Cardiac CT Calcium Test

I went to the local hospital today and forked out $102 for a Cardiac CT Calcium Scoring test. Insurance doesn’t cover it yet. Even though it’s a fantastic diagnostic tool, it’s new.

Why did I do this? Well, my former sister-in-law having open heart surgery was the kicker for me. Added to that, my mom had had a stent inserted into her Carotid artery when she was about my age, and my bro had a stroke in his early 50s. I’ve been on “the usual” cocktail of meds for hypertension for the past 12 years.

In life’s flux, I KNOW ONE thing, and that is I owe my dogs my life. Sounds weird — even to me — but that’s what I learned from COVID. I have these two loving beings dependent on me, irrespective of the things I would like to do in my future, and I want a future. Living alone, this is really and truly 100% MY life even though I have friends who are definitely here for me. It is a matter of responsibility to myself.

The machine is pretty interesting. I think it might have been the first for me — though back in 1976, after I got hit by a truck, I dimly remember being in CT scanner to see if I had a skull fracture. Since I didn’t even get my name right after the truck, I am not sure what happened immediately after except some people picked me up off the street and took me to the hospital.

I was nervous today just being at a hospital, so my blood pressure was up. Normally, it isn’t. But, if my blood pressure were too high, the test wouldn’t work, so lying on the platform I did what I could to get my BP down. What was that? First I thought, “Go to your happy place.” I live in my happy place, so I imagined the Refuge with Bear on a wintry March day with the cranes. Then, I decided to recite poetry to myself and I recited Hopkins’ “The Windhover.” It worked and the test went fine.

The machine “speaks” — nothing too profound, just “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, hold your breath….you may breathe.” Doesn’t sound like much but being in a metaphorical state of mind from reciting poetry, it seemed pretty significant. Continuing to breathe is the whole point.

The test will go to a cardiologist who will evaluate it and send the results to my doc whose name is Heidi. If there are problems, I have to/should/can make lifestyle changes. The nurse said, “If you want to. That’s your choice.” There are some things I could do without cutting off a body part, but I draw the line at cream in my coffee.

If you’re interested, here is a list of the risk factors.

  • You are male and over 45 years of age.
  • You are female and over 55 years of age, OR you have passed menopause or had your ovaries removed and are not taking estrogen.
  • Your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55 OR your mother or your sister had one before the age of 65.
  • You smoke OR you live/work with someone who smokes regularly.
  • You have a total cholesterol level of 240 or higher.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You are 20 pounds or more overweight.
  • You do NOT exercise at least three times a week.
  • You have diabetes OR you need medicine to control your blood flow.

Here’s an article about the procedure. The featured photo is the two bull bison who live at the ranch in front of my hospital/clinic. The females and calves are separated from the boys for now. Along with the bison, I watched a retail hawk swoop down from a tree to pick something.

Here’s “The Windhover” — Hopkins was a Jesuit priest. I didn’t recite it perfectly but so what?

The Windhover

Gerard Manley Hopkins – 1844-1889

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-  
  dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding  
  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding  
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing  
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding  
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding  
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!  
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here  
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!  
  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion  
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,  
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion. 

Vases and Pitchers…

Typical morning here in Heaven with Bear chewing her morning rawhide and Teddy waiting for his coffee(cup). The eliminating of unwanted fardles continues apace, and yesterday I went at the top shelf in the kitchen cupboards to discover that in that terra incognita was a LOT of dust. I could hear the entire maternal side of my family saying, “You could plant potatoes.”

The cupboard is near the back door so who’s surprised? I packed up most of it for the thrift store, but I listed my mom’s Roseville vase on eBay along with a terrifying number of OTHER mother’s (and grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s) Roseville vases. The good news is that someone has bid on it, and I will be able to pack it up and ship it out in a week or so. Why oh why didn’t I save all that bubble wrap?

Last time I went to the thrift store with stuff I was turned away because they didn’t take donations on Monday. Their sign had blown down the road so how was I to know that? It was kind of amusing because I was parked right by the intake door. I had two bags. I am SURE the woman who warned me off was wondering why I didn’t put up a fight of some kind, you know, say something logical like, “Well, it’s just two bags and I’m here now.” But I didn’t. I honestly didn’t care enough besides, she should have said it, but no one did so they’re in the garage soon to be joined by a box of stuff. The shelf is empty and free to gather all the dust it wants.

Among the stuff I’ve found in this long adventure are a few photos of my family (featured photo). Back in the Little League days, my brother, who was adamantly NOT a sports guy, wanted to be a pitcher. His big sister, who was adamantly a sports person, wanted to play centerfield. That worked out pretty well since I played centerfield with a well-padded first-baseman’s glove so I could play catcher while my little brother worked on his pitching. “Against the fence, kids,” said my dad, “So you don’t break any goddamned windows and you don’t have to chase the goddamned ball.”

My dad was given to florid language. Meaning, gratuitous cursing 🙂

We spent many summer days in the backyard training. Unfortunately, my brother never got to play pitcher on his little league team. He played right field most of the time, the field where nothing much ever happens. He was so not into the game that, often, he didn’t even come in to bat when his team was up. Once in a while his coach would yell at him, “Kennedy! You’re up!” meaning it was my brother’s turn to bat. Sometimes my brother would come in and sometimes not.

I wonder what he was thinking about out there.

Wrestling with Precious Papers, and Time…

Just shredded all the letters but one from my life’s first great love. They go back all the way to 1971 and stopped sometime in the 80’s. There were some emails in the early 2000s. I last saw him in 2004 at the airport in Atlanta. It was a wonderful meeting wherein we said what we needed to say to each other.

At first I wasn’t sure what to do with this manila envelope filled with airmail letters from Europe, Asia and Africa covering all those years. I found a way to contact him to see if he wanted them, then I thought, “You’re REALLY going to email this guy out of nowhere and ask him if he wants those letters?” I imagined doing that, letting it play out in my mind in all the ways it could and decided, “No. Do both of you a favor. Go shred them.” I saved one he wrote when the Good-X and I were in China. It is a reply to the first letter I sent him from China and it’s wonderful.

I shredded letters from me to my mom and my mom to me when I was at Colorado Woman’s College in 1970, but I saved the note she sent to my high school asking them to let me go early so I could help put my dad in an ambulance to take him to Penrose Hospital for cortisone treatments for his MS. It brought up a vivid, vivid image of coming home that afternoon to find an ambulance in the driveway with the doors open and the light flashing on top. Why? It wasn’t an emergency. I don’t remember how I helped. The paramedics did the work. I think it was moral support. My mom and I rode in the ambulance to the hospital with my dad. The ACTH therapy helped him and when he came home his life was less of a struggle for a little while.

There were a couple of letters from my mission trip in 1968 to Crow Agency where my mom taught in the 1940s. 16 year old girls are pretty silly 😉 I was thinking of that trip the other day as I was scraping flaked paint off my deck. I imagined someone asking, “Where did you learn to do that?”

I’d say, “On a church mission trip to the Baptist Mission at Crow Agency, Montana.”

The trip was absolutely magical BECAUSE of my mom’s connection and because I went there with that connection. I looked for the people she had known and met some of them. Our group got to attend a Crow funeral service (Crow + Catholic) at the St. Xavier Mission at sunset one June evening — and a June sunset after a thunderstorm in south central Montana is incredible, golden and slanty with a rainbow — all beyond words. The service was all in Crow.

My mom spoke Crow adequately, and when I was a kid she used Crow words to (secretly) get my brother and me in line when there were other people around. Two of the first words I learned in any language were “Stop that” and “Come here” in Crow. I learned more words when at Crow on the mission trip, and I haven’t forgotten all of them.

The whole thing was a strange journey for me first, because I’d been at Crow often. My aunt and uncle had run the general store there for many years. And then, we weren’t there to learn about the Crow or “fraternize.” We were there to live our very white segregated lives and paint the church. That made no sense to me.

I got in trouble on that trip because I took off with an Indian kid (really a kid about 10) on horseback. We rode along the Little Bighorn River. When I got back from that ride, I was in terrible trouble. Because of me the planned trip to Yellowstone Park on the way back to Colorado Springs was scrapped. Peculiar thing to punish everyone for the actions of ONE person, but there it was.

We live so many lives in our lifetimes. Anyway, that plastic bin the size of a boot-box was the hardest one to deal with — to my knowledge. There may be other booby traps as I continue this shredding operation, but none like that. As I shredded, it occurred to me that the papers and souvenirs aren’t my life, anyway. They are just a kind of reassurance that all that really happened and that all those beloved people were real. I feel a little melancholy, but I know in a day or two I’ll just feel lighter.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again…

I have watched a couple of films from the early 80s — box office films from back when I was too cool and arty-farty for that. And too broke. They do reflect the times (1980/81) and both of them I’ve watched so far were good enough. They weren’t superficial and the characters were 3 dimensional. One was Starting Over the other was Rich and Famous. Neither was a great work of art, but the women in the films were, though not quite my age peers at the time (they were older), going through a lot of the same things I was going through (divorce, career, confusion) at the same time. No one was fabulously rich — at least not in the beginning. Their teeth were not white beyond human brushing abilities, and even when they changed costume, they sometimes put on the same outfit (oh no!!!) I don’t remember the clothes being so ugly, but I guess they were, but there were some cool shirts.

Female identity was a theme in both films, and it was very murky. All the women in the films were trying to sort THAT out. At the time these movies came out I was doing pretty much what the women in the films were doing — graduate school, trying to sort out a life post-divorce, and, past that, a life on my own. What DID I want to be when I grew up? Their apartments looked similar to my apartments. Their boyfriends looked like mine. Their dilemmas were similar to mine.

It was interesting time travel. The films made me think of a quality I wish I had more of as a person and that is emotional courage. I don’t have much of that. I’ve made some mad leaps but (usually) without the emotional courage to follow through. Leaps should not lead to a pocket of black doubt and easy discouragement, but that’s what has always happened. I guess I was primed for that realization because yesterday I also lifted the veil covering the shelves, protecting the books from dust (it’s a burlap bag that once held organic Guatemalan coffee) and looked at a few of the volumes of The Examined Life. They are full of emotional doubt — well, there’s other stuff too — but a lot of emotional doubt. The final volume — 2005 — ends with a note I wrote a couple of years ago summarizing the whole mess when I went through them and put dates on each book. Love requires the most emotional courage and remains a complex and inscrutable question throughout the 23 volumes.

Watching the old movies — and looking at the last few years of The Examined Life (2000-2005) — I was struck also by how many lives we all live — how many I’ve lived and the streams of people who’ve wandered through my lives. There are letters from students, and photos of them pursuing their dreams and thanking me for the encouragement. There are emails from a friend who meant a lot to me for a long time, who died suddenly of a coronary. All of these lives and lives and lives.

Yesterday ahead of the Fabulous Tea Party which will take place today I went to Del Norte to pick up a centerpiece. The florist/gift shop/coffee house is run by some Mennonite women. I like them a lot. The young woman who helped me asked what it was for. “Oh, my friends and I are having a little tea party tomorrow.”

“That sounds nice,” she said. “Is it a special occasion?”

“Well, my neighbor is Swedish, my grandma was Swedish and the party is for St. Lucia’s day which is actually next Monday but that won’t work for us to get together.”

“What do people do on St. Lucia’s day?”

I told her about the oldest daughter, the crown of candles, of 12 days leading up to Christmas. “It’s sweet and beautiful,” I said.

“Have you been to Sweden?” she asked me.

“No, but I’d like to go. In winter. I like snow,” I said. We’re all wanting snow down here right now.

“Oh! I would too! I’d love to go to Sweden.

I heard something in her voice that struck a chord in me. Wanderlust. A unmarried Mennonite girl with wanderlust. I wanted to buy her a plane ticket and then make THAT film. ❤


Sometimes in our lives we’re just cruising along living day-to-day, doing OK, enjoying our lives enough, overall fine but not filled with fire and enthusiasm over any of it, just kind of muddling along, unaware and unconscious and something happens that throws our life in front of us so we see it for what it is and we see our achievements for what they are and we feel knocked over with gratitude to the external factors that helped us along but also grateful — proud — of ourselves for what we’ve overcome and who we are. I know this is one of the purposes of events like graduations and maybe even weddings, but when it isn’t tied to any life-measuring moment or something it’s very special. Most of the time I think we humans think in terms of what we hoped to do and didn’t or couldn’t or gave up on, all that, so-called “failures.” For me, anyway, it’s not always easy to see where things are right because sometimes some of the most right things don’t fit the mold, the pattern, the expectations, but they are, for us completely and totally right.

I had such an experience yesterday. I won’t go into the details because HOW I got here doesn’t matter — I think it would be unique for everyone.

But wow. All day today I’ve thought of a couple of lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day.” The poem doesn’t hit me, but the end does. I first read those lines as title of a book I judged for the contest, the memoir of a woman and her husband who’d built schools in Africa. The title of the book is My Wild and Precious Life. It’s a really good book and I recommend it. The poem ends with:

I do know how…to stroll through the fields
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Suddenly, yesterday, it hit me that I couldn’t have done better given the hand I was dealt and the person that I am. I felt so much gratitude for the fates that landed me in that 3 bedroom tract house in Nebraska across from a forest from which I learned who my best friend through life would be. Yesterday I felt fully how much that has meant to me and how well it has served me, still serves me. As I composed that little poem in response to a small challenge, I realized that I have been writing one poem since my very first poem when I was 10. I’ve written other poems, but that has been my poem. Sometime when I’m not so lazy I’ll go find that first poem and transcribe it here. Maybe. 😉

So what will I do with my “one wild and precious life?” I’ll keep going on as I have been. ❤

Here’s Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day”.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

BIG Questions

It seems that for all it’s feet-dragging and lallygagging, this year has gone by fast. Yesterday I went out and picked some apples with Elizabeth. She’s a real cook. I’m not. I only wanted a few. The best thing about it was the beauty of the apples on the tree.

So I took some photos and brought home four or five apples. The birds, deer and raccoons need their fair share, too.

I have so many incredible memories. Some of my discomfort lately is that I don’t want to live in them, but I’m not sure where to go. Yesterday I got somewhat jazzed at the thought of returning to San Diego for my upcoming milestone birthday (who said? Oh yeah, the Bible…) I checked airfares, AirBNBs, planned the trip in my mind and woke up this morning knowing that isn’t happening. I’ve been there and done that. Without a time machine, the trip I would take is impossible.

Last night I read an article about a guy from California who, sight unseen, bought a house in Billings, MT. He was happy because it was so inexpensive ($719,000). That’s NOT the Billings, MT I knew, but nothing is the “Billings, MT” I knew. He has the idea (illusion?) that Billings is healthier than California. No. I guess he hasn’t seen the giant, graphic billboards advising people not to use meth… I’m sure he’s never lived through a Montana winter with two weeks of -40 F temperatures and little sunlight. I love Montana but like all places it’s REAL.

People do so many things based on their idea of how things are. Me too. All the time. He has the idea that Billings is not moving as fast as California; he’s not thinking that every person like him who makes that leap is changing Billings (and all other places…)

Change is the nature of things, maybe particularly (but not only) in the human-driven world of which I am a part. Resistance to change is a huge power in human reality. It’s been a “force” leading to some of the bigger problems we as a species confront today.

I remember when I was growing up there were markers on the trail in front of me. Starting school. Becoming a woman. Getting into college. Graduating (several times). Finding a job. Getting married. All clear markers, markers one could reach, ignore, reject or fail. The marker ahead of me at 70 doesn’t bear thinking about, and I realize that THAT is the kicker.

After Elizabeth and I finished picking apples, we took some to my next-door neighbor. We chatted for a long time together and “the” subject came up. “After 60, stuff starts happening,” said my neighbor.

I’ve often lobbied (unsuccessfully) for humans to be born with a little book that details the health pitfalls and challenges ahead of them. Silly as that sounds, we are born with that. Science is slowly gaining access to the litany of likely health problems waiting for everyone.

I’ve taken a DNA test and it’s pretty much told me stuff I already knew though in many cases I didn’t know there was an actual gene defining it. Here are a couple of things I found very amusing/interesting. One is apparently I am genetically predisposed to consume more caffeine than most people and I am more likely to run very fast in short bursts. The results of the test have been accurate so far but, in some cases, pretty meaningless as, with most traits, I’m “average.” Average based on WHAT??? I have no idea. Most people in the world through all time or most people who’ve taken the test? 😀 It doesn’t matter.

We can see a lot of the content of our personal “little books” by observing the older members of our family. In my family, a lot of things happened, but among those who were not self-destructive, were very long, productive lives.

I’m totally down with that, if that’s what’s in my little book, and if that ISN’T written in my little book, it doesn’t change anything. The thing is, I want the road ahead — even with its single, definitive marker — to be an adventure-filled interval of discovery as my whole life has been. The challenge now is to discover what constitutes adventure at this point in my life? What do I want to discover?

More Dogcor than Decor…

I’m not sure decor has much to do with my way of life. I don’t want to live in an ugly or messy place. I vacuum and dust daily, and I hate clutter, but the idea of decorating a room or a house is a little beyond me. I know a lot of people look forward to their first home that’s theirs and not a rental because they can decorate it themselves, their way. Anyhow, I heard that a lot when I was younger. That requires money and interest in decorating — two things that I’ve never had in plentitude. Then there’s the reality that every new thing starts wearing out as soon as we start using it, and the novelty of things really does wear off. SO…

The stuff in my house is (most of it) inherited from someone. My little antique desk belonged to a friend who was — yep, redecorating. My two Chinese scholar cabinets came from an estate sale via the local flea market/store. My antique Chinese table — used as a coffee table — swap meet in California. My sofa? I bought it already in the house (thank goodness or that first night I’d have no where to sleep!) The antique lawyer’s shelves and sewing machine are family relics. In my room? A bed I actually chose and bought (yep I did that), a Chinese armoire I drove a hundred plus miles to get. Maybe that room has decor. Otherwise? It’s a bunch of bookshelves and books and Chinese carpets. And dogs. They are all cool things, but I’d never call it “decor.”

When I look at pictures of decorated rooms, I’m drawn to the opposite of my own ambient reality. I like these. 🙂

The only time I attempted to actually decorate was when I was selling my house in California. I think I did OK. They buyers wanted the house and everything in it. I regret that I didn’t bring the tiger chairs with me and the sofa — while it wouldn’t have fit through the door of my house now or in my living room — was the most comfortable sofa in the world.

House in Descanso, CA

Maybe it’s the same for everybody. Real life never fits the ideal. My friends like visiting me and feel comfortable in my house. I think that’s the important thing. ❤

O the Places You Will Go

Today’s “Rag Tag Daily Prompt” is “Tangled Shoelaces” and my fourth thought on this topic is Velcro. When the little girl who lives up the alley comes to visit me, the bright pink laces on her shoes are ALWAYS untied. It drives me crazy. The first words out of my mouth are not “Hi Michelle!” as they should be, but, instead, the first words are, “Tie your shoes!” Then I’m amazed to be an adult telling a kid to tie her shoes. SO my next thought is “How did I get to be that grownup?” and then I understand.

I love Michelle. I don’t want her to fall on her way to see me. I was saying, “I love you, little girl, for the love of god, DON’T FALL!

Among the “souvenirs” I unearthed a couple days ago, and in the same folder with the dog stories, is the first really good short story I ever wrote. I was working at the law firm. My desk and typewriter were in an immense room (pre-cubicle working world) with a dozen other secretaries and paralegals not to mention the sainted word processing machine and its operator. I didn’t have anything to do so I sat there and dreamed of faraway places and wrote stuff, including the story I found yesterday. I sent it to the New Yorker back then. Of course, it was rejected but with a REAL note, “I’m sorry. I tried. It’s a good story.”

I was 27 at the time I wrote it. I was living about a mile from the 17th Street law firm where I worked, and I walked to and from work every day. Those walks are a large part of the story. The story itself is about my dad, my maternal grandmother and my relationship with them.

It was painful to read, not because it’s poorly written (it isn’t) or anything like that, but because so much has happened in the 40 odd years that have passed since I wrote it (for the most part odd) that the very serious things in the story seem far away and juvenile. After I read it I put it away in the folder (but I didn’t toss it!) and thought, “Well, that’s embarrassing.”

Later, I thought about that young woman (I was) and thought, “How could she possibly have KNOWN? She did the best she could with what she had. It’s not embarrassing. What if she were your student? What would you say to her? You wouldn’t say the story is embarrassing. You’d say, ‘Nice work! Keep writing’. Why are you harder on your former self (selves) than you’d be on anyone else? You didn’t pop into the world completely finished, sweet cheeks.”

True enough.

I remembered how she (I) had written and written and written but really had NO story. The reality is that young woman had THAT story, and she wrote it.

“Good for you,” I thought. “That’s what matters. Write the story you have.”

It took years and a lot of scary life experiences for me to find my story. There was no way I could have known it would be where I found it or even that there was such a place in the whole world. I couldn’t have known what it would be. It was far far far away from anything I could possibly have imagined in 1979. The ONE thing I understood in 1979 was that reality is stranger than any imagined world.

Light as a Feather

In the last few days I’ve come to see that the “powers” (whoever and/or whatever they are) has taken me in hand, thrown me onto the ground, forced me to slow down, to ask for help, to return “home”. My friend in Colorado Springs really needed my help as he pulls together the first class he’s taught in a few years and he wanted me to stay longer than the three nights I’d originally planned. Other friends wanted to hang out with me (and vice versa). My short journey turned into a very nice — if painful — week once I resigned myself to the fact I wasn’t going anywhere.

More resonant words by the Bronc Riding Philosopher Plumber, “I’m not going up to Denver. If my family wants to see me, they can come down here. I don’t see any good reason to leave the San Luis Valley. I don’t go up there any more.”

I laughed and said, “Yeah. If I hadn’t gone to Colorado Springs, I wouldn’t have hurt my shoulder.”


Once I got home? Same story. There was a moment when I actually thought, “Why do all these people want to see ME?” I still think that’s a little odd, but I also think my wonderment is a little odd. It isn’t that friendship isn’t important to me — it is very important to me — but this past year shifted my orientation somewhat from what friendship means.

I can’t speak for every introvert out there, but my need for people is possibly different from the need extroverts have. I can’t even really define it. Random or brief contact is nice. Long, heart-felt conversations are nice. Socializing for the sake of socializing gets a little uncomfortable. So, I live here…

But we do need each other. We need to be able to walk outside our front door, take a quick survey of our personal ambient reality and feel, “God’s in his Heaven and all’s right with the world.” We all know that the “future is uncertain, etc.” We need to know that the present moment, anyway, this one is doing pretty OK overall. It occurs to me that’s exactly what we lost over the past few years.

Is it a luxury, or entitlement, to think we “deserve” that when so much of the world DOESN’T have the slightest possibility of that? When the water heater went out I thought, “OK.” I didn’t see it as a huge problem. I’d heat water on the stove and carry on as long as I had to.

When I called the plumbing company the woman who took my call said, “We’re really backed up (what an admission for a plumbing company!) but, wait. You don’t have any hot water? OK. I’m pushing you up the list, ahead of the leaky faucets.” The plumber was here first thing the next morning because not having hot water was an “emergency.” In China all the showers were cold. Only the “final rinse” was warm, water heated in a bucket on the stove. Of course, in summer, the water tank on the roof of our building heated a bit in the sun and that was nice, but a year of cold showers didn’t kill me. It was what it was and it was OK. Was that resignation or was it acceptance? There’s a fine line.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been striving for in my own tiny little life and the recent hammering by “the powers” seems to be helping me get there. And… in the high country north of here it snowed last night. Oh, I hope “the powers” have a snowy winter in mind this year, not the kind that traps people on the highway or causes avalanches and breaks trees and kills birds, but the normal snow that falls softly on a dry and confused world, slows time, soothes the people, satiates the fields and gives joy to me and my dog.

“Have another hit of fresh air”

I’m about to get a shipment of books to read and evaluate for a contest, I have a ton of plywood out there ready to cut, prime and paint, and it’s looking like a dry winter. Yesterday, in the middle of painting a garden sign, I realized I’ve waited my whole life for the chance to be an artist and nothing else. Part of the liberation of 2020. I heard from my Chinese brother (who lives in Ontario). The last time we communicated was at the beginning of the pandemic and he expressed his great concern that something would happen to me, but it was he who got Covid, struggled a long time and, with the help of Chinese medicine, recovered. I’m drinking my coffee and preparing to go to Alamosa to pick up my groceries, which, until April, I had never done before; just couldn’t get organized to do it as much as I hated shopping. Behind everything this morning, I’m listening to music from 1970 right now thanks to my favorite Chicago radio station, WXRT, a soundtrack to another moment in my life of fast changes. In 1970 I graduated high school, got my first real broken heart, realized that my fight for my dad’s life was probably a losing battle but it would be a couple more years before I could accept that.

I’m enumerating all this because it all seems almost surreal. We are one tiny pinky toe into a new year and it’s going to take a while for us to solve the problems we carry with us, BUT one of the most dangerous things we carry with us is the wish for things to “go back to normal.” It was only “normal” because we were used to it. So, as I turned the page on 2020 and looked at the first month on my new wall calendar (yeah, I use one; it has pictures of Italy) I thought, “All this is arbitrary,” but it’s really more than that.

I don’t WANT to return to the person I was “before.” I don’t want to go back to whatever it was I was doing. I don’t want to forget what I learned about myself during this time. I guess that is as personal a decision as it has been to live a semi-hermit life, mask up when I have to, and generally avoid the Flying Spaghetti Monster as much as possible. So, yeah, hello, 2021. I’m glad you’re bringing a vaccine and the end of Trump’s reign of ignorance and fear. I wish you the best. You have a hard battle ahead of you. And goodbye 2020, I’m not altogether sure you deserve the bum rap you’re getting. You were nothing more than the time required for the sun, as we see it, to return to an arbitrary reference point in the sky. There is no real “hello” or “goodbye.” It’s just seasons and the sun’s apparent motion along Earth’s tropical zones.

I had this in my mind when I woke up this morning, from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, my dad’s “Bible.”

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help – for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

My experiences in and with 2020 have enforced my idea that our lives are what we make them. We’re handed circumstances and what we do with them, how we live with them, makes the difference in our lives, revealing and making us who we are.