What’s your favorite season and why is it fall?

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Wrote this yesterday before the day turned irresistibly beautiful… before we walked with friends to a restaurant new to all of us and spent a long lunch laughing and cementing friendship… up the street to Sylas & Maddy’s for ice cream… and a nice stroll home, talking all the way. The Muse tapped my shoulder about this post in the late afternoon, but by then I was far too comfy where I was…

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Favorite season? Fall, hands down for me, for all the reasons. In general, it isn’t too ANYthing… too wet/too dry, too windy/too still, too cold/too hot, just friendly, benign, middle-of-the-road weather while we brace for winter. And never have I been more conscious of the letting-go process fall embodies. The bell tolls, bring out your dead!

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Uncertain of our significance in the universe, we hang onto everything we encounter in life… we might NEED this experience, this memory, this bit of detritus we never really understood in the first place! And we do need some of those things, but not consciously. They’re all there, influencing everything we say and do, we don’t have to think about it constantly, none of it is going away. Short of a lobotomy, most of us will remember the significant moments in our lives, both good and bad, until death or the dreaded Oldtimer’s claims us. The goal is to no longer be predominantly shaped by the negatives we can’t entirely forget – life is genuinely not long enough for those memories to be left in charge… they rule from a bad motive and muck up things that would otherwise be perfectly beautiful for us, thus the need for fall housecleaning. It starts from a spiritual place.

Yesterday Kim and I took a drive through the countryside, which in Eastern Kansas this time of year is a requirement. The leaves are getting creative in their death throes, everything looks crisp and clean, crops are ready for harvest or soon will be… and there’s no sense of regret attached to any of it. Earth’s inhabitants respond to the seasons and behave accordingly, humans in ways that are hard to define. Autumn is the dying time so we tend to assign an extra portion of melancholy to its days and miss its true essence entirely… that death isn’t always a downer, sometimes it’s required. Industrious as we may be, the house isn’t clean if the stench of old death still permeates the walls… so really… why do we cling so tightly to things that once hurt us, made us question our right to be here, and still hold the power to ruin an entire day if we let them? I think that was rhetorical…

I love all the sweet, poignant, utterly lovely moments fall brings, leading to the kind of memories that save us in moments of uncertainty and that inescapable sense of being alone.

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If you find yourself overwhelmed by loneliness and questioning your place in the scheme of things, remember…

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Also, and this is very important to me…

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Autumn, I really love you…

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Totally Zen start to the day, sitting in the predawn darkness while rain pounded against the windows and the trains going through town sent out their lonesome danger-laced greetings. “We’re here, beware. You, though… sleep on, all’s well.” Kim’s 6am PickleBall group fell apart at the last minute, so he came back home and I ended up with an Einstein’s bagel out of the deal. For lunch we made a Ramen noodle stew that will end up in the rotation… perfect on a rainy fall day. All is indeed well.

Speaking of which, before we get too far into holiday shenanigans…

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This morning the U.S. is in constitutional crisis, teetering between the democracy we’re trying to keep, and the fascism being foisted upon us… but I can’t get into that, my beautiful fall day would be wrecked and so would yours. It’s exhausting, the outer circumstances and the things we all deal with on a personal level, and sometimes it feels like I’ll never not be tired, so this resonates…

***

Loss and patience go hand in hand if you survive.

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Fall carries its own brand of generosity, with its colors and schizophrenic weather and its assurance that it really is okay to let go. Its intrinsic melancholy is oddly healing and it feels like home.

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What we have here… is a failure to communicate!

So far I don’t mind terribly much getting older, there are things about it that are actually almost cool. But FEELING old… out of it… behind… I hate it. Nothing pisses me off faster than trying to do something I knew how to do before technology changed the parameters. I love technology. Technology is my friend. Until it isn’t, and I have to ask for rescue from someone whose otherwise perfectly lovely accent doesn’t play nicely via phone with my hearing assists/brain. And the page he sends me to clearly doesn’t look like the one he’s on because the right questions and blanks are not available; therefore, there’s an impassable hurdle in the form of name/password legalese which I will never get past so I’m hereby resigning from the world and resolving never again to leave the safety of my perfectly manageable home. It doesn’t matter that I can’t get an automatic payment set up online BECAUSE I’M A HERMIT NOW!! I won’t need the thing I’m supposed to be paying for, so stuff it, world!

Sigh. I feel marginally better, thx for listening. On a happier note… and EVERYTHING was on a happy note until that frickin’-frackin’ brick wall… I spent an hour and a half outside this morning, an hour of it walking. Picked up a bagel and coffee and sat in the park again, reading and people-watching. There were at least 50 middle-schoolers, and several adult-types carrying guitars, gathered on the east side of the park, but nothing discernible transpired before I trekked toward home. Looked all squeaky-clean and wholesome, though, at 7:30 on a Friday morning.

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Ope, it was THIS!

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ENJOY THE HECK OUTTA LIFE EVERY DAY!

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It’s Friday…

Kim woke me up at 6:15 with the words “I brought you a bagel,” and the weekend was on… it’s a random surprise I love every time it happens. Oddly, however, for the first morning since I started walking the sidewalks and byways of Larryville, my brain said no. Wasn’t sure I was hearing right, so I gave it time and asked again. Still no. The body’s drug its feet a few times, but today it was my head saying nope, not going, let’s do something else just for shits & giggles.

So I put a load of towels in the washing machine, made the bed, broke down a small stack of boxes growing roots on the bedroom couch, sent all the detritus to its proper destinations, and even ventured into Kim’s kitchen space long enough to “tidy oop” a little. And I’ve formulated a secret plan for this afternoon, rain or not, so nothing lost and much gained… I can feel my anxiety nodding off as we speak. And now it’s pouring rain and flashing lightning, so my much-maligned brain and the barometric pressure are clearly in sync and working on my behalf.

Rain is part of the forecast off and on all day and we’re here for it. And after this front moves through tomorrow, we’ll see Howard Mahan at the winery, with sister Rita, lovely cheese and the whole nine yards. Gotta appreciate when a stress-free plan comes together…

More than a year in, I’m still reading the daily news rather than watching it, and this week has mos def been one ‘a THOSE. So in an effort to place focus elsewhere for a hot minute, I’ve saved a few things with you in mind…

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Workin’ on it…

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DISCLAIMER: You’re not actually required to get high.

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Kim always says he’s shallow, but he nailed this one from the starting line.

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Friday’s here. Brighten the corner where you are, and have a terrific weekend…

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Stranger things?

A sobering phenomenon is in progress, and you’ll soon pick up on the key word in that comment. I used to think my phone, iPad, and desktop could hear every word I said, read my mind, and gauge the dilation of my pupils, silly me. Then I wised up and realized that, YES INDEED, MY DEVICES ARE FULLY TUNED IN TO MY EXISTENCE EVERY BREATHING SECOND, so now I try never to say or think anything while in range of an electronic device, nor make eye contact with Siri. And yet… they know. They all know.

Hold on, I’m getting there…

Through painstaking dedicated research, Kimmers and I have determined that alcohol and excessive heat are seizure-triggers for me, especially in tandem, and as we’ve gradually fine-tuned my tolerable amount down to approximately zero, I’ve been mulling something: Are there relaxing healthy drinks out there that might make some spoiled old girl feel less on the shelf when the party starts? I did, I asked that very question of myself. However, at no time did I voice it out loud, nor did I consult google. And yet… they know.

The thought had no sooner formed in my mind than I was seeing ads in all my social media feeds for mocktails, exotic teas, wellness tonics, hemp-infused non-alcoholic spirits, fooz booze, zero-alcohol whiskey, the spirit of bourbon sans bourbon, non-alcoholic wines, non-alcoholic apéritifs made with natural adaptogens… does somebody out there have ALL my numbers or is this the Truman Show? How do I escape the scrutiny of those who KNOW… do all my thinking in the shower with the fan on blast?

In case you hadn’t guessed, the Secret Word was “sobering.” If you were on top of it, here’s a cookie… 🍪

It’s 4:30 on a Friday. Almost time for me to clock out and slip into a comfortable weekend, but first a few parting gifts to tide us over ’til Monday or whenever Ms Muse drops in again.

***

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Not loyalty to me… loyalty to truth and kindness.

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Please enjoy a summer weekend, and if you feel lonely come talk to me…

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Living in harmony…

Good morning, fellow conspirators, I hope your day’s spooling out in proper order so far. In my own little world, I was gently awakened with the words “There’s a bagel waiting for you,” and indeed there was. Everything… toasted… still warm…with veggie schmear… after which I was ready for anything, so I walked to Massachusetts… and from there to the Kaw to watch it roar and tumble. I stay close to the head-high railing because lots of bicyclists go back and forth on the walkway and I can’t always hear their shouted “On your right” or “on your left.” This morning I waited for someone on a bright yellow bike to pass, but instead the rider slowed and pulled to a stop. He turned out to be a very cheerful skinny old man my age who immediately struck up a conversation about how much water continues to sluice through town from the west. Turns out he’s a retired professor from Baker University by way of Atlanta, lives not far from downtown, loves to ride the bridge, and has a knack for making somebody’s day. Old people are so precious… if you make eye contact we’ll talk to you, so watch yourself, but we do know shit and we feel seen when somebody acts marginally interested.

From the category of Unsought Information… you see me talking about walking to various states. Here’s the deal… I’ve always heard that our north/south streets were named in the order the states entered the union, so here’s what I did, I googled it. Right there’s the fraction of difference between thinking you know something and finding out. Here’s what I found…

ARE LAWRENCE’S STATE STREETS REALLY NAMED FOR STATES IN THE ORDER THEY CAME INTO THE UNION?

Great question! The answer is, sort of. Here are the states by order of entry into the Union. If you go by this list, the state streets in Lawrence are numbers 1, 2, 3, 11, 5, 13, 9, 6 (Massachusetts). Then numbers 14 (Vermont) through 27 (Florida) are in perfect order. Then it goes 32, 30, 38, 31, 29 (Iowa). It seems that after Iowa Street, the city planners pretty much gave up. Here is a great article on the reasons (or lack thereof) behind this order. It’s interesting to note many of the southern states were purposefully left out.

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Okay, there ya’ go, make of it what you will… or can. My job is to keep walking cross-country.

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Currently making the rounds online is a rant that requires a second and third look and a well-measured rebuttal, which someone has been kind enough to provide. I hope everyone on social media who reads the first installment will also read the second. The first makes one kind of statement, the second another.

From the article accompanying the quotes:

“The most interesting thing about the initial post is the sense of victimization coming from the original poster. It seems to say that having to pay attention to issues of justice and civil rights and being asked to acknowledge the ongoing impact of historical oppression and what role each of us might play in keeping others down somehow takes something away from them.

“Being asked to see and care about victims of injustice doesn’t make you a victim yourself. The logic there is so strange. And what does it mean to shove being gay down someone’s throat? Because of course it would be reasonable to push back against someone actually cramming something down your throat, but in this context ‘shove it down my throat’ usually means ‘did something publicly in my line of vision.’ Not the same thing.”

.

A commenter said: “I spend so much time surrounded by straight guys who talk about nothing except women’s bodies and sex, but my pride flag bumper sticker is apparently throwing my sexuality in people’s throats.”

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See interpretation below…

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We want to believe that the divisions are many, but it’s really all one thing and nobody wants to deal with it down to a nubbin until it’s actually solved… how to survive together on a small planet.

Raises hand. Looks closely.

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Did you wake up grumpy? Or let him sleep…

Woke up at 6:30 to dark skies, and rain hanging in the northeast, but it’s apparently moving that direction, leaving us behind. We had generous rain yesterday, though, so no whining here. There’s a crew on the corner across from us, taking out a large, very dead tree, one we’ve said for the past couple of years was “going to have to go.” Progress, I love it.

Over the past hour, reading news online, I’ve learned a couple of things, first being that the Supremes are still cooking up shenanigans. According to their pending edict, the freedom to conceal weaponry on one’s person is entirely too precious to be entrusted to the States, those silly entities they never mess with except as a last resort to get what they want. The issue of women’s right to our own bodies, however, is piddling enough for those same States to deal with as each region and subculture might deem fit. Roe v Wade is over. Not a good look for The Bench… the power of the gun tops the right of women to exist equally… but they’re so far past caring about public perception, truth, integrity, and justice, we can dispense with thinking they’ll rescue anything or anyone but themselves. So there’s that.

But wait! There’s MORE!!

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And next come all the dominoes we’ve said would fall once the dam broke…

It’s a sin to say you love someone and vote for people who will hurt them.

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This is all distressing beyond words, which brings me to the question forming in my head since I woke up… to wit: How are your connections with people who hold polar-opposite views on life? Are those connections surviving? What’s your secret? But here’s my real honest question… when heinous things are perpetrated by government people from the polar-opposite side, do you automatically feel a spark of anger against the people who voted them into office? Does your psyche register a pinch of betrayal every time? Is there a feeling of “This is personal”? Has your willingness to trust taken any hits in the past few years? Just wondering…

And now there’s a curtain of rain hanging in the forest that is East Lawrence, the neighborhood is taking on a soft glow because the sun’s still up there somewhere, and it’s a beautiful world. Life really is all about patience, from one moment to the next.

Soooo… weekend’s here, I say we get this party started!!

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The trick is to keep moving…

This morning it struck me that ten years after following John’s suggestion to start a blog, I’m still here. You know the old question, “Where do you see yourself in five years… ten years?” If anyone has ever gotten that one totally right, I’d love to meet them. The past ten years have been packed with events, milestones, eruptions, and weirdness… who among us could have predicted COVID and its ongoing effects? And now someone I love is miserably ill with it for a second time, despite two shots, two boosters, and vigilance, so it’s never going away. We’re stuck in the circumstances of our own ignorance and inflexibility… twin curses of being human.

Speaking of which… the effects of ignorant inflexible human behavior are on display every few days now in the 1/6 hearings, showing us how deeply entrenched kakistocracy has become. Just as during Watergate, it’s demoralizing to hear and read the things said and done by people who were elected to work for the good of all. The money they’ve made off with. The laws they’ve broken. The lives they’ve destroyed. Apparently it’s necessary, every fifty years or so, to hold up a mirror so Miss American Pie can see if she’s done yet. The assessment from here is that she’s on life support, hemorrhaging, her coffers raided, and she’s being stripped for parts by the worst of the worst. It’s an uphill climb for people of goodwill who want her healthy and happy. More of an Everest, really.

Where we find ourselves…

Truth can shock us upon first hearing.

I have yet to meet the elephant I won’t discuss. As Kim likes to say, “I ain’t skeered,” and there’s very little that has the power to back me off of issues I care about. In this third trimester of living, it feels like there’s less to lose by simply being me. If what I say here or outside my door drives you crazy, makes you want to hurt me, beat me, make me write bad checks… that’s a you problem. For me, a diary with accountability has been just the ticket for getting through the past ten years of intense stress and change, and I owe a deep debt of gratitude to John for his discernment and wise advice. Also apologies for embarrassing him on the regular, but he did ask for it, when you think it out…

This is all coming from an old girl who cares far less about far more things than she used to… and far more about the things that actually matter.

Is that too much to ask?

Meanwhile, it’s hot. Damn hot.

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Always with the questions…

So many questions… so much time… so few answers. The days are long, and rife with opportunities to think, which has never intimidated me but there’s so much more to think about now. I had grandparents who told me stories to which I listened like my life depended on it… and there have been times it has. They were all born in the 1800s except for one grandmother, the kid in the crowd, and they experienced a lot of things so we wouldn’t have to, such as life without A/C, motor vehicles, or consumer-protection laws. They knew things… and it’s taking me this long to catch up. My attentive listening lacked meat on its bones… life experiences to flesh out the facts simmering in my subconscious. Those necessary learning opportunities did come along, bit by bit, as they will, providing what feels like a unique perspective but is instead universal, I’m pretty sure.

Let’s do a quick checklist and see where we are, just out of curiosity. Raise your hand, nod your head, blink twice, say a rosary, whatever’s most affirming, for each thing you identify with as I blurt it out:

  • Planet Earth seems to be out of control
  • because it always was
  • but this feels excessive. Like disastrously crazy off the wall.
  • Is that why I feel sad and tired all the time? Do you feel sad and tired a lot?
  • Do you wonder when [if] this sensation of living in a state of limbo will end?
  • Do you miss the Before time when we knew less about our neighbors and family members?
  • And that was a good thing?
  • Do you think about your life and wonder what it’s all meant? Or is the point, as someone said yesterday, simply to live?
  • Were there things said to you by older people that seemed clear enough at the time… but you didn’t actually have a clue? And if you consider yourself to be “getting older” now, are some of those things becoming starkly real? Do you feel the parameters shifting?

One of my grandmas told me when she was in her 80s that her life had become very lonely. Our family spent as much time with her as we could, but I know we didn’t touch that existential loneliness that assails the human spirit. She’d outlived all of her German cousins and most of her friends… no one shared a past history with her… all her reference points were changing. As her granddaughter, consumed with my own life, I couldn’t begin to reach in and touch that sense of unease, alienation… solitude. But I do get it now.

A dear friend the other day was relating a dream whose meaning was too-easily discerned, and I said to him “There is no lonelier proposition than human existence, even with someone we nearly worship living right beside us.” Our minds and spirits take us to far places where no one can accompany us, and we wrestle with each of those worlds alone. The truth that “we are born alone, we die alone” becomes clearer as we go along… nobody can really tag along on those two trips, nor during much of the in-between. As Uncle Walter Cronkite might say, “That’s just the way it is.”

As the physical healing proceeds, I’ve been coming up with ways to feel not productive but useful, big difference. It’s still in the “I could” stage, but the ideas themselves build a sense of hope, which we can’t live without. And it helps keep the big shaggy hound from the door… the one that creeps in, sits on your chest in the dark, stares you down, and beats you with the awareness of your own empty solitude. So… what are you looking at this morning that seems insurmountable? Or merely annoying beyond words? What one thing could you change that would start to make a difference? Go get another cup of coffee, think about the question(s), write down whatever goes through your mind, reread it over the next few days… see what happens. Lemme know. Please.

Existential loneliness has been momentarily banished this morning by sunshine after rain, a peaceful house, and a breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. It’s the little things. Make your weekend restful, healing, and fun.

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Oh, the finality…

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR

It’s past noon on Friday and the suspense hasn’t killed us yet, but I do admit to being more than a little elated over the fact that the Jayhawks have reached this point in the annual madness, while the verdict inches ever closer. On this cool sunshiny day, Mass Street is gearing up to shut off traffic during tomorrow’s big party, which will grow exponentially after dark if we win… and wouldn’t it be grand. In the times that try men’s souls, a smidgen of hope goes a long way… a little happiness becomes a lot of it… and spirits rise or fall on the fortunes of our sports icons… so we remember Seabiscuit, and we wait. This was the scene on Massachusetts in 2008, last time KU won the NCAA Championship. Pretty sure everybody’s recovered enough to do it again!

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Meanwhile, a bit of distraction lifted from my friend Ned Hickson of “Humor at the Speed of Life” fame on Oregon Public Radio…

Ned knows carnivals. I’d trust him with my life.

******

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Calling in my chips…

I need your help this morning. After months (years?) of empty threats, I finally killed a Facebook page that may… I’m now wondering… have been a connection for more people than I knew. So… if you’re reading this and you accessed this page by signing up to follow the blog… please grant me one small favor and either click “Like” or “Rate This” so I’ll know everybody didn’t get lost. Clicking “Like” puts your icon under the post… clicking “Rate This” and choosing a star is completely anonymous… I can’t see who rates my blog pieces, but the stars are encouraging. Take your pick, either way it will be really helpful to me… I talk to myself constantly but would prefer not to simply be writing to the wind.

Thx.

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Closing one site…

A quick bit of business this morning:

As per intermittent threats put forth by me since before COVID crept onto the stage, I will be closing my self-titled (Playing for Time) peripheral blog page on Facebook… tiny drumroll, please…

on March 15, 2022. It’s an auspicious date that popped out of the hat, by which I mean the top of my head, and we’re doin’ it.

So. If you like following my blog and you still get your notifications through that rapidly-disappearing Facebook page? It’s time to change that.

Enter your email address where called for HERE on the right-hand side of the main blog page, subscribe, and set your preferences. If the site gives you any backtalk, come here to Comments and tell on it… I’ll do my best to fix it for you.

If you want to be here I don’t want to lose you, so do the thing NOW because Mama’s not gonna nag forever, and not a moment after 3/15/22.

The page that’s going away:

https://www.facebook.com/Playing-for-Time-174149176111937

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Weekend loading, please be patient…

Sunrise with Streetlight – Kim Smith 01/14/2022

We were graced with a brief band of fire this morning before the gray winter skies closed in and extinguished it from view. Tomorrow’s forecast says cold and snowy, so we appreciated the warm handshake from the sun, no matter how short-lived. Today it’s simply cold and gray, requiring a more creative approach to the hours. It’s good to be able to spend a few minutes in my desk chair again, because other than books and a couple of games, most of my creative impulses are poured into this big MOchine. Feeling better usually requires writing words, and that happens best right here.

Or I could borrow someone else’s, because…

On the uninspired days, it’s helpful to remember this rule.

Looking back over this week’s trove of saved things, one stands as more important to remember than the rest…

Anybody guilty? Raises hand… 🖐🏼

*****

Latte and macarons for the therapy…

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Annnd… we’re rolling…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 01/05/2022

A few touchstones, a week into the crisp new year, beginning with a roadmap I’m still learning how to navigate…

Anne is a much-beloved kindred spirit.

*****

This has to be said and I hope you won’t have any trouble recognizing yourself in its joyous celebration of humanity…

*****

Some of us require extra grace, so thank you for giving it.

It doesn’t.

On the other hand, once we slide into life’s third trimester of experiencing it all for ourselves… we start knowing a couple of things and remembering what we may have forgotten. I love this photo montage for the way it ties my G’ma Wagner’s era to mine and keeps the love and humanity intact. Some things are universal forever.

And based upon zero evidence other than an odd quiet sense of hope this morning, I see this as a distinct possibility:

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On the stroke of midnight…

On the stroke of midnight tonight, you can resolve to be better, if you like…

to be fitter,

to be healthier,

to work harder.

On the stroke of midnight tonight,

you can resolve to become a whole new you,

if you so choose.

Or, you can take a moment to acknowledge what you already are.

All that you already are.

Because it’s a lot.

You’re a lot.

And you deserve to be seen.

On the stroke of midnight tonight perhaps you could congratulate yourself, for coping.

For breaking, again,

and for rebuilding, again.

For catching the stones life has thrown at you,

and for using them to build your castle that little bit higher.

You have endured my friend.

And I don’t see the need to resolve to become a whole new you,

when you are already so very much indeed.

Happy new year.

You made it.

Donna Ashworth

ART by Sherine Tolba

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