Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Situation normal

Every so often, the city lures me.  I head west to the edge of the nation.  The song of the sea would be enough, or the soft caress of the morning fog.  I slowly stroll along the closed stretch of the Great Coastal HIghway with my walking stick and my crossbody satchel.  Bikes fly past followed by small sturdy children on scooters.  I trudge down the pavement, with the ocean’s voice in my good ear and the wind on my face.

Yet another young specialist has delivered an uncertain verdict, with echoes of the circles and arrows and paragraphs explaining each of the fluttering pages on the sterile desk.  This one had a more fervent tone.  He didn’t snap in my face, or touch my knee, or crinkle his face and call me “Missus Corley”.  He spoke with perfect grammar.  But he had no more answers than any other whiz kid, nor more certainty than the venerable oldsters.  He offered even fewer solutions than most of them: a drug that I do not like and probably will not take; referral to an even more esoteric set of scientists; and fulfillment of my request for another round of neuro-physical therapy.  He gathered his sheaf of papers with its twin reports — one study of 18 persons, another of 6 — in total, a tale of 24, of whom this nice fellow thinks, maybe, I might be one.  The twenty-fifth. 

With two more, I could be a study.  Maybe I’ll stand in the street.  I’ll binder clip the print-outs and accost passers-by from behind my stay-safe surgical mask.  You could be in a cohort,  I’ll urgently say, to anyone with even the suggestion of a gait like mine.  

Not bloody likely.  

We did not shake hands, the doctor and I.  Nor the med student, though she walked with me to the elevator and made small talk.  I left the hospital and took my stroll along the oceanside, trying to find a cut-away that would take me close enough for a photo without having to climb a sandy berm with my unsteady legs.  I had to walk for thirty crippled-girl minutes, then thirty more back to the car.  Fatigued but determined, I navigated the streets of San Francisco to a pre-selected destination for what promised to be a perfect vegan dinner.   

Mid-feast I got a new waitress, and a little vessel of sea salt which the otherwise exquisite plant-based, gluten-free pasta dish desperately needed.  Hailey served a wonderful gelato so luscious that I had to ask twice if she guaranteed that it had no cream.  She laughed as though she’d answered that question a thousand times but she admitted that she had just started working at Wildseed last week.  She gestured to the sidewalk booths.   Some had been part of the original restaurant.  Some had been built since the world stood on its ear and everything moved outside.

After dinner, I walked on the grounds of Fort Mason.  In the past, I would have stayed at the hostel there but it had not yet re-opened when I made my reservations.  I rested on a bench and watched the fog roll across the bay.  I breathed the freshness. I watched the clusters of friends walk across the grass.  It struck me that life has returned to normal; a new normal, possibly.  One in which you cannot see the lower half of anyone’s face; where you do not shake anyone’s hand; and where you have to laugh a little louder and smile with your eyes.

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

Feels Like Home to Me

I bought my first house in 1989 in Windsor, Arkansas:  Two-thousand square feet, half unfinished, on three or four acres with the south fork of the White River running along the back edge.  I loved it, but I fled back to the city when a high-risk pregnancy threatened the loss of the surviving baby of the twins with which I had begun.

My second house sat on a maple-lined street in a sleepy neighborhood in near-south Kansas City, just west of the city’s infamous Troost Blvd but three stop lights east of the high-dollar neighborhoods.  I loved it, too.  I raised my son on its hardwood floors and its screened-in porch.  Three of our pets lie under the garden in the side yard.  My heart broke and mended in a rocking chair in the pine-clad upper room with its cathedral ceiling and wide windows.

Grief-stricken from a difficult divorce and craving a fresh start, I stripped my belongings to the bare essentials and boxed it all inside an 8 x 24 tiny house on wheels.  I parked on a lot on the south side of a meadow in Park Delta Bay on the San Joaquin River.  I live in a circle of other dwellings in which people have chosen to live a nontraditional life.  Our side has a dozen tiny houses on wheels and a couple of trailers.  Across the bridge over the creek sits a row of RVs, a converted school bus, a 400-square foot tiny beauty, and a few rag-tag trailers that have seen the backside of better days long gone.

In each of those dwellings, hearts of gold beat out a joyful rhythm.  Stalwart souls rise to meet challenges, cancer and corona virus and heartache and loneliness.  These people who live around me breathe, and cry, and shake the dust from the hems of their jeans when they come into their rigs after a walk on the grounds.  They saunter up the levee to see the sunset.  They sit at dinner and patiently wait as their neighbor spins a long tale, waiting for an opening to show support.  They  cultivate succulents, they trim basil and spend hours making pesto in their compact kitchens.  They show movies on a sheet draped down the side of a house.  They hand buckets of popcorn around to everyone settling in for the show.

And they rise to any occasion — oh, how they rise!  They lend a hand, an ear, and a dollar.  They haul tables when you get the crazy idea to have a Sunday Market.  They flip burgers because, well, I’m a vegetarian, aren’t I? And even my son would scold me if I played with fire.  They bake goodies to sell to raise money for a poolside umbrella so their friends can enjoy a warm cloudless afternoon.  They scoop ice cream in the heat and serve bottled water to visitors, and walk along the Market pathway admiring the local creativity.  They show up.  They take names.  Then they kick off their shoes and jump in the water and let the weariness of the day fade from their muscles.  When the cool of the evening settles around them, they start planning the community dinner for Bastille Day, and next Sunday’s Market.

I have been asked many times if I saw myself living in an RV park when I decided to go tiny.  The truth?  I did not.  But these people — Louis, Helix, Pattie, Candice, Noah, Robin, Bill, Jason, Tammy,  David, Jackie, Carol, Gerri,  Wayne, Joe, Alex, Travis, Josh — and all the rest — they feel like family.   I miss my son, and my families in Missouri both by birth and by choice.  But after two-and-a-half years, I can honestly say, this feels like home to me.

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

 

 

Monday’s Child

I would like to say that I resisted the onslaught of labor which threatened to bring about my son’s birth two days ahead of his planned delivery because of the old children’s verse about Monday’s child.  But I did not.  I started into labor early on July 06th.  A C-section had been scheduled for July 08th, six weeks before full term.  When my contractions grew close enough for concern, the midwife checked me into the hospital early Saturday evening.

The names for female functions often irritate me; and so too did what they called an entire eighteen-hour saga.  “Unproductive contractions, my dear,” intoned the midwife in her Irish accent.  I took it calmly enough until midnight and then began to roundly protest.  I had good reason for not wanting my son to be born on the 7th, the birthday of his absent father.    But the midwife would not stop my labor for sentimental purposes. I lay in the bed for another four hours with periodic glances into the region of the most evident unproductiveness.

I slept for a few hours. They gave me medicine and sent me home at noon, with instructions to present myself, as scheduled, at 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning.

And so Patrick Charles Corley came into the world on the 08th day of July, 1991, with a calm disposition.  Today he turned twenty-nine.  In the last year, his life has changed in immeasurable ways of which I will not here speak because they happen to be his story to write.  Suffice it to say that even when I miss him, even when I wish that I had turned north instead of west with my tiny house in tow so as to be nearer to him, I know that life holds promise for my son.

I’ve given him whatever start I could muster.  I’ve taught him by good example and horrible warning.  In recent years, I’ve cautioned him to glean more from the nuances of my failures than the tinsel of my successes; more from the character of people of whom I’ve shed myself than the worth of the few to whom I cling.  You could say that my greatest gift to him has been permission to analyze whatever I have shown him and do the opposite.

I wanted a girl. I wanted a  husband, 2.6 children, a three-story house, and a Buick station wagon.  I longed for the apparent normalcy in which I saw other women cloak themselves — ice tea in tall glasses on a wide wraparound porch; summer evenings with a soundtrack of cicadas; croquet on the lawn, church on Sundays, pot roast in the oven, and white saddle shoes.

I got a little boy who made faces when I cried so that smiles would emerge from behind tears; who tied his shoes in double knots and buttoned his Boy Scout uniform to his chin; who told me that God must be the glue which held the world together and that he would annoy me until I turned 103 as I nagged him every day along the way.  My boy collected coats for the homeless, wrote stories about sorrowful teenagers and papers about the US China policy, and called me from his first semester of college to thank me for teaching him perfect grammar.  He weathered his scrapes large and small.  He has stood between bullies and their victims.  He has marched for fair housing, safe streets for college co-eds, and an end to police brutality.  He speaks his mind but without cruelty.  He has never stopped fighting for justice, equality, and liberty for every person, of every ilk, in every last corner of America.

I could not have gotten a better son.  I could not be more proud, more humbled by what he has become, what he has done without asking for fanfare or accolade.  He took the meager heritage that I handed him, and spun it into strands of silver, gold, and glory.  My greatest honor remains the privilege to have born him to this world; my greatest regret might be that I did not have more to give, and left him to forge ahead with so little armor.  But he has done far more than I ever dreamed, and with a certain grace that takes my breath away.

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

In Berkeley, 2018.

In Chicago, 2020.

 

 

Duckfeet, Big Ships, and Missing Robin Williams

The half-moon shone her pale mask through the fading blue of the early evening as I drove home yesterday.  I slowed my car, groping for the camera that I had not thought to bring in the rush of morning.  I let my eyes record the fade from the grey edge to a ribbon of gone midway.  Then I continued home.

After the Tuesday Community Dinner — the second since we resumed, the last until we can return — I stashed my folding chairs in the car and headed to the end of G-Row for movie night.  I had never attended before yesterday.  My neighbor Louis had scheduled a special showing of The Birdcage in honor of Pride Month.

I’ve previously seen the movie, but never in the company of a half-dozen or so gay friends from a lawn chair in a meadow at a tiny house community in Northern California projected onto a sheet via YouTube.  As darkness gathered and the mosquitoes followed, we laughed, we held our collective breath, and we whispered to one another.  Oh, I had forgotten this part. . . What’s “palimony”?. . . Such a good actor!  We applauded the wicked little gesture with which Albert launched his most clever scheme to save the day yet again.  We sighed as the wedding scene unfolded.  We loudly applauded through the credits.

Afterward, I struggled to my feet, and reached for the arm of the young man next to me, asking for help back to my car.  His partner moved to my other side.  Thusly championed — Alex to my right and Travis to my left — I made my ginger way.  

What year was that movie, Alex asked.  I thought a minute, during which Travis supplied, Early nineties, I should think, which I affirmed.  

God, I miss Robin Williams, Alex softly admitted.  Same, I replied.

Same.

A brutal work day followed my late night.  I’m clearly too old to hang with the twenty-somethings, even for such a golden opportunity to observe a clutch of cultural icons.  I struggled through the tedious hours as well as I could.  Back home, I fetched a parcel from the lockbox and slung my camera over one shoulder for the trudge from parking spot to porch.  

The package turned out to be my latest attempt at shoes in which I can actually walk, this time a pricey pair handmade in Denmark.  I drew my pale blue Duckfeet from their swanky box with its leather handle, inserted the separately purchased orthotic, and buckled them over my lily white spastic feet.  Back and forth I paced in the slim corridor of my home.  Maybe.

As night fell again, I remembered seeing a ship making its way from Stockton to the sea as I dashed to Rio Vista this morning.  My camera had been on the seat beside me.  I grabbed it from its case and tarried at the bend in Brannan Island Road, straining to capture something of the wonderment.  Come evening, I scrolled through the SD card, studying the slightly blurred images.   One or two might do, I told myself, sliding into my desk chair.

Simple gifts offset the burdens of my life:  The occasional thrill of beholding masters at work; the comfort of a sturdy pair of shoes; and the sight of a freighter making its ponderous way down the San Joaquin.   There could be other rewards ahead.  If I hold steady, I might see them still.

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

Cobwebs

The sweet, serene air of a Delta Saturday greeted me as I rose this morning.    I pulled my hair into a top knot and put on a soft white dress.  I tightly laced my new shoes and padded around the house, making lists.  But my friend Kimberley called from Kansas City.  Then the mail arrived, with a couple of tempting packages.   Before I realized what had happened, lunchtime had come.   I found myself standing at the stove waiting for quinoa to cook.  Tiny tomatoes, halved and soaked in vinegar, nestled in parsley, green onion, and fennel dressing.

After my lunch, I came upstairs to do a little work.  But the shadows played across the meadow.  I gazed through the transom at the dancing sunlight.  I should be out walking, I told myself.  I should find my stick and a sweater and stroll down to the garden.

I meant to get outside early.  I wanted to spray the side of the house and the succulents around my tree before the heat rose in the park.  Laziness stole into my veins.  I did nothing more challenging than wash the breakfast dishes and send a few emails.

I see the spiders have overtaken the crystal on the transom sill.  I definitely must take my whisk to their work.  A spray of vinegar will cut through the dusty glass.  Tomorrow, I promise myself.  I listen to the sounds of the park.  A mourning dove coos overhead.  Some small brown bird scampers across the grass next to my deck, chattering to its companion. 

 I’m not much of a napper but I could carry a book out onto the porch and pretend to read, while the hummingbirds flit overhead, and the woodpecker hammers away at the old oak across the road.  The cobwebs can wait.

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

White rice, ginger chews, and trespassing in the California Delta

For years my body has grown increasingly rebellious.  It rejected red meat from early on, forcing me into vegetarianism through college and young adulthood.  I fought the limitations of a plant-based diet.  I added chicken and fish, the occasional strip of bacon, and Thanksgiving turkey just to show this bag of bones who was boss.

Six years ago, I surrendered back to some semblance of clean living.  I had gotten down to 105 pounds of neurotic nervousness.  A scalding divorce might have been to blame but truth acknowledged, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with anything stronger than white rice.

This week’s news tortured my Midwestern soul.  I longed to be on the streets of the Windy City with my son or outside Union Station with the folks whom I came to Kansas City to serve.  My first job on Missouri’s western edge allowed me to work east of the urban divide for a nonprofit group founded by Freedom, Inc.  As their acknowledged token white employee, I helped match services to citizens.  I have never felt so useful.  

But here I sit, in the California sunshine, the only protest within miles happening in the Rio Vista park with no fanfare.  I missed it.  So I get online from my laptop and divvy up some disposable income from my tax incentive among the Equal Justice Initiative, the Legal Defense Fund, and the Chicago Community Bond Fund.  As my friends create fundraisers for other such programs, I click on Facebook-donate buttons and kick a few more dollars into the fray.  I put down my bowl of rice and enter my debit card number, knowing that my money won’t go far, but it will carry my intentions farther than my spastic feet could go.  

My little troubles shrink into insignificance in the face of the persistent problems of our society.  So I keep them to myself.  I spend sleepless nights reading about homeopathic cures for my increasing digestive foibles.  The recommended teas ravage me; the herbs clearly have power, but not the gentleness which I crave.  I resign myself to little candies with minuscule amounts of ginger.  I sit on the porch with cup after cup of spring water.  I recall once telling someone that I could endure a lot because I knew others suffered far more.  He had snapped in return that he didn’t think my problems should be diminished just because somebody else’s were worse.  I disagreed then, and my resolve has not abated.  How can I complain about a rumbling tummy, when people are dying for a twenty-dollar bill?

Still I get sad sometimes, overwrought, lonely, falling within the tangled undergrowth of my untamed heart.  Last night was such a night.  I had spent the day in solitude.  I ended the evening with a call to my sister Joyce.  We talked of her challenges and mine; of our fears and our failings; of our futures and our longings.  Our words would have sounded simple to the untrained ear.  But our hearts connected and we carried one another through the hour to the other side, to a small space of temporary and admittedly fragile peace.

Afterwards, I cast aside the novel which I had been reading and snatched my camera from the hook on which it hangs.  I pulled my car out onto Brannan Island Road.  When I got to the crossroads, I could have turned right to Jackson Slough or left to Twitchell Island Road.  Instead, I went straight.  I took a path that I had dutifully avoided for the last thirty months.  I drove my car past the sign proclaiming that the impending stretch of the levee could not be traversed due to being privately owned.  I figured no one would challenge me, and my reckoning proved correct.  I parked in the middle of the road.  Standing in the chilly evening air, I cast my lens across the fields and snapped a few photographs to prove that I had once been brave.

Never mind that afterwards, I crept along the narrow levee, unable to get the car turned around.  Instead I journeyed forward, beyond the point at which I could have claimed ignorance and accident.  Eventually, I came through the overgrown trees to a road on which I had a right to travel.  I made it home.  My triumph took a momentary beating when I dropped my keys in the treacherous crack between my porch and my house.  I called for rescue; thanked Candice and Noah for fishing the offending keyring from the muck and grime; and went inside, still smiling from the after-glow of trespassing to see the sunset over the California Delta.

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

Uniforms

I remember my mother bent over her sewing machine, hair in curlers tightly wound to her scalp.  In earlier years, she made dresses for her daughters and curtains for the various rooms in our little house.  Closer to the end of her life, she had two basic patterns which she used over and over with varying weights of fabric.  One produced a plethora of all-season wrap-around skirts.  The other yielded a shoulder bag with a single flap and no closure.

She made the skirt in denim, floral prints, and corduroy.  She made the pocketbook in light-weight or heavy, depending on the season.  With the skirt she wore a host of t-shirts.  She pulled the thick strap of the current bag over her shoulder and held it close to her body.  

As I did my laundry this weekend, I discovered that I have four dresses of the same type but in different colors.  In a basket under my little sofa, I keep twenty pairs of leggings, winter weight at one side, summer at the other.  On a hook in the storage cupboard, I hang four cardigans for summer.  The heavier ones live in another basket, pushed to the back for now.  Every day I wear one of the dresses, a pair of leggings, and Mary Janes with thin cotton socks.

Thusly attired, my shape and size disappear.  The effortless swing of fabric falls from the shoulders and skims the cloth of the leggings.  Short sleeves truncate my arms and hide that slight flab which comes with middle-age.  I sling a crossbody across my chest before I leave each morning.  On cooler days, I tie one of a dozen scarves around my neck.

A photo of my mother hangs on the stairway to the loft of my tiny house.  She wears one of her famous skirt-and-T combos.  She’s dancing, a light skip down the sidewalk of our home.  I took this photo in May  of 1977.  I had come home from Boston to walk with my graduating class at St. Louis University, and to see my brother Frank graduate from the U-High.  I study the picture as I drink my coffee in the morning.  She seems so happy.  I think that must be an illusion, a trick of the soft sepia tones in which the film was developed.  

Summer settles onto the island, the warm days buffered by the sweep of evening winds.  I think of my mother.  I wonder what she would make of the life into which I have stumbled.  She would enjoy the land here.  She would walk along the levee and study the ripple of the passing river.  She would call to the birds in the meadow. I  can almost hear her voice.  I close my eyes and strain to feel the comfort of the melody, a lullaby tendered in her low, deep croon.  Then it fades, and I am left with a picture on the wall and a tiny closet full of uniforms.

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