although Thursday and Saturday are my all time favorites. Maybe I like the way Thursday looks or sounds because why Thursday? Wouldn’t Friday with its weekend association be a more likely candidate for favorite?
Saturday is a day you can like! It’s in hundreds of songs; it implies fun, adventure – ready for action – couched as it is between the end of the typical work week and the start of a new one. And let’s not forget the classic Saturday Morning Cartoons! They’re not as great now – especially since they’re little more than a marketing tool, but they were so good in the ’60’s & ’70’s. No one has ever topped Mel Blanc for cartoon voicing, and caricature.
Although Saturday is just another day for many in the service and health industries, my feelings about Saturday formed as a child, when school was the biggest responsibility I had. Even if I had homework, or chores, or later in my mid-teens and twenties, when I was a waitress (now server, of course), or a cashier, or department store clerk, Saturday still held magic.
We might leave for the weekend on Friday afternoon, but we had all day Saturday to enjoy.
Saturday is still special in our household as my S. O. has most weekends off, and we can sleep in or get up to work our agenda rather than someone else’s.
One of the wonderful aspects of being away is the perspective change, especially when the scenery is so drastic.
I immediately found myself afraid and battled my fear to become curious. I’m visiting dear friends in the southwest – Arizona – and I’m finding myself again assimilating my life’s experiences and what it all means to me.
Watching my dear friend work and interact with the people of her life here is inspiring, and helped me open myself up – just that bit more – to not assume the worst in everyone.
It’s tough particularly now, in our heinous political environment, trusting that there are good people who deeply care about others’ lives. When I’m in unfamiliar territory, everyone is the enemy, and I’m hyper-vigilant, trying to stay safe.
My childhood friend is so open & loving – and not consumed with worries of things she can’t control, where I seek control over things I can’t stop worrying about. It’s not that she’s immune, or willfully ignorant, or tuned-out; she knows how to prioritize or allocate her emotional resources.
I came out here to step away from my life back east. I don’t know how to balance what I want and need with the wants and needs of my significant other. I didn’t come out here because of that, but it helps to be so far away when I’m so troubled about my personal life.
There are good reasons to feel as I do, and there are reasonable solutions which allude me more often than I’d like, leaving me feeling powerless and as though I’m consenting to less than what I desire. We do communicate, but there are always issues that hang in the air – never resolved – just sublimated, until the next time I try to stake my claim for my desires.
I’ve remembered, out in this vast, open, unfamiliar, and harsh landscape, that wherever I go, there I am. Will I succeed, or fail, or some combination I can live with?
It’s as if the stark contrast between the rocky peaks jutting into the sky and the cacti and other desert life dotting the valleys reveal life as it is rather than life as I wish it, but there’s still the ability to thrive. There’s still beauty and variety. There are abundant paths to choose from, or room to make my way – even this late.
Fear can stop me, or I can function beside my fear.
Walking out of the squat main office building, I turned right onto S. Veteran’s Memorial Highway, camera in hand. The Galiuro Mountains to my left, and the Santa Catalina’s to my right, I felt prey for the vultures – avian or human. Walking briskly while the steady, and sometimes fierce, chilling winds pushed me along, I finally turned back after a few miles, where the wind gleefully made my uphill journey more aerobic.
The Saguaro sentinels greeted me in uneven intervals, sometimes solely, other times clustered, while Organ Pipe, Agave, and Prickly Pear cacti covered more ground among the Mesquite trees, and other desert plants.
I forgot what it was to see so far out, and while I wouldn’t want to live here, it’s been a gorgeous and welcome change of pace.
Waking is dangerous this emotionally tenuous time of the year. The world we occupy, the new/old challenges surrounding me, our country, and everywhere, & I wonder if slitting my wrists would cause too much pain? Where would I do it? A stream bed in the woods, so romantic and peaceful sounding, until the age-old question of ‘if a woman screams in the forest in the moments before her death, and for being a dumb fuck, will anyone hear?’ Bueller? Anyone?
So, I wrench my lagging self out of bed and get fucking dressed, because that’s what we’re doing, and the inner three-year-old is not in charge today.
Sure, the world’s falling apart – literally in some places – and, yeah, life sure doesn’t match up to the brochure, but, then, so few things do.
You’d think people would stop procreating, but honestly, sex is about the best thing on the planet, that’s free – often…
So, on with the day. I’m dragging my ass through my life, but momentum is forward, today.
There’s no dress rehearsal. This is it – whatever that contains – but all that matters is the end. Am I in a tragedy, or a comedy? Life ending on a high note is preferable, thus, comedy it is.
At twelve I knew I wanted to act. It was what I thought I’d be in adulthood. I guess it was just going to happen naturally because I never had a plan. I failed to position myself for that occupation, relying on the ‘will of the universe’, or ‘fate’, or whatever my idiot mind told itself – so it never happened.
My first foray into Community Theater was in the early 2000’s. I had auditioned for a play in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s, but didn’t get cast, so I probably told myself I wasn’t ready yet.
I spent the better part of today as an extra in a film, driving over two hours to the set, and riding back home after 10 p.m., exhausted, and probably shouldn’t have been driving, but had I stayed at a motel, I would have spent more than I earned, and had I tried to sleep in a parking lot somewhere I would have been too paranoid to sleep.
This was the fifth movie I’ve been a paid prop in, oops, I mean background work, and I finally realized tonight, after almost getting a featured spot that the director, or the universe, or fate, decided to nix, that chasing acting is trauma re-enactment. I’m still trying to convince those in control that I’m worthy of notice. I’m so tired of my psyche trying to reconcile my neglectful past. It’s not going to happen.
The same cast of characters appears each time, albeit in different physical forms. There are non-protecting bystanders, abusers, and victims. (Victim is often a loaded word, so hear it un-weighted.)
Rising early, I rush about readying myself for the day’s work, ensuring I have collected all I need and might want, and set out into the dank, murky pre-dawn. The creeping light flings itself out in eye-searing magnitude just as the crush of rush-hour traffic gathers at the crest of an eastward hill, and I jam on the car’s hazard button, hoping to avoid rear-collision while slamming on the brakes in what appears choreographed timing – as though the traffic were all swimmers breaking the surface one after the other in dizzying succession.
Surviving the first sun-caused hazards, we attempt merging with the big boys and girls zooming along on the super-highway at their break-neck pace: a feat reminiscent of double-dutch jumping without tangling both jumpers in the ropes – only with higher stakes in the highway metaphor.
Once successfully merged, we soon come to several stand-stills, where many of us frustratingly shift from stopped lane to nearly stopped lane, seeing the traffic gods punish us with every lane but ours beginning to move.
An hour later, fleeing the chaos of four-lanes, for the migraine of two lanes, and a GPS with a shitty sense of humor, or probably just sadistic, I double back to the left turn it told me to take as I was passing it in the wrong lane, and I finally rumble into a bumpy lot, park, and kiss the steering wheel for getting me there without bodily harm or auto damage.
A dozen other, sleepy, hopeful stars ascend the shuttle bus stairs and settle in for our ride to the set.
Once there, we queue up to fill out our pay slip forms, find space to don our costumes, and then stand in the next line for hair, and then one for make-up, and finally find our way into the holding area where there is coffee and juice and cereal and muffins, and why are they feeding us all this crap when we’re trying to stay svelte for when we’re discovered the nineteenth time we cross that street when the director calls: ‘action’? So, I opt for coffee and a banana, and wait for our day’s adventure.
Extra work is similar to traumatic childhood in that we’re never told exactly what is happening that day, and what our role is. We have to become ‘instant experts’ once we’re schlepped to location and placed. Then we’re told that we’re excited, or mad, or confused, or disgruntled, or perhaps all of the above, and the day continues with each of us trying to out prop the other.
I swear the women who were behind us who ended up in front of us toward the end of that particular scene were going to end up in the car with the principal actors by the end of the shot.
And here’s the thing: the principal actors are who matter. Background is sound and color, and does serve a core purpose, but you wouldn’t know it by the haphazard treatment that I’ve experienced on every set I’ve worked on.
My goal is for principal actor roles. My reality is that extra work will never meet that goal. I need to change my approach, or nothing will ever change. In life, or on film.
If you think about it, we’re self-animated, or actuated, puppets. We’re going to die, and if you’ve ever seen a loved one’s dead body, you know how they are utterly gone. Their body seems like some strange putty – some facsimile of who they were, and somewhat recognizable – but definitely not ‘them’.
We are not our bodies – we control our bodies with who we really are.
You reach for an object, not even realizing that you commanded your body to act, rather than being your body – which could or would act autonomously of your desire. Outside of blood, breath, temperature, neurology & cellular replication, our body, unless compromised by disease or disorder, is controlled by our thoughts.
Hungry: eat. Tired: sleep, or fight sleep when you need to stay awake. Scared: hide, or run, or freeze. Happy: smile, dance, laugh.
There is so, so much we don’t understand, all around us. Some suggest that there’s an invisible (to most of humanity) world going on as closely as anything we can observe or know.
Why are some people psychic, or able to observe what others cannot, if they’re not charlatans?
Why am I sensitive to things my friends aren’t? I know when I’m in an occupied space, or perhaps a super occupied space. I lived in a ‘haunted’ apartment for two years, constantly questioning my sanity and perception, but when I moved to another apartment that was not haunted, I could sleep with the light off, and not be afraid to walk to the bathroom during the night.
I have experienced intense energy, or whatever it was, that others seem not to – and I am nothing special.
So what? – right? It matters because even if we don’t know where we’re going from here, it means we are not our bodies, our physical matter. That’s pretty cool. Maybe our brain is the only part of us that matters most, outside of other vital organs, but even those who think our brain is the limit – that everything begins and ends between our ears – that doesn’t account for anything outside our understanding that we experience.
I feel hopeful thinking that my existence doesn’t end here, and I’m as rightfully here as anyone else, and my continuation, while unknown, is as certain as knowing that death is only of my body, but not of my essence.
Occupying the middle part of my life is odd. I’m noticing my body changing in unfamiliar and distressing ways. I think I have arthritis (!) in my hands. I’m learning guitar, but when I curl my fingers they snap at me like I’m trying to bend them in ways they shouldn’t be bent. Idiots.
I drove through a town I lived and had friends in from ages eleven through thirteen, remembering the home of a friend whose birthday fell around Halloween so her parents had created a haunted house for several twelve-year-old girls. I wonder if she ever remembers that? What she, or her parents, couldn’t know is how abnormal that was for me. I was living in a commune/cult where everyday was somewhat surreal, and definitely un-nuclear family-ish. She and the other school girls there, along with her parents, and attending a typical family party were an oasis in the desert of my life. Sure, I grew up learning how to deal with a few hundred adults, and a gaggle of children daily, but I craved closeness and structure.
The commune/cult was diffuse and casually neglectful. Most of them weren’t malicious, but there was so much going on all the time that people naturally found their cliques – circled their wagons, so to speak – only they didn’t realize that exposed the most vulnerable to predation and harmful neglect.
I see advertisements now and don’t recognize anyone I can relate to, not that I ever really could, but at least I was in the same age bracket. The only relatable ads I see are for fiber products, or erectile dysfunction, neither of which do I care about, or apply. Well, fiber is good at any age – we all need to poop.
A sea change is needed, but what do I do? Do I leave my relationship to head out for parts unknown? And what if parts unknown end up on a heating grate in some city, trying to keep warm and guard my few belongings from being stolen – again?
Maybe things could work out, but my life has always been just managing, and never actually living. Do I have the courage? And if I have the courage, can I manage it? I have boxes of books but nothing, except my son’s childhood art and other keepsakes, keeping me from packing it all up, ditching my books at some lucky bookstore, and setting out.
I know there are soup kitchens across the nation, and I suppose my big worry is where I can safely sleep, but otherwise, what have I got to lose? I lose my boyfriend, and that would suck, but I’m failing, and don’t have other ideas to help myself.
My vague plan is heading out to California again and doing my best to get into television or films there – the acting mecca – but it’s also the land of bitter disappointment and ruin.
If I had the money, I’d pay a reputable psychic to help guide me – but if I had the money, I wouldn’t need the guidance…
Summer’s constant buzz and song fills my house. Crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, and a myriad of other bugs and birds create a constant background hum – either that – or I have horrible tinnitus.
These muggy August nights feature crickets’ constant ‘chee, chee, chee, chee’, while tree frogs sound their ‘bdrrrrr, bdrrrrr’ calls echoing around our hill, quieting close to sunrise, continued by the crickets until long after sunrise when other insects and birds take up the daytime chorus.
The oppressive, humid air makes sleep nearly impossible, even with the fan on high, but I rarely need moisturizer this time of year!
Wisps of hair curl up near my temples and forehead, and a cool shower takes down some of the night’s heat.
A long ago Key West morning suffuses my memory. I’m stepping into a slightly chilled saltwater pool at our motel in Islamorada. The surrounding air, so much like this morning, makes me long for the palm tree setting, while nostalgia’s softening gaze helps me forget any of the stress or conflict of that trip as I feel myself cutting through the cooling water of the pool on that lovely morning.
That memory is a happy place I will call to mind as I attend to today’s stress, work and monotonous chores.
At writing group tonight I listened to a friend read her piece about her birthday today and how being sixty was kind of amazing, and it made me feel like I can do this. I can get to sixty someday soon, and maybe it won’t be so bad.
She is a strong, beautiful woman, and I might not have seen that at twenty, or even thirty, but time shapes us whether we want it or not. I am not in control. No matter how much I try to determine my destiny, I am foiled by this great unknown we’re all in.
We are all in. Once in a while, some of us break out and try controlling the show, life events, or life’s trajectory, but they are quelled by others or by their own mortality. We came into the world by chance or by design, and maybe we’re supposed to cause an effect, or maybe just witness this incredible moment, because it is really only a moment – especially as I get older and see how damn fast it all goes.
I have no idea where I’m going from here, or if there’s somewhere from here, and maybe religion is right, or maybe it’s all a crock – all people just whistling in the dark – but I’ve found love, and friendship, kinship, beauty, terror, and horror, along with inexplicable help and guidance.
What I’ve found true is following my heart. I might be wrong, but whenever I’ve tried to follow someone or something else’s idea of how to navigate this world, it’s caused deeper pain than just muddling through.
I can’t believe in a punishing ‘god’. It makes no sense to me. Maybe I’ll pay for that, but I’ll take my chances. God is love, or it is nothing. I cannot be better than ‘god’. So, if there is such a thing, It loves and accepts me.
If there’s nothing, then this has been an interesting manifestation of life replicating itself. I hope I’ve left more good than bad, and if my son has a child, or children, then our line continues, and if not, then we die out with his generation. So be it.
Maybe we’ll colonize other worlds, or maybe humanity will perish with this one, but life on earth has abundant time left for whatever will happen.
And though I have no say, I’d like us to have mattered – to be the reason for existence – but that might be ego rather than reality.
From musicals like Porgy & Bess, and Grease, topop songs through every decade, summer songs create, or re-create feelings of freedom, ease, love – especially young love with all that angst and yearning – and even if the heat and humidity are hard to take in the moment, I look back fondly to sticky summer nights spent hanging out with my group of friends, skinny-dipping in the river, or pool-hopping around the neighborhood, with or without permission…
Songs heard in my youth stir me more deeply than newer summer-themed tunes, or even old ones newly discovered. Those tunes center me in time and place unlike most anything else in my life.
The following links worked at this posting, but you can always search the song names yourself if any links become broken. Perhaps a few are already in your play list!
George Gershwin’s, Summertime, an aria in 1935’s, Porgy and Bess, evokes a haunting sweetness of that which is hoped for, however unattainable, for the impoverished Bess singing to her baby.
Another “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, from 1991, breathes summer’s relative freedom, and speaks to slowing down and enjoying summer’s romantic possibilities.
Eddie Cochran told us there’s no cure for the “Summertime Blues” in his 1958 rockabilly number, referring to his having to work and not getting to be with his girlfriend or friends all out having fun.
The Drifters’ trill about their relaxing seaside summer in 1964’s: Under The Boardwalk. You can feel summer’s heat, smells, sights, and sounds, while taking a chance at falling in love near the surf, away from the boardwalk’s crowds.
1966’s, Summer in the City, by The Lovin’ Spoonful, brings you into the city’s grit and grime from the first guitar strains just as Under The Boardwalk conveys a carnival feel from the start. And while the city heat shimmers off the asphalt, a cooler breeze and romance prevail at night.
Juxtapose that with, In the Summertime, by Mungo Jerry, 1970’s bubble-gum ditty, where finding a date was summer’s full-time pursuit – and dig the mutton chops, man!:
The late 1960’s and early 1970’s released several songs intoning summer’s graces and privileges for young and old alike. Several appeared in the summer of 1972.
Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze, is more folk than pop, and makes me want to lie under my favorite maple watching the leaves sway and hush each other in the warm breezes.
Saturday in the Park, Chicago’s ode to summer, also invokes a festival atmosphere, celebrating old-time holiday conviviality with street vendors and singers.
Alice Cooper’s, School’s Out, brought harder rock and attitude to summer’s opening, and remains one of my top summer songs:
Hot Fun In the Summertime, 1969’s summer hit by Sly and The Family Stone, also speaks to freedom from school in a mellow blues style, just as memorable for its ease and friendliness as Alice Cooper’s is for its ‘screw you’ ethos.
Flash forward to 1977 and The Ramones punking out with Rockaway Beach, another of their non-stop, driving beats insistent on another popular summer pursuit, days at the beach.
I don’t think Sandy Olsson from, Grease, would have been as attracted to one of the Ramones as much as she was to Danny Zuko, because meeting him on the beach was more like a Beach Boys’ dream song than the tough guy he portrayed in front of his friends, confusing poor Sandy. But, oh, what fun they had in those Summer Nights:
Sandy Olsson could have used Bananarama’s pop tune, Cruel Summer, to console her, but 1983 was too far in the future for the 1950’s character, and besides, it wouldn’t have been broody enough for our melancholy Sandy. Many of us with broken hearts related to their pop ballad while we danced away our sad summer nights.
A year later, in 1984, Don Henley rocked out smoothly with The Boys of Summer, crooning his heart out about the girl who got away – while those mean girls kept walking – pushing their Wayfarers a bit further up on their pretty little noses.
While this list isn’t in any particular order, excepting its mostly chronological look at summer songs, no list would be complete without Bryan Adams’, Summer of ’69, the youth rockers ode and anthem – finding belonging, following a passion – both in love and artful expression, and the sweet remembrance of summers past.
Make sure you add your favorite summer songs and why you like them in the comments!
My S. O. likes to try to cheer me up when I’m spiraling down, which is sweet, and it would be great if that were the answer to my mental illness, but rather than climb into bed and try to sleep away my hell (which doesn’t work, but at least it’s warm in bed), I agreed to go out with him.
He had plans and it was fun to not know where we were going, but it turned out tickets were sold out for what he had planned. (Of course they were – I could have told him that.)
Aside from the asshole in my head, he rallied and told me we could eat out wherever I wanted. Initially I chose a place that we’ve been to once before for coffee, and aside being good coffee, offered a simple menu of pizza, calzones, salads, and pastries, but my S. O. said anywhere, and I had never been to another, fancier, restaurant in the town, so off we went.
He got the blackened swordfish, and I opted for chicken pot pie, which was good, but heavy on the cream sauce in the filling. The dessert menu included crème brûlée, an amazing dessert when done right. Alas, it was a dense custard than the better pudding quality, but I still ate it, being a long time member of the ‘clean plate club’. Sigh.
We soon wished we had saved half of what my S. O. spent and gone to the other place, but we couldn’t know until we tried, and soon after, the heaviness too much, I threw it all up.
Maybe that wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t having an episode, but I rarely eat rich foods anyway.
Perhaps a cleanse (and an exorcism) will make me well again.
It sat for months, waiting to be sold. Every time I went by I wished I could buy it, but $1500 was out of my range, even though it’s not much for a car. I finally called to see if the price was negotiable and was told the lowest they’d let it go for was $1200, but I didn’t even have that – and even if I did – the cost to get it on the road would most likely be $1000 more.
I kept imagining myself behind the wheel, trying to remember what it was like when I rode with my sister when she had one.
This VW Bug was in great shape for being nearly forty years old, and allegedly it only had one owner, the guy’s mother, who maintained it well.
Of course he’d say that, and I hoped it was true.
After looking it over, the guy let me take it for a spin. It was harder to drive than I imagined. None of the pedals had padding, and my foot keep slipping as I engaged the clutch, which went way in – so different from today’s cars. The steering wasn’t too difficult even though it wasn’t powered steering, but the fantasy I had created about how great it would be to own and drive the cute yellow Bug was bursting all over the run-down seats, a nearly rusted through floor, and lower side panel, and the flat windshield and tiny side mirrors that made me wonder how anyone ever liked driving it.
I thanked the guy for letting me take it for a ride, and told him I hoped someone would buy it, but it wouldn’t be me.
It shouldn’t have surprised me how the idea of owning and driving it surpassed the reality, as that is often the case in so many life circumstances.
Even though I don’t want to own one anymore, the VW Bug holds a tender spot in my heart, and I can always remember times I rode with my sister all those years ago – more precious for the fun and good company than the transportation.
I admit the first tender flakes made me smile and think of making snow sculptures, and sledding, to sipping hot cocoa by the fireside, and I was taken in by the romance, like the blush of new love.
My giddiness lasted through the day, especially as the snow was light, sparkling, and easy to move.
It’s right that there’s snow in February in the Northeastern U.S., but I’d like it to end with February too. Alas, nature thinks winter should continue through March, and sometimes well into April – even though the calendar plainly notes the vernal equinox – Spring – dammit!
Unable to leave for warmer, snow-free, climes, enduring whatever comes is our lot, so I’ll drink a cup of cocoa, pretending it isn’t going right to my hips, and try to enjoy the fire that rockets glowing embers, while belching smoke at me, filling my nose and burning my eyes with its acrid stench – no matter how often I change spots around the bonfire – and appreciate my efforts toward the graceful, artfully rendered sculpture in my mind’s eye looking more like quasi-moto than the angel it was supposed to represent, while begrudgingly appreciating nature’s ice I’m pressing my bruised tail bone against from the ill-advised sledding, and subsequent and spectacular ejection from said sled, earlier in the day.
At least I snapped a few photos before the worst:
By the way, while Lena Horne is famous for her rendition of Stormy Weather, among others, I think Ella Fitzgerald sings it better.
The balmy morning, so unusual in the Northeast for November, beckoned me outside, even though the heavy grey clouds threatened rain. Chancing a walk, break-through sunshine rewarded me with its warmth as I stood with upturned face, grateful for the bounty.
Do the trees, and hills, and sky feel my appreciation? Is there a quantum transfer leaving us both changed?
I sit, watching the mill brook water rush over the ledge and rocky stream bed on its way to a river, which will eventually deposit in the sea. A rush of ochre-hued oak leaves tumble into the flow – most being swept downstream – while many other leaves jam up on an exposed ledge, several breaking away when the rock can hold no more.
How many years has this pattern continued, and how has the ledge been worn by the water and weather’s destruction? I’m not looking at the same stream bed I saw last autumn, I know, but it feels unchanged except for the knowledge that new leaves are falling into new water.
A tree trunk lies along the stream bank – had that been there last year? Was the slim, young birch pulled over like that, appearing as if to sip from the clear pool below it?
Another, older birch, its white bark illuminated, shines like a sentinel among the dark wooded oaks and pines, three thick, crooked branches jut into the air, appearing like a trident, perhaps, forgotten by Poseidon.
The dank, musty air, particular for autumn, stimulates undefined memory, and I thank the land for making me richer this rare day.
While I didn’t get enough summer this year – does any of us ever? – I feel less sad about Autumn’s entrance. I don’t appreciate the jarring way it barges in – twenty degree temperature drop, and chilling wind to boot – but I do like that harvest has come, and apples are abundant this year, and the days are still relatively warm.
Fall has always held the excitement of festivals, and of Halloween, the scent of falling leaves, of wood fires, and of hay stacks. I’m glad I’m not allergic to those things, although when the leaves get mildewed after the rains come, then I’m suffering with sniffles, stinging eyes, or bleary from my allergy pills.
I’ve gone back to allergy shots this year, six a week for the foreseeable future. I’m allergic to life, pretty much, and I feel bad that my son is too. My father was very allergic, so I probably inherited it from him, but I hope the shots will decrease or eliminate my sensitivity.
The worst is the indoor dust mites, molds, and mildew as the cold season arrives and we’re shut up for the next five months. I do what I can to keep the allergens down, but it’s a constant battle.
I’ll drown my sorrow with some hot cider and a slice of fresh apple pie – or will it be pumpkin – or maybe, both? Tiny slices…
The calories tend to increase over the holiday season along with my waist line, so I’m trying to learn that morsels are better than nothing so I don’t feel too deprived – and there’s nothing like salsa dancing to keep the weight down, and chase away the winter blues.
I don’t mind walking in the snow, but the below zero temps like we had too much of last year, makes outdoor time shorter and less enjoyable for me. I’m not one of those hearty souls – or perhaps drunken fools – who can be out for hours in weather extremes. I’ll drink my cocoa, keep warm by the fire, and they can tell me all about their frostbite.
But, September isn’t over. We’re in for a week of seventy-degree weather, perfect for long walks, jogging, playing, and working outdoors, with lows at night in the forties and fifties, perfect for sleep, which I’ll take over the muggy nights of tossing and turning.
Tomorrow is my birthday. Birthdays were so exciting when I was younger. Getting older was somehow an achievement, and I suppose it was, depending on how many risks were taken, or accidents met and survived the previous year.
Celebrating someone for their birthday is a wonderful time for connection, reflection, and, especially, festivity!
Time’s passage is tough the older I get because I want to keep the problems of the relatively young and not get any problems of aging. Too bad, I know. Perspective is a perk as time moves on, as well as caring less about how I’m received, but this ship of life I’m sailing leaves a wider berth the further I get from port, leaving some things smaller, although not less significant, as they recede and I travel on.
Even though I often feel that I’ve not accomplished anything, or much of what I wish I had done, I have traveled. I won a ten-day tour of Switzerland, with a side trip to Liechtenstein. I made it to Australia, where I stayed with my childhood pen-pal, and her family, and we met each other’s children (child in my case), and saw lots of Victoria, including a day in Melbourne, hiking in the Dandenong Mountain Ranges, a rain forest walk in the Yarra ranges, and a gorgeous trip down the Great Ocean Road, ending in Warrnembool, and the site of the Twelve Apostles rock formations, during our stay.
I’ve driven through or visited at least half of the United States, including Hawaii, but not Alaska. I’ve been to Canada, and Mexico, though not extensively in either country. I brought my son to Ireland for his high school graduation present, but really because I’d wanted to go my whole life and that justified the expense well enough – or at least, it did – until I just wrote that.
Pilgrimage to Haifa, Israel, was the last big journey I took, a gift that I’ve not well repaid seeing as I’m now an atheistic-leaning agnostic.
I’ve climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, back when you could do that, and have been on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, when it was free. (It’s hard to believe that anyone would pay $57 for the dubious privilege nowadays).
Contentment with my lot is the message I try to embrace, but my adventurous spirit doesn’t understand that sentiment. There are so many more places to see, things to do, and the beautiful aspects of life on Earth that I’ll never have again.
As long as I can get through the rough patches, the pain, suffering, and challenges we all endure, and hopefully, surmount, I will add more sweet than bitter to each year that I’m graced with, have more meaningful time with those I like and love, and be glad for what’s been given.
Stepping out onto the front porch, I visualize Marie sitting on the old wood-slatted metal glider.
She came back East to see some family, and help her brother struggling with issues Marie had dealt with before. I had moved in with her and her husband in California when my son was a toddler, spending two years in San Diego, and when I knew I couldn’t make it out there, I came home to Massachusetts, where I’ve been ever since.
Marie spent an overnight with me up here – us falling into the easy friendship we’ve had since the fifth grade – but I also saw us with fresh eyes too. She and I went through so much together, and we’ll always be soul-sisters, but I saw our differences, and somewhat prefer my idealized version of her.
Those differences haven’t ruined our bond, but I see how much I’ve changed from the inexperienced young woman I was to who I am now. It shouldn’t have affected me so much – it’s simply that we’ve matured differently, even if our essential selves are intact – but I felt a loss – of innocence perhaps? – of youth?
Maybe her presence emphasized time’s passage, and what we can never get back, or never attain, but also, that I like who I am, that I’m comfortable with my beliefs, or lack thereof, and mostly of where life has led me. I can’t do anything about what I didn’t accomplish; I can only do the best with whatever time I have left.
Remembering the sweetest times of our visit, driving to the old farmhouse where she lived when we first met, as well as the house I lived in by the railroad tracks, both laughing and tearing up as we pondered the past.
I didn’t know that my dearest memory would be of her sitting on the porch glider that bright summer morning, the humid air sticking exposed skin to the seat, us breathing in the heady scent of honeysuckle wafting on the scant breezes, saying how nice it was at the same time, with me winning the first to tap her arm and say ‘owe me a Coke’.
My S. O. & I won a 3-day adventure trip through the AMC – Appalachian Mountain Club – from a sweepstakes form we filled out at the Boston Globe Travel Show this past February.
We drove up early Thursday morning, visiting a dear friend of mine in North Conway, New Hampshire, before heading out to the Highland Center at Crawford Notch, N. H., for the first night of our stay. It was sunny, dry, and in the low 70°F’s. We had supper at the center, met a lovely couple who gave us some suggestions of an easier hike the next morning before we headed up to the Mizpah Spring Hut, where we’d be spending our second night.
A fire alarm went off at 1:30 a.m., and I thought it was some AMC hyper-awareness drill, but it turned out there was an electrical fire that started in the basement. We didn’t learn this until the next day. What we knew is that a fire truck showed up about 15 or 20 minutes into the ‘drill’, and by then I figured out it was a real thing, and my S.O. ran back for something he needed, stupid in hindsight, but it’s not like there was smoke or open flames or anything.
An hour and a half or so, and three firetrucks later, I decided to go back up to our room and grab our backpacks so we could at least try to sleep in our car – having no idea if or when we’d get back, and my S.O. hung back while I surreptitiously made my way up to the third floor, ducking low to keep out of sight – my adrenaline surging – as I imagined the place blowing up before reaching our room. After a minute or so, my guy was there with me, grabbing what we could, freaked out about being discovered, and the trouble we’d be in for being colossally stupid. It would have served us right to be burned up, but thankfully we weren’t. Were there open flames or smoke, I’d have counted my losses, and not risked it, but I figured we weren’t getting back in, and I wanted to go get some sleep.
About 5 minutes after retrieving our packs, we were given the all clear to go back in. I understand the risk I took, and I’m grateful it was as I suspected, and not a crisis situation.
Three hours, and no sleep later, we got breakfast, and hiked a mile and a half up a smaller trail that was twice as steep as any I’ve hiked so far, except Mt. Chochura, which we hiked two years ago. The pay-off was astoundingly worth it:
After that, we hiked down and chilled out before heading out for Mizpah Spring Hut, which we’ve heard referred to as ‘a brief jaunt‘. I guess they’re professional hikers because I was wiped out halfway up. A brief jaunt? Are you kidding me?
I’m holding back the ‘f-bombs’ as one of my aunts reads this and feels it’s unnecessary. I understand that, but still type my satisfying swears, and then backspace…
The temperature had climbed to near 80°F, and the sweat was starting to drip off me. My S.O. fared better, but it wasn’t a skip in the woods for him either.
We had supper at the hut, which was the best part of our being there, outside of meeting some really great people, as well as some not so great ones, and some truly odd folks, but sleep mostly eluded me and my normally easy and deep-sleeping beau, being in a full capacity three triple-bunk room, and not much space to move around in.
Being a hut, there was no shower – even if it were simply cold water – and we forgot to pack in towels, reading that they were provided at the huts during the high season (not true). The only paper product is toilet tissue (thank you, thank you, thank you), and I totally get it, but I HAVE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I am not a super outdoorsy, mountaineering, person, and this didn’t charm me into becoming one.
We were supposed to continue to Mt. Washington, and stay at the Lake of the Clouds Hut, which sounds so fantastical, and dream-like, but it poured into the early hours, and was still lightly raining when we got up to have breakfast at 6:30 this morning. We got out after 8 a.m., and headed for Mt. Pierce, where we decided to take the Crawford Path back down instead of trudging on into the 25 – 30 mph winds, rain, and thunderstorms forecast along the open ridge we’d be hiking. Plus, the hiking boots I got had already given me a few blisters, and I had liners under my ‘smartwool’ hiking socks. The lovely Linda, a former nurse, and her friend, Carla, who had hiked up to stay for the weekend at Mizpah Hut, bandaged and taped my blisters and sore spots for the trek down – I thank their kindness and expertise!
My S. O. and I decided to hike the 0.9 miles to Mt. Pierce from Mizpah to at least make it to one of the 4,000 footers, but the beginning was intimidating. It could nearly be called a ladder trail, if the ladder were unevenly spaced and nearly 3/4 of a mile long.
Our goal was accomplished, but the day being what it was, Mt. Pierce was enshrouded in dense fog, often an ominous deep grayish-green. I was glad to make it up, but gladder to head back down.
I’d like to hike Mt. Washington some day, but it won’t be a carefree romp. I’ll have earned every foot, sweat out every meter.
Going away on a whim used to include making sure I had my toothbrush and a change of clothes, and depending on the time of year, my bathing suit and sunblock.
When my child was born, I tried to keep spontaneity alive, and suffered for it. Oh, no – I forgot his red blanket! We have to turn around! He won’t sleep without it, therefore I won’t sleep without it, therefore anyone with me will be miserable – I’ll make sure of that… Suffering in silence just isn’t fun.
Today, my child grown, and no longer needing his red blanket – I think – probably takes off on a lark all the time. May the pox of child-rearing fall on his house!
I now pack a minimum of three days worth of crap. It’s ingrained. I’ve tried to make do, to be free again, but I need the earplugs – and this lamp. And this ashtray… I can’t sleep without them. Sure, we could pick some up at the store, but for me, it would be steal them from the store because our budget is so tight – yeah, yeah, first world problem – there is no room for anything else. The credit cards are maxed, and the goal is to pay down, not add. No, not even $5 which will be closer to $25 by the time the debt is paid down.
A detailed list is a must for me, and the stress surrounding trips takes a lot of fun out of it, for sure. Personal items, check. Three pairs of underwear for two days. Yes. Two pant choices, three shirts, two pairs of shoes, and my sneakers. Should I bring those shoes? Will I want my sundress?
My mind is an unforgiving landscape, a dark back alley where the worst of humanity gives me a wide berth. You crazy, woman!
Snacks! We’re on a budget! Pack sandwich making supplies in smaller containers. Don’t forget the water! Who knows if it’s drinkable where we’re going! Beach stuff, bug spray, sunblock. Holy crap, we almost forgot the tent! I guess we could have slept under the stars for a night. Except, we’ll be in a crowded campground with screaming babies and marauding teens. Wildlife bothers me much less – at least they’re quiet.
My S.O., on the other hand, packed one day’s worth of clothing, and his toothbrush.
For the past several days we’ve been inundated with much-needed, but plan wrecking, rain. An outdoor party on Saturday had to head indoors and with a new musical type: a kitchen band. Table and chairs hastily crowded into any space available to set up the music, but the revelers were intrepid & carried on – after all, there was still beer – and plenty of it!
The showers turned into a deluge and the end of the night left a muddy path from their kitchen out to our cars after slogging back and forth through the muddy side yard with equipment and other paraphernalia, and I was grateful it was someone else’s house, but felt some guilt at the mess they’d have to clean.
It was so fun to sing and make merry, and I was glad that I only had a couple of beers so I got to watch the party-goers devolve into drunks by the end of the night without the morning regret for me. I’ve been on the miserable end too much in the past several years as alcohol wooed me again.
In AA’s parlance I’m considered a ‘yet’, and I don’t take that lightly, but it’s very hard to give up when you’re at those crossroads still having choice. I’ve witnessed many good people done in by alcohol and other drugs, and I don’t want my story to end that way.
Yesterday, it was overcast again, having rained heavily the day before, and getting through the day enervated me so much it was a triumph to get supper going. Luckily my S.O. helped me rally, and while we were eating our turkey burgers and veggies, the sun rolled out from the thinning clouds like a mercy from the gods, and S.O. said we should go out & play catch. I balked inwardly, feeling full, and wanting the TV to passively entertain me, but I surprised myself and said yes.
We got outside and the air was warming and fresh as we lobbed the baseball back and forth. The few clouds left were puffy, some lazily stretched out across the western sky, outlined in various hues of pink, red, and orange, and the bugs were few for about a half-hour.
We switched to hitting and my S.O. puts me to shame with his two and three base hits, while I can barely get mine out of the infield. I haven’t played ball for many years, figuring I’d be hurt more than I’d have fun, but I was wrong. I might not throw as hard, run as fast, or hit any better than I ever did, but our time outside, having fun, and just being in the moment created more joy than I’ve had in a while.
I tend to live in fear most of the time because that’s what I learned will keep me safe, as superstitious as that is. It’s tough to break out of that when it’s wired in my brain. I make different choices when I’m able, and sometimes I conquer myself, and sometimes my PTSD wired brain does, but I’m most glad that I can appreciate beauty, that my love is intact, and that endorphins still course through my body when I play.
My beau & I won a White Mountains 3-day Adventure package through the Appalachian Mountain Club at the Boston Globe Travel Show this year. The biggest mountain I have ever hiked was two years ago, Mt. Chocorua.
The hike was moderately challenging, but soul-soothing through the woods and past streams and waterfalls. However, when we got above the treeline, I panicked. I thought the wind was going to send me tumbling out into the forest below, as though there was less gravity up there. I asked my beau to please not let me fall off the mountain, and he promised I’d stay put unless I jumped on purpose. There was a further rocky peak, maybe fifty more feet up, but my courage left me, so I sat and watched his progress in the too wide open air from my safe perch in the middle of the granite slab.
After a while, I was able to get up and walk around, even peer over an edge to the valley below. The view was well-worth my challenge getting there.
Today we took our first hike in preparation for the Presidential Range, but I think I’ll only make it as far as Congress did. We hiked just over 5 miles to Mt. Toby’s summit and back, and I’m achy, cranky, and wondering how this ever gets addicting.
We pressed on through the torrential downpour for about a quarter of the hike, and we believed we were prepared for rain, but found a few chinks in our system when our rain hats poured water down our backs, and our jeans grew heavier with the soaking.
Along with benefiting from exercise and fresh air, we saw many orange salamanders along the path, a couple of garter snakes, and a friendly dog, that we at first thought might be a bear. Outside of a few more hikers on their way down, we had the mountain to ourselves.
We were thoroughly chilled by the time we got back to the car, and hungry, making our arrival home that much nicer as we got into warm, dry clothes, and sipped the morning’s leftover coffee, still hot enough from the carafe, while we made some soup and grilled cheese & tomato sandwiches.
The cool breeze and shade diminished the heat of the sun as I walked down the road to Marie’s house. I watched the big maples and oaks as I walked, their leaves rippling and swaying in the wind, the sun filtering through them creating dappled patterns, moving kaleidoscope-like on the pavement. I tried leaping into spots of sun but the dance was too fast, I kept losing the game.
The rustle of chipmunks and squirrels startled me as much as I startled them, leaving me relieved to see them scampering under the leaf cover, over a log, or up a tree. When the woods got thicker, the sun spots all but disappearing from the road, I worried about hungry bears and wolves attacking me, and I’d quicken my pace, but never run. Running was cowardly, and the rule was, I’d only run if I actually saw a bear or wolf, otherwise, I just had to feel the fear, knowing that it wouldn’t be far until the trees thinned out, giving way to the fields, where I’d be back under the hot sun, hoping the breeze kept up.
Some days, when there was no breeze, I’d pretend I was lost in the desert, the shimmer of heat up from the pavement was a mirage – that wasn’t Marie’s house up ahead, really. It would disappear when I got closer, my parched lips, dry mouth, and swollen tongue would find no respite.
The game ended when I reached her driveway, and sometimes she would be outside waiting for me, and then we’d go off, away from her nosy little brothers, and play games with her Barbie and Ken doll – marrying them and then making them get divorced for various reasons. The hottest days, when she was inside, I’d revel in the cooler inside air, going over the kitchen sink, helping myself to a long drink of water – rescuing the poor desert wanderer.
My parents had divorced about two years then, and I liked being at Marie’s house where her mother and father were together, and they lived a life as normal as I wish I had.
It was many years later, when I had my child, that I realized what it must have seemed like to Marie’s parents – that no one wondered where I was, that I could stay over any time I wanted, no permissions needed. Her parents talked of wanting to adopt me that summer, a conversation I heard and related to my mother, begging her to let me live there. My mother, her pride kicking in, refused, thus sealing my fate – and I wish I had known how to ask skillfully, maybe requesting to stay at Marie’s for the summer, and not mentioning adoption…
March is only calendar Spring, but it helps psychologically. I’ve seen a foot of snow in April, and sometimes snow in May. It melts more quickly, but with climate change, I have no idea what the weather patterns are doing. Yes, we’ve had fierce winters forever, and there were ice ages too, but we’re in another change pattern facilitated by human industry – whether or not we believe it.
I found this article from The Guardian helpful in understanding the pattern change. I also appreciated this Guardianarticle about consensus on climate change, and while it’s not going to change any minds that don’t want to be changed, it’s helpful for a way to talk about climate change.
Mostly I think about how to adapt. Do I move – even if it’s only 4 or 5 months a year? I love my area, its beauty, and familiarity, but I’m not coping well with harsh weather. I know that no matter where I go, there is always something unfavorable, but it’s about what I’m willing to accept, or what I can deal with.
Likely, I am only fantasizing as I have no money to live in two places, and barely enough to live in one, but if there is work I can find to sustain me & my S.O. through a few months a year in milder climes, I will jump on it!
In the meantime, I really enjoyed the Smith College Bulb Show last week, and hope you enjoy these photos from our excursion through all of their plant houses from the tropics to the desert (if you click on a picture to enlarge it, you can click your browser back button to continue with the next photos):
Annie Keithline, owner/operator of the new, Valley Ghost Tours, out of Northampton, MA, met us in the square next to the town parking garage on a balmy September 8th, under the full, harvest, moon. A mid-waist, black cape draped over her short-sleeved shirt, framed her slight figure, her ebullience apparent before she even spoke.
Several people had signed up for the evening, but she explained two couples had to cancel, and two more no-shows left just my man & I for the Haunted History Tour, which felt weird at first, but her confident manner and knowledge captured our attention and we eased into her introduction and tour explanation.
Just a few years older than my son, she shared what led her to start the tours, having walked across America(!), and still in college as a declared English major who loves history and sharing it with others.
Ours was more like a conversational walk than a dedicated tour, and I shared some of my paranormal experiences both as a student at Smith, where a few ghost stops were, and throughout my life so far, and my man shared a few ghostly stories he’s heard as well.
Her disarming manner, obvious intelligence, and conviviality made the hour and a half fly by. I had hoped to see some of the apparitions she talked about, like the ghost dog that walks up and down the street where a Starbucks currently sits, to a floating partial-apparition of a man on State Street, speculated to be seeking pledges for investing in the failed canal, to the teen-aged specter down under the Coolidge Bridge on Route 9, seemingly inviting you into the water with him, but Annie believes he might have been a ferry operator who continues to offer passage across the river, and frowns at you when you don’t follow him. But, as Annie says, with the River Styx symbolism, who would want to oblige him?
We ended the evening on the busy Main Street, outside of the Hampshire Council of Governments, where Annie told us of a worker at the nearby Shop Therapy, which had long ago housed a bank, who had seen a male apparition, dressed in a long coat, sporting a bowler hat, who walked toward the back of the store and disappeared.
We touched on, but didn’t explore, the old Northampton State Hospital, the institution housing long razed, but an eerie, someone-is-watching-me, creepy office building remained that I had a meeting at several years ago, and was all too happy to leave. All of the buildings are now torn down, and condominiums are either being planned, or built, on the land. I expect many of those owners will experience paranormal events with all that traumatic energy concentrated there.
Annie spoke of other fairly well-known and not-so-known encounters, unexplained phenomena, legends, and personal experience that made my spine tingle, and I want to visit some of the places to hopefully experience a few ghostly scenes for myself.
Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, or the paranormal, Annie’s, Haunted History Tour, lends insight to Northampton, and the Pioneer Valley’s past, and how we’re always walking in history – and one day soon – we’ll be part of that pageant too.