Monthly Archives: November 2020

As the fog lifts

I went out one morning in a thick Delta fog, my mood heavy and somber.  My feeble lens strained to capture the crows clinging to the towering trees. . . the geese in a distant field. . . the juxtaposition of wind, wing, and windmill.

I came home that evening and watched an impassioned plea from a news anchor whose partner had fallen ill with this terrible virus.  She begged us to reconsider any inclination to take the chances of infection as any less than certain.  I had been on the fence about going home for the holiday.  Her message struck home.  I canceled my travel plans.  I sent a message to the celebrity, thanking her for bringing me to my senses.  I called my sister.  I emailed my friends, my brother.  Then I fell into my chair and wept.

The next day my phone sounded with messages as I drove home.  My sister on the line from St. Louis, crowing:, “You’re in the news!” Friends on social media started sharing the link.  I scrolled through the article, unbelieving.  Someone had seen my message to Rachel Maddow; someone else had commented; and a connection had been made.  A story wrote itself.

My sister’s voice came across the miles.  Though I could not see her face, her radiant smile shone through the wire.  I took her love and pride into my lonely hours.  And the fog lifted.

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

From a distance

Dusk fell as I journeyed home from work on Friday.  A chill invaded my car.  I turned the heat to a higher setting then pulled into a gravel drive to watch the sun paint its wild colors in the Delta sky.

Hawks cut through the clouds.  A gentle wind flicked the leaves on the tree above me.  I listened to the call of evening birds and the periodic rustle of small creatures scurrying to safety.  My head fell against the steering wheel for just a moment.  I might have slept.  The rush of a passing truck on the gravel startled me; I fired the engine and swung wide, down the driveway and onto the levee road.

The sun continued its decline in the rearview mirror as I made the circle around the levee.  Beside me, gulls swooped through the grey sky and settled on the little island between the slough and the San Joaquin.  Out on the river, a boat struggled to make the marina before dark.  I turned into the park as the gloom settled, past the kiosk with its festive autumn decorations, the American flags waving from fifth wheelers, and the hardy mums raising their petals to the evening air.

In the flat space in front of my house, I sat in the stillness, phone in one hand, keys in the other.  My own flag, my ode to #Coexistence, gently rippled overhead.  A friend recently chided me for eschewing bigotry while raising my banner to harmony.  I disagreed with him but let his opinion stand.  Hate has no home in my heart, including the hatred of others.  But my logic does not resonate with everyone.  

As I tarried in my car, I studied the 8 x 24 dwelling into which I moved my life three years ago this month.   I look back across those years from the wrong end of a telescope, too close.  Seen from a distance, they hardly make sense but here I am.   Once a reporter asked me what I least liked about living tiny.  I did not hesitate:  You have nowhere to go to escape your self, I answered.  Nowhere  but your car, and the levee road, and the long expanse of river on which you can drive until  the ghosts which haunt you recede into the depths from which they crawled, and your soul at last embraces some semblance of peace.

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

 

Rescue

I always seem to like the idea of taking myself out to lunch so much more than the reality.  

Today the waiter asked, Just one for lunch? and I resisted a snotty rejoinder.  Instead I murmured, Yes, please. . . outside, I think, and meekly followed him to the patio.  I ordered coffee and a veggie burger. I asked for Dijon.  He shook his head.  “Regular fries okay? Onion rings or garlic fries, for $2 extra?”  I stuck with the dish as presented, but hold the mayo, okay to regular mustard.

It came in little packets.  I sat with my book and dragged a cold fry through barbecue sauce.  The waiter whisked by my table as my coffee cooled and the fries nearly hardened back to their original frozen state.  

A woman came from the restaurant and nodded.  Good morning, she said.  I replied in kind and then added, But isn’t it afternoon?  She laughed.  I explained that I knew it was after noon because I had hovered by the radio for hours until the AP had called the presidential race and I felt I could venture out into the world.

A good outcome for you? She asked in a voice which suggested that she hoped it was, flashing a thumbs up.  I noticed the rainbow pin on her sweater.  

Indeed, I answered.  And you, too? 

She grinned and nodded, two thumbs high in the air, just as another woman came through the door and sat down across from her.  They had matching sweaters and identical thin gold bands on their left hands.  I turned back to my table for one.

When I had eaten what I could, I asked for the bill.  It seemed a bit higher than I expected.  I noted the tax, and the exorbitant charge for bad coffee.  Then I saw the fifty cents for the side of BBQ sauce.  

Nickel and dime, I thought.  Plastic fries, oily java, and a surcharge for condiments.  And the waiter only brought one refill.  What’s the worst thing about the food in the old folk’s home?  It’s tasteless.  What’s the second worse thing? There’s not enough of it.

I tried to leave the patio directly to the street but the gate would not yield.  I asked, Is the gate locked? and the hostess said, We gotta control the flow.  I sighed.  I told myself, don’t complain, don’t complain, don’t complain, then heard my voice mentioning the distance from table to door through the rat maze of the building.  It’s hard for me, as a disabled person, to go that far.  I hoped she might unlatch the outside exit.

 Sorry you feel that way, hon, she replied, sweeping past me to the kitchen.  I spoke out loud, to no one, to the empty space and the shuttered face:  It’s not about how I feel, ma’am.  It’s about what the law and common decency require.   I might as well have been invisible.

Then my cell phone rang.  I heard a warm voice say,  Hello, Corinne!  I decided to call you because I knew you’d be in a good mood today!

And suddenly, I was.

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

Dust of Snow
BY ROBERT FROST

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

For Charlie, who likes my bird pictures.

 

Getting over the blues by the light of the blue moon.

In my senior year of high school, I got a job in the acute ward of a psychiatric hospital in St. Louis County.  Its head nurse, Sister Kenneth Anne, walked the hallways of the unit with a serene countenance and kept us mildly amused with an acerbic wit.  

Drink your coffee, girl, she’d instruct me.  It’s us or them, and so far today, they’re winning.

Once a month, she’d gather the staff and warn of the impending full moon.  She’d tell us that the phases of the moon impact emotions, more so in people whom she labeled “the craziest among us”.  She’d straighten the short veil which she wore, hike her skirt a bit, and tell us to buckle our shoes.  We’ll get through this but probably not without a few people getting hurt.  She didn’t mean the patients; she would never harm anyone.  She meant us — the staff.  

Sure enough, by the morning after any full moon, an aide or a nurse would have long scratches or a wrenched arm as a result of a scuffle.  But the patients would drift into sleep bathed in moonlight, unknowingly secure behind the locked door, the scrubbed floors, and the eternal glow of the desk lamp in the nurse’s station.

I remember Sister Kenneth Anne whenever the full moon shines over the meadow in the RV park in which I currently live.  I thought of her last night, as I stood by the bonfire that one of my neighbors had built.  The moon slowly rose in the east.  I sat near a visitor to the community, a young man who talked about science with such fervor that I could see a spark in his eyes brighter than the reflection of the flames. From the circle of neighbors in their folding chairs, laughter floated into the sky with the ashes and the smoke and the scent of burning wood.

I drove home around ten-thirty, leaving the younger folks to start their movie and pour another round of Margaritas.  I stood on my porch for a few minutes, watching the slight sway of the trees towering over my tiny house.  Sister Kenneth Anne’s face appeared before me, passive, pleasant, perceptive.  She arched one eyebrow, raised a finger, and let the corners of her mouth tilt upward ever so slightly.  

Hang in there, girl, she said, in a calm voice still familiar after more than forty years.  This, too, shall pass.

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