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.