by Cindy Hasz
American Reporter Correspondent
San Diego, Calif.
March 10, 2003
BIRDSONGS FOR ALCATRAZ
SAN DIEGO -- Mornings can be difficult. I am not sure why that is but I do know that sometimes birdsong can save your soul. Their sweet melodies pierce through the viscous muck of depression that clings to me in the early hours of the day.
Not Walker Percy's "morning terrors," which sounds dramatic and even fun in a weird, sick way. Depression isn't even the right word ... this feeling isn't even that well-formed. It's more of a low-key emptiness with a definite edge.
I wonder how much of this strange malaise has to do with aging because there is no particular reason for this uncomfortable psychic sediment. So I chalk it up to slow physical deterioration.
No doubt it gets worse as you get older. If so, how difficult it must be to be old and alone and stuck in a facility where the air is stale, maybe moldy and never carries the sacrament of natural sound. Birdsong, cricket and toad. No smells of the wild world wafting in through an open window: sage, rosemary, rains. The pungent smells of life in the raw.
Only the sound of call bells ringing in the halls, other residents yelling, moaning, crying. Even while roaming the lavender hills of dreamland, those sounds will find them and remind them of where they are.
At least I can rouse myself, go get coffee and shake it off like a wet dog in a dry place but they cannot.
Yes, there are many in these places who are so sick that they no longer care for the titters of sparrows or the trill of a thrush. But the majority of our elders suffer most from a sense of being lost, an inexpressible fatigue and a corrosive sorrow that aches much more than arthritis.
The sights, smells and sounds of the natural world are a balm to fragile souls on the edge of giving up. A balm that planners of homes for future aging children need to take into account.
Many facilities now allow and encourage pets to live in with the elders. One Alzheimer place near me has dogs and parrots. They break the boredom no doubt but our elders need more than a few canines and canaries to lift their heavy hearts. The atmosphere in these places is usually tacky or at best sterile with little or no interaction with the magnetic forces of nature which God meant since the garden of good and evil to soothe our inner fragmentation.
Paradise lost is not so easily regained, but our aging loved ones need desperately to be reminded of it in a sudden breeze, smell it on a warm afternoon rising off the pine trees, and in the ocean fog rolling in as the day nears its end.
It can make a caged heart sing.