Breakthrough… page 96

Day 188 – 09/16/2020

It finally happened. Not because energy welled up from within and burst through my fingertips, but because disgust overwhelmed my ennui at last. Yesterday I studied the smears, smudges, and assorted rubble in front of me until I found myself on my feet, transferring everything to another surface while I decontaminated my desk and surroundings. Today the clean expanse glows, and holds only one extraneous item – so far. My monitor is free of dust and spit-takes. The 3-layer cart next to me has been unloaded, sanitized, purged, and repopulated with nothing but the priority goods, based on need or the shot of Happy they deliver.

It’s cause to wonder what else could happen right under my nose. Will I wake up one morning to discover that the WTF Basket has been whittled down to a sentimental note and an invoice for the t-shirt I really am going to send back? Will the two bins containing The Dread Unsorted find their way into the light and be forced to give up their secrets? My carelessly-hoarded stockpile of duplicate photos, bad photos, totally unnecessary photos… the ever-accumulating email… my series of I Need To Clean That Out folders… will all of that magically come up missing some glad morning? Stranger things have happened.

Since progress and success are not without price, I paid for my random foray into the real world with sciatic pain off the charts, but in my own masochistic way it was worth it. Might see what else I can get into… not sure if it’ll be instigated by ambition, boredom, being grossed out, or all of the above, but anything that moves the story forward is acceptable currency.

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Seasons… page 91

Day 181 – 09/09/2020

It’s misty, windy, and chill again this morning and it rained before dawn. The showers may stick around for a bit, and our highest forecast temp through next Wednesday is 83º so the times they are a changin’.

The seasonal transition to fall is the best, followed by winter-to-spring… everything seems to come ’round right, with new air, different foliage, the desire to FEEL it all again. And even though autumn has delivered a heavy load of melancholy since October 1985, it magically renews me every year like clockwork. In the swirl and murk of multiple crises bearing down on us, my spirit’s been waking me up the past few mornings with a jolt of happiness… anticipation even. Hello, soft muse, I’ve missed you.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

Since there are good and positive aspects to every experience I’m consciously seeking them out, and one I’m happily aware of is the opportunity I’ve had to get healthy. Among other things I could whine about, I took a doctor-prescribed Rx for about eighteen months that altered my body chemistry or some such for the next three years, and now I have things almost squared away again which produces a fierce sense of gratitude. As recently as March, shortly after we started isolating, I had to give up coffee, of all slings and arrows, but with the advent of cooler weather I braved a trial mug and discovered that we’re friends again. If that wouldn’t make a girl feel better in September, you have to wonder what it would take.

Fall is about endings so it inevitably holds a hint of sadness for most of us, but its quiet, gentle beauty provides a store of firewood for whatever winter brings. I have a nice little stash going here, gathered from my desk as I watch the leaves change from one day to the next. The arrival of a new season is giving me hope… life goes on, the planet keeps turning, things we couldn’t possibly bear up under have happened and we’re still standing, so my hat’s in the ring until the large female vocalist lets us know differently.

Under everything, always, is this…

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Staying in… page 43

Day 55 – 05/06/2020

I wandered into a beat-down yesterday and I’m still processing the whole thing. I clicked a notification from a friend’s page and commented in the thread… my comment was repeated back to me in a version that was the direct opposite of what I said… I got a heavy-duty lecture on military moms and moms who care about oh-so-many things… and shamed for caring overly-much about John and his fellow nurses around the country, which wasn’t part of my comment… and then I was immediately unfriended by both her and her husband. These are people I’ve known for years, and I didn’t know we were on opposite sides of the war until I was drop-kicked like I was hot.

I realize I’m the Rachel Maddow of my timeline – I’ll render you insensate with the facts surrounding things I care desperately about. And I’m sure I need a reminder once in a while that there are other things to think about… but from someone who loves me, okay?

I wish someone had loved Donald John Trump enough in his lifetime, ever, from womb to tomb, to help him grow into a real human being. I wish someone loved him enough now to tell him the truth in ways he could process – it would be a mercy. In my first marriage I had two mothers-in-law, the backup being the aunt whose house we lived in, and the early years were made more difficult by her need to control her world. No one could please her and she was miserable – afraid of everything, turned in on herself, shriveled by what she perceived as lack of love in her life – and it made her a tyrant. I had Lumpy’s number from jump – I know him.

The universe feels like it’s icing over, some days… and then I come back here to blog world and Facebook and my friends on Twitter where some people have taken the time to know me, and it’s clear that they get me. We’re on the same page, for one thing, but it’s relationship that makes the difference. We care about each other and it changes us, even if we can’t really change the world we live in. It would be snazzy if the people who lurk on timelines waiting to pounce showed up in neon, but life’s never that simple, so we should just tell each other the truth at the outset and get on with it. What are we afraid of?

Welp, that’s how that was, moving on. The sun’s shining, it’s a beautiful morning, and we woke up alive, so what’s not to like? Don’t worry, I’m not gonna start singing…

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Gimme Shelter… page 28

Day 34 – 04/15/2020

Would THAT be far enough away? ^^^

Likely no internet, so yeah… maybe. We have the technology, but does it have us? Or were we possibly more human before we knew everything?

Make it four-and-a-half and counting…

It’s in the 30s, but we have sunshine this morning, Kim’s had his walk and brought me a bagel… so c’mon, coffee, let’s DO this…

… even your own.

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SQ Diary… page 15

Self-Quarantine Day 20 – 04/01/2020

Slept more hours than not last night, so there’s that. I’ve awakened my Sleeping Sciatic by spending most of my time at my computer, because sure, why not, so it has a say in everything right now including in the middle of the night. Would it kill me to at least FEEL good?

Haven’t yet worked my way past the basic divide in the pandemic issue… one side says it’s about people, the other says it’s about money. What’s being done to our medical community here in the U.S. is heartbreaking, infuriating, crazy-making. All I can do for now is try not to inflict myself unnecessarily upon the world until I can swallow the deeply-entrenched cruelty that’s been awakened in our society – lots of awakenings this morning, huh…

Maybe I just need to cut ’em slack? This from my friend Mylène AF in Quebec:

“Reading some people’s posts, I realize how many have not grasped the severity of this situation. The fact that we are in a time of exceptional circumstances where NONE of the old rules apply and only exceptional measures will do. Everything has changed forever. The world we knew before is gone. Let it go. Those rules don’t apply anymore. Move through the stages of grief if you must. There is a definitive before and after line here.”

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Jeff Bezos isn’t intellectually challenged, though, so this makes no sense. It strikes this farm girl as a no-brainer… If almost 9 million dollars per hour rolling onto your side of the ledger isn’t enough to take care of the people who make that money for you, there will never be enough. It will never happen. The poor(er) among us will never be cared for, ever. Today there is no one poorer among us than Jeff Bezos – I wonder if he’s even slightly embarrassed about telling us that.

But perspective helps. Kim’s been sending lush guitar notes through the house for the past hour and now he’s making the Saturday breakfast on Wednesday – he knows how to get me to make actual food part of my day, and the flavors are a mood-lifter – sloooow food, with the love cooked in, as my sweet cousin Lonnie Joe always said. Feeling better already.

So yeah, some food, more coffee, sunshine, birds, balcony, Kimmers is going for a walk after breakfast… I’ll accomplish one thing I can point to as participation in living… and we’ll find ourselves at the end of another day. We have only so many chances to get this right, by which I mean everything. We’ll either figure out how to help each other and survive as a species or we won’t, end of story.

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SQ Diary… page 8

Self-Quarantine Day 13 – 03/25/2020

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

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

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

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

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

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What scares you?

So what really scares you? Not BOOGA-BOOGA pants-crapping scared, where your skin crinkles up and makes little screeching noises with sparklers on the ends.  More like what are you AFRAID of … that fundamental sense of dread that a cog will drop into a random sprocket somewhere and life will change.  Fear of loss is a keen motivator — what else drives us with that same force?

But what if life changed and you lived through that?  And what if it happened over and over ’til you realized how brave you were and then you just started doing things and saying things you didn’t know you could do and say?  What if people didn’t get any of that and you didn’t care?  What if you just started kicking ass, including your own, and life really did change and you wouldn’t change it back if you had the chance?  WHAT IF?  Not the question I want to be asking myself when I’m gowning up for the choir eternal.  What if I’d done all those things I knew I could do?  What if I’d let myself be who I knew I was?  And to quote Captain Obvious, what if I’d just been nicer?  Regret, let’s not have to go there.

Holy balls, I’ve survived too long to let fear force me back into the box, and by now he’s like an old friend anyway, sort of.  You know, keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your powder dry.

“I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.”  ~Dawna Markova

*A previously published piece, lightly edited for re-post.

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A list of happy…

***Another spring flashback for new friends…

Our clean quiet loft

Sunlight slipping through the wooden blinds and striping the bed

Half a pot of coffee staying warm until after I talk myself into

A hot shower and day-jams fresh from the dryer

French Open in full murmur on TV

Cold milk, crunchy cereal, and a flawless banana

Endless selection of great art on the internet, to be transformed into jigsaw puzzles that let my brain freewheel in a world of words and ideas, sometimes for hours (I was always a fairly cheap date)

Friends, with their unique ways of showing me I’ve been seen and heard and I don’t have to be cautious with my words

Plans that carry me forward and remind me I’m not finished yet

Lunch with my husband, after listening to him play guitar for an hour

A soothing pedi

Projects that lay hold of my attention and validate the future

A town and living space that nurture my humanity and affirm that life goes on

NOT THE END

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The Unbearable Lightness of Reading

A marathon it’s been, the best kind – three books in quick succession, by three distinctive authors, and connected by one unbroken muscular thread – The People, as they have always called themselves – and their existence from time primeval.

First in the “series,” entirely by happy chance, was MAUD’S LINE, written by Margaret Verble and published in 2015, the fictionalized story of a young Cherokee girl becoming a woman in 20th Century Oklahoma. Its contemporary portrayal of a time just past hooked itself into my imagination from – hallelujah, page one – and delivered me directly to book two.

Which – I assume you’re taking notes – was LAKOTA WOMAN, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, published in 1990, and not fictionalized at all. The author was active and instrumental in the Bureau of Land Management and American Indian Movements of the 1970s and 80s with Russell Means, Dennis Banks, so many others, and her gritty recounting of all the seemingly unrightable wrongs that have altered The People’s reality since the White Guys got here burned itself into my consciousness, not to put too fine a point on it.

So when both a friend and an esteemed nephew recommended Annie Proulx’s BARKSKINS within hours of each other it was clear that lil’ Ms. Serendipity had dropped in again and placed a shiny object in my path. Off the top, let me quickly address a few negative comments I’ve seen: that perhaps Ms. Proulx’s focus is…unevenly focused…that she hammers, that she commits “stylistic infelicities.” Yes, I caught all of that, recognized it, owned it and read on. The scope of the story is so expansive, so unexpectedly gripping, that the combined weight of all the odd little imperfections adds up to less than that of a feather – notable by virtue of existence, but in the end taking nothing from the whole.

Annie Proulx, author of THE SHIPPING NEWS, for which she won a Pulitzer in 1994; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, for which she won the prize called “We’re turning your book into a movie;” along with at least a baker’s dozen more titles, has at 80 years of age turned out an epic about trees, of all things, that kept me absorbed from first page to last. Aside from her colossally amazing book, I love that she’s even older than I am, has been described as “sassy,” and knows how to write like a mutha.

Annie takes us from 1693, starting with the French in what became Canada, to 2013 in what is still Canada – with side trips to London, New Zealand, what we now know as the continental United States, and points everywhere around the globe, the entire saga stemming from one family line and diverging throughout multiple others, from the French, to The People, to the Dutch, et.al. And the wonder is that she makes us care about the majority of those characters, even though we sense they are soon to be swept from the stage to make room for succeeding generations, each more fascinating than the last.

I like big books and I cannot lie, and at more than 700 pages BARKSKINS was too short. Annie Proulx knows how to put us at the scene of the tale with a lovely economy of language; how to scatter engaging and/or redeeming characters into all parts of the story, avoiding what could have become a tedious litany; how to illuminate dilemmas that we would downplay if left on our own. If that shedding of light is “hammering,” we’re clearly in need of a butt-load more of it – the denuding of nearly all this planet’s original forests is but one ongoing dilemma of many.

BARKSKINS indelibly lays out the sins of the past and their consequences for humanity while also serving up reasons for hope, that essential tool of survival. Hang onto it, you future humans, and may it save your hide since most of your forebears have never carried, nor do they (we) carry, their (our) fair share of responsibility for what your present might look like.

As William T. Vollmann wrote in his New York Times book review:

“Now our own world is likewise fading, thanks to climate change. The root cause of our self-impoverishment is thoughtfully teased out in BARKSKINS, whose best line may well be this: ‘My life has ever been dedicated to the removal of the forest for the good of men.'”  – June 17, 2016

***It’s summer re-run time and this is a piece that was published in another forum a couple of years ago.

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Homesick?

Depends on what you mean by home. The place where I grew up was true home for me – native sod broken out by my grandpa, walking behind a one-or-two-bottom plow and a horse or team. The harnesses and all the tack for that and various conveyances still hung on heavy nails up the stairway to the barn loft when I was a kid, harboring that good dusty leather aroma. Grandpa set all the corner posts in cement on what was then just a quarter of land, and poured a low cement border around the entirety of his and Grandma’s multi-acre yard and garden, half flowers, half produce, backed by rows of fruit trees and evergreens. The man meant to stay, he made that clear, and stay he did, until a sudden stroke in his late 70s stopped him in his tracks – I saw it happen – and the farm life he’d built went on because of my dad and my brother, and none of us had to leave home until we were ready to go.

I was fuzzy on the details, but I always knew I’d go somewhere, somehow, sooner rather than later, and I blame my mom, with gratitude. She read to us from the beginning, took us to the Carnegie Library Children’s Department at a reasonable age and turned us loose, gave us free rein in her personal library if we thought we were big enough to handle the subject matter, so there was always a world out there to know about, and we were indirectly invited to explore it without limits on our attitudes or ability to accept people where we found them.

There’s no going home now, and that’s okay. The farm of my childhood belongs to other people and is being lovingly cared for. The same is true of the farm where I spent my first marriage and raised my son. My life takes place far from both in every way and I don’t yearn for either as a destination – I haven’t so much as driven past either one in many years. But as age prepares to have its way more and more with my body and my mind, I heavily miss some of the people who shared life with me in those places, who left their mark on me, whose memories live inside my soul.

This is a different animal from nostalgia. It feels more like a need. In an upside-down time when truth has been losing some important battles, I need to sit down in my grandparents’ big farmhouse and hear old-fashioned wisdom from my grandma’s store of experience, hard work, perspective gained; her next-generation memories of family stories from The Old Country, The Ocean Crossing, Homesteading, I need to hear it all again and let it be at home on the inside of me.

I need to hear my mom’s quietly positive take on life again – just being with her always made me feel better, which says so much because her own heart was unsettled a lot of the time. She was serene on the surface, paddling like hell underneath, and able to be most things to most people, which took far more strength than anybody knew. I need to hold her and tell her that she was a more than excellent mother and person. And then I need to ask her all the things I didn’t know to ask when she was here…

Home is the people and places that have made me who I am, and short of a fateful blow to the head I couldn’t shed all of it if I tried. That knowledge gives me extreme comfort and a genuine sense of security. Kim, too, is home now, in both spiritual and tangible ways, as are John and Anthony, my sisters, other people in my life. So as it turns out, it isn’t so very tricky after all to get back home. I was “this many old” when I learned that.

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At last!

Yes I DO feel this exuberant about the First Day of Spring this year. Winter was long, cold, gray, and wet, and will likely not turn loose simply at the command of the calendar, but I can’t remember ever being more ready for exactly that…

Balcony days, with doors and windows open, pots and baskets overflowing with greenery and blossoms. Sunshine, pool time, cooking outside. Farmers’ Market, summer sounds, bicycles, books, accidental naps. Feeling infinitely more alive, but in slow motion, all the better for savoring the finite moments.

The sunshine pouring through my windows this morning is a reminder that spring does come again, that it does get better, the mood doesn’t stay gray unless you’re a curmudgeon who refuses to lighten up, the grass does get green again and flowers bloom.

The world keeps turning in spite of our doubts – or our certainties that it’s all for nothing, life can’t possibly shine again and bring joy to our hearts. And here I sit, happy as if I had good sense, signing on for a stretch of whatever’s next, because what else?

Happy Spring, friends, we’ve survived another hibernation, we should celebrate. Do you have traditions to share?

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Sometimes problems have answers…

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Constant Reader will be relieved to learn that I may have solved my problem – the one where I cry nonstop. Oddest thing … turns out the answer in my case to the question “What do you read when you’re sad?” (see preceding post) … is “NOT FACEBOOK.” I haven’t sorted out why that is yet, but it’s a fact. Maybe it’s the abysmal state of our society right now and so many things are hanging out there unsaid, unaddressed, untalked-about, for fear of offending too many people, until finally there’s nothing left we can say. Maybe that’s it, maybe not. What I CAN say for sure is that I’m crying at the right places now instead of carrying tears in my throat like a pelican all day long and shedding them over stuff you wouldn’t believe.

A Facebook summer sabbatical was exactly what I needed, but since I slogged right on past every subtle AND clanging message to that effect, a fall sabbatical sounds even nicer. I started it a week ago – or more honestly the break started without me – and the sea-change in my mood was almost immediate. There are a few people I’ll have to peek in on once in a while, but I can’t be there right now and that’s okay. Bottled up thoughts and emotions aren’t healthy for humans, so this fall is all about restorative outlets, projects, and relationships. And wow, I feel better already, just for having written that.

Part One of two …

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The joys of fiscal restraint…

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We celebrated a milestone last month with the sale of our townhouse that had been on the market for almost five years – a little too much house for the location but it served us well for twice that long, so no regrets. Now that the Beloved Albatross is no longer our baby, the Wish List is a thing again, topped by MATTRESS – the 15-yr-old king-size pillow-top behemoth with the crime scene outlines where the bodies were. The one with three possible places to stretch out – left, right, or the crest in the middle, provided you weren’t a restless sleeper.

Armed with a recommendation from friends, we walked all innocent-like, our actual faces hanging out, into a mattress store, assuming we knew what we were doing – how hard is it to buy a mattress, right? You know how you think your friends’ kids that you never see are still wee toddlers? Same with the realm of the boudoir, who knew? A mattress is not just a mattress anymore. They still consist of a horizontal surface that fits into some sort of frame if you so desire, but that’s where the similarity to the familiar ends. The operative word now is foam and lots of it. Remember Serta? They’re still in the biz, but now you also see names like Casper, Puffy, Purple, Leesa, Ghost Bed, Nectar, Helix, and such.

After a quick education and an aha moment or two, the indented version was on its way to that great mattress paradise in the sky and we now have a new iteration that looks basically like a serene slab of cement but which welcomes my screaming bundle of cells after dark and puts me out of my misery without a struggle. I’m not sure what I did to deserve such a gift, but experience has shown me that Karma is a meticulous bookkeeper so I don’t ask too many questions. Even with the swanky always-cool pillows, we came in grossly under budget and my girl-type readers know what THAT means. Riiiight – we get to add to the list.

So far we’ve checked off three biggish-ticket items that have been hanging fire for the past five years or so, all at an unexpected discount, so maybe we’re kinda good at this. Bodes well for more fun in the future when we most need it. And we KNOW we’re going to need it.

 

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Grief – a most peculiar thing…

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“The world breaks everyone, then some become strong

at the broken places.”

– Ernest Hemingway

So many kinds of grief for humans to deal with. So many humans dealing with so much hurt. Be kind. Let the candles speak.

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Um…what was I saying?

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Good morning, friends. I woke up to sunshine and a stack of birthday greetings, so I’m currently fortifying my brain and bones with coffee and preparing to meet myself at age 70 before the day’s over. It feels odd to own that milestone, but my primary emotion is thankfulness – I’ve outlived my mother by three years now, and I like not dying yet, so here we go…

Kim’s playing PickleBall for a couple of hours in NoLaw, and when he’s home and showered we’ll walk through the alley to The Roost so I can have potato pancakes like my mom made. This evening will be dinner at Basil Leaf, with serious fasting between the two birthday meals. Some industrial-strength healing is in order as well – over the weekend Kim narrowly missed getting slammed by a bronchial event, and yesterday I picked up where he left off. It’s been years, I have no idea how many, since I’ve had a cold or flu, but this thing is trying to kick my butt. Razor-blade throat, cough that won’t quit, head full of gack. My stubborn intention is to feed it, drown it in good coffee, sleep it off this afternoon, and otherwise ignore it to every extent possible.

I have projects to finish and about a million books to read, so Job One is to stick around and do life right. There are people to meet, family to embrace, music to cry over, beauty to fully appreciate, and love to hand out like candy, so I hope I get to stay here with all y’all a good long while.

Experience is worth everything and I happily own the lessons it’s taught me – I’m genuinely liking this part of life from 65 to whatevs. Things have kind of smushed together by now and squeezed out the excess baggage, so I mostly deal with only what really matters, and that works super nice.

Hey, I’m feeling better already. An excellent week to all, and come talk to me. 💋

 

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