pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: June 2017

30 June 2017

Things that go bump


Milton, helping with computers
14 July 2016

Sometimes when I'm stuck and can't think what to write (or don't want to go off on a rant), I'll go back and look at photos from a random year--I picked last year today--to see what I was doing during the same period of time.

So, a year ago, I was tearing down old computers. As you can see, I had help. He always helped me with whatever I was doing, and he liked climbing on computers. Because they were warm. Because they had fans. Because he was Milton.

That this is what came up in the photo archive wasn't a surprise. I was bumping into Milton all day today: shredding old files, and there was the receipt from his last surgery. Turn the corner and swear I see him, until the shadow in the corner resolved itself into a bag. I see these photos and he hasn't been gone for nearly 3 months. My eyes always go automatically to his left hip, assessing. But there is no tumor. He is whole and beautiful.

And gone.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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25 June 2017

Ghosts in their natural environment


Hedge maze
Governor's Palace
Williamsburg, Virginia
23 March 2016

I was the weird kid who loved history and wanted to know how things got done. I learned to cook, to bake bread from scratch, to sew, to knit, to make adobe mud, to spin, to weave, to embroider, to dip candles, to plant flowers and vegetables, to work wood and to fix cars. I've milked cows, and though I've never sheared a sheep, I've watched it done. What I couldn't do in a hands on sort of way, I read about. But I tend to pursue knowledge and experience in a very physical way.

The daughter is much like me in that regard.

I visited Williamsburg for the first time when I was 14. A young teenager, an impressionable teenager. I was traveling with a passel of women: my mother, aunts, a cousin. When everyone was tired (I wasn't), I was given permission to go off and visit the gardens on my own. I loved and still love gardens, herb gardens, knot gardens, formal gardens, flower gardens, secret gardens.

All gardens have secrets.

It was actually a cool spring day when I took this photo, but I look at it and I feel the weight of weather, of heat and humidity. It was August the first time I stood here, decades ago.

The hour was late, and the gardens were close to closing, all those years ago. I was short on time, but long on enthusiasm, and I jogged along the paths at a good clip despite the August heat, despite humidity carried in on a hurricane coming up the coast, referring to my pamphlet periodically to get my bearings. I was enchanted by the maze, running through it, then gazing down at it from the mount. But as I sought out paths less traveled, I saw a little sign:

Icehouse

An icehouse! I'd read about them, and now I could visit one. I chased along the path until I came to a low brick arch.

These days, the arch is sealed by iron bars, but I swear that when I was a young, impressionable teenager, it was open and accessible because I have the most distinct memory of carefully treading down the dim, curved stairway and peering into the dark pit at the end, marking the chill air and the fact that I was underground and all alone at the edge of a big hole in the ground, a place that would be a fine setting for a murder. The hair rose on the back of my neck, and I didn't waste too much time finding my way back up to the arched doorway. When I exited into the heat, humidity and failing sunlight, it wasn't lost on me that the hour was late, I was due back at the hotel to dress for dinner, and I was very much alone there behind the mount at the far edge of the gardens.

So I started back along the paths that were likely to lead me to an exit, eventually. I expected that an adult would show up to chivvy me along.

And I did see a woman as I made my way out of the maze. But that's another story.

It's not a story that I often share.


Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. Yes, all this is true, even if from the mind of a 14-year-old with an overactive imagination. It's as true as the impossible pipe tobacco I smelled in my hotel room in a historic house, and that was as true as the ginormous cockroach I killed in the en suite bathroom.
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22 June 2017

Her horizon


Near Badwater Basin
Death Valley National Park, California
24 November 2015

When I get out of bed, I lurch to one side. Which I expect because it's become more frequent. But as I catch myself, I lurch the other way and then back again. Stop, right the ship, move forward.

If you'd pay more attention... I tell myself. Though I know it probably makes no difference. Sometimes, if I concentrate very hard on taking steps, my feet don't drop and drag along the pavement. Sometimes it makes no difference. Like the small misstep that landed me back at a food-free diet.* If only I'd paid more attention.

****************

Yesterday, stuck in traffic, wrists resting on the steering wheel so I wouldn't clench it with my hands, I realized that here I am. There is management but no cure. I want to argue, as my doctors have done with me so many times, that I am too young for this. I stare hard at the license plate on the SUV in front of me without seeing it. Death lies somewhere up there, and I test that theory. I mean I've always known that, it's just that I felt I had some control in the process.

I probably don't. And it suddenly feels more real.

Then in the afternoon I find the story of Kam Redlawsk, an artist with a rare genetic condition which will ultimately completely paralyze her. My soul aches for her. My story is different, but I know the anger and pain of each progressive loss. I also know that in comparison, I am lucky.

And then the daughter tells me of the announcement that one of her college classmates has died. The young woman withdrew from school a few months ago because of illness.

I am lucky in more ways than one.

***************

I know that I promised happier words. It's a process. I am not particularly sad or depressed. Just working through...everything. It's been hot and humid, which makes me irritable. I've been stressed by people under my house, putting up fences, cutting down trees. Which makes me irritable. I've been trying to stay away from all the nonsense going on in the world, which makes me irritable. I've been half ill, which makes me tired. And irritable.

It's a process.

I suffer from the idea that I have worked hard and I should be happy. But that isn't how life works. You work hard and you have good days and bad days. You do good, but bad things happen anyway.

This makes me irritable.

It's a process.

That I can't control.

Which makes me irritable.

**************

I was talking to Deb today about Death Valley. Talking to Deb makes me happy. Travel makes me happy.

Grace in those things.

Eyes on the horizon.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. *I took two doses of Motrin last weekend because I had a wicked headache because of what happened in Death Valley. I am not supposed to take Motrin, which is basically the only pain reliever that helps. Other than the high test narcotics they like shooting me full of in the ER. Also, NO, I am not dying any faster than usual. Just to be clear.
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20 June 2017

Narcissus


Cooper's hawk
Orange County, California
20 September 2011

The sustained drought, which finally and unexpectedly broke this winter, has done so much damage. I've lost so many trees--today, the 15-ft. tall magnolia in the front of my house was pulled out. In a month, the ficus that form a lovely green wall to shield me from my neighbors also will be removed. The magnolia was drought-stressed and dying. The ficus are still doing well, in part because they are finding other sources of water, and now have become an invasive nuisance.

When we bought this house, the gardens were described as "park-like" but we learned the truth when spring rolled around and we discovered that the many of the trees were dead, others dying. One of my first acts was removing them all, including the loquat that both dying and planted too close to the house, the tree privet that stank to high heavens and was planted at the foundation of the house, and a podocarpus, a plant I dislike on general principles, and a raft of long-expired stone fruit trees. In the front, that left us with 3 river birch and the magnolia, and I planted a large buddleia which delighted Milton for years with its afternoon bounty of butterflies, along with a bougainvillea that cheerfully banged and scraped on the daughter's bedroom wall every dark and stormy night for years.

The river birch, which should never have been planted in So Cal in the first place, rapidly succumbed to oak root fungus (I took at least one of those out on my own...because I used to be able to chop down trees), but the magnolia was a haven for the parrots and mockingbirds who ate its fruit every fall. I already miss it.

Last week, before the current heat wave, I went out and measured the front garden, and am creating a plot plan. I have ideas, and I'm calling landscape contractors. I put horrible mirrored film on all the front windows now that I no longer have any shade from the afternoon sun.

Some good will come from all this down the road. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.
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19 June 2017

Imprisoned


Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary
Alcatraz Island
18 March 2017

When the daughter and I went to San Francisco, visiting Alcatraz was high on the list of things to do. It turned out that we were able to book a tour that took us both to Angel Island and Alcatraz, so we did both. It was quite foggy, gloomy and chilly that morning, but eventually the sun broke through.

Sunlight did not necessarily improve Alcatraz. It is a creepy place. With a capital "C."

Despite the eeriness and the unpleasant history surrounding the island, I'm glad that I visited. I think the daughter was too, even though once she got a look at the steep path to the top, she decided I was going to ride the accessible tram up to the top.

Talk about imprisoned.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Don't worry. I'll eventually cut through all the crap and get back to relative cheerfulness.
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18 June 2017

It's complicated


Healy Hall, distorted
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.
31 March 2012

I've seen a lot of #CallYourDad on social media and in the news. And I suppose given it's Father's Day...

My own father is long dead. He died when I was in my 20s, post-stroke after a good, long session of binge drinking, and emphysema after 50-odd years of chain-smoking. I cried when he died, not really for him, definitely not for myself, but for what was wasted, for what he wasted. All those wasted years.

So, Father's Day. It's complicated.

I wish that it had been different. I wish he hadn't seen the world through a distorted lens, and I wish he had cared more for his families and his children. And if wishes were horses...

But they aren't. We are human. We are complicated. One greeting card doesn't fit all.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. In this case, the photo speaks volumes, but I still feel a certain desire to protect my father, though he in no way earned that during his life. Though the words might seem to belie my true feelings, he is only a fact that is peripheral to my existence, and I see him in a wholly neutral way, tinged with regret for what might have been different.
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17 June 2017

You're the worst thing I ever got addicted to


Going-to-the-Sun Road
Glacier National Park, Montana
12 July 2010

There are words...

Or there is the moment.

(Moments.)

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. Photo isn't particularly significant. Just a pretty picture.
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16 June 2017

Line in the sand


White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
10 July 2007

I've largely held my peace since the general election last November. Don't mistake my silence for approval, however. I've actually written a great deal about it, but little of what I've written has seen the light of day. (Short version: I'm enraged with politicians in general, and both political parties specifically. But also idiocy along with its friend incivility.) I decided that I didn't want to be part of the rage and the hate, though I certainly feel both in abundance. But to add mine to the general melting pot is so pointless. Yes, I have a point of view, but sometimes keeping one's opinion to oneself is the better part of valor.

In the wake of the shooting during practice for the Congressional softball game, I've finally seen two major news outlets acknowledge that we no longer have civil discourse in this country, just hatred. Everyone has an opinion--and you know what they say about those--and few people seem to mind airing theirs in the most definite and profane ways possible. Hey, I get the frustration and the sense of being unheard, but what should be reasoned resistance has turned into something (or rather, many somethings) else entirely.

But by continuing in this vein, I risk doing exactly what I'm trying not to do. So, I'll return to silence on the matter.

Just know that for me, this is the line in the sand.

Tech stuff: Taken with a Canon PowerShot S110. I think this is the first time I've ever deliberately reused a photo. What is actually funny is that I re-edited it...to create the identical print I'd used before. Nothing like consistency.
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14 June 2017

Better in black and white


Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field Marsh
San Francisco, California
21 March 2017

It's beautiful in color but so alien in black and white.

"So...," said the daughter. Leading question.

"I haven't written since May," I said, hurriedly.

"You're grieving," she replied matter of factly.

So much grief.

And I don't want it anymore. Any of it.

I can photograph in color or black and white. Both are valid. Each is a point of view.

It's so much harder to bring the color back into my own life.

We'll see how brave you are.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
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