Monthly Archives: February 2021

On Any Sunday

My phone with its dying battery rings at five thirty Pacific and my sister says, How was your Sunday?  I say, it was fine, and I realize, suddenly, that it was.

She asks, what did you do?

I tell her.

I woke early; and made organic coffee from freshly ground beans and water heated on my three-burner propane stove.  I have discovered the coffee kettle.  I have no idea why no one told me that as an adult, I no longer need struggle with a heavy tea kettle.  Now that I know, I have a light vessel which my lily white hands can lift.  The thin spout pours the water directly over the grounds in the metal funnel.  I brewed two perfect cups of coffee with little effort and enjoyed my first sips while I gathered what I need for breakfast.

I scrambled two pasture-raised eggs in butter and piled the fluffy golden curds on lightly toasted sourdough bread.  I’m a vegetarian.  My parents discovered my inability to process red meat fifty years ago.  My mother told the pediatrician that every time I ate beef, I vomited.  “Don’t feed her beef,” he instructed.  Simple.  I’ve gone through bouts of pescatarianism and ate chicken for a while.  I even succumbed to the deliciousness of bacon, when my son was little and my then-husband made  perfectly cooked, flat, pepper-cured Burger’s Smokehouse every Sunday.  How could I resist?  But now I mainly eat plant-based, except for butter and eggs.  The only man whom I’ve dated since my last divorce ditched me because of it.  “Don’t make me choose between you and butter,” I warned.  He made the choice for me.

After breakfast, I discovered a sewer problem when I took a shower and the water failed to drain.  It’s never an issue caused by me; I have a composting toilet.  But the old lines of this park can’t take too much stress, and I’m on the tie-in with two other tiny houses.  I called the park; and a couple of stalwart workers came, despite it being their day off.  I got dressed and went outside to thank them.  I traded political sallies with one of them about my Biden sign and his dislike of Pelosi.  He’s a good guy and neither of us got angry.

Late morning found me outside potting the new gardenia tree and its new neighbor, a lovely Japanese maple.  I got them at the Delta Tree Farms yesterday.  The manager, Linda, took me around the lovely grounds and talked about shade, light, and growth height.  I told her about my mother’s love of gardenias and the Japanese maple in the front yard of my Kansas City bungalow.  I showed her a picture of my tiny house and described the spot which I planned for the trees.  She steered me toward a moderately priced variety and loaded trees, pots, and soil in my car.  I went home happy.

After I got the trees in their new vessels this morning, I puttered around my deck.  I could use more big pots.  I have a plethora of succulents which thrive here, even with my typical inattention.  I repotted what I could and swept the little deck.  Then my neighbor Alex arrived to start on the mural he’s painting on the back cupboard of my house.  I got distracted from chores by his enthusiasm, by the taking of “before” photos and a little video-clip of the first passes of the sander, and by the delightful distraction of chatting with other neighbors about the project.

In the afternoon, I called my dear friend Penny Thieme.  We talked for an hour, maybe longer, as scores of snow geese passed overhead and the cooling air signaled the impending arrival of sunset.  I smiled through the entire call, including a quiet few minutes when we talked about the tragic death of our friend’s son Bo, during which interlude, I confess, I also cried.

As night closed around me, I made a little something for dinner.  Then, well, the phone rang and I heard my sister’s voice, and my smile returned.  Later, when I had finished eating, I scrolled through YouTube and discovered a video of Redemptrist brothers and cloistered nuns dancing to Jerusalema.  It seemed a perfect end to a perfect Sunday, and I’m not even religious.

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

To see a very amateur cell-phone video of my tiny garden, click here.

You’re Speaking My Language

I cruised past the long line of cars waiting to turn left, my GPS lady urgently begging me to change lanes.  As she switched tactics and instead encouraged a safe U-Turn, I realized that I had missed my entrance to the flea market for which I had been looking and into which that parade of vehicles also sought entrance.  The GPS lady took me to a back gate and I eased into a parking space still warm from a battered station wagon filled with laughing children.

The scent of freshly-picked citrus hung in the mild winter air.  I had thought the place to which I had driven would be an indoor antique mall.  Instead I found an entire humongous parking lot filled with tables and booths, between which cheerful ladies and their patient husbands pushed two-wheeled shopping carts and strollers filled with toddlers clutching sections of fresh orange.  

I stopped at a booth to examine a salt grinder.  I held it aloft with an inquiring look to the proprietor.  He gestured to a woman behind me with a baby swaddled on her back.  Un dólar, she said, smiling and patting the child with one hand while she held the other in my direction.  I paid and returned her cheerful grin.

I maneuvered around the other shoppers, breathing the fragrances of roasted peppers, cut pineapple, and over-ripe plantains.  One man called out to me over a hand-held microphone, Señóra, Señóra, he sang, drawing me towards him.  He offered something fried and doughy and sweet, describing its essence with a rapid flow of Spanish.  I shook my head, then nodded to an old woman beside him as I kept walking. 

I  stood in front of a long bin of mandarin oranges still warm from the  sun-drenched orchard.  A young woman held out a bag and said, un dólar por libra.  I filled the bag with the small ripe fruit and watched as she weighed my selection.  Dos, she told me; and I could not believe that a dozen fresh mandarins would only cost two dollars.  I paid without hesitation and stashed the fruit in my tote.  Next came potatoes, un dólar por libra, and then tangerines, also un dólar por libra.  

I sat in the car peeling an orange and watching a family nibbling on cones of shaved ice.  The flea market had not been what I expected when I set out in the morning, but the smells of that holy bounty filled my car and I had no regrets.

I found the indoor antique mall twenty miles further east and in a neighboring town.  I wandered its aisles.  I found rusty metal house numbers and sorted through the bin until I constructed the lot designation where my tiny house sits.  I chortled at my good fortune.  Numbers are easy to find, at six or seven dollars each, new at any local hardware.   But letters!  And old, with a beautiful patina, presumably rich with age and history. 

A man sorting his merchandise asked if I sought anything special.  I started to describe the Carolina stepstool that I wanted.  He instantly knew the very item and beamed.  I have one in my storage unit, he told me.  I could have it for you by Wednesday, in my shop over in Houston.  I must have looked stunned, because he laughed and assured me that he wasn’t talking about the Lone Star state.  He thought a moment, then offered, Near Turlock?  I shook my head again.  I told him where I lived, and he gave me a general idea of where he meant.  We agreed that he would send a photo of the steps.  He described their manner of converting from a ladder to a chair; he talked about the wood and its finish; he named a price.  My smile grew wider.  

I came home with a salt grinder, a rusty G, a bright copper 8, a hobnail lamp, a section of old wrought iron rail, four yellow potatoes, and a bag full of the freshest citrus you could ever imagine eating.  I am not entirely sure where I was all day, but they certainly spoke my language.

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

In Memory of A Son

The last time I saw Bo Flasschoen, he wound my scarf around his neck and introduced me as his Aunt Corinne.  I had not worn that title for nearly thirty years, but Bo had never been one to trifle with technicalities.

It was at Jenny Rosen’s birthday party in 2017.  I came with Jenny, but wandered around the crowded private party tent feeling left out, old, and useless.  Then Bo came over and hugged me.  He took my scarf and dragged me around to meet people — young people, people that he and Jenny and Micah Spivey had known for years.  He let me get him a drink and refused an offer of food.  He sat beside me for an hour or so, and talked of his life as though he had read about some boy in the newspaper.  His voice barely rose above a whisper, but somehow I could hear him — not over the music, but beneath it and entwined with it.

Later in the evening, he offered to walk me to my car so I could get home before the party got wild.  For some reason, he decided that I needed protecting.  He borrowed a baseball bat and told me that I would be safe; that he’d take care of anyone who threatened me in the dark parking lot.  He swaggered around the bar, taking practice swings and startling more than a few tipsy souls.

Before we left, we sat in silence for a while.  I watched Bo as his eyes steadily moved around the room.  I could not tell if he found whatever or whomever he sought.  He caught me studying his face and flashed a huge grin.   I meant to ask, but something in his manner kept me quiet.

The next day, Bo messaged me to ask for legal advice.  I tried to help him.  We exchanged a few texts about a troubling situation.  I never found out whether he overcame the difficulties.  I never spoke with him again.  I never saw him again.

I do not think my friend Sandy Thomas Dixon has ever called me on the telephone, and certainly not since I moved to California.  When I heard her voice today, I knew the news would be about as terrible as news can ever get.  And it was:  My dear friend Alan White had lost his son, Bo.  He died last evening.  Sandy did not know much more.  I sank into a chair.  My body shook.  Grief gripped me; sobs coursed through my chest.  Yet I knew, as certainly as I felt the hard wood beneath me and the cold chill which crept into my heart, that I could never begin to imagine what Alan and Bo’s mother, Janine, must feel.

I called my own son, Patrick.  He remembers Bo as the kind, gentle soul who first taught him to play a guitar more than twenty years ago.  That extraordinary teacher came to me and suggested that I let Patrick set his own pace.  A few years later, I came home from work to hear a flood of rhythmic chords flowing down from Patrick’s room.  Bo had been right, of course; Patrick came to the guitar when he was ready.

Bo himself possessed an extraordinary gift.  Like his father, perhaps even more so, Bo melded with his instrument.  Whether that synergy stood between Bo and the rest of the world, I cannot say.  But that world is enormously poorer for the loss of him — the loss of his quiet, indomitable spirit and his passionate, impeccable artistry.  

I mourn for Alan, and for Janine; and for their daughter Sarah.  I mourn for Bo’s faithful friends and for those who, like me, drew warmth from the quiet light which he radiated.   My grief hovers on the periphery of theirs.  But nonetheless, I come here to honor the passing of this precious son; and to hold aloft that small portion of his life which I was graced to share.   A wondrous being such as Bo Flasschoen should not be let to completely fade away.  We can barely stand such loss of him as we must inevitably endure.

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

Brokedown Palace, by the Grateful Dead; words and music by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia


Where I Stand

Sometimes the hours weigh too heavily on my body.  When desperation wraps itself around me like a living shroud, I flee.  I stumble to the car and follow the winding levee roads, over draw bridges, past vineyards.  I lower my window and fill my lungs with the heavy scent of the river.   My gaze traces the wide arc of the geese as they rise into the tender sky over the flooded fields.

My simple lens cannot do justice to what I see, but I click the shutter again and again.  I yearn for some small souvenir of all this splendor.   Other drivers nod as they maneuver around me.  They understand.   They too have sought comfort on the banks of these timeless waters.

Eventually I make my way home.  Later, as night falls and the winds rise, I listen from inside my tiny house.  I close my eyes.  My weary spirit takes flight on the strong sure breath of the mother earth.

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


“Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.”  — Rumi

“Lodestar” by Sarah Harmer



I found myself telling this story today, one of the old reliable parables from my son’s childhood.

Isaac Bashevis Singer received a call from his publicist one day. 

“Mr. Singer, great news!” she chortled.  “I’ve sold one of your stories!” 

When she told the writer which one, he gently disclosed that he had promised the piece to a new literary magazine with no money to pay. 

“Oh Mr. Singer!” she cried.  “That’s a catastrophe!” 

But he demurred.  “No, ma’am,” he countered.  “No little children will die from it.”

By comparison to the sorrow of two friends who lost brothers this week, my imploded Danskos and aching knee seem trivial.  As annoying as it might be, I can handle a last-minute call for a camera crew to film an updated interview at my house on Saturday.  Never mind that every surface in the 198 square feet groans under piles of untidied clutter, broken glasses, and unopened mail.  Forget the unmade bed in the guest loft and the tilted crock of utensils squeezed between the stove top and the new toaster oven.  Give no thought to sad anniversaries, eyes filmy with cataracts, the lurking blues, and the vegetables freezing in the cantankerous tiny refrigerator. 

 No little children will die from it.

A hand-made wooden sign hangs from the heart-shaped wicker mirror which I bought at the DAV in Kansas City for the guest room of my bungalow during one of my desperate attempts to cheer myself after yet another decampment which left me bruised and lonely.  The sign says, “Today, I choose joy.”  As I gazed into my reflected eyes this morning, I yearned to edit that gleeful pronouncement.  Perhaps I can acknowledge this much:  “Today, I aspire to choose joy.” 

 I have so little about which to complain, and so much with which I have been blessed.  I might not embrace joy each and every day, but I firmly intend to do so.  

When I got home tonight, I kicked off my broken shoes and wrapped myself in a warm shawl.  I wondered what Mr. Singer would make of his adopted country in 2021.  Little children have died here, lonely and separated from the mothers and fathers who came asking nothing but safe harbor.  I sighed.  My shoes, my homesickness, and the various aches and pains seem inconsequential in the face of everything I read in my digital Times.  I pushed the ruined shoes into a corner, and set about warming some leftover pasta for dinner.

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

“Before Believing” – Written by Danny Flowers, Performed by Emmylou Harris

Every morning when I leave for work, I throw my camera into the car, just in case I have a chance to capture some of the beauty of the surrounding Delta.   Here are a few snapshots.  Hold your cursor over each photo to see my little captions.   Please enjoy


What I Am

From where I sit, I can see the neighbor’s house reflected in the glass of my mother-in-law’s secretary.  Above the roofline, branches of a towering oak rise within an azure triangle.

A freighter came through our marina as I made coffee this morning, sounding its long low warning to small craft in the calm waters of the San Joaquin.  I stood at the stove waiting for the water to boil.  For a brief moment, I thought of dashing toward the ship’s summons; of calling to its crew; of seeking passage.  The urge seeped from my veins, as most crazy thoughts will do, even in the still of my empty house.  Steam rose from the kettle and I lifted the pot to pour over the grounds.  I regained my senses.

Looking through the pictures on my camera, I marveled at the surroundings in which I now live.  I always believed myself to be a city girl.  After five years in the wilds of Arkansas, I fled north, back to air choked with carbon monoxide, streets filled with litter, and afternoon traffic around which I planned my days.  Yet now I have returned to the quiet life, to spend the last third of my existence on the banks of yet another river.  

Identity eludes me, just as it has done for six and a half decades.  I am nothing and everything and something.  I am someone’s daughter,  friend, mother, sister.  I am the noise, and the song, and the silence.  I am the body within the soft fabric with which I clothe myself.  I am the unknown factor in a half-scribbled equation; the word which does not rhyme at the end of a forced couplet.  I am my mistakes, my successes, my sorrows, my pain, and my imperfection.

I am the broken factor on a corrupted gene that no one understands but which makes them shake their heads and say, Probably, maybe, we just don’t know.  Here’s the bill for your co-pay.  Come back in six months.  Call if you need anything.

Geese fly over head.  Their noise flows through the sky.  Even my deaf ear understands their cry.  They form a perfect angle and cut through the blue, towards the nearby lake, the boggy fields, the spots within the Delta to which they return every year without fail.  I envy their certainty.  I stand on my deck with my head flung back.  I long to be among them, to take my designated place on a journey which has its own perfect rhythm.  I watch as the flock grows smaller, flying higher, further, beyond my reach.  Then I close my eyes and let the sun bathe my face.

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