Taste and see…

[Missed posting this yesterday… ]

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in #lfk, with sunshine and light breezes, as opposed to the urban guerrilla winds of the past couple of days. Northeast Kansas is far less windy than the southwest corner where I grew up, but I haven’t forgotten, and my heart is with the prairie pioneer women who eventually slit their wrists rather than deal with the endless gritty howl. My, that turned dark fast, didn’t it.

Okay, we were discussing sunshine and gentle breezes… this afternoon’s plan is to enjoy an outdoor wine festival and live music with sister Señorita Margarita Rita, who makes life better just by being there. Wine, lawn chairs, music, nice weather, people we know… what’s not to like? It’ll start the week on a high note.

Heads up, new subject:

Change, a fact of life under any circumstance, is always on my mind. I tell myself I don’t mind change, in fact welcome it, but as with all things, it depends. What KIND of change? Whose idea was it? Do I get to think about this? Do I have a choice in what happens? Bottom line, will it eventually be good for ME? A few months ago we were under the delusion that life was heading back to “normal,” only to discover that nothing has changed except the names. And in that light, the question I keep coming back to is how much of what we’ve lost was real to start with?

And this:

I see scattered comments to the effect that most social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, should be shut down in the name of information management, sanity, control, pick your cause… but I do hope people keep a thought for society’s mice, who are pretty quiet but always here. When it’s physically, psychically, logistically difficult to maintain relationships with other humans, we mice somehow find each other and make the kinds of connections that get us through life. We aren’t subversives or even rebels, as such, we simply function better on a less frenetic, less peopled basis. Phenomena like Facebook and Twitter, when we manage them right, fit the bill perfectly, so we (I) need them to not go away.

On the days when the big dark hound sits on my chest and refuses to break eye contact while assailing me with an endless litany of my failures as a human, I need my social media friends saying “I know. I’ve been there. It gets better.” I was never part of a group, and too solitary to really be a best friend to anyone, so the internet is perfect… it allows for space while providing community and I’d be lost without it. When even one person thinks you can survive, you can. Leonard Cohen put it perfectly…

******

The weather stayed beautiful into the evening, a good time was had by all, and I was too lazy to post this before bed…

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Unsolved mysteries…

Another holiday weekend has passed for three senior heathens sharing a gray chilly Ishtar, complete with Spanish mimosas and good food. Seems entirely apropos and it was indeed perfect. Rita did all the cooking… a small spiral-cut ham, au gratin potatoes, asparagus that she roasted just before we sat down, and jalapeño deviled eggs. Kimmers poured Cava & Pomegranate mimosas until the well ran dry, and a mellow time was enjoyed by all. For dessert, I whipped up a lemon cream meringue pie just like Mama used to make, the complete scratch version, a feat I couldn’t have attempted a short three months ago, and it came out right, go me. Sometime late afternoon Rita went home to nap with Jade, my chair tripped me and held me fast for the next couple of hours, and Kim watched the National Canine Agility Show. When you’re not sure what to celebrate, you can’t go wrong with dogs.

Easter strikes me as one of the weirder Christian holidays, what with its origins in ancient pagan rituals, rites of spring, fertility goddesses, bunny-rabbits and all. Hard to gather up all the pieces and make them fit somewhere… so dogs it is, then!

So many pieces/parts left over every time.

******

In my third trimester of living, I have no answers and know only a handful of things for sure:

  • Life is a gift and we’re here to live it
  • If not for the catalysts of profit, greed, and control, humans could find ways to get along
  • If we don’t make life about truth and love we’ve wasted our time here
  • Human communication is a difficult climb, and that’s entirely because of humans
  • 99.9% of us end up being too soon old, too late smart
  • Karma is a bitch only if we are

******

I believe Finneas gets it right, so I’m sharing his exquisite gift of music with you again…

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It’s Monday, but it’ll be okay…

We have sunshine this morning, and promises of 60s and 70s coming up this week. Spring loves to tease, and we always forgive her because she’s pretty and she smells good.

Quick bit o’ bi’ness… a reminder that tomorrow my peripheral Facebook page, which theoretically hosts this blog, is going away because it’s outlived its usefulness in the current scheme of things – neither the blog nor I seem to have achieved Meta status, so… anyway, if you haven’t already, click the Follow button on the right and insure that I’ll be able to annoy you to infinity and BEYONNND. Thx.

Every morning I read the news… the headlines… the bylines. I look at the stills, taken at great personal risk by global photographers, one of whom we lost just the other day, an American this time. A tiny angry tyrant is stomping on all the sand castles and making a slaughterhouse of Ukraine, trying to erase the population of a sovereign nation. Much of the world seems to be standing back, out of the fray, hoping the unleashed psycho behind the curtain soon runs out of steam. Meanwhile, pregnant women and their unborn babies are fair game for him.

Hard to witness, harder to be there. Mother and baby both died.

It hurts to watch it all, without the power to change the course of history. We long to fix it but can’t… so it always comes back to kindness, caring, and love. Let your heart keep on loving.

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New week, who dis?

It’s Monday, boys and girls, in a week when anything could happen. That’s true of all of them, but life isn’t always this packed to the gills with angst and trouble. Wotta world, and the ride goes on and on. I squirreled away a few things over the past few days to share with you, to mark our place at this juncture in time. Little road signs…

Let’s start with the obvious, because it needs saying:

However, having stated the obvious…

Think carefully, I’m not for everyone.

With winter dipping in every few days and layering us in white, and the pandemic just now in enough of a lull to relax protocols, it isn’t easy to fill our time, so we’re always grateful for sportsing on TV that engages our attention and sometimes emotions. Sports involve real people doing real things, and spectating is next-best to participating. Maybe some of this is on the schedule…

******

Because life isn’t static and things happen, staying a little loosey-goosey about the state of the planet only adds to the Zen total. Everything has to be evaluated in terms of forever… what matters now and for how long.

******

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The days of wine and roses…

Seventeen designated “I LOVE YOU THE MOST” holidays with my husband and counting… and it’s all still real. Since his kitchen is the best restaurant in town, we’ll share something with the love cooked in, toast to happy days ahead, and feel grateful.

The romance is still there, I assure you:

Happiness is overrated and likely sinful.

Despite the gaiety and lightheartedness of our forebears, Valentine’s Day, like other “human interest” observances, is hard for people with heavy hearts. Being alone, when every conversation is about being with another person, takes a toll. I see you… do today on your terms.

******

To Kim, who has saved my life from the beginning, countless times over… you’re The Guy.

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Success on a Monday…

Gotta love it when a plan comes together – it was over 50º and sunny before noon, so Rita and I walked the south side of the river from the boathouse parking lot to the bench at the other end and back, probably a half-mile total. It was amazing to be out in the air, which felt pretty crispy around the ears, striding out, hiking pole in hand and sister by my side. The city has a huge clean-up project underway next to the Kaw, clearing acres of dead trees and underbrush back away from the sidewalks, opening up small tributaries and other vistas we hadn’t known were there. Lots of tiny encampments have been dismantled and hauled away, but we could still spot a few tents and hooches through the leafless winter trees. “Sleeping rough” wouldn’t describe it, and I wish every human could count on warm shelter no matter what.

Along with welcome moments of consciousness-raising, today’s walk was a needed affirmation that all is well in the recovery process. The success of previous spinal procedures has hinged on my doing the work post-op to make it happen… somehow… without the actual source of the pain having been addressed… so I carried the guilt every time for the lack of positive returns. This time around, we were in the right place when the technology arrived, stellar young people REPAIRED the problem, I walked out of the hospital without nerve pain, and today’s effortless half-mile folded me up when I tried to tell Kim about it. Gratitude… so full of it these days.

It’s cool when your body agrees.

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There’s nothing more freeing than truth…

The past week held a little of everything, which I’m still processing. Forward progress happened… news of the world disappointed and sickened us again… the daily goodness we depend on was all there… and we learned more things about the people in our lives.

I’m still abstaining from TV news and benefitting from that new habit. Reading the headlines for myself is a different animal from hearing them pounded to a pulp by the various talking heads, and it worms its way into my psyche far less. It’s all still happening, still every bit as appalling and life-altering… but when I walk away from the written word, my brain knows there’s far more hope in the world than we’re being led to believe.

The past couple of weeks have been a watershed… a time for facing truth. The bent of the nation and the world is a totally real thing… corporate fascism is bursting with energy and drive in the civilized world, and the peculiar ethic, the tenets, the morés that fuel it have by now filtered down to the man on the street. A 3-minute conversation is all it takes to turn a buzz-word into a breakup. Who we are is out in the open, and it isn’t who everybody THOUGHT we all were.

A long-lost relative drew me into a political discussion recently, which stayed civil until I asked him how he could align himself with one of the most heinous human beings on the planet. His answer, “You make it about him, an undignified coarse-talking buffoon of a personality. I voted for principles. I learned a long time ago to live day to day on PRINCIPLES ….NOT…. Personalities. So….Judy, if we can’t compromise in our relationship, then we have to do the next best thing. Cut ourselves loose from one another.” For the second time in 20 years, you mean, after a 3-minute conversation. I have yet to find a 2021 Republican who will talk with me… just talk, and listen, and talk some more, with thoughtful silences and an indicated willingness to consider any and all facts. Apparently it’s a guiding PRINCIPLE not to do that.

The same relative told me, “I loved Robert and Judy Latta. This Judy Smith person I can’t deal with.” THE FACTS: Robert Latta died a violent death and didn’t come back, and Judy Latta, in many necessary ways, went with him. Judy Smith is who I am. You never knew me.

The division we knew was there, that we can feel building month by month, is too real for words. Until now we’ve been able to cover parts of it up and pretend it’s really nothing and it’ll smooth over. But people are finally saying outright “I don’t like you, please go away,” so I think it’s here to deal with for the foreseeable.

People don’t appear to want to talk, discuss, consider, think, instead preferring the lines to be drawn in indelible ink and never trespassed against. If the U.S. falls apart, it will be due in large part to the fact that most of the population can’t understand, and is not interested in, the differences between fascism, communism, democratic socialism, and democracy. The words themselves become the meaning and the power, and the human capacity for discernment and comprehension takes a hike – it’s all too threatening and complex to deal with.

The fact that truth is hard to come by in this era makes it a supreme challenge to keep the meaning in our relationships. What, we’re now asking ourselves, are those connections really all about? What makes them different from anything else out there? Why do we cling to myths and fairytales? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one…

Despite my relative’s disavowal of The Former Guy, he’s still the de facto head of the GOP, still shaping its posture, still tainting whatever its values were. And as my chosen life coach John Pavlovitz wrote in September of this year…

“In this iteration of our nation, the elemental decency that should define human beings is no longer a universal requirement. The base-level expectations of those we live in community alongside simply do not exist anymore. There is no standard anymore.

For so many people here, it is no longer just about a sharing a difference of opinion on an issue or about voicing opposing political ideologies or even about the expression of personal or religious freedom—it is about inflicting as much pain as I can to people who I know nothing about and who have done me no direct wrong.

I’m not sure where we go from here, but I know that this version of America isn’t worthy of our or anyone’s children inheriting.

We’re going to need more good people becoming louder about what is and isn’t within the bounds of civilized society.

We’re going to need to name what is unacceptable and to demand decency and safety for all of us.

We’re going to need to collectively hold on to our souls or there will be nothing beautiful left to leave after we’re gone.

We have to do better.

We need to reverse the Trump Effect on America.”

And then made a golden idol of it.

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A confession…

Boys and girls, in light of our ongoing relationship over the years, I’m obligated to inform you that I am armed, dangerous, and a threat to polite society, as evidenced by a whiplash experience over the weekend. Be forewarned is all I’m saying. It was one of those caught-off-guard, konked on the head surprises that we’re never waiting for and all we can do is absorb them.

It’s well-documented that I’m a liberal-thinker, it can’t be disguised or hidden, nor have I ever tried. It’s a part of me I appreciate most, no apologies. Over the years, as the lines have been drawn with an ever-finer marker and the ways we think about life have utterly diverged, about half my extended family has broken off communications, for which I don’t blame them – when you don’t share an inviolable worldview, what do you talk about finally?

A test of mettle arose this past week when I received health news about a relative who had cut me loose for my wanton liberal ways… or so I assume because he closed all avenues of communication and I didn’t hear from, or about, him for long years. After seeing the message I did the adult thing, scrounged around for a contact address, and wrote him and his wife a genuine note of love and concern, which… son-of-a-gun, opened that door right back up. He was ever so grateful and kind, going so far as to send me a Facebook request, which I validated… and that’s when the fight started, except that I don’t fight. He saw my posts, realized I was still that awful commie liberal witchy-woman he kicked to the curb all those years ago, and we had a conversation… calm and measured on my part, increasingly hostile on his, including a totally incomprehensible shaming for remarrying after my first husband was killed. This from someone with multiple marriages under his belt. And then he swiftly bailed and blocked me from any further contact. That’s twice, buddy, jeez.

Kids, I tell you this to let you know there’s no road through to the other side right now and may never be again. We speak two different languages, hold differing moral codes, and our outlook on humanity is terminally split. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to hold thoughtful exchanges with family and friends who abhor my take on life, and I can testify that it’s an impossibility at this point. As soon as a real conversation threatens to break out, they’re outta there every time.

So watch your backs… I’ve been officially declared toxic to the health of a family member; therefore, who knows what further mayhem I might get up to. I’m a small 74-year-old woman who has very limited contact with the world outside my door, and who will never show up on the doorstep of people who hate my voice, even if invited… the trip alone, at this point, would attempt to kill me. So what are people worried will happen? That I’ll expose a feeling they didn’t know they had and can’t acknowledge? That I’ll “force” them to talk with me like two adults? That I’ll ask a question they don’t know how to answer? That I’ll try to drag them into some mystical woo-woo place of real communication?

I have plenty of experience, but few answers… much heavy sadness, but few regrets. I’ve been transparent and dealt in truth as I know it. And life goes on, even as it’s perpetually ending…

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Ravenous butterflies…

In Silence Known – Andrea Kowch

“She did not need much, wanted very little.

A kind word, sincerity, fresh air, clean water,

a garden, kisses, books to read, sheltering arms, a cosy bed,

and to love and be loved in return.”

starra neely blade

********************

Art by Seb McKinnon

I hope I told you
How much you meant to me
And
How much I would miss you
When you were gone
I hope I told you
I hope I did

by Athey Thompson

********************

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November… wow…

Even though I’m about it every day, I can’t slow the seasons enough in my brain to fully appreciate them, and this morning we’re into November. It’s chilly, windy, and gray, with rain showers moving through, so fall is for sure not a figment of my imagination. It was a fun autumn weekend in town, as related to me by Kimmers after his various forays into the crush of humanity, and by my eyes and ears from the balcony. Yesterday was the inaugural run of the Belgian Waffle Ride here in Lawrence, and the streets were packed with bicycles, people, antique cars, booths, vendors, photographers, film crews, food, drink, music, and more. The Ride is a cool thing…

https://belgianwaffleride.bike/pages/kansas

… and since we’re Belgian waffle fans already, Kim made a Razzleberry version for lunch that was THE BOMB.

He also snapped pics of some of the riders, this particular group heading north out of town for the rough-country part of the challenge.

*****

With the days growing shorter and the evenings chillier, and with my powers of concentration again finding a footing, I’m back to books for company. I finished an excellent read over lunch called Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, as honest a self-assessment as I’ve ever seen from another human. A sentence near the end of the book, after the author had experienced lifetimes of pain, stays with me… “NOW I knew that joy was a kind of fearlessness, a letting go of expectations that the world should be anything other than what it was.”

Jamie Lee Curtis has touched me too, with her pragmatic approach to aging which never rules out a healthy sense of adventure. She provides a quote in reference to her own internal governor:

“The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.”John Steinbeck, East of Eden

So in times of self-doubt, when we’re questioning our motives and sanity, trusting ourselves becomes a passport to personal security.

Whatever it was, it happened, it’s over, keep moving. There aren’t that many other options.

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Fall breeze, autumn leaves…

Slowly we turn… step by step… and as of this afternoon we’ve had both COVID shots plus a booster, with a flu shot thrown in for good measure, along with the shingles and pneumonia vaccines that were already onboard. If we suffer any aches we’ll at least know we’ve done our part and it’s over for a while. If only we could say the same about the virus itself.

Step by step…

The tree across the street is showing off big-time… an arresting sight just beyond my window.

And the mums are happy with the way fall’s going so far…

Autumn evokes all the feelings, every year, without end. And the remembrance of feelings… a uniquely human capability… takes us down roads of its own choosing, where we relive what was until we run out of courage for the journey.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the first time my dad came out with a string of words that made no sense. My blood ran cold and my instant thought was “No, don’t do this! Please, I need you to still be my dad.” I’d lost my husband and I was looking after both my dad and my mother-in-law when that one sentence told me we’d gone over the cliff. I had the same reaction the first time a friend’s words told me he was a true believer in the fascist slide the nation and the world are taking. It’s that incredulous rush of “Wait, I thought we knew each other!” and newly shocking every time it happens.

So when you’re trying not to let the screaming-meemies take over, the good stuff gets saddled with overtime duty.

*****

*****

I pay little attention to mirrors now, but when one catches me I see my grandma looking back… a woman who survived much and kept her sense of humor past 95 years old. That fills me with hope.

After a few autumns on this planet, we know fall isn’t the ending it portrays itself as. To everything there is a season, and this one is for rest and renewal, so it’s very welcome here. Enjoy the leaves…

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Beautiful day…

It’s Monday morning after a good weekend, the sun’s shining (but I haven’t looked at it yet), the coffee’s icy, as it should be, and I’m savoring an Everything bagel… the M-day and I have it going on so far. Kim’s over in NoLaw hitting PickleBalls with a big bunch of people he enjoys so I have a couple more hours to wake up before the day actually kicks in. Then… it all stretches out before me as an absolute blank… and is there anything better for weary minds than a day when nothing happens? This particular introvert’s greatest joy is a skinny calendar with whole blocks of time when there are no appointments scheduled, no deadlines to meet. I went underground sometime in mid-quarantine and I kinda like it down here, it appeals to my hermit personality… but it does nothing to improve my social skills, so there’s that, and I’m trying to surface again.

We have a need as humans surviving on an often hostile planet to connect, to understand something about our purpose here. When the connections are broken, by us or by others, the resultant hollowness goes on and on, becoming part of life’s daily fabric, and the older I get, the harder the spaces are to fill… because I toss out everything that doesn’t ring true. And yes, I do intend to live long enough to be somewhat of a problem to my progeny, although he did nothing to deserve that.

*****

You too? Or just me…

Having been made freshly-conscious of the fact that I’m “better in theory than real life,” let me just say, via someone whose name I regretfully don’t know…

This is the grace I want to extend to all. That, too, takes a lifetime to learn.

*****

And somehow, this thought is affirming and soothing…

This too, from my wise Twitter friend…

It all simply goes on. We live and are happy.

But… I stubbornly want to understand why people choose to follow ugliness when we live among wonders in the world:

Butterflies can’t see their wings.

They can’t see how truly beautiful they are, but everyone else can.

People are like that as well.

~Naya Rivera

Photo ©Petar Sabol

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Rain = Life

Rain, rain, do please stay… go away some other day… because there’s something about rainy days and Mondays that starts a week off right. Kim has razzleberry muffins just out of the oven, the leaves are blowing, and fall is settling in. Rain always makes a fresh start seem doable…

And I know it’s Monday and all… but a less-than-Monday outlook is permissible whenever we say so.

Over these past two years, immersed in a pandemic and a simultaneous attack on democracy, I think we Americans have a new realization about the importance of inner (and outer) rest… peace of mind and heart… freedom from threat. The way of life we value has taken on a vastly deeper meaning in the face of loss, and rest doesn’t come easy… but we can’t survive without giving in to it.

When everything within and without is in turmoil, it’s a challenge to stay focused on what matters… so along comes a rainy day to wash away the dust…

I’m heading for a nice hot soak with the Muffin Man, for which my beloved old bones will thank me. We’re in October of a year that hardly seems to have registered in key ways… beat up, jangled, but still truckin’ down the road… and good things are happening. Life continues…

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A fractured fairytale…

Once upon a time, long long ago, on a farm far away, there lived a little girl. The girl’s early childhood held much of what today’s world calls “going through some things,” silently shaping her psyche and setting her future in motion.

From the outside, we observe that the “wild and free, who cares??” mindset of farm children earned the girl her share of dings and cuts, but it’s in hindsight that we see her defining moment… a water-skiing accident at age seventeen that rearranged the molecules in her body in ways that would make themselves known over the ensuing years. Hotdogging for friends, she skied too far onto the sand and when her skis stopped she flipped out of them, impacting earth with the side of her neck and right shoulder, and flipping again onto her back on the beach. We know it couldn’t have been pretty, but any landing you walk away from is a good one.

The girl blithely greeted life as if she weren’t a ticking time bomb, and her naturally sunny nature saw her through much. She married a good man with PTSD, just home from Viet Nam, and they had a blond, blue-eyed little boy and continued the farming life, with everybody pulling together to make it work. When the girl was 29 years old one of the concealed bombs from the accident exploded in the form of a ruptured aneurysm under her skull, and following cranial surgery she found herself walking away from another one. Thin, bald, but under her own strength, she started to entertain questions about what else fate might bring?

One weighty answer came years later when the farmer perished in a harvest accident. The girl then left the farm and her world spooled out in entirely new directions. Life had been totally rearranged, and after a year and a month alone she met and married a California surfer-dude, natural caregiver, friend for life, and best boyfriend ever… that’s what she said.

Meanwhile, areas of damage continued to make themselves known. A once-nagging back pain was now a constant source of torment, and a couple of small back surgeries aimed at relieving pain changed nothing. Her right shoulder became unbearable, so more than thirty bone spurs were removed and a few tears mended. Countless lumbar injections and epidurals have had negligible effect.

The little blonde farm girl turns out to have a fatal flaw… she’s something of a klutz. This only became more pronounced after the accident, which put her gyro out of whack, so throughout her lifetime she’s had many interesting falls… one a memorable escapade on ice that shattered her other shoulder, cracked two ribs, and smashed her face into a large potted plant. Now both shoulders get regular steroid injections to deal with Arthur, who makes himself at home everywhere, uninvited.

The little girl from long ago is old or on her way, and now another bill has come due. Our story tells us that the scar tissue from the cranial bleeds and surgery has a life of its own and is generating something called focal seizures… oh joy for the girl. She realizes by the symptoms that these seizures have been building in intensity for five years or longer… and that the accompanying aura is the same as when the aneurysm first ruptured out there in the stillness of the prairie. She says it feels like waiting calmly in the presence of death… and there is no fear in the room. The good news is “there’s an app for that,” and better living through chemistry is panning out so far.

Moving our tale along, the girl who is now an Old got to see her own spine last week in stark relief, which answered all but a couple of questions because there’s nothing like black and white for instilling reality… and now the Girl and the Dude have a few things to talk about.

So, boys and girls… life is long, day by day, but a brief candle when viewed from the other end of the telescope. Early on, we think everything will get right when we’re finally adults, which is one of the saddest, funniest misconceptions of childhood ever. Only gradually and often at a late date do we start to grasp that life is about the moments and each one is steadily making us who we are. Sometimes the way we handle life makes us prickly and insufferable… sometimes life comes at us so hard and fast we struggle to sort things out in time to deal with them the right way. And sometimes we’re just jerks. At least that’s what the little farm girl said…

THE END

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The Hunt…

Sometimes you can want something too much,

and in overreaching you out yourself as the one

clinging to what no longer exists.

The human drive to possess what we can’t have,

to understand the incomprehensible,

to make sense of cataclysmic change,

takes us, ironically, to where we didn’t want to be… a place by ourselves.

Is life simpler in the animal kingdom…

where the citizens are guided by instinct alone,

no motives, no emotions cluttering the landscape?

They live, they die, the world rolls on.

Life as it spools out doesn’t shock or dismay them,

their days are an endless struggle for simple survival,

existence distilled to its essence.

Is it better to live a life of awareness,

with all the heartache attached,

or to cruise like a lioness on the hunt,

defending your territory,

staying alive through experience and cunning?

On the windy days when the sky is more tan than blue,

my heart is on the grassy savannah.

©JSmith 09/13/2021

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