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#sorrynotsorry

When the snow geese migrate to the Delta, they journey from island to island, looking for safety, food, and water.  They rise into the air in waves, moving each morning.  By instinct they find another spot, and descend into the flooded field, the sunlight at their backs, row after row.  Their noise calls me from the house.  I grab my camera and stumble over my stubborn feet.  I should be in the office; I should be at my computer; I need to go, I must dash.  But I pull to the side of the road and lean as far as I can into the bramble from the passenger window.  Other cars barrel past.  I pray that I’ve gotten far enough out of their way.  I risk sliding into the boggy shoulder of the rough narrow pavement.  But I don’t care.  The geese are back.

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

I Meant to Do My Work Today
by Richard Le Gallienne

I meant to do my work today—
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
So what could I do but laugh and go?

 

A real writer

I decided to be a writer before I started kindergarten, so somewhere between the ages of three and five.  My father taught me to read, one of the few gifts from him which I still cherish.  I had stopped walking just a few months after learning, beginning a hellish year of hospital visits, doctor examinations, and anguish for my mother.  At the end of it, my parents believed that I would never walk again.  My father thought I should have something to occupy my time.  He sat me in front of a newspaper and began the process of giving his three-year-old daughter an alternate life.

Much to everyone’s surprise, I somehow did get back on my feet.  But the tide had been turned.  I had words, and words would be my constant companion for the next sixty years.  Through tears, and trials; as a defense to teasing; when I felt ugly and undesired, I cowered behind notebooks, paperbacks, literature, and volumes of poetry.

In 2008, I started writing a blog called The Saturday Musings.  I posted weekly until December 2017, when I put that endeavor on hiatus.  I intended to edit a collection of the essays into a book.  Occasionally, I spend an hour or two with the ten Word files, each representing a select year of Musings.  I have gotten two years edited.  I have eight left to review.  I think 2020 will be the year.  Meanwhile, I have this blog; a blog for the community where I live, Park Delta Bay; and a new website, for the annual open house here, to draw words from my crowded mind.

Once in a while, someone says to me, You could be a real writer.  I smile, nod, and turn away.  I know what they mean.  I could write novels, pitch ideas, get an agent, have my work published by a traditional house, for money.  Then I would be “a real writer”.  Yeah, I suppose, I usually say, silently though, from behind a frozen mask which reveals nothing except my unwillingness to engage on the subject.   It’s possible that someone would like what I’ve written.  I admit that some of the Musings strike me as quite deftly crafted.  I expect that out of the 500-plus entries, at least a few dozen merit attention.  Perhaps only my lack of faith in myself prevents me from zipping the bunch on a flash drive and shipping it to a ruthless editor for critique.  

Nonetheless, I feel as though I’m actually a writer.  Maybe an outside critic would disagree.  Until somebody tells me to stop, I’m going to keep laying down the sentences, occasionally illustrated with an amateur photo or a pithy quote.  I hear my grandmother’s voice, over and over, telling me to just keep putting my best foot forward.  Since my feet don’t work so well, my hands take over.  I lift my wrists, poise my fingers, and bring them down across the keyboard.  Despite my mother’s fears I did, eventually, learn to walk.  I cannot run, though.  My legs never regained their early strength.  My illness left me spastic and lame.  But when I write, I have no such limitations.  On the printed page, I can fly.

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

 

Learning curve

My son sent air plants with sea anemone holders for Christmas.  The care of them terrifies me.

In the last five years, I have convinced myself that I have no business nurturing life.  I have a porch full of succulents but those grow in California like — well, like weeds.  I barely do anything.  I glance at them as I come and go, thinking, I wonder if these need attention.  I ignore the lime tree until June and then dump water on it every Friday without so much as touching the soil.  Last year I got seven limes.  The fifty-cent ice plant that I bought at Lowe’s my first spring here practically needs its own zip code.  But I had nothing to do with any of that.

I’m not sure what my son was thinking.  I can’t ask him.  I have a general policy that when someone gives me a gift, my only response will be a heartfelt expression of gratitude.  Even when I receive something which I later re-gift, I say nothing to the original giver except “thank you”.

The Etsy company which sold the air plants included a phone number to text for instructions.  I tried it straight-away with no response.  I might as well have been using a rotary phone.  I went onto Etsy to watch the video supposedly posted.   I couldn’t find it.  YouTube had quite a few offerings.  I watched four or five but my confidence stayed at zero.

The card in the box cautioned not to expose the little spidery plants to direct sunlight.  “They will enjoy a two-hour soaking after their trip!”  I did that.  I ordered the right kind of food and stared at the little packet, a thin square inch which looked like a dime bag of cocaine, cost $8.50, and boasted that it held a full year’s supply.  I spilled half the contents tearing it open.  I sprinkled a pinch into a cup of water in the new glass spritzer which I ordered from Amazon.  I move the plants from counter to table to step, depending on the slant of the sunlight through the large east-facing window.  I put the little shells on a pretty pottery tray and fluffed the leaves.  Occasionally I stare at the base of each one to see if anything has died.

I don’t know that I did a good job raising my son.  Thankfully, he turned out well in spite of me.    I don’t want to let him down again though.  These air plants will survive.  I consider them my chance for redemption.

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

As long as you’ve gotten this far, I invite you to read my other post of today HERE.

A brief sojourn into forgotten days

It started as a quest to find a small wood clock.

The boxes we pulled from under the bed before the demolition still sit in the back of my car waiting for a suitably sunny day.  I have to drag the empty plastic tubs from the storage cabinet on the back of my house to make room.  In the meantime, a recent conversation about old timepieces sent me rummaging in the bubble wrap, leaning through the open car door, the damp of a Saturday afternoon clinging to my sweater.

My luncheon guest had already made her way back to Oakland.  I thought I would find the clock with ease but soon a  pile of packing material heaped on the floor of my car.  I didn’t find the clock.  But my rough hands tarried on the smooth surfaces of pinch pots and sand bottles and the imprints of small hands.  Angels emerged from the wrapping, and paper flowers, and the image of a bird fashioned from autumn leaves by an  earnest kindergartner, laminated with patience by a teacher who knew such things would tug a mother’s heart strings decades hence.

I didn’t find the clock, but I found the Peters Jul scroll that I rescued from the trash at my old classmate Lise Koenig’s estate sale a few years ago.  The auctioneer thought it worthless.  I couldn’t bear the thought of something that Lise had once found precious tossed away like garbage.  Bad enough that she had died alone, after her husband’s passing, falling down the basement stairs and lying on the cold concrete floor until a neighbor began to worry. Lise and her husband had lived one block over from me in Kansas City.  They never had children.  They biked the neighborhood until their physical condition betrayed them, and then they walked.  Eventually disease claimed him, and she went on walking alone until her own death a few years later.  I never spoke to her in all those years of being neighbors.  Keeping her banner seems to be a small thing.

The plaster handprints bear dates which are thirty years apart.  The outline of my brother Stephen’s small hand now hangs below that of my son, just as it did in Kansas City.  I can see them from my little table.  I think Steve would have liked my tiny house.  He would have understood my urgent need to leave the grimness that my life had become.  He would have slipped his arm through mine, just as he did so many times, drawing me onto an imaginary dance floor, spinning to the rhythm of music in his head.  Steve walked me down the aisle at my first wedding, to the glowering consternation of my feckless father.  Halfway to the front of the church, Steve leaned down to whisper, You don’t have to go through with it, Mare bear.  We can just have a big party.  Nobody will care.

He would have loved my Pacific Ocean.    His soul yearned for freedom, and he could have found that here, if anywhere.

I carried the sand bottles and set them on the loft floor, near the edge, where I can see them from the kitchen.  I remembered taking our two foster children, Mikey and Jacob, to the Renaissance Festival. My son Patrick and his friend Chris helped the younger boys fill their bottles, tipping them to make the layers.  Jacob got adopted but Mikey aged out of the system living in a group home.  I heard some dire stories about his later years.  We loved those boys.  My heart still aches at the thought of what they suffered before their removal from their addict mother’s home, too late for Mikey but in time for Jacob to be saved.

I never found the clock.  The sun began to set.  I repacked the boxes and came inside.  I stood in the entry way of my tiny house, surrounded by a life time of memories.  I drew my sweater closer and went to make a cup of tea.

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

New shoes

I got a new pair of red shoes today.

I haven’t had a pair of red shoes since my last Mary Janes got ruined by a large Americano trying to escape consumption.

When I was a girl, my mother gave me a book called, “Emmylou: Her Book and Her Heart”. In that book somewhere it says, “It’s impossible to be sad in Sailor suits and red shoes.”  I tend to agree.

I didn’t need another pair of shoes but I needed a pair that wouldn’t make my toes numb, and maybe the wearing of which would gladden my heart. I got the shoes from eBay for 30 bucks.  They look to be in perfect condition. The ad said, “gently used”. I feel that way myself. Sometimes worse.

I took the red shoes out of the package and touched their shiny leather. I thought about that last pair and how the coffee soaked into the footbed to the point where you couldn’t put your feet inside. I liked those shoes. I hope these new ones stay away from hot coffee.

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

The quest continues.

Friends: 

Now that the birds have returned to Andrus Island, my quest for pictures of these incredible creatures continues.  I nearly got to photograph the snow geese on the way to work this morning.  An accident on Brannan Island Road had drawn three first responders to the only turn-off in full view of the flock.  I drove around to Jackson Slough to gawk at the long-necks instead. 

On the way home from work, I pulled into the entrance to a nearby field to snap the flocks coming to the island for the night.  The turbines spanned the far horizon, perhaps a mile away. I remained in my car, but cut the engine.

Within minutes, a truck appeared on the dirt road ahead of me from inside the perimeter of the private property.  The driver disembarked and hovered near my car, watching through the windshield. 

As I recapped my lens and started to exit, I rolled down my window. 

“Just shooting the sunset,” I told him. 

“All good,” he said, though neither of us was fooled.

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

Please note that I do not pretend to be any good at the technical aspects of picture-taking.  If you want to see stellar shots, plenty of professionals and capable amateurs post their work.  My current favorite is Don Wisdom.

I post my photographs so you see a fraction of the beauty in which I live, the world which draws me forward in my #journeytojoy.

 

Blame it on the sunset

Tonight I ate strawberry jam and crackers after dinner.  I have no regrets.  How could I?  So much exists to encourage me toward contentment.

I live in a place where snow geese descend upon deliberately flooded fields to make their home where winter barely kisses the earth.  Their cries awaken me and I think, Ah, they arrived at last.  They rise as one into the tender sky of the early sun and ease back to the ground at twilight.

I live in a place where the sun spreads its crimson glow across low-lying clouds at evening’s end, and dances over the billowing tule fog at daybreak.  I drive to work beneath the sure, steady beat of a hawk’s wing and the dancing flutter of gathering songbirds.

I live in a place where farmers give over their acreage to Sandhill cranes, and egrets, and blue herons.  Snowy birds on slender legs stand among stodgy ewes alongside the highway.  The rain eases to honor the sheep dog as he noses the flock toward the pasture.  

I have no complaints.  As far as I know, only one person on the planet holds me  in contempt.  Maybe two or three regret knowing me.  One, possibly, wishes that I had never crossed his path.  A smattering of lawyers still shake their heads in recollection of cases against me.  

But otherwise, I have excuse only for joy.  Blame it on the sunset.  It pulls me to the roadside every time.  I cannot resist.  When its last rays ease themselves below the horizon, I can barely contain my rapture as I resume my journey home.

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

Taken in the California Delta on 10 January 2020 with a Canon PowerShot set on auto. The color has not been altered.  I straightened several but otherwise they appear as I shot them, and I am no photographer.  What you see is what the heavens provided. 

Tempus fugit

Somehow, four days of the new year have come and nearly gone.  I cannot quite fathom this break-neck passage of time.  I’ve had busy days, though.   I’ve enjoyed long conversations with friends; written letters; launched a tiny renovation of my tiny house; and watched a myriad of videos about personal philosophy.  

The birds have returned to the Delta.  The crows came first, followed by thousands of little brown songbirds and scattered clusters of majestic white egrets.  Two mornings ago, I awoke to the cries of geese.  Today en route to Lodi, a flock of Sandhill cranes soared overhead.  My soul yearned to take flight in their midst but I contented myself with pulling alongside the road and staring as they climbed into the sky.

I came home mid-afternoon, my little Canon PowerShot out of its case and ready in case I spied a bird or two along Brannan Island Road.  I nearly got a picture of a heron with its wings spread wide, but a dog barked and startled both of us.  Then I saw one of the enormous freighters that make their ponderous way from the Pacific through the Delta to Stockton’s port.  I gave chase, and ended up in my usual awkward pose:  Hanging from the car window, squinting, praying that I wouldn’t embarrass myself by tumbling head first into the San Joaquin.

The nearby homeowner waved as I made a turn to continue home. I stopped in the middle of the road, lowered my window, and apologized for bothering her dogs. 

“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those mutts,” she laughed.  “Aren’t those big ships grand,” she continued.  I agreed, and then admired her house. 

“It’s enough for me and my eighty-three year old mother,” she acknowledged.   “Those ships turn in the deep channel out there,” she told me.  “I never get tired of watching them.”  I agreed again, earnestly this time.  Then I wished her a happy New Year, and pulled out into the road, smiling, cheered, remembering anew why I love #mytinylife so dearly.

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

As Year Six Ends

Six years ago, I decided to attempt to matriculate through 365 days without uttering one word of complaint.  I failed miserably, so I kept the effort going. i continued being accountable for the effort by blogging.  At the end of year four, I suspended my other, weekly blog; closed my law office and art space; sold my house; took possession of a newly constructed tiny house on wheels; and headed west.

For the last two  years, I have struggled with the new life that I seemed to eagerly embrace.  What was I? Not a California girl, no longer a Missourian.  Not married, uncomfortably divorced.  With my one child grown and my siblings all engrossed in their own progeny and careers, not really a family person.  

In 2019, I have watched an astounding number of videos on YouTube in which people shared stories of their own journeys to self-acceptance.  These ranged from college students struggling with body positivity to fitness coaches to book reviewers to one young woman in Scotland who has an extraordinary vocabulary and a PhD in literature based on her dissertation on Joyce’s Ulysses.  That last vlogger speaks in stark terms about recovering from anorexia and expounds upon books of which I have never heard and doubt that I have sufficient intelligence to understand.  She also did an entire video on not giving any more F*cks, in which she managed to bleep that word all but one of the dozen or so times in which she used it.  

One of the exercises in which I engaged in 2019 involved listing all the criticisms that have been leveled at me in the past decade and examining them for accuracy.  Believe me when I tell you that doing so humbled me beyond expectation.  Assuming that every insult contains at least a nugget of truth forced me to ferret through the exaggeration to find the uncannily perceptive accuracy.  If those bits had been pebbles, I could have paved the muddy path from my car to my tiny house and walked with ease for the better part of a rainy winter.

I learned from that endeavor.  My coldest suspicions about myself found both confirmation and refutation.  In short, I concluded, for the hundredth time, that I have attained neither perfection nor utter failure.  I hover in the region of midway between the two.  With a long way yet to traverse to my best self, I’ve still moved forward, if only a click or three.

I have a list of goals that I did not meet in 2019, along with, yes, the unattained principal objective of going a year without complaining.  I’ve managed to anger a few people;  and I’ve disappointed some whom I dearly love.  That last failure hurts the most, a self-inflicted wound made bloodier because I could not resist pulling the dagger from my heart.  But the salve of forgiveness brings healing; and I remain hopeful that I will earn my bandages by and by.

It’s already 2020 in Asia, in Russia, and across the Atlantic.  Soon, the earth’s orbit will close the decade even here at the edge of the nation.  I will wash my dinner dishes and hang the towel on the stove.  The porch light will be extinguished and the heat turned to a lower temperature.  I will gaze around the 200 square feet of my home, contemplating the changes that the next week will bring as I undertake another declutter and a few house modifications.  Tomorrow gives me an unbroken day in which to set the tone for the three-hundred and sixty-four days to follow, during which I will try, with every ounce of my energy, not to utter a single disparaging word.  Happy New Year, everyone.  May the coming months hold peace, prosperity, glory, love, and grandeur for you all.

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

 

An Ode to Ugliness

I don’t know many ugly people.  By “ugly” here, I do not suggest judgment of physical presentment.   I use “ugly” to describe the snarled heart, the curled lip, the squinted eye.  Such people ooze their own self-loathing as they castigate others.  

Most of us muddle through our lives.  We hold doors for others.  We offer smiles, even grins, through fatigue and pain.  We strain to use words of encouragement.  We forswear complaint; or hustle around behind our clumsy selves, tendering apologies if we have erred.  We do the best we can.

Ugly people fume.  They stew in the sad juices of their disappointment.  We all experience such phases —  weeks, months, maybe even decades.  Most of us look back on these unfortunate interludes as dark, lamentable wanderings in misty, murky forests where we would never choose to linger.   But some folks have hearts grossly marred by anger.  They cannot tear themselves from the clutch of brambles.  I fear such folks need a soothing ballad sung by a more noble troubadour than I.

Recently, an artist friend  messaged from a far-away country where he lives with his family.  We talked for a few minutes about the relentless current of life.  The waves rise; the jagged rocks loom; the banks of the river seem distant and unreachable.  Yet we grab an oar; grin over our shoulders; holler at the moon; and plunge forward.  

I think maybe the ugly people have lost their paddle, or their compass, or that precious packet of belongings stowed beneath the seat.  Maybe they need a different soundtrack to their desperate efforts.  Maybe they need not an ode but a serenade, or a symphony, or a sweet soft lullaby to comfort them as they throw themselves exhausted on the shore.  

Maybe if we join hands and form a circle around them, we can sing away the pain of whatever sorrow has claimed their wretched hearts.  I’m game to try.

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