Author Archives: ccorleyjd365

Almost home

Some instinct drove me to book my usual guest room at Jim and Nancy’s place in Oakland.  As fate would have it, my Stanford gurus re-arranged Thursday’s appointments.  I would have made the Delta well past night fall.  Instead, I held a glass of a very lovely Oregon red from a seat beside the schefflera  on the patio by six.  In an hour, a fire blazed in the steel pit and the aroma of pasta wafted towards me.

Now I have taken a detour and sit at a table beside the bay in Vallejo.  I don’t need the banana bread but I always encourage those cafes which provide gluten-free fare.  One for the team, calories around my waist but nonetheless delicious.  A family speaking Spanish stroll past, the little girl on a wobbly bike encouraged by her brother.  I hear a mortgage broker convincing a couple that they can afford more house than they want to buy.  Their coffee cools as they listen to him.  I want to step over to them and shout “Don’t do it!”  But I hold my peace.  I’m terrible with money, so what do I know?  I think his dark glasses should suggest untrustworthiness.  He sounds a little slick to me.

The fragrance of the sea mingles with the smokey haze drifting down from Shasta County.  Firefighters have gotten the inferno under control.  Evacuation orders have been lifted.  Families hurry back to their neighborhoods to frantically search among the embers for whatever can be salvaged.  Funerals for the lost citizens and firefighters mar the joy.   The perrenial purge of the woodlands by nature has intensified with the impact of human damage to our ecosystems.  This much cannot escape our understanding as we watch the fires burn hotter, and longer, and more often than Northern California has ever seen.

Travelers descend and cross to the ferry as I watch.  I cannot help wondering where their journeys will end.  As for myself, I’m almost home.

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

 

 

For the Record

Once you graduate from law school and pass the bar exam, you pledge to spend the rest of your natural born days focused on “the record”.

We talk of making a record, protecting the record, and preserving the record for appeal.  We speak to the record, muddy the record, and enter evidence into the record.  The record takes on the sacredness of the Holy Grail.

So.  For the Record:

Contrary to implications, I have NOT gone a year without complaining, nor have I actually stopped kvetching, whining, belly-aching, bitching, and what-have-you.  Had I achieved my goal of matriculating 365 days without voicing one iota of complaint, this blog would have shuddered to a merciful close.  Don’t give me more credit than I deserve.  (You know who you are.)

I’ve learned to identify complaint, both verbal and nonverbal.  I’ve beaten my own articulation of complaint back to a dull roar.  I see past pettiness considerably more than before I started this blog and its underlying mission.  But I have a long way to go, which explains its extension.

Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley told me a long time ago (well, she’s been dead for 33 years, so a REALLY long time ago) that where there is life, there is room for improvement.  I’m still alive.  I’m still improving.  And I’m still putting my best foot forward — as Johanna Ulz Lyons counseled — in furtherance of my #journeytojoy.

It’s the first day of the fifty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining — or, shall I say, My “attempt to make it an entire ” Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

Celebrating Gardeners

This evening I watchd two young women working in the community garden in the park where I live. Ostensibly I was participating but my body does not move in the ways necessary to be a really active gardener. These ladies have astounded me with their daily dedication to the community garden which we all wanted and in which several of us are actively participating. It warms my heart to see Jessie and Sarah and Melanie turning good soil and planting young shoots or small seeds which we will all nurture and from which we will reap bounty.

As I contemplate the close of another month in my seemingly endless year, I am thinking of the gardeners in my life. My mother, my sister Ann, my mother-in-law, and my friend Katrina spring readily to mind. But I am also thinking of a more symbolic type of gardener, the ones who have sown happiness in my daily existence.

In particular, this evening I am remembering my friend Linda Overton. Linda was once my sister-in-law and worked at my law firm for several years.  I know I was a very difficult boss during that time. Perhaps I always was, but particularly so in those days. Like many people with chronic pain, I coped with my physical stress by trying to ignore it.  But the anguish manifested as unpleasant behavior towards those around me.

From Linda, I learned one of the sweetest phrases I have ever heard. I would say to her, ” I am so sorry I snapped at you.” She would smile and mildly remark, “I forgave you when you done it.” I will never forget the extraordinary kindness which Linda has shown to me all of the time that I have known her, which is three decades. If she is reading this, I hope she takes it to heart, and knows how grateful I am for her presence in my life.

It’s the 31st day of the 55th month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.

Hard Truths

Today the hard truths of life hammer my heart.

People crash into my life and then stagger back out.  One task after another presents itself; I push against my limitations, frustrated.  I gather my standards and my wits around me, blindly stumbling down pitted highways.  Most of all, I bite my tongue; I tell myself, over and over, Don’t complain; just keep walking.

The most and least that I can say for myself remains consistent.  I strove to be genuine at every turn.  The same qualities evoke devotion or hostility depending on the beholder’s vantage point.  My independence, my persistence, my steadfastness, my intelligence gain praise and condemnation at either end of a relationship.  On meeting me, people exclaim over my fierce individuality; on leaving me, they declaim the same quality with equal vehemence.

I do not change.  I just keep walking.

Whatever I have been or become depends not on my aim to please, but on my dedication to growth.  I take baby steps.  Sometimes I fall.  I keep walking.

Whatever else I am, whatever else I become, you can count on this:  I have no artifice.  And I will keep walking, though the road stretches long before me and the journey unfolds with the eerie silence of solitude.  Break the silence with your song.  I will be glad of the companionship.  But if you wish to fly, I will not hold you hostage.  I will bid you farewell with as much compassion and understanding as I can manage.  I hold no grudges.  I take no prisoners.

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

 

 

Motivation

I agreed to be part of a documentary film-maker’s exploration of tiny homes.  In preparation for her visit today, I spent several hours straightening and cleaning my house.  This proved fortuitous.  Two sets of tiny home tourists  happened by Angel’s Haven yesterday. I could proudly invite them into my space and accommodate their comfort and interest.

When I awakened this morning, I had a message from the prospective film-maker to our group cancelling her appearance today.  Putting aside mild annoyance, I acknowledged her note and rose to make coffee.  I looked around my home.  The potential of its appearing in a movie had inspired me to make small adjustments and to accentuate features of Angel’s Haven which please me.  I had been happy to allow strangers into the space without worrying that I had not adequately cleaned or that something looked amiss.

With Angel’s Haven looking so spiff, I decided to make my own video, an updated tour for my YouTube channel of how the place looks after seven months of living.  In truth, I do keep it fairly clean and organized.  Tidying a 200-square-foot space takes much less time.  Perhaps  I’m not a true minimalist, but I no longer make purchases which add to the clutter.   I don’t need more tools or trinkets, though each visit to Kansas City has given me a chance to rummage through the shrinking pile in the storage unit.  I make happy discoveries, return with three or four additions, and spend gleeful moments working the cherished finds into my decor.

I sat in my rocking chair this morning, looking at how I’ve arranged the space in which I write.  I can gaze out the window from my desk.  I see beloved faces and artwork from every vantage point.  A friend could come and sit reading while I work.   Everything lies close at hand, bathed in sunlight.  This alcove reflects the essence of my existence — a place for creativity, a spot for relaxing, and mementos of my life and of those whom I have loved.

These days, when people ask me what I do,  I tell them that I write.

“Oh, what do you write,” they ask.

“I’m working on a book,” I reply.  “And I have a couple of blogs.”

They usually turn away.  They avoid my eyes.  Most folks expect to hear that one writes for an online journal, a television show, movies, or a newspaper.  The world has always looked askance at those of us with works in progress, like the half-finished painting on an easel or the page in the platen.  I accept their skepticism.  Sometimes one must take a different view of any situation.  From where I sat this morning, casting my eyes over the writing loft, I understood the direction of my life.  I convinced myself.  That suffices to keep me moving forward.

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

 

A panoramic view of my writing loft seen from my rocking chair this morning.  Light streams into the loft.  Cool air dances through the space.  Tres bien!

Confession

I like to think that even Stephen Hawking got the blues.
Did he rebel at the entrapment of his beauty?
Did he moan at his body’s slow decline?
In the deepness of a night spent thrashing
did he lament the love whom he sent packing?
Could he stand the awkward bent of his legs –
the uncontrollable draw of his arms –
the irritating whir of the machines –
the tortured rise of dawn behind his tangled curtains?
Websites burgeon with his pithy sayings
from which I admit to stealing inspiration.
I’ve used them even here on these rank pages.
But when the silence overshadows me
and I lay sobbing, plagued by unrelenting failure
I like to think that even Stephen Hawking got the blues.

P.S.  As an apology for my rather lame poetry, here are some lovely pictures taken during my recent retreat to the wilds of northern California.

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

IN LOVING MEMORY OF PAUL ORSO, WHO ENDURED ALS AND NEVER ONCE COMPLAINED.

Patrick Corley, Paul Orso, and me; August 2014, a year before Paul’s death.

On solitude

After two days without cell or internet, I have come down from the mountain and now make my way back to the Delta.  I’ve logged back into my life, paid the piper, and sent smoke signals in all directions.  In a few hours, I will unlock the doors of Angel’s Haven and resume the normal activities of daily living.

I plunged headlong into reality last evening with a slip on the floor of the shower in the bunkhouse at Point Reyes Hostel.  A woman named Dena hoisted me from the floor, summoned to help by another woman who decided she wasn’t strong enough for the task.  I don’t know the first woman’s name but they undoubtedly appeared as angels always do, when I need them and without hesitation.  In the kitchen this morning, I thanked Dena with a hug and a warm smile, meager offerings but all that I could conceivably tender.

I walked farther than I normally do yesterday.  I could not get to Limantour Beach because the sand on the trail gave way beneath my feet.  But I took a hard-packed walking trail which ran parallel to the bluffs.  Eventually it turned upwards and I could see the Pacific, the endlessness laid before me.  Her song heralded me as I trudged the length of the pathway, beckoning, encouraging.  The sight and memory of that scene more than compensates for the bruised hip and wrenched shoulder, and nearly offsets the mild humiliation of lying naked on the communal bathroom floor hours later.

When I crested the hill and stood beside the tree for which I had been aiming, I looked southward to the white cliffs at Nuvo Albion, the point claimed by Sir Francis Drake for his queen.  I had driven to the spot by land in the morning fog.  To see it from a distant point seemed somehow fitting.  Like Drake, I have come far, although unlike Drake, I will not return to my place of origin.  Tendril shoots have begun to grow from my discontented feet.  I feel myself taking root.   In the fertile soil of my new life, I might find nourishment.  Certainly I lift my face to the sky, and let the sun caress me as I never thought possible.

The day broke cool and gentle.  I rose and ventured into the kitchen with a clutch of other folks — Lauren, an artist from Richmond; Ron, a retired tech worker who lives in Rio Vista; and a woman from Switzerland whose name I did not hear.  We ground the beans and waited for the water to boil.  When I had my mug, I walked across the living room and stood in front of the window.  I felt an inexplicable surge of joy as I watched a little rabbit who surely has been the same one that I’ve been observing for the last three days.  He crossed the driveway and resumed nibbling which he must have abandoned as yesterday drew to a dusky close.  Something about his pluckiness makes me glad that this dawn was one to which I was awake.

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

Finding center

Yesterday morning Jeanne said, “Were you complaining, just now, talking to yourself?  I paused to reflect.  I could not summon any memory of talking outloud but I must have, if my voice carried down the hall.

Her question started a train of thought that wrapped itself around the start of a poem and kept my fingers from the keyboard.  That I could have muttered a protest so loudly that it seeped through the guest room door and let itself be known disturbed me.  To have done so without realization compounded my consternation.   I pondered all day; the seed which Jeanne had planted flourished and grew, choking my ability to articulate any decent understanding of its meaning.  I kept asking myself the same question:  How often does a running line of discontent lurk beneath the surface and poison everything I do?

On reflection, I realized that I might have been lamenting the difficulty which morning presents to my body.  Stiff and sore on waking, I struggle out of bed and move through my morning routine with difficulty.  In straining over the simple task of getting dressed, I must have cursed, or uttered some sharp judgment about the unfairness of the small burden which life imposes.

Later in the afternoon, Jeanne and I went shopping. When the clerk rang Jeanne’s purchases, multiple errors drove the final tally significantly higher than it ought to have been.  Jeanne calmly asked about the discrepancy, and the clerk and she went over the entire transaction.  In a few minutes, the mistake had gotten corrected and we left the store.  As we made our way back to her house, I silently observed that I might not have been as gracious as Jeanne in handling the transaction.  Even now, even with four years of dedication to living a life without complaint.

The morning light rises outside Jeanne’s kitchen window.  Yesterday we saw a woodchuck in her back yard.  The previous morning, a deer studied us through the window.  It’s a beautiful place and I am happy to be here — for many reasons, not the least of which flows from Jeanne’s simple and unwitting query which led me to a sobering pause in this never-ending journey.

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

Me, wearing a necklace made by Kat Nemati which I got one “Free Art Friday” at Gallery 504.

Without Judgment

I’m in Missouri.  It feels peculiar to be here.  Nothing seems familiar; yet everywhere I turn, I have been a thousand times before this time, this day.

I spent the morning in court on a case that would give any loud talk show a run for its money.  Afterwards, I had to draft and file no less than four motions for various orders to try to impose a little sanity on the situation.  Mom, Dad, Mom’s boyfriend, Dad’s girlfriend, Mom and Dad’s child, Dad and girlfriend’s child, Mom and boyfriend’s child:  seven human beings impacted, three of whom have no control over what the adults decide to do with their lives.

I tried to recite only facts and seek only an orchestrated orderly process for these people to manage themselves until we can get a final disposition. I tried not to impose my judgment on their conduct.  It’s hard, though; I represent the children, the helpless children, a five-year-old, a one-month old, and a six-month old.  What will these machinations do to them?  We can guess.  What we strive to avoid is a cycle, the same cycle which probably prompted their parents to act as they did to position themselves for this drama.

Then I sip coffee and read about seventeen souls drowned at Table Rock Lake.   No one would call me a religious person by anyone’s standard.  But i am left, at the end of this day, with one solid thought:

There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

And now, I’m off to dinner with friends.  Tomorrow, I will move files to storage. On Sunday, I visit Corleys on the eastern side of the state.  Then, on Monday, I fly west, to my Pacific, and home.

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

Clouds

Above the clouds, the world looks the same in every direction.  You can’t tell if you are in California, Colorado, or Kansas.  You don’t know if a city or a desert lies beneath you.  The rivers creep silently across the earth.  The sea makes its unnoticed way to the shore.

I leaned against the window and drifted in and out of a dizzy consciousness as I flew from Oakland to Kansas City today.  The man in the middle seat rested his head on his thin hands.  His wedding ring slipped towards his knuckle   His black linen suit jacket fell forward onto bony knees.  He slept for nearly the entire flight, three and  a half hours.  When we landed, an enormous shudder coursed through his shoulders.  He pulled his body from the chair and dragged himself to the front of the plane, running one hand through his hair.

I studied the other passengers as they trudged down the aisle.  They all seemed to be still immersed in the clouds.  I waited until the flight attendant came forward to help me with my bag, then smiled at a man who paused to let me exit.  The weariness left his gaze for a moment, just a moment, as he gestured.

In the terminal, a tense clutch of people waited to board our plane, bound for Los Angeles.  A fresh crew slipped past me as I made my way to the baggage claim area.  The man who had sat beside me waited, one hand clenched, one arm crossed, eyes closed.

I don’t know what those clouds did to us, or how everyone else fared as they made their way to the city.  As for myself, I could not shake the feeling that I had gotten lost somewhere in the sky and had yet to come down.  I might be drifting still.

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

 

the world
gives you so much pain
and here you are
making gold of it.

there is nothing purer than that. – rupi kaur