Nice to be Back

Is there anything nicer than being back in your own bed and your own regular wardrobe, never mind all those travel clothes you take on vacation?

After a full day’s flying home from, we both slept like the dead Sunday night and opened our eyes yesterday to a cool,  cool sun and the popcorn of cherry blossoms strung along the branches of the little tree under our window. 

I felt good all day, in part because I had not only unpacked everything as soon as we got in Sunday but also washed and ironed it all, catching up on episodes of Veep, Silicon Valley and the frightening outrageously R-rated Game of Thrones, a show that makes me want to run into the bathroom and peek only a tiny bit through the crack in the door. (And yes we DO have a TV in our bedroom, so sue me . We brought it in when I was heavy with child in 1976 and only got through the early months of that first baby’s life thanks to All in The Family, Cheers and that groundbreaking serialized drama Alex Haley’s Roots.)

I worked like crazy on my work-work and didn’t get to the Y where I do need to go since soon I’ll be doing even MORE ironing as I dig our my fashionable summer wardrobe.

school gym suits

I’m going out to that YMCA even IF the sun is not supposed to come out at all tomorrow and the temperatures are going to feel more like March than the brink of May. I learned early in life, if you want fun in your life you’d best learn how to make it yourself.

smiling-monkey

 

 Plus I always have fun at the Y. Hot Hula? You bet. I do it every week (love that sarong!) See it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greedy

IMG_3091I’ll call this one We Got Too Greedy, or else maybe Tub o’ Sludge. Here’s why:

We went on vacation, all ten family members, thinking, OK we’ll stay for the FIRST part of the week in the cool old inn with the 1940s bathrooms. Sure, the other guests there are mostly ancient, but we figured that even if one or two did chance to visit the pool, they wouldn’t mind us with our goggles and our floaties and our young ones with their fat baby limbs – and they didn’t.

And I loved that inn in Tucson and felt so sad when, on Thursday, we bid it goodbye to go to another, 21st century joint, named for the two brothers whose portrait hangs in every lobby, founders of this giant hotel chain.

There, at the J.W. Starr Pass Marriott, were ten times the number of guests, including a Medical Records Convention, a Transit Conference, and a charming gaggle of pre-teen females here with their folks (or mostly mums, really) for some sort of Trapeze Convention.

At this hotel, there are pools within pools, and a water slide, and a Lazy River, with the usual giant inflatable tubes in which you can float serenely around the perimeter of the aquatic  acreage, propelled by just enough water pressure to make a girl feel like Katherine Hepburn on the African Queen, before the part where she and ‘captain’ Humphrey Bogart get a little storm-tossed.

That first night, when we came back from dinner, however, our tub looked like this. While we were gone it had vomited up this black sludge that would not wipe away with mere towels. I called Maintenance, who came instantly and poured what looked like Muriatic Acid down the drain and strongly suggested we wait until  Housekeeping could come in the morning to truly sanitize the thing. No baths for us!

Then two of us humans began also vomiting up stuff, such that I got to spend five hours in a dark hotel room next door watching inane pre-teen programming on the Disney Channel while rubbing the back of my favorite six-year-old as he did residual gagging and spitting for 90 minutes into the room’s wastebasket, carefully lined with the plastic bag from the ice bucket – all this  while everyone else had the world’s most festive time with our brother-in-law/brother/uncle team, the ones we had come out west to see and here they are:

toby & rusty

Then, the same night it happened again with our tub. And the baby broke out in hives. And on our last full day yesterday the temperatures plunged from 90 degrees to 60 degrees and a day-long wind blew that practically sanded our faces off.

Still it was wonderful to be there and now, in two hours, we will fly the five hours home.

I will remember the clear dry air but not the sludge, and how we cherish these brothers who live here. Also I bet I will remember always how lovely it was to watch, at the pool, as 11-year-old trapeze girl, as slender as a young stalk of celery, executed an amazingly long hand stands while sipping at her lemonade upside down, through a straw – and don’t I wish I had captured an image of THAT  wondrous feat!

And also I love caring for any sick child which in any case helped me take my mind off my own sickness.

Here he is playing on my phone once he felt up to such pleasures. And here I am bidding you all Good Day as we drive to Phoenix to begin the long journey home.

gametime on the iphone

 

Skinnyman

desert day of the dead manThinkin’ about bones today. It must be this desert around me that’s doing it. 

I just love bones, the way one nudges so nicely into another; the way the fat round head of the femur nestles into the deep bowl-shaped part of the pelvis fashioned to hug it tight.

I used to keep a little dancing man of a skeleton on display in my office in the years when I practiced massage. 

He stood a good three feet tall there where he perched atop my file cabinet. You couldn’t miss him when someone opened my office door and I guess that’s why that little brother-and-sister team knocked shortly after I had arrived that one time. When I had passed them in the hallway where they were playing, they must have looked in and seen my clattery man, grinning down in that dapper little ​Mr. Bones way.

“We want to see your skeleton!” is how I remember the little boy saying breathlessly, while his sister hid herself behind him.

“Hmmm Well, I’m actually wearing my skeleton at the moment,” I replied, pretending to misunderstand.

​ “I mean it’s under my skin.”

He brushed past me and my silly joke and together with his sister entered my office.

“THAT skeleton,” he said, pointing upward.

“He’s scary,” he added gravely.

“Scary? No!“ I said back​. “These are just his bones, just like we all have.” Then I went on. I can never help going on when it comes to this topic.

“Bones do so much for us, holding us up, helping us move, providing a platform for our muscles…”

“Look at his FEET!” squealed his younger sister.

“I know​, aren’t they great, with all those tiny parts? And look at his ribs, like a perfect little birdcage, just right for protecting his heart.”

The boy swallowed hard. “Show me his skull,” he said dramatically.

“Let me see if I can lift him down then,” I answered and did so, causing the figure’s limbs to caper and sway.

The children squealed, and squeezed back toward the wall.

“And you know what the skull protects, don’t you?” I said. “The most important thing you have, which is….”

“Your BRAIN!” they both yelled together laughing, then piled back out to the hallway.

The boy dashed off then, but the girl stopped before following him, shot out one arm and waved a merry goodbye.

“My name is Terry,” I told her because we had not introduced ourselves exactly. “What’s yours?”

“Vanessa!” she shouted gleefully.

“Well then Vanessa, goodbye for now. We’ll see each other again soon, I’m sure.”

“Goodbye!” she yelled and danced away down the hallway.

And that was ​that. It was an exchange that lasted maybe five minutes, but even all this time later I still cannot think of a nicer way to have started my day. For the whole rest of the week in fact, I felt cheered and buoyed up by it, and newly conscious of all the small people present among us.

For if humanity is a forest, then we adults are its stiffly standing old trees, while they are the new ones. Self-important lot that we are, we imagine that we rule the forest. We even imagine we hold up the sky, with our barky old arms, hurrying the very clouds along to their next assignment.

But the future of any forest lies in its new growth. And the whole time we elders go on looking upward for meaning, the meaning lies below us in these tender saplings – like the ones I met that day, so bright, and limber, and trembling with that fresh young life.

Such Peace

You fly all day inside a fuselage that looks like the inside of a lobster carcass. Hour one: slow. Hour two: even slower. Hour three: are we there yet? Hour four: not yet. Hour five: and the clouds give way and the tarmac rises to meet you and at long last  you are sq-u-ee-e-e-ezed on out of the plane, slowly though, as the other passengers gather up their bags and belongings, like so much cake batter inside a pastry cone.

Then you hobble to baggage claim, find what’s yours, board a bus to the rental car center, get the vehicle and drive for another forever as the children get restless and the baby gets hives but at last  AT LAST!  the following morning you wake in this new place and its peace fills you so full you forget all but the beauty of this moment.

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First Day of the Rest of Your Life


Here we are again with another First Day of the Rest of Your Life.

Time for that lovely poem by Red Saner called Green Feathers. It’s about moss, like the kind that grows on old headstones, but it’s all about hope, this springy green stuff, not the end of hope. Listen:

Five minutes till dawn and a moist breath of pine resin comes to me as from across a lake. It smells of wet lumber, naked and fragrant. In the early air

We keep trying to catch sight of something lost up ahead, A moment when the light seems to have seen us Exactly as we wish we were.

Like a heap of green feathers poised on the rim of a cliff?

Like a sure thing that hasn’t quite happened? Like a marvelous idea that won’t work? Routinely amazing – How moist tufts, half mud, keep supposing

Almost nothing is hopeless. How the bluest potato Grew eyes on faith the light would be there. And it was.

And it was: the light was there.  Welcome new life! Alleluia!

birthday-flowers

 

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Cause of Death


angel-tombstoneAs my good friend and fellow blogger Ann Aikens posted just now on The Upper Valley Girl, “If holy weekend Passover on about death and mayhem and baffled onlookers I don’t know what is.”

I do hear that. The topic of death has me thinking today, the quiet day when the Christians world waits to see if the miracle will occur tomorrow. And I guess death is also on my mind because of a fantastic article I recently read in The New Yorker about the history of death certificates, which seem to have first originated after the huge loss of life during the Black Death in the 14th century.

Here are some of the things you could die of according to the old documents which in 17th and 18th century England were called Bills of Mortality. Back then you could be carried off by: 

  • Bleach – I almost did that once. Stuff tastes na-a-a-a-asty.
  • Cramps – had those – nasty again.
  • Itch – what torture to die of an itch!
  • Cut of the stone (hmmm)
  • Or something called Rising of the Lights. (And who doesn’t understand how daylight might affect you if you’d been to a real Rager the night before?)

According to Kathryn Schulz, the article’s author, you could also die of something called Kings Evil. (Is that Anything like droit de seigneur?)

I’ll let her tell the rest: In 17th and 18th century England

“You could succumb to Overjoy, which sounds like a decent way to go, or Be Devoured By Lice which does not. You could die of Stopping Of The Stomach, or Head Ach, or Chin Cough. You could die of Horseshoe Head but don’t ask me how.  You could die of being a Lunatick. You could die of, basically death: “Suddenly”; “Killed by Several Accidents”; “Found Dead in the Streets.”

You could also die of “Frighted” and of “Grief.”

The story in my family is that a long-ago relative died of fright in the 1870s some time after a bunch of boys dressed as ghosts dangled themselves outside her bedroom window. She was 13. 

Another ancestor died of ‘Dropsy’. I know that because it says so right on her death certificate though I can’t say I know what Dropsy is.

What we really need to know is WHY someone died. As the author writes “we want to know if a loved one suffered or was at peace, or if her death was meaningful, or whether we could have prevented it, or how the universe could have permitted it at all. ” On these questions, she goes on to say, “the death certificate is mute. “instead it provides the pathological basis of death, determined by some combination of fact, convention and guesswork, and described in terms that most non-doctors struggled to understand.”

My Uncle Ed’s death certificate lists a heart condition. Because the circumstances were so painful I know that they were only guessing about that, but there it is. They were wrong about the time of death too. They wrote down the date when I found him but I could tell because I knew him so well and knew his patterns that he had died someplace between 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock the evening before.

The author concludes this article by underlining the fact that all a death certificate does is try to explain WHY we die. “But when we are in the pitch of grief – or for that matter in the full sunshine of joy – what form, what blank, what cause, final, immediate, or underlying could possibly answer that question to anyone’s satisfaction. Why do we die? We die because we were born; because we are mortal….”

But on a day as glorious as this just ending do we rely believe WE will ever die? Are we not the stable central cast of characters around whom other characters briefly flit and visit? No, alas, we are not. And one day our names too will be placed on a form and filed with the state.

 

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I’m Goin’ With It

Yesterday saw such a tropical wind-driven rain around here that people’s hairdos were all over the place.

My own hair, curly by nature anyway, was practically in the next county – EVEN THOUGH I had duly blown it dry and flat-ironed the daylights out of it, as is my custom.

The moisture in the air, driven by strong spring winds, was so extreme the TV reporters on scene all over the area were apologizing for their coifs. They looked like the utterly bedraggled news anchors in the first Batman movie, remember? After Jack Nicholson’s Joker poisons the makeup supply to give people that same frozen smirk he has? I don’t have a still image of the funny cameo when you see a pair in the days afterward, on camera without their usual buffing up, but let’s say they – and all of us yesterday – looked like Sofia Vergera on one of those mean ‘Celebrities WIth No Makeup’ sites:

sofia vergara w & w out makeup

(Hard to believe that even IS the hot Latin wife from Modern Family, huh? “Mahnny! Dj’you loook so haaaandsome!” )

When I got home last night my hair was so wildly tentacled I decided to do something new: I decided to stop fighting it. I put it in a few small rollers and 20 minutes later it looked like  this. 

curly again

I’m thinking of going with it. All these years I’ve had this curly hair, why NOT set it free at long last? I’m no Sofia Vergara to begin with and thank the good Lord for that.