I see trees of Green, red roses too…

Writing currently takes a level of concentration I find difficult to accept; I start to write, the thoughts in my mind seem to flow until I open WordPress and begin to type. I cannot remember how to do paragraphs on my keyboard or where to enter the title. I cannot find the songs I want to play while I blog.

Somehow my mind remembers a typewriter better these days and I look for the return bar, I hit the key that says return knowing that somehow on this program and this keyboard its more difficult than that.

And I almost put it all away again and go to bed, early as always because the evenings darken the shadows and unravel the rememberings.

I know I am the baby here in my landlocked silver aged cruise. Meals are tasty and prepared by others, no longer do I seek out a away to get what I crave, be it food or adventure, but a way to crave what I get. Activities, friendliness and food all expertly tailored to us, the target audience, the great ship of senior and assisted living sailing around the iceberg of age and illness.

I’d rather not be doing this, but at least I am doing it someplace safe, someplace fun, surrounded by the love of friends and family.

However, a year ago I was still working my last week as a nurse, not ignorant of how fragile life is, and not unfamiliar with stormy life seas, but as FB keeps reminding me, ignorant of the iceberg in my path.

Maybe I’m fiddling on the Titanic, however it’s still truly a wonderful world.

Good Morning America, How are ya,

So I will be posting the next two poems for my 31 in 31 later, but for now I am just going to try and post a blog about my ride on this magic carpet made of steel.
The most important thing I have learned is to love America’s Native Son even more than I did before the trip. Best movie I’ve ever streamed has passed by this windows. All my views have justified my lifetime love of trains, 

The food is tasty, most people swear by the Train French Toast, it was good, but Iam stuck on their continental breakfast with oatmeal and berries for breakfast, a  square croissant for midmorning coffee and later a yogurt snack. All three of my Hobbit breakfasts (1st, 2nd and elevensees for under 10$ when I am in Coach and delivered free in 1st class (except the tip). Dinners are presented as pretty as the food is delicious. My favorites are the tender and perfectly seasoned Southwest Chicken Breast and their vegetarian plate.

As to my beverages on the train, just say choices are many and their best quality, including coffee (sigh) is, well, they are ample.

 Train travelis comfortable! The reclining coach seats are wide enough for my fluffy butt and I sleep pretty well there, the bed in the sleeper car is like being rocked gently in Momma Earths arms. 

Overall the service has been excellent, and fellow passengers, both local and international,  are friendly and kind.

Crowfae says when its all about the destination, fly; but once or twice in your life, slow down and make it about the journey  and take the train.

Day 6: 31 in 31

Thoughts while waiting

I keep the TV off at home

Sheltering from Hurricanes, mass shooting, hateful raves of small and disrespectful men debating lives they wish to rule

choose not to understand.

We are what we consume, and the news will infiltrate my dreams, squelch my natural courage and compassion.

So I shelter my soul beneath chosen silence.


The TV in the station is perpetually on,

I drown in repetitive fear and hype

even through the barrier of music and my earphones

spewing from Fox on one side

Across from CNN.

No escape for those who wait.

My adrenaline levels

long for legs that always work when I will them.

No shelter in this culture of fear

And hyperbole

I wait to evacuate.

Day 3:31 in 31  Front Porch Epiphany

It started in the west, behind the break of trees

A racous caw of alarm,

“Coming, coming, coming!’

Other corvid voices adding “Closer, closer, closer!”

“Coming! Coming coming!”

“Flee, flee, flee!”

Innocent of cause, I watch and listen.

I cannot hear the engine noise carried on the breeze

until long after the Chikadee aand whipporwhill, the finch and jay

join the siren song.

“Evacuate-ate-ate, Evacuate-ate-ate!”

“Fleeeee we will! Fleeeee we will! Fleeeee we will!”

“Go, go, go; hope, hope, hope”

“Fly fly, why?”

“Not me, not me, not me”

“Shhh,”the mother sparrow says to her late brood, “we stay stay stay.”

“Danger! Danger! Danger!” the murder echoes through its ranks.

Even the donkeys on the next door farm begin a warning bray.

The mockingbird, city born, makes siren sounds as it flit from tree to tree.
Then I hear the engines south of me, and see them come

the metal beasts that eat the trees.

The roads needed clearing, a man a house,

and every pen a page.
I understood the need they met, these ripping, gripping teeth of steel

but never understood before, how those who live there feel.

What would you do if I sang out of tune…

So my last blog mentioned a third person in Connecticut to thank for keeping me alive, but this will not be that story. For one thing, so much of that story is their story, and for a second, two stories are more than enough to establish the fact that my guardian angels wore very human faces.

I did thank Grace face to face, and we talked of her daughter Marie, who died of breast cancer as an adult, and who I knew and loved as a child. Grace and I reminisced, shared stories of our lives and current paths. It was lovely, I was thankful for a chance to say thank you.

Gratitude is the theme of this rock star farewell tour.

From Connecticut I took the train South to Georgia, my foster mother Connie met me at the station after the train paused an interminable 2 hours just 10 minutes from the station waiting for freight trains to pass.

Staying breathing, heart beating is not enough, I needed to learn how to live. I needed to finally experience the foundational Maslowian need of safety, unconditional love. Connie and Ed met that need for me.

Connie loves to quilt. Nothing is trash in her scrap bag, and color studies of otherwise incogruent prints bow to the will of her quick fingers and become a warm and cozy work of art.

Wiz(Ed) sits like Yoda, laughs like a Buddha and facilitates the most FUNctional outcome in whatever he is facing, whether it’s pruning a storm torn tree or picking the evening movie.

They are the seed source for so much of what is right with me. I worry that I am a disappointment to them. I have nothing to give them, not even the comfort of knowing we walk the same spiritual paths.

Which is how I am reminded that this is where I learned the taste of unconditional love.

I ask in my meditations for a chance to be a small service to this family that has been so much for me.

In the car with Connie that morning, Heather (third child) calls soliciting an adult to vacation with them to Orlando. Three children, all with some level of special needs; three adults pretty well necessary. Connie has prior appointment with soon to pop pregnant woman. Other Grandma has health issues.

I have no unchangeable plans. I may not be capable of full shifts, any real level of lifting, making the split second life saving decisions, or verifying med calculations anymore, but the rest of my job I am still pretty good at; the playing games, singing songs, observing and being present.

We negotiate my restrictions and I get my questions answered and suddenly two dreams, two more of my twenty wishes, are coming true.

It’s Tuesday morning. It has taken a whole week to complete and edit this entry, but one week ago I agreed to be here, in Orlando, being of service to Connie and Ed grandchildren and daughter at ( wait for it) Universal Studios Orlando aka Harry Potter paradise.

Sunday I sat in a church between Connie and Ed, unfamiliar with the hymn, the phrasing and notes escaped me and my voice carries because I love to sing, but nobody even flinched.

I am so grateful. I am useful, even as my skills change.

And today, I am seeing The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

I am happy.

I more than get by with the help of my friends, I am high on the joy of this chosen family.

Who are these children who scheme and run wild…

Three is a magic number, three legs stabalize a stool, three points define a space and tragedy they say comes in three; there were three distinct times between the age of 12 and 19 when a small blip of kindness on the part of a person with no investment in my existence made all my crazy adventures possible.

My last blog told the story of the first, This is the story of the second, a time in my life where joy was as hidden as the sun this misty, moisty seaside morning. And very fitting for a second story, it involves two boys, well men now, and men we thought then, and I woman quite grown. Reality was we were merely puppies, rolling and growling at shadows; tumbling and rolling,  tugging at the seams of real life with our sharp milk teeth.

It was spring, and I was truly alone in the world, hungry for food, hungry for meaning, hungry for touch and thoroughly adverse to anything that looked like love. My heart had been ripped away by my mothers slow death and scattered to the tides by abandonment.

I practiced laying on the train tracks, rolling away as it hit the turn. I was afraid of hurting anyone else.  No, I could not do that to the conductor. No thought of razor blades this time, to risky that someone I knew would find me, and I wanted to be gone, but an accident would save anyone from the guilts and regrets that plagued me from one I loved’s suicide attempt.

Don’t understand why I am wired this way, perhaps the need to take on the worlds pain made my adolescence harder, but I was and am wired to be kind and to be useful, nothing more and never accepting of less.

So now I knew this ending would be a a carefully orchestrated accident. I would start swimming out from the shore as the tide turned and swim until exhausted, I was known for taking risks, and at night, sliver moon, I would not be visible.

The 24 hours passed, the deep mist in my soul had not cleared. I changed to jeans, their weight would make it easier to accomplish my goal. But then the phone on the wall rang, TC said he was home and bored. the sun was still up, I had time to go over, hang out with him, listen to music, make him laugh. And then there was his brother Danny. Adorable, funny and unpredictable as everything. 

The details of the late afternoon escape me except for a small collection of Emily Dickinson poems from Danny, Elton John on the stereo and lots of talk about death, life, a favorite snippet of lyrics, the meaning of beauty, whether this girl or that girl was hotter, and always a bit of talk of the ever enigmatic Carl Frye III. We would lay on our backs on the bed next to each other, usually more interested in the way our thoughts entertwined bodies melding. But we were puppies pretending to be dogs and just discovering the magic of libito, and I was so empty that the evening was inevitable. and for a moment I was real again.

But then I noticed it was dark and I wanted to leave, your voice sounded a little hurt when I started dressing, and I said, “I’m done.” You asked my just to stay. And your brother came in and made jokes at us and so somehow I stayed.

And like so often happens if we just stay, for the night cares slittle about our faith, it just ends.  The morning dawned golden, the cold grip on my heart loosened, and as I lay listening to TC and Danny lightly snore, I was horrified how close to the edge I had come again, how they had saved my life.

I never told them thank you until now.  Actually admitting to planning a suicide isn’t something one does lightly, to admit it happenned 3 times, each three years apart, is well, crazy.

 When I entered the military I turned my back on my childhood, cut my ties that remained, and sought a new beginning. 

But whenever  another circle to close.  I have been trying to make this trip for 7 years. I guess it was time.

 TC and his wife hosted me here in Mystic with unequaled hospitality. A sincere thank-you and watching the two dogs are hardly a fitting reward for saving a life. 

 Monday I leave on the train. I am not sure that TC and Danny and I ever really understand each other, they are golden haired, silver tongued, blue bloods with wives and refined tastes, and I am a red-headed pirate who only loves her children, the road and the sea. And my friends. I love my friends.

and they are these.

I Am I Said….

Everyone says how little I have changed, I know I am 3 times older, and almost twice as large. ( A bit thrilled to see that with all my “OMG, I haven’t had this in 40 years” eating I am actually down another 3 pounds, actually thought I would have gained 10.)   I hope I am wiser, kinder and more careful of others feelings and more appreciative of their existence. 

I found that writing on the train was more spoons than I had in a day. (New readers, spoons are a measure of energy, just trust me, or google “chronic illness, spoons”) The travel and view was well worth all the drain though and I only fell once and luckily it was into another passengers lap. I was on the way to the bathroom when the train picked up speed. Embarassing, though that silver haired and silver tongued cowboy offerred to let me stay for awhile, I am sure he was more injured than I. He was in the other accessible seat, cane and brace, “thrown from a horse when m’ boys said I was too old to be doing that so now I ride trains to make em worry.” He was Albuquerque to the last New Mexico stop,

I met many, many wonderful people on the trip, but that is what made writing difficult. I love people, but they are a constant small leak in my energy and there is no quiet place in accessible coach seating. So I chose to use my communication spoons to elicit stories and share laughter and updated with a few pics on FB. My goal later today is learning how to connect my media to WordPress so my Blog followers can see with my cameras eye as my tongue becomes less and less an effective brush.

Now I am here. I drink coffee on a deck that overlooks the Mystic river. I wear fuzzy slippers and my Sarah (a Lularoe sweater style). I watch the leaves change shade. Each morning another tree has accepted the inevitable approach of winter. The squirrels tease the two jack russells and the crows scold us all. I have begun reconnecting with those to whom I truly owe the debt of my life, wishing to acknowledge, to somehow repay a debt they never even knew I owed.

I was frequently suicidal as a teen. Fully planned and prepped, but even then I had a 24 hour rule. Perhaps because of the part of me that has always believed in magic, perhaps the deep desire to cause no one else pain; when I would become convinced that all the world would be better for my absence, I would make my plan and set myself a 24 hour waiting period. Death was already real and permanent to me, a regular part of the family and libraries were my internet, so how knew how and where to cut and that I would be off in my woods even then seeing a possibility of then being of use to the crow and coyote. I would make my plan, write the entry in my diary to say goodbye, set a circle and talk to the earth, fire, sky and ocean, truly not knowing how deep a call through history that might be, tell me I would ask if this is the right choice.

In eighth grade Carla answered that question with a pair of jeans, The day before some of my classmates had given me a gaily wrapped present of dog shit and mouthwash, inside the jolly Santa Card were the time honored classic of “Die you ugly piece of shit.” Well to a seriously depressed teen-ager that was more of a directive than an insult. I set my circle that afternoon, out where Zack and I would go to do our best thinking and talking. Mind you he had long since crossed the rainbow bridge but when I was there in that circle, I could feel his fur beneath my hand, his tongue clearing the tears from my cheek.

That morning the razor blades were neatly taped down onto one of my text books under the paper bag cover and I had told my parents I was going to be helping someone for whom I often babysat.  The stage was set. A girl in my class, one of the cool girls in fact, blonde beautiful and smart brought me another present. I was honestly afraid to open it. Afraid to be again surrounded by the laughter of my home room and consumed by the shame of thinking that I had actually recieved a gift. Charlie Brown and I had a lot in common when it came to Christmas, Valentines Day and Birthdays. 

Inside was THE pants everyone cool was wearing, from D&L, a store I didn’t even consider stepping into let alone shop new. Brushed cordoroy hip huggers with wide, wide bells. They were simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I immediately put them on, and I wore that kindness in one way or another for the rest of my life.

I am glad she was there that day, unaware of how big a difference her not so small act of kindness would make. I think of all the ripples of that one pebble tossed – my children, my patients, my foster children, my helping others go home. Of the ripples I know her generosity has reached as far as Africa, Vietnam and Guatamala. These are just the obvious, but we can never know how far our influence for good reaches.

And other lives aside, I am grateful to her,  I would have missed so much awesome. Perhaps that is the big thing that has changed in me. That emptiness inside has long ago let me go, and today even the chair hears me. 

Carla moved in high school, so I did not think I would ever get to see her again, one more circle I could never close. 

Then I was at my high school reuinion, feeling a bit of that outsider at 17 I was at graduation, and there was that face.  45 years ago that heart and smile had heard my cry of “I Am” when no one else was listening. I looked at her face, blurted out no hello just her name and  “I think you are the girl who gave me the pants in eighth grade.” I watched her as she reached for the memory and all evening I felt that same compassionate heart.  Frequently she saw me in the crowd and came over and hugged me, I often retold the story of her unexpected RAK, sanitized of my drama.

 I watched her exuberance and joy throughout the night. She was the first to invite me and my walker up to the dance floor. And it was her husband that drove me back to the Parker Palace that night, not an uber. 

I am thrilled to say that thanks to Carla I have had the opportunity to change much in the four decades between our hellos and goodbyes. But I am equally gratified to see that in all the important ways, Carla has not changed a bit.

All Aboard, ha ha ha ha. Aye.

It is never to late to heal mental wounds but totally hoping I don’t go off the rails, more interested in moving safely down the rails. But I am listening to my Train mix: The engine led not the Patrick Monohan led one. However, maybe Crazy Train is a perfect lead song for my first blog on an adventure some have even called fool hardy under the circumstances.

I have always said the only difference between courageous fortitude and foolish stubbornness is whether you agree with the goal. So my dear friends and readers, I hope that by introducing you to all the goals I am chasing on this one little adventure you will join me in spirit and see me as strong and brave, with only the kind of foolish that lets you laugh with me, not at me.

and there are lots of things to laugh at these days, pratfalls, puns and moments of pure innocence (since memory is required for guilt to exist. ;P)

Just posting a blog or FaceBook entry these days takes the same concentration as researching and composing a news article or writing a short story, but Iwill do my best. So yeah, my communication challenges may introduce some unique turns of phrase, but listen to my heart and you will probably land somewhere near the point I am passing.

Tonight I am sitting in Flaggstaff at a dear friends table typing.  My feelings are ranging from excited to nervous to grateful, because I am about to complete three of my current 20 Wishes.   I am about to take a long, long train trip because well, I love trains, I love travel, I love scenery so “Train Trip Across a Continent” is on my list. I want to go home to Connecticut and reconnect to a few friends, visit my mothers grave, close a circle, heal a wound or two and pull some frayed threads of who I was back into the weave of who I am now. Oh, and attend one high school reunion.

But its not just the goals, or the destinations, or my love of new environs for my RAK’s. Its about challenging myself, even as who I am becomes daily less familiar. I look forward to also blogging about what it is like to take this train trip with my walker, anxiety issues and occasional memory dumps.

Took way too long to write this and bet there are at least three misspellings and errors that would have brought out my old grammar nazi but even if practice won’t ever get me to perfect, Iam still having fun. So will post again tomorrow.

Be well. Be Brave, Be Kind and most of all be able to laugh at yourself.







You tell me it gets better, it gets better in time.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, something terrible happened that sent my whole world crashing down around me, the aftershocks have resonated in my life for 47 years.

Today I got official recognition and as close to an apology as the US Navy is ever likely to give me.

Doesn’t make it better.

But I feel a lightness a half a decade coming, and I have been tearful off and on all day.







Here I go down that wrong road again, going back where I’ve already been…

A Parable

The old woman sat rubbing the lace on the edges of her lap quilt. Her eyes saw much that was not the children gathered at her feet, and she began.

“Once Upon A Time there was a wise and wonderful teacher. His words were few, but those he spoke were replete with compassion for all life. One hundred good deeds for every word spoken was his guiding principle so his disciples were few, in spite of his fame and his country’s high regard. Even the Emperor honored this man and yearly sent offerings across the wide blue river. Baskets of fresh fish, jewels, soft cloth, loaves and bright fragrant fruit of all description came always with a well worded invitation to travel to the capitol and teach in the courts.

The Master chose for his home the most barren part of the kingdom. Rotting buildings and rutted roads still paid homage to when it had been a trade center surrounded by fertile fields, and fragrant woods noisy with the calls of birds and animals. Three generations of over planting of the wrong crops, rotated at the whims of the wealthy class tastes instead of the needs of the earth, over hunting of both large and small game, the felling of trees without replanting, and the general neglect of those who farmed, chopped and slaughtered the many exports had left the population as crippled as the peninsula’s resources. Then the Emperor’s city finally spread its lavish hips to the ocean’s edge, and even the port closed.

The jewels were returned with the invitations to court. The fine cloth was sewn by his and others hands into shirts for weathered backs while the softest bolts were used to wrap for the few babies still born, and those too old to do much but smile and reminisce. The fruit and the loaves were distributed, the fish were roasted and stewed and shared at community fires of old stories and songs, while the master sat happy and smiling, slurping a bit of steaming broth.

The Master was so kind that he would weep for and make an offering to the souls of the insects his worn boots had crushed inadvertently during the hard labors of his days. Many a mouse family un-housed in the matted tufts of the fields grew to adulthood in his humble walls fed on loaf ends and apple core.

One day the old teacher decided it was time he pay proper respect to the benefactor who had kept his friends and families alive these many years; it was time he travel to court and share the truths that brought him such great happiness with the kind king. He woke that morning and readied himself for the journey, though that was a simple matter of tying his offering bowl, and two days provisions in cloth and choosing a walking stick from the weathered ghosts of trees nearby. The river was two days as the crow flies and five by the road, and on the other side of the river a city whose beggars ate well compared to what he was used to consuming.

He chose not to travel alone, but since no more than two pairs of hands could be spared, h e took only his youngest disciple. This follower was a promising young woman who had come from the courts to follow him two years prior. The trip would also give her the opportunity to pay respect to her parents and ancestors.

As they approached the river the trees grew greener and older, the roots so deep that farming was impossible, their branches hung with vines, their only fruits shone invitingly, As the girl reached for one, the teacher stopped her. “Note,” he said, “the animals do not eat these, neither should we.”

“Ah,” the girl said retracting her grasp, “Poison!”

He nodded.

“I heard,” she said, “that there is nothing left here by the river but that which, stings, bites or poisons?”

“Yes.” was all he replied, than began searching for a rope to use to help the tie the young girl high on his back while crossing the rushing rocky river for he was a very strong swimmer and she still sleight, her body so new to hard labor.

The Master finally found one that suited him but as he grasped it, the rope vine opened its eyes. The man dropped the serpent and stepped back quickly.

“Wait,” the wily snake called, for it was not a rope vine at all but a snake who had lived since the times before when game came to drink here, and meals were easy. He refused to chase mice and work hard like his brothers now did in the fields. So here he stayed in the tree growing fatter and lazier and more crafty. For many years he had eaten a man or two a month , and lived by tricking the odd river traveler or the fat and much more delicious couples who came below this tree’s boughs to sneak kisses.

A tale had grown in the city of a hungry ghost who devoured all that came near the tree. As those who disappeared were those rich enough to afford daytime leisure, others said it was divine justice, and even others claimed a curse had been wished upon the wealthy by the poor. The snake did not care which story they believed, where once the fame flattered him, now it meant fewer couples came, and the snake was hungry. “These two travelers here” he thought “are so thin that they will barely make a meal if eaten together, but here they are” and so the snake hung his head and gasped as if it was his last breath, stretching himself as long and thin and pitiable as possible.

“Wait!” he called again, “Please save me!” He gasped, coughed, fell to the ground and wailed, “Oh please, at least tell me your names that I may know the last faces my eyes will ever see.” He closed his eyes and managed what he always felt was a quite convincing imitation of a death shudder, then blinked his eyes a bit and whispered hoarsely, “and they are such beautiful faces, please tell me your stories that I might die while listening to your epic tales.”

Thus he had tricked travelers before, with flattery and offers to speak of themselves and their lives. For most humans, this was more than adequate bait. The snake would listen with proper intermittent sighs and whimpers as the man or woman would wax poetic on their conquests and tragedies. Slowly, and ever so slowly he slipped his long silky coils about the bodies of the tellers, until bored with all the talk of them and not him, he would squeeze until the words stopped and he swallowed them whole. These two humans were much different than any who had come for dinner. They neither moved closer to him with curiosity or spoke. The man merely stared at him with the kindest of eyes. The deep light in those eyes made the snake hunger for the taste of something he barely remembered from a happier time.

Their eyes stayed locked as the girl continued the search for an appropriate vine.”Master,” she called, “How about this one?”

“She called him Master,” The serpent felt a new kind of awe and desire as he realized before him was the great teacher of happiness of whom he had heard from many a previous meal. “I must taste happiness again,” he thought, and a new plan formed.

The snake resumed his natural length and breadth, his voice spoke now with its natural timbre.”I am sorry for my attempt at deception. I thought to trick you into inattention and then eat you. But I see the happiness in you, and I wish more than anything to be happy.”

The master said nothing.

“I am a fast and strong swimmer,” the snake now continued, pouring all is desire into his words, “I will gladly carry you both on my back across the river, but first master, you must teach me to be happy.”.

The master nodded, sat down beneath the tree and began teaching the snake. A day and a night and a day passed with the snake repenting vociferously of his evil ways while the young girl wept with his sorrows and sang with his joy of unburdening. Finally the Master, having spent more than a years labors of words teaching what he knew of service, compassion and happiness, stopped talking.

“As my first service I shall carry you both across this river on my back,” cried the snake with tears of gratitude pouring from voice and eyes.

“No,” said the teacher, “you have just told me many stories of your taste for humans, and though I believe your repentance is real, I cannot risk another’s life, you will only carry me and then I will attach the vine to a tree on the other side that I might more easily bring my disciple”

“If I cannot carry you both, then I will be the rope.” the snake cried with even more sincerity. “Whatever pain it causes will only bring me joy of service, please let me be your rope.”

“I honor you as the rope that will save me,” the girl cried throwing herself upon the serpents neck as their tears blended like lovers, and she wrenched the vine from the teachers hand and through it to rush away with the river.

The teacher grunted and climbed atop the snake. His grabbed grabbed tightly to the arched neck, trying to only hold hard enough to stay on, but light enough to cause no damage to the serpents scales. The snake was still singing the masters praise when halfway across the river he dragged the teacher into the depth of the water to drown, and ate him.

The girl screamed and ran back towards the village crying. The snake returned to bask on the river bank, digesting all he would ever know of happiness.”

The storyteller paused.

“Is that all?” a young voice queried, “If so,it wasn’t a very good story.”

“I am afraid not,” the woman sighed, leaning back on a slightly blackened chair, “I wish it was.”

“Many years later,” she began again, “after the girl had herself become a great teacher…” Her eyes again seeing the past and not her audience.

“The storm that hit in the girls 50th year brought little rain, but much in the way of thunder and lightening. Just as the sun was setting on the first night of autumn, an unthinkable disaster occurred. Instead of striking the tall metal poles placed to catch it, the lightening struck a bone dry field and would not be contained.

Led by the newest masters disciple’s, all the regions families poured onto the main road seeking to cross the river, and safely flee the fire. Carried by the very arms of earth’s compassion, and inspired by their own desire to save each other, the journey-time to the bridge was more than halved. The bravest of the regions men fought with soaked blankets the first licks and bites of flame as the slowest families with children and those with the infirm on their back began to cross. Then came the mice and other such animals as still lived in the fire zone and finally the last to reach the bridge was the master.

Of course by then the planks and supports were being devoured outright by dancing red demons, the air filled with shouts and smoke and flame. The master stepped onto the bridge, and then stepped back just as quickly, feeling the skin seared from her cheeks as the middle of the bridge and few vermin crashed into the tumbling waters.

A plaintive voice called out, “Please help me and I will help you, or we will both die in this inferno,” The master turned to see a very large, very old serpent slowly pulling himself towards where the bridge had been. “I slither slowly at my advanced age, but I swim quickly. Let me help you so you can help me”

“What help could I be to you?” she asked, “if you are such a swimmer as you say?”

“I can no longer see or smell with this smoke, I cannot find a place to enter the river, come close and throw me in and I catch you with my tale, place you on my back and then carry you across.”

“No,” the woman said, “I am sorry, perhaps another would have, but I will not.”

“You must help me,” he pled,”I swear on all that is holy that I will not harm you, I am a disciple of the same teachings you follow, I know you must help me. It is your sworn duty.”

“I choose not to help you.”

“But without your help I will die, please save me that I might also save you. Oh, please,” he begged, “Do me this honor that I might honor you as my salvation.”

The woman laughed, “You do not recognize the girl of 10 I was then, but once I honored you as my salvation, thinking you a rope. But that day you opened my eyes, now I see only snake.” She looked at the snake one last time, “Now I take my chances with the fire and the river.” And the new master dove into the milieu of burning wood and water.”

The old woman stopped speaking, her fingers resumed their scritchy rhythm against the lace on her blanket.

“Is that the end of that story?” the small voice most often heard at any gathering piped up at the long silence. When the woman did not answer other voices joined the first.

“I don’t understand, what happened to the snake”

“He died of the fire of course?”

“Is that story true?”

“Was that the right thing for the master to do?”

“I truly don’t know,” the woman said to herself, as scarred hands touched her disfigured face, “But I am here and the snake is dead. And every day for a year I honored the snakes memory, as just what he was, a snake.”

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