Monthly Archives: November 2020

Weekend at the Sea

Friends:  I consoled myself for cancelling my trip to Missouri by reserving an AirBnB in Pacifica last weekend.  Though I dearly miss my son, siblings, and friends, as a consolation prize, the Coast does have its excellent qualities.  Please enjoy these photos taken by me in Pacifica and Half Moon Bay.

Technical note:  If you put your cursor over the photos, you will see my short captions.  Be patient; these slide shows sometimes lag.  There are quite a few photos here, and many more in my computer.  I think these will give you a flavor of life on the western seaboard.  My peace.

It’s the last day of the eighty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

I Saw You

I saw you through the gap under the vehicle next to the spot where you stood.  You could not have seen me, but you heard my voice.  You turned; you did not hesitate.  You crossed the pavement in a single stride and said, What happened.  You did not smirk when I answered, I fell over backwards. 

Your wife — a lady, in any event, your sister maybe but I did not think so — stayed beside your truck.  I briefly contemplated how accustomed she must be to waiting while you rescued someone, to stay so calm.  

Anything amiss, then? Everything in order? you asked.  I clutched my camera against the wool of my jacket and said, I think so, ignoring my ego which succumbed to massive bruising years ago. 

What’s the procedure, you queried next; you  figured that I would have one.  

Straight up, I answered, with as much aplomb as I could muster.  One hand or two, came your reply.  Two hands, I instructed, and on the count of three.

When I had gained my footing you gently asked, What now?  I told you that I intended to move my car into a space from which someone had just left, assuming it remained unoccupied.  You assured me that it did and I gleefully, maybe just a bit hysterically, urged you to watch it for me.  

From my rearview mirror, I saw you standing by your open door.  Your wife had settled in her seat.  I threw my car in park and grasped the walking stick which I so despise.  I struggled over the curb and climbed the path to the rail.  You couldn’t know that I had toppled while trying to see the sunset from somewhere other than between the horizontal bars.  You couldn’t have grasped the struggle in my breast, the nerve it took to call out to you. 

When the sun had sunk below the distant horizon, I turned away.  I started across the road; and then, glancing around to insure that I had a clear path, I saw you, sitting in your truck, watching me.  I raised a hand.  You lifted your finger from the steering wheel.  Your lights flashed; then you backed out of your space, and went about your evening.

It’s the twenty-eighth day of the eighty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Giving Thanks

This month marks the third anniversary of the arrival at Park Delta Bay of my tiny house, Angel’s Haven.  I met the house; got it hooked and settled; and flew back to Kansas City.  I relocated a month later, on 21 December 2017.  I do not think I knew what awaited me.  

I spent 2018 flying back and forth, closing out my guardian ad litem cases, casually looking for work, and adjusting to the outlandish change I had taken upon myself with apparent casual disregard for the inevitable whiplash.  I found that work, eventually, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be employed in a time of cholera.  Though my identity has taken a severe beating as I relinquished my forty-year persona as a practicing attorney, food stays on the table and my car continues to hum with a bellyful of petrol.  My insurance premiums get paid month after month.  The person for whom I work seems to value my contribution, regardless of how harshly I judge myself or how insignificant I feel at the end of many days.

I burrow deeper into life in the California Delta, though I still pine for a permanent home closer to my Pacific.  That might come, by and by.  In the meantime, I busy myself creating and managing community events; driving the levee roads with my Canon on auto-focus; and scribbling little missives, like this one, to float in a bottle adrift on the virtual sea.

The premise of my relocation has long since been debunked.  The fancy doctor at Stanford shuffled off in disgrace, irreparably tainted by fifty confirmed sexual harassment cases brought by co-workers, which he excused by saying that in his home culture, such behavior would be welcome.  Never mind that he had worked at Stanford for nearly thirty years.  New doctors, at another facility, hemmed and hawed before finally admitting that nobody considered the Stanford guy’s theories to be credible.  They dismissed his diagnosis, and opined that a long-ago refuted theory might actually explain my neurological defects.  But their tests could not prove what they speculated, so I remain no further ahead, no further behind, film at eleven oooh ahhh ah.  A delicate shrug of an expensively clad shoulder.  Next.  

Still, I live surrounded by beauty.  Though I cannot lay claim to any close friends, my community has given both welcome and comfort.  My only sorrow here has come from a few departures, one extremely sad one being scheduled for two days from now.  But seeds take to the wind and chicklings fly.  One cannot stop progress.  I had my own days to journey from those who loved me, young and callous and eager for the open road.  I understand all too well the allure of places not yet explored, mountains unclimbed, and beckoning adventures.  Goodbyes have a flip side, as the departing ones journey forth to new beginnings of their own.  Bon voyage, Louis and Helix.  May you never lay your head down without a hand to hold; and may you never make your bed out in the cold.

For the first twenty or so years of my life, I sat at Lucille Corley’s Thanksgiving table and silently stressed over the approach of my “thankful-for”.  Since we tendered our gratitude youngest to oldest, I went third, after Steve and Frank.  The little boys (as we called them) always latched onto something silly, like turkey legs or cartoons.  But I went for serious choices:  My family, good grades, the little girl down the street who shared her toys, Grandma Corley’s gift boxes, books to read and music to hear.  In later years, at my own table, I insisted on being last regardless of age.  By that time, I choked back tears at the sentimental avowals of my guests.  I could barely speak.  

This year’s table will hold my neighbor Robin, and the imminently departing Helix and Louis.  Those two, oh, how I shall miss them!  They accept me, they understand me, I think they might even like me.  Both from my son’s generation, this  married couple has been an amazing part of the tiny house row in which I live.  Louis brings life to any gathering, while Helix injects depth to after-meal discussions over the third glass of wine and the delicious crumbs of Robin’s desserts.  They have taught me so much about life in the 21st century.  Because of them, I might even one day acquire an iPhone.  Not just yet, perhaps; but some day.

I will ask each of them to say for what they are thankful.  I will strive not to force my own sentiment on their willingness to respond.  I will let them speak with ease.  I will strive to avoid tears.  They will flow, I’m sure; for I am missing Patrick, and my sisters; and my brothers; and the joyful noise of Corleys on the stairway in the crisp air of someone’s winter backyard.  The beaming faces of my Kansas City friends stream past on social media and my heart clenches.  

But if I am asked, for what am I thankful?  Continued existence must head the list.  I do not know if I have any purpose left to fulfill.  I know that words hover beneath the surface.  Paragraphs flow through my barely conscious brain.  I cannot get them onto a page with sufficient speed.  I edit as I scurry down the stairs; but still their beauty slips between my feeble fingers.  The perfect essay alludes me as I shake the sleep from my eyes.

Fences remain unmended.  Feelings I have bruised; voices to which I have not listened with sufficient acumen; points of view that I carelessly dismissed; all must be met and remedied.  I do not wish to die without soothing pain that I have caused.  

I do not expect to accomplish anything great, but I must keep living if the weight of small stones thrown in the rising tide will equal the impact of the great timber which I could never lift.  Little pebbles, stacked one upon the other, might yet create a bridge between the darkness and the light. 

I’m thankful for my sister Joyce; and my brother Frank; who check on me most days.  A handful of my neighbors do the same — Candice, and Noah, and Wayne to name just three.  I know that if I didn’t show my face for a day or so, one of them would rap upon my bright blue door and demand an explanation.

Friends far and wide continue to send ripples of affection westward, from the east coast, to the Midwest plains, through the Arizona desert, over the Colorado mountains, and through the highways and byways of all points between.  I would lose breath if I named them all.

I love my son and I am thankful that I have been given the chance to be his parent.  I know that I have failed him ten times over; but he has never once let me down.  Perhaps my continued existence provides a chance for me to prove my pride in what he has made of himself.

In the end, though, I find myself most thankful for hope, and for her sister joy.  Without these twin beauties, I would fall into the murk of despair.  They lift me when the gloom claims my spirit.  Hope raises my tired limbs and Joy leans down to wrap herself around my weary soul.  On gossamer wings, they carry me into the sweet air and the soothing sunshine.

For all of this, I am thankful.  I send my wishes to each of you, that you have what you need, remain surrounded by those whom you love, and sleep with a peaceful ease which holds until the dawn.

It’s the twenty-fifth day of the eighty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Please enjoy a gallery of pictures taken by me over the last year or so, mostly in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley, part of the California Delta.  I’ve included a few shots taken in the northern counties, and one or two of my beloved sea.  I’ve shared these but never in one collection.  I hope they give you the same pleasure that I got in taking them.



As the fog lifts

I went out one morning in a thick Delta fog, my mood heavy and somber.  My feeble lens strained to capture the crows clinging to the towering trees. . . the geese in a distant field. . . the juxtaposition of wind, wing, and windmill.

I came home that evening and watched an impassioned plea from a news anchor whose partner had fallen ill with this terrible virus.  She begged us to reconsider any inclination to take the chances of infection as any less than certain.  I had been on the fence about going home for the holiday.  Her message struck home.  I canceled my travel plans.  I sent a message to the celebrity, thanking her for bringing me to my senses.  I called my sister.  I emailed my friends, my brother.  Then I fell into my chair and wept.

The next day my phone sounded with messages as I drove home.  My sister on the line from St. Louis, crowing:, “You’re in the news!” Friends on social media started sharing the link.  I scrolled through the article, unbelieving.  Someone had seen my message to Rachel Maddow; someone else had commented; and a connection had been made.  A story wrote itself.

My sister’s voice came across the miles.  Though I could not see her face, her radiant smile shone through the wire.  I took her love and pride into my lonely hours.  And the fog lifted.

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

From a distance

Dusk fell as I journeyed home from work on Friday.  A chill invaded my car.  I turned the heat to a higher setting then pulled into a gravel drive to watch the sun paint its wild colors in the Delta sky.

Hawks cut through the clouds.  A gentle wind flicked the leaves on the tree above me.  I listened to the call of evening birds and the periodic rustle of small creatures scurrying to safety.  My head fell against the steering wheel for just a moment.  I might have slept.  The rush of a passing truck on the gravel startled me; I fired the engine and swung wide, down the driveway and onto the levee road.

The sun continued its decline in the rearview mirror as I made the circle around the levee.  Beside me, gulls swooped through the grey sky and settled on the little island between the slough and the San Joaquin.  Out on the river, a boat struggled to make the marina before dark.  I turned into the park as the gloom settled, past the kiosk with its festive autumn decorations, the American flags waving from fifth wheelers, and the hardy mums raising their petals to the evening air.

In the flat space in front of my house, I sat in the stillness, phone in one hand, keys in the other.  My own flag, my ode to #Coexistence, gently rippled overhead.  A friend recently chided me for eschewing bigotry while raising my banner to harmony.  I disagreed with him but let his opinion stand.  Hate has no home in my heart, including the hatred of others.  But my logic does not resonate with everyone.  

As I tarried in my car, I studied the 8 x 24 dwelling into which I moved my life three years ago this month.   I look back across those years from the wrong end of a telescope, too close.  Seen from a distance, they hardly make sense but here I am.   Once a reporter asked me what I least liked about living tiny.  I did not hesitate:  You have nowhere to go to escape your self, I answered.  Nowhere  but your car, and the levee road, and the long expanse of river on which you can drive until  the ghosts which haunt you recede into the depths from which they crawled, and your soul at last embraces some semblance of peace.

It’s the fourteenth day of the eighty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.



I always seem to like the idea of taking myself out to lunch so much more than the reality.  

Today the waiter asked, Just one for lunch? and I resisted a snotty rejoinder.  Instead I murmured, Yes, please. . . outside, I think, and meekly followed him to the patio.  I ordered coffee and a veggie burger. I asked for Dijon.  He shook his head.  “Regular fries okay? Onion rings or garlic fries, for $2 extra?”  I stuck with the dish as presented, but hold the mayo, okay to regular mustard.

It came in little packets.  I sat with my book and dragged a cold fry through barbecue sauce.  The waiter whisked by my table as my coffee cooled and the fries nearly hardened back to their original frozen state.  

A woman came from the restaurant and nodded.  Good morning, she said.  I replied in kind and then added, But isn’t it afternoon?  She laughed.  I explained that I knew it was after noon because I had hovered by the radio for hours until the AP had called the presidential race and I felt I could venture out into the world.

A good outcome for you? She asked in a voice which suggested that she hoped it was, flashing a thumbs up.  I noticed the rainbow pin on her sweater.  

Indeed, I answered.  And you, too? 

She grinned and nodded, two thumbs high in the air, just as another woman came through the door and sat down across from her.  They had matching sweaters and identical thin gold bands on their left hands.  I turned back to my table for one.

When I had eaten what I could, I asked for the bill.  It seemed a bit higher than I expected.  I noted the tax, and the exorbitant charge for bad coffee.  Then I saw the fifty cents for the side of BBQ sauce.  

Nickel and dime, I thought.  Plastic fries, oily java, and a surcharge for condiments.  And the waiter only brought one refill.  What’s the worst thing about the food in the old folk’s home?  It’s tasteless.  What’s the second worse thing? There’s not enough of it.

I tried to leave the patio directly to the street but the gate would not yield.  I asked, Is the gate locked? and the hostess said, We gotta control the flow.  I sighed.  I told myself, don’t complain, don’t complain, don’t complain, then heard my voice mentioning the distance from table to door through the rat maze of the building.  It’s hard for me, as a disabled person, to go that far.  I hoped she might unlatch the outside exit.

 Sorry you feel that way, hon, she replied, sweeping past me to the kitchen.  I spoke out loud, to no one, to the empty space and the shuttered face:  It’s not about how I feel, ma’am.  It’s about what the law and common decency require.   I might as well have been invisible.

Then my cell phone rang.  I heard a warm voice say,  Hello, Corinne!  I decided to call you because I knew you’d be in a good mood today!

And suddenly, I was.

It’s the seventh day of the eighty-third month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

For Charlie, who likes my bird pictures.


Getting over the blues by the light of the blue moon.

In my senior year of high school, I got a job in the acute ward of a psychiatric hospital in St. Louis County.  Its head nurse, Sister Kenneth Anne, walked the hallways of the unit with a serene countenance and kept us mildly amused with an acerbic wit.  

Drink your coffee, girl, she’d instruct me.  It’s us or them, and so far today, they’re winning.

Once a month, she’d gather the staff and warn of the impending full moon.  She’d tell us that the phases of the moon impact emotions, more so in people whom she labeled “the craziest among us”.  She’d straighten the short veil which she wore, hike her skirt a bit, and tell us to buckle our shoes.  We’ll get through this but probably not without a few people getting hurt.  She didn’t mean the patients; she would never harm anyone.  She meant us — the staff.  

Sure enough, by the morning after any full moon, an aide or a nurse would have long scratches or a wrenched arm as a result of a scuffle.  But the patients would drift into sleep bathed in moonlight, unknowingly secure behind the locked door, the scrubbed floors, and the eternal glow of the desk lamp in the nurse’s station.

I remember Sister Kenneth Anne whenever the full moon shines over the meadow in the RV park in which I currently live.  I thought of her last night, as I stood by the bonfire that one of my neighbors had built.  The moon slowly rose in the east.  I sat near a visitor to the community, a young man who talked about science with such fervor that I could see a spark in his eyes brighter than the reflection of the flames. From the circle of neighbors in their folding chairs, laughter floated into the sky with the ashes and the smoke and the scent of burning wood.

I drove home around ten-thirty, leaving the younger folks to start their movie and pour another round of Margaritas.  I stood on my porch for a few minutes, watching the slight sway of the trees towering over my tiny house.  Sister Kenneth Anne’s face appeared before me, passive, pleasant, perceptive.  She arched one eyebrow, raised a finger, and let the corners of her mouth tilt upward ever so slightly.  

Hang in there, girl, she said, in a calm voice still familiar after more than forty years.  This, too, shall pass.

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