Holy Ghost?

The other day, driving home from the cabin, I saw something and thought...Nah, couldn't be. I did not just see a manger decorated for Halloween. The Virgin Mary was not draped to appear like a friendly ghost...I did not see a...Holy Ghost.

I almost turned around and went back to see. Almost. But the other week I mistook a roll of insulation for a dead body wrapped in a silver reflecting blanket and abandoned by the side of the road.

It took 15 minutes to convince myself I'd really seen a dead body, and pursuade myself I would be letting down mankind if I didn't do my civic duty by investigating. Then turn around and drive all the way back to the exact spot where I'd seen said corpse. And what did I find? It had only been silver-sided insulation with pink fiberglass stuffing. But really, at the time the stuffing had looked exactly like a pair of dirty,human feet when I passed it the first time.

So when I saw the Holy Ghost, I knew better than to stop. I kept right on driving.

Then today I had to go back up to the mountains. The gas logs were scheduled for installation, giving me a good reason to drive slowly past the house with the manger scene. I took a camera, just in case.

As I rounded the corner, I was barely doing 5 mph. There it was...

Now...did you see that?

Okay, so it wasn't the Blessed Virgin but, trust me, that is a manger and it will contain the Baby Jesus in another month or so.

In the meantime...Life is lovely in Franklin County.

And Mike Martin and Butch at Martin's PGS are the best gas log installers in Franklin County. Neat. Professional. Sweethearts.


Flight Risk Takes Off

There is nothing like finishing the rough draft of a novel. Well, maybe there is...Nine and half months of pregnancy, followed by labor and delivery and a healthy baby- that's a fair comparison.

If writing a novel is like giving birth then revisions are like...trying to drop the 48 pounds that wasn't baby after all.

It's a long, arduous process.

Usually I slough off and rush through it. I'm too ADD to focus on the nit-picky details. I hate revisions!

Until this book.

I finished the draft last week, sat on it and then, couldn't stop myself from taking it back out five days later so I could tinker with it.

I've lost days now tinkering- searching for flaws, correcting little errors, revising the ending so that it is a more appropriate reversal of the book's beginning.

I know, for maybe the first time in my life, what the theme is in this book. I can pick out the unconscious symbolism.

And today, for the first time, I closed the lid on the laptop and thought "I like this book. I really like it."

Usually I don't even want to look at something I've written. It embarrasses me. But Eddie and Marion...(for now temporarily titled "Flight Risk,") I like it. I like reading it. What a concept.

Eddie and Marion- the kid and the groupie- have been haunting me since March. They wouldn't let go until I'd written down their stories. This book doesn't even have a home. No contract. No deadline. No promise of money. There are lots of details to be attended to...but for now...I have a new baby and I love her.

Maybe I'll post the beginning tomorrow.

In the meantime...IT'S RAINING!!!! Even up at the cabin where the spring ran dry, it is raining!! Yippee! Life is good and I have not been a pussy. Not once.



Her daughter is worried. Mom is 93. She's been on her own for all but the last month and now, she's not taking well to the nursing home.

"She has a Master's degree," her daughter says. "She was so with it...until the Vicodin incident. Now all she does is cry."

My new patient has no cartilidge left in her hip. The Vicodin was prescribed to help with the pain but, as drugs frequently do, especially pain meds and anesthesia drugs, it made this elderly woman psychotic, paranoid and confused.

Now she lives in the nursing home. And cries.

When I find Emma, she is sitting in the dayroom. A huge screen TV is showing a soap opera. Emma has been wheeled to sit in front of the television, surrounded by other demented patients who cannot move on their own. It is, I think, for my Emma, like being sentenced to Dante's Inferno. A living hell.

"My mother isn't being intellectually stimulated," her daughter told me. "They have bingo. Well, Mom did that with her students. She doesn't want to play it herself. The only other thing is church." The daughter smiles ruefully. "She's Episcopalian. That's not what they have here."

I think of the screaming lay preachers who hop up and down in front of the patients, exhorting them to repent before they burn in hell. No, that's not the Episcopalian way. I'm Episcopalian. I know. Hell, to us, is such a tacky concept. We don't "do" hell.

I approach Emma gently, stoop down beside her wheelchair and smile at her. She is crying. Her face is red and contorted with angst as she sobs into her hand and rubs her bloodshot eyes.

For Emma, a lifetime of memories swirl in a rapid-fire slideshow before her eyes. For a moment she is worried about her son. He's only 13 and he's late for supper. She doesn't know where he is. She shakes her head, impatient with the mind that betrays her. "No he's not. He's 36!" She thinks we're in church. She apologizes for the way they've let things go, but the money for repairs simply isn't there.

I tell her I know her mind feels foggy, that she is having trouble thinking. "I know this is terribly hard for you," I say.

"It's hard for all of us," Emma says. "I feel so sorry for them. They need help too."

I tell her I am trying to help as many as I can.

"We're all in the same boat," she moans. "I never thought it would come to this. I just didn't."

And then she remembers her mother has died. It is as if I've just broken the news to her. A wall of grief hits her and she sobs.

I slip my arm around her thin shoulders and hold her. I think of the Youngest Unnamed One, my son, who has learned about MRSA and nursing homes. "You've got to quit," he told me. "Right now! I don't want you to die!"

I tried to reassure him, but he would have none of it. "You don't touch anybody do you?"

Of course not.

I work with Emma for a good thirty minutes, telling her that I believe we can help her get some of her thinking back. She doesn't believe me, but she smiles bravely, as if what I say helps.

I ask what she thinks would help. She says something that doesn't make sense but her facial expression makes me think she'd like me to offer to help her kill herself.

"I can help, but it may not be exactly what you're thinking I can do."

Emma smiles. "Oh, so you got that one, eh? You're smarter than I gave you credit for," she says.

Then, as if I've passed the test, Emma confides in me. "They told me I was scheduled to die on Friday, but I'm still here."

When Emma is alone, I learn, she hears voices, receives visitors no one else can see, and it terrifies her. "I don't know what to pay attention to."

I tell her I will not let her be killed, that we don't do this, that she shouldn't listen to those voices...But Emma is crying.

When she is calmer I tell her I will return to check on her.

She smiles and thanks me, like a proper old lady remembering her manners.

Then she says, "Take care of yourself, honey. Don't work too hard."

I say I won't.

Emma has one last piece of advice for me.

"And honey?" she murmurs.


"Just don't be a pussy like I am!"

I rock back on my heels, wide-eyed. Did I hear her right? Did she just use the P word?

Emma grins.

"Don't you worry," I say, wondering if she knows just how badly I need to be reminded of this. "I'll be on the case and Emma, I won't be a pussy!"

Emma chuckles.

A moment later I look out at her from the desk in the nurses' station.

Emma is crying.


Fall Comes to the Cabin

It's fall at the cabin.

I'd been away for almost a month and in that time, the leaves began to turn and fall.

I drove up the lane, holding my breath, looking out at the stream alongside the gravel road and praying the rain had kept things going.

The trees are just beginning to turn. In another 2 weeks it should be truly beautiful.

I reached the cabin first, before Mertis came up to join me. I stepped inside and raced for the potty. I mean, it's an hour and 45 minutes up there...
But the toilet didn't quite flush.

I turned on the tap. Hmmm. Water pressure's down.

I tell myself it's always like this. Okay. Maybe a little slow but things are fine. Really. I unpack, happy to be back in my little utopia.

Then Mertis arrives.

"You know you're out of water?" she asks.

"What?" I look at her like she's nuts. I pretend I don't understand what she's talking about. "No. It's just a little slow."

She walks to the kitchen sink, turns on the tap and as we watch...the water dribbles away to nothing.

"You should turn off the circuit breaker to the pump and the hot water heater." Mertis says this after we stick one of Joe's tepee poles down into the spring box and find only a miserly foot of water left.

I feel as if I'm on a scene in Grey's Anatomy or ER and Dr. Mertis has just turned to me, her face grave and said "Call the time of death, doctor."

It is 6 o'clock on Friday evening, October 19th.

Of course, I have sought second opinions.

I look up spring boxes on the internet. What I read doesn't make me feel better.

A neighbor stopped by and allowed as how this happened one time before. The fire department "loaned" a former owner some water to tide him over until it rained. The neighbor also said that's when the former owner drilled the now-capped well but it was dry or clogged up or something. However, the action of drilling gave the spring box the boost it needed and it revived.

Until now.

"Aww, it's just one of those nasty things," my neighbor says, trying to console me. "It won't break the bank, but it'll take a $5000 chunk out of it."

I think he has a bigger bank than I do.

I walk across the dry crunchy ground and kneel beside the spring box before I leave. I pry the lid away and peer back inside one more time, just in case. But there has been no miracle. The box remains pitifully low. The pump will stay silent.

Global warming has come to the cabin.