Monthly Archives: February 2016

In which I explain one thing about myself

I never got sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class, flunking tests, pulling pranks, or talking in class.  The only time that a teacher marched me to the office, shoulder firmly held by her bony nun’s hand, involved my unrelenting refusal to kneel in church and recite the Our Father and, later in the Mass, that offensive and overt plea for forgiveness, Oh Lord, I am not worthy to receive you / speak but the word and my soul shall be healed.

By eighth grade, my future break with Roman Catholicism could have been predicted.  The ultimate blow could not be foreseen, I suppose, or my mother would have sent me to public school — not to avoid my religious exodus but to protect me from the priest whose conduct would push me over the edge.  But my stubborn soul had found a philosophical rift as early as fifth or sixth grade, and in my last year of elementary school,  I summoned the courage to rebel.

God is your father and you must ask him to forgive you, admonished the nun, though with Capital F and Capital H audible in the way she pronounced “father” and “him”.  Why won’t you do this all of a sudden?  I stared mutely at her; I did not think she really wanted to know.   She insisted, badgering me until I spat out the words in my heart.

First of all, I already have a father and I don’t need another one.  The one I have is hard enough to endure.  Second of all, if God is so divine and I am made in God’s likeness, how is it then that I have to beg him for forgiveness and proclaim my unworthiness?

I don’t recall how many Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s that nun made me recite on my knees in her office, holding my arms extended with a bible balanced on each flat palm for my heresy.  I do recall that she never answered my question.

So here is the one thing that I want to tell you about myself, in the hopes that my raw confession will help even one person out there.  If you don’t need this encouragement, perhaps you know someone who does.  You can steal these words.  You can dress my message and my experiences in some other anecdote.  I assert no pride of authorship; this truth bears too much importance.

If you know someone who suffers from the shame of feeling unimportant, undesirable, or inconsequential, please, tell them this, from me:

YOU ARE WORTHY. And just as you are; not thinner, or calmer, or richer, or more blonde, more muscular, or with a bigger house or a faster car. You are worthy just as you are.

I have never believed this of myself.  I have always felt inherently inferior.  Life’s hammering blows confirmed my gut instinct.  I remember watching my high school peers flaunt about, sashaying in their rolled-up uniform skirts, easy with their bodies and their persona.  I never felt that sense of comfort, knowing that I fit into my environment.  An ease of belonging — not of conforming, but of being able to walk into a room and have people want me to be there.

I do not feel it to this day.  It might be too late for me; but perhaps by exposing my deep, immutable insecurity, I can save someone else.

It is just past seven in the morning, Pacific Time.  I have just broken my fast with a long pull of Artichoke Garlic bread from the Arcangeli Grocery Co. in Pescadero, California, dipped in hummus; and a mandarin orange from the Safeway in Halfmoon Bay.  In an hour, I will make my way to the Stanford Medical Center here in Palo Alto, for a full day of appointments.   I have left the oceanside and am back inland, on the land-locked side of the mountains.  I have already made my reservation for Labor Day weekend at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.  Michael, the manager with the 60’s vibe, assigned me to the  Dolphin house again, because he knows I like it.  When I arrive, he’ll check me in early so I can get the lower bunk by the western window.  The scent of the sea will  soothe me as I sleep.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  It’s Leap Day, people.   If you’ve got sturdy legs, use them — spring forward into life as it continues.


Last morning, last morning

I watched the sun rise from the sidewalk behind the Dolphin house, at which I have made my bed for the last two nights.  The quarters here at Pigeon Point have names like that: Dolphin, Pelican, Seal.  I have stayed in Dolphin both times.  I prefer it.  With its own  kitchen, an accessible shower and lavatory, and proximity to the office and walkway to the sea, it suits me.

I  leave the sea today.  I head up the coast, take a right turn at Half Moon Bay, and travel the long way to Palo Alto.  I would not mind going the mountain view route but I want to stay by the sea as long as possible.  While I enjoyed my two days in Marin County — and my lunch with a fellow Rotarian in San Rafael — the sea draws me here, with its rolling sound, its heavy air, its powerful presence.

I watched a para-surfer ride those rolling waves yesterday.  From my bench on the ridge behind the hostel, the surfer’s body seemed minuscule, and the waves thundering against the beach terrified me. The surfer’s sail leaped and jerked in the powerful current of the air above the ocean.  I alternated between terror and admiration.  My stomach lurched. How brave!  How brave!  I could never be so brave.

I wind-surfed once, in my carefree misspent youth.  My boyfriend at the time hailed from Martha’s Vineyard.  We flew to Boston and drove south to the island for a week of vacation in the cool of early summer.  We wore hooded sweatshirts, his over shorts, mine over capris, and sat in his stepfather’s boat drinking mugs of cider. His sister Claire and her husband Roger took us around the island to show me everything they loved about living on the Vineyard.

One afternoon, the three of them took turns riding the waves on the ocean side of Edgarton. I sat in the boat, admiring their prowess and wishing for stronger legs.  But Roger said,, Come, do this too, Corinne; I’ll help you.  His brother-in-law scoffed.  She can’t do that, she’s crippled, and suddenly I could not demur.

With the skeptical one at the helm, ordered to hold the boat still by Roger, Claire held my hand as I stepped out of my sandals and over the side of the boat.  Roger stood on the surfboard holding it steady, reaching with one hand for mine.  I straddled the board’s smooth wet surface and placed my hands where Roger showed me.  Then Roger moved away, back into the boat, holding everything, letting me drift a bit and then, I felt myself move off the side of the boat and into the waves’ grip.

I lasted only a few minutes before I felt myself topple, but Roger anticipated this and leaped from the boat to scoop my body back to safety while Claire steadied the sails of the surfboard.  My body shuddered as I fell into a seat, laughing, my wild long hair flying. Claire and Roger crowed, gleeful, ecstatic, while Claire’s brother guided the boat back to the harbor without speaking.  As we tied the boat and climbed to the boardwalk, I saw my boyfriend glaring at his brother-in-law; and felt a different kind of lurching in  my stomach — not from the exhilaration of riding the waves but fear — and confusion — and dread.

Later I asked him: Why did that upset you?  He told me:  I wasn’t upset, I just did not want you hurt.

I never believed him.  Some people want you to soar; some people want you to stand on solid ground, watching, waiting, letting life happen without you.

The house has awakened.  One traveler has warmed soup in a pot and sits in the living room, preparing to resume his bike ride from Santa Cruz to San Francisco.  Another made fresh coffee; and a woman from the house next door which does not have a kitchen, stands watching the sea from the window, waiting for the kettle to boil.  The gentle sea speaks to me from a slight crack in the window.  I yield to its call.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I had an emotional meltdown on Friday, driving down the coast.  I let myself find quiet yesterday; and I hope to carry that peacefulness with me today as I drive to the third and final leg of this journey.  Life continues.



By the sea

The waves crash against the rocks outside the kitchen window.  I have reheated coffee.  Everyone else has left, checking out and going about their business.  I am alone.  I have sat on the boardwalk and read, watched whales spouting in the distance, photographed a crow for Penny Thieme.  I have traded texts with a friend in Chicago who knows my state of mind.  Distract yourself, he encourages me.  Write.

I can hear the kindness in his voice through the cold words on the phone’s screen.  He does not chastise me for being sad.  He understands, even though his life differs from mine.  With a wife and daughters; a business to run; he rarely finds himself alone and yet, somehow, he understands that my arrival at this fiercely beautiful place which I so deeply love has brought out the immutable fact of my reluctant solitude.

It’s the twenty-seventh day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I cannot claim that I dwell in joy today.  It eludes me.  My life continues but today, at this moment, I must report that the steps forward challenge me, and my journey principally continues because I still have promises to keep and I am a woman of honor.

See what splendor surrounds me.

See what splendor surrounds me.


The journey continues

Once again I write into a Word document.  Technology gods do not favor me this week.  From dying cell phones to a recalcitrant laptop, I’ve been forced – for hours, nay days —  to keep my own company.

Yet I fare well.

I drove to San Rafael yesterday to be the lunch guest of Rotarian Jim Carriere, on the strength of an introduction from a KC Rotarian, Jeff Deatherage.  I found the bank of which he is the COO with ease, following his direction, my phone’s GPS, and the strength of instinct.  I had cautioned him that I might look like an interloper in my fire-engine red dress and wild hair.  I later asked if he had recognized me from the color of my attire. No, he admitted, adding, it was the hair.

Which, truth told, is also fire-engine red at the moment, at least three or four inches of it, though with less intention on my part than my choice of yesterday’s attire.  But I’m not complaining.  In this instance, clown-red looks better than an inch of solid grey against a highlighted brown/blonde.

Conversation over mushroom-eggplant soup and tri-fungii pasta ranged from Shelterbox to our sons (each with one) to his wife to the Rotary Clubs in the area.  Nearly two hours flew by, while strangers with more in common than not became acquainted.  When he walked me to my car, he bent his frame down to bestow a gentle hug instead of taking my offered hand.  Such is the power of connection, in this case through our shared dedication to service above self.

He asked, where to now? and I answered, what happens if I turn right at the road instead of left?

An hour and a half later, I reached Point Reyes lighthouse, on my Pacific ocean, at the edge of northwestern Marin County, California.

As I approached the lighthouse point, signs disappointed me: Thursday was not one of its open days.  But I resolved to continue and see what I could see.  I did not require it to be open; I only needed it to be there, and on the ocean, and available to me.

When I reached the lighthouse in 3.4 miles point, I realized that if I had a flat tire, I would find myself waiting a very long time for AAA.  I came through cattle crossings, though; and spots at which the road dwindled to a stretch of broken blacktop coursing through ranches.  I saw ATVs and told myself that unless I injured myself falling off the “hazard cliffs – no hiking allowed” , I most likely would be able to get help.

Cattle eyed me with little interest.  But at one point, I looked to my right, and beheld my beloved sea.

The last stretch of roadway to the parking lot could have been in any deserted land.  Finally, the grounds of the park above the lighthouse came into view.  True to the warnings, a gate stretched across the road which I later determined would have taken me down to the lighthouse itself.

I parked my orange rental Fiat and got out.  I assessed the situation and determined that I faced walking if I wanted to gaze at the ocean or spot the lighthouse.  I wore leggings, an orange Henley dress, my new Allegria flowered shoes, and a bright red Forever 21 jacket which I bought second hand for $6.00.  I debated; could I walk in this outfit on rough, unpaved surfaces?  How ridiculous would I look?

I answered:  First of all, young lady, you did not drive all this way to bail at the last moment.  Second of all, fabric is fabric.  It covers you; it keeps you warm.  What difference that the maker sewed it into leggings instead of sweatpants?  And thirdly:  You do look ridiculous.  So get walking.

To my left, a fairly decent path led upwards and disappeared over a small ridge.  To my right, a rugged trail would take me to a high point from which I assumed I could have seen the lighthouse.  But the path on the right could not be tread by this crippled girl, and so I started to the left.  Within three yards, I reached a tricky point, the type of situation that always confounds me:  a little rise around large low rocks with no handhold.

Just then, I heard voices and turned towards the parking lot below me.  I spied my saviors:  a lanky young man and a fresh-faced woman, walking hand in hand wearing sweatshirts, soft jersey pants, and matching flipflops.  Just in time!  I called, and Connor and Cydney came forward to help me up the hill and to the point from which we shared a long unbroken view of the Pacific Ocean.

With the wind buffeting us, we traded stories of how we all three came to be standing together.  When Connor heard that I had just lunched with a Rotarian, his face broke into a radiant smile. He told me had had been a Rotary youth member in high school.  Happiness rose within me.  Reaching to either lapel of my jacket, I pulled away two Rotary pins which I had felt compelled to wear.  Each announced the Rotary International motto of the 2015/2016 year:  Be a Gift to the World.

And gifts those young people were, to the world, to me, to each other.  They let me pin them as I thanked them for the help they had given me without hesitation.  We took photographs, of each other, of the group.  We prevailed upon a woman to take one of the three of us from a distance and then Connor did the same for her and her companion.  Then we crabwalked down the trail, back to the parking lot, and each of them embraced me: Connor with his sturdy frame, Cydney with her slight body.  I pointed out the rugged trail and told them that I thought if they climbed that path, they could see the lighthouse. I gave them my calling card, a pen with my firm’s web address on it, and we traded cell phone numbers.  Cydney promised to send me a photo of the lighthouse.  I got into my car and started back down from the edge of the world.

I dined in Sausalito.  I did not try the restaurant that my friend Cheri Simpkins had suggested, because I could not get a table.  I went to another place and broke my vegetarian diet with decent crabcakes.  My dinner, though, consisted of a divine beet salad, so delectable that it quite nicely compensated for the lousy service.

Finally, at 7:30 p.m., I head toward Marin Headlands and the hostel, through the five-minute, one-way tunnel.  As I had resolved, I hit record on my cell phone, thinking, as I made the journey safely to the other end, that only at the edge of the world would any of this be possible.

It’s the twenty-sixth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Today I head to Pigeon Point.  My magical life continues.


Cydney, me, and Connor at the edge of the world.

Cydney, me, and Connor at the edge of the world.

Cydney sent this picture to me this morning.  They climbed the trail and gazed on this sight.  I feel as though I made the trip with them.

Cydney sent this picture to me this morning. They climbed the trail and gazed on this sight. I feel as though I made the trip with them.

From the edge of the world

I write at a long wooden table in a room that holds four such tables, a wood-burning stove, four couches, and a piano.  Tall windows allow visions of the surrounding firs.  Pictures of the Marin Headlands adorn the walls, along with a guitar, a fire extinguisher and a large clock announcing that seven a.m. arrived three minutes ago.  To my left, a bulletin board displays information about the nearby trails, the seasonal vegetation, and local farming.

Exhaustion overcame me at 9:30 last evening, more than nineteen hours after my alarm rang in a friend’s spare bedroom, halfway across America from where I now sit.  A shuttle pulled into her driveway beside the Prius less than thirty-minutes later, and my Western voyage began.  I flew into San Francisco, perhaps not my wisest decision; but as usual, a gentle, slight “pusher” wheeled me through the gigantic corridors, hauled my suitcase which outweighed him by ten or twenty pounds, navigated me onto the train, and deposited me at the car rental counter in due dispatch.

I crossed the Golden Gate bridge at 1:15 p.m. Pacific time.  I thought about a phone call made to me from that bridge by my son, a quarter of his lifetime ago.  I slowed in brief honor of the man whom my son watched teetering on the edge of that bridge; and of the police officer whom – if memory does not white-wash Patrick’s account – coaxed the man back to safety, help, and possible salvation.

I understand the need for rescue.  In some ways, I’ve cobbled together rescue for myself, out here in California’s untamed parks, above the ocean, away from the city.  But I have not walked the soft paths or stood with my face to the sea.  Instead I drove into San Francisco last evening, invited to attend a Rotary Connect evening with three or four Rotary clubs.  My cell phone died somewhere along the way, so I depended on memory to guide me.  I found the Golden Gate Tap Room, a parking garage, and a sidewalk teeming with tourists, musicians, young professionals, briskly walking women tapping their tablets, and scampering children.  I approached the exterior of the Tap Room awash in misconception of what I would find, lulled into Midwest misunderstanding by the Tap Room in which my own Rotary Club meets.  The Tap Room at Waldo Pizza in Kansas City augments the restaurant itself as a private room available for overflow, private events, or large families.  Quiet, secluded, with its own bar, our Tap Room gives the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club a place to mingle over cocktails, sit and nibble appetizers, and listen to guest speakers.

Not so the Golden Gate Taproom.  Four floors of pounding music, with hundreds and hundreds of partiers, multiple bars with fast-moving bartenders – in short, a place at which I felt lost rather than welcome.  I stood awash in hesitance, clutching the plastic bag holding our Club polo shirt with which I intended to gift the SF Evening Club officer who had invited me.  Finally, I approached a server, made my inquiry, and she shook her head, gesturing to the scores and scores of humans around us as though to say, I could not possibly tell you whether the people whom you seek have arrived.

But then the server saw a man hovering at the head of the stairs, beside the elevator.  She took my arm and pointed to him, saying, I don’t know what a Rotary guy looks like, but I bet that’s one.

The man, in his late sixties perhaps, wearing a suit and several lapel pins, indeed fit the model of Rotarian as most of the world understands that concept.  And, when asked, he proudly admitted as such and took my small hand in his, telling me that he had not been aware of my arrival and came from a different club than the woman who had invited me. He assured me that she was present and escorted me to a table in the midst of the melee.

I spent the next  two hours exchanging business cards, stories, and accounts of aspirations for impact on the world.  Finally, about 8:30, after pictures had been taken of my hostess wearing the WBRC shirt (pictures in which I look dead-tired and old), two young SF Evening Club members escorted me three blocks to the garage at which I had left my car.  Along the way, their sparkling eyes told of their love for one another while they themselves recounted a tale of meeting when the slender, vbrant woman moved to SF and transferred her Rotary membership.  Seven or eight months ago, they said, but I could tell they meant that time had no meaning for them; that eternity held the contours of their connection.

I drove back across the bridge, into the Marin Headlands, up a dark road to the hostel, and, eventually, collapsed into unbridled sleep on the bottom bunk of one set of bunkbeds in a room holding four such sets.  The only other occupant still slept when I woke at six-thirty from the longest continual span of sleep that I have enjoyed in more than two years.  Funny that I should sleep so well on a three-inch foam mattress covered with rubber when rest eludes me on my Seal Posturepedic.

Now I sit in the great hall of this hostel.  I cannot write this into my blog as I usually would, for I have not been able to connect my laptop to their wireless internet.  Instead I type into a Word document and I will save it, to post later, when I find a way to plug in.  But I’m not complaining.  It’s the twenty-fifth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining, and I see no need to worry about when my readers get this missive.  It will keep and so will they.  Life continues.


I sit at a five-minute red light, the entrance to a tunnel, and know without question, that  this not Kansas.

I sit at a five-minute red light, the entrance to a tunnel, and know without question, that this not Kansas.

In-Flight Service

I dodged the curb-side skycap who kept repeating to my foggy 4:00 a.m. brain that I could have “complimentary bag-check inside” or I could have “sky-cap service curbside”.  I stared at the outdoor bag-check kiosk, looking for indicia of its connection to Southwest Airlines.  When did the airlines start charging to check your bags, I asked.  It’s no charge, he insisted.  You can have complimentary bag-check inside, or you can have sky-cap service here.  My mind boggled.  How much is the charge to check it here? i inquired.  There is no charge, he replied.  You can have complimentary bag-check inside at the ticket counter, or you can have sky-cap service curb-side. 

My bag stood solidly between us.  My writer’s brain on four or five hours of sleep contemplated his deliberate inclusion of the word “complimentary” to describe baggage check “inside” and the absence of that word to describe the service at his kiosk denoted a charge.  I did not necessarily mind tipping or paying a fee to have assistance.  I sorely minded his disingenuous and thinly concealed attempt to trick me into incurring a hidden fee.

No thanks, I wearily told him.  I grasped the handle of my four-wheel spinner suitcase and trudged inside.  A stream of golfers followed me, having disgorged themselves from a bus at the curb in front of my Super-Shuttle.

When my turn came at the ticket counter, a wiry woman of fifty or so hauled my over-packed suitcase forward and slapped stickers on it.  You’re going to my gate, she exclaimed.  I bet you need a wheelchair.  She had seen me walk.  I hesitate to use a pushed chair if I don’t need it.  The Kansas City airport does not particularly challenge me, but LAX would.  If you decline a wheelchair at any step of the process, getting one later proves difficult.

As usual, the attendant spoke little English and I outweighed him by ten or twenty pounds even at my meager 112.  We got to gate 40 an hour before boarding, since the shuttle only offered service for my flight at 3:45 or 4:00 a.m.  Even at the latter, the lack of traffic and the driver’s heavy foot insured my arrival at the airport before 4:30 for a 6:30 take-off.

I sat next to the gate with my Starbucks and my tablet, browsing social media and yesterday’s e-mail.  By and by, the gate attendant wheeled me down and a heavy-set flight attendant handed me into my seat.  With my computer bag shoved under the seat and my hat in my lap, I settled myself and awaited that lovely coffee from the airline with a heart.

I’m California-bound.  Challenges lie ahead.  I’ve never driven across the Golden Gate bridge.  My hostel stay in Marin County holds its own particular intrigue.  But this evening, if all goes well, I will mingle at a three-club Rotary Social at the Golden Gate Tap Room.  I will sleep this evening with an open window and sea breezes caressing my face. It’s the twenty-fourth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  A temporary respite from every-day routine promises to invigorate me.  Nonetheless, life continues.


Balance sheet

In the dark hours, pacing up and down the worn wooden floor of the upstairs room in my 1922 bungalow, complaint could come easy.

You know me:  you read my words, you dance in and out of the days of my life.  The losses of the last two-and-a-half years have been chronicled over coffee, tea, pakora, telephone lines.  I do not need to recite them here.  I spent 2014 denying those losses.  I filled the craters in my life with tears and nearly drowned in them.  When 2015 dawned, I wrapped myself in good intentions, letting its gauze soak away the seepage of my wounds.

But now a new year has come to offer me a chance for a new perspective, to sit in another chair and see the room from another viewpoint.  In the days and weeks of this third year of my journey, I can focus on the gains instead of the losses.

And one gain stands out today, perhaps underscored by my twilight battle with the burning waves of jagged neuro-transmission that kept me awake most of this past night.

I’m so proud that I have gained what I call ‘sobriety’:  complete freedom from dependence on prescription “painkillers”. I use quotation marks with apologies to Strunk & White.  Anyone who has resorted to narcotics for any length of time knows they neither kill nor relieve pain. They detach you from all feeling.  They latch their insidious hold on the user, even the user who stays within the confines of the doctor’s order for the drug’s use.  One who skates just the other side of the allowed dosage, as I did, fares much worse.

Ironically, the doctor who first gave me a narcotic drug for pain also misdiagnosed my mother’s uterine cancer as “female troubles” and prescribed Premarin, a known aggravant of uterine cancer.  He hastened her death.  He gave me Darvon for menstrual cramps at age 12, setting me on the slippery slope to drug dependence.  Well-meaning neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, and family doctors treated my neurological pain with Valium, muscle relaxants, Percoset, and Vicodin.  I spent forty-five years numbing myself.  I have been clean for twenty-six months, every day of the journey you have taken with me, this “year” which seems to never end.

At 6:30 a.m. tomorrow, 24 February 2016, I board a plan for northern California.  I have scheduled five days of retreat, first in Marin County and then in the second place on this planet at which I have felt completely at peace, Pigeon Point on the coast just south of Pescadero.  I have Catherine Kenyon to thank for introducing me to the beautiful, serene hostel at which I will spend three days and two nights this week.  My soul seems to reach a state of complete quietude on the shores of the Pacific, in the soothing air with its tinge of sea salt.

In those five days, I hope to prepare myself to move forward in this journey.  If my healing has stages, this year might be the most intense because I have embraced the direction in which I travel.  I have had gains; I have had losses.  My balance sheet sits before me, a Venn diagram of my strengths and weaknesses; my successes and my monumental failures.

I will  not crumble it and toss it into the ocean, nor light it afire to waft through the clean air to be borne to my ancestors.  Instead, I will put that balance sheet in a file folder, and the folder in a drawer, and I will slowly close that drawer.  Ten months from now, when I tally the accounts for 2016, I can revisit that balance sheet for the last two years.  I expect to have made a profit, though one measured by my own standards.

It’s the twenty-third day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I might not write again until I am settled somewhere with a soothing cup of tea or a bracing fruit smoothie at hand.  But know that life continues.



Made in China

A rap on the door startled me from the slumber which I did not realize had overcome me.  I darted a glance to the only timepiece in the room, my cell phone.  I had been asleep for nearly an hour.  What possessed me to host two functions in one weekend? I muttered, as I struggled to my feet from the low couch — the comfortable couch — and made my way to the door, shushing the dog in the process.

Brenda Dingley stood at the door bearing gifts.  A magneted notepad such as I had admired in her home; and magnets for securing business cards to the refrigerator.  I was out walking, she said.  I planned to leave them in your mailbox.

We sat talking — about my upcoming trip; about the next art show at Suite 100;  and about memories, some pleasant, some not.  I told her, Right before I fell asleep, I contemplated going out to get some food.  And quick as a wink, off we went, in Brenda’s little car, to Chai Shai for pakoras and other delectable fare.

Towards the end of dinner, Brenda mentioned that she had a shawl that she no longer wore, which she’d like to give me.  Oh good! I chortled.  “Shawl” is on my packing list!  I have shawls, but one can never have too many and a new shawl is like the first sip from a cold can of soda — delicious, perfect, satisfying.  We drove the extra block past my house to hers, and out from the house she came with this gorgeous, soft, rich shawl.  I bought it at the Great Wall of China, Brenda explained.

I held it up to my face and breathed.  But don’t you want it?  She shrugged, putting the car in reverse.   I don’t use it much anymore.  And it just looks like something you would wear.

Some people get me.

It’s 6:15 a.m. and I have a court appearance in two hours.  I have not finished laundry nor have I packed or cleaned out the refrigerator.  I still have to create and order the title sheets for the March 4th show, and client appointments fill the last sixteen work hours before my flight west. At 4:15 a.m. on Wednesday, I will board a Super Shuttle in front of Pat Reynold’s house, at which I am staying Tuesday night and where I will leave the Prius during my trip to California so the house-sitters can park in my space out back.  Between now and then, I will probably run myself to a frazzle.  I will sleep well on the plane.

It’s the twenty-second day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


When I can’t sleep

Here’s to all the jittery girls, who push their feet into impossible shoes and wear shimmering dresses.

Here’s to all the guys who stand around holding beer in plastic cups, flexing their shoulders.

Here’s to the sixty-somethings with fire in their eyes, spitting piss-and-vinegar at the mere suggestion of slowing down.

Here’s to the kids running through wedding rehearsals with the ties of their dresses flying behind, and their miniature suit-coats flapping.

Here’s to the clusters of grandmas and aunties in the kitchen with aprons tied over their Sunday-best, standing over steaming soup pots and lowered oven doors.

Here’s to the old maids on the balconies sneaking cigarettes and glances at their watches.

Here’s to sleepless nights, and lousy poetry, and laughter over the phone, right before the sobs and the soothing murmurs.

Here’s to you — and here’s to me — and here’s to the sleeping dogs in their beds on the hearth, and the faraway grown-up children who only call home when they need advice about things they don’t want to disclose to their friends.

And here’s to the parents who listen patiently, and speak wisely about subjects completely alien to them, but which sound like something that might have happened once, a long time ago, and maybe their suggestion will work.

Here’s to the unwritten song, and the clean page, and the unpainted canvas, waiting in the midnight hours, the sleepless time, when every word racing through your mind seems like gold.

It’s the witching hour of the twentieth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  I can’t sleep.  The ringing in my ears fills the room.  Life continues.

Photo by my shared daughter Tshandra White.

Photo by my shared daughter Tshandra White.


The wind batters the upper story of my house.  I no longer pretend that sleep nears.  With the low light of the desk lamp casting soft shadows around me, I stare through the gap between the broken slats of the wooden blind in the north window.  I have entwined a small brown blanket with the dangling strings.  I cannot see outside but I can hear the roar of nature.

Now the urgent panicked call of a siren rises in the folds of the buffeting air.  I pace through the room, ghostly images emerging from the noise which penetrates my sanctuary.  Faces surround me, blurry, drifting, receding.

In six days, I will again stand on the edge of the world.  I will raise my arms and let the sea soothe me.  But tonight the fierceness of an early spring leaves me restless and worried.

I did not stretch today.  I rose early and settled the cloak of duty on  my unloosened limbs.  I stumbled through the hours, detached and unaware.   In return sleep makes no pretense of its disdain.  It is nearly the nineteenth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. I wait; and while I wait, the city flees the merciless wind, with roaring motors, and bleating horns.  Above the street, the hour seems suspended; tomorrow cowers beyond the forbidding night.  But I know with some deep certainty, that life continues.

The edge of the world, 03 March 2015.

The edge of the world, 03 March 2015.


This entry is for you, Mr. Senter.