More than twenty years have passed since I wrote about my mother’s memory loss. I am now close to the age she was when I became her caregiver. I worry—now that I’m 80 myself—about my own lost words, my own forgotten appointments and occasional confusions.
Trees steady me. They lose their leaves but they continue to stand tall.
Friends steady me: They are tolerant and don’t sum me up by my lapses.
Birds steady and reassure me. They appear carefree even in winter. They remind me of how to survive: Not just by winging their way south, but also by foraging near streams, by finding shelter in old nests, and by fluffing their feathers and huddling together with one another.
Birds also gave me new words to remember: As I was writing about their survival in winter, I found this phrase,
Rete mirabile: Words for the special adaptation that keeps birds’ feet from freezing.
Rete mirabile means “wonderful net.” The phrase describes a fine, netlike pattern of arteries that interweaves warm blood from a bird’s heart with the veins carrying cold blood from its feet and legs.
Rete mirabile: A phrase describing life-saving patterns. Something new and compelling to remember. ❏