Veterans’ Day 2020

Kim was rollin’ ’round the river early this morning and brought back the receipts…

Rowing crews, bundled up, down by the Boathouse
Crewing on the mighty Kaw
Old power station, still used but currently undergoing a cleanup and revitalization, in conjunction with work on the riverbed below the dam.
Yup, those are roads they’ve built out into the river.
Liquid sunshine on this Veterans’ Day morning
Can’t hold back the light…

Photo Credits: Kim Smith 11/11/2020

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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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Okay, NOW it’s Friday… page 80

Day 148 – 08/07/2020

sun out

clouds in

breeze blows

light goes

day creeps

mind leaps

JSmith 08/07/2020

The following was stolen goods when I helped myself to it – part of a Buddhist workshop – and hopefully the Buddha would approve of theft-on-account… on account’a I liked it and needed it:

Inner Dialogue, Self-Counsel

Self-Counsel: Whomever you’re waiting for to save you, they’re not gonna show up.

Inner Self: But I just want to be loved, I just wanna share this experience with someone.

Self-Counsel: Love isn’t easy, there’s no fairy tale ending. Did you ever hear the one about the guy who got everything he wanted? He still wanted more. You could fit whole universes in that hole in your heart and that would still just be a drop in the bucket. Not because the bucket is infinite, but because the water evaporates.

IS: So what do I do?

SC: Whatever you do, you have to do it yourself. Those were basically the Buddha’s last words. You already have the love you’ve been looking for. Embrace your shadows, hold your demons, rock the helpless child to sleep.

It’s not enough to do it once and be done with it, you have to do it every day, every minute. You have to forgive the world the pain it’s brought you, and forgive yourself for not knowing how to handle it. With this as your main focus, everything else will fall into place. You have to trust the love that’s in you, and see that it shines alone, without needing support.

IS: But it’s so easy to forget.

SC: You have to build it into a pattern. Then you won’t need to remember, it’ll just be there, and you’ll just be here.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

-John Lennon

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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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In… page 47

Day 67 – 05/18/2020

My baby sister, Señorita Margarita Rita, lives ten minutes from me but we hadn’t seen each other since March 10th. I put on actual clothes, shoes, and eye makeup and she came over today bringing the sunshine. Wow. Needed that. It was time to feel like a person again and enjoy the perks pertaining thereto. It was time to laugh a lot.

We distanced – no hugs, spaced apart – but that’s a distance I can live with since it was the only one in evidence. It’s affirming and gratifying when the people you love get you.

Because I have sisters, I will always have friends.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/17/2020

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The quiet…

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

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

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

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

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Girlfriends…

Updating a piece I wrote in 2013…

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

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


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


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


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

JSmith 01/27/2013

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

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Rain, rain, you can stay…

rainy Monday my jam

pace slows pulse rests quiet settles in every space

thoughts roam words stir world feels viable perchance

the peace of waters rolling on

JSmith 02/24/2020

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An epic love story… *

*…but not the one you think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(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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Known only to me…

When I am old I shall wear purple and every damn color I want, probably all at once. I’ll be just like every other dried up old malcontent you’ve encountered, but different in ways known only to me, thus this brief Manifesto of Independence for whoever ends up having to deal with me, most likely husband then son, not that life ever follows a script.

IN CASE OF FUTURE FULL-ON FOSSILIZATION, BREAK GLASS TO READ:

  1. If I’m hungry, all efforts toward anything else are futile until food happens – I more and more don’t have the capacity to maintain sanity during hangry spells. Good news: the devil within is easily placated, provided we like what we’re being bought off with.
  2.  I still hear music inside my skull from the ice fall that winter and it can get overwhelming in a way that loosens my hinges a little. It may never go dormant, so please factor that in when trying to reason with me.
  3. If I’m certifiably demented, don’t try to reason with me at all. It’s too much like arguing with the proverbial porker – only serves to frustrate you and irritate the pig. I’ll probably be fine in whatever world is current for me at the time, so don’t waste precious resources trying to talk me out of it.
  4. Likewise, if intractable pain can’t someday be addressed with legal medical-grade cannabis – the thing that stops it – then pain awareness will have to be a fixture in the equation, too. I hate that, it sucks, I’ll be doing my best to stay sweet and not cause anybody trouble, but there it is, the big whiny elephant in the room.
  5.  It will be in everyone’s best interest to keep #’s 1, 2, and 4 from happening simultaneously. Good luck to ya’.
  6.  A great set of Beats headphones and Elton & Leon’s “The Union” will keep me out of your face for days – use it. Joshua Radin, Jennifer Warnes, Jason Mraz, the soundtrack of Catch & Release, The Lone Bellow, The Milk Carton Kids…  Merely a sampling – I’ll try to keep the playlist updated* until check-out – it will always be eclectic.
  7.  I don’t require much for survival, but two must-haves beyond music are books and a way to communicate. Even if you think I’m past reading, leave a book or two around because…you never know. No fluff, no bodice-rippers, best no serials. Poetry is good, a lot of niece Krista’s, please. Give me an inactivated iPhone if it seems to provide a sense of being in touch with somebody, but if we’re all fortunate I’ll simply slip into a world where none of it matters to me anymore except the good times and die with a smile on my face. Or get hit by a bus. We never know.
  8.  Apparently women are programmed to eventually grow an increasingly disgusting amount of extraneous hair on our faces. If you leave that shit intact I promise I will come back after I die and sleep between you and your significant other until the end of your days. I mean this.
  9. If I have to live in a care facility for the good of all concerned, please try to find one that operates like a highly tolerant family – one where eating and sleeping are managed individually rather than institutionally – that would be huge. Also, of course, where no one will hurt me, whether on staff or in residence – that’s huge, too.
  10. The age baseline changes imperceptibly with the decades, but I will never not want to look and smell as good as reality allows. Please don’t subject me to the pitying faces of strangers without helping me look as much like this still-me person as anyone could expect. And while I’m here – please universe, no diapers, ‘k?
  11. After I’ve made my presence felt in my immediate world for as long as I can and something takes me out of here, give me a smokin’ hot body one last time and pack my ashes to the coast – pick one – for a sweetly drunken campfire and whatever you want to say about me. Talking to you of course, Kim and John and whomever you’d like to bring along.
  12. In the past few years since I started writing again, I’ve put a body of words out there in the cloud that may or may not survive in one jot or iota. As long as the synapses fire I’m sure I’ll keep contributing to that pile of thought-turned-words that will, odds-on, prove to have been solely for my own rescue. That’s another thing we never know about – where it all goes when we do. Kind of pisses me off that I won’t be around to see if any of my sentences end up on Google Search. What I’m saying is, you two guys can do what you want with what I won’t be taking with me. Big Kev knows how to get to my passwords – that’s for the wording, the bits and pieces of ME. The rest of it…you know what to do.
  13. Anyway, thirteen points being my style, that’s about it. Keep it simple, keep it all about love, keep Karma in our corner. Plus all the things I’ve ever said, ever meant to say, never thought to say – take that with you. And did I mention the love – you know all about the love. 💙💜

I have no thought that anybody might need this vital information any time soon. But if you don’t write it down when it’s now, a day comes when you can’t say it anymore – you’re no longer your own advocate. And everybody needs one.

*Also Tracy Chapman. Keb Mo. And Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours,” the album.

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

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Fall, so soft, so quiet…

Every season has a reason, but I love fall. The cooler temps after we’ve steamed for weeks, the rain every few days, the leaves trying on their new fall attire, it’s all welcome every year even when it’s hard to say goodbye to summer.

Autumn and cooler weather make me want to sweep out the cave so that when the snow swirls around our door it’s just me and Boo in here by the fire, no nagging guilt about things I’ll wish I’d stuck with while I had the chance. I love winter naps and hot drinks and books and writing, with no ugly work ethic staring me in the face. So…

My “drag it out and get rid of it” purge this year is smooth workin’ fine – I don’t even take time to decide if a thing gives me joy, it doesn’t, so into the black bag it goes. And when you own it, they let you do that.

My barely hidden OCD tendencies play hell with my peace when there are bits and pieces tucked away in places where they don’t belong – Out of Sight, Out of Mind doesn’t work for me the way it does for Kim. I sometimes follow him around at a “not-annoying” distance rescuing items that his OCD is causing him to hide in places only he would think to look, and really not even him – he’s clueless when it comes to finding them again. But since he’s otherwise perfect as far as you know, he’s gotten by with it so far. I still love him madly and they tell me everyone has flaws.

So here we are in the exquisite heartbreak of fall that comes to our family just a bit more gently each year now. It’s raining, but the mid-afternoon sun is still managing to put a glow on the leaves outside my windows, and it makes me feel some kinda way. Happy, mellow, settled, at peace.

I hope the autumn of the year is being very beautiful and peaceful for you – it seems only right that it should be that way for everyone. But…

Life goes on, this we know.

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Found our way home…

It was lovely, that road trip. Lots of hours there and back, in the car, with my best guy, talking, talking, talking. Or just riding, absorbed in our own thoughts, thrilled by the landscape (in which case we’re talking again), or I’m dipping into social media while trying not to miss anything real and at hand. But not sleeping – I don’t sleep in the car. I don’t do it well so I inevitably wake up with a wonky neck or some such, and if Kim’s going to do all the driving, even though it’s by his choice, I like to provide company and an extra set of eyes.

So down the highways we fly, maniacs on holiday, grabbing road food and snacks, health constraints cast to the wind. And then – DESTINATION REACHED!! The gracious welcome of my younger sister and bro-in-love and their suh-weet mountain retirement place. Days in the 70s and low 80s, nights 50s and 60s, house left open to the soft cool breezes nearly every day we were there. The pace is brutal and not for amateurs – get up when you feel like it…take a coffee mug out back…let breakfast evolve…sometimes Susan cooks delicious comfort food…sometimes the guys bring breakfast sammies or donuts home after PickleBall. The sun climbs, as it is wont to do…the big articulated umbrella is deployed…more coffee happens…and showers…and naps.

At some point a mid-afternoon lunch is discussed and one of the local mini-breweries/pizza-ovens/neighborhood bar & grills is chosen, maybe in one of the little communities a few miles on up the mountain, always tasty, always an experience, and then home to watch for elk from the back patio as they come in for water and treats the neighbors put out. Sometimes mamas and babies bed down right out there for the night, guarded by the bull who claims them as his.

It didn’t occur to us to take any pictures this trip, except of Payson the Dog, and of some of the two elk herds that are currently making that little corner of the huge Tonto National Forest their home. It’s a unique situation and we feel privileged to share that front-row vantage point every once in a while. My sis & bro get to observe it all on a daily basis – the big extended family of noisy crows living in the lodge-pole pines just past their picket fence; the bobcat they’ve seen a few times; the mountain lion that skirts the territory on occasion, widening his hunting grounds or looking for a mate; the coyotes the mama elk mercilessly drive out, running them ragged, keeping them away from their gangly spotted babies; the wild flurry of gray bushy-tailed squirrels, hopped up on hormones and possibly something fermented, holding manic squirrel parties that defy gravity and the limits of brain-wave activity‼️

We’re most definitely going to miss all that until next time, but Susan & JR have much on their plate for the near future. He has a set of electronic drums to continue exploring, and my sweet sister has a new set of knees to pursue. They’re longing for a visit from their second daughter and our baby sister and their significant others, so we must be very unselfish, for goodness sake‼️ Full disclosure, it’s hard to stay away from paradise once you discover where it is. 😎

The love of family is deeply healing in a world gone stupid. It’s addictive, and my heart absorbs it like rain on a hot day, so I tried to soak up enough to last a while, a challenge beyond my abilities, but a worthy goal nonetheless. The older I get – 72 as of this month – the more my family means to me. To say I love them is to massively understate what it is because it’s so much more than that, and now that we all have the time and wisdom to really know each other I want us to spend as much time together as possible while we’re all still here, even as our logistics are once again shifting. We, better than some, know life affords no guarantees.

Part of a harem…
2-yr-old Bull Elk
1st Year Mating
Learning to Manage Females
Keep a Good Thought for Him

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Putting things right again…

Everything went super today, but this chicky is wiped out (just go with it.) I asked my RN if I’d have to do this again in ten years – she looked at my chart and said not likely, which was a relief – not sure I could pull all that off at 82. I mean, good gawd, I might actually be starting to get old by then.

We got milkshakes at Sonic on the way home, Kim’s talking smashed batatas and mac & cheese later, I had a delicious drug-laced nap in the chair, and then tried to repeat it on the bed with no luck so I’m up, kinda bored, and looking for entertainment. It’s hot as blazes, he’s out running errands, and I’m without adult supervision – what could possibly go wrong?

Maybe I’ll just tell you a story. There’s a guy in our building (he & his wife are probably younger than Kim, both retired educators), who has a dog he loves very much, a big yellow lab who’s been with him a long time. He has a Vespa with a sidecar that was built just for her and he used to take her to class with him when he taught special ed. classes. She can’t get in and out of it anymore so his golf clubs ride there now. In fact, Zoey’s so crippled up with arthritis she balks at the journey out to take care of business, so at least once a day in good weather Will, a tell it like it is, not necessarily soul of patience guy, makes it worth all the pain and effort. He takes a lawn chair and sits down under the trees, and lets Zoey lie in the cool grass for just about as long as she wants to. That’s love, and on the days when the world feels especially awful it makes me cry. Today was a cry day. Guess I needed it.

We ignored the world today and things were pretty all right. But sometimes when you’re a feeler, crying is the answer when you can’t come up with a better one. Amazing how much it helps.

So did the potatoes & mac – it’s comforting to know the old remedies still work. Like having somebody who loves you and knows from long years’ familiarity and caring what makes you feel better.

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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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