Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Life Unscripted

Channeling Cheech & Chong: Carrot Cake My Eye!
     It's Saturday morning, and I'm sitting here perusing our neighborhood doughnut shop's morning offerings on Facebook, hoping that Spartacus, who's just woken up, will fetch us a half dozen of Revolution's pillowy good Carrot Cake and chocolate-glazed, nut-crusted, coconut-custard-filled Almond Joy to savor over our long holiday weekend. Seeing as how I'm in a writing slump, I really have nothing better to do at the moment.

     This is going to sound crazy, but after finishing my last short story (Sun Jelly Pastures), I went through a strange sort of grieving process. Personally, I thought it was a pretty fantastically original story. For five weeks or so, I poured myself into creating characters, moods, imagery, feelings, and environments that were so meaningful and real to me, it was like having some sort of mystic experience. I became very close to a fellow blogger, Madilyn, who graciously assisted me in my research of Navajo culture. When it was all over, I felt bereft. Although I don't like to admit it, I've actually wondered if I'll ever be able to write anything that good again; that's how much I loved my story. I have no idea whether other writers can identify with such a feeling, but there it is. 

     Just for the hell of it, I've submitted Sun Jelly Pastures, as well as the first short story I wrote (The Appointment) to several different national fiction-writing competitions. I figure it can't hurt. I'm fully aware of just how competitive the writing market is, so I don't have much in the way of expectations. Maybe someone will like my stories and my style. Who knows? You never know until you try, right?

Me (center) as Dr. Frank N Furter, 1980
When my biological clock went off at age 26, I became someones' mom (no, "someones'" isn't a typo; I have twins). At 34, newly remarried with two young children, I started medical school. If I'd spent my life considering whether or not the odds were stacked against me, whether my children were "affordable" or if medical school was actually "doable" for someone as old as I was, I probably wouldn't be a mom or a physician right now. Playing it by ear is how I live life in general. Dr. Frank N Furter's advice in the closing scenes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always resonated with me: "Don't dream it, be it." I've never wanted to miss out on life because I was busy making other plans. It hasn't always been easy. Sometimes, it's gotten downright ugly. But, seriously, there's no better feeling in the world than to declare as triumphantly as Edith Piaf, "Non, je ne regrette rien." I couldn't imagine living my life any other way.
     I have absolutely no idea what I want to do with my writing. I guess my question is, do I have to do anything with it, other than what I'm already doing? I hate the idea of having to do anything. That's why I'm determined to make working part-time work for me. I like having the freedom to work as much or as little as I want, to be the one in charge of how I spend my time. The thought of being under somebody's thumb is objectionable to me. I really can't help it. I'm an unapologetic free spirit who has little regard for social conventions. I'm a writer because I write. I enjoy what I write, and I think that's probably good enough.

     Spartacus just came home from Revolution, and sadly, there were no Almond Nut Joys in the signature brown cardboard box. However, he did bring home a not-too-shabby assortment of Carrot Cake, Raspberry Sprinkle, Almond Cake, and Bacon & Salted Caramel. Somehow, I knew today's odds didn't favor the Almond Nut Joys, but, then again, getting the fancy-flavored doughnut you want exactly when you want it is a rainbow-sprinkled crapshoot, just like life. There are sooooo many uncontrolled variables, such as the availability of certain key ingredients. Or, like what happened last weekend, when Revolution's Hobart mixer broke down, and they had to mix and knead all of their doughnuts by hand. It's still worth taking that better-luck-next-time chance. Anyhow, Spartacus and I armed ourselves with mugs of coffee and munched on a couple of Almond Cakes before he went out to hit golf balls, leaving me all sugared up, but still bereft with nothing to write about. Woe is me; time for a Salted Caramel...

     It's an unseasonably cool and windy late spring day here in Atlanta, and in just a few moments, I'll be taking my dogs, Simon and Lilly, out into the front yard to enjoy the sunshine and squirrels. We have absolutely no plans whatsoever for the weekend, and that's exactly how I like it. Ah, the simple pleasures of a life unscripted. Like the mystery assortments Spartacus brings home from the doughnut shop, every moment's a sweet surprise.
A rainbow sprinkled crapshoot of sugary delight

     For those of you who didn't "get" the Cheech & Chong reference, here's "Earache My Eye."

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Most Terrible Sad Rainbows of Love Left Behind

The Conclusion of Sun Jelly Pastures

     It warn't long after we got the news about Enid's cancer spreadin' to 'er brain that babysittin' 'er become a full-time job, what with her constant babblin' an' wanderin' out into that dag-nabbed south pasture. It was sorta like how me'n'Enid had ta keep our eye on Sun Jelly so's he wouldn't tip hisself over outta his baby chair or turn blue from chokin' on his spit, only he didn't know no better. Maybe Enid didn't know no better no more, neither. The situation had got ta where's I couldn't hardly pay no attention t'other thangs that needed ta be done 'round here. Them cows and chickens needed tendin' to somethin' fierce, and Enid couldn't help me no more. So, I done called up Enid's mama, Dottie, ta see if she'd mind comin' down here ta set with Enid for a spell. Once Mommy Dottie seen the shape Enid was in, I thank she jus' didn't have the heart ta leave 'er. She come down 'round about a month ago, an' much as I hate ta admit it, havin' 'er here's been a real big hepp ta me.

    Course, the apple don't never fall too far from the tree, an' just like Enid, Mommy Dottie shorely does love her some Jesus. She goes an' gets 'erself all worked up into a tizzy, yammerin' on about His Divine Grace and how He performed all a them wondrous miracles, healin' the sick, walkin' on water an' turnin' it inta wine, an' how he done raised ol' Lazarus and even His own self straight up from the dead. Her carryin' on riles Momma E up ta where she's combing 'er fingers all crazy-like through what's lefta her hair, strippin' down ta her underbritches a' singin' "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" at the toppa her voice out the kitchen winn-der. Good thang our neighbors' houses is so spread out, otherwise someone might've already notified the po-leece. Lord knows we wouldn't wanna give Buford Calhoun, good-fer-nothin' sheriff that he is, no more reasons ta stick 'is nose up into our business, 'specially since word about them blue-stemmed mushrooms in our south pasture done got out to the college kids.  

    When Mommy Dottie first seen Enid's paintin' of grass-haired Jesus on the fence out front, she couldn't hardly believe 'er eyes. In a New York minute, her jaw went from flappin' to slack. "Well, I'll be," she declared. "If that don't take the rag offa bush. Baby Girl done painted The Son of God, tiptoe-in' barefoot on a cow patty with a coupla heifers chewin' on His Bless-ed Hair." Big ol' tears was rollin' down 'er cheeks. "She ain't right, is she, Maynard? Bless 'er precious heart, Enid's crazier'n a bedbug." 

     What Mommy Dottie didn't know was that, here lately, I been doin' some cryin' myself. It ain't nothin' I'm proud mama'n'daddy didn't raise no sissy. Honest ta God, if I had a nickel fer ever'time Mama told me, "Boys don't cry," I shore as hell wouldn't be slavin' away on this here farm. The first cryin' jag come over me when Enid was cooped up at the hospital, bein' poked and prodded all day long. No one was tellin' us nothin', an' I had no ide'er what was wrong with 'er. I ain't gonna lie: I was scared. I was settin' in my truck, drivin' back home ta git all my afternoon chores did before dark, when Patsy Cline come on the radio, sangin' that song "I Fall To Pieces." Welp, I fell to pieces right then and there. Had ta pull over 'till it passed. 

     There ain't no right way a'deliverin' terrible news; it don't change what's done happened. I reckon it was as hard fer Earl Busbee ta look me in the eye an' tell me my wife had incurable cancer as it was fer me ta hear it. Him bein' my old friend didn't help none, neither. From there on out, ever' second run slow as molasses. It was like bein' inside one a them nightmares where yer tryin' ta scream or shout, but nothin's comin' out. Worst part is, there ain't no wakin' up from this 'un. 

     Enid's dyin'. There ain't nothin' I can do about it. My heart's broke, thankin' about how sweet she's always been ta me. I shore ain't done nothin' ta deserve it. All these years a me payin' her no nevermind, and she still took care a me best she could, even when she had 'er hands full with baby Arliss. She loved bein' his mama, even though he was blind and retarded. Poor ol' Sun Jelly. I couldn't give her no more children after he died. Truth be told, I was afraid a havin' more kids. What if they was defective, too? I knowed I let Enid down, but she didn't never fault me for it. She just went on with 'er life. An' now, we're countin' her life in days. After she's gone, I'll be alone ag'in.

     Before I started talkin' ta Homer Owl Song a few weeks back, I couldn't hardly git nothin' done 'cause I was so tore up about Momma E. We pretty much got her squared away with hospice an' all. She's so out of it most a the time anyways, I don't thank she really knows what's goin' on. It's better this a-way. Me, I become a nervous wreck ever since we brung 'er home, and ever' passin' day, it kep' gettin' worser fer me. I ain't never been emotional like this before. Homer's been real good about checkin' in on us, but even so, I felt funny talkin' to 'im 'bout my private feelins'. It don't make no sense, 'cause my pride ain't never done me no favors. But, what's a man to do?


     One afternoon, not too long ago, Homer come over. Told me ta have Mommy Dottie keep 'er eye on Enid, so's we could git chores done. Then, him an' me was gonna set out in the south pasture from nightfall 'til the sun come up next mornin'. Knowin' what I knowed 'bout Homer, I didn't put up a fuss. I knowed my prayers was bein' answered. We moved the cows outta the pasture for the night, an' then we built us a fire an' set up camp. It was the first time I ever just set out there, doin' nothin'. Once we got the fire goin' good, me an' Homer laid in the grass, talkin'. He had a lotta innerestin' stories, bein' 100% Navajo an' all. First off, they call theirselves Dineh, which means "The People." Their creation legend was sorta like Adam an' Eve, only their First Man and First Woman led ever'one inta this water-covered world by walkin' up a reed from the bottom of a lake deep inside the earth. Then, after the winds blowed to clear off some land, them an' their two kids, The Changin' Twins, made all the mountains an' rivers an' all the plants'n'animals an' ever'thing else folks needed to live here in harmony with nature. After that story, Homer turned kinda serious. 

     "Even though my people accept death as a part of life, Maynard, we don't talk about it at all. It's taboo. Now, we're not afraid of death itself; we accept it as part of life. What we are afraid of is the devils people leave behind called chindi. These evil spirits are all the ways in which a person was out of sorts with the world, and we steer clear of them. They're thought to make the living sick. This is why prayer chants and purification rituals are central to our way of medicine; we're restoring nature's balance and our spiritual connection with the universe. Talking about death is thought to bring it on, so we keep to positive conversation. After someone dies, those evil spirits disperse. Because of that, we prefer for people to die outdoors. If someone dies at home, his home and possessions--anything personal the chindi might attach themselves to--are all destroyed. You'll never hear us speak the name of a dead person because the chindi might hear it and bring disease. We don't cry or outwardly mourn our dead, either. Too much emotion might interrupt the spirit's passage to the underworld."

     The fire done died down, so I got myseff up'n' give it a stir, then Homer throwed a grate he brung with 'im on top a the coals. I thought maybe we was gonna fix us some coffee, 'cause he set down a kettle a water ta boil. Then, he went on with what he was sayin'.

     "For my people, letting go isn't an option. If we don't forget the dead, their spirits will trap us in ways we'll never understand. But, as autonomous and self-determined as we are, in this day and age of life-prolonging technology, our fears of death have become self-defeating. With all the taboos we have on talking about death, along with the advances in modern medicine, how can I ensure that someone's autonomy is preserved when he or she becomes terminally ill? Given the option, some folks choose heroic measures, while others prefer to let nature take its course. Every individual has the right to determine what's best for him, whether it's quantity or quality of life. If death is the end of all experience, then my job is to change the way in which dying people and their families experience life, whether it's in months, weeks, days, or minutes. I think I can help you, too, Maynard."

     Homer explained about how them magic mushrooms was bein' used by researchers ta help dyin' people overcome their fears about death. I already knowed all about him bein' a full-fledged Navajo medicine man an' havin' that fancy ethnobotany degree, so's I asked 'im if he thought whatever was in them mushrooms could help someone like me who was havin' so much trouble lettin' go. "Yes, Maynard, in my hands, I believe it will." He told me about how peyote's a sacred herb for the Navajo, an' how it brings on a spiritual experience. Said he'd taken it a time or two hisself. I asked what it was like, an' he said it's like a real peaceful oneness with nature. "These mushrooms will work the same way, Maynard." Hell, it sounded perty good ta me, I was so miserable. "Let's do it," I said.

     Me'n'Homer walked aroun' the pasture, lookin' for a clump a them mushrooms. It was just before dark. The sun was settin' real perty, just as yeller-orange as the yolk from one a Enid's guinea hen eggs. We come up to this one cow pie that had 'shrooms growin' out of it ever' which way. Homer picked one've 'em, and showed me how the cap was tan in the middle an' dark blue 'round the edges. The stem bruised blue when he squeezed it, an' he pointed out how the ring around the top a the stem was stained purple'n'brown from the spores. After pickin' about ten nice-sized ones, Homer swished 'em around in a pan a water, then dumped 'em into the kettle. He throwed in a buncha differn't herbs he said'd keep me from gettin' sick at my stomach, lettin' it cool down fer a spell, then he squeezed some honey an' quite a few oranges into it. Poured half've it into a coffee cup, give it to me, an' said, "Here, my friend, drink this." 

     I'd be lyin' if I told ya that there tea tasted good. It was more like drankin' bitter wood chip dirt, but I choked it down anyhow. Homer was busy sprinklin' some kinda colored powder in the clearin' by the wild muscadine patch, near where poor ol' Sun Jelly was buried. Soon as I finished his tea, I put my cup down, an' walked myself over ta see what Homer was up to. He was singin' to hisself in Navajo, makin' a big ol' drawin' with sand that was black, blue, yeller, red, an' white.
Ink drawing by Madilyn Leonard
"The big circle is water, Maynard; it represents Earth. And, here's First Woman, the Great Mother, surrounded by all she's created in complete natural balance. You can sit down anywhere you like." He started up singin' ag'in, an' even dancin', too.

     I set myself down smack dab in the middle a that there circle, an' then, the circle swallered me, an' I was back inside my mama's womb. It was dark an' warm inside a her, soft as buckskin, quiet as the calm before a storm. Sunshine Greedy Fingers reached up inta her an'pulled me out, but outside was all Dark Cloudy Lightnin', an' I fought ta git back inside, but Mama done closed 'erself up. I wandered 'round by myself, blind as Sun Jelly, cryin' me a river 'cause I was so lonesome, when I seen Enid, young an' nekkid, 'er hair blowin' in the wind, 'er belly fat with our child, 'er heart big as Texas. I wanted to crawl up inside a her with our baby, but there warn't no room.  She held out her breasts fer me like two Georgia peaches, an' I suckled at 'em till the milk a her motherly love run all through me, an' she petted my head an' loved on me like 'er own child. Because a her, I warn't alone no more. I fell asleep fer a long time, an' I didn't take no notice've all the thangs she done fer me.  She might as well been invisible. When I woke up ag'in, a rainbow smile come across Enid's mouth, an' Sun Jelly ran 'tween 'er teeth on rainbow legs, an' that rainbow wrapped itseff real tight around me ta where's I was all bound up in it. I seen both a 'em disappearin' into the green grass a Heaven, an' there wasn't nothin' I could do ta stop neither of 'em from becomin' the most terrible sad rainbows of love left behind. When I couldn't see Enid an' my boy no more, a bluebird sung to me, an' I unnerstood ever' word a his song:

"Be joyful! 
Be happy! 
Get up, it is dawn."  

     The sun come up pink as a breakfast radish, an' the mornin' mist hung over the pasture like a sheet a Cut-Rite wax paper. I seen that Homer'd put a rainbow-striped blanket 'cross my shoulders. He was smilin' to hisself. "It got a little chilly out here last night. How you feelin', Maynard?," he asked, handin' me a steamin' hot cuppa black coffee. It smelt so good. He was fryin' up what looked to be corn pone in a cast iron skillet; he musta kep' that fire goin' all night. "I feel good, Homer. I thank I done found my peace with all a this." I went over ta set by the fire, an' Homer kicked around at the sand paintin' ta get rid've any a my leftover devils.

     After we got done eatin', we broke camp, an' headed back ta the house. Mommy Dottie come runnin' out in a panic. "Enid ain't wakin' up, y'all. She's breathin' funny." When we got up to the bedroom, Enid's eyes was open, but I don't thank no one was at home. Homer'n'Mommy Dottie set theirselves down on Enid's hope chest, an' I climbed up inta the bed with 'er. I cradled Momma E in my arms, same as I done with Sun Jelly, an' prayed I warn't too late, tellin 'er all them thangs I hadn't never brung myself ta say to her before.  Homer started singin' in Navajo again, an' I reckonized it right off. It was that bluebird song I done heard not an hour before.
          Enid passed around lunchtime, an' I'm pert damn sure she clumb Jacob's Ladder straight up inta the Good Lord's tabernacle. She done right by Jesus an' the Holy Spirit, I reckon. We buried 'er a coupla days later in the south pasture, over by the muscadine patch next ta Sun Jelly. They's keepin' each other company in heaven now. Physically, I'm alone, but I ain't lonely. The memory a Enid's love's alive, an' I'm movin' on with life, just like she done so long ago. Homer didn't make it to the funeral, but I unnerstood why. It ain't his way. Besides, he said he had a girl waitin' on 'im back in New Mexico. Someone he called Venus.

Part I: Sun Jelly Pastures
Part II: Whether Help Come






Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happily May They All Return

Part IV of Sun Jelly Pastures

A whimsical ceramic play on Bisti's hoodoos and fossils
      Georgia's impenetrable red clay contrasted sharply with the loamy penistaja of New Mexico, but both were fertile and held onto water tenaciously, almost as tenaciously as the image of a certain chestnut-maned hippie girl that was permanently inked within the nooks and crannies of Homer's cortical folds. Yesterday became always the moment he first laid eyes on Venus, and that was over forty years ago. When the road-tripping bus she and her friends had chartered from New Jersey to San Francisco broke down outside of Huerfano, New Mexico, their worlds collided in delicious surrender amidst the badlands hoodoos, painted sand, petrified wood, and the soaring golden eagles and shy cottontails of his ancestral wilderness home. Sometimes now, if the wind was blowing just right, Homer could still smell her perfume.

Venus, Deconstructed. By WP Mazur, MD
   Venus tumbled into town like rogue thistle hitchhiking on a waft of patchouli, a quietly unconstrained adventurer in search of she-didn't-know-what, heartbreakingly old-souled and free-spirited with a real penchant for grilled cheese. She'd just bitten into her sandwich when Homer asked her to pass the salt. Outside, it was raining in torrents which instantly melted the rusty sun-baked earth beneath his bare feet into a creamy slip that squished up between his toes, and since Winona Yazzie's Mighty Fine Luncheonette was as good a place as any for riding out a storm, he'd ducked inside after rinsing off his muddy soles for a little people-watching and greenthread tea. He'd noticed the ancient tour bus parked out front, a pretty strange sight on the rez. It was even weirder to see every seat at the lunch counter, save for the one at the end over by the pie case, filled by shaggy-haired, fair-skinned college kids. Every table and booth was taken, too. He figured they'd probably gotten lost on their way to wherever they were going. Winona, who always worked alone, was running around like a chicken with her head cut off, furiously scribbling down orders and cooking up heaps of frybread, mutton burgers and grilled cheese, pinto beans, and dried-corn and pumpkin stew. After letting his feet dry on the woven floormat, Homer made his way toward the empty stool through the hungry, boisterous crowd.

A poetic painting by my father, WP Mazur, MD
     As it turned out, the stool wasn't vacant after all. Just as he was gathering up the tops of his denim pantslegs to sit down, two young women came out of the bathroom. The strawberry-blond plopped herself down deliberately into the waiting lap of a guy who appeared to be her boyfriend, and the chestnut brunette, whose seat Homer had obviously taken, stood awkwardly next to the pie case. In an unsolicited game of musical chairs, seats and laps were spontaneously rearranged to accommodate both Homer and the brown-haired girl. To say she was lovely would be an understatement. A poet may have been able to describe her penetrating green eyes, the luster of her long flowing hair, the stunning marriage of her slender frame, wide hips, and strong coltish legs, and the radiance of her toothy smile, but there were no words that could adequately capture her abundance or the primal stirrings she evoked. Carnal yet pristine and otherworldly, she was Venus personified.

Homer's Daydream (sculpture by WP Mazur)
   Winona set a plate of frybread, beans, and stew in front of Homer, interrupting his not-so-casual daydream about the woman sitting next to him. "I've got your yabanah tea coming," she said. Gesturing with her eyes toward Venus, who was clearly lost in her sandwich, she leaned in toward him and whispered, "She's not gonna bite, you know." Homer tore off a hunk of bread, dipping it into the fragrant stew. "That stew might need a little salt, Homer, whaddya think?" she suggested, motioning at the salt shaker directly to Venus's left. Oh, for Pete's sake, Homer thought. He and Winona had known each other since they were babies, and although she was like a sister to him, it unnerved him to be treated like a child, especially since she knew he was a man of few words. Rolling his eyes, Homer acquiesced. "Miss, would you mind passing me the salt?" Gracefully concealing her mouthful of sandwich with a wad of napkin held in her right hand, Venus grabbed both the salt and pepper shakers with her other mitt, offering the pair to Homer as if they were frankincense and myrrh. "Here you go," she giggled, sounding embarrassed. "Sorry, I've been sitting here stuffing my face. I'm Mary Magdalene, Maggie for short. And you are...?" Homer turned to her, transfixed by the lyrical timbre of her voice, and replied, "Name's Homer. Homer Owl Song."

Homer's Reality (by WP Mazur, MD)
     Not surprisingly, Maggie was easy to talk to. She told Homer all about her trip from New Jersey, how she'd decided to up and leave one day with little more than the shirt on her back, dreaming of a new beginning in Frisco. Everyone else on the bus had variations of the same story. They'd been headed for a camp-out in Chaco Canyon when their bus broke down, and though the bus company was arranging for the repair, it was going to be at least a day or two before it was roadworthy again. Nelson Tsosie, the town's mechanic and self-designated tour guide, had graciously invited them to pitch their tents on his property which bordered the badlands, intriguing them with mystic descriptions of the geographic otherworldliness they'd soon experience. After reassuring them that the rain would most definitely stop, he made a few calls to other locals to organize a welcoming pot luck dinner under the Bisti stars.

Original ink drawing, courtesy of Madilyn Leonard
     "You ought to come hang out with us tonight, Homer," Maggie proposed. "Sounds like the whole community's gonna be there." Upon overhearing this, Winona flashed one of her stern looks at him, nodding her head and mouthing the word "yes." A night in the wilderness sounded really good to Homer. He'd put his internal medicine residency on hold to complete his ethnobotany dissertation, and after years of short visits back to rez from Harvard, his time was his own again. Glancing at Winona from the corner of his eye while fixing his gaze on Maggie, Homer replied, "Sure, I'll come."

     The Navajo prayers that Homer had grown up with took on new meaning that night in a communion enhanced by open sky, fire and ritual drumming, peyote, and the love of Mary Magdalene. Pierced by rainbow lightning, he walked with beauty, and beauty was before him and after him, hovering above and below him, surrounding him, immersing him, restoring him. Doorway and pathway, the rainbow rose within him, passing through him, and all the seasons returned with him. He was mountain, cloud, and morning mist, now sitting with Pollen Boy and Grasshopper Girl, now singing bluebird, now the voice of yellow twilight, always walking, always wandering, always finished in beauty. Happily as they scatter in different directions, happily may they all return...

A painting my father made, shortly before his death
     Watching as Maggie's bus lurched down the road, Homer knew that'd probably be the last time he'd ever see her. He stood in the street, waving until she disappeared over the horizon, gone but not forgotten. The memory of that moment and the evening before--his own encounter with inexplicable attachment and its ensuing sense of loss--ultimately influenced Homer's decision to specialize in palliative care. People needed help saying good-bye. Ironically, there'd been a recent flurry of research suggesting that naturally-occurring hallucinogens, such as the psilocybin in magic mushrooms, could assist the terminally ill in this process, allaying fear of mortality through the transcendent realization of unity, similar to what he'd experienced by taking peyote.

Sunset, by WP Mazur, MD
     After ten minutes on hold, Homer's cell phone finally clicked over, and his thoughts immediately returned to Maynard. "Uh, sorry, Dr. Owl Song, that was Enid's mama beepin' in. Enid's out wanderin' around in the cow pasture ag'in, only this time, she's nekkid." Homer wasn't too worried about how Enid would handle her imminent demise; she was already in a different world, blissfully psychotic with Jesus at her side. No, he was more concerned about Maynard, who was also a man of few words and deep attachments. "How have you been feeling about all of this, Maynard?" Homer asked. A long, pregnant pause followed. Homer thought he could hear Maynard's muffled sobs, as if he were covering the phone's mouthpiece with his hand. "I reckon I ain't doin' so good," he replied, sounding defeated. "Enid's all I got. God's honest truth, I thank I may be more afraid a her dyin' than she is. I cain't hardly sleep no more, and I done lost all a this weight. My pants is practically fallin' offa me. I'm so tired a fightin' this." Homer thought for a moment. "Maynard,  I'm coming over. Tell Enid's mama to keep an eye on her. I'll help you finish your chores, and then you and I are gonna go down to your pasture to watch the sun set," he instructed, adding emphatically, "and rise."

Part I: Sun Jelly Pastures
Part II: Whether Help Come
Part III: Jesus-Hair Grass
Part V (Conclusion): The Most Terrible Sad Rainbows of Love Left Behind

I'd like to give a shout out to my good friend, Madilyn Leonard (jerseylils2cents), who was gracious enough to provide me with her term paper on Navajo medicine, entitled "Curing In the Land of Dineh," as well as the original ink drawing featured here, and several traditional Navajo chants. Here is a link to her wonderfully uplifting blogJersey Lil's 2 Cents

Traditional Navajo/Dineh chants and prayers:
Navajo Night Chant
"Dineh Bluebird Chant," courtesy of Madilyn Leonard

Articles highlighting the use of psychedelics in mitigating end-of-life anxiety:
How Psychedelic Drugs Can Help Patients Face Death

"Dineh Mountain Chant," courtesy of Madilyn Leonard