Close Encounters

by Maria Theresa Maggi on June 14, 2018


"Asparagus Fern," pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Asparagus Fern,” pastel memory sketch by Maria Theresa Maggi


I have not meant for so much time to go by before writing a new post. It turns out the slow process of rereading all my blog posts, making an index and taking notes and trying to “grok” the arc of what I’ve written makes it hard to jump out of that and back into writing something new. The process is going well, albeit at the pace of a tortoise. I’m surprised and pleased that often when I steal myself to reread something, convinced it will fall short upon reexamination, I am instead quite happy with it. Or it makes me laugh. Or the comments do. So thank you all, for following me and buoying me up on this long and winding adventure.

Last Friday I was sitting in my new dentist’s office in Newport Beach, waiting for an oral sedative to take effect before going into the chair for a crown prep. In the time since I wrote “Happy Tooth Visualization,” about  3 years ago, I’ve learned that many of my teeth with old metal fillings are cracking due to the expansion of that metal, and also that, for whatever reason, the cumulative effect of the MS and other conditions on my nervous system is that I no longer can get numb with just a cocktail of local anesthetics. It’s been a harrowing and painful ride at times, with misinformation and wrong turns, but I now have a great and kind dentist, and last Friday was the last crown prep I’ll need for an indefinite time. The worst offenders are fixed and everything else is stable for now. Plus, I have the best functional crowns I’ve ever had in my life.

As I was sitting there with the friends who drove me, I noticed the absence of pretty much any apprehension–a far cry from when I first came to this office after tortuous appointments with other dentists who didn’t know how to listen to me or who focused on a non-problem as the problem, or where I was subjected to multiple ineffective shots of novocaine, once to the point of almost fainting.  But now, thanks to the good advice of my old dentist back in Moscow, who was kind enough to problem solve with me over the phone, I have been led to find my current  “surfer dentist,” as my kids like to call him. I am in expert hands. And for one special tooth, I’ve seen a colleague of his, an endodontist, who is so very calm that I like to call him my Zendodontist (he let me listen to Ludivico Enaldi without ear buds while in the chair and liked it enough himself to ask me who it was.) I’ve even run the gauntlet of walking into a pharmacy after 15 years and filling a prophylactic prescription for antibiotics. The pharmacists had their jaws on the counter when they learned how long ago it was that I’d taken an antibiotic. It was like landing on another planet, which made me laugh.

Anyway, as I was sitting in a dark blue chair (my usual spot) starting to get groggy, Cotton sleeping at my feet, my neighbors reading magazines until it was my turn to go back for treatment, I noticed I had more “company” than I thought. The asparagus fern on the table next to me, with its long graceful tentacles, was definitely trying to get my attention. At first I was just admiring it in a relaxed way, but then I felt certain it was trying to tell me something. It was wishing me well, congratulating me even, on how far I’d come. I got the sense it liked to sit next to people and try to help calm them down, and was especially glad I noticed its gentle efforts. If you can get a telepathic hug from a plant, I got one.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, there have been unusually large congregations of seagulls convening very near our access point. The scuttlebutt is there are schools of herring out in the water. (The whales and seals are interested too.) So often, when we get down there, we might see something like this several hundred yards away, or even closer:

"Before Cotton," pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

“Before Cotton,” pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

But if Cotton happens to be off leash for some running time and sees them before I do, the scene changes quite quickly:

"After Cotton," pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

“After Cotton,” pastel memory sketch, by Maria Theresa Maggi

There’s danger lurking with the exhilaration. Saturday Cotton actually caught a live seagull, standing in the surf with his back to a big wave about to break, so filled with the instinctual drive he was. He ran happily toward me when I called, to show me his accomplishment. Thank goodness I got him to “drop it” before he shook the poor bird, who was able to shake a bit and walk it off. I thought I saw it fly away several minutes later. Cotton was cresfallen I wasn’t as happy about his triumph as he was, but he’ll have to live with that. Out in those breaking waves there are seals and sea lions literally barking at us and they won’t be hospitable if he gets rolled into their territory.

Still, it’s something to see, how like a streak of lightning he can go up the beach and back, once he’s flushed them all up into the sky. There’s danger everywhere, true enough. And yet amidst it, we must learn to feel those moments of joy, of release, of connection, because they are what keep us going. They are what keep me going anyway. Likewise, they seem to feed a dear old friend of mine (husband to another dear old friend), survivor of two bone marrow transplants, who writes about living with cancer on his blog See You In Thirty DaysPlease take a look and pass it on to anyone you know who could use a boost of honesty, humor and good grace while they live with cancer, too, if for no other reason than to see the hospital photo of him sitting up in bed with a spoon stuck to his nose. That’s my Keith.

It’s essential in these times of inhumane policies by our government not to look away, but to push back (if you want to actively do so, join the ACLU who is now fighting an active case regarding separation of families seeking asylum, or visit Families Belong Together or Raices Family Reunification and Bond Fund or Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley to find out how you can help). In my view the need to push back makes it equally important to imbibe these moments of grace, brief and tenuous though they may be, and allow them in. Every odd little bit of connection to life counts, and strengthens us to go on standing up for truth and love in frightening times. I court these little moments like my life depends on it– because it does. Love and courage to all of us,


Maria (moonwatcher)



Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marge June 15, 2018 at 9:19 am

yes it is very important that we all push back.


2 Maria Theresa Maggi June 15, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Thanks Marge–couldn’t agree with you more. xo


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