May 2, 2017

May 2, 2017
Mary with collage and clutter

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Three Students

I asked for poems and quotations for my 50th birthday, and I got oodles of them. (Thank you!) Even more, the whole week was a celebration of so much joy in my life. Amidst all the fun, three young women, all previous students, reminded me of what a gift it was to teach, and seeing these young women helped me gain perspective on how small I am on eternity’s timeline, and how lucky that is.

These meetings helped me identify still as a teacher, one who still loves my students (those whom I still know and those who are now far away from my life.) My earlier identities are not lost: they have simply passed, as time does and as we all will.

On my first day in my fifties, Ann invited lots of folks whom I love to celebrate our friendships and our (or at least my) love of poetry. Seventy or so people came, and our first guest was Sara, who had been my student in A.P. English and Journalism 21 years ago. Even as a teenager, Sara was smart and steady, a strong leader and an excellent thinker. Twenty-one years later she is starting her second career as a nurse in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), caring for our youngest and most vulnerable children on the night shift. I’m not sure if I’m more grateful for her dedication to these children or amazed by the fact that she stayed for three hours, hobnobbing with a houseful of strangers who were mostly a couple of decades older than she is, and that so many people told me, as the night wore on, that they had met my friend Sara and really liked her. How lucky I am that Sara is still in my life, still teaching me.

Two days later, my partner Ann and I traveled to visit our previous student Chancey in Minneapolis, where she has started a school primarily for children of color who are living in poverty. Seventeen years ago Chancey took Calculus from Ann and American Studies from me. She was a strong student. She is a brilliant and joyful educator.

We went to Prodeo Academy that Monday and witnessed an inspiring place of joy, learning, and hope. We started with the 60 kids at breakfast and loved the morning’s chant, led this day by three kindergartners. They shouted, quickly and happily:

I am somebody.
I was somebody when I came in,
And I’ll be a better somebody when I leave.
I am powerful. I am strong. (at this they flexed their muscles)
I deserve the education that I get here.
I have things to do, people to impress, and places to go.
I am somebody.

Then they lined up, one class at a time, to go to their classrooms, either Duke, Stanford, or Notre Dame, and walked single file, following the taped walkways on the floor as if they were following the lighted arrows on a plane after an emergency landing.

After breakfast, the kindergartners in the class we observed settled onto the colored squares on a rug at the front of the classroom, and with their teacher, they began a new chant in their sing-song voices:
I believe in myself and my ability to be my best.
I am intelligent. I am capable of greatness.
I can learn. I will learn. I must learn.
Today I will listen, I will read, and I will write.
I will speak, and I will reason.
I will do all these things with one purpose in mind:
To do my best.

I am way too smart to waste today.
This is the way. Hey. We start our day.
To get the knowledge. Hey. To go to college.
Hey. But don’t stop there. Go anywhere.
Hey. This is the way. We start our day.
If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
You have to work hard to get smart,
You will best at what you do most.

After the chant, the teacher instructed students to sit in “star” position: sitting with their legs crossed, thinking about how to learn, at attention for the day’s learning, ready to think, hands folded in front of them. (I guess that’s really Starh with a with a silent  h, but that seems too complicated for kids who are just learning about “Bossy e.” There was a lot of excitement because in the teacher’s chair there was a note to the class, and when the teacher asked the students, the guests (Ann and me), and then the principal (Chancey), “Did you put this there?” we all answered, “No.”

No, we didn’t, and when she opened the letter, it became clear that a leprechaun had been in the classroom that morning because it was St. Patrick’s Day. The note said that the leprechaun had left gold for any kids who attended to their learning and wrote their stories. A boy in the middle, very excited, said, “That’s chocolate! I know because I saw it on the principal’s desk!” He was clearly more excited about the possibility of chocolate than gold.

The morning’s literacy lesson on crazy vowel sounds began, and kids learned to sound out vowels and to use meaning as a way to figure out what vowel sound to use. Then half of the class was excused to work on individualized computer programs while the teacher worked with the other half. I was impressed by how quickly the students moved from the leprechaun excitement to vowels.

Ann and I observed all three classes. The lessons moved quickly and efficiently, and students seemed happy and engaged. When a student misbehaved, the teacher moved a clothespin with that student’s name on it down a brightly colored yard stick, but would later return the clothespin to the color of excellence when the same student did something praiseworthy, like persevering even when his thumb hurt or having a lot of energy when another student was leading the class.

The morning proceeded in this orderly and happy way. Ann, who is more sentimental than I am, cried as she watched these students read and write and figure out story problems in math. She kept saying, “These kids are in kindergarten!” We knew from the data board that these students had known no letters, colors or numbers when they had arrived at school this fall.

The kids and the school would have been impressive anywhere but were especially impressive in this school for kids who had been considered behind grade level (in kindergarten, no less!), some of them labeled “special ed” in their preschool grades.

After our literacy lesson, I took a nap on a pew in the sanctuary of the church where the school rents its space. Though the pew and my pillow of two hymnals were hard, I slept deeply and with joy for the hope I had witnessed.

After I slept, Ann and I attended recess, where the kids ran around, sometimes shooting basketballs or playing with toys and other times just running and yelling. One little girl, an African American with big brown eyes and a beautiful fountain of curls, asked me if I would play with her. I said, “I was thinking I would sit in the bleachers and watch you play. Would that be okay?” No. That would not be okay. So we sat on the steps and used play cucumbers to flatten play pancakes.

Another little girl joined us, and in one of my favorite moments of the day, she asked, “What’s that?” pointing to my cane. When I told her it was a cane that I used to help me walk, she said, “I’ll help you walk. You don’t need that.” So she held out her hand and we walked a few steps (though I surreptitiously held my cane in my other hand.) As we walked, she said, “I help my grandmother walk. She’s 35!” I didn’t tell her that I am old enough to be her grandmother’s mother.

Ann and I observed a healthy lunch where the “scholars” ate hummus and flatbread, did their best to bite a giant apple with their tiny mouths, and drank milk. One mother ate with them, and I overheard one child say to her, “You are the best mother!” They placed left overs in a bin that would be donated to Ann and me, while other left overs would go to the staff room as usual. The scholars didn’t know where the food was going, but they were learning not to waste good food. (I liked this a lot better than high school contests where kids smear food on one another to their classmates’ delight.)

After our lunch, we went to their classrooms to see the math lesson, which was similar to the literacy lesson in that it was orderly, sophisticated, and engaging. Though I don’t think they were using the words yet, they were reviewing addition, subtraction, and the calendar and were beginning multiplication. Ann teared again. Again she looked at me with her watery eyes and said, “These kids are in kindergarten!” as if I hadn’t known.

After math, Ann and I returned to Chancey’s apartment and when Chancey came home we all went out for a tasty New Orleans inspired dinner. (Our neighbor Annabella, who is originally from New Orleans, will be proud of us.) We talked about the day, all of the joy and humor as well as the child who, having had a difficult weekend, wailed for hours in Chancey’s office.

I felt deep gratitude for Chancey, who meant a lot to me when she was a student and means so much to me 17 years later. She is doing the work that I had tried to do, the work of bringing hope to children and communities that are underserved in our nation, and she is doing the work with courage and brilliance.

Ann and I flew from Minneapolis to Washington, DC, for a week of touristing, and for our last day—our coup de grace—we had brunch with my student Angela, who was in one of the first classes I taught and played on the first teams I coached 25 years ago, and her partner Maryann. (So we had a Mary, an Ann, a Maryann, and an “Ang.”)

Angela and I recalled her writing in my class, our play together on the volleyball court, and our hours on the curb after soccer practice as we waited for her dad to pick her up. We were lucky to know one another and felt lucky to reconnect now.

The last time I had seen Angela, she was maybe 18 years old. Things in her life were hard. She was dropping out of high school, and we went out for lunch to say good-bye. She asked me for my earrings as a token to take with her. I wished I could give her more, and I wondered what her life might hold. I have often thought of her through the years.

The last time we talked on the phone, she was working for a printer and was excited about her work. She thought she might own her own printing business, and at this point I thought she would make it but worried what might happen to this smart young woman who didn’t finish high school and never went to college.

Now I know that she is not only okay: she is great. She started to college but couldn’t afford to finish so signed up for the Navy, which paid for her college education. She worked repairing motors and such and realized that she wanted more education in order to do other work that seemed interesting to her. The Navy sent her to California to get a masters degree in engineering, and now she manages things and people and a lot of money (three billion seems like an awful lot to me.)

At brunch, Maryann and Angela were kind to one another and told us about their lives, their marriage, their families, their four wiener dogs (cute! We saw a photo!) and their plans.

I was delighted—stunned—the whole time. As I remembered the younger Angela I remembered the younger me, trying to be brave and to understand who I was and who I might be in this world. Looking back, I realize how true the words of Chancey’s kids ring for me: I was somebody then. I’m a better somebody now.









Monday, March 24, 2014

The Upside of Downhill

On my 50th birthday, my Aunt Cindy (who is seven years older than I am) sent me a birthday email: “It’s all downhill after fifty.”

I don’t know if that will be true for me. I’ve had some rough decades. In my thirties, I got divorced and came out to everyone I knew. In my forties, I had two brain tumors, neurosurgery, radiation, the swine flu, pneumonia, and food allergies that caused me to lose forty pounds. I’m hoping to be on a plateau, or at least on the plains, for my fifties.

In case I do head downhill, however, my friend Marcia (whose hair is beautifully white) and I started listing the advantages of going downhill: you don’t pant like you do going uphill; you can coast; you don’t sweat. My friend Rod titled the list: The Upside of Downhill. 

More friends arrived at my birthday party and kindly did not take off their shoes as the “Welcome to Geek Love, aka Mary’s 50th Birthday Party” directed. Our house filled and spilled into the backyard with people I love, each of them having brought me a poem or a quotation as a gift. My friend Karen had decorated my “Winged Words mailbox” with birds and butterflies (other winged beings), and friends stuffed their offerings into the mailbox, offering a second copy to me for a scrapbook (or two—my friends are overachievers, and many of them brought multiple gifts). My friend Ellen has chosen two scrapbooks and (bless her) will help me put it all together. (If you haven’t yet sent a poem or a quotation and you would like to, I’m willing and eager to accept your gift from now until forever.)

When Ann and I return from our trip to DC, we’ll post the mailbox at the bottom of the stairs, near the sidewalk, and I’ll keep it filled with poems and quotations, so that passersby can take one and leave one for others. I plan to start a new blog, too. I’ll continue this one, and on my new blog I’ll post a poem or a quotation each day, so it will be a virtual Winged Words Mailbox in case walking by our home isn’t handy for you. I’ll tell you when it’s ready. You’ll be able to access the blog at www.wingedwordsmailbox.blogspot.com

Guests spanned the ages from young Pearl, who is seven months old, to Annabella who is almost 94. They also spanned my life in Seattle, from my long-time friend Rose whom I met soon after moving to Seattle 23 years ago to my student Sara, who was a student 21 years ago, to current classmates at the School of Social Work and church friends and neighbors and….

So far I’ve been fifty for eleven days, and so far downhill is great. On my birthday, Ann and I had a quiet day together. We went to the Olympus spa to sit in hot rooms of sand or charcoal, ate a tasty Korean meal in our shower caps and flimsy bathrobes (courtesy of the spa), soaked in hot tubs of various degrees of hotness, and got scrubbed and then washed in olive oil, warm milk, and honey until my skin was as smooth as it was fifty years ago.

On my first night at fifty, we went to a Pisces party where those of us who are watery and wise, born under the sign of the fish, danced and breathed as if we could do this under water. The dance is held at a senior center, and when we signed in we had to check a box to indicate whether or not we were over fifty, and so—for the first time—I signed in as a senior. (The event was free, so there wasn’t a discount.) My friend Donna and some friends of hers, all fish, have been celebrating our sign for 25 years. Ann danced a little, and I talked with Gude, a dear friend of our friend Chris’s who died in January, and then Donna, Chris’s partner, joined us and Ann returned.

Though I miss Chris, I felt her presence with us, and she bequeathed Donna, Gude, Ann and me one to another as friends. Another friend of Donna’s wore a Hawaiian shirt that had been Chris’s, so out of the corner of my eye I would glimpse her and forget for a moment that Chris is gone. At one point, we watched a couple dancing gracefully together, and I asked Ann who that was. “That’s Lipsky.” She reads my blog! Ann brought her to me so that we could meet. I felt shy.

We couldn’t stay at the party too late, because the next day we had an early morning flight to Minneapolis, where our previous student Chancey has started a charter school for kids living in poverty to go to kindergarten. Ann taught Chancey in Calculus, and I taught her in American Studies 17 years ago. Chancey has made the effort to keep up with us over the years, visiting when she comes to Seattle to see her parents, and I feel so grateful for this long-time connection. The visit was too amazing to condense into this blog entry, so I’ll post an entry about it another day.

Chancey took us to the airport at a ridiculously early hour the morning after our day at her school, and we flew on to Washington, DC, where we went to the National Museum of American History that day, the Holocaust Museum (another adventure too big for this one blog entry) the next day, and the National Museum of Art the following day. Our friend Genevieve’s mother Donita, who is a docent at the museum, took us on a tour, and it was amazing to witness the art from my Art History text book in college as well as to witness Genevieve’s mannerisms and walk in her mother.

Our last morning in DC, we circumnavigated the mall as we honored the presidents and soldiers who are memorialized there. The last memorial that we visited, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s memorial, was the only memorial to peace. The man, a martyr, was carved from a mountain of stone and the great orator’s words were inscribed on a wall around the monument. Ann took my picture by “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits,” and then I took her picture by “True peace is not merely the absence of tensions, it is the presence of justice.” I was exhausted from all of the walking, but fate was kind and sent a cab to pick us up and take us to lunch. More evidence: this going downhill is working for me.

From there, it was on to the DC train station, where the system was disorganized and confusing but our fellow passengers were kind, so we made it onto the right train and off at the right stop in Maryland where my Auntie (pronounced “Ontee”) Myra awaited us.

That was Friday, and we had crab soup for dinner before going to bed early (bless Myra for both), and Saturday Ann and Myra raced around the nearby trails while I slept late and did yoga before my younger cousins Anna and Mark arrived. We caught up over crab cakes for lunch and some more chatting back at Myra’s. (I hope we didn’t bore my youngest cousin Mark too much with our talk of health issues. I remember well when my grandmothers talked on and on about the price of peas, and I could hardly sit still for their enthusiastic chatter about such a boring topic.)

Sunday morning, it was back to the train to DC where we were meeting my previous student Angela (25 years ago!) and her partner Maryann for brunch. I don’t think I’ve seen Angela in those 25 years, and on email she had told me she looks just the same (only older and maybe pudgier), but I would not have recognized her if she hadn’t waved her arm from across the train station. It was so amazing to see this young woman who had struggled as a teenager now confident, calm, centered, successful, and beautiful. She and Maryann, her partner of 12 years, seemed easy and kind to one another. This visit did my heart more good than I can express, and again I’ll have more to say about this visit another day.

We have had a fine vacation, celebrating my birthday by celebrating so many words and people and memories that I love. Today we are flying back to Seattle, and my heart is full.

Yes, I think my fifties are going to go downhill, and I think I’m going to love them.



Monday, March 10, 2014

Forever Friends

My childhood friend Ande's mom recently found a card that I had given to Ande, maybe when we were in high school. I had drawn Snoopy and had signed the card, "Your forever friend." At that age, friendships only seemed legitimate to me if they would be forever.

Though I made friends easily (as I remember it) in my pre-teen years, I had also written Ande a letter when I was five or so lamenting that she seemed to be better friends with other girls in the neighborhood than with me. Ande's mom found this letter in the attic, sealed and marked, "Open this letter in seven years." I always was an intense duck.

I remember the struggle I had making friends during my ugly duckling years (many of my teen years), and I remember how odd I thought it was that making friends became so much easier as I turned into a swan. (My Swan Stage was a brief period, and a weird one.) The role that my beauty (or lack of it) seemed to play in making friends made me a little cynical about the depth of friendships that I yearned to be so deep.

Now that I am approaching my golden birthday (five-oh), I think of myself neither as an ugly duckling nor a beautiful swan, but just as me with an unfortunate inward turn of my left eye that keeps me away from mirrors. I know that some of my friendships will endure and others will fade over time and that some of those that fade will re-emerge over even more time. I know that, at this time, I can't tell which ones will endure and which ones will fade, and that I will welcome back any friend who was lost but now is found like a father greeting his prodigal son.

The song from Brownies stays with me:
Make new friends,
But keep the old.
One is silver
And the other, gold.

I am so grateful for the silver and golden friendships I have now. I think my experience with brain tumors made me more aware of the preciousness of those friends and the fragility of my time with them.

My friends Pea and Lori and I have been getting together every month or two this year, intentionally deepening our friendships. Getting together is challenging. Before we even get together, there are logistical hoops and loops: Lori works two days a week and has other plans; Pam works intensely at times and casually at other times, so her schedule’s tough; I go to school a couple of days a week and have other responsibilities to calendar, and I fatigue easily, so I can only visit Lori on a day when I have no other plans.

To schedule a time to get together, first I contact Pea. Once Pea and I have a few dates when we could visit, I call Lori’s home and talk with a caregiver who has access to her calendar, and we try to find a time that works. If Lori’s there, she gives the yea or nay, but if she’s not the caregiver puts us on the schedule anyway.

When I called a few weeks ago to schedule a visit, Lori wasn’t home so I just talked with one of the caregivers. In church the next Sunday, Lori wouldn’t look at me. During the passing of the peace, I went to say “Peace” to her as I usually do, but she turned her head away from me. She may not communicate in speech, so she can’t really give me the silent treatment, but she certainly communicated that she was angry, or—as she would say—pissed off. 

I spoke to the back of her head, “Peace, Lori. I called and made an appointment for Pea and me to come visit you, but I guess the caregiver I talked with didn’t tell you. We’ll see you later this week.” Only then did Lori turn to face me and smile: I felt forgiven.

Lori has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, communicates not through speech but through eye movements, laughter when she is amused (often by children or our ministers’ bloopers), and an intense wailing when she is in pain. Like Lori, I don’t drive, and Lori lives a half hour’s drive north of my home in central Seattle, so Pea picks me up and drives the two of us to meet Lori.

Thursday, Pea picked me up and we headed north. When we got to Lori’s home, a caregiver answered the door, like always, and we greeted the caregivers and one of her housemates who was in the front room. Lori was already in her room, and we knew the way, so we went on back.

Lori was in a new wheelchair, a bright red motorized chair, and the caregiver in the room was nervous about trying to use it, so we called Hilda, a caregiver who has a strong relationship with Lori. Hilda turned Lori around, and we saw that this wheelchair moved fast, like a motorcycle, so we decided that we would not be touching its controls. We noticed that Lori’s right hand was cut and scabbed from hitting passing objects as she had been whizzing about in her new wheelchair.

Lori had a fancy new laptop on her desk, too, and I wondered aloud if it were her birthday, but she moved her eyes into the “no” position, indicating that it was not. Her sister had given her the laptop—and maybe the wheelchair, too. As the youngest child of five, Lori has told us in the past that her siblings thought she was spoiled when they were growing up. Perhaps they’ve continued spoiling her in her adulthood.

Pam shared with Lori a video of the flash mob where her partner Lovie proposed to her. Because Lori and I both have disabilities, though they’re quite different, I shared my most recent blog entry about my left foot.

The first couple of times Pea and I visited, we performed in this way (actually, Pea played the guitar) in the group living room, and that’s pretty much where the visit ended, but the third visit Lori invited us to her room and shared her photos and paintings with us, and since that time we always meet in her room, which is more private than her living room, and we are learning how to hear from her about how she is and what she is thinking.

This time, we sought to learn more about the music she likes. She likes Christian music more than “other kinds of music”, and rock more than country. She doesn’t like either jazz or blues. Typical for dykes, she likes The Indigo Girls.

We made a few plans for getting to know Lori better the next times we gather. Lori said that Pea and I can visit her at work, where she reads to elementary school kids. (I see her with kids all the time at church, so I know she loves kids and connects with them, but I have little idea how she reads to them.) We’re also going to interview Lori’s caregiver Hilda, who has a special connection with Lori and can read her mind. Lori will be part of the interview. And Lori says that we can interview one of her sisters, the one who gave her the laptop. Again with her there. (No sharing dirty secrets.)

Eventually, the goal is to give a sermon together at church. Partly, the sermon will be about Lori's life, but the more we get to know each other, the more I think that we will also talk about friendship. 

I'm no Biblical scholar, but I know that Jesus said, "Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This loving presence is with us when we three gather. 

After a couple of hours, Pea and I said good-bye and headed down the wheelchair ramp to Pea’s car. Pea drove us to her home, where we said hello to sweet Sunshine, the family’s golden retriever, and had a quick snack and some time to catch up before Pea’s partner Lovie came home, and we all headed to a nearby Thai restaurant to meet my partner Ann.

After a leisurely dinner, Lovie and Pea went their way and Ann and I came home. I slept well, warm with the depth of friendships that day. I am still glowing.

People often ask me these days how I feel about turning fifty. I feel great, and lucky. I have a loving partner, a fabulous family, and solid, interesting, artsy and somewhat quirky friends. My life is full.



Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Left Foot

Yesterday, I joined a group of writers at Gilda's Club, which is a place that supports people with cancer and those in their lives. I wanted to join them though there doesn't seem to be an agreement on whether or not my tumors were cancerous. (My neurosurgeon says yes; My radiologist says no; Life Insurance Companies say yes;  The World Health Organization says no; etc.) 

It's hard to have a rare condition and be in an uncategorized category because it's hard to find others to connect with who understand something of my story. I'm in an online support group that means the world to me, but I'd like to connect with people whose bones and skin I can connect, too. I'm thinking maybe I'll connect with these writers who have cancer, and even though I'm out about my unclear status, I feel a little like one of these things just doesn't belong in the group.

I've joined the group both because I want to connect with a community that may understand some part of my story, and because I may want to facilitate writing groups like this for people experiencing trauma or people who have experienced trauma.

I loved the experience. Just like it's lovely to practice yoga in community again, it's good to write in community again. I practice yoga on my own at home every day, just as I write on my own every day, and even though yoga and writing are essentially individual activities, there's an important aspect to having a community invite me in.

Plus, just like it's fun to take classes instead of teaching them, it's fun to be a member of a writing workshop rather than leading one. 

For our second assignment yesterday, our leader Gail invited us to write about a part of our body, and like a good teacher, she shared a couple of examples first. 

My left foot was feeling cold and uncomfortable, as it often is, so I decided to write about it:

A couple of years ago, my yoga therapist, Cyndi, seemed worried when she saw my left foot. “What happened?” she asked me.

“What do you mean?” I asked. My foot looked the same as always to me, though I knew that my ability to perceive color had diminished after radiation for my second brain tumor. I studied my foot  but saw only the foot I’d known for 47 years: a foot long and slender that was once a size 7AAA, but over time has become an easier to shop for 9B.

“It’s bruised,” she said. “Did you hurt it?”

I looked again. Over the years I had often been irritated with this foot because it was so inexplicably uncoordinated. In soccer, I dribbled almost exclusively with my adept right foot, alternatively pushing the ball from the inside arch and the foot's outside so that I could avoid using my left foot. When I ran, I worked to keep my balance because my left foot was forever trying to tip me over. I had thought I had a weak ankle, but it turns out I had had a brain tumor.

I continued to study my foot. It looked like the same ol’ foot to me, the foot that has always been inexplicably uncoordinated. “No. It’s fine.”

Cyndi persisted, “It’s purple!” she said, gasping, a little exasperated that I did not acknowledge the troubling fact that my foot was purple.

So I looked at it again. Perhaps it was a little purple. But no, I didn’t hurt it. Cyndi suggested that I ask my doctor about it, and we moved on. 

As I showered after the session, I looked at my foot again, water trickling down its purple hue. Yep, it’s purple. Or at least purplish. I worried that there was a new problem with my circulation: another thing to worry about, another slight irregularity that could turn out not to be so slight. 

So I asked Dr. McCandless, “Why is my left foot purple? And cold?” Dr. McCandless studied my left foot, the ankle bone, the tiny broken blood vessels spider webbing under my ankle bone, the arch of my pale foot, the little hairs on my toes, my violet nail polish.

“It’s fine,” she told me. “Just nerve damage from the surgery.” How interesting that surgery in my head made my left foot cold. 

Brain surgery and radiation made my foot turn purple. After surgery, my arm had been purply soft, like a bruised banana if bananas had blood. Dad had said my brain must look like that, too. I had wondered what else was purple.

Now I look at my left foot every morning. Each morning as I come back to life, I pull my left foot gently from under the down comforter, out from its warmth. I study it and massage its arch. I press into the ball. I weave my fingers between my toes. I speak to it kindly. 

I welcome my cold, purplish left foot back to the world for another day, hurt but alive, and I wonder what else in me is purple that I cannot even see.