“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

Can you imagine being completely paralyzed except for your left eye?  I just saw this movie called “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Based on the reviews, it sounded pretty depressing. But I like movies that dig down deep. And if it’s a true story, so much the better. Bring it on.

It starts with this guy waking up in a hospital on the coast of France. Jean-Dominique Bauby. The successful young editor of “Elle,” the French fashion magazine. He’d had a massive stroke that left him in a coma for three weeks.  He can’t speak, so the subtitles tell you what he’s thinking.  The camera is shooting from his perspective. Everything is blurry at first, and then faces emerge. It’s like being in his body. In his head.

The doctor comes in and says he’s the one who gets to tell him the bad news. He’s got “Locked-in Syndrome.” And it probably isn’t going to get any better. The brain works just fine, but nothing else does. Except that one eye. Very rare, the doctor says.

Then there’s this scene where another doctor is sewing his bad eye shut to keep it from getting septic. You see the scene from inside out. I don’t know how they did that, but you get to experience the eyelid being stitched shut, and the patient’s horror at losing half his sight. God. The things some people have to go through.

Are you still with me?

But the story isn’t about how bad things are. It’s ultimately about how he’s able to stop pitying himself. To stop wishing himself dead.  It’s about the people who love him and a little about who he was before the stroke. About how he uses his imagination to escape the confines of his body.

And how, with that one good eye, he’s able to learn how to communicate using blinks, and dictate a whole book, with the help of some very patient people.  The movie is based on that book. He died ten days after it was published. The “Diving Bell” refers to the feeling of being trapped in one of those heavy, old-fashioned armour-plated diving suits, and the “Butterfly” is– well, that’s pretty obvious.

Locked-in Syndrome. It’d be easy to get all platitudinous here and talk about how locked-in most of us are on the inside, if not the outside. Which is true. But, I won’t. I just want to bring some attention to a valiant spirit that was larger than the brutal fate he learned to endure.  When the movie ended with his death, I felt humbled at having had the privilege of catching a glimpse of that spirit.

Posted in Christianity, emotions, health, human interest, love, poetry, psychology, relationships, religion, sadness, spirituality, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Angry Birds!

It started all of a sudden.
A blue jay brouhaha right
outside the living room window.
Five or six angry birds in full combat,
screeching and dive-bombing
for all they were worth.
A cat skulking too near a nest?
My son and I peered through
the window to see what we
could see.
No cat. No nest.
Just angry birds squawking their
heads off at some invisible threat.
Soon, a meow at the door and
the invisible threat walked in,
looking dazed.
The screeching stopped.
The cat plopped on the floor
and fell asleep.
The war was over.

Posted in birds, family, human interest, humor, mother, nature, pets, poetry | 2 Comments

Visiting Hour

The blue-uniformed tech pushes an oversized chair through the crowded waiting room to make an extra place for us. We sit down, my son next to me, his dad across. It’s the visiting hour. He’s been here two days. Just settling in. Last night he was weepy. No sleep and no meds. Transparent to the bone, he spoke his truth and we listened with Buddha eyes.

Tonight he’s livelier. More like himself. Even happy I think. They got ice cream sundaes today, he says. With fudge sauce and whipped cream and sprinkles.

He tells us of a character he met.  A man who calls himself “A Weapon of Mass Destruction.” We laugh at his stories of the man, not at the man. The man is interesting, his truth his own, just different from those of us who wear the civilized veneer of normalcy.

We talk of our cats, of current politics, tell funny stories to each other, while close around us others are telling theirs. It’s cozy really, almost like a party. Tonight the loony bin doesn’t seem all that loony.

Posted in emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, poetry, psychology, relationships, spirituality, women | 2 Comments

The Vernal Equinox and a Baby Brother

I’m so full of memories these days. A sure sign I’m getting up there.

Today is the vernal equinox. My older son, TJ, just sent me a photo of the rising sun from his car.

It took me back to an afternoon thirty-three years ago. I was waiting for  him and his sisters to come home from school. The bus would be letting them off at the end of the street any minute.

Their three-day-old baby brother, fresh from the maternity ward and cuddly as a bunny rabbit in his fleecy outfit, was sound asleep in his white wicker bassinette in the living room, ready for display.

I could hear youthful voices coming closer to the house, yelling “Hurry up, TJ!!”  In flew twelve-year old Jenn and eleven-year old Amy, in their blue plaid jumpers, ready to adore this little bundle of joy they’d been waiting for almost as expectantly as I.

And then, in came eight-year-old TJ, not accustomed to running long distances, his gangly legs carrying him as fast as they would go. I can remember, as if it were happening right this minute, how his face lit up the room when he looked into that bassinette.


Posted in children, emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, nostalgia, poetry, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, women | 1 Comment

The Last Child

Creak creak creak, old rocker speaks,
slowly I stroke a silken cheek,
nestled close we quit the day
and boundaries seem to melt away.

This child who fills my heart so full
has late begun to feel the pull
of other things, and other dreams,
so soon, so soon–too soon it seems.

Creak creak creak, old rocker speaks
to tender, melting night,
for now I’ll keep tomorrow out
and hold my wanderer tight.

mother and child

Posted in children, emotions, family, human interest, love, mother, nostalgia, poetry, relationships, sadness, spirituality | 4 Comments


It’s 5:30 on a warm and breezy March day in my Florida backyard. The air is clear and mellow with that slightly golden look it gets between afternoon and dusk, when the sun begins to lower.

Lying back in my lazy yard chair with a book in my lap, my attention is stolen by the greater story all around me and I’m content to let it unfold.  Just a few inches to my right, a lizard holds perfectly still in its vertical position on a tree trunk, nearly invisible against the bark, while on my left, another one rustles through the leaves.

And here comes a fat, gray neighbor cat, just passing through, not even stopping to say hello. I wonder why my tabby is allowing this transgression–she must be off somewhere on business of her own.

Over there on the fence post a squirrel perches as if holding a pose, until another one approaches–and they’re off and running, like Loony Toon characters.

I hear a jay pierce the air, announcing himself before freshening up in the birdbath, feathers fluttering every which way. And overhead, against the milky-blue sky the lacy tree limbs and twisty branches of skimpy old oaks come together in a protective canopy with birds weaving in and out.

The sounds of man are also near. Children, car doors, a mower, and farther off, the dull sound of rush hour picking up. Above, I hear an airplane and then another–smaller and rattly. I never noticed before just how many planes fill the sky. These are pointed south.

And, always, the mockingbirds and jays and bright red cardinals. And the small-headed doves. And was that a woodpecker that just flew through?

Now the air feels cooler, no longer mellow and golden, and the trees are getting a shadowy look to them. So I close my unread book and call for my cat. Time to go inside.

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A Chorus of Crows

A cacaphony,
a convention,
a chorus of crows!
Crow cries everywhere.
All the day long.

Spring migration I guess.
Do they crow for the sheer joy
of this flawless day?
Not too hot, not too cold,
just enough wind to play in.
Looking for a date?

All I know is they
sound like they’re having
a helluva good time out there.




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