When I heard the rustling and scratching of animals in the wall cavity near my bed, I thought of this poem I wrote several years ago, originally published in MockingHeart Review:
For My Therapist, After the Diagnosis
I’m writing you these lines to say goodbye
before you forget you ever knew me.
Under the eaves, a house wren trills its cry.
In the morning, it wakes me from those dreams
where you’ve forgotten you ever knew me.
Birds whirl around your room, and then you die.
In the morning, they wake me from those dreams
of needing you to teach me how to fly.
Birds whirl around your room, and then you die,
even though you’ve swept them from the roof beams
out the window. Birds have taught you to fly
through this world, stitched with invisible seams.
Even though you’ve swept me from your roof beams,
I come to ask you where you’ve gone and why
this world is stitched with invisible seams.
You wake, then forget, leaving threads untied.
Once more I ask you where you’ve gone and why.
Under the eaves, a house wren trills a cry
that wakes me from these threads I can’t untie.
Dear friend, I’m here again to say goodbye.
One of the last times I met with my therapist, a beautiful elderly woman who became like a mother to me, she was seeing clients in a home office. She had suffered a car accident, and she thought the accident was contributing to her memory loss.
That day in her office a bird flew into an adjoining room, so Joanne (a made up name to protect her privacy), got a broom and swept it through the open springtime window.
Around the same time period, we had a bird’s nest near our bedroom window, probably a wren, hence this poem.
I thought of Joanne the other day after reading Robert McFarland’s “word of the day” post on Twitter:
He asked readers to share someone who has acted as a mentor in our lives, and aside from a few excellent poetry teachers, Joanne’s spirit came to my heart-mind.
When she sold her house and moved to an assisted living home, she stopped seeing clients, of course. And I was bereft, not in the way I was when my father died, but a long, slow, heartache that still hasn’t quite healed.
Now we have another nest in the wall, but this time, it’s a squirrel. We have a wildlife management company working on relocating the animals, and we’ve sealed up the hole, but there are tin patches that we’ll need to replace with new siding once the weather warms.
Joanne was the first person in my life who reflected my own spiritual beauty and worth back on me. She taught me to show compassion for myself, to value my inner hopes and dreams. I will always be grateful for her guidance.
I can’t replace the void that Joanne’s illness left in my life. Since her retirement, I haven’t found a therapist who relates to me the way Joanne did.
My mentor is my inner guide, my own true nature, often elusive. To connect with my inner voice requires patience, stillness, faith, and hope.