I blew it and it was unintentional

Burt’s been studying Spanish with an on-line program called Duolingo. Duolingo keeps track of how many days you log in and practice. If a student makes it to ten days in a row they get extra points added to their score. You can use points to upgrade the all free features. Burt says he’s setting a record of one day streaks. I guess  I just hit reset around here, too, and it was simply forgetfulness. I had a window in my very busy day and when that window arrived I did diddly. It didn’t even pass through my mind. What does that tell me? Time for a mini-break.

Yesterday was tennis at 8:30. Sunday morning is a round robin event that gets on our nerves. We rarely partake. Too much yakking not enough playing. We did it any way. Some people like to socialize. I like to do stuff. I was even asked to explain how I can be involved in all the activities we are involved in and my disdain for hanging with people. I was like, “Seriously?” To me this is unexplainable. If a person can’t understand loathing chatting and loving singing a song or chasing a tennis ball or playing cards there’s a wide gulf in socio-perception between us.  Doing something with people is fun. Talking about things with more than one other person: agony. Okay, maybe two other people and Burt is okay. Call me an introvert that likes to play and work. No small talk, please.

After tennis, which ended at 11:00, was the break. Of course, we ate lunch. Then we lounged. Brain discarded all thoughts. At 2:00 we played music at a memorial service for a guy we barely knew but was a fixture in my daily life. Brian used to come to our shows when they were at the local pizza joint. He lived in teh RV park where I take yoga. I saw him several times a week. We’d say, hello and exchange pleasantries. Cue social agony. With nothing more to say I’d usually head for home. Brian was very nice and very helpful. His last major ‘help thy neighbor’ feat was helping Rosemary and Ed strap their camper onto their truck. He was dead four days later. He even joked with Rosemary (she and Ed are much better at chatting with people. That’s why they can be campground hosts and we can’t.) that he might not live to next year. He knew (and I did) that he was very ill. Rosemary had not heard the news.

So we played his memorial feast and got a great gift in return. Brian did not like music but he came to hear us because Althea and Paty liked music. Althea was his wife and Paty was their neighbor. He once told Paty, “I don’t like music, but I like the Gypsy Carpenters. They are real. They are working man’s music.” There you have it. A gift of appreciation from the dead. We are working class and proud to have included a former commercial fisherman in our fold of fans. We played his favorite song Sixteen Tons.

I hope today’s blog was worth the wait.

 

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Commitment

Me
Me

Woweeee, we made it. Day 31 of the 31 day Art Journaling/Blogging Challenge by Zoë Dearborn. Wow. Just wow. Years past this would have been very difficult due to data limitations. I feel compelled to thank Verizon for including roaming in Mexico in my data package. Thanks to you, dear readers, for following along. Several of you have mentioned you’ll miss the daily posts. I can’t thank you enough. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue the streak. Help me out by sending in your questions and ideas if you have something you want to know. It can be about the natural world or my inner life or anything else. All ideas considered.

Today’s subject is commitment. This month has found us neck deep in commitments. I like it this way. We’ve got each other and the Olvis and Mimi. We’ve got tennis and music and Spanish. The neighborhood kids. We count on them and they are counting on us. As I search for something to say to sum up the writing and thinking and feeling of this month I come up with that aphorism of a few days ago, “Just show up.” My commitment is to continue showing up. Here on the interwebz, at my classes, for the kids, on the fretboard of life. And I commit to putting out oranges for the birds. I hate chores but I’ll commit to slicing open and putting out oranges even though it makes my hands feel sticky and I’m scared of the knife. It’s a really big knife. The rewards are worth the discomfort and risk. It’s  an analogy for writing and life.

This practice has shown me how much I enjoy thinking and writing. It’s renewed my interest in what I can learn by taking the time and working deeply even for just a short time a day. As I tell all beginning music students that ask our advice, “The secret is ten minutes a day, every day. An hour once a week will not get the job done.” Thank you, Zoë for prodding and feeding back and inspiring.

the kids in the neighborhood.
the kids in the neighborhood.
Our place in the world
Our place in the world
Orange
Orange
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In Summary

Sunset at Roc's place
Sunset at Roc’s place

On January 1st we had just arrived in Pescadero, Mexico and I was wondering if I would lose my mind to the ant invasion. A month later I am on the cusp of completing a thirty-one day marathon of writing every day. It’s a first in the seven year history of this blog. I didn’t see that coming. Recently I’ve felt like I had nothing to say. I just needed a little motivation and some fresh ideas. Many thanks to Zoë for her stupendous work pushing us along. A long time ago I thought I’d love to be a newspaper or magazine columnist. Celestine Sibley of the Atlanta papers reeled me in with her clarity and down to earth observations of a regular life. Her writing made the mundane spiritual. When I started this blog I thought of it as my chance to be my own columnist. I could write about whatever caught my fingers as Burt and I wandered the country working and playing. Over the years I wished I had some things Celestine had that I lack: an editor feeding me ideas and creating a deadline, a copy writer clearing up my grammatical challenges, a wider audience (for more ideas), and a salary. This writing project gave me a wider audience, a deadline, and new ideas. I didn’t see that coming.

Today’s assignment is to take stock of what we’ve accomplished. My first post of the year exhorted us to be nice. I believed we are going to need a lot of nice. I still believe it. But I also believe we are going to need some backbone and deep reflection on our core values. It’s a time of action. I hope you all are doing what you can to make your concerns heard. Know that I am.

This month we achieved transition into our Mexican lives. We are playing tennis, teaching music, losing and learning at bridge, studying Spanish, eating well, staying cool and warm, visiting friends, doing yoga and writing. We have lost some sleep over our health insurance. We have grave concerns about the choices we will have to make if we lose coverage. We are grateful we have choices we can make. We can stay in Mexico where health care is affordable. We can move to a state that has a good public health system. We can try to get jobs with health insurance that doesn’t exclude pre-existing conditions. We shall see. We shall stay vigilant and try to make a rational decision if the system changes.

Two nights ago Burt and I went birding. Our friend Roc had texted about a flock of dark birds roosting outside his home every night. A raucous bunch of dark things coming in just at dusk. Burt and I thought, let’s go and figure this out as if we could do something a perfectly capable guy like Roc couldn’t do. Ha! We arrived at 5:30. Roc owns an organic farm halfway between town and the beach. His home is nestled in some palms and carrizal. The birds like the thick, bambooish carrizal. Burt and I quietly sat in two different spots. Burt on the roof overlooking Roc’s fields and me on the steps with Capi, Roc’s assistant. Roc was texting for updates from Cabo. Capi assured me the birds come every night. WE sat still. A Xanthu’s, an oriole, a white-winged dove. Nothing more for 25 minutes. Quiet. Darkness falling. Slowly darkness descends but them suddenly it is too dark to see. Right at that moment the tiny birds started darting from I-don’t-know-where and landing in the hedge not ten feet away. They were loudly singing and chattering. I could imagine them saying, “How was your day?” “Meh, some seeds, some bugs…the usual.” We couldn’t see anything but small black silhouettes. I tried to find the call on iBird. I made a recording of their nightly debriefing and emailed it from the scene to two friends in Portal, Arizona.  I felt like a naturalist using my skills at observation and problem solving. We realized there was no hope of a visual spot. The birds all disappeared deep into the bushes. We went home.

I listened to my recording and compared it to the ones on my phone. I narrowed the bird down to a sparrow. It sort of made me feel better. I can hardly identify sparrows during the day. A night ID would be impossible. The next morning the word came back from Portal that indeed it was a flock of sparrows. White-crowned sparrows. Oddly, coincidentally, ironically? White-crowned sparrows are one of the few I can identify in sufficient light.

Here’s the obituary for Celestine Sibley. She had quite a career.

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Write About an Important Object

Mom's wedding ring
Mom’s wedding ring. Inscribed With Love AJZ to PER 8-22-64

I thought about a number of different objects for today’s writing. Mandolin, fiddle, iPhone? But this month I get more comfort spinning this ring on my right ring finer than playing music or surfing the internet. I pull it on and off. I fiddle with it a lot. As a child I always liked the magnitude of this wedding band. It’s grand and stylish. Purely of the age. My brother says there was a different one she wore before this. He’s probably correct. There was definitely one after this. The last one. A Dynasty-era engagement ring/wedding band amalgamation custom made to Mom’s specifications. Her large solitaire set in a sea of smaller stones. Flashy. Even heavier. She was always remodeling stones and pieces she found or inherited to suit her current tastes. Mom did this with houses, too. The ring I wear is the one I associate with her and it fits me style and size wise. She wore it through the seventies. I inherited it last month.

To me this ring symbolizes a long and dynamic relationship, a successful but not easy marriage. It represents the idea that things can change and not lose their relevance. It takes me to a master bedroom where we watched Star Trek and played with mom’s treasures. The room was small, the bed spongy. Mostly we lay on the floor. Mom kept the bed as her space. We all outgrew the gap between the foot of the bed and the dresser where the TV stood. Our feet climbing higher and higher up the drawers as our heads rested on the foot board. Mom had to walk over us to get to the bathroom. I felt safe in that space with the TV on.

The ring also represents the union that created me just 10 months after their marriage. The first accident. My brother Christian, the second accident, came thirteen months later. They thought she couldn’t get pregnant so easily. Both times. The last kid, Matthew, spaced 3 years after the second, was planned.

This ring pleases me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hmmm. Struggling here.

OCW ready for a bath
OCW ready for a bath
This orange crowned warbler is still not showing its orange crown.
This orange crowned warbler is still not showing its orange crown.
Another new bird eating oranges. Cactus wren.
Another new bird eating oranges. Cactus wren.
Ed and Burt
Ed and Burt
The gang. Our last night together in Mexico.
The gang. Our last night together in Mexico. Dots is Janet’s mighty cat. He’s not afraid of anyone.
Getting the camper on top of the truck.
Getting the camper on top of the truck.

Here is the writing assignment for today from Zoë Dearborn: Think of a highlight of your life. A moment or time period where you felt uplifted or inspired or deeply engaged in life. Free write for 15 minutes. Describe this memory in detail. Emotions, senses, images. Draw or illustrate this experience. What truth does it reflect to you about yourself? Enjoy.

I’ve been mulling this over since the middle of the night. I’m not getting anywhere singular. I was so paralyzed for a while I opened it up for suggestions with Burt, Rosemary, and Ed. They have all seen me through thick and thin. Burt suggested when he flipped my raft. I’d had some thoughts on epic outdoor adventures but none struck me as lasting or interesting now. I forget what RR and Ed said.

Recent life events cast a light on the feeling of good enough and exactly right for the moment that I feel more happy about how I was in crisis than I was in a stereotypical happy moment. The 10 minutes between noticing Olive was poisoned and driving her to town strike me as some of the worst and best of my life. I did exactly what needed to be done and I was aware of it in the moment. I knew only a veterinarian could save her life. I disregarded politely bidding ‘adios’ to my friends. I did not try to save her myself or provide comfort during the drive. I disregarded traffic laws. I stayed focused. I got her to the vet on time. I didn’t panic. I felt time passing by. I saw cars in slow motion. I was in the moment. I don’t want a repeat but I can accept that I did what needed doing and I did it well. The end results were out of my hands and I wonder if I would feel okay about this had Olive died.

Someone recently asked me if I sang at my mother’s funeral. I told her how I had and that it was a transformative moment. We’d struggled to rehearse three pieces. None of the practicing went smoothly. Either Burt or I would flub a line, loose the chord progression, or just start blubbering. I felt so sad but at peace about my mother’s death after such a long illness. The conflicting emotions were at home side by side. My mother sang and played guitar with a church group when I was a child. The moment I stood up to sing for her at her memorial service I felt a column of light fill me. I knew I was doing the exact thing I was supposed to do. It could be a good or bad performance and it was exactly right. It felt fantastic. I was singing for my mother. It was the right thing to do. I was enlivened. It felt flawless. The words of 500 miles soared across the space. The feeling of sounds leaving me felt beautiful. It was stunningly easy. The actual act of singing was such a comfort.  I wonder if I’d feel the same way if we had fallen apart and I muffed it? I wonder if seeing the video (Yes, can you believe it, the funeral home filmed the service. ugh.) would ruin this moment for me? I’ve told my father I never want to hear or see the performance. Some art is meant to be ephemeral. Never to be seen or heard again. That whole week I felt so useful and available to my father. It was a good thing in a bad time.

So I am struck by how the two things I feel most drawn to are so very recent and such obvious culminations of life’s practice for me. First aid, EMT training, karate, adrenaline sports, music, years of performing, yoga, meditation, all these things culminating in my ability to do what I needed and or wanted to do at the right moment. If I could bring that presence in on a daily basis outside the realm of tragedy or catastrophe I think I would be calmer and more relaxed. We’ll see.

 

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To Do List

1. Get out of bed.
1. Get out of bed.

The journal people are drawing today. Our assignment is a graphic representation of your to-do list. I don’t have a lot on my agenda today. Well, not a lot time wise but a couple of big things.

1. Always the hardest. Get out of bed. The tar pits have a hold on me every day. Burt left early so I had to rouse myself to eat and dress for a 9:00 AM singles tennis match. It was a struggle.

2. On the list so I won’t forget it take my heart meds. Propranolol is a powerful anti-arrhythmia and anti-anxiety med. Perfect for insecure times. Too bad I feel a little sluggish and the external factors of world dynamics are getting to me anyway.

3. I hate daily care. It bores me. I was never into grooming. I do it, mostly, anyway. I brushed my teeth and applied sunscreen.

4. Get dressed. Tennis first, so wear the tennies. Mary and I had a nice match. I won 6-2 and then lost 5-7. My limited endurance betrayed me. I’m hopeful that single splay will help my fitness.

5. Help Mary with her fiddle. First fiddle lesson for her is next Tuesday. I am about to unleash my un-impressive skills on yet another music student. Mary can blame me when she develops all kinds of bad habits. We’ll have fun.

6. Read this great book. I haven’t been able to finish it. The news is too compelling and I fritter the day surfing. I must find a way to stay informed but not obsessed. I don’t know where that middle ground is. Reading a book might help.

7. Play music with the kids. This helps with mood. Today we’ll be working on a simple crossword of music and lyric related words we’ve taught. Burt and I were commenting to each other on how much fun we have and yet it always seems so hard to get enthused about leaving the house. Why is that? I do not know. Sort of the same as how hard it is to get out of bed. Then I remembered my response when someone congratulated me on achieving my black belt. “I just showed up.”

So I can summarize this day: Show up. Consistency pays off. Do the work. The rewards come. Sort of like blogging every day. More readers and comments than ever.

xoxoxoxoxo

2. Take your medicine. (I take at night but it's high on the list.)
2. Take your medicine. (I take at night but it’s high on the list.)
3. Brush your teeth.
3. Brush your teeth.
4. Put on the appropriate shoes.
4. Put on the appropriate shoes.
5. Help a friend.
5. Help a friend.
6. Read a book. Try anyway.
6. Read a book. Try anyway.
7. Play music with kids.
7. Play music with kids.
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Dear 22 year old me,

Only two instruments were broken in the boy's class. All in good fun.
Only two instruments were broken in the boy’s class. All in good fun.

Wow, that Spanish shut y’all up. Don’t worry, it won’t happen again. Life is returning to normal. Elvis likes his happy pills. He is gamboling. Olive continues to look sad and angry but also is ready for hugs and belly rubs.

There are only 7 more writing assignments in this project. I will soon be flailing about looking for subject matter on my own. Send in your ideas, please. Today we have: Write a letter to your 22 year old self. It’s easy. Twenty-two was a watershed year and I remember much of it clearly.

Dear Susan,

You were absolutely correct to divorce that SOB you married at 20. You were absolutely correct that going back to school was what you needed to do after dropping out to marry. You will make it through many tough times ahead and remembering the fortitude you had to divorce and get a job and work through college will provide strength and comfort. Your foresight will enable you to support yourself for the rest of your life. You knew all that. Too bad you didn’t ask for the car though. You should demand a car. He had several. It’s not too late get a car. You didn’t take anything and you should have taken a car.

xoxox,

Susan

p.s. Taking Cara back to school with you was a great idea. I hope she wasn’t too scarred by it. While you are caring for her you realized you hated your husband and were happier when he was away. Thanks, 8 year old Cara.

All of us and Burt, too, fit in our 1991 Exploder.
All of us and Burt, too, fit in our 1991 Exploder.
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En Español Hoy

Olive ready to snuggle/ ella esta lista a apapachar.
Olive ready to snuggle/ ella esta lista a apapachar.

Today’s assignment work within a limitation. Zoë had some good ideas and then I remembered a friend who told me I should try and write my blog in Spanish. Voy a empezar hoy. Here is a link to Google Translate if you want to see what I wrote about.  This is a piece I wrote directly in Spanish for my Spanish class.

Mi tarea de hoy es crear con limitacions. Voy a escribir en español. Aquí es Google Translate si quires traducir a inglés.

Primero, la noticia mas importante: Olive esta mejor. Ella tiene energia y hambre. Todo esta bien. Elvis esta mejor tambien. El doctor  dio a elvis paletas contra el dolor.

Qué pasó cuando yo estaba lejos de aquí?

Beto é yo tuvimos la intencion que no vamos a trabajar. Casí lo logramos. Despues de tres meses visitando familia y amigos en Montana un cliente nos contactò sobre un trabajo. No quisimos trabajar pero esto fue diferente. El trabajo estaba en el estado de Virginia. Virginia esta a dos mil millas de Montana estabamos en Virginia.

Tuvimos que decidir. Debemos tomar el trabajo ó no? No pudimos empezar antes de octobre. En octubre tendriamos que estar en Arizona. Despues de arizona habiamos planeado ir a México. México y arizona son vecinos. Virginia esta tres mil millas deEl Pescadero en México y dos mil millas de arizona. Oi. Oi. Ai.

Los detalles de trabajo fueron misterioso tambien. Somos carpinteros. Hay reglas sobre algunos proyectos. No supimos que hacer. Ir ó no? Finalmente decidimos a tomar el trabajo. Quisimos explorar una nueva area del pais y el trabajo estuvo cerca de mi familia.

Mi mamá tenía alzheimers hace catorce años. Ella estaba muy enferma. No pudo recordar a nadie ni nada de su vida. Ella necesitó cuidado completo. No pudo comer, ni bañarse…nada. Ella estaba en un estado similar de una coma.

Tomamos el trabajo. Empezamos a mediados del octubre. El trabajo fue fácil. Visitamos mi mami en noviembre. Ella se miraba mala. Era dificil de comer y beber. Yo dí a ella mis saludos ultimos.

Cerca el fin del trabajo mi mama se murió. Fue un milagro. Estabamos cerca y tuvimos tiempo de ayudar a mi papá.

El Fin

Elvis quiere visitar el veterenario tambien. El sintió jeloso.
Elvis quiere visitar el veterenario tambien. El sintió jeloso.
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Tarot

My three cards
My three cards.

Take a tarot card and write about it. Not having a tarot card I looked them up on line. I even did a free reading. Those three cards were shown. According to the bot I had a bad and painful past, great present, and a wise and awesome future. Sounds like a money maker to me. I decided to look at the images for a whole set of cards. The image I found most appealing was one of the three my bot had selected for me. The Queen of Wands. She’s the wise one in the future. I’ll take it.
What I liked was the sunflower. I have to remember to plant my sunflower seeds. Further looking I liked that her staff appeared to be a still living branch of a tree. The black cat is enormously appealing. I had a black cat once. his name was chuckles.
There. I have to go. I filled in the blog on this day. Olive is improving. Rosemary and Ed and all of our dogs and us visited the cactus refuge. It was a fine walk in among the old growth cacti. We’re off to hear some music.

Queen of Wands
Queen of Wands
Olive still bleary eyed but looking better.
Olive still bleary eyed but looking better.
Malformation or perfect oddity?
Malformation or perfect oddity?
Mollies in cactus. Somebody once hang a sign here. Once I saw one I saw many. They kept popping out.
Mollies in cactus. Somebody once hang a sign here. Once I saw one I saw many. They kept popping out.
Punta Lobos
Punta Lobos
Sanctuario del Cactus. Cactus Sanctuary.
Sanctuario del Cactus. Cactus Sanctuary.
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Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Sun bathing
Sun bathing

All fly photos sent in to me as inspiration by Karen Ekstrom. We do not know who created them/ If this is your work please contact me and I will assign credit.
This is the best assignment of the month. I was sitting under the palapa with Burt and Ed and Rosemary contemplating life. Where to settle if any of us ever settles, what to eat, how long will our intestinal upset last, why is Elvis humping Bowman’s head, whose art shall I steal for my blog? The usual yak yak yak when an email from a snow bound Helenan that we all knew came through. What a lovely surprise to hear from a long absent friend. I sent group salutations back. The four us us kept talking and then I recalled that Karen was one of my favorite painters and that I had even modeled for her. The great mystery of my disappearing ass painting still remains unsolved and Karen is the key player. It was she that painted my not so dainty derrière and hung it in her garden. Somebody absconded with my ass. It gives me a fit of giggles whenever I consider where and what might have been done to my bodacious butt in oil. Recalling that bit of Zazzali bottom lore I asked Karen if she had any recent art I could steal for my blogging project. You read that right. Today’s assignment was to change, steal, or copy somebody else’s work. The point being that all art is derived from other art so steal some and make something new.
The easy work for me is all my music is cover tunes derived from someone. It might be a 400 year old folk tune or some current alt-country but all my music comes from elsewhere. Boring. So done. So once I came up with Karen I thought maybe she has a nude or landscape or dog painting I can recreate in photography. Alas, Karen had terrible news. Karen has not painted in 6 years. On the up side she remodeled a house, tool care of elderly parents, and started to play music. I learned all this today because of this assignment. What a gift. No art from Karen. I guess I’ll use my Andy Warhol ripoff of Elvis. It’s a favorite piece of mine because, well, Elvis. Get it? No? Pop icon? Now?
I would have explained but now I won’t because a few hours later Karen sent me this fly work. OMG. It hits all my buttons. Simple, balanced, black and white, DEAD things!!!!!!! I haven’t had time to create my own but I will. Sadly I missed the opportunity to collect a massive dead cockroach today. I just wasn’t thinking. But now I am all over it. Stand by.

Love to you, Karen. This is really fun work thanks for sharing it.

 

Summertime
Summertime
Me and my cousin Cara. I was going to say Sue, but Sue is much taller.
Me and my cousin Cara. I was going to say bestie Sue, but Sue is much taller.
Ready, set, fly
Ready, set, fly
We can reach the stars
We can reach the stars
Fly (you thought it was flea) circus, the original entomology freak show.
Fly (you thought it was flea) circus, the original entomology freak show.
Even flies have to wait their turn. Frass lines.
Even flies have to wait their turn. Frass lines.
Elvis ala Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe
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