Author Archives: ccorleyjd365

#ForRuth

Dear Friends — 

I don’t mean to complain, but 2020 has been brutal for the world and for the USA most particularly.  I couldn’t bear to post something cheerful in the last week, devastated as I have been by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the contemplation of a locked 6-3 conservative Supreme Court or a nominee that believes that women should not have a choice as to what to do with their own bodies.

I will reel in the whining as soon as I can. When I do, I will try to upload some of the egret photos which I have been taking over the last few weeks.  In the meantime, please head over to my other blog and read last night’s post:

In Which I Confess to Taking My Heritage For Granted

In the coming days, I shall take myself by the scruff of my neck and force myself to soldier forward.  After all, it’s what the notorious RBG would do.

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

The Isleton Bridge, Isleton, California

Renting a Room at the Happiness Hotel

Those of us who live on the islands resist gong Over The Bridge unless absolutely necessary.  We’ll take 12 to 5 and comb the outer limits of Stockton’s shopping district for what we need.  We troll Amazon, upping our searches at the midnight hour, convinced that We Can Find It Online.  We drive our friends crazy asking about hairdressers, doctors, restaurants, and grocery stores in Lodi, Fairfield or even — gasp — Sacramento.

Eventually, inevitably, we drag through the bottom of our bags for dollars to pay the toll on the way back from Brentwood.  Then we head out Twitchell Island Road (only a tourist takes the 90 degree angle; the rest of us cut across the middle).  We hang a left at the river and make our way to the Antioch Bridge and the commercial quagmire which tells us that we’ve begrudgingly left the Delta.

I made the journey yesterday, though after two-and-a-half years, I’ve finally bitten the FasTrak bullet since the pandemic has taken away our toll booth operators.  I sailed through a bank of lingering smoke and landed on 4-East, then Balfour Road, and finally in the parking lot of the John Muir medical complex where I met my latest Nazi Physical Therapists.

I had my temperature thermally gauged and gained admission upon a flashing green analog announcement that I had PASSED PASSED PASSED.  I proffered my newly minted Medicare Supplement Card and took a socially distant chair after smiling behind a fresh disposable mask at the young lady protected by the Plexi-glass counter shield.  Fifteen minutes later, I settled in front of a slew of measuring gadgets.   As she gently encouraged me, I strained to prove that I could squeeze clay as well as the average sixty-five-year-old, which it turns out that I cannot.  

After an hour with the Handmaiden, I got deposited in Room Two (In Use For Patient Consultation, Do Not Enter) where a man of indeterminate age behind a space-age face shield asked me what my goals for physical therapy might be.  He put me through the paces that I’ve come to know so well before gently asking, Now, Can You Stand From That Chair Without Using Your Hands?

Well, no.  But in all fairness, I never could.  His eyes looked sad above the cloth covering what I gathered must be a frown.  Then he uttered a phrase that I dread every time I go through one of these new patient evaluations:  Will you let me see you walk?

Three hours after my car had descended on the Brentwood side of the Bridge, I started the climb towards home.   I texted Louis, the young Frenchman who lives with his husband Helix in my tiny house community.  I’d arranged for him to help me with some chores beyond my strength.  “Almost home”, I typed, while waiting for one-way traffic to let me over the Three Mile Slough Bridge.  I turned onto the western end of Twitchell Island Road just as the you-need-gas-woman icon flashed.  I grinned.  Them’s fighting words, I muttered, and set the pedal to coast.  

A couple of hours later, Louis and I drove into Rio Vista to get sand for my front walk, take the car to the self-serve car wash, and fill the tank.  While there, Louis fixed my fussy gas cap door after exclaiming over the inconvenience of the two-person-and-a-flathead-screwdriver method which a kind stranger had devised the first time it failed to open.  Louis grinned as he demonstrated its restored functionality.  When he resumed the driver seat, he noted that the tank took 15 gallons.  I laughed at my daring but accurate assessment of How Far I Can Drive After The  First Glimpse of the Warning Light.  We headed home through the ashy air, back to the twelve-acre park where I’ve rented a room at the Happiness Hotel, Come On In, We’re Glad You Finally Made It.

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

Milestones

My mother told me that I arrived in this world on my due date and with little effort on her part.  I have, as a general rule, been on time ever since my effortless arrival but I cannot say that my life has been as simple as my birth.

Yet here I am:  On the eve of my sixty-fifth birthday, about to turn another page and walk into the next chapter without fanfare or commotion.  I’m just stepping forward and embracing this particular milestone.

Being this old does not upset me, though being six years older than my mother ever got to be causes no end of dismay.  My fashion sense tends to skew young and I color my hair, so I get a lot of wrong guesses.  But the crows feet and the grey of my eyebrows give me away to the more careful observers.  Perhaps my tendency towards a certain strictness of grammar and my one-fingered text-messaging adds to the conviction that I belong in the retirement bracket.

Yet  I still work; I still put my best foot forward such as it is.  The thirteen-year-old who lives with her parents in our marina loves my clothes.  You’ve got a great sense of style, she told me a few weeks ago.  I’m not sure that Stacy and Clinton would approve but their show got cancelled, didn’t it?  I pull on bright leggings, cotton dresses, and my pale-blue Duckfeet nearly every day.  I suppose it’s my uniform.  I’ve hid behind worse in my time — a size 00 body; deep cleavage; baggy pants.  

Sixty-five does not feel old to me.  When my son was six, I spent weeks at a time in the hospital.  He asked me once if I would die before he got big.  No, Buddy, I assured him.  I’m going to live to be 103, and I’m going to nag you every day of your life.  He thought a minute and replied, Then I’m going to annoy YOU every day of YOUR life.  

He hasn’t, though.  He’s made me proud; he’s stuck by me in difficult times; and he’s supported all of my crazy decisions.  And as I promised my mother, I keep walking.  I’ve walked myself to the western edge of everywhere and the gorgeous sunsets of the California Delta.  I’ve walked myself out of the blues and the shakes and the doldrums.  I’ve walked myself in circles and straight up the mountain.  I keep waking to each dawn.

I do not know what life holds for me.  Every notion that I ever embraced of what my existence should resemble has been shattered into a thousand glittering pieces.  I never expected to live this long or come this far from home.  When I married, I thought it was forever; when I divorced, I thought my life would end.  I surrendered any thought of parenthood just months before I conceived my son.  I expected my mother to give me advice about parenting; I thought I would watch as she aged.  I thought I would have published my book by now.  

The world keeps shocking me.   Graceful birds span the sky above my astonished gaze.  Fairy dust falls from the swaying crowns of the towering oaks in our meadow.  Egrets raise their graceful necks and flutter glorious wings.  I have not yet seen everything that I crave, nor have I uttered all of the words brewing in my soul.  So I will not yet surrender.  I will take each day  that I am blessed to see.  I will embrace whatever hours remain and fill them with enduring goodness and a sweet glory.

And If this year brings my twilight, then I will spin the rays of the setting sun into gossamer yarn.  I will weave a fine length of cloth.  In its beauty will I wrap myself, and lay down by the river to rest.

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

Friends: 

As you know, most years I have held a fundraiser on my birthday to benefit Rose Brooks Center.  I posted one on Facebook; and I ask that you take yourself over there and make a donation to that amazing and important agency.  If you are not on Facebook, you can go directly to Rose Brooks Center‘s website and make a donation.  Thank you. 

If you or someone you know needs help with family violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. There is always a way.

In the dark of night

The house to the west of mine wears a crown of cafe lights which gleam in the dark of night.  The rays cut through the clean Delta air.  Wind has cleared the lingering smoke from the fires to the north and west of us.  

The neighbor’s lights brighten my house.  They don’t seem to be on a timer.  With the peculiarity of my pain, I sometimes fall into an exhausted sleep before nine and snap awake several hours later.  Those lights might have dimmed by then; or they could still glisten against the midnight gloom.  I close my eyes and burrow under the quilt, wishing for something, not pills but something, to make the long hours more bearable.  Tea, maybe; or a distracting novel.

The pain comes and goes in ripples and waves.  Occasionally my legs snap taught.  Then I must struggle to sit and steady my feet on the floor so I can strain against the cramping.  At such times I study the outlines of the park.  Is that a willow, to the east?  Do  I see a critter scampering through the narrow piece of ground between our tiny houses?  My head falls to my knees.   I desperately need rest but I’m afraid.   This weird condition which I have battled for sixty years does not lend itself to comfort.

The curtains ripple as breezes dance through the open window.  A constant howl tells me that the morning air will be sweet and the meadow strewn with fallen branches.  I close my eyes.  Darkness swells through the open space between my small bedchamber and the rest of the house.  A crow calls.  I watch the flickering shadows on the transom.  My eyes grow heavy.  Sleep claims me as plaintive chirping sounds from the graceful crown of leaves high overhead in the towering old oak.

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

Bonnie Raitt, “Valley of Pain”

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.

23

“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: 

LUCILLE JOHANNA LYONS CORLEY

10 September 1926 — 21 August 1985

GONE TOO SOON AND NEVER FORGOTTEN.

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.

Saturday the Nth of Anytime

I have let too many days go by and succumbed to far more excuses for not writing than I should have allowed myself to employ.  The simple truth suffices.  I have been using every spare moment to organize and chair a Sunday Market at Park Delta Bay.  What spare seconds hover between those tasks have been consumed studying for the California notary exam.  After all, I have passed two bar exams.  If I flunk a 30-question notary test, I will be wildly and heavily embarrassed.  So time has passed since last I wrote here, and it could be the nth of any  month for all I know.

In addition to these duties (addressed in the evenings when I am not working), I have been editing a collection of excerpts from my original blog, the Saturday Musings.  I know that some of you have been wondering if I truly intended to publish it.  The answer is, yes ma’am, yes sir.  Unfortunately, I had composed each entry directly to the internet blog site.  Therefore, I had no word version.  I downloaded them and they downloaded in reverse date order.  I had to “flip” them, and then cull them down (multiply ten years times 52, and that’s how many there are).

My idea is to publish a collection of 52, roughly four per designated month, five in the longer months.  The collection spans the golden years of that blog, from 2009 – 2012.  After 2012, so many awful things occurred in my life that the blog got a bit maudlin.  So I have focused on what I believe are the best entries.  Beyond that, I would like to have some visual art with which to illustrate them.  While I search for suitable illustrations, I need to find an editor.  All of this takes time.  But at this point, at least, I have a working  manuscript. 

As though all that were not enough, I have attempted to launch into a campaign of self-healing.  From a practical standpoint, I gained 15 pounds in the last year — or maybe 20 — and that weight must be shed.  It greatly impacts my ability to walk.  But deeper than that, I have spent hour upon hour in personal reflection.  After all, the desire to change propelled me into this blog in December of 2013.  At the time, I wanted to change to save my marriage.  That did not work.  I should have known it wouldn’t, but nonetheless in the most honest moment, I admit that the desire to repair that relationship compelled me to tackle my shortcomings.

Failing that, I have spent the last seven years embracing change for its own sake.  I wanted to be the best version of myself that I could be.  I was told at the outset by someone I loved that, and I quote, “people don’t talk that way”.  Well, I beg to differ.  I’m a people, and I talked that way.  My goal is now, as it was in 2013 – 2014, to be the best version of myself that I can be.

This requires me to examine everything I do and say.  When I err, I approach the person with whom I engaged outside of my preferred behavior.  Though Marshall Rosenberg did not embrace the word “apology”, I find it convenient as a term of explanation.  In his terms, I identify behavior that did not meet my need or the other person’s need.  In my specific case, I articulate that behavior and pledge to the person that I will choose different behavior in the future.  It is easier to call that an apology.  Sincerity drives mine.

I also look for joyfulness and for opportunities to dwell in joy.  That pursuit challenges me.  Therefore it takes substantially more energy than anything else.    But the pay-off — oh, the pay-off!  My journey to joy has many lovely rest-stops.

But the journey itself seems lonely at times.  I find many folks prefer a simpler existence.  My life cannot be called simple.  The complexities confound me at times.  But as my Nana cautioned, I keep putting my best foot forward.  I hope and pray that when I stumble, my guardian angel will leap forward to cradle me and ease the impact as she has always done.

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