Monthly Archives: July 2023

In the Still of the Night

This is the seventh day post-onset of Covid syptoms.  I’m eating grapes, surveying my messy tiny house, and feeling grateful.

I take my last Paxlovid dose this evening.  I plan to return to work tomorrow.  I’ve lost a total of seven pounds and still have not resumed my customary caffeine intake.  I haven’t worn anything more challenging than loose dresses and nightgowns since I collapsed into bed last Monday.  I have read two more novels, including the last Montalbano case which I found even stranger than the preceding twenty-seven.  

I spent the pandemic in a bubble.  I live in a community consisting of many conservative thinkers peppered with a smattering of liberals such as myself and a few folks that I would label libertarian.  As a consequence, I experienced a lot of virus denial, resistance to masking or vaccination, and the occasional scofflaw who freely wandered despite reports of their active illness.  I love my neighbors, please make no mistake — but my survival to July 2023 without contracting Covid might be a minor miracle.  It’s certainly a tribute to my own early vaccination and moderately diligent precautions.

I also worked through the pandemic.  We closed to clients and lost our receptionist to age-mandated lockdown, but the two of us persisted.  The California lawyer for whom I work had two Covid bouts, one quite serious.  But I escaped.

I watched clips on the internet of the Covid response around the globe.  I cheered hospital workers, mourned children whom I had never met, and called my son sobbing when I heard about John Prine.  I’ve pored over a Kansas City friend’s anguished reports about the challenges of long covid.  I cancelled a planned holiday trip as a result of Rachel Maddow’s impassioned, desperate description of her beloved partner’s near-death from cornovirus.  Through all of that, I remained unscathed until now, two months after the official end of the pandemic.

Last evening, I sat on my new porch contemplating the sky.  Glimmers of crimson rays rippled across the evening clouds on the southern span, but above me the blue persisted.  Our usual breeze wended its way through the treetops and the long fronds of the willows in our meadow.  Clad in a cotton dress and my wool clogs, I held a tin of my customary night-time drink, cold Icelandic Spring water.  A momentary glitch in the electric grid brought stillness as music fell silent, just before generators revved to fill the void.  I closed my eyes.

As many writers must surely do, I find comfort in the lyrical words of those more skilled in our craft than I.   The gentle rock of my little blue chair eased my spirit.  Quotes  drifted through my mind as I rested.  From the BBC production of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius:  “Some say that I am half-witted; that might be so.  How is it then that I have survived to middle-age with only half my wits, while thousands around me have died with all of theirs intact?  Evidently quality of wits is more important than quantity.

I smiled.  I told myself not to be arrogant.  I thought of my little brother, dead these twenty-six years.  I quoted a passage from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince at his memorial service, standing at a podium nearly my height, barely able to speak above a whisper.  The fox has asked the Little Prince to tame him; and the Little Prince has done so.  Then it comes time for the Little Prince to depart.  “Ah,” said the fox.  “Now I shall cry.”  I thought of the Little Prince, and the tears of the fox, and death, and sorrow.  In the stillness of the gathering night,  I rocked. I drank cool water.  I felt the wind on my face.  I raised my eyes to the sky.  A veil of hope fell over me.  I would not be surprised to learn that for a blissful few moments, I slept.

It’s the thirty-first day of the one-hundred and fifteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Today is the last day to be part of my July fundraising.  New charity announced after tomorrow.  Thank you.

Sitting Up and Taking Nourishment

I’m one of the lucky ones.

I hammered my way to a vaccination for Covid-19 as soon as possible.  I’ve gotten every booster except one that I thought I had to wait until August to receive — misreading “April”.  So far, I’ve had five vaccinations, zero adverse reactions, and no episodes of the disease.

Until now.

I started feeling funky mid-afternoon last Monday.  A friend had cautioned me of her own illness two weeks prior, and I had had negative home tests and no symptoms.  But after six or seven work hours, I discovered that my brain had fallen asleep while my body still toiled.  I’ve never felt anything like that.  I made my way home and collapsed into bed without eating dinner or going through any of my normal nightly rituals.  

The next morning, I realized that I could not go to work.  My throat throbbed, my head pounded, and I couldn’t control my sneezing.  I strove to convince myself that I had a summer cold, which we all know feels worse than a winter one.  But nonetheless, I asked someone to bring a pack of Covid tests.  I felt absolutely no surprise to see the positive result.

Since then, I’ve hunkered down.  I’ve only ventured out of my abode twice, once on Wednesday to try to water my plants (I failed; a neighbor did it for me) and yesterday, Friday, when I spent a glorious five minutes in my porch rocker gazing at the trees as they swayed in the Delta breeze.  The husband of the California lawyer for whom I work has brought groceries, medication, bottled water, and a half-loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread.  I’d categorize my symptoms as comparatively mild, although the first couple of nights frightened me, as my fever spiked and my breathing grew a bit ragged.  

I’m five-and-a-half days past the onset of symptoms, so according to my doctor, I’m technically no longer infectious.  In the interim, I’ve slept fifteen hours a day, watched a myriad of funny videos on social media, consumed a very peculiar British police procedural that I’m still trying to understand, and gotten concerned texts from a dozen friends and family members.  I’ve lost my appetite, dropped seven pounds, and quit drinking coffee.  I expect to regain all of that, but for now, I’m calling these an unexpected side benefit.  

 I cruised the pages of the CDC offering statistics on Covid-related deaths to remind myself of how bad it could have been — pre-vaccine, pre-treatment.  As for myself, I’m sitting up and taking nourishment.   I might be unmarried, a struggling introvert, and a person who spends most of her time wondering what the hell happened to the dreams she cultivated and the plans she made.  But I had people come through for me this week, bringing me what I needed and checking on my status.  I’ve heard from my son, my sisters, my brothers, my neighbors, my co-workers, and a plethora of people in the Kansas City region who still regard me as part of their tribe.  The ping of an incoming message interrupts my sleep and I don’t mind one bit.  I recognize it as a sound which many people crave to break the silence of their solitary days.  I’m one of the lucky ones.

It’s the twenty-ninth day of the one-hundred and fifteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


There’s still time to purchase a copy of my book and be part of the July fundraiser.  The August charity will be announced next week.  Click here for more information.  Thank you.

Lessons Learned

I learned a lot in the last few weeks.

 I discovered that someone whom I considered a friend did not share my assessment.

I determined that another person whom I had no idea liked me — genuinely liked me — might actually hold me in some regard.  Possibly this person just shows an enormous amount of empathy, but either way, the discovery delighted me.

A few lonely nights brought home that even a hopeless introvert can crave companionship.  A cruise around social media confirmed that I’m not sufficiently bereft to communicate with virtual strangers.  Instead, I watched a few clips of a progressive podcast to affirm my wavering belief in the hopelessness of much of the modern world.

I bought an air fryer.  Not the highly rated one recommended by America’s Test Kitchen, but a fifty-buck sale item at Target.  This led to the inevitable realization that I’m a lousy consumer and an even worse cook.

A few nights ago, I spent a moderately pleasant hour conversing with someone that wanted information he thought I might have.  Instead he learned that I hold a good friend of his in rather low regard. I wouldn’t have made such an admission, but he kept raising the issue of how great the guy supposedly is while giving me the side-eye.  He left in a funk. I’m expecting to be blackmailed, blackballed, or at least, black-listed.  Oh well.

I took two opportunities to be kind to people and ask nothing in return.  On a third occasion in the last week, I did something nice for someone whom I found incredibly annoying.  When the person strove to compensate me, I told them to pay it forward.  The suggestion evoked a wince, which, oddly, I found to be sufficient reward for the small service I had performed.

I watched a reasonably able-bodied person struggle to deal with a sudden, debilitating, though temporary injury.  From this  experience, I’m learning that my disability renders me both more helpless and more capable than I realized, and a good deal more lonely.  The problem with being a nearly-lifelong gimp is that people consider it a character flaw.  But if an accident incapacitates you, the sympathy flies nearly as high as the admiration.  Go figure.

Today I found out that the Trademark office has a Catch-22.  You have to use a trademark before they will register it.  The required use apparently includes not one but two iterations of any class you’ve included in your initial application.  That’s some catch, that Catch-22.  The best there is.(1)  I only wish the lawyer whom I  hired had explained this to me eighteen months ago when we started the process.

As the week unfolded, I also had a chance to remind myself that I live in a gorgeous environment, that money isn’t everything, and that a ship sailing towards the confluence of the San Joaquin and the Sacramento looks as though it glides across land.  I rolled down my car window to confirm this last phenomenon, on a day when my head pounded so that even the warm afternoon air gave some comfort.  I watched the vessel make what always seems to be an impossible turn, an indiscernible distance beyond where I sat at the side of the levee road.  I wondered where it would go after it eased into the Bay.  Maybe south, to LA.  Maybe north, to Alaska.  Or perhaps it would simply go west, to prove that the earth is, indeed, round.

It’s the twentieth day of the one-hundred and fifteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Click here to read about my July charity and/or purchase my book.  Thank you.

(1)  Heller, Joseph; Catch-22; First published 1962; Simon & Schuster edition 2004.  Alan Arkin played the main character, Yossarian, in the 1970 movie.  It was one of his most brilliant performances, perhaps surpassed only by his earlier work in the film version of Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in 1968.

Music to My Ears

The wind has risen.  My new ten-foot canopy sways with the tumult of the air.  Soon I will need to stand on the small stepladder that I got at Lowe’s last weekend to crank the umbrella closed.  It’s done its job for the last few days, keeping the worst of the sun’s wrath from my little oasis.

I strain to separate the chirp of the settling songbirds from constant whine of tinnitus.  Years ago one of my in-laws admitted that the sudden onset of ringing in her ears drove her to seek medication for anxiety.  Yet I have lived with mine since high school.

My grandfather first tested my ears at his kitchen table.  He and my grandmother owned Sonotone House of Hearing.  Armed with a big, mysterious box and a training certificate, Grandpa drove around rural Illinois selling devices to old farmers and their patient wives.  My mother convinced herself that I just didn’t pay attention, but on the offchance, she asked her father to run a few tests.

I stayed at the table while he called her.  She’s got a significant loss, he calmly informed his daughter about her own baby girl.  They chatted, devised a plan, and a week later, I sat in a booth at a real doctor’s office.  Raise your finger when you hear the tone, came the instruction through my head phone. I nodded.  I closed my eyes and strained to catch the chimes.  Every time something drifted through my brain, I lifted a hand.  

For some reason, I suddenly opened my eyes.   Four or five white-clad technicians, the doctor, and my Mom stood at the window studying me.  A nervous smile crossed my face, fleeing as quickly as it rose.  One of them opened the door and gestured me to take off the head phones, and come into the adjacent examining room.  The gaggle of somber medical folks and my worried mother followed.

My mom put her arm around my shoulders.  I felt my eyebrows furrow downward.  What’s wrong, I whispered.  Did I miss some of the sounds?  I signaled whenever I heard one, really, I assured her.  She shook her head.

We all sat except someone whom I took to be a student.  The doctor folded his hands and watched me for a few minutes.  He finally spoke, in the gentlest of voices.  Here’s the thing, he said.  We never even turned on the machine.  Those noises are all in your head.

Over the decades, various doctors charted my gradual hearing loss.  When last I had an examination, the year my third husband left me, a doctor in Kansas City prescribed hearing aids that would cost $10,000.00 each for my profound impairment of neurogenic origin.  Essentially, as I vaguely understand it, there really isn’t anything wrong with my ears.  It’s just that my brain and my auditory senses can’t communicate.

I did not get those hearing aids.  My husband begged me to let him buy them for me, but I saw that as guilt money and I had already taken as much of that as my conscience could bear.  Eight or nine years later, I haven’t been checked again but I’m fairly certain that nothing has improved.  Luckily I can still hear high notes, like the finch trilling a lullaby to its mate in the branches of the California oak, and the scrub jay screeching because I haven’t filled the feeder.  I smile at him.  It’s good to hear you, Mr. Noisy, I say, as I reach for the bag of songbird seed.

It’s the eighteenth day of the one-hundred and fifteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Click here to read about the organization designated to receive 20% of my book sale revenues for July, and/or to purchase my book.  You will also find a link to the website at which you can buy prints of Genevieve Casey’s photographs which appear in my book.  Thank you.

Two by two

The small market that I manage packed itself into a pick-up truck and relocated for a day to the nearby state park.  Vendors started arriving at 8, as the wind whipped in fierce waves between the pavilion and a grove of towering trees.

The tents raised themselves.  Merchandise sorted itself onto tables.  Signs swooped from pole to pole and flags fluttered.  I watched the practiced motions of my cohorts from a table on which I’d spread a cloth and a banner announcing the sponsor of the day’s events, a tiny not-for-profit that I struggle to navigate through the rocky waters of a tight economy.

Eventually the wind gentled.  Customers began to turn into the parking lot from the stream of traffic crossing Three-Mile Bridge.  Now and then the bridge tender lowered a barrier that stalled the flow of cars leaving the Delta at weekend’s closing.  Still, I watched; hobbling from time to time when duty called — soothing a small incident, directing folks across the pavement from point to point, checking on the music.  Most of my work takes place before the opening hour.

I used to strain to get photographs as the visitors eased around the aisles of the market.  In our normal location, I can do a bit better.  Here, with our outward-facing square, I can only see the booths directly across from where I stand.  So mostly I lean on a wooden pillar and count cars, wondering if the greater visibility of the state park’s outermost site will increase sales.

Two ladies approach the tables from which a neighbor and I sell cold beverages.  One asks about the watermelon juice.  I gesture to the Mexican restaurant’s set-up, where a fat carafe of pink beverage sparkles with shards of ice.  Her companion eases a walker forward and touches a dewy can in front of me.  What’s this, she inquires.

Before I can answer, the first woman says, That’s White Claw, it’s got alcohol in it, you don’t want that.  I hold my tongue.  It’s true the fruity product that we feature alongside Bud, Coors Light, Sierra Nevada, and cold water contains some beer.  I wouldn’t drink the stuff, but more because it tastes cloyingly sweet to my palate.  But the glance between the two ladies alerts me to an underlying current of which I want no part.  I reflect a moment, and then agree that, yes, there is alcohol in everything we sell except the water and the foil packets of apple juice that we keep for kids.

The lady leans on the handlebar and spares a small upturn of her otherwise pursed mouth.  The taller lady turns away and walks over toward the menu board at the food vendor.  I point to a small incline and suggest that it might be too much for what seem to be somewhat flimsy wheels on the woman’s gait aid.  She shakes her head, thanks me, and moves away.

I watch as they order food.  I notice only one glass of watermelon juice making its way to the table at which they  have decided to sit.  But the walker slowly returns to the beer sale station.  Its navigator lifts her head and meets my eyes.  I think I’ll have one of those White Claws, she says, and tilts one hand from the bar to give me a neatly folded five-dollar bill.  As she returns to where her plate of tacos waits, I find that a slight gloominess of which I had been aware has slipped away from my tired soul.  

My smile widens as I watch  a son patiently wait as his mother browses a rack of kimonos.  My own son turned 32 just a day ago, and he’s been on my mind.  Memories of fairs that we attended in his childhood flow.  As I lose myself in the memories, the pleasant day continues to unfold.  The wind dances in the trees; the sun shimmers on the grass.  Beyond the fence, white peaks rise and fall in the Sacramento River, reminding me of every river by which I have lived — the mighty Mississippi, the wide Missouri, the ancient Buffalo, the soothing waters of the south branch of the White River that cut across my land in Arkansas.  I wrap my arms around my body and let the summer air soothe me.  By the time my friend Michelle Burke arrives with her duck on a leash, I’m positively beaming.

It’s the eleventh day of the one-hundred and fifteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Click here to read about July’s charity; purchase my book; or link to a site at which you can purchase a print of the featured photos.

Click here to see videos of #MyTinyLife.

Thank you.

In Which A Kind of Peace Abides In Me

I slept through dawn, and rose when the alarm that I had forgotten to unset jarred me from a deep and dreamless state.  Out on my porch, clutching a mug of coffee, I rocked in the little blue rocker that I carried home from Angel’s Camp.  I contemplated the meaning of Independence Day.  I did not raise a flag this year.  I haven’t for quite some time.  My conviction that this nation welcomes me and mine has long since been shaken.

At noon I joined my neighbors in the perennial outdoor event.  We hauled tables outside under the shade.  We hoisted umbrellas to insure the safety of the fragile among us from the harshness of the summer sun.  Burgers sizzled on the grill and fruit chilled over ice.  A lady from B-Row brought her Stars-and-Stripes.  We duct-taped the pole to a wooden fence post.  The delta wind unfurled its width.  We stood in silence, each with our own contemplation about God, and country, and absent friends.

Someone called her DJ sweetheart and music flowed across the meadow.  Dishes piled on the serving table.   Each person filled a plate, grabbed a drink, and found a spot.  More neighbors came.  A pop-up rose in the space of lawn beside the pool. A wild game of Corn-hole commenced alongside a modified, tame “Beer Pong” tournament, its cups filled only with clear cool water and no shared gulping required.  A cork popped from a bottle.  Laughter flowed.

As the afternoon waned, I said my goodbyes, hugged my co-organizer, and drove around the gravel circle to my home.  I ended the day as it had begun — quietly rocking, eyes cast upward, gazing into the vibrant green of the trees rising into the summer sky.  My spirit stilled.  Some kind of peace eased into my soul.  As the light began to fade on the western horizon, I watched the blackbirds dance on the outstretched branches.  I sighed, and felt a rush of joy course through my body.  That precise moment held everything.  I had no need of anything other than the grace which surrounded me.

It’s the fourth day of the one-hundred and fifteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

Read the original account of the Jerry Curran Tree Therapy here.

With the end of June and the dawn of July, I celebrate the anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act by choosing the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund as my charity-of-the-month.  To learn more about my fundraising efforts and/or purchase my book, click here.