Friday, November 21, 2014

Preparing for the Polar Vortex

Warning to Parents: Do not make random promises to your children. 
You will be expected to adhere to them. 
Long, long ago, in a house far, far away, I told Little Cuter that when she had children she could host the holidays. Until then, she'd have to travel to her parents.  I said it.... I'm sure I did.... it sounds like me.... I'm not disputing the evidence.... I'm just whining about the consequences of a one-off remark made to quiet a kid who didn't want to travel.
TBG and I are packing our polar fleece and our heavy socks and our turtlenecks this week as a result of that conversation.  We'll be joining the throngs at O'Hare on Saturday, leaving the sunshine and 70's, arriving to rain and 40's.... then snow.... then 30's and 20's and clouds...lots and lots of clouds. 
Only the presence of a granddaughter could induce me to get on a plane right now. 
My house is a disaster; the library and the kids' rooms and my closet are overflowing with holiday preparations and out-of-season clothing. I need time to put it all away.
I have to collect the greeting cards and the stickers and the stamps and the pre-paid mailing envelopes I thought I'd ordered but apparently did not. All of this has to be in the house by December 1st if I am to adhere to my Brownie List schedule.
The Tucson Festival of Books' Kick Off Party is this weekend; I'll be on a plane instead of hearing the list of authors and buying my ticket to The Rock Bottom Remainders concert on the first day of sales. 
Tucson is filling up with arriving grandparents and grandchildren and aunts and uncles and cousins.  They are figuring out the No Left Turn directions on Oracle Road and its major cross streets.  They are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts instead of sweaters. I will miss laughing at them.
Those of us who live here wait anxiously for these six weeks, the only ones cool enough for our cold weather attire. We Tucsonans are smug in our long sleeved sweaters as the visitors amuse us with their summer clothes.  Scarlett, newly arrived from NYC, emailed that she was sitting on her porch, freezing and loving it.  I love defining freezing as anything below 65 degrees, too.
But, this weekend we will don winter weight pants.  We will have our scarves and gloves and hats and shoes that have traction to resist the ice and snow.  Our parkas live in the kids' basement; they are picking us up at the airport so we don't have to bring other outer garments. That, at least, is a blessing.
In October, I smiled as TBG resisted leaving his winter clothes in Illinois.  I'm going the opposite route.  I'm collecting all the sweaters I love but haven't worn in the eight years I've lived here. I'm packing them and taking them and then leaving them all in the plastic box she has reserved for me.  It lives in her crawl space when I'm not there.  It doesn't disturb anyone.  Eventually, the plan will be for me to travel with only a purse.
I just wish I didn't have to travel into the Polar Vortex.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Random Thoughts

Brother and Intrepid Cat are in Israel.  They were in Jordan last week.  Brother thinks everyone should take a sabbatical once every 60 years.  Intrepid Cat notices no women on the streets of Petra.  I sit at home and worry about incoming rocket fire.
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature this year. I enjoyed The Secret History, a tale of academia gone mad, so I was happy to download it to the Kindle. This was a switch from my usual practice.

Honored books frighten me, ever since I tried and failed with Thomas Pynchon.  I have a master's degree; I should be able to understand a book written in English.  I've read Ulysses once a decade since my 30's and I'll continue to enjoy it through my 100's, I hope.  But books with awards tend to be overly precious or inscrutable or more complex than they need to be... or so it's seemed... until The Goldfinch.

It's a fabulous tale, a well-written character study (or two, or three, or ten), and the philosophical rambling at the very end has given words to the space I've been inhabiting for the past four years. 
Six Characters in Search of an Author is Luigi Pirandello's funny, terrifying, aggravating, enlightening investigation of the space between reality and fiction and our own hopes and dreams.  My Humanities Seminar's professor has translated it.... twice.... and he would be delighted to try it a third time. 

I was skeptical going into this course on Tragi-Comedy.  I worried that it would be above my head.  While Chekov continues to elude me (perhaps I need to see it performed), I'm having a great time with almost all the rest of it.  There's a lesson in there about forcing myself to stretch, but I'm having too good a time right now to learn it.
The Humanities Seminars sponsored a showing of The Rise of the Planet of the Apes at The Loft Theater this afternoon.  JannyLou's golf game lasted longer than expected, so I sat alone, in the darkened movie house, surrounded by fellow students of a certain age, couples and threesomes and lots of us sitting by ourselves. 

We listened to Dr. Richard Poss share the stories of Washoe and Nim Chimpsky and other apes who learned language and lived with humans until they became moody, gigantic, hormonal adolescents.  We were enthralled, captivated by the notion of communicating with another species, impressed with what science and human ingenuity could create.

Then, we saw the film... the heartbreaking, delicate (despite the helicopter crashes), challenging film.  Walking out, I heard the same thing, over and over and over: I never go to Sci Fi films.  I'd never have seen this.  Oh, it is so sad.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Blogs Gone By

I cleaned out a piece of my desktop just now.  Not a big piece, or an intrusive piece, just a piece that has been nudging the edges of my consciousness every time I go to the Blogger Dashboard (the handy dandy place for all things The Burrow).  I'm mourning the losses.

The Dashboard is also the site for my Blog Roll Reading List.  Snippets of the most recent posts by the bloggers I follow show up right beneath the working buttons (new post, view blog, post list).  I'm always interested in what Ronni Bennett has to say over at Time Goes By, but I rarely saw her posts.  Instead, I was bombarded by daily, sometimes twice daily, pictures and references and verbiage from someone who no longer interested me at all. 

There's no reason to share the blog's URL; you might really like it and then wonder what's wrong with me.  It wasn't offensive or poorly written.  I was just done with it. 

Once I figured out how to hide it from the feed, I was a woman on a mission. I would hide the blogs I didn't want to see, and reacquaint myself with those I'd forgotten.  My mission led to many frowns.

Where was Joann Mannix, who wrote Laundry Hurts My Feelings? Her long-form stories made my sides ache from laughing, often laughing through my tears.  The title links you to the last post she wrote, a description of a parking lot misadventure that is humiliating and humbling and completely understandable.  She hasn't written anything else since last February.  I miss her.

Tied Up With a Black Velvet Ribbon was another favorite for a while.  When I clicked through to see what was happening, this is what appeared It doesn't look like you have been invited to read this blog. If you think this is a mistake, you might want to contact the blog author and request an invitation.
Since I can't remember what I loved about it, I don't know what I'd say when requesting an invitation.  And, since I've never seen this kind of message before, I wonder if I'll be requesting permission to join a site of bondage fetishists ... or shopping fetishists ... or perhaps it's someone's personal journey, not to be shared at random with others.  In any event, I'm not pursuing the matter. 

There were a spate of ElderBlogs, found by linking to comments on The Burrow.  Most of them came when I was writing about G'ma.  Most of them are gone.  Well Aged with Some Marbling: the art of aging gracelessly , The Next Chapter, Gently Said ... I miss their take on adulthood.  I wonder what happened to them.  Did they grow tired of the experience?  If so, I wish they'd said goodbye.  Did they become ill?  I wish I'd known to send a note of encouragement.  Did they realize that they were leaving a hole in my life?  I hope so.

Not all of my favorites disappeared.  Done Nesting has migrated to Reason Creek, for reasons only its owner, Nancy Hill, can explain.  And explain them she did, at one of the Meet Ups she runs here in town.  We met face to face at my first BlogHer conference in San Diego; I keep up with her adventures here in town via her blog.  My friendships are crossing the line between cyber and real spaces.  It's interesting.

When I write about cyber friendships crossing into reality I must mention Nance at Mature Landscaping, whose life took over the time she used for writing.  She and JES at Running After My Hat and I had a mini-blog friendship going along quite nicely back in 2009 and '10.  We were cogitating plans to move our small readership numbers into the stratosphere when, as JES so elegantly put it, then, Damn, you go and get shot, girl!

Nance triangulated the Safeway, my house, and the hospital, realized I must have been the one who brought the child, and sent flowers to the hospital the very next day.  She'd never met me in person, yet she knew that I'd be there, doing that. The next time someone says that the interwebs are destroying human interactions, remind them of this, please. 

JES is still writing, and we three are still friends even though Nance has stopped taking fingers to keyboard.  I just wish I knew what happened to the rest of the gang.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Piano Recital

"It's time!  It's time!  It's TIME TO START!"
The young man in front of me was anxious to get going.
He'd been staring at his watch since I entered the music room.
As the minute hand on the wall clock moved inexorably toward the full, upright, position, he leaned over his own time piece, willing it to move faster, tapping it lightly to help it along
And then, it was time to start.
Ian, teacher to young and old alike, announced to the audience
 that although he had 35 students in total, none of the adults were willing to perform. 
Instead, a handful of his younger pupils would present works ranging from pieces in their beginner books all the way to Brahms, with some original music thrown in for good measure. 
He told us it would last 45 minutes.
If I'm going to be watching other people's kids perform, it's nice to know how long I'll have to sit.
The little ones' feet didn't reach the floor, 
but their fingers were beautifully arched and their backs were perfectly straight. 
Some of the pieces required four hands, and Ian was glad to oblige.
The older students could reach the pedals, and wore fabulous shoes to do so.
My young time keeper entranced the audience with Brahms played with gusto.
Some of the New Age pieces were lengthy; Ian was happy to turn the pages of the score. 
This musician spent a week this summer working with Ian, perfecting his craft.
The hat was only the start of his marvelousness.
As the performers mature, they bring more of themselves to the music.
Swaying and staring off into space  
and then flying his hand over the top 
he had the audience enthralled.
The younger students were seeing where they could be, in time, with effort and practice and drive and desire.  The lesson was softly delivered, but filled with power.
I know that's true, because I was watching Mr. 9's face.
In his tuxedo shirt and vest and self-designed Nikes, he was quite studly.
Ian introduced him as well dressed.
He was taking the performance quite seriously.
He didn't need music; the notes live in his soul. 
Composition and improvisation are part of Ian's curriculum.
Mr. 9 wanted to play Pharrell's Happy Song, so Ian created a four handed version just for them.
There were shared smiles and nods and feet were tapping.
At the end, with his face nearly breaking from the smile, Mr. 9's left hand went up and over and landed loudly and proudly and firmly on a very high C.
The crowd went wild.
It was a totally appropriate reaction.
An hour on a late Saturday afternoon, surrounded by families and music and love.... it was perfect.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bringing Light to the Situation

Little Cuter and SIR had the most beautiful wedding at our house.  The front and the back were decorated with light, and not much more.  There were strings of little bulbs hung in the trees surrounding the enclosing walls in the backyard and there were globes with electric bulbs scattered through the trees in the front.

Neighbors complimented us for weeks following the event.  The house looked stunning, elegant, delightfully mysterious, festive.... I loved collecting the kudos. 

Time passed, the images didn't fade, TBG was on board with the idea - I began to search for a way to make it a more permanent part of our landscaping.  We paid thousands to have professionally installed up-lighting on the foliage; we saved thousands by opting to leave the actual house in shadows.  It's a nice enough structure, but it didn't need to be floodlit like the Taj Mahal. We were looking for highlights, not advertising our status.

That's a problem with lighting the outside of our house.  The illumination draws attention.  We like to stay private.  Ever since my life burst onto the public scene, I've become acutely aware of two facts: we are in the phone book abd  my computer monitor and tower are on a desk which affords me a magnificent view of the mountains and the road in front of my house but which also affords passersby the opportunity to gaze into that window and look right back at me.  At night, though I like to type with the stars blazing back at me, the un-shaded window pinpoints me like a target in a shooting range.  I pull the shade and sigh.

But those little lights from the wedding haunted me.  The front of our home is well-lit, and the big, round, colorful balls the boys will help me hang in December will be decorative enough to suit me.  But the back, where the lighting is focused on the pool and the low bushes surrounding it, is awfully dark at night.  We've left the floor to ceiling windows uncovered, which works fine in the daytime but leaves a big black hole in the evening.

My search for hanging globe lights continued.  The web was an interesting place to look - hanging globes had maps of the world, lighted globes had batteries and flashing red splats for capital cities.  Solar powered illumination had hundreds of thousands of suggestions; hanging solar illumination wasn't much less overwhelming.  The party planners thought Crate and Barrel was their source for the lit balls that delighted me, but Crate and Barrel's website was useless.

I went to the store.

I haven't been shopping for home goods in years.  I have enough stuff.  The colors and the textures and the shiny newness of it all was overwhelming, but I was saved by the lovely lady behind the counter who knew exactly what it was that I was seeking.  She knew the proprietary name of the product, she knew that it came in two sizes, she knew that it was on sale. 

On sale.  My two favorite words in the shopping world. 

She couldn't order it for me, because it was only in the warehouse and her computer couldn't talk to the warehouse for me.  So, I sat on a sofa in front of her Service Desk and ordered twelve large balls with interior solar light sticks. Then, I left town.
When I returned, ten days later, there were three giant white Crate and Barrel boxes awaiting me in the front hallway.  TBG had moved them inside and there they waited.  Inside each one, four smaller brown boxes were nestled in the middle of more beautiful bubble wrap than I'd seen in a long time.  All twelve lights could have been sent in one box, I think, but the excess somehow made me smile. I'll reuse the packing materials and I've already repurposed one box to serve as my Halloween storage container but it was the sheer too-much-ness which awed me.

I unpacked one light from one small brown box.  I hung it for days in the sunlight, waiting for a miracle to occur.  When that didn't happen, I loaded them all back in my car for a return trip to C&B.  The saleswoman was very happy to take them back, was very sorry they didn't work, was calling for a helper to unload my trunk, was as surprised as I was that the globe unscrewed in the middle and that in the middle of the middle was a very very small on/off switch.

She turned it on.  I drove home, rehung the globe, and was treated to a small but shimmering glow that evening.  I moved the lucite orb from the Palo Verde in the front to the crepe myrtle in the courtyard to the mesquite with the sturdiest branches in the backyard. 

It took three days, but last night TBG noticed the glow, admired the glow, and wondered if there could be more glow.  For a man who like the least amount of tchotchkes on permanent display, this is a milestone moment.  He adores the holiday charm my decorations bring to the season, but the basic structure of our house is unadorned.  If I cared, I'd make a fuss.  I don't, so I don't.  He's always been in charge of the colors and the sizes and the shapes of our furnishings, although I retain veto power. Usually, my attempts to liven up the scenery are met with polite dismissals.... and sometimes not so polite dismissals (cf my desire to paint the interior pony walls surrounding the pool in vibrant purples and yellows and oranges). 

To find that an idea I'd created met with his approval filled me with delight.... and my delight soon spilled over into gushing.... which led to why are you so excited.... and we both make those decisions, don't we...and I stopped before what began as a smile ended in a tiff. 

I'll hang some tonight before he changes his mind.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Lock Up Your Weaponry

The loaded pellet gun was in a glass-fronted cabinet.  The 12 year olds had access, so the security must have been pretty thin.  One picked up the rifle, one walked in front of him, and the evening ended in the emergency room.

No one is dead.  No one is in jail.

I'm disturbed.

Is there a person on this planet who believes that unsupervised tweens should be holding an ammo-filled weapon at 2:30 in the morning? 

The most trouble my kids got into at a sleep-over was calling the most popular boy in the 6th grade and hanging up .... over and over and over until it was Little Cuter's turn and his mother answered, asked who was calling, and my child gave her name... her real name.... which led to a phone call to me and a phone call to the poorly supervised party's hostess and notes of apology written the next morning. 

It never occurred to me to worry about loaded rifles in unsecured cabinetry.  It never seemed likely that a 12 year old would endanger the life of another in such an obvious way.  I obsessed about drugs and drinking and unprotected sex but, in what now seems like a ridiculously innocent time, guns never crossed my radar.

I don't know how anyone parents today. The challenges are monumental.  They lurk in corners of the interwebs, corners which Mommy Bloggers root out and post about.  I send those posts to Amster, the ones about vanishing images that are stored forever and predatory trolls using brand new apps and tracking systems allowing her to follow the kids through cyber-space.

She reads all Mr. 11's text messages; they come through her phone on iTunes, somehow.  The boys share game cheats and funny faces and mundane questions about soccer practice and math homework.  The girls call him babe and refuse to meet him when they're both in the produce section because I look awful right now.

He laughs at the boys' messages and is flummoxed by the girls' and that's as it should be right now, in the 6th grade, when he's gaining his sea-legs, navigating the shoals of middle school. That's what his mother should be guiding him through: the why are girls so weird conversations endemic to young men.

Instead, she's going to have the What will you do when a gun is present? conversation, reminding her little boys what happened to me and what gun shot victims go through and I hate the fact that I'm an avatar of what can go wrong in the world today... and yet I'm very very very glad to be used in a let's prevent this campaign, no matter how small. 

As far as the grown-ups in this situation are concerned, TBG calls for strict liability if an unsecured weapon is used in your home; if it happens, you are liable.  There are no mitigating circumstances.  His plan calls for substantial financial penalties tacked on to every medical/legal/job-related cost incurred by the victim. 

I'm looking for jail time... or the stocks... or something that will get the attention of adults who are stupid thoughtless careless irresponsible derelict enough.... I am out of words.

If you must have your guns, at least keep them out of the hands of those too young, untrained, immature individuals with whom you share your residence.  Others of us might have loved ones in your area.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Saturday will mark 46 months since I intersected with bullets.  As anniversaries draw near, I fight an on-going battle with the dark side.  48 months ago Christina-Taylor and her family joined G'ma and my family around our dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner.  As I begin to gather my cold weather gear for this year's trek to Little Cuter and the Polar Vortex, my heart goes back to that Thursday afternoon when CTG was 9, and full of promise. 

She and G'ma discussed the utility of various silver serving pieces. Plate and sterling.... G'ma describing the differences and CTG listening and absorbing and then choosing the fanciest ones for the mashed potatoes and the string bean casserole and the kugel and the stuffing.  G'ma, perched on the seat of her walker, wondering who that beautiful little girl might be, wondering why she was asking so many questions, wondering what we were celebrating. 

I miss those girls.

Little Cuter and I were discussing her holiday dinner menu this week.  Sitting at my kitchen table, answering her questions - Does her father like green beans? Will her brother eat cooked spinach?  Why don't any of us like brussel sprouts? - my mind wandered back to that last Thanksgiving when we meant my mother and my friends gathered together.  The passage of time has robbed me of their presence.  I want them back.

I know. I know.  I can't always get what I want.  And I really don't want my mom back, at least not as she was when she left.  That hollow shell of the woman she once was haunts me less and less and the months go by.  The emptying out of her physical being mirrored what had been going on in her brain for a decade or more, and the physical manifestations of her deterioration were difficult to watch.  They bothered me more than they bothered her; she was slow and she knew it and so we'd just have to walk slower.  She didn't complain; she accepted and moved on.

I'm trying that right now.  I'm trying to accept the fact that CTG will never be more than 9.  I've been watching her grow up in my imagination, wondering what cell phone ringtone she'd choose for me on the device she'd been promised for Christmas, speculating on the email address she'd choose, laughing out loud as I consider how big her feet would be by now. 

I don't need a butterfly necklace or a purple rubber bracelet to keep her close; she's with me every single day.... and yet she's gone, every single day. It's the same with G'ma.  I drive past the pod-castle and have to restrain myself from turning into the parking lot.  I finish my chores and I look at the clock - will G'ma be free to join me for an ice cream cone?  I got used to her presence, I relied on her presence, and now she is gone.  The emptiness has burned a hole in my heart.

Her time on the planet was over last December.  She'd overstayed her welcome.  There weren't any plans left unfulfilled.  It was okay... though unimaginably sad... watching her fade away a year ago right now.  We didn't bother to bring her over for Thanksgiving dinner; she couldn't have eaten any of it, nor could she have sat upright at the table for more than a moment or two, and those clacking dentures would have made a disturbing background to the conversation.  It was the right decision, we all agreed.... and yet I'm sitting here in Starbucks, drinking my ice tea, using their internet connection,  wishing that I had that memory to add to my collection. 

There are many many many good memories.  I'm trying to get used to the fact that I won't be making any more of them.  47 months .... 11 months.... it's a blink of an eyelash and forever... and it still hurts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Perfect Benefit

This one was TBG's idea entirely.  Anyone who knows him is now blinking in astonishment; the man does not do big gatherings unless his daughter is being married or his wife has planned the event.  In the latter case, he leaves early.  I'm not judging, I'm merely relaying the facts. 

But Friday night found us dressed in our Tucson casual best, driving on newly paved roads to a newly created development and into a brand new church auditorium.  He was smiling before we got there, a fact which brought joy to my heart and whetted my anticipation.  The friends we were meeting were his friends, members of a loose-knit crowd of older adults who frequent the spin classes at our gym. 

The men share photos of their grandchildren, which warms the cockles of My Yogi's heart at the two classes a week she leads.  The women chime in on sports talk.  They are boisterous and reserved, liberal and reactionary, competitive and lackadaisical on the bikes.  They worry when one of their number has been absent for a while.  They like one another, and in the relatively anonymous world of the gym, that's as far as they've gone.

Until Friday night.  Orphanage Aid International, a 501c3 founded by one of the cyclists, was hosting its first, annual Fiesta Fundraising Event, and they were all invited.  The tickets were $20 per person; almost everyone in the room bought some.  TBG was visiting FlapJilly when the physical tickets were distributed; another cyclist held on to it for him until he returned ten days later. 

They have each other's backs.

We certainly got our money's worth out of the evening.  Light hors d'oeuvres and Coke products in icy cold cans preceded the Mexican buffet which came after the entertainment.  And what entertainment there was.

These mariachis donated their time to the event.
The young voices, the heart-rending trumpets, the fingers flying over the violins.....
I was in heaven. 
UofA graduates danced, and smiled, and swung their skirts.
The four year old with the family beside us couldn't restrain herself.
Plucking at her own skirt, she twirled and whirled and smiled almost as widely as the dancers.
And then there were their male counterparts.
Folklorico seems to tell a story, and the men used their hats and their boots to entice and beguile.
But then, they danced alone.
All that blurry photography happened because they were moving so fast.
Imagine boots clomping emphatically, loud music surrounding them, and the world's biggest smiles.
I love it when a plan comes together.
New friends, a worthy cause, appropriate amusements..... Friday night had it all.
The video has no sound, so feel free to watch it at work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Meditative Walk


My Yogi spreads the love in gyms and retirement communities and community colleges all over town.  She Zumbas and cycles on stationary bikes and brings her sense of awe and joy and wonder to them all.  Her fans are people of all ages and backgrounds, bound together by one thing - we all think that she is wonderful.

She's always asked to donate her time or her hand crafted jewelry or her expertise.  She's learned how to say no with grace and dignity.  She's adopted one charity here in Tucson, and she's sticking to it.  Rather than dilute her efforts, she's put it all into one place, a group started by another yogi, her dear friend Sherri Romanoski.

Bag It! supports newly diagnosed cancer patients by providing information and a notebook and a bag to carry it all around.  Rather than leaving the physician's office with only despair and anguish and a thousand questions, Bag It! fights the fear by providing timely, sensitive, thorough facts and resources and connections. As their website describes it: A specially-designed binder provides:
  • Cross-reference guide to BAG IT publications and cancer topics/issues
  • Helpful tips for getting through treatment and beyond on each tabbed section
  • Personal information, medical history, and medication forms
  • Calendar to keep track of appointments, side effects, and/or questions
  • Place to keep copies of all labs, reports, referrals, and diagnostic testing
  • Paper to log in your questions and comments for office visits for later reference
  • Summary and follow-up care plan form
  • BAG IT evaluation
  • Instruction card for creating your own website
While I might not be ready to create my own website in the aftermath of a diagnosis, the thoughtfulness of providing "paper to log in (my) questions and comments for office visits for later reference" makes my heart swell every time I read it.  No one remembers what the doctor says.  No one pays close attention when their heads are exploding.  No one recalls that important issue flying through dreams at 3 in the morning.  Bag It! understood that and took steps to remedy the situation.  That's my kind of organization.

Once a year they put on an extravaganza at Loew's Ventana Canyon Resort.  This year, I left TBG at home with his football games.  I took Miss Vicki as my guest.  She and I have been exploring meditation as an addition to our lives; I thought she would enjoy My Yogi's morning walk through the resort's flora and fauna.  I was right.

My Yogi held a heart shaped leaf, a leaf which was lying in the pathway, waiting for her, knowing somehow that its shape was one holding a deep meaning for her.  She finds hearts everywhere.  She shares her own easily.  It's a perfect match.
She pointed out the cactus wren's nest amidst the inhospitable cholla .  Can you see the nest, right in the middle of the photograph?  It's a home amidst prickers and glochids and spikes and general unpleasantness.... yet it is home.
She saw a mother bird with a bit of food in her mouth entering the opening and disappearing within.  She drew the connection between the nest, a place of comfort and nourishment, surrounded by a hostile environment, and the journey taken by those with a diagnosis of cancer.  The outside world may be full of discomfort and inconvenience, but it can be mitigated by creating a warm and nurturing place in which to retreat, to regroup, to gather strength and energy before facing the harsh realities beyond. 

I looked up at the blue sky, at the waterfall above, and I soaked it all in. 
 I was out, with friends, exploring the natural world.
I'd walked a 5K and I was moving again the next day.
I looked into the pool at my feet, . 
 the end of the journey for the droplets which had begun above my head, and I let the connection wash over me.
The reflections drew me in, deeper and deeper.
I banished the murmuring voices nearby, breathing deeply, in and out, finding peace and ease and comfort. 
Like the gnarly, intricate, aged tree trunk we passed on our way in, my life is twisting back on itself, revisiting pieces which made me smile, getting caught on those which tripped me up, and always, at the edges, the hand of a friend.
Bag It! gets that.
 I do too.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Walking The Nut Run

Brenda Starr brought it up months ago.  She decided, with some prompting by Jon-Her-PT, that we needed to set a goal.  Watching the pedometer would take us only so far; an achievable but ambitious point on the horizon would sharpen our focus and demand that we perform.  The Pecan Festival in her small town outside Tucson was sponsoring a Nut Run, 5 kilometers through the mature pecan orchard.  Didn't I think that we could train our way up to that?  We had months to prepare... it would be fun.... Basil St. John would make t-shirts.... we'd have a team name.

Brenda Starr is quite persuasive. This should not continue to surprise me; her job requires that she have real opinions and be able to express them clearly.  Her perseverance, her refusal to take a step backwards, her smiley Of course we can do it, are qualities I admire and respect even though they end with me waking up at 6am to walk further than I'd walked since bullets perforated my hip and my thigh and my butt. 

She was persuasive.  I was panic stricken.

I was uncertain about the surface.  I was worried that it would be hot... and then I worried that it would be cold.  I couldn't find a water bottle which didn't leak when turned on its side to fit my fanny pack.  I didn't want fans watching me lumber past, following pitifully, hours after the runners had crossed the finish line.  I knew it would hurt. 

She sent me a text, then an email, then a Facebook Message, and then she called my cell phone and left a voicemail.  She never calls; we are face-to-face or words-on-the-screen communicators.  She started out confirming our plans for the morning and ended up wondering if I'd fallen off the face of the earth.

I took two deep breaths and called her back.  I admitted my ambivalence... my terror... my inability to confront it outright... and, as I'd feared, she was fearless and ready to go. Of course we can do it.

I reminded myself that I'd walked on the beach in Santa Monica last month, that I could bring my hiking sticks, that there had to be a sag wagon in case of emergency, and then I laughed at myself, picked up the gear I needed, loaded the car, set my alarm, and forgot about it... or tried to forget about it.... and then I went to sleep and woke up and ate my hard boiled egg and kissed TBG and his achy knee goodbye. 

There was a registration tent, which made Brenda Starr surprisingly happy.
T-shirts and numbers and small bags of pecans were distributed, and Basil St. John graciously ferried our loot the quarter mile back to their car.  Brenda Starr and I were saving our steps for the race course. 
We took advantage of his absence to admire our numbers.... Brenda Starr's first ever 5K number. We were standing in the queue of her first ever walking race.  This was a triumph and she knew it and I realized that while I was mourning what once was, she was celebrating what she is.

She was in the moment, reveling in what she.. what we.. had accomplished, and she was absolutely right.  I stopped moaning to myself.  It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and I was there to enjoy it.
I adjusted and readjusted my poles until they were just right.  I looked over the countryside, watching the tractors,
reading the interpretive signage describing the pecan harvest.  I hydrated as Jon-Her-PT joined us and hugged us and I stepped into his embrace because he had been absolutely right when he suggested that we set a goal. I was moving into Brenda Starr's frame of reference.  It felt great.
No matter how long it took, we would not be defeated. We would complete the course.  Our time didn't matter. We were going to walk using all of our bodies, not concentrating on the parts that weren't working quite as well as they might or as they will but it is what it is and then the guy without a microphone or a bullhorn was giving instructions and we were off. 
We weren't at the back in the beginning.  But we were there before long. 
It didn't matter.  Jon-Her-PT walked backward in front of us and corrected our form and reminded us to swing our arms and to use our abdominals and he made us laugh.  Basil St. John walked beside us, marveling at us. We followed the chalk arrows, admiring the seed pods and the blue skies and one another. 
We were four souls out for a walk in an orchard on a sunny morning.  It was perfect.
And, we finished. 


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