There’s a Message in There Somewhere

I like gawking at trees in their fall display. They’re so beautiful it hurts. The magentas, coppers, and dark greens flush out the year’s heaviness and replace it with an invigorating renewal of crisp air. I’m always amazed at the audacity of such a riot of color while in the throes of dying. I’m sure there’s a message there, but it eludes me at the moment. I’m too busy staring at the color palette. FullSizeRender (55)

I feel the same way in the spring when the cherry and dogwood trees are bursting with  blooms. I walk under them and look up. They envelope me in  their translucent petals, the whisper of fragrance, and a delicate air. There’s a message here too, but I’m transported.

Few things like these two seasons renew me like this. Not fireworks on the fourth of July, or a roaring ocean in the summer, or even a frolicking puppy.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Millions feel the same way. But having lived my life in countries with no fall foliage or springtime delights, I’m always arrested by these beauties. They’re gifts. They renew my soul.

Spring points to hope and a new beginning. Fall alerts to the death of all things, but in a dignified and magnificent way. We need to go out with a blazing splash. I plan to write a hundred blog posts, so after I’m gone, you can still read a new post every week for two years. After that maybe Calvin will take over.

Calvin says, “Good grief! What side of the bed did you wake up on? You’re getting weird.”

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Conversations on the Run10

I need a replacement life.

Personally I collect magazines instead of men.

Women have become so boring. Is there anyone else out there?

After five years of attempting to talk to my husband, we now talk a different language.

Monday I come here, Tuesday I go there, Wednesday I go around, Thursday I stay put, and Friday, I’m out of here. unnamed (1)

With all this social media, when can I be myself?

He looks like the collective of the dead inhabitants of the club.

Personal umbrella insurance is surprisingly expensive for an umbrella.

Pastor Boss.

What do you get if you become a knight?
You get diplomatic immunity in your own country.

Calvin says, “I could use diplomatic immunity in rabbit holes. They’re downright hostile.” beagle

A Little Shop of Horrors

We are a country of innovators. I passed a driving range where I saw a man in a cart with a scooper that picked up all the golf balls lying on the ground. Hundreds of them. They looked like giant hailstones on a fake green turf. And here I thought this guy would be stooping and picking these up by hand. Shows you how another generation I am. photo (90)

I marvel at the candy factory machines that cut, coat, and wrap each piece. I’m used to the tortilla making factories of life with one ball of dough being flattened out into a round circle and then placed on a conveyor belt and run through a hot oven. This is usually the job of one young girl in threadbare clothes in a village garage. 

I grew up with people doing work by hand. But now we have robots making cars and pizza. And then the next step is robots flying our planes, driving our cars, and cleaning our houses. The cleaning our houses bit I like and have no qualms about that. More time for painting and writing. But at the rate these automatons are pushing out a human workforce, who’s going to be making babies in twenty-five years? 

Calvin says, “Don’t worry. You won’t be around to be annoyed by the little fake people.”

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Search and Rescue

“How could you have lost a plunger?” the clerk at the hardware store said on the phone. “What did you do with it?”

Clearly this was a repeat customer. Her tone of voice gave her away.

Was he asking for a replacement or help in finding it? I didn’t stick around to find out, but it did make me curious.

How could you lose a plunger? How could you lose any plumbing tool for that matter? They’re large enough to trip over.

I’ve lost rings down bathroom drains, wallets at check-out stands in supermarkets. I even lost Calvin once on a walk. He gave me signs that he was sufficiently trained to obey me, so I let him off leash. I blinked and he was gone. The next thing I heard him baying like a coyote in heat. He found a hole in the fence and wiggled through to dash after a hare. I called him, but he was deaf. Unlike sheep who obey the shepherd’s voice, Calvin ignored me as if he didn’t belong to anybody. He was his own master, and that scared me to death.  IMG_0130

So much for the love and care I had given him over the years. So much for the training that didn’t stick. So much for the intense distress this was putting me through. He plainly didn’t care.

And then there was my son. This was his dog. He left him in my care while he went to college. “Son, I lost your dog. He’s probably dead. I’m sorry.”

Calvin was camouflaged in a thicket of bushes. I called louder. Nothing. I couldn’t climb the fence without tearing my body in pieces. I kept calling louder until I was hoarse. A park ranger heard me and opened a gate in the fence and let me in. I walked for miles calling Calvin’s name. Birds flew overhead. Squirrels rushed by me. Calvin was nowhere to be seen.

I never thought I’d do it, but after an hour I gave up.  I turned back and walked to the car weeping.

As I got closer, I saw a silhouette of an animal by the driver’s side of the car.

It was Calvin, sitting there, waiting for me, with a smirk on his face.

Two emotions came flooding in. The first was relief that I wouldn’t have to tell my son his dog was dead. The second, I wanted to kill his dog.

Calvin says, “My body may have escaped, but my heart was always yours.”

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More Than Dirt

Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together. photo (47)

I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.

I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.

I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.

Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.

When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.

Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.” beagle

SFO to JFK Not

 

As I prepared for my trip to New York, I received a text message notifying me my flight was cancelled the next morning. No explanations. No apologies. To call this 888 number. Which I did. Immediately.

After listening to computer prompts and squeaks and whistles I finally hear a human voice.

“My name is George. How can I help you?” George doesn’t sound like a robot or a foreigner.
“You canceled my flight, George,” I say.
“Only for your safety, ma’am,” he says.
“You mean New York tomorrow would have been hazardous to my health?”
“It’s for your protection,” he says. “May I have your last name?”
George pulls up my reservation. “I see you’re going to JFK.”
“Were going. Remember you canceled,” I said.
“We have another flight to JFK a bit later in the morning…oh wait, it’s full, no seats,” he says. “I can route you through LA and on a red eye.”
“I didn’t pay for all that suffering.”
“Let’s see San Francisco then. Oh, wait it has stops. You probably don’t want that. Too long for you.”
“This call is too long for me. Don’t you have other options?”
“Not if you want to land at JFK.”
“Try the Hamptons. I’d like that.”
“No Hamptons.”
“Martha’s Vineyard?”
“Martha’s on sabbatical.”
“Hey, how about New Jersey?” I say.
I hear the squeaks and whistles. George hangs up.

“Alaska’s running a third world airline,” I say to Alf. “I could have arrived at JFK by now.”
“What did you expect from an iceberg state? Their brains are frozen,” he says.
My phone rings. It’s George.
“George! How are you? I never expected to hear from you again. I thought I lost you for good. “
“No ma’am. You can’t lose me until we finish this reservation,” he says.
“Aw George. I didn’t know you cared,” I say.
“Yes ma’am. Alaska values your business. We want you to be happy with your experience.”
“Can you book me to Paris then?”
“We don’t fly there but some of our partners do, let me check…”
“No George! Just book me to New York.”
George recommends a flight into New Jersey. I take it. We say tearful farewells.

The next morning I emerge from security ready for my flight. The other passengers show up. We take up the entire gate area. My seat mate on my left was also on the canceled flight. I suspect there are many bumped passengers on this plane going to New Jersey even when we really wanted JFK. I’m suspicious, this is a clever way of filling the New Jersey flights because nobody wants to go there.

We anxiously wait for the boarding announcement. Suddenly a woman behind me says, “Oh no!”
I whip around. “What’s the matter?”
“Look at the board. Our flight isn’t leaving for another two hours.”
A collective groan goes up.
They tell us at first it’s thunderstorms. We check the weather map on our phones. You can’t fool the public anymore. Clear skies and bright sun. Then they tell us it’s finding a crew problem. A few minutes later two pilots show up and board. We sit there for another hour. Then the flight attendants show up and board. We continue to sit there. By now my seat mate to the right and I are becoming best friends. I hear her whole life story. Then another announcement. It’s the limited airspace over three airports that’s causing the delay. Flight control is delaying all flights to the East Coast. I’m suspicious again. I bet they have Millennials working things who don’t know how to stack planes in the right order yet.

Another announcement. “We’re having a paper plane contest. Anyone who wants to participate come to the counter for a sheet of paper,” the agent says. “At the time you should have taken off we’ll launch them. That way at least something gets off the ground this morning. The plane that flies the farthest gets a $25 voucher from us.” IMG_2999

I don’t know how to make a paper airplane but I want to play. “Will you build it and I’ll fly it?” I ask my seat mate to my left. He agrees and within minutes he hands me a beautiful paper plane that looks like the Concorde. Another passenger, clearly an engineer, builds an elaborate one that looks like the stealth bomber. He decides to test it. He launches it out by the corridor. It flies straight into a woman’s forehead with a vengeance. He apologizes and crawls back to his seat. The teenagers in the waiting area are furiously making theirs. One of them checks Google for directions. I embellish mine with the logo and Alaskan face on one wing. “New Jersey or bust!” on the other wing. The agent calls the race. We line up in a row. She puts the young kids in front. At her command she says, “Go!” Waiting passengers stand to watch. We launch our creations. A 10-year old wins. Everyone applauds. I hand my plane to the agent.

We go back to waiting. Even our captain can’t convince flight control to leave earlier. Finally, they call the flight. As I walk past the counter, my plane is displayed for all to see.

Calvin says, “That’s what you get for not taking me. They would have taken one look at me, fallen in love, given me treats, and escorted us straight to first class. Or maybe just me. You they would have kept in the squeeze section.

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Whites Not Allowed

As I was standing by my kitchen window a stripe of white flashed under the oleander bush. This was 6 am. I’m not that alert usually. But the movement caught my eye. I made inventory of the animals that normally visit my backyard. Squirrels. Raccoons. Bees. Ravens. Cats. But no white cat. Or my neighbor’s dog.

“We have a skunk in the garden,” I said.

“How do you know?” Alf said.

“I just do.”  IMG_3834

I waited. Out from the undergrowth there emerged a black nose sniffing in all directions, followed by a black head with two black beady eyes, and then the whole body. Its coat was thick and lush. God had taken a felt marker and drawn two brilliant white stripes down its back that merged at the tail. It’s nose kept moving. It scampered closer to the window. It wasn’t afraid of my standing there. Then in a blink it drew its tail up and fanned it out and sprayed the corner of my flower bed.

“What a odious creature,” I said.

“Why be so critical?” Alf said.

“He sprayed my touch-me-nots.”

“There’s a message in that somewhere,” Alf said.

“Fetch me the broom,” I said.

Alf went out to the garage, came back in with the broom, and handed it to me.

I went outside with broom at the ready and looked for the animal.

Gone. It had vanished.

I was going to sweep him up and dump him on the compost pile where he could gorge his little black heart out.

Calvin says, “No way. That skunk would have sprayed you first and you would’ve ended up in a bath of tomato juice.”  beagle