Roller Coaster Life

I can’t keep up with ups and downs of the COVID spikes. They’re like a roller coaster. All I know is that California remains in quarantine and that means I continue to be stuck at home with Alf and the hound.

We’re barking at each other more than usual. We’re reading more, watching more TV, and needing more sleep. By the time we emerge from this, like bears after a winter’s hibernation, we may not recognize who we are. We’ll need to introduce ourselves all over again to family and friends.

“Remember me? I’m your mother.”

“I thought you were dead,” my daughter would say.

“Not dead, just buried,” I would say.

“You look a little long in the tooth,” she would say.

“That’s better than crinkly skin and hollow eyes.”

“You’re almost there. You need to soak in a milk bath and soften up,” she would say.

“As long as it’s almond sweet with lots of rubber ducks with me.”

Calvin says, “Has someone told you you’re brain is rotting too?”

Night Crooner

Around midnight there’s a bird in the tree by my bedroom window that starts singing. His timing is intriguing. I thought birds went to bed with sundown and stayed quiet until sunrise. Not this one. He has a repertoire that is impressive. He must be an opera singer preparing for his role. He keeps me awake. I listen to his notes, and not one is the same as the other. He varies his tone and his melody. You’d think others were answering him, but it’s all coming from him.

I did an Internet search for night crooners and found him. He’s the Northern Mockingbird. He can mimic other birds as well as invent his own songs. His is a playlist that lasts well into the night.

Lately he’s taken the night off. I miss him.

“Thank heavens he’s stopped,” Alf said.

“Why? I quite liked him,” I said.

“You’ve always needed a lullaby,” Alf says.

“I know you can’t sleep with noise, but this is music, not noise.”

“I bury my head under the pillows,” Alf said.

“But it’s soothing. You’re missing out.”

“He sounds like a hand bell choir, wind chimes, and a tin drum all rolled into one,” Alf said.

“That isn’t noise,” I said.

“That’s because you’re tone deaf.”

Calvin says, “There needs to be a bay in there somewhere, then it would be complete.”

 

Overnight

I paint with acrylics on canvas, they are fast drying. Many people paint on paper. Others on wood panels. I don’t know what got me started. I look at something creative and say, “I can do that.” I buy the supplies and go at it. No training, just instinct. My paintings aren’t very good compared to so many artists I know, but I have fun messing around. Except lately the fun has walked out the door and I’m left with only the work, and that’s not cutting it for me.

“That’s normal,” an artist friend says.

“It happens to all of us,” another says.

“Hang in there, it comes back,” a third says.

“It isn’t happening for me,” I say.

“You lack patience,” Alf says.

“You want instant gratification,” my son, the artist says.

“You darn right,” I say.

“What if you were an architect, you want the whole building to go up overnight?” Alf says.

“That would be nice,” I say.

Calvin says, “I understand. You live with people who take years to grow up, you deserve an instant turnaround somewhere.” 

 

 

Cutting Up a Little

“You don’t suppose I put the knife someplace I typically don’t?” Alf said.

“What knife?” I said.

“You know, the knife,” Alf said.

“You have so many.”

“No I don’t.”

“You have the one for scaling fish, the one for carving wood, the one for cutting down outgrowth on the bushes, and the one you use for cutting grilled steak,” I said.

“That’s not the knife I mean.”

“Then I can’t help you,” I said.

“Clearly,” Alf said.

“Have you tried looking where you keep the dog’s things?” I said.

“Why would it be there?”

“You take it with you on your walks with him.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You said you never know when you have to defend yourself from rattlesnakes, runaway horses, and lost turtles,” I said.

“I said that?”

“No, I made it up. But it sounded good, didn’t it?”

Calvin says, “And slobbering dogs looking for attention.”

 

 

Real vs Fake

Alf came home this morning with a bagful of bagels.

“Were those bagels boiled and then baked, like the real thing?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They just looked good.”

“Now that you’ve eaten one, what do you think?” I said.

“It was light and crispy.”

“A dead giveaway. I fake bagel, it wasn’t boiled.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A real bagel is crunchy and shiny on the outside, chewy on the inside. There’s weight to it.”

“Since when have you become a connoisseur of bagels?” Alf said.

“Since my first trip to New York, years ago when I sunk my teeth into a pumpernickel bagel piled high with green olive cream cheese that oozed out with every bite. I’ve been spoiled ever since.”

“You’ve been spoiled by more than bagels my dear.”

Calvin says, “I’m soft on the outside and weighty on the inside. I wouldn’t pass for a real bagel, but you could make me one with lots of smoked salmon, thank you, please.”

 

A Stranger on the Call

I couldn’t understand the man on the phone.

“What did you say? There’s too much noise in the background,” I said.

“Is this better?” he asked.

“No, now I hear a screaming child. Are you on the street?”

“In the market, on aisle 7.”

“What’s aisle 7?”

“Bed pans, medicine, and cotton balls,” he said.

“In a market?”

“They cater to all needs,” he said.

“Well, in that case I need something for my lower back, my toes, and my right arm. It all hurts,” I said. Then I realized I wasn’t sure who I was talking to.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Alf, your husband. Remember me? You sent me to the store.”

“You’re in the wrong store, I need you in a pharmacy,” I said.

“This is the pharmacy. Do you think I would find spinach and papaya here?”

“Yes, in aisle 8,” I said.

Cavin says, “And in aisle 1 you’ll find the doggie treats. Right as you step into the store. They know how to position the important stuff.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Little, Add a Little

I live in my garden these days with the squirrels, the ravens, the bees, and the occasional butterfly. The butterfly bush is exploding with flowers, ready for a butterfly invasion, but none have arrived. Maybe they’re staying away and quarantining on eucalyptus trees in Pacific Grove. Or maybe they got smart and flew to Mexico instead. So I turned my attention to the house.

I’m cleaning out clutter and distributing it to friends who want more. There are people who always want another book or music CD. I’m happy to oblige. The vision for the house is to give it a minimalist look, with only the essentials in their place. Of course I’ll have to do something about the dog’s seasonal food dishes, multi-colored leashes, and hypo-allergenic beds. He has as many possessions as we do. With all these, he still prefers to eat at our table and sleep in our bed.

Then there’s the garage. It’s filled with camping gear we no longer use, old shoes for when it rains and gets muddy, hiking jackets and hats, and a bowlful of golf balls Alf brings home from his hikes. What golf balls are doing scattered on the mountain defies the imagination. And why Alf picks them up and brings them home is a mystery. He’s not a golfer.

“I’ll give them to someone who plays the game,” he says.

“We don’t know any golfers,” I remind him.

“There’s always the future.”

And so it goes. I clear, Alf fills it up. The story of our lives.

Calvin says, “Hey, what about the ice skates you never use? Maybe there’s an Olympian in the neighborhood.”

 

 

 

 

Survival Plans

I dug it up. It had been struggling to survive for years. I re-planted it in a pot that was hanging from the apricot tree, except there is no apricot tree, just the trunk, which now holds several potted plants. Alf and I killed the apricot tree by pruning it too much. What did we know? We’re not farmers. The transplanted plant should be worried. We don’t know what we’re doing.

Our garden plants grit their teeth behind our backs. They hold whispered meetings at midnight, while we sleep, planning how to survive in spite of what we do to them.

The oleanders are the senior members, well established after many battles, and are now too big to die. They’ve gone through the worst of it, from neglect to over-watering. They now give advice to the youngest inhabitants. “Keep your water reserves if you want to live,” they say.

The roses are faring a bit better because they’re pretty. Beauty wins out every time. It’s what saves them from death. Nobody likes to see a withered bush, it speaks ill of the owners.

The lavender and rosemary have the best chance of survival. They’ve been bred to withstand heat and drought.

The jade, the newcomers, beat their chests. “We’ll outlive you all,” they say with a laugh.

The citrus trees roll their eyes. “We’ve been here 80 years, and we’ve seen it all. If it wasn’t for the rainy season we’d be gone, and so will you, so don’t be cocky because that will be your demise,” they say.

Calvin says, “You’ve murdered a nursery-full since I’ve been here. I’d have a warrant for your arrest.”

 

A Pitiful Reality

Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.

Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.

Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”

 

 

Adjusting

I’m learning to work online these days, and be proficient in video calls. All of a sudden I have to look good on camera. I need make-up, lipstick, good hair, and something colorful around my neck and shoulders. Much like news anchors, you never know what they’re really wearing underneath the desk. I could be wearing my pajama bottoms, the ones with the mermaids, and nobody would know. But they’d know because they’re doing the same.

Nobody has told the bees, the squirrels or the birds that all work must be conducted inside. They didn’t get the memo. Life goes on for them. The neighborhood cats keep coming by and checking who has left a scent. Not so with the dogs. They have been quarantined and I don’t even hear barking anymore. That’s because they’re wearing masks.

I used to smell garlic and curry in the neighborhood, but even that has gone. I don’t see my neighbors leave their houses and get into their cars. I wonder what they’re making for dinner. I suppose the freezer in the garage has been a go-to place for the past four weeks. It’s time for the frozen edamame and tamales to come out along with the ice cream and shredded cheese.

We just heard we might be in this until middle May. The date keeps getting pushed back almost daily. This is building character I tell myself. It’s okay if you’re an introvert. You can handle the quiet. It’s the extroverts I worry about. They’re talking to themselves in the mirror and to imaginary friends.

Calvin says, “I don’t like frozen kibble so don’t even think about it.”