Sunday, February 23, 2014

pea picklin’ home, snow, cold, and love

This week spring came to the U.P. with temperatures in the 40s, considerable sunshine, clear roads, softening snow, then a blizzard with considerable wind, blowing snow, drifting snow, plunging temperatures.

One morning.

But it’s a little early to be making jokes about spring. Everyone here, as far as I can tell, is weary of cold and snow and frozen water pipes. Whole towns have been told to leave the water on so the water mains won’t freeze and pop. I saw one story about people hooking up garden hoses to get water from one house to another. And all the wildlife seems to have disappeared. When I strapped on my snowshoes and walked to the river, I saw no tracks of deer or mice or coyote or anyone. Except for chickadees, no one was about.

God bless those chickadees.

Just for fun, here are the high/low temperatures predicted for tomorrow through Saturday, March 1:

15/1, 8/-9, 9/-8, -1/-15, 2/-12, 5/-5.

Somewhere in there is poetry.

Another morning.

But enough with the weather! Let’s talk about love. For I am in love, and I’ve decided to relish it (despite knowing the harsh roads love can follow) and to believe in it (despite it’s magic ability not to be what it appears to be) and, moreover, to declare it (pure folly, I know). Somehow, this weather (which I guess we can’t get enough of, after all), with it’s ups and downs and beauty and crankiness, reminds me of love (maybe because when you are in love everything reminds you of love). But isn’t that what love is? A little craziness? A little bliss? A little angst? A little this, a little that? I’ve been there before, I should know, though I’m sure I don’t.

Still, I think I know love when I feel it.

To be in love, at my age, perhaps at any age, feels a little awkward. But it also feels damn good. And, it feels a bit risky, even while feeling safe and warm. Certainly it feels improbable, but, on the other hand, it feels as if it were meant to be. It feels, in many ways, ludicrous. But it also feels sane and normal, bordering, even, on matter-of-fact. Since I have been in love before, there is this feeling of familiarity, but since I’ve never loved this particular person before, it feels quite surprising and different. And somewhere beyond all this yin and yang as well as between all this yin and yang, it just feels nice.

Yes, Gomer, it feels real nice.

A week ago, last Saturday, it didn’t feel so nice. I was on the last leg of the cross-country trip, driving north through Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Michigan, home. The familiarity of winter and towering trees and banks of snow closed in; roads became slower, grittier, more challenging. By early afternoon, I was out of snacks (!) and when I stopped for gas in Ironwood I decided I needed food. I cruised the convenience mart and got sucked in by a display of Little Debbie mini donuts in wax-paper sacks on sale for two for $3, regularly $1.99 each. What a deal. I chose the powdered donuts over the chocolate-covered (I wanted only one sack), and took my find to the check-out counter where I had to wait because the clerk was doing something else. Other than her, I was the only one in the store. When she finished her task, she rang me up. $1.99. I said: “So you only get the deal if you buy two.” She said: “Yup.” I took my $1.99 sack of mini donuts back to the van, drove the wrong way for about a half hour, finished all but three of the donuts, felt miserable. I was almost home and far away from the one I love.

So he lives in a desert. Go figure.

Yes. The desert.

If you’re lucky, misery does not stay but rather comes and goes, and I am lucky. Plus, I recovered from the donuts. And even though I’ve gone on about it here, I feel fairly sure that I do not know what love is, for it seems to me it can be so many things and then also can be so changeable—yet still I am sure of the feeling of love, and I have little doubt that it is love that has guided my life, most of it, anyway, and for that I am lucky, too.

So winter carries on, snow falls, wind blows, the temperature is five degrees, and now I am in love with a man who brings to my life experiences and thoughts and people and things that kind of fill in some empty spaces and that draw me to new places, too, and for that I am grateful. And the fact that he’s got the cutest, feistiest little dog you’ve ever seen, well, seriously folks, that has nothing to do with it. (But I miss you, Finn, and Elliott says he misses you, too, but he may be joking because he’s flexing his claws as we speak.)

Now, how this man or this dog may feel about me is strictly their business. After all, this is just my story.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

where all roads lead

So many miles traveled to end up where I started.

Why on earth do it?

The speed limit in Utah is 80, yet there I saw more people pulled over on the side of the road getting tickets and more troopers lying in wait and that makes one think.

In Colorado, snow.

In northeastern Colorado, good radio, and in Nebraska a dusting of snow and black cattle standing chest-deep in dry amber waves of grain. At a gas station a man told me I was there a day too soon. The forecast for the next day was 50, maybe 60 degrees. Right then it was blustery, in the 30s. I agreed. A day too soon.

Between Des Moines and Ames, Iowa, cars stranded on all sides of the road. There was a bit of snow, and the cars were stuck deep at all angles. The motel clerk in Ames told me there had been a weather event just that morning. Not a ton of snow, but enough. I stayed on in Ames for a day coddling my illness, the cough that lingered, that came and went, but mostly giving in to a pervasive fatigue. I watched Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman. Later, I found Magic chips at Walmart. The 8-ounce bag only cost $1.

It was mild and sunny. In the parking lot, huge slushy puddles.

The next day I had to leave, but not before I watched The Old Man and the Sea with Spencer Tracy. I longed to stay and watch A Star is Born, the original, the one I have not seen, and then Days of Wine and Roses, but I insisted on leaving. It was snowing. Under a cover of snow in the parking lot was ice. Pulling open the side door of the van the physics worked just right and my feet flew up and I took my first fall into soft, fresh snow.

Oh, how I could have stayed on in Ames, watching movies, eating Chinese food.

A little up the road I stopped to look at some old graves.

Eventually, I arrived home, where, now, for the moment, the sun is shining.

And Elliott chases mice in the kitchen.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

on matters of perspective, walking

I went to a drugstore to get cough drops and stuff as here in the Las Vegas Valley I have developed a sore throat, cough, and laryngitis. The woman at the cash register said someone must not be feeling well, and I whispered, “That’s me.”

“Oh, too bad,” she said. “And it’s been so cold, too.”

I smiled, nodded, and once back home—back where I was staying for a bit in this dry, desert land—I checked the outside temperature. Fifty-five degrees.

This was another day.

It had been cloudy, but now later in the afternoon the clouds were breaking up. Except for the cough drop foray, I had spent the day indoors and had seen an excellent movie on TCM called “The Search” about the homeless and traumatized children left in Germany after World War II, though specifically about one boy and the mother who was searching for him (they’d last been together in a concentration camp, Auschwitz) and then there’s this American army guy (Montgomery Clift) who kind of bumps into the boy, offers him some of his sandwich, after the boy has run away from some officials who were trying to help all these children, and I hadn’t meant to watch the movie, but it started with all these kids in a boxcar, and then it was so good I couldn’t stop. So with the clouds breaking up and general weariness from not feeling well and from being in all day, I took a walk.

Walking here is a bit of a different nut from walking at home, where once out the door, off the porch, and across the yard I find myself—lose myself, perhaps—in a field of no restrictions. I walk this way or that way or any damn way I please, walk whichever way beckons. There’s no pavement, no fence, no curb, no street, no guiderail, no signals, not even a trail to follow except for the one I create, except for the ones left by animals. Where I am now is a field of pavement and the signs and lanes and sidewalks that go with it, houses and streets and driveways and yards. The homes are single-story, stucco adobe types with rocks instead of grass for lawn, these rocky lawns planted with palm trees and cacti and mounds and mounds of rosemary, green and sweet-smelling. And there are pine trees with long needles and large cones and various deciduous trees, mostly now without leaves, and I do not know what they are called. None are very big, most no taller than the homes they surround.

I get on a sidewalk and follow it, one foot in front of the other, barely thinking, and at first glance the homes all look alike, and indeed many are similar, built from the same plan, maybe four or five plans in all, and the street simply curves slightly and the yards are just all that brown stone pocked with variations on cacti (prickly pear and so on) and variations on palm (tall, short, pineapple) and then those other trees I do not know and the mounds and mounds of rosemary, some clipped, some shaggy, some with tiny blue flowers and some with honeybees about. Soon I see the homes and yards are all different, as here this yard has a theme of cement (or resin?) frogs lounging about in overalls and another has a southwestern theme of colorful Mexican pots and a bronze sun on the stucco wall. Some show an artistic knack for landscaping in cacti and palm and stone; others show they have a ways to go.

It’s amazing the googaws you can put in your yard. The turtles, the frogs, the cherubs, the butterflies, the bear, the deer, the rabbit, the buckets, the pots, the wishing wells, the dragons, the reflection balls, the glass beads, the wind chimes, the little tractors and trailers, the dinosaurs, and even, yes, there it is, a helmeted conquistador. I begin to wonder, if I had a yard of rock, would I adorn it? What would be my bent? Would I find a theme? Would a theme find me? I meander and follow the curved walk farther than I had intended.

As for wildlife, there is the long-legged, tall-eared jack rabbit loping by, and there are Canada geese and mallard ducks flat-footing around the pond at the golf course. There are hummingbirds and other, unidentified birds, and my favorite, the desert quail, also known as Gambel’s quail. They are about the size of pigeons, scurrying across the stoney yards in groups of two or three or more. They hurry between the mounds of rosemary, dart around the prickly cactus, sidestep all the googaws. Each has one long, black feather sprouting from the top of its head and like a periscope, it leads the way.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

a straight bet on non-linear life or 6 or so random thoughts

On the road again, with thoughts, thinking the big secret of my life is quiet happiness. (#1)

Portrait in beeswax.

(#2) California jumbles the brain, reduces lobes to hard little kernels strictly measured tossed into a hot air popper, whoosh, pop, brain now soft clouds blossoming.

“Popper,” I must tell you, originally set down with typo as “pooper.”

Ping ping pop, pooper.

(#3) The dance of extreme winters, winter being in one place extremely the opposite of what it usually is, winter being in another place extremely more of what it always is. Some maximize these conditions, others minimize. Perhaps winter alone knows what is what.

Somewhere in the California desert.

(#4) Elliott ripped away from paradise found, paradise being warm, dry, quiet, gophers, mice, treats in the kitchen, inside, outside, as one pleases, lizards, rats, birds, and a cousin to kick around. Good dust to roll in. Good clayey water to drink. Fresh catnip nibbled to the ground. Naps high up amongst the pottery and naps down low amongst the shrubbery.

(#5) I was thinking:
Thanks to the friend who reads Kierkegaard.
Thanks to the sister who eats onion rings in an Irish Pub in a Danish village in the middle of wine and cattle country.
Thanks to the mom who does not let go, even though her grip has loosened a bit.
Thanks to the sister who knows Italian and about it being like “the cheese on the macaroni.”
Thanks to the gambler in the cowboy hat.
Thanks to the cat who came along for the ride.
And, if you are here too, thank you.
Pop pop ping.

A sand and dust storm at the Nevada state line.

On the road again, but I rest in Vegas and of all things have a bet on the Seahawks to win. Now what are the odds of that?
It’s a straight bet
that cost ten dollars
to win twelve dollars,
so why not?
I say: Root for me.