and years the perplexing question.

It wasn’t like being a Beatle – one of the boys in the band, one of a group of singers, song writers – wonderful song writers making wonderful music with their words and musical instruments.

Suddenly becoming famous. Working, working at their art, perfecting and publishing by performing out in the world. Becoming acclaimed – rightfully so – given the excellence of their art and artistry.

No, my writing is much more hidden – not great writing like Dickenson and Poe. Nevertheless, I write my own story, my own experience of my own life and vision and dreaming and hoping and searching and loving and losing and finding and choosing.

Not According To Plan

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 12/27/09 for 1/16/10

Without even being conscious of it, I’ve had expectations – perhaps I’ve achieved having expectations through listening to others and theirs and also to their ability to achieve what they expected.

Having had mine doused a number of times, I began to settle with not having any real expectations of my own – except of course, when I did have them without realizing consciously that I did.

Argument only for argument’s sake is what often happens when my significant other will not go along with my suggestions. Drop it. I’ve learned. Just put it out there then drop it. That too is perfectly okay in the end. We love each other, I tell myself. That is enough – and that has gone totally according to plan.