Ruts And Gullies

We played outside. We climbed in trees. We dug holes in the ground and covered them with boards and the dug out dirt to make forts we could crawl into and hide. We roller-skated at the school – which was open 24/7 and only a block or so away. Sometimes we climbed on the roof. We got there on our bikes or by bare feet over dirt roads with ruts and gullies in them. We swung on the swings and marked out hopscotch with chalk and used broken chains as markers since they landed so well. We played four square – or two square if there was only two of us. The big boys played football on the long strip of grass that lined a string of classrooms – the wing for the first and second graders because it was the flattest. The girls hung on the sidelines dreaming of one of the big boys becoming their boyfriend.

I wasn’t much of a fan of football in those days any more than now and I had no illusions that one of those boys would like me – my sister was so much cuter than I and all they could see was her. Shallow boys.

The house we lived in was too small to stay inside much. On rainy days we had to. Our mother had drawn roses on pieces of white cloth for us to embroider – or we played dolls or board games or watched a cartoon or two – or spun in the chair that was a swivel until Mom yelled out to us to stop. Some rainy days she would drive us up to the laundromat just to dry a load or two – normally, she hung them on the line outside – the same frame my sister and I used as a monkey bar. She would leave us there and come back later. We loved that chore because the U-totem was hooked to the laundromat and we each had a nickel for a candy bar. Oh joy!

I’m so glad that I was born in the 50s. What a wonderful era it was. So fresh and clean. So trivial.

We seldom had nothing to do.

It’s possible there were greedy, controlling monsters behind it all – but they were hidden behind the veil that still existed.

Evenings the adults would gather on someone’s porch and the kids could hang out among them if they wanted to. I loved to. I loved to hear the adults talk – they seemed to have all the answers and all the best of the gossip.

Line-dried clothes.

Ruts and gullies.

Roller skates, dolls and Cooties.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Now the beast is clear.

The Right Height

“Would you like to go to the top of the Empire State Building?”

“No, I’m afraid of heights.”

I wasn’t always. I seem to have become afraid of anything that is higher than my bed or a step ladder in the kitchen. I’m fairly okay on an extension ladder trying to lop off a dead limb on a tree or to inspect the roof. Anything much higher and I run the risk of expelling myself to tempt death – the thought occurs.

What’s so fascinating about death?

It’s well worth considering and I think that because I have considered it quite well that the thought of something as tiny as an unseeable particle of some matter that is thought to be devastating can’t seem to touch my psyche. I thought about death so much for so long before March 13, 2020 that I was relieved when an invader was thought to have been discovered that could knock out half the population in a matter of weeks. It brought me back to life.

It’s been almost a year now.

Everyone is still afraid of death. I think everyone just likes being afraid. It’s primal. It’s easy. It’s base to be afraid.

How many movies are horror?

And everyone likes obeying.

Except me. And one or two or three other people that I know.

I wanted more room for crafting and my mattress was getting old and was too big. I tore it apart for its parts before I had anything else to sleep on and have been suffering ever since.

Until today.

I got a $7 blow up mattress. I’m in heaven. It’s just the right height now to not be tempted to expel myself and I can stand up without having to bend my knees too much.

I’m happy to be alive now. And, I’m not too afraid of death. I’d still like to live to be 108 – but who am I to say.

Funny what $7 can do to make me happy as I sit here atop it typing.

Let’s Start Over

He blew her some kisses but they were emoji kisses. They would have to do.

“I truly wish I shared your optimism.”

“Me to,” she replied, virtually – hoping to stave off his reasons for wanting to go on to some place that might be a little more like heaven – or some place that wasn’t at all, anything.

“On your last note, seems a little presumptuous. The end may be glorious.”

Who knows what is to come? Certainly some may think they do. Seems more fitting to wait and see. Braver anyway.

Today the little space heater quit all of a sudden. “Well, there that goes,” she thought and her next thought was, “I guess it’s time to invest in a wood burning stove. Get off this lazy sit expecting electricity to never fail and for products to last longer than a season.” It was only 55° F inside – but clothes and blankets can get rather cumbersome.

More expectations of ease.

It turned out the kitties had roughhoused around the plug and pulled it out. She could go back to being lazy and wasting some more money.

“Wood can be free. What else can be free? Hmm.”

She was drumming up ideas for how to get out of the matrix – the coming nano, cloud connecting, reset, AI, jab matrix. She wondered how she could become invisible – elude and evade the enemy.

“It’s always something – electricity and appliances failing or jabs coming.”

London bridge is falling down.

How to be happy. Just be happy.

She was also wishing that he was free. She was wishing that she could say, “Let’s start over. Let’s try it again. This time, let’s be happy.”

Jingle Bells.

He wasn’t a kind to be very happy. Some people are just made that way. He was inclined to be encumbered with depression. She could be too if she wasn’t careful.

Art. Art saves a person’s soul. There is truth in art and truth is what will set the spirit free. Making it especially.

Maybe he needed to make some art.

Hopefully the sun will come around again tomorrow with its warming rays and brightness. Or perhaps some rain. Either way – maybe tomorrow we can all start over.

Let’s start over.

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay 

Nothing But Disappointment

It might appear from another perspective that someone’s life had been nothing but disappointment.

Especially if that someone had kept so much to themselves other than the visible appearance of struggle.

Having not had the remnants of large success, it might seem to have been a triviality of existence.

Another perspective altogether – someone she’d never known – if they’d known, might have thought that, indeed, she had lived large and had remnants of success. But the people she knew, she was sure wouldn’t see it that way. She was sure they saw her as a refugee – not in the same world that they were.

She didn’t like their world so much.

There had been love and romance and beautiful things.

Just no children to speak about it to others after that life had left them alone in the world.

She woke in the middle of the night after just barely having nodded off. It was Christmas Eve. She couldn’t sleep. She’d eaten half a box of Whitman’s chocolates to soothe herself – a present to herself. She felt lonely or some sort of existential ambiguity that was making her feel a need to wrap her arms around something other than thoughts – so she went to her closet and there he was.

Bar – looking her right in the face – waiting.

How had it been decided that Bar was a boy?

She was one when he came into existence – at least to her existence – but one isn’t having existed long enough to know that something else exists – is it?

Perhaps.

She seems to remember him always with her – in a little doll stroller or in her bed being tucked in with another littler bear riding on his tummy.

She tried not to show partiality, but Bar was her first love. The littler brown bear was a love too, but somewhere along the line, he went missing. He was a boy too. Where had he gone? She missed him.

“You’ve lived such and interesting life.”

“Yes…I have,” she replied to the one that said that.

Someone saw.

Some things just need to be saved. Bar. Bar had been with her all her life – less one. What a faithful little bear he’d been. She would never abandon Bar.

Bar spent the night riding on her tummy – a string of colored Christmas lights working as a nightlight.

Bar made her cry, for the realness that he had tucked in with his stuffings.

Christmas came and went – again.

Image by Iván Tamás from Pixabay 

Sunday Morning Doodles

The kitties are in, bouncing off the walls making circles around each other while trying not to hiss. 

I’ve been outside — in spite of the fact that my hair is salt and pepper frizz this early in the morning and most of any day — to bury yesterday’s kitchen scraps. I hope no one is looking — other than the GOD I know who clearly takes me as I am — the kitties do too — they never say a word that sounds a bit like judging. Sometimes they do hiss, but mostly at each other when Mr. Shire is in the front yard and they can spy him through their giant peering glass. They are jealous that he is out there and that it isn’t them — at least that’s the gist.

Mickey curls up on the rug that he has ruffled — one paw hanging over the hump that he created — then lays his head on it and stretches out to his full length. Lucy oversees him.

Everyone has settled. It’s time for Sunday morning doodles.

A cup of coffee to start. And then another — as many as it takes to prime the engine. Yesterday the floors were vacuumed, swept, mopped and one was painted — again — because it was buffing off to show the under color that was making it look dirty all the time. Some things just needed to be straightened so that all of the congestion in the noodles could be freed of their congestion. 

It’s hard to create when so many things are laughing. The dust is hard to see without glasses, so it might be willing to wait another day — but it’s still laughing in the background making a very unpleasant rattle. 

It feels safe in this little cocoon that has been created just for that purpose — to feel safe. The world seems far away and, if the media is kept off, one would never know of any chaos — so the media stays off. The music is birds or cars racing by — sometimes a train. It’s so soothing to listen to the conversations of all the birds. They seem busy — and so always happy. 

Mickey is still on his hump, staring into space. Lucy likely went into the bedroom for her Sunday morning doodles — her high perch is in there.

The engine has been started but it’s still a little slow. Maybe there is a need for a cookie while there is still doodling going on — something to soak up some of the exhaust of the coffee that is rumbling through the pipes.

People must be getting out of church — more cars a speeding by. It’s time to do some doodles in the journal room where all the papers are.

Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff. Don’t bother stuffing ballots — nothing like that ever works. A cocoon with painted floors works much better in the long run and the short run too.

Image credit: Ms. Spoolteacher 

Fallen From Trees

Sticks.

Oh, it is wonderful to have this machine to type on and go back and delete or rearrange — unlike the mess of paper with scratch-outs and arrows and white paint and sometimes illegible handwriting.

It seems to be a thinking machine.

Some machines think too much. Sometimes we don’t use the k’noggins or k’noodles we are blessed with.

Isn’t it a pity. Isn’t it a shame, that we so seldom play with sticks anymore, along the way? It was so fun in those days we did.

Come to think of it, I do still play with sticks. I sometime hold them in my hands and break them up into little bits when putting them into compost heaps or hugelkultur beds. I like the texture that they are and their colors and all the animals living upon and in them. Those are usually the ones that have fallen from trees. Little limbs too old to hold their own weight anymore, dried beyond repair — a little too much like me. It’s nice that they can crackle.

It’s a joy to play with sticks.

Sticks and stones. Sticks don’t last as long as stones. Stones can wait for another day. Play with sticks today.

Isn’t it a pity
Isn’t it a shame
How we break each other’s hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other’s love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Now, isn’t it a pity

~ George Harrison

header image credit: Patrick Dougherty; stickwork.net

To Let Go

There is a history in old things. Some people don’t like them for that reason and buy only new to avoid having to deal with any feelings old, used things evoke.

My own home has hardly anything new in it.

Because Mom liked to save things, we had furniture stacked on furniture with few voids — every space became consumed eventually — as we all grew and nothing seemed to leave. It may be that because of that, empty space leaves me feeling uncomfortable even now. It was also likely because of that aspect of childhood that I ended up in a career arranging things. It became my job as a child to organize because, after awhile, everyone could see that I had a knack for it and so, as with all things someone does well, it becomes expected of them.

Lucky for me that I loved to do it.

When the old farm house my mother was living in changed owners and the caretaker was given all the old antiques that had been it it since its beginning, Mom and I went traipsing through a string of used shops all lined up in a row in one section of a nearby town and found replacements for everything that went missing with the caretaker. We had so much fun and ended up becoming friends with one of the shop owner because she got so much from them that it took a few trips to decide on things and each trip we spent time visiting. They delivered the entire lot once everything was picked out.

It may even have been the stories that they told that helped her pick the things she did.

In those days, old things hadn’t started fetching the kinds of prices they do now days — so we were able to refurnish her rented house with her measly money. Most all of those things ended up in one or another of her kids’ or their kids’ homes after she “conked out”, as she always called it — “I’m dibsing this to you for when I conk out,” — would be what she’d say and that person’s name would go on it or on a list.

Some of those things I had to let go of when I left California to move to Arizona. I corralled any friends who needed things and let them pick and choose for free and anything left was offered to another friend I had who rented a space in an antique shop who did special effects on things and then resold them. I loved her work. She picked the things she wanted, we decided on a price and after she gave me the money, I gave her all the rest of the stuff — whatever she still wanted — for free because, well, just because and I wasn’t going to move it so what else was there to do with it but make both of us happy.

There is always a bittersweet feeling letting history go but if it gets a good home, all the better and not so bitter.

There was one table, an oval one, that I had purchased used and made a faux marble effect on its top and painted the legs purple. It had pride of place in my big California house. I hated to part with it but it was really big and I had no idea what I would be living in once I got to Arizona, (I like to take a lot of risk. At least I used to.) I only took small things that could serve multiple purposes and were easy enough to carry around by one person.

That table, a dear friend took and it ended up as the table in the space her husband liked to be in and as his sprawling work station with papers and clutter all over it — little patches of the faux finish peeking through. That was his space and it kept clutter and stuff from all over other spaces she didn’t want it and it was tucked back in a corner where it wasn’t easy to see. I have an image of him friendly-flipping me the bird while sitting at it one time that I visited. So, the history of that table lives on and on. They aren’t together anymore but I think he took the table with him.

Right before my mother died, she asked me if I thought about renting her old house — she loved it so much and wanted to think of me in it. I said, “Mom, I would never be able to get over you if I did that.” She looked up at me and said, “I know.” So many times I almost wish I had — 20/20 hindsight. But, I would not have had the life I’ve had, good and bad and God only knows what I would not have been able to rise above if I’d stayed. California will always be home though and I very often miss it and especially my mother’s old home and the little wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling used-furnished abode we spent a lot of time in too before we all moved up the street to the big old farmhouse where all the space got filled as well.

Filling empty space has been a thing my family excelled at and I was, am, no exception. But while my mother, on the one hand, would stick new pictures on the wall wherever there was an empty space, I would learn to try to make them make more sense and have a rhyme and reason to where they did get placed. And I would eventually learn a little bit more about editing and letting go of things so that there could be a few empty spaces for a place the eyes could land to find a little peace from utter chaos.

All the things that come and go are touched and leave a fingerprint while in the person’s custody. Finger prints can be erased. What the touching does is anybody’s guess but I think that might be why I like old things — history travels with them, perhaps. And I love that very continuity and the sense that life just might go on. I know I sense my mother in the things she left and that is such a bonus and a comfort after all is said and done — any nuisance of clutter or the burden of the baggage of old dolls aside. I’m glad to have my mother still with me, one way or another.

One Little Thing

News to me, primary colors have been redefined. Is it a debate or simply that more about color is known?
At any rate, it turns out that the original color wheel is still used when mixing colors for painting in oils or acrylics.
Wavelengths and spectrum aside, early in my career of planning rooms and spaces for stores and clients, what I knew was red, yellow and blue and that if you mixed those in different proportions and with each other in various assorted ways, you could get any color in the world — at least I thought.
I loved everything about trying to understand color and couldn’t wait for any chance to have another try at mixing and coordinating things in ways that would please someone enough to inspire them to spend some of their hard-earned money so that a commission would result.
For a month or so on my first job designing vignettes for a showroom, I followed someone else around getting used to things. She had a lot of confidence, which, by the way, I did not — at least not right away.
I was nervous and unsure of my skills. I had no real formal training. I had started a home study course (yes,that was a thing way back then), after coming back from a summer scholarship trip to the Academy of Art in San Francisco and those two things were enough to get that job.
A little talent in drawing and painting and a passion for it all was enough to buoy confidence for giving a decent interview. The manager was impressed with those credentials and gave me a shot.
I buckled a little under the weight of my anxiety but managed to pull through with a little more practice and watching others more confident than I for the time that it took to get better at it.
Practice, practice, practice.
That was in the 70s and at that time there was a very wide array of styles to choose from — one of them was Modern.
The store I worked for had a set of modular pieces that could be arranged almost any way you could imagine them and they were the brightest shade of yellow textured vinyl. They were low slung and not something an older person could easily get out of. They had somewhat carved out seats and almost fit like a glove when sitting in them.
The young woman I was following around learning from was working on changing some things out in that vignette when I first fell in love with red, blue and yellow together as an interior decorating color scheme.
What she did that seemed like magic to me then was that, to top it all off, she hung a translucent acrylic screen, (called a room divider at the time — a big one — four or five feet by five or six), from chains hung on movable sliding brackets fixed to dropped acoustic ceiling panel rails. It was an aqua color. Everything else in the vignette was pure primary — as far as I knew primaries at the time.
That additional color changed things in a way I never would forget. One little thing made all the difference. The fact that it was see-through was of value too — it made things sparkle.
No doubt there were other bits and bobs placed all around to pull it all together — but I don’t remember anything except the solid red, blue and yellow and that translucent aqua. I went back to stare at it every chance I got and just loved how it made me feel.
So funny the things we choose to remember.
What was so special about that?
I think now that it was because it simply helped me to realize that something so slight can have such a big, dynamic impact.
I didn’t know how that young woman knew to do that and that impressed me too. To me it spoke of bravery and confidence — and, possibly, subliminally, the value of more education — which she likely had. At that point, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That simple little thing made it clear that there was learning in every nook and cranny to be discovered turning any corner and that watching others do a thing could reveal those things I didn’t know I didn’t know.
And, there is always a chance that you can be amazed.
I find it funny that all these years later, I still gravitate and have been making my way back to those simple primary colors with little twitches that result in pleasing eye movement. The more I pare things in my own home, the more I see red, blue and yellow coming to the surface — they’ve been hiding in plain sight from that love affair so long ago.
The things we’ve built our live around, seem to stay with us all the way.
That’s a very comforting thought.
To say the least.

A Syncing Event

Funny life is. All these constraints we put upon it. January 1 is the day before January 2 and so on. But it’s another good excuse to have a party. And, apparently, parties are good for us. Why, one might even meet the next love of their life there because parties sync people together, they say.

Being synced would be nice but it isn’t essential. All anyone really needs is what is essential but still, being synced must be nice. Certainly there are enough opportunities for celebration worked into our culture to indicate that most of us would like a syncing event to increase our chances.

There was a year when my mother and her best friend were sitting in and telling me to not tell anyone that they didn’t have dates for New Year’s Eve. It’s hard to imagine who, being told, would have mattered. Maybe the neighbors. She was probably somewhere in her mid fifties and I was probably off to the the Airman’s Club to dance my feet off with some cute young men — maybe hoping to find a love of my life. Dancing was what we all did to meet each other then. There was a party every Friday night at the Airman’s Club with a live band and often more boys than girls — at least just as many.

For some reason the two older women were embarrassed that they were alone for New Year’s Eve. That registered something profoundly in a young impressionable mind. It wasn’t quite clear what they meant then, but the implication was that there was something wonderful about being young and something not so great about not being so young anymore. They must have said something like, “It’s hard to find dates when you get older.” The implication was also that, if you didn’t have a beau, your weren’t as valuable and should hide in shame.

It is much easier to see, once one isn’t so very young and dates for New Year’s Eve are hard to come by, that the passing of time is not a thing that can be put on hold and that as it passes, things do change.

New Year’s Eve is always a poignant reminder about time’s passing. Documenting the minute that the clock registers going from the end of one year into another is it’s express purpose. It is our worldwide culture’s inclination to make a big deal about it. It’s a little hard sometimes to understand why unless there is just a need for another party.

Most of the aspects of it are for commercial reasons — taxes, funding, appropriations, sales, bonuses, profits and losses.

But then there is the somber aspect of documenting the passing of a year in the life of an individual and the culture collectively and of accounting for accomplishments and defeats as if that should be done on a regular bases — say once a year on Dec. 31 and that the somber event should not be done while sober.

I was watching one of the two main strays that visit my yards lately. He’s a big, woolly black cat that has a full face and a fur coat — not hair. He and the other main cat got into a giant row lately and I noticed blood on him when I tried to break them up. They went off in the same direction after I shooed them and it took several days before I saw either one of them again. Both of them have eased their way back to visiting. Mr. Shire is very skittish and the black woolly one less so when he shows up — so, I’m not quite sure which one thinks he won. The black one now has a flaming pink patch near his ear and I worry that it may get infected. There is not much that I can do, because he scats the minute he hears me and goes over the fence.

What I find so soothing about watching them both is how calm they are about their daily lives. They come, eat food, lie in the sun, groom, lollygag around scouting, sniffing, scratching wood and neither one ever seems to be wondering what day of the week or what month it is. They might be thinking about getting synced and that may very well have been behind the row. Woolly shakes his head like his ear is hurting, but he takes his pain like a trooper, while soaking in the sun, curled up on the mound of sticks or a soft chair.

So cats and humans have syncing in common, but cats don’t seem to like to dance or have a party as a means to do it. They don’t care about paying taxes either. Lucky cats.

This year, as I sit in like my mother and her friend, without a date for New Year’s Eve, but as content as a happy cat — it seems more fitting to put off accounting accomplishments or defeats for another day because sitting her thinking about syncing is a lot more fun than that. And also like a cat, I don’t need to worry about paying taxes either.

Happy New Year!

 

Image credit: Safe Haven For Cats

 

 

 

Under The Tree

Twilight had come and gone and the emptiness of darkness was starting to pass for the morning sun to cast a Christmas opening song that she could try to hear from a reminder of a time when she was waiting opening presents.

Are there kiddies everywhere with bright eyes. Do they love it like she did when she waited at the hall door for her baby sister’s bedwet pants to be fixed. Are they all filled with anticipation at what is behind the closed door — anxieties of delight among the fragrant pine. What are they getting — roller skates or bikes — four wheel drives? Do they still believe in Santa or is Santa’s writing looking a lot like Mummy’s?

Are their mothers in the kitchen already cooking and their dads drinking beer or is everyone getting ready for church — Christ’s mass?

From where she sits she can’t see any bright lights that are multiple colors. She can’t see the blow up china dolls waving or hear their sucking motors pushing air to hold their snowman arms up. All she can see is the light coming from behind mountains and buildings that are filling what used to be beautiful, empty spaces that would let her see the mountains.

Ticktock, time moves or what’s under it does and everyone is waiting for a new president to change things again — back or forth from what another did to ruin them. Maybe if January gets here fast enough things will get better or next January or next Christmas in a package under the tree or it can all be kissed away with someone under the mistletoe.

But nothing does. Nothing ever changes other than where things are imported from that  anyone gets for Christmas.

Here comes a runner with her dog. She might not have any kiddies.  She might be like the one looking — getting old enough to know it’s good enough to move along to move along.

All the presents must be open now. It must be time for coffee.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
― Dr. Seuss