31 December 2016

New Year’s Eve: A Friendship Grows At The Mansion

A Friendship Grows

I am not sure I have words to describe how much your gifts and messages have meant to Connie. When I met her a few months ago, the room was dark, the door closed, her head down, lost in a TV or a book. She took to Red right away and he took to her, and today, I see the soul and spirit of a person reborn, or at least, revealed.

She has made a new friend, Maria, and it has affected them both. Above, Connie has just received the New Year's gift sent to every resident of the Mansion by the Idaho artist Keena Ogg.

Maria was telling her about Kenna's quilts.

I don't wish to take credit for this, she lights up when she sees Red, and there may be many other things going on in Connie's life that I don't know about. Your gifts and messages have been the most important tonic for her.

Connie seems almost radiant sometimes, alert, busy making things with the bushels of yarn she has received, she says she is so busy reading letters and crocheting mittens for the staff she does not have time to read her mysteries.Your generosity has given her a warm and continuous focus on life.

She noticed Maria's leggings and asked where they came from, and she looked at me and winked. Maria has a gift for listening and connecting, I can testify to this. Connie is very much at ease with her. Red listens carefully to them both.

I told her that Maria bought a vacuum cleaner for the first time in her life, and she laughed harder than I had ever heard her laugh when I told her Maria would never use it, she does not vacuum.

Connie and Red have a powerful connection, but lately another very poignant friendship has developed, this one between Connie and Maria, between two fiber artists who have spent years making art out of fabric. Connie also sold her fiber works.

When Maria comes to visit, she kneels down on the floor so Connie doesn't have to lift her head, which can be painful, and the two talk so easily and openly I am just taken aback. Connie never talked so easily with me.

When this happens, I step back and stand out in the hallway, I leave Connie and Red and Maria to be together, to talk. They talk about yarn, selling things, were ideas come from, Maria tells Connie about her work, and every time they meet, Connie has more questions for Maria about her work.

Increasingly, they talk about life.

I see a smile and engagement on Connie's face that I did not see before, a ready smile and a light within. This is especially striking to me when Maria and Red are in the room.

I suppose friendships can grow anywhere, but in the Mansion, I have some to see the importance or reaching out to brush the souls and spirits of people on the edge of life, to listen to them and remind them that they are not forgotten, they are important, they have things to say that people wish to hear.

More than anything, they need to feel known and not forgotten by the world. That is your gift to them. It is profoundly healing.

It was in my hospice work that I learned the principle of active listening – of truly listening to people, not pretending to listen. It is a tonic, as healthy as any medication or procedure. Connie has two new friends at least, not counting me, and I often see the magic that passes between women who are friends in the way they can talk to easily to one another.

As I mentioned earlier, and in response to your queries, I think Valentine's day would be another time to focus on the residents for people who wish to continue the extraordinary dialogue we have unexpectedly begun with these people, many of whom feel quite forgotten by the world.

If you wish to contact them or send them messages or gifts, you can send them to The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Valentine's gifts and messages can be held until February by the staff if people wish.

Posted in General

New Year’s Eve At the Mansion: Bill’s Letters

Bill's Letters

Maria and Red and I went over to the Mansion to wish the residents a Happy New Year's Eve.

Thanks to Kenna Ogg, an artist and quilter from Boise, Idaho, and reader of our blogs, we had beautiful Poinsetta photo notecards to give to reach resident wishing them Happy New Year.

We saw four or five residents, we spent some time with Bill O. Bill is struggling to get  more mobile, he hopes to visit our farm in the Spring. He is still adjusting to his new life at the Mansion.  He lost his wife of more than 60 years,  Louella, last year, and had to send his dog Duke to a shelter when he came into the Mansion. He has not been feeling well, "I'm working through it," he said, "I have to get well."

The staff distributed Kenna's beautiful cards this afternoon, every resident got one, Kenna made enough. Bill shows us the more than 70 cards and letters he has received from readers of the blog in the past few weeks They are in a plastic bag he keeps by his chair. He says he is reading them as quickly as he can, he says he will read every one of them, they are, he says, from everywhere.

"When in my life?," he asked, "would someone like me get so many letters from people from everywhere." I had no answer for him. We spent a long time listening to Bill tell stories about his life as a cook and family man. Sometimes, my work is just about active listening, like Red.

When people tell their stories, Red appears transfixed, as if he is hanging on every word.

I am thinking that the next meaning project for the Mansion residents might be Valentine's Day, a time when they will be reminded of love, present and lost, and will need some love. I think it will be a good thing for people who wish to help them to focus on. Up here, Valentine's Day can be heard, it comes right in the middle of February, when the winter here is usually at it's most fierce.

I imagine that is a time when many of the residents will be thinking of love, as Bill does when he thinks of his beloved Louella. He said he never imagined outliving her.

I ran into the town postman today and he asked me what was going on at the Mansion, he said he had never  brought so many letters and packages there. I told him, and he whistled, he said everyone there was so happy. Bill and the other residents love to be known and loved, and they are feeling your love, profoundly. So is the staff there.

If you care to think about Valentine's Day and the Mansion residents, you can write them c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

The first names of the residents who wish to receive messages and mail are Jean, Mary, Sylvie, Diane, Alice, Jean, Madeline, Joan, Allan, Carl, John K., Aileen, Christie, Helen, Connie, Alanna, Barbara, Peggie, Bill O., Dennis, John R., Bruce, John.

I wish the residents of the Mansion the happiest of New Year's, and the same to all of you reading this

Posted in General

Treasure And Her Great Heart: The Future And The Hope

Humanity's Hope

In town, I ran into Treasure Wilkinson and her daughter Lynne, up from Rhode Island to spend New Year's Eve with her mother. You could reach out and touch the love between these two beautiful women. I have only known Treasure and her partner Donna for a short while, they are among my favorite people on the earth.

Some people just exude love, for people, for animals, for their families. Treasure has suffered plenty, she is a newcomer to the country, she makes Native-American Dream Catchers and rescues animals  and simply exudes love and connection.

She helped us rescue our Romney sheep, the gang of four, and brought several baby goats over for us to meet. Tonight, she and Donna brought some moonshine for us to drink, and we will bring in the New Year with it.

She is humanity's hope in so many ways, she inspires me to see the best angels in  us, and to grasp the dimensions in love that are so important, but never seem to make the so-called news. When I see Treasure, I always see love, pure and unconditional and bottomless.

I see it with her and animals, with her and Donna, with her and me, with her and her family and the rest of the world. There are so many good people in the world, and they want to do good. Treasure is a prophet of love, there is nothing to her but heart. In the Corporate Nation, where people obsess about money and the hateful world of politics, Treasure obsesses about love. I believe she is the future and the hope.

Posted in General

Fate As The Wind

As The Wind

I love to watch Fate run, it is like watching the wind. Running is her joy and passion, at any time, in any weather. She runs like a cheetah, often leaving the ground, she runs with explosive energy and abandon and with great joy. I think it is what she lives for, and we make sure she gets a chance to do it every day. For me, there are fewer things more gratifying than to give a dog like this the life she deserves.

Posted in General

Happy New Year, Robin And Her Worm

Robin And Her Worm

When I went to see Robin in Brooklyn this week, I brought her a big worm that crinkles and rattles, and it seems to be a good match. Emma is good–natured about the bizarre presents I'm bringing, she calls the loudest ones "toys of the devil," but Robin is loving them, she seems very fond of her worm, which is almost as big as she is.

I wish Robin a wonderful year of love, discovery and growth. If she could talk, I would tell her that a year is what you make of it, no more or less. I love those eyes. I believe Robin has the same pirate eyes I saw in Fate, and people see in me, a bit of the rascal, something one can connect with. I think she already loves life. Maria has the devil her eyes also, and we connect with each other in that way.

Posted in General