Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mystery muse~

This is who I am.

I hear of an upcoming event. I think it sounds good. I commit to it. Then as the date is nigh, I lose enthusiasm. I think, I really don't want to do this.

This is the way I am, and I know myself. If I stick with my plans, I'm glad. If I renege, I'm glad too sometimes, but I know I missed out on something I would have enjoyed, and my friends make sure I know this, too. They know this is the way I am.

A while ago I signed up for the "Writer's Weekly 24 Hour Short Story Contest."

I heard, it sounded good, I committed.

I paid five dollars to register, comfortable with leaving that on the table should I renege.

Today is contest day. I had from noon today until noon tomorrow to write no more than 1050 words on a theme that was revealed via email at precisely 12 p.m.

I'm writing this now.

Part of me is saying, "Let it go. It's only five bucks."

The other part is saying, "Give it a shot. All you can lose is five bucks." I'll give the contest a fair shake, or rather, it's me who will get the fair shake. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Sitting on the patio this evening with my laptop, my husband said to me, "Your sky is pink, Hon." He knows I love sunsets.

I turned to see my sky. I said, "I'm going for a walk across the street." I shut the laptop, put it away, slipped on my sandals and walked under my sky. Our sky. Anybody's who cares to look sky.

I thought of a question Rick, a writer friend, has on his blog: Who/What is your muse? In other words who/what is my inspiration, my creative influence, my stimulus.

I didn't respond. I know there is something inside that flips my switch from off to on allowing words to flow, but what? It just happens. I've always called my muse a he. That's all I know.

Walking tonight I thought . . . my muse is the sunset. I absorbed the pink glow. But I remembered the cumulous clouds I love, and the steel grey ones before rain. Tonight's moon hung just above the trees, nearly full and mellow as butter cream frosting. Sunset, clouds, moon . . .?

Yes, all of the above, but more. Monarchs on milkweed, ladybugs, blades of grass in sun and shadow. All of these and more. Leashed dogs that nuzzle my hand, their owners who chat with me. The saxophone, fresh corn from my garden, *you* . . .

My muse is the world, different parts at different times for different reasons. A mystery muse for now.

Will he flip my switch in time for me to complete the contest entry? I hope so. It's a lot easier with him. But if not, I won't renege.
Showering with my muse~
Fondling my muse~

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bizarre sentiment~

I stuck with Pete's plan today and tackled the "linen closet."

My "linen" closet holds cotton sheets and terrycloth towels, and assorted other things. Three bagfuls are now in the trash. I saved-- but neatly-- equally as much stuff. I will save it for six months to see if I actually use it. I already know what the answer will be, but psychologically three bags were enough for today's trash.

It was an unpleasant job, a hot sweaty job. The choices, the decisions, the dust. . .. I was proud I chose to do it instead of writing the newspaper story due today; if I didn't procrastinate on writing, I'd never get anything done around the house.

It took only a couple of hours and the closet looks as good as my "lonj - er - ay" drawer.

I decided I'd look into my "items with sentimental value." Pete says if they're important enough to keep, find a place to "highlight their importance." Makes sense; I concur: toss it or prove its worth by finding a place for it.

I was doing well until I came across a small cap in a box that held old costume jewelry.

It was the cap my newborn son wore on his head when I brought him home from the hospital. Well, he didn't actually wear it on his cranium, but his other head.

It was the tiny plastic cap that the doctor put on the head of my son's penis after circumcising him. Think tiny, like the tip of a woman's baby finger. It's twenty-eight years old. He is too.

Weird? What can I say? He was my firstborn son. Tell me no other mother ever saved a plastic cap from her son's penis! Or maybe not that, exactly, but something else equally odd. Or . . . is it just me?

Here's, the dilemma: save it or not?

I saved it this long, this little symbol of the birth of a son. I can't just toss it. But how can I highlight it? Put it on a chain and wear it around my neck?

"Oh, I love your pendant," they'll say. "So original. Where did you get it?"

Frame it in a shadow box, a tiny one, and focus spot lighting on it? Pass out magnifying glasses so people can view it?

Give it to my son's fiancée on their wedding night? "They grow up so soon," I'll say.

Blackmail him with it? "I'll post a picture on the Internet if . . ."

Pete be damned. This stays in the box in my drawer. Sometimes, bizarre or not, sentiment rules.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Clearing the clutter~

I'm always impressed with bloggers who post a "Books I'm Reading" list. I'm impressed with their books, some of which I have never heard of, but they sound impressive. Just the titles alone impress me.

If I had a list, it would be eclectic, with some embarassingly non-impressive sounding titles in among the impressive ones. There are some impressive books I read. I'm impressed anyway.

I'd never list the Cosmopolitan Magazines I find beside my daughter's bed when I take a nap in her room, or the magazine slop I fall prey to in the supermarket checkout line; I don't call that reading. That's how I numb my mind to fall asleep, and learn-- yet again that there is no way at all to lose belly flab without diet and exercise, along with learning a few more things "men secretly desire."

Along the lines of an embarrassing book to admit reading, I grabbed a copy of "It's All Too Much" off the "new release" shelf when I went to the library to pick up my impressive titles.

I'd seen the author Peter Walsh on Oprah. He's handsome with emerging crow's feet and short chin beard thing. On the book jacket photo, he has just a touch of gel in his hair, and an appealing close-mouthed half smile. He had me at "Hello."

Peter is an "organizational consultant" who helps people clean up their clutter. I started reading in bed; another put me to sleep book, I thought. He said he would dig me out "from under the overwhelming crush of my own possessions." He described people who lived with mountains of stuff, stored, and overflowing until their living space was invaded.

Poor things, I thought smugly. My house looks neat. If you don't open a certain closet or two. Or go into the storage space down cellar. Or the attic. Or my underwear drawer, I thought with a jolt.

I didn't fall asleep with this book tented across my chest. When I did put it down and turn out the light, it was with new resolve, a new mindset.

I'm dumping a little each day: things I never use, will never use, have never used, don't even know how to use. I've given away clothes, jewelry, shoes, pocketbooks, and other things that haven't seen the light of day for a long time.

But there are still the items that have sentimental value. Handsome Pete makes a good point. If they are is so important, why are these items sitting in moldy boxes in the cellar? My sentimental objects are not in my cellar. Nor are they moldy. Still, Pete is merciless. "If they are so important to you why are they in drawers or on closet shelves?" he demands.

Great point, Pete. I'm working on the sentimental things. But meanwhile, you should see my underwear drawer. Now I call it my "lonj - er - ay" drawer.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Real life~

I came in from the backyard when the sky was strawberry shortcake pink. My husband was watching TV.

"The sunset is gorgeous," I said.

"I can see it out the window, " he said.

"I'm going for a walk. It's too beautiful to miss."

I headed across the street, down Cobblestone Lane. No cobblestones, just macadam against my bare feet. It's a cul de sac, a half-mile down, a half-mile back. I measured once.

The sky quickly became blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream, like the juice left on your plate after a sweet summer dessert.

I walked past the place I call "milkweed heaven" where I'd reveled in the monarch's delight this morning. Where are the monarchs now? Fluttery moths and some strange red beetles with antennae had replaced them.

Kids were not quite asleep, and I heard family noises in the houses I passed. Why do the mothers sound so harsh? I'm the soft voice in my house.

The moon was half, and I was glad that the other half, although in shadow, was still there. In the "olden" days did they know that? They thought a dragon ate it. It looks like it would be a tangy mint flavor, not cheese.

A woman was walking toward me. I could tell she was "exercising" by the swing of her arms. I was sauntering, inhaling the moon.

"Hi," she said.

"How are you?" I responded.

I won't recognize her in the sunlight, but I liked her perfume.

The cricket stopped chirping when I passed, then resumed, like he had when I passed his spot earlier. I'm glad he's cautious, but I'd never hurt him. I wish he could sense that, and keep singing for me.

Back home, my husband looked up.

"It's so much better in real life than out the window," I said. Do you want a sandwich? Tuna fish?"

"With celery," he said.

More butterflies~
Butterfly kisses~

Belly up to the bar~

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Do you know where your children are?

My daughter was home this morning, a summer Saturday.

"Aren't you going to the Cape?" I asked. She and her boyfriend spend weekends with his parents at their Cape Cod cottage. Usually she leaves after work on Friday, but not always.

"I'm waiting for my Harry Potter book," she said.

I should have known. Joanna's been an avid reader of the series since its inauguration ten years ago when she was 13.

She'd preordered a copy of the new Harry Potter book from Today was delivery day.

She's a reader. The current book beside her bed is "Einstein" by Walter Isaacson. In between books like this, she's read the entire Potter series several times over.

Her brother David was eight at Harry's debut, a third grader far more interested in sports than any book he'd met so far. When he settled down with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I thought a new era had begun; he'd discovered "reading for pleasure."

Not quite, but he found pleasure in Harry Potter. "I wish she'd hurry up," he once said of J. K. Rowling. "I'll be grown up by the time the next book is written."

At 18, he's sitting on the couch beside his girlfriend as I write. They're both reading their copies of Harry and the Deathly Hallows.

David and Jen went to Walmart last night after midnight. They waited in a crowd, wearing color-coded bracelets, to be granted the right to purchase two copies. Dave and Jen started reading in the wee morning hours.

Bruce and I sat in the back yard at sunset, and our neighbor wandered over for a chat. I told her Dave and Jen were in the house with Harry Potter.

"Sure!" she said with a wink. "Harry Potter? I was 18 once." Wink, wink.

"No, really," I said. "They are really reading!"

To the proverbial question, "It's 11 p.m. Do you know where your children are?" I can say, "Yes! One's reading Harry Potter in the living room with his girlfriend. My other is on the Cape with Harry."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Share the pain~

My daughter Joanna called me on her way home from work. She does this to touch base, to let us know her plans.

She's 23, living home after college, which means she sleeps here Monday through Friday, is out of the house before I'm up in the morning, out until I'm asleep some nights, and away on weekends. Not a bad deal for both of us, although I love having her here. We probably talk more by cell phone and email than face to face.

We share commonalities, but we are really very different in many ways. That's why I don't write about her, usually. She's very private, and I try to respect that.

She tells me, "You have no filter, Mom!" This is usually hissed in a shocked whisper after I've offered a laughing comment in public that she feels is too . . . I don't know . . . unfiltered.

I don't agree that I have no filters, but my privacy sieve has larger holes than hers. I let more through. I learned to do this when I discovered how lonely it was to live one life on the outside, and the real one inside. She may discover this later in life.

She told me that a friend and colleague, a woman her age, did not come to work today because her mother died-- this morning. Only yesterday did the friend share that her mother was sick with cancer.

Joanna cried when she heard, alone in her office, she told me. She was shocked that this friend bore her mother's illness alone.

I didn't tell her this, but I wonder if she might do the same thing in a similar situation. She doesn't like to appear vulnerable. Don't we think that's what we are when we cry or feel sorrow? "I can handle it; I'm fine!" we say. "I'll be okay." Then we sob alone in the shower.

I've learned it helps to share pain. There are others who want to share my pain. I no longer filter mine.

I overheard Joanna on the phone telling someone about sympathy cards. "The cards are awful," she said. "It would be so mean to give some of them. They'd just make the person cry and feel bad."

Ahhh, but this she doesn't know yet. People who grieve already feel bad. It is the tears that come when they read a sympathy card from a friend that will make them feel better.

I didn't tell her this. She will discover it like I did.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Life after retirement~

Seven years ago I increased my contribution to the teachers' retirement system and bought five years off my career in a move known as "taking early retirement."

When summer vacation ends, I'll have 180 days left in the profession I chose when I was in first grade.

Maybe because this is my last summer vacation that will end when school bells ring, maybe because retirement is finally close enough to count the days, maybe because I can hardly wait, I've begun to think more seriously about the question I've been asked so often: What are you going to do when you retire?

Here's all I know:

I want to write more, read more, take more pictures. Exercise more, travel more, and sleep more, or at least better. I want to live more. I want to slow down and absorb the life I've been rushing through, rushing because I had to, to get it all done.

What I don't want to do is to plan my retirement. I have done enough planning in 36 years of teaching.

I want to step softly into the years ahead, letting each day open like the morning glories under my window, feeling its promise, following its lead.

But I am a realist. I have a little packet of seeds I've been sowing, releasing them here and there into a wind that takes them somewhere to lay dormant for the time being. An idea, a thought, a hope, a wish . . .

Maybe in a year the first sprouts will appear, tender, yellow-green and full of promise. Maybe there will be a harvest I haven't anticipated.

Maybe there will be drought. I can't know this. I won't worry.

Life will happen. I have sown my seeds. I await the garden.
What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow, which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

To this I add, "Life is in the smallest details that await only your eyes, and your appreciation."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

In the web~

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to . . .blog. But what a beautiful web it is.

My reason for starting a blog can be found here: Who me? Blog?

Now I see there is another benefit to blogging I hadn't realized-- getting to meet people through the interconnectedness of the cyber world. I don't know how some of these nice people stumbled across my humble blog, but I'm glad they did. I followed their links back to them, and through them to others.
Not everybody finds blogs worth the time either to write or read. Personally I enjoy both. I'm discriminating; don't get me wrong. There are blogs I won't return to, just as there are books I won't finish. But there are some that have become favorites of mine, places I check at the end of a day.

Now I've been tagged. Thanks, Leslie.

Good thing I didn't write a blog post about hating to get those pass this on to six people in the next five minutes, or you will have bad luck for the rest of your life emails. I never play that game. And I have great luck. See: Friday the 13th~

But this game of tag is different. I will play.

Rules first:
Post these rules before starting. 2. Write a blog entry listing eight random facts about yourself. 3. Then choose eight more people to tag, and list their names and urls. 5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment on their blog telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog for directions.

1. My first name is Lillian, not Ruth. I was named after my paternal grandmother, but my parents wanted to call me Ruth. Why didn't they just make Ruth my first name? Because they thought it sounded better in this order. It has been a pain in the neck from the time I got my license and the man at the Registry of Motor Vehicles said he didn't care what name I went by, legally I was Lillian, and unless I wanted to go to court, and pay . . . blah, blah, blah. Yes, sir! (Jerk!)

2. I have a scar on my knee from the time my younger brother accidentally stabbed me with a knife we were playing with. We were on our first family camping vacation in the wilderness of New Hampshire My parents somehow found a country doctor to stitch me up, I had to wait a long time for him to deliver a baby before he got to my knee.

3. I worked at a local pharmacy in high school--my senior year-- and stole condoms-- from the supply room. This was before the day condoms were in school restrooms, before the fear of AIDs, before the "pill." Or before I would have dared get a prescription for the pill. My youngest son is now older than I was then.

4. Like Leslie, and Greta Garbo, I've often said, "I vant to be alone." I love people; enjoy getting together to talk and laugh, but to "recharge my batteries, I need to be alone. I go off-- me, myself and I, and of course the camera-- and wander for hours, snapping pictures, thinking, wondering, and writing in my head. I'm never bored doing this.

5. Another Leslie commonality-- My oldest son has schizoaffective disorder; I was told it could manifest as bipolar disorder some day. It is still so little understood, this "mental Illness," which in fact is physical. Mental illness is still the butt of jokes, although I no longer laugh. My son self-medicated with crack, earning himself a dual diagnosis: mentally ill/drug addicted. Writing about it helps. Read "Paranoia"

Eight things is a lot!

6. I put off doing things until the last minute because I work better under a little time pressure. And I don't stick to things I start. Like golf. I started golfing in midlife for something new to do. Okay. Been there done that. Anyone want to buy a nice set of lady's clubs? I'd rather wander alone with my camera.

7. I don't really plan things either. I just let things unfold for the most part. I plan in my head in broad strokes, but mostly I go with the flow. I've been very lucky where I've ended up for the most part. I wonder if I could have done better if I'd been more of a planner and a controller, like my daughter-- and husband.

I'm running dry. You're probably snoring now anyway. Hello? Is anyone here?

8. I love cats. I have said I will never live without a cat. So far, I never have. My sweet Becky is snoring on the floor beside me now. How can you not love a cat?

I'm tagging eight more. I leave it to them to choose to play tag or not.
Gary Riding Lessons
Bob A Writer's Haven
Dawn Observations
Heather 20 Going on Spinster With Cats
Jen Long Story Longer
Ann Creative Journaling
Mridu Mridu Khullar
Bill Blog From the Future Past

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th~

I never bought into Friday the 13th being bad luck. I've never bought into any superstition. I've pushed the envelope and walked under ladders. I've swept up broken mirrors without a qualm, whistling a happy tune, in fact. So far so good, and I expect no change.

My students are always quick to inform me when it's a Friday the 13th.

"Oh no!" moaned one little boy, upon hearing the date. He banged his forehead on his desk. Not the luckiest thing to do.

Another said, "I've already had bad luck. I missed the bus."

"But you're here now," I said. "You weren't even late."

"We were all out of milk," another said. "I couldn't have cereal."

"But you had something to eat, right?" I asked.

"Yeah, Pop Tarts. I love those!"

"Well, there you go.".

I followed this dialogue with my Friday the 13th "look for good luck" mandate. I have a theory that you find what you look for, and I want to pass this along to my students.

Today, July 13, is a Friday. Bruce got a flat tire.

I was doing errands when he called me on my cell. How lucky I had it with me.

He needed a Phillips screwdriver for some reason. So I drove home to get it. Lucky us. We had several screwdrivers to choose from, and luckier still, I knew where they were. I met him at the high school parking lot. What a lucky place to get a flat tire: a parking lot only three miles from home.

By the time I arrived, there was a burley, young man helping Bruce change the tire. What luck!

Later a two more men wandered over. They were all members of the semi-pro football league that was setting up to play on the high school field.

If I ever need a tire changed, I hope there'll be several football players in the vicinity.

But these men, as helpful as they were, were moaning. "Man, it figures. Friday the 13th and you get a flat tire."

"Wait a minute," I said. "He got the flat in the parking lot right where you were. That's pretty lucky if you ask me."

But the tire wouldn't come off the car. The lug nuts were off, the car was jacked up, but the tire wouldn't budge.

Lucky enough, there was a station nearby, less than a minute away. I drove there, and an employee followed me back to the parking lot. With three bangs of his magic hammer-- the magic being lead shot inside, he said-- the tire was off. He put the spare on.

Bad luck. The tire had several nails lodged in the tread, and was not able to be repaired. So we have to shell out the price of a new tire. Great luck. We can deal with this. We'll still eat well, and have a roof over our heads, and so much more.

How lucky can we get?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Playing the odds~

A woman's business-like voice on the answering machine said, "Good morning. This call is for Mrs. . . ., followed by a familiar pause while she struggled, and failed, to pronounce my name correctly.

It's much simpler to pronounce than to spell: Do let. Accent on the let.

Douillette. It looks awful with the French word "oui" in there with the two Ls and the two Ts. I make my fifth graders learn to spell it early in the year.

I tell them "oui" is the French word for yes, and I like to say "yes." I tell them I have three sets of twins in my name: Ls, Ts, and . . . can they find the other twins? (This is why I come home starved for adult conversation at the end of each day.)

"Mrs. Dow wah let ee. You have an appointment at the clinic tomorrow at eight," she said.

Eight! First of all, since when do I ever schedule anything that early? And second of all, now that the appointment draws nigh, I'm not so sure I will go through with it.

I have two tests scheduled. A mammogram, and a bone density screening, both scheduled by my doctor at my last physical exam. I thought, why not. I might as well know the state of my bones. As for the mammogram, I once lost track of time and went five years without one. When I found a lump, I vowed never to be so careless with time and my body again. Thankfully, after surgery the lump was found to be benign, but I've tried not to tempt fate since then.

But I find myself wondering if the mammogram might end up causing what it is designed to detect. Besides, cancer does not run in my family. Heart disease does, and I'm drinking my medicine at this very moment: red wine.

As for the bone density test, I just Googled it, and found out it's for woman over 65. What's with that? I have nine years. Maybe it's for a baseline reading, but what's the point? I don't want Fosamax.

I think of the trees I see on my walks, trees that have been eaten secretly by insects on the inside until they are honeycombed and fragile in their cores. They snap and crash in a zephyr after withstanding hurricanes for decades.

I don't want to be like those trees. I don't think I will be.

Besides eight a.m.? What was I thinking? I'll wait a while, sleep late tomorrow, think about this, Google some more, and maybe reschedule for a later time of day. Maybe I'll wait nine years.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Till death do us part~

My husband and I have different ways of recharging our batteries. I left him happily puttering in the yard, and traveled thirty miles south to the city of New Bedford. An old whaling city, much of its charm lies in its historic district with cobblestone streets and original brick buildings.

This weekend the city was hosting "Summerfest"-- an annual Arts and Folk music festival.

I wandered in and out of the vendor tents, skipping the clothing and jewelry, focusing on art and photography, ignoring the carved wood displays altogether. I talked myself out of getting a bonsai tree at all three of the bonsai tree vendors. Although, I'd love one, I always talk myself out of a tiny tree. Some day I won't. I flipped through self-published books, not looking directly at the authors grouped under the awnings, although I could feel their hopeful eyes on me.

I took pictures of buildings, flowers, and cobblestone streets, and a picture of a building bearing the name of a friend. Mostly though, I found myself watching people, and listening, catching snippets of conversation as they passed,

"Well, then I wouldn't have been able to wash my feet . . .."

"You gotta think of yourself. You gotta protect yourself . . .."

"Next year we won't have to bring the stroller . . .. "

I walked behind an older couple. So in sync they were-- keeping pace, stepping in unison-- that I think they must have spent a lifetime together. He gripped her hand, curving his around hers, bending his wrist the way a father grasps the hand of a toddler. She leaned on her cane; he carried her pocketbook. It was the same blue as the blue in her dress.

He turned to her and said, "I think this is the last year we'll be coming to this."

She didn't turn to him. She didn't reply, that I could tell. Maybe she squeezed his hand.

They continued in step to the corner. He stepped off the curb and turned to help her down. I saw his profile; I never saw her face.

They touched me, this couple who never knew I snapped their picture.

I tend to build stories around people. These two were childhood sweethearts, separated by war-- she at home with two babies, he on the front somewhere. Letters home were cherished, reread and filed in a shoebox that traveled with every move they later made.

Any couple I've known who remained together through long years of marriage has told me, "We've had our troubles. It wasn't a piece of cake." But for one reason or another, good reasons, or expedient, they've remained together, choosing death to part them.

Why did this couple stay together? They have stories, reasons, excuses I'll never know. They have examples of wisdom and foolish pride to share.

I think about them, and wonder . . . what would they do differently if they could?

From Wikipedia: Herman Melville, who worked in New Bedford as a whaler, wrote the novel Moby Dick and published it in 1851; the city would be the initial setting of the book, including a scene set in the Seaman's Bethel, which still stands today. Despite the power it gave to New Bedford, the whaling industry began to decline starting in 1859 when petroleum, which would become a popular alternative to whale oil, was discovered. Whaling in New Bedford eventually came to a halt in 1925, with the last whaling expedition being made by the John R. Manta schooner.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Out of the forest~

Read this first: GPS unplugged~

The rest of the story . . .

I'm bad, but not bad enough that I didn't see something wildly inappropriate about the route GPS sent me on yesterday.

Bruce called the Garmin GPS help line this morning.

There was no plot against me fomented by artificial intelligence gone amuck, a possibility I'd entertained as I zigzagged around roads that went nowhere; no reality show with a helicopter hovering above, filming how long the black Toyota truck would go in circles before the driver pulled off the road and cried.

Apparently there is a preference setting in the GPS that was set to "avoid highways and avoid U-turns." Well, duh! I was trying to go 60 miles with a GPS that was determined to keep me off highways. No wonder.

To my credit I'd rebelled at one point and got on Rt. 95. I called the GPS some bad names, and yanked its dendrites from the cigarette lighter, because she insisted on instructing me to get off at each exit.

You should hear how sweet she sounds, how hypnotic, so, and this is my insecurity at work, I plugged her back in after a while-- just in case-- and I listened to her, because I can be bad at directions. So can she, although, in her defense, she was doing what she was programmed to do. We just had a communication gap. We're still friends.

The lesson? I should trust my instincts. I'm not as bad as I think. Sometimes.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

GPS unplugged~

I had a little argument today. With my GPS. I was headed to visit my son in a city 60 miles north, an hour and fifteen minutes away. It took me longer than this.

I listened to my GPS. The GPS, a gift from my husband, is insurance that I'll arrive where I'm trying to go. Before the GPS, I arrived late, after trial and error, use of reverse gear, U-turns, and some swearing. And phone calls.

Driving, for me, is like playing a game of chess where only a few spaces at a time are revealed. Apparently I'm one of those people with poor ability to form a "mental map."

Call it what you will-- a weakness, a problem, a disability-- coupled with the fact that I confuse left and right, it makes for a round-about trip.

But the GPS has been great. Until today. There is something extremely stubborn about artificial intelligence. And to be fair, I can be stubborn too. We didn't see eye to eye.

In retrospect, I realize it was trying to take me by the most direct route as the crow flies. I was trying to take myself by my blurry mental map, albeit a longer way. When I left home and it said, "Go right." I said, "What?"

I got lost one other time when I didn't trust the GPS. My husband said, "That's why you have the thing. Next time listen to it." So, I did at first, but I grew anxious, and did what I haven't done since I got it. I called him.

"Bruce? This GPS is telling me to go the wrong way. I really don't trust it. At all."

He confirmed my mental map would do the trick, so I ignored Miss GPS. Ha!

But she wouldn't shut up. She kept patiently "recalculating" and entreating me to exit the highway and fly with her crow. Finally, out of insecurity, second-guessing myself, I did.

I could hear her breathe a sigh of relief; I got where I was going not much later than a normal person.

The visit with Jesse was half as long as the time it took me to get home.

I had told Bruce, "I'm going to follow its exact directions home." It sounds simple, but people who need these gadgets are the ones least able to utilize them properly.

It told me, "In point two miles, turn right."

Okay, but there is a right turn now, at point one mile, and I don't see one ahead. I better take this. What one tenth of a mile? It must mean this right turn.

"Recalculating," it said. Did I detect annoyance? These GPSs are such sticklers for accuracy.

Okay, my bad. But with the impatient Massachusetts drivers honking at me . . . there isn't much time to make a decision. We worked together, the GPS recalculating when her directions were so poor that I couldn't follow them. Geez, for a $200.00+ piece of technology . . .

It only took me three hours to get home. Don't ask! It was just a little disagreement, and I lost.

How it all began: Mother's Day GPS

The Resolution: Out of the forest

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Consent of the governed~

It's 9:30 p.m. Independence Day, and I sit home in a comfy chair with a glass of Merlot, instead of on a blanket at the field where fireworks will blast off momentarily. Cool rainy weather slid in toward evening replacing the sun, and changing our plans as well.
I'm watching a documentary on the Military channel, something my husband had on. It's about the Revolutionary War.

"I wonder if we would have been Loyalists," I said to my husband.

I can't imagine that I would have been, but this is now. Who knows what I would have thought in 1775?

Maybe I would never have stepped foot in the New World to begin with, choosing to stay home when friends and family sailed for a new life. I might have thought terrible things about the rebels in America, the ungrateful wretches. How could they turn on the country that gave them so much?

"No." Bruce says, certain as always. We would never have been Loyalists.

But he couldn't explain his certainty. "I just don't think we would have been," he says.

Idle speculation, while interesting, will never yield an answer.

Still, in the here and now, I am a loyalist. Loyal to the principles upon which this nation was founded, loyal to ideas and standards that uphold these principles. I'm a watchful loyalist, a careful loyalist, knowing that subtle shifts in thinking, and beliefs, by leaders who have different loyalties can turn the path of this nation far from its original intent.

We can't know what the future holds. We need to stay watchful. We need to speak up-- using the freedom we have to do so-- when our leaders step off the ideal path. We need to make sure our loyalties run deeper by far than to any leader, or any party; that our loyalty is to the greater good, not just of this beautiful country, but to the entire planet and all we share it with.
From The Declaration of Independence

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A cliche day~

Julia Cameron says in her book "The Artist's Way" that writers should get out once a week for a couple of hours, and do something just for themselves. Whatever it is they like best, from wandering through a museum to hiking a trail, just do it-- alone.

I read "The Artist's Way" only recently, but I've been treating myself to these outings for a long time. Time spent by myself rejuvenates my soul.

Today, a day so clear and cool that it felt more like May than early July, I biked to the next town to a conservation area I'd seen. The clouds were so beautiful they held my gaze more than the roadway.

All the while, I wrote in my head-- something I've done most of my life. I describe what I see as if I'm reading it in a book. But I couldn't for the life of me think of anything other than clichés to describe the magnificent cumulus clouds.

They were cotton candy, foamy billows on a blue sea, marshmallow fluff, frosting, whipped cream, meringue, even Santa's beard (which might not be a cliché, but there's a good reason for that).

That's when I thought about my friend Gary.
His aversion to clichés is legendary on the writing workshop
we belong to. Maybe he'd have a fresh, new phrase.

I wandered in a field of Queen Ann's lace and milkweed, where the sweet scent of clover (cliché) mingled with the hum of bees (cliché) nuzzling blossoms for nectar, played their parts in the never ending "birds and the bees" drama.

Down by the river, water surged over rocks through a culvert under the road. I waded in for pictures, rather than daintily stepping on the slippery river rocks.

All the clichés were there: fragile spider webs, flickering shadows, a symphony of birdsong, a burbling stream. I sat on the rocks and absorbed nature like a thirsty sponge (cliché) until it was time to head home.

On the homestretch, the last mile, I pedaled hard, feeling the burn in my quads and glutes, feeling my heart race. I pulled into the driveway, breathing hard.

The words from the old hymn, penned by Horatio Spafford flooded my mind: "It is well, it is well with my soul."