Monthly Archives: August 2020

Of Essential Truths and Spring Water

I spent most of my last marriage explaining myself to my husband.  Of all the truths about me which annoyed him, perhaps the irk which I found most confusing was his insistence that I drink tap water.

I understand the arguments in favor of tap water — it’s there, we already paid for it, it’s cheap, it doesn’t come in plastic bottles that last for an eternity and pollute the ocean.  But my then-husband did not employ any of those.  In fact, his Republican heart resisted even acknowledging the validity of what he considered liberal propaganda.  Instead, he thought I should drink tap water because it was better for me than other kinds of water.

But I won’t drink it, I countered.  I don’t like the way it tastes.  It isn’t at all good for me if I don’t consume it.  I continued drinking — and paying for — what I called “delivered water”.  I chose a brand which claimed to be spring water.  I didn’t really care where the water originated. I liked the way it tasted.  I drank it.  I stayed hydrated.

Perversely, when we traveled, he didn’t insist that I fill and carry a water bottle.  He would buy Fiji water for me, for reasons that I still do not understand.  But otherwise he would belligerently and often loudly insist that I should just drink tap water.  After a while, I did not argue.  I don’t care to endure loud voices, so I would just smile and walk into another room.  While there, I would fetch myself a glass of water from the dispenser and enjoy it out on the porch.

I recently discovered a brand of spring water called Icelandic.  The name caught my eye at the Sprouts in Lodi because I read a lot of crime fiction set in Iceland. I doubt that I will ever travel abroad but if I do, that’s one of the places which I long to visit.  I tried the brand based upon the allure of the country for which it is named. I found that I liked it better than any other type, which is saying something since I think I have tried most of them.

This water costs $2.49 for a 1000 ml bottle.  No one but Sprouts carries the brand in my area.  I drive into Lodi on Fridays to get groceries, sundries, and this bottled water.  Every once in a while, it goes on sale.  Since I drink a bottle of it every day, I value those sales.  Sprouts has other spring water, including a brand called Flow which is only $1.99 per bottle and tastes almost as good as Icelandic though not quite.  And yes, I know, I can turn on the tap and get water for much cheaper.  But I won’t, will I? so what difference does it make?

I chill my bottled water and make sure that I drink it from pretty vessels.  Sometimes I raise a glass of cold Icelandic to my ex-husband, for whom I hold no malice and even a fair amount of regard.  He’s right about one thing.  Drinking water is good for me.

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


“Good morning,” said the little prince.
“Good morning,” said the merchant.
This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need of anything to drink.
“Why are you selling those?” asked the little prince.
“Because they save a tremendous amount of time,” said the merchant. “Computations have been made by experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week.”
“And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?”
“Anything you like . . .”
“As for me,” said the little prince to himself, “if I had fifty-three minutes to spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water.”

Chapter 23, The Little Prince
written and illustrated by
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
translated from the French by Katherine Woods

Of wind and smoke and passing years

I woke this morning at 6:35 a.m. despite the fact that no duty called me.  It cannot be helped; my restless heart knows its milestones and this is one.  Sleep would not return.  I watched the hazy morning light gently rise outside my windows. 

The fire did not come close enough to the town where I work or the island on which I live to pose a threat.  But now we breathe the lingering ashes.  Dust collects on our cars.  We sigh and think, there, but for the grace of God, go I.

In my house, I use a small, manageable flame to boil water for my coffee.  In the open front doorway, I study the sway of the branches.  The Delta winds rule our lives.  They shift and the fire turns west and we are spared.  They dance and drive the smoke to our meadow. The latest fire consumed hundreds of houses northeast of here, fanned by the  winds which now send soot skipping across the clouds to fall on vineyards and fields of corn.

My lungs strain against the thickened air.  I feel every day of my age, of an age that my mother never got to be.  Her memory pulled me from a dreamless sleep.  I hear my sister’s voice again, the same calm cadence, the same final mandate, echoing now for thirty-five years:  It’s time to come home.  Recently, a friend lost her mother.  When does it get easier, she whispered to me over the telephone.  Never, I thought but did not say.  Never.  Aloud I promised my friend that eventually the pain would ease.  Like the wind, and the smoke, and the tides;  the searing loss will recede.  You will wrap yourself in memories and continue with whatever you have left of the life which she gave you.

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

In Memory: 


10 September 1926 — 21 August 1985


Please enjoy a few photos:

Last month’s full moon; the sun in a smokey morning sky; egrets in the Delta near my home.



High Hopes

I have high hopes for this sultry Saturday in the middle of the actual week of summer about which natives often moan.

True enough, I woke later than I intended.  My bones ache with a convincing imitation of old age. The tender spots at the base of my thumbs remind me that I forgot to take ibuprofen last night. Temperatures threaten to climb above 100F.  My in-home humidity gauge indicates that we might reach 50% today.

My enthusiasm persists.

My plan to get into Rio Vista by eight fell away as I eased myself down the stairs from my erstwhile writing loft turned bedroom.  I feel compelled to explore the dollar general to see if any heat-beating mechanisms could be acquired for the comfort of our #SundayMarket guests.  Extra bottled water, perhaps; personal misters; something.  I need a new battery for the gizmo which lets me into my vehicle and starts the engine.  Getting out of the house at the crack of opening time would have put me back home with the entire morning to spare.  I reckoned without the gleeful, unpredictable resurgence of the symptoms of a disease which no one can identify, cure, or treat.  I staggered around my tiny house begging for coffee, waiting for the kettle to boil.

I remain undaunted.

The grim reality of 2020 smacked me in the face from the New York Times, social media, and my personal inbox.  US Covid-19 deaths nearing 170,000.  Postal services threatened less than three months before a presidential election which will be largely vote-by-mail. Racist comments flying through the airwaves on the heels of the selection of Kamala Harris as the Democratic VP candidate. Film at eleven ooo ahhh ahhh.

I keep pushing.

I intend to enjoy this day.  Chores will be completed, pain quelled, attitude adjusted.  Everything which needs to unfold in my one clear day for tackling the nuts and bolts of life will be  organized, addressed, and accomplished.  As the sun sets over the California Delta and the heat of our week-long hot weather abates, I will walk — or drive — down the row of tiny houses and open my lawn chair in the meadow by the home of my friends Louis and Helix for movie night.  By and by, I will sleep again, and when Sunday dawns, I will get up and do it all over again.

It’s the fifteenth day of the ninetieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

When I first moved to Park Delta Bay, this old tree on Jackson Slough Road caught my attention and became a symbol of the transplanting of this middle-aged Missouri Mugwump from her Midwestern complacency to the new challenges in NORCAL.  These cell phone snaps do not do justice to the venerable lines of this tree, nor clearly depict the mighty bird perched on its old branches.  Perhaps your imagination can complete the picture.

This, I believe.

I believe in angels — yes, the fluttering kind, who whisper of impending doom just before the certain crash.  These spirits warn of the child who has fallen behind your car; the evil stranger at the gate; the missed page of questions on that terrible exam.  They gently push your spirit back to earth when it strays from your body, yearning for the path to heaven.  They tell you that it’s not your time.  They soothe your soul.

But I believe in earth angels, too; the kind with flesh beneath sun-kissed cheeks.  They come with jumper cables, strong hands, pots and pans and one-dish meals.  They have their mother’s eyes, the last names of their departed husbands, and wrinkled cotton sweaters buttoned to their chins.  They burn the cell phone lines with assurances that you were not a bad mother, that you are loved, that you did not make stupid decisions and that your passions have meaning outside the narrow confines of your gloomy home.  They listen.  They murmur of better days ahead.  Then they sweep the floor and wash the windows.  They shovel snow.  They take their time and wait until you’re ready, then start to clear the closets of a decade of worthless clutter.

I believe in angels.  Because of angels, I can function despite my own ineptitude.  My tires have air.  My umbrella unfurls above the rocking chair on my porch. 

The angels constantly send messages of support.  Tiny plaques proclaim the message of resilience.  Greeting cards gather dust beside the china hearts on the keeping shelf.   I scroll through the digital memories and smile.  I study every picture, memorize the contours of the angel’s face so that I will not forget.  I close my eyes and summon the gentle cadence of long-familiar voices.

When I lay my weary body down to sleep, celestial specters dance in the cool of the darkened house.  They croon a lullaby which only I can hear.  I believe in angels.  I walk in their deep footprints as they forge ahead through muck and mud.  I rest easy knowing that the angels of my life will not forsake me, even if I stumble, even if I fail.

It’s the eighth day of the eightieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I Don’t Mean To Complain But My Technology Hates Me

Judith Martin always started her responses with a salutation which I considered my personal call to honor.  “Gentle Reader,” she began, before enlightening, exhorting, encouraging, or educating.  From Miss Manners, I learned to prefer  blue-black ink and, later, to shun the pretentious use of the appellation “Esquire”.  (To an unsuspecting reader who asked if female attorneys could use the designation, Miss Manners gently but firmly explained that no lawyer worth his or her weight would do so.)  I also delighted in her description of smiles which do not reach one’s eyes and which drop after a cold second.  Such a useful tool!

I turn to Miss Manners to politely explain my silence for the last two weeks. 

Gentle Reader:  I am not making excuses  but the plain truth is, my technology hates me.  I own two laptops.  At the present moment, I am straining to hammer out this brief entry on the pint-size keyboard of my 7-inch Android tablet.  To be clear, it is an external, Bluetooth keyboard but small enough that one must use the Fn key to deploy the apostrophe, in response to which I strive to avoid contractions.  Please accept this missive as a token of remorse for my lapse in continuous correspondence.  Most sincerely, (in blue-black ink on unlined paper) Your Missouri Mugwump.

I also unfortunately learned that I should not have deleted the announcement from Canon about changes to the WiFi support, a missive which I wrongly perceived as spam.  Now my pictures are stuck on the little PowerShot.  While I could transfer them via direct cable, alas, the laptop on which I installed my Watermark software is the most infirm of the two.

I am not complaining.  But August came into my life with a roar and shows every intention of defeating me.  I shall get all this fixed by and by, and return full force when I do.

It is (hahaha) the third day of the eightieth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.