pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: May 2013

28 May 2013


Somewhere between Foynes and Limerick, Ireland
(I think)
15 July 2012

I tend to be quite focused on whatever I'm doing: working, gardening, reading a book, sewing, cooking, watching a concert. Frequently, I'm focused to the exclusion of all else around me. And so it is with travel. I like to be aware of my surroundings. I like to know where I am. I like to see what is there.

But this particular morning, we'd gotten an early start and I was just not there. The landscape sailed merrily by and I would think blearily, "Oh, a castle. Oh, a cow. Oh, I'll take a photo..."

And later, I had no idea what I'd seen or where.

(Right now, it occurs me that this was the day we visited a cave...but I've also got a mystifying photo of a stone head. Really, no clue at all where it was.)

Clearly, I need to go back and look again.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. My recent travels have made me antsy and I'm ready for more. I wanted to go back to Europe this summer, but there was just no way to make it happen. Just a couple more years...

24 May 2013

In plain sight

Near White-Gravenor
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.
11 May 2013

The son was off doing something, so I wandered around for a bit.

I love gardens and always have done. I love gardens that have been cleverly designed, that have pockets and rills, bits hidden away awaiting discovery. I love formal gardens and wild gardens. I like the regimented and the unexpected.

(I dream of gardens.)

When I was 14, my mother and I made a trip back to the District and surrounds, and one of the places we visited with aunts and my older cousin M. was Williamsburg, Virginia. I loved it, but what drew me most was the gardens.

I was already a wanderer at that age, and while the rest of the group was looking at an exhibit, I got leave to go explore the gardens of the Governor's Palace. It was late in the day, and things were closing down. Trees were casting long shadows across lawns, but armed with a map, I ran down paths and discovered the ice house, kitchen plantings and herb gardens.

I'll never forget the little chill of excitement that rippled up my spine. There was so much there to see.

But world enough and time. Never.

And so a couple of weeks ago, I found this little area that I'd not seen before. I was enchanted.

D.C. has a particular smell this time of year. It's swamp and damp, but also flowers and vegetation. It was like a siren song.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. I've already settled on a return trip to Williamsburg in April 2014. 

23 May 2013

Birthday beer

Red Hill Red (with candle)
23 May 2013

Over the weekend, the son and the spouse went off to run some errands and in the course of doing so, bought a birthday card for me.  While in pursuit of this, they ran into a young woman who frequently serves us at the microbrewery we customarily visit on Friday nights. She encouraged them to take me to the brewery to celebrate my birthday, but my birthday was yesterday, a Wednesday, and with a kid still in school, I demurred, suggesting that we should wait until the weekend.

Well, we dropped in tonight, only a day earlier than usual, and when she saw us, our friend yelled, "Happy Birthday!" and I laughed, "That was yesterday!"

Then she brought me a beer with a candle in it. Which made me laugh out loud. As I told her, it was the best use I'd ever seen a birthday candle put to.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. 

22 May 2013


Off Cape Farewell, Greenland
31 July 2008

Five years ago, I took this photo of a huge, awe-inspiring chunk of ice. Strange to think that it's gone now, and a photo is what remains.

I thought a lot about the passage of time today. What remains, what is gone. I thought about what I was doing five years ago today, and that makes me smile. That always makes me smile.

Life is strange. Life is wonderful.

I hear whispers, see signs. "Be prepared," they all say.

It's good to have a goal. It's good to want to meet a challenge.

So much is ephemeral, but often the more things change...

And change can be good. But sometimes, so are those things that stay the same.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. And the more I thought about it, the more I yearned to get back out in the world.  

21 May 2013

Pretty peonies

21 May 2013

Sometimes the nicest part of grocery shopping is finding some pretty flowers to bring home.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4, Olloclip wide angle lens.  

20 May 2013

Fire on the horizon

Atlantic Ocean
23 July 2012

The ocean and the curve of the Earth team up here to trick the eye. Most of what you see is not the sun, but the sun's reflection on water. There is only the merest sliver of actual sun peeking up over the horizon.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. What is real, what is an illusion.  

17 May 2013

Be prepared

Ladies' room
Austin, Texas
23 April 2013

Possibly, it's just that I have a strange sense of humor.

(Possibly, it's that I had a cocktail with lunch, which is so far beyond the norm for me...)

Anyway, D. and I had spent the morning at the Texas State History Museum. That is another story
altogether, but after we'd seen the whole thing, it was time for lunch.

So we hunted around and found a nice bistro.

The sandwiches were good, the company delightful.

(Also, cocktails. Have I mentioned that about the only thing I routinely drink is water and coffee with an occasional ice tea--UNsweetened, thank you very much--thrown in for variety? Yes, I have.)

Ladies' rooms are an adventure (no, that's not a non sequitur). I'm sure men's rooms are too, and we'll draw a discreet veil over the time I crashed the men's room because I got tired of waiting for the ladies' and yes, it was at a concert, about 25 years ago. Any port in a storm.

Anyway, cocktails (along with all the water I was drinking, too) inevitably lead to ladies' rooms.

The spouse is of the opinion that ladies' rooms invariably have a carnival midway and rollercoasters because we seem to spend so much time in them. I have disabused him of this idea, pointing out that the ladies' is generally woefully under-equipped for the ladies who wish to use it, and that said ladies are frequently toting small, dancing children who require the facilities even more than the ladies who bore them. Then there are all the clothing adjustments that men don't necessarily need to make. No need to go into detail.

(Full disclosure: I have been in a ladies room that had...a giant, rocking giraffe! But that's the closest I've seen to a rollercoaster.)

In any event, a ladies' room in a bistro in Austin, Texas. Which did not have a carnival midway or rides. But it did boast a can of White Rain.

Texas and hairspray.

And that just made me laugh.

(It may have been the cocktails.)

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.  

16 May 2013


14 May 2013

Since I returned, I've been playing catch up--grocery, banking, dry cleaning, laundry, all the errands and things that keep me in constant motion. I was only gone for a week, but it's amazing how fast stuff piles up.

The bank is generally a quiet place and there are usually few people doing business when I'm in there. This morning, I was surprised to see a line, and even more surprised when I suddenly heard shouting. I tend to be on my guard in banks--I was a teller for a brief time in college and one Saturday, while I was working, the branch was robbed. Though it wasn't a Hollywood style crime, it was an unnerving experience to the say least.

The person who was shrieking turned out to be a wizened old woman standing at one of the windows. She was tiny and bent, covered from neck to ankles in a shabby dress, her head covered as well. As I got into line, she began to use language that we were told as children was a one-way ticket to Hell. The stream of profanity, mostly discernible despite her heavy accent, was such that the two senior citizens in front of me began to bristle.

A teller appeared from another part of the bank and offered to help the first woman in line elsewhere.

"WELL MAYBE YOU'D BETTER HELP HER!" that woman shouted, gesturing with disgust at the stooped woman at the window, who had gone on to ramble about investments, credit, and a lost $10 bill, the diatribe interspersed with more profanity.

Two tellers were now at the window, and one of them told the stooped woman loudly that they'd done what they could for her, but in response to that, the woman began a long confused story about theft and a grocery store. The bank manager appeared, and quietly tried to get her to move along, but the stooped woman began shouting again, seeming to make accusations against a bank employee.

Another female senior citizen shoved her way in front of me, and she began shouting because there weren't any tellers helping her. Then she began shouting at the woman at the window.

I was starting to think that it might be worth a call to 911 before all these old people started beating each other up.

Finally, a bank employee called me to a window, and after I quietly made my request and signed the appropriate forms, he took my paperwork. He asked for my driver's license, and then disappeared into the back. The bank manager, meanwhile, had persuaded the stooped woman to quiet down, and leave the teller window for a desk so she could continue her rant. The employee who was helping me returned with my transactions, and as he passed my driver's license back, he said, "Happy birthday next week."

With all the chaos, I was momentarily flummoxed, until it slowly dawned on me that yes, it's May, and he'd seen my birthdate on my driver's license. I thanked him, and then he said a bit sadly, "It's my birthday today."

And all I could do was wish him a day that improved from there.

I left the bank feeling as though civilization was crumbling around me.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. I hate to admit it, but all I could think of was the movie Drag Me to Hell, and I've only seen the first 10 minutes. 

15 May 2013


Healy Hall
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.
11 May 2013

It was a revelation.

The son asked me to fly out to DC to help him pack up for the summer. He had finals down to the wire, almost up until the moment that he had to vacate the dorm. The timing worked for me in more ways than one, so I made the arrangements go east.

The morning after the concert in Baltimore, I hopped on the train down to DC. The porter fussed at me because of my bag (which didn't violate any train rules, he was just being a jerk) and I quelled him by saying forbiddingly, "Sometimes we have no choice but to travel heavy."

He actually seemed to think about that for a moment and didn't bother me again.

(And I wonder why the spouse, my children and my friends see me as that person.)

The train ride passed quickly, and I caught a cab at Union Station to take me across town. Morning rush hour but I was soon at my destination, and I found the son. We ate breakfast at the only place I've ever encountered that can't even manage oatmeal, and once I'd had sufficient coffee, we headed up to his room to begin the sorting and packing.

I was brusque and businesslike, tired and headachy from a far too fun night and not enough sleep. Also?


I felt tremendous guilt.

Sure, the son had asked me to come and help him. But I worried my presence would be perceived as hovering. I worried I wasn't letting him take care of something that at 19, he should probably be able to deal with. He asked for help, I kept telling myself, which he knows he can do, but only does if he feels he really needs it. He is comfortable in his ability to do his own thing. But still, I felt uneasy. And while I was happy to be of assistance if he wanted it, I can only admit that I grabbed the opportunity because it afforded me an extra concert that I'd not have gone to otherwise.

(That was at the root of the guilt. All these years later, I still feel like I shouldn't take that time for myself, though it is the best medication in the universe.)

As it all turned out, not only did the son rightly ask for my assistance, he probably wouldn't have gotten out of there without it. He'd severely underestimated the sheer volume of possessions that needed to be put into storage until the Fall semester, or brought home or shipped home because there was no room for them elsewhere. After I arrived, he had three more finals and a language proficiency exam, a shift at his job, matériel to return and a very final date for ejection from his room.

I sorted, packed, planned, bought more packing boxes, tore tape, repacked suitcases and boxes until they were within weight limits, planned some more, and negotiated with the crabby UPS guy.

As I wandered to and fro, hotel room to dorm room to UPS outlet and points in between, carrying boxes and pens and tape and stuff, I looked around me.

There were parents. Everywhere.

They were going in and out of residence halls, pushing move-out carts and dollies, helping kids pack stuff into cars and trucks and in one case, a moving van. They swarmed the UPS outlet.

It was then that I realized exactly how demented my own upbringing had been. This, this--what I was doing, what the other parents were doing--was what normal families did: they supported their kids, helped them--taught them!--to negotiate the more difficult moments in life. They offered assistance, showed up when asked.

My whole childhood was sink or swim. And sure, at the end of the day, I'm an enormously capable person because I learned how to take care of myself at a very young age. But the truth is that I'd have given a lot for a some thoughtful advice when I asked for it, some direction, instead of working it all out on my own.

As much as I think I've overcome the early part of my life, I'm often taken aback at how much lingers. It frightens me sometimes how much my parents' neglect has colored my own parenting, to the point that I don't always recognize that it's okay to take care of myself and my family.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. I find stuff like this remarkably difficult to write. I'm not much for the confessional lifestyle, and as much as I try to be measured and careful in how I deal with my less than ideal youth, epiphanies like this tend to be astonishingly eye opening. 

14 May 2013

Jacaranda time

Santa Ana, California
14 May 2013

The jacarandas bloom this time of year and again in September, but in May, they're a sure sign of summer. While this photo doesn't do justice to their gorgeous purple blossoms, it gives you an idea.  Yesterday, when I parked on this street to wait for the daughter, they were just bursting into full bloom. Today, the street was littered with their sticky flowers, and I was tossing them back out the car window as fast as the breeze was blowing them in. Whole avenues are lined in these trees, and for a brief time, you can drive through beautiful lilac-colored tunnels.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. 

13 May 2013

Always the rush

Baggage tag
6 May 2013

So, last Monday morning, I got up at 4 am to get on a plane.

You know this one, chapter and verse.

By the time I staggered into BWI at 4:30 pm, US Airways had lost my luggage (because they only had 1/2 an hour plus 1/2 an hour's mechanical delay to move it from Gate A22 to Gate A29. Seriously.) and I was stuck in the back of a mouthy driver's cab heading toward the Inner Harbor.

("But where is my bag?" I asked the woman--who was very nice--at baggage claim. "Er, they aren't telling me," she replied looking in consternation at her screen. "When," I asked, trying to be patient, "will I get it back?" "It might come in tonight," she told me, and quickly changing the subject in response to my eyebrows hitting my hairline, she asked, "Can you tell me something readily identifiable in your luggage?" I gave her a long look, and answered, "My cane. It's a very pretty paisley." At which she seemed alarmed. Taking pity, I admitted to her that I only need it sometimes, mostly for balance.)

I got to the hotel, a chain at which I stay quite frequently because it's fun and whimsical. The son and I stayed  in one in Chicago and I've stayed at the one in D.C. several times. The hotel in Baltimore had the distinction of being in a Beaux Arts building--how fun is that?--so I figured it would be a good stay and all would go well.

I'm such an optimist.

What was wrong--maybe not wrong, but highly unexpected--was the person standing next to the reception desk when I walked up to check in. I don't actually know this person, I just know who this person is. And I know that where this one is, there are many more of the same ilk, all I'm sure fine and upstanding people, but not necessarily people I was expecting to share a hotel with.

(Why I wasn't expecting it ...who knows? It's happened before. We've shared planes, even, this group and I. Statistically inescapable, actually. Still, I have this idea that I glide silently and invisibly through the universe. Yes, I am an idiot, I know, thank you. But it's an illusion I continue to cherish, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.)

So, I did what I do best and pretended that all was well and that I was oblivious. Then I explained my sad lost luggage tale to the kind woman who was checking me in. Like the woman at baggage claim, she offered me a toothbrush.

(If I check luggage, I ALWAYS pack a change of clothing in my carry on. And a toothbrush.)

She promised to call when my luggage arrived, whatever time, as I specified.

Another hurdle.

Off I went to my room, somewhat amused by the whole People in the Hotel thing even while I kind of wasn't. So far, this trip had gotten off to a strange start, and it was only the first day.

I met some friends for drinks, and finally got back to my room. About 1 am, as I was reading in bed, the phone rang. My bag had arrived; it was delivered to me a few moments later by a nice man.

I wondered somewhat irritably what adventures my bag had had without me. When I twisted the luggage tag to read where it had been, I couldn't help but smile.

"So quintessentially you," D. had texted when I told her of my check-in encounter.


Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. 

11 May 2013

02 May 2013

Find me a way for making it stay

Orange County, California
8 September 2011

Poor Olivier has cancer and is going through chemo. I see him periodically when he escapes the clutches of his loving owners (and that's not sarcasm; they do love him, but he is a roamer). A week or so ago, he was out and about sniffing the bumper of a strange car, and when he saw me, he threw himself against my legs, wailing. I scratched his head and crooned to him, half expecting him to attack my arm as he is wont to do because he can be quite the stinker. But no. He wanted affection, wanted someone who wasn't going to fuss with him. So I scratched and he purred.

Breaks my heart, as much of a troublemaker as he is.


It is May.

I don't know how it got to be May. Yeah, yeah, day changed into night, night into day, and it was May. I know. But where did all those subsequent days go?

(See yesterday: FAFSA, CSS, IDOC. Also to be fair: Austin, Deb, concert. But those last three rocked whereas the first three did not. And I sat in a restaurant with D. last week trying to fathom how it was that I'd last seen her in December and here it was April, and now I won't see her again until August.

Hear that, D.? August. AUGUST. It is on my calendar.

Yes, I communicate with my friends via blog. Some of my friends believe it is the only way that they communicate with me, which is not true. Well, sometimes. Also, yes, I can write really long parentheticals. Because I want to.)


(I need the silly. It's been all Sturm und Drang, and rage and stuff. Done. Now, I'm just down with the dying of love. It's okay.)


Anyway, I probably have sunstroke. While all the sad little deer are up to their necks in snow in Colorado, it is 90F and hot, dry and windy here. Hot. Nasty. And I was out messing around in the garden. In the sun. Trying to fix the sprinkler system that the idiots construction crew destroyed last week.

Also, I can't see for beans because my new contacts make it difficult to see the computer screen.

"Most people get less nearsighted when they get older," my doctor said yesterday. "But you..."

Yes, me.

(Next: plane. And Baltimore. And, yeah, helping the son pack up his dorm room for the summer. But other things, too.)

I'm dying of love.

And it's okay.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. Look, there are at least four people who will know EXACTLY what I'm talking about here. And at least two who will ask. And I've already warned three that I am in A Mood, which doesn't always mean a bad mood. Also: go listen to some good music: "Trains" from the album In Absentia by Porcupine Tree. Because at the moment, I am very much present. Okay, enough liner notes. 

01 May 2013

My life in yoga pants

Baggage claim
Austin/Bergstrom International Airport
Austin, Texas
22 April 2013

Since last we met:


A plane



A concert

Another plane

Supervising filming

Filming zombie movie inserts




Any questions?


A plane


You get the idea.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.