Category Archives: Uncategorized

Delta Mourning

The mourning doves have roosted atop the power poles again.  I had not noticed them in a while.  As I sat on my porch last evening, weary and lonesome to the point of tears, I saw a flicker of grey against the vivid blue.  With the zoom lens of my little Canon, I found her,  dark ring around her neck and a gleaming eye.   I remembered Dave Michaels and I watching them nest last year; him with his real camera, and me with nothing more to preserve the wonder but the eagerness of my writer’s heart.

Last night, the dove whom I watched seemed aware of my distant gaze.  I took shot after shot as she groomed her feathers.  She mostly faced the river but periodically, her heard swiveled northward.  She would pause, stare straight into my camera’s eye and study whatever she perceived.  I kept clicking, driven by a desire to get closer to this sturdy creature.

I couldn’t shake the sorrow last night.  I yearned to hear the cadence of familiar accents.  A friend from back home happened to message me.  As we chatted in that weird digital manner, I imagined the sassy tilt of her head and the warmth of her smile. 

She asked me if I regretted anything about my move.  The short answer is, no, I do not regret anything about the move itself.  I might wish that I had plotted the mechanics of the undertaking in a more deliberate manner, but coming to California? No regrets.  Sometimes, though — perhaps too often —  the sense of being an interloper overtakes me.

Sunday came easy to the Delta.  She cast her rays through my east window just after 5:15, blooming full near six.  I rose and stretched the cramped muscles of my spastic legs, wincing, reaching to let the blood flow and the nerves begin to awaken.  A veil of lingering sorrow eased from my shoulders as I moved around my tiny house. 

There are days like that; days when I just want to stroll down Holmes Street and wave to my neighbors; to hear the slight twang of Missouri in the voices of people whom I meet and breathe the peculiar fugue of Kansas City air in hot July.  The summer memories call loudest to my soul. With the screen door open, I’d summon my son and we’d go walking, with the dog on a lead and Patrick pushing the pedals of his Big Wheels.   He’d flush with concentration, then grin from beneath his little helmet as he propelled the vehicle around the block.

But that little boy has grown into manhood.  The woman six doors down, who always called to us on our walks, died last year.  Her son and daughter-in-law bought a place in Independence; and then her son, too, passed on.  Someone else owns my house now, and she lays claim to  whatever sense of home rises from the tender grass in the heat of a Kansas City summer.

It’s the fourteenth day of the sixty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

KANSAS CITY AREA FRIENDS, FAMILY, & FANS: Mark Your Calendar!

05 September 2019, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Prospero’s in Westport: Corinne Corley’s Birthday Bash and Benefit for Rose Brooks Center!

Still, I Rise

For a person who spent three hours and forty-five minutes in her car last evening, I feel surprisingly cheerful today.

I turned the corner to Highway 12 at 5:40 p.m., right after a bad accident on the Rio Vista Bridge.  I debated for an hour as to whether I should try to inch out and go have dinner.  I texted a co-worker but didn’t get a reply until close to eight, by which time I felt vested in the wait.  I got home at 9:30 p.m.  For perspective, the drive would typically take twelve minutes.

I occupied my time posting to the Delta News Facebook group.  This little virtual corner cafe has given me some interesting connections.  I’ve met other transplants and some native dwellers.  I’ve learned about events, parks, history, and the trials and tribulations of boat life.  Through the Delta News, I’ve gotten to know a few of the twenty artists who are showing at an Art Fest where I live (tomorrow!!!) and at which I’m volunteering (you saw that coming!) .

As the car idled, I kept the group updated on what I saw.  When westbound traffic started over the bridge at 7:45, a surge of hopefulness flowed through my fingers and I cheered! though silently, with all caps, on the keyboard of my phone.  One or two folks posted replies, identifying themselves and where they sat in the same line.  Eastbound traffic didn’t start up until an hour and change later.  We commiserated via replies to each other’s posts.  A bridge-tender shared pictures of the crash taken by another member, a photographer.  When a guy in a pickup forced his way in front of my car and flipped me off, I posted his license plate and learned that the same vehicle has been seen speeding carelessly through the Delta.  (I laughed at his eagerness to get in front of me; he then sat, in the exact spot which he’d nearly hit my car to claim, for two hours.)

This morning, I made it to physical therapy before the scheduled time and brewed a cup of coffee with their little Keurig.  When the therapist arrived, she marveled that I was bright-eyed and bouncy.  I told her about getting stuck in traffic for four hours.  She shook her head.  “You amaze me!” she exclaimed.  I had to laugh.  I told her that sometimes, I amaze myself.

One of the coolest connections that I have made through the Delta News is with a local gal and photographer named Demi Stewart.  She astounds me; talk about a gal who rose from adversity!  You can read my profile of  her HERE.  You’ll read that she works as a bridge-tender.  Today I drove under the little house in which she works on my way to and from my physical therapy appointment.  I alerted her to my impending arrival on the return trip.  You have not lived until you drive under a bridge-tender’s house and see the bridge-tender’s smiling face and cheerful wave!  What could be better than the #deltalife?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal detractors.  They crawl out of the woodwork now and then, sometimes in the world around me, sometimes as spectres in my brain, old voices that I cannot exorcise.  I don’t have much going for me that anyone would envy.  But one thing about me cannot be denied.  As the Honorable Peggy Stephens McGraw once judicially noted, I am relentless.

It’s the twelfth day (sorry for the three-day hiatus!) of the sixty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

For an updated tour of Angel’s Haven, my tiny house, click HERE!

KANSAS CITY AREA FANS:  Mark Your Calendar! 05 September 2019, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Prospero’s in Westport — Corinne Corley’s Birthday Bash and Benefit for Rose Brooks Center!

The Story of a Birth

Of all the things for which I have to be grateful, my son ranks number one.

I very nearly missed out on motherhood all together.  Even when I finally stumbled into a viable pregnancy, catastrophe threatened.  I went into labor at the oddest times and places. 

I sent a Louisiana state court judge into a panic by announcing that I needed to sit through a contraction while cross-examining a witness.  Coming back from that hearing, the part-time pilot called his full-time boss, Sam Walton.

“I’ve got one of the Arens lawyers in my  plane,” he said into the headset.  “We’ve got lightening on our tail and she’s in labor.”  Mr. Walton sent an ambulance to haul my skinny butt to the hospital from the Springdale airport.

I walked off contractions two or three more times over the next month.  My friend Paula Fulcher twinkled her eyes in my direction whenever I called for help.  She came with herbal tea and cartons of fruit.  She brushed my hair and talked in the most soothing voice about fairies and other flights of fancy.

My doctor had promised to consider natural childbirth.  At my twenty-eight week check-up, she raised her head from beneath the drapes and stared intently at my eager face. 

“Who are we trying to fool,” she sighed.  “You miscarried a twin and your hips spontaneously dislocate at a moment’s notice.  It’s going to be a primary section, and I’m keeping you in-patient as long as your insurance allows.”  We both knew that the Clinton governorship had made certain that she could order anything she deemed medically necessary and it had to be covered.

She booked an OR for July 08th.  On the morning of the sixth, I woke in a dead sweat, shivering.  I called Paula.  “I feel funny,” I confided.  “Like I want to scream only I can’t.”

“I’ll be right over,” she responded.  “It sounds like contractions.”

By the time she got there, I had paced back and forth in the small living room about fifty times.  She made me sit while she dabbed my forehead with a cool cloth and looked at her watch.  “Corinne, the contractions are six minutes apart, we’d better call the doctor.”

Paula drove me to Washington Regional Medical Center, talking all the time in the calmest sweetest tones.  I wanted to slap her.  She offered to let me but I looked out the window.  I could never do that, I replied.  She laughed and squeezed my hand.

The Irish midwife met us at the emergency room and whisked us beyond all barriers and up to Labor and Delivery.  There I could pace to my hearts content as long as I took the blood pressure monitor with me.  Morag, the midwife, checked on me every twenty minutes or so, including taking “just a wee peek” to see whether my pains had been “productive”.  I gathered she meant whether or not I had dilated, which I had not done by the time they brought the dinner trays around.  

I lowered myself onto the bed and pulled the rolling tray toward me.  I lifted the lid, staring at the mush on the plate.  Liquid diet.  Just in case they had to suddenly wheel me into surgery.

Then I caught sight of the meal order ticket and the printed date.  07/06/91.  The next day would be July 07th.  I felt panic rise.  I rang the buzzer and Morag flew into the room.

“I am not having this baby tomorrow,” I announced.  “Tomorrow is the birthday of my baby’s absent father, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go through life celebrating that day.”  I must have been crying.  My voice shook.  Morag put her arms around  me and patted my back. 

“It’s all right, love,” she assured me.  “If you haven’t dilated by midnight, we’ll be stopping that labor anyway.”

They let me go home on Sunday.  When I got there, I took the longest shower possible considering I had a bowling ball strapped to the front of my torso.  I laid out the nightgowns which I wanted to take for my hospital stay, and the books on breastfeeding that I had collected in case I needed guidance.  I stood for an eternity in the doorway of the green and yellow nursery which my friends had put together for me.  When I finally went to sleep, I dreamed of little children turning circles and singing a song with no words.

My friends Laura and Ron Barclay came to drive me to the hospital on Monday.  Laura scrubbed and gowned; she would sit beside me in the delivery room.  The contractions had completely subsided.  The floor had me scheduled for ten o’clock.  Word came that the doctor would be delayed.  I went over to the OR at noon.

Dr. Walker and Morag met me as the nurse wheeled me into the cold, bright cavern where my child would be born.  “I’m sorry I’m late,” the doctor murmured from behind her mask.  “My sewer backed up and I had to wait for the Roto Rooter guy.”  I shook my head.  What could I say to that?

Fifty minutes later, they had me open and I felt a great tug on my belly.  “He’s out,” Morag told me over my knees.  Laura made a funny comment about the baby that I promised her I would never repeat in public.  Then I heard a small laugh, and Dr. Walker said, “He’s a cheerful little guy,” and handed him over to me.

I’d like to say that my first utterance upon seeing my baby carried profound meaning, but it didn’t, and it, too, does not bear recording here.  But my second thought, oh, that I can claim!  “What a wonderful thing,” I said to Laura.  “What a wonderful thing!”  Laura tugged the mask from her face and grinned.  For some reason, my own face had not been covered.  I lifted the baby to my cheek and breathed the magnificent and singular fragrance of new life.

They took him from me, then; and recorded all the measurements that signify what follows from a birth.  He weighed a bruising 7 pounds, 10 ounces, which for a six-week premature infant meant a lot.  He measured twenty-one inches long. I don’t remember his Apgar score, but it sufficed.  

I heard all this in a haze, as Dr. Walker and the midwife stitched the many layers of my body back to some semblance of their original shape.  Then the gurney started to move, and I flailed my arms toward the pediatric nurse.  “My baby!” I cried.  “Don’t worry, love,” she assured me, over one shoulder, “you’ll get enough of him soon as we’re finished here.”

And I have, too — gotten enough of him.  Through the first days, the next years, the ensuing decades.  I’ve watched him grow from a scrawny thing to a calm and comfortable man.  I’ve done my best to stand by him when everything went to hell, and he has done the same for me.  

When I told a friend of mine that I was pregnant and the father had decamped, she grimaced and said, “Oh, single motherhood!  Your life is going to be very difficult!”  

I snapped back, “Good, then; the first thirty-six years have been sheer hell!  Very difficult will be a vast improvement!”

I was half-right in my prediction.  Life as the birth-giver of Patrick Charles Corley has been a vast improvement over life prior to his arrival on earth.  He has taught me much; and given me plenty, including worries and joys.  When I have needed a shoulder on which to cry, he has provided one without hesitation.  I have tried to do the same for him.  We’ve climbed mountains together.  We’ve launched contests, like the Best Park in Johnson County, Kansas; and the Best Fish and Chips Anywhere, Ever.  We’ve driven cross-country.  We’ve skidded through a blizzard.  We’ve gone to funerals.  He’s been the kind of son that any mother would be lucky to have.

Oh, he’s pursued the usual odd assortment of missteps.  But those got handled, one way or the other, and we managed to get through them all.  I did the same, to be sure, and yet he’s still willing to claim me.

I haven’t gotten to see my son on his birthday for quite a few years now.  He has created an entire world which I do not occupy on anything other than an occasional basis.  But that is as it should be.  What he does in that world makes me immeasurably proud.  I could not ask for a better son.  Nor would I want a different one.  There might, in truth, be things that I would do differently with benefit of hind-sight, but none of them would entail forgoing the enormous gift of being Patrick Corley’s mother.  It truly has been a wonderful thing.

It’s the eighth day of the sixty-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

 

 

Xander’s Heart

I did not know Xander Wohlstadter, but I know his story and I know his mother.  

Because I know his story and his mother, I know his heart.

 

I met Xander’s mother, Beth Lewandowski, more than a decade ago through a lawyer’s list serve of which we both were members.  We taught a course together at our lawyers’ conference that year.  Xander must have been a baby, since he tragically died in 2014 at the age of 20.   An out-of-control intoxicated driver ended his life.

Though I never met Xander, I can say this:  If he had his mother’s fire, it burned fiercely.  If he had his mother’s tenderness, it rested gently on his shoulders.

This afternoon, I retrieved my mail just before driving into the desolate little town of Isleton to interview one of the local artists for my community’s blog.  Among the junk, I saw a crisp white square from Beth.  Ah, I thought to myself.  Something official!  An announcement, perhaps?  A wedding invitation?  I studied the St. Louis address, then tucked the envelope into my notebook and journeyed over the country roads.

But after I had parked, I pulled the piece back out and slit the flap.  A photograph and a little clutch of stickers fluttered into my lap.  Oh, geez.

I had forgotten my promise to take one of the stickers that Beth had made and place it near the Pacific Ocean in memory of Xander.

I stared at Xander’s picture and the little pile of hearts.  Tears welled in my eyes.  I cannot imagine losing my son, who turns twenty-eight tomorrow.  What would I do?  How would I survive?  What meaning could I ever find in life, without that life in my life?

Yet Beth has done so.  Xander loved to use his camera to record the beauty of this world, so Beth takes photographs.  He rode a bike around St. Louis, so Beth does too.  I realize as I write that I have no idea if Beth had any other children.  I click over to her Facebook page and troll her listed family relationships.  I see no one identified as progeny.  I wrack my mind but cannot unearth that knowledge.  I make a note to ask.

It doesn’t matter, really.  She went on living, and I can tell from what I see that her life has been enriched by Xander’s heart.  Pictures of sunsets, and rivers, and flowers, and the streets of St. Louis pepper the pages of her social media.  In dying, Xander has drawn his mother’s eye to even more beauty than it might otherwise have known.

In a few weeks, I’ll be at the Pacific.  I’ll find a place where I can place a sticker for Xander.  It needs to face the sunset and the wide expanse of my beloved ocean.  It must be somewhat protected, so it will endure despite the ravages of wind and time.  I will get my friends to help me reach.  I will peel away the backing, and place Xander’s heart upon that place.  I will take a photograph for Xander’s mother.  I will pause, for just a moment; and then, I will retrace my steps, and leave the spirit of him there.

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

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
 
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
 
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
 

 

 

One thing, two things

Join me in this, for today:  Tell me about one thing that bothers you. Describe one thing about which you would complain if you could.  Your one thing can be large or small.  Make it something immutable over which you have no control or something minor, that you can change with effort and focus.

But when you’ve done that, share two things for which you are grateful.

I’ll start.

One peculiar manifestation of my CNS deficit involves my hands.  They do not work unless and until I fully waken.  I have to move them for ten or fifteen minutes before I get out of bed in the morning, working them against something stable like a wall or the mattress.  The induced movement alerts my brain, I guess; or maybe triggers muscle memory.  Once I get the engines revved, my hands have moderate strength.  I’ve broken three or four fingers over the years, and one of my wrists.  My knuckles swell with the aftermath of these injuries.  If I forget to remove my rings and hairpins before sleeping, I struggle to rescue myself from the pain of metal against scalp or the grip of silver on bony fingers which drives me crazy.

I can’t change the disability which plagues my hands.  I have to live with it, but chart this on the mild end of the hardship continuum.  I inwardly grumble but then retreat, reminding myself that a person without shoes still fares better than one without feet.

There; I got that out of the way.  Now for the two blessings.

I worked a half-day yesterday, then went to do an interview for the Park’s blog.  By the time I pulled into my lot, fatigue had overcome me.  I sat in the quiet of the car for a few minutes before I struggled to the door of my house.

What I saw there erased the tiredness clinging to my bones and gladdened my heart.   Someone had tucked a little brown bag into the space between the screen door and the door jamb.  I can guess who; but the note carefully written on the bag had no signature.  Instead, it announced its contents:  Sunflower seeds from the garden.  The gifter had harvested, dried, and distributed the tasty little nuggets from tall flowers rising above the Delta Bay Community Garden.

I helped start the garden last year but haven’t been able to help much with the planting or tending since a small surgical procedure in August.  The general anesthesia threw me into a tailspin; and a hard few months without much exercise followed.  Young and healthy neighbors have done the work, and share the bounty.  My heart swells with happiness.

Then, this morning’s breakfast gave me an unexpected second shot of cheer.  I took down a mug that I don’t usually use and poured my morning coffee.  I realized that this vessel, which I purchased at a garage sale, comes from Starbucks.  As I scrambled eggs, I mused over memories of happy Saturday mornings in Kansas City with my friend Penny Thieme.  We met in whatever coffee shop tickled our fancy.  After she got a part-time gig at Starbucks, I’d often join her at the end of a shift.  We ruminated over our weeks, solved the problems of the world, and explored ideas for creative efforts.  Sometimes we cried.  Often we laughed.  In the spaces between, we just sat in comfortable silence.   I cherish the memories of my coffee dates with my amazing sister Penny.

So:  One step backward, two steps forward, on my never-ending #journeytojoy.

Now, it’s your turn.  Comment below this entry or send me an e-mail: ccorleyjd@gmail.com.  But remember:  One complaint; two blessings.  Go.

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

 

Ambient Noise

Though I claim that I am unable to do two things at once — such as walk and breathe — in reality, I have to do many.  I listen to the whine of the saws in my brain. I watch for hazards on the ground.  I strive to simultaneously keep my core tense, my shoulders relaxed, and my spirits high.

The community dinner at my Park has become a weekly affair.  Sometimes as few as six adults and a few kids attend; sometimes the group soars as high as 25.  We bring whatever we have on hand or designate  a theme.  Parents cook on the electric stove in the community room.  Folks who work offsite stop at the grocery store in town for pre-made salads.  Wine gets uncorked.  Juice gets poured.  The children sit at the round table in the window.  Grown-ups gather around the pushed together folding tables, like the coffee in the parish  hall after Sunday service.

Last evening, I stood in the driveway talking with one of my neighbors after a small but enjoyable meal.  With lots of our regulars out of town for the holiday, we hadn’t thought to have the community dinner.  But a few diehards insisted, and it turned out to be one of the more intimate and enjoyable events.  

My neighbor said, I’m glad we did this.  I agreed.  We talked about the weeks when we’re too tired to put together a dish.  We grab a bag of chips and a tub of salsa.  But there is always enough; often leftovers; and never a complaint from anyone who came laden with home-made casserole.  Whatever we have, it is enough; and the warmth and friendliness of our neighbors blends with the food to stretch it even farther.  My neighbor tells me that he worried about moving to an RV park.  He knew no one, and had a difficult time forcing himself to talk to people.  But everyone welcomed him.  The disparate personalities combined to make a group that he could consider family.

I agreed, again; and we said goodnight.  I have a lot of personal faults.  I worry that I’m too loud, that I’m impatient, that my difficulty hearing makes me a bad conversationalist.  I understand my neighbor’s reluctance to put himself into a group of people whose proclivities he does not know.  I share his fear.  I have been told that I am an acquired taste.  People love me or hate me.  All I can do is continue to try to be kind; correct missteps when I make them; and keep putting my best spastic foot forward. I’m learning to ignore the ambient noise, and listen for the voices of the angels.

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

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

Morning, Rio Vista, June 2019

A long stretch of newly baled hay adorned the field to my right, filling the air with a heady fragrance. Wind-swept clouds danced across the sky.  Traffic abated long enough for me to reach the bridge at a clip.  As my front tires eased onto the metal, I glanced at the river.  Waves rippled away from the unseen expanse above which I traveled. On the western edge, I took the long slow exit down to Front Street, passing a worker in his yellow vest.  He raised a thermos in my direction.  I smiled and lifted my fingers from the steering wheel in reply.

I could make this trip on any morning.  The field would be tall with grass or ready for harvest.  The worker would bear a jacket on his shoulders or short sleeves beneath dusty coveralls.  Big rigs would barrel past, heavy with a load or empty, headed home.  The bridge would rise, bringing traffic to a stop, or remain steady for workaday folks journeying by land. 

Morning, Rio Vista, June 2019; my life in seven minutes, warmed by the summer sun and sheltered beneath a tender sky.

From The Vision of Sir Launfal
James Russell Lowell – 1819-1891

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,—
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop over-fills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
‘Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing,—
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

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

 

 

 

Morning, the California Delta, June 2019

In the stillness of morning, I take stock.

I hear the dove outside, nearby; mournful and low, repeating her call to a silent mate.  Something twitters; a nuthatch or a finch, high and happy, if I can be forgiven my assumptions.  I close my eyes and let the coolness of the morning wash over me.

I start with my toes and ask myself, Can the feet move?  Not yet, comes the whispered reply.  The searing pain in my right hip reminds me of the Oldsmobile which parked itself just there, on top of a shattered Gremlin door.  One firefighter held my hand as the other worked the jaws of life.  “It’s a good thing you  hadn’t buckled your seat belt,” he murmurs.

It would be years before I could bring myself to wear one.

Between my spastic toes and my degenerated hip, the operated knee has swollen through the night.  Funny thing to call a few inches of metal.  “Operated knee”, it says, on my chart; but that was two or three procedures ago.  For the last sixteen years, I’ve had this hunk of twisted, broken machinery, with a knob of cartilage inflamed in the center of the faulty joint.  It’s not ready to bend, just yet.  I flex it, wince a little, then go back to my mental inventory.

The sun sends its creeping tendrils through the slit in the curtain.  The light rises in my little house.  I reach one hand towards the ceiling of my daybed cubby, running my fingers across its rough surface.  For the hundredth time, I lament the screws sticking through the loft floor.  I’ve got to get someone to fix that, I tell myself.  

A little tap on the metal roof distracts me.  A scrub jay, perhaps; or a woodpecker.  I’ve never seen a squirrel in the park.  I’m not sure they live here.  But the woodpeckers! Oh how they love to hammer away at the California oaks rising above our meadow!

Now I raise my feet.   My calf muscles demand attention; they’ve grown even more taut as I slept.  Funny thing, the brain.  It keeps me moving all day despite the limits of its tortured pattern.  As soon as I fall asleep, all hell breaks lose. I strain against the pain.  Bend and stretch, reach for the sky.(1)

  In a minute, I’ll swing my legs out and steady myself with the edge of the cabinet.  Then I’ll pull myself to something like a sitting position, and hold my breath.  I’ve fallen on the floor more times than I care to say.  But this time, I make it, and soon I’m in the kitchen putting the kettle to boil.

And through all of these machinations, one thought shines: “Ladies and gentlemen, I woke up today, which is more than many people can say.  So let’s get started.”(2)

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

 

 

NOTES

(fn 1) The linked clip does not feature “my” Romper Room. We had Miss Lois in St. Louis.  But I couldn’t find one of her doing this song.  My apologies to my St. Louis friends from childhood for the substitution.

(fn 2) I served as a courtroom prosecutor for the late Hon. Leonard J. Hughes, Sr. in the Kansas City Municipal Court from 1983 – 1985.  He started each day’s session with this announcement.

 

One Day In Between

Today I have done nothing more taxing than fold a load of clothes and cook rice.

A few hours ago, I showed a carpenter neighbor where I wanted three shelves built.  He bent to measure the depth of the cabinet and talked about the weight load capacity of drawer runners.  We agreed on a day for the install, and he strolled off the porch, whistling.  One sandal flopped from his foot and I cautioned him about shoe-related injuries.

Oh, I know, he assured me.  But these sandals have been around the world with me, even to Cambodia.  I can’t bear to part with them.  Then he dialed my neighbor’s number and sauntered towards her house, to bid another job.

Heat settled on our park.  Inside my house, the temperature climbed but the fans kept the air comfortable, at least for this Missouri girl.  I puttered about, occasionally reading a page or two in my Kindle app.  I poured hot water over fresh grounds and took my mug out to the porch.  

Last year, I had no job except the closing of my Missouri cases which drew me eastward every month or so.  I spent my days sending out resumes and driving the levee roads on the Delta Loop.  I found bends around which broad fields lay fallow in the winter months, and burst with life as spring unfolded.  I spoke to very few people.  I drank Kombucha at the local beer room, and tea at the bakeshop in town.  Occasionally, I strolled by the broken walkway at the river’s edge and smiled at the occasional person sitting on the benches in the afternoon air.

I never thought of myself as a loner until the last few years.  Now I understand that I somehow failed to build a life which could sustain itself.  I do not know if I have left it until too late.

This afternoon, as I sat in the rocker on my porch, a hummingbird sought out the feeder which hangs on a bracket attached to my house.  It buzzed over my head and briefly perched.  I held as still as possible. As the sound of its wings tickled my ears,  I opened the camera on my tablet.  I reversed its orientation so I could watch the little bird flutter over the pool of nectar.  I didn’t get a picture; it moved too fast.  But it returned over and over again; again and again I raised the camera and studied its flight until it zipped beyond the reach of my feeble lens.  

Later, as I sat at the computer, a knock summoned me downstairs.  My neighbor Helix had brought a present; a bracelet of his own design and making.  He clasped it around my wrist and then took a photograph to show his husband Louis.  I hugged him; I thanked him; and I offered to pay for the lovely thing,  He demurred.  If you ever see something and think of me, you can get it for me, he told me.  A gentleman’s way of saying, This is a gift.  

Then he gave me an Oreo; told me to drink lots of water — Promise me! — and continued on his evening’s stroll.  For my part, I went back upstairs, feeling less lonely by half.

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