Sunday, October 10, 2010

another of the disappeared

A letter came from her mother the other day, and I put it in the basket where I keep the mail for my street friends, hoping that perhaps she will make her way back to my door soon.

But I stare at the return address, and wonder if maybe I should send a note to a waiting woman up in Canada, and tell her...but I don't know what to tell her. So I keep the letter in that basket, and I consider what to say.

Leah is tall, and slender, and very young. The first day I saw her she was turning in the sunlight, turning and turning out on my porch, her face lifted to the gentle late autumn sun, her hands stretched out. She seemed in her own world. The store was closed, and I didn't want to disturb her, there in her small, centering dance. And after a time she walked away, leaving me wondering.

The next day she came to my desk. Her hair was cropped very short; I know the style well because I cut my own hair myself, or did before I discovered the wonders of letting it grow long enough to be coiled and pinned up out of the way. A pair of scissors and a few moments and you get that rough gold look, and it is easy to care for, and it keeps pretty clean. These are nice if you are on the road and don't get much of a chance to wash up.

Her first words to me, after she gazed at me with those hurt blue eyes, were "I think my toe is broken".

And I of course jumped up to look. Her feet were bare. She was wearing a thin Indian print muslin skirt, wrapped around her hips and legs, and a wooly pink/orange sweater a little too small for her. Her toe did look bruised at the very least. So I talked of the clinic, and I talked of what they might do for her, and how they might give her some pain pills too, maybe.

But she said "if only I had some arnica I think it would feel better". Being a lay homeopath, well, I had arnica on hand, pills and salve, and I gave her both.

I thought about finding shoes for her. She said she'd hit her foot on the rocks by the river, where she had been sleeping.

The next day she came in and said "I'm hungry". I gave her some fruit and bread and almonds and water. She was wearing shoes and said her toe had felt better as soon as she had put my salve on it. I told her I was glad.

She stayed a while and talked with me, with a peculiar and disjointed clarity I have seen before in people with diagnoses like schizophrenia. "Are you a healer?" she asked, "because I need healing in so many ways".

I said I wasn't, not trained, I wasn't a doctor or a nurse or anything official in this world. She said "But you see that we are not separate, I can see that you see that. You are a healer."

I told her I simply listen,mostly.

Over the course of a couple weeks we talked almost every day. Leah was curious about many things, from the way plants grow to what my pitbull dreams of. Champ the pitbull liked her a lot; she was gentle and very attentive. The cats would come and sit in her lap.

One day she came in holding something in the palm of her hand. "What do you have?" I asked, and she opened her hand to show me the smallest of mice. She'd found it on the roadside. She thought maybe it should live with her. She was radiant with joy at her little pet, and wondered if I had a mouse house somewhere.

We found something--a container that might work--and I looked up the care and feeding of small mice. It was a cute thing, bright eyed and delicate, much like the girl who'd tried to save it.

And then one morning, very early, I found her sitting on my steps, and asked how she was. She said she was fine, but worried about the mouse. She thought maybe it was sick, or it needed milk, or something. As we wandered through three hours of odd conversation she told me she was leaving, and the mouse maybe needed not to travel, because the mouse didn't understand the road.

I offered to keep her mouse for her, for a day, for a week. I offered to do my best, and she put the creature in my hand, where it sat and cleaned its whiskers. I had discovered puppy formula is good food for toddler mice, and mixed some up, and Leah and I encouraged the little creature to have some.

He wasn't impressed. We had another hours conversation, and then she said "The mouse needs to be free. It has to go find its family. And if it finds its family, then maybe I will find my true family and I will be healed".

Maybe, I said. You found the mouse, so the decision is yours, whatever you think is right.

Freedom was right, she said, and she left, thanking me.

The next morning the empty mouse house was on my steps. She'd said she was traveling south, and I suppose she has gone on, finding some new place where sometimes the sun will warm her face, and maybe someone else understands we are all connected.

(the mouse photo is by a photographer who has the awesome name randomtruth at Flickr)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess if I were you, I'd write a note to the mother and just let her know what you know, that her daughter was there, that she was well (enough) but on the road and going south. That the letter would be there with you if she came back by. As a mother, I think to know her daughter was still alive would at least be a comfort.
And wild mice are meant to be free. Like luna moths I suspect.

8:22 AM, October 11, 2010  
Blogger Lucy said...

I think CC might be right.

You continue to astound me, good to have you back, so sorry I've been so slow catching up.

9:16 AM, October 15, 2010  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Letter written and mailed.

9:42 AM, October 15, 2010  
Blogger Kathryn Grace said...

What a thoughtful and beautiful portrait. In sharing the love and compassion of your heart, you teach us all. Thank you for continuing to write.

12:26 PM, October 15, 2010  
Blogger ocean lady said...

Just catching up - haven't checked here for awhile and so moved as usual by these extraordinary stories piling up here. Amazing to me always how many are managing life as if swept along on a vast river, with only the kindness of local saints like yourself to see them through the days they can't manage. How many thousands now, Jarvenpa, have been touched by your compassion and skill with words, and their lives made better for it.


5:31 PM, October 16, 2010  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

She called this morning, and her mom has written me; she sounds good, though where she is now the police are doing a crackdown on street people. She said "when will people realize that the only answer is love?"
She's traveling east and north right now.

7:27 PM, October 30, 2010  
Anonymous marly youmans said...

Ah, that is a good ending. I always like your character sketches of the world's waifs and wish her well, well, well.

8:47 AM, November 06, 2010  

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