My Life in Water

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I began immersed in fluid, floating freely, encased in the universe of beginning.  Nothing was required of me there, no consciousness, no choice, no understanding.  Slowly my universe contracted and I grew beyond its borders.  Without understanding, I knew narrowness was coming and I would be thrust into a cold, bright dryness, a perilous hero’s journey to a land I did not know.

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At 10, I rejoiced in water.  I ran into the waves, waded into deep streams, floated in muddy ponds with no fear of leeches or rusty metal. Perhaps I still remembered the sensation of endless waters, the universe of beginnings, the promise of lands yet to be seen.

At 20, I began to underestimate the depth of the streams. I was caught in undertow, slammed into the sand.  I struggled against the current, swimming furiously toward goals that were not mine.

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At 30 I gave up struggling and floated, driftwood in someone else’s sea, waiting and hoping the waves would drop me on the shore.  I prayed for an anchor, a purpose, a sign that I had reached that land I did not know.

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At 40 there were children.  I had crossed into a land I did not know, but not the land I had been searching for.  I learned to swim furiously again, but now I needed to save others and still did not know how to save myself.

At 60 I watched my children drift away in their own ships, and prayed that the seas would be calm and the winds always at their backs.

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At 70 my life is again encased in the fluid universe of beginning.  But now there is consciousness, choice, and understanding.  Slowly my universe is contracting and I am growing beyond its borders.  The stream is shallow, flowing gently and singing promises of peace.  I know that narrowness is coming again and I will end my hero’s journey in a land that I will finally know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Category Am I In, Anyway?

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Anyone who slogs their way through this post will be treated to a road map of how my mind works.  (Some will likely argue that it is more evidence that my mind doesn’t work, but I won’t dignify that argument with a response!)

The word prompt led me to consider how much of myself I have hidden over the years and the many stories and experiences that most people keep close and don’t easily share with others.  Being visually-oriented, the image that came to mind was “iceberg.” Anyone who has watched a PBS special on climate change and the Polar Ice Cap knows that the mammoth part that is visible above the water is minuscule compared to the mass of ice that supports it beneath the surface.

Searching through Pixabay in the iceberg category, I also found pictures of roses and salads.  I’ve often noted the odd picture in some particular category while looking for pictures to illustrate my postings and thought to myself, “Here’s an interesting subject for a post.” Were they simply mislabeled by the person cataloging them, or is there some logical reason they would end up in a category that isn’t obvious on the surface?

A few examples:

Category:  Stagepupa-2191733_640This is a pupa of a black cutworm, a serious agricultural pest that gobbles up almost anything in its path.  I don’t think they have ever had a play or movie written about them or appeared on the Broadway stage. Hold on a minute, maybe it represents a “stage” in the development of a moth.  But seriously, if you wanted a picture of moths, would you look under “stage?”

Category:  Cancelbreadbasket-231677_640

This is a very appealing breadbasket that would look nice on a picnic table, but I can’t for the life of me figure out any connection.  Probably have to chalk this one up to just mis-labeling, unless someone can come up with something more useless and obscure.

Category:  Iceberg

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The salad on the left looks delicious, containing eggs, cukes, tomatoes, basil and chives. Can’t really see any reason for it to be in this category. On the right is a salad containing lettuce.  Eureka, Einstein!!  ICEBERG is a kind of lettuce. Clearly, however, the person labeling this one was not a lettuce aficionado.  All iceberg lettuce is lettuce, but not all lettuce is iceberg.  And that is not iceberg lettuce.

Category:  Laundry

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I will refrain from making any sexist comments trying to make a humorous connection between men and laundry, because the men in my life do their laundry, most adequately and without complaint. This is not a family post, but still, what is this doing in the laundry category?

Category:  Talkchat-2523812_640

I love cats and am willing to personify them to a sickening degree.  But still I don’t believe they can talk.  Looking further at the credits it came to me. The picture is from France.  So I think I will have a chat with mon petit chat.

If you haven’t given up by now, I have to extend a big thank you for reading this far.  You probably are convinced you selected the category “Worthy posts to read today,” but somehow arrived at “Crazy lady blabbing on about something ridiculous!”  You can thank me later for distracting you from all the important Twitter feeds and juicy tidbits coming out of the swamp.  You are free to put on your hip boots now and wade back in!

 

 

 

 

Patient Seeds

beans-72058_640The carob pods seemed so ugly.  Why would anyone ever think to use them for food or bring them to a potluck? Perhaps my prejudice came from all those earnest attempts back in my counter-culture youth to convince me that carob is a perfectly good substitute for chocolate.  Not a chance!  Carob may be useful in its own right, but chocolate it is not and never will be!!

I took one home and put the seeds in a plastic bag.  Did a little research on growing carob from seed.  But there really wasn’t much motivation on my part.  It’s not as if I am going to be able to plant a carob tree outside or have any interest in them as food. So the seeds lay dormant in that bag for many months.

According to my research, the seeds are very hard and tough and need to be “roughed up” in some way–perhaps with a piece of sandpaper or a sharp kitchen knife–and then soaked for a few days. The seeds are so tiny that I could not imagine using a knife or piece of sandpaper on them without taking off some skin or even a finger. But the bag sat on the kitchen counter and I glanced at it with a guilty conscience every day.  Then I had a brainstorm.  Into the food processor the seeds went. Four, five, six pulses of the blade barely made a nick in any seed.  Tough indeed. How do these seeds ever germinate in nature without human assistance?

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Giving up on making any significant dents or cuts in the seeds, I let them soak for several days. Then planted them in a plastic egg carton.

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Carob SeedClearly I didn’t care too much about planting them correctly, because I used some old potting soil that had been left out in the rain and was clumpy and dense.  And yet … with a little water they sprouted within a few days and are growing fast.

I don’t really know why this intrigues me, but it does.  If anyone has grown carob as an indoor plant and has any advice, please share it with me.  You are welcome to any pods that are produced, while I indulge in a glass of chocolate milk!!

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Mature Carob Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Need a Vacation After My Vacation

I have read several posts lately from bloggers I like describing wonderful vacation plans, sharing journal entries from exotic trips, replete with pictures of incredibly beautiful vistas that renew their spirits and calm their pounding working-world hearts.

I admit to being somewhat jealous, and easily fall into “everybody is having more fun than I” pity-party mode.  But then I remember, vacations can be great, but there are so often costs that don’t involve money.  And those beautiful pictures and exotic journal entries may not give the whole picture.  The pity party is over when I righteously comment to my inner traveler:  Yes, but what are they leaving out of their breathlessly positive reports? How much fun did they really have planning, executing and then recovering from that wonderful trip?

Family Vacation #1

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Because of our limited financial situation, vacations always involved riding in the back seat of the car with my two younger brothers.  Cars didn’t have air conditioning then, so in summer the windows were open and dust blew in our faces, along with the heat and occasional stray bug.  We didn’t have “devices” then either, so we actually had to talk to each other or occupy ourselves playing various games.  At the time “talking” consisted mainly of heated sibling discussions regarding the rules of “Alphabet” or “20 Questions.” It was a matter the level of national security whether or not you could count a letter that appeared inside the car or exactly how long you had to have made eye contact with a letter outside the car to legitimately include it!

One summer my parents were brave (foolish?) enough to take a cross-country trip to visit my mother’s sister in California.  I don’t remember much conversation between the adults and us kids, although there must have been some.  My mother and father talked to each other, but we really couldn’t hear them over the road noise–not that we were particularly interested anyway.  But we could clearly hear my father’s voice when, exhausted from the heat and the long hours at the wheel, and sick and tired of listening to the arguments over who was touching whom and who was cheating at Alphabet, he would briefly take his eyes off the road, turn his head around and yell:

PIPE DOWN BACK THERE!!

Adult Vacation #1 – The Single Life

Advance planning during the single years involves asking a friend to watch Fido for a week or so, trusting them with the key to your apartment, and hoping they won’t forget to water your favorite plants.  Then you take off to somewhere you really wanted to visit. You get there by whatever means you decided, see what you want to see, get up when you want and go to bed when you’re done.

Adult Vacation #2 – BC (Before Children)

At some point, becoming involved in a committed relationship with another (flawed) human being does make the process a bit more complicated.  First comes the shocking realization that someone else has a say in the location of said vacation.  That not being enough of an imposition, they also get to express an opinion about the means and cost of arriving at the vacation spot.  After some gentle give and take (after all, you really love this person), you decide to drive to the beach.  You’re home free, right?  Sorry, but no!

beach-654641_640Once you’re there, you still need to negotiate whether to use the air conditioning or leave the sliding doors open to the sea breeze; what time to eat breakfast, which place sells the best coffee and has the best deals; what spot on the beach is close enough to the room so you don’t need a moving van to carry the supplies, but far enough away so you don’t have to listen to the traffic; is it better to be down-wind from a smoker or someone who uses stinky sunblock?  Which spot gets a nice breeze, but not enough wind to knock down the umbrella?  Which group of people has a monster radio that they are going to play at screeching high decibels while throwing Frisbees over your head?  And that’s only on the first day!!

Family Vacation #2 AD (A Disaster)

Once you add children into the mix, things get dicier.  Now I know some people travel effortlessly with their children and have fabulous family vacations that will be the subject of fond memories until everyone is too old to remember.  I’m just taking their word for it, but you might want to think again about the questions at the end of paragraph two above.

One year when our children were around 8 and 5, we decided to go camping. When I was a child we went on some family camping trips and the PTSD resulting from them should have given me a clue about what I was in for.  But not wanting to deprive my children of the opportunity to earn a few PTSD points for themselves, I figured what the heck, let’s give it a try.

We set up with not too much trouble, my husband being the handy, outdoor type who lived through a survival trip with Outward Bound back in the days when survival was actually dubious.  At least for me it would have been.  I figure if our humanoid ancestors had spent centuries working their way out of caves and trees in favor of indoor plumbing, who am I to argue with progress?  But I was ensconced in the sacrificial phase of motherhood, when I was still willing to trade personal comfort to ensure my children the proper childhood experiences.

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I won’t prolong the agony, but suffice it to say that I am not very good at sleeping on the hard ground with random pieces of small rocks creating bruises in my tender skin and dodging the flailing arms and feet of the two children sleeping on either side of me. And never mind that I generally need to get up in the night to use the “bathroom.” There isn’t a flashlight big enough to assure me that Sasquatch isn’t lurking behind the trees and do not think I am willing to walk across the campground in the middle of the night to use the facilities, such as they are.

Adult Vacation #3 – The Golden Years

So now the children are grown and on their own (more or less, but that’s grist for the mill on another day).  I’m retired, which means that I’m basically always on vacation (more or less), and decisions about where and when to go on a formal vacation are subject mostly to energy and available funds.

I’m still willing to go camping, but my requirements have changed.  Set me up in a 30- foot camper with indoor plumbing, a hot shower and a refrigerator that makes ice cubes and holds a bottle of tequila and I’m good.

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Better yet, just jack up my house, slide some wheels under it and roll me down the road.

 

 

 

 

What’s in a Name?

strawberries-1350482_640Many years back, when both my husband and I could still bend over without crackling sounds and shooting pains coming from the general area of our spines, we owned and operated a pick-your-own strawberry farm.  This was an endeavor that he had started several years before I came on the scene.  In the rose-colored, early days of falling in love, I was eager to prove my worth as a field hand.  This freed him up to drive around in the air-conditioned tractor, while I made friends with the ticks and black flies and grew blisters on my hands from wielding a hoe.  Love is not only blind, but apparently also immune to pain, heatstroke, and mosquito bites on the behind.  (Obviously a farmer wife has a very different experience peeing in the woods than a farmer husband!)

I got to supervise a pack of teenagers desperate enough to agree to do manual labor in the hot summer sun, probably figuring it was a good way to impress the opposite sex by wearing Stanley Kowalski t-shirts or short shorts and tank tops.  Not that I cared so much what they were wearing, but I soon learned the truth of the old saying: “One boy’s a boy, two boys is half a boy, and three boys ain’t no boy at all.”  A more modern version might go:  “One teenager can weed a row in 30 minutes, two teenagers can weed a row in 50 minutes and three teenagers just got in an old jalopy and headed off to Dairy Queen.”

gardening-2448134_640Not that I blamed them much. Anyone who works the soil knows that it is hard labor, requiring not only physical stamina and perseverance, but also a healthy dose of optimism, faith and acceptance.  As hard as a farmer may work, she is never ultimately in charge of what may come of her endeavors.  Healthy plant growth requires a particular balance of good soil, sun, rain, light and dark, temperature, and freedom from pests or disease.  A lot of this may be under our control, but there is a great deal that is not.

Sounds a lot like human life, doesn’t it?  Which segues into my original memory that surfaced from “soil.”  After a long, hard day in the fields, I was desperate for a cool shower, not because of any fetish about being dirty or emanating an un-feminine body odor, but to ward off the on-coming heat stroke headache.  Shedding soil-covered clothes and shoes in the bathroom, I would often complain:  “Look at all this dirt.” To which husband would reply:  “It’s not dirt, it’s soil!”

I have to admit that for a long time I thought he was just being a snarky know-it-all, because really aren’t dirt and soil the same thing?  When soil is on the floor of the house where it doesn’t belong, isn’t it dirt?  No, not really. It may be out of place, or not particularly useful on the bathroom floor, but it is still soil–fertile, full of living organisms and capable of sustaining and nourishing growth.

There are many in our public arena these days who are trying to convince us that they are providing soil, when they are really only shoveling dirt.  We need to understand the difference and plant our common hopes and dreams in the rich soil of diversity, tolerance and acknowledgement of our common humanity. To live up to our great potential as individuals and as a nation, we need to realize that hatred, prejudice, deceit, and dishonesty are not the soil in which our best selves can flourish, but are the dirt that will ultimately bury us.

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Stay Back!

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Warning.  Yes, I waddle when I walk, look like a skunk on steroids.  You may think to come near, to enter my space, to chuckle at my weird attempts at defense.  Don’t mistake my slowness or strange appearance for acquiescence and accommodation.  I learned early that everyone is a stranger, even those who are not.  My heart lives in a neutral zone, scorched and deforested, at the edge of the sea, servitude at my back and the promised land a vague and unseen promise.

I mark my space with spikes, a painful defense by isolation.  Survival is my refuge, my destination, my home.  Beware, stay back.  Enter at your own risk.

 

Inspired by daily word:  quill

 

 

To tweeze or not to tweeze…

eyes-161265_640I always prided myself on eschewing the mainstream makeup wisdom that requires eyebrows to be neatly curved and well defined. There was also a time during my mis-spent youth when I refused to shave my legs and underarms.  It was the 60’s and social norms and expectations of all kinds were being questioned and tested, including those that defined proper womanhood during the 1950’s. Besides, the argument went, European women, who at that time seemed to occupy an exulted place in the average male’s pantheon of ideal woman, didn’t shave either–or at least that was the generally accepted information then.

I still don’t use makeup, much to the chagrin of my lovely daughter–an artist for whom all life is a canvas, including face, hair, clothing and accessories. Whenever I am going anywhere more classy than the local grocery store (believe me, the bar is not too high here), she offers to make up me!  I decline, not because she doesn’t do a good job, but because I just don’t feel like myself all dolled up like that!

As I grew older, I knew that physical changes were inevitable.  Wrinkles don’t bother me too much.  Minor flareups of arthritis are manageable. Other problems, which I am too polite to mention here, are annoying, but so far can be kept under reasonable control. Grey hair is a badge of survival. There are a few more serious issues to deal with, but I’m learning to minimize their effect on my health and emotional well-being.

cat-205651_640But those doggone bristly white hairs that have decided to populate my chin drive me to distraction. How I can be so calm about spinal stenosis which, let’s face it, could ultimately cripple me, but go over the edge at the sight of a few stray hairs, I have no clue. And, please, don’t let me get started about the ones that are dangling out of my nose.

I tell myself I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff or make mountains out of mole hills. I used to get impatient with older people, back when it wasn’t personal yet, if they would become agitated over some small detail, or irritated because of some minor change in routine.  But I understand more now.  Aging is a long, hard process of letting go, of health, friends, independence and ultimately everything.

It takes a lot of pluck to survive these golden years!  So if I want to be obsessive over a few stray hairs, just remember, I’m in charge of the tweezers, thank you very much!!

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