Sunday, October 28, 2007


October is nearly over. It is the season of harvest and dying in the great wheel of the year. And with it comes the second anniversary of my mother's death, on Oct. 30.

I wrote about events of 2005 in this post -- and in this -- leading to the final moments of her life. It wasn't for another five months that I could talk about her death -- and that of her beloved brother Tom.

Last year brought this remembrance.

Another year makes a lot of difference. Time has seasoned my grief and it is not so fresh, so very raw and harsh as it was.

I'm still two days from it, but I already know I'll be with my circle of girlfriends, my Cowgirls, and that always helps me, often in ways I couldn't have predicted. The collective energy and support in that small circle is a gift that sustains and supports each of us, even in our most hermit-y of moments. I'm grateful for that gift of friendship.

And friendships are uppermost in my mind this fall as last night I thanked Lady Moon again for her gifts and illumination. We spent yesterday and today with another circle of friends -- neighbors and others who have found commonalities and friendships together, all of us around the same age, all of us who have moved here from other places seeking more from life than we had where we'd lived and worked previously, and -- I believe -- each has found joy and satisfaction and pleasure in living here and finding new activities and friendships. Our circumstances are all a little different, but we all make the most of what we have right now, in this moment.

It's a seasoning of gratitude and friendship. That makes the [incredibly delicious] food we share taste better, the laughter heartier and joyous, the stories we swap more interesting and relevant. Caring for each other as we do lets each of us know that we have friends who will help and support us whenever we ask -- and often when we don't -- without expecting anything. What a marvelous gift! What a treasure to be cherished!

Fall colors are brighter than I'd expected, given the dry winter and spring we had, and the reds and yellows and oranges punctuate the hills surrounding us and line the town's streets. The green undergrowth still encroaches on the dried brown, beaten grasses -- although we need rain again -- and the colors are a welcome seasoning to that golden California summer landscape.

I'm grateful for season-ings that add so much to our lives here, happy to see another fall, to look towards another birthday (okay, so it's taking a bit to wrap our collective arms around that decade idea here, but we're working on it). Tonight, we're especially grateful for friendships and to be in this wonderful place, right here, right now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gone in a flash

For anyone who lives in California, the wildfires that are burning in Southern California are a frightening reminder of how quickly life can change, and how very careful one must be in our dry or drought seasons.

Apparently at least some of these fires were deliberately set: a willful act born of what -- power? Rage? Immaturity? It would be hard enough to watch your home burn as an act of nature, but soul wrenching to see it go as an act of arson. And the anger...oh, how do you get over that!

More than half a million people have been evacuated. Stardom and wealth make no difference to the flames, and expensive homes of prominent people have been destroyed right along with homes of people like you and me.

Animals and pets are being cared for in this disaster, however, unlike during Katrina. How terrible it would be to leave a loved pet to fend for themselves in an evacuation!

The most important things in life are people, not things -- and yet we all have attachments to our things, our photos, our possessions, our homes. Priorities change when we are threatened by catastrophe. What is important to us crystalizes in that moment.

So what would you take with you? What is important enough to save if your home and life are threatened?

Answer that, and you know where your priorities are.

Pray for healing for the fire's victims. Pray for safety for the firefighters as they beat back the flames. Pray for restoration of the savaged earth. And hug your loved ones close.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Celebrating life

We went to a birthday party last night for a friend who is turning 70 this year. It was a really nice event, held at a local club, decorated in cute '50s-style rock and roll, and lots of folks came in costumes reminiscent of that decade, although it was pointed out that the birthday boy was born in the '30s!

Nonetheless, a bunch of us showed up in rolled-up jeans, big white shirts and scarves around our necks, socks and sneakers or loafers or flats or saddle shoes. Guys had white shirts and jeans, jeans jackets maybe, white socks. There were a few Pink Lady jackets, a few pony tails, some big, gaudy plastic jewelry that's probably more '60s than '50s, but who cares?

It was actually quite amusing. Most of us have a considerable amount of grey in our hair, that is if we still have hair. The only unlined faces were those of the celebrant's grandchildren. And yet most of us got out on the dance floor at one time or another and jitterbugged to the music of the decade, or slow-danced like we all did in high school -- rocking back and forth, going nowwhere, just enjoying the feeling of being close together in a once-familiar pose.

We ate dinner, sipped wine, laughed a lot, listened to a few comments, watched the birthday boy blow out candles on TWO cakes -- white and chocolate -- and ate birthday cake. It was a really lovely celebration of life.

And that's what we do, I think, at this age: we celebrate where we've been and the fact that we've gotten this far. We celebrate today, because we know that today is all we have. None of us -- or few, anyway -- have a clue as to how many more years we'll get to blow out birthday candles, but we've all lost enough family and friends to realize how very precious each day is when you love people and are loved.

So we celebrate: here we are! Here's another year we've had to learn and grow wise (maybe -- maybe not), to love and contribute. To form new friendships, to cultivate the old ones, to enjoy each other. To find new experiences. To learn new skills. To take care of ourselves and of each other.

Blow out those candles, however many they may number. Give thanks for each moment you have, for each experience, for each friend. Celebrate that we're all here, right now, right here, in this moment, and savor each moment for each delicious memory it is making.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A seasonal miracle

So it happens every year....and today was the day. The green sheen has returned, signaling the beginning of winter!

I've been watching for it because we've had some nice rainy days with enough precipitation to soak the ground. Tuesday it wasn't there. I looked out of the kitchen window this morning as I was making coffee -- about 7 or so -- and *thought* I might see something. A little later, with a little more light, there it was...under the golden, dried grasses of summer was a hint of green.

I called Tony over to the window and pointed it out, and I swear, it got greener as we watched. Strands of green grass are poking through the matted summer coat, especially where it's more worn, like the deer paths. By late afternoon there were swaths striping the land.

I love watching this. I love this season of dormancy and returning to the underworld -- you remember the myth of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds? The leaves fall, plants die back -- although their roots may busily be growing deep in preparation for spring -- the harvest comes in, another growing season is complete. And California at is green in the winter.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Three years old

Old Musings is three! I started this blog Oct. 11, 2004 -- and this is my 187th post. That's about one post every six days...not quite my ideal, but there was a big chunk of time in 2005 going into 2006 where I wrote nothing after my mother died. Ideally I'd post at least three times weekly. Let's see how I do in my fourth year.

Over this next week or so I'd like to take a look back at some of my favorite posts -- so please indulge me that.

One place I've bogged down is reporting what I'm reading. Mostly it's been magazines -- my current fav O magazine takes me a while since it is fat and full of good articles, thought-provoking and interesting ones, unlike so many magazines that you can recycle after about an hour. There's the ever-present Newsweek, which I read in spurts and therefore always have several issues folded to where I left off reading, and Cooking Light and Sunset, which I also read in bits and then go back through before I'm ready to pass them on.

I read every night in bed, and magazines are fairly awkward, alas, but I read 'em anyway. The problem with cooking magazines is that I get hungry, and it's far too late to eat.

I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love after seeing an interview on Oprah. Her style is very casual, almost blog-style, and very easy to read. I'm just barely into it but like what I'm reading very much.

I finished Evening by Susan Minot, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie of the same name. I was very disappointed in this book and hope I like the movie better -- it came highly recommended by my BFF Julie, and has a terrific cast. But the book was a mishmash of what I thought was very superficial thoughts by both the main character who is dying, and her children, and it was written without an abundance of punctuation and no quotation marks. I found it tedious, and it was that way to the very end -- yes, I kept reading in hopes that it would have some redemption at the end. It didn't. Reading the Amazon reviews, I see that I wasn't alone in my assessment, although there also was a great deal of praise for the stream-of-consciousness style.

A new O should hit the mailbox this week. :)

Anyway. Happy anniversary to Old Musings and to me. And thank YOU for reading these ramblings.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shooting at the range

I did something last weekend that I've never done before. In fact, it was something I'd never wanted to do nor ever, never, EVER expected to do.

I fired a gun. Actually, I fired three different guns, three rounds of ammunition.

And I did it voluntarily.

For this liberal, that was quite a feat, just getting to the point where I would GO to a shooting range, much less pick up a gun. And it took me the better part of an hour or so to get my head there while I watched Tony and another couple shoot.

Sounds were muffled with the ear protection I was wearing -- big, thick headphone-style pads covering both ears. Nonetheless, I jumped when a couple of the guns went off -- they were that loud. And I was a little jumpy anyway -- just being there.

The smell of gunpowder is unlike anything else, and it is an acrid, pungent odor that remains in the wood even if no one is firing. The ground was littered with brass casings from the bullets, and paper and brass shells from shotguns -- they sparkled all around the range and were thick in the shelter. It felt serious....smelled energy that is very powerful, but not friendly.

Another family was also in the firing shelter with us, including a little boy about 7 or 8. They were firing rifles -- or maybe shotguns, I don't really know the difference -- and there was a tiny one that looked like a toy for the little boy -- except it fired live rounds. The parents brought him to the front and began to get him in position, but he was apparently not in a mood to obey well, and they told him he could not shoot if he could not follow directions -- which didn't sit well with him, and he began to cry loudly. They left shortly thereafter.

So anyway.

After our group -- except for me -- had fired at the target several times, switching guns and reloading, Tony asked if I wanted to try it. I'd declined earlier -- come on, folks. Just being there was a big step for me! But I said yes and headed for the front of the shelter.

The first gun was a .22 pistol. Tony showed me the proper stance and grip, and how to fire it, as he did with each gun I tried. And I pulled the trigger, aiming for the target -- although I have no idea whether or not I hit it. There was very little recoil and only a little pop -- I was surprised and slightly horrified at how easy it was. A gentle squeeze, and poof...

The other two used larger caliber bullets and there was definitely recoil -- my hand flew up after each shot, and it was much louder and harder to pull the trigger -- which still was frighteningly quick and easy.

That was enough for me for that day. I do plan to take a gun safety course this fall and learn about them -- and why, you ask? I live in the country. We have snakes. We have critters. It would be a good thing to know how to safely and correctly use a gun should I ever need to == which I hope I don't.

I was very conscious the entire time I was at the range, and especially while holding the guns, that it is a lethal weapon. It can kill, pointed in the right direction. And it was easy to shoot -- one quick squeeze and that bullet was gone, honey. Safely into dirt in this case -- but it made me wonder how many shootings are really accidental or impulsive acts just because the gun is there and in hand -- someone loses his/her temper, or is high or drunk and angry, or just generally pissed off. One quick squeeze -- and someone is dead or injured.

It was sobering. It was thought-provoking. It was a little scary. And while I will likely shoot again and take a course, I hope I never, ever, EVER have to point it at anything other than a target.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Monkey mind strikes again

I don't seem to be able to focus on just one thing at a time lately -- I'm hopping from one thing to another and task-oriented stuff is ruling my days. And my thoughts aren't very deep, although there is a lot of gratitude in them.

Thoughts -- daughters. We've heard from R and V lately: both say they are fine and happy. I'm not sure whether to ask questions or just let it be, y'know? Maybe it would be best for me to just accept what they're saying and stop trying to dig more deeply. They say they're happy; ergo, they are. Right? Uh huh. I am grateful to be hearing from them at all. I suppose that if/when things break that we'll hear soon enough. And maybe it won't this time.

You can hear the skeptic in that, can't you. Me too.

More thoughts: I'm hosting our bunco group this month, so I'm fairly obsessed with getting things ready and planning food and so on. I overthink stuff like this and I'm trying not to be quite so anal about it.

And I'm deep into office cleaning, so the room is a complete disaster. You know how things look even worse when you're sorting and cleaning and throwing? Well, that's it. I cleaned out Arts council paperwork over the weekend and handed it over to the new chair, so that was a big job that's done. But there's still so much left to go through and either pitch or save or store. And I'm busy obsessing, remember?

And I'm doing yoga twice a week. I love yoga, although when I'm working to balance or stretching tight hamstrings I wonder why -- and then we get to the final 10 minutes of relaxation and centering, and I leave with such a sense of calm. My muscles are achey tonight, and they will be tomorrow. It's a good ache though.

I'm practicing avoidance too with all this busy-ness. I'm avoiding getting my teeth cleaned -- partly because of the braces and the fact that we're in the home stretch with them, so the doc is working to straighten and align my bite, and a couple of teeth are very uncomfortable. The last thing that appeals to me is that high-speed cleaner thingy scouring already sore gums and teeth. Okay, I'm nervous. I'll get there.

I'm avoiding some work projects that need to get done too, but the desk is so awful I can't find my notes (I know they're underneath a pile) and besides, I'm not good at concentrating just now. So then I'll probably complain about the deadlines, when the crunch is really of my own making.

My brother just had his 57th birthday, and I was reminded that two years ago we celebrated that day with my mother in Springfield: a very sweet, poignant day with cake and remembrances and lots of laughing. The photo we took of the three of us is hanging in the hall along with other family and friend photos.

Yes, that anniversary is Oct. 30 -- and while it's easier than last year, I am still walking through those last weeks, remembering. There are so many times I wish I could call her and talk.

We're transitioning into winter these last couple of weeks, and especially yesterday with a soaking rain. The mountains are white already and nights are very cool. The wood stove is ready for the season and we will stack wood on the porch this weekend in preparation for the first fire, which isn't that far off. The kitties snuggle in blankets and furry pads in their houses at night, and they're porking up for the winter, coats turning thick and coarse.

It's time for wrapping things up, for cleaning the debris of the summer out, for preparation. Maybe that's what I'm doing, need to be doing. One thing at a time. One day at a time. Moment by moment, living this life, and being grateful for where I am, what I am.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Saying thank you

I'll bet that your mother, like mine, insisted that you say 'please' and 'thank you,' and made you write thank-you notes every time you received a gift.

It's good practice. While I get more pleasure out of giving gifts than receiving them (don't get me wrong, I like gifts!), it is so fun to shop for or create the "right" item for loved ones and friends. Oh, it's time-consuming sometimes, and sometimes frustrating when it's hard to find just the exact thing you know they'll love -- but that's partly what it makes it so satisfying.

And I've been known to puddle up when someone thanks me from the heart, telling me how much it meant to them, whether it's a gift or a favor or whatever. It means a lot to me to know that my friends and family really enjoy a gift I chose, or that my words meant something to them.

Some years ago I worked with a woman, a little older than me, who was head of HR -- not usually a profession known for its kindness, at least in the corporate world. She was crisp, immaculately groomed from the top of her perfectly highlighted blonde coif to the tips of her perfectly polished, stylish, high-quality pumps. She did her job exceptionally well, seemed never ruffled by office incidents, and I'm quite sure could take an employee to task or fire them in the same even tones she used to answer the phone.

But she said thank you, often, and she remembered birthdays, anniversaries, recognized promotions, celebrated life events, and more with cards and personal notes. They were perfectly chosen, of course, but they also were always accompanied by a note (her handwriting was NOT perfect) that was warm and very friendly. I actually became fairly good friends with her -- she did not lead a perfect life -- and was impressed with the person I saw underneath. I vowed then that I wanted to be more like her, remembering to send cards and personal notes to mark occasions or say thank you, or even for no apparent reason other than to say "I'm glad I know you."

And oh, I'm so not perfect about it. But I try to say thank you when someone does a favor, or is especially generous or sweet, and that goes for people in service positions too.

Today, for instance, I needed a bit of repair on phone lines, and had ZERO expectation that someone really could get here today. So I was surprised when I got a call, considerably after 5 p.m., that he was on his way. And then I was very pleasantly surprised at the amount of time he spent making sure that things were just the way I wanted them, testing the lines, chatting about cats and phone wires and deer and so on. When I called him back, about half an hour after he'd left, to say that one jack still wasn't quite right, he was quick to give me a couple of options -- and I know he'd be back if I need more help.

So I just left a message for his supervisor to say thank you and how impressed I am with the service and performance. Maybe it'll make a difference when review time comes around for him -- but maybe it'll also let him know that someone appreciated his service enough to say so.

On my bulletin board is a thank you note from a client who we helped purchase land a few years ago. It has one of her photos showing a hillside of flowering wildflowers there. It made a HUGE difference to me, that little note and photo, and can still make me feel competent and successful when I read it, no matter what kind of day I've had. Her words are still with me nearly three years later, and I still appreciate that she took the time to take the picture and write a note to me.

As I get older, saying thank you has become more important to me. Maybe it's because I know how fragile life is, and that if we don't seize the moment to tell someone we love them or appreciate them or say thank you, we may never have the chance to do so. Maybe it's because I know how appreciative words, kind words, loving words, can make ME feel. Maybe it's because I know that sometimes a simple thank you can make all the difference in someone else's day, just as it's done for me. I don't know exactly -- I just know that it is a good thing.

Sure beats getting all riled up about mean old selfish men, doesn't it!