Like jagged black bolts of lightning the leafless, lifeless terminal branches of the ancient oak trees
stand starkly against the dull gray windswept February sky.
A tent of gloom hovers below a star-speckled sky at winter dusk and covers the dormant
 life forms and discarded remnants of the dead. 

But the branches… the branches they claw in vain at the vacuous source of life-giving rain
and snow that spits this way and that, polishing the leafless branches to a shinier black.
Gnarled they've grown complaining they moan, dancing
 in darkness in the north wind's home.

Their turn they've taken, no youthful leaves left to be shaken by sunny summer's breezes
 awakened by soft golden sunrise. Their day has come and gone, no more robins' early songs
to celebrate another day’s surprise.

In pieces the fragments of lifeless dry branches give way to an earthly call...
and down to the ground with nary a sound,
                        to the cold ground they fall.



I found myself starting all over again… and over and over and over again.

Meeting new people and finding new friends can be a challenge when starting over again.

But I expected to meet her, a lady with style… or someone with eyes that sparkle and lips quick to smile.

I looked for a woman with a great sense of humor, and who honored the truth and rejected all rumor.


Because laughter’s a binder of two souls brought together I naturally expected the more humor the better.

As well, I expected a companion outdoors, who welcomes the rain and dirty hands, and campfires with Smores.

A lady who baits her own hook naturally yet savors a discussion about life or philosophy.

I needed a lady to complement me and whose presence I could feel much more than just see.


Do my expectations exceeded any possible realization of finding all these traits in one human creation? 

I really was sure no one person would do, that I’d need several ladies to make these expectations come true.

Then one day we high fived at becoming new friends, though I never expected my starting-overs to end.


I expected to find what I needed through time was a lady for each different pursuit.

But I’ve given them all up as you filled full my cup with love and contentment so new;

Now with every sunrise prayers of thanks fill my skies…

Because I never expected you.



I am a hollow person, as hollow as an old tree.  The day I watched you leave me the hollow came to be.

You filled me up and I had wholeness, then when you left you made my holeness… empty, hollow, deadness from which I can’t be free.

Numb as ice, dark as night, no spark of life remains within; I pay the price, with all my might and try over and over again

To fill the void of paranoid with someone just like you, so I can live again, and laugh within

a partnership of love renewed.



I wonder while I lay here how it ever got this way,

As I listen to you softly breathing just a touch away.

Few words are passed between us, no sweet I Love You’s said.

 It feels so lonely next to you on my side of the bed.


What brought us to these separate lives we live together as we disguise

 The truth that passion and intimacy’s died?

Frustration and confusion swirl endlessly in my head

As I take my place across from you on my side of the bed.


Where does love go when love goes away; is there some place it hides, some place where it stays?

            We live together separately… there’s you… and there’s me… but missing is the “we”.

Too tired to cry and too empty to pray about the closeness we lost along the way,

            I’ve learned to accept the reality… that you’ve learned too late the sad mistake you made when you married me.



There’s a river of silence I cannot cross over where thundering rapids and treacherous boulders

            Protect you from entry of one such as I who’d venture too close, who’d look deep down inside.

I’ll not let it show and you’ll never know my yearning to hold you to me. 

          I’m held back by the dread you’ll turn away instead

And withdraw to the refuge on your side of the bed.



And for another day and another night we’ll preserve the isolated harmony

Where we go through the motions of togetherness as I’m nice to you and you’re nice to me.

Maybe we’re better as friends than lovers; do you dream love dreams of unknown others?

            Will elusive sleep calm the storm in my head after we establish our places each side of the bed?



I could reach out and draw you near… to protect you from your private fears, but I know the words I’m sure to hear

             “Not now, I’m trying to sleep”… and so the river between us widens, it’s waters more swift and deep.

You’re just a whisper away from me so I shouldn’t feel so alone,

Yet I feel no different when I’m with you than I feel when you’re not at home.



We both seem lost as we live together, denying thoughts life could be any better.

We care enough not to argue or fight, there are no jealousies, no hurtful wrongs to right.

We just can’t break through the barriers built that protect our souls from the gnawing guilt

For feeling way deep inside that perhaps the love once shared has died? 

Should I break the silence and call out instead that I feel so lost this side of the bed?



When you’re not in love with the one you love you’re forced to play a game

Where doubts and fears, coping and tears create a secret pain.

To be in love with the one you love and they in love with you,

Is a lovedream every dreamer has and wishes would come true.



I have no doubt you care about the loveship that we share,

If I need your help or you need mine no doubt we’d be right there.

But there’s an emptiness deep within your eyes that’s obvious to see,

I’m saddened when I look there for no longer do I see me.


Do we keep on dreaming our separate dreams as we live together separately?

Will I ever close the space between so you’ll fall in love with me?

I wonder if long years from now we’ll still be questioning why and how we left so much unsaid,

            And alone together we take our places… still hurting from the silent spaces… that haunt each side of the bed?




OK… so it’s 10 PM and I’m bored.  I call up a friend who runs a night club thinking some friends will be out shooting pool.  “Nope, nobody’s out tonight, T.J.  Must be too cold.”  Such is life on a weeknight in January in Northern Wisconsin! 

So I decide to have a Cheeto party on the bed with my two little 5 pound orphaned rescued roommates.  We had an excellent time munching on the golden crispy gas station-bought health food.  Just me, Popeye The Brave and Cricket E. Wicket.

There we were… making the best of our anonymous lives munchin’ on Cheetos on the bed and wondering what whimsical forces of nature occurred that brought the three of us together at this moment in time.  After our late night snack, I again went introspective, realized there was magic in the moment, and my lonesome and somber mood was replaced with a smile.  I thanked the Great Spirit for my little furry rescued rascals.  When I turned off the light hoping for soothing sleep, a smile returned as I thought about our threesome… and wondered who rescued whom.




There was a boy about the age of eleven, stretched out on his back facing a deep blue heaven.

On a green grassy hill with daisies galore he was filled with questions and yearned to know more.

His mind was on fire to understand why airplanes and birds and bugs can fly.

No sense did it make why they didn’t fall down and so the boy wondered as he lay on the ground.


Why did his bicycle only hold him on top when its wheels turned ‘round swiftly but not when he’d stop?

And why do sparrows look this way and that and never hold still to be snatched with his hat?

Why don’t rainbows come out at night; how does the bark on trees fit so tight?

He wondered out loud “Why don’t butterflies sing like the crickets, and why does my knee scab bleed when I pick it?


“Where does the wind go and how does it move?  Something must push it… or pull it… I’m confused.

Why do the flowers hide all through the winter and what makes my finger hurt when it’s poked with a splinter?

Why can’t I feel how these daisies smell?  Is it true there’s a heaven; is there fire in hell?”

He once saw a cloud in the shape of a deer and was told it would go ‘round the world in a year.


Closing his eyes now inward he searched for answers and truths and ideas that work.

Amazed at creation’s time and places, stars and insects and colors and faces,

He knew he didn’t know all there was to be learned… or to what teachers, books, or beliefs he should turn.

“I’ll just keep on searching for what I need to know”, thought the boy as he arose from the meadow to go.

And away walked the dreamer, the boy of eleven, still searching for truths now at age sixty-seven.





Whisper a wish to the rainbow;

     Feel the river water flow;

Wait for the sunrise o’er the bay;

     And give yourself up to “Come what may”.


Although the gift of life you did not seek

     You now find yourself as if in sleep

Where dreams are real, but you soon awake

     And know that to find yourself... yourself you must create.


So whisper to the rainbow,

     Feel the river water flow.

Touch the earth with eager feet

     And caress the flowers that you meet.


You may not care if you are in the dream or in the flowers

     Or in the colored arc of sky after the summer showers

True only to yourself you may choose to be

     And live short life in dreams… or in reality.


If you whisper a wish to the rainbow

     And feel the river water flow,

The life you are blooms forth from earth

     And joins all living things inherent worth.


I hear you whisper from the rainbow,

   I feel you move within the river water’s flow.

You warm me with the sunrise o’er the bay

   So you never left me when you went away.




Today, two days before Christmas, I received a special gift from someone I never saw before.

I was at the head of a long line at the Post Office mailing a box to a friend.  As I awaited my turn a short, stooped-over elderly lady with a scarf around her head, clumsy boots on her feet, and crutches assisting her unsure steps staggered away from the counter.

She didn’t look up at us but concentrated on taking baby-sized steps across the wet Post Office floor… and she nearly tripped in her attempts to coordinate the crutches, boots and feet.  She recovered nicely and proceeded anonymously along the line of stone-faced humanoids towards the door.

When she was a few steps past me I tucked my package under my arm and (sort of) chased her down and I asked her if I could get the door for her.  With head still held low on hunched shoulders she said very quietly without looking up, “That would be nice”.  I went ahead of her, opened our door wide and she scuffled with 6 inch strides through the door… and she still didn’t look up until she was right next to me.  So I said, “Ya know, if I hold this door open for you you’ll have to take me home with you.”

THAT got her attention!  She stopped, straightened up and looked me square in the eyes and smiled.  I quickly added, “And I’ll expect a few Christmas cookies, too!”

The damp, cold and gray day suddenly warmed up for me; her heartfelt smile was the smile of Sunshine.  “I can’t stand long enough to make any more Christmas cookies; but I’d give ya some if I had ‘em”, she said with a grin.  Then she turned her scarf covered head to the sloppy, snowy sidewalk and continued her perilous journey 4 more feet to her car.  “Can I help get the car door for you?” I asked. 

And with that the little old lady whose smiling eyes and face turned my inner grayness to warm thoughts of Sunshine.  “No”, she said, “I can get into the car just fine”.  I returned to the head of the line at the Post Office counter as everyone’s face turned to watch me pass by.  Each had a cold, stony presence, almost as if I had done something queer or unnecessary.  Maybe they overheard me ask the ancient lady if she had any cookies for me!  Maybe they thought I was weird or embarrassing… I didn’t care because my 20 seconds of benevolence made someone give me a Sunshine smile.  And by so doing I was happy for the real smile I just received from someone I never met before. Now I felt different… a better person… and all warm inside back at the head of the dull, drab, silent line of robotic humans.



I awoke . . .                                       

                                    from the long and deep Infinite Sleep.  The world began

                                    anew, as I did too.  I found myself within the swarming

                                    pool of lifeforms, and wondered about my amness.


                                    I sensed that I was unique, a pure, solitary individual.             

                                    And yet here I was, an insignificant ingredient in a soup

                                    of millions not of my own choosing. I was simply,

                                    uncontrollably passing thru the time of my own essence.


                        I remembered the early newness:

                                    ...the funny spots on the frisky little deer

                                    ...bushy buds announcing that flowers would soon be here

                                    ...chilly star-nights spreading a wet blanket of dew

                                    ...and eight tiny mice became where there had been but two


                        Half a lifetime later, August showed up.  Our first encounter

                                    washed away my youth in a storm of rain, noise and wind,

                                    and darkness at the wrong time.  I was a silent, unnoticed

                                    watcher...as the birds and bees and bugs and boys went

                                    about their busy games.  Sunny days, moonlit whisper-quiet

                                    nights, flowers, fields, feathered and fuzzy creatures all fell within

                                    my domain.  I was distant and separate from everything that

                                    I wasn't; and yet, thru an unseen thread, tightly connected to

                                    the unself of the world.

                        Too soon it seemed the cold came.

                                    And the colors changed . . .

                                                Even I wasn't quite the same.


                        I trembled with anticipation that a beginning and an end was soon to

            unfold, both at the same instant.  I knew I had to make the journey and

            deeply felt the need to be home.

                        Something mystical and mysterious had been made complete by my being here;

            I came for what I had been.

                                    . . . detached . . .

                                                            floating, dipping, then

                                                            sinking gently into the

                                                            hold of my mother earth,

                                                The end . . . never, ever

                                                                        . . . to be a leaf again.



Where Did Missy Go?

If any of my friends can help me find Missy I’ll do a funny spin-around trick for you. If you see her tell her I’m waiting for her out in the yard where we used to play in the sunshine and eat grass ‘till we got sick. 

We went fishin’ all day with our dad and the next morning she said she wasn’t hungry… huh!  It’s a trick, I thought, acause she always had to go first to get food and stuff our dad drops on the kitchen floor.  Dog waiting in the grassThen that day while we waited at work for dad to be done looking inside of other dogs and poking needles in them, she made some smelly stuff come out of her mouth.  She wouldn’t tell me how she does that acause I wanted to learn it, but she just acted real quiet and didn’t even eat the crackers and cheezits dad gave us.

I wonder where she’s hiding.  Sometimes she would pounce and run when I pretended I didn’t see her.  She liked pounce-and-run and sometimes I’d scoot under the couch and tease her and nip at her when she tried to get me to come out.  Ha!  Then when she got tired of teasing she’d trot away and I’d come out real fast and whirl around and bump her over and scoot right back to my hiding place.  Then she’d get real mad and bark like crazy and she’d get into troubles with dad.  Then we would get tired and curl up together and take another nap.

Missy!  Where are you?  Come and get me!  Maybe something happened acause my dad talked to me about her and he let me come back to work late at night and he looked inside her to see why she was making noises and didn’t want to eat.  When we came home 4 hours later we tried to curl up with her to make her happy but she acted awake all night long so we went to work again and dad looked in her again and his eyes were raining and he started making funny noises.  I kinda got scared acause he never made those noises when his eyes rained.

Then when we got home he told me he had to wrap Missy up in her favorite blanket and put her in a safe little room with a cover on it so she could sleep.  He said he wrote a message on her tiny room even though she can’t read.  He said it was a love note from him, and from me and from our mom and from Molly my big sister in Naples.  He made a ground hole in the little garden with the tiny white fence overlooking the lake.  I’m not sure but I think she’s hiding near the garden and fell asleep acause dad said she had to go to sleep for a long, long time.  That’s OK… I’ll wait for her acause we had so much fun together running around the field, eating flowers, digging up chippy hideouts, chasing rabbits, barking at far away sounds and wrestling, and following dad and making him call us three twices before we would turn around and head home.  I’ll be waiting for her.



I entered the exam room expecting nothing out of the ordinary.  To my discomfort I faced two patients, elderly, frail, innocent and hoping for something good to happen.

Introducing myself to Joe and Arlene, I began asking questions about little Misty.  She was mostly hidden within Arlene's soft, sheltering embrace . . .and all I could see was a small patch of dark fur and an old, graying face punctuated by two wide and curious eyes with milky-steel cataracts that long ago robbed her of vision.

It only took a cursory glance at Joe to know that he was the second patient in the room.  The slightly pale but yellowish tint to his hairless face, his walking cane and noticeably thin features were all consistent with that of a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy.  Joe was surely someone else's patient.  And yet, as long as his little dog was under my care, Joe was in a way my patient too.

"Well, Arlene, let's have a look at Misty",  I suggested so that I could begin the process of transferring the little dog from her embrace to mine.  Arlene was extremely overweight, in her seventies, and was quite the opposite in physical features from Joe.  Slowly she unwrapped Misty from her and passed the eleven-pound dog to me.

I could tell immediately the love of this old couple's life was in trouble.  Misty's abdomen was tight as a drum and she flinched as I held her.  I knew she couldn't see me long before I heard Joe quietly say, "She's blind, doctor, but she gets around pretty good for an old dog."  Placing my hand to Misty's nose so she could "see" who I was, I wondered what kind of a picture that old nose painted of me within her tiny brain.   I then slowly passed my hand along her gray snout and over her head. Her breath smelled rotten from loose teeth and infected gums.  Misty's old body was covered with thin, pale skin, visible in places where a healthy, youthful coat had years ago fallen away.  Bones and joints were now prominent features on my patient; her weight was surely not what it should be.  My gosh! She looks just like Joe, I thought.

The physical exam on Misty indicated congested lungs, a normal sounding heart and the alarmingly tense abdomen.

"Has she been coughing?" I queried.

"Not much," Arlene answered.  "But she seems to pant all the time and can't even go outside without having to stop to catcher her breath."

"How about passing stool and urinating?  Any problems there?"  I continued.

Joe responded, "Well, yes.  She seems to urinate an awful lot and when she goes there's not much coming out.  Then she just keeps squatting like she's not finished." 

Joe gave me the answer that I expected.

"We need to take a blood sample from Misty; and while we're waiting for those results a few x-rays will really help us find out why her lungs are so congested."

I needed to be alone with Misty too.  Thirty years of practice has taught me that some of the most reliable diagnostic information I get from my patients is obtained when I remove the pet from the environment of the owners and exam room.  One-on-one, me and my patient.  I poke and pull and push, all the while talking to my patient to let the dog know I am just trying to help.  And in most cases, the patient gives me the information I seek.

After reviewing the blood tests and radiographs, the initial dread I felt when entering the exam room grew stronger.  The next few moments were not going to be pleasant.

We gave Misty back to Joe and Arlene and the brave little dog with the innocent old face and trusting temperament disappeared between her two caretakers.  Why does it have to be this, I thought.  Why not something else?

"Joe and Arlene, it really looks like Misty has cancer" I heard myself say.  I tried unsuccessfully to escape, wishing for an out of body experience so that I wouldn't have to be there, didn't have to be the one to slam this bad news at them.  These kind and loving old people didn't need this to be happening.  And little Misty surely didn't deserve such an affliction.

"And unfortunately she has it in more than one area of her body" I confirmed.  As delicately as I could, and in non-medical terms, I explained about the multiple, cottonball-like patches that filled her tiny chest cavity. 

"No wonder she was having trouble breathing", Joe said as he held Arlene's arm close to him with one hand and the cane with the other.

"And can you see this large shadow here in her abdomen?  That's her bladder.  It's about three times as large as it should be."  I explained to this family of three (and I do not mistake this for a family of two with a dog, for no human child could be loved more by anyone than Joe and Arlene love little Misty) that my patient was in a very difficult situation.  Veterinary medicine has made huge strides in the battle against cancer, but when 80% of the lung tissue as well as areas remote from the lungs are affected, chances of successful therapy are very poor. 

I informed Joe and Arlene that while the blood tests were being done I attempted to pass a urinary catheter into Misty's bladder . . . and it simply would not pass.  Then upon using a scope to visualize the urinary opening from the bladder, the presence of an obstructing tumor was starkly evident.

I quietly mention how in most cases we like to obtain tissue samples to send to a veterinary pathologist to confirm a diagnosis of cancer, but Arlene, almost in resignation, said, "We understand, doctor.  Joe has cancer too, and has just had his last chemo. We don't want her to suffer; do you think she's in pain?"

"Misty is an exceedingly brave little dog" I began.  "She can hardly breathe; she can't see; she can't empty her bladder.  If she is not in pain, she surely is terribly uncomfortable.  And I wish I knew of something to do to help her."

Joe and Arlene huddled over their courageous little dog; Misty hadn't issued even a whimper of protest during the last forty-five minutes of physical examination, radiographs, catheterization attempts and venipuncture for blood sample analysis.  I kept noticing that she seemed to watch me, and wondered how she did it.  She was old and her parts were failing.  There was no trace of youthful vigor or beauty, her breath was oppressive and her body a decrepit victim of degeneration and disease.  And Joe and Arlene loved her!  And so did I.  It couldn't be helped because her spirit and courage shined brighter than any physical deformity.  We loved the life essence of who she was so what she was didn't matter.

An hour later, when more of Misty's relatives assembled to be with her, we euthanized the little black dog who was such an important part of Joe and Arlene's lives.  I said good-by as they carried little Misty away to be buried at home.  I shook Joe's hand and made myself look directly into his wet and tired eyes. 

Now there was just one patient, and a physician would soon be at his side. 
As those who remain can only try to be equally as stoic, cancer will claim another beautiful and brave spirit.


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