Today is the day I’m going to learn how to type while in my hammock. I see no reason to spend another minute inside the four walls of my house. The calendar flipped from May to September and I haven’t begun my summer! The afternoon is still warm, but the birds are rotating out. Chickadees cycle in as hummingbirds take their last lap.

Today is the one year anniversary of my mother’s coming out of the doctor’s office wearing a DNR, Do Not Resuscitate, bracelet. We hit a wall. Our brains long ago learned to block out bad news and gear up for a tunnel vision response. Our thoughts clamped onto survival steps – steps that often ignore large chunks of reality. It is a technique hewn to survive puberty, to edge into the outside world, a collection of emotional strategies for possible future spousal and parental relationships.  The mind/body link dulls the hurt, roars out as a lioness, shrinks back into itself, and then crawls forward. Focus. Breathe.

Today, I recall her last breath, the funeral director, the sight of my mother being hauled out the door in a large…  oh my God, a tarp type cloth, not at all unlike the hammock I’m now in. I’m swaying between two Scotch pines. Mom was swung between the tall hospice nurse and the short undertaker. Is “undertaker” derived from “taking under” as in a burial? No, it comes from “under-taking” as in a project. It was replaced by “mortician,” a choice thought to be softer in tone by folks that didn’t know Latin. Mort = death and gives us the Spanish form, muerto. My culture thrives in euphemisms and lack of underlying meanings. Words – my hobby.

Today, I got word that one of my friends and her husband contracted COVID. She is recovering. He didn’t “make it,” another euphemism. They belong to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. They have rituals for times like these. There will be all night bonfires. There will be cedar and sage and tobacco. People will gather and cook together – a great feast. They will cry out in singing, drumming, and story-telling.

Today, I was told that the song I wanted to play for my Mom at her second and last Celebration of Life requires copyright permission. We also cannot sing together when we gather. At least she will get her favorite soloist. We will not have a social time. We will wear masks. We never dance. We will stand by the Peace Pole that she and friends dedicated at the time of my dad’s and their son’s deaths. When people come to extend sympathies, we will wonder if they are vaccinated. Then, we’ll get in our cars and drive away.

Today, I dare to envision a quiet retreat when I drive away. I will borrow from my friend’s culture and take some cedar boughs. I will make a bouquet of sage. When I get to the cabin, I will light a bonfire by the lake when the full moon rises. I will watch the moon shed a sparkly path over the lake to where I’ll be sitting on the northern shore. I will call out my mother’s name, my father’s name, and all the names that twinkle in the stars above.

My culture has a saying that goes, “I’ll do that someday.”  Today is that someday. Today, I learned to type in the hammock. Today, I enjoyed hummingbird moments. Today, I snipped the sage and clipped the cedar. Today, I borrowed from another culture and made it mine. Today is that someday.