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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

 

Today was my first semi-normal day since the flood. I was back in the office, and had a lot to do and wasn’t as freaked out as I was on Monday. So that’s all yay. I did take a Xanax last night before going to bed, so I slept better and my anxiety level was pretty low. Since I’ve never taken anything like that, it felt like going on a first date – you just don’t know how it’s going to go. Will it work out? Or will you be miserably uncomfortable? I’m glad it was a good experience, but I don’t wish to date Xanax regularly. I just want normal back – even if it’s a new normal.

The FEMA inspector/adjuster comes tomorrow morning, so we’ll see what happens next. The flood insurance adjuster has yet to send the paperwork we need to complete, though he did send a sample of what the completed form should look like (uh, dude?) Family comes in tomorrow to help ex-Pat with house stuff, which is good. I’m sure it will be nice for him to have his brother with him.

The ick part of today was the rainclouds. Where I am in my office, I am not next to a window, but if I stand up in my little cube, I can see the wall of windows to the outside world. However, I don’t have to stand up to see when it’s getting gray out. I can just tell by the slight variation in the light in the room. And as soon I saw the clouds today, I got cold sweats. In case I haven’t mentioned it, that’s one of the attractive ways that my el weirdo anxiety is manifesting. Any element over which I have no control that triggers thoughts of the flood also triggers clammy, cold sweats. Uber attractive.

And a sky that looks like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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really does a number on me right now. 

There have been a lot of poignant stories coming out of Boulder, of rescues and passings, of good and the kindness of strangers. I have always been impressed with the true character of Coloradoans, but never moreso than now.  Even though I, like so many others here, am a transplant, I’ve been here long enough to take root, and I’m so proud of my State.  As we unbury our treasures, and dry our tears and our carpets, as those lost souls who were unaccounted for continue to be found, keep us in your prayers.

Quote of the day: “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.” — Edward Abbey

Daily gratitudes:
Seeing MKL today
Work
Mr. Man
My cozy, dry house
The chirping of crickets
That Kelsea had a successful, super-long drive yesterday

 

 

It is a lovely day here. No rain, not even a drop. There is still debris in a lot of places – trees, boards, roots, and parts of people’s lives. But those lives are moving on, forward, ahead, and towards the next thing.

In the case of my half-house, the next thing is how quickly ex-Pat can get a new water heater, because apparently, when he has to scape the mud off the top of the water heater, the insurance adjuster considers it a total loss. And that’s one of those important things for doing dishes and showering. They cleaned out the last room yesterday, and I have lost a lot of photos and slides, which makes me very sad, but I’m hoping there is some way of salvaging them.

My anxiety levels are still super-high, but a little bit better this morning. The eye doctor, much as I love her, didn’t help by telling me that I have some pre-cataract thing in my left eye (seriously, body, how old do you think you are??????), so that added to the anxiety-cold-sweat-o-meter today. MKL says he will still love me if I go blind, and he has fabulous descriptive powers, and cataracts are surgically fixable. So. Yea.

I think I will try one of my newly prescribed Xanax before bed.  As I say, a beautiful life goes on.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Loss carves out a deep, hollow pocket. There’s no magical way to fill it, no medicine or Band-Aid or surgery to cure it. I suppose that over time you get used to it, but the feeling never totally goes away. And the more time you spend on earth, the more pockets you’ll collect. But it’s part of living. It’s life.” — Suzanne Selfors

Daily gratitudes:
Improvements
The little girl with the “Where the Wild Things Are Umbrella” as big as she was
My fluffy Mr. Man
MKL’s support
Peace
The sound of the ocean waves

 

 

It has been a very difficult few days here in Boulder County. As you’ve probably heard, unless you’ve been under a rock, we have had rain and flooding of biblical proportions. I have lived in and around Boulder for over 30 years now and have never seen anything like it. Have never felt anything like it. The closest I have experienced was in spring of 1995, when I cut a business trip to Philadelphia short to come home and hope that I still had a house. The flight attendant gave me a bottle of champagne, saying I could drink it to celebrate if I did, and to drown my sorrows if I didn’t.

I did. I still had my little white house surrounded by lilacs on the banks of Coal Creek. It’s still my house in name and mortgage payment, but now ex-Pat and Kelsea live there with the menagerie of two big dogs (Roscoe and Champ) and two yellow cats (Dusty and Mel). I left five years ago on Halloween, taking very little with me but a lot of hope and fear and pain.

The little white house has a very special place in my heart. Ex-Pat hasn’t taken good care of it and that makes me very sad. But it’s still my little house with its giant fireplace and knotty pine walls and huge lilac bushes. And the gentle sound of Coal Creek, sometimes trickling at the bottom of the 20-foot bank, but more often dry. Not something you would ever expect to see raging.

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That shot was from today. Kelsea took a video yesterday that I wish I could share, but I can’t figure out how to embed it.

When Coal Creek flooded yesterday, I was worried. I was calling them constantly, checking on the status. They had received notice to evacuate at 5:00 pm. Pat chose to ignore that. (That’s Pat.) But in one of my check-in calls, he told me that the water was coming in under the kitchen door, more and more of it. It was ankle-deep in the old part of the house (which is an old mining cabin from 1910, with no foundation but dirt.) The root cellar under the kitchen floor, which houses the furnace and the water heater, was full of water, up to the top of its stairs. They started gathering things to leave, even though the bridge by the house was completely submerged by floodwaters. Kelsea’s voice broke as she asked me if I had a digital copy of the picture of her and her Grandma that she keeps on her wall.

They loaded things into the truck. They put the dogs on leashes. They put the cats (fighting and hissing) into the carriers. And then waited a little more. The waters stopped getting deeper and just sat there. And then they started to recede, to vanish, to soak into the carpets and floors and anything sitting on them. They stayed on the couch and watched movies, since they still had power, water, and cable. And the waters were gone. The creek backed down. The huge backyard stopped looking like an ocean. They were all right.

It was so painful to not be there. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. It felt like when my Mother was dying, except I couldn’t be there. It showed me my need to be in control, to be fixing things, and you can’t be in control of or fix a flood. I was breaking, for my daughter, for my animals, for my little house, for the things I left behind – heirlooms from my great-grandmother, that I left so that Kelsea’s home would not feel so strange after her mother left. So much of some many hard things coming back to haunt me.

I watched the news until 2:00 am, waiting for a 30-foot wall of water that fortunately never came. I slept fitfully by MKL (who had the flu, my poor baby, but I was so incredibly glad that he was there) for a few hours, waking to find that my bus route was shut down and travel was inadvisable, so I worked from home. At the end of the day, I drove over to ex-Pat’s.

The downstairs was a wreck.

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Friends from down the street and Niece #1 came to help. We moved furniture, pulled up the rugs, dragged them outside. Sadly, I lost some books that I’d had for 30 years. We worked for a few hours, mopping over and over again to get rid of the mud and leaves and dirt. The house has flood insurance, a requirement of the mortgage, so ex-Pat is trying to get the claims person to come out. He is concerned about mold from all the damp, and the water was pretty toxic. But the house still stands. For now.

The rain stopped enough for clean up efforts to get underway, but it’s supposed to rain more tonight and on Sunday. The creek rose two feet in the last hour I was there. However, the house is on the high side of the bank, and the flooding last night was more caused by the city unwisely opening a spillway at the back side of the town. Hopefully, they heard enough harsh words for that decision today to keep them from repeating it.

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It could have been so much worse. So many in Boulder County have lost everything. Beautiful little towns like Lyons are cut off from the world, with residents having been evacuated by the National Guard. People have lost their lives. This experience again makes me examine my relationship with and attachment to “things”, something I have ruminated on for many, many years. I don’t think I’m ready to write about that yet. But I will in a while. Right now, I am still coming off the shock and fear and surreality of the last couple of days, feeling a wee bit of PTSD, and hoping that the sunshine will stick around for a while.

This was the 100 year flood that was way overdue. Meteorologists say that it was so bad, it probably won’t happen again for 1,000 years. I know that, either way, I am glad I won’t be around to see it again.

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Three Yellow Balloons (For Boston)

Three yellow balloons drifted away.
This city that took much of my naiveté
Lost some of its own innocence today.

My old city shines and celebrates.
This day is a vacation day, a play day.
Everyone is your new friend,
The chill of a New England winter
finally shaken off our shoulders.

Music plays at the bandstand,
And the Charles sparkles with
Little jewels from the sun.

It is Race Day.

Runners start far away, but still
the streets are lined with people,
cheering on strangers.

We set up chairs on the roof of a brownstone,
Bask in the almost-forgotten sunshine.
Skip class. Skip work. Skip under the blue sky.

Runners start arriving
At the foot of Heartbreak Hill.
We yell and shout and clap and encourage
and find our favorites to root for.

The runners struggle on with an end in sight,
A goal
Worked for and earned with sweat and time and pain
and pride.

And then

Everything changes
In an instant
In a blast
In screams
In silence
In leftover puddles of blood.

I see
three yellow balloons
drift into the air
above it all.

Just floating.
Released by the hand of a person whose life will never be the same.

Goodbye, balloons.

Goodbye.

I choose to remember the days of light. 

I choose to remember the sun shining off silver.

I could remember the confusion, horror, fascination, and fear.  I could remember the devastation that an empath feels on such a day.  And of course, I do remember those things. I remember them viscerally.  They are likely contributing to my bout of depression.

But today, I will choose to remember a day, years and years ago, when I emerged from a subway station I had never been in before – one of my rare forays into the New York City subway system – and looked up.  It was a bright and beautiful day, full of sun.  And I looked up. And up. And up. Yes, I knew I looked just like a tourist, craning my neck, bending half backwards, trying to see the top of those silver pillars playing with the brightness of the day.  But I didn’t care.  I was amazed and wonderous. And oh-so-touched with joy that I was finally standing at the feet of this sterling place that I had only before seen from the air or a distance. I just stood there, letting people bump around me, with a goofy smile on my face. A goofy smile that carried to my eyes and exuded childlike joy and  light itself and that made all the rushing bumpy New Yorkers who had to interrupt their steps soften just a touch and not mind quite so much having to rearrange their hurried pace.

I remember going across the street to the old church, St. Paul’s Chapel.  It was closed, but I wandered around the graveyard, as graveyards are favorite places of mine, examining the headstones, and soaking in the peace of the place.  I was amused by the incongruity of something so historic in the shadow of something so modern – these crumbling, weather-worn stones side-by-side with the sleek, silver, glassy skyscrapers. I remember how hot the afternoon was, and how I sought shade and shelter in the cemetery. I was not taking many pictures in those days, so the pictures are only captured in my mind’s eye.  I wish that were otherwise.

Today, the interior of my body aches and weeps and quietly wails in memory of losses. It is how my spirit works. But I am going to choose to remember the sunshine of that day, and other days, and days to come.

Image credit: mikesierra

Waking up to NPR is an interesting thing.  Sometimes I just sleep right through until Alarm #2 (the phone) goes off.  Today, I was already half-awake because of the wind.  The story of the earthquake in Japan made my eyes fly open.

My heart and thoughts, prayers and healing energy goes out to the people impacted by this disaster.  Some of the footage coming out of Japan is amazing – breathtakingly horrifying. 

I have always been fascinated by natural disasters, particularly ones involving water, due to my prophetic “water dreams”, which I’ll talk about another time.  Now, I am glued to the computer and the TV, watching coverage on Hawaii’s KITV4, which has a live webcam going.  While there fortunately hasn’t been a huge sweeping surge, it was fascinating to watch a view of the calm sea suddenly start to move around.  And now the sea is calm again (temporarily).  As one newswoman said, “Nothing super-duper dramatic.”  It seems they dodged a bullet (though I recall saying that very thing about New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina first came ashore, so don’t listen to me.)

I’m frustrated with local news coverage, which has barely touched on this disaster and has carried its usual intolerable load of stupid commercials.

In a small point of morning irony, my hot water heater is broken.  Some have too much water and others, not enough.

To share with you one more interesting coincidence, www.seattlepi.com carried an interesting story of newly discovered color photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake taken by an experimental photographer named Frederick Eugene Ives.  I’ve certainly seen photos of the aftermath of this earthquake before, but these just struck me.  Why?  Because of the color.  I suddenly realized that on some less than conscious level, I had almost thought of the world back then as colorless, since I’ve only seen black and white photos.  The color images made it feel so much more modern.  I was flabbergasted (your good word for the day) by my own reaction.

Time for a Puerto Rican shower and off to work.  Blessings to all in the world on this day of earthquakes and floods.

The Bonnet Channel (aka Turner Classic Movies) is focusing on the work of director Hal Roach this week.  Among many other movies, Hal Roach did a series of short films featuring a goofy taxi driver in various mishaps with friends, reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy.

The taxi driver theme reminded me of the worst first date ever, one I had when I was 19, back in Boston.  I worked in Harvard Square at a little clothing shop called Serendipity, and would take my dinner breaks at the old Mug n’ Muffin.  I loved the Mug n’ Muffin.  It had ancient waitresses who had been there forever, wooden chairs and tables with no tablecloths, and a big open space.  It sounded mariner’s bells every fifteen minutes so you knew what time it was (which is how I learned what the mariner’s bells were.)  And it had wonderful coffee.  It was a local hangout, and people who frequented it had a nodding acquaintance with one another.

I had a nodding acquaintance with a handsome young man with beautiful blue eyes.  We were quite shy around one another, but finally, we actually started talking.  He was a taxi driver.  After a couple of days of chatting over coffee, he asked me out.  I was so excited.  He picked me up a few days later at my house.  The plan was to go to the movies and then go out to dinner.  We were both so nervous – I think we really liked each other, and we both wanted to make a good impression.

I’d let him pick the movie – if it was produced after 1950, I knew very little about movies, even then, and I thought this would give me a good idea of his taste in such things.  We parked at the theatre and waited in a long line to get tickets, encouraged that the film would be good because there was such a crowd.  I thought in passing that the crowd was a little different, but didn’t really pay attention.  It was a foreign film, but it had the word ‘Taxi’ in the title, which he took as a sign that it would be entertaining, since he knew that driving a cab was a world of entertainment in itself.  Truly, he had some amazingly funny stories about his fares.

We got our tickets and settled into two seats in the center of an aisle in a packed theater.  I noticed that I was about the only woman there, which I thought odd, but at the time, I just thought how many taxi drivers there were in Boston.  (Can anyone see where this is going yet?) 

The lights went down, the curtains opened (it was an old movie theater) and the film came on.  The first frame was a full-body shot of a naked man sitting on a toilet taking a dump.  Seriously.  We were both a bit taken aback, but hey, it was an artsy foreign film, so let’s just stick with it.  The man in the film gets up  from the toilet, goes to the bedroom and proceeds to have sex with his male lover.  And you saw everything.  EVERYTHING. From every angle.  Going into every orifice.  Oh. My. Goodness.

We both just sat there, horrified, not looking at each other, not saying a word, mesmerized like two people watching a train wreck.  After that endlessly long scene, the film progressed to a semblance of normalcy with German subtitles for about 5 minutes.  Then we dived into graphic Glory Holes in department stores, Turkish Baths, and public park toilets.  My date started whispering, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I really thought it was about taxis.  Do you want to go?  We can go.”  Remember, I was 19.  I wanted to be sophisticated.  I didn’t really know if this guy was joking, testing me, being sincere, or just being a creeper.  I still wanted to impress him, so I whispered back, “No, it’s okay, we can stay if you want to.  Maybe it has some artistic merit.”  Artistic merit my ass.  Or the asses of everyone on the screen. 

We continued to whisper these lines to each other through the entire highly intimate movie, all the way to the end.  He could have just said, “Let’s go,” and I’d have said, “Right behind you.”  OK, given the context, I wouldn’t have said “Right behind you,” but I would have agreed immediately.  I spent the entire film aghast and trying to figure out if I should be offended, interested, aroused, shocked, suspcious…on and on and on.  I had no idea what the right reaction should be.  Maybe I should have said “Let’s go.”  Maybe he thought I was into it.  Who knows?  As it was, we spent an endlessly uncomfortable two hours, and when we got out into the fading sunlight, we had no idea what to say to each other, except that we continued to apologize.  I was pretty ready to laugh it off, but he remained positively mortified.

I suggested we put it behind us (or something like that) and go to dinner, and he readily agreed.  We got to the cab, and it was dead. Dead.  Dead like, I realized at this point, our freshly planted relationship.  He tried and tried and tried to get it to start, with no success, until he finally had to call for a tow.  This failure, even though it was no big deal, just added to his embarrassment.  He couldn’t even look at me with his pretty blue eyes.  In fact, he never met my gaze once after we left the theater. 

So, he went off in the tow truck.  I lived close by, so I walked home.  He never called me again.  He never came into the Mug n’ Muffin again.  I saw him once, pulling out of an alley in his cab the following spring, and when our eyes met, the same look of terrified mortification rushed into them, and he pulled away quickly.

I suppose my reaction to the film wasn’t the right one.  I should have insisted we leave immediately.  Who knows what he thought of me that I sat through it.  At any rate, it was a relationship that clearly was not meant to be.  (And though this was both a first and a last date, it was not my “worst last date”, but that’s a story for another day.)

The film was called “Taxi Zum Klo” for those of you who wish to see it or who wish to be sure to avoid it.  It was actually a groundbreaking, award-winning film about gay male life.  With a title like that, his thinking that it was about taxis was understandable, but a little extra research might have been helpful.  Poor guy.  I hope he, to this day, thinks of it as his “worst first date ever” story as well.  And I hope that now he can laugh about it.

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