Monday, July 16, 2018

Queens

Queens

Trump is in London, he makes me sick
Why did we elect a total prick
Stupid, evil, dangerous as hell.

Turned his back on the 90 year old queen,
Rudely ignored her, he looked mean
Does he treat his own Grandma like this as well?

More Londoners showed to protest his ass
Than came to his inauguration, alas,
"Fake news! Paid actors!" spewed the imbecile.

He'll take away our right to choose,
Our health care, gay rights, and science too-
Are you still perseverating on her email?

It will get worse, it will get real
Stolen children, Nazi apologists, tell me-how will we heal?
Pretend things are fine, then we shall fail.

Paralyzed by fear in this slow motion crash
My son is in prison and we have no cash
Best curl in a corner and moan and wail.

Get up! Stand up, America, and scream!
Do not let haters destroy our dream.
I propose we crown Ruth Bader Ginsburg our queen.
Let justice shine through and kindness prevail.

7/14/18


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Another Morning Run at the Beach

Another Morning Run at the Beach

Stretched together spine to spine,
vertebrae an old folk art wooden child's puzzle,
the kind you would get in Asheville, North Carolina,
dog to woman, as the sun creeps in.
Light's fingertips brush eyelids
inviting them to lift,
which, once done, introduces day's discomforts
to the fleeting night.
Her hand reaches, settling on his fur,
making his head lift, nose checking air.
And he follows her down the stairs
curling up nearby while coffee brews.
She charts last night's calls from worried patients
and studies poetry.
Maybe William Carlos Williams did this too.
Sun up, two cups drunk,
she moves into action,
into clothes and shoes, light t-shirt
brushing spine and ribs.
He already has his clothes on,
always prepared for this very moment,
uncurls like a spring released,
awake.
For the first time or seven hundredth time
or the last time.
A precious, mundane mystery,
how she can never fully get the sand out of her shoes,
or off of his tight curls.

7/3/18



Morning 7/3/18

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, BC

Totems, weather-worn, and potlach bowls in the shape of humans and seals and several different creatures at once. Baskets by a woman's great-great grandmother, with her name and picture right next to her work there, great-great granddaughter proud to share. They called her Granny7.

One of my best friends calls me Jen7. We are not sure why but now I feel I am in good company.

History interests me, but most exciting was the modern art by members of the many tribes of this region. A short film by a young woman for her thesis, about respect. A symmetric black metal raven, folded and enormous, really two ravens or a raven and her shadow. When I sat in this one red chair and leaned my head back, Bill Reid started speaking the story into my ears as I looked at his carving of the Raven finding men in a clam shell and letting them out.

I am beginning to wonder if that was such a good idea.

Another room was divided by gauzy curtains into many rooms, each holding Resistance Art, "Politics and the Past in Latin America". In defence of maize, honoring the devil, and drawings by refugee children in El Salvador who depicted running from the US-provided helicopters that bombed their relatives dead.

The thing I cannot dislodge from my mind's eye: Three large paintings that are held by a wall with nothing else on it. They draw you in, so colorful and marvelous. Three self portraits of people with HIV who live in South Africa. The woman in the middle, her painting next to a small photograph with her eyes intently on you while you gaze at her work, got HIV from her boyfriend. She could not tell him or her father she had it, for her own safety. Had it, because although she was born a decade after I, she is dead now. Not of AIDS though. Her boyfriend murdered her.

At this point, I had to go to the gift shop and regroup. There was a spectacular orca mask I pictured on my very own wall, but it was $2000.00. I opted instead for two reproduced prints by two artists, one dead and famous, the other a young member of a local tribe. I also chose a small wood plaque with a raven carved on it, holding the sun (abalone) in its beak.

I wondered, as I walked through the rooms of the MOA in Vancouver, BC, which also had things from Europe and Africa and Asia and the United States of America, what the museum of anthropology will make of our era in 100 or 1000 years. It is possible we are, right at this moment, living through the downfall of the American Empire and there will be a small room dedicated to this.

It is possible the Raven will decide to shove us all back into the shell of a clam. Then future museum visitor will hear the same story I did, but in reverse.


Friday, June 15, 2018

Complementarity

Sometimes the top of the ridge, a hill that is a grueling 9 mile climb by bike and harrowing by car, is enclosed in fog. When it is sunny, it presents mountains on three sides, the ocean on the fourth. But the earth is not four-cornered, rather it is a panorama, so what one sees on a sunny day is a circle of fields, hills, mountains, water, endless horizon. If foggy, you might see your hand stretched out in front of your face while cool fog-drops cover you in mist. Either is my favorite.

Frank Wilczek was discussing complementarity on this podcast from last week. He's a nobel prize winning physicist. "When people ask me what religion I practice, I say complementarity".
I could not really understand all of his thoughts, but I think the idea might be something like: either, both, at the same time but not observable at the same time, mutually exclusive but interdependent. Having the perspective that other perspectives exist and can exist even if they are different than yours might just be the key to surviving these harrowing times.

When running on the top of the ridge yesterday, I was riling up the cows. Not on purpose, but given there is not a lot of foot traffic up there, when someone comes running along it warrants at the very least a huffy "moo", and often induces mass hysteria (hysteeria?). It is all what you are used to I suppose, because the cows on the Bottom where I also run keep chewing grass nonchalantly and push their muzzles through the gate for a better sniff and maybe a pat as I trot by.

I wonder when what once seemed an improbable evil becomes so normal that we forget to name it as wrong? Standing in a long line in Amsterdam a couple of summers ago, I awaited my turn to walk through the house where Anne Frank and her family hid. The lines are always long, I hear. People from all over the world want to see where this young diarist dwelt and stuck magazine photos on her wall and ate potatoes and had crushes on boys and was dragged out of bed into a stock car on a train that separated her from her family and housed her in filth until she died, still a child.

It is now a policy that in order to deter families from coming here illegally, we kidnap their children at the border and put them into camps.

Where I work, as a physician in a government supported program for vulnerable elders, we cannot even make a "policy" about where we store our number 2 pencils without getting the OK from the state and feds who monitor us for quality and ethical care. So how the hell did this "policy" get into place without some kind of discussion first? What country do we live in? Was someone blogging about this very question during WWII as well? Were they, as I, feeling like writing and thinking about it is not helping but maybe there is no hope and I guess I will just finish this cup of coffee and go to work while my own children are safely tucked away, sleeping in on the first day of summer vacation?

Beauty exists and does not exist, depending on your perspective. Love exists and does not exist, because sometimes it is invisible like that point past your fingertips in the fog where the world seems to end.

Yesterday a dog bit me on the ass when I did a house call. Later, dog was curled on the floor near my feet while its person and I watched Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dance. The movie was playing when I arrived, muted during our visit, then as I unmuted it before leaving, I was drawn into the scene along with the elder I had just doctored. Elder used to dance, can now barely move. Fred and Rita are dead but on the screen immortal, and my ass lives to see another day and I love dogs no less.

Today will be day 268 in a row of running for me. I was wondering recently what it means but got the advice to stop thinking and just keep running. Dory from "Finding Nemo" had similar advice. She had very poor short term memory. But her past exists as does her present and future and they are all happening and happened and about to happen. Might as well keep swimming through the waters of despair and absurdity, intelligence and inanity, deep love and resounding hate. When you mix it all together it makes life soup.

When I get a mouthful of unexpected hate, I immediately spit it out. It tastes so rotten and my biological system knows it is toxic. Yesterday when I was driving to hospice, a guy pulled up behind me as I was waiting for traffic to clear to make a turn, and laid on his horn and leaned out his window and screamed the f bomb at me. I think he was in a hurry. I felt my heart pound in fear for a moment but I managed not to get angry. I felt a little sad and I had to do a proverbial spit out the driver's side window to rid myself of the taste. I think he would've beat me to death, right there on my way to hospice, just because I existed. I was wondering if the "READ" sticker on my car pissed him off. Or maybe he just found out his child has cancer or his wife is leaving him or his dog died and I was just the target of his innermost pain. Either way, I drove on to hospice and went about my day.

Which brings me back to he concept that contrasting theories and realities can exist simultaneously to explain phenomena. Other perspectives and ways of being exist. But I propose there are times when going about ones day is not the answer. Are there angry people out there who feel disenfranchised? Yep. Does that make the current normalization and acceptance of racism, sexism, violence, school shootings, and ripping children away from their parents who came to our country for a better life OK?

When I run on top of the ridge on a foggy day, I know the beauty is still there. It resides in my mind's eye and it reassures me that I can run and run and not fall off the edge of the earth. We live in the foggiest of times. We need to run toward the beauty, love, kindness and ethical correctness as fast as we can.

As fast as we can.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Other Day

The other day
A black man was shot
I was running with Greg
And a child was shot at school
When I felt faint.
I heard they are claiming Sandy Hook was not real.
My heart was palpitating weirdly
Emma Gonzalez asked
Greg was worried he'd need to resuscitate a doctor
for the love of God stop tweeting an image of the killer's face
which I forbade him to do
Emma is actually a child
Because I don't want to die in an ICU.
But gun control is a wild frontier
My resting heart rate is 43, sometimes 38,
that only Americans seem unwilling to explore
my hemoglobin not great
which is ironic.
I was so happy to run with Greg the other day
When we stake our reputation 
I think my heart was just doing joy flip-flops.
on our willingness to forge new paths.
For the record I am serious:
America needs to be kinder, braver, more sensible.
I actually do not want CPR.




Saturday, May 12, 2018

Brave Moms

Memory: my eldest, back when she was about 3, running along behind us in Monterey as we walked and talked along a walled-in pathway overlooking the Pacific. My husband and I turn around to check on her and see that she has decided running on top of the stone wall between path and cliff is a good idea. She has her tongue sticking out against her upper lip as she does when concentrating. Hair flying behind her. We, her frozen-in-terror parents, had the presence of mind not to shout at her, not to interrupt her focus, not to startle her into a temporary bird who would then be broken on the wave-carved rocks below.

I read this article today about being a brave mom. About how we are told to raise courageous children, but generally tend to do so while hyperventilating into a paper bag due to our own anxiety. The article refers to letting children do dangerous things, like climbing, biking, diving from high places. Personally, I do not need extreme sport to make me feel anxiety about the safety of my children. I think it is universal among parents, and probably especially among mothers.

My own Mom, may she not be hyperventilating into a paper bag somewhere in Mom heaven, could not even attend my childhood cross country meets for the nervous wreck she would be if my race did not go as planned. She could not care less if I ran fast, but she could not bear my own intense teenaged self-loathing.

I was watching Steph Curry play the other day, back from missing 16 games or so due to another injury, and realized watching him play is like parenting. That is, I found myself just waiting for the next shoe to drop, in the form of a twisted ankle or mangled knee. That feeling, of wanting so badly for things to go well, but bracing yourself for something bad to happen.

It is sweet to remember my Mom getting anxious about little things like cross country meets and piano recitals. Though to be honest I think her fear was about my type A driven personality and the deep abyss of depression I would teeter right over, like a 3 year old running on the top of a stone wall over a cliff. So maybe sweet is not quite the right word. I might not have offered the same grittiness as fodder for fears as has, for instance, a certain son of mine. He had me picturing the absolute worst. Which, thus far, has not yet occurred. The second absolute worst, yes. When your fears come true as a Mom, you rise up. And fall down. Then rise up again and then fall again. And somehow finally stop falling long enough to live life each day with some semblance of hope and gratitude.

My son wrote a letter from prison to my 10 year old nephew recently. Nephew brought it to show me and son's Dad. It said how he wished he had tried in school. How important it is for nephew to do this, to not end up making choices like son did. Nephew held the letter close to his heart, probably a little bit awed by having a family member in prison, but also clearly wanting son to be free. Free so they can open a mechanics shop together some day. It will be on the top floor of our house, where only the right people will know how to find it. A secret mechanic's shop with a slide off the roof into the hot tub. Son to nephew: "no secret mechanic shops will happen if you ignore education and get addicted to drugs." Only he said it in a way a 10 year old boy could absorb.

God knows we tried such words on son, among a million other pisses in the wind trying to help him and assuage our own anxiety. Even in the less potent arena of regular old day to day parenting, knowing what to say to guide your child without pushing them, knowing how to comfort them without making their eyes roll so far back in their heads they can see the root of their optic nerves, knowing how to let them fall down so they can learn how to get up because some day they will need that skill is the holy grail. If I knew, my son would not be in prison. If I knew, my children would be happy every second of the day as they aced their exams and won the prize for "best kid to talk about in the doctor's lounge to impress everyone there" award.

I have no clue how to be a brave Mom. I think I will write a poem instead.

I Can Only Speak for Myself, as a Mother

The little hands
Six in all
Clasped mine
Expecting magic from the wands
Of my own fingers

Two that write
As predicted
By Fifth grade teacher
Tapping into third sight
Zen Master all grown

Two that draw
On bodies of imprisoned men
Ink found
Somewhere alongside awe
You never could sit still but now you can

Two that strive
Dragon claws
Clapping with delight
Not held by me until after five
I never want to let go

Expecting magic from the wands
My own fingers
Grasp
Like holding sand
Warm and slipping away.

-Jennifer Heidmann 5/12/18








Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Diving for Pearls

I love anatomy. Don't get creeped out. If you have a medical doctor who does not (to some degree) love anatomy, there is something wrong with them. I also love physiology. The science of how we function. The deep dive into the chemicals and salts and biological brilliance that helps us do everything from breathing to running to playing a Bach fugue. Having recently re-read A Wrinkle in Time, I must consider that the anatomical sinews and physiological perfections of the body well-studied may not be all there is to it. Maybe we have always existed and maybe we are existing in countless places at once. Maybe my perceptions blind me to the possibilities of wonder.

All that being said, I have this nagging injury that would go away if I stopped running for awhile but I am on a streak and it means something to me I cannot explain, so I just keep running. I try to compromise by taking slow days often. I vary terrain, shoes, pace, elevation. Today the weirdest thing happened, which I think even Charles Wallace Murry would have trouble understanding. I set off for an afternoon run after seeing patients. My legs were very sore (see above re injury). I decided to do a "rest run", which involves a very slow pace. Usually "rest runs" are emotionally challenging for me. But today, from the very first step, I was blissed out with a complete, full-on runner's high. I just felt like nothing was wrong in the world. That nothing else needed to be happening at that moment. This was weird, because simultaneously my hamstrings were so tightly wound that there was a real possibility I was going to get flung across town by them, slingshot style. My right sciatic nerve was screaming bloody murder. But my brain just floated up there and was like, wow this feels good, the flowers smell like ambrosia, the spring air is soft and gentle, that SUV who just cut me off is super nice, that escaped chihuahua running circles right in front of me on the trail is pretty cute.

I do not really like chihuahuas. Or being cut off by SUVs. So, what the heck?

Physiologically, it is serotonin and norepinephrine and such percolating around my brain cells and communicating with the system that is me. Spiritually, it is inexplicable. Psychologically, it made my day. Kinesiologically, I was a slug. Egotistically, this generally puts me in a foul mood. But today, my sluggish, athletically barren self was as happy as could be.

Maybe we can exist in two planes at once, one of suffering and one of bliss. Maybe the key to a well-lived, well-loved life is riding the curl of these extremes. Go too high and the wave of life tips you over, go to low and it crushes you while shoving salt water up your nose. When I surfed, I tended to go too high on the wave, and subsequently dive for pearls.

There was this fragrant shrub I ran past at the start and end of my run today that made me swoon. I think for once in my life, I was in the curl today. Getting all misty over chihuahuas and scrumptious blooms while my very real anatomically-based hamstring misery was something I just acknowledged.

A couple of patients I care for deeply will die this week. I find myself coming at this fact sideways, with my gaze softened and trained at some point just above the strong shoulders of the universe. Wiping the brow of someone in transition without losing oneself to sadness is tricky. Usually the act of dying is not transcendent for anyone involved (though I cannot speak for those that have died and what might happen then), but showing up is probably enough. Transcendence might be overrated. When I have saved up enough in my good vibes account to visit Transcendence, I will be sure to leave a review on Trip Advisor so everyone can know what I think about it.

I love anatomy and physiology, the way it all fits together. How we can run and dance and heal and sing and cry and surf and snuggle. How our chemistry sparks our electricity and our ability to love. How we will never have a shortage of mitochondrial power as long as we live. How after we die our bodies become part of the universe, one way or another. How we might all be connected and powerful and nothing at all, all at once and never before and sometime in the future.

It is possible my endorphins are still in excess. Because none of this makes sense. I should not have had a runner's high today. And beloved people should not get sick and die. It is possible my tendency to accidentally dive for pearls is just one more piece of my DNA, a wrinkle in some part of my mind. Written in my chemistry, just waiting there for the next grand experiment. I think it lives next to that part of my brain that still believes I could go sub 3 in the marathon.

Magical, obtuse, and just this side of possible.