Wednesday, October 7, 2009


It’s Autumn. Leaves are turning and falling. Days are shorter and shorter. Capri pants are out - sweaters are in. That smell is in the air. It’s that time of year when you want to pick up a backpack and a number 2 pencil. You want to be outside as much as you can because you know what’s coming. You find yourself with an urge to make soup and the coffee tastes better than it ever does in the summer. You put an extra blanket back on the bed.

This seasonal transition we’re in seemed to happen overnight – one day you’re in sunshine and shorts and the next day you’re thinking maybe you should turn the furnace on. It was probably more abrupt having spent the 2 weeks prior to the change in 95 degree heat with 95 percent humidity. I don’t think I was quite ready. I still want those 60 degree days where the sun shines and you can do some Fall clean-up in the yard. I’m not ready to hunker down for the count quite yet. Transitions are always a challenge in some way.

The transition back to regular life is marked by Haiti leftovers. I came back with intestinal bugs – always a pleasure and I won’t bore you all with the details. This time I also came back with a different experience – Dengue fever. A mosquito borne viral illness, it is characterized by fever, headache, back ache, joint aches, and a funky reddish tinge to the skin. In short, you feel like a truck hit you. Cure? Tylenol and a lot of naps. Ah, Haiti – the gift that keeps on giving.

Tim O’Brien starts his book, The Things They Carried, with a litany of all the things different soldiers carried with them through the Vietnam War. There were many things that everybody carried. They were necessities – SOP – for all soldiers like a rain poncho, ammunition, dog tags. In addition to the things in common, they all carried something unique. They carried photos or foot powder or extra socks or a Bible or a talisman. And they all carried their history.

Haiti, and Valentina, are now part of my history. Back at home, there’s work to do and I’m working. There’s a house to clean and I’m cleaning. There are bills to pay – yep – I’m paying. Life is back to normal. I’m moving on which is what we all do because we have no choice. Life is full of experiences and changes for all of us. None of us is exempt. No matter how big it is to us at the time - no matter how intense – our pain is no bigger than anyone else’s pain. We all have to deal with the stuff that comes our way. The best we can do is try to integrate those experiences into who we are and where we are. Let them in. Learn from them. Let them change us. Carry them.

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