Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nothing Better Out There

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 3/11/10

Sometimes there is something better out there. Clich├ęs 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.

Connections

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.

Old And New

DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 12/12/09

There were trunks in the attic at Uncle Eddie and Aunt Eva’s house. They were treasure trunks for sure. We pulled out of them old dresses, long ones, short ones, shawls and hats, gloves and shoes. Who did these belong to? How did they wind up in this house? Why were they moved here? Who valued them enough to make that move? I question this now, but not then. That attic was a wonder. It offered rich fare for our imaginations.

My cousins Rita and William and sometimes my friend Norma would come along. And Joyce too and how could I forget, my cousin Roland, who was my secret and dearest love. We were all in the same age range with only a few years separating us or even a few months. Rita, Norma, and I were only months apart; Roland and Joyce a year older and William a couple of years younger than Rita, the baby of my Uncle and Aunt’s eight children.

Bernard’s comic book collection was up there too – in the glorious attic – and we sometimes took out the scary ones and Rita and William and I would huddle together in a corner with a flash light when it was raining, and we read them and became scared and thrilled. We heard creaking sounds from the house, and sometimes the cat spooked us and we nearly jumped out of our skins.

How old were we? Six … seven … eight … nine? It seems that attic offered us hours of sheer entertainment almost at any time of year.

It was also in part an unfinished space. Between the attic beams where the floor ended, there was only thick brown paper, and if we accidentally stepped there we might come through the living room ceiling, so we had to be very careful when walking those beams, and we were strongly encouraged not to, that we should not fall or put a foot down on that paper part.

The admonishment was scary and added to the thrill, because, of course, the boys walked the beams all the time. The boys also – the older ones – jumped the railroad cars, when they were parked on the tracks and not moving. The temptation to do so was just too great. We’d see them from the screen porch at my house. They dared one another, ran and jumped from one car to the other – like in the Westerns we watched. The boys loved playing cowboy and Indians. That had to be the favorite game of the day until one of them acquired a basketball hoop and it was anchored to a large tree in front of his house. Then, making baskets quickly displaced playing cowboy and Indians.

We girls, however, never tired of hauling out the treasures from the old trunks and dressing up like grown-ups pretending to attend parties, funerals and weddings.

I took to playing priest one day and used a roll of Necco Wafers in their pastel roundness as communion hosts. I’m amazed now as I was then that I could so influence Rita and William to kneel down and receive the wafers as if they were actually receiving Holy Communion.

I was also fascinated that I could convince Rita to eat the mush I made with Ritz Crackers, water, salt and pepper – telling her it was the pabulum, she as the baby, would eat from me as the mother. She ate it. And this never ceased to amaze me. I would never have eaten it myself.

I’m sixty years old and I can remember it all as if it were yesterday. Circumstances pulled us away from one another when we were still young. And these memories are for the most part the only ties that bind us now. As adults we rarely see one another.

Joyce, dear, dear Joyce; she was so excited when I was assigned to Eagle Lake. She braved a blizzard to come out to see me the evening of the day I arrived. I opened the door on that blustery January night – and there she was stepping in out of the howling wind, snow-covered just from her walk from the car to the house. We hadn’t seen each other in how many years? Oh my, maybe fifteen – since high school, at least, when my parents and I moved away. But she threw her arms around me and kissed me and hugged me. We kept in touch after that evening and even after I moved back to Portland. She was one of the few of my childhood friends, who never moved out of Soldier Pond.

Joyce married one of those ruffian boys, whose dad was a potato farmer. He and his brothers inherited the father’s farm, had worked with their dad on the farm from the time they could walk. She and Carl married right after high school. They had two boys. Her life was surrounded by men, she would say. And she relished my visits whenever I came up north to see relatives.

“I rarely get to sit down at a table with a good woman friend,” she said to me on one occasion. She lived with such passion – even when we were children, she had intense energy and love of life. It seemed cruel that fate would have her die at forty. I just didn’t want to believe the news of her death. But, I saw how she lived, smoking cigarettes, and eating junk – that day at the kitchen table. She was blond, blue-eyed and buzzed on caffeine, which she didn’t need.

She had always been pretty, and I couldn’t understand a lot of what was happening to her. She worked hard, she lived that way too. She was always interested in me and wanted to know what I was doing. Yet, part of me so much admired her, that she had a husband and two children. I was a woman, married to an institution that claimed we women in community were married to God. What did that mean? I would never have children. But I’d never really given up hope that maybe one day I’d meet a man and we’d love each other. Even when I wasn’t suppose to hope for that.

I wish Joyce and I could have talked more. I wish she hadn’t died so young. She had been so very brave. She had sought out her real mom, been profoundly disappointed when she found her, but gained a loving grandfather from that experience. She had loved her adoptive parents, but she was compelled to know her own history. In her thirties, she embarked on the venture; she had done it; she had had to know. I so admired her for that. She’d written me a long detailed letter with the account of her search. It was written on lined yellow notebook paper; page after page of her adventure, her pain and disappointment and her acceptance and ultimate triumph. She would never know her real father.

Interesting how life unfolds. I didn’t know then, that I would embark upon a similar search a few decades later. I would never get to share my story with her.

This having to know is such a compelling and tenacious demon for some of us. Some questions, however, will never be answered to our satisfaction. Making our peace with that state of affairs is also imperative. And the demon never goes away.