Thursday, November 8, 2018


            We are living on two frequencies these days, AM and FM. Each one is generating its own information and music. The question is, Which frequencies are we tuning into?

            Most of our time and energy is devoted to what I call AM. Launching a new home is a young person’s game. It requires energy, fueled by hope, visions of our future, and sufficient water and caffeine. We are pretty much moved into our house, and certainly our hearts are here. We are feeding the birds, gradually putting our stuff pretty much where it belongs, though a major shift will occur in a week or so when the garage is finished so we can move our junk precious belongings out for a future garage sale. We are also planning a major wall of bookshelves and kitchen island with lots of drawers. Once we put everything away, we hope to find some missing items: the power cord for the printer and Kim’s backup hard drive, for two examples. I’m missing some shoes that I suspect I threw away, and I hope I never find some old neckties. We pause from time to time to look at Our View – you saw some photos last week. This is home. Another reason I know our house is our home is that I turned off the cable at the condo, making it virtually uninhabitable.

            At the same time, however, there is another frequency in our lives. I’ll call it FM, for no particular reason. We just learned about a family member, the sister of Kim’s ex, who is dying of cancer. Without going into the details, it’s been a long, slow, painful process for her, one that may be over by the time you read this. Nobody should suffer that way. And it’s hard not to imagine, when we think about her suffering, what may lie in Kim’s future. Yes, we are all going to die – I have reluctantly come to acknowledge this – but can’t there be better ways? Especially for us? Yes, we may sympathize with the sick and dying, but sympathy, as I understand it, involves looking at someone who is less well off, understanding how they feel, perhaps dispensing kindness, support, connection. But it's something more than sympathy when you actually see  and feel yourself in the unfortunate sufferer. It’s more like empathy, where you actually experience the emotions of another. (My online Merriam Webster Dictionary, by the way, gets the sympathy/empathy distinction totally wrong, IMNHP.) Empathy comes with a convenient barrier – it ain’t really happening to me. In our case, there is another clause: but it will. Perhaps soon. Whatever the next level above empathy is called, that’s what we sometimes tune into. Maybe the best term is “fear.”

            Sometimes, when we are happily working our butts off (I’m currently down 12 pounds) in AM, Kim experiences some intense pain. Months ago, this was easy to explain – she was lifting rocks and pulling weeds. And now she is unpacking boxes, lifting stuff onto shelves, cleaning sticky and dusty floors left from construction. But still – what if that pain in her hip, gut or back is not muscle strain or dehydration, but instead a sign of cancer’s return? A sudden pain can quickly shift you from tired-but-happy AM into what-if? FM. And if the pain means Kim can’t sleep, the FM may be heard all night - though her last bout of insomnia focused on where to put her collection of nests to decorative advantage.

            My FM thoughts this morning are interrupted by Nate, who has arrived to install our range hood and vent, and if time allows, the sink in the guest bedroom. And our builder may be here, blessedly, to hang some lights and maybe install a bannister down the stairs I’ve been climbing, according to my iPhone, about 40 times a day for the last month. Good news! And when the workers leave in the evening we will sit on the sun porch (in the dark), turn on the Jotul stove, sip a bit of rye whiskey from our local Mammoth Distillery, and contemplate the large hornet's nest we hung on the wall across from the bird nest that Kim built. The AM  world has a lot going for it.

            And here’s more from our AM receiver: what Kim photographed from the back porch:

Goldfinch in winter colors

Tufted Titmouse

Downy Woodpecker and Tufted Titmouse

Gray Squirrel - black version seen here in northern Michigan

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