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MARTHA SEZ: ‘I drove to Latham ... like an old bat out of hell’

September 6, 2019
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

"For the beauty of the earth,

For the glory of the skies ..."

While waiting, during the last week and a half, to learn whether I will recover sight in my right eye, the words to this old Anglican hymn of gratitude keep coming to mind. Back when I was a regular Episcopalian churchgoer I found the hymn very pleasant. Now that I am an old reprobate, its verses strike me as remarkably powerful and poignant.

The beauty of the Earth, the glory of the skies. We are so lucky to have experienced the pleasures of observing the natural world all around us. This is especially true for those of us who live in places of great natural beauty, as we do in the Adirondacks.

Something else keeps running through my head: John Lennon singing, "You don't know what you got until you lose it."

I have written in previous columns about my friend Darla and her hummingbirds. Talk about a love of nature-with Darla it is reciprocal. Wild creatures seem drawn to her, from foxes and cougars to feral cats. And, of course, hummingbirds. For generations-I'm speaking of bird generations here-Darla has been observing and tending an extended family of ruby-throated hummingbirds who happen to have brilliant orange throats. The orange feathers, she has learned, are the result of a mutation. Every year they arrive in May and then fly south again in September.

Darla knows her hummingbirds as individuals, and has given them names. One family member has the normal ruby-red throat coloration, and he is henpecked by the others, who apparently believe that they are normal and he is the mutant. Darla and Larry, her partner, estimate that she has purchased and used approximately 50 pounds of sugar this season to prepare the sweet drink she puts in their feeders.

For health reasons, she does not use red food color in her recipe, and she is meticulous in cleaning the feeders and bird baths in her yard.

When I learned from my Plattsburgh-based ophthalmologist that I had a detached retina and needed to get to the Albany area for emergency surgery, I panicked. The eye-care provider said that I could not get an ambulance. Instead of calling a friend for help, I drove to Latham like a bat out of hell. Or, to be more accurate, like an old bat out of hell. To paraphrase the late beloved Tom Petty, you don't have to drive like a retiree-but I do.

There my friend Jenny helped get me to the ophthalmologist on Thursday and, in the days that followed, to a place where I had an EKG, another building where I had blood taken, and, the following Tuesday, to Albany Memorial Hospital, where a team performed surgery on my eye. I stayed with Jenny and her family in Albany. I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without their help. After the initial panic, I seem to have turned into a robot, probably due to shock. An appreciative robot. Like C-3PO, but bad at math.

My friend Laura always said this in August: The slant of the light is different. My cousin Melinda remarked, "Late summer rain is cold." Now it is September and, even though we have awhile to go before leaf season, the season has turned. We're in a sort of mini-season.

The air is cooler, a chill moves in at night, the skies are dark with rain or else that deep, clear blue that soon will set off the brilliant leaves of autumn. The sun rises noticeably later and sets earlier. After dinner, Jupiter the cat jumps out the kitchen window onto the porch roof and basks in the waning rays of the sun. There are green apples on the tree he uses as a staircase, the leaves are a deep summer green and the light that filters through them is golden. Beautiful. Soon the hummingbirds will be flying south.

Darla says, "I won't be sorry to see them go."

Family and friends have been a great help to me. My kitchen is overflowing with food. I will have to be still and housebound for weeks. Here is some Eastern wisdom that pertains to this peculiar interlude in my life:

Knock knock.

Who's there?


Namaste who?

Namaste on the couch today.

For the beauty of the Earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies ...

Have a good week.



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