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I know I promised Canada, and will deliver on said promise, but today the Front Range was so lovely, I just had to share. I worked late last night, not getting home until 1:00 a.m., and only falling into a fitful sleep between 4:15 and 7:15. Throughout the night, I heard rain, which was a becalming sound. Being a woman who takes short 45-second private tropical vacations because of my internal magma, I continue to have the bedroom window open a few inches, even in the sub-zero nights, so last night, I listened to the comfort of rain falling on the dead leaves of the evil Chinese elm tree, and the long slow soothe of a freight train whistle a few miles up the road. I tried to remember what the whistle signals meant, as my father gave me a document long ago that explained the whistle “morse code” that engineers used. The grey of the morning wore off, MKL arrived, we bought a lovely little Christmas tree, saw some llamas, sheep, goats, and BMWs, braved the weirdness of WalMart, went out for coffee and listened to the bluegrass jam session at the East Simpson Coffee Shop.

I changed the sheets, cleaned the bathroom (not enough), watched an episode of “Sherlock” on PBS. I had a baked potato, having decided (in a rather numb-nut fashion) to stop eating sugar and flour now, just before Christmas celebrations. After all, it’s 10 weeks to Costa Rica.

Now, I am cuddled with Mr. Man, trying to adjust to how my body has  been today, how my spirit has been today, on the 10th anniversary of my Mother’s death. As I have said before, I can instantly place myself  back in each moment of the nine days that I was with her up to her passing – and the terrible days afterwards. I physically hurt, and have shed tears a few times when talking to MKL, who is extra adorable, because he never fails to have a handkerchief handy for me to dry my tears.

While I only occasionally have visitation dreams from people who have passed on, it is clear when they occur. I would love to have my Mother visit me, and it has happened only twice in all these years, except for this year, when she stopped by every night for about four days, as she was poised to assist a friend to the next place. No matter how much I want her to come to me in my dreams, she doesn’t. It’s a hard thing for me to understand, but I know it’s in both of our best interests. Still, it adds a caul to the sadness that I feel for the loss of her, which is there daily, but more potent on anniversaries. I cried through the parent/child dance at the wedding I catered last night. I haven’t done that in many years.

But today was a good day, a beautiful day, and I know that would make her happy, as it made me happy, even with the ache throbbing in my heart to the beat of the bluegrass.

20161211_124006-cropBoulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “There is something about losing your mother that is permanent and inexpressable – a wound that will never quite heal.” — Susan Wiggs

Daily gratitude:
The smell of the little Christmas tree lot
Today’s clouds
Siting a bald eagle in flight
Clean sheets
The seasonal reappearance of the Santa Hat

 

 

 

Poinsettias are usually not classified as things that last, but this one, scanty as it may appear, is special. It is ten years old. My boss gave it to me when I got back from ushering my Mother through her death. It was awkward, she said, because it was Christmas, and she wanted to give me flowers, but…it was Christmas, so she gave me a poinsettia. She was my boss then, ten years ago, and after the twisting, turning roads of the corporate world, she is my above boss-boss at my current company.

Poinsettias usually only last a season. And they are toxic to cats. This one has lasted a decade, and Mr. Man has had no problems with it. It is special. It represents my Mother. These were her last days, ten years ago, and I was with her every minute. It is a difficult time for me. As I have said each year, I live through every moment on some subconscious level. This year, with the turmoil of the election and the issues that it has raised for many women, myself included, I have found myself reliving other tragic and traumatic incidents from my past, owning them, writing about them (and wondering if I should make these writings public) and trying to let them find their place in my soul. It is not a peaceful process, but it will have a peaceful outcome. Every memory, sweet or agonizing, is and always will be, a lasting part of me.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” — H.G. Wells

Daily gratitudes:
Helping others
Fellow nasty women
Seeing MKL for the first time in three days
My giant coat on bitter cold days
That tickle of courage when I look at terrifying events of my past

 

 

We are preparing for Thanksgiving here in America. In our houses, that means that MKL is replacing toilets, scrubbing floors, and vacuuming carpets, because he is hosting this year. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a small family thing, sometimes with guests in the morning or early afternoon, a few paper decorations around the house, football, and just the four of us for supper, which was always a traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (that my Dad made), gravy, and pumpkin pie (again, from my Dad). With MKL, the family is sons and parents and sisters and nieces and grand-nieces – maybe 13 people. This will be the first year that Kelsea hasn’t been home for Thanksgiving. She’s staying in Washington and, I think, hosting other Thanksgiving “orphans” at her house. Perhaps I will coach her on cooking a turkey, as my Mother coached me, during countless phone calls, when I made my first one, which was just for my Dad and me when I was a senior in college. We had Thanksgiving dinner on a coffee table on the red-shag carpeted floor of my little attic studio in a house long gone in Boulder. That was a very happy Thanksgiving.

In these times of political turmoil in our country, it is nice to have an occasion to try to bring families together. Our differences are so intense, and in some cases, unforgiveable, that togetherness may not be possible for everyone. Politics today is not something that just matters during elections – and while that has never been the case, we have been passive in our approach to it, up until now, when many are finding the need to exercise their freedom to speak and finding their voices. I hope that all individuals can find something to give thanks for this week, regardless of our differences.

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Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The most important political office is that of private citizen.” — Louis D. Brandeis

Daily gratitudes:
Doing the right thing
My current read
A hot bath
A beautiful day
The cooing of iridescent pigeons

I remember December 25, 1996. Kelsea was 24 days old. We put her next to us on the floor as we unwrapped Christmas presents, and suddenly couldn’t find her, because we’d accidentally covered her with wrapping paper (a.k.a., glee debris). We immediately uncovered her, and she was happy as a little clam the whole time. That was a lovely Christmas day, full of family (because family comes where the baby is), and fireplaces, and good brunch, and cuddling, and naps.

The next day, we went to the House Up Top, since we had a second house in Black Hawk at the time. I remember sitting in the big taupe faux suede recliner, holding my baby girl, and watching the news about JonBenet Ramsey. I’ll never forget that…my little girl in my arms, while hearing about another little girl, blonde and beautiful like my own, whose life was snatched away at age six. It chilled my heart and made me hold her a little tighter.

I worked in Boulder. I had gone to school there. I had lived on The Hill. I had walked by that house. Boulder, at the time, felt small and safe. I walked everywhere alone at night without a qualm. People who lived there at the time were still at that six degrees of separation level. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone…you get the picture. An acquaintance was the stepdaughter of the District Attorney. Everyone was hearbroken. Everyone had an opinion on the case. Everyone followed every development. Everyone thought the police were totally out of their league. This sort of thing never happened in Boulder.

As a new mother, I felt for the Ramseys. I had my own opinions about the case, still do to this day, best left unsaid except to my closest confidantes. The Ramsey’s sold the house, they moved away. The city changed the street number of the house, because once it sold, it still garnered so many looky-looers that the new owners couldn’t take it. It became an albatross in the real estate market. And the Patsy Ramsey died of her recurring cancer. John Ramsey started a new life, and good for him. Patsy and JonBenet are buried side by side in Georgia.

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JonBenet Ramsey, age 4 or 5-ish

I know it has been 20 years since this happened, an anniversary. But I am disgusted by the massive amount of attention that the media is taking in this case, starting last month, and no doubt continuing through the year’s end. Maybe it’s only been three shows and some new stories, but I feel they’ve been constantly repeated for weeks. It’s all about ratings, I guess. I know that a lot of people who are in Boulder now weren’t there then, but for those of us who were, having such pieces be promoted (I haven’t been able to watch them) dredges up sorrow and pain that it has taken years to settle uncomfortably with. Maybe even by writing this, I’m giving validity to those bringing up old wounds, but I had to say my piece.

None of these exposes and “new” investigations are going to identify her killer. Nothing will bring her back. I think it’s time that we all let JonBenet rest peacefully. Whoever killed her will have to live with her blood on their hands until their last breath. After 20 years, that is, I think, punishment enough. Let’s not punish her spirit, and the rest of us who live with the memories.

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Kelsea at age 4 or 5

 

 

 

Walking into this rail car at the Colorado Railroad Museum was like stepping into a home from the past. I come from a line of men with a love for the rails. My great-grandfather’s journal from when he criss-crossed the country time and again as a very young man working on different rail lines in the early 1900s is one of my treasured possessions and provides a glimpse into a time that has faded into the last century and a man I never met, but whom I’ve always considered my guardian angel. And now I’m married to a man who has always loved railroads. I think my grandfather would approve.

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Golden, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “…some hours later they were down
at the railroad tracks
standing close together by the switch lights. The huge night moved overhead
scattering drops of itself.” — Anne Carson

Daily gratitudes:
A day with only a few tears
Dogs
Scents that spark memories
Cloudless days
MKL
A tidier yard
Messaging with Kelsea

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Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the day: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” — Ansel Adams

Daily gratitudes:
Thunder
Afternoon light
That Mr. Man knows when I need cuddles
MKL
Ceiling fans and that the blades have never flown off and decapitated me

 

This red chair was a the very top of a very long, very steep, very creaky staircase in the World’s Wonder View Tower. From these windows, you could (supposedly) see six states – Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota. How that was ever determined is a mystery to me, but I liked the idea very much. It reminded me of when my parents took us to a point in North Carolina where you could stand in three states at the same time. I believe that was easier to determine due to surveyors, though that makes it sound far less romantic. The Tower is closed now, the owner having passed away, and the thousands of bizarre pieces of memorabilia contained therein auctioned off. I’m so glad I have a few images – and memories.

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Genoa, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The sky had never seemed so sky; the world had never seemed so world.” — Neil Gaiman

Daily gratitudes:
Kelsea
Progress in the garden
Tidying
Sweet tea
Trying to feel comfortable feeling unsettled

It’s not a bad thing, but that’s the closest phrase I can find to describe it.

My daughter is in North Carolina. In my hometown. And I’m not there. I guess that shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s actually very cool, and I’m so happy she’s there. She was texting me today from Duke, from the library where my Mother used to work. She stopped by to see one of my parents’ dearest friends. She went to the Chapel, and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. While she had been to Durham several times before my parents died, she was very small then. She and I spent two nights there when we were on the EAR, and I took her everywhere I could think of and told her as many of my memories as I could. Today, she made some of her own memories. She said it felt weird that I wasn’t there. But then, that’s growing up.

She is such a part of me in every way. I told her the first time she travelled without me and just with her Dad, that there is a very thin silver thread that connects our two hearts, and that no matter how far apart we are, that thin silver thread will always be there. It stretches to infinity, and yes, perhaps, beyond. We both remember this always. I felt it so strongly today. Having her, one who is literally a piece of me, in a place that holds and that shaped so much of my spirit, made me feel as if somehow I was there. It certainly made me feel as if I weren’t all here, in my body, in Colorado. It was such a queer feeling. It has yet to entirely subside. But as I say, it’s not a bad thing. Just very curious.

This is a window in my Father’s library – actually, the Divinity School Library, which will always be my Father’s no matter who the librarian may be. This window itself, the glass, the latch, the tree outside – it’s all the same as when I was a little girl. I can remember how much I liked opening and closing these latches. They felt old. And I felt powerful. It seemed like an appropriate image for today, the dusty glass opening onto a bright new world.

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Durham, North Carolina

Quote of the day: “Even when we’re apart, we’ll be looking at the same sky!” — L.J. Smith

Daily gratitudes:
Small clouds that float lower than storm clouds
MKL
When the people in the office across the way wave hello
Peonies
A newly graded alley (I think)

When I was little, my father would say my prayers with me every night. He would start, with “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, that familiar prayer that was a staple of so many childhoods. But he altered the words “If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.” I suspect he found it to be an unthinkable thought, and didn’t want us to think it as we went to sleep. Our version was “All through the night, may angels spread protecting wings above my bed.” I still find that prayer a comfort, along with the spontaneous ones I now have as an adult.

Our world needs many prayers these days. Tonight, I am sending special prayers to the people in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. 53,000 people have been evacuated from that city due to an explosive wildfire. The fire has moved into the city. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed. There is no more gas in the city. People are running out of gas and getting stuck in traffic, or by the side of the road, as flames move ever closer.

May I say, as I listen to radio coverage from Edmonton, and phone interviews with high school seniors, fire chiefs, and other citizens, that everyone sounds so calm and polite and well-spoken and pragmatic that it just makes me want to hug them all. Or go be a Canadian.

We in Colorado, particularly those  in the Colorado Springs area, went through a similar disaster a few years ago. I remember watching live coverage on the news, and truly, it looked like my vision of  hell. The earth and the people still hold the scars. Here, we pray for enough snowpack to help prevent wildfires, but not so much as to cause floods such as the devastating one we experienced in 2013.

So tonight, and tomorrow, and likely the next day, please join me in saying a prayer for the people of Fort McMurray and the brave firefighters and first responders who risk their lives to help keep others’ lives intact. And if you’re otherwise inclined, a little rain dance wouldn’t hurt.

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Iglesia de San Miguel, Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the day: “The way sadness works is one of the strange riddles of the world. If you are stricken with a great sadness, you may feel as if you have been set aflame, not only because of the enormous pain, but also because your sadness may spread over your life, like smoke from an enormous fire. You might find it difficult to see anything but your own sadness, the way smoke can cover a landscape so that all anyone can see is black. You may find that if someone pours water all over you, you are damp and distracted, but not cured of your sadness, the way a fire department can douse a fire but never recover what has been burnt down.”   — Lemony Snicket

Daily gratitudes:
MKL’s eyes
A beautiful day
How green can fill my eyes
One working lawnmower in the family
The toddler playing in the dancing waters with her golden retriever trying to bite the streams

 

Mugs
Some days I want to drink my coffee
From a mug that reminds me of my mother.
It’s one on permanent loan from
The work kitchen of a now-defunct employer.

It’s gentle curves are like a mug my mother gave me,
A fine sheen, ivory and green, embossed with seashell art.
I lost that in the divorce, along with many things,
And drawers and cabinets full of pain and dead dreams.

My mother doesn’t know anything about that.
She died before it happened.
I often wonder
What she would think of me,
My life,
My choices,
Now.

But this curved mug
Is brown and green and embossed with trees
Like the ones my mother loved so much.

One of my favorite images is of her
Hugging a pine tree
In Rocky Mountain National Park.

So when I fill
The mug that reminds me of my mother,
With Folger’s crystals like my father used to drink,
It is as if I am having a small cup of coffee with my parents
Each morning.

That is a very fine way to start the day.

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Denver, Colorado. (This is my alternative mug, purchased for
me by MKL. I love it.)

Quote of the day: “I am the way a life unfolds and bloom and seasons come and go and I am the way the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.” – Charlotte Eriksson

Daily gratitudes:
The flat fall of Snowmaggdon
Favorite movies on a snow day
A super snuggly cat
Experimental eggs
Having a warm spot on a cold day

 

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