Today my neighbor Robin remarked on my ability to keep going in the face of adversity. She stood outside my vehicle with her little dogs. We had stopped to chat about upcoming events, which segued into our common desire to strengthen community. Although Robin has an infinitely sweeter personality than mine, she’s not quite the go-getting, brow-beating organizer that I’ve trained myself to be. She wants me to lend that spirit to an effort to knit this row of tiny houses into a community within the park where we live. For my part, I think it will take both of us: Her lovely personality, and my relentless drive.
After our chat, I went into the house. I answered a few texts; initiated several more; and sent a couple of emails. With the last of the community garden tomatoes (which Robin brought me), I made a salad and sat at my table, idly reading an old British detective novel. Outside my window, the sunset reflected in the windows of the house to my east. That dwelling currently stands empty. Its owners pursue graduate studies in the Bay area. I miss them.
Night fell. My son sent a message answering an earlier query. I opened some business mail and scrunched my eyes in consternation. Then I put it away; a trifling really, in the grand scheme of things. Instead I scrolled through the gallery of my cell phone. I’d seen a ship on the San Joaquin make its zug-zag crawl, confusing my sense of direction. Beyond the abandoned crane, a murder of crows rose in the afternoon air while I watched from a turn-out on the levee road. I waited, hoping the ship would come closer, but it must have been in-bound towards Rio Vista. I pulled out onto Brannan Island Road and headed to Isleton.
My empty post-office box reminded me that I don’t really need it anymore. We have post-office-issue boxes at the park now, and in any event, since I closed my law practice I have no need for a confidential repository of inbound items. I haven’t quite let go of my identity as a Missouri attorney. Somehow, that image has gotten intertwined with the heavy key on my ring. I guess I’ll keep it for another quarter. It’s certainly cheap enough.
I didn’t get as much done today as I planned. The little piles of paper stare accusingly in my direction. I meant to sort them. I intended to work on my website, write an article about the upcoming events that I’m managing, and write a few thank-you cards. Instead, I went for a drive, talked for ten minutes to Robin, washed a load of clothes which I haven’t yet dried, and finished an entertaining novel. I wonder what Judge Peggy McGraw would think of my dawdling, she who once took judicial notice of my relentless nature. Relentless, resilient, resigned.
October crept up on me. I woke to its second day with a feeling of astonishment. How can the year be three-quarters gone? What do I have to show for these nine months? I gaze around me, mystified. Wafts of chilly autumn air drift through the window, bearing slight sounds of nighttime in the Delta — an owl’s bold hoot, the skittering of creatures through the brush, the whistle of wind across the river. I sit with my chin in my hand, balanced on one boney elbow.
If I measure my life by the fullness of my heart, I’ve had a good run so far. My high school class prediction led the world to expect little of me: “In twenty-five years, Mary Corinne Corley will still be signing her name, ‘Mary. Corinne. Corley.'” The backrow of girls onstage twittered. They meant to insult me with that claim by implying that no one would ever bestow their surname on me through marriage. Too right they proved to be. I don’t feel the loss of that convention, but sometimes, like now, I wish this were a tiny house for two. I’d like to show someone this photograph and say, “See? I told you these ships snake across the land.” And then we’d share a laugh, because sometimes the human eye sees no better than the human heart.
It’s the second day of the one-hundred and sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.