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Gratitude of a Sunday

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure that you are.”  Mary Jean Iron

I don’t know if I appreciate the common everyday enough.  Too often I get caught up in the irksome and the irritating- a spilled cup of coffee on the computer desk before dawn or the third, then fourth trip to the barn to treat an equine eye injury that refuses to heal, cold winds agitating a sinus infection until my teeth ache and I finish the job in a sour mood, which is fair to no one.

It’s time for me to make a list of the things that are good, because there are so many.

A phone call from my daughter.  I can remember calling my own mother at the same age but waiting until the rates were lower in the evenings.  Daytime phone calls at a quarter a minute long distance were not in our budget 25 years ago!  I’m grateful for long phone conversations without a meter running.

My garden is sprouting.  Yes, I had to blanket the broccoli and cauliflower for the third time this week but I can see little sprouts of mesclun, beets and carrots, too.  I’m glad our community has garden plots available.

I have a cat on my lap as I type.  How on earth did we get so lucky? A social, active, blue eyed Siamese cat was waiting at the Humane Society and we love Siamese cats.  Man of Action has been a delight.

We saw a blizzard in Southern Arizona this week.  I don’t like cold weather but I cannot remember ever seeing a heavy snowstorm during the day, ever.

My son is healthy and working.  And he has health care for the next 24 months under our plan.   Pre-existing conditions and all that- but for now, he’s got good medical care.  I’m glad he’s here to help around the house- and his sense of humor makes things much merrier.

Downtown Abbey on DVD.  The clothes, the house, the scandals.  And the subtitles- I’m grateful I can follow along more easily.

A bowl of kumquats.  I root pruned the little kumquat tree, fed it and put it on the porch away from the scorching sun and it has rewarded us with bowls of fruit with rinds full of sweet citrus oils and tart pulp.   Not to everyone’s taste, but the tree is hardier than the rest of the citrus trees.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather this week- and hope you have something to look forward to as well.

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A chilly view from our desert yard.   The hummingbird feeders had to be placed on the patio table as the Costa’s and Anna’s hummingbirds were unable to dine as the snow continued to fall and block the openings.

The Ghost in the Machine

He passed without fanfare, with those he loved by his side. There was no funeral and certainly not a will.  My only inheritance was the small, tan box of cuff links my sister retrieved from his Florida apartment, the same leather box that sat on his dresser when we were growing up in Pittsburgh.   That house is far away in time and distance.  The dresser is gone, too, lost in the fire that cremated my brother’s possessions.  But I have that token of my father’s existence, the contents of the box memorized  years ago. A political button. Silver cuff links. A pair with his initials engraved, a wedding gift from my mother.  I recalled that a heavy lead bullet was tucked in among the jewelry and when I opened the lid for the first time in forty years, there it was.  Ignorant of much having to do with guns, I assumed it was from World War II.  My son corrected me, saying it was from the Civil War.

I wish I could ask my dad how it came into his possession.  But I can’t.  Not ever.  

I long for his voice, the conversations we had, the jokes he always told at the end of every weekly phone conversation.  My battered, ancient cell phone contains a precious voice message he sent after our last visit together.  Efforts were made to retrieve the message but it proved impossible.   The phone is an embarrassment to me each time I pull it out of my purse to take a call, chipped and scratched and hopelessly quaint when compared to the smartphones others are carrying.  But his voice is in there, when I need to listen.

Where did you go, Dad?

“Faith is a gift,” he once stated to me when I was eleven and doubting everything.   We both fell away from our Catholic upbringings, which failed to provide either the solace or the answers we demanded.  Two apostates, one left behind to wonder about the ultimate mystery.

No funeral, no wake, no memorial bench in a park or commemorative brick outside a stadium to note that my father lived on this earth.   Nothing tangible, besides a few photographs and a box of cuff links that wouldn’t fetch twenty dollars at a pawn shop.

Is it disturbing to crave contact with the dead? I seek some message, some hint, some bit of remembrance.   Sitting at the computer, trying to find any tidbits of my father’s oft mysterious life, searching court records, property documents, websites of the companies where he was employed in a futile attempt to reconnect with the person who died, the dad I loved.

The internet presented a gift.  Newspaper archives.   The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  Glorious day! He was a reporter and I combed page after scanned page looking for his byline.  

There it was.  And there it was again.  He covered fires.  And movie stars.  Politicians and projects.   He even was the subject of several articles himself.  

Russell Baker once wrote, ” Serious journalism not not be solemn”.  Indeed.  I found one of my dad’s entries. “386 Degrees In The Shade”.   He reported it and it was true.  Students were matriculating on an overcast day and he was among them, both as reporter and a journalism graduate.

He was old school until the end, convinced that newsprint and ink would never pass.  He railed against online writing, although I think he’d be more astonished than I was when I discovered in the google archives that his old columns resurrected themselves in electronic form.   He died, but his writing refused to do so.

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Project Time

Project Time

Using bags of broken pottery found on clearance at a local antique mall, I’m either making progress or making a mess. I’ll know for sure when the grout goes on in a few more days.

The Quiet Corner

Dogs are wise.  They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.”  Agatha Christie.

I live in The Shire.

Gandalf thankfully is not rapping at my door, which at this point in my life means, No Plot.   I’m living an ordinary life, one where nobody is whispering or gushing about my style or my cooking or my flair for the dramatic.  

I need a bit of a nudge in that direction.  Some self impose that by making resolutions at the start of the year.

Hey, halfway through the month and here I am.  Nothing resolute.

I look back at 2012 and think, Whew.  Thank God it was so boring.

Nobody died.  In 2011, I lost three family members in rapid succession, cutting down the number of close living relatives to the fingers on my right hand.  The odd part was that each loss occurred while  traveling.  I’d land,  turn on my phone, then get the message no one wants to hear.  It made me a bit paranoid about getting on following flights, so I scaled back on the travel to just one trip.

The time for magical thinking was over, I scolded myself and booked a flight with my husband for a cheesy Hawaiian anniversary experience.  A real honest to God vacation.  My bags were packed.  We landed.  No messages or texts.  Hooray.  Curse broken.  Break out the muu muus and mai tais.

A day later I received a text with a curious picture of my brother’s condo as we stood sweating in line at Pearl Harbor. I put on my reading glasses to get a better look. Did he just put a cover over his patio? What were those black two by fours? Damn my outdated phone with its postage stamp sized screen.  What was I looking at?

It was the ceiling of what remained of his home.  The unit next door to his exploded and the entire building went up in flames while he was at work.  He lost everything, including his beloved kitties.  It sucked.  Calls of support were made back and forth and I had trouble enjoying the tropical landscape, my mind back in the Midwest.

I’ve been slow to schedule this year’s vacation.  Who knows what surprises will be at the end of our next flight?

In 2011I nearly lost a fourth family member, my son.  Beaten and robbed of everything, without medical insurance, in a distant city where he worked.   The situation was scary and complicated.  I flew thousands of miles to pick up my traumatized offspring and drive his aged vehicle, bringing him home to heal.  I learned new things, things I wish I didn’t have to know. As the mother of an adult, I still had the ability to call and get his birth certificate replaced, and from that one document, we were able to replace the rest.  I got a grant to cover the CAT scans of his head, his neck,his torso, the repairs to his face, the week in the hospital.  I didn’t know about getting grants.  I do now.

“Ordinary day, let me be aware of the wonder that you are.”

Over a year has separated me from the nightmarish call in the middle of that night.  Time heals.  Not my face- lines erupted overnight, stress etching itself around my eyes and mouth.   But the more good experiences, the more days our son is back at work, the more evenings we have dinner together, the more I heal.

I fell from a horse this summer when he shied, breaking ribs, cursing myself for being foolish, so foolish, as to get on my husband’s sweet but spooky gelding.

I didn’t want to get back on after the six weeks of mending. The memory of the pain was just too great.  I was traumatized, just as I was after the incident with my son.

I started back slowly.  Just…brushing a rescue horse.  Leading her around.  Marveling at her quiet temperament and lack of height.  Not so far to fall if I indeed came off again. Clutching my stomach that was in knots, taking a deep breath and sitting in the saddle, my husband holding the horse’s halter like I was a child at a state fair pony ride.

I’m quietly building a small set of good experiences with horses, overriding, if you will pardon the pun, the bad.

I’m in the saddle again. I needed a quiet peaceful place to reflect on what hurt, what heals and how to move forward again.  I needed the respite of time, boring ordinary time.

I’m back at the keyboard as well.

The Blog Sloth

30 pictures, thirty days… but someone forgot to tell me that I’d be reliving the trauma of nearly a year ago.  If I were to be reincarnated as an animal, it would be a deer. A deer with a panicked look on its face, trying to figure out why there’s suddenly hard grey footing with a yellow stripe running down the middle. Trouble looming at me at 55 miles a hour? I freeze in place.  Not the best coping mechanism for cervids or humans.

I froze.  The good news? I’m tucked into an obscure corner of the internet.  I have the freedom to thaw out slowly.

But I did a foolish thing.  So foolish.  After a night of my brain refusing to sleep, refusing to drop the matter at hand and let me rest, along with intestines that screamed, Crisis! We must evacuate! every half hour, I was exhausted and foggy headed.

Don’t do what I did the next day.  Hop on a horse.

My sweet gelding had to be put to sleep in May. Milagro was the most ordinary looking horse, a chestnut like tens of thousands of stocky red horses.  He didn’t know much and he was terrified of farriers and it was up to me to do an inexpert job of keeping his hooves filed.  But that horse never minded my fears and insecurities.  Riding him with my friends down a wash lined with cottonwood trees was one of the greatest joys of my life.  Putting him down was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

I bought another horse.  A good horse.  But not a match for me.  I sold him within two months.  We moved my husband’s horse to another barn where I thought I could make a fresh start, learn new things.

My husband’s horse is beautiful. And when people describe their horses as beautiful first and foremost, chances are very good there’s something else about that animal.  And there is.  He looks like Black Beauty but he’s spooky as hell.  Kind- not a mean bone in his body, but the least thing can make him do The Time Warp.  “It’s just a jump to the left”.  He springs like a cat when scared.

New barn means strange surroundings, strange horses, strange smells.  The horse is amazingly good for my husband, the animal magnet.  He’s cheerful and confident and his horse picks up on that.

I am wrung out, scared and tired.  And the horse picked up on that, too.  I was such a mess my husband thought that maybe 15 minutes in the arena, going around in a safe area, might take my mind off of matters.

I got my helmet. Shortened the stirrups. Led the horse to the mounting block.  And noticed immediately that he was on edge.  My husband was sitting on a step stool in the arena and as we circled counterclockwise the horse caught sight of my husband in what appeared to be a crouching position.  And he did what he does when afraid.

He went one way.  I went the other.  The next thing I remember was gasping in the gravel, mumbling nonsensically “I can’t move, I can’t move…!” as I waved my arms and legs in the dirt.

I didn’t hit my head, but my shoulders, ribs and hip took a hard hit.  So did my confidence in riding horses.

The combination of worry and pain and discouragement has not made for a pleasant month.  I refuse to remain in the doldrums.  I pulled out my watercolor supplies and I am getting back to work at my art table. I miss my friends and my sweet old horse- but I called to see if volunteers are needed at a therapeutic riding facility.  They are.

Life is settling down into a quiet rhythm once again.  When the rib cage pain fades, I’ll start back up again, in lessons, on a quiet school horse.

In the meantime, here is a picture of the horse I fell off of.Image

Photo a day “One”

For only one morning, a cactus in our yard produces one single, spectacular bloom.  Image

30 Days- Day One- Outside

I was here a few weeks ago.  Did all the usual touristy things.   Rode the train at the Dole Plantation. Went to a luau.  Watched crowds, parades, fireworks and boat races from our balcony om Waikiki Beach.  Toured Pearl Harbor and thought of my father the history buff and wished he could have visited during his lifetime.  Discovered that Honolulu’s traffic is vile enough to test even the most solid of marriages.

But- those island breezes.   Fruit stands on the north side of the island.  The red eye home was worth every minute.Image