2020 07 courage classic poster

It’s that time of year again. Yes, we are practicing social distancing and some folks are out of work and desperate for an income, but meanwhile, Children’s Hospital Denver is still serving our region.

If you have a sick child, Children’s Hospital is at-the-ready and your best last resort. I’ve never had to call on Children’s Hospital, but it is so reassuring to know that it is there.

This year The Courage Classic Bike Race, the hospital’s annual fundraiser, has gone virtual. Participants will continue to fundraise, but they will choose their own route and the number of miles to be completed each day.

My husband Mark is a Founder, a title attached to those riders who have annually ridden and raised funds for thirty consecutive years. In the past, the cyclists have ridden approximately 80 miles a day with daily elevation gains of 6,000 feet. Last year Mark trained by riding 1,500 miles and climbing 50,000 feet.

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The Founders – still standing tall in 2019. Mark is the tallest on the top step.

This year Mark is less prepared. Kidney stones and a number of demands on his time have worked against him.  To date, he has ridden only 20 miles and climbed 200 feet. Needless to say, his goal to ride 40 miles each day of the virtual tour will be a challenge.

2020 07 -therapy-dogDespite the coronavirus, the fundraising goes on.

Who can say ‘No!’ to a sick boy with a therapy dog?

Seeing a sick child whose life may be cut short is a heart-breaker. Sooner or later, we all die, but to die without having lived life, is cruel and unusual punishment.

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Sheila Jordan, my favorite road marshall

Volunteering as a road marshal, I see the doctors, hospital employees, and the serious cyclists speeding along. That’s nice, but the killer is seeing parents, grandparents, and loving neighbors who have or had a child in treatment. They are not cyclists. Typically they ride their bikes to the grocery and call-it-a-day. They are not prepared to cycle 80 miles, and yet they are supporting Children’s Hospital with every ounce of energy that they have.

Each wheel’s rotation is a prayer

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Children’s Hospital Prom Night – Life is just around the corner.

If you have the means to contribute, Children’s Hospital and all those who depend of the hospital’s services would be most appreciative.

2020 Courage Classic: Mr. Mark A. Dembosky – Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation

Thank you.

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Journaling Covid-19 May 8

Wednesday was one of those days… or maybe it was Tuesday… the last day/s have been a blur. My email was hacked, and I was deluged with Facebook messages, Yahoo alarms, and our phone rang off the hook. Everyone wanted to know if  we were really out of town, and had I asked them to immediately wire 300 dollars so I could buy my nephew a PlayStation for his birthday?

No! I had not asked for an emergency loan. A good number of friends wrote to say that aside from the request itself, the writer’s voice did not sound like mine. (The request came from Nigeria.) That was flattering: it is always nice to have readers recognize your voice.

2020 05 07 can phoneI do love my computer, but some days, I just want to disconnect my life from all technology and relive my childhood when two tin cans and a string were the height of long-distance communication. In contrast to experiencing extreme frustration and hours spent reassuring/thanking friends for sounding the alarm, I fantasize about pulling two tin cans out of recycling and looking for some string.

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I want to get on a train. Now!

The lines, “The world is too much with us,” comes to mind. Not remembering the writer or the context, I forgave my computer and Googled the answer. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was lamenting the First Industrial Revolution and folks absorption with materialism.  Wordsworth continued, “late and soon. Getting and spending, We waste our powers; Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!” How current!

DSCN0055I’m always delighted by serendipitous moments. Walking out of the West Custer County Library yesterday, I passed the discard shelf of free (donations welcome) books, and the one title that grabbed my attention was Lisel Mueller‘s book, ALIVE TOGETHER which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997. I have the book at home, but seeing the title took me to social distancing dictated by coronavirus and is currently in danger of fraying at the edges. First Georgia, and then… and then… and then someone will write a book titled DEAD TOGETHER.

The first few lines of Mueller’s “Alive Together” poem read: Speaking of marvels, I am alive / together with you, when I might have been / alive with anyone under the sun, / when I might have been Abelard’s woman / or the whore of a Renaissance pope / or a peasant wife without enough food / and not enough love, with my children / dead of the plague.”

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“Cape Cod Morning” A woman practices social distancing.

Thinking of our sequester (not such a big deal if you live in a village of 600), I found myself wanting to look at paintings of Edward Hopper. I wished to find a picture of a painting that reflected our at-home isolation. I chose to copy “Cape Cod Morning,” but I also discovered an April 27th Washington Post article by Menachem Wecker. The title of Wecker’s piece is “Those who say Edward Hopper is the artist of social distancing may be wrong.” In brief, Wecker writes that Hopper’s focus changed according to the medium in which he painted. His isolation paintings were mostly oils, but his watercolors, drawings and etchings are more varied. It is a good read. If you are an artist or a Hopper fan, check out the article.

DSCN0057The word ‘Soon’ on the Jones Theater marquee makes me smile. ‘Soon’: so much leaway! Maybe this week; maybe next month; maybe in September. When my eldest daughter was trying to toilet train my grandson, he was resistant. Exasperated, Dana would ask, “When are you going to use the potty?” And a master of comic timing, Gus would hesitate and then wink. (Well, he didn’t really wink, but you could most certainly imagine his winking.) And after a pregnant pause, he would smile and say, “Soon.” Too sweet.

Be well. Be safe.

Be thankful that we don’t live on Georgia where social distancing is a thing of the past.

 

 

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Journaling Covid-19 April 30

2020 04 birds & musicWhat a way to start my day! In bed, sun on the rise, coffee at-hand, and given that it is Thursday, I’m listening to Komi Alexander, resident NPR poet on Morning Edition, and he and Rachel are reading a community-sourced poem. The trigger was “What I’m Learning About Grief,” a poem by Nancy Cross Dunham.

The compilation of lines submitted by listeners is stunning. If you didn’t hear the poem this morning (in bed, sun on the rise, coffee-at-hand) click on the site and take a listen.

https://www.npr.org/2020/04/30/845910766/if-the-trees-can-keep-dancing-so-can-i-a-community-poem-to-cope-in-crisis.

The poem itself is wonderful, but the evocative lines sent in by everyday listeners is the icing on the cake. If there is an up-side to coronavirus, it would be the creative response from the community at-large. Our government may be in intensive care, but the ARTS are alive and well. HOPE – more than a ‘thing with feathers.’

Shavano Poets are on a roll. Just received two most excellent poems: one from Jane Provorse and another from Margery Dorfmeister.  Writing-wise we live in exciting times.

2020 04 homeless in car

This up-beat news is in contrast to news coming out of Colorado Springs yesterday. Car thefts are up. The homeless are desperate for temporary housing. It is easy for those of us who are retired and secure to forget that the impoverished, newly unemployed, and even the middle class are living in dire straits. Thirty million have filed for unemployment to date!

And because I’m on the topic, here’s one of the poems that I wrote in response to coronavirus:

“To Have and to Have Not”

Standing at the kitchen counter / peeling a thick-skinned Butternut squash, / I remember / standing at an assured safe distance / behind / a woman in line at the grocery. / Two children clung to her side.

Despite stay-at-home / coronavirus warnings, / I wanted fresh ginger / for my squash soup. / I had a sad, not-so-fresh / knob of shriveled ginger, / but I had-to-have / fresh ginger. 

I had onions, / garlic, / cilantro, / raw coconut flakes, / and a can of coconut cream, / but I had-to-have a knob of fresh ginger,. / I found no ginger at our local grocery.

But, given that I had already / risked contagion by shopping for ginger, / I picked up a few discretionary, / you-never-know, / just-in-case items: / celery, onions, oranges, pears, / and butter.

Keeping my social distance / from the women with the kids, / I glanced at her cart, and / my heart seized. Her cart held only / five loaves of white bread!

Comparing the contents of my cart and hers / comparing her have-to-haves to mine – / the term “social distancing” / expanded to include the disparity / between the haves and the have-nots.

untitledI’m writing in the east airlock – the sun is brilliant and the in-ground birdbath is splash-happy with bathing birds. The yellow-headed blackbirds seem to have moved on. A delight to have them for three days, but they had a north-bound bus to catch. Their breast as well as their heads are egg yolk yellow, and their call sounds like a throat clearing phlegm. Not musical in the least.

Today, I’ll soak the milkweed seeds that I collected last fall, wrap them in a wet paper towel, and put them in a plastic bag where they will experience winter for a week in the refrigerator. And then I’ll pat them down on the topsoil and sprinkle soil over them. And JUST MAYBE I’ll be hatching monarch butterflies come fall.   Yes, I will water the seeds.

I’m not sure, on an environmental scale,  that saving the monarchs (down 90% in the last decade due to pesticides and roadside mowing) is equal to my wasting water, but no one ever said that I was holier than thou.

I love being outside. This ‘social distancing’ seems to suit me.

2020 04 milkweed pod

 

 

 

 

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Journaling Covid-19 April 22

Despite the masks and the gloves and the hand sanitizer, I have been touched (metaphorically) by the boon in creativity. Everyone seems to be thinking outside the box. Has this creativity always been on the back burner just waiting for someone to turn up the heat? Or has more leisure time afforded those who are already creatively inclined to stretch their wings?

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T.C. Smythe and Gary Taylor  keep their distance yet entertain the neighbors.

Covid-19 and social distancing seem to have brought about a “Hell No! I’m here!

You can shut me in, but you can’t shut me up.”

It is very exciting. The world-at-large seems to be alive with  burgeoning creativity, but the impulse to create is not just a big city phenomenon. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t receive a poem from my friends at Shavano Poets, Salida, CO. They are prolific, and their poems are on fire.

I love the melding of art and politics. If I had the talent, my dream job would have been as a political cartoonist.

I have never been a fan of Donald Trump, and with every passing month I respect him less. He seems to have no moral core. He will say whatever he thinks his fan base wants to hear. His end game is to win the next election, whatever the cost. Do we really want a game player playing at President?

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My grandson Jackson Jimenez, nearly two. What’s not to love?

I have always tried to acknowledge that the diversity of We the People is our strength. As for those with whom I disagree, I try to imagine them as babies or  in their childhood. They are beautiful two-year-old’s. With that frame-of-reference to center me, I can be generous with those with whom I disagree. But Trump tires my patience and defies my efforts to humanize him. Every political move he makes hardens my heart. And like a virus, my dislike of Trump spreads to include everyone of the far side of the cultural divide.

UNTIL… and I love this part because I may not agree with my friend’s take on President Trump, but I find her interpretation intriguing.

My friend, Helga Schmidt is an artist who lives in London. She primarily does huge, abstract pencil drawings, but occasionally, she works in color. I am eternally grateful to Helga for introducing me to a good number of artists and studios during our London years.

2020 04 18 helga trumpA couple of days ago, I found myself thinking about a painting of Trump that Helga had exhibited at a gallery show. It was a memorable portrait in that the subject was definitely Trump, but he was encased in a heart. In a heart!! The man without a heart encased in a heart?

So I wrote to her. Would she send me a photo of the painting; what was the title of the painting; and what was she thinking when she painted it? The title of the painting is “Twisted Heart.” Helga’s prompt was a picture of a dog statue in China that was posted in 12/30/2017 GUARDIAN just prior to Year of the Dog. Looking at the statue, Helga saw a resemblance to Trump.

As to what she was thinking when she painted the portrait, Helga wrote, “I felt pity with the new American President and thought, that he just wanted to be loved – like everybody.”

DSCN0009Fascinating! “He just wants to be loved.” Something to think about. And if I can only imagine President Trump and his flock of true believers as two-year-old’s – playing with my grandson in a sandbox, maybe I can feel the love.

OK. Not love. Certainly not love. Maybe I can be more generous.

I’m getting silly now. To the left we have Jackson – off to the sandbox where he’ll play with Trump and Trump’s friends. Maybe if Trump becomes president, Jackson will be appointed Secretary of State.

 

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Journaling Covid-19 April 18

I’m between that proverbial rock and a hard place. Buffeted by a blustering wind that is sucking up any moisture that we have, I could write about our on-going drought, or I could up the ante and write about this week’s protests against stay-in-place orders.

So many choices. Life is full.

2020 04 17 drought

I’ll start with drought and maybe save my rant for another day. Monday, perhaps.

To begin, I’m posting a photo of our seriously dry, over-grazed 180 acres up on Promontory Divide.  At an elevation of 8,606 ft. and with no trees to break the wind, it is harsh place best suited for cattle. People not so much.

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See that dark circle towards the bottom of the photo? That used to be a sizeable pond – it was a large pond – big enough that when we bought the land in the mid-90s, we imagined floating on the water under the summer sun and  swimming in the late fall. After which we would run to our Russian banya (sauna) to warm up. Mark would have heated the stove in the banya, and I would have the birch branches soaking in water. Dashing from the freezing water to the hut, we would take turns lying on one of the benches while the other rhythmically (with increasing force) tapped/beat our backs with the pliable branches. (Thank you, thank you, Luda and our Valdai friends, for all the winter banya trips.)

That first winter of property ownership, we climbed up through hip-deep snow to delight in the expansive landscape, the Crestone Needles in the distance, and our very own large pond.

We haven’t had a pond in years! Last year we have somewhat of a bog, but no standing water. Every year has been drier. Yes, I am older and my memory isn’t what it was, but I am most certainly not romanticizing about the past. Science backs me up.

2020 04 18 drought pixColorado didn’t make the map but is in mostly in a moderate drought. In this week’s Wet Mountain Tribune, the headline read “SNOTEL AT 73% after record-breaking cold weather.” Statistics by the  USDA’S Natural Resources Conservation Service for April through July of this year predicts that moisture will be only 66% of average.

2020 04 18 forest fireYesterday, April 16, I read “Climate Change: US mega drought already underway.” In the article by Matt McGrath, I read that the drought started in 2000. (See https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment.) Based on tree ring records which reveal soil moisture, scientists say that we have experienced four mega-droughts in the late 800s, the mid 1100s, the 1200s, and the late 1500s. And… we are on track for another.

Thanks to La Nina and global warming, temperatures have climbed dramatically since 2000, plus forest fires are ten times more frequent than they were 40 years ago. A constellation of factors play into the issue of forest fires, but much of Colorado is at-risk.

DSCN9968If there is any good news, I have my first dandelion (yes, those pesky weeds that most gardeners curse). It is exciting on several fronts. First, the flowering weed is a touch of color – a sign of an emerging spring. Second, do you have my recipe for dandelion wine?

In the past I have harvested dandelion’s at the Abbey in Canon City and more recently out at Beckwith Ranch. Wait until the field is flush with dandelions. You want to sit for five or ten minutes picking in one place before moving a foot or so for more picking.

Pour one gallon of boiling water over 1 gallon of dandelion blossoms. Let stand in a cool place for three days. Pour the liquid in a large kettle and add the rind of two lemons and two oranges grated fine. Boil for 1/2 hour. Add 3 pounds of sugar and the pulp and juice of the fruit. Allow the mixture to cool and then add 1/2 cake of yeast. Strain and allow the liquid to stand for a week in a warm place. Strain again. When it stops fermenting, bottle the wine in Mason jars.

This wine is fine to drink the first year, but it improves over time. If you think that you might live another 10 years, save it. Otherwise, based on your general health and the health of our nation, drink it before you die.

 

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Journaling Corvid-19 April 13

DSCN9950Life is embarrassingly full despite today’s grey, overcast, monochromatic sky that shrouds the mountains in mist. Life is most definitely not monochromatic. That said, the forsythia pictured to the right is artificial. A girl does what she has to do.

As a person who vowed to journal daily watching the coronavirus unfold from afar, I have failed miserably. You would think that with all this time on my hands, I’d be writing non-stop. But those who know me well, are not surprised. I only perform in a timely manner when an editor has a deadline in one hand and a gun in the other.

I’ve been busy raking leaves. First things first, I always say. We had a few warm days, and I couldn’t help myself. My life was in the hands of the gods of Spring.

And I’ve been reading, and walking the dog, and making scones.

book collection - Ruth

GUILTY AS CHARGED

 

And watching Idris Elba play the murder detective Luther in the BBC series on Amazon. This is the second time I’ve watched LUTHER. You may wonder why I’d watch anything twice when we’re spoiled for choice. My only defense is that the first time you watch a show, you are primarily following the plot. Who does what to whom; is the good guy as good as he seems; and does the good guy win? The reason I enjoy watching a good show twice is that the second time I can appreciate the writing, the character development, the sets, the camera angles, the score, and more – so much more that I can’t take it all in on just one viewing.

So I’ve been busy. Following the news, but selectively following the news and taking the news in small doses to avoid toxicity. I don’t want to get sick.

Dutch street art - Jan Is De Man and Deef Feed

Dutch street art: Jan Is De Man & Deef Feed

Much has changed with this slower pace. Yesterday I picked up Kazuo Ishinguro’s Nobel Prize Winner, AN ARTIST OF THE FLOATING WORLD. I may not have chosen the book myself, but my book group chose it. I started reading the novel before the pandemic, and it was a slog. For the life of me, I couldn’t keep the characters straight. All those unfamiliar Japanese names: Oji, Ichiro, Sensei, Shintaro, Murasaki, Tanaka… So I made a cheat sheet. This person is the eldest daughter; this the younger daughter… But the complexity confounded me. (If only the characters had Western names: Bob, Chuck, Mary…)

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My volunteer springing up between the house and the pavers in the north airlock, continues to grow despite its inhospitable setting. A lesson in tenacity which has captured my heart. Should I water it?

But yesterday, well into the pandemic and having run out of library books, I tried reading AN ARTIST again. And I was so surprised! The names gave me no difficulty at all! Why? Because I wasn’t skimming or speed-reading. Rather, I was savoring… tasting, rolling the words and phrases around in my mouth/mind.  Thinking about the characters and the setting.

Referencing Mrs. Kawakami, a local bar owner, Ishinguro wrote, “Before the war, she may still have passed for a ‘young woman,’ but since then something inside her seems to have broken and sagged.” This, of course, refers specifically to Mrs. Kawakami, but I certainly identified with the essence of the sentence.

This last Christmas, one of our daughters gave us a couple of DVDs on which she had copied old home movies. When I opened her present, I was absolutely delighted. I remember saying, “These I will treasure and keep in the safety deposit box!”

But before I did that, I watched the DVDs. Given that many movies were easily 30 years old, I was not surprised that I looked younger. But I was shocked at how merry and vibrant I used to be. Older is OK, but it is not OK that like Mrs. Kawakami, ‘something inside seems to have broken and sagged.’

I’m lovin’ this book, and it is all about having the time to savor and reflect. Lucky me.

If I slow down and spend more time in-the-moment, maybe I’ll mend.

 

 

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Journaling Corvid-19 April 3, 4, 5

spring snow

April 3

Those who know me well are not surprised that I have failed to journal daily. Somehow, I slipped down that slippery slope, and I missed writing April first and second. No excuses. But it’s easy to do when during a pandemic you feel as though you are hurtling through space dodging meteors and stars.

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A mouse? A ground squirrel? I don’t know. Ask Oogie.

My heart goes out to first responders and healthcare professionals… to say nothing of the clerks working in the groceries or the banks or the undocumented workers toiling in the fields where they’re at-risk of contagion or being laid off with no access to unemployment insurance. And the homeless who have no home. And… the list is endless. I can’t imagine that anyone reading my blog, would think that I’m unaware, but just because I try to look on the bright side, I don’t have my head in the sand.

 

2020 04 03 jaxglee

At 22 months, my grandson Jackson knows how to laugh at April snow.

Last week I read that laughing 15 times a day is a good measure of mental health. To that end, I started counting the times I laughed. My 15 laughs will not be useful to any aspiring stand-up comics, but I’ll share. 1.) Trump says that his ratings are “Bigger than The Bachelor.” 2.) Trump says that he’s number one on Facebook. 3.) My husband asks, “Was yesterday, a day without chocolate?” 4.) My husband asks, “Can I be crabby?” 5.) I ask, “If I count Trump’s comments #’s 1 and 2 as separate laughs, am I inflating the status of my mental health?” 6.) Listening to Morning Edition, the author of Muslim Love Story,  was asked what attracted her to her husband, and the author and I simultaneously said, “His buns.” 7.) Both my husband and I are coughing, and he asks, “Can I give you a kiss?” 8.) Neither of us can remember what day it is, and one of us said, “Check the computer.” 9.) “Smiles don’t count.” 10. “Hook up the hose to the hydrant.” (context missing). 11.) “Saturday night.” (context missing.) 12.) “What do you call a female detective?” Answer: Dick-less Tracy. 13 through 15 missing. I did, however make it to 15 laughs before lunch. Despite the pandemic, I’m apparently OK.

I advise you to count and record your laughs. If your laughs are anything like mine, the laughs are based on very little. You just have to be receptive to any little thing no matter how small.

April 4th

I’m on-line looking for home-made mask patterns. The effectiveness of homemade masks is up for debate, but if anyone actually spits on me, I should be safe. I cut out the pattern; I pull out my sewing machine and fabric. I can’t find my white thread. I’m getting crabby. I choose lavender thread instead. I don’t have enough straight pins. In my haste, I didn’t realize that I was supposed to add a quarter inch around the pattern and a half inch to what I’ll call the ‘ear side.’ My crabbiness 2020 04 05 van goghintensifies. Attending to my error, I cut more masks. My scissors need sharpening. My mother was a pretty grim woman. My sister and I referred to her as ‘stone face.’ I  assume my mother’s face. I can’t see to thread my needle. I’ve misplaced my reading glasses. My carpel-tunnel hand is acting up. I’m thinking of running away from home.

Finally, masks finished, we try them on. It is not a perfect fit. But, as I said, “If anyone spits on me, I should be O.K.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2020/03/31/twitter-crushes-museum-challenge-with-genius-recreations-of-famous-artworks.

Beginning with one of your favorite pieces of art, the Getty Museum Challenge is to re-create it at home using three things lying about the house. As one of hundreds of examples, to the left we have “The Scream” by Evard Munch, and to the right, a potato recreation by Jean-Luc Walraff via Twitter.

2020 04 05 Munch

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Don’t take my word for it. The approximated works of art will take your breath away. Check out the website. The creativity and inventiveness of folks trapped at home will lift your spirits. We are not all homogenized.

April 5

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Despite illness, death, unemployment, and bills due, we are still exploring and curious. That’s a plus.

The birds are back! Bluebirds in flocks. Walking Oogie south of Hermit, I approached a Bluebird sitting on a T-post. The bird took off, but landed ten posts ahead of me.  I continued walking, and the bird flew another ten. Again and again. Not that I’m thinking that the bird had extraordinary match skills, but the constancy and accuracy of his flight gave me pause.

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Good Eats at the Landfill

The Buzzards are back. Wings wide in the morning to capture the sun’s heat. Praying for fresh roadkill. None fresh? No matter. And last week I saw a Meadow Lark. Too early. Camera at-the-ready, I tried and tried again to catch the courting hawks up Rosita way. He wanted her badly, but she was shy. Another sat atop a telephone pole. Disappointed, I failed to catch him in flight. Such is life.

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It’s too early to smell the roses, but that shouldn’t stop you from slowing down.

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March 29, 30 & 31 Corvid 19 Journal

202003 31 plague

March 29th

 A little good news is never out of place, and yesterday I heard a wonderful piece on NBC News. With fewer cars and airplanes in motion, air pollution has decreased dramatically. Well, we know that already, but the core of the video reminds us that although we started late preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, we have picked up the pace. Likewise, we are late addressing global warming, but if we have the will (and realize the consequences of ignoring the issue) all is not lost: we can pick up the pace.

With so much chatter about fake news, I really liked the video, but those who were speaking were not identified. Just who were these people? Folks down at the local bar? Folks at the gym? I can assume from the content that those presenting were experts, but what was NBC thinking? Their obligation is to identify the ‘experts’ by name and affiliation and expertise!

https://www.nbcnews.com/now/video/social-distancing-upside-has-led-to-less-pollution-around-the-world-8130054992

Check it out.

March 30th

 Speaking of pollution, I don’t now if this is evident in your part of the word, but the Colorado sky has never been bluer. We’re under a big blue bowl colored like a pristine paint chip from Sherwin Williams.

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I bought my favorite ‘watch’ some summers ago at our farmers’ market. Designed as a Steam Punk accessory, it impersonates a watch, but it neither ticks nor tocks. Perfect!

Most amazing of all is the lack of con trails! Living in Colorado, we are smack-dab on the airlines’ east/west express route to and from California. At any one time, at least one plane is overhead, and about 4:30 p.m., it is possible to see seven or eight planes. Yesterday, standing in the front yard with a couple of neighbors (six feet apart separated by a fence) we looked up and marveled. Not one con trail! The sky was unsoiled. Quiet. Maybe we were living under a self-contained dome on another planet.

Time, that ever-ticking clock has stopped!

A couple of journal entries ago, I mentioned my swearing off alcohol, but I’m not as squeaky clean as my deceased mother would have liked. I’ve upped my coffee habit. And thinking of that, I remember a poem that I wrote… maybe 30/35 years ago.

“Full-Bodied and Robust”

 

I’m immediately drawn to his eyes.

They see through me

and bathe me in a Latin heatwave.

 

Mist rises from the sandy soil

of the highland plantation.

Above, snow-capped mountains

diminish the people

and magnify their passions.

 

I walk toward him.

My eyes take in his olive skin,

His poncho and his Panama hat.

His full mustache

Barely hides a knowing smile.

 

My senses –

like single raindrops

melding into one another –

rush headlong

seeking…

thirsting…

smelling…

tasting…

2020 04 01 juan better

 

The alarm clock rings.

In a flash Juan Valdez fades

and I wake up to smell the coffee.

 

March 31st

 

I would like to write that “I worked in the garden today.” But having lived in England for a number of years, I’m aware that we don’t have a garden; rather, because of the construction project on the west side of the house, we have what the Brits would call a “yard.” The words ‘garden’ and ‘yard’ are not to be confused. A ‘garden’ is a thing of beauty: trees, flowers, ornamental grasses and bird houses. A ‘yard’ is out back by the garden shed and is a good place for car repairs, a lawn mower, rakes, and a broken bicycle.

To be perfectly truthful, our ‘yard’ is (and will be for another month) a building site. The airlock (to called a ‘solarium’ so as not to confuse it with the airlock on the east side of the house) is nearly finished except for re-doing the roof over the solarium. Whether or not we will have grass this summer is unknown.

That said, to the back of the house, the first bulb has shown her face. She’s a beauty.

A bright light in the dark world of coronavirus.

 

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Journaling Covid-19 – March 26, 27, and 28

March 26th

I am not the only person cooking and baking. So much free time!

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Blowin’ in the Wind!

My first choice is always to be outdoors, but the West Wind is terrific. Our small house in downtown, metro Westcliffe is two blocks south of Main Street and two blocks north of open ranch land. Today, looking out the window, Tumbleweeds rip north on Second Street like a bowling balls thrown by Charles Atlas.

I could be reading a very good book, but the kitchen calls out. What is it about impending disaster and cooking or eating food? We’re not squirrels harvesting nuts, but food beckons from the pantry. I think our craving is less about calories and more about emotional sustenance. Lacking the touch of friends and strangers, we crave food to fill that cavernous cavity.

When I was shopping some weeks ago, hopefully buying everything I would need to sustain us if the food chain breaks, I chose long-life vegetables. Lots of squash, onions, potatoes, and cabbage for sure. Today, having already eaten one cabbage, I looked askance at the two remaining cabbages. What was I going to do with them? I had some leftover ground sausage but not enough, so I sautéed a pound of ground turkey and some onions and added that to the leftover sausage. Now what?

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Volunteers growing inside our airlock remind me of that saying, “Grow where you are planted.”

Cabbage rolls. I’d make cabbage rolls. But I didn’t have any string. How was I to tie the rolls? Referencing a cookbook, I read that if I brought a large pot of water to a boil, I could drop two leaves at a time into the boiling water. After blanching for one minute, I should scoop out the leaves and drop them in cold water. Two- by-two I did that, and when I rolled the leaves around the filling, I experienced no breakage AND no need for twine. I couldn’t have been happier.

Such a small triumph, but what a satisfying one! The motto to Dream Big is good, but maybe we’d all be happier if we took more pleasure in our small victories.

March 27th

 Some days ago, I mentioned a New York Times article promoting virtual Happy Hours. The article advised choosing a day and time; calling some friends; changing out of your soiled, laundry-ready clothing; pouring a beverage; and getting together at an assured-safe-distance by Skype.

So Mark and I joined another couple for Happy Hour Friday night. I chose to dress-up the Westcliffe way. Given that ‘our guests’ would only see me above my waist, I continued to wear my week-old, flannel-lined jeans. Cocktail wear and hair (which I combed for the first time in two days) was strictly above the waist.

It had been a long day, and I had eaten only an apple early that morning. Nothing thereafter. And all I can say that I will never again think of Gin without feeling queasy. The Happy Hour itself was virtual; the Gin was not. At first I was saying that I was ‘hungover.’ 36 hours later, I was using the term ‘alcohol poisoning.’

I’m recommending that readers avoid Happy Hour and choose to Skype during a coffee break or afternoon tea. Combing your hair or changing your clothes is optional. If you choose to wear jewelry, you are trying too hard.

I spent most of the day in bed. Oogie was quite concerned, and he kept checking on me. I was reminded of a friend whose mother had been bed-ridden for some time. Her dog was her constant companion, and when she died, the dog would not let anyone attend to her. The family’s only option was to call animal control.

Everyone should have a constant companion.

March 28th

 A little good news is never out of place, and yesterday I heard a wonderful piece on NBC News. With fewer cars and airplanes in motion, air pollution has decreased dramatically. Well, we know that already, but the core of the video reminds us that although we started late preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, we have picked up the pace. Likewise, we are late addressing global warming, but if we have the will (and realize the consequences of ignoring the issue) all is not lost: we can pick up the pace.

https://www.nbcnews.com/now/video/social-distancing-upside-has-led-to-less-pollution-around-the-world-81300549924.

With so much chatter about fake news, I really liked the video, but those who were speaking were not identified. Just who were these people? Folks down at the local bar? Folks at the gym? I can assume from the content that those presenting were experts, but what was NBC thinking? Their obligation is to identify the ‘experts’ by name, affiliation, and expertise!

Watch the short video. What do you think?

Everyone is urged to be up-beat: reach out to friends, introduce ourselves to neighbors, take up watercolors, read a good book, take a hike,  and look forward to the flattening of the coronavirus curve. We are also encouraged to find a photo which captures our future hopes. Below I’m inserting a series of photos taken last month of my grandson, Jackson.

Looking at that photo, can I not hope?

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Covid-19 March 23rd, 24th & 25th

March 23rd

 I dropped a bit of food at my neighbor’s house yesterday. She stood at the open door and invited me in. I handed her the Tupperware and declined her invitation to enter. Closing the door, we air-kissed, and she said, “Thank God we have pets. We need them in the absence of human touch.”

Waking up this morning, my neighbor’s words hanging in the air, I thought of the role of pets in our lives. After years of having pets, Mark and I went through a pet-less period. And at some point, the hunger-to-have came on me. Mark had no such hunger.

Driving through Canon City one day, I decided to stop at the Fremont County Shelter. I would take a few pictures of potential candidates, take the photos home, and try to tempt Mark. At home, looking at the pictures, Mark was not tempted.

DSCN2865 (1)And then, one day, I was at the wheel. Without a word of warning, I whipped into the shelter parking lot. “I’m going in. Come if you like.” Mark followed me in, and we came home with Oogie whom Mark had seen curled up in the corner of his cage. The rest is history.

I’m wondering if pet adoption numbers are up. Maybe shelters should promote adoptions in terms of self-care. Everyone needs constancy and unconditional love… particularly during uncertain, unraveling times. Humans need pets, and shelters need to save on pet food. I’m thinking that if you could prove you’ve been laid off, shelters should waive the adoption fee.

It would be a classic case of Win-Win.

March 24th

 Just so my readers don’t think I am totally ignorant of the outside pandemic, a couple of headlines from today’s WASHINGTON POST: Trump has resisted bipartisan pressure to force U.S. manufacturers to make medical equipment. Simultaneously he threatens to push businesses to reopen in defiance of advice of coronavirus experts.

Enough! Here on the rural Colorado home-front, life is quiet. We experienced a moment of panic when to produce department of our only store within one hour’s drive was cleaned out. All the fruits and vegetables had been sold. Only a couple of coconuts remained. SHARE YOUR RECIPIES THAT CALL FOR COCONUT. DESSERT RECIPES DON’T COUNT.

Yesterday I vowed to cut back on topping my ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. This morning I wondered if my morning oatmeal containing flax seed, almond milk, fresh fruit, yogurt and nuts would taste better with…you guessed it – Hershey’s chocolate syrup. My hunger (my need to fill the gap left by friends afar) knows no bounds.

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I know this touch of spring means absolutely nothing to those who have been sending me photos of blooming flowers, but when you live the mountains, spring is relative. I am thrilled with what I have.

Heatwave today! 51 degrees. I’m very happy. Typically, we get our most snow in March and early April, I’m out of the house and into the garden.

Yesterday, beset with boredom (too bored to read or write) I accomplished some household chores. (No small thing in that 30 years ago my mother-in-law said, “Thank goodness, you’re a good cook. You’re not much for housekeeping.” I laughed then and I’m still laughing.) Anyway, I scrubbed the soap scum off the bathtub walls, and I cleaned the underside of the kitchen trash can! Wow!

If you need something more than listening to the west wind howl, I suggest that you read the NEW YORK TIMES post that tells you how to host a virtual Happy Hour. The article has a wealth of information to include conversation starters. The best advice was to dress up – to get out of the stained and pet-haired sweatpants that you have worn all week.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/well/virus-virtual-happy-hour.html?referringSource=articleShare

Speaking for myself, I’ll find it easier to make a cocktail than to take off my week-old flannel-lined jeans.

March 25th

In keeping with current events: The Senate approves a $2 Trillion stimulus bipartisan deal. Of interest to families, $1,200 will go to Americans with incomes up to $75,000. In addition, families with children will receive $500 for each child. Also, unemployment benefits will be expanded.

For those of us who are retired, distant memories of balancing work, children, home, and marriage seem to be something we may have read about some years ago. I think most of us have forgotten and do not appreciate the economic and emotional impact of coronavirus on family life.

“To Have and to Have Not”

Standing at the kitchen counter

peeling a thick-skinned Butternut squash,

I remember

standing at an assured safe distance

behind

a woman in line at the grocery.

A preschooler clung to one leg –

a toddler to the other.

 

Despite stay-at-home

Coronavirus warnings,

I wanted fresh ginger

for my squash soup.

I had a sad, not-so-fresh,

shriveled knob of ginger,

but I had-to-have fresh ginger.

 

I had onions,

garlic,

cilantro,

raw coconut flakes,

and a can of coconut cream,

but I had-to-have

a knob of fresh ginger.

Not surprisingly, our local grocery

had no fresh ginger.

 

Given that I had already risked contagion

by shopping for ginger,

I picked up a few discretionary,

you-never-know,

just-in-case items:

celery, onions, oranges, pears,

and butter.

 

Keeping my social distance

from the woman with the kids,

I looked in her cart, and

my heart seized.

The cart held only

five loaves of white bread!

 

Comparing the contents both carts –

comparing her have-to-haves to mine –

the term ‘Social Distancing’

expanded to include the disparity

between the haves and the have-nots.

 

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In early February, my grandson Jackson was filmed trying to put on his daddy’s boots. Just a reminder that we adults need pull up our ‘big girl’ (big boy) socks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Journaling Covid-19 – March 20, 21, & 22

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Big Wind off the Sangres

March 20th No one knows how long the Coronavirus will be with us. The exponential curve measuring the rate of infections is alarming. Will people voluntarily limit their exposure to possible infection? Will hospitals be able to keep up with the demand for their services? We have more questions than answers. The number of unknowns is unknown. Someone just said, “When no one is worried, that’s when you should worry.” In my experience, living in a small town of 600, way too many people dismissively smirk when they see me stocking up. Apparently, they think that I’m an alarmist. Their smirk is alarming.

Unemployment claims are climbing, and the Dow is down a third! But I’m supposed to be journaling my personal experiences – experiences that touch all readers – whatever their politics.

Last night I ate half of a five-serving container of Breyers vanilla caramel gelato. I began with one coffee cup of gelato, and then, midway through an episode of BABYLON BERLIN ON Netflix, I filled up the cup again. But I wasn’t satiated. Before we started a second episode, I held the Breyers’ container on my lap and ate directly from the plastic container. Had my tongue been longer, I would have licked the container clean.

2020 03 20 bear pixWhich led me to drawing a parallel between my gorging in the face of a pandemic and bears preparing for hibernation. Perhaps, as I hunker down at home, I’m a lot like a bear putting on fat prior to winter. Thinking this, I went on-line. According to a Yellowstone site, prior to hibernation, bears feast on berries rich in carbohydrates and in doing so, can gain as much as 30 pounds a week!

You do see where I’m going with this? If we all stay home and eat more than usual, we will all gain. Buy stock in Weightwatchers! Say what you will about the health benefits of oatmeal. Give me gelato!

March 21st Yes, we absolutely must listen to updates from the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. We need to listen to the precautions and follow through, but how much news is toxic? But how much news is enough?

We know that listening to the news can be addictive. How many of us are in danger of an over-dose? What is a healthy dose? How does an over-dose manifest itself? What do doctors recommend? One hour a day… two hours a day… ? What is the tipping point? I’m not a doctor, but I’m thinking that listening to or reading about Coronavirus more than two hours a day does not bode well for those who binge.

At some point, the news becomes just noise akin to a pack of high-pitched, yipping coyotes, the drone of a vacuum cleaner, the cry of a teething baby… We’re not exactly listening and taking notes; rather, the news is just dark noise, and we find ourselves lost in it. The stars aren’t out, and we have no sense of direction. If there is a road, we can’t see it.

DSCN9876Yesterday, we drove to Canon City by way of Boneyard Park and Oak Creek Grade. The car radio was off. The landscape was beautiful, but more beautiful still was the fact that despite the mixed weather, so many people were out-and-about hiking on public land. Every trailhead parking space was taken!

 

Apparently, those who were hiking, were practicing preventive medicine.

March 22nd This morning I heard a dog walker say that she wished that she were a dog. I get that: eyes bright and loving; ears up and alert; tail wagging; torso a-quiver with anticipation. If only my eyes were bright and my tail wagging.

My Border collie Oogie speaks to me: “Look at me. I’m here to protect you from the Zombies. I’ll alert you to rattlesnakes, and I’ll keep the deer our of the garden. I love you. Do you love me? Show me! I like to walk. Let’s walk!”

2020 03 better downward dogTo that end I try to channel Oogie. Classically, the downward dog yoga position calls for straight arms and legs on the floor. The goal is to look like a lean and mean inverted ‘V.’ But I cheat: when I do ‘downward dog,’ I look a lot like a dog. I’m on my knees. I lean forward with my arms flat on the floor. My head is also on the floor. My derriere is in the air.

 

Oogie gives me a kiss. He knows a kindred spirit when he sees one.

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Journaling Coronavirus

2020 03 19   Good Morning!

2020 03 PLAGUE PICTURENot to dismiss the dire predictions for Coronavirus, several writing sites have suggested that we journal our home-bound experiences. Not so much for our contemporaries, but writing while we are locked-down, our mental meanderings just might be of interest 30 or 40 years from now. So I’m taking it on. Will I write daily until the tide turns? When will the pandemic taper off?  We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ll keep  you company.

Putting my personal, non-newsworthy blog in perspective to the pandemic, I refer you to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/. I’ll insert a graph that will heighten your awareness.

coronavirus-totaldeathsIn no way am I dismissing the seriousness of the pandemic. People are very ill; people are dying; people are quarantined; people are out of work; childcare is hard to come by; and those who are living mouth-to-mouth, month-to-month are frantic. I understand that, but if I’ve learned anything in the past weeks, people are looking for a human touch. If you want straight news go to NPR or the New York Times or the Washington Post. If you want to hear from a neighbor, I’m that neighbor via my posts.

Not that I’m Mr. Rogers, but if you can identify with anything I write, we have a connection that goes beyond the confines of our homes.

March 17th (yes, I’m starting two weeks late, but…) going to Lowes’, our local grocery, I noted that every parking place was taken. I parked on the dirt next to a tethered Amish horse and buggy. Toilet paper, paper towels, and sanitizing handwipes were limited to two items per customer. The meat section was nearly out; eggs were out; yogurt was out; long-life milk was out; and nearly all canned fish and meat were out. One can of chorizo-flavored Spam was left. I bought that can.

HOWEVER, pineapple was selling for a dollar each (I bought two) and cantaloupe was cheap (I bought three). Most interesting of all was that although the aisles were exceptionally crowded with bumper-to-bumper traffic, everyone was friendly and courteous. Strangers whom I had never seen before initiated conversation.

Two thoughts came to mind: first, as we edge toward the unknown, is it best to have as many acquaintances as possible? Second, if we are high-risk in terms of dying, is it a good idea to leave with others having a good impression of us? Or… third, is everyone unconsciously scoring points should they stand before Saint Peter?

March 18th Not that we’re conscious of feeling anxious (speaking for myself, I’m still thinking of flying to Houston on April 4th), but I think whether or not we admit to feeling anxious, that anxiety is manifesting itself in dreams.

We all have anxiety dreams from time to time, but it has not escaped my notice that both Mark and I have experienced anxiety dreams in the past two nights. Our dreams that are so real that our breath quickens. We are running – out of breath. We are late or lost and completely disoriented. The dreams come to us in living color. Foreboding music plays in the background. The running and the ominous music pick up the pace as we near the climax. We awake with our teeth clenched and try to remember the sequence.

The dream is a hodgepodge of un-like pieces. Past and present are juxtaposed in a puzzle assembled by a blind man. In Mark’s dream, he was late to meet this mother and father (both deceased). Mark can’t remember where they had planned to meet, and unfortunately he had forgotten his cell phone. Wait a minute. His parents died before the age of cell phones. He can’t call them because they don’t have a phone! And on it goes.

March 19th We paid bills this morning. One bill was over a month due. I’m reminded how typically, I clean the house before we go on vacation. Just in case… what if we were to die on our trip? What if the neighbors came by and on seeing dog hair on the couch and crumbs on the counter, thought less of me than they might otherwise think?

Along these same lines, did I pay the dentist today because I wish to depart with a clean slate? Why did I pay today and not three weeks ago? Is this all a part of cleaning up?

DSCN9870We had chorizo flavored Spam for breakfast this morning – not particularly chorizo flavored but better than I would have thought Spam would taste. Perhaps I am haunted by the myth? that I heard in my youth. The myth being: Spam sells best in Hawaii because it tastes a lot like flesh, and many centuries ago, Hawaiians were partial to eating human flesh. Hum.m.m. Yes, not that I have ever tasted flesh, but eating Spam this morning I thought it might taste a lot like a sixth- month-old baby.

Oatmeal… I’m thinking that tomorrow we’ll have oatmeal for breakfast.

Give me a couple of days and I’ll keep you posted. Take care and keep those elbows out!

 

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A Plague on All Our Houses

DSCN9857Despite the title, I am hopeful. Being housebound after the longest, coldest winter ever has me straining against the leash. I think that the dog collar around my neck has spikes on it.

DSCN9867Hope springs eternal. A couple of weeks ago, hoping to speed spring along, I opened my Beck’s Catalog and dog-eared pages that would see me ordering flowers for spring. And then, dressed in my L.L. Bean’s flannel-lined jeans (which I had worn for the past months) I photographed some summer clothing  that I might wear to the Texas coast if my flight on April fourth is not cancelled. 

Am I stir-crazy? You bet!

And to make matters worse, HP up-dated my computer, and nothing is where it was! Their update is my nightmare. Yes, I am frozen in time, and their up-dates have not enhanced my writing life.

That said, I am writing an article on The Silver Cliff Museum and in doing so, I spent some time at the museum taking photographs. A host of likely topics caught my eye, but THE WORLD TYPEWRITER, manufactured by Pope MFG (also makers of Columbia bicycles and tricycles) caught my attention.

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Sometimes I find myself thinking that life would have been easier, less frantic, and slower paced if I were living back-in-the-day, but not necessarily.

Manufactured in 1886, the instructions for using the typewriter read: “To write: place first finger of right hand on cup of pointer, turn to letter desired. With first finger of the left hand, press rocker-bar down until it stops, and release immediately. To space, press down spacer with second finger. Bell strikes near end of line.”

As for spacing, is that the second finger of the right or left hand? Yes! I have been in house-bound too long. Perhaps I will not give up on my computer just yet.

toilet paper

Ready or not. What is not pictured are the diapers and baby wipes for my daughter who can’t find them in Denver.

Prior to staying home to avoid the threat of COVID-19, I bought toilet paper. It was amusing to see the panic… folks with not one, but two carts full of toilet paper.

Curious as to what folks used before using The OLD FARMER’S ALMANAC which hung on a hook in the outhouse, I looked on-line. Upper-class Romans used rose petals. The Scots used sheep fur; sailors used the knotted end of a rope; Native Americans used moss and leaves; and early Americans used corn cobs. The Greeks used a communal  sponge on the end of a long stick which when not in use soaked in a bucket of heavily salted water. Most amusing of all was a 1935 ad from Northern Tissue which claimed that their toilet paper was “splinter-free.”

I figure if you are going to be depressed, you might as well go full-out. To that end, I’m reading Albert Camus’ philosophical novel, The Plague, published in 1947 and currently out-of-stock on Amazon. The last week of February, sales of the Penguin reprint were up 150% over 2019!

If you have any interest, I highly recommend http://www.openculture.com/2020/03/why-you-should-read-the-plague.html. The novel is timely in that you will recognize the authorities unwillingness to call a plague a ‘plague.’ How do the main characters react to the crisis? Do you identify with any character?

If we experience a crisis, how will you react? Do you have enough toilet paper?

Walt WhitmanWhoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.

Hope is a thing

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Be My Valentine

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Valentine’s Day has always been bittersweet. I think that it started in grade school when your teacher said that everyone had to send a valentine to every classmate. EVERY CLASSMATE – even the classroom bully and the girl who was still sucking her thumb in third grade!

DSCN9739So you had this packet of valentines, and a list of your classmates. Fanning out the cards face up, you placed your favorite card to the right, and in descending order, you worked to your left at which point you had to decide whether the least attractive card went to the classroom bully or the thumb-sucking girl. Choosing was brutal.

It was brutal deciding which cards you’d give to whom, but it was even more brutal opening your own cards. The cards were visible proof of your status in the classroom. In my case, I ranked in the lower quarter.

Given my ranking, you would think that I would have some compassion for Ruby, the student who sucked her thumb in third grade and on through high school! Ruby was a noisy – a slurping sucker. I remember sitting behind her in study hall. I was embarrassed. She was a blight on all females, and I wanted her gone.

And then, some years later, after Ruby had graduated, I learned that she was the unwed mother of two. Listening to the radio and hearing “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” was a chastising moment. I wish that I could travel back and time, and befriend Ruby.

 

 

Not that I’m involved in elementary education, but if I were, I’d prohibit teachers requiring all students to exchange valentines. Valentines don’t build community or respect; rather, they exacerbate the existing social divide.

DSCN9745Valentine’s Day has always been bittersweet. With the perceived notion that February 14th is a special day between two lovers, it can be lonely if one of the lovers is not you. It is good to remember that not everyone is hot, disheveled, and in the throes of passionate love.

Love comes in many forms: for me, first and foremost, loving friends and family. But I love the externals too: a good book, a letter sealed with a kiss, a fat cat purring on my lap. And the list goes on: in my case, fresh snow that will top-up the water table, glittering, ice-clad trees, a blazing fire, and our dog Oogie asleep at my feet.

As for passion, I’m too tired to dance until closing. Although I remember doing so and then going out for breakfast before calling it ‘a night.’ My passion is more quiet all the time. Our youngest grandson, Jackson, fills the bill.

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Remembering 9/11

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Does a tomato graced by a volunteer petunia taste better?

If you are a regular reader, you know that I’m into Food Porn. Can’t get enough of it. My heart races: the pictures, the  techniques, and the text all suck me into the world of food. I don’t have to look for food porn: favored websites come to my in-box on a daily basis where they crook their index fingers and tempt me to come closer.

My all-time favorite website is NYT Cooking. There’s the food, of course, but the attraction for me is Sam Sifton who introduces himself and chats about the featured foods. This morning, Sam (forgive me, but his accessibility invites me to use his first name) began today’s post with a nod to 9/11.

It is a somber day in NYC, in Washington, D.C.,  and Shanksville, Penn., all across the nation, everywhere touched by the attacks of 18 years ago. I can’t help but recall, each time, how blue the sky was that day and how tightly I held my week-old child in horror at what I’d done, bringing life into this world gone mad.

I cooked later that day and served what I’d made to my family. That act sustained me and sustains me still – this vain hope that if only we make food for one another and share it with open hearts we can push forward together in understanding and together maybe make the world a better place. I don’t know if that works. I believe it does. So I’ll continue to do it, seeking grace in the meals, in the work of making them.”

community-dinner-overhead-large-jpg-9525-220x300I don’t know that food – serving as salve – works, but ‘hope springs eternal.’ This year’s Valley Strong Community Dinner is this coming Thursday, September 19. Two, parallel lines of banquet tables run down Main Street, Westcliffe. Starting at Second Street, the tables terminate at The Bluff overlooking The Valley.

Every table has a host who provides decorations and place settings. Guests pot-luck the food. Some tables are exclusively friends-of-friends. Other tables are open to meeting new friends. This year we’re eating with Trails for All, hosted by Paul and Nicole Parsons. I know very few of these people, but I look forward to meeting them.

The anniversary of 9/11 takes me back. I was flying home from London when the pilot shared the bad news. (Not to repeat myself, you can easily find that story. If you look to the right of this text, you will see a search box. Type in 9/11, and the September 10, 2016 blog will pop up.)

Looking to refresh my memory of the Shanksville, PA story, I went on-line where I was reminded that a crew of seven, aided by exceptionally brave passengers, thwarted four, al-Qaeda hijackers who planned to target the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Rather than fly the plane to the hijackers destination, the crew and passengers sacrificed their lives by crashing into a field.

sept 11 Shanksville PANot to diminish the number of deaths and unheralded acts of bravery at The World Trade Center and at the Pentagon, but the self-sacrifice of those on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, hits very close to home. I was on a plane that day. What would I have done had four terrorists been on my flight?

Would I have been brave enough to attack or distract one of the hijackers? I think about this often. Certainly I’ve looked for terrorists on every flight I’ve taken the last 17 years. I steel myself with a mantra of sorts. “I will be brave… I will be brave… I will be brave.” How brave remains to be seen.

tower-of-voices

Looking at the Flight 93 Memorial, I see pictures of a 93-ft. ‘Tower of Voices.’ 40 chimes hang from the tower. Driven only by the weather and the wind, the chimes ring out in memory of the 40 deceased passengers and crew.

Reading this, my heart lightens. And then scrolling through possible sources relating to 9/11 and Shanksville, I came across the conspiracy theories. Page after page of crockpot theories – many fueled by The Rebekah Roth Conspiracy. (Read for yourself. I’m not going into it today.” I only had to read the first post, to feel my heart sink. That first post read: “The Federal Government sure knows how to waste money… maybe some ‘Guilt’ for downing the plane themselves? Gotta Wonder!”

Other articles and blogs were worse. If I were to invite these folks to dinner what would serve? Something sweet and sour? Sauerbraten?  Key Lime Pie? Arsenic? I think I’d choke singing, “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing.” Color me dark.

There’s a part of me that wants to understand the “others.” Who are they, and why are they the way they are? And there is another part of me that wants to turn my back and garden. Enough! I going to garden NOW!

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