in the sweetest of moments – that i will hold oh-so-close and not entirely share – my beloved daughter guided me into a skincare regimen. she generously shared wisdoms and gifted me with new knowledge, exquisite time together i will forever cherish, and products with detailed instructions on how to use them. her gesture of thoughtfulness…i felt like a girl. so deeply appreciated.
i haven’t spent a lot of time at makeup counters or in stores dedicated to makeup or skincare. you can buy covergirl and maybelline and oil of olay at target or even the grocery store or online and the one mac product i have repeated for years is actually because of my girl as well. every now and then a few new products have found their way into my world – marykay when my sister was a rep, clinique when i wanted to be in solidarity with crunch or when my sis got free samples. mostly, budget and a lack of mentors or social informants on the topic have kept me in the simplest of products. i’m guessing that is obvious, for i do not have the glowing skin or flawless makeup of those who have paid attention; i look in the mirror every day and realize i am, indeed, growing older.
i must have complained a little about that the other day when our daughter was here. her response was to do something about it. every day i count my lucky stars for that time together, for all time together.
the wall of brushes caught my attention at sephora. it looks like a kickline – paused and ready for the downbeat. they were all labeled, so it’s clear you could have quite a plethora of brushes for your face. i just loved the art of it, the black and white and grey with a touch of blue. it looked clean and crisp, things i look for when picking out airbnb cottages in faraway places. at ulta, as i followed my beautiful and knowledgeable girl around, i took photographs of marketing taglines, interesting teasers, product promises. it was absolutely and entirely fun.
the day will shine on in my heart for a long time to come.
if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.
the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.
we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maître d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.
these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.
as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.
in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.
i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.
the sign we have in our yard out in front of that brick wall is a proclamation of things we hold to be true. a few phrases down is: water is life.
yes. water is life. and for the last few days, we have been dealing with yet another water issue…this one seemingly the culminating water issue, though just writing that makes me want to knock wood. suddenly, the underground water line from the curb to our house was leaking, gurgling up through the muddy grass, puddling and icing on the sidewalk and down the neighbor’s driveway and into the street. we blocked the walk with our old rickety adirondack chairs that featured signs that read “sidewalk closed”. and we called the utility department, which labeled it “an emergency”.
the water utility folks came out monday morning and the week’s upheaval started. the engineer who came and gave us all the information about having the service line replaced was kind and patient and reassuring. i have spoken to this man at least thirteen times over the past couple days and we are considering him (and his wife who we haven’t yet met) – and all the participants of what seemed like grand central station in these last days – members of our new friend group.
though there are less invasive options to replacing the get-out-the-lead old service line, it would seem that the universe was having a good ole time and made those options impossible for our situation. when the boss came inside to tell me they had to trench the yard, i could tell by the look on his face what was coming. already working for about four hours, they were unable to “pull” the pipe through our old line and so it was back to ground zero.
they left about six hours after that. back hoes and dump trucks, pickups and extra scoops and other large equipment lined the street, the front yard was dug up, big slabs of sidewalk by the road and by the front door removed, bushes gone, our big old tree limbed to accommodate the equipment, the basement floor jackhammered, the closet wall along the front of the house removed and a new hole installed in the foundation for accessible water line placement. shiny copper was laid in the five foot deep trench from curb to our home. and the number of very hardworking people through our house or out front during a very long day was at least a dozen.
dogdog was in the bedroom having a hairy snit all day, eliminated from the fun. we were in the midst of it all, alternately working on stuff and pacing. it was a lot.
i’ve seen the yard ravaged before; when we first moved in, decades ago, we had an undisclosed underground oil tank removed. the oil tank surprisingly rotated on the front-loader and sludge spilled out, which they rapidly covered with kitty litter and then excavated it all out, digging inches below the surface, removing everything that resembled landscaping.
and so i know that there is a next day to what the yard looks like today. it will take a good long time for the trench-fill to settle and the city-guy recommended not sodding until next fall to avoid disappointment with the very large dimple that would invariably form in the yard. so…patience through the winter and the spring and the summer. i told him we’d have our neighbors call him if they wanted to complain about the aesthetics of our yard.
jen wrote, “it’s so hard to see bits of our life story destroyed.” pretty emotional in the middle of all the chaos, i agreed.
the guys in and out of the house were aware. we knew they didn’t want to dig up the yard and wreak any more havoc than we felt. we are grateful for their careful demolition, their problem-solving expertise and for the obvious camaraderie they all have, working together to a common goal. every spoke in the wheel counted yesterday, counts every single day. together is something for which we should all express thanks. none of us do this – life – alone.
before they left, most of these excavating, plumbing, mechanical, engineering specialists wished us a happy thanksgiving. thinking of everyone and everything we hold close and for which we have enormous gratitude, we wished them the same.
we’ll rebuild the yard and put in new flowers and bushes, new ornamental grasses, new landscaping. we’ll hope that the old tree will withstand the jostling and limbing and its root system backhoed into pieces. we have water again. in this world where so many do not, we are lucky enough, lottery-lucky if we really think about our globe, to have fresh, clean water … and now through shiny copper pipes.
we are incessant trail-watchers. even after a fascinating show seeking life-in-some-form in some other part of the universe, we took to the trail. with our mind’s eyes full of scientific wonder, we hiked along the pct with the wanderwomen and headingsomewhere and followed redbeard and checked to see if joey coconato posted anything new. on our hike yesterday, somewhere in the middle of our six miles, we talked – again – about hiking the pct. we figure in a few years it might be something we would truly consider.
the pct has plenty of obstacles; many people start this hike but fail to finish it. we read a blogpost (by mac) about some of the challenges. but, the bottom line, as he pointed out, was that “the unknown should instill you with excitement, not fear.”
this week is a time to acknowledge gratitude. with thanksgiving merely a few days away, preparations are a gathering storm. and, though there is a specific day that has been deemed ‘the day’, yesterday as we walked together we talked about our gratitude. we are reminded that there is nary a day that goes by that one shouldn’t be grateful.
yesterday i suddenly realized that i was also actually grateful for the unknown.
the blank slate that is in front of me stares at me. it makes me ponder. it makes me squirm a bit. blank is uncomfortable.
the blank slate that is in front of me beckons me. it makes me step. it makes me put a toe in the water. blank is tentative.
the blank slate that is in front of me challenges me. it makes me yearn. it makes me stretch. blank is exercise.
the blank slate that is in front of me encourages me. it makes me think outside the box. it makes me dream. blank is generous.
the blank slate that is in front of me urges me. it makes me yield to the new. it makes me let go. blank is learning.
the one thing – now – at last – that the blank slate that is in front of me doesn’t do…is scare me.
in a high mountain town this wall was full. chalk layered upon chalk, there was no space left for even a word or two. we stood for a few minutes and started to read it. we were touched. it was obvious that, given the chance, people will share what they are grateful for, will express their gratitude, will put it out there in public. grateful begets grateful.
we had spent time with family, time in high elevation, time on the trail. we had eaten good meals together and we had cried together. we had sipped wine out of yetis, ate halos on a big downed tree, sat in front of a roaring fire on a chilly night. we had lingered at the lake and had found a new bundle of prayer flags to bring home with us. we were grateful. and we were exhausted.
the path home this week was long across the great plains. we snacked our way across, from giant bags of every snack you can imagine dropped at our doorstep before we left from jen and brad. we said a teary goodbye to the mountains – waving to the last vestige of very-distant pike’s peak – and then passed through brown barren land and acres of dried cornfields and rolling farms. we reviewed our time spent. we were quiet. we relished double espressos at a surprise starbucks. and we arrived home to a delicious meal prepared by our 20.
we should all have a grateful wall. i’m thinking we should take the blackboard we had at our wedding, six years ago now, and install it in the house somewhere.
in short order it would be filled, layer upon layer of colored sidewalk chalk, layer upon layer of gratitude, a reminder to – no matter what – stay there.
this morning i read a lovely piece about an elderly woman who made it a point to dress each morning by 8 and was ready for her day, looking fresh, put together and smartly attired. i instantly felt guilty. it gets better, though. the piece then went on to say she had just made the decision to move into a retirement facility and was waiting in the hall for her room (note: room, not whole apartment) to be readied for her entrance. an aide was describing the room to her and this generous woman’s reply was, “i love it!” the aide commented to her that she hadn’t yet seen it and the woman nodded. she said that she had decided to love it, regardless of how it was arranged or how it looked. she added that her happiness was a choice she made each day and, no matter her aches or pains or worries, she was going to choose to be happy in the moment she was in, in the circumstance she was in. so now i felt even more guilty.
how many mornings have i risen with worry in my heart, trepidation for the day, feeling dissonance or hurt or angst-ridden?
i read aloud the piece about this sweet woman to david over coffee. he said we should print it out and hang it somewhere. i suppose that i could do that. but instead, i’d rather just try to remember it. to do the best i can each day to rise and be smartly dressed by 8 with an ‘i love it’ ready at my lips. to not worry about the guilt of seeing that printed and any shortcomings i might have, any times i don’t measure up, i fall shy of the happy-choice.
as the cooler air filled our room early-early this morning, we pulled up the blanket. it made me sigh with relief to feel the gentle breeze blowing through the window and as i look out now, there are a couple monarchs flying over our deck. a few cherry tomatoes are ready and the basil and lavender are smiling. beautiful. a fresh day. everything is green, vibrant, healthy.
there is something about green grasses i love. even out on trails i photograph grasses, on my knees at the level of chipmunks and daddy long legs. it feels somewhat dr. seuss-esque to say i love them on the trail, i love them in our yard, i love them in the mountains, i love them in our gard-en.
probably because of our proximity to the lake, our soil seems to speak to ornamental grasses. they grow really well in the gardens around our house. other people have many beautiful flowers and there have been times that i have wondered why i do not seem to be very good at growing various flowers. we have had a spot in the front that was blank. the plant we had planted years ago, despite any effort we made, was just not thriving. last sunday, in a moment of brilliance – preceded by much research that ended where we started – we bought an ornamental grass to go there. i took a peek at it out the front window while the sun was still low in the sky and it is happier than happy. and so, with my newfound wisdom this morning, i will choose to celebrate how well we grow grasses. not yard-grass, per se, for that is another one of those not-quite-there’s, but graceful ornamental grasses that send up beautiful plumes, that help with erosion control, that spread naturally and that make us look like successful gardeners…of a sort, anyway. celebrate what we do well. dressed smartly and looking fresh.
and i will remind myself, especially in these times, to rise gently. to hold this morning, tomorrow morning, that morning someday – any day – close to my heart. with gratitude. bowing to the sun and gracefully moving in the wind.
“the north texas food bank distributed more than 600,000 pounds of food for about 25,000 people on saturday.” (cnn.com) thousands of cars were lined up at the mobile food pantry. “54 million people in america face food insecurity during the pandemic.” (aamc.org) and we give thanks.
on november 23, at the noon hour, over 12,175,921 million americans had contracted covid-19. the omnipresent global pandemic has killed 255,958 americans since january 21, 2020. (covid.cdc.gov) with a gaping hole in leadership it continues to rage. and we give thanks.
“of the roughly 20 million americans now receiving some form of unemployment benefits, about half will lose those benefits when two federal programs expire at the end of the year.” (apnews.com) layoffs will likely accelerate in the next weeks and months. and we give thanks.
“gaslighting is deeply rooted in societal structure and social inequalities. women are more likely to experience gaslighting both in professional environments and in their personal lives due to these inequalities.” the term “racial gaslighting” is used “to describe a way of maintaining a pro-white/ anti-black balance in society by labeling those that challenge acts of racism as psychologically abnormal.” “racial gaslighting maintains a pro-white/anti-black balance in society.” “so many of the examples of racial gaslighting we’ve experienced and looked at are embedded in the structure, history and culture of the united states.” (bbc.com) the ugly truths. social injustice. where does a country go from here? and we give thanks.
“the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of millions of people around the world.” (who.int) “capsized travel plans, indefinite isolation, panic over scarce re-sources and information overload could be a recipe for unchecked anxiety and feelings of isolation.” (adaa.org) the struggle is real. and we give thanks.
there is so much. so much overwhelm. we look to the stars. we reel, we grieve, we ponder. we wonder how we can withstand any more.
and we are resilient. more than we can ever really know.
we surround our brutalized hearts with the love of family and friends, with memories of times past and wishes for times to come. we keep on keeping on, just as our intrepid ancestors did. we recognize the utter fragility of the moment, the immense journey we are on and the tiny bit of space we actually have on that journey. we stand tall, in the waning sun of late autumn. together. we are grateful. and we give thanks.
she led us up this mountain. my beautiful daughter, surefooted and strong, an exceptional guide, stopped in high altitude to allow me to catch my breath, to sip water. i wondered where the lake was…each step i took. but, following her, i stopped wondering if i would make it there. the confidence she exuded was both palpable and contagious. and so it was both thrilling and challenging to be high on independence pass, starting at the trailhead just a bit down the road from the summit.
she led us up this mountain and everything else fell away. far below us was the gravel lot, the highway. far below us was the truck that would soon take us away from these mountains, this heart-place. far below us were thoughts of leaving, thoughts of anything back home, thoughts of the pandemic and the election and real life and the worries embedded in all of that.
she led us up this mountain and we gained more than elevation as we trekked, our footfalls on the trail lost in the sound of the wind. we gazed around us, first below the treeline, then above, with fir and pine our hosts, the quaking golden aspen far below, unseen. the creek punctuated our thoughts and – admittedly, my puffing breath – tufts from mountain goats decorated thick branchy and leafless bushes.
she led us up this mountain and the less air i had left, the more it filled me. i wanted to hold onto every last second. i wanted to stand high on this mountain, next to this stunning pristine lake with my beloved daughter, and just weep. my heart needed this hike. my soul needed this hike. my body needed this hike. every other hike we had taken over our joyous days in these colorado mountains had led us to this hike. i was exhausted and cold and invigorated, hot-flashing and weak-kneed. and so, so grateful.
because mostly? because she led us up this mountain.