SQ Diary… page 13

Self-Quarantine Day 18 – 03/30/2020

Had my first sleepless night since the pandemic broke. Couldn’t get comfortable, tame the aching, stop my thoughts. The person charged with overseeing the welfare of the nation is bullying blue-state governors, accusing doctors and nurses of theft, hoarding, and black market activity, because given the chance that’s what HE would do. My disgust and fury are off the chain. City ERs and ICUs are war zones, nobody’s working their own angle, for god’s sake! Their only aim is to stay alive long enough to make a difference.

Jeez, any wonder I can’t sleep? Top epidemiologists in the world and he consults Mr. Baseball…

I never really knew what hate feels like until landing in this era. I’ve seen its effects all my life, especially during the Civil Rights struggle, and I watched the white supremacists come out of the woodwork during Barack Obama’s time. SPOILER ALERT: They never left, they somehow gained influence and they’ve brought friends. I’ve been angry at people, furious, ready to fight to the end… but I’ve never known what it was to hate. I’ve learned. I despise every atom of Donald J. Trump with a white-hot cleansing fire. I find no honor in him, no respect, no character, no intelligence, no self-control, no class. It’s ALL about him, ALL the time. He displays not an ounce of empathy for another living thing on the face of the earth.

Family members, friends, their kids, the nurses and doctors of the world, are on the front lines doing what they’re trained and conditioned to do, with one hand tied behind their backs. They’re putting themselves at risk every hour they work, and they do it by choice because that’s who they are. For them to be slandered with accusations of theft and waste is so out of the norm it doesn’t bear thinking about. They’re reusing nasty old masks and other personal protection gear, strictly against regs, because there isn’t enough stuff lying around to STEAL in the first place!

Lumpy has no idea what those life-and-death hospital scenes look like – just as he has no clue what real Americans deal with day to day during GOOD times. Suit him up, send him in, let him stay on his feet for twelve hours breathing through a funky mask and standing in body fluids. And then send him back in there the next day and the next. With the same mask. And when he whines, slap him so hard his cousins fall down.

I’ve wondered over the years what it would take for me to get political on Facebook again and bring it to my blog. Answer: this. All of it since 2015. It finally reached critical mass and toppled of its own weight. It’s my battle and I’m up for it… but first you cry.

DISCLAIMER: SOME of the white people in red states.

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SQ Diary… page 12

Self-Quarantine Day 17 – 03/29/2020

First things first. Kim checked after sundown last night and our silent visitor had taken leave of us. He/she must have been waiting for the cover of darkness before traveling on – maybe just needed a brief rest along the way. My Black Hills trail-guide friend Mark identified the bird as an American Coot, a little out of its normal range, maybe, but we’re part of their breeding grounds. We both went to bed with lighter hearts knowing our new friend was likely not ill after all, just taking a breather. We’re in love with those amazing feet designed for efficient swimming, and if the story DIDN’T have a happy ending we were spared that knowledge, chickens that we are.

It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning, cool, light breeze, temp headed toward 70º. Kim walked before the sun came up and now he’s on the balcony with his coffee and earbuds, having a workout with Paul Simon. I’m feeling a little better, little stronger, little less coughing every day. Ready for warm days and letting the sun soak into my bones.

A tiny epiphany just pinged my sleepy brain: I’ve spent a lot of the past twenty years saying to the world, in so many nonverbal ways, GO AWAY. Boys and girls, be careful what you ask for.

Just remembered that we regressed further into pioneer mode yesterday – no TV. Modem or box or whatevs likely needs replacing, but not on a weekend from a place that isn’t opening its doors for business right now. We miss the news and our car porn like Roadkill, Iron Resurrection, Mecum Auction. And sometimes the sound of other voices in this space is a bonus. So Kim was wandering down YouTube rabbit holes last night, and I had my nose in my iPad as usual. We will survive.

When hunger strikes, the KIMN8R will come in and make Sunday omelets, and the spa tub will get filled again, and we’ll keep rolling. It’s all fine in every way. LIFE… is good.

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SQ Diary… page 11

Self-Quarantine Day 16 – 03/28/2020

It was almost 60º when Kim went out for his 6:30am walk, and he’s been on the balcony catching rays since breakfast. The sunshine feels like a wonder drug.

This is my third Saturday on the inside, and I’m realizing I left the house a lot more often than I thought, even if it was just for a ride somewhere with Kim. Having the door and the blinds wide open is making the place feel a teensy bit bigger this morning and the sounds from outside are welcome. The freight trains are for sure still running.

There’s a sick bird on a window ledge just past our balcony and he’s breaking our hearts. Big, black with an ivory bill, huge feet. He stood planted in one place for hours and now he’s skooched himself into a corner and is breathing heavily. We feel ya’, buddy…

Hoping to stop coughing and get my energy back in time to capitalize on the down-time. All those sweet lil’ projects just waiting to be tortured into fruition and I sit here like a weenie. Warmer days should prove helpful in every direction.

So yeah, The Smiths at Home, not so very different except psychologically. One advantage to being joined at the hip or general vicinity for almost sixteen years is that we only get on each other’s nerves the usual amount, and we do still have separate corners we can retreat to. Mine’s up there behind the red chair.

Wondering if the nurseries will be able to open at all this year…

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SQ Diary… page 10

Self-Quarantine Day 15 – 03/27/2020

And it was night, and it was morning… fifteen days since I walked into our loft and shut the door. Kim’s in and out for necessities, but I haven’t even been in the hallways. I’ve been sick since we sequestered, but haven’t been tested. They’d just send me home to recuperate anyway. I cough and break into sweats ’round the clock, and in the night I wake up wondering if my next breath’s coming… but it always does.

On a far more critical front, moms of healthcare workers the world over are holding our collective breath, hoping our kiddos somehow get the protection and the supplies they need. It’s a limbo like this mama has never fallen into before and I’m not a nice person right now. Speak truth to me or get out of my face. Help or GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY. I’m not dying because of lies and I don’t want other people to either. But they are, dammit, more every day.

Food holds zero interest – I have to make myself eat. It feels counterproductive to tuning out. People are so very gullible and under-informed with their remarks – and so cutting – my belly’s doing flip-flops continuously. The hardest thing about the Trump Era is the cruelty.

Kimmers is filling the spa tub. We’ll soak and talk and I’ll probably cry and we’ll climb out feeling a little better somehow. So grateful not to be living this part of life alone… so many are, and dying without human touch to ease the transition. How much can hearts break and keep on beating?

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SQ Diary… page 9

Self-Quarantine Day 14 – 03/26/2020

Kimmers got his before-dawn walk this morning, and now he’s on the balcony in shorts and an In ‘n Out shirt, Pink Floyd blasting from his phone, keeping himself moving, staving off catatonia. He’s used to hours of court play every week, and lots of walking and bike riding. His guy-brain suffers if he doesn’t move more than he sits.

I, on the other hand, am a lump that coughs, so there’s much room for do-betters as the days pass.

And now he’s playing his Taylor guitar, letting it ring out there in the clean air. The days name their own schedule… whatever delivers us to the next hour… and the next… and thus unto sleep once again.

My guitar babe before I knew him…

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SQ Diary… page 8

Self-Quarantine Day 13 – 03/25/2020

Some sunshine this afternoon and a chance for fresh air, with the balcony door open. Kim’s heading off on a bike ride.

Our friend Ryann brought us two jars of Tacos Jalisco salsa from a trip out west, so Kim made the Saturday Breakfast for HumpDay. It tastes as good on Wednesday as Saturday, and we had a nice spa soak after because why not?

Still coughing, feel like an old sock, but life goes on. Everything’s relative… sooo very relative now.

Talked with John this morning ahead of his return to the hospital tomorrow. Lots of things we aren’t saying… and that’s okay. We are all here —-> X … and we’ll deal. He has a job to do and his skills are sharp. The mama’s job is to sit with it, and to hope he and his colleagues will have the tools they need.

2:30pm. Kim will get back here by four and we’ll sit outside while the temp holds. We’ll chop vegetables for the steamer, we’ll have a couple of drinks, we’ll catch up on whatever we haven’t watched yet… we’ll say words and think thoughts… and it will be nighttime and we’ll shut it all out to await another day.

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SQ Diary… page 7

Self-Quarantine Day 11 – 03/23/2020

Time’s starting to compress ever so slightly while I’m wrung out and still coughing my head off, but Kim, my everyday hero, is in fine form, inspiring confidence and peace of mind. Today is his 69th birthday, same cheeky kid I married 15 years ago.

He walked over to the barbershop first thing, figuring he’d better jump before the bridge closed, and not a moment too soon. He waited with a few other guys, widely spaced, while Mr. Jon, the lone barber, worked his way down the line. Somebody’d stick a head in the door… “One barber, 2-hour wait.” Phone would ring… “One barber, 2-hour wait.” So that’s how Kimmers spent his birthday morning, and came home looking GOOD. Hope he’ll be up for cutting mine for me ’cause I didn’t make it over there before Shelby hung it up for the duration. Yikes!

Life slows to the pace of still water, and only certain things cause a ripple. Only the things that matter.

Self-Quarantine Day 12 – 03/24/2020

Some sunshine would be… good. One gray day after another, sometimes rainy, often just nondescript, isn’t proving to be an invigorating backdrop to what’s spooling out in our midst.

Still draggy and coughing but I’m not ready for the system to dump my old bones, so recovery is the only option here.

Talked with John – all of his meetings have been canceled but he goes back on shift Thursday. Into the lion’s den armed with sheer boldness and knowledge of the job at hand. Get back, virus, in the name of Science.

On the home front… might make the bed tomorrow.

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SQ Diary… page 4

Self-Quarantine Day 7 – 03/19/2020

Typing today’s date zips me back fifty years, to a hospital room, a long day of induced labor so we could outrun a blizzard, and a tiny blue-eyed, towheaded little guy.

That kid and his partner had booked a 10-day Paris vacation to celebrate his birthday this week, but the universe made other plans, so they found an alternate hideaway.

Fifty years. Makes me feel lightheaded. It’s been that long since my son was born… and I’d already lived a whole life before THAT happened. How is it possible to sit here in my same skin at 72… same on the inside except chill and settled now, understanding a tiny handful of things, knowing every one of those things in my life really happened, one by one… and acquiesce to a life spooling out. We’re candles.

Pouring rain this morning off and on… drippy… gray. I coughed all night, but that’s calming down now. Pretty sure it’s just from being closed up in this same air for days at a time. Our only windows are on the east side, so air flow is at a premium, and it’s been too cold to leave the balcony door open for very long. If spring arrives this year, it will never have been so welcome.

I wanted NOT to live in extraordinary times, but somehow knew I would… probably because my imagination formed stories from the things I learned, and the possibilities were out there.

And here we are. Making the most of the minutes while we have them.

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Diary… page 2

Self-Quarantine Day 5 – 03/17/2020

Good morning, morning. Feels exaggeratedly still out… like a state of suspended animation.

Kim walked this morning while I was wrapped in dreams of a different world – his favorite trek, down one side of Mass Street and back up the other. He says most of the restaurants have signs in their windows reading “TAKE OUT ONLY.” Our hearts are heavy for them – how long can they hang on? People we know and love, count on in the community, half the reason we retired here – this very real place is going to hurt BAD. Made me think of this…

I guess statistics and projections caught up with everybody yesterday and Lumpy decided to participate, so the guidelines are changing by the hour now. My New York Times Daily Briefing helps in keeping things sorted as we go along since a pandemic pays no heed to plans or yelling, it just does what it’s built to do – rolls on while we scramble to catch it by the tail.

Watched Governor Cuomo’s stellar Fireside Chat this morning – ostensibly talking to the people of New York, but emerging as the de facto leader of the nation at this point. Clear, concise information, every word absorbable. Facts, possibilities, probabilities, necessary courses of action in order to flatten the curve if that’s still an option. Calm, measured, everything considered and truthful. People like to be trusted – just give us the facts and we’ll do the right thing.

The KIMN8R’s in work mode this morning, staving off the twitchiness. I’m still a cluster of cells trying to process fast enough to reconstitute. Also I’m lazy, so…

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Diary of a Sea Change…

I think a really good person to #SociallyDistance with would be a guitar player who cooks and likes to read. 🖤💙Got one, let’s do this…

Self-Quarantine Day One – 03/13/2020

We stocked up a little today, preparing to shelter in place and stay out of the mainstream. No TP to be found in town, but most things are still available. Came home, ready to do what’s required. Not so different for me, I leave the house two or three times a week. For Kim, no daily PickleBall, and less popping in and out of businesses on errands, but he’ll still walk before dawn unless that much time outdoors becomes a no-no.

Day Two – 03/14/2020

Kimmers went foraging for TP at 6am and scored a 12-pack fresh off the truck. No hoarding, just a gracious plenty for now. We keep remembering little things we need from the grocery store, so the list grows.

When the Sports World went dark yesterday, people started waking up to what’s going on. “Oh crap, it’s real?” Thus, no toilet paper and no hand sanitizer. Panic shows its ugly head…

Day Three – 03/15/2020

Sunday. Starting to get acquainted with life as it now stands. A Saturday…and now a Sunday…with no live events except for an obscure car race. Night-time TV shows run with skeleton crews…and now going dark. Broadway – dark. NYC shutting down. State Governors taking the responsibility to close restaurants and bars. Anti-science citizens still insisting on full participation in order to preserve the economy. Market in free-fall.

Finding straight information on the pandemic takes determination, but it’s out there. The more two people with susceptibilities know about the threat, the more likely we can avoid some of it.

Day Four – 03/16/2020

A changed world starts to adjust to changed circumstances. Reality bites. The characteristics of this virus are sobering in comparison to some of the others. Hard to detect and pin down. Spreads like wildfire once unleashed. A direct threat to people with heart/lung issues, among others.

Slept ’til 8am, woke up feeling groggy and blue. Same for Kim on the blues – he’s cut off from the physical world that keeps him clicking along. He walked before dawn again, but getting no court play will show up more and more in his mood…

A word can change the atmosphere. Got my feelings hurt this morning instead of letting it all roll off. Since we’ve spent most of our waking (and sleeping) hours together for the past 15+ years with minimal argument over anything whatsoever, it’s clear the unknown is taking a toll. We both know we’re vulnerable to the killer, and so are family members and friends we love… and so far nobody at the top is offering conclusive consensus as to what we’re dealing with, nor a desire to publicly confront it in crucial ways. Time is of the essence…

Rode with Kim to pick up prescriptions and we got fast food on the way home. He said the place was spotless and everything usually sitting out is behind the counter now. So far, Lawrence isn’t a hot spot but there are eight confirmed cases in Johnson County next door. Planning to ride this out to the end and move on.

… to be continued.


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The quiet…

Kim left the house before 7:00 this morning in rainy darkness, giving himself time to stop at the hospital for routine labs before going out to the Sports Pavilion to walk laps and play PickleBall. I could have fallen asleep again after his goodbye, but the thought of coffee and quiet drew me out of my warm nest.

Sitting here watching the rain fall and the light slowly change, a memory: I once had a little boy who, around two and three years old, could sometimes be found sitting in his dad’s big closet in the dark with his blanket over his head. Maybe it was too noisy for him out in the big spaces, but as an old soul, I think he just needed time alone to process everything.

As that little boy’s mom, our loft space is my closet, the rain is my dark, and the quiet is my blanket. I totally get him. Some of us are blessed with the affliction of feeling too much, so the defenses have to be mighty.

The kid in the closet figured things out in fine form. The mama, who’s slower on the uptake, still works on it in the quiet dark. 💙

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Girlfriends…

Updating a piece I wrote in 2013…

Girlfriends.  I’ve always loved the way the word sounds, even though it carries a certain kind of angsty baggage because despite slumber parties and hanging out and all the other things girls do, the intimacy required for besties felt foreign to me.  Growing up on a farm, miles from town, my two younger sisters were my friends.  I didn’t think of them as girlfriends, though — they were my sisters.  And there were the girls down the road but they weren’t girlfriends, they were neighbors. 

When I look back at the young me, it’s clear what a solitary soul I was.  My best days were spent in the hammock stretched between two big trees in my grandparents’ yard, reading a book, thinking my own thoughts, accidentally taking a nap, then combing the garden for ripe strawberries and tomatoes, checking the orchard for intruders, and generally sticking to whatever it took to avoid my mom’s eyes landing on me and assigning me a job.  I wonder what I thought I was going to do on the off-chance that I happened to flush a few snakes, possums, or cross-country bums out of the trees?


Grade school is kind of a blur.  I was a good student, friendly, happy, clueless.  There were other girls, of course, and I made friends … but I can’t think of any girlfriends who’ve carried over from those years if we’re talking people I’ve never lost touch with at any time and with whom I share my deepest secrets and feelings.  High school, with forty-seven of us in the entire place, meant fun, freedom and fraternity … and continued cluelessness.  College brought more of the same.  I was popular, I guess, if you want to gauge it by things like being elected cheerleader seven years in a row and landing a spot in the Homecoming court, but none of that felt quite authentic to me.  I think it took me so long to realize that I could define my own life, I missed a lot of stuff on the way up.


Don’t get me wrong, I have great acquaintances, friends, women I look up to, respect, like, even love. Somehow I’ve just never truly been girlfriend material.  I don’t spill my guts easily, except with my sisters, and it’s always been hard for me to ask for help.   I went through a hellish time ten years ago [17 now] and held most of it inside — not exactly refusing to share my grief, pain, and stress with other women, just not really knowing how.  And without that open-up-and-let-it-all-hang-out mechanism, it’s hard to be a girlfriend, let alone accumulate them.  To my likely discredit I move on easily now, I don’t send Christmas cards, I tend not to do even the minimum amount of work necessary to hang onto relationships, the notable exceptions being marriage and family.


All of this to say that there are women in my life who represent the best of what I always pictured a girlfriend to be, and they’re incredible.  I’m probably still not going to be very good at the gut-spilling thing, but if I ever need it I know they’ll be there.  Life continues to surprise …

JSmith 01/27/2013

My friend Tish and I.
We were BFFs in spite of going to different schools
and seeing each other only a few times a year.

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Be the wild vine…

One thing the years can start kicking out of us is spontaneity. My little sister left me a message one morning last week asking if we wanted to go to a movie matinee with her. By the time I caught it I was knackered from the therapy pool and feeling done for the day so we took a rain check, which we’ll cash in today, Super Bowl Sunday. It’s okay, she’s getting her retirement legs under her and likes solitary movie-going, so my lack of spur-of-the-moment enthusiasm didn’t dampen any sweet family feelings, but I’d prefer to still be a ball o’ fire. My grandma at this age used to ask “Where are we going?” while she was putting on her shoes and grabbing her purse.

It was a gray, dreary day, and after it had been settled that we were staying home by the fire, I looked over to find Kim snuggling up by my side…

  • HIM: Would you go out on a date with me?
  • ME: I would. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you fairly well now.
  • HIM: We could go to a movie this week. Same one we’re not seeing today (1917 – we’d both wanted to see it since the first review we read). We could go over to KC and see it in a dine-in. (Something else we’d been meaning to do but never had, can you believe that?)
  • ME: That sounds really nice. I’d LOVE to go out with you as long as you get me home before dark.

Took him five minutes to make reservations on his iPad and we were in for lunch and a matinee the next day. Spontaneity takes a little longer now but we can still pull it off. Give us a little time to think about it, plan for it, sleep on it, and we’ll be spontaneous as all get-out.

“Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art”

― Oscar Wilde

Perfect date, including the part where he opened my car door, took my hand to help me out, started to say something and belched instead. Good afternoon to spend indoors wrapped in the events of another era – gray and rainy outside, gray and grim in the realities of WWI on the big screen – and the movie did not disappoint.

We’re of course sold on the venue: recliners, food, drink, fairly intimate little space – there were eight of us in the theater by the time the main feature rolled. Pretty sure we’ll be genuinely spontaneous about going again.

NOW we psyche up for a house divided – the KIMN8R’s 49ers against the LOCAL FAV KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, YAY!!! (deafening crowd noise!!!) YAY!!!

And this time there WILL be the Little Sister. And food. I was told there’ll be food.

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An epic love story… *

*…but not the one you think

It’s story time, boys and girls, so pull up a sunny patch of rug and help yourselves to coffee.

The soothing Sunday morning sounds washing over me from the other side of the wall are brought to me by a Southern California kid with a lifetime guitar jones. He got enough Christmas cash when he was eleven to buy one of his own and his dad drove him to a strip mall on a Sunday afternoon to see what they could find. He brought home a little Kawai with nylon strings and shut himself in his bedroom to figure it out.

There was no internet of course, no guitar backing-tracks, no online instruction, not even the thought that someone in the immediate area might give private lessons, let alone how a kid might pay for those. He did start at the Boys’ Club woodworking shop with his dad when he was eleven, but that was gratis except for the experience.

Without benefit of social media and the kind of advertising we take entirely for granted now, he was unaware that many famous guitar makers were based right where he lived. Later, thoughts of missed opportunities shot through his brain. Rickenbacker was in Santa Ana, Fender was in Fullerton, he could have walked there! How much would a job at one of those places have altered his life?

He was out making his own money by thirteen washing dogs, then a paper route, followed by Kaplan’s Bakery, the dream of being a guitar player eventually a low-banked fire, as the music scene in Southern California took on a life of its own and he went off to Viet Nam so he could come home with his head held high. When he got back of course, everything had changed and the mood of the country was a little hostile toward dreamers, so first order of business was a responsible job, and from then on life looked like a series of management positions, entrepreneurial projects, marriage and family.

The guitar thing refused to leave him alone, however, and by the time I discovered his presence in the world he owned four of them, plus amps, mics, speakers, recording equipment, the whole nine yards. Our shared love of music conspired to bring us together in a band setting, and for the past nearly sixteen years I’ve had the joy of watching a small parade of beautiful instruments make their way in and out of our house, and of marking his progression from wannabe to still-shy pretty-wow-player. He’s traded and strummed his way from a high of thirteen worthy guitars to a current eight that he lovingly pays attention to, giving them rotating places of honor on stands within reach.

I’ve sat on one of Ed Roman’s black couches in his Las Vegas guitar store (now gone) more than once while Kim played all the incredible guitars he wanted to touch and hold and hear. He hangs onto the blonde Strat that kissed him back – he might never part with her for the way she draws the music out of him, much like the little Taylor he came across last year just as a windfall blew through for him. He picked up an antique lap steel in the same deal and started taking lessons to challenge himself – that’s how a guy keeps rolling.

My respect for his desire, determination, and hard work knows no bounds. He’s put in the hours, day after day, year after year, to figure out how to do what he wants most to do. On the flipside, my beautiful little grand piano sits silent while I let body pain and hearing loss keep me off the bench, and that’s all I’m sayin’ about that, life being what it is.

My husband has been my hero since the Easter Sunday he walked into my house to cook dinner for me, decided first things first and kissed me good, then got down to the business of looking out for me because I was so clearly in need of same. He knows what he wants, doesn’t always get it, but has never been afraid to work his ass off for it. So if plump 2020 isn’t the year I put mine back on that bench, it prolly isn’t gonna happen. Pray for me, kids. 💋

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New decade who dis?

Hard rain against the windows, turning icy as it hits. Dark and gray, quiet and warm inside, and Kitchen Man has biscuits and gravy in the works. No early-morning walk for him, no PickleBall with the crew. He’ll be here playing guitar while I do that thing I do… that space-off thing.

It’s a cold, cruel world out there this morning. It can be a cold, cruel world everywhere you look… unless you know where to look. Like the story about the six-year-old who’s raised $100k so far for Australian fire relief through the little clay koalas he makes…

Or the rescue on Wednesday of a 68-yr-old woman with dementia, lost for six days in the California mountains, her car covered with snow, who looked at her heroes and said “I’m very cold, I hope you brought a blanket.”

That same afternoon, Massachusetts State Police stopped a car containing an 11-yr-old girl who’d been kidnapped when she stepped off her school bus, in something of a miracle rescue, where she was a total champion through the whole thing and gets to go home and live her life.

So as the little icicles lengthen on the balcony railing, I’m thinking what a nice round number 2020 is, one we’ll not see again in our lifetimes. We won’t make it to 3030 or 4040, possibly this Big Blue Marble won’t either, so plump 2020 strikes me as the year to say what we mean and mean what we say, we don’t have forever.

This feeler has always had a hard time leaving things behind… sentimental trinkets, cards, letters… relationships. But after so many years, Steven Wright’s philosophy comes into play: You can’t have everything, where would you put it?

Reality bites:

  • Only certain things matter on this trip between birth and death.
  • People head that list, family in bold lettering at the top.
  • Energy is finite so I’m sticking with the people who are sticking with me.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones
knowing your own life depends on it:
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver
In Blackwater Woods

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