By Lynn St. Georges
No light pierces the night sky when the robin first sings. The almost-one-note song interrupts the darkness and finds its way into my mind, nudging me from sleep.
The natural world nourishes me and I smile. Yet I also groan, now forced awake and back to the reality of me. The smile and groan compete with each other to frame my day. I roll over, not yet ready, and the meandering looping thoughts begin.
I think of how the robin eats earthworms, cruelly jabbing them and tearing them apart, and wonder if the earthworm feels pain. Does it suffer as it dies or does the robin leave enough for it to regenerate itself?
I remember watching the great blue heron calmly stride on its long legs across the shallow pond to snatch the duckling from the brood. I imagine the pain the mama duck experienced, hearing her anguished squawks as she flapped wildly around the heron holding the now-limp duckling. I imagined her pain was far worse from what the baby felt.
I think about the cooing sound of the mourning dove, and that I only learned the name was “mourning” and not “morning” after Jim died and how it made me sad. I used to love those soft, mournful coos until I learned it was only the male saying fuckmefuckmefuckmefuckme.
A Ukrainian Catholic priest fucked me in his parish home in Hudson, NY, when I was 15 years old. I remember feeling so ashamed that I had harmed this priest. So many years of shame until I buried the memory where it simmered below the surface until the 90s when the stories of pedophile priests broke and returned this memory back to me. Was I like the baby duckling and merely prey?
The counselor my parents sent me to when I was 15 years old thought I would benefit from group therapy. He liked having a member of the clergy sit in and that is how I met Father Ted. He was older and a good guy, always wearing his clergy black attire with the stiff white collar. He quickly befriended me, even meeting my parents several times and having dinner at our home. When he invited me to take a train the few hours north to spend a Saturday night at his parish home, I happily accepted. It gave me a chance to be away from home and my parents readily agreed, undoubtedly relieved to have a break from their troubled teenager.
The train ride north felt very differently from the train ride back home the next day. Father Ted called and said we must never talk about what happened and I swore I would not, a promise I kept. How would I speak of this, anyway? He stopped coming to group and we lost touch. I tucked this wound among the others and the pile of wounds continued to grow over decades.
In 1982 I wrote “Song of Myself (Thanks, Walt)” that began with these words:
in my eyes i see
child – woman – self
tired yet sparkling
eyes that have seen
that show still
through the brightness
smiles and passion
wrinkles on the face
not around the eyes
years of asking questions
i lightly finger
the worn-on lines
I fought and clawed to find my way to be better, in and out of therapy for decades, searching for the person inside me who was going to be OK while trying to understand why she never seemed quite OK.
When a tree suffers an injury it forms a burl. The burl is ugly and hard but it covers the wound. My body is soft, the burls unseen.
This year I enter my seventh decade of this life, as this person, the majority of the years behind me and the time remaining growing shorter each day. When I look in the mirror now, I see more lines and my eyes are growing smaller as my skin sags. My jowls are becoming more defined and the disturbing neck wattle is in place. I see that I set my mouth like my mother did. My hair is silver and growing thinner and more brittle. The struggle to be OK will continue, but the fight is not so difficult these days.
I can see the light now through my closed eyes and decide to get up and greet this day. I dress and wander through my home to open all the blinds, craving light over darkness. I hear the prettier songs of the other birds joining with the robin’s repetitive note. The coffee tastes good.
I decide to take my walk and linger a moment by the pond. There are just a few bored-looking male mallards there, the females missing for almost a week now, tucked away on their nests.
I annoy two Canada geese on the path and they fly off, in turn annoying the few mallards and the nutria swimming beside them. One sole Canada goose remains on the pond, no mate in sight. I feel the familiar sadness creeping inside as I wonder where the mate could be, and continue my walk. I notice flowers instead and listen to more bird songs. Today I will be OK.
Lynn St. Georges recently moved from Beaverton to Rockaway Beach and is thoroughly pleased with living by the amazing Oregon Coast. Sadly, the robin appears to be stalking her as it still awakens her every single morning. In spite of that, life is good these days.
Editor’s note: I met Lynn in the spring of 2009, shortly after she’d written a letter to the editor urging people to cherish their mom. Her mother had died suddenly and unexpectedly in April, a few weeks before Mother’s Day. From a meeting between strangers in the parking lot of a Lucky Lab we have become friends, united by a love of language, liberal values and the VOA community itself.
Tomorrow: “Gift of the three wise men” by Andrea Cano