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Aunt Bea Moves Out

28 May

Several years ago my husband and I moved to Arkansas with the intention of retiring there, but sometimes intentions collide with reality.  Our Retirement Plan A crashed when unforeseen medical issues led us back to Texas.

Rick and I shared four and one half years in the forests and mountains of the Natural State, experiencing the inspiring beauty and relentless wrath of nature.  In those woods I found pieces of myself I didn’t know existed, and unearthed passions I could have only dreamed.

The forest captured my heart, stirring instincts I’d never acknowledged, and inner strength I didn’t know I possessed as I surrendered preconceived notions to her mossy floors, and released the burden of loss into the canopy of her open arms.

Unity with the earth blossomed as I followed the umbilicus between us, and when I fell in love with my garden, I began a second blog at WordPress: Aunt-Bea-Me was born.

Growing was not Mayberry-eske but the delightful Aunt Bea character in the television series of the old Andy Griffith show was the stuff of my fantasies.  She was sensible and silly at the same time.  She was consistent. You could count on her for everything from a fried chicken dinner to common sense.  She laughed a lot and was never pretentious.

When the world was too harsh, I pulled Aunt Bea from the recesses of my mind and looked to her for comfort.  As an adult, Arkansas became my Aunt Bea.

Rick and I have been back in Texas for four years.  Texas is more than my state, it is the root on which I planted my seeds.  Once again I am living in the garden of my children, and am deeply blessed by their love and attention.  Surprisingly, I find my voice much stronger than before.  I have grown into an opinionated old bird and lost any fear I harbored along the way.

I’ve toughened with the times.

Months ago I considered abandoning the Aunt-Bea-Me blog, but before I made a final decision I did a little research on Frances Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bea.  I was surprised.  Ms. Bavier grew tired then aggravated with the role assigned her; it turns out she and Mr. Griffith were never really friends.  They were much more adversarial than I could have imagined.  Ms. Bavier said she felt she no longer existed as an individual because people associated her with a single role she played.

She admitted to having a love/hate relationship with the character Aunt Bea; so in an effort to break away from something that seemed to own her, she shifted directions to save herself.  Ms. Bavier began to isolate herself from the world through a long, lonely process of withdrawal, and in 1989 she died alone.  In the presence of a dozen plus cats and a rundown dirty home, Frances Bavier made her escape.

We all are a bit like Frances Bavier.  Through my writing, poetry and musings I present various facets of myself to an audience of strangers who sometimes assign a single aspect of that voice as the ultimate and total truth of my entire presence on earth.

A year and a half ago I became aware I was expending a great deal of energy on Facebook.  The more “friends” I made, the more pieces there were to connect. I seemed to waste a lot of time explaining, defining or justifying myself to people I didn’t even know. It isn’t a polite world out there anymore, and I never stay too long in bitterness; so as difficult as it is for a writer to walk away from an audience, I decided I needed to.

Life’s amazing whirlwind sweeps us to corners or to the middle of the room.  Frances Bavier chose a corner.  I’ve moved closer to the middle of the room myself.  The fantasy of a dear, sweet Aunt Bea carried me through many a storm, but the reality of Frances Bavier’s life reminds me today that isolation can overtake the spirit if it stays too long in a corner.

My Aunt-Bea-Me blog is coming down.  It has served me well.  But the time to move away from my safe space has long passed, and I am moving on.

Because time is precious.  And because there is a season for all things.

Bev

 

 

Retired Judge

25 Feb

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Although difficult, for me, running against the wind is instinctive.  I wanted to be the peaceful type full of hope and pink ponies and optimism; but ever since I can remember, I’ve taken rough back roads instead of flowing along with crowds down pristine super highways.  I’m not a glass half empty woman any more than I’m a glass half full one.  For me, there’s water in a glass that has plenty room for more.

As a child, I used to groan under my breath at family gatherings when the topic for discussion shifted to the elders’ perception of change.  The word change, it seemed, was interchangeable with self-indulgence and destruction.  “The younger generation is going to bring about the end of everything we’ve built and cast the world over the cliff into a hungry abyss that will swallow it whole.”  Blah. Blah. Blah.

kitchen women

About this time I would generally inch my way toward the back door, planning escape.  I wish I’d listened more when I was young, paid more attention.  I wish I’d been more respectful of the process of wisdom gathering, opinion formation and varying styles of perception.  These are skills that come to fruition with aging, but I didn’t get it and I was really quite arrogant about it all, shaking my head at the gloom and doom old fools I left in the living room worrying about the future of the planet. It never entered my mind they were worrying about my life, what the realities would be in the wake of monumental change following the Great Depression and World War 2.

However, my perspective shifted noticeably when I crossed the 60 year line myself as I struggled with unsettling feelings of semi-bitterness for the rapid fire changes that had beset a world I was no longer familiar with and often uncomfortable in.

Those were emotionally exhausting days spent holding myself back, or propelling forward like rotted chicken catapulted from a giant sling shot.  And once again, arrogance, as I assumed my way was somehow the best way, often better even than the steady voices of men and women of peace, or the predictions of masterful economic minds, or the advice offered by strategic planners, or the exaggerated threats from political movers, and the woeful forecasts of intellectual shakers.  I was so full of righteous indignation I felt bloated and dour and sad.

Watching a friend lose her way in extraterrestrial philosophies and questionable directives from  guides from the other side, I paused long enough to reevaluate my own beliefs and deal, face to face, with the inflexible judge I had become.

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It was a process.

Just as in childhood, I found myself inching once again toward the back door in an attempt to purge poisons I carried inside.  I thought, ‘perhaps if I fill my lungs with fresh air, or eat an apple in the swing on the front porch, or pick a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susans,’ I might feel better’.  And so I did all of those things and more, binding myself more closely with the cycles of nature and the rhythmic beat of my own heart , mindful of the emotional and mental chaos I’d created in the past and how unsatisfying the experience had been.

peaceful garden

I won’t say I killed the judge inside my soul, but I let her fade away.   I am an observer now; judging nothing, not even myself.

When I choose to watch the evening news and hear the ranting and ravings of judgmental zealots, a sense of calm fills my senses, and I feel the good intentions and the fear inside each loud voice.  I make mental notes about where they are standing, which audience they are addressing, the time of day they speak, lapel pins, the shapes of glasses they wear, and the voices of reporters trying to make names for themselves.

Adults are often little more than large children and that can go either way because a child can engage or detach as he sees fit, but when all of the pieces of the puzzle come together, it is a magnificent occasion.

These days I spend more time paying attention to what other people say.  I love hearing their ideas and opinions; I love reading what they are thinking and how they disseminate unique perspectives and personal views. I learn so much as I immerse myself in both studied and unexplored concepts.  More and more, I spend time reading non-fiction, opinion pieces, and most especially blogs.  The passion and sincerity bloggers express touches my heart.?????????????????????????????????????????????

Every time I experience the strength of another person’s voice, my own grows; but I’m not in love with the sound of my own voice.  My own opinions don’t impress me either.  I often find it difficult to express them now.  Blogging has become more challenging as I struggle to share without preaching.  I’ve learned that listening is an integral part of observation.  So is keeping an open mind.  The boundaries of my perceptions have seeped or bled into the fluidity of the times freeing my mind to explore new possibilities. I’m happy that I don’t feel responsible for the fate of the entire world. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and at peace with the ever evolving world around me.

West Mountain Wisdom

24 Apr

west mt 2

I never know when I’ll find myself on that mountain.  Going there is more instinct than thought.  West Mountain draws me like a magnet, but before leaving Seabrook, Texas, it was the Seabrook Ship Yard that called my name.

seabrook shipyard 1

 A small winding road off Hiway146, oftentimes under water from impulsive tides and persistent land erosion, faithfully led me past yachts moored in covered shelters, and sailboats loosely attached to floating piers, opening like a subtle bloom into a grassy field lined with pink and red oleanders and a fine assortment of lazy palms.  I’ve parked my old Chevy a thousand times at the point overlooking an arm of Clear Lake that passes beneath the fancy Kemah Bridge, merging unceremoniously with the Gulf Bay.  The bay runs for miles and miles through small, scattered coastal towns on its way to Galveston Island, where it explodes in deep blues and, closer to shore, unassuming hues of sienna and umber.

I was exploring my new neighborhood nearly 30 years ago when I stumbled across this perfect oasis, a comforting hidden harbor that seemed to sense my need for soothing isolation.  We’d lost a child I was emotionally attached to in the busy pediatric hospital where I worked.  Christopher was a ward of the state.  He was fair with soft blond hair and amazing blue eyes, and in spite of a myriad of physical disabilities and disease, he managed to ignore the ventilator pumping breath through his tattered, fragile lungs, and the tracheostomy and feeding tubes he’d endured from birth, to play happily, most days, in his crib.

Everyone loved Chris, but Chris was my baby in the sense that I’d cared for him as a student nurse, and then joined the unit he called home when my studies were complete.  I’d shared almost all of his tiny, 2 year old baby life and was so much richer for the gift of having the opportunity to do so.

Christopher died on my day off, and no one had thought to call me.  It was just an oversight, everyone thought someone else had called me; it happens.  When I showed up for my shift and his bed was empty, I was devastated to learn we’d lost this delightful, brave child, andI  took it to heart the same way I took every death I co-experienced throughout my nursing career, each being deeply personal and intensely important to me.

So the day after I’d learned Christopher had died, I discovered my own safe haven and thereafter, for many, many years to come, found myself sitting in its tall, thick grasses, the salty/fishy scent of the sea filling my head with naturalness and inner peace.  Every visit I made transformed loss into peace, and helped ground me emotionally.

seabrook shipyard2

The Seabrook Ship Yard was my growing place.  My wounds healed there.  The chaos and drama of external life and qiet intuitive inner life met there, supporting each other as I worked to define what kind of woman I wanted to be.

Now I live in the mountains and these deep silent woods transform me once again.  Every time I visit the Peak of West Mountain, I discover a new truth or remember a long forgotten piece of intuitive knowledge I’ve misplaced along life’s long, jagged highway.  Sitting high above the city amongst dogwood, pine, maple and great elms, I am suddenly surrounded by everyone I have ever loved, each perfect soul already having completed his worldly journey.

I hear their voices in woodland sounds and see their bright shining faces smiling back at me from a deep canopy of trees. I feel their presence in every pore of my skin, and every hair on my head. Every time my little car climbs that beautiful mountain, the Universe challenges me to see things differently, and challenges me to walk directly into the fire unafraid.

Those who have come before me give me the vision to realize nothing is impossible, and they remind me that every little thing that happens in this life offers another chance to grow.

I scattered the ashes of my ex-husband on that mountain.  He’s growing wild and carefree in those woods, and each wound he suffered, self-inflicted or absorbed by the blunt intentional force of others, heals cleanly, mends wholly.  His memory and triumphs are born again with each new season.

Curving up West Mountain2

Today as I rounded the final curve going up the peak, my iPod began playing Amazing Grace.  I chuckled to myself.  The song got it right, I was blind but now I see; but the song doesn’t go nearly far enough.  I can hear too, and I can understand; but mostly, I can feel.  And here on this perfect piece of sacred earth, I can share what I’ve learned with others.  I sat on the mountain for a long while.  The longer I stayed, the calmer I felt.  When I began descending, another song clicked on the iPod, but that’s another story for another day.

 

Surprise Me With a Cookie Every Now and Then, PLEASE!

22 Feb

I feel like Parker Schnabel on Gold Rush digging my way through a bunch of worthless crap trying to reach the treasure I believe is under it all.  According to my calculations it ought to be ‘right here’.  The problem is the longer and harder I dig, the lower my confidence sinks.

I’m starving to death for a win!  Somebody take away this stinking plate of slop and moldy bread and give the old lady a cookie.  Please.

Putting gears in reverse, let’s back up a bit in order to see the big picture.  Last June my heart went haywire and I ended up in the hospital.  Eventually cardiologists diagnosed me with an abnormal heart rhythm; they also discovered a coronary artery was plastered nearly shut with cholesterol.  I ended up with a stent and a few medications.  A few weeks later I felt absolutely great and had the energy of a hyperactive child!  It was truly amazing!

Life goes on; in November I had a tooth extracted, and that went well until I reacted to an antibiotic the dentist prescribed.  By mid-November, I felt pretty darned crummy so I went to our family doctor who treated me with two new drugs: one, I later learned, counter-acted my cardiac medicine, and the second drug came with a whole new set of problems of its own.

A week later in spite of multiple phone conversations with the doctor who tells me all of this “is to be expected”; I’m sinking like a stone.  Rich loads my lethargic carcass into the car and takes me to the doctor who is appropriately “shocked” by my condition.  He admits me to the hospital and puts me on an IV antibiotic, saying whatever allergic reaction I had is long gone, but I’m suffering from some sort of non-specific infection based on hospital blood studies.  Long story short, the new IV drug did its best to kill me.

Enter a new doctor.  I am treated for severe allergic reactions, taken off the drug that has neutralized my heart medicine, stabilized and sent home with a minor UTI that no one wants to attempt to treat until my body “rebounds” a bit.

Time passes; I simply do not regain my strength.  Thanksgiving comes and goes.  Christmas comes and goes.  The new year, my birthday, all are miserable.  I’m nearly afraid to go to any doctor, but when I do it’s around the first of February.  He prescribes a 7 day round of a gentler, friendlier antibiotic for the miserable, relentless, merciless urinary tract infection.  I finish the prescription with no problem!  I actually feel pretty good again, not great, but good.

February 8th, I take Rich to Little Rock to a neurologist.  Over a period of 6 weeks the muscles in his left hand have begun to shrink in obvious muscle wasting and we want to know why he is dropping forks and having such a hard time writing.  It takes 6 LONG weeks of referrals and scheduling to see a neurologist.  All along, I can’t think of anything except the shocking changes in my husband’s hand.

On the way up the stairs to his appointment, I have to keep stopping to rest; my chest hurts, and it’s hard to breathe.  Rich panics, I minimalize.  The truth is I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and absolutely determined to get help for Rich.  It has taken us such a long time to reach these stairs; I damn well am going to climb them.

Over his protests, I push on.

Once inside, we are assured “most likely” Rich’s muscle wasting is the manifestation of significant peripheral neuropathies related to his 25 year battle with diabetes. To know the depth of what we are up against, and to set a proper plan of care, further tests are set for February 19th.

Riding back home to Hot Springs, I begin to relax.  While peripheral neuropathy is a very serious and progressive condition, I am relieved the doctor hadn’t taken one look at my husband’s hand and said something like, “I think this might be ALS.”

While my chest pain has subsided, I feel heavy and weak. When Rich asks how I feel, I smile and say, “Better.” We stop at Subway for takeout then go to bed early.  The next morning I call the cardiologist.  He says my experience with the stair case is pretty much like failing a stress test and fears my stent may be clogged.

Check it out.

Another heart cath.

Routine.

Only not.

This time the catheter tip tears a hole in a coronary artery.  With each beat of my heart, I feel life spilling out.  I see Rich’s face, hear Father’s voice; I have missed him so much since he died 2 years ago.

I try to tell the doctors I don’t feel right, but instead say “Daddy”.

I wake in ICU.  Good news, bad.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t need emergency by-pass, but my arteries are seriously diseased.  And I’ve bled into my chest cavity and it will take a little while for the blood to be reabsorbed.

Stabilize.  Rest.  But not for long.  The next day, back to surgery for placement of a 3rd stent, without which, disaster is sure to follow.

What follows in life, what leads?  How can you tell anyway, and does it matter, does anything really matter in the end or the beginning, or all the beautiful and flawed pieces in between?

Where the hell is the pony under all of the crap? Where’s a cookie for a woman starving?  An ice cream cone for the man she loves?

My husband nearly gray with fear, his hand like a soft claw touching my steel face, his eyes semi-liquid changing like the sky, hazel, blue, gray, hazel again.  The muscles in his face too smooth, (his glucose is low), idly hang like sheets or sails waiting for the wind.  But wind doesn’t come.  Or perhaps it does.  Except this time, when it does, it’s the worst storm of our lives.

Neurological test results are back.

I’m sitting in a wheelchair on a keg of 1,000 new drugs, my heart, a waiting fuse, the doctor’s words, a reluctant yet persistent match.     Then it all explodes.  The neurologist’s eyes locked into mine.  Suddenly she is a mime full of woe; but if mimes can’t talk, why is she using words?     ‘Serious.     Urgent.     Significant Underlying neuromuscular disease.       Invasive.      Tests.   Watch for twitching.   She looks at me as if I am a widow.    itty?  itty?  Can you hear me?’

The world disappears inside a microscopic black hole.  Rich and I hold hands, swirl through choking, cruel air until at last he is pushing my wheelchair back to the car that doesn’t matter anymore, to drive back to the house that isn’t home.  Home is a perfect crystal, it is the fiber of the irrefutable love that binds us together with steel and silken threads we’ve earned and created along the way.

Rich  asked me to share with readers that our lives have been challenging for a long time, but it wasn’t until the past four years, that those challenges have focused on health.  We moved to Arkansas full of hope and energy.  Three weeks after arriving, Rich had a heart attack.  One thing led to another,and in the span of four short years, we’ve both been hospitalized five times.  We don’t blame Arkansas, well, maybe a little; the reality is timing.  We are stoic people who avoid drama like the  plague.  We are quiet old folks who have a lot of fun together.  We retired to Arkansas because it is one of the most beautiful states we’ve ever seen. We assumed our health would stay strong and consistent; we believed we’d face each new challenge life threw at us the way we always have.

We’ll keep fighting, but if we have our way, it will be closer to our family.  Neither of us is a  Parker Schnabel; we’re not 19 any more with the bright shiny world beckoning.  But we know our places in it.  And we know ours hearts, as battered and bullied as they are, and we know our love is a universe of defiance and intensity, as well as a gentle cradle for holding all that is precious, and an indestructible bastion of never letting go – even past the last days of this long walk we make together.  And we take great comfort in knowing we will always walk together, never alone, through long, twisting hallways and sunny great rooms inside fortress grounds and gardens we build every day out of love.

black hole 2

Observation in Grey: January

23 Jan

cedar waxwing 2

Low heavy sky.

Biting wind and bitter cold.

The emeralds and languid turquoise of

summer reduced to neutrals.

Inside this old house drafts refuse to be tamed.

From a window as cold to the touch as ice

I watch for a sign.

Atop thin tips of willowy branches in a barren bush

a Cedar WaxWing inspects a world stripped of nonessentials.

We are so close our eyes lock.

Each studies the other.

What are we looking for?

What do we hope to find?

Where is the thread that connects us?

Wind gusts, howls.

The ancient Magnolia bends in its breath.

From far away, a dirty plastic bag has filled with bluster and taken flight.

Now it rushes between the bird and me.

Cedar Wax Wing cocks his head, but doesn’t fly.

It’s a stare-down of epic proportions,

one animal exploring another,

each with needs,

each searching,

each starving to death to know.

©bss

Finding Hello in Good-bye

29 Dec

staircase to the unknownIn early November, an unexpected storm disrupted my life.  Perhaps I should have seen it coming, but I did not, in spite of a nagging feeling inside that something was amiss.  I pride myself on listening to myself, following innate instincts, and falling back on lessons learned from past experiences.  This time the message never made it to my brain, but churned restlessly in my gut as I struggled to connect dots.

My belief was that if I could identify the source of imbalance I felt inside, I would either be able to stay, or right, whatever fate waited for me on the steps of life’s door, or meet it head on, confidence in tact, and resolve, in a sensible way, any body blow it might deliver.

That philosophy proved both naïve and arrogant in lieu of the vulnerabilities of the human condition that evolve in dichotomy, the mind filling with wisdom as the body simultaneously empties with age.  So, when the thug-illness burst through the front door, like any unsuspecting soul, I absorbed its rage, and was swept away in the insane bureaucracy of doctors and hospitals and voodoo poisons conversely intended to heal.

HerbBottle (3)

Once home, huddled safely inside my upholstered cave, I began the process of understanding why I could never, try as I may, have anticipated the events that brought me to this uncomfortable introspective space.  But when the light bulb lit, and a band somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind began playing boisterous choruses of Halleluiah, I began to see the impotence and futility of trying to see into the future in order to avoid or manipulate its impact on the present.

As this new truth emerged, setting me free, so to speak, a new reality appeared, once again taking the wind from my sails as my sweet husband, Rich, the rock on which I have built my life, fell prey himself to an illness uniquely his own.  Thus the feeble bird tended the injured bird as, together, we tried to discern forests from trees.

old couple in love 1

The double whammy of fate proved itself a game changer as we struggled to meld growing physical limitations with solid but stubborn mental competence hell-bent on experiencing the Golden Years as portrayed by cell phone and miracle drug commercials on TV.

The irony of marketed possibilities in old age juxtaposed the actuality of incoming mail filled with term life insurance, funeral and burial policies clashed, rising to a crescendo until nothing would do but to address the 800 pound gorilla in our living room.  Thus began the shift in the landscape of our lives.  And I must say, neither took it very well, the idea of exchanging high adventure for a more sensible plan was like sucking lemons, but we pushed on, readying ourselves for the respite and sheer joy of a Christmas visit from a daughter, her husband and their son.

Two hours before their arrival, the power went out.  But it wasn’t as hard to adjust to the unexpected as it might have been the month before, because surviving last month’s challenge had empowered Rich and me to rise like phoenixes, rendering this latest variance in foreseen reality a virtual bleep on the radar screen.

candle burning

Nothing, absolutely nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm for spending time with family.  Two hours into the visit, over dinner lit by emergency stash fluorescent lanterns, the power came on, and each of us jumped from our seats to embrace in full light.

Christmas was perfection, the best Rich and I have experienced since leaving Texas on our excellent adventure, causing us to ponder the desires and circumstances that led us far from the herd in the first place.  To be honest, the herd had fully dispersed before we broke from the land that held us and served as a constant reminder that even the best laid plans can go horribly awry.

During long, sweet conversations at Christmas, the subject of the recent illnesses that passed like a plague over our house arose, opening a door we never dreamed we might need to enter.  It seems the helplessness of crossing long miles on small budgets while meeting the needs of minor children and demanding work schedules had torn at the heart strings of our daughter and her husband as they were forced to watch from afar as Rich and I struggled to deal with devastating circumstances alone.

Last night Rich told me he and his brother never know how to say Good-bye when they talk on the phone.  I know how that feels. Endings are hard for me; beginnings, not so much.  So the only way I know how to approach change is to find a way to transform it into something I’ll want to embrace rather than ignore.

I’m quite ambivalent about getting old, part of me is so ready, and part is not.  The fact that we need help from others to manage the sharp edges of life is a bomb dropping for anyone, but for those unaccustomed to asking or accepting help, it is a concept nearly impossible to accede.

I have to remind myself that sometimes Plan B exceeds the expectation and reward of Plan A.  When our granddaughter, Morgan, graduates in another year and moves to Austin to get her Masters in Physics, more than likely Rich and I will be packing once again for Texas.

river hondo

The natural beauty of Arkansas will be hard to leave in spite of having made very few friends while being here.  In two weeks I turn 65; it would be nice to enjoy the Golden Years in the presence of family, making the most of each good day, and knowing we are not alone on less impressive days.

And so this nest that felt so right only months ago, suddenly feels a little tight around the hips, and we find ourselves contemplating unexpected plans to return, perhaps, for the last time, home.  Perchance this is how it always is, the evolution of parental roles, one generation passing the torch to the next in an act as necessary and natural as the changing of seasons.  But because we have an option, because we have a say in the matter, because both of our children have offered their homes to us, Rich and I count ourselves as two of the very lucky ones.

welcome to hondo

Finding Calm in the midst of Chaos

6 Dec

the sky is falliingWeather reports zealously predicted the emergence of a winter storm of near epic proportions.  As I listened, I was struck by the sound of rising alarm in the voices of meteorologists who paced like caged tigers, and I wondered again where the days of calm and objectivity had gone, seemingly having disappeared like two old friends descending the last mountain, looking back over their shoulders to companions left behind, giving a final thumbs up to them, as if nothing would ever change, as if time and the world would repeat itself as it always had when the sun rose each morning; but the world did change, and comfort once gained from soothing, consistent voices vanished in a populist culture of serial disasters, each horrible and mesmerizing; each uglier than its predecessor, yet understood to be just another wrung on an endless ladder of adrenaline-driven-drama yet to come.

Hoping for the best, planning for the worst, we drove to the market in preparation of the power outage that was sure to come.  How did we know the power would disappear?  Well, actually we received a text message from Entergy explaining that 8,000 workers were on their way to the area, and that outages were expected to last “5-7 days”.  It seemed more a promise than a possibility.

As we drove, we passed 3 or 4 gas stations, each with long, winding lines and a carbon monoxide fog hanging overhead like another warning, or perhaps, a final obituary.

Inside the store, signs of the new world shrank the warehouse sized building into the likes of a small parlor filled with warring tribes, each combatant wearing armor, his or her eyes straight ahead, and the cold dead stench of fear rising.

The bread aisle was empty.

The water aisle was empty.

no water

A half-gallon of milk cost $4.43.

I had a bag of tortillas in my hand until an old man shoved me and snatched it away; pushing his cart away as fast and hard as he could.  On any other day, perhaps he would have offered to reach it for me, taken it from the high shelf and put it in my hand, or maybe he might have smiled as we passed each other on Aisle 8.  But today he was not himself, or perhaps he had never been more himself until the very moment he stole a bag of tortillas from a stranger’s hand.

It caught me off-guard; for a moment, I needed to step away from the crowd, so I huddled next to an end-cap of nonessentials like cotton balls or hair color.  Narrowing my focus, I listened to the sounds emitted from the surging crowd.  Expecting growls of altercation, I was surprised to hear excitement, like a growing anticipation for an adventure yet defined.  At first I believed I was witnessing the emergence of community, a gathering of like-minded souls preparing to endure shared battle, but the longer I listened, I more clearly I began to understand, and I trembled with the knowledge that what I heard was more akin to observers at a public hanging, or a gathering of the pious howling in jubilation at the burning of a accused witch.

Rich and I left carrying nuts and fruit, a couple of bags of chips and 3 bottles of marinara.  We drove like lunatics away from the crowds, weaving through debris already strewn by the wind throughout back roads and city streets.

Once home, we dug through the Recycle Bin, dragging out empty plastic bottles that we washed with hot, soapy water.  After they’d dried, we filled them with fresh tap water.

We unpacked winter blankets.

We filled a basket with candles, matches, flashlights and batteries.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches and shared the last piece of pumpkin pie from the back of the refrigerator.  Then we snuggled under the knitted blanket I’d bought at an estate sale from two daughters who didn’t want it, who had valued it at $3.00, never understanding the emotion and time, the love and careful attention their mother had invested in it.

Then we turned on the outside Christmas lights, rolled up the blinds, settled in, held hands, and watched the snow begin to fall.

snow flakes

Anticipating Change

28 Oct

Curving up West Mountain2

It’s dark and damp outside, the product of three drizzling days of lazy rain.  No thunder or drama, just the persistent mist of late autumn on the mountain, the last vestiges of a once brilliant floral floor falling in decay, while the canopy above explodes in blasts of impulsive color.  Crisp air carries the musky scent of wet soil as the temperature plunges, leaving the forest vulnerable to the stark nakedness that will soon follow.

All summer the woods expanded, reaching closer to my door, but now they are shrinking in a slow retreat that will widen the spaces between each magnificent tree and end, eventually, in the white silence of fallen snow.

These are the busy days; the squirrels are fat, darting in and out of hollows and thatched crevices with their jaws stretched to capacity with nuts and fallen fruit.  Foxes move deeper into their dens, and the light twilled sounds of songbirds are overcome by strong, scratchy notes coughed from the throats of crows and ravens.

The steady circadian hum that marked the onset of slow summer nights has been replaced with pure silence, broken occasionally by the howl of coyote in the distance, or the harsh, splitting assault of a poacher’s kill shot.

Black canvas skies feel deeper.  Stars, lit like votive candles, punctuate vast dark fields. And the intensity of light traveling for thousands and thousands of years emphasizes the emptiness above, accentuating constellations described by an array of mythical stories intended to remind us of our vulnerabilities to the wills and powers of the unknown.

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Between night and rain, the most amazing clear days lend themselves to preparations for winter as I harvest and dry herbs from my gardens,collect seeds, trim baring bushes and fruit trees, cover thinning flower beds with fallen leaves, and thoughtfully redefine the perimeters of our home in anticipation of the uncertainties of the coming winter season.

Inside, I’m refinishing old furniture I’ve drug around for a lifetime and adding fresh paint to faded walls.  I’ve finished quilting my holiday quilt and look forward to hanging it on the walnut quilt holder Rich built for my displays several years ago.  I’m thumbing through old fall and winter cook books in search of comfort food recipes I can revamp and up-cycle into healthier versions of themselves in order to provide my family with sound nutrition that keeps the coziness and reassurance of traditional flavors.

I’m nearly manic in a nesting mode, yet more peaceful and happier than I can recall being for a very long time.  I’m paying attention to every detail in every moment and learning from mistakes I make along the way, but being kind to myself at the same time.

I’m feeling appreciative to this old body that has carried me through all the years of my life in spite of how badly or irresponsibly I treated it in younger times.  I would never dream of altering it, lifting, tucking, cutting off and throwing any part of it away in order to retain some silly semblance of youth.  For me, that would be an exercise in futility, and an insult to the organic process of being born, blossoming,  progressing, then fading and dying in a natural way.  I’ve tended the bedsides of too many hospice patients to waste my time holding on to surface matter, learning from their experiences that joy and satisfaction comes from living life well in the present moment, no matter its length or challenging circumstance.

I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa because Rich is retiring, for good this time, at the end of December.  January 1st is kick-off day for our journey together through the Golden Years, no matter what they bring or impose.

on the front porch

A Versatile Blogger Award ~ A gracious way to acknowledge others and their Blogs

6 Oct

versatile-blogger-award-green I’m always thrilled to accept an award, and humbled when I think about how much reflection and attention it takes for a fellow blogger to thoughtfully compile a list of nominees. Thanks to The Empathy Queen for this nomination! I will try to do her justice by following the rules although I’m not really keen on rules of any kind. Because The Empathy Queen is so super cool, I’m putting her site at the top of my list even though it may be interpreted as a bit redundant or kind of weird.

Giddy with anticipation, I am going to try to pull myself together and begin.

The rules I received are as follows:

THE RULES :

1. Display the Award Certificate on your blog.

2. Announce your win with a post and thank the blogger who nominated you.

3. Present 15 deserving bloggers with the award.

4. Link your nominees in the post and let them know about their nomination with a comment.

5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

I enjoy many blogs, but I’m limited to 15, so I’m going to nominate those that most move me to the bone with one emotion or another, hoping that others will explore them and discover the magic!

In no particular order:

http://theempathyqueen.wordpress.com/

http://humoringthegoddess.com/

http://forgivingdreams.wordpress.com/

http://soulgatherings.wordpress.com/

http://tllsci.wordpress.com/

http://architar.wordpress.com/

http://southofwhere.wordpress.com/

http://wantonwordflirt.com/

http://xroguegirlx.wordpress.com/

http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/

http://mentalinthemidwest.wordpress.com/

http://secondhalfwoman.wordpress.com/

http://storyshucker.wordpress.com/

http://meganhasocd.com/

http://worldsworstmoms.com/

Okay, that was the easy part, but now it’s time to list 7 interesting things about myself. Hmm, let’s see…

1. Like my friend, The Empathy Queen, I have a hard time handling compliments.

2. I’ve never missed an episode of Project Runway. Ever.

3. I love to wear novelty socks.

4. I bake all of our bread.

5. I’m a published poet.

6. When I was 6, I thought I saw the Easter Bunny but it turned out to be the milkman.

7. I quit holding my stomach in when I turned 60.

If there was a #8, it would be about how I feel every time I get a new Comment or Like on either of my blog sites. When someone new Follows me, I celebrate by eating a forbidden food like a real cookie, not one of my husband’s sugar free jobs.

I am sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, tickled to death when my work is read, and I thank each and every one of you for your kind support.

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