The home front… page 61

Day 121 – 07/11/2020

Looks and feels stormy out, which makes me wish for lightning, thunder, and a downpour. This morning the humidity was the same as the temperature, both in the 80s, so a rain would be soothing.

I can feel the nostalgia creeping in as the days go by – missing places that were once home, wishing I could see family who are gone. I wouldn’t tell them what’s happening now, I’d just look at them for as long as I could and remember…

The current mood has no doubt been heightened by the fact that I’m in the process of winnowing my cache of 5,500 photos and graphics and I’m finding a lot of treasures.

Texted with John this morning. A couple of pertinent comments:

“According to the daily COVID-19 update email from Emory System Communications, we have exceeded the highest peak that we ever had back in April. Emory University Hospital, the flagship, and Emory Midtown hospital, which used to be Crawford Long Hospital many years ago when I moved to Atlanta, are both bursting at the seams on the regular floors and in their ICUs. The same is true at our facility. The ICU is so full of Covid patients that the step-down unit had to be turned into the ICU, and now even that is filling up with Covid patients. The MedSurg floors next to us are becoming Covid units as well, and the fly in the ointment there is that several of the nurses and one of the techs on that unit have become infected and are out on quarantine. Despite the system being close to bankruptcy for paying nurses, they are offering overtime and hazard pay again because they are desperate for people to come in and work.

“Everyone’s nerves are starting to fray and that is showing up more and more in the interactions among staff at work, and between various departments. There have always been tensions among particular departments, but some communication could barely be regarded as civil now. And I feel bad for the food delivery people, and the family members who drop items off at the one secured entrance to the hospital. The staff there are overwhelmed, and have started basically barking at anybody that walks through the door. It is taking on a very Lord of the Flies sort of feeling, as if we are all stuck on an island and only the strongest will survive, LOL.” – John Latta

I notice, of course, that my posts are better-received when I keep everything away from the edge, but real life isn’t like that. My edgy “knowing” today is that we are two distinct factions in the U.S. – and each believes the other is plotting to overthrow the government.

And that far too many world citizens still don’t grasp that a pandemic means life changes for everyone on the planet until the virus wears itself out or there’s a fix for it. End of story, one way or another.

No rain yet. But the day, with its weird light, isn’t over.

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Saturday, the 4th… page 58

Day 114 – 07/04/2020

Drinking pomegranate tea while fragments of thought pop in and out of my headspace.

It’s a wonky 4th, but I’m two for two so far – the traditional breakfast and a spa soak. The rest of it is gravy.

Thinking of a story I heard a while back about someone who’s managed to alienate their cache of friends and family and now they’re old and not in good health, with few human resources – a pitiable spot to find oneself in, and one I hope to avoid. But I’m outspoken to the max on social media among like-minded friends, so I always hope people who are on another page entirely will either out themselves or find the door… preferably both. They’re not the hearts and minds I’m talking to, and they will inevitably be offended. Oh well… they weren’t gonna come change my sheets at the end anyway, so…

Ray of sunshine here, veritable 4th of July sparkler! It’s those damn morose German genes, and before I bring the house up a little, let me just say this is the most demoralizing Independence Day observance of my 70+ years. If we reach the next one with our democratic system of government intact, functioning, and regaining health, we will be a blessed nation indeed.

So, the good news. The sun’s breaking through the clouds and the humidity is only 74%. The neighborhood is quiet this morning – no mortar rounds going off since last night. The flowers are perking their heads up and taking advantage of the wet air and sunshine to do that thing they do… likely only to get slammed by another rainstorm. Makes ’em strong, right? The day feels lazy and free, so imma celebrate that.

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Love staying in… page 55

Day 107 – 06/27/2020

A friendly rain shower was in progress when I got up at 6am, but between 4 and 5 o’clock there was a windstorm here with some sort of downburst and 2″ of rain. Our pretty little tree outside the east entrance is broken in half, our deck furniture was shuffled around and tumped over, and all the flowers on our balcony and the rooftop deck took a beating. We were blissfully unaware until after we’d enjoyed our Saturday Breakfast… but everything will recover, with the likely exception of the tree… and the rain is nice. The photo above is one of Kim’s hibiscus blooms – before the storm.

These are also BEFORE – the rooftop is looking more and more inviting this summer as improvements are done.

The view from the top…
Our broken tree
Gorgeous yesterday and will be again, as will the rest.

In other news, someone from one of the commercial offices in our building tested positive for COVID-19 and left without informing the other tenants and owners, after presumably sharing elevators and a mailroom with all of us. It’s easy for people to forget that they’re working in our house and basic courtesies apply.

Oh well, here’s another happy lil’ hibiscus …

EDIT: The tree looks hopeful. 😎

EDIT: Weather Service says Lawrence got between 4 and 5 inches of rain from the storm.

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Cocooning… page 54

Day 100 – 06/20/2020

The process of returning to the social realities of life will be one of jerks and starts… and there are all kinds of jerks out there. We had to take our car to the KC dealership for service this week so we made a lunch date with our friends Seth and Adam who live nearby. It couldn’t have been more wonderful to reconnect and catch up with them, but the lunch experience left much to be desired, primarily because in a metro area where COVID-19 numbers are still rising, none of the restaurant staff were wearing masks.

We chose the upper outdoor deck, but the tables weren’t thinned out so other parties were in close proximity… and it’s freaky to have a waitperson walk up to your high-top and repeatedly poke her face next to yours. The proper course of action would have been to pick another restaurant after we stepped inside and saw what the situation was, but Midwesterners are trained to be so damned polite it didn’t even occur to us – and quite possibly it’s the same over much of the city. At our car dealership, by contrast, everyone wears masks, and the person who handles the car adds gloves. Just good business these days.

It was comforting to see Lawrence again where there’s no prevailing cavalier attitude toward the various crises assailing us all – most people here, ESPECIALLY those with eating establishments, wear masks; embrace the presence and contribution of a diverse ethnic population; are liberal-minded when it comes to the care and feeding of other humans; and are aware and in favor of constitutional laws governing American society. I fear KCKS is a tad too close to the hee-haw over there.

My patience for fools is on hiatus – no fact, emotion, or consequence moves them off their chosen mark. Zero tolerance on social media if they step onto my timeline and unload their predictable weaponry on me – if I know you I might go 3 strikes, otherwise out the airlock you go. Today as we pass the hours before Tulsa kicks into gear, wondering how it’s all going to go down, fools loom large – they aren’t known for clear-headed decision making under pressure. Hoping for a non-conflagrational outcome.

Kim was out on his bike at 5:45 this morning, shooting at the fog, which strikes me as therapeutic and apropos.

Bridge across the Kaw – Lawrence to NoLaw
A skinny window on Mass Street

Photo credits: Kim Smith 06/20/2020

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Remembering…

An edited nostalgia piece from 2013 …

During a nursery visit to replace trees and plants lost to the western Kansas drought and heat (we’ve since moved to the northeast corner of the state), the greenhouse owner snapped off a king-sized rose blossom and handed it to me.  As soon as I caught its scent, my grandma was there beside me and a whole era lined up for review. 

We grew up across a gravel driveway from my paternal grandparents on a farm in the middle of wheat fields and pastures.  There were cows and chickens and a big barn populated by sleepy cats, but the best part of the farm was Grandma and Grandpa’s garden.  It spanned acres, and included most of the veggies you could name — potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, peas, green beans, turnips (yucky), strawberries and tomatoes (both of which we were allowed to pluck warm from the vine, with a tap on the salt shaker Grandma kept tucked under the leaves); fruit trees including apple, cherry, and peach; and flowers.  Peonies, mock orange, baby’s breath, tulips, daisies, columbine, cosmos, daffodils, lilies, phlox, snapdragons, roses. Not a complete list.

All of this was surrounded by hedges that my grandpa kept trimmed — a tall one across the back, with openings into the orchard beyond, and shorter hedges along the front and sides with shaped entryways into the three main sections of the garden.  In a corner, close to the cattle pens, grew watermelon and cantaloupe.  And a quarter-mile away, next to an irrigation engine, was a colossal watermelon patch (which became infamous in its own right — a story for another day) that produced enough for all summer and into the fall, including a happy celebration for friends and neighbors in the yard.

Outside the confines of the hedges sat the two-story farmhouse my grandpa built, saturated with decades of living. Between the house and garden a hammock was stretched between two big cottonwoods, and a rope swing hung from a branch.  The clotheslines where we helped Grandma “hang out a nice wash,” as she invariably declared it to be, stretched across the grass.  

There was a cement and brick milk house where our dad and grandpa filtered the milk from the cows, skimmed off the heavy cream, and left it all in glass jars to cool in troughs of ice-cold running water brought up by the windmill anchored next to the building.  A battered tin cup hung on a pipe next to the well so anyone who wanted to could pump a fresh drink of water. (There was no pandemic raging.)   

We (my sisters and brother and I, along with cousins and neighbor kids) spent long hours in that yard, held tea parties under the tall conifers set in the middle of the garden, and built more than one fort among the fruit trees and evergreens out back.  And on occasion, we worked.  

When I think of my grandparents – she born in 1889 and he five years earlier – he shows up in long-sleeved chambray shirt and faded Levis and she’s wearing a homemade housedress and apron, tied at the waist and pinned to the flowery cotton of her dress at the shoulders.  And she never went out, hoe in hand, without a handmade sunbonnet.  A real lady had creamy white skin, and although Grandma had been born with distinctly olive coloring, she tried.  Grandpa protected his head with a well-worn felt cowboy hat that he sweated through in nothing flat.

Thus they went forth every morning equipped for work, intent upon it, dedicated to it.  Those luscious fruits and vegetables out there in the hot sun were life, and life doesn’t wait.  They did their best to corral us, to slow our head-long summer romp through the garden, to foist sunbonnets upon us and thrust hoes and rakes into our grubby little hands.  I remember thinking I really should help out more, take more of an interest, learn something while I was at it.  But the fork in the big tree behind the milk house was calling my name, my book was still stashed there from the day before, and I was hot and tired and needed a drink of water from the well …. and I never quite found time to own responsibility and discipline in any discernible way.  

There was one time of year, however, when we all pitched in and did our part.  I’m ashamed to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that we got paid for our efforts, but, well ….

Every year in the days preceding Memorial Day, my grandparents would cut armfuls of tightly-budded peonies, wrap them in wet burlap, and store them in crocks of well water in the cool cement-lined root cellar.  The other flowers, too, found their way into crocks, awaiting that early-morning observance at cemeteries around the countryside.  Our job as grandchildren was to take old paring knives and snip daisy bouquets in counts of twenty-five, band them and put them in canning jars in the cellar.  It was a treat to go from the sunny garden to the damp coolness of the pit, and Grandma and Grandpa paid us a nickel a bouquet. We were suddenly rich, and Woolworth’s, McClellan’s, and Duckwall’s were a mere twelve miles away.

Despite our mercenary outlook, we managed to gain a sense of having contributed to something special.  The day before Memorial Day, which was known as Decoration Day in the 1950s, and very early the morning of, neighbors and strangers from surrounding areas started pulling into the drive to collect the big flower baskets and smaller arrangements they’d pre-ordered.  And many, knowing there were always unclaimed flowers, stopped by to see what they might pick up.  The air had a special freshness about it and people invariably seemed happy and intent on their mission.

I remember feeling proud of my grandma for her ability to grow and arrange flowers into spectacular gifts, and a connectedness to all those people coming to embrace her talents.  I started to feel tied to all the generations being honored on those Memorial weekends, and I still remember snippets of stories from the conversations I overheard.

After all the paying customers had retrieved their floral offerings, Grandma let us kids have the leftover daisy bundles to place on the graves of the nearly-forgotten babies from the 1800s in our small community cemetery a mile west of the farm.  It always felt like we’d done something amazing by honoring those brief little lives, and the yearly military ceremony conducted by aging war heroes in a sometimes haphazard and ill-fitting assortment of service garb lent added poignancy.

If my grandparents were here now they would be gratified to know how much I actually did learn through their example and the privilege of living in their shadow.  Things like hard work, respect for the living and the dead, a certain acceptance that no matter what happens life goes on … all of these have stood me in good stead over the years.

As with most farmers of that generation they never became wealthy in a monetary sense.  But the things they passed along to us are beyond price … and worth consciously appreciating as another Memorial Day arrives.

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Staying in… page 35

Day 44 – 04/25/2020

No diary entry yesterday, but we’re still here, breathing in, breathing out… keeping it sorted.

Every day there’s a fresh load of manure to deal with, and my plan not to bring up Lumpy’s name anymore lasted about a hot minute.

In other news, it’s Saturday and the sun’s breaking through the mist. The Breakfast will happen, and a spa soak, and the day will spool out in little pieces. Our seventh weekend at home and I’m fine with it – there’s no place I’m longing to go except our fav Mexican restaurant – but the absence of contact with other people is starting to have weight.

The Farmers Market is doing curbside pickup just down the street, and even though it isn’t the “real deal” yet, it feels good to see some wholesome activity going on. Looks like it’s set up in a way that keeps the vendors distanced from each other. This may be life for a long while to come, so we’ll all have to find new ways of doing things, as humans do – case in point, we still exist after many attempts to boot us off the planet.

Every morning is a process – while I’m waking up I’m going over it all in my head again, putting things back in perspective, letting people be where they’ve placed themselves, and moving forward. Looks like a pretty weekend for it, and someday our balcony will be open for company again.

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Shelter… page 31

Day 37 – 04/18/2020

Feels like I’m doing something right when my baby sister texts and says, “Are you okay? I keep waiting for today’s blog post.”

Accidentally took a Saturday off – our 6th in “captivity” – and checked out for a while. I’ve found a group of free games that are all basically Candy Crush with furniture, and their little worlds are so sweet they’re easy to get lost in.

Almost 5 o’clock… the news cycle over the past few days has been discouraging beyond imagining. The country’s being engulfed in a civil war – not just a figure of speech anymore – and in a battle over whether money or life matters more, nobody wins.

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

Ready for this kind of peace again…

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Gimme Shelter… page 24

Day 30 – 04/11/2020

Highly resembles my view of home for the first two trimesters of my life, until we moved to the great greenway of NE Kansas. Social/physical/metaphysical distancing is in my DNA – I can do this ’til the cows come home. Stating facts, not bragging about being a weirdo, although if you wanna compare notes…

Yesterday was a hit-the-wall day – after Kim’s brief flurry of git ‘er done, it was a big space-off. We did mark and mail our primary ballots, so we were productive – this is no time to become expendable.

Amazon is starting to ship nonessential goods as they’re able, and we got a little speaker for the balcony yesterday that does not disappoint. The breakfast cook is out there with his coffee, soaking up the sun and providing a soundtrack for the yard guys. Every day there are moments to put in the bank…

It’s been a month, but feels like about half that – weekends roll around at a crazy pace… how can it be Saturday again already? Mental engagement feels like a challenging but crucial factor. Can’t afford to drop out… I might not ever make it back and I’d be pissed about that.

*****

Little something to pass the hours…

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SQ Diary… page 18

Self-Quarantine Day 23 – 04/04/2020

Fourth weekend of sheltering in place – Kim’s been out for groceries, wearing nitrile gloves and now a mask, and for solitary walks and bike rides, but I haven’t been further than the balcony since we shut the door. It’s okay, staying in isn’t a problem.

Just really not all about humans right now. For instance, I’d rather not know that in today’s economy certain people are considered too costly to save. The coronavirus effort is eating into the 1%’s share of the pie, and the worker bees, who are strictly Not Our Kind, are wasting, by which we mean utilizing in the name of life and death, “our” supplies. The supplies paid for with worker bee tax dollars and stockpiled for the use of the elites, not the states, most especially not the blue ones. Somebody forgot to tell Jared and his father-in-law how this whole “united states” thing works.

I’m not mad, bro, just doing a little self-healing… trying to accept the facts. It’s no surprise that the lives of boomers and other slackers mean nothing to gazillionaires, I know that in my bones. And since the man who would be king is incapable of accepting blame for anything… anything… he’s landed on the medical community as a scapegoat for this virus he said wouldn’t be happening here. I guess he and his tribe will never have need of those heroes. But even that new strain of cruelty isn’t shocking – we’ve seen everything he’s done and said for the past twelve years and longer.

What I’m still sorting is that people I love – and thought were intelligent, caring, compassionate, empathetic people – supported him, voted for him, haven’t backed off their fealty in any measure, and will brook no criticism of him. There’s a word for it.

I may have snipped an inch off my hair… more or less… here and there… I am killing at this stay-in-your-cave game.

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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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(S)he had a face like a blessing… Cervantes

Last year a friend added me to a Facebook group, an action that would ordinarily raise the hair on the back of my neck except for who connected me and to which group. I like to be asked first, but if I know and love you, you might slip that cheese past me without an implosion. Oh, but the misguided adds I’ve quietly tiptoed out of!  What was it about my posts over the past ten years that revealed a secret affinity for Home Canning groups, Fundie Prayer-Chains, or a support page for Nursing Mothers?

This new page, though, is serendipity – all about women and faces and selfies.  One of those things is not like the others. Women and faces = good. Selfies = I suck, both at taking them and accepting the results.  But happily, this is all ABOUT acceptance – for ourselves and other women. Without camouflage, before coffee, after a run, in sadness, elation, frustration, other women’s faces are endlessly beautiful to me and seeing them every day is showing me more about genuine acceptance of my own than anything I’ve encountered until now. If they can all be real, why would I think I couldn’t? When someone shares a shot that’s possibly less than bare-faced, I think “No, please, show us your genuine, natural, beautiful self, the one who can trust her sisters.”

Over the past decade or so my body has been trying to quit me, but even at that we’re better friends than back when my pudding-brain thought I was such an irresistible speck of humanity. I’m getting pretty comfortable in this body with this face on it, but my selfies still shock me every time. “Hello, Me, this is what we really look like now from the outside, can you believe this shit?” I choose to blame it on Bad Inanimate Face because Resting Bitch Face sounds so judgy. Pretty sure two things are at work here to make me uncomfortable with my own shots:

  • It’s MY face in the viewfinder.
  • Selfies allow me to study my face in a way that invades my personal space and hurts my feelings.

But…sigh…the suggestion is that we each post a selfie every week for a year and write something positive about every photo we share, which I think is delightful advice in theory.  I’ve managed one so far – for now I’m busy drawing from other women the inspiration to be as naked as they are. Faces, guys, naked faces. As you were.

And being real at every stage of life is all that counts.

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” – Abraham Lincoln

Author’s Note: This post, and the two that precede it, are edited repeats of pieces I’ve published before, a fact that I’ve neglected to mention. I’m going back to fix the preceding posts.

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Actual Self-Care in 2020

Does the impending arrival of a new year make you introspective? Do you think about past years, what they held, and what you hope to do differently in the new one? Are there things you’re still trying to sort out in order to avoid future train wrecks?

No? Just me, huh. Well, this week as 2020 bears down on us I’ve been trying again to make sense out of the whole idea of friendship. You’d think I’d have that down by now, but the script got flipped a while back in a way that’s made me examine the parameters ever since. An introvert will survive!

I had a friend who was a few years older, half a dozen I think, an intriguing woman, large and in charge, very generous, well traveled, had a million stories to tell. She could be a little overwhelming, liked her own house and parties best, her own food, which was always creative and distinctive, her own stories, her own family, her own interesting life. She genuinely cared about yours too, she just had a hard time staying with any of it for too many minutes at a time, she had so much to tell you. There were lots of parties, lunches, dinners, evenings, game nights, gatherings of every sort in her place, where she was always the pivot, cooking, pouring wine, hostessing, keeping the vibe going.

She loved Kim – he could do no wrong, which I think was her take on beautiful men in general. He got her, far better than she ever knew, so they danced that dance. She emailed me from time to time with little things she needed him to do and he always showed up, then stayed for a bit to hear her worries and put them to rest if he could. We called an ambulance for her more than once, and through the ups and downs over the years a sort of easy relationship grew up among the three of us, although never completely on an even playing field. She somehow came from another time and a different world.

Our friend had health problems that started infringing on her social life in ways that frustrated her and made her feel isolated and lonely, although her days were still a social whirl compared to my chosen solitude. She began to urge me to spend a couple of mornings a week in her place, drinking coffee and talking, just girl stuff. She knew about the fibromyalgia and the back pain, et.al., and that I didn’t really “do” mornings, but I could come in my PJs if I wanted and it was just down the hall, and I’d be drinking coffee no matter what anyway, right?

There came a morning when it was an insult to my body to ask it to put one foot in front of the other, so I sat down and wrote her a cheery email full of girl stuff and all the news I could think of, and after touching on how I was feeling I said that my letter would have to take the place of a visit for that day, maybe for the week. But I didn’t apologize, the facts being what they were – it didn’t occur to me that I might need to.

Neither of us ever heard from her again.

When she moved away the following year, she found Kim to say goodbye. Nothing personal, just so long, be well.

A study in human nature?

I’ll have to look elsewhere to study friendship I think. Many months have passed but my sense of sadness hasn’t – it’s hard to reconcile the before with the after and make it all mean something. I can’t die for a very long time – I still have way too much to learn.

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That fragile balance…

Trading anxiety for peace is no small beans. It takes constant focused attention and intention. Attention to the little things, the small ingrained habits that carry us through our days, the attitudes that are dear to us, that come to define us despite our best intentions, and there it is, the second word. As a lover of words, sarcasm is dear to my heart and often shapes and moves my intentions far more than I’m aware, coloring my attitudes and leading me down rabbit trails that don’t look or feel all that peace-laden.

Twitter, one of my habits, is a bizarre world of its own, but it’s good for speaking unvarnished truth with an economy of words. I don’t advise hanging out there if a sense of humor isn’t your strong suit, and even then it takes a toll on us softies. Jeez, the viciousness is truly unbelievable, the worst of it emanating from equally incredible stupidity and thus fairly easily rolled off. When it issues forth from people who I know are educated and who should therefore know better, I have to bail out for a while and remind myself what the thinking, feeling, caring world looks and sounds like, wrap myself up in that, and consciously choose PEACE. Again. On purpose. Until I get it right and it becomes my new habit, and the state of my psyche rightly reflects the life I actually live instead of the insanity of a percentage of the population I don’t even recognize.

No matter how passionately we might involve ourselves in knowing what’s going on at the various levels of government and society, we ultimately understand the infinitesimal effect we personally have on any of it, and yet some of us can’t refrain from adding our words to the mix in the hope of either connecting with one other soul or ridding our own soul of a tiny portion of the burden we bear because maybe we care too much. It does help a little, especially the connection part, and so we persist, we feelers. We seek a place of workable peace while trying not to shirk our responsibility for our fellow humans and other creatures.

It’s a balance not easily won, and why would we expect it to be? This is the stuff life is made of, the big questions, the literal life and death choices. So it’s okay to spend a little time weighing the options, even when we annoy the partial life out of people around us. The ones who love us finally get it, cut us the slack we need, and try to roll with us, which is so cool. Because this (waves hands around) just goes on and on and nobody knows the endgame so here we are, and loving each other and being real are all that count. Life really is so fragile.

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Making peace…

Yes, we made that road trip and it was wonderful! This was our first one in a few years and we were thrilled to find that we’re still true road warriors, in spite of having relied on the airlines for all of our extended travel for a while now. Full disclosure, the process of flying wears me out far more than driving, especially with the benefit of ergonomic seats in a genuinely comfortable car, with my best California freeway guy at the wheel. Having said that, it’s taken me two full weeks to recover, but this is better, trust me.

My sister and bro-in-love have retired to the lodge-pole pine forest of the Southwest, up where it’s warm but not too warm and the air is supremely breathable (except in pockets where fires are still raging). Most days the humidity hovered around 5-15% and our skin drank lanolin like water. The mornings are cool and still, perfect for sitting on the back patio with coffee, watching iridescent hummingbirds attack the feeder while elk graze in the National Forest that butts up to the cedar picket fence. Later in the day they bring their spindly-legged, still-spotted babies with them. We got to watch four and a new one was born after we left. There’s a large, multi-generational crow family that’s intriguing to observe, not least because their King has a head roughly the size of a bowling ball and he’s as arrogant and raucous as you might imagine, with a wingspan to back it up.

The days evolve on their own, with maybe a ride to a sweet little spot a few miles up the road for The Best Hamburger in the World, or another day to a place that legit has the best pizza I’ve ever tasted, with all ingredients either grown on the premises or handmade there, wood-fired outdoors in the mountain air and served with the latest house brew. Memorable. Or mid-afternoon, perfect filet-mignon on the patio, with bakers and the whole menu. My brother-in-law is a genius at the grill.

It was definitely not all about food, although we lived like kings. One day they took us to Sedona, beautiful, mystical Sedona, of the red, red rocks and the spires and formations. The entire area is stand-alone gorgeous, but in order to give the neophyte a feel for why it’s become the mecca it has, I’m quoting from a generic Google search:

“The majestic red rock scenery and evergreen vegetation are two reasons for the unique energy of Sedona and its tangible regenerative and inspirational effects. …Sedona is also internationally known for the uplifting power of its Vortex meditation sites.”

You’re most welcome, of course, to explore that on your own time, but I’ll remember Sedona for the view from a back balcony on the main drag, the chips & salsa and cold beer we all shared there, and the perfect peace-symbol necklace Kim brought me when he came back with refills in the icy mugs. It’s so timely I want it around my neck every day.

Evenings in the forest are for the hot-tub and star-gazing…and peaceful sleep while the cool soaks into the house again.

After letting the road-weariness drain out of me, and the heavy-heartedness of recent months sift down to a numbness of mind that defied words and finally dissolved into inevitable tears, I’m ready, as a friend so wisely said yesterday, to surround myself with peace instead of drama on every level, a goal that takes intention. Life insists on bringing everything back to a mundane level, to silly jr high deceits and intrigues, infighting and craziness – and my new favorite sight (again, until I get it right) is that of my feet walking away.

Love and family are real – give me more of that, please.

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Annnnd…

ROAD TRIP, BABIES !!

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