Category Archives: Essays

A Roadtrip Through Five States (Cee’s Share Your World Prompt)

Click on any photo to enlarge all:

Today I’ve been a lazy passenger as Forgottenman has driven us from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. In one 45-minute period, we crossed 4 rivers: the Cumberland, the Tennessee, the Ohio and the Mississippi and saw two huge dams––the Kentucky and Barclay—both TVA projects I had studied about in the sixth grade. We have gone from 77 degrees in Huntsville to 53 degrees and rain. We’ve seen 13 dead deer along the interstate and over a dozen stalled cars as well as countless huge tire strips from semis—more than I’ve ever seen in a day of travel before, although Forgottenman thinks that is about par for the course.

The trees of every size, shape and variety as well as every hue of green, gold, yellow, red and brown have been spellbinding in their beauty. I don’t know that I’ve ever taken a ride through an autumn landscape this varied and extensive. Would that skies had been sunny and clear, but nonetheless, it has been a wonderful ride. In a little over an hour, we’ll be home and I can share photos of my day. Until then, I’m gritting my teeth on this rain-slickened two-lane road with no shoulders and fairly heavy traffic. Forgottenman is a good driver and “Mother,” our GPS, has not led us astray so far, although I must admit she has in the past.

Now that it is nearly dark, the traffic has thinned and the puddles on the road deepened. I can hear the water splashing against the undercarriage, as though we are driving through a car wash. Bug splashes on the front window that I’ve been trying to shoot photos around all day have been abolished by heavy rain and windshield wipers, but too late, too late. A stiff neck slowly Improved over the past two days again starts to seize up in the tension over oncoming car lights, unceasing rain and deepening puddles.

I’m glad I’m not driving and glad a good driver is, although I am wishing he was not using the cruise control. We’ve had this discussion before with me maintaining that it should not be used in rainy weather, he insisting this is an old wives tale. Since I am neither a wife nor old (in some eyes, namely mine) I reject once more his statement. But he is driving and so I surrender the argument in his favor, not because he is right but because he is driving.

Forgottenman is anxious to get home so he can look at a map to try to understand why Mother has directed us off Highway 62 onto this hilly, winding tiny two-lane road. More of a technophobe, I never go anywhere without a map along, but he is more trusting of the powers of technology to steer him aright, in spite of a number of experiences in which she hasn’t. In less than an hour, all mysteries will be revealed. In the meantime, I’m going to close my eyes and pretend I’m anywhere other than where I am.

Ha!! Finally home seven hours after we started out from Huntsville. We unloaded the car in a light drizzle, thankful for the fact that it isn’t the heavy rainfall of the past few hours. Cold wet grass made us grateful for a dry carpet and relatively warm house inside, as well as Wifi and electricity so I can post this message. We had a wonderful time with old friends but there is no place like home.

 

Cee’s questions for the week:

Would you rather take a 2 week vacation with an organized tour or take a cruise of your choice? I’d rather take an unorganized tour–going where I wished to.

Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing? I lived across from the playground for my entire growing up years.  I loved swinging and hearing the sounds of the swings across the street when I was at home lying in bed or in the grass.

What is the most important thing that you ever learned ? (I bet it’s not something you learned in school) It is wise not to say everything you think and to think about everything you say.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. See above!! And, there will be more tomorrow.

 

For Cee’s Share Your World prompt.

 

When is Enough, Enough?

 

  When Is Enough Enough?

To want all or to want nothing are both dangerous. Those who want all are the conquerors and exploiters and power lords who have brought the world to the state it is in today. They will exploit the poor and the weak but get their feelings of the most power from exploiting those equal to them in power. The world is a game to these people and we are all pawns.

But to want nothing may lead to despair. True, in a few holy men, it has been the path to enlightenment; but for those living within the world and not to the side of it, to want nothing can lead to apathy and powerlessness.

I think the true enlightenment lies in wanting enough and then wanting enough for others as well. This doesn’t have to be done by charity. It can be done by the way we vote, the way we treat our neighbors, the way we invest our money and the way we conduct our own businesses. It can be done by the way we bargain for a trinket on the beach or handle wrong change.

Sylvia Plath was probably correct in her statement, “Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.” When the richest woman in the world commits suicide or the richest men in the world exploit those living hand-to-mouth, one has to wonder what great lack they are trying to fill and whether in fact they have ever discovered the secret of what the world is really about.

 

This is a rewrite of an essay written three years ago. The prompt today was enlighten. 

 

 

My Imaginary Friend

My Imaginary Friend

I have never had an imaginary friend until four years ago, when one suddenly appeared.  She has a special function in my life: memory.  When I’m driving to town and suddenly forget exactly where it is I’m going, I prod her and within a few seconds, she has the answer for me.  She never tires of these prods–even when I ask her the same question twice within the space of an hour or two.  Sometimes she even leaves me notes on the refrigerator.  “Catfood,” she scribbles, “Lampshade.” “Hem pants!”

As is necessary with good friends, I forgive her her shortcomings as she forgives mine.  When it took her an entire week to come up with the name of a woman whose name I keep confusing with another, I did not chide her.  When I forgot the name of one flower for an entire year, I ceased even asking her to provide an answer and in its own sweet time, memory brought the name to me with no prodding.

As with all imaginary friends, I do not call attention to her in public. We have our conversations in private, usually as I rail against myself, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” when the correct information will not come with the ease that it did before this particular decade.

It is she who decided I needed a wall hanger for glasses and keys and after fruitless minutes of my daily searches, reminds me that my car keys and reading glasses are where they’re supposed to be–on the rack!  She has been doing this for years, without complaint, and one of my main fears in life is that she will pass on before I do.

We have a pact, my imaginary friend and I, and if it is up to her and me, we will die peacefully, side by side, forty years from now when we are 110. By then she will be so worn out that she will deserve a rest, and by then I will probably be all too willing to go with her.

 

The prompt today wasimaginary.”  This is a reblog of a piece I wrote a few years ago.

 

 

Keeping Sacred in the Right Order

img_0404Last Night’s Sunset over Lake Chapala: jdbphoto

Keeping Sacred in the Right Order

How ironic that that which should unite us so often divides us instead. If there is one reality, then every religion that unites us with that sacred reality should unite us to each other as well. But sadly, that which should be sacred turns us scared instead. Just one slight shift in the letters creates what man creates when he attempts to define the universal instead of just feeling it. In vehemently insisting that our way is the only way, we are both demonstrating our fear that someone who thinks differently from us might prove our way to be wrong as well as setting up the same fear in them. We are one. Everything points to it, and it is what most religions profess in words regrettably finite which cannot quite grasp the concept that no matter what our belief, it should in the end profess that one truth. The fact that what prophets once expressed has been bent by those less prophetic to promulgate division instead of oneness is the great irony of organized religion down through the ages.

These factions and sects and denominations that set themselves above the rest—that declare one group heathens or infidels or unsaved, move themselves one step farther from faith and one step closer to dogma. The entire world is sacred. We see it in the petals of a hibiscus or a dandelion, a Christian or Jew or Muslim.  All children, in their innocence, possess this sacred quality and then we go about trying to help them define it and in doing so, kill the very thing we are trying to define.

Sacred is not limited to churches or synagogues. Sacred is a holy place within us that we go to to connect with the universal. We could do this as well at home if we took the time to do so. But all people and all places that call themselves holy are not so just for the telling. If the “holy” man speaks of divisiveness, he is not holy. If he holds his religion up above the rest and points fingers at those who believe differently, he is not holy. He is a politician as surely as the man who runs for congress. He is politicking for his own beliefs rather than trying to guide you to your own.

A walk in the woods or a swim in the sea, the painting of a picture or the careful stitching of a quilt, lying on a blanket in the shade with a child and watching the progress of ants—all are holy pastimes that can take you closer to the sacred in yourself.  Do not let anyone turn your “sacred” into “scared,” for holiness is in every molecule of our universe, and all of us have it spread equally within ourselves.  It is just up to us to find it.

The prompt today was “sacred.”

Hard Lessons

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Learning Disabilities

I have no water in my house. I’ve had no Internet for weeks. My dog is at the vet’s having major surgery that will cost $1,000 U.S. that I need to go to the bank to withdraw along with another $1,000 I offered to loan to a friend to buy a car they need to buy who just called to say they need the money tomorrow! Problem is I can’t get to the bank because I’m hoping for a call from Telmex saying they’ve figured out my internet problem––and the plumber who is going to try to come at 3. All this and to top off the perfect day, I have amoebas and the new medicine I got yesterday has given me a headache and fever. Or I’m just stressing out and the entire kit and caboodle is giving me a fever and headache.

I’m beginning to fear I’m no longer able to handle running a house. The floor is covered by boxes of three different types of tile I have laid out to try them out. I have a dozen things to complete before I leave in a little more than a week. I’ve been trying to get a haircut for a month, but no time to do so. Gripe gripe gripe. You would think I would learn, but somehow time and time again I am getting into these high-stress situations where hyperventilation is the norm.

From a perfectly organized house last night my house has turned into a disaster area. Files from the file cabinet lay piled on the headboard/case of my bed—leftovers as I looked for a brochure of the water system to try to figure out what particular tube I need for the purification system. My bed is covered by the contents of six different big baskets I pulled down from the closet to look for a pair of gloves to handle the tube I bought after visiting four different water supply places. No, none had a man to come install it. Yes, I broke it installing it. Good thing I had one glove on—all I could find.

My desk is covered by little slips of paper concerning tile types, prices, business cards, discarded amoeba meds (wrong variety for what the lab told me yesterday) and old VHS tapes (what are those doing there?) Earlier, when I needed to call the water place to see if they could locate another purification tube light (answer was no) I couldn’t find one phone of four that I have in the house that was still in its cradle. Then when I did, turns out one of the lost phones was clicked on so I couldn’t call anyway. Search house again. Finally found it on the bookcase by the doggie domain. What in the world was it doing there and where in the world are the other 3 phones that are still lost? Last night I found them all and restored them to their cradles. Do I have Telmex poltergeists infesting my house every night?

Yes. At.The. End. Of. My.Rope.

Should I move? Can’t stand to think about that. Perhaps there is someone pleasant willing to trade free rent of my casita for a few managerial tasks such as dealing with electricity, phone, internet, gas and minor construction. No, I don’t need a keeper yet, but my house certainly does. It seems to be reaching that age when everything needs attending to. Walls aren’t crumbling, but floors need replacing, the walls painted less than a year ago need a second coat, and someone needs to search the Virginia creeper vines to find those hummingbird moth caterpillars that are pooping bee bees all over my terrace table and the steps outside the doggie domain.

Yes. At. The. End. Of. My. Rope.

I need to pick up Frida in an hour and still can’t get hold of Pasiano or Yolanda to come let the plumber in. If the plumber comes. And even then, I won’t have purified water—just water, at least, to flush toilets and wash with.

Headache. Chills. Frustration. Breathe. No one has died, at least today. Calm down. Was I always such a fussbudget? Yesterday I was screaming “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” when I had for the zillionth time lost my keys. They were no place. How could I be so dumb???? It was past time to leave for something important and the other set of car keys had vanished into the void 4 years ago. This was my last set. Last chance. I looked in the outside locks, the inside locks, the bathrooms, kitchen, under the bed, on the nail on the wall where I usually hung them. Emptied out my purse. Twice.

I imagine, now, neighbors passing in the street hearing this madwoman scream invectives at herself. With all my doors and windows open, they must be able to hear me as clearly as if they were inside my house. For 15 years, I’ve overlooked this fact until once earlier this year when all three of my dogs were barking and I roared “Frida!!! Stop!!!!” above the din, a friend protested,“Judy! You are worse than the dogs. You should hear yourself. You must scare the neighbors!” my friend uttered this softly. Unlike me.

I had to shout to be heard above the dogs, right? But did I need to scream at the keys?

I found them eventually and was only 10 minutes late to the appointment I started to leave for half an hour early. I found them by calmly retracing my steps which took me eventually by my open closet door with the new file cabinet inside—my keys dangling from its lock. I had gone to get some necessary file, but the cabinet is so new it had not yet been added to my key recovery route. It has been now.

I am, you see, capable of learning. It’s the remembering that is the hard part.

The End (Perhaps)

Postscript: Just now the lovely lovely girl from Techno Agua called. She has called all over town and located the right water purification tube light. It is 60 pesos above the price I paid for one this morning. Is that a problem? No problem. The plumber can come at 3. I just called Pasiano and although he still is not answering his phone and although Yolanda is working and can’t come to let the plumber in, her husband has agreed to do so; so when he arrives, I can go, hopefully, to the bank and then to get Frida. The tide is turning. Maybe today will turn out to be slightly less frustrating than earlier happenings indicated. 

An hour later: good news and bad news. I got to the bank in time to get the $1,000 U.S. for the surgery and the $1,000 for the car, but when I got to the vet’s I was informed that Frida still hasn’t awakened and so I need to leave her for the night. They assure me they’ll feed and water her when she wakes up, but although I understand I can’t take an unconscious dog home, nonetheless I know she’ll be traumatized to wake up in a cage away from home and to have to spend the night there. Also, I was supposed to sit the info booth at the Lake Chapala Society tomorrow so will have to try to find someone to sit in so I can go get Frida and take her home. Always a new thrill. Still no internet at home, so I am at the mall. Getting to be a regular mall rat as they have free wifi and otherwise it is $15 U.S. a day to use my phone as a hot spot as I was over my limit in just four days.

Are you tired of my whining yet?

 

The Prompt word today was “Learning.”

Walking to Town

I was trying to post my blog when my sister and brother-in-law asked if I wanted to accompany them to town to meet friends at the Star Cafe.  Since I’d been trying in vain to post since I woke up this morning, I decided to stay in the motel until I’d posted, so she told me to call when I was ready to come into town and she’d come get me.

A few hours later when I was still unable to post, I tried to call, but alas––no cell phone coverage and no wifi!  When I went to the office, I was greeted by a sign that the office would be closed until 3:30 and with not a car in the parking lot, I knew I was the solitary person in residence at the moment.

The only solution I could think of was to walk to town–more than a mile away down a gravel road like this one:

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and then along the shoulder of the highway that leads to town.

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En route I would need to cross an overpass over Interstate 90 as well as an exit and an entrance.

IMG_1653It was a hot day and the way would be treelesss. Still, I set out on my adventure.

First, past the lonely horse in the pasture.

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Giving him a few pats on the nose, I was on my way again. We were both looking pretty hot!

IMG_1644As I approached the local cemetery, a police car pulled up to see if I needed help, but didn’t offer me a ride.

After a half hour walk or so, I encountered another solitary inhabitant of the road:

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And,as you can see from this view, I was drawing nearer to my destination. Just another 600 feet or so to go.

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I arrived at the Pioneer Auto Museum a bit wind-tossed and sweaty, and luckily the two very nice ladies in the gift shop loaned me a cell phone to call my sister. Ten minutes later, she picked me up and we did a short swing through town to see former residences and other haunts before returning to the motel.  It was, in fact, a bit of a futile exercise just to return to where I’d departed from an hour and a half before.  The rest of the day, however, turned out to be wonderful––old friends as well as some new ones, some surprises, a few tears, lots of laughs and a few messages from dear departed ones via stories I’d never heard before.  But it is 3:20 in the morning and I need to be up by 8 so I will desist and say as a famous man did many times in the past, that that is the rest of the story!

Forked!

daily life  color143 (1)

1967–Off  on the SS Ryndam on a four month around-the-world study adventure. Ga Ga Dowd was the oldest student aboard. She seemed ancient, but was actually one year older than I am now.  The other two girls, whom I had just met, were to be my best friends on the journey.  They are Susan (in polka dots), who was also a U. of Wyoming student whom I had never met before and Pamn, from Berkeley. I don’t know why the wind chose to blow only my hair.  Perhaps I had invested in less hairspray?

“The Zoad In The Road”
                                                          by Dr. Seuss 

Did I ever tell you about the young Zoad?
Who came to a sign at the fork of the road?
He looked one way and the other way too –
the Zoad had to make up his mind what to do.
Well, the Zoad scratched his head, and his chin, and his pants.
And he said to himself, “I’ll be taking a chance.
If I go to Place One, that place may be hot
So how will I know if I like it or not.
On the other hand, though, I’ll feel such a fool
If I go to Place Two and find it’s too cool
In that case I may catch a chill and turn blue.
So Place One may be best and not Place Two.
Play safe,” cried the Zoad, “I’ll play safe, I’m no dunce.
I’ll simply start off to both places at once.”
And that’s how the Zoad who would not take a chance
Went no place at all with a split in his pants.

Born in a time before television and the internet and even private telephone lines, (we shared ours with two other households), periodicals took on a special importance. We subscribed to three newspapers: The Murdo Coyote (my hometown rag), The Mitchell Daily Republic  and Grit–a newsy national weekly newspaper. My dad subscribed to Saga, Real West, True West, Argosy and probably a few others; and my Mom got Saturday Evening Post, Journal, McCall’s and Redbook.

One special feature of Redbook  over the years I was growing up was that they published the poetry of Dr.Seuss. I don’t know if the poem above was ever published anywhere else, but it was one of my family’s favorites, and I think I still have it out in a plastic storage case with other old letters and paper memorabilia. It is well-worn and wrinkled and yellowed, glued to a piece of cardboard to aid in its preservation.  I think I had used it as one of the poems I chose to memorize (along with “Out to Old Aunt  Mary’s,” ” The Wreck of the Hesperus” and “The Children’s Hour”) when I was in grade school.

I don’t know how much I actually listened to the messages of poems back then, but I do know that something prompted me not to just dream of those forks in the road but to make a decision and to take a chance.  Perhaps it was this poem.  Perhaps it was the fact that my parents rarely held me back when I had a chance to travel or experience something different.  Well, no, they didn’t let me take the Seventeen trip to Europe when I was eleven, but short of that, they encouraged me to reach out and experience life away from the town of 700 where I lived.

When I was a teenager, I traveled all over the state for district meetings for my MYF.  I attended church camps in the Black Hills and Lake Poinsett and traveled by bus to a U.N. Seminar when I was a junior in high school.

When it came time to go to college, I was quick to choose an out-of-state college and in my junior year again chose to travel–this time around the world on the U.S.S. Ryndaam as a student on World Camput Afloat––a university extension of Chapman College in Orange, CA.  We traveled for four months, stopping in countries around the world, studying their cultures, taking practicum side trips and in some cases taking off on our own.  The first country I did this in was in Kenya, where my newly met friend Pamn and I rented a little Fiat and took off on our own to have a few adventures.

My sister told me afterwards that she had been the one to encourage my folks to let me go, telling them it would get the travel bug out of my system, but if you’ve been following my blog for long, you know that just didn’t happen.  Immediatley after college, I emigrated to Australia and after a few years there, I traveled overland as much as possible to Africa, where I stayed for two years. After that travel was a summer and vacation experience until I moved to California thirty-five years ago and then Mexico fifteen years ago.  At each of these junctures, there was a fork in the road of my ife and each time, I made the decision and took it. Nine times, by my own counting, and in that time, although I’ve split a few pants seams, it was more due to local cuisine than to indecision.

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fork/