This Post has Gone to the Dogs

These are my pals — Teddy Bear T. Dog (little guy) and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog (“Yeti” gives it away, I think). They are dogs. I’ve always hung out a lot with my dogs but I feel a bit more “together” with these two as a result of the necessities of the past year.

Dogs are very good at “together.” Recently another dog visited — Frosty — and he soon found his way to be together with Teddy and Bear. (My house is not as ugly as it looks in this photo)

As you see, they are “togethering” like the pros they are

He came together with his person who discovered a lot about Frosty. Until their visit he thought his dog was a pain in the butt but learning how well his dog traveled, how much his dog enjoyed it, how well his dog fit in with other dogs, and seeing that there are dogs worse on a leash than his own (Teddy was a little nuts on our mutual walk), my friend has realized Frosty is a prince among dogs — and he is.

Frosty and his human. Sangre de Cristos in the background. I’m sure Frosty doesn’t remember, but he was born in the San Luis Valley.

It’s no secret that I like dogs. I like being together with them. I don’t have many photos of me together with all my dogs over the years. We didn’t have camera phones and most of the time when I was out being together with my dogs, we were the only beings in the wide world. Here are some of the few photos of some of the great dogs I’ve been together with.

Maggie, Truffle and Molly — my first three dogs

Nostalgia is Deadly

Ask Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

It’s been a very long time since I read 100 Years of Solitude but many things from this novel have followed me throughout my life, one of them is Marquez’ warning against nostalgia. Of course I underlined it in my copy of the book which, like many of the artifacts in Marquez’ novel has vanished in time. So trying to find it for this post is pretty impossible unless I want to go buy a new copy and read it over.

I don’t. But it might be this:

“Dazed by two nostalgias facing each other like two mirrors, he lost his wonderful sense of unreality, until he ended up recommending everyone to leave Macondo, to forget how much he had taught them about the world and the human heart, to shit on Horacio and that wherever they were they would always remember that the past was a lie, that memory had no way back, that every ancient spring was irretrievable, and that the most foolish and tenacious love was in any case an ephemeral truth.

I don’t remember everything about Marquez’ story — it would be impossible since I read it in the late 1970s at the recommendation of one of my high school English teachers, Miss Cohen, who became my friend. But I remembered the moral of the story. There is no looking back. Putting an antimacassar on my easy chair (or Bear’s easy chair) will not bring back my grandmother or the childhood hours spent in Billings, Montana, or the world as I believed it to be.

It really WASN’T better back then. People were not happier back then. The prosperity that we look back on was not the same thing to people living in those times. A case in point from my own life was my mother. My dad died of MS in 1972 and my mother never moved beyond that moment. As time passed, the time she had with my dad became this sacred relic. His shirt hung in her closet with the pens in the pocket even though that shirt had not been to work since sometime in the 1960s. My mom was a kind of performance artist with clothes, as it turned out. When I cleaned out her dresser after she died all that was in it was the jewelry left to me in her will and, in a bottom drawer, a black, baby-doll negligee. Nostalgia drove my mother into an insane bitterness. Imagine a mother saying to her only daughter who’s sitting with her in the hospital, “He was MY husband. I slept with him.”

I was there for most of their marriage and my dad talked freely and openly to me — which he probably shouldn’t have, but he did. I viewed my mother’s nostalgia as guilt. Her wish she had done many things differently turned into a conviction that she’s been cheated by life. She grew to see herself as a victim. Not a victim of the bad luck of having a husband who died young but as a victim of an unjust fate that stole from her a great love with whom she’d been happy while all of her OTHER sisters still had their husbands. She believed she’d been singled out by malicious forces to suffer in loneliness. In real life my parents fought all the time.

As a nation, many Americans have been hornswoggled by nostalgia. MAGA is political nostalgia that has captured the aggrieved imaginations of people who remember a past that never existed. The echoes and consequences of that past — as it really was — are all around us in the form of climate change and lingering racism. Our past is like my parents’ marriage in many ways. Yeah, there was the good stuff but there was also a lot of bad stuff, enough bad stuff that, as a people, we continued to move forward, almost in spite of ourselves.

One day, as I was opening my garage door in San Diego, I had flash of insight. I was, at the time, worried about my brother who was then in the hospital with complications from alcoholism. I had been thinking, “How did this happen? How did he get so broken? How could that have not happened?” suddenly my brain said, “Our eyes are in front of our face for a reason. And, if we turn around to go the other way, we still go forward. Think about it.”

I believe I actually said, “Whoa…”

By now it’s late (Ormai é Tardi)
Vasco Rossi

By now it’s late!
Look at time…“fly away”! 
By now it’s late!
By now it’s late!
And what a nostalgia…
What a nostalgia! 
By now it’s late!
By now it’s late!
And life
Goes on running away! 
And what a nostalgia…
And what a nostalgia!
And what a nostalgia!
And what a nostalgia! 
By now it’s late!
By now it’s late!

Featured photo: My grandmother and my brother at my grandma’s house in Billings, MT, probably 1959 or so…

My Submission to a Local Literary Magazine

Tasked to write about “A year like no other,” this is what I submitted. It’ll be nice to see my grandfather’s story in print if they accept it. ❤

The Hole in the Ground

We’re surrounded, inundated, addicted to, swamped by, trampled under, a cacophony of noise, news, social media, opinion, some presented intelligently, logically, some mindless, emotion-driven noise. I keep very quiet about a lot of things right now in this world of absolute, black and white, all or nothing points of view. I miss calm and rationality, and I wonder if I miss something that never existed. Some of the people I love most espouse views I deplore. Out of love, I hold my peace. We’re all in the same boat there. From my perspective, facts and science are too often ignored in what I see as a rebellion against reality. These tiring puzzles swarm around us like yellow jackets at a hummingbird feeder. 

Now I’m tasked to write a story about “a year like no other.” I’ve thought about “our year,” of course, our hardships. The thing is, humanity has lived through worse. My parents and grandparents lived through worse.

I have photographs to prove it. They were the “typical” pioneer, westward moving people, starting in the seventeenth century when the first one was shipped to Barbados from Scotland as a prisoner of war and worked as slave on a sugar plantation. At some point, for some reason that I do not know, he got his freedom, moved to Maryland, set himself up as a tobacco farmer then slave-owning planter, had children, some of whom didn’t stay home, but pressed westward across the Cumberland Gap, and so it went. Others? Arrived at different times. Some, Mennonites from Switzerland, arrived in 1743 escaping decades of religious persecution. Others fled the “starvin’” in nineteenth century Ireland, others hunger in Sweden. It’s the story of a lot of us.

My mother’s parents left their farms in Iowa to settle in Montana in the early twentieth century. Among their notable achievements was the founding of the first cemetery in Belfry, Montana. Why? Because their little boy died of pneumonia. Childhood mortality was a common feature of life until, well, today. My heart-broken grandmother couldn’t bear to stay in the beautiful valley (through which runs a tributary to the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River), so they moved east, to Montana’s high plains near Hardin, Montana. 

My grandmother — descendant of those Mennonites — and my grandfather — descendant of that Maryland planter — scraped out a life during the Great Depression. The whole family — parents and nine kids —  lived in a two-room log/sod house. They rented it and worked the farm for someone else. Down the road was the well where my grandmother filled the family cistern, a huge wooden barrel fixed to a sledge and pulled by the family’s two Percherons.

The horses were their livelihood. At one point, my grandmother supplemented what they made from the farm by driving the horse drawn school bus to pick up the farm kids and take them to school.

My grandmother and the horse-drawn schoolbus. Six of those kids are hers.

“At school, the town kids got hot chocolate for the snack,” my mom  — who was born in 1920 — used to tell me. “Because we were poor, they gave us vegetable soup. It wasn’t fair. We were poor, but we never went hungry. We lived on a farm. We had lots of vegetable soup, but we never had hot chocolate.” Their clothes were made of flour sacks and passed from kid to kid as were their shoes. My mom told the “uphill in the snow at forty below” stories, but I know the place, and those stories were true. Closing school for snow days or until it was 10 above zero? That wasn’t part of my mom’s life.

Every December, my grandfather read James Russell Lowell’s poem, “Snowbound” to his family, and got them through the winter by reading from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo every evening. Reading aloud and reciting poetry were their entertainment. They had no electricity.

Like any kid, I got sick of hearing my mom’s stories about the Depression, but they sank in. I grew up with a sense of gratitude for the advantages I’ve had, among them that my mom grew up in a family that valued education. 

My dad’s story was a little different. His granddad came over as a child from Ireland and ran away from home (Philadelphia) to work on ships that sailed the Great Lakes. He married a French/Finnish/Canadian woman and they ended up in Missoula, Montana, where they had two kids. My great-granddad was the sheriff of Missoula for quite a while. My granddad married the daughter of two Swedish immigrants. My grandmother’s mom, still in her 20s, died of diabetes, leaving behind three kids. My dad’s background was comparatively “urban” — his dad was a building contractor and store owner in Billings, Montana. My dad signed up for the army when he was 17, but he never saw action. His dad signed up, too and spent the war in the Aleutians. 

So here were these people — my people, all of our people — living ALL of this — drought, economic depression, world war, diseases with no cure, for which there was no vaccine, a world where stepping on a nail could kill people, where many had experienced the Spanish Flu epidemic, where kids died of polio or were crippled for life, living through the fear and deprivation brought by a World War. Like our world, it was a time of rapidly expanding technology (cars, typewriters, telephones, electricity, refrigeration, vaccines, antibiotics). I was always amazed that my Mennonite grandmother lived her whole rural, horse-driven life and then, in 1958, sat with six year-old me in a big easy chair to watch Sputnik on a black and white TV. She never got used to the telephone. When it rang she invariably jumped up and cried “Oh my Lord!” She sang hymns all day. 

In 1941 my grandfather (the descendant of the Maryland planter) wrote a short story that is a “photograph” of his world. It’s also the best short story I’ve ever read. Here it is:

The Hole in the Ground

S.A. Beall, Hardin, Montana, 1941:

Between my place and town there is a hole in the ground. A long time ago I noticed some boys digging. I stopped and looked. A small hole. They built a fire and I furnished the marshmallows. We roasted them and then they forgot the hole in the ground. Some played marbles and some flew their kites, but the next spring a new bunch of boys enlarged the hole, built a fire, I furnished the marshmallows and by then it was time to play marbles and fly their kites so year after year a new bunch of boys would enlarge the hole and finally we organized a club. We named it the hole in the ground. I was too old to dig so they elected me an honorary member with the title “Dad.” Every spring a new bunch of boys dig until the hole is big enough for a basement and then came Pearl Harbor. I would go to the depot to see the boys leave. Just boys they shout, “Bye Dad.”

S. A. Beal sometime in the 1950s with a cow and a calf, Billings, MT

So is this “a year like no other” or is it par for the course? I do know that thinking of the brave, tough, kind, enduring people from whom I’m descended has given me both hope and perspective when I head out the door to pick up my pre-ordered groceries, stuff a mask in my pocket, or meet my friends for a socially-distanced “Covid Tea Party” in which everyone brings their own drink. In those moments we suspend our moment and enjoy conversation and friendship and, when it’s over, we say, “That was wonderful. Thank you. We need this. It keeps us sane.” When it comes down to it, in our brief historical moment, the greatest gift we have is the love and friendship we bear for each other. 

Damned Anniversaries of Stuff

Today is my brother’s birthday. He would have been 67. For a couple of months every year he was only one year younger than I, a math puzzle it took me a while to figure out. In the picture he’s 43 and I’m 45. Were in Oregon, Yachats, at a Kennedy family reunion. Our matching shirts are from Mission Trails Regional Park, the design is mine. It’s a red tail hawk flying over a map of the park. It was a great family party on the beach. My aunt reserved an entire motel facing the ocean.

November 2 is also “Dia de los Muertos” or Day of the Dead in Mexican culture, and since I’ve lived surrounded by that culture most of my life, I never forget that. It actually kind of sucks.

I decided to “celebrate” with a trip out to the Refuge with my sweet friend, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog, while the cranes are here in full force. I don’t want to miss them. As soon as I turned on Bella, Mohammed’s Radio started to play, “We May Never Pass this Way Again” — yep. Kind of melancholy, considering whose birthday it is, but then Sirius did the whole magical radio thing and played the Medley from Abbey Road, the Beatles’ song I think of as my brother’s song. There are a lot of reasons for that, not very interesting generally, but…

I was so happy to be going out to my and Bear’s happy place and wondered, again and always, why my brother gave his life to alcohol when life is really incredibly wondrous and beautiful and amazing. Why didn’t he want it? I’ll never know and it’s a useless question. The song ended, I turned into the parking space, two guys who work there waved and smiled. They are used to me and my dogs.

And the cranes. I love watching them, listening to them, and learning about them by observing them. One thing I’ve observed is they never fly directly over me. I admire them for that. I could be a hunter. After 350 million years of surviving, they probably have that figured out but then..

…when I was barely paying attention, about a dozen flew directly over head in a V. I’m sure it was a mistake or they weren’t paying attention, but maybe they HAVE figured out that I’m just a harmless little lady standing there in wonderment. I suspect they’re quite intelligent.

Sometimes when many take flight suddenly after making a lot of racket, I can see the reason. Often it’s a raptor. I saw that today, a red-tail hawk circling a small group about 1/4 mile from me. One thing my hiking life has taught me is how to see things at a distance. It’s an art, I think. I always feel like a character in a James Fenimore Cooper novel when I spy an animal running a mile away — and I have. Last winter I saw an elk doe running hell bent for leather AWAY from something that I could’t see. I suspect a dog of some kind.

At our turnaround point, I sat down on a rock to watch the ducks on a canal and listen to the silence. It was finally so quiet that I even heard the cranes’ wings as they flew ALMOST over me. The ducks in the canal sounded like the were laughing, and there was much diving and quacking.

I could have stayed there all day.

Parental Advice

I don’t know how many girls get relationship advice from their dad more than from their mom, but I did. My dad had only ONE piece of advice and it found many ways to give it — little talks when we were in the car together, pop songs, at the supermarket, probably more. His words of advice were, “With men, MAK, follow the Monroe Doctrine.”

“Huh?”

“Well the Monroe Doctrine, honey, established the policy that the United States would not enter into binding contracts with foreign powers. It would form ‘no entangling alliances’.”

“What’s an ‘entangling’ alliances?”

“It’s an alliance that you can’t get out of. Remember, MAK. No entangling alliances.”

My mom, on the other hand, when she DID give advice, just said, “Your dad doesn’t understand that women are different.”

I think he’d figured that out, wink wink.

Then this song came out and my dad bought me the 45.



https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/09/21/rdp-monday-entangle/

Women in Early Climbing —

how did climbing shape your life?

High Clip from The Dihedral invited me to write a blog post for her series, Women in Early Climbing. I struggled because I’m not a climber. I told High Clip, “I don’t think I can write this, you see, I’m not a climber.”

She said, “I think you are.” She said I had a climber’s mentality. I returned to the problem and then I saw the long-term effect of my early climbing life on everything that happened afterward and the person I became, am, now. I hope you enjoy it!

Women in Early Climbing —

Grand design?

“Don’t join anything, Greg. You don’t know who’s collecting those lists.”

My cousin Greg was along with us on his way to his freshman year at the University of Chicago. We lived in Nebraska, part way there from Greg’s home in Billings, Montana. From Omaha, Greg would go on to Chicago. The plan was that he would help my dad, who was not getting around that well and tired easily because his MS had decided to get real. Greg could drive.

We’d just had a long, and for my dad tiring, vacation that included visiting family in Billings and Denver, a week in Yellowstone and the Tetons, a short visit to the Black Hills and Devil’s Tower on the way from Nebraska to Billings. I didn’t know it then, but it was my dad’s Beautiful Spots in Nature Swan Song.

“You never know what the government is going to do with those lists. You might think you’re joining a club and your name lands on some list in DC and you end up in jail.” My dad was very serious.

I was there for these conversations, but I didn’t understand them completely. I was 12 or so. Now I know my dad was referring to Joe McCarthy’s blacklists. My dad was afraid Greg’s whole life would be blown away because of a club he naively joined his freshman year in college.

My dad had grown to real adulthood during the Red Scare. While he truly hated Totalitarian Communism, even more than that he hated “the thought police” and believed fervently in individual rights. My dad was absurdly intelligent, definitely not a mainstream guy. “They” in my dad’s mind, were the “conformists,” who would try to make everyone the same. He loved Ayn Rand’s novels and I think he would have found the political party that has grown around them to be oxymoronic. My dad’s biggest fear for Greg was that he would end up on a list and lose his personal freedom.

Greg had never really been out of Billings, Montana. I imagine my dad also thought Greg might need extra preparation for the big city. Greg majored in theater which was part of my dad’s concern. So many Hollywood actors, directors, etc. had been persecuted during the McCarthy Witch Trials.

That November, when Greg came to us for Thanksgiving, he walked with me to junior high. We walked through the forest. When I came home the same way, I found Greg at the opening to the forest. He wanted to walk me home through the golden and red deciduous woods. It was 1964 and Greg told me that he was attracted to men. He asked me not to tell anyone. I told him I might tell my dad. As I remember it, Greg shrugged. Maybe he understood that I didn’t fully understand what he’d told me. Maybe he trusted my dad. All my dad said when I told him was, “I’m sorry to hear that. That’s going to make Greg’s life a lot more difficult.”

We got back to my house. Greg sat down at the piano and played — and sang — “I am a Pirate King” from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance in which he’d been cast. It was great.

Greg ended up dropping out of the University of Chicago and going back to Montana and finishing university at the University of Montana in Missoula where he majored in literature. He lived for a while in San Francisco, and ended up back in Missoula.

I didn’t see Greg again until he was in his fifties! We were at his mom’s house. The aunts were arguing about what they’d do if they had a million dollars. Greg showed me a book that had belonged to my grandfather, the essays of Thomas Carlyle. We talked about everything, then, to escape the noise, went outside into the snowy pasture. I took him to the back of the pasture where a local vet had built an immense “cage” to rehab raptors that had been injured one way or another. He died when he was 56.

I have thought often in recent months about what Goethe said, something to the effect that our lives depend on luck, specifically where, when and to whom we are born and at what point in the stream of history. That was Goethe’s response to the idea that our lives are motivated by a divine design. In OUR moment we have a lot of advantages that people born even, well, when I was born didn’t have. I got the measles and the mumps because there were no vaccines for them back in the 50s. My dad’s moment had (among other things) the McCarthy trials and the specter of the mind police looming over it. My cousin Greg’s moment considered his sexual impulse a crime.


https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/07/26/rdp-sunday-design/

Examples of the Gross Food My Mom Cooked

OK, I know a lot of people like these dishes and I’m not dissing you. But I hate them.

“What’s for dinner?” I might ask home from school.

If one of these was the answer I knew I was in for a salt-laden hell.

“Tuna casserole.” My mom never used noodles. She used potato chips.

“Creamed chipped beef on toast.” It didn’t just taste like someone had stirred pieces from the bottom of the Great Salt Lake in a pan with flour and milk, it looked horrible.

“I just can’t make you happy,” she said when I groaned or (oh my god!) didn’t eat (much) of the portion on my plate.

My dad called creamed chipped beef “army food” but he liked it. My brother liked it. My mom liked it, but I hated it. “You’re just fussy,” my mom.

There were other gross looking dishes that weren’t quite as terrible to eat. Creamed hard boiled eggs on toast.

Hamburger gravy on mashed potatoes.

Then there was boiled beef and potatoes which stank up the house. Even after all day in the pot, the beef might still be chewy. It might also fall apart. No way to know. When I was very small and didn’t understand three dimensions, I tried to hide it by sticking it under my plate where, at least, I couldn’t see it.

“Take that good meat out from under your plate, put it on your plate and eat it.” Followed by, “You’re going to sit there until you finish your supper.” It was a test of wills at that point.

I think my mom was a good cook, but the foods she enjoyed were just different from those I enjoyed. In order to make this blog post a little bit more interesting and less about my own personal experience, I did a little research into why taste preferences vary between people. I didn’t get any surprising information. Some of it is based on the associations we have with a particular food.

My mom grew up on a farm during the Depression, and I think creamed chipped beef on toast might have been both a treat and a kind of comfort food for her. In my mom’s world, as she was growing up, there were no refrigerators. Dried, salted meat was safe meat. I took a survey years ago. Not a Facebook quiz, but a legit quiz to determine what people believed was the greatest invention of the 20th century. Among the choices was refrigeration.

The boiled beef and potatoes? Home food for my mom. She lived in a world replete with vegetables but where meat could be scarce, and definitely not the fancy cuts.

I can’t speak to the tuna casserole except maybe she didn’t have taste receptors as sensitive to salt as I do. I guess that could be a product of our individual DNA, or her chain smoking.

My mom liked to cook and over time she tried out a lot of new recipes and made many delicious meals, but the memory of these old standbys from my school years could never be erased by prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. The was the ever present possibility of their return. I started cooking at age 7. My mom knew a good thing when it happened to her. She took advantage of what seemed to be my aptitude for the culinary arts and started teaching me. I was able to make stuff I liked like tacos and spaghetti (not together).

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/29/rdp-monday-salty/

Cloister

When I was a little kid I lived in Nebraska in a town whose eastern border was the Missouri River. This means that “my” Nebraska wasn’t the Nebraska of myth and legend — flat, treeless, grassland — but forest, bluff, and butte. Almost literally across the street from our house was a forest. It belonged to the Columban Fathers, the branch of the Roman Catholic Church that is concerned with books, publishing and missionary work.

The geography was a narrow strip of deciduous forest, a wide open meadow ruled over by an ancient oak tree, then a kind of road. To the right the road went past many strange relics of an arcane faith that had little meaning to a kid brought up American Baptist. At the end a life size Christ hung from a giant cross. Along the way was a “grotto” made of concrete to look like natural rock. Now I know it was meant to be Jesus’ tomb. If my memory is right, there was an angel somewhere on that very convincing concrete climbing wall (how we used it). The passage was lined with trees and, especially in fall, it was very lovely.

My brother took this from the top of the grotto. 1965


Beyond this passage was a real road but I never saw a vehicle on it. It led to the buildings of the cloister. We never went there. Instead we crossed it and went into the REAL forest. This is where things got good. There was a ravine across which we rigged a rope and tire. My brother rode that across the ravine — and I’m sure others did — but it wasn’t my thing. There were mulberry trees from which a friend and I once shook berries. There were my favorite; narrow trails to run on and, in winter, on which we could ride our sleds.

Above: a drawing I did a few years ago of my brother and me sledding at the Mission.

From time to time, we would see a monk walking between the trees, reading from a small book. I never thought they minded us being there, but in time a high fence was erected. We just went under the gate and went on as always. In the intervening years, the cloister has been built up and some of the forest is gone and the meadow is now an area filled with buildings, but…

Years and years later, when I read the life changing book, How the Irish Saved Civilization I learned something strange and wonderful. My “mission” was home to the spiritual descendants of one of the Irish monks who, with St. Gall, crossed the channel to bring books to Europe in the 6th century. Columbanus.

We live in innumerable parallel universes and are oblivious to many of those in which we live. “Here, Martha Ann, this will be very important to you someday.”

“What?”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/20/rdp-saturday-cloistered/

Intensity

The protests against the police brutality that killed George Floyd have gone on for 9 days? 10 days? Yesterday I found myself wondering what the goal is. When will protestors know they are finished or is it a thing now that will go on and on and on and on?

Last night is the first night I’ve slept since the protests started. If their goal was to make white people think about things they haven’t thought about before, it worked here. I wrote one blog post about (now set to private) and a letter to Obama (never sent).

There are things related to it that I haven’t thought of for decades, one of which is Louis Farrakhan. It’s a fact that not all white people are racist and not all black people are NOT racist. Farrakhan, who is an extremely angry man — has claimed that it’s impossible for black people to be racists. Any anger they feel toward the white oppressor is justified and any action taken against whites is legitimate. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Farrakhan — and his organization — as black nationalist and black supremacist.

He spoke once at the university where I was teaching. It was a hate fueled speech. It made the work of ordinary people — I’ll say ordinary white people — seem hopeless. The next day, when I got to school, I found the ground littered with 4 x 5 inch black and white flyers, printed with swastikas and the words, “White men built this country.”

One extreme brought out the other.

I picked up a couple of those flyers and took them home and stuck them in a drawer imagining a future collage that never happened. “It’s never going to work,” I remember thinking, “as long as entire groups of people categorically hate each other.”

~~~

In other news, the hike I’d planned with my friends yesterday didn’t happen. I texted everyone at 5 am yesterday and said, “I haven’t been sleeping. I’m going to keep trying.” or something. I finally went to sleep and woke up at 8:30 to see their texts. They answered immediately planning between them an alternative way that we could get together. It turned out to be a “Bring your own cuppa'” tea party in Elizabeth’s beautiful back yard.

The other thing on my phone when I woke up was a voicemail from the Good-X. I listened and then I screamed. He’d had a major heart attack and was in the hospital but he said, “They fixed me up.” I called him back after I’d had some coffee and got the whole story and answered some questions he had for me. As we were saying goodbye, I had to hold myself back from saying, “I love you.” How would he understand those words? Two people can have a terrible marriage and yet form a functional and mostly happy life together. We did for 12 years. His younger son is “my” son and between his family and me all the “I love you’s” are said often. In the “I love you” that I did not say are all the experiences we shared — China being one of them. Part of it, also, is “I get who you are now.” Instead of “I love you,” I said, “Come back and visit me. That was fun last time.” He and his step-grandson came through Monte Vista a few years ago on their way to Durango to meet his wife who was at a dahlia conference.

“I will. That was fun,” he said.

I told my friends about it at the tea party later. When I told them about wanting to tell my ex “I love you,” they understood. We talked about C-19, our encounters with people during this time, the weirdness, the beauty.. We laughed and did all the things that make friendships and, I think, for all of us, it was an incredible relief. None of us has been sleeping and as we talked about it, it seemed that our sleep was taking the same trajectory. Going to sleep, waking up thinking and then either getting up ungodly early or going to sleep a few hours later. I asked if they’d like to go on a evening hike to the Refuge with me when the skies and light are beautiful and the breeze is calm and fresh. Now we sort of have a plan.

Elizabeth’s husband, Bob, came out of the garage where he’s building a 1957 T-bird. I like talking to Bob and he likes telling me stories, so as my friends went off to cut rhubarb (some for me) Bob told me stories about airplanes. I don’t know that he always has a willing listener and the words just poured out of him. Later he came over and installed a new pneumatic spring on my storm door.

The day went on with curious intensity, culminating in a 1 1/2 hour phone call with my formerly lost cousin, Linda. We’re catching up on each others entire adult lives. She wanted to know about how my brother’s death affected me. That’s a long story. We talked about the deaths of the people we loved, a strange coda to my morning.

I was struck again that all we really have in this life are dreams, memories and the love we bear for others. That’s it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/rdp-friday-protest/