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My coffee and I sit at our round table with our unconventional breakfast, looking through cookbooks to plan our week’s meals. My own handwritten notes are familiar even though they were written 20 years ago. Books being sacred objects, I was aghast the first time ex-Pat made notes in a cookbook. Over the years, he convinced me to do so, but only in pencil, and as minimally as possible, to convey the changes I’d made.

Those notes from 20 years ago….they transport me back to the Cozy House, to my slope-floored kitchen with its knotty pine cabinets. To the Mother-in-Law’s tongue that my co-worker Sandy gave me decades ago, thriving in a pot in the corner. The dogs’ and cats’ food and water dishes slightly underfoot on the lavender linoleum. The Asian blue patterned containers holding the cooking utensils on the counter next to the little one cup coffee maker. The bottom drawer where the casserole dishes lived, the one that always went cattywampus when I tried to close it. My beloved Norge stove.

We never ate dinner at the kitchen table, only breakfast on weekdays, just as it had been at my parents’ house growing up. I tried to get us to do so once and only once. It was disastrous and all three of us wound be miserable.

Doing dishes, by hand as we never had a dishwasher, standing at the sink looking out into the backyard from the white-framed casement the window. My view was beneath the arch of a tree that was slowly growing its way into the house, bending the gutter a little more each year. Ex-Pat and I talked about one day remodeling the kitchen, making it bigger, though it was a good size already. We would have built out the kitchen around the tree, leaving it free to grow as tall and as strong as it wanted.

That view from the window had grown over the decades from a dirt yard with giant wooden spools as tables in various places, to a bower of beauty, with the greenhouse that ex-Pat had built by hand as its centerpiece. Beautifully cold in winter but always warm with memory of summer. Sparkling with promise in spring. Glowing with trailing golden cottonwood leaves in fall. And raging and singing in its glory on the warmest days and nights of summer,

It all lives only in my memory now, as I sit at a different table in a different life, the wind swishing the pine boughs outside the door, the blue sky shy beneath sheer white clouds, the Stellar’s Jay keeping silent company, my coffee now grown cold.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That I’m alive
  • Cats
  • Music
  • Driving
  • Sweatshirts

Today lives in shades of black and white. The ink lines of the pine bark. Downy feather pillows of snow piling up around the Retreat, trapping and coddling me at the same time. Pine needles ever present, their green gone to charcoal without the sun. And the sky varying shades of sea foam in a wishful mind.

Here is today:

The view from breakfast.

And here is yesterday:

The road to New Hope Cemetery.
Chased by storms from the west. That barbed wire won’t fence them in.
Chased by storms from the north.
Dirt roads, late light, clouds showing their joy…perfect pleasure.

So today, I put shoes on in the house (gasp), an indication that chores will be done and meals cooked for the week, and banana bread baked as gifts for my two neighbors. The Wailin’ Jennys are my soundtrack for the day, melodic, beautiful, slightly spiritual, slightly melancholy, often surprising. Kind of like me.

Have a warm day, wherever your heart is.

Last week at our writer’s meeting at work, my boss asked me what else was happening in my life – we always end our writer’s meetings that way, since the writers actually interact very little during the week.

I told the team that Kelsea was starting high school on Monday.  And they all said, “Awwwww, are you okay???”

I thought that was a perfectly bizarre reaction.  Am I okay?  Of course I am okay.  Why would I NOT be okay?  It’s not as if I’M starting high school (again… if I were, then I probably would not be okay).

When I started high school, back in the age before cell phones, computers, electricity, fire, etc., it wasn’t that big a deal for me. I went to a small school, and was with the same people I’d been in school with since kindergarten.  The most significant thing was that I finally got to change campuses.

It’s different for Kelsea.  She’s been to a K-8 school, so there was a certain similarity, in that she had been with a lot of the same kids for a long time, and in the same building all of those years.  And she was absolutely sick of it.  It’s been great how excited she’s been about starting high school.  She’s always wanted to go to this school, ever since her older cousins went there.

Of course, she had a day or two of anxiety when she found out that she didn’t know a soul in any of her classes – and she had really been looking forward to going to class with her friends.  But that has ebbed. She’ll still see her friends.  Even though she’s a bit shy, she’ll make new friends.  She seems to do that quite well – much better than she gives herself credit for. And I heard something today that I’d never heard from her before: her talking to her friends about what they were going to wear tomorrow.

This weekend, we went clothes shopping for her – new jeans and T-shirts (almost all from thrift shops, where things are stylish, unique, and inexpensive.)  We had a great time together.  I love it when she wants new clothes, because it so seldom happens.  And we found the absolute BEST thing of all: a pair of teal green genuine Converse high-tops (that fit both of us) for $5!

Our new shoes

We were so excited.  She’s wearing them now, as she’s wandering around for a last hurrah with Uber-Cool Will. I believe they are off to the mall to buy glow-in-the-dark shoelaces and a mustache belt (don’t ask – I’m not sure.)

Her schedule is such that it will be tough for her to stay with me at all during the week.  We may work it out – we’ll just have to see.  Which means I’ll miss her.  And I’ll (finally) really be here at the Bungalow alone (except for the cat who isn’t really mine).

Sat cat sitting

I don’t know if it’s that realization that’s got me a little verklempt, or if it is as my co-workers inquired, that I am suddenly “not okay” – that I am undergoing a realization that my little girl is really growing up, that she will always be my little girl, but that we’ve only got four years worth of weekends and summers together until she’s off on her own.  I suspect there’s a bit of that playing into my feelings.

These days, though, I am not borrowing trouble.  I am so happy that she’s happy, excited, and who she is.  My feelings are about me letting go and moving on, which is the story of my life these last few years.  Maybe it’s the story of all of our lives from the day we leave the womb.  I don’t really know.

I know I feel pretty lucky to be sitting on my own front porch, writing, fending off mosquitoes, listening to my wind chimes, a glass of wine at hand. It’s a far cry from where I thought I’d be now, if I ever even thought this far into my own future, when I started high school.  Or at this time last year, for that matter. “God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”  Truly, I never saw this.

The View From My Front Porch

What I do know with an absolute certainty is that I am blessed to have such a cool human being as my daughter in my life.

Kelsea and Blossom

The clouds are layered over the house, coming from the north.  Thunder rumbles like a falsely threatening deity, or a fat man suppressing a belch.  I prefer the deity metaphor, even though they are both mine.  I cannot tell if it will actually rain, or just rumble for a while.

But there are layers upon layers here.  Both in the skies and in my spirit.  That’s not a bad thing.  Not at all.  As a friend said, it is a good place for me, here at this beach.  I tend to ponder life with a more helpful spirit and intent.  Which makes the ponderances more productive.  I process more here than I do almost anywhere else.  Even in the Caribbean, I will “save” some things to process for when I’m there, and then I’ll get there, and I”ll be all, “Well, what on earth was I worried about THAT for??  Can I have another Dark & Stormy, please?  Look at the color of that water…”

I don’t do that here.  I am more serious about digging through my layers of emotional clouds and dissipating them.  I do it calmly, with a certain amount of serenity and certainty, and few tears.  Actually, I am proud to say, no tears this time.

Here, I grow.

Isn’t that lovely?

The thunder can do as it pleases.

It occurred to me the other day, as Kelsea and I were driving down the road, noting to each other which houses we might like to live in here, how different my life could have been had I had a partner who was working with me towards a shared goal all these years. I know that sounds obvious, and I know, too, that I have pondered this many times, but somehow, not in the same way.

We all choose our mates for different reasons.  I know that, way back in the annals of time, when I was a few days past 21, I chose mine because he was different from me, exciting, and he made me laugh.  They seemed like good enough reasons.  And once I get with someone, I tend to stick with them until I realize it will kill me if I don’t leave.  I’m stubborn. Or stupid.  I know now that I chose my mate to eventually have this wonderful child.  Not another child.  THIS child.

Others choose mates because they want to rescue them (or be rescued by them).  There was some of that in there for me, but it played itself out long ago, when I realized the futility of the whole rescue concept.  Others because they don’t want to be alone. Others still because it’s almost expected, and it’s easier to stick with something than to get out and find something else – good enough will be good enough.

None of us can see all the way down the road. People change. Change is the only thing certain in this life. In some cases, each half of a couple changes in ways that still work for the couple as a whole.  And in other cases, not.

Had I been with someone who wanted to work towards a common goal, I would have had my beach house here – and my travels, and my place in the Caribbean sun.  And some space to write and breathe.  I never expected to be coupled with someone who shared ALL my goals, just as I wouldn’t have shared his, but that part is less important than caring enough about one another to be willing work to fulfill not only common goals, but to help the other realize his or her OWN dreams – simply because you love them enough to want to them to be happy.

I spent my long 25-year relationship without a partner, working to support us, our little family, and occasionally being able to indulge my own goals.  Am I bitter?  Well, yes, a little bit. But only when I think of what I haven’t accomplished, and what more I could have accomplished with some help. With a partner. I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish on my own this past quarter century.  It’s really quite remarkable.  And I have a lot of time left to accomplish more.  It’s just that I wish the train could arrive sooner, as much as I enjoy the journey. I would like to be able to spend more time sitting by the sea, writing, and breathing.

So, in my wizened wise woman state, I say to you, if you are younger than me and wondering if this person with whom you are side-by-side now is THE one, be clear on your goals, and share your life with someone who has goals of their own – as well as ones to share with you – and who is willing to work towards them.  Try to think of it without rationalizing or fooling yourself.  And try to have the difficult courage to act on what you know is true.

You will find both the journey and the destination unfathomably joyful.

 

 

Yes, it sometimes feels like my life is a B-movie.  Not horribly bad.   But just as bizarre as, well, a B-movie. 

My feeble attempts at dating have yielded some interesting experiences.  I seem to be following a “three strikes” rule – meaning no one has gotten beyond date number three.  At this point, I’m okay with that.  I’m not in a place in my heart yet to even give a single strand of it to anyone else.  I suppose if the right person came along, I would do so.  Knowing myself as I do, I couldn’t help it.  But, the right person is an illusive concept these days. 

And so, I date.  And debate becoming a nun, because honestly, I might as well.  But that’s another post. 

My first out of the inning was a very nice guy who, while a little proper, and a little controlling, I discovered after three dates, was really just a little old lady in disguise.  I’m not sure quite how I found this out.  Maybe it was the pride in which he spoke about his matching Tupperware.  Or his inability to drive more than 10 miles under the speed limit.  Still, he was a nice guy.  Just not the guy for me, as I decided on the third date.

My second out of the inning, was undoubtedly the strangest first date I’ve ever had.  We had a very nice time.  We talked about everything.   He was properly impressed with my weird knowledge of history and off-beat things.  We met for drinks at the Brown Palace, talked about music and family and cocktails and abstract art and his business doing something with petroleum and…just everything.  Then we moved onto dinner at Marlowe’s (which was absolutely yummy, and I highly recommend the salmon) at a table outside by the 16th Street Mall, where we discussed horse-drawn carriages and remodeling old houses and various sundry things and how things in Denver had changed over the years.  Then we got to talking about what to do after dinner.  And he had an idea.  And the next thing I know, we’re at BJ’s Carousel, home of Denver’s friendliest drag queen show.

Now, you guys know me.  I’m pretty much up for anything, especially if it makes a good story for the theoretical grandkids, or at least a good story to tell any stray parrots I happen to round up.  What’s my motto?  All together now.  That’s right. “She who dies with the most stories, wins.”  It’s a hefty responsiblity and not one I take lightly.  So, since this was something I’d never done, we went.

I’ll tell you, for a first date with a professed Christian, this one took the urinal cake.  I was the only woman (??) in the place, and I do have to say, that everybody there was very friendly.  I’m serious.  They were all incredibly nice.  But I suppose that being the only woman there, and sitting at a ringside table, I was bound to attract the attention of the performers.  And so it was, that Fantasia, during her (his?) first number, shone the spotlight on us, introduced her(him?) self, drank my vodka and soda, and sang a Lady Gaga song to me.  How nice.  Really.  It was.  Someday, I want to try to wear eyelashes that long. 

A few other performers came and went.  And I know that even I, with my puny fashion sense, could make a little money on the side by being a fashion consultant for this population.  Again, seriously.  I don’t even know where to start.  Each seemed to have their own little following, and several patrons lined up to place dollars in the star-of-the-moment’s curious cleavage.

And then, Fantasia was back, still enamored of me and my date.  She approached the table.  She paused in her song.  She grabbed my face between her two hands, and I thought she was going to kiss me.  But no.  She buried my head between her fake boobs and tried to suffocate me for about three seconds.  A very long three seconds.  Then she proceeded to give my date one of said fake boobs.  At that point, it was time for me to get some air.  So we went. 

I was not uncomfortable or unhappy with this date.  I was just bemused and baffled.  And Kelsea said I was extremely jumpy the next day.  I decided he was pleasantly eccentric and I’d see what happened next.  I like eccentric people.

Our second date was drinks and dinner.  Pretty normal, although he drank more than I was expecting.  And our third date was drinks (do we see a pattern here?  yes, and we’re not sure we like it), a Rockies game, and dinner.  I wasn’t in the drinking mood, which he didn’t seem to care for too much, and over dinner, he called me a flaming liberal and started bashing gay marriage (yes, the same guy who took me to a drag club) and told me I was an idiot for believing in health care reform, Obama, or anything any semi-rational human being believes in.  Well, buddy, let me stick a fork in you, because you’re done.

Ah, the irony of having my second third strike be a baseball game date.  And I did feel a small pill of pride about “breaking up” with somebody over health care reform.

I’m wondering if this is a trend.  I don’t really know if I’m ready for dating.  Right now, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be ready to date.  When you’ve had magic, it feels impossible to go back to ordinary.  But I will continue to give it the old college try when I have time.  At least until I’ve gone through a full nine innings.

Just in case, if anyone has the number for a good nunnery, let me know.

The seemingly endless move is finally done. 

Done is, of course, a relative term. 

But when I say done, I mean that the last item was carried out of the Cottage – by me – today.  Before I left, I walked through each room.  The painter was already working, so it didn’t feel like it was my home anymore, but still, the memories remain.

Tearful conversations and good night hugs.  Holiday dinners eaten over the stove and on the kitchen floor.  Happy showers.  Love and laughter well made in the sunny bedroom, with hopes of shocking the Sunday morning congregations.  Naps on the red couch,  A lot of memories.  And a few tears as I left, with that one last item, a wine carafe experimented with with much mirth.

Everything is here now.  And I have been sleeping here for almost a week.  I sleep well here.  I am exhausted.  I haven’t gotten home from working, moving, cleaning until after 8 every day this week. I come home and forage for food and crawl into bed.  I’m the lead writer on a huge proposal at work, so even after crawling into bed, I was editing until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  So unpacking didn’t happen this week.

The movers were … okay.  One was great, but his two adolescent helpers were dawdlers, and so I wound up paying extra for their time, which pissed me off.  But Ruben did take apart and put together my bed, which was really, really helpful.  Although he made it higher than it had been, somehow, so I almost fell out of it trying to reach something on the floor, which was greatly amusing to me, even in my exhausted state.  I only had one casualty – the bookcase.  You know the one, right?  The one put together without any nails?  Yea, that one.  It didn’t survive.  And I didn’t think it would, so … okay.

So I’m negotiating around boxes, trying to unpack when I can.  Trying to get things washed and sparkling.  The Bungalow is happy to have me here, and it feels very homey, like I’ve been here for a long time.  It is quiet at night, and the birds are chirping and cooing in the mornings.  I even saw a bunny in the alley today.

Being as old as it is – 111 and one of the oldest houses in town – it has its spirits.  I have glimpsed them out of the corner of my eye.  They are curious and embracing, but slightly surprised to have someone here with any sensitivity to them  We’ll see how that relationship evolves.

This will be Kelsea’s first night here.  And Niece One’s as well.  She is going to live here until August until she goes to teach overseas.  I hope they are as enamoured of it as I am.  It is a great little house, and I want it to be a home. 

I know my true home is where my heart lies.  And my heart is both waiting and restless right now.

Statuesque Rattler

I am carved of honeyed
Butter alabaster,
Shaped and gentled,
Curved
Into something new.

An old soul of a snake
Shedding skin
Revealing fragile freshness
Leaving behind
A useless coverlet,
Brittle and sheer.

I move through barren landscapes
With gentle forcefulness,
Solitary
Kind
But a wary shapeshifter

And you must earn my trust
As I am
Lusciously strong
But no longer
Easily taken.

(For little JVD, with hope that one day soon you’ll love this place where we met your wonderful parents.)

The clouds this morning were moving like I remember from mornings on Jost.  As if they were there by accident, randomly floating low and close to the sea in the early morning, with just a hit of the color of leftover moon mist showing.  The air in the morning is cool there, with that delightful promise of warmth that hits usually as the sun just peeks over the big hill that drowns its non-existent sorrows in Pull and Be Damned Point.  Never too cool for anything but a bikini and a sarong.

I’m not often an early riser these days when on Jost, even though I want to be.  I was on my first few trips there. I wanted to make the days as long as possible, so I could savor them.  There was no agenda – just be there for breakfast and dinner (if you chose) and that was it.

I liked the warm sand contrasted with the flow of water beneath my feet.  I would meander to the rocks at the east end of White Bay, to the path that leads up to Ivan’s.  Usually there was someone to stop to chat with – or not chat with, but just appreciate the sense of solitary camaraderie that the smiling silence between us would bring.

At the little cove, just there at the base of the hill, I would always find shells, tiny treasures that were barely visible.  I’d sit in the sand, poke around at the edges of the rocks, to find them, miniscule and perfect, just the kind my mother used to love so.   If I was thinking, I’d bring along a stray painkiller cup or try to drink my coffee as I walked so I’d have the mug to put things in.  If I wasn’t thinking, I’d fill my hands, or tie shells into the hem of my sarong

Pelicans liked to fish for breakfast around the rocks that jutted out into the bay.  They would sometimes sun themselves on promontories – never with wings outstretched, but bills down, meditative, looking like statues until they would choose to waddle to another location.  Graceful and graceless at the same time.

I would sit for a while and watch the morning.  People on boats would be waking, most a little hungover, all just moving with that slow cadence of blood that infiltrates every soul that finds itself in this slice of bliss.  First up on the boat makes the coffee.  No hurries.  No worries except the ones you brought with you, and those you can leave floating in the ultra-buoyant waters in front of Ivan’s Stress-Free Bar if you so choose.

Time has slowed and it just purely does not matter.  After a while, I would wander back to Sandcastle, fascinated by my own footprints in the sand, and how they fill with crystal water, and then vanish.  Just little slices of reality in a time that can’t be captured.  But the memory lingers, just as somewhere on this planet, the sand that for an instant formed my footprint still exists and still remembers that small pattern.

It’s morning.  I slept for the first time in months without taking anything to help me sleep, which was nice, though I still woke up four or five times – to turn out the light, because the storm woke me, because the phone buzzed two separate times for no discernible reason – and had strange dreams.  Hotel dreams, bathroom dreams, Kelsea dreams, travel dreams, library dreams, sex dreams, dreams about dead friends and dead strangers.

On each of those waking occasions, my mind started to bustle about with all that I have to do.  Fortunately, I was too tired to open those thoughts up to full-throttle, but I’m sure they were some of the sparks that lit my busy and confusing dreams.  Now that I am up, I am sitting here writing.  Which, given what I am going to say, really makes no sense.

But I am on the edge of overwhelmed.  The fringe of a freak-out.  The precipice of panic.  There is too much to do and not enough hours in the day.  I look around the Cottage, that is packed with stuff, and know that the landlords want a lot of the stuff out by Friday.  FRIDAY?!  I have no boxes.  I have no time to pack.  I have work on job #2 to do tonight.  I was supposed to have a date tonight. 

I can’t put things on the floor of the Bungalow because  I still have to do the floors.  We are supposed to paint today.  But we have to go to another town to get tile for the bathroom (and more paint).  And somewhere else to get knobs (knobs? seriously?) for the kitchen.  And to the big city to get a countertop, which I can’t even pick up.  And to the recycle.  I’m supposed to meet with the landlord at 4:00 to get marching orders.  And it’s 10:00 and Kelsea isn’t up yet.  And I have my day job tomorrow.  I wonder for how many consecutive hours I can stay up?  I haven’t tried that unhealthy, yet necessary experiment since college. 

I look around and don’t even know where to start.  I guess at least it takes my mind off my heart.   (Look, a fledgling poem.) 

I can’t live in my house with no appliances and no toilet.  Not to mention no cable or internet – just kidding, those aren’t essentials.  But a toilet? Yes.  I would love to pay Harry the Handyman to paint, but I only have so much money.  Still, it might be worth it.

And perhaps, I should revert to my previously effective de-freak-out technique:  making lists.  Yes, that’s it.  That’s the ticket.  I’ll go pour myself some coffee and make a list.

And the first thing on the list is buying a plane ticket.

Just kidding.

Maybe.

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