Sunrise… sunset…

There’s everything to be said for second chances. We don’t all get one in every situation. In fact, the greater the need for a second shot, the less likely we’ll be afforded one. They’re handed out like candy when we’re little, so someone should warn us early on that life doesn’t continue in that vein and that we should think, first of all, and then wait to act on an idea until we’re pretty sure it’s a good one.

When I came to a semi-conscious conclusion a few years ago that life as I’d known it was ending, in terms of physical capabilities, I failed to consider the major ramifications of shutting down. Not that I had a real choice… when pain rules, you do what it says, and it took me to some dark places before Dr. Carlson put a stop to it for me. But going to ground and closing the door in your third trimester of life is a serious undertaking which requires equally serious effort to reverse.

Change is underway. This morning, like an actual person, I drove across town again on a valid license to check on a friend, stopped at Einstein’s for a bagel, paid for it with my updated credit card whose pin number I know, parked Kim’s truck back in its spot without destroying anything anywhere, and I feel slightly reborn. It’s like someone raised a curtain and there was the world, big as life and twice as natural. It’s ridiculous… at almost 75 it feels in lots of ways like I’m just getting started.

I hope the central message floats to the top of all the I/me/we, and lights up in neon: DON’T QUIT!! Whatever’s stopping you from living your life… physically, mentally, spiritually… don’t give in to it unless that’s the only choice available, which was coming true for me until six months ago. If there’s any chance to maintain a vital life of your own… do it. It takes great energy to come back, and the time consumed is staggering. But step by step… slowly we turn… and life goes on.

There are Memorial Day observances around town today, and something big going on in South Park for kids, but things were pretty quiet this morning after Busker weekend. One block of 8th street is still closed, with booths in place, so it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Feels like a Sunday…

No typos detected.

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The celebrations of life…

This weekend is Busker Fest in Lawrence America, a 4-day street-performer extravaganza that includes various sound-stages close to downtown, music everywhere, art parades, food booths, merch booths, contests, feats of derring-do, delights for the kiddos, Farmers Market, and untold other good stuff. It started the year before we moved here, and that’s probably the only one we’ve missed. What we love most is knowing it’s happening and that families are having a great time… we watch the steady stream of walkers heading from East Lawrence to Mass Street, and grin big… the underlying vibe here is a healing one. When I’m out driving or walking there isn’t a heavy sense that half the people around me hate what I love, or that I’m a minnow who somehow slipped into the piranha tank. Other than the occasional pygmy shark, there’s been no real threat detected most days.

Turns out early morning on a Saturday is a great time to drive across town, who knew? I had an errand at 7:30 and since everything around downtown is blocked off for the festival, I took different routes there and back, soaking up the cool morning air. There were people out everywhere but very little traffic, and I was truly in Free State Kansas. Tiny piece of unsolicited advice from The Big Sister… never shut down and give up on living, it’s hard to ramp it all up again and put things back where they belong. Pain started shutting things down shortly after we moved here… I stopped talking on the phone due to hearing loss… I lost energy for being social due to both of the above… and a senior neurosurgeon told me there was no way to stop the nerve pain in my body. Things… they happen. My driver’s license was expired for six months, which didn’t matter that much since I was never behind the wheel anyway, but another six and I’d have had to retake all the tests and jump through a few other hoops. There are small mercies…

Life returns, to bodies and to societies, although it’s sadly true that both usually have to hit rock bottom before coming back.

Key-change is key.
I’m grateful to the special people who’ve gotten me this far… and with a legal driver’s license even!

******

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Breakthrough?

It’s been raining for days. It’s raining when we go to bed, still coming down when we get up. It’s wet, gray, fairly relentless, and requires a certain mindset, which is under construction as we speak, entailing reminders of green forest and spring flowers, justifying everything. And hark, what do I see in yon sky? Wonder of wonders, it be the SUN! Lo, life continues, boys and girls, despite every indication to the contrary. Not for all… but for us, the “lucky” survivors.

Even with sunlight now pouring through my windows, it’s hard to settle into thoughts of daily life as it used to be. The brokenness of our society is increasingly hard to ignore, to look away from, to deny, even more so this week with the slaughter of 19 children and two teachers. How do we deal with the heartache, knowing we can’t fix it but can only live in its midst and try not to turn into one of the bad guys? We don’t know, we’ve never been here before, and even my grandparents’ stories of the Civil War are not that instructive in these circumstances, although we are indeed engaged in a great barely-civil war of the spirit with our brothers and sisters.

Maybe our culture of “say the nice thing, do the nice thing” has rendered us incapable of truth in our relationships, even the closest. Does our desire to please, to be uber-accepted, keep us in circular mode… never quite getting it right but never giving up the effort? When do we hop off the Official Good Person treadmill and do a status check on who we are? You know, now, today, after everything that’s happened. I guess some of us stop treading when the world shuts down for a pandemic and we can suddenly hear ourselves think. We start slow-walking it when a million Americans die from the still-ongoing pandemic. We careen off the track when our babies are relentlessly slaughtered in their classrooms. We go into neutral when the whole world seems to be at war and rushing headlong into some kind of dystopia. And then the thoughts get really loud. Bossy and dictatorial. Words like “Stay awake!” figure bigly in the inner conversation. Simultaneously, it’s easier now to remember that I’m simply a creature on the planet, trying to survive without harming anyone else, doing my Girl Scout best, pretty much end of story. At this point, what seems doable to me as a human animal is very basic:

  • Want the good stuff for yourself and the world
  • Work toward conditions in which the good stuff will thrive
  • Don’t hoard any of it

Every human.

There’s no way to stop the decay without removing the two-headed monster of money and control. The monster has been alive and expanding since the first white man set foot on the soil of this continent, so it’s like… a big problem. Who’s gonna slay the dragon? Who ya’ gonna call? On the other hand, where ya’ gonna run? I’ll keep fighting with the only weapon I own, my words, in case they might have some effect somewhere that I’ll never know about. Since I always read what I write, the words are mainly for me… to keep me honest, to maintain sanity, to sort the world into digestible chunks, to keep the fulcrum balanced under the humor/angst see-saw.

Right now, with the sun lighting up the trees, I’m giving it all over to a strange sense of joy, inexplicable but undeniable. The feeling is completely welcome here, especially since it’s the foundation for all other emotions.

******

******

Kim just got home from PickleBall and said there’s a wall of black in the western sky, headed directly for us. That’s okay, can’t rain on my parade, I’ve already talked myself through it. You make it an excellent day, please, and if anything I say resonates with you, ever, come talk to me in comments. I know you’re out there. 💙

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Streaming Kansas…

It started raining sometime after midnight and has paused only momentarily since. Down in the parking lot there’s a small truck with a large green canoe lashed over top of it, which is reassuring as we may have need of it by Thursday. All this spring rain is wonderful and will benefit everything… as it simultaneously adds to the general lethargy. I haven’t yet tested the outer limits of my capacity for the Magnolia Network, even on mute, but it’s only a matter of time… perhaps this is the day I quietly go mad and Kim comes home to a mere whisper of the person formerly known as his wife. Anything could transpire as the chill rain pelts against windows that were just this morning professionally washed via power-lift, despite the obvious liquidity of the surroundings at the time. Don’t ask, I am mos def not in charge here. I’m very glad for that fact, and you should be, too.

Being happy in the rain really isn’t that heavy an assignment for a reclusive Pollyanna, and I thank my friend-cousin for this reminder…

…and sometimes a little wine.

We don’t understand until we get there, but all the “wise” things older people have said to us about life? Those people were being brutally honest, and the process only becomes more honest and more brutal as it plays out. It’s all real, and mostly based on our own choices.

This too is our choice… to trust enough not to give up on humanity nor ourselves, and to refuse to lose the things that matter.

The “love unconditionally” part is the kicker and we all know it. Gud luck to us.

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Stormy Sunday…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/15/2022

When I got up this morning, a huge mothership of a storm was hovering overhead, rapidly snuffing all hint of light from the sky. Then came the lightning, rain, and wind, and full dark returned. Perfect! The Sunday omelet never tasted better, and Kim’s fresh coffee will get me through the day, big grateful sigh. Inside I weep for the world and its brokenness, so all the beauty and sweetness has to be gathered up and held close.

I told a Twitter friend a bit ago, “I’m sick at heart. This nation should be a safe place for lovers and babies and other vital parts of society… for ALL of us.” We’re statistically a pro-life culture in our ideology, but what does that even MEAN when a white supremacist guns down a dozen or more Black people, broadcasts it live on the internet, and is carefully brought before a judge, physically unscathed. His 18-year-old white hide is sacred, therefore safe, and the only thing I see in America that can beat white pigment for power… is a gun. The right of white American men to be armed matters more than any law, moral or otherwise… it’s more precious than our children in school… its significance outweighs every issue other than money, and the two are inextricably linked. We’re all adults, we can acknowledge a fallacy when we see it, and it isn’t hard to recognize this lie for what it is. The vacuous statement that “All Lives Matter” is tragically laughable, along with its various iterations… Black… Blue… old… animal… veteran… redneck… fat… unborn.

Thought I made that one up, didn’t you?

The unborn are the easiest demographic to advocate for… they’re silent, appealing in the way of kittens, and once they pop out of that sacred womb they’re on their own! Win-win!! The sentiment that every human fetus is the loftiest, most precious form of life on earth just doesn’t play to the cheap seats. We watch how reality ends up for the loudest voices and deepest pockets, and there’s no way to miss the various dichotomies. If you’re part of the Citizens United mindset, you absorb the obvious lies and ignore the inequality in every direction, mouthing platitudes on the way to your bank. If you’re a member of the real world you refute the lies and fight the inequality… and that’s how that is.

A few spears of sunlight briefly reached the intersection.
A Shark headed to the next rumble. No Jets in sight…
Everything swept clean …

Kim brought these home from Farmers Market yesterday. Have a Sunday as happy as these poppies!

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Take me home, country roads…

Word on the street has always been that you can’t go home again, and that seems like a wise release-mechanism… you can leave but you can never really return, you have to keep moving forward. In that light, there are places I’ll be okay not ever seeing again, along with the people who determined the atmosphere there. But for about five hours yesterday evening, Rita and I slipped back “home” and it was good stuff. We were with childhood friends… sisters… in a peace-filled house, enjoying beautiful appetizers and wine, talking nonstop, and the first time I thought of the clock it was 6:30… the next, almost 8:30! We picked up where we left off the last time we were together, some seven or eight years ago, and even though we all grew up in and around the same tiny Kansas town, the conversation was far more about life as it is now than about people we thought we knew then, and vice versa. Small towns… where people know or surmise everything you do and say, and consider it their life’s duty to help regulate same. By accepted standards of the times we grew up in, we’re country girls gone wild… tomorrow one sister will fly home to her partner and her wide-ranging interests, and the other will leave for meetings in three different countries. A third sister will keep pursuing goals that have little to do with former dreams and instead are all about the here and now. And the fourth will continue to observe and learn, grateful for another shot at life in a healthy body, and hatching ideas for the immediate future.

We were so busy being together none of us thought to take pictures, which is fine because even a SMART phone couldn’t have captured the essence. Sweet, easy, real, loving… and the kind of acceptance that heals. One of those relationships where you say endlessly “We HAVE to catch up!” and then one day the stars align and it happens… and it’s always worth the wait.

Surrounded by cheap knock-offs of everything in life, it’s reaffirming to see that some things truly never change because they’re the real deal. What solace and joy in this present era.

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For the good times…

Yesterday was amazing. The sun popped over the hill at 6:30am and tracked its way to sunset, never once getting lost in the gray matter. Stayed a little breezy, so never truly short-sleeve weather for this delicate prairie flower, but it was a superb Saturday. We met Rita out at the winery in the late afternoon for Easy G and the Blue Notes, a Cajun & Creole food truck, and smooth local Farmer’s Turnpike White. The food truck, Duke’s Place, is the baby of Papa and Mama Duke, and the aroma of jambalaya, seasoned fries, fried okra, and other wonders was irresistible. Since nobody resists around food, wine, and music, we had the fries. Rita knew Mama from another winery night and the three of us had a fun conversation while things were heating up in the truck, wherein we learned that Papa teaches music at three area universities and earned his doctorate in that subject at KU this spring. I’m guessing he’s late 40s, early 50s, and I’m all respect. And Vanessa (Mama) never stops smiling while she works, so the vibes are cool.

We set our lawn chairs under the trees in the green green grass, commandeered the one little wooden table on the place (it’s becoming a running joke), settled in, and breathed. The day, despite the tiny chill in the air when bigger gusts sailed through, was lovely, and the dozen or so small children in attendance looked to be in kid heaven. Just past the main yard and narrow driveway there’s a little meadow where one girl, maybe 8 years old, held her own against three likely-9-year-old boys and a football – girl’s got an arm. There were four tiny girls and one just past toddler age who flitted around like butterflies, all whispers and bravado. Every once in a while the herd instinct would take hold and all the kids from big to small would run down a path into the woods, only to wander right back in short order. The smallest followed after everyone until her eyes glazed over and she looked like she wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep, right in her little tracks, and this mama’s guessing that happened before they left the driveway. One reason I know is that I slept nonstop until 8:30 this morning and felt positively renewed. NOTE TO SELF: Wine and Cajun fries, fresh air and music at every opportunity.

The evening was like a delicious shot of novocaine after the weekly load of fresh pain, which not only rhymes but is part of a greater rhythm. When you combine benign nature, great food and drink, heart-grabbing music, and the knowledge that likely everyone there would have your back if necessary… you can’t go wrong. The winery is partially the creation of friends of Rita’s… a chemical engineer and his physician wife… and their two little boys made up part of the football/pirate/explorer entourage down in the meadow. Can you say wholesome, boys and girls? Chip and Joanna Gaines have nothing on this place. 😊

People will always determine whether life is good or not, and as much as I try to live without them, it feels better to be around kindred spirits. I think tomorrow I might get to see a couple more and I can’t wait. ❤️ If what we’ve all just been through hasn’t helped us sort out our priorities, we’re not gonna get there, kids. Make it a great week… we’re due for a heat wave here tomorrow!

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The longest day…

Artwork shared by Diane Achez-Bush

Life is too short and sometimes too long. It zips past while it drags by, minute by minute… and four days of chill overcast this deep into spring is three too many. The hue outside my windows is brand-new-wet-spring-psycho-neon-green, though, and who’s actually complaining? We’re swiftly losing East Lawrence to the forest, so goodbye church spire… yellow house… construction project… apartment complexes… see you in the fall. Feels cozy and benign, but sunshine will truly be lovely when it gets here.

A string of warm sunny days would ease the newsfeed angst just a bit. Every day brings its load of creeping disaster, and the gloomy skies make it all just a tad much. The fact that I don’t watch TV coverage anymore keeps it at a workable distance, but the following is true…

“In all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”

~ Carl Sagan

… so it takes the company of other humans to help process and deal with all of it. I’m a social creature only in small doses so my outside input comes primarily from people on social media whose vibe connects with mine, people I’d never meet any other way who make life better on a daily basis. My sense of human decency threatens every day to extract me from Twitter, but my heart keeps me there among chosen connections. Facebook can be a trial too, but my longterm relationships there mean it would likely require an all-out fascist takeover of the platform for me to leave it. We all need people we can talk to, and Kim shouldn’t have to fill that role for me 24 hours a day, uncomplaining buddy that he is, so I’ll keep hanging out on the internet because it’s preferable to either prison or a padded cell.

******

Kids, I got this far, writing as therapy, and decided I didn’t have anything to say. OMG, has there been a longer day in recent memory?? It’s 3:30pm and feels like 6!

******

So that’s how yesterday was. Just one of those days. Hints of sun this morning, but chilly and breezy… with more rain predicted this afternoon. The sense of limbo that settled in during the pandemic goes on and on and I’m always quietly braced for some other shoe to drop, so I need to get outside with my walking poles and exorcise my demons. Just have to hang in through today and then it looks like this…

Turns out I really DIDN’T have anything to say, but I think I’ve found the problem…

******

Please enjoy it all, rain or sun, and make it work for you.

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What matters…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 4/2022

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, full of sunshine and hardly a drop of wind yet. SoCal Man’s already been out cleaning the balcony glass and will probably plant the rest of his current nursery purchases today. Music cranked, hands in the soil, he’s a happy guy. Then he’ll count the pots in the storage room and set off to find fillage for them, which makes me as glad as it does him. Nurturers gotta nurtch, and since I need less intensive TLC these days, blooming surrogates help fill the blank spots. His eye for color and personality makes it an upper every time I step outside, with my sole contribution being to dead-head and maaaybe water once in a while.

I have to think that if it weren’t for lack of wisdom and maturity, relationships could be this simple from the get-go. Kim loves to cook, grow things, play his guitars, play PickleBall and ride his bike, and be The Guy for people who need one. I like to read… write… savor long silences… organize stuff… and now that I can sit there again, play my piano. We know these things about each other and if we just “let it be,” everything else works out, all that trivia we’d otherwise bicker about. I’m glad we caught this train in our 50s, with gas in the tank, plenty of earned wisdom, and a certain form of maturity, the key to which is to never actually grow up… otherwise, we’re both such intense people we’d likely have maimed each other by now.

Easter Sunday, with Rita Jo as my loving and forgiving audience. Little rusty…

Kim received a gift last fall, the opportunity to be The Guy in a situation where everybody wins. Three gals in their 70s and 80s asked if he’d be willing to help them improve their PickleBall skills so they wouldn’t be intimidated in open play, and nearly every weekday morning since, the four of them, and often others, have played at 7am, with the result that everybody’s game is getting better, including Kim’s, of course. Last week he drove Nancy, Susan, and Mary to North Kansas City for lunch at Chicken n Pickle, followed by two hours of play on a reserved court… and rumor has it that everyone had a fabulous time. They’re so good for him, and vice versa I just know it. Life is often too sucky to talk about, so the good things really stand out. The bonus is that they’re all cooks and they bring treats to share with each other, which I sometimes benefit from if I get to Kim’s backpack quick enough. The relationship reminds us of his seven aunties in Minnesota and their mutual admiration society. Good stuff.

Life stays good if you don’t give in to it.

Life has never felt this angst-filled, but on the flipside, it’s never felt this exquisitely precious, either. Remember two things in the name of peace and sanity:

  1. Life is all about change. Accept that fact, and live it as it comes.
  2. We have zero control over what happens on the planet, and indeed in our individual lives. Don’t try.

******

For all the empaths I know and love…

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