And the Next Day in Boulder

The past hasn’t changed. We all wake up and in those strange waking moments when we bring ourselves back to reality, we remember. We remember what happened in our community. We remember the grief that we might have shielded ourselves from in dreams. We awaken to the pain, to that sinking feeling of what we’ve lost. People. Security. Peace. Illusions.

We get up and make coffee. We get on with our day, with our jobs, with our lives. At the back of our minds, we are tragically aware that there are 10 people who are not doing those things today, and who will never do those things again. That their families are waking up to their new worlds and feeling the devastation that comes from having someone you love ripped out of your life. And in the midst of their pain, they have to do practical things and procedural things. They do those things on autopilot – this I know, from my stepson’s suicide.

Our Boulder world looks the same on the surface. We still go to the grocery store, but now there are police officers in the parking lot. We still buy flowers, but now they are for the memorial and not the bookshelf in our living room. We still pet dogs, but now they are therapy dogs trained to comfort us. We still sit on grassy hillsides, but now we’re restricted by yellow police tape. When we see a police car speed past us with its sirens blaring and its lights flashing, our first thought is “Is it happening again?” When we hear glass breaking, we think “Is that a shooter breaking windows?”

As the reality sinks in, we still don’t care why. Only that. Not why. But we are starting candlelit vigils. We have a memorial that spans two blocks, with flowers and candles and signs and crosses in front of the chain link fence that keeps us away from where the shooting happened. I went there today, and left flowers. Hugged sobbing strangers. Video chatted with K, showing her what I saw, so she didn’t have to feel so alone, distant, and removed in her grief for her town, for her younger self, for her memories.

It will be same tomorrow. I know grief and loss so intimately that I understand how it will play out for me. While it’s different for everyone, there are some constants for all of us. Time is kind enough to help our sorrow nestle into a place in our souls. But it never allows us to forget. 

Daily gratitudes:
Blue skies
K
Dogs
Community
Flowers

Quote of the Day: “She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” — Jonathan Safran Foer

The Day After

I spent a long, long time in the shower this morning. Wishing I could find beautiful, lyrical words to express my sorrow. Wishing that those words would unfold from me, like the unfurling of a fiddlehead fern in spring, and spill from my fingers onto a page. I felt like I was not really a writer, because I don’t have that gift of spinning words that mean something, that touch others, from a silken tangled web of thoughts and feelings. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it doesn’t matter.

The media released the names of those killed in yesterday’s shooting. Was I a friend of any of them? No. Were some names familiar? Yes. Even though I’ve written about how this town has changed over nearly 40 years, today it feels like a small town. Between K and myself, we have some second or thirdhand connection to someone who has been deeply wounded by this tragedy. (After speaking with K, she does indeed know some of the victims as friends of friends.) Speaking to us, the Mayor of Boulder, the Chief of Police, the Governor, all hold back tears – you can hear it in their voices.

Our community feels just numb. There are so many feelings and thoughts that it’s hard to even separate them. Thankful it wasn’t one of our friends or family. Guilt because we’re thankful. Struck by the names of those who were killed, as we run them through our minds…did we know them? Have any mutual friends? Do I deserve to be struggling with any feelings at all, since I didn’t know any of the victims, just the place? Why did the police treat the shooter with such tenderness? What if he had been black? What about gun control? One of the dead is a policeman who was known for rescuing baby ducks. He was the good guy with the gun. Why is he dead? Am I overreacting? So much. Too much.

Focus is a challenge today. Empath-me needs to immerse myself in media coverage, but I don’t have time for that. I want to sleep, a reflection of internalized grief. I have no appetite. My stomach is upset. My Mother used to say I always put my stress in my stomach. I guess that’s true. I continue to leak, just a glaze of small tears creeping into my eyelashes.

As the day progressed, I realized that this is personal. It’s happened to a community that I’ve been a part of for almost 40 years. Not in the community, but to the community. Today, we don’t care about why he did it, what his nationality is, what religion he follows, whether gun control is stronger…we don’t care about any of it today. We care about the people we’ve lost. The only thing we want is for this not to have happened. And that’s the only thing we can’t have.

Daily gratitudes
The hawk that accompanied me right by my driver’s window today – I could have reached out and touched him
Getting my vaccine (ouch)
Getting all of my old (and I mean old) journals back from my ex-house
Talks with K
Halo Top

Quote of the Day: “We cannot change fate and the tragedies that enter our lives but we can choose how we want them to change us.” — Nikki Rowe

Love on a Day of Tragedy

Today has been a horrible day. Just up the road, a gunman walked into the grocery store I’ve been in hundreds of times and opened fire. Just walked in and without a word, opened fire. The police won’t disclose how many people died. A YouTube video of the first few minutes of the massacre showed two bodies laying in the parking lot and one just inside the store, by the shopping carts. Those souls lay there on the cold ground for hours as SWAT teams broke windows and rescued people through the roof, as news crews swarmed. The thought of them there breaks my heart. This store is the one all the high school kids hung out at — K was one of those high school kids, not so long ago. Today, her high school parking lot was used as a staging point for MedEvac helicopters, but there were no injured. Only bodies. If there is a single severe mercy, it is that this is Spring Break, so even though the kids are back at in-person school, they weren’t all congregating at the store’s Starbucks after classes, just when the shooting started. A Law Enforcement Officer lost his life. Police vehicles from multiple counties are sitting silently with their lights on in a long line, waiting to escort him out.

I remember Columbine vividly. Then, too, I was stricken by the thought of bodies left on the floor for hours. As a new parent, I could just imagine what those mothers were feeling. I remember Aurora all too well. K was at a midnight showing of that film, just at a different theater. The Walmart shooting? About 10 miles away. I have checked in with all my peeps who might have been in the vicinity today and all are accounted for. But my heart grieves for those families who cannot say the same, for those people who were just trying to buy some groceries. You really never think it can happen in your community. But it can.

Daily gratitudes: (tough today)
Chicken noodle soup
Cuddly cats
The comforting reporting of Kyle Clark
The woman I made friends with at the store yesteray
The beauty of silver hair

Quote of the day: “Everyone has a thousand wishes before a tragedy, but just one afterward.” — Fredrik Backman

After the Storm

After the storm, after the slow start that led to so many social media posts slamming and demeaning meteorologists, after the quiet, steady, falling snow, after the winds whipping drifts five feet high, after the trees were firmly and politely bowed with their cold burden, after all that…
Comes the crisp, clear, pure sky, the dazzling contrast of white against azure, the sun valiantly shining but futile in melting, the silence of usually busy streets disrupted occasionally by the clinking roar of a plow, the creaks and plops of those trees shedding dollops of snow, the woman wading through the depths of an alley to free her Bungalow from its magical slumber….

Daily gratitudes:
That I’m strong enough to shovel myself out
The beauty of undisturbed snow
A dent in our drought levels
A warm sunset in a cold sky
Hot baths and good books

Quote of the day: “The snow fell as softly as a poet’s tears.” — Kevin Ansbro

The Weekly Friday Poem: Gone

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

Snow and Winter Blues

It is a cold and unfriendly day today, gray and snowing. Champagne snow, as opposed to the big chunky, happy flakes that seem more like someone up above is pouring them from buckets in the heavens. Those kind of snowflakes remind me of the ones we used to cut out from folded paper as children and hang in the windows of our classroom. Or, in the case of childlike adults such as myself, on the windows of my downtown office building.

On days like today, I try to warm the house with soup and broiled brussels sprouts, for which I have just developed a fondness after a lifelong distaste. And after work, a sherry glass of Creme de Violettes and Wilke Collins’ ‘The Woman in White’ on Masterpiece Theatre.

This kind of weather makes my hands ache, a precursor to the arthritis which my Mother had. When I moved to Colorado as a younger woman, I wanted snow. Growing up in the South, it was such a lovely rarity. I lost some of my excitement for it when I lived in Boston, as the city turned the snow dirty so quickly. Even here in the West, I’ve never warmed to winter sports. I’m not a fan of downhill skiing, though I enjoyed cross-country skiing (is that the old term for it?) occasionally, and snowshoeing the one time I tried it. We may pursue the last activity in the woods around the Retreat, where we will surely get more snow.

I’m particular about my snow preferences – it should either be feet or none at all, not just an inch or two that makes the roads slick and requires a half-hearted effort at city-mandated shoveling. Give me all or nothing. Go big or go home.

Tonight, I’m cuddled under blankets on the couch, Mr. Man at my side, watching the day dim from light to night, feeling a little blue. I look forward to snuggling with M on nights like these when we’re both established in the Retreat, and we can help each other see the beauty that I know is hidden in winter.

The Drive

One thing you didn’t know about me: I love driving. LOVE IT. Which is a good thing, because I married a car guy. And I mean a REAL car guy. I won’t tell you how many cars he has, but I did put in our marriage vows that I would never ask him to sell any of them. I have also named most of them, and each has its own personality. One of the perfect things about the Retreat is that it has garage space for nine cars, so he’ll be able to tinker with the fleet to his heart’s content. That makes him happy, so that makes me happy.

The first time M drove up to my house, he had no idea I lived so far away from where he lived. In reality, it’s only 40 miles, but the first few times each of us drove those 40 miles, it felt more like 100. We definitely had some issues with balancing who went to whose house for a few years. I admit he came north more often than I went south (and for that, my love, if you’re reading this, I’m grateful.)

Now that we’re finally preparing to shack up together at the Retreat, it’s a drive for us both — about 170 miles from my Bungalow, and 130 miles from his house. This drive is different than driving to one another’s house because every time we take it, separately or together, we’re winding up in OUR house. And it’s a nice drive.

Have you noticed that when you drive a route regularly, particularly if it’s a longish drive, you create waypoints for yourself? I’ve found routes that keep me off of the interstate through the main part of the city, which makes for a slightly longer, but much more soothing drive. A long section of this interstate-avoidance takes place along what I call the “magic road”. For one thing, it’s lovely. Two lanes, rolling hills, ranches, livestock. But it’s magic because sometimes it feels like it’s a twenty-minute drive and other times, it feels like it takes an hour. M and I have decided that it’s some sort of a time vortex. But with goats and yaks.

After the magic road, there’s a stretch of interstate through an city, but the next waypoint is the Love’s truck stop. Years of being a road warrior for work taught me drink any kind of coffee, but my favorite coffee is truck stop coffee, and my favorite truck stop coffee is Love’s. Besides, who can resist the name?

Another 25 miles or so, and I catch my first glimpse of what I’ve come to think of as “my mountains”. The Spanish Peaks, whose outline looks remarkably like a lovely set of breasts, are off to the south a bit, and my mountains are off to the west. They edge the sky with a fitting craggy gentleness, growing larger as I drive closer. The Retreat is at their feet. Coming off the interstate is like diving into a valley, dry and brown in winter, deer cavalierly dining at the side of the road. Our tiny town has four churches and a post office. No stoplights. The turns to the Retreat sink us deeper into ranchland and scrub oak. And then we are home, snug in the pines. The sun sinks behind the mountain just after three, leaving a lazy, lingering light that fades to a soft dusk. I look forward to many sunsets there.