How to Stay Alive

Christine Wiebe wrote this book with the hope that her personal responses to her illness would help those in similar circumstances, or those close to people living with chronic illness. A limited edition was produced for her family and friends. We are please to publish excerpts from it with the permission of Katie Funk Wiebe. All of the illustrations are also by Christine Wiebe--AH


Author’s Introduction

In July 1992, I moved from Chicago to be closer to my family in Wichita, Kansas. I had lived in Chicago 10 years and left a large collection of friends, many of who became like family to me. But I knew it was time to move closer to my mother, sister and brother. My body had been giving me unmistakable signs that it needed more rest. I was diagnosed with lupus, a disease which mostly affects my kidneys, in 1972. The lupus had not been my problem, though. The real threat to my life came from the heart problems I developed as a result of the prednisone I took to keep the lupus in check. I had a heart attack in 1985 (I was 30 years old), a minor stroke in 1990, and a bout of angina shortly before my decision to move back to Kansas.

What would I do there? In Chicago I had become a nurse, worked on a psychiatric unit, and then as a parish nurse, both challenging jobs. I wanted to write, an old dream I had hung onto since college. In Kansas I got a part-time job at a health clinic, hoping I could write in my spare time. Things did not work out as well as I’d hoped.

The following is a record of my daily journeys from sickness to health, from sickness to death, from inner dis-ease to peace, from death to life. I hope what I wrote in my journal will help someone else on a similar path.

December 11, 1992 Wesley Hospital

Christmas is coming and the sky is blue and I am in the hospital. Feelings: sadness, depression, why go on?

And anger. Again! Again! And I had just begun to feel more comfortable in my work at Venture House, and I don’t even have the pictures quite hung in my new apartment.

I want to go there and spend a quiet afternoon with the cat who will burrow under the afghan and sleep stretched out along my side.

I would spend the day reading, doodling dream thoughts, and drawing dancing stars around the book for Jennifer.

I would get up at 5 p.m., deeply rested, and eat a large plate of spaghetti with garlic,

or tortillas and refried beans and hot sauce.

It would not matter so much if this were all true.

It’s all about letting go. I will let go of working almost full-time and earning what seems like lots of money. I will let go of the image I have presented of the healthy nurse who can met every need. I will let go. I will set more limits.

I will let go of some things I don’t want to do. I will let go of some of my work. I did not want to work so much because then I have little energy to do much else besides work.

Will I let go of this work at Venture House? I may have to.

It seems clearer and clearer that I will have to let go of any notion that I will marry. I don’t have the energy to be married. I would still like to have a male friend, though. I don’t want to let go of that yet.

Things I would like to do: I want to have a meeting with my family members to discuss

• a living will

• a power of attorney

• my wishes for my present life, to see my family when I am well, more than when I am sick

• to ask what their wishes are.

I would rather have had a baby than be in CCU with vague complaints of tiredness and achiness.


everybody is in a rush . . . don’t be in a rush

Saturday, December 12, 1992

Our soul waits for the Lord,

who is our help and our shield

For in him our hearts rejoice,

in his holy name we trust.

May your kindness, O Lord, be upon us

who have put our hope in you.

Psalm 33:20-22

This is true. My soul waits for the Lord, for some direction, some meaning. I think of the dream I had once about the big tree that has no water. That is how I feel now. I feel I could do all this, if I had some water. I will keep going. I will do my best, Lord. But I would feel better if I had more water.



squirrels playing


phone calls


good food

deep breaths

10:00 p.m.

Night is here. Outside, the white statue of the nurse watches from the park, a wooden angel.

Today my horoscope said that I will look at the world differently from now on. I don’t usually believe in these, but I know there is a change: I know that I have definite limits, and that my heart has less stamina. And that the disease is slowly progressing. I had hoped that I would be completely healed, and I had hoped that I would take less medication. But I keep getting these reminders, some gentle, some insistent, that there is a negative process in my body. And the doctors keep adding more medication.

Each time always tells me I must do what I love to do. I must decide the wonderful and most necessary things to do, and scrap the rest.

So here is my prayer:

Keep me, Lord, in the center of my heart’s love each moment, so I will act effortlessly and do the most beautiful and holy acts. Amen.


spend a long time

watering your azaleas.

put them

in your bedroom

on the white

window ledge

where you’ll

see them

first thing

when you

wake up.

water the cloud

of pale pink azaleas

on the kitchen table


the lace curtains.

bury your face

in the cloud

at least once a day.

put the yellow daisies in the entryway,

and the white chrysanthemums

in the living room.

Sunday, December 13, 1992

Home again

There is a large mass of disappointment and depression that I must face. It is there for good reason. So many losses, and they keep coming.

So I create this little haven in my apartment where everything is as I want it. It is a small area where I have control.

The roof is leaking again. That was a lesson from Dr. John Van Eenwyk. Every time my body breaks down, I must put another pan out. But it doesn’t mean I will die.

I live with the fear, though. Every time I have a crisis, I wonder if this is it.

I know this hasn’t been the best time for my heart. I am living, but I am not totally sold on it.

Relationships are everything to me. They form my identity. I am a part of all whom I have met. I am certainly glad to be near my family, but also feel like part of me has died. I am not so sure it was good to leave my friends in Chicago.

If I wrote more, I would feel better.

Mother will make me some lebkuchen. Life-cookies.

I need loving people around me. . . . I gather them all around me, distant friends. They are holding my hands, although I cannot see them. All my friends are here. . . . All the strong women. Joanna is here. She has painted me a beautiful picture of a hummingbird and some colored eggs. There is a rainbow path over every hard trial.

December 20, 1992

I wish it would all go away, the tiredness, the heart thumps, the medication, and the doctors.

It is hard to adjust to a new place. I went to the dinner at Pine Valley Church, but I sill felt alone when I left. They are mostly older. Where do people my age go to church? In the New Year I will try some Catholic churches. I will find a publishing home for my stories. I will talk to someone at WSU.

December 21, 1992

Fran tells me that everyone in Chicago loves me. They see something I don’t always see. Inside, I do not always love them. I am so critical.

Oh God, increase my love and understanding.

December 25, 1992

I tried to give a little speech tonight at Mother’s about how thankful I feel, and I started to cry. I do feel thankful, but I also carry a good deal of fear that I will get sick again, and a great deal of sadness about the loss of contact with my friends, and uncertainty of how it will ever get better. I want to write and sing, but it means less to me outside of the context of friends. Even so, I know it is the way through. I have much to say, so much so that it seems overwhelming. Where do I start?

The cat paws a place to sleep at my feet. The angel chimes are whirring around at a frenzied pace.

But the music is slow and soothing.

Christmas is almost gone. I am glad. It was good, but also painful. I said I miss my friends, and I do, but I think what I miss is how much they formed my identity. I was who I was in context of my relationships. When they are gone, who am I?

Now I feel my strongest role seems to be a sick person, one I don’t like. I also see myself as a nurse, which is not a bad thing, but also not the center of myself.

I would like to see myself as a writer. This has been a discouraging fall in that respect. I did not get into the writing class I wanted, and I have not found writer friends. I have written less than I have written in a long time.

The New Year is a new time. More time. The stars are still here, and the long, low lands edged with the lace of bare hedges. The moon has not gone away, nor the oak tree by my window. My family is all here after this long and wild trip. The earth is still here, and the smell of wet cedar, and the mallard ducks, and the brown geese.

I can still sing and I can still walk. I have a wooden box full of colored pencils. They are still here. There are rows of books, treasures on my shelves I have not read.

There are poems inside me. I would be happy to be a poet. Just a poet.

I feel the sea fronds waving inside the darkness of me. I do not know. I feel something coming, passing by, passing through. The light threads its way down to blackness, and we waver and roll this way and that together, knowing not when it will come nor how, nor what darkness will shimmer into something firm and cool and deep.

Sunday December 27, 1992

I dreamed that I was driving a car, but I was not sitting in the front seat. The car was rolling slowly, and the right front door was open. I got out and closed the front door, and I think I climbed in the front seat, but I was still not in the driver’s seat. I felt anxious and uncertain.


Carolyn came to see me today. It was good to see her, and I felt stronger. Strange how healing it is just to visit with a person who knows and allows room for a part of oneself you haven’t been able to express.

I felt after she left that I have a lot of wonderful solitude ahead. The writing will find its place. And the drawing, too.

I watched a movie about a pretty girl who is courted by a crazy fellow. How fun that would be, to be courted by a funny fellow. To know someone who would make me laugh on a regular basis.

Monday, December 28, 1992

I dreamed I was at work at Venture House, working on a poster or bulletin board advertising my services as a nurse. I was going to write “Nurses Care _______” and then show examples of things I’ve done. Then I remembered I had forgotten that I should be checking to se if there were any patients. It was already 10:45, and we opened at 9:30. I went to look at the list, but all the names were crossed off, and a volunteer said there was no one to see me. I felt relieved.

I was looking in the basement, and I heard a little squeak at the window; it sounded like birds in a passage by the window. I looked, but couldn’t see straight out the passage. I was going to climb onto a ledge to see better, but then I saw a pointed nose at the wire screen. I thought it was a mouse, but then saw it was a rat. I started screaming and ran for help. A man I didn’t know came to look. He was a maintenance man, and would take care of it.

In another part of the dream, I was bagging rice and carrying it out of my office area. I had not finished doing this.

December 29, 1992

Tonight I went to Mother’s for dinner and she was worrying about whether I should invite the whole family over on New Year’s Day.

I thought, “I want to do this, and I am going to feel better. I will do it in a non-draining way. I will think of the simples way to do it.”

I feel angry at my family for worrying so much. I do not want to live from one fear to the next. True, the fear will probably remain, but also my life, which is more wonderful than each sop in the hospital.

I can’t control my body. I think I can sway it. I think I can encourage it.

I can love it.

December 30, 1992

How good to be still.

Outside all is gray and cold and wet. I look forward to a few days without work.

I want to start all over. A new year. A new page to turn.

This year: slowing down — Is this right?

reading books


writing more

December 31, 1992

I felt better today. I walked to the bank in the cold, and I felt all right.

My heart has given me some starts. Every day it flips awkwardly against my ribs and makes me remember. Floppy, red thing. Faithful, true, yet unsure.

I hold it carefully and walk forward, long, slow, loping steps, covering as much distance as I can with each beat.


January 1, 1993 Friday

Susan and I and Christiana made noodles this morning. Tonight the whole family came to my house for ersatz wreneke casserole, sausage, salad, sir-fried vegetables, tofu noodle casserole, snow pudding, New Year’s Cookies, and more sweets.

It was good to have everyone in my house, and all apparently happy. When they left it was so quiet and I felt lost. I wondered if everyone had had a good time.

James and Kathy are both quiet and tired, mostly from being up all night with Jennifer. I wish I could do more for them.

Saturday, January 2, 1993

I completed a very successful shopping trip and came home with many things I wanted. I picked up the wrong size of flannel sheets, though. How vexed I felt! How I want the right ones!

My feelings show me how rigid I am, how selfish, and how shopping tends toward greed.

I thought of a New Year’s Resolution: I will enjoy small pleasures.

a cup of tea

a warm bath

a bedtime snack

the color blue

watching the birds in the oak tree

a walk along the river

music — and that isn’t a small pleasure

Monday, January 4, 1993

Today I start a new schedule, a new way of living. I believe the theme for this way is self-care.

I slept a little later, and then I went for a walk.

Now I will sit quietly and write in my journal. I want to work back all the healing activities into my life.






Writing Projects


Éclair the Cat books

Rejoice devotionals

Mental Health article

My autobiography

How To Stay Alive

Blue Willow book

Tuesday, January 5, 1993

Day is dying.

I do not get as much done as I wish each day, but I hope I do each thing well.

Mother came for dinner. I made a wonderful meal of sir-fried broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, cucumber and pineapple in a sweet and sour sauce. With chickpeas over brown rice.

Wednesday, January 6, 1993

In the afternoon, I dreamed I was playing with a little fox. He had a black mask on, but I took it of, and we played and nipped at each other. A larger dog came, who looked threatening. I hid the fox to protect him, and fought the larger dog. He put on a black mask to fight me. We struggled and fought. I wondered if I had the strength to do it, or I should do it. Finally I tipped him over by the tail, and as I did this, I sailed down a deep hill. It felt like a roller coaster.


I did not feel so good today, but I was able to resurrect myself. I had a long nap and went for a walk. I felt all right at the Venture House Epiphany party. And I found someone else to see as a friend. Her name is Cindy Snider.

Saturday, January 9, 1993

I dreamed I had a baby. I wasn’t sure whether it was a bowel movement or a baby as it came out, but it was a fat, healthy baby.

I was so embarrassed, though, and I started to cry. I hadn’t had sex with anybody, and I couldn’t think where I’d slipped up.

Later I wore a skirt and blouse made of newspaper. It was stained with feces in the shape of a kiss. Again I was embarrassed and I wanted to hide. As soon as I could I ran to the bathroom to wash up. It was our bathroom on 208 N. Jefferson.

After that I came across Helen Lowe from Hillsboro, who had had a baby although she was not married. She was very depressed and wanted to give up. I sat next to her and explained that I had just had a dream that I had a baby. I wanted to encourage her to take heart. Life would go on.

An interesting and hopeful dream. Although what happens to me now often feels like “a big shit” it is in reality a birth. What do I feel ashamed about?

It was nice to be with Christiana yesterday and today. Susan and Roger came home early from their anniversary trip. I felt lonely leaving.

It’s not always easy to accept my aloneness.

Sunday, January 10, 1993

I did not go to church. I feel slightly guilty, but more lonely than guilty. I wish I felt at home in a church and wanted to go to a church.

I made fish chowder and worked on my New Year’s letters. I wanted it to be a holy day, and there were at leas some holy moments, when I was fully aware and thankful. I was disappointed that a sledding expedition with the Harmses did not work out.

This evening I went to Mother’s and watered her plants, since she is gone. I also brushed the snow off her birdfeeders and filled them with seeds. The snow was covered with little bird tracks.

Earlier I walked down the river to the ducks and geese and fed them two slices of bread. They were mostly sleeping, their heads tucked to one side — all the same side — but a few birds got some crumbs.

I am thankful for my writing projects.

January 11, 1993

For unexplained reasons, I felt much more hopeful today. Actually I woke up feeling sluggish and wanted to stay in bed. I did not have much morning time to draw or write before I had to leave for my appointment with Dr. Murphy. I got stuck behind a train, and I was 15 minutes late arriving at the parking lot, which I learned from the security guard was the wrong lot. I would have to park elsewhere.

At my appointment Dr. Murphy said I did not have to take the Cardizem, good news, but he wanted me to try isosorbide. Ugh. But I agreed to try it. I wish I could have said, “I don’t want to take any of this damn medicine,” and “I don’t understand why I’m to take this.”

But I didn’t. I left for work, which was very slow. I didn’t get to do much of my education plans, but we left early.

At home I had a lot of energy left to work on my New Year letters for a couple of hours. Maybe that is why I felt better. I had a lot more energy. I felt I was moving forward, and I would reach my secret writing garden.

It was all right to be alone. In fact it was wonderful.

Slowly I will invite new friends to touch my solitude.

Tuesday, January 12, 1993

I have almost finished all of my New Year’s and Christmas letters. There are about 60 of them. Most of the letters will go to Chicago. It makes me thankful and thoughtful, to see the piles of white envelopes. How good that we could share life.

I had thoughts that I would like to make a little flag for each one, and hang them around my windows. Prayer flags.

Thursday, January 14, 1993

Good dreams.

I dreamed I was stepping over stepping-stones on a ledge or bridge. A man in an army uniform was friendly and helpful. We got over the bridge and into an old house, where I knew my way around; I showed him around. I was looking for something or someone, but I didn’t find it.

Later we were in an old car, climbing an icy hill. He was driving, and I trusted him totally. I leaned against him and felt very happy.

In the dream I thought he was a Christ figure, and I was happy.

I dreamed I had a recorder that turned into a French horn with a crumpled bell (but still useable). I was taking it somewhere, and going over some lovely terrain to bring it to a gathering.

I passed a small doorway hidden under some overgrown bushes. I unlocked the door and looked in. I saw a series of passageways, but nothing quaint or beautiful like I imagined. A woman ran out, saying, “There’s nothing good in there.”

“It’s not fun?” I asked.

“Not at all.”

Another person was running to get out, but I locked the door and left. I thought perhaps my purse strap was caught in the door, but it wasn’t. I picked up my recorder/horn, a shopping bag, checked to make sure I was wearing my hat, and set off for the gathering of friends.

I passed a fence next to the locked-in area, and someone inside told me my hat was on crooked, but I ignored her and kept going.

I drew a picture I liked this morning. I took a walk in my new coat, and decided that I would probably not live a very productive life. But what I do make, I want to make very well.

Saturday, January 16, 1993

For reasons I don’t understand, I am worried tonight about two men I cared for. I’m sure there are other clients for whom I have forgotten to do things, or I have left things out, but for some reason, these two men came up. Both have wounds on their hands. One wound is infected, and I treated it with bacitracin. I wondered if I should have sent him to the doctor for antibiotics.

Well, I did tell him to come back if the swelling doesn’t go down.

The other man sliced the back of his hand with a fan. I should have sent him for a tetanus shot. I will try to reach him Monday.

But what I’m worried about is not these men, but what people would think of me if I did something wrong.

So what would happen?

I would feel bad if the men didn’t get better. But then again I can’t control everything about them. I may have given them quite adequate care. I am awfully hard on myself. There’s a voice in me that says, “You’re not very good.” I’ve been more aware of it the last few days. “You’re not an outstanding nurse. You have hardly written anything. You’re not married. You don’t have children. You don’t own a house. You have no friends here.”

I remember that Henri Nouwen said this is the temptation of listening to what I think others say about me. None of those statements has anything to do with who I am.

I am dearly beloved.

And every interaction with the people I see is another way to experience and to give that sense of belovedness.

January 17, 1993

I thought perhaps I was done with being depressed about my move. I think I am done with some of the sadness, but I find I am still given to discouragement about my life.

I wonder if I will continue to feel worse. Today when I got home from mass, I felt devoid of energy. I wonder if I am sleeping through all the proper sages. When I wake in the morning, my eyes burn and feel heavy. I never feel like getting up, but force myself to do it. I feel all right once I’m up.

I am giving up on the idea of marrying, but it doesn’t feel like a release. I would like someone special to love. Today when I got home from mass, I thought, “God, if I don’t find some friends, I think I’ll die.”

Applying for disability has been more of an inner struggle than an outer one. I’m not disabled! I’ve never thought of myself that way. It seems to me that if I label myself disabled, I will become disabled. I am too tired, though, to work more than I do. I feel best when I have considerable quiet time each day.

Monday, January 18, 1993

I had such a terrible night last night. I think I lay awake for at least three hours. I felt tense and unhappy and alone. I realized the hardest thing for me was seeing Ellen’s beautiful children. I feel poor.

At work today I felt better. I have tasks to do. I have plans for the future.

Both men I was worried about on Saturday were there today, and their hands were healing well.

I loved myself when I got home. I got into my bed with the flannel sheets. I made a nice dinner. I heated up two corn tortillas that were just wonderful.

January 20, 1993

I see the smallest sparrow on a small branch two feet from my window. Ah, hello. Good morning.

To capture a sparrow

in some words

Small, brown, quick

gray cape flung back

flying to the high branch

in beautiful economy.

Thursday, January 21, 1993

I dream I am looking through a women’s clothing store with a friend. I put my belongings down so I can go to another part of the store and look through a different rack. I am looking for some specific items, but I don’t find them. When I come back to my belongings, my sweater is gone. Some other women are leaving, and I know they sole my sweater.

I run after them and demand my sweater back. They grudgingly give back my blue thrift-sore sweater, and the blue green sweater grandma knitted for me.

I come back and pick up my other belongings. My friend has gone on ahead. We are in an airport now. I want to find her so we can go on and get on the plane. A helpful attendant guides me to her. He holds me around my back and under one breast, which I mentally question, but I trust him. He leads me down some rapid steps underground where she is waiting in a boat in some water. My belongings land in the water, but I retrieve them. My friend and I go on; we walk around a huge aluminum pan that rises slowly above us.

There is intense heat below us, but rain coming from the pan.

“At least we’re having an adventure,” I explain.


I felt better today, even though it was a busy day. I walked today. I think the walking helps set a rhythm for the day.

Friday, January 22, 1993

I had plans for the afternoon. I wanted to write. Do laundry. Get my car oil changed. But I worked so hard and late and gave myself no break, so that by the time I got home I was exhausted and famished. I ate and tried to sleep, unsuccessfully, although the cat had no difficulty dozing, draped over my knee.

My exhaustion was as much mental and spiritual as physical. I had worked very hard on some difficult clients. My back still aches from all I took on.

I have not learned the art of graceful giving. I may appear graced, but it is not good for me.

It was helpful to come home. I made supper for Mother, and she was in an unusual mood. She had read old love letters between her and Daddy, and I think it unhinged her, in a good way. She seemed more open, happier, more vulnerable. She said when she was deciding whether to marry Daddy, she wondered if it was God’s will.

I think about men and dream about sex.

Saturday, January 23, 1993

A terrible dream. I dreamed I tried to kill my cat. Mother wanted me to do it, and I thought maybe it was a good idea, so I sat on it, and squashed its vertebra one by one and put it in a box, but it wouldn’t die. It kept reviving. It stood up on its hind legs and flexed its muscles like a body builder. I felt terrible, and wished I had never tried to kill it. I love my cat. How could I have done this?

I wondered how I could fully revive it, so it didn’t look so deformed.

The dream is about my sexuality. I have truly hidden it away in a box and tried to put

it out of my mind, but it returns and it is powerful. There is a large part of me that wants to be physically close to someone.

More than a part of me. All of me does.

Monday, January 25, 1993

I say no to more things now. It does not feel totally comfortable. I am more careful about doing too many things in one day, which is good, but saying “no” makes me feel handicapped.

There is a cost to saying “no” as well. I go to fewer social events. I see fewer people.

I need a ritual to deal with all my fears, which continue to recur. It is hard to have confidence in my body, which has given me some nasty surprises. It is easy to imagine the early flutters of a heart attack when my heart skips a beat, or I feel that shakiness inside. I need to place my fears in an earthen well, and circle round their fire with a silver web of hope.

Tuesday, January 26, 1993

A woman I saw today needed some braces removed. I do not think I can help her. It is

not a pleasant feeling.

Tonight I went to Christiana’s recital. Why did I enjoy watching the backs of young girls as they performed with all their young gifts showing forth? There is a beautiful grace in those small budding women.

I felt better, yesterday and today. The Reiki was helpful, I think. Also I feel more direction.

Wednesday, January 27, 1993

The end of a day by myself. I got quite a bit done, both in errands and writing. I did not write anything, but I spent a couple of hours going through my files to find some writing samples. I was impressed with how good some of the writing was. I saw some stories I could do more with. The day went quickly.

Tonight I would like to have been with someone. There is often the edge of loneliness to deal with.

I got my hair cut at Petite Hair Salon across the street. After messing it up properly, it looks pretty good.

It was good to read the poems I’d written.

My walk

No way to go slowly

down a steep entrance

It’s down, down, down,

and then the river,

shadows, trees far above

old friends waving me on

I approach a valley owned by the crows

who warn the river world

I am coming. I leave

them quickly, not believing

I pass an empty nest

in a low bush. I reach

the ducks and the geese

here only for the winter

who take flight before me.

January 28, 1993

Wind outside.

What if I never get married? What if? Is something wrong with me?

Young children die, and they do not marry. Flannery O’Connor didn’t marry. Did she want to?

Beethoven did not marry. I may never marry, but I hope I continue to open myself

to other people. I hope I continue to open myself to life.

People who have led me on, in no particular order:

Aggie Klassen

Sr. Elise

Carole Hull

Katie Wiebe

Fr. John at Marymound

Mother Theresa

Joanna Wiebe

Nancy Onderdonk

Judy Nielson

My father

Rainer Maria Rilke

January 31, 1993

I dreamed a man took me out to a car in the snow. I had sandals on. We fell down in the snow and kissed. We collapsed in the snow, tired. Someone noted I was frostbitten on my head and my hands or toes. I was not too worried. We got in the car. There was another woman in the car, and the man made a pass at her, like he had done with me. I was mad, and tried to push him out.

I dreamed I was frightened, and I crawled into bed between a man and a woman who were bigger than me. The man was my father.

I cried and cried, but he wouldn’t wake up.

He looked like a statue.

I got up and went into the kitchen. The clock said 8:30. It’s time to get up, I thought. I went back in the bedroom, but there was an electric plug moving mysteriously in the bed, like a snake. I was frightened. I went back to the kitchen and prayed for God’s protection.

I pulled the phone into the kitchen and saw that it was round, not like my phone, and realized I was in a dream.

When I woke up I felt wonderful, as though something heavy had been released.

Electrical plug makes me think of Thomas Merton, who died with an electric cord across him. It also makes me think of energy. In the dream, it was not directed; it was moving from place to place. Since it was in a bed, it could have something to do with undirected sexual energy.

Yesterday I went to a workshop on creativity and healing. I did not learn much about creativity or healing that I didn’t know, but I did learn about the depth of other women’s pain and scarring. One (actually two) women were incest survivors. One woman had been used by her grandfather, who was part of a satanic cult. Her story, together with a show on 60 Minutes last week, about women in India who are burned to death because they do not bear children, both speak about the imbalance between men and women in the world. Not only imbalance, but injustice and evil.

I am not sure, but a thought in my head is that the evil present in the world stems from this primary imbalance.

How To Make a Friend

I just spoke with Cindy Snider on the phone. She appears to be someone who would make a good friend. But I don’t know if that will happen. Perhaps she has too many friends already, and has no time for new friends. Perhaps she is so involved with Bob Parker she has no time.

Perhaps we will not feel comfortable.

I think back to the early sages of befriending Fran and wonder how it came about. I liked her immediately, and felt I could share some risky thoughts without fear. Who invited who out first? Did we consciously take turns inviting each other out? How did it come about that there was no thought of give and take, but only, “I have to tell Fran.”

It was hard to have her get married. Actually, I did not mind that, but I minded the change in our relationship. There could be that dilemma in getting to know Cindy.

We are going to have dinner next week. I am looking forward to that.

Small rocks as beautiful as robin’s eggs

A tree beside my bedroom window

A river down behind and below I cannot see

Thursday, February 4, 1993

I felt better today. This evening I felt alone and lazy, and decided to call up Joanna, which made me feel not so alone. We talked about angels and possible vacations.

She said someone told her angels are around us all the time during the day, but they go away when we sleep. This is probably true.

I need more help when I am awake.

I have decided I would like to gain weight. I will pray for a fat angel.

Angels don’t give their own names. They act in God’s name. They don’t need the recognition we do.

Friday, February 5, 1993

I am feeling much better. I think it has something to do with the fact that I am writing. I have set my foot on the path.

I feel expectant. I am looking forward to things at work, and in the few buds of my social life.

Sunday, February 7, 1993

Tom Chick called me up this week and coerced me into going to church at Pine Valley on Sunday. There are a number of things about the church I like. They have communion every Sunday, and they are socially/politically pretty active. They are certainly friendly. But for some reason, I don’t feel like returning. . . . In some ways the services seem like a show, although they are very informal. Actually, the real reason I don’t wish to go back is because I haven’t made any friends there.

I have been thinking more about doing a Mennonite-Catholic shuffle. I’d like to go to mass occasionally, and get involved in a Mennonite church. Right now Church of the Servant seems most likely, because it feels more open to new ideas. I feel a need to go back to my roots.

Monday, February 8, 1993

Have been journeying through PrairyErth.

It is a helpful book in ways I wouldn’t have thought of. Heatmoon examines Chase County in every way, and since Chase is much like Sedgwick, it gives me a new way of seeing this land and this people. Heatmoon has a long interview with Wes Jackson, who quotes Wendell Berry, to say that the communities that sustain us are lifeless. We don’t listen to the earth. We listen to greed, and our lives are the result of it. I see that more clearly here in Wichita.

There’s a terrible amount of fear and conformity to the wish to have more.

I really want to find friends who live a simpler way.

It was interesting to me that Linda said today if her husband would die, she would not marry again. “It’s too much work,” she said, “to form the relationship.” Another woman at the table said she hated it when her husband left. I asked her if she’d ever lived alone. She never had. Linda said she liked being alone. I like to be alone for lengthy periods, although I would like a little companionship each day.

Tuesday, February 9, 1993

I dream I am on a trip to South America with someone else. We pass a tricky entrance. My friend is directing the way. “We are going to Guatemala,” one of us says.

“Oh no,” I say. “We’re going the wrong direction.”

I’m mad at my friend because I think the way to South America will not lead to Guatemala. I debate whether to get off the bus, but decide not to. I’m unsure what we’ll find in South America, and sure we won’t find Guatemala, which we know more about.

When I wake up, I realize I was going in the right direction.

Thursday, February 11, 1993

. . . . It is hard to say what I see inside now when I sit by myself. It is something large and beautiful. I feel some sadness, but it is sweetly bearable. I know the sadness won’t last, or it isn’t important. I’m going toward a good thing.

Friday, February 12, 1993

I finished PrairyErth tonight. What a book.

It leads me back to the land, and tells me why I came back here, to this spot, with the tree and the river. “The land was willing to reveal itself,” Heatmoon said. I see that in the book. The book is slow and endless, like the land, but with a compelling power that drew me on and in.

I feel, or reaffirm my knowledge that the land has something to say to me. Every time I take my walk, it says something to me. I sing inside. How fortunate I am to live near the river. It’s more than fortune.

Heatmoon talks about how the book itself, or perhaps the land, showed him what to write about. He knew he was on the right track, when it was no longer in his control.

I recognized my own experience now as being on the right track. I have a lot of time, more than I am taking, to write. I am ripe for something — someone to speak forth, bother me at night, and give voice to itself. Oh, that I will listen.

I think I am very critical. I don’t know if this is wrong. The churches I have been to seem far away from real life. Actually, Church of the Servant and the Acuto Center seem closest to real life and real needs. But the Christian church as a whole seems far from

the holy reverence of life.

Other thoughts. Heatmoon spent years writing this book. He put everything else away and gave himself to the task. Why can’t I do that? Ah, money. But that isn’t so unlikely.

I dreamed this morning that I was filing into place in a choir. I was on the end of the line, but got in before everyone else. I had to step aside to let the others pass, but in so doing, I fell down the steep slope. Once everyone was in line, I would not have fallen. Most of the people moved in the line, but some were missing. I moved away from the steep place. There was a hole in the end of the line.

I dreamed a young woman who didn’t know much was teaching a class on “What is really true.” The class was based on science and would debunk some myths that I believed in. I stood in the back of the class. I was open to the idea of the class, but I didn’t think she knew enough to teach. I thought maybe I could buy her off to make her leave. I asked her mother how much this would cost, and she said $7.50. This was more than I wanted to spend, so I went around collecting dollar bills from classmates. Carolyn Prieb gave me a large tin of old-fashioned chocolate halvah to buy her off. She kept some plain halvah. Why would I want to give up such treasure to get rid of a woman wanting to speak truth, however inexperienced?

I will be my own friend. I feel that tonight.

I wonder if I could write about that heart attack, in the same manner as PrairyErth was written.

Saturday night

I dream I am lying down outside. Am I waiting for a man? At any rate, some powerful sexual feelings wash over me. While I am enjoying the feelings, someone comes suddenly and clamps a hand over my mouth. I am afraid of what else they will do.

Then I feel a change. I will do or hear something important. I hear someone calling, loudly. Someone angry. I’m frightened, but I look around. There is no one ahead of me. It’s a passage, closed up, top and sides. I go around a bend, and look at the 13-mile road as it enters Hillsboro. It is next to the Parkview church. A band of lions are howling, “Help! Help! Help!”

At the same time, I am howling the same words, because I am trapped, alone, and there are lions nearby.

A young woman who is a therapist hears the cries. She has something else to do, but she will help the lions. I am right next to her.

I think it’s a dream about speaking, giving forth the word. That is where my energy lies. Lion is god for me. They are in the spot where the adobe house would be.


I had a dream about a lion, holding a stream of paper, long ago.

Who has shut me up? Does it matter?

Or maybe, this is direction. Where are the lions howling? That’s what I need to write about.

Monday, February 15, 1993

I am rereading To Hear the Angels Sing, by Dorothy McLean. She assisted in the formation of Findhorn by listening to the angels, or devas, of the land. I am intrigued by what she says, and believe there are spirits we can communicate with. I don’t understand how she tunes in to the essence of a being, though. Actually, I have some clues.

Sometimes when I am very quiet, I feel the spirit of the tree next to my window.

Unseen things. Sometimes on Sunday evenings, I am aware of my father’s presence.

I am aware that different people have different spirits. I am aware of worrisome, anxious spirits that come over me, and then the gift of a peaceful spirit.

The way to be centered is to put God first, McLean says. This is true.

I would still like to see an angel. But more than that, I want to be wholly focused on God’s light.

February 17, 1993

I dreamed I entered a stream of bicyclists. A man led me, but then he disappeared ahead of me. It was a beautiful, cool, windless day. I commented how beautiful it was. I knew I would have to say goodbye to all these people, and I felt sad.

I said goodbye to a large fat girl I didn’t know too well, but felt sad even with her. I saw how wonderful each of them had been, although I had not been fully aware of it when I was with them.

I walked in the cold and snow today. A crow circled in front of me, fanning her black wings in a lovely crest.

It felt like a hello. Immediately afterward, I noticed an ace of hearts on the ground. I picked it up. The whole event felt like a dream, and I wonder what it meant.

I am slowly working away at my devotionals. Once they are done, what will be my next project?

February 18, 1993

I dream I am on a trip. “We should travel more lightly,” I say. I have my dresser, bicycle, and four people to put in my car. It is far too much for the room.

I went to Marilyn’s for a Reiki treatment. “There is a lot of activity in you,” she said, “especially your kidneys.” I hope I am full of activity because I am getting better. I have been feeling better.

“The more I read about healing, wholeness, other religions,” I told her, “the more I see that they are all saying the same thing.” They all point to God, to the need to reverence life, to reintegrate our lives with the earth. “And the further I get from the beliefs

I was taught as a child.”

Friday, February 19, 1993

I watched the Miss USA pageant tonight because it took place in Wichita. It was pretty awful. How quickly it can uncenter a person and produce ugly thoughts. There is no need for such activity. There is no need to rush or worry. Everything has its time.

February 20, 1993

A day of consumption, or attempts at consumption. I bought a TV which works better than the giveaway from Susan and Roger, but not terribly well on channels 8 and 12. I will work on it. That’s the trouble with many possessions; you have to fix them and take care of them, which fills your mind with nonessential thoughts.

I still feel homeless in regard to a church. Should I go here? Should I go there? Maybe it would be good to go to Pine Valley. I feel in tune with their philosophy. They have a great choir. Or I could go to Church of the Servant. It is small. They are also open-minded. It would be closer to my roots. Maybe I could go to Susan and Roger’s church. It would be good to be close to family. I don’t know the answer now. I hope I grow into it.

February 22, 1993

Thoughts while watching “Healing With the Mind” with Bill Moyers. The Chinese talk about “raising chi.” I wonder if that is what I am doing now, with my walking, writing and quiet times. I feel much more energy now.

Perhaps I have succeeded in raising my chi.

A scientist talked of how the peptides that come from the part of the brain that deals with emotion, are all over the surfaces of our listening, mobile cells. It seems highly likely that we (I) could greatly affect all of my cells’ responses.

There was a section on Dean Ornish’s program for reversing heart disease. I saw that the next thing I need to work on is meditation. I felt a great deal of hope watching the program, and I want to enlist my doctors in the endeavor of healing.

Fran is coming to se me. I’m surprised: I didn’t think it would work out.

I want to have the meeting with my family, but I see now it needs to be a health meeting. How do I want to die, yes, but also, how do I want to live now?

I remembered today how I had felt listening to the parable of the prodigal son last year. I remembered so keenly that I wanted to return to writing. Today I worked and worked at Venture House. I was quite tired at home. I did not write.

Thank you, Holy One, and writing muse, for each moment you visit me.

Tuesday, February 23, 1993

I watched another episode of “Healing and the Mind” tonight. Listening to other people’s health experience makes my heart burn, in a good way. I feel hopeful seeing how meditation and therapy helped people with illnesses. I see that another move for health for me is admitting I have something wrong. I think I have, more and more. I confess I can’t do the vacuuming, and I need some help. I confess I can’t be on my feet or under stress all the time.

The one doctor led his patients in mindfulness meditation. I wonder how to always be in such a centered state. I fall out of it so quickly at work, so that when I get home, I am quite tired. It’s not always like that, but today it was. I felt uncentered, and that I did not get much done.

As I watched the TV show, though, I felt more centered. I wanted to be one of those healing people. I wonder how I can introduce these healing concepts to poor and homeless people.

There is enough time.

Thursday, February 25, 1993

I dream I am lying in my bed with my flannel sheets.

There are many people around me, helping me. I am in a hospital. It feels like too many people, although I know they want to be helpful. I tell a short oriental woman that I need to turn on the radio, and she goes into the living room and turns it on. I can hear the announcer for KHCC, and I wonder how this can be. “How did you do it?” I ask the woman. I know this is a dream. “It must be a miracle,” she says. Then she slowly sinks into the carpet and disappears.

“Wait,” I say, “Thank you!” I want to know more, but she is gone. I sense I could have sunk into the carpet with her, but I am afraid.

I go into the living room and find Matthew asleep on my couch. The radio is on, but it is a different radio than my own. I wonder if this is how my life might have been if I had taken a different turn somewhere. I look in another room and see piles of unwashed laundry. I must have been sick a long time, I think. But everything looks a little off kilter. It’s similar to my house, but with definite changes. I decide to go back in my bed with my flannel sheets. At least there it will all be familiar.

I climb in bed and feel the sheets, but immediately a man grabs my head and body from behind. I’m frightened, but I say, “God is with me. God loves me. God cares for me. God is with me no matter what happens.” The man’s grip lessens, and I turn over and look at him. He is a strong, older Oriental or Indian (Central American) man.

“I’ve never seen you before,” I say. He explains that his group carries the symbol of the loon.

“Why the loon?” I ask.

“It is like this,” he says, and makes an arc over his knee.

“You mean the circumference?”

“No, more like a triangle,” he says. I notice his left eye is purplish and clouded over. Looking closer I see it is a design, like a kaleidoscope. The other eye has a smaller kaleidoscope area where the pupil and iris would be.

Last night I saw the final segment of “Healing and the Mind.” The whole thing was intensely interesting to me.

And I wonder how I can find help, people who believe in the mind-body connection, and who will help me say true to care for the spirit-body whole.

Thursday evening

A lot of awfully sad cases today.

A woman whose mother is her sister.

A girl hooked on Xanax and Klonopin.

A man with chronic back pain.

I was not able to help much. I wonder where the answer is.

I drew a picture of myself in a rocking chair, singing songs.

The world is sick.

Outside, winter returns,

ice-covered branches,

a dusting of snow,

slushy streets.

if mother isn’t nearby, be your own.

say, “there, there,”


“it will be all right.”


sing to yourself:

little lullabies, old spirituals,

gospel songs, made-up ditties.

Friday, February 26, 1993

Who’s listening to me?

I’m listening.

I had another dream in which I was moving and trying to pack all my belongings, but I had way too much stuff to fit in the car. I had a bicycle, too. I wonder where I am going. If I got on the bicycle, I could leave the rest of the stuff behind.

Monday, March 1, 1993

When I go outside for a walk, I feel a big thank-you.

Thank-you, God that I am alive and that I feel pretty good. Thank you that I am on the right track. My foot feels much better.

March 2, 1993

After reading A Woman of Independent Means, I am happier about being independent, i.e., not married. I do wonder if it is not better for men and women to remain in different houses and just visit each other every so often.

I should like to sleep with someone sometimes, but I think it would be more fun if I were sometimes alone. I was more certain I want to find male friends.

9:30 p.m.

I have not written much. Tonight I finished the fifth devotional, to make myself feel better. But I’m not writing a story of a girl who lives in an enormous old house, or of some ducks who live in Kansas, or my own stories.

March 3, 1993

Now I am reading The Woman Warrior, another feminist book. I wonder why men have so much power. Why does a male approach rule so much?

. . . . I spent the evening alone, and think I would go nuts if I were always alone. I think I could be alone all day if I knew I was going to see someone each evening. Evenings are for company. The only problem is that I don’t have enough friends or enough energy to fill all my evenings. I am enjoying reading books. I can pretend I am a pioneer woman on the prairie, with long winter evenings alone. The moon is full, the stars are bright. Each one holds a story which I listen to carefully and write down on the backs of paper packages that held rice, cheese, sugar, or seven yards of blue-green floral print.

Thursday, March 4, 1993

I have felt all week like I have forgotten something, but I don’t know what it is.

I felt a little under the weather tonight. I have had a chronic sinus infection for the past weeks, which now seems to have affected my throat. I worry so about my health. Strep throat; the beginning of the end. It’s only a minor infection so far. I am tired of being alone at night.

I think I am afraid I have forgotten who I really am — the writer, creator calling me on. I should like my days to be just turned around. I would like to be alone all day, and have evenings with other people.

March 5, 1993

I dream I am sitting in the bathroom at work. I watch the wood on the wall, which slowly disappears, in layers.

I have some power over this, and I wonder how I can repeat it.

Underneath the wood cover is a picture of a man carrying a baby. He is dressed in a coat and hat, and the baby is wrapped in a blanket and the man holds it securely. A younger child walks in front of him, holding a doll. In the background are many farm buildings, and on one of the roofs it says something like “Homecoming.” The picture looks like a book cover.

Monday, March 8, 1993

Tonight the moon is very close to the earth, closer than it has been and will be for many years.

A busy day, but I feel pretty good. I am better at saying no to things in the evenings. Tonight I drew a picture I won’t use in my book, but it was fun to draw. I also called Cindy Snider and invited her to go to the Cassoday cafe in Chase County on Friday for lunch. She was delighted, as I was. The idea just came to me as I was talking. I think it should be fun.

The best part of today was when I walked around a little lake at Sedgwick County Park at 9:30 in the morning. It was quiet, and the sky was intense blue. I heard a red cardinal singing high in a tree, and another bird I couldn’t see singing short, sweet notes. I saw small birds on the trees.

I would love to live in the country.

March 10, 1993

I am sad we are not still young, and that we have no school, and nothing to do but cavort in our elder’s presence and be entertained and fed. We should all stop our lives and play with each other.

Thursday, March 11, 1993

Today was such a blur of phone calls and activity that I hope I covered all my bases and left no great gap someone else will have to leap across. . . .

Roger and I wandered through the garden show after choir and we saw little barns that one puts in the backyard. I thought how delightful it would be to live in a little house like that on the prairie. I would have little windows with flowerboxes, and inside the barest of furniture, but very beautiful, of course. The one barn had a loft. I could sleep in the loft.

wood stove with oven

book shelf


two chairs and a table

two lanterns

one wardrobe

If I were stronger, I would live in a house with a wood stove. I would have a big garden. I would live in the country.

Friday, March 12, 1993

Cindy and I have had a day to remember! We arrived at the Cassoday Cafe about 11:30. The cafe was almost empty, but a man in a cowboy hat said, “Hello, there,” and I oddly didn’t feel threatened. We ate the Friday special of ham, escalloped potatoes, green beans and slaw, and decided yes on the peach cobbler.

We were out in the car ready to explore more of Cassoday we’d gleaned from the brochure we’d picked up. We decided we needed directions, and Cindy went back inside to get some. She was gone a long time. I could see her inside the cafe window smiling and laughing. When she came out, she said, “I’ve got us a tour guide!”

The man who had halloed us was following her out.

“I’m Carl Gruendon,” he said.

“I’m Christine Wiebe.”

“I’ll take you to the museum first,” he said.

We climbed up high into the cab of his red pick-up, and drove over to the old Santa Fe Depot. It was locked and hadn’t been open for a while.

“How many people live in Cassoday?”

“Not more than a 100,” he said.

There were pictures of an old high school class of 1962. One class had only two people.

Saddles, buckskin dresses, old newspapers, the old station desk, cowboy hats, an old iron stove.

An old cowboy reciting poetry. Sloping gray hills, sand-colored as far as I can see, falling into each other so neatly, and the sun exploding its colors on the end of the day. Small creeks threading like mercury through crevices, and ponds like small jewels.

A meadowlark and a prairie chicken.

When we stop, the only sound is the wind.

When I go over this hill, it feels like I’m in a new land. We were in a different world today, weren’t we?

March 13, 1993

I slept wonderfully and late, and then went out to get groceries on my long shopping list. I watered the plants, paid one bill, made some vegetarian chili and cornbread, and tried unsuccessfully to do my taxes. I need help!

I took my chili over to the Harmses and told them all about my adventure yesterday. I feel something I haven’t felt for a long time; it feels like a romance, but not with a person. I realize how much I love the land and the slow way of life in the country. I want to ride a horse, and cut some wood. I’d like to live in a small house on the edge of a wood. I’d like to have a horse.

Well, why not?

There are days in my life that I know have changed me, have opened me up. Friday was one of those days.

March 14, 1993

The cat is pawing away at her new bed; at least she thinks the new afghan I put on top of the sewing machine is her new bed. I guess she can have it.

The weekend is whorling to an end. It was lovely, long, and fruitless of any exterior work, but much inner work went on. Now I can see myself living in a small farmhouse near the open hills. I am a free-lance writer.

I am wild and free.

I dreamed a few nights ago, that the partitions were being taken down at Venture House, and they revealed that Venture House is a church, a large, high-ceilinged beautiful, old church.

March 20, 1993

I am more tired than I would wish. I haven’t been moving as slowly these past weeks. Visitors, an exciting excursion last weekend, work has been busy. Last night I babysat for Jamie, and today I went shopping.

Tonight I did my “love my body” treatment. I gave my hair a hot oil treatment, and sat in the bathtub listening to my new Hal Ketchum tape and eating chocolate cake.

There are always more things I would like to do:

clean my car,

replant my plants,

finish my Western article,

fix my dust ruffle,

draw pictures.

I’d like to slow down again.

Sunday, March 21, 1993

I felt much better today. I was disappointed that Cindy wasn’t at church, but I met a man I hadn’t seen there before. He is very nice-looking and friendly, but I have a feeling he’s gay. He left at the end of our group conversation but didn’t seem to want to pursue it alone. I felt stupid afterwards and wondered if I was too forward.

But what the heck? I’d like to get to know a man, and I’d like men who are up front with me about what they want. It would be quite refreshing.

March 22, 1993

While playing with Jamie on Saturday morning, I hid in the bathroom behind the door with a long mirror. I pulled the mirror close to me, and felt the oddest sensation.

There I was, an inch away, my hair scruffy from not being washed, my eyes a little puffy, and my reddened, scarred face.

“Oh,” I thought. “I’m not as beautiful as I hope I am.”

And then, “But this is who I am. I’m the person in that body.”

Is that me? It was the completely unadorned me. I felt an urge to love what seemed unlovely to me.

The lump in my breast has started to disturb me now.

I wish the mammogram were over and I knew something.

March 23, 1993

I called Cindy tonight to tell her the update on our western article, and somehow we stumbled together on the idea of traveling around the world, together. I immediately

felt giddy with pleasure. Yes, I would love to do that. Yes, I think to myself, I might have the money in another year. And wonder of wonders, I might have someone to travel with. It felt like such a wonderful thought, I did not say anything about it to Susan when I went there tonight. I want to let it sit awhile.

I will have about $10,000 dollars in savings at the end of this year. I could buy a house — or I could go around the world. Susan said my lump might be a fatty cyst. A hopeful thought.

I feel so much more hopeful about living. There are things I want to do, and I feel more coming.

March 24, 1993

I was at the hospital for three hours, getting a mammogram, and then a sonogram. My left breast did not look at all like the right breast on the mammogram. The left one was much cloudier. The sonogram lady said that the sonogram showed nothing, though. She said she didn’t know about the mammogram.

I will talk to Dr. Trego tomorrow.

I had the nicest lunch today by the pond in the park under the warm, cloudless sky.

A young boy came up, and we discussed fish, tadpoles and frogs.

March 25, 1993

“The mammogram and the sonogram were both negative.”

One of Jason’s nurses called me to tell me this. She said I should keep an eye, or a hand, I would guess, on the lump. If it doesn’t go away, they may want to do a biopsy.

I went on a walk today, and saw two red-winged blackbirds, robins, a wood-pecker with a red-striped head, three doves, multiple pairs of mallard ducks, and a lot of crows. It was a flawless day, weather-wise.

Jane Bernhardt, at The Wichita Eagle, says she is very interested in my western article.


Saturday, March 27, 1993

I finished my stressful week and now I have everything to look forward to. Lots of vacation coming up. Lots of ideas to write about and pursue . . .

This morning, first thing, I went down to the river.

I see many cardinals now, and I’m learning to know the calls of each bird, although I don’t know their names. Birds entrance me. When I listen to the cardinal twooting high on a tree, I take a deep breath of pleasure.

I am also watching for another sign of an animal I saw swimming in the river last evening. All I saw was a head, swimming downstream. When it saw me, it disappeared into the current, and I looked long, but did not see where it came up. I saw a hole burrowed out by the water’s edge under a tree. I wonder if that is the home of the mystery animal.

Sunday, March 28, 1993

I dreamed I was on a trip. I had gotten on one bus, but then I switched to another bus taking a different route. After I had traveled for a while, I realized my suitcase and my pillow had been left behind on the first bus. I asked the bus driver how I could get them back. He said it was possible, but it would cost $10.

We passed some young people — teenagers — who were knifing someone. They taunted us and ran after the bus. The bus pulled ahead, but had to stop at a red light. All the young people got on. I had hidden under the seat, but I got up. One of the teenagers sat beside me. They were all high and giddy. I started talking with them about what they thought on a serious issue. They all calmed down as they engaged in discussion.

2:25 p.m.

It came to me on my walk today, that at the end of this year, I should stop my employment, or else reduce it greatly, and try my hand at being a full-time writer. Free-lance. I reread Ivan Doig’s This House of Sky, and saw that after he was offered a professorship from one of the biggest universities, he turned it down. He knew he would not be happy furthering the causes of a big institution, and that he needed the inwardness of frequent solitude. He became a free-lance writer. I felt a kinship in that desire. I don’t think I will ever be happy in any institution, and would be much happier working on my own.

Monday, March 29, 1993

Thunder outside. I have the window open because it is so warm.

I dreamed I was visiting someone who had a troupe of tigers. I befriended one of them, and seemed to be calming him down. He seemed to like me.

“He used to be a poet,” someone told me. I felt sad that he had degenerated so far and was so wild and unruly. The other tigers were clearly more wild and untamable than he was.


I felt so excited today. When I came home, I rested, and then I worked some more on my western article. It is as done as it will be for now, and tomorrow I will take it to The Wichita Eagle. I do hope I get it published.

I have many dreams streaming from that day in the hills. I will write. I will write full-time! I will make money at it! I will travel. I will travel around the world. I will travel across Kansas and write about what I know. I will leave nursing behind. Or else I will be the kind of holistic nurse I want to be.

March 30, 1993

I delivered my article through the multitude of desks and into the hands of Jane Bernhardt, travel editor for The Wichita Eagle. It is done. There is nothing else I can do, except wait. I called Cindy to exult some more, this evening. Where will it lead us? Who knows, but I am ready.

I was tired tonight. My heart makes small unwanted flips occasionally, but I remember Dr. Upton said not to worry about those.

I am so excited about the days to come.

I wish I were working a little less at Venture House, but it is O.K. for now.

I feel also that I have forgotten something. I have been feeling this for awhile, but it is stronger now. Have I forgotten my past life? Old friends? A way of seeing the world? Or a host of stories that are picking away at the shell of my forgetfulness like small birds?

March 31, 1993

I finished up six Rejoice devotionals and turned them out on my computer. One to go. Then on to other writing projects.

I am so thankful, now, so full of hope. Who knows what wonderful thing could happen? That is how I feel.

I felt quite energetic today, until I walked to the bank and Twin Lakes in the wind. It is cold and very windy, and I felt pretty tired afterwards. But I revived after dinner.

Tomorrow and Friday is the Healing Touch workshop. I hope it will be a good thing.

April 1, 1993

I dreamed I met a number of people with special powers. They were quite large, but not fat. Their flesh was solid and white, like a picture of the nine muses.

They were looking for special people. One of the women came to me because I was the “wedding person.” I was delighted. I said goodbye to a new friend and left to join these people. But they soon went away, and I went from table to table, looking for them. I saw a table of food, but I was pretty sure it belonged to the Mennonites. Then I saw two of the people, but they looked human.

“It didn’t last,” I said.

“No,” they agreed. But they left me with some hope it would come again.

I left them and walked through a door.

As I did, I discovered two peanuts in a fold of my clothes. I knew the peanuts were powerful. A person with me took one of the nuts. Yes, I thought. I should share.

April 2, 1993

I am thankful I decided to go to these two days on healing touch. There was nothing religious about it, although Dorothea talked about connecting with the universal energy. It did not bother me that there was no mention of God, because I had a sense God was there. There was a sense of divine caring, and Dorothea emphasized the simple intention of being of service, and being a channel of energy for our client’s highest good.

After the chakra divide, in which the healer sweeps aside the energy from the middle, I felt incredibly alert, open and peaceful. I have not felt like that in a long time. As the healer reconnected me to the present at the close of this treatment, I saw an eye in my mind. The eye of intuition?

Sunday, April 3, 1993

This morning I got up and did the chakra slide or shift. My ability to feel the energy is increasing. At the close of this exercise, I checked my chakras. My eyes were closed.

Over the brow, I saw a deep purple circle.

Over the heart, I saw green, but it was not as clear or central.

I went to Mother’s church and hoped I would enjoy their musical, “King of Kings.” It was not bad. Aside from being sexist, the music was good.

I didn’t agree with the “save me” theology, and also with the idea that becoming a Christian would divest someone of intuitive gifts. In the story, a slave girl who makes her living telling fortunes, loses this power after she meets Paul and accepts his message.

Even so, I realized that the truth will come out.

Mother interpreted this part of the play by saying the girl did not really see into the future. And there were other more powerful parts of the story that gave great honor to intuitive gifts. Jesus healed people. How did he do this, without intuitively knowing a great deal?

On Saturday I felt a pain in my left upper chest, above my heart. I think sometimes some phlegm gets suck in my lungs. I cupped my right hand and pounded the area, like I’ve seen Jay Lamble do. When I stopped, I felt a current running across my chest. It was not painful, but it was quite arresting.

Yesterday and today I have felt so quiet and good. I have felt as calm as I did after the heart attack. That was also a time of being open to intuitive gifts. I am thankful for these new gifts. I pray they will be used for the glory of God. I pray they will be used only for good.

10:00 p.m.

I succumbed to the TV and watched “Diana: Her True Story.” How awful to be a princess. How awful to be a prince’s wife. How good to have my own quiet, humble life, and the freedom to explore whatever I choose, to back out of whatever I want, to be alone.

April 5, 1993

The sky is sill gray and it looks cold, although when I go outside, the light is

dissolving through the clouds. The birds call to each other. I hear a

cardinal, high up, but I can’t see him or her. How will I see her when the leaves come? It won’t be long. Tiny green fans have emerged from the dark sticks. Moss is growing on the tree by my window. The river is high, just level with the flat muddy bank. Near there, a neighbor has planted narcissus and some other green shoots that might turn into another flower. The ducks quack at me. I notice there are not too many female ducks and wonder if there is a female shortage. I’ve sent a couple of female ducks, each surrounded by a crowd of males.

They are such funny beings, with their fat, colorful bodies, curly tail, and wide yellow feet. They sway back and forth when they walk. It looks painful.

April 5, 1993

Feminist Seder Meal at Acuto

It is a powerful ritual, women bonding together in their power against the sin of

sexism. There were tears, which made me feel more sympathetic toward Eileen, who has always seemed so hard to me. Now I know. She told us what she grieved about, a church that doesn’t support her.

I feel somewhat guilty that I haven’t found a church home. I haven’t committed myself to any church body. Spiritually I am found, but religiously I feel lost. I feel at home with these women. I feel more spiritual growth from the Healing Touch workshop than from going to the M.B. Church. Going there makes me angry, and fills me with struggles.

It will come together. I will find a place that is home.

Tuesday, April 6, 1993

I felt tired, alone and a little depressed tonight.

It is hard to always see the aloneness as gift. I checked my chakras, and they all seem pretty low. I rested for a while, and did the chakra connection, but that did not help.

Trains sounding outside — distant calls. Is it a warning? A forecast? A call for help? A direction?

I drew some more pictures for my healing book. I think about my next writing time, and wish there were more of them. I am trying to rearrange my work schedule to make more writing times.

I remember that I felt alone in Chicago, and there I had many friends close by. Aloneness does not depend on proximity of friends, but on how I feel about myself. . . .

I will find friends, but they won’t look at all like the friends in Chicago. That is all right.

April 7, 1993

I saw my first egret of the season, and felt so happy. They are such beautifully awkward birds.

Thursday, April 8, 1993

I dreamed a great many people in my house were going to revolt. I and a female friend supported them, but we did not want to be hurt. We planned to leave early in the morning. I suggested we get up earlier than usual to do my friend’s newspaper route.

That way no one would suspect us. We packed my green knapsack with only a few items. My friend wanted to pack some face cream. I thought it was very heavy, and it reminded me of a Tucks hemorrhoid container. We escaped and climbed down a narrow passageway. People opened their small doors in the stairway. They were all minorities and oppressed people. I felt safe with them. When we came out we sat together in a crowd. A man with dark hair came and sat beside me. I had been interested in him before, but this was the most definite sign of interest from him. His name was John.


I was completely spent when I got home late from work, and after I rested, I felt even worse, and nauseous. It passed after dinner, but I still feel fragile.

Driving to work today, I dreamed of romance. Usually I have a feeling of despair that follows this dream, but today I felt happy. I thought, it is good for me to dream, even if it never happens. It is good just to dream.

I am thinking more of death today. This happens when I don’t feel very good. It doesn’t help that the weather is so bleak. And tomorrow is Good Friday. Easter comes.

April 10, 1993

My Easter preparations:

I did some minor housecleaning.

I put cotton sheets on my bed and washed the flannel ones and put them away.

Mother helped me wash my pink sweater and get the spots out. I ironed it, carefully.

It is my Easter dress.

I took a bath and shaved my legs and underarms for the first time this year.

I put on a new white summer nightgown with flowers embroidered on the yoke.

I opened the windows.


It was a nice day. Blue sky, warm. I cried a little on one verse of “Christ, the Lord is Risen Today.” “Where, O Death is now thy sting?”

I also continue to not feel right. The nausea is passed, but my appetite is not great, and I continue to have air hunger. I’m consciously taking deep breaths.

It came to me that I will live a great deal longer if I work a great deal less. That is so painful, to say, “I can’t work.” Is that to say, “I will die?”

I feel most alive when I write. Maybe it is to say, “I will be more fully alive while I am alive.”

April 13, 1993

I feel quite a bit better.

Writing Goals:

To make enough money per month to reduce my hours to 20.

To submit one article every two weeks.

A cold, damp April day. It is a rather chilly spring, so far, although we’ve had a few blessed days.

The song lines the birds draw

outside my window

along the tree lines

lead me up

out of my dreamtime

into their time

always moving.

April 17, 1993

I spent the day preparing for Fran’s big visit. I felt quite good all day. I watered the plants. I did a major shopping trip. I did my bills. I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the hallway. Before dinner I started feeling weak and anxious, but felt a little better while

I ate. After dinner I was nauseated again, but it passed. I do hope it is not my heart. I certainly did feel much better for most of the day.

Fran can come. There is nothing to fear.

If I live or if I die, I will be loved.

April 24, 1993

There is a certain depression that sets in when I realize I must go back to work. I do so much better on vacations.

I listened to an interview of Rita Ma Brown, who said to live without truly being oneself is a slow form of suicide. “You walk around trying to please everyone else.” The words strike home. I have come a long way, but I still see my work life as pleasing other people. Perhaps I feel so good on vacations because I am true to myself, for a short time.

I reread my WSU catalogs and Warren Wilson College information. I want to try again to take a class at WSU. I wonder if I should enter their program. It might be a good place to start. The Warren Wilson program looks more appealing, but I’m not sure I can do it — use all my vacations, and work diligently on my own. A lot of it would be solitary activity. I’m too old. I don’t have enough money. Should I move? Could I move? All these doubts, questions.

I would like to form a life in which writing is at the heart. It would be a quiet life, with good music and daily walks, and many shelves of good books (I must go to the library!), and a number of simulating people to talk with.

I dreamed I had an enormous office, with my own desk, and a huge open space overlooking a lake. I left my office and came back much later. I had left the lights on, and the doors unlocked. However, someone had padlocked the door to the lake. As I approached the door to the library, someone locked that. I had to squeeze through a tight passage to get back in my room. It was a little rough and needed work, but it was mine.

April 26, 1993

I was somewhat resigned, but not delighted to be going back to work. Fortunately, the clients and staff welcomed me back. Bob said he missed me, and he hoped I would take care of myself. “We want to keep you here,” he said.

April 28, 1993

I dreamed I climbed on top of a train to have a ride.

The train turned into a horse, and I felt his warm body under me. The horse started to gallop, which felt smooth and wonderful. Then the horse turned on its side and I tumbled off, with a friend who was riding behind me.

“Well, I’m off,” I said. I wasn’t hurt, and I wanted to ride the horse some more.

Next I was at a family Christmas gathering. There were many relatives, some of whom weren’t Christians.

Mother sat on a chair with me. Little children came up and kissed her. I was pleased for her.

In the afternoon I slept, and then I called the car license office. I was out my door and at the entrance door when I said inside, “Why am I doing this? This is my writing time.” I went back inside and wrote the first page of an autobiographical story. This evening I read Davita’s Harp. I felt what a good life I have now.

April 29, 1993

I dreamed I was sanding on top of a tall cement rectangular column. The column began to bulge in the middle. An identical column next to it began to buckle as well. I pulled away the crumbling cement at my feet so the man inside could grasp the platform I stood on. All the cement fell away, and then I was on the ground. I felt short at first, but I felt the man — his feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head. Then I stood close to him, no longer small.

Friday, April 30, 1993

I have not thought of my inner garden for a while, but tonight I realized green things are coming up. I read the paragraphs I have written of my earliest memories to Joanna, and I felt so good, reading them. Even if they are not published, they are the roots of other things I will write.

Joanna has been laid of from her job. She said she was afraid and excited. In a way I am happy she does not have to work there anymore. They did not treat her very well. I pray she will find work that is just right for her.

May 1, 1993

I dreamed I was flying. A man came to me in the air and wanted me to be with him.

“I’d like to have a party with you,” I said.

“Not what I had in mind,” he said.

He took me to the ground and locked me on a plastic and metal leash. A lot of people came in. The man was mooning over a dumb blonde. I was disappointed. I hid a pliers so he could not see it. I wanted to cut myself loose with it. He left and I tried unsuccessfully to cut myself free. Some boys came in. I flew up in the air, but still leashed. They couldn’t reach me up there. I tried to cut the leash again, but couldn’t do it. Then I realized I could just slip the leash over my head. I was free.

I flew on, singing a beautiful song. My voice was clear and beautiful. The song was about how God took care of me. I flew on and on, until I felt myself carried, and the hills became more and more beautiful and green. I saw ahead a castle beside the sea, with two watchtowers. I was going there. It was home.

May 2, 1993

It rained until 6:00 tonight. I went to Church of the Servant, but came home instead of going out for lunch because I wanted some alone time. I thought that if I became involved with a man, I wouldn’t have these long, restful alone times. I thought this until dinner time, when I was ready to see someone. Enough solitude! Nonetheless, I wrote a letter and drew a picture, and read some more of Davita’s Harp.

It moved me. I cried a couple of times as Davita told her story. Her father is killed, her uncle leaves, her mother’s dreams crumble. And she slowly discovers the power of faith.

I wonder how you write a book like that. I have begun a couple of pages of a memory book, but it’s hard to know where I am going. I have a drift of ideas.

May 4, 1993

Davita’s Harp

I wonder if I would have been a minister, if I had been a boy. I think it’s very possible. But maybe I would have had more courage to be an artist.

Tonight the soft, gray clouds spread across the sky, and in the distance in front of Mother’s I saw golfers heading to the clubhouse. They looked like large grasshoppers, with their golf bags over their shoulders.

There is such a quiet, gentle and definite beauty in the way the light catches the new leaves. How can there be such unpleasantness in the world, as in Bosnia? When I look at the pain there, I feel most strongly that I should write stories. I wish I could write a book as wonderful as Davita’s Harp. Or even more wonderful.

May 5, 1993

My sofa sleeper came today — the big event of the day. I rearranged my trinkets and coverings and a picture. I kept looking at it to make sure it is all right. It is green, and pleasing to the eye. Finally, I had to say, “Enough already!” Go to bed.

Now I am into my next book, Babette’s Feast. How wonderful, to read books. An endless journey, drawn from one book to the next.

Thursday, May 6, 1993

I read a long article by Bob Shacochis on how young writers are encouraged to be minimalists of words, ideas, and emotions. I see that I am quite different, and that I have things to say. I am not just another pretty voice.

Sunday, May 9, 1993

Here is a new thing. I had wanted B. to call me on Friday but he did not. Unlike my previous experiences with men, I am not bent out of shape. In fact I have hardly thought of it, and I am feeling good, and hopeful. Tomorrow I meet with a fiction writer. I love my new couch, and the slowly evolving artsy decor of my new apartment. I am religiously lost, but spiritually found. I am in better health, or at least I feel better, and have felt better for several months. Onward.

May 10, 1993

The visit with Richard Spilman went well. I think I will apply to the M.F.A. program.

When it rains, the sparrows perch on the large rocks that stick out on the stone wall by the front entry. They are sheltered by the roof of the entry. Occasionally they fly to a branch and then to my birdfeeder. They must be awfully wet by now. And how are their children?

In Bosnia, the children have less shelter, and not enough food. I wonder what the connection might be, between these little birds.

May 11, 1993

I hate to listen to the news because it is so ugly. Bosnia, South Africa, the inner cities. I wish God would put us all to sleep, and feed us dreams that would truly wake us up. Perhaps he already has. Maybe we are all asleep. Perhaps that is why so much is so fuzzy. Why don’t I know what the cat thinks? Why do couples break apart? What world does music come from?

May 12, 1993

I dreamed I found the River Festival Medallion in a new dark glove by a bush at the end of my river walk. There was another dark glove, too, but it was crumpled and old. They were work gloves.

May 15, 1993

I dreamed a woman broke into my apartment at night, and came in my room. She was going to attack me, but I talked to her lovingly, and she left. “If you want to see me, come during the day,” I said.

I dreamed I slid down a big sand hill. It was fun. Then I got caught in a sand slide on another hill. “If you get caught on one of those, you’ll slide for a long time,” someone said. The sand pushed me underground, but I held my hands up to make an air hole. At last I sopped. I was exhausted and couldn’t move.

James unwrapped me. I went into a kitchen. Joanna and Susan were there. Joanna had made some beautiful cinnamon rolls, and stored them in a drawer at the bottom of the stove. I was trying to make some scrambled eggs, but I was so tired I could hardly move. I started to cry, hardly having the energy to do that. I wished Susan would hold me.

I have had a difficult period again — cramps and low energy. Fortunately this too shall pass.

The dream was disturbing, and I’m not sure what it meant.

May 16, 1993

On the way to Church of the Servant I heard a lovely guitar piece by Fernando del Sor. I thought, if only I could hear this when I needed it, I would not need to go to church. A piece like this could tell me what to write next, or how I might change what I have written.

I did not want to go to church, but I couldn’t think of anything better to do. The service was long and ponderous. Kelly Hayes, to whom I have warm feelings, droned on for an hour and 15 minutes with brief readings from the lectionary and short comments about each member of the group. He even had a comment for me. He said I met Christ at Venture House. This is true, but don’t I meet God everywhere? Why in one place more than another? I wanted to have a small child I could pinch and take the screaming infant away, and so leave respectably.

. . . . Tonight I watched the leaves darken against the lucid blue sky, and I heard a bird calling slowly, with the right pause between each note. It was still and cool, and I wondered if this was narcissistic. No, it seemed the right thing to do. I wondered if I was the only one to feel this fullness inside, the only one to enter the early evening gratitude, expectancy, fear, longing, wholeness, waiting. All this I feel when a bird calls at twilight when the leaves darken against the sky.

I heard two letters read on the radio between two women, one in San Antonio and one in Bosnia. Get my friend out of that hell house, the U.S. woman said. There is no good news here, the other woman said. It felt as I listened, that there was a way out in those letters. There was a way through, although neither of them was aware of it.

Monday, May 17, 1993

I went to see Dr. Murphy and he was quite late. I waited for 45 minutes in a windowless room, clad in a paper shirt built for a 300-lb. man.

Finally he came, and we agreed I was doing well, but he asked me how I was doing now in terms of a year ago. I said I could not walk as far. I get tired.

He cautioned me against talking. “It uses up more energy than one would think,” and preached the gospel of moderation. I told him I had switched to working four days a week, and he said I should be careful not to do too much the rest of those days.

I felt sad on the way home. Moderation. I saw a man lifting a woman up in the air, and I thought I could never get married. Why do I still want to cling to that hope? How could it ever be? How could I have sex? Or talk every night? Or fight, or make meals? Perhaps I could do it if I did nothing else. But who could afford me? A kept woman.

Then I wondered how I could take a class next fall, and be in the chorus, during a heavy season. And go to work. I can’t.

May 18, 1993

After I go to the doctor, I must cast off the shadow of fear and fatigue that asks, “What will go next? Perhaps an irregular heart? Perhaps I will slowly become more and more tired so I can do nothing.”

I take a walk in the cool May afternoon, and get rid of a piece of it. See the ducks hiding by the tree trunks. There are Mildred’s poppies, and a ring of irises around the redbud tree. I write a little bit, and it makes sense. A sentence surprises me. There must be a way to do more of this.

May 21, 1993

I am slogging through To the Lighthouse, and am happy to have found some gems in the dense network of Woolf verbiage. I love how she describes how the painter realizes she can solve an artistic problem by moving the elm over in her picture, and in so doing realizes she doesn’t have to get married. It is a strange connection, but I understand it. She has a realm of power, a search for truth, and it has nothing to do with whether she is married.

I wrote five pages today on a story, and I liked much of what I wrote. Even so, I am afraid. What will they think? Perhaps it is too simplistic. Perhaps it is not minimalist enough.

Well, if nothing else, it will be a story.

I worked hard. That is good.

May 25, 1993 Tuesday

I thought today that I see so few people. I go to work, I do my job, I come home. No one at work is a friend I would do things with. I was not sad about the lack of excitement. I just noted it.

At 2:45 Debbie Oemke put a small piece of paper on my desk.

“B.D.” it said and a number.

“You were on the line,” she said, “so I took a message.”

Agh! He didn’t forget. I felt hot and cold and wonderfully anxious. I finished up the last few items of work, and sat down in my office. Get a hold of yourself, I thought. I couldn’t entirely, but I dialed the number.

Could I have lunch on Thursday?

Um, my lunch is a little limited, but I think I can stretch it, I said. (I get 30 minutes for lunch, but Linda will understand.)

I feel so excited but am trying hard not to take it too seriously. I am a whole person, without a man. I do not need a man as a central reference point. I will attend to my own life. This evening I wrote another page on my story, and there were some good sentences. Yes!

Funny, I thought he might call this week.

May 26, 1993

The river path was covered with cottonwood fluff — a layer of white down. I saw the Canadian geese family, but they avoided me. They swam away when I approached the two adults, sentinels on either end of four ducklings.

I felt tired today because I did not sleep well last night. I believe I am anxious about having lunch with B.D.

The safe thing would be if we just had a nice lunch and I didn’t say what I wanted. If I enjoy myself, the harder thing will be to suggest we get together again. Maybe it won’t be so hard. I am a whole person, full of possibilities, and truly lived experiences.

May 27, 1993

We had lunch. I had a very nice time. I wanted it to continue. I said, “I’d like to do it again,” and he said, “I’m always gone. I’m not here very much.”

“Well, when you get back in town, call me up,” I said. I said goodbye. I felt disappointed.

. . . . “Noncommittal type,” Cindy said.

Yes it’s true. He’s set up his life so he is in truth, mostly gone, so it is very difficult to get close to someone. So, he may call me, but I won’t hold my breath. It is probably not to be. I want someone who wants to become intimately acquainted.

“It’s normal,” Fran said, “to want things to develop.” That was helpful.

“There are other fish in the sea,” Cindy said. That was helpful, too.

May 28, 1993

I felt more cheerful today. I wrote most of the day on my Mildred story. Tonight Mother and I went to see “Groundhog Day,” a romantic comedy. I enjoyed the movie, but afterwards I felt sad. The selfish man recomposing himself and winning the beautiful girl has not been my story. Little devaluing thoughts run through my mind about how I acted with B. I was too controlling. I acted like my mother. I wasn’t sure whether to pay the tip, so I didn’t. He put out several signs he is not available. And I remember he was wearing a ring on his left hand.

Oh well. I said what I wanted. It is normal to want to get to know someone — to want to know someone well.

I’m thankful for Cindy. She’s a gift. I’m thankful for the river.

In “Groundhog Day,” Phil is stuck in one day which repeats itself over and over until he learns to think of others and change his behavior.

May 29, 1993

It has rained for days, and has been even too wet for my daily walks. I go out in the bitterest cold, but I don’t like to get my feet wet. Tonight I decided I would go out regardless of the weather. I put on my jacket, and noticed a green poncho I rarely wear. I put that on, and my winter boots and a small green hat. I set out.

I really wouldn’t have needed the poncho or the hat; the sun had come through at last. The boots were helpful, though, as I slogged through wet grass to view the river. The water rushed south, and yet the banks were sill high, covering the roots and bases of the trees. I walked to the hill which descends to my favorite path.

A small bird with yellow belly and black markings led the way. She was somewhat of a trickster, though, flying to a branch at the point where the path starts. From the top I saw water covering the path for as far as I could se. The bird flew on, but I looked for a while, imagined how pleasant it would be to climb into a little boat and glide on down to my neighbor Millie’s house. The water on the edge was tranquil. I wondered how long it would take for the water to recede and the mud turn to dirt and sand so I could walk pas the empty bird nest, the mallard duck’s nesting spot on the wooden steps, and Millie’s slope of violets.

I circled back and walked along Porter to the other end of my river path. A white egret flew ahead of me. This time I did not follow. Water and more water. I walked back home on Somerset, under the fir trees.

May 30, 1993

I dreamed I was doing Healing Touch. I placed my hands on small balls of energy that I compared to dying birds. The balls rose up and attached themselves to me. I passed my hands over my head and saw “static” in my mind. I stopped and asked God to rearrange what I had messed up. It didn’t seem to be a good thing, to do Healing Touch in my dreams.

How good to ride my bike in the hot sun all the way home from Mother’s, so I am tired but not too tired, and quite sweaty, and then to have a lukewarm shower and dry off and put on clean clothes and see how lovely I look with red cheeks.

We saw “Enchanted April” at the Harmses. The four women needed the magic of Italy to snap out of their entrapments. I thought that I have had quite a few occurrences that have helped snap me out of being an ordinary person.

May 31, 1993

I wrote in the morning. I wrote a few good words. I am pleased I am writing. I don’t force myself either. It feels to me like this writing time is my way on and out. I am not trapped when I write. I am not confined to a small town, away from my friends, in fragile health, and limited in how much I can work and do. No, I am strong, and I am on a journey going to a wonderful place.

To find a place of truth in a story is a wonderful thing.

June 3, 1993

My slice of cantaloupe looked like an orange fish on my plate.

The fallen blossoms look like popcorn in the gutters.

A white truck had large irregular black patches on its side, like a cow.

I saw a tree with two long narrow trunks growing up together like legs. The feathery ball on top gave it the illusion of a large ostrich.

I felt more in charge today at work. More so than usual. It was a good feeling.

June 6, 1993

I am sitting at home alone on a Sunday night (how many times have I done that, will

I do that). I came back from a pleasant day with the Harmses at Camp Mennoscah in which we ate a great deal, celebrated as Matthew was baptized, went canoeing and capsized, and walked along the river. I came home quite tired and slept, and woke up still with little energy. . . .

Why is it that my time with people makes me more lonely? It is partly because it triggers the memories of other meetings. True meetings. I remember some wonderful meetings with friends in which I was content and enjoyed the solitude afterward. . . .

I have been part of church life of one kind or another for 38 years. Maybe the church is dead. Why did I become a Catholic? I thought everyone should get together. Here it seems to make little sense.

I didn’t have a complete picture of the Catholic Church when I became one. I saw vibrant, spiritual religious sisters, the writings of Merton and Matthew Fox, an openness to other religious traditions. I thought the church would become more and more open. Instead it has become more closed. And my brushes with the more liberal of the patriarchy left me even more disgusted. I grew there, I guess. But any vestige of respect for priests wore off greatly.

Susan says I should bite the bullet and pick a church.

Things I want in a church:

open social group

ritual, beauty

good choir

single men

peace & justice

spiritually fed

June 8, 1993

I dreamed I visited an enormous concrete structure on a small island. The structure was very high, and left no room for any beach. I went inside with a male friend. We saw another man scooping cement in an enormous machine. The building was not finished.

We went high up in the building. My male friend began to feel sick. The building shook and bumped. I realized we were revolving around, and that we would be killed in this building. My friend knew how to get down and we got to the first floor. On the way out, the builder spotted us and started blasting us. He could see us on his high tech radar. My friend fooled the builder by holding out a shadow picture of himself. The builder spent all he had on the shadow, and we no longer had to be afraid of him. But we needed to get out of there. I called to a little bird to help us, but it didn’t come. Then an owl came up.

“Oh, the owl will help us,” I said.

Then many other animals came to help us.

No one else knew how to fly, but I did. I helped everyone join hands so they could fly with me. The ability to fly would spread, like a spirit.

That was a beautiful dream. It is so still and quiet. I hear cars in the background, but also crickets chirping, and I feel the peace that hangs over everything.

June 11, 1993

I made a lot of progress on my story, and printed out a rough draft. Now, revisions!

I started to grow quite tired and alone by the end of the day. I finally got a hold of Susan and asked to go with them to a church VBS program. It was fun to watch the children. It wasn’t as spiritual as I remember VBS. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

I thought about other people who might appreciate my company—Jamie or Christiana. There are many people out there. I just haven’t found them yet.

June 13, 1993

I felt so cheerful going to mass in the morning. It was all right. It is a nice church. But no one strange said hello to me. Well, one of the greeters did. I got home, looking forward to an afternoon with Cindy. But there was a message from her on my machine. She couldn’t make it for today.

I suddenly felt depressed and alone. The task of making friends seemed hopeless. How would I ever find a church?

I felt pretty down for much of the day, and my tricks for getting out of a depression didn’t seem to help. I’m alone. This is a different culture. It is much more closed. Plus my story is begging to be rewritten. I wrote down some thoughts about it, but didn’t have enough mental energy to do more.

I felt a tightness in my chest and throat.

It helped when Cindy called later and confessed she was depressed, too. She wanted to be alone. I understand.

But today I did not want to be alone. Aunt Sue stopped by, and that was helpful. She understands about the confines of this culture. I talked to Susan for a while, too, and she was also helpful. She invited me to come to their church. . . .

June 14, 1993

I feel good about the story thoughts I just had. Now all I need is some time to work on it! I won’t have any till next weekend.

It was a very busy day of seeing clients. Sometimes I like it that way. It’s interesting, and I have no time to feel sorry for myself. I would like more time to reflect, though. Another good thing — I don’t have time to do the things I don’t like to do.

June 19, 1993

There is nothing to be gained by wishing you were someplace else or waiting for a better situation. You see where you are and you do what you can. –Jacob K. Javits, US Senator.

So that’s what I need to hear. I feel very tired — I didn’t sleep well at the hotel in Kansas City, and the thoughts of what I don’t have recur. I don’t have a husband, I don’t have children, I don’t have a house, I don’t have a church. Very negative thoughts come into my head, like, why am I sill alive? I do hear from some faithful friends in Chicago, but I also know that life has passed, and it is hard to recreate another life here.

I suppose I am over the honeymoon with my job. Actually, I never had a honeymoon. I wanted to quit. I thought everyone was somewhat prejudiced to poor people, and very afraid of letting down the boundaries. Now I see that they (the staff and volunteers) are really quite nice, sincere people, but are very far away from the clients’ experience.

It seems to me that someone who’s been there would be able to teach them more than some wealthy church people. It does bother me, the distance between the staff and the clients.

I have fears about the story and my dream to go to school. Am I good enough? How will I find the money?

Sunday, June 20, 1993

I feel quite a bit better. I think the hormones have shifted. The depression felt so real, though.

Joanna reminded me that I am operating on another level. I have found that place where I can write. I am so glad to have found it. Writing is hard, I said, but not as hard as I had thought it would be. The hard part is hanging onto the vision, and clearing away all the extraneous fears so the book can, in a sense, write itself. I can write a book, I think. I did not think I could before.

June 21, 1993

Mother tells me that David was in an accident with Luis, while Joanna was gone. Luis broke his ankle, trying to right his up-ended car, and David has been very quiet.

How much I would like to protect him. But then I remember that no one protected me. No one said, “Watch out! Your father is going to die.”

I have visions of David in a strange place with his frantic father. How alone. How frightening. But that is life. I can’t protect him from it. I can only pray he will find a courageous way through.

I go to work each day, and manage to strike up some enthusiasm. The best part is meeting the clients.

I am aware that I am perhaps spiritually lost, not jus religiously lost. I want to find people who are spiritually alive.

Thursday, June 24, 1993

The end of my work week at last. I didn’t want to be at Venture House this week. I was sill tired from last weekend and my period, and I got little help from volunteers. I guess I can forgive myself for being so tired. I did not even want to go for a walk.

I noticed today that in the middle of my tired, bored feelings, my voice was very kind. I cover it so well. I don’t think the clients would know that I would like to be writing. Truth is, I do get interested in them. But I’d like to leave the nursing behind and just ask the clients about themselves.

It feels good to leave it all behind. It’s a good job. I’m thankful for that. But I need to leave the requests for medication, eyeglasses, the worries of all those people who sit in my chair, and spend time in a peaceful place.

It rained this evening, a lovely gentle rain. I had a nice cup of tea and a raisin bar when I got home. I slept and made a Japanese seaweed soup and fried rice for supper. I leafed through my macrobiotic diet information, and decided to try to follow it more closely. I do well in cutting out fat, but I could eat more whole grains and vegetables. I want to get another macrobiotic recipe book. I haven’t worked on my cookbook at all. Even if it were short, it would be a good thing to have and to give.

I feel so poor. It is strange for me to feel impoverished; when in Chicago, I never felt that. I did have less money there and had to juggle to get all my bills paid. Here I have no trouble paying my bills, but I feel poor compared to everyone else in my family and at work.

I’m thankful for the weekend, when my mind has more room.

Sunday, June 27, 1993

She sometimes wondered, if God wanted her to die, and he gave her three choices, what would she choose: a heart attack, cancer or a stroke?

No, not a stroke, she’d pray. I don’t want to be disabled and have to wear a diaper, my mouth hanging to one side. No, not cancer. I don’t want to feel nauseous through weeks of radiation, and then die with ugly bumps growing over me. No, she prayed, if I must die, give me a mild heart attack, so I can stay alive long enough to say good bye.

What keeps me alive?

Sunday night

I felt anxious and unsettled today after talking about death in church in the morning. Why do I think I know it all? Nick encouraged me to “be especially open.” I didn’t feel good about it afterwards. Why should my experience be more valuable than someone else’s?

I enjoyed seeing the Kruger clan at lunch, but afterwards I didn’t want to be alone. I went along with Susan and Roger to take Christiana to camp, when I had planned to spend the afternoon writing. I spent the evening writing, and felt righted again.

I am pleased that the story seems to be taking on a direction of its own, so it is easier to write. I figured out the quote below. My desire is to write stories. I used to think this was far away, but as the desire becomes bigger, the hindrances grow smaller. I will get better at using my time to write. I will find the money.

“Nothing is far and nothing is dear, if one desires. . .

There is only one big thing—desire.

And before it, when it is big, all is little.”

Willa Cather

June 29, 1993

I had a long talk with Susan tonight . . . .

She encourages me to decide on a church, even if it’s not perfect. This feels right to me. I feel closer to a decision between Pine Valley and Lorraine Avenue. Both are pretty close to my values, and both have good choirs. I could attend one and visit a Catholic Church occasionally with Aunt Sue.

She said she thought I would get into the MFA program. I think I will, somehow.

I had a thought about a new story. The title is “The Boy Who Played the French Horn.” I don’t have the story yet, just the title.

I think I will be a part-time Catholic. It is helpful to know that.

Wednesday, June 30, 1993

I am a little obsessed about my story. It feels like this is the way out. It is a bridge, or a birth. I so want it to come forth. I imagine the story knows that.

Saturday, July 3, 1993

I was more than usually tired today. I hate that. I want to feel wonderful every day.

I didn’t do that much. I went grocery shopping, stopped at the bank, shaved my legs, and made some lasagna. I made a few pointless errands, too, in the heat. Tonight I read a little, but couldn’t get too far in Women in Love.

I know this is crazy, but I am dreaming that I could go to school fulltime this fall. If I had the money, I’d do it. How much money would I need? Let’s say $10,000.

Monday, July 5, 1993

I wrote all day, and finished a showable draft! It feels good. Mother and Susan read it, and had favorable comments. I feel good about it, it’s interesting, and it feels complete. There are a few small points I may change. It was a big job.

I am reading Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life before I go to bed. It is very helpful.

This was so much mental work I wonder if I can do it again. Do I have the physical energy to keep to the task for a long book? It’s only one page at a time.

Friday, July 9, 1993

I reread About The Sleeping Beauty, which includes an essay by P. L. Travers about its meaning. What strikes me this time is her comments about the time when the Goddess ruled the world. I doubt if the idea meant much to me the first time I read it. Now I wonder if the Goddess hasn’t fallen asleep, and we are waiting for the right moment when she will awaken, like the Sleeping Beauty.

After reading the story last night, I dreamed a man carried me off. He wanted to kiss me, but I wasn’t ready. I lay in the pose of the Sleeping Beauty in the book. Then I got up and did something else.

Today three strange men came to my door. The first two were looking for past tenants. The third was a salesman. I thought of the princes who tried to cut through the thicket of thorns around the castle. They all died.

I did not let any of the men in.

Wednesday, July 14, 1993

I delivered my story to Richard Spilman. I feel some anxiety, but mostly peace. Even if he doesn’t like it, I will continue to write.

I enrolled in my writing class, too. How exciting.

Saturday, July 17, 1993

Julian of Norwich. A day with her.

I think I should like to know her very well. We have a bit in common. Roberta Nobleman asked us to turn to the next person and pretend to be Julian at her window. I couldn’t find anyone to be with. Everyone had paired up already, and was eagerly talking. I went to Roberta, and told her it felt like a message. I’m meant to be alone. Or do I choose to be alone? Partly, but not all the time.

I thought, though, that I want to take on the life of solitude joyfully. I want to wake up early and pray in joyful expectation, and end each day with thanksgiving.

“For in all this time I expected to have died, and that was a wonder to me, and sad in part,

because it seemed to me that this vision was shown for those who would live.”

--Julian of Norwich

I thought today that I became a Catholic because I could remember further back. Birds remember how to make nests, like birds thousands of years ago. They pass the knowledge on from egg to egg. When I took the Eucharist, I remembered back to early church days when Christians ate the bread and drank the wine whenever they met. It felt wonderfully right. It felt like I was coming home.

Now I am in an odd place. The Catholic Church is constipated here. I’m not sure where to go. It seems to make most sense to go to my Mennonite roots. What was I leaving, when I left?

July 19, 1993

. . . . I finished Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver. I enjoyed it very much. I was heartened that not everything was realistic, and yet it held together, as I hope Richard Spilman will see my story.

July 20, 1993

I dreamed I was showing a man through a palace or castle. The king lived there, but he allowed visitors to look through it, like a museum. I was familiar with the castle.

Bob and Linda were both very impressed with the brochures I’ve been writing. I’m glad. Bob is very up on me right now, which makes me nervous.

I’m nervous waiting for the response to my story. I’ve also had thoughts that I could make more money writing. I’m a good writer.

July 23, 1993

I had bad cramps today. I gave up on the morning and went to bed. I slept for an hour and a half, and felt much better. I had a scary dream, though.

I dreamed I had a stroke while I was sleeping, and I couldn’t wake up. I felt the right side of my face sag. I tried to sit up and call Mother, but I couldn’t see the number on the phone.

In the afternoon I wrote a little on the MCC book project and on E’Clair. Then the cramps came back.

I prayed this morning that I would have a “mindful” day — to be aware of everything, to be fully conscious. I did have a mindful day. Pain slows one down. I moved slowly. I thought slowly. At the end of the day, I was not unhappy. I felt content.

July 24, 1993 Saturday

James, Kathy and I saw “Sleepless in Seattle,” a totally unrealistic and enjoyable film. The widowed father asks if he can ever fall in love again. I ask myself that.

I can’t fall in love as I did when I was 26, naively, completely, without looking back — or forward. I could fall in love now at 38 with greater self-love, greater interests, greater knowledge, and yet, I think, still as wondrously.

I have more to love with.

July 26, 1993

I decided to make cookies before dinner. By the time I was ready to put them in the oven, I felt tired, a little anxious — I had no raisins — and my chest hurt ever so slightly on the inspiration. I stopped cooking and ate dinner. The feeling continued and I lay down and read my book. Matthew called — the renters had left messages trying to get in the Amidon apartment, and Mother wasn’t home. Why wasn’t she home? I can’t have a heart attack now. I drove to her house and unlocked the front door.

“Mother? Mother.”

Silence. The bathroom light was on upstairs. I would climb the stairs and find her slouched over her desk. No, nothing. I went downstairs. She was in the basement, murdered. No, it was dark and empty. She had been abducted, or she was in an accident.

She drove home a few minutes later, cheerful, smiling.

“You’re as bad as me,” she said.

“I hope you know I care about you,” she said later in the evening.

“Yes,” I said. I felt myself breaking out of my — yes — fear of her. She wishes the best.

The chest pain is gone.

July 27, 1993

There is not enough to do at work. I want to leave.

I listened to one of the clients tell me his life story. He was born in Hungary.

The quiet summer. It will be busier in the fall.

July 28, 1993

Still no word on the MFA program. I am doing a lot of “have tos” during this solitary week. I still feel so alone, but it certainly isn’t as bad as it was. I have some hope that I will meet new people in the fall, at church and at school.

July 31, 1993

A day alone. I went shopping, ran errands. A man at the library pawed his crotch when he saw me, and later followed me down an aisle and asked me if I wanted to dance. “No,” I said, and I left that section and went upstairs.

I feel alone, and yet as though I am rising out of the deep and swirling sea of aloneness. It is all right to be alone. Sometimes I feel that I am looking for something in this solitude, for myself, perhaps, and when I find that something I will be in bliss. I think of Lady Caroline Desa, from “Enchanted April,” who wanted to be alone to sort out her feelings.

Today I had more energy. I like that so much. I didn’t run out of steam after dinner. No, I made some apricot cobbler and invited Mother over to go swimming.

I finally broke down and read a Richard Spilman story. I was going to wait until I heard from him about the MFA program, but that is taking longer than I’d hoped. The story was very good and reminded me of the men I see at work.

Sunday, August 1, 1993

Just to hear the wind in the trees, the crickets humming, and see the river slide by with a sly smile, is enough to keep me going for a good while. The river path has dried off enough now to allow walking.

Susan and Roger came home today; how good to have them back. It feels like a part of me has come back.

I wonder if I could go to school full-time in January. It’s only the money I need. Money, a small matter.

August 2, 1993 Monday

I am always alone when I come home. I really would like to talk to someone each night when I come home. Perhaps I would like a roommate again. Either that, or I would like a lot more company.

Reading Willa Cather, who did not marry, I see that solitude is one element for being a great writer. Maybe. What about those European salons?

It all comes down to true meetings. I can exist for a long time on my own if I have a true meeting with someone. It is even better to have a true meeting with a group. I did feel a part of the St. Thomas group in Chicago, and the Women’s Group at St. Gertrude’s, and the parish nurse group. I did feel my differences, but I also pointed to those groups as “my groups.” Here I go to work, but I sill feel quite apart from co-workers in lifestyle, income, and aspirations.

At church they are eager for me to join committees. I suppose I’ll join something. I wonder how involved they get in each other’s lives. I am pleased to have Susan there. I can say pretty much what I think to her.

August 3, 1993

I’d like to say I’m not worrying about the MFA response, and for the most part I’m not, but I am disappointed every day when the mailbox holds only a couple of pieces of junk mail. Then I must put it aside and go on with life now.

I went for a walk; it is much cooler! I walked around my whole route, and felt strong. I ate a heap of spaghetti, home-made tomato sauce, cauliflower, and fried tofu. I made apple cobbler, and read some of the MCC stories for the dream book. Then I read another Richard Spilman story. He is quite good, although I didn’t like this story as much. It was so sad. I didn’t think it hung together as well as “Balance at Zero.”

Funny how contentment, joy and hope can spring up in me sometimes when I am alone. I work at it, too. I work to make a place for hope.

August 4, 1993

Cindy and I laughed a lot. What do we laugh about?

I said, “I’m a little afraid that after I start to do the newsletter, I won’t want to do it.”

“Then stop doing it,” Cindy said.

We burst out laughing. This was very funny. Why? We laugh at our “have-tos.”

“I have to continue the commitments I begin.”

We laugh irreverently at them and know we can break free, with some fear. What I am really afraid of is working with Bob. He could become quite dependent. Perhaps we laughed at that.

August 5, 1993

I have been accepted into the MFA program. It was only a form that came, with “degree” program and “full-sanding” X-ed in. I am pleased, but not as excited as I’d imagined. I had thought there would be some specific response to my story.

Nonetheless, the world feels like a good place. A cricket is chirping outside. Such a beautiful sound.

August 7, 1993

I did not feel good today. I went on a walk, and that felt O.K., but later my arm muscles ached and I was very tired. I think I have overdone it. I stayed out late on Wednesday, and Thursday, and it’s time to slow down again. Today I made tomato sauce in the morning, but I was glad when I was done. I didn’t write much, in fact hardly at all. I had all these plans of cleaning my apartment, but I think it would be better to do quiet things for the next two days.

I imagine myself in a hospital gown with blue checks on white, looking washed out.

I want to feel better.

I imagine myself sitting by the river and listening to the birds.


. . . . I got a letter from Richard Spilman, who said my story “was found acceptable” by the creative writing faculty. It sounded like it was O.K., but perhaps I’m reading more than was intended. He also said he “was happy to convey this news,” and hoped I would enter the program. He also encouraged me to apply for a teaching assistantship.

I thought about ways I could enter the program in January.

August 8, 1993

My dear, I would like to feel better. I feel better than yesterday, but I still have the occasional air hunger, my heart flips when I lie down, and my chest occasionally feels tight. I feel a little nauseous at times. I’m not sure that’s not due to my menstrual problems. I continue to spot. I haven’t had a lot of energy, and have done as little as possible today.

I am afraid I won’t be able to go on my vacation, and I won’t be able to go to school.

So my dining room clock gave out. So did my watch, last week. Not good omens. I put new batteries in both. So there.

August 9, 1993

I dream I am a man. I am in a school, and I am very upset about something. I begin to cry, and walk into a door marked “Listening.” No one is there to listen to me. I walk through all the offices, and find a young woman with long blond hair. I don’t think she will understand; she looks too naive. I don’t tell her what’s bothering me. She gives me a small orange book as I leave.

Later I am a woman, and I come to a women’s group. We gather in a circle. A woman leads us. She is not doing anything complicated, but it is very good. I could do that, I think, but you have to want to do it.

In the windows behind me the clouds are making beautiful criss-cross patterns in the sky. I put my hand on the bare thigh of the woman next to me and tell her to look. “It’s unreal,” I say.

The leader cuts branches from the trees behind us, and gives them to women in the circle. I wonder if this is a yearly pruning. She gives a lovely leafy branch to someone down the line. She cuts another branch down and it becomes two branches, one full, and the other just a piece. I walk over to take the full branch.

“Shall I take this one?” I ask.

“No, I want you to have this one,” she says. She gives me the smaller one. It is jagged and ugly. It has one long branch with green leaves at the end, but the branch has been broken, and I know there is no way the leaves will survive. I don’t want this branch, but it is mine.

Tuesday, August 10, 1993

I confess I am living for my vacation. I see the patients but I am glad when they are gone. I have worrisome thoughts when I leave. Did I give someone aspirin who was allergic to it? It was an exhausting day today. The volunteer nurse was on vacation and one of the intake volunteers made a snide comment about how long I was taking. I felt defensive. But so what? So what? I'll leave it all behind. I didn't want to be there.

I'm very tired of being alone so much. I didn't feel good, so I stayed at home, and now I want to preserve my energy so I can go on my vacation.

People give my life meaning.

Curious how my mood can shift. An evening in a good book — I finished Death Comes For the Archbishop, and some music to wind its way through my ungrateful thoughts and create a green hill under a tree by clear water.

I liked the story of how the Holy Family came to help two priests across the desert. It reminds me of the road to Emmaus story.

It is true, it is true now. Everyone I see is Christ to me. I so rarely see him though.

August 11, 1993

Only one day until my trip. I'm so excited. I made a wonderful meal of linguini with pesto, corn, broccoli, and smoked whitefish with crackers. Mother came for dinner and she re-told me the story of how my grandfather Wiebe was seen coming out of a prostitute's house. He had taken a woman's dog inside that was running across the street. As a result Henry Wiebe was "set aside." His choir was taken from him, and this broke his spirit. I feel so sad thinking about him.

How silly he must think me, that I have had the choice to do what I want, and it took me this long to figure it out. Well, I am a woman. There are unseen things that have "set me aside.“ Lack of confidence.

I hope he has a large choir in heaven.

August 12, 1993

I took Clare to Susan and Roger's and already I miss her. I am so used to seeing her sitting beside me, or begging to be petted.

I am free for ten days. Already I feel better. My backache has decreased markedly.

Yesterday, or was it this morning, I thought about the stories flowing into my brain. “Please," I pleaded inside, “I want to live!"

I really have felt remarkably better the last few days. I think I have been carrying a lot these last few weeks. The MFA program, a nasty period, work. I give it all to God. May it all be done to glorify God.

August 14, 1993 Saturday

Outside Joanna's bedroom window, I hear a band playing Mexican music. They are at the lobster barbecue at Bailey Beach. Heathcliff, the yellow cat, is draped across the edge of my bed. The crickets are humming, and the cicadas, in a curious collage on the band music. It's music. A constant high rapid hum, a cicada's punctuation, an occasional zs from another bug.

August 18, 1993 Wednesday

St. Louis airport

It was a good visit. . . .

We went to Mystic. We took a picnic lunch. We watched a little Chinese boy chase pigeons. We had a nice dinner with friends. They liked my story. We took walks with Lindy, the new dog, and we swam. We picked up rocks on the beach and let the cold waves wash over our knees. We shopped. We went to an art series on birthing. I tried on a gorgeous hat and looked at beautiful clothes.

Joanna and I were taken with a painting entitled “Pangs of Green." It was an abstract outline of the feminine parts, in a subtle shade of green, with white, of white, and purple highlights. How beautiful we are in our growing parts. We will rise up, green and beautiful.

If no one will be angry, I will be angry.

August 19, 1993 Thursday

I dreamed I was going to retrieve my cat. “You're almost home," I said. I held her and went along a narrow corner by the sea. We almost fell in, but either someone saved us, or we evaded it.

Earlier Aunt Sue wanted me to come over and take a rest with her. I wanted to leave and get my cat.

The cat appears happy to be home. She is draped across my sheets, quietly purring.

August 21, 1993 Saturday

I dreamed I was trying to print out something on the computer, but it printed out “error, error, error . . .” all over the page. Susan's page came out the same way.

I saw that a typewriter was smoking. “Why is that typewriter smoking?” I asked.

It was a good day. I felt more energy today. Maybe it is good that I have been pretty lazy and just played and done the essentials. No writing, although I've been playing with ideas in my head.

I saw the movie “Passion Fish” with the Harmses. It was the story of a woman who is a paraplegic. She longs to be loved. I identified with her disability and her longing. I still think maybe it could happen, but I felt sadness about it, too. Hope and sadness. It would have to be someone willing to live a simple life.

August 22, 1993

The class was short, but how exciting! I think there were only three women, including me, and eight men. That's all right. I talked with Wayne Turner afterwards, who looks about my age and is in his first year of the MFA. I felt a little afraid. I know so little. But I know a lot. And I have a lot of questions. Now what shall I write?

Tuesday, August 25, 1993

I dreamed I grew very ill. My face and legs were very swollen; I had none of my medication. My friends decided to take me to a nursing home. I was distraught. I cried as I entered, moaning on the stairs up to my room. I was far from home. There wouldn't be enough nurses. They didn't know my language. They wouldn't have the medicine I needed. The home did not smell bad, as I thought it would. There were a batch of old ladies nodding in wheelchairs, but the nurses seemed nice. One of them prepared a foot soak for me. The bed jumped up sharply when adjusted.

They talked about giving me Nitro.

“I'm not sure I can take that," I said. “Maybe I can get completely better here,” I thought, "without medicine. I was free of it in this strange country. I felt fine, although I was quite swollen.

August 29, 1993

I am reading Love and Shadows, in which Irene and Francisco discover bodies hidden in an old mine by the police. It is not a great book, but it keeps my attention. The discovery of the bodies changes Irene's cloistered view of the world. She realizes she cannot leave them covered; the truth must come out.

I, too, feel as though my world has changed. The world is not safe. It is not kind. I feel I am at the beginning of a new journey.

Sunday, September 5, 1993

I am worried tonight about getting all my writing done for my class. I hate to keep track of pages and time. I would rather just let the story come out.

I have lots of time. There are stories trying to come out. I will assist them.

Monday, September 6, 1993

"The line of words feels for cracks in the firmament."--Annie Dillard.

That is helpful as I try to write my story. I wrote eight pages this weekend. Is it good? Maybe some of it.

More time! I want more time.

"Do not hurry. Do not rest." --Goethe

Do not worry. Keep to the task. Thankfulness. Thanks for stories.

Thanks for time and space. I feel when I write that I am blind, and I am slowly feeling with a cane over a path of words or images.

September 12, 1993

I dreamed I went to the library to read and I was late for work. "What were your plans?" Bob asked me when I arrived. I went to a house where some foreigners lived. It was my job to water the plants. I was not sure Bob would approve of me "wasting my time" doing this.

The dream seems to be about not going to church (I missed it this morning. 9:30 is prayer time at work)and writing. I was in the library. I was watering my inner garden.

I stayed at home and wrote this morning. I feel so good when I do it. It seems to do more for me spiritually than going to church. Church helps me socially and intellectually. The singing is spiritually uplifting.

September 22, 1993

While President Clinton urged on his health care points, I urged on my nameless story, which is looking close to showable. Tonight I was full of energy — what a good feeling. I get tired after one and a half to two hours, but that's not bad, after working during the day, too. I feel totally focused and happy when I'm writing well. I'm not sure it's any good, but I know I'm on my way.

September 24, 1993

We are preparing for bed at the Regiers in Liberal, a city on the rim of Kansas. Outside rain patters by the basement window. The lights have gone out, so we are writing by candlelight. Our convertible is parked outside, filled with the flotsam of a day's travel. We drove to Greensburg and saw the world's largest hand-dug well. I climbed to the bottom, felt the cool stone blocks, and threw a penny in the water. I wished that I would publish a story this year.

“May your wish be as big as this well,” Diane called from the stairs. More than one story published? A book? A famous magazine?

September 25, 1993 Saturday

We drove all day, stopped in a small town park to eat our Mexican leftovers and continued on to low mountains, purple and yellow ditch flowers, yucca and sage. We stumbled onto the New Mexico State Fair and saw a gourd dance of a circle of Indian war veterans. I asked two Indians what the dance meant, but they said it was impossible to interpret. In the Indian arts buildings we feasted on a huge spread of carefully fashioned pottery. Now we are settled in an ascetically furnished home owned by Jeff Books and Donna Detweiler. She is very friendly and inviting. I'd like to get to know her better. Their house, however, is very sparse. The walls are bare, except for a marriage plaque in the bedroom we are sleeping in.

September 26, 1993

We drove to the top of Sandia Crest and walked among pines, fir and aspens. The side of one mountain was covered with olive green, gold, brown, rust — “all my best colors,” I told Diane. The autumn tapestry was magnificent. Later I napped on the side of a hill, the aspens fluttering above us, while Diane read the newspaper. We ate excellent Mexican food at Pete’s. The sopapillas were lovely.

September 30, 1993

San Geronimo Day

This morning we meandered around the Taos Plaza, ogled artsy furniture and exotic fabric, then drove up to the pueblo and meandered around a multitude of jewelry sellers. I had looked for a ring in Taos, but none seemed quite right. At the pueblo I tried on a lovely deep purple oval ring in a silver setting. “How much is it?” I asked.

The man looked at it quickly. “Ten dollars,” he said. I bought it quickly. . . .

Friday, October 1, 1993

“Come closer to the painting,” the lady said. We gathered in a half-circle in front of the painting, and she switched of the lights. First darkness, then a figure with a cross stood against a luminescent background. His robes shifted, as though he were walking across water to us.

In the bright sunlight I wondered what it meant. Jesus walks toward me in the dark, carrying his cross. The painting in light was expressive. He appeared to be imploring and suffering with the viewer.

Helen Blumenstein, an artist who created a beautiful home. Art everywhere. Books, tapestries, a samovar, a china wall clock. Three enormous armoires, colorful china. Japanese drawings, a simple table. She writes she found her destiny in Taos. It called to her. I feel a call to write and draw. I want to do it so badly. How? How? How to disengage myself from nursing?

October 2, 1993

Out of the mountains shot with gold aspens, and onto the prairie. We saw antelope, lots of them. I thought I would feel depressed coming back, but when I saw a windmill and the sun setting across a grassy field, I knew I was home. The moon glowed orangey yellow and close. It looked so pleased.

October 4, 1993

Tomorrow I must go to work. Ach! I want to write.

October 7, 1993

I am pondering what to work on next, what to meditate on.

Walking down the path

Traveling to Kansas

Have we come all this way for another death?

Monday, October 11, 1993

I was a bit worried about hearing the feedback on “A Prayer I Can’t Speak” in my class. Even if it’s terrible, I need to hear it and keep going, keep writing. I can see beyond this, I thought.

Surprise, surprise. They almost all liked the story — very much. I kept waiting for them to say something really bad, but it was mostly positive, and the negative feedback was not as negative as criticism I had thought of. I feel so good, because I have a sense from Richard Spilman and the class that I am a good writer.

I think they were bamboozled by the fact that they know little about Mennonites, but I still feel good.

I’m a writer.

October 13, 1993

I have borrowed books littered all over the apartment. So many good things to read and write — so little time. My gout has taken a bite out of my left foot. I felt it after writing for about an hour tonight. I like what I wrote pretty much, but I have far to go.

October 16, 1993

I dreamed I lived in a high rise, but a flood from the ocean crashed over us. We were all women. Some of them tried to escape to a higher floor, but I went out in a boat with some other people. “Let’s go to a safe place and then you (owner of boat) can use it to get more people out.”

But there was no one to direct the boat but me. I saw someone come to me with the heads of a little black boy and a little black girl in their hands.

I am tired after reading my co-workers’ stories all evening. It is so much work to figure out what to say about them, especially the bad ones. Tonight I’m thankful for my Venture House job because it gives my mind a rest. Maybe it would be a good thing to have a little respite from the mental work.

I haven’t quite found my rhythm yet: I feel a certain desperation when I am not writing, and some urgency when I write. Back to my garden. There is lots of time. Only those I allow can come in. I can relax. No one can take this writing from me now — not even myself.

October 19, 1993

I dream that before T. E. leaves, we walk through a fair together. He puts his arm around me and I feel so good. We have three days to spend together. I wonder why he waits until he is leaving to tell me that he likes me.

He holds my hand and strokes the soft skin on the back of my hand. I want to put my purse away in my car but he takes me to his car where I leave the purse and eat a few sliced peaches.

I gathered a bouquet of elm leaves and put them in a large vase in my living room.

Dorothy wrote me a long letter in which she imagined me as a strong woman journeying across the prairies. I feel that. I’m walking as I write. I’m not sure where I’m going, but I believe that I will come to the promised land.

Monday, October 25, 1993

I felt purposeful and happy when I left for my class, but I felt depressed by the end of it. Part of it is I do not think the writing is very good, and so I do not want to prepare very well before I go. I also find it a little difficult to be in a group of men. They have their in jokes; they are a club. Some of them are more inclusive, but I don’t like T. He never smiles. He thinks he’s great. It’s their big egos that anger me. They aren’t all like that, but in a group the collective ego comes out.

November 1, 1993

I feel stupid when I say things about sex in class. I always feel so naive, and the men make jokes like I don’t know what men do, which is true, and I turn red. Well, I did think it was strange that the character would so willingly run off with a teenager. Keep writing. Don’t be afraid. You’ll find what you need to say.

November 2, 1993

I felt so tired today because I didn’t sleep well last night. I do that sometimes after a weekend or after my class. I got an application for the Milton grant, which looks quite interesting. It will be a bit of work to apply, but I can do it.

Tonight Mother gave me some historical material about Russia. I want to write the story of my great aunt who was believed to be a witch.

Mother always tells me I’m not ready. She’s right. But I want to try.

Thursday, November 4, 1993

The writing tasks seem so great, and there are all the related tasks in trying to get grants, get published. The words, “a quiet heart” or “a peaceful heart” come to me. If it doesn’t rise from that, why do it?

Friday, November 5, 1993

I was alone all day and it was fine. It was even great. I rewrote “A Prayer I Can’t Speak.” I worked so hard on the story I forgot to go for a walk. I didn’t forget to eat, though. Tonight I read some stories for class. They are better this time. I was alone, but I traveled everywhere.

Saturday, November 6, 1993

Finished the revision and got it onto a disk. I’m tired. I get carried away with the writing, and it’s hard.

Tonight I got a free ticket to go to the symphony. The symphony was good, not great. I find them rather restrained. The trio was O.K. Also not great. They played a nice encore. Dorothy, the woman who gave me the ticket said, “It may be the chance of a lifetime.” I hoped I would sit next to a nice almost middle-aged man. I sat by a sweet LPN who wants to be a nurse. Even so, I looked at all the heads looking through the dark, especially a small blond boy with a brush cut. The light shone around the edges of his pale hair against his white face and through his pink ears.

Sunday, November 7, 1993

I got to know an old acquaintance a little better — Aileen Ratzlaf. It’s strange how suddenly the world opens up. It’s looked so hopeless friend-wise for so long — there was wonderful Cindy, but she was leaving. Now I see lots of possibilities. I am thinking of gathering some single people together at church. Maybe lunch after church. Or an evening out.

And I’m moving along with my writing. Next step — apply for grants.

A quiet heart.

What if it were all taken away? What if I had a stroke and I couldn’t speak or move? (Why do I think this? Because it means so much to me.) Then there would only be room for joy. But first there would be grief. I wish now I could find the joy of having nothing left to lose. What can my patients teach me about this? I dreamed several nights ago that I went with a group to a long narrow house which was a safe house. It was as though it was an underground house for people from another country. We walked past guards who for some reason allowed the house to say there. Dorothy Friesen was one of the keepers of the house.

November 9, 1993

I dream I know a sparrow. It readily sits on my finger, but it is very large. My cat is interested, and I let her pet the bird, which then flies back to its perch.

November 10, 1993

I figured out that if I work as a free-lance writer for $35/hour I would have to work 12 hours a week to make $20,000. I could live on that pretty well. I could take one month of vacation. Or, I could earn more money during certain times, and then spend all my time on fiction. It seems possible, maybe sooner rather than later.

Saturday, November 13, 1993

A day alone. The sky was gray, the air damp. I did the Saturday things and paid the bills, and read Wayne’s story, which was much better than his first. At dinner there was some lovely music playing on the radio, and I was reading, and I felt so good. It was more than all right to be alone. I’m making friends with these quiet spaces. . . .

November 14, 1993

I met a man with no shoes after church. He is a massage therapist. He seemed more interesting than most of the men I see.

I had a very nice walk on the damp bright leaves under the blue-gray sky. I saw no one except the ducks and the dogs who always bark at me when I pass. They were not as vociferous today. Did they know it was Sunday?

November 15, 1993

Fiction Workshop

I suppose I am doing pretty well, to fend for myself in that crowd of men. Tonight Mark and Corbett laid into Wayne for reasons I couldn’t understand. I wonder where the viciousness comes from. Do they think it’s cool? Do they feel good that they are so much better writers than Wayne? (In technique they may be, but Wayne can see further down.) I feel so comfortable talking with other women, but I feel unsure with men. It helps that I am a pretty good writer. However, I wonder if I want to be part of that community. The people who set the tone are not people I want to hang around with. I want to feel in, though. I want to find my place. I do feel more sure of myself as a writer, though. I have wild thoughts of how wonderful I am which should rightfully be squelched by my own bewilderment when I sit down to write and the mystery wafts away between my fingers and all I am left with are gray words.

Strange though, that sometimes something wonderful comes out. That’s mystery, that it happens.

November 16, 1993

I feel too tired tonight, too tired to write. I’m not sure if this is due to the fact I’ve been pushing myself to write, or that we’ve seen more patients than we’ve ever seen since I came, or that I’m taking a little less prednisone, or I’m developing an ulcer, or that my heart is acting up again.

Fran called, and it was good to talk with her. I can always laugh at the worst things with her.

November 17, 1993

I took 6 milligrams of prednisone instead of 5, I skipped the Vitamin E, and I came home early from work. My stomach still burns a little, but it is much better. I felt normally tired, not overtired. Whew. Onward, but not too fast.

I thought today of all the feet I see. Feet that walk 20 - 30 miles in a day, in tight shoes with blisters, from one town to another. We take our feet for granted, but these feet are transportation, the way out.

November 21, 1993

I thought of going to mass but decided in the end to go to Lorraine Avenue . . . . The chorale walked to the front and stood on the steps ready to sing, and there was the man with no shoes, right in front of me in the choir. He was wearing shoes today. I was surprised to see him since he didn’t look like the type who comes to church every Sunday, and sings in the choir. He must have seen my shock, because he gave me the smallest smile.

We talked after church. “We’ll have to have lunch some Sunday,” he said.

“Yes, I’d like to,” I said.

. . . . I dreamed last night I was sleeping with a man who wanted to make love.

“I would like a friend,” I said, and he left me for another woman. “It’s not that I don’t want to do that, but I need a friend first,” I said. He came back to me.

“I really would like to do that,” I said. I felt uncertain about making love, but safe with him. I dreamed my house burned down, but I was not too bothered. Everything I really needed was in a smaller house.

November 25, 1993


A good day with the family, who are not perfect, but who are there, and with whom I feel togetherness and love and conflict, and yes, family. I am being drawn backwards. As I read more and more about my relatives’ life in Russia, I want to know more and more, until I know the names of everyone, and how the roads looked and the houses, who was the town gossip and the flirt and idiot and the wise person.

November 26, 1993

I dreamed I was staying in an old school that was being used as a residence by some social activists. There was some danger of being shot at, but not in the room where I was to stay. The room slanted up toward the front with a dip at the back next to the window. The view wasn’t very good from the window and I started to cry.

I wrote until I ran out of mental energy. On NPR Donald Hall said a lot of writers try only to be good, and therefore are not very good. He said they should try to be great and then they will be good. I would like to be a great writer. I would like to create a great story, not just good. Everything in me wants to write. The thought of leaving nursing grows easier to imagine.

November 28, 1993

. . . . The farther I get from my childhood, the less I believe the way of life they created. Carolyn was here today; we talked about that. None of us are big on church, Carolyn said of herself and her friends. The sexism is so blatant; it makes her angry. The more I learn of how women have been silenced the less patient I am with the M.B. church. Sexism is not jus about silencing women. I begin to suspect it is tied to much sexual abuse,

economic inferiority, and subjection. I don’t see much life in that church; I suppose one could say that about any church. But still it frightens me that Mother is so tied to something that gives her so little. I suppose Mother gets support from being a leader.

What do I believe anymore? Something is pushing me to write, something fierce and persistent. Stories speak truth to me, more than religious novels. A story that holds mystery speaks life to me. I say yes! ah! that’s how it is. I think it is wonder that moves me to write. It is wonderful to see a character and story take on life. There’s more, though.

November 29, 1993

I wonder how faith aided my grandfather Funk, who I learn now was somewhat neurotic and given to panic attacks. He worked too much. I wonder about that preaching episode where he was struck dumb. I hope he can speak now. I wonder if it helps for me to write the old stories, to exorcise them out of our past.

December 1, 1993

I felt alone tonight. Maybe I am always alone, and I’m fighting a basic human condition. After all, Carolyn was here on Sunday, Mother came yesterday. This weekend I go to church and perhaps a Madrigal. Maybe I will see the man with no shoes.

Joanna sent me two samples of business cards which say Christine Wiebe, Writer. Oh, it feels so good.

December 3, 1993

A morning: I find myself in a processing center for people after they have died. I go backwards through the center observing how they get new clothes, hats, etc. Two women pass me. I know them but they ignore me. A short blond woman finds me. “There you are,” she says. “We need to get you out of here.” I ask her about the two women and she explains they have changed, as though they are different people. She leads me further back, to the doorway which will close if we are late, and then I will die. I wonder why it is not my time to die. She says I need to work on a few things yet. I have too much pride. We hurry to the doors, which are shutting. I am late but someone holds them open for me so I can pass through.

December 8, 1993

I think I know the way: I will offer to do the Venture House Newsletter and ask to work 20 hours per week instead of 24. It would save Venture House money, increase the nursing coverage, and still be economically feasible. It feels like a good plan, and I hope Bob goes for it. It would give me two full days to write, and perhaps take more classes. I feel in a better mood.

This afternoon as I started my walk I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if someone was throwing away pine branches like they did last year. Walking toward the trash bin was a woman carrying several large pine branches.

“Excuse me,” I yelled, running toward her, “Are you throwing those away?” Yes, she was, and happily gave them to me.

“Oh, thank you,” I said.

Now I have a huge pine bouquet which I will decorate with my ornaments. I reordered the objects in my newly arranged bedroom-study.

December 10, 1993

I didn’t get my story into the Intro to Journals project. I was disappointed, but I’m pretty much over it now. I thought that my story may be like the dove on Noah’s ark; I’ll have to send it out several times before it finds a home.

December 11, 1993

I did not feel better today. I watered the plants, went to the bank, bought a handful of groceries, and came home. I also walked over to Craft Corner first thing and ordered a frame for Susan’s Christmas present. I decided I would be a sick person; my stomach continues to burn and I felt very unsure about doing anything. I ate chicken soup and went to bed. Slept, read a little, dozed some more. Always with any physical disturbance, there’s the big question: is it my heart? I am certain I have grieved my heart this week (see list previous page.) Also, I lifted my mattress Friday morning, which although it is foam, is not light.

Dear heart, I’m sorry. I will be more careful. I will. Each upset I feel the edges of my limits more clearly.

Time to play. To play is to heal.

Saturday, December 18, 1993

So this is a weird illness. I felt pretty miserable much of the day, and spent much of it in bed. Actually I feel better when I get up. I feel most nauseated in bed, although when my stomach settles down, I can rest a little. I looked up “Stomach Problems” in Louise Hay’s book Heal Your Body. I thought it would suggest I was angry, but not at all. “Fear. A strong belief you are not good enough. Dread. Fear of the new. Inability to assimilate the new. What is eating away at you?”

Those are my feelings. I am not a good enough writer to get a grant. I’m afraid of assimilating a man into my life. I may be afraid, but I’ll do it! Ha, ha. But I want to cast away all anxiety, as Ephesians says.

I love and approve of myself. I am at peace. I am calm. All is well. The Lord is near. I am wonder-ful. Life agrees with me. I assimilate the new every moment of every day. All is well and all is well and all is well.

December 19, 1993

Last Messiah today. Hurrah!

I cast all my worries to the ghosts in the audience.

Now we will sing to them.

We will sing to our worries.

Our notes will blow them away

Leaving only the ghosts

which will arise to life

when the lights come on.

What a day. I made it through, and I don’t feel great, but I’m basically just tired. Not exhausted, though, like I am when my heart gives out. Maybe I just have the flu. That would be nice. Well, not nice, but better than an ulcer. I felt like passing out twice today, and both seem related to anxiety.

December 20, 1993

Still felt nauseous off and on today, but I saw Dr. Trego who thinks, as I do, that I am either working on an ulcer or I have one. So I have a new med, Pepcid, and an upper GI tomorrow morning. I feel more at peace now that the identity of my problem is clearer.

December 22, 1993

. . . . I wish I could live in a peaceful place inside. I know it would be a healing place, full of creativity and rest, full of thanksgiving. It would be my secret garden. Part of my problem is that I respond to what others want or to my pride. Wouldn’t I be proud if I published a book? I’d finally be normal if I got married. Wrong motives. I must do this.

To be a light. To look to the light. To rejoice in the Lord. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

January 2, 1994

I wanted to go for a walk, and bundled up in my coat and put on my binoculars, and then realized it was raining. No binoculars. I pulled out my umbrella and set out. Went on

a long walk, listening to the rain drip on my umbrella, and watching the drops fall in the river. It was so beautiful where the river bends because the river lies far below the bank, and down come the drops gently, endlessly, scattering small circles on the green water.

January 3, 1994

I felt some peace jus now. That’s so wonderful, when I feel my soul settle, or nestle perhaps, perfectly calm.

I went to Acuto Center and it felt good to share about the growth and steps of last year. Not everyone had such a good year. There was a lot of pain there. Many women are struggling with depression, divorce, death, child abuse, a husband who is too different and doesn’t understand them (red flag for me).

I felt that peace. I can’t hang onto it, but I can wait for it again. “You have the resources,” Nancy said, “to restore yourself.”

January 11, 1994

I dreamed I caught a huge fish. I threw a long piece of paper with a hook on the end in the water, and I pulled in my fish, which was hanging onto another fish on my hook that was falling apart but still strong enough to hang together enough to pull in the big fish. I wondered how I would get the hook out and I went away. When I came back, someone had cleaned the fish and wrapped it in brown paper. They had also prepared the smaller fish, too. The meat was very white and I knew it would be good to eat.

January 12, 1994

I dreamed someone came in my bedroom and was giving me a backrub. He was pressing down on my trigger points, and it felt slightly painful. I turned and saw a creature from outer space was giving me a massage. He was a bizarre creature with pipe-like arms and legs covered with plastic, perhaps to protect him from the earth and its elements. He had a small bowl filled with water, attached to him on a pulley. He was strange but friendly and I was not afraid.

Why are you doing this, I asked? To heal the earth, he said.

January 20, 1994

I have decided to write something about lupus, illness and healing, but I am not sure where to focus.

January 25, 1994

At the end of the day a man in a yellow jacket came in and asked if he could say at Venture House to keep out of the cold. I didn’t want to say no, so I said not for long, but ordinarily you needed to have a reason to be there. And did we have any coats. Bob M. said, “A coat? Have you tried the Salvation Army?” The man sat in a plastic chair until Dave told him he needed to leave. He wanted to know what time the mission opened. “You get in line at 5 and it opens at 6,” Dave said.

It felt all wrong to me. Someone should have sat down beside him and asked him where he had come from and where he was going, and why he appeared so sad. . . .

January 27, 1994

A gray day. Another gray day. But at dinner the blue-gray light slid between the hanging blinds and I felt so alive. Something is different. The waters are troubled. Good sign. Some anxiety, too.

I’m rereading Reversing Heart Disease by Dean Ornish, reading the parts I’ve never read before, and learning a few things: neither lowering one’s blood pressure via meds, nor reducing cholesterol can solely reverse heart disease. It becomes clearer I must learn to relax, unhinge and be at peace in my body.

January 28, 1994

Tonight I sat down and went over my budget under my new salary. I think I can do

it all — go to school, go to restaurants, go on vacation, and save money. I will eat oatmeal for breakfast. I will not buy a couch. I will write, and make more money. What a good year.

Monday, January 31, 1994

A busy day, but I don’t feel too tired. I’m just tired.

Grace Wu: “Don’t make your movements too big; just move through air. When your movements are too big, you struggle. Then it’s no fun. In Tai Chi you create the illusion of big movements.”

February 3, 1994

It is really wonderful to be feeling so good so much of the time. So much energy!

Friday, February 4, 1994

It’s the dream that is so painful. The idea of being close to someone looked so close, and now it’s far away. In reality, in the present moment, he doesn’t seem to have rejected me. There is a lover inside me. There is someone who wants to lose herself in love. She is beautiful, seductive, and she knows all the secrets of love.

February 5, 1994

“Oh, how wonderful that Allah has allowed us to meet this way!” — Two sheiks who have just crashed into each other in the desert.

A lot of aloneness today. I tried to be thankful. I started working on Mother’s book today, which is moving and enjoyable.

“Oh, how wonderful that Allah has allowed me to be alone so much!” Just trying it out. In moments, I feel the grace of solitude. A lot of moments I don’t.

February 9, 1994

Dr. Trego tells me I’ve done very well, considering all the medicine I’m on, and all the things that have happened to me. The underlying message I heard was, “You should have been dead by now.”

He attributes my success to the prednisone. I attribute my problems to the prednisone. After considerable hassling and some tears, “What kind of choice is this?” I convince him to help me taper off of the prednisone. Afterwards I feel guilty. I’ve done something wrong. I’ve sinned against some medical god.

I believe again that I will die before a normal life span. No man will want to marry me. I’m too much work.

At first I think I’m lucky, but later I realize my 20+ years of active life are due to my own skills as well. Each time I get sick, I get better at casting things off — work, food, men, scrupulous housecleaning, endless have-tos. I grow lighter and it is easier to move around in the world.

February 13, 1996

I dream Dr. Trego has sent me to a consultant. I climb the steps of an old house and go in the doctor’s office. He sits behind a desk and is wearing a transparent plastic raincoat with nothing on underneath. He has slash-like tattoos all over his chest. I can’t see below his chest because he’s sitting behind a desk. He talks erratically. Suddenly he gets up and stands in the corner of the room with his back to me. Another doctor in a lab coat stands beside me. He appears more rational.

“This guy is manic,” I tell the rational doctor. “I know. I’ve worked on a psych. unit.” I gather my things and leave. I return a few moments later because I forgot my coat. I walk in quietly because I don’t want to attract the crazy doctor. Is it now, or before? He sees me and attacks me. “Help,” I cry. “Help!”

February 18, 1994

Am I afraid when I leave Dr. Trego because I don’t want to hear the truth? I want to hear the truth, but I want a bigger picture. There are ways to fight illness — to turn it around, but it involves living in a different way. It is hard for me to admit this, but the way he lives is anything but healthy. Doctors have said, sure, go ahead, eat low-fat, exercise. It’s a good idea. But they haven’t taken this on as part of their gospel or mission.

February 22, 1994

Lunch with Dr. Riordan. I thought about Rebecca’s experience with him and wondered. Still I am surprised and thankful he wants to keep seeing me, and helping me.

He said many factors in a chain or network caused my lupus. To break the chain at any point can undo the disease’s power. Perhaps I have already disrupted its internal workings.

Friday, February 25, 1994

It seems to me two very healing things I can do now are meditate and imagine. Meditate on peace, harmony and God’s light, and imagine myself healthy. I do see myself as beautiful. Perhaps I am not, but I believe God sees me as beautiful inside, outside, too. I think my body is fragile, but it is also wise. I know I am strong, like a branch in the wind.

When I think about it, how much more energy do I want? I wrote, I interviewed someone, I read, I slept, I walked in the wind, I made dinner, I edited. Now I sleep.

Actually I don’t wish more energy as much as I wish for more friends. Cindy couldn’t make our dinner outing tonight, so I have a foretaste of her leaving.

Today I wanted to go back to Chicago. I don’t want to be alone so much. I miss my Chicago family. I need a really good support group.

Despite all this I feel a certitude to live out my dreams, to break free of my bonds, to be faithful to the holy mystery of life, to love life and therefore God, to make choices that heal, bring together and celebrate.

February 27, 1994

I dreamed this maybe two nights ago. I lay down on a bed. Someone put a small infant on the bed near the edge. I was afraid it would fall off. I drew the baby to my breast and suckled it. Even though it was not my baby, I had a lot of milk, and my breasts grew round and fat with milk.

February 28, 1994

Thoughts after reading old journals: I didn’t feel healed after spending six weeks on vacation after the stroke. I am not healed now. I know my heart isn’t totally in my work.

I am still beset with to-dos. I have mislaid some visions — to be healing, to be a Catholic, and I’m not sure how to find them or where to put them. Nonetheless, I am following a few right roads — writing, Tai Chi, my own healing.

I have the answer for my healing in my own hands. I think that’s what Dr. Riordan told me.

March 1, 1994

I dreamed the cat kept looking at me. Her eyes looked human. She wore a hat like the woman in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I felt unnerved by her. I told her, I may need to give you away. She was looking out the window in the darkness, and I shut the curtains. I knew she would be angry if I did give her away.

My gout has reappeared, and I am afraid it is all due to vanity. I wore high heels on Sunday so I would be taller than J., and the next day my toe started to hurt. Both feet ache now, and I have felt tired yesterday and today. Fortunately I don’t have to do much running around for my class anymore. I mostly need to start writing. I have been rushing in my head. My thought for the day: If writing for my class isn’t some form of play, I don’t want to do it.

March 5, 1994

When I come home, the cat sniffs my jeans as though she can smell the grief. Grandma died tonight, about 7:00 p.m., and Susan, Christiana and I all cried when we heard the news. We held each other and cried, and then we went to Mother’s and held her. We did not cry then, but our eyes were red, and the sadness close behind. Mother told us that Grandma had many good memories of her father, and I said I hadn’t heard them, and then I thought of all Grandma’s memories of her father lying down to rest, and before that all her father’s memories lying down, and his parents before that and so on, blankets of memories covering each other. And now my memories, each one, this memory of me and Susan and Christiana and Mother drinking mint tea the night Grandma died and telling Christiana how the ashes of my grandmother will become part of someone, some plant, some animal, some other being on this planet. And now, too, we must readjust. We move up a generation, all in an evening.

March 6, 1994

I am inspired by "Lorenzo’s Oil" to explore my past, the research about lupus, heart disease, medications, gout, acne, everything. I wonder if the answers are out there, but just not put together. It does make sense to help my body work at its best to figure out what it needs. It seems to me it would be good to give it everything that it needs.

I know already there are some powerful things I can do to get better. I can exercise consciously, meditate and breathe deeply with Tai Chi. I can eat a low fat diet, and I can focus on whole foods. I can begin exploring what extra vitamins and minerals I need. I can study to learn what medicine I don’t need.

March 7, 1994

This is a very full, rich time in my life. I have a lot of good things happening, and I’m enjoying them all. I’m not worrying too much. I’m jus living.

All the good things:

a family funeral for Grandma

a healing essay

a search for healing

new healing friends

Tai Chi

new male friends

new female friends

ensemble and choir

Grace says her grandfather said we should walk on the earth every day, to exchange energy with the earth.

March 17, 1994

My heart didn’t feel all right today. I hurried to get ready for work, and changed skirts five minutes before I needed to leave. When I sat down in the lounge waiting for the staff meeting, I felt my heart rattle against my chest, and then I felt dizzy. My heart wiggled a number of times throughout the day, but I didn’t feel dizzy again. It was a long day — early to work for a staff meting, then late for a workshop on alcoholism, then home for a quick nap and dinner, and finally to class until 9:30. I think about my essay and must confess at this point I just want it done.


Take deep breaths on every occasion. When you wake up, take a deep breath, and let out all of the stale night air. When you are anxious, take a deep cleansing breath. When you are happy, breathe in all the joy you feel. You will forget sometimes, to breathe deeply. Don't kick yourself. Just take a deep breath. "Ah well," say to yourself, "How good that I remembered.”

March 18, 1994

I woke up today and felt like staying in bed. Low energy. I got up anyway and wrote, something, for most of the day, on my essay. I have 23 pages of something. I haven’t found my “river” yet, but there’s something there. I had depressing thoughts. I’m going to die of a heart arrhythmia, and they’ll find me in bed on this beautiful day. No men like me. I’ll never marry.

Susan and Mother remind me that I’ve felt this way before, and I’ve felt better again. Feeling so tired tends to douse the hope that I will be entirely healed. I want to find healing in body, soul and spirit. I wish I were closer to my Chicago friends.

March 19, 1994

Yesterday and today I have felt tired. I feel better now. I wonder what took away all my energy. Certainly the long day on Thursday. But also the anxiety over my story and uncertainty I felt after talking to Margaret, the upcoming loss of Cindy, D. turning cool and distant. Every covered truck I saw today reminded me of my discomfort, the future task of making friends. I did not have the energy to meet all this, so I stayed in bed for a while. About ten I decided I had had enough of bed and got up. I made a little book for Cindy. Mother brought groceries for me. I worked on the story for a while and got to page 29. I went for a walk. My heart sill flips around some, but not any more than normal. What should I cast off this time?

It struck me that I was attracted to D. because he was wild. I wanted him to teach me how to be wild. But I have to be wild for myself.

10:10 p.m.

Went to Cindy’s good bye/birthday party. Cheryl N. stopped me and invited me to a feminist women’s group she is starting at Lorraine. It felt like a nice answer to the social poverty I was feeling the last while. And more friends will come.

March 21, 1994

I had been thinking I would write my story with a hopeful ending, how I begin to imagine my heart is full of light. That is one story. Another is the continued fear that something else bad will happen. And in fact that is with me. I now have a heart monitor attached to me. It is looking for arrhythmias. I don’t want any part of it. If they find an arrhythmia, what will they do? I don’t want any more pills.

I don’t feel I’ve gotten to the heart of the story, although I think if I do, it will come

out of me. I don’t know the key, the right question. What am I so troubled about? I don’t know, although certainly the loss of Cindy and of D. are part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing Fran. Maybe she will help me sort it out. I think of placing Dr. Trego in the center of my piece, but he is only one part. The center of my piece is my heart.

Thursday, March 24, 1994

Thank you, Lynn Redgrave. "Shakespeare for My Father" I can see more of my book. It begins with my father and his leaving. Finally I realize I must leave him, say good-bye.

Even so, the loss of my father has been the wound that teaches me what illness can do. I take it into my life. Doctors become fathers for me. Kind and distant. Jason one of those.

I find I must separate from him also.

Other notes. I know this, but here it comes again: every man is a father for me. I want approval from every man as though he were my father.

March 30, 1994

I have 40 pages to turn in to Margaret Dawe tomorrow, and it is not too bad. I wonder what she will say.

I felt pretty tired after choir and then ensemble practice. I am not quite up to speed yet after my vacation.

April 4, 1994

Tai Chi. Grace talked about using the mind to go down to the Inner Force and then out to the body. I wonder if I could mobilize my inner forces whether my body would be completely healed, or if the world could move its inner self, whether we could heal ourselves.

April 5, 1994

A book idea: I explore Maxwell Game Preserve, in winter, summer, spring and fall. I identify the plants and animals. I reflect on its changes. I draw pictures. I record it all in a journal.

Wednesday, April 6, 1994

At choir another woman and I are rocking into each other for fun, and she says, “I better not do that, I might knock you over.”

“No you won’t,” I say.

“You’re right,” she says. “You’re pretty strong.”

April 8, 1994

I dream our family has moved into a new house. My bedroom is very dark and only has a few small windows. One window is only about 4-5 inches. I tell Mother I think I will lie in that room. She has a bigger window in her room, but she doesn’t look out of it.

“Look,” I say, “there’s a blue bird.” A bright blue bird sits on a branch outside Mother’s window.

Kathy and Jamie have a big room, too. They wear long full nightgowns, one in pink, one in blue. I go back to my room and find another room attached to it. A female guest is sleeping in it now, but she will leave, and then I can have the room. It has floor to ceiling windows, covered now with dark blue drapes.

I dream I am in an orchard owned by the church. The trees have few branches, but there are a few pieces of ripe fruit here and there. I get a stool, push it into the soft earth, and begin picking — an enormous apple, peaches, pepper, another soft nameless fruit. I’m not sure I should pick it when there is so little left, but I do.

Friday night

I did not feel good today. My left jaw is swollen, it hurts to chew, and I at times felt weak, feverish and tired. My pills weren’t ready when I went to pick them up, and I wanted to say, “I don’t want to take this anymore.” I did mindless tasks today. I cooked chickpeas and did minor housekeeping. Paid my bills. Last night I felt even worse. My chest felt heavy when I walked from my car to the library with my books and papers. Yuck, I don’t want to be sick.

Saturday, April 9, 1994

I dream I am lying down with Joanna eating sandwiches she showed me how to make from the leaves of trees. I hear someone cry, “Help!” and I see about twenty people run over. I do not think I will help, too, since there are so many others running there, but go over, too.

A small child is pulling someone, something out of a cupboard. A mother figure is standing over; she is distraught and thinks it is “too late” for her child — the one in the cupboard.

“Let’s see,” I think or say. I take the thing the child has pulled out. It looks like a piece of fish. I hold it carefully and feel it take on life. In a few minutes it is moving and looking around. Now it is a raccoon. It wants to crawl into dark holes and corners, but I hang onto it.

The Relief Sale — rain, Christiana running ahead of Cindy and me, vereneke, borscht, and cherry moos. I tell Cindy I am looking for a woman with a big vision. Later I tell her that I have to create that woman in myself. Or find her. Given the right setting, I think she would come out.

April 8, 1994

To be healed is to be liberated. It is not to return to the status quo. My wish to be healed seems partly from a desire to be like everyone else. How would my life be different if I went to no doctors and took no pills?

A gray day, cool. I am happy my relationships with Donna, Cheryl, and the other women at church are growing. I dreamed I came across a tree in the wood. It lay on its side, and it looked like a person with one knee crossed over. I thought it was Chris, and although it was withered and old, I did not think it was dead.

April 11, 1994

Perhaps healing is a matter of paying attention. I thought of warm hands touching my face, wiping it clean, taking off my clothes, putting on my pajamas, rubbing my back.

April 12, 1994

There is not enough to do at work. I feel dishonest bringing things I want to do from home, so I page through old nursing texts, take a long time copying forms. I don’t like being alone. I have had few volunteers over the last week. I wonder if this is the way it will always be, always alone. Today I felt empty. I took out a pad of paper and wrote, "I will remember why I am here." I meant why I am here on this earth.

I’m pleased about the women’s group I’ve joined. It feels like there’s more space there.

April 15, 1994

I went to a WSU poetry/0cion/essay reading where Margaret, Mark and others had great things to say about my writing. It feels good, but now I need to go to a quiet place in which my story can speak.

April 16, 1994

I have put all my journals in order. They are lined on the floor of my bedroom in a corner, 1972 to the present. What surprises me after reading them is that I am still working on the same issues — finding friends, and separating from my mother. I see how sad I was, how lonely, how trapped I felt by the Mennonites, how sad I felt about Mother and Joanna, and how I felt responsible to make it better.

I’m surprised at how much religious language I used, although there was certainly discomfort with pat answers. I was struggling, searching, striving for a bigger life. I didn’t feel good physically. I was unsure of myself with my peers. So fragile. Joanna was a light to me.

April 17, 1994

Have begun jotting down scenes and memories for the next chapter. Do not be afraid.

April 18, 1994

I did not get the Milton grant which was disappointing, but I feel better now. I have plan B, which I had also thought could be plan A. I will work as I have been and take two classes next fall. I will live where I am. I will take my time. I will send away all I can and take in what I can. I will make new friends.

April 20, 1994

I dreamed I was watching a woman who said she was an angel. She was also a performer. She had a friend who was sort of an agent.

“They will want to see your wings,” I said, because I wanted to make sure she was really an angel and that she really had wings. She stood with her back to me. She was not wearing any clothes. She put on a gray angel costume, with wings, and began to sing. I sang a countermelody to hers, and we realized that the song was powerful, as powerful as though she had been an angel.

Today I wrote seven pages and I could turn most of it in next week. If I do as well on Friday and Wednesday, I will be satisfied.

My heart rat-a-tat-tatted during the last song we sang in choir. It wouldn’t slow down till we stopped singing. I wonder if I will have to stop singing. I will have to at least curtail it.

April 22, 1994

Last night after class I felt chest pressure as I walked to my car. This morning while I showered I felt my heart racing. I moved slowly throughout the day, and it didn’t come back to that extent. I didn’t go for a walk. It is obvious I have been doing a lot and not resting enough. I rest daily but I don’t completely disengage for a couple evenings every week, like I used to.

I wrote a couple more pages about my childhood — so painful, to enter that time again. How reassuring to be grown up. What a relief. I have more control.

Saturday, April 23, 1994

I felt all right when I went shopping, but after that I felt tired and achy. My jaw hurts again and feels swollen. I get a headache when I lie down; I think it is due to the jaw. I force myself to do things. My heart flutters occasionally, but just one flutter at a time. I think I am depressed. It was hard to make the simplest decision — what to wear tomorrow, but I accomplished it. I would rather be depressed than have the lupus acting up. Despite my complaints, I went grocery shopping, made green bean soup, changed the cat box, watered the plants, paid my bills, had a shower and shaved my legs, made granola and made dinner. This evening I went to Tsweiying’s to watch her slide show of Taiwan. It was good to get out. I felt better. I think I am out of touch with my feelings. I don’t want Cindy to go. I wonder if I got in touch with that whether I would feel better.

April 24, 1994

Felt better today, not so achy. I sill feel uncomfortable around D., but I have a growing feeling I will figure this out. I will understand it. It will pain me no longer. I will move on to another question. I had lunch with Cindy, Tsweiying, and Jeanette at Kwan Court. Tsweiying is a wild one. It would be fun to do things with her sometime.

I slept, read, and went for a walk, didn’t feel too bad, made dinner — green bean soup with poached egg white and a little yolk that slipped in, a roll with apricot jam and Apple Diane. I started reading in my journals and was disappointed to see I am still struggling with the male issue. A man tells me he doesn’t want to see me, and I continue to hope he will.

On April 25, I woke in the morning knowing I needed to go to the hospital. I do not remember any of this day, or the month that followed. I called Mother, then Dr. Trego, explaining I needed help. I do not remember any of this day, or the month that followed.

I was not breathing when the ambulance arrived. I was intubated and taken to Wesley Hospital. The doctors predicted a low chance of meaningful recovery, if any. Miraculously, I was soon able to breathe on my own, and my memory eventually returned, although I remember nothing of those weeks in the hospital.

Saturday, May 1994

Joanna left this morning. She hugged me good bye. Then she hugged Susan and Roger before she got in the car with Darlene to drive to the airport. I feel alone with her gone. She knows how to wage the tension between Roger and Mother. Mother says, “Don’t do any bike riding,” and Jo knows its O.K. as long as I don’t fall. Roger holds one side, James holds the other as I rocket forward across the grass. I am flying through an early spring evening. Mother doesn’t know although I return slightly flushed from my ride.

Later, Mother says, "I’m sorry about the bike riding.”

“It’s O.K.,” I say. “It’s O.K.”

Now Joanna’s cavernous bags are gone, and her breakfast with me is gone. “Keep getting better,” she says. . . .

Friday afternoon

The cat pulls at the corners of the blue chair on which I sit. She follows me around when I get home. I got an A in my class. The report came today in the mail. Today I read through what I had written in my computer. I hope I can write as well, and even better. I wrote things that have been published.

Now the cat licks her fur, stops occasionally to look at me, and then continues her task. By my house the cottonwoods are huge. The breeze comes through, and I hear their hands clapping.

If you had all summer to play, what would you do? I would walk every day. I would learn the names of the plants and animals I met. I would have picnics. I would go swimming. I would draw and paint. I would think of stories and poems to write. Sunday afternoon iced tea. I would write a summer of poems.

Tuesday, May 31, 1994

I spend my nights at Susan and Roger’s, my mornings at my house and afternoons at Mother’s. No wonder I forget where I belong or where to make order. And only a month ago I went to Venture House to work. I brought my lunch and then I came home at 3:30 p.m. and took a nap before dinner and one of my nightly outings — Sister Circle, choir, writing class. What did I do on the weekends? I went to church. I went to movies with my friends. Now I don’t know if I have friends my age.

June 6, 1994


The cleaning women have come so I have retreated to the rocking chair and my journal. I took a bath by myself this morning. Afterwards my cheeks (both sets) were very pink.

Should the doctors have put the defibrillator in my belly? Am I just slowly fading away, or will I do something great with my life? I hope just living will be great enough.

June 7, 1994


Yesterday I took a bath by myself. I washed my hair by myself. What do I have to learn yet before I can drive to my apartment?


Drying my hair




I hear a bird calling outside. It is quiet in the house.

If I had only one summer

I would spend all my money

on a house by the river

There we would live

my sister and I

by the morning call of the cardinals

the whistle of the tea kettle

the splash in our cups

the smell of foreign teas and fresh scones.

By our bare feet the ringed cat would

swirl itself round the first stripe of sun.

We would walk in the morning,

my sister, the cat and I,

down the green pathway

the trees above us like a fan,

the river on our left holding ducks and geese,

quiet as the leaves.

At lunch we would spoon

ladles of vegetables into our bowls

Then we would rest on our beds

while the sun gave itself to the world.

June 8, 1994

I will go forward to that place

where my joints don’t hurt

my hand is steady while I write

and I can remember what I said

two weeks ago.

I will find the place

where my brain sinks in,

like a mussel in its shell.

To Wake Up After a Cerebral Event

I have been sleeping so long so long. Give me time to wake up my corpuscles.

June 10, 1994

Mother told me I said I wanted to live. Why was I so sure: Was I afraid of what I saw in the hereafter? Was I just wanting to be with my family? Why did I come back?

August 14, 1994

My cat stretches her frame across the bed in front of the fan.

I wonder if my body will ever feel normal.

June 15, 1994

Progress. I have enough energy to write every night.

I finished a birthday poem for Joanna in the morning.

Lunch with Mother, a nap, and then a trip to Dr. Trego’s.

How long will my heart last, I asked. I can’t say, he said. We just have to live day by day.

I’m free of work. Now what do I truly need? To be healthy in mind, body and spirit.

June 16, 1994

A meager morning. I got interested in Reversing Heart Disease. What do I need, to stop what is stopping up my arteries and making my heart jitter? Fran phoned. I felt most normal talking to her. I feel full of energy and ideas.

June 19, 1994

9:30 p.m. at my apartment for the first time since April 25. Alone for the night.

Susan dropped me off, gave me a big hug, and I was alone. I turned on my radio. Music feels good. What is left here, of my life? Nursing is gone, and I am not sorry to leave it. Cindy is gone. I’m sorry she’s gone. Sue Bender in Plain and Simple, saw a quilt that spoke to her and led her on a path. What have I seen that leads me further on? Not men.

June 21, 1994

Tuesday afternoon

Today a pair of finches, one with a red head, fed at my bird feeder. On my afternoon walk I saw a blue crane, a mother duck and 3 ducklings, and a white egret in the distance. It almost looked like a swan. This morning I met Dr. Bajaj. I do not remember meeting him before, although they tell me I saw him many times in the hospital, but I know him. My defibrillator has only gone of once. What good thing can I do for my heart, I asked? Lower the cholesterol, he said, and that hasn’t been a problem for you, and keep active. Maybe I could adopt a simple life. Maybe I will find non-stressful work.

How will I make friends? How will I learn to write again? How will my life find meaning, order and beauty? Everything I need will be given.

June 22, 1994

Wednesday afternoon 5:00 p.m.

I find the Waterman pen the book club gave me. It is clogged up, won’t write. Nevertheless, I will write. The signs are clear. I have time, a steady income for a year, and hope for more strength at the end of it.

Bodily sensations:

the back of my scalp, numb

cold on my toes, arms, shoulders — as the blood flows

spots on my eyes

occasional thumps in chest

I woke up after a long sleep and discover I don’t have to work as a nurse, I can write, but I have forgotten people in the last year. I am not sure where to begin. I have a box implanted in my left abdomen. Who put it there? Why is this necessary? My life felt fairly positive without a heart arrhythmia. What was I distressed about? What energized me? Friends, books, writing.

10:00 p.m.

I slept at home last night. Mother took me to Venture House where I ate lunch, said hello to my friends and chatted with Bob. He will call me at the end of the summer about the newsletter. My disability check will come in about one week. I cleaned out most of my books from my office. It feels O.K. to say goodbye to those tasks. I felt stronger this evening.

Get a cat if you don’t have one.


Cats’ lives are given to lounging.

Study the art of slouch,


curl, and


Stroke her soft fur.

Enjoy her purrr.

Practice purring.

June 23, 1994

I can see I am gaining strength. I will take on more tasks. I wish they would let me drive on my own. Today I woke at 7:00, ate breakfast, showered and went for a walk.

I tried to write a devotional — unsuccessful. Mother had me for lunch. What are you thinking, she asked?

Shall I live here? My support group — I don’t have one. I take the nurture I can when it comes — from books, conversations, the brush of the cat against my legs. What is the most healing route? I wonder if it is possible for my arteries to widen. I need to see my friends.

June 29, 1994


I had dinner at Mother’s and drove to Donna’s for Sister Circle. Who is God, I asked? We had no answer. Why do we feel so little compassion from men? I don’t know why, but it’s becoming clearer that men take on a less compassionate front.

Saturday, July 2, 1994

I am moved back to my home. I am all in one place. But what is my home? The cat has joined me at last, and feels quite relieved to have me here. And what life will unfold before me, will I create?

Tuesday, July 5, 1994

I walked by the river and saw a large white bird with a red beak, black patches on back and brown on tail, and yellow webbed feet. Its head was slightly raised, a riff on the head. It waited for me to come. It did not fly away. We examined each other several minutes before I continued on my way.

July 8, 1994

Today an all-day project: I made dinner for the Harms family and Mother. I shopped, cleaned a little, and made carrot soup, carrot/banana muffins, and tabouli (with carrots). We had strawberries and chocolate cookies for dessert. It was good to have everyone here. I’m also surprised at how much time it took to chop and mix everything.

Tomorrow: loaf and take my ease.

July 11, 1994

Tonight I walked after supper, and then I drove home to my quiet house with the crickets zigzagging over the darkness. Fran called. We talked about all I have done and all she has done. We both live a slow life. It feels wonderful not to have the pressure of "things to do" taking away the simple joy of doing the laundry, feeling the cool sweat in a warm car. I enjoy everything I do, everything feels new. I did three loads of laundry today. Mother gave me three teacups from Grandma. Also, two small teapots, a strawberry apron, some tea towels, pillowcases, a handkerchief and a scarf. The scarf is old, cotton, and printed with pink, yellow, blue and white flowers. It is worth the least, but I like it the best. I imagine Grandma wore it to protect her hair while working outside.

July 12, 1994

I am not worried, but I wonder what I shall write yet. Why do I want to live? To make this place holy. This world holy. A place of deep quietude, as though each one walked by the river in the morning. My life has few friends in it now, but there will be people ahead.

July 21, 1994


We drove to Harvey County West Park and ate turkey sandwiches under the cottonwood trees. A walk on the Nature Trail and a dip in the bathtub swimming pond.

Dinner and a long talk at Mother’s.


If it is summer,

buy some winter clothes.

If it is winter,

buy some summer clothes.

Saturday, July 23, 1994

We woke early and met James at the Benton Airport for a flight over the Flint Hills. The land flew beneath us. It looked like people being born. A train snaked along an arch. The trees looked sedate, each casing its own dark shadow. Jo took me to The Grape for lunch and we shopped for a dress for me. We didn’t find it, but I can see it clearly.

Saturday, July 30, 1994

A day alone. It was a good day. I cleaned a little, paid bills, had lunch and a nap. Then I colored Sam & Laurie’s wedding invitation — it looks lovely — and ate more leftovers for dinner. Then I read Joan’s book and talked a long time with Diane — about Morikeba, men, her new job, the Senegalese family culture, and my being alone. You should tell the universe what you want, I said. I want a wealthy recently retired man who likes to travel but moves slowly. He loves books and healthy food. He is nice and gentle. He has a sense of humor.

July 31, 1994


I drove to church by myself. I felt more shaky, frail. I wonder if this is how an old person feels. I don’t feel old inside — my soul is still young, but my body feels ancient.

Judy Chicago inspires me to write about my own experience. Tomorrow I will write. I walked under the fir trees and heard the brush of the wind, a bird’s cry, the low hum of crickets. At the 25th Street bridge, I saw Aunt Sue. How good to see her for a short talk.

August 1, 1994


I feel shaky again, and will take more prednisone in the morning. I think I will never feel normal again. I will never get married. Will God wish me to be on the dark side of life/death? When I get there will God be in control? I suppose God will be in love. Death is a short way to travel — to what?

Thursday, August 4, 1994

Wesley Hospital

Waiting. That is all one does in a hospital. You wait for the nurse and the phlebotomist, for the doctor’s nurse and another phlebotomist, for transport, for the nurse with Valium, for the venipuncture nurse, for the doctor, for lunch, for the nurse who will say goodbye, for transport. I slept a lot and I read The Wanderers. Thank heavens it’s only once.

Susan came this evening for a walk and a chat about books. I like about my life now that there is always a book close by.

Tuesday, August 9, 1994

I did laundry, and walked to Riverfront Residences to investigate a job as manager. It looks unlikely — as much work as before, and less money. I think of moving. I have no close friends here, and wonder if I could live more cheaply, with Diane. Or Cindy. Or Joanna.

This afternoon I colored a picture for Fran’s birthday. Coloring is such a restful, pleasing activity.

Wednesday, August 10, 1994

On an island

I will write poetry

In my still house

I know I will

Life is swirling so slowly

that I can see the dark mermaids

swimming past my front door

I will settle into my easy chair

and pull them up,

one golden-haired bra-less treasure

after another,

lining my porch with green scales

and flapping fins.

They will speak their hidden language

and share their rituals with me,

the slow and silent one, waiting

with dry seaweed in my mouth.

Thursday, August 11, 1994

I think about how spacey I feel and wonder how close death is. Maybe I walk along the edge of life. It is not an unpleasant feeling.

Monday, August 15, 1994

Marilyn Mierau called and invited me for dinner. I will go and be the sick person, although I don’t feel very sick. What does it mean to be sick? To be in pain or nauseated. To not want to eat — there it is. And I have always wanted to eat.

Tuesday, August 16, 1994

I said it was interesting to read about someone’s near-death experience. What happens to your soul, I asked. Yes, Mother asked, do you still have a relationship with God? I don’t pray as much, I said, but I have a sense of God’s love. I think I benefit from previous spiritual work. Mother couldn’t stay with the discussion long although it was interesting to me.

Thursday, August 18, 1994

This evening I went to Marilyn Mierau’s and had dinner with her and DeAnn Diller. It was very pleasant — the food and the company. We talked about the difficulty of being unmarried in this culture. It’s O.K., Marilyn says, by her laughing, fiery attitude.

Sunday, August 21, 1994

Dale Schrag gave a fiery sermon on how the Mennonite Church has moved away from its early spiritual roots and piety. It is spiritually impoverished, he said. I agree. It is the reason I moved toward the Catholics, who hold to their spiritual roots yet also seek justice. They walk the walk, but also talk the talk. I also thought, but did not say, that the spiritual impoverishment I see seems to be more of a male problem. Women have been praying and talking to God for centuries. I was happy to share my feelings later in the day with Donna at small group. Tonight I felt happy. The cat kept me company for supper, I went for a walk to look for river fairies. Seeing none, I came home and read Photographing Fairies.

Tuesday, August 23, 1994

Such a gentle summer,

waking up.

When I woke up

there was my sister

dressed in her work dress

every day she called me

she walked me to the bathroom

and washed my hair.

I think Mother thinks I should pray

But I don’t remember God

On the other hand

I know that certain women have a light

that draws me to them.

People with this energy are open. They have pulled the curtains and let the sparkle of God shine through. Some people see Jesus when they die.

August 28, 1994

I felt so sad today, and my period started, so I think that is why. But I sill wonder about seeing a counselor. As I wrote for my class, I felt better. I also felt gentle arms holding mine. How thankful I am for these little snatches of angels, holy Mother, Jesus, God.


Everyone has an angel.

Angels have friends.

Imagine all the angels around

your bed

before you sleep.

August 30, 1994

Poetry class tonight. I wondered what I am doing there. I will never teach English. The students seem quick to speak but slow to write. I am lost there. I wonder if I’ll ever find my way.

August 31, 1994

It is raining. Cool at last after a long spell of heat. The poetry class does not seem to produce friends. Everyone rushes off after class and the people don’t look very friendly. Mostly men. They talk a lot but I don’t think their comments are that profound. Their poems are interesting but unclear. Writing poetry is more fun. I enjoy thinking of words, putting ideas together. I wish for friends. Just one person who would listen to me every day.

Friday, September 2, 1994

How good it feels to write words on the page for this day. Every day, a few paragraphs of events, feelings, people, longing. I am free to write it. I have the energy to write it. Every day, a few words. I slept later today and went for a walk in the cool, wet, gray morning. I felt unsettled, sad today, and unsure what to do. I read a little, shopped for fruit, got gas, and picked up the poetry for the class. My poem is the first one this time. I talked with Margaret Dawe about my writing search. I felt better, but I seem so quiet and timid when I talk.

This evening I made beans and pasta, and read Healing Into Life and Death. The book made me feel better. I want to choose the path of healing. And healing does not necessarily mean physical healing. But it doesn’t matter.

Saturday, September 3, 1994

I showered as usual this morning, and as I got out of the shower and toweled myself off, I felt a shock. In another minute, I felt another one. They felt violent, although not painful. I lay down for a few minutes on a towel on my bed and then got up and got dressed. I looked in a brochure about the defibrillator to see what I should do if I got shocked. Call the doctor, it said. So I called Dr. Bajaj who said we needn’t make too big a thing of this, and to call him back on Tuesday.

I stayed at home, didn’t cook or clean as I’d thought about doing. The shock is not the big thing, but it also feels like a sign. My body wants to say goodbye, I think, and I must get myself ready.

September 4, 1994

Sometimes, just for a moment, I feel like myself again. Tonight I pulled the curtain shut in my bedroom, and felt myself give a habitual yank to the folds. There, in that yank, I was myself. This morning I drove to church and told Susan about my monitor going off. I feel tearful now about it. What am I afraid of? I am afraid to die. I thought many strange and depressing thoughts today. Now I feel better, after reading class poems and writing in my journal. Music often untangles me.

I went to Sam’s Club with Susan, Roger, and Christiana. The sore looks like a large prison in which we are all trapped behind wire carts.

Tuesday, September 6, 1994

"I don’t really believe in my own death," said a man in my class. Hm, I thought. Well, I have died. I have been so close to the edge that I wonder when I will step across. My heart thumps and I consider how it will be at the end.

Is death a footstep

a fall across an avalanche

transformation into a winged being

a great sleep

a meeting with old friends?

Wednesday, September 7, 1994

I saw Dr. Bajaj’s nurse, who said the machine had gone off five times in response to a rapid heart beat. I felt two of the times when it shocked me. . . .

Saturday, September 10, 1994

A day spent going through my bills, addressing Mother’s birthday invitation. I worked on critiquing poems for my class. I don’t think I am a great poet. Now I wonder about getting an MFA. I am not going to teach. I thought about death today, for the last few days. I have said goodbye to marriage, and there is a sadness there. God, keep my dreams alive.

Sunday, September 11, 1994

I went to church and house church. I didn’t feel terrible, but I felt out of it at house church. I don’t plan to work and I have no kids. I worked on the poems for my class, which I enjoy. I am a writer, I told Haroke, a woman from Japan. It felt good to say that. I’m not making money, but I’m having fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 1994

Poetry class was still a muddle, but I didn’t say much, and I felt O.K. Jeanine said she thought of me when she saw two bright pink hibiscus blossoms in her yard. It is sill hot and humid outside.

Wednesday, September 14, 1994

I’ve started reading my old journals. I was depressed early on by the M. B. church, the lack of openness, and of having to stay in Hillsboro. I was a good writer, though. I wonder what will come of it.

I wanted to write books and illustrate them. It would still delight me to do that.

Thursday, September 15, 1994

I went to a family birthday dinner for Mother. It was good to hear Mother tell stories from her past. I also wondered if I’d be able to tell stories through my seventh decade. There is a loss in saying I won’t live that long. I won’t marry. I won’t buy a house. What will I leave of myself?

Saturday, September 17, 1994

Diane called and she spoke of adjusting to being a teacher. She was glad to hear of my plans to visit Chicago at Thanksgiving. Making supper I thought, "I would like to die." It was a happy thought. What good can I do here? I would be close to my father. I don’t know him, but he loves me. I would be close to God. I wonder if you can have cats in heaven.

Tuesday, September 20, 1994

I read Man's Search for Meaning. So what is waiting for me? What is my purpose in life? I thought it was to write — perhaps about my own experience. Now I am not so sure. Who is waiting for me? My family would miss me, but who needs me? Do women with illness need to hear my story? Or is God waiting for me?

Wednesday, September 21, 1994

I had lunch at Sara’s Circle and dinner at church. I think what I miss at Lorraine Avenue is ritual. I like the openness at Acuto, and the ritual. I’m not totally sure of the feminist cause, even though that is what attracts and feeds me.

The wind is wailing outside. A storm is brewing. What do I long for in the depths of my being? Life is meaningful when Donna asks questions and listens. I join with the Acuto voices and a vision of a world changing:

my cat asks to be held

I write a true word

when I visit Joanna

when Cindy comes

Stacks of books, papers

the pile on my desk: my illness

on the lamp table: poetry

and the dining room table: The New Yorker.

Please grant me true words.

September 22, 1994

A thread.

Stout chord twining round my church illusions,

my university degree,

my ability to write long sentences.

The shadow lifts and there I am

a thread in the vast tapestry.

I gather the loose hairs

wisping this way and that.

I see my shadow there

in the lines that gather near her eyes.

If I would decide not to write more stories, I could put away the stacks of paper around my room. I don’t want to write more Mennonite ancestor stories. Slowly I will put it away.

Tonight I went to symphony chorus practice, and it felt fine. We sing Carmina Burana in Latin, a loud and angry piece. It feels good to yell in a foreign tongue.

Saturday, September 24, 1994

I made two cakes and improvisational soup. No one has called, but I have sent out goodwill prayers, like bouquets, to Nancy O., Fran, Cindy, and others. I got tired with all the cooking, but it feels good to have it done. The cat sits on the chair arm beside me, her shiny brush of fur rising with each breath.

Sunday, September 25, 1994

Sometime today, I thought, what if I live to be 80? I think this thought came after I told my Sunday School class that my body feels like it is 80. But what if my health improves enough so that I lurch along into the “final years.” My body has worked a lot at trying to live, and — amazingly, I continue to live with the old memories intact, and old dreams still wishing to be born. I, for some reason, have hung onto most of my former personality, my thoughts, my ability to walk, talk, function in social settings. If I do live so long, I look at life differently. There is a reason to seek and find. There is a reason to keep a journal, to make new friends.

Today we had a big birthday bash for Mother. Susan and Roger’s house looked lovely, and our cake offerings were mostly eaten. I saw Malinda Nikkel. It was good to see her friendly face. “Are you working?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. Other comebacks might be, “I’m writing slowly, a record of this time.” Or, “Are you working?” I read further in my old journals. “Make me an instrument of thy healing to frightened spirits,” I wrote. I think I could still do this, write about my journeys into fear for others who come after me.

Monday, September 26, 1994

Today I worked on poetry and saw Joanne. She gave me a list of questions to write about. And plant some dreams, she said. You lost some. Now plant some new ones. What was the first thing you remember wanting to be?

When I was 5 or 6, I had a friend who took ballet lessons. She lived on our street, and I only heard her talk about her leotard and frothy tutu. I don’t remember her name. I didn’t play with her often and I had never seen the ballet. Still, it was a thing I longed for and would never have. Mennonites weren’t allowed to dance. There was a grace I knew about in the music my parents played on Sunday evenings, and I knew a ballerina held this grace in her slender arms. So I longed to be a ballerina even when I was older and knew age 21 was too late to firm my flabby thighs. I bought a blue leotard anyway and when I was far away from home in Winnipeg, I took a bus downtown to a dance studio and studied with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. I was a mediocre dancer, but I remember sailing down a hallway and twirling in delirious spins. This was all at home, of course, but I remembered the passion of two dancers I had seen in a concert at a park, and I imagined myself tasting the same grace.

Tuesday, September 27, 1994

Class tonight. Jeanine said she’d like to read my poems or fiction about illness. It felt good to hear affirmation. She asked if I’d had a stroke. I think my speech feels shy and awkward, with missed phrases. I hope it improves.

Wednesday, September 28, 1994

What is something you always wanted to do or be?

When I was in college I started to read the works of the contemplatives, the writings of nuns and brothers. In MCC this continued. I was attracted to Mother Theresa, a woman whose life was shaped by her faith. I think I longed to hear God’s voice. I prayed on my bed and looked at the moon and stars, wondering what God had to say to me. I believed God heard me. I read an article about a contemplative order that encouraged the arts. I knew in reading that article that contemplative life was something I was called to. And the arts. To pray each day and to create beauty.

I wrote notebooks full of prayers, and then at some point, I did not. To listen was just as important. I wanted to listen to God.

What do you really want to do that you haven’t done yet?

I would like to unfold my life from its shadows and write a book. It doesn’t have to be published. I would like to share it with my family and friends.

Wednesday, September 28, 1994

Today I did not feel affirmed about my writing. Bob Parker said, “Look, your writing is not what it was.” I don’t think he had read what I wrote and just listened to what Linda said about it. He wanted me to soften a tough passage by Kathleen, “and put in that spiritual stuff like you used to write.” I told him that I wasn’t sure I agreed with his opinion of my writing. I’m also not certain that my shaky handwriting didn’t scare him off and alert him to the fact that I have changed.

Fran just called and I feel much better.

Monday, October 3, 1994

Mother said, “Life will get better,” as I was leaving. That’s what I don’t believe. I don’t believe I will feel better, that I will not take 1 1/2 hour naps, that I will gather a group of friends around me, that I will write a great novel, or even a novel. Life feels quiet and empty now.

Tuesday, October 4, 1994

My poetry class felt better than usual. Most people wrote favorable comments on my poem. Joanne and I talked about Bob’s comment about my writing, and later my classmates. She encouraged me to talk with my doctor about my feelings about death. You are a key player, she said.

Wednesday, October 5, 1994

At Mother’s house I napped and dreamed that Mother came down the stairs and pulled my covers up and stroked my face. I felt empty and lost when I got up. I finished the end of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and felt comforted. No, this isn’t how my life is to end. But God comforts those who are low. And the question now is not why did this happen to me, but how will I make of this a beautiful, grace-filled thing. I went to church but left immediately after choir and wished for a holy vehicle to take me high up in the air, free of my body and free of a staid church where I feel alone and not needed. . .

Friday, October 7, 1994

I told Mother that I was on a journey toward death, and we cried. I feel better that I have talked about it with Mother and Susan. Mother said she wished they would have talked about death more before Daddy died. Now I am glad I have made a little start. I couldn’t nap well after our talk, but it was all right to shut my eyes in a house where I was welcome.

Mother said they would help me to live alone, or to live with others. What do you need, she asked?

I need little. I want someone with me when I pass over. I don’t want to be alone.

Monday, October 10, 1994

Cindy and I went out for dinner to Three Happiness. It was good to see her cheerful face. I told her I was on a journey to death. Couldn’t this be one bad episode, she asked? No, after a heart attack, a stroke, an episode of angina, and ventricular arrhythmia and cardiac arrest, no I think I’m on a journey to death.

Even so, the journey may take awhile. And there are many things one sees on a journey.

Tuesday, October 11, 1994

It feels good to go to poetry class, even if I don’t say much. Their comments are gentle and affirmative about my poems. My body feels slow and old. I am thankful I can drive and listen to guitar music on the radio on the way home. Thank you, loving God, for brisk freshness in the morning air, for a poem to write, for a place to sleep, for lentil soup and bread, and a place to go where people love writing. Lead me further on a journey to you.

The train calls in the night. May your signals be as clear.

Friday, October 14, 1994

Hm. A day alone, but not bad. I worked on a poem this morning, with some progress. After lunch and a nap, I drove to WSU and looked for articles about Susan Ludvigson. I found one, and then the library was closing and my legs ached from being on them so much. So I went home, ate leftover Chinese food and read poems and the spring I met Michael Corbett in my journal. How I loved life. Poems sprang forth. I was smitten by a curly-haired young man. How I allowed him to wound me. If men had been less intriguing, I would have stayed closer to my inner path.

Saturday, October 15, 1994

This evening Mother and I went to hear Terry Tempest Williams at WSU. Such a gentle, humble, yet courageous spirit. She spoke about our connection to the land. She talked of women and bears, how we are like them. We need to hibernate, she said. I am hibernating now, I think. Nothing I think or say matters. And who knows what beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? What great feast will I prepare? What hunger will bare itself and stride forth from a dark cave?

Sunday, October 16, 1994

I dream I see some large turtles, which delight me. A lizard in the water eats a turtle and they disappear. I leave with my friend, who I place on a slide and drag behind me. I look back after awhile because I hear the lizard following. But I have walked faster and no one is following us.

Friday, October 21, 1994

I shopped in the morning. A warm fall day. In the afternoon I went to WSU and hunted for information about Susan Ludvigson. I found little, but finally walked to my car, my legs heavy, and ate a light supper at home. This evening I read in my journals and some poems for class. Now I am at Hesston College, secretly hurting about Michael. I can see more clearly I should have let him wash up on the banks of romantic memories. But I clung to hope. Not entirely sorry about that. The joy of the Lord is your strength.

Saturday, October 22, 1994

Tonight I read how lonely I was at Hesston, and how I sensed something else was in store for me, how I would have to walk alone. I didn’t realize then the loneliness I felt had to do with my illness and the walk I have to take alone, I am taking now. No one understands how I feel and how I manage to live, knowing my body is gradually slipping down a slide to death. And death is not entirely unattractive to me. I stayed behind to say good bye, I thought today.

Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid.

Sunday, October 23, 1994

Church. I did not have much to say in Sunday School. I didn’t say anything at house church where they discussed the rowdy 6-7th grade Sunday School class. Even so, I felt hopeful on my way home. Tomorrow is another day, I thought. New hope. Lunch was at Susan and Roger’s. I didn’t ask Roger to discuss my illness with him. I slept for 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon.

Am I fading away? I feel like that. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Monday, October 24, 1994

Tonight Mother and I drove to Newton to hear Jean Janzen give a poetry reading. I am glad someone gives voice to the prayers our ancestors couldn’t speak. Her husband was gentle and kind. He prayed for me, he said. I am borne up on a thousand prayers. I read in my journal about the swan that visited me in Winnipeg. Now while death strums the finale, perhaps I will sing a song.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Tuesday, October 25, 1994

35 degrees. I was cold today. My feet never really warm up. I said little in poetry class. They had favorable comments for my poem. I felt a moment of realization and pain that I am not the warm, outgoing person I was before. I am still intelligent, though. I can still write.

The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

October 27, 1994

The air has grown colder and I turned on the heater this morning. I am a little afraid of getting cold in the winter. Tonight I went to symphony chorus by myself. I am thinking of quitting the chorus after this performance. My voice hasn’t totally recovered, and I doubt if I’ll make any friends.

I must make up a memory about the spring illness. I can’t remember it.

In the spring

let’s pretend

I was ready for work

the blue dress picked out

when I called Mother

"my heart is fluttering

— can you take me to the hospital?"

Yes, she says. Yes,

I lie on my bed

staring at the frame

Roger comes to the door

breaks the lock

and calls the ambulance

Her color looks good,

he thinks.

Seek and you shall find; knock and it shall open.

Friday, October 28, 1994

I saw Dr. Trego this morning. He doesn’t think I’m on a journey to death. At least he doesn’t think my death is imminent. But he doesn’t see the shadowy workings of my soul. Perhaps I am on a journey I was on already. Perhaps I am more aware of it now.

Mother and I went to hear Anita Skeen this evening.

“So get on with life,” Mother said after I told her about Dr. Trego. I get the sense I am not living my life, according to her. But it is difficult to find a life. I don’t have a host of readers to welcome me into old age and say, “You have done well.” I don’t have a husband to nurture or love. I am turning 40, which should be the prime of life, but instead I am letting go, choosing the essentials for the last leg.

Anita appears to have done well with her life, collected friends and words.

Be sill and know that I am God.

November 1, 1994

I cried some at Mother’s. I couldn’t tell her truly what it was about. I don’t truly know. "Would you like to move in with me or Susan?" No — not yet. Later I read about Flannery O’Connor and how she moved back home to Georgia after she got sick. Perhaps I should move in with a family member. I need to re-create my life.

Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened.

November 2, 1994

I am reading Habit of Being, the letters of Flannery O’Connor, and finding it helpful. When she realized how sick she was, she moved home to her mother’s and bought two peafowl. I wonder what I could buy — a private and delightful dream. Joanna sent me $100 for my birthday.

Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.

November 3, 1994

I woke up feeling shaky and bloody. My period poured forth last night in several large clots. My sheets had a fresh spot, so I washed them. I went for a walk and saw Canadian geese for the first time this fall. I dried my laundry and remade my bed. I settled in my stuffed chair to continue reading Habit of Being until Donna came. We ate at Food for Thought and had a pleasant time. She thought I should work on finding a man, like she did with learning to speak in a group. It was fun to think about, but I don’t think it’s one of my goals. "You need to get over your basic mistrust of them, that it really wouldn’t be worth it," she said. Yes, I agreed, that was probably true.

I went to se Dr. Bajaj, but only saw a nurse who seemed primarily interested in her machine, which she attached to me and monitored my abdominal box. "You’re all set," she said, meaning I could leave. So I drove home and slept till supper. Roger picked me up for choir and I sang Carmina Burana. My legs didn’t feel as tired standing up.

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. Exodus 14:14

Friday, November 4, 1994

I shopped in the morning, got poems for class in the afternoon and saw Ellen at Susan’s house in the evening. It’s interesting to me that Ellen is my friend. She has rich friends, too, but she seems to deem me worthy. Not because I’m rich, or un-rich but because we treasure similar things. Are you writing, she asks? One poem a week, I say, for my class. That’s more than I’m doing, she says.

You are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells within you.

Saturday, November 5, 1994

A solitary day until this evening when Roger invited me to come watch a movie, "Leap of Faith." It was funny and serious. Steve Martin was an evangelist — that was funny — and a boy was healed. Sometimes, no matter how messed up our visions, God jumps in.

Be still and know that I am God.

Monday, November 7, 1994

Tonight my heart started beating fast — 120 beats/minute as I finished dishes. It continued for an hour and I called Dr. Trego who told me to go to the ER. Susan took me there and they couldn’t find any problem. My pulse wouldn’t speed up for them, so I left at last with instructions to visit Dr. Trego tomorrow.

I saw Joanne who said I should think about what I want to do and why I want to do it. Don’t write just because your mother is a prolific writer. Write, if you want to, because you like to write.

It’s all right just to be, she said. You can be like Mary. Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

Wednesday, November 9, 1994

A cold, cloudy day. This is the best part of the day, snuggling under blankets with slippered feet and the knowledge I get to lie down and be warm for 8-9 hours.

The cat is getting herself ready for a night at my feet. I didn’t feel motivated today but I printed off the finished poems so far. After a nap and a hug from Mother I drove home and read Flannery O’Connor. I wonder if she ever grew sad or despondent. She always sounds like she has a lot of pluck.

Saturday, November 12, 1994

Tonight the whole family — Aunt Sue and Uncle Harold, too — got together for my 40th birthday party, with balloons, angel food cake, and stories from my past. And presents. I wish I felt better, that I could respond to my family’s stories with plans for the future, dreams, hopes. The most appealing fantasy right now is crawling into bed and having someone take care of me. My legs feel heavy. My temperature never feels even. Perpetually cold feet, hot shoulders. My teeth are misaligned. I have a lump on my lip and on my finger. Those are my complaints which I know are small. Things to be thankful for: My face is relatively clear. I look normal, even attractive at points. I can still write. I can drive. I’m going to visit Chicago.

Thursday, November 17, 1994

My body seems ready to say good bye. After climbing down the stairs to the chorus room, my heart raced for half an hour. My legs hurt to stand so long during rehearsal. I sang about 25 percent of the time. Now I discover a blood clot on my leg.

My body is ready, but am I ready? I would like to have written something, and perhaps I have, in my journals. It’s all right to just be.

Sunday, November 20, 1994

Today I decided to sleep in so I could go hear Carmina Burana this afternoon. I decided not to sing in it, so that is another thing to say goodbye to.

Yesterday I had two dreams in the morning and as I woke up from my nap. I don’t remember them, but I feel hopeful that I had them.


It was actually more fun to listen to Carmina Burana than to sing. The clouds were lovely as I drove home, windswept and far away.

Monday, November 21, 1994

How would you like to say goodbye to your losses, Joanne asked. I’d like to have a bonfire and throw in my ballet leotard — I’ll never have strong legs — a pair of socks — my feet will never feel warm — a ring — I’ll never be married — a piece of music — I will not sing — an airline ticket to Chicago.

Things I plan to keep:

a letter — I plan to write letters

a homemade book — I plan to make more

a book — I plan to read

fall leaves — I plan to take walks

Tuesday, November 22, 1994

My defibrillator shocked me three times as I put the cat in the car at 6:25. Dr. Bajaj thought I should not go to Chicago. So I cried, with Susan, and Mother came over and I cried with her, too. I feel like Job, I told Susan. I am trapped in this small life with my friends far away. I called Diane and talked with her for awhile, and I left a message for Fran, who was at class. I feel a little better now.

Wednesday, November 23, 1994

I came over to Mother’s for lunch and have stayed for the night. I slept for three hours this afternoon. I dream of a magic pill that will give me back all my energy and my interest in life. I started a new drug for arrhythmias. I have come to Mother’s for the holidays. Here I am loved and fed and kept warm.

Thursday, November 24, 1994

A quiet day. Mother and I ate breakfast with the Harmses. I read Dorothy Day. We went to James and Kathy’s for Thanksgiving. I felt pretty out of it, with men glued to football and women busy in the kitchen.

Thankfulness. I am thankful for my friends, though far away, still love me. I am thankful I can read books that carry me away to another time and place. I am thankful for my past life.

Saturday, November 26, 1994

I am moving so slowly and all I want to do is lie in a warm bed. This is probably due to Betapace, the new drug I’m taking, which slows my heartbeat down.

I talked with Mother about my life. I don’t want to live, I told her. But you said in the hospital that you wanted the defibrillator, you wanted to live, she said.

I was speaking from my idea of life to that point. Now I see that I can do little. I can’t even visit my friends. I don’t want to write. I would like to have written, but I don’t have the energy.

Mother cried. It’s so hard to let you go, she said. I cried to see her cry. I was glad though I could say some of these things.

What would you like to do, she asked? I’d like to read books. And I didn’t tell her this, but I’d like to say goodbye. I’d like to say goodbye to my friends and family.

Afternoon nap dream

I am setting off with a male friend on a journey into some caves. Some people come out to the entrance, saying they want to help us, but I don’t trust them. A woman gives me a clock which ticks loudly. As soon as the helpers are out of sight, I hide it in a rock. Maybe the clock is a way they will know where we are. Maybe it’s a bomb.

The man and I set off on our journey, our fingers laced together. He is stronger and he knows the way.

Talk to that part of your body that has given you so much trouble.

"Dear heart,

how good and beautiful you are.

What's troubling you?

what are you holding inside?

Don't be afraid.

you can let it go now.

I will love you just as you are.

I will hold you.

I will wrap you in white light.

How happy you will feel."

Sunday, November 27, 1994

I went to church and I was accepted as an Associate Member. Roger and Susan were gone, and Donna was gone. Sometimes I think this year is out of sync. Nothing works out well. Even so, it feels good to receive a welcome from other members.

Monday, November 28, 1994

I would like to say goodbye, I told Joanne. Sometimes I think that is why I am sill alive. Go ahead, she said. Eat dessert now because the mine may fall. Give the gifts of love to your loved ones before you fall. In Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa talks about returning home to your soul’s place. I recognized myself in that. I want to return home. I’m not sure if that means returning to Chicago, or returning to an inner space. But I want to return home. Moving to Wichita took myself away from my soul’s needs, and the trauma last spring sent my impoverished soul hiding in a distant outpost. I invite it back to its home, and together we will find a home, and a fire, and holy silence.

Tuesday, November 29, 1994

I went to poetry class and didn’t say a word. So I was silent. I feel I am seven again, and Mother asks, Why don’t you say anything? Where is the key to unlock my heart?

Friday, December 2, 1994

The cat is draped across my knee and nosing my hand for some strokes. At WSU today I noticed some small bushes with red leaves on the top and yellow underneath. An elm tree was still half covered with yellow leaves. It still feels like fall, and fall seemed hardly different than summer, which is now my favorite season. The season when I dream of warm feet.

Tuesday, December 6, 1994

My last poetry class. I think my poems are good. The other students say so, too. But I am so quiet. Will I ever break free? Will I always see men as smarter, the ones with the voice?

Wednesday, December 7, 1994

I handed in my poems at WSU. It was cold, and the sun had set, leaving a few clouds bandaging the sky. One solitary figure hurried out to the parking lot and disappeared. Christine, student, goodbye.

Here at home in my warm bed, I am happier, with a guitar strumming from the radio and my cat curled against my knee.

Thursday, December 8, 1994

The apartment is quiet. My heart flips in my chest. I wonder how long I will go on. When will my heart flip over and out. I don’t have much energy left to write stories, to cook, to clean, to shop, to plan plays. I will be an audience. I will read books.

Friday, December 9, 1994

In my journal I saw my desire to live. It was a choice I made, even when things looked grim. This time I feel my choice is death. I don’t feel my strength returning like during past illnesses. Part of the problem is that I have so little life to return to. I have given up my church, my friends. I have never found my work terribly gripping. It hasn’t given me life. So I feel little reason to live. Is this wrong? I pray for small reasons to smile.

Saturday, December 10, 1994

My cat made me smile tonight, poking her paw at me from behind the closet door. I went to Susan and Roger’s for lunch. It’s so hard to bring up the topic. "I think I’m going to die." I don’t feel unhappy, but my heart jumps around a lot, and my feet always feel like someone has plunged them in ice.

December 12, 1994

I visited Dr. Trego, and he told me to visit my friends in Chicago, and go for walks at a shopping mall. I will consider a trip at Christmas, if possible, and Twin Lakes will have to do for my walks. I ran into Shirley Harms at Dillon’s, and she said, "You’re always in my prayers." I am glad I am held by these invisible strands. How many prayers, unknown like this one, hold me up in a network of faith?

December 13, 1994

I went for a short walk at Twin Lakes, and tonight I worked on my Christmas letter. My ankles are fat, unhappy white lumps.

December 14, 1994

I have lived beyond the logic of pessimism for 10 years, I told Joanne. But this time the logic has got me. Then dream some dreams, she said, and live them out. I dream I am walking happily through a forest. My feet are warm and bare, feeling the damp moss between my toes.

I dream I spend a month with Joanna, and a month with Fran. I live in a convent where I am free to walk, and every meal is made.

A cup of tea with Fran, Diane, Carolyn, Julie, Katherine, Janelle, Linda Raymond, Jeanne Jus, Carol Brandt, Mary Jude, Laurie, Mary Ann, Nancy Onderdonk.

December 15, 1994

Tonight Mother, Roger and I went to shop for a car at Mel Hambleton Ford. It is fun to watch Roger, who knows more about cars than most car salesmen, bamboozle the young gentleman, who wanted Mother to sign a statement saying she will drive home a green Contour if their price matches ours. Of course Mother says, "I won’t sign anything," and we leave to drink tea at the Harmses and laugh about the salesman’s games.

They only wanted to give $800 for my car. Hmph.

I dream that Joanna and I go through my belongings giving away extras and excess and making everything neat and tidy.

Friday, December 16, 1994

Mother and I went to a Christmas extravaganza at Central Community Church, complete with dancers, angels, flying angels, camels and a donkey. What struck me is how male the cast appeared. Did Jesus only call men? Were men the only ones who followed him?

December 17, 1994

I put flannel sheets on my bed, took out the trash, installed new cockroach traps and worked on my Christmas letter. I’m only about half-way through the alphabet. But I will keep going!

Fran called today. She is so affirming. It makes me believe in myself again. Whether or not I am an ego-free spiritual being, I pray that I would grow freer of my ego’s wants, and truly be led by the spirit.

Tonight my dream is Fran’s idea — that when I die I will just be drawn up into God’s presence. I will go for a walk in familiar ground, and find myself in loving unfamiliar ground.

December 18, 1994

I got shocked three times after brushing my teeth, so I didn’t go to church. Susan picked me up for lunch, and then we went to house church and then the children’s Christmas program at Lorraine. Now I am at home, and I am very tired


Thursday, December 22, 1994


I felt terrible on Monday and Mother took me to her house. I called Dr. Bajaj and he said to start a new medicine, Ethmozine, which would deal with the arrhythmias I was having. That night (I stayed with Mother) I got shocked at 4:00. My heart pounded and stopped every few minutes, until Mother woke up at 7:30. She went to make me some breakfast, and when I sat up to eat it, I got shocked again, three times. I ate breakfast lying down. Mother called Dr. Trego, after I called Dr. Bajaj and talked to his nurse, who said it would take two days to feel the effects of the medicine. "Just wait two days. You may get shocked again. Let us know what happens." Mother didn’t want to wait while I grew weaker, so we took Dr. Trego’s invitation to meet him in the ER. He thought perhaps I had an infection and invited me to say in the hospital while he checked it out. I stayed, happy to be in a bed with buttons to lower and raise.

My blood was cultured, my throat examined, my urine examined, but today Dr. Trego says no infection was found.

Ah well. Meanwhile Dr. Bajaj has started me on another new med, Quinidine, which has slowed my heart rate down. Dr. Trego also suggested I see Elsie Stelberg, who has now started me on Zoloft, an antidepressant. I sort of see the sense of it. It is one tool, she said, in helping you feel better. If I am going to live, I want to feel better. I want to feel the urge to do things. I feel dizzy, spacey, weak, but I have started to walk in the hallways, and I hope to head home tomorrow.

January 7, 1995

Well, my dear old journal, who I have neglected. I am still at Mother’s house, feeling very slightly better.

Very slightly.

Tonight’s dream. I wish I were lying on some sand on a beautiful beach, and that someone would rub my neck and shoulders, which are very tight.

January 11, 1995


Although I did not sleep well, I had the energy to take a 15-minute walk around the house. I wonder how many feet that is.

I phoned Linda at Venture House, and Martha at Lorraine Avenue Church to say no, I can’t do the newsletter, and no, I can’t come to the Wednesday suppers.

February 21, 1995

I made it to Chicago, I made it back. It was a good trip and I felt slightly more energy on my return. I thought I would start driving on my return and drove my car to Dillon’s with Mother. I think that is the last time I will drive my car. My heart kept rambling in my chest and I felt so terrible I went to see Dr. Trego. Do you have any more magic tricks up your sleeve? I just want to die, I cried. He held my hand. He had no tricks. Talk about what you said with your mother, he said.

Mother cried. She didn’t want to let me go. But you may go, she said later.

We have called in Hospice, which has offered a hospital bed, home bath care, a nurse and helped us sign all the forms. DNR. Susan can take care of my finances.

Now I lie in bed and think about my life and my death. Sometime my spirit will catch hold of a heart tremor and be pulled across to peace and friends and family. Will I see Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa and Susan Perlman and Esther Ebel? I hope so.

Monday, February 27, 1995

It is gray outside and I have begun to forget what day it is or what time it is after I sleep. The home health care aide came this morning and helped me shower and made my bed. Outside the golfers are taking their opening shots, wearing hat and gloves instead of shorts and T-shirts of a few days back. No birds have found my bird feeder. I invite them all, the red cardinals, blue jays, yellow meadowlarks, turtle doves, sparrows, finches. Come one, come all. You are welcome.


Fill the bathtub to the brim. Add bubbles and oil. Put on a tape of flute music, or any music that make you feel you are lolling in a private sunken bath in a wooded glen. There is light all around you, fingering through the green fronds, filling you with energy with each slow breath.

Wednesday, April 12, 1995

For a week or so I did not think I’d get to the end of my journals. But now at last with the nausea quieted down, I read to the end. I wanted so badly to write a book, and now I see that I have written one, perhaps several, in these pages. There is my wish to be healthy, and my gradual acceptance that my heart is giving out. There is my wish to be married and close to someone, and my increasing joy in solitude. There is my desire to know and commune with God, who gave me this life and offers me small glimpses of this creative love, yet is still unknowable.

Paradoxes, all of them. I am ready to die, but would be delighted to recover fully to life.

April 17, 1995

A gray day, but the leaves are green and the sparrows have come for their morning fed. I slept quite well after a night of shortness of breath and a day spent entirely in bed.

How long will I live? Sometimes I wish it would come quickly and seal me away.

May 13, 1995

It’s a beautiful day today. This morning I thought, I’d like to go outside, so I called up Roger because he’s the only one strong enough to push me in the wheelchair down the stairs. "I’ll be over in 5 minutes," he said, which I knew meant 10 minutes, so I finished a letter to Sam and Laurie, put on my slippers and Aunt Sue (Mother was out grocery shopping) got a portable oxygen tank ready. Roger drove up and off we went, just as Mother drove up.

"We’re taking Chris for a walk. We won’t be gone long," Aunt Sue assured Mother. We went all the way to Botanica, saw a few flowers through the fence, and two yellow butterflies cavorting in the grass. Then we went back and looked at the irises in the backyard before climbing up the stairs again. How good it was to feel the fresh air and feel the sun on my face and all the green growing things.

Monday, May 15, 1995

So what does it feel like to die? I’m living on the edge I know, and miraculously have worked out most of my current problems. I couldn’t breathe, so I got oxygen, and I still couldn’t breathe, so we raised the Lasix and I slept sitting up. Last night after a busy day of guests and watching "Much Ado About Nothing" till 11:00, I slept through the night for the first time in weeks. My back burns during the day and my feet always feel bathed in ice. I wake up at night to pee (which I’ve done for years), but now the back of my nightgown is soaked with sweat. I’ve gotten used to this and even my cold feet.

Even the runs of my heart and occasional dizziness don’t scare me. I wonder, is this it? Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub, lub, lub, lub, lub, lub, lub, lub, lub . . . My heart is running towards God. When the breathing gets so difficult I feel my heart struggling and that’s what I think. It gives me joy and hope.

There have been a few miracles. My favorite one is about a red cardinal. I was feeling so bad one day that I prayed, Oh God, if only I could see that cardinal again that comes to our birdfeeder. In a few minutes the female flew up on top of the feeder and I smiled. I haven’t seen her for weeks now, but I sill smile at the memory.

Tuesday evening

Dying is learning to say good bye. I’ve said good bye to my work, my friends from Chicago, my daily walks beside the river, my cat who loved to rub my head and curl in a ball at my feet, my ability to write in lovely penmanship, my ability to draw, my desire to learn watercolors, my desire to write a book, my hope of getting married, my apartment, my car, my ability to sing, my solitude.

Although tonight I have convinced Mother to leave me alone. I am enjoying the loving quiet, a deep bank of quiet, white snow.

May 17, 1995

A gray, humid day. I continue to feel remarkably better. I can breathe now, and I even lower my bed when I sleep so that I don’t have to sleep sitting up. I have visions of getting better, and moving to Susan and Roger’s house. I know I still could die quite suddenly, but it’s much more fun to die feeling good and doing the things I love.

May 20, 1995

I have been in a great mood and am pondering why it is I still feel remarkably better. I think part of it is a certain separation I had to achieve with Mother. I realized that she didn’t need to read my journals and as I realized this, I began to feel better. I also started using oxygen, increased my Lasix and gradually gained my strength back after a lengthy bout of nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and a month of heavy bleeding. I don’t have my period any more! I think I’m too skinny. I feel now as though I will live, something I never felt after the cardiac arrest last April. I can feel it in my bones. I know still that death is hovering close by, like the mourning doves which hide in the grass and eat the seeds the sparrows throw on the ground. But I have been given a little more time.

May 23, 1995

I had an interesting conversation with Ellen Slaney, the owner of The Celestine Prophecy I read. She told me she had liver cancer, and one day at a time of adoration at her Catholic church, she heard God say, "I’m going to make you well." After that two friends came over and said they would offer healing touch, and they came every Friday evening and talked and laughed and did healing touch. Later her doctor told her that her cancer was gone.

We agreed that getting better was a matter of getting energy. This comes through prayer, laughter, eating the healthiest foods, healing touch, touch, massage. I wonder if God is saying, "I will make you well." My body feels like that message is getting through, but I am not sure. Ellen encouraged me to call Marilyn Yoon, for some healing touch, and I will. I might even call John Schmidt for some massages. I should ask Donna how she meditates. And I will consider Ellen’s suggestion to call Dr. Beyrle, a naturopath who could help me get off of all this medication. I will start doing Reiki again.

May 24, 1995

I dreamed during my nap that I was lying upstairs, sick, when some bombs started to fall. I immediately went to the basement with some other people. Two children accompanied me, not my own children, but I would accompany them. One was a sick little boy of about three, who I held in my arms. The other was a girl of about four who I held by the hand. "Oh, yuck," someone said. The basement floor was covered with roaches. "Just walk around and step on them," I told the girl, and she went off happily to do this. I saw three chairs pushed together where I would lay the boy down. I woke up.

What did you feel like as a roach, Donna asked? Ugly and worthless, I said. And as the little girl? Christine would take care of me. And I would have fun stepping on the roaches. And as the little boy? I was sick and afraid and I couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t you breathe, Donna asked? Because there’s so much fear.

May 26, 1995

"Nothing happens by coincidence," Marilyn said when she came over for my first treatment. She had been looking for someone who would be a long term client so she can complete certification. I’m willing to be seen over a long period, but like she said, we can’t be assured I’ll get better. My first treatment was relaxing. I felt safe and warm. Maybe I need to say something yet. I felt more heat when her hands were over my throat.

Monday, May 29, 1995

This morning I said good bye to Joanna, Sam and Laurie. We had a short but wonderful visit. It was good to be able to say, "I think I’m going to get better," and believe it in my heart. "What are you going to do?" Sam asked. "I’m going to write a book, get healthy, and I think I want to get married." It was so good to see them and the joy on their faces at my progress.

May 30, 1995

I continue to feel better and better. I am practicing breathing like Donna told me. I’m contemplating moving to the basement. I guess I need to se Dr. Trego pretty soon and get my defibrillator turned back on. Then I can go on and start walking and climbing stairs. It’s all quite exciting. I feel like I’m being born again.

June 1, 1996

Marilyn was here today again. A very relaxing visit. I told her that I always have been the sick, dying person in our family, and now I’m ready for a new image. My family, however still sews the old image, and responds to the perceived needs of a sick person who is going to die. Why does our family need this persona? Why did you need it, Marilyn asked? I think I wanted peace between Mother and Joanna, I told her. When I am sick, there’s more goodwill in the house. But now there is peace between them, so it doesn’t seem necessary to be sick anymore.

So envision yourself well, she said. What do you look like?

I’m trim, not skinny, I have strong muscles and I love to walk. My hair is shiny and clean, and my cheeks are rosy and I love to dance. I like to throw enormous parties and intimate gatherings. I have several very close friends and a host of good friends. I travel occasionally to faraway and exotic places. I write, paint pictures and I counsel people, informally.

I have a weekly tea-time with several good friends. Men are attracted to me. I am not sure I will marry.

How often would you like to check in with this new person? Once a week, I said. Maybe some more will come to me. Marilyn reviewed Reiki positions for me and encouraged me to do it. Something else to add to my list above.

June 2, 1995 Friday evening

Ellen Slaney called today to say she can’t come volunteer for the next couple of weeks because her daughter, in Ohio, has a malignant tumor, and she wants to go be with her. It’s curious that both she and Pat, the bath aid, are not able to come because of family illness. Maybe I need to stay well for those who are ill. Maybe I need to understand the difficulty of being a parent of a sick person.

June 5, 1995

A cool, damp Monday. This morning I felt normal and it felt strange to be lying in a bed in the living room. I feel I will break free of this bed, this oxygen tube, this house, this city, this sate, this country. Even so, after reading Dakota, by Kathleen Norris, I’m more convinced of the value of living in a place with few supports. There are riches in the desert. Although I can do little, I can write. I can even learn to paint.

June 7, 1995

Now I wake up in the morning about 7:00, and listen to all the morning sounds, bird calls, until around 8:00 when I join Mother at the breakfast table. I can get my own breakfast now. I read the newspaper and eat. After breakfast I now can go immediately to the bathroom to brush my teeth, sitting on the toilet. I breathe deeply as often as I remember, to give my heart more oxygen for its task, and to breathe in all the energy around me. I take my shower, sitting on the shower stool, and today I even wiped the shower door after I was done.

June 10, 1995

This weekend I am at Susan and Roger’s because Mother is off in Pennsylvania at a women’s conference. Here at the Harms house I can act more like a healthy person. The bed isn’t sitting in the living room. My cat is here, too; it feels good to see her sitting in the sun from the living room windows. Last night I went to church, my first outing in four months. The children had a Vacation Bible School program and Christiana was in a play which was very good. The little girls were celebrating by doing cartwheels across the church basement.

I had a lot of gurgling in my lungs when I woke at 4:15 a.m. I think this was due to eating a heavy supper late, drinking more, being more active, and the disconnection of my oxygen. I reattached the oxygen, did some Reiki, raised the pillows, and then I slept a little more before Roger’s radio sounded and I got up at 7:45. The gurgling had almost stopped. I did not take any Benadryl for the second night in a row. Sleeping till 4:15 is very good for me.

Monday, June 12, 1995

I dream that an interesting man comes to me and asks me about a poem I’ve written. It’s called "List." He wants to know what I meant. I don’t have it, but I tell him it’s in my computer. I remember it as a poem about the coming of Jesus in my life. I wake up, glad that I remembered the name, and sure I will find it in my computer. I vaguely recall the details of the poem. Now at 11:00 a.m. I don’t remember any poem called "List." I will look in my computer anyway.

Last night I slept in the basement for the first time in four months. My belongings are gathered lovingly around the room. There’s a lot of life here, I thought. I collected my favorite earrings that I had given to Christiana, and Mother gave back a summer skirt I had given her. I got my checkbook, too. I can start writing my own checks.

June 13, 1995

Mother has left now on this Tuesday afternoon, and Tee is coming over for a visit. This morning I did little writing; I think about my book, which whispers to me, "Don’t quit now, I’m coming: sit at the computer and listen."

But another voice says, "It’s all right to rest."

The move to the basement opens a whole area of cleaning up. I do a little bit each day. I imagine taking my CD player down there, and filling the walls with pictures, covering my bed with the new quilt Susan made.

This evening I feel especially strong. I walk eight times, to the front door and the back door.

June 20, 1995

I’ve spent the day writing from my old journals, eating a great lunch, doing Reiki and having a nap, and visiting with Ellen Slaney. I told her all about the good things that have happened, and she was delighted. I also walked 15 times between the front door and the back door, and I will do it again yet.

June 24, 1995

Yesterday during my afternoon nap I dreamed that a musician was starting a beat, and pretty soon the other instruments would join in. I think of my heart, starting to beat, and soon the other organs will join in a happy, exciting musical chorus.

Susan is thinking of becoming a doctor. She and Roger were here last night and they discussed the fact that most patients today believe that medicine can cure them, a faulty belief in their view. I don’t believe that doctors can cure me. The source of healing is internal, and yet it is beyond me. I make the choice to increase my energy, and others make the choice to pray for me. Doctors are helpful, because they understand how the body works, and can give it aids to help it along to health. I do believe that the body knows how to cure itself. My brain and my heart hold the secret of making the heart well. My kidneys know the way to get better.

June 27, 1995

I have not taken any sleeping pill for two nights. Last night I gave myself another Reiki treatment and wondered what the dark silence had to say to me. I feel comfortable in it. I will try to be open to the voices I hear. I am thinking about healing, my dreams for the future and I sense Mother is not ready to hear about my wild dreams. Last night I realized two things I will do that will probably scare her. I want to start driving, and I want to get a current green card so I can travel. I wear the oxygen as little as possible during the day. I have begun my outdoor walks to Botanica, and I have visions of walking a long way by the end of the summer. Today I will make lunch, leftover beef stew, cooked carrots, lettuce salad, and grapes.

June 28, 1995

I am thinking of having a tea party in celebration of my healing. We will invite (list of 30 guests).

June 29, 1995

I watched a show on poetry with Bill Moyers. I was aware of how much energy the female poet had, and she talked about the importance of energy. The last section was on the poet Rumi, a 12th century mystic, and I sensed how much energy he must have had. "There are many ways to fall down and kiss the ground," was one of the quotes I recognized from previous readings. I woke up with that thought in my head.

July 3, 1995

In the afternoon I hung up my garment bag and cleaned out a bunch of dresser drawers. It feels good to be able to do this. My legs felt wasted after I was done, but my heart still beats quietly. Very occasionally my heart jumps, as if to say, hey, don’t give up now. Keep breathing deeply, remember your secret room by the ocean with smooth stone walls curving around you, the sound of the ocean lulling you to perfect quietude.

This evening I convinced Mother to walk with me to Botanica. What a delight to breathe in the moist, warm, growing endless air.

July 5, 1995

Susan moved my CD player to the basement. I just have to move the rest of my desk items and I’m out of the living room.

July 6, 1995

Dear Friends,

A few months ago I was sure I would not live through the spring, but now as I walk through the flowers at Botanica, I feel my energy returning, and I am able to do things I thought I had given up forever — drive, cook, even write letters. Why does one person get better, while another gets sick and dies? Why am I getting better? I think each of you holds a reason.

"Oh," my brother James says, "It’s because I loaned you a laptop computer." Yes, that computer helped me record my feelings, write a multitude of legible letters, and begin a book. It gave me something purposeful to do with my time.

"It’s the home cooked food — sausage, borscht and sour cream," Mother says. "Enough of this no-fat ice cream."

"A concert at Botanica," Roger says. "Who else can push her there in the wheelchair with oxygen?"

"I started her on the oxygen," Donna, the hospice nurse, says.

"I stopped the medication she couldn’t tolerate," Dr. Trego adds.

"Well, she wouldn’t be alive without the defibrillator," Dr. Bajaj says.

Two little voices pipe up. "It’s because we sopped by with our mother," Jamie announces.

"And bounced on her hospital bed," Jennifer adds.

"It’s the healing touch that I give her each week," Marilyn says.

"And the healing energy that I send her each morning," Joanna adds, "all the way from Connecticut."

"She has time for a weekly visit from me," Donna Froese says. "And she is learning to meditate."

"It’s the prayers we prayed for you," my Chicago and Lorraine Avenue Church friends say.

"I couldn’t sleep at night because of my baby, so instead of sleeping, I prayed and asked God to make her well," Christine Frisoni adds.

"I phoned her once a week from Chicago," Fran says." A week’s worth of laughter gave us both the energy for another week."

"I phoned her, too," Diane adds. "And I sent her thoughtful cards." A number of other friends nod their heads.

"And the flowers," a number of other friends say. "She took her cue for getting better from the green and growing things."

The list could go on and on. Thank you for your gifts of energy and life. I’m getting better and better. In fact I’m getting so much better it’s time to have a party. Please don’t stop what you’re doing — keep praying — but also come celebrate my new lease on life.

Friday, July 21, 1995

On a moist night like tonight I wish I could journey forever, past the dark rivers with ghosts of trees reflecting up and out, past the fears of young boys, to a time of patience and wisdom. I prayed last night for a dream. It did not come last night, but this afternoon I dreamed that I was walking with Dick Van Dyke. We were holding hands. I asked him how old he was, but he didn’t answer.

“I’m 40,” I said. “I used to feel like I was 80, but now I don’t.” I hoped our relationship would progress to something deeper. I thought about telling him that I had always liked Mary Tyler Moore. He seemed a pleasant, aging chap.

Saturday, October 28, 1995

I feel almost normal now. On Saturdays I clean the bathroom. I rest in the afternoon for 1 1/2 hours, instead of falling into a 2-3 hour nap. I no longer feel dizzy when I walk. On rare occasions, my heart startles me, as if to say, "Yes, I am sill very fragile." But through the day and the night it beats on, determined and happy to live.

Wednesday, November 1, 1995

The weather has turned cold, but sill I feel energy in my legs. They have come a long way. They have a long way to go.


Draw a picture of yourself

as an old person.

Your face is full of wrinkles

and your eyes are two tiny stars.

You have lived a long life,

full of mystery, travel and surprise.

About the Author

Christine Ruth  Wiebe

Christine Ruth Wiebe (Tabor College 1976) was a writer of poetry and journalism. Born in Northern Saskatchewan to Walter and Katie Funk Wiebe, she was raised in Hillsboro, Kansas, where she later attended Tabor College. Christine volunteered with the Mennonite Central Committee, worked at Marymound School in Saskatchewan, and taught English at Hesston College before returning to school to earn a degree in Nursing from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois (B.S. 1985). During this time Christine also struggled with lupus and the side-effects of its treatment, which caused a heart attack in 1985. Christine worked as a nurse in Chicago, participated in a writer's group, and began to write poetry in earnest. In 1992 she moved back to Kansas to be closer to family in an attempt to cope with her failing health and enrolled in the MFA program at Wichita State University. During several health setbacks she created a self-published and illustrated book, How to Stay Alive, about her struggle with lupus and her calling as a writer. She died in 2000. A number of her poems were published posthumously in Dreamseeker Magazine in 2002 and 2004.