Thursday, January 3, 2013

Songbirds - Familiar Sounds

I wrote this on 12/27/12, but with all the holiday and chemo happenings, didn't post it. Although I'm feeling more hopeful this week, I think this post has relevance.


Parallel stories:

Moved to Alabama in the hottest time of the year, August. It was 90 degrees with 90% humidity. Hot, muggy, and noisy. 

Tyler (10 then) complained that he couldn't sleep at nights because of all the sounds - crickets, frogs, cicadas.

We moved back to Utah in the dead of winter. Snow covered the ground, the area felt dead. Tyler complained about it being so quiet that he couldn't sleep at nights.

In the late 1800s - early 1900s many families moved from the eastern parts of the US to the Midwest. They weren't part of the initial Homestead Act land-rush but still thought the American dream of owning and living off the land was a possibility.

These latecomers didn't necessarily get the best land; often these sections of  land were miles away from the closest neighbors. While this was usually okay for the men, the women and children suffered from lack of daily conversation and interaction with people of their own age and gender. (I wrote about this in 1999, the article was published in a BYU publication as well as the Utah Historical Journal. It is not available online, but the link above does share some of the same information.)
During this time there were traveling salesmen who would stock a wagon full of necessary goods and them some niceties. One of the frivolities the salesmen kept with them were songbirds. The salesmen had learned that not only were canaries and other tiny birds beneficial for mines and miners, but the women bought them as well. Why? Because they needed familiar sounds around them. They needed bright - colors and tunes to make their homestead a little more liveable.

You can find photographs of farmers and their families taken by these same salesmen from this era. The photographs often are not only of the family standing outside their  soddie, but the furnishings (prized possessions) from the interior were often featured in these photographs. In some photos you will see songbirds in ornate cages.

A tragic play, written by Susan Glaspell, in (1916) and about this time-period is called Trifles, later turned in to a short-story, "A Jury of Her Peers."

I guess what I 'm saying here is that I have been in the winter of my cancer journey. All I can do right now is just make my way through this section, holding on to the joys around me; knowing the past, I can predict there will be a spring, but now, today, it's pretty quiet, and without familiar sounds; it is tough to even get out of bed some days, the pain is too much, too unpredictable, too foreign, and no one is selling songbirds.


This leg of my journey is one of putting on my snow-tires, praying that my battery doesn't die, that I don't get stuck in a snowstorm, that, as my doctor and his staff say, "You just need to make it through this time, it's just hard work."

Postscript - 01/03/13 Went to sleep at midnight, been up since 4am. Steroids, Phenergan, and Benadryl are wearing off. My tongue is numb, toes ache, fingers beginning to ache, legs aching. Yesterday was celebratory, today - pain meds, rice packs, a healing massage, and a soft warm pillow and blanket, please.



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