“To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” by Robert Burns (written in 1785) is a wonderful poem to read aloud with a group of seventh graders before starting Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. The language is rich with old Scottish words (I like to try on an accent every now and again even though I’m not at all good at it; I ask kids to say it aloud as well – there’s always one or two who nail the Scottish brogue) and a powerful message. It’s a poem that has a specific audience – the poor little mouse that gets unhoused, which reveals such tenderness and empathy from the speaker. Here are the lines that contain Steinbeck’s title (and a truth about life):
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
I hope some of you who are reading this tried it with an accent; David would kill it… Here’s a good link to the entire poem and some audio files of it.
And so, although Ben and I had some best laid schemes for our sixth-month journey, we were needed elsewhere. We’ve been in Portland, Maine, for the last week trying to be as present and helpful as we can while Ben’s 94 year-old father (also named Ben) works through heart problems at Maine Medical Center on the ninth floor. Today is a good day. Ben had general anesthesia yesterday to place a pacemaker surgically under his ribs because the easy solution which is a minor procedure was not an option for him. He’s made it through spectacularly and now has a road of rehab ahead of him. Ten days in bed has left him weakened, but with a stronger, steadier heart he’s moving forward.
Being in a hospital for a week brings back memories of my parents’ stays. Then and now I have been so overwhelmed by the care of nurses, staff, and doctors. The RNs, CNAs (a lot of acronyms on hospital employees’ tags!), and physical therapists, all of whom have been women, are so kind, strong, and professional. Each has a sense of humor, too. A loose knot of nurses stand or sit at the central station which is right outside of Ben’s room. There’s always a soft hum of voices and machines, punctuated regularly with laughter. Time goes by differently in a hospital – often I’m amazed to see the sky darkening; when did the hours slip by?
We’re on a journey, just not exactly where we thought we’d be right now.
If Ben continues to improve, we’ll head out across the Atlantic. No Holland, but we may pick up the itinerary in Rwanda.
Here’s the view from Ben’s hospital room, post snowmageddon…on the horizon is Mt. Washington with the rest of the majestic Presidentials: