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To start this tale, I should tell you I’ve been sick. But sick in a balanced way. A kidney stone on the left and an ovarian cyst on the right. That’s me, always balanced. Pain on both sides. A post-bath collapse as I tried to feed the cat. A trip to the ER on a busy Friday night. Pills to kill the pain, pills to make me relax, pills to help me sleep. As many pills as a 92-year old woman. Enough of that. Now, I’m just going to get better, since medicine doesn’t seem to be doing the trick.
But perhaps cat treats will help.
The night after all the hoopla of pain, after my hero MKL had gone home, I crawled into bed and felt something hard. Upon further drugged investigation, I discovered a single cat treat – Purina Whisker Lickins, to be exact. I didn’t really think anything of it. I wasn’t really thinking anything about anything. And I slept. I think that was Sunday. I spent Monday on the couch with pain pills and a heating pad and my computer. When I got in bed on Monday night, I noticed that there was a lot of …. debris in the bed. Like crumbs. I often produce sand in my sleep (yes, it’s a thing), so I wasn’t really that concerned. I figured Mr. Man had tracked something in, since I hadn’t made the bed that morning.
Tuesday was another at-home-drugged-on-the-couch day, though this time I did make the bed before moving to the couch. When it was time to shift back to the bed, I again found the debris, and after sweeping it out and crawling in, I discovered another cat treat. I was puzzled, but still not too aware of my surroundings to be curious.
Let me say that Mr. Man does like to be in the bed, but he has consistently crawled between two of the comforters – never between the sheets. When I look everywhere for him and can’t find him, I know to look for a lump on the bed, and if I pet it and it’s warm, I trust that it’s Mr. Man. But he has not left my side since I got back from the ER.
So now we come to Wednesday. Another day at home. The bed made, and again kibble debris on Wednesday night. When I awoke this morning, I went to make the bed, and found three cat treats positioned neatly in a triangular shape on MKL’s side of the bed, near the pillow. And now I’m stumped.
I wondered if Mr. Man was somehow getting cat treats from the bag on the Boat Anchor and bringing them into the bed, but have ruled out that theory because:
1. He can’t reach the bags on the Boat Anchor
2. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs to open the bags, even if he could reach them
3. When he gets a treat, he wolfs it down completely as one watches.
He’s not one to squirrel things away.
Then I thought perhaps, horror of horrors, a mouse had made some kind of nest in the bed and was nibbling breakfast and saving lunch for later. So I have stripped the bed completely, and found no sign of rodent. If I had, I’d have had to burn the house down.
My next theory, which I have not ruled out, though no doubt most of you will, is that the house spirits are leaving treats for Mr. Man, as a way to help me out since I’ve been sick, making sure he’s taken care of. It’s possible.
My final theory is that I’m doing this. The sleeping pills I’m taking (and have been taking for a month or so) are ones that do not make people inclined to sleep-eat, sleep-drive, or sleep-murder (my doctor and I discussed this), but it does happen, and back in my college days, I had a tendency to sleepwalk. Is it possible that I am getting up at night and bringing Mr. Man cat treats? And further, was the unexplained extremely strange taste in my mouth of late evidence that I have been eating the cat treats? And all this in my sleep?
This would make me just about the best cat mom ever, and would assure future purchases of Listerine by the case if I ever want MKL to kiss me again.
So tonight, I have washed all the sheets and comforters. We’re starting fresh. I have woven a complex maze of my work badge lanyard around all the cat treats. I am about to drug my pain-ridden self and go to bed. If the treats are disturbed in the morning and there’s kibble in the bed, I’ll have my answer.
If not, perhaps I’ll fall back on my Mother’s explanation of “A man came in and did it.” (Kelsea uses that phrase now.)
My Mother died this night eight years ago, and I miss her beyond words. (Maybe she’s been feeding Mr. Man.)
Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.
When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.
As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was
There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”
I believe that.
I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.
I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.
There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”
I believe that too.
So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.
And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.
I’ll find my light again. I promise.
It is a night for positive prayers and intentions:
That people and animals less fortunate than I will find a warm and caring place to survive the projected cold and our current -7 degree night
That my sweet friend at work’s family finds strength and peace in their time of approaching loss
The MKL and I can successfully accomplish our tropical sabbatical to fend off winter for just one week longer
That this cold snap is gone before we return
That Mr. Man is well looked after by his caretakers in my absence (it’s his birthday on Friday)
That I can accomplish the long list of to-dos before departure time
That my physical not-rightness improves and is healed by rest and rum
I have always found my prayers more powerful when I turn my eyes to the sky and speak to the Great Spirit as a friend. This church in the Bahamas inspired me to do that. It was lovely inside and out, and a visiting orb accompanied me during my solitary explorations there.
Georgetown, Great Exuma, Bahamas.
Quote of the day: “Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
Straight roads and green lights
Loving my daughter
Feeling blessed by my relationship with my parents (and missing them daily)
A warm nightgown and bedsocks
The kindness of strangers, experienced twice today
Why a random picture of a duck? Why not? He participated in one of my senior picture shoots with Kelsea. And he has an awesome Mohawk.’
Today would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. I miss him.
Quote of the day: “Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” — Hermann Hesse
A beautiful day
Working on the book again
A good visit with my darling daughter
Having the freedom to vote
New tires on the truck
close enough to my head
on the Red Couch
to be within reach
and to lick
the salt of my tears
off my hand
with his sandpaper tongue.
Quote of the Day: “Dignity: The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. ” — Shannon L. Alder
Tomatoes ripening on the vine (not mine this year)
The other house in my neighborhood with a metal winged pig
Horseradish cheddar cheese toast for dinner
The return of Peyton Manning
This year, we have icicles on apple blossoms. I feel like that myself sometimes – a bloom encased in frost. I have been poked and prodded and scoped and smushed this week, all for the routine testing to ensure that I am not following in my Mother’s cancer-prone footsteps. And all appears to be well. Just one more test result to go. It is nice to be emerging from this long winter, and I feel changes coming. I am trying to get a grip on whether I want some things to change, and am making steps in some new directions as a writer. I am looking forward to consolidating houses with MKL, although that is an amazingly daunting process. And so looking forward to my sweet cousin coming to visit next month. The house will never have been cleaner. I’m actually enjoying spring cleaning, and have dug a garden bed. There’s a little azalea plant, and some johnny jump-ups, daisies, and globe basil in the sunroom. And my poinsettia seems to have survived repotting – it’s over eight years old now. My boss gave it to me when my Mother died, just before Christmas in 2005.
This seems to be all random stream of consciousness, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s the snowmelt of my mind.
Quote of the day: “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” — William Shakespeare
Surprise flame roses from MKL
It was too cold to be out of bed. For someone.
But we did emerge yesterday and had breakfast at Leenie’s.
And did a little shopping. Who could resist this enticing sign?
And yes, I did get some socks. And a creepy vintage Valentine.
Along with a slightly freakish addition to the décor of the salle de bain. (Apologies for the blurry image.)
I visited with an old roommate today and had an excellent snuggle.
And now am properly attired for tonight’s episode of Downton Abbey.
I am doing serious battle with the winter blues. Friday can’t come soon enough.
How selfish mourning is.
It neither benefits nor honors the dead.
It will be nine years this year since I lost my father, and eight since I lost my mother. To all outward appearances, I am reconciled to that loss, which is all one can ever be. You never get over it, you just readjust.
Except in dreams.
In dreams, such as last night’s, they live. And they die all over again.
Those are the worst dreams, where you go home, you see them, they give you food and advice, and you talk about when you can get time off work to see them again, the conscious self crossing swords with the unconscious self to accept and deny reality, and then, slowly in the dream, there comes the dawning that they are both dead.
It as if they have died all over again. And in the dream, you have that same sense of endless emptiness that you experienced only then, in reality, except without the comforts of reality to sustain you. That feeling creeps into your waking consciousness and you awake, eyes closed, wondering where in the world you are, and why this weight is filling your closed eyes with tears and if the wind outside that is brushing the chimes is warm or cold.
You remember that your childhood house, now in dreams, strangely borrowed and restored to your memory of it, is now remodeled. The green shag carpet and the books are gone from the living room, the knotty pine cabinets and red cracked ice table are gone from the kitchen. The new owners have the put the refrigerator in a place that does not make sense.
You look out your bedroom window now, on a January day, and see that the snow has melted some, and know that there are daffodils eking their way out of the old ground somewhere, and remember the buttery smell of thousands of daffodils from your childhood.
You do not know what to do with yourself.
So you write about it, before you get up to feed the cat and make coffee. And you wonder about the weight of the human heart.
Once upon a time, a little girl lived with her brother, her mother, and her father in a happy brick house in a smallish sort of town. It never got too terribly cold in this smallish sort of town, but winter still did come, as winter does to every town, not matter how big or small.
The little girl’s father loved to walk. And the little girl loved her father very much. He worked a lot, and most days, no matter how hot or cold or wet or dry, her father would walk to work. He would make his way down the cement sidewalks from the happy brick house, around the dangerous yucca plant by the mailbox on the corner next to the old infirmary, and between the tall pillars in the stone wall that surrounded the university campus. Then he would walk briskly past the acres of green grass and majestic buildings with their white marble columns and tall casement windows, down the little hill, and beneath the dark underpass, where the trains ran clickity-clackity above his head. He kept going still, for miles, past the tangled thicket of woods, past tall, fragrant pine trees, and past wide meadows, until he reached his work. It seemed to the little girl that is was a very long way to walk, but she knew that walking made her father happy.
The little girl and her father used to take walks together on the weekends. She loved their walks, when it was just the two of them, and he would hold her small cold hand in his big warm one, and they would talk about everything. They walked in the spring, when she would see the leaves starting to emerge from their slumbers. They walked in the summer, when she would take her shoes off and feel the soft grass beneath her feet. They walked in the fall, when she would kick through ankle-deep piles of crunchy brown leaves. They walked in winter, when her mother would wrap her feet in plastic bags to keep them warm inside her tall red boots.
One day, the whole family decided to walk together. To decorate the happy brick house for Christmas, they were going to gather branches in the tangled thicket of woods that her father passed each day on his way to work. The little girl wasn’t very happy about taking this long walk, because it was very long, and that day it was VERY cold, so cold that there was even some snow on the ground. Her mother dressed her warmly, in her little red coat, and her white hat with the pom on the top and the black and orange pattern around it, with its matching mittens. The little girl loved her hat and mittens. She thought they were the prettiest things she’d ever seen (after the Easter bonnet and parasol purse her grandmother had given her), and since she knew she wouldn’t be able to hold her father’s hand the whole way (because her brother was there), she was happy to have them to help keep her warm. But she was still grumpy about the walk.
They walked and walked and the little girl was so cold, and exceedingly grumpy because no one would carry her. After what seemed like weeks, they reached the tangled thicket. The whole family tromped across the snow to enter the woods, and began to collect branches and boughs and sprigs in bags to adorn the house. The little girl’s mittens kept getting stuck on the branches, so she took them off and tucked them in her coat pocket. It got colder and colder, and then dusk started to settle into the shadows of the trees and the family started for home. But when they had left the thicket, and the little girl went to put her mittens on…. one of them was gone. She began to cry. She begged her parents to go back and look for it, but to no avail. They promised her a new pair of mittens, but she was inconsolable. She knew that mitten would be cold and lost and lonely and would never know why it had been abandoned. She wept as if her heart would break, and would not be comforted. Not even when her Mother told her that it had probably become a nest to keep some baby animal warm.
Years passed, and the little girl grew and grew, as all little girls will, until she was a young woman. She had never forgotten her lost mitten, and, as a rational person, she found this odd. She knew that she had lost many things over the years. Why had the loss of one small mitten been so profound?
At 17, she found herself walking back to that same thicket, which was much less dense and tangled than it had been so many years ago, to look for the mitten. She knew it was beyond fanciful, but she felt she could not leave the now not-quite-so-smallish town without looking for it one last time.
Of course, she didn’t find the mitten.
More years passed, and the woman, who was not quite so young anymore, had moved thousands of miles away from the town, that was now an actually-pretty-big-town. She herself had a little girl, and the little girl, probably because she was so close to the ground, had a wonderful talent for finding small and beautiful things whenever they went anywhere. She would find coins and marbles and jewelry and all sorts of treasures.
She made the woman remember the mitten.
One day, when the dog ate one of her little girl’s favorite little winter gloves (which were black with bright orange and red flames) and she could not be consoled, the woman went to shop after shop until she found another pair that was exactly the same. She knew just how her little girl felt.
Even more years passed, as years do, and the woman’s little girl became a young woman herself, so the woman went to work in the big city. Because of her daughter, the woman still kept an eye out for treasures that others had lost, and whenever she found something, like a hat, or a nice pen, or a handkerchief, she would put it somewhere up off the ground, near the place she found it, in case the person who lost it came back looking for it. She never knew if they did, but she hoped. She hoped that they did, and that they would be happy when they found it again.
The woman still loved to walk, just like her father had. One day, the woman was walking briskly down the street in the big city, for it was a cold winter day. She was going to meet her fiancé for lunch, and she was very happy because she had been able to stop to pet a pug named Duke, and she was wearing her favorite sparkly earrings, which were old and unique, and which swayed and played softly about her ear lobes and made her feel pretty. When she got to the restaurant, she hugged her beloved, and took off her hat and realized…. one of her lovely, sparkly earrings was gone.
The woman was sad. She knew it was silly to be sad. She had reached an age where she knew that things were just things, and that everything goes the way of all flesh, and you can’t take it with you, and numerous other platitudes that people tell themselves to make themselves feel better when they lose something they were fond of.
She knew in her heart that she was still just a little girl who had lost her mitten.
She kissed her fiancé goodbye and walked back down the busy street, back the way she had come, back to work, with her eyes on the ground, looking for a small sparkly earring among the shiny patches of ice on the sidewalk. She knew the chances of ever seeing it again were so slim that they were nearly invisible. She crossed where the buses ran, looking for a telltale sign of crushed crystal and gold. She passed the planter where she had stopped to pet Duke the Pug. And out of the corner of her eye, on the corner of the last planter in the row, someone had carefully set a sparkly dangly earring, just so, so that in case the person who had lost it came looking, they would be sure to see it, if they had faith, and if they noticed.
The woman knew that there was another kindred soul in the big city who understood about lost things.
And for the rest of the day, the woman (and the little girl inside her) smiled with her eyes and her mouth and her heart.
On some inky black nights, the shadows of loss steal around my soul and make me feel as if there is nothing in this world but sorrow.
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
Quote of the day: “I guess by now I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone-you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence.” — Alyson Noel
That it was a touch warmer today
My pair of life-sized plastic geese (don’t tell them they’re plastic – they don’t know)