Since this seems to be how things are flowing, weekly original poems will now appear on Friday.
Gone My feet have walked these streets these paths these hills Climbed this mountain. Does the soil remember the imprint of my sole?
This town no longer knows me nor I it, its open earthiness drowned in vats of chic microbrew pubs and the inch of wine called a glass in expensive eateries where pretentiousness is disguised as humble entrees.
The elders here are as hidden as the sun sinking behind the peaks, the shadows of their light highlighting brief, vivid memories across the cold snow.
There is no place for any of us here now.
Daily gratitudes: Canadian geese laying in the snowfields Pigeons snuggling atop the lamp post Lemon ginger tea That I had the privilege of knowing Millie Blue skies
Quote of the Day: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” — Elie Wiesel
While I am accustomed to charring things accidentally in the kitchen, I’ve never actually killed an appliance. I did accidentally destroy a china monkey hanging from the ceiling in the Cottage during the Great Smoke Detector Debacle of 2010. And when I moved out of the Cottage, my landlady inquired as to whether there had ever been a fire in the oven — I had to hesitate because there had been a fire or two ON the stove, just not exactly IN the oven. Yesterday, though, the microwave died.
In my defense, the microwave was old. At least 11 years old. So I’d prefer to think that I was its Death Doula (part of my future career plan), and not a murderer responsible for its demise. I thought it was having a glitch three days ago, when I put a cup of coffee in it and after a minute and a half, it came out cold. Later in the day, I tried heating soup, and it came out warm, but not hot. In the Bungalow, there are a myriad of eccentric electrical systems. For example, when I plug in the television in the living room, the ceiling fan comes on, but the television doesn’t. So I just assumed it was another transient house quirk. Those happen all the time.
Yesterday, when I put some soup in the microwave for lunch, there was a startling POP as it started running, but it ran for its required three minutes. And then it died. The soup was lukewarm. I checked that the breaker it was still on (that’s been an issue before). Walking into the bathroom, which shares a wall with the location of the microwave outlet, it smelled like an electrical short. I made sure the wall wasn’t hot, hoping there was no fire smoldering in said wall, and the scent of burning wires dissipated. The microwave was finally gone. It was a good appliance and served me, and Niece 1 before me, well.
I was raised in an era when microwaves did not exist. When you wanted to reheat something, you put it in a pot on the stove, or a dish in the oven. I didn’t have one through college either. But now (decades later), we are a society that can’t wait for things to heat on stoves. It has to be hot in minutes, when we want it, without delay. Shifting back from that mentality is a challenge, and one I’m fully prepared to admit that I didn’t want to face, partly because I don’t have a dishwasher and hate doing dishes. Who wants more dirty dishes?
Fortunately, I had been banging around in the garage just before lunch, in search of M’s and my Blue Willow china to take up to the Retreat, and had come across the microwave that I had when I lived in the Cottage over a decade ago. What perfect timing! Digging it out from behind the bicycles, over the ottoman, and off the shelf from underneath empty moving boxes, between the heavy bag and the BMW, I had hope. It was tucked up in newspapers, with its little round tray intact (the whole unit is a tiny thing, especially compared to its predecessor) and when I plugged it in, it was perfect. Not as strong as my old workhorse but completely serviceable.
The nicest thing about this experience, aside from the fact that my need for immediate food gratification can continue to be fulfilled, is the newspapers Li’l Wave was wrapped in. At first, I crumpled them up to put in the recycle bin, but then a headline caught my eye. A near drowning at a public pool that no longer exists in a nearby town. No victim named, and the three-year old girl was already well on the road to recovery when the paramedics arrived, but this was still the small town newspaper headline. Next to it, was a large, lovely color picture of a mare and her new foal, with, essentially, a birth announcement from a local farm. All ten years ago. I wonder what those horses look like today? That little girl is in middle school now. Does she remember?
I am unfolding the packing newspapers to look through them to see how things have changed, for a glimpse back to what was a simpler time, even though it was only a decade ago — not that long. It was a time when I was trying to rebuild my life and I had a lot of hope. And Spring was coming. The world doesn’t look at all the same now. My life looks very different, and it’s a happy different. The snow is blowing outside the picture window tonight, and I’m cuddled up and warm. It’s all good.
Daily gratitudes: The older gentleman’s shock and joy at the price of asparagus Beating the snow home Talks with K A good night’s sleep Wind chimes
Quote of the Day: “A trip ends. A journey doesn’t.” — Mr. Boehmer
I seldom find myself at a loss for words. Truly. I’m nearly always ready with a sassy, salty comeback or quip. I can remember only one time when words failed me, at the Buena Vista in San Francisco, on a dreadfully rainy day, after quite a few of the Irish Coffees for which they are famous, when the bartender blatantly propositioned me. (Once I found my words, I declined.)
Throughout the duration of this virus, which K and I call The Rona, and its in-and-out quarantines, I’ve been inside, with the exception of walks when the weather was nice, seeing M on weekends, going to the grocery store, four dining out experiences, catering at three or four weddings, a little thrift store shopping, and appearing at my second job once a month. We did travel three times over the last 12 months, twice by plane and once by car. Looking at that list, maybe it’s more than some folks and less than others. It sounds like more than I thought. But it doesn’t feel like a lot for 12 months. It doesn’t feel like “normal”. I don’t feel like “normal”.
I was not the most social person to start with, but being told I can’t do a thing is the surest way to make me want to do that thing, and make me grump about not being able to do that thing. I may have mentioned my mulishness before, as putting my ears back is a well-known trait of mine. At this point, as we’re entering Year Two in Life with a Virus, I am over it. I’ll repeat for those of you in the back. I. AM. OVER. IT. Because I’m caring and responsible, I still wear a mask everywhere I go. I’m not seeing friends because I don’t want anyone to get sick because of me. I didn’t think I went that many places, but apparently I’m missing the places I didn’t go. Because that’s a thing. M wonders if we’ll ever get back to normal, and I tell him that, as with any loss, we will find a new “normal” but I doubt we will be quite the same as before for a long time.
My Rona fatigue is showing up as more anxiety, more tension, more frustration, and less motivation to do things that I was doing, like eating well and exercising and learning a new language, all the things that I did so well at the beginning of quarantine. I also feel like, as I said at the start of this piece, I’m at somewhat of a loss for words. Uninspired. Though not free of thought. Just a lot of rambling thoughts that aren’t organized or interesting enough to share. This could also be some of the “brain fog” that is a long-term side effect of having had the Rona, which M and I both had last March. At least I had enough words handy to write this.
I’m currently reading John Berry’s “The Great Influenza”, which provides perspective on the political and social situations of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which actually originated in Kansas. It has been an eye opener. I had no idea about the severity of that pandemic — much more severe than ours — nor did I know anything about virology or Woodrow Wilson. It’s been quite an education and I recommend it. The parallels between the public messaging about the Spanish flu and the messaging about the Rona are remarkable. But one point the author makes is that it took a long time from the first victim fell ill to the time when the country settled into its new normal. I think that’s how it’s going to be for all of us now, 100 years later.
I am not the greatest of airplane passengers. It’s the taking off and landing parts that make me anxious. Once the inconceivably heavy airplane gets off the ground and up in the sky, straightening itself like an arrow to float through the clouds, I’m fine. But I’m worse with landings than with take-offs. On landing in Costa Rica a few years back, exhausted from lack of sleep and anxious as usual, we discovered that I had left a neat arc of fingerpad-shaped blue bruises around M’s bicep. Being wonderful, he didn’t say anything at the time, and he supports me through all of our white-knuckled (on my part) landings. He always had the dream of being a pilot himself, a dream which I hope one day will become reality. Long ago, in a different career, I was a road warrior. I flew all the time. I was gone at least 50% of the year. And I loved it. But after a couple of years and a few hundred flights, I had the sense that my luck was running out. That I’d beaten the odds, but that wasn’t going to be the case for much longer. There was nothing that precipitated this feeling. It just gradually crept up on me. Strangers sitting next to me would ask me if I was okay during landing, and I’d always tell them I was fine, but they knew better. Then I decided to have a baby, and my road warrior life came to a close. It was an awful lot of fun while it lasted. Since then, as I say, my anxiety about flying has grown. K is also an anxious flyer, through no fault of mine; she has experienced some unbelievably bad flights during her time flying alone, which have rather put her off of it. I will still always go, because that’s just who I am. I want to go. I want to move. I want to see. All of it.
And then things happen, like what happened today in my own backyard, or rather the next town over. United Airlines #328 took off from Denver on its joyful way to Hawaii. Not more than 30 miles after takeoff, one of the engines exploded. People’s dashcams captured the flames on the plane as it flew above them. Ring doorbell videos showed pieces of engine debris dropping out of the sky, falling into the middle of residential streets. In the park where K used to play Ultimate, people were taking videos as they ran for cover from chunks of metal dropping from the sky. I heard the plane as it turned to the left over my house – it sounded a little like thunder, and I didn’t know what it was at the time. By the skill of the pilot and the grace of God, the plane made it back to Denver International Airport, with no injuries. There’s a video out in the cyberworld that a Denver resident’s parents took of the engine as they flew back to the airport. It’s shredded on the outside and flames are burning on the inside. Everyone seemed exceptionally calm in all of the snippets I’ve seen. Had I been there, I likely also would have been calm, because panicking never helps anyone or anything, and it’s not in my nature. However, had I been there, I suspect it would have put me off of flying again for a long, long time. Here’s a still from that video (credit to @michaelagiulia).
I mean, yikes. Seriously. Not something you see every day. Or hopefully, ever.
Daily gratitudes: That everyone on that aircraft was safe The sound of snow slick roads when you’re cozy inside Blankets Flexibility
Quote of the Day: “When I don’t sleep, it’s not that I feel tired so much as assaulted.” — Samantha Harvey
Well, only unicorns because M has been describing himself as such lately, and that seems to be a fine accompaniment to rainbows. He was sitting with me during this one. As we slog through the asshole month, I have shoveled the walk twice in four days and tried to keep the temperature in control in the Bungalow. After stepping in an ankle-deep puddle at the grocery store, I felt like Spring was farther away than ever. Others have it much worse in places where such cold is not expected during winter. It helps to know that places and days and moods, as shown in this image, exist. Stay warm, y’all. Oh, the weekly poem will be a day late again this week.
Daily gratitudes: The little old cart man at the grocery store Finding a kindred mermaid spirit Hot, deep baths Warm, snuggly Mr. Man Oatmeal with blueberries
Quote of the day: “From my earliest memories, I was one of those who wanted to go places. When I couldn’t go, I would have my dreams about going. And, such wild dreams were seldom conceived by any other child.” — Anna Williams
One thing you didn’t know about me: I can’t tolerate horror movies. I don’t even like the energy of them in my house. I know they’re fictional, but one of the things I’ve learned in the life is that if someone can imagine something, then someone’s probably done it. That opens the door for all manner of terrible acts and all sorts of terrible people to commit them. I’ve probably watched four modern horror films in my life: Halloween (the first one), Nightmare on Elm Street, one from the 1970s or 1980s with a dummy (maybe Child’s Play? Or Magic?), and Jeepers Creepers 2, which I watched by myself in the Cottage alone late one night for no reason that I can fathom. I like bad sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s but those aren’t graphic — they’re more silly and psychological.
That’s it. That’s all. My mind always seems to go to the mothers of the children or teenagers terrorized and killed in the course of horror movies. I take horror movies personally and to heart, even though I know they’re just movies (and not snuff films, which I remember my Boston boyfriend telling me about as we took a walk in the Mews one early spring day.) It seems horror movies don’t bother most people (including K), and for the life of me, I can’t understand that. But… True crime is another thing entirely. It makes zero sense that I can manage true crime documentaries — in fact, immerse myself in them, as I did yesterday. These depict actual events that happened to actual people and you know that these kinds of programs try to make you feel the horror that the victims felt. Why do I find that more tolerable? I have no idea.
Yesterday, it remained too cold for anything, so I watched ”The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,’ followed by the ‘Night Stalker’ (not the 1970s series, but the Netflix series). It passed the time., It also creeped me out to realize that one of the two Hillside Stranglers lived in Bellingham in the late 70s, and went to what K tells me was known as the ‘Murder Bar’ in that college town, a bar that has hosted the likes of Ted Bundy and the D.C. sniper. What draws serial killers to Bellingham? And to one particular bar? And why did K never take me there when I visited? Those are all thoughts for another day.
I know that many people find serial killers fascinating. I suppose we want to understand their state of mind, the rationale behind such brutal actions. In doing so, we can assess our own minds and (hopefully) reassure ourselves that we are not capable of such acts. It reinforces our belief in the good within us, that we are not monsters. At least most of us aren’t. Creepy.
I’m likely talking to most of the U.S. now. It’s cold. Here, right now, it’s 0 degrees and the sun is starting to set, which means it’s just going to get colder. Being a woman of a certain age, I keep the house cold anyway, so cold that K and M both feel like they’re in a meat locker when they’re here. It helps me sleep because I can get super snuggly and toasty warm. During the day, however, when sleep is not an option, I’m working under two blankets, my feet encased in Muk Luk fuzzy socks, and my insides warmed by mugs of tea.
That’s the standard for the Bungalow. Today has been an exception. In defiance of my upbringing of keeping the house cold, I’ve turned the heat up to (gasp!) 64. That’s kept my hands warm today, so I haven’t had to resort to fingerless mittens for computer work, as I did yesterday. It will be a challenge to keep the Retreat warm, because the ceilings are so high, but we’ll manage somehow.
When it was bitterly cold on Friday night, the Black Angus cows were covered with a coating of frozen snow, clustered together for warmth. I could almost hear them wishing that they were allowed in a house (not a barn) to warm up. My original Colorado house was across from a small ranch, run by a single little old woman named Charlene. I wanted to K to grow up with cows and horses visible from the big front window, and I succeeded. Charlene passed away a few years back, closely coinciding with K’s departure for college, and the HazMat crew was called out to demolish her small house. Apparently, she was somewhat of a hoarder, and I know that she would occasionally take her winter calves inside the house to hand raise. them. That’s what all those cows the other night wanted…to be hand-fed into front of a toasty fire in a warm house.
My Facebook memories are rubbing my nose in the cold today, as usually M and I are somewhere tropical and warm at this time of the year. So I keep seeing images of Belize, of Abaco, of Cozumel, of Costa Rica, pop up. I’m grateful that I’ve had those times, and we’re happy that we’ve dodged this kind of weather well the past four years. It’s worth it to be here as we continue to shift to the Retreat.
Stay warm, my friends. Here’s the dreaming of tropical beaches.
She stole out from the shadows of the trees Into the light of the moon and the sea Abandoning herself in unseen turquoise Letting the slow waves Sway and carry sway and carry Dipping beneath the darkness reaching and seeking only to find That the treasure was herself.
Because I have spent the last ten hours editing, I don’t think I have a post in me, but I do have Mary Oliver’s poem “Angels”, and I want to share it with you.
You might see an angel anytime and anywhere. Of course you have to open your eyes to a kind of second level, but it’s not really hard. The whole business of what’s reality and what isn’t has never been solved and probably never will be. So I don’t care to be too definite about anything. I have a lot of edges called Perhaps and almost nothing you can call Certainty. For myself, but not for other people. That’s a place you just can’t get into, not entirely anyway, other people’s heads.
I’ll just leave you with this. I don’t care how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s enough to know that for some people they exist, and that they dance.
Daily gratitudes: Chicken noodle soup A warm house Sweatshirts That Mr. Man forgives me for the disasterous attempt at using a saline nasal spray on him