filters

me.n.Dane.8.2017
our summer vacay smiles (bunny-filter by Dane)

It was the first morning of our summer vacation. Before my eyes had opened, my brain registered this sound—light rain. Light rain with an unfamiliar bird chorus. I got out of bed, went over to a window of our adorable rental cottage and looked for the source of all this loveliness. No bird and no rain. This was the sound of a breeze blowing through thousands of heart-shaped leaves on an enormous poplar tree hanging over the lake. The wind was singing through them and the tree was responding with unanimous applause.

As I have often done since becoming the mother of a deaf son, I tried to stop hearing what I was experiencing and just see it. I plugged my ears, watched the light twinkling through leaf on leaf ruffling and the branches billowing. The whole scene became as delightfully visual as it had been auditory.

As a hearing person, honing my visual perspective has been an adapted skill. I’ve been working on my “deaf filter” for years so I could share more accurately and empathically with my son Dane. Paradoxically, my listening-filter has been equally important and just as challenging. A lot of auditory input is just taken for granted by hearing people. My friend Carter, a wise H&V-type mom, told me to think like this: raise Dane as if he hears everything and nothing all at the same time.

That seemed like the key . . . but I had no idea what that meant.

What it came to mean was this: Don’t lower your expectations of him but make sure Dane has everything he needs to meet them.

What did he need? There were plenty of people with an opinion on that, but I wanted his perspective. He was too little to tell me for such a long time, so I practiced seeing the world like he saw it. I still do.

I try to think of myself as Deaf looking at the trees lifting leaf on leaf . . . lovely and loving.

I try to think of myself as Deaf . . . feeling a face without touching it.

I can’t hear them . . . I have missed every joke, every barb, every insult, every condescension and offense that is What are ya, deaf or something?

I apply a profoundly-deaf filter to see the things I want to remember more completely.

Nowadays Dane shares his perspectives readily. I want to capture them, so we started co-writing a book this year that includes his thoughts on many of the issues I’ve explored in this column. It’s time to for him to have his say. I expect to know him better after reading what he writes.

Dane is excited about this. Months ago when it was still winter, he sent me a three-word text: leaf on leaf

Intuitively, I replied Is that the title of our book? He wrote, Yes.

Now I know why.

 

(From my regular column, In a Perfect World, this essay appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The Communicator)

omission statement

im-in-there

I want to be a farmer of words…strictly organic…knowing each word I’ve planted will produce something sustainable.  I want to master the husbandry of words…know what it takes for them to grow strong and viable, to see words sprouting in a field that I have made ready…to know which to cull and which to feed.  I would rain on them from porch swings or Paris, fertilize them with prayer and presence.

I want to be a mad scientist of words…an anthropologist of words…and spend some time as alphabet-sous chef to William Least Heat Moon.

I want to put on a little lace camisole, a short ruffly skirt and some well-worn cowboy boots and go out dancing with words…in the French Quarter to a Doobie’s cover band…I want to taste Jack & Coke on the mouth of words…words against my neck…words that have a houseboat right on the river, not far from here…words in rivulets…

I want to be a field surgeon of words…the triage of words…able to keep somebody alive with words alone.

I want to debate words at Oxford and win.

But I will remain a recluse in a cabin on the Lesser Slave Lake of words…to be found a few months after I’ve died…to be posthumously unpublished, famously unknown.

of the Moon

Nightbird at Blood Moon

Last night, Kit and I went to the Full Moon Drumming, which was particularly wonderful during this, the Blood Moon. There was a big turnout. Instruments of all kinds were spread out on the ground for any newbies (like us) to borrow—fully engaged participation is the unspoken expectation. Interspersed were various art supplies that had presumably been used to put up promotional posters about the event, at least that’s what we figured the markers, scissors, etc., were beside the tambourines and maracas. Yet there was a tin can, fly swatter, knitting needles, and a knife sharpener, so who could be sure?

I’m not a musician but I can keep a beat, at least I thought I could. Then the tattooed guys with pony tails started beating rhythms out of the congas, snares, steel pans and African drums that were powerful and primal. Everything I tried to sync to that skewed highchair-baby-with-spoon. As soon as the first session winded down, I switched to cow bell and spent the next session trying to keep Will Farrell/SNL images out of my mind.

Maybe the fourth or fifth “drum conversation” in, I was finally getting the hang of it. I had settled at last on the triangle because…well, I just didn’t think you could mess up on the triangle. It always sounds nice. After a while, Kit gave me a look that inferred otherwise.

“Play something different,” she hissed.
“This is the only song I know on the triangle,” I replied.
“No, I mean a different instrument…anything…like a skein of yarn.”

She looked around desperately then handed me a glitter-glue stick, but I just tuned her out.

4/2014

a common wicasa

Young Bear would not let me take a picture of his hands.  He was self-conscious about missing a finger, but not over the way it looked.  It was because he had cut it off during a Sun dance, and that was a sacrifice, not a photo opp.  He said I am going to tell you things you cannot speak about later.

I do not share those things . . . they are for sacred knowing not blogposting.

young bearSo I spent the next hour with him, who pointed out many times that he was not a Wicasa Wakan, a Sacred Man, but just a common wicasa.  Still, he was working to elevate his people on their spiritual path; he was the man who bridged them at Death (which is not real, he pointed out) over the North Star down the Milky Way to the Death Star.

At the end of the Milky Way is the place where the spirits face the Smokey Mirror for judgment.  But the judgment is not from the Creator, who loves and accepts all wicasa.  It is the reflection of our own fears, shames and beliefs about ourselves that judge us.  We judge ourselves.  He knows this and his function with the tribes is to teach the people self-love.  If they know self-love, then they can face the Smoky Mirror and accept the Gift of their Life.  He gave me this Knowing to share.

Then he said that he would give me a gift, too, that would help me.  What did I need?  So I asked him if he could tell me about the Eagle Dream I had.   He nodded.  After I told him, he kept his eyes down on his hands, on the finger that wasn’t there, and after a while he started talking.  He told me things about it that were not given to me before, but still entirely synced to what I knew about this Dream.  He added some things I didn’t know, and my heart swelled with the Truth of what I’d been given…how it was instantly known to this man, the common wicasa.

Then he told me that if I want to keep the Gift of my Dream, I must give him a penny.  An exchange of things of value must be made before I could own it, before the Dream was really mine.  Except that I didn’t have a penny, so I gave him the compass I bought in Australia last fall that was hanging on my camera bag.  He studied it, then nodded approvingly.  He took it ceremoniously and hung it on his keychain.  Now the Dream is mine, and it will now come to pass, he said.  Then he told me more things I can’t speak about, although I do not know why…why extraordinary things like this happen to me, an even more common wicasa.

(This happened to me in North Dakota, Summer 2012; reposted by special request of BJHM)

like leaves do

as above

November is trying its level best, I get that…bringing me gifts like amber and blue light in the marsh grass and a beaver’d tree, but it’s still November. The palliative sun strokes my hair and speaks in hushed tones about the end while November just acts normal…the wet walking, the dark dinner, the numb coldness underneath it all.

What the hell am I doing back here, I text Billy Shakespeare—a nickname I gave him in English class 30 years ago—the last time I lived here.

Billy Shakespeare texts back that he spent last night in a truck with two extremely progressive lesbians from Bastrop, the only place in Texas where they (used to) have decent trees (before the Fire). They’d stayed at a concert to the very end but were too tired to drive back. So they all just slumped over in his truck. This didn’t bode well for the 10 ulcerating hours in front of a computer screen that were still ahead of him the next day in some stale office where he does temporary contract work until the next town and then the next.

After they woke up, Billy and the gurlz had stopped for coffee in Dime Box where the old timers were already setting up the dominoes. Reading the coffee grounds in the bottom of his cup, Billy predicted the waitress was madder than a rat in a coffee can at the cook.

The land is starved out down here…loneliness and despair are just coming up over the horizon, he wrote. Well, you’re not missing much, I wrote back…just a wet blanket of a morning in Michigan. Forecast calls for 50s and raining…or is that my horoscope.

Hell, he’d trade the whole damn Republic of Texas for a quarter acre of Ogemaw County in October, he replied. If he closes his eyes, he can smell the wet side of the leaves from canoe birch, poplar, oak and beech matted into a crazy quilt across the floor of the forest. If a man could just make a decent living listening for the apples to drop…if he could just come home.
If you love it that much then just come home, chrissakes, man. Decide you’re going to do it, and feckin’ do it, I tell him. Oh, you got all figured out, doncha, smalls? pause     Well, I’ve got it all figured out for you, Billy, I tell him. Not even hardly for myself. I stare out the window awhile…I wonder. How many times have I gathered myself like leaves do then just waited for the wind to choose the right moment?

right-umber-my-nose

– L. Seaver © 2013