Saturday, May 30, 2015

I'm on a boat.

It's a very large boat.
It's a ship with so many bars I could get lost.
It has a mall. I won't get lost there.
It's lovely and a floating emblem of overconsumption. WIFI is pricey. More than a glass of fresh orange juice. Less that a luxury watch.

So picture the blogosphere as an ocean. And it's flat. I'm sailing off the edge. Good-bye Instagram. Good-bye Facebook.

If you need me, want me, have a burning desire to communicate, email me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Alaska: The Mount Healy Overlook

There are several hikes that begin near the Visitor Center in Denali. Only one is described as strenuous. With its 1700 ft. elevation gain in 2.5 miles, it's more than 4 times steeper than the other hikes.

As soon as I saw the outcropping of rock from the bottom of the trail, I knew that's where we were headed.

Here's the view from the top:

Right. But it's Alaska. So here's the view from the bus stop:

And here's the view in the coffee shop:

That's a glass of stout AND a coffee drink.

My friend Ellen has pointed out to me that I've been getting into my pajamas earlier and earlier as the trip progresses. At this rate, I won't need to get dressed at all on the last day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Alaska: the Tundra Bus, A Big White Mountain, and Other Wonders

That's not a bank of big white clouds in the center--it's a mountain--well, part of a mountain.

Which one is Denali? we asked at our first chance to view big mountain. If it were visible right now, you wouldn't have to ask, was the answer. We finally saw most of it today as the Tundra Bus drove us into the wilderness.

We also saw a grizzly bear and her triplet cubs, 3 or 4 small groups of caribou, a couple small gatherings of dall sheep, a big bull moose with a dewlap the size of a pup tent (good god, animals can be weird,) a rare gyre falcon, a willow ptarmigan, and just for good measure an arctic ground squirrel. The landscape itself was the true wonder. It's vastness defies description. At one point our guide/driver pointed out a large rock in the near distance. If I'd wagered a guess, I would have said it was as tall as a big SUV and easily reached by brisk walk. It was actually 3 stories high and 3 miles away. 

Last year my world was not composed of such vistas. Hospital rooms, the room in the nursing home where the man who loved me spent a few nights before we were able to get him to my house. I stared down at the forms I was filling out, and for some minutes now and then into the eyes of a man who was already beginning to leave this immense and amazing world. 

My heart was stone or dust or perhaps vapor for what seemed like the longest time--like maybe you'd have to spend a day on a bus in driving into the wilderness to catch a glimpse of it. The landscape of my heart has been surprising me lately. There are storybook forests of perfect spruce trees in my heart. There are aspens shaking their greenest of green leaves and rivers made of silver. The blue sky there is a new blue, and I just want to throw my arms around it.

Photo by my friend Ellen--if you want to see more of her great Denali photos, follow her on Instagram:ellenslevy

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Alaska: In the Flow of a Silver Gray Day

I don't remember the last time I experienced the vanishing of  the civilized world. Maybe on a High Sierra backpacking trip in 1978 or 79. On today's float trip on the Susitna River, we could hear the water rushing on its way. We could hear belted kingfishers calling and the cries of arctic terns. Our own voices. Nothing else. Eventually a small airplane flew overhead. 

The Susitna River

Before the beauty of all this, we looked like bumblebees heading for the water.

Then we were transformed into tiny beings in a tiny boat in a very large place.

My friend Ellen cooked up the idea to sign on for this trip. So glad she did.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

ALASKA: Spirit Houses and How the Spirit Soars

The air here is so pure it's like the exhalation of the gods. The water right out of the tap is worthy of fancy crystal decanters.

After a morning walk along Ship Creek in Anchorage, we drove off. Our first stop was the Eklutna Historical Park where we walked through the cemetery and looked at the spirit house grave markers of the Athabascan Indians. Alongside the road behind a white picket fence sat houses atop the graves like something out of a fairy tale. Who wouldn't want their spirit to reside in a place like this?

Driving toward Denali, we made it to the Talkeetna Lodge and took a long walk into the town of Talkeetna for dinner. I had reindeer meatloaf with secret sauce. It was delicious. Also on the menu was something called Rudy in a Parka---"cheese stuffed reindeer link baked in dough." That sounded a bit heavy for my soaring spirit.

Friday, May 22, 2015


Alaska, first glimpse

The sky seems bigger here, the mountains more massive than others I've seen. I'd swear the air has more oxygen. 

My head is filling with big ideas. My heart, melting like a glacier. This day, this life feels like endless light.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I am afraid of being eaten by a wild animal. Bears. Sharks. Mountain lions. Alligators. Crocodiles.

This is how the summary of the first hike on a trip I'm about to take to Alaska reads: "View nesting bald eagles, beavers, moose and bears in their natural habitat. The guide, a naturalist, (carries a shotgun) takes you...."

I really think I'll be fine. I don't really think I'll be eaten alive by a bear. I think I'm more likely to keel over with fright if there's an encounter with a bear. And then be eaten. But at least then I won't know I'm being eaten.

I went through a period of dreaming about bears a couple years ago. If you're so inclined, you can read about that HERE,  HERE, AND HERE.

When I first moved my mother in with me, she frequently woke me up with her growling/moaning sounds. Until I got used to it, I was convinced there was a wild animal stalking my house.

I took a hike in the back country of Wyoming once. Across a ravine there was a grizzly bear ravaging some berry bushes. We moved on. Rather quickly, singing the Hey bear, ho bear, go away bear song. Just a short way into our long hike back to our cabin, I noticed that the trail was lined with berry bushes. Then we saw bear prints. We'd already studied our wildlife guide and knew how to identify grizzly prints.  Yep. There were those long claws. I doubt that I ran the 12 miles down that mountain screaming, but the adrenaline my body generated made me feel like I had. We had dinner that night at  Jenny Lake Lodge. Mid-way through dinner, I began running a fever, which somehow contributed to the surreal deliciousness of the meal. I guess if you're going to see a bear on the trail, that's a great way for the story to end.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What I Did/Didn't

I really did scrub the grout. (see previous post)

I took a nap without listening.

I did everything I did without listening or watching.

I laughed.

I didn't cook dinner.

I didn't bring a martini out of its hiding place or dole out pills or inquire about pain or try to make myself heard.

Today while I walked on the beach, there was a sea lion in the surf. At first glance it looked as though it had a fishing net or some type of debris wrapped around its neck. It couldn't swim. It couldn't haul itself all the way onto the sand. There was already someone there from the marine mammal rescue place, so I walked on, swallowing the burst of tears that tried to surface. Probably today is the day this creature will die, I thought.

A little further on, I ran into a couple of friends. They'd been the ones who'd called the rescue place earlier. We walked back together and stopped to talk to the rescue volunteer. She pointed out that the animal did not actually have anything stuck around its neck. It was a scar from a previous entanglement, and the animal had been rescued before and freed. It appeared to be in the throws of the poisoning sea lions sometimes fall prey to from a toxin called domoic acid which is found in  algae.

As I think back, I see that scar, and my memory tries to convince me that the unfortunate creature was  entangled, strangling in its attempt to be free.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Scrubbing the Floor

The air is a liminal state. Up in the air. We say it all the time. At this moment I am in the air in a plane between my life with my mother, tending to her every need and my life without my mother, tending to nothing at all because, for the next almost-month, my brother and his girlfriend will be tending to her. I have left her with them.

It's a project, this vacation, and I've cursed it bitterly. The audacity of it. How dare I--what was I thinking--I paid all this money and it might not even happen--and what if something bad happens to my mother while I'm away.

Fuck it. I can't turn back now.

But I wonder if I will ever attempt it again. My mother was on hospice. Because a patient cannot  have two hospice transfers in a Medicare benefit period, we had to sign her out of hospice or she wouldn't be able to get back onto hospice for several weeks after her return to California. The fancy-dancing to get enough hospice drugs in the interim was, yeah, well, fancy. This morning as I packed to leave my brother's, the medical supply place called asking if they could pick up the equipment today, i.e. the hospital bed, the tray table, the oxygen concentrator, etc. Er. Well, no, I had to tell them. so they're coming tomorrow and already my brain feels a bit fizzy wondering how we will get all this shit back on the Saturday evening that my mother returns. I'm wondering. Not worrying. Because I'm so tired of this shit that I don't have the energy to worry and hospice case managers are houdinis. These women in their pastel scrubs and pretty earrings and perfect make-up are forces. Stand the fuck back. Outta the way. Here comes the hospice nurse. Really.

In a couple of hours I will unlock my front door and return to the former house of moaning. I have no idea what I will do. I might get down on my knees and scrub the grout between the kitchen floor tiles because that would be an excuse to be on my knees and that's probably exactly where I need to be.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Living with My Mother at 37,000 Feet

Here's picture of a dove. Whatever.

There were 20 people cued up for wheelchairs at the Southwest terminal at LAX. There was a roped off seating area and a maitre d' at a podium, taking names. This is the beginning of the future as the baby boomers age. Most of the wheelies were 2 or 3 decades younger than my mother. I am so grateful for my healthy body.

At the gate, there was a culling of the herd. "Who can walk onto the plane?" a chipper young woman asked, scanning the 10 or so wheelchairs at the gate. Her eyes brushed over the top of my mother's white head. When we got to the aircraft door, the young woman who'd wheeled the chair down the jetway didn't ask. She commanded, "Take my hand," she said at the doorway of the aircraft as she handed my mom off to the waiting flight attendant. Bless all these people. They make me want to skip and sing while tossing 20 dollar bills in the air.

We're fairly good at this now, my mom and I, on our third trip east, but once again my mother has said that she's never flying again. It's hard. I could rant about the specifics of that, but I won't.

Already, in the midst of this small torture, we're planning a trip to Iowa for my sister's 40th wedding anniversary. "Should I drive her there by myself?" I asked the charming and kind M as she drove us to LAX  this morning?  M explained to me how NFL teams choose their rosters. "They look for the best of the best overall players," she said. "Or they go for a specific skill set." You need a partner with a specific skill set." She said I should find him and get that road trip in motion.


Here I am. A 62-year-old version of gorgeous. I need lots of time to myself to write and think. I do yoga. I do T'ai Chi Chih. I love to walk on the beach. I'm a lazy and healthy cook. I'm a reader. I like poetry. I'm learning to ballroom dance. I'm not getting married unless you're a billionaire. You can like what you like. I don't have to love it. We just have to like each other. And there's that road trip. There'll be a lot of bathroom stops and we'll be off the road every evening in time for a cocktail. We won't get started again until after breakfast. 400 miles per day absolute fucking maximum. Go ahead, tell me your interested. I dare you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Let It Rain

The water is a steely gray here in Margaritaville this morning. Like my brain. Or my murderous heart.

My mom's alarm clock went off at a few minutes past midnight. One of those beeping clock radio alarms that sounds like the warning for the end of world. Does the oxygen machine make that sound if someone stops breathing? This was what I wondered as I dashed down the stairs. The possibility for beeping is far too prevalent in modern life. Carbon dioxide alarm? Security system letting me know the power is out? Smoke alarm battery? Freezer door? Fridge door? Even the fucking wine refrigerator beeps if the door is not closed tight. Danger, danger, danger your wine will not be chilled to the proper temperature.

"I didn't touch it," my mom said as we stared at the offending keeper of time.

I did not sleep. Thought about packing for my trip. Thought about my folding travel yoga mat and wondered if it would fit it my back pack and if it could double as a sleeve for my laptop. Now there's a first world problem for you. Or I might be a genius. I thought about flying. I will spare you those thoughts. Thought about gin. Thought about how disorienting travel is for my mom and felt suitably guilty. She keeps saying my brother is going to drive her to Iowa from Maryland. I keep explaining. (while thinking about gin.) I try not to correct my mom about a lot of stuff. Just roll. But sometimes it's necessary to say over and over again, "Nope. We're not leaving tomorrow. Nope. Don't pack your toiletries yet. Nope. You're gonna sleep in your bed TWO more nights." Who wouldn't think about gin.

When my kids were young and we traveled and the Someone would keep me hanging saying he didn't really know if he'd be able to go because of work, I would ask myself if it was really worth it to plan a trip. To go through all the prep and planning and pet sitters and blah, blah, blah..

It was worth it every time.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thursday Afternoon Beach Report

How about some song lyrics to go with that?

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

--from Every Grain of Sand (Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris)  I think Dylan wrote it.

I realized tonight that I seldom listen to music these days. My mom can't really hear it seems weird and selfish to do so. And I can't hear her if she needs me if I have music on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

These Are Suitcases

Yes, bathed in the morning light, here lie the implements of travel.

It is quite possible that I'm delusional, but on Saturday I'm planning to fly my with mother to the east coast where we will be fetched from the airport by my brother. The very large suitcase in the rear of the above photo will be jammed to the brim because my mom is going to stay at my brother's place for a month while I take two the smaller suitcases and head off to Alaska with a friend for two weeks.   I do not know the details of our planned travels with  a local chapter of the Sierra Club since my friend made all of the plans and I have yet to read any of the details. Hiking boots. I need those. Rain gear. Yoga pants. Because part of the trip involves a cruise and there will be yoga. And dancing shoes. There may be dancing on the ship. I may dance everywhere.

In order for this to happen, we must sign my mother out of hospice. (Medicare does not allow more than one hospice transfer in any given benefit period.) But the new medication regimen will remain in place, and that seems to be the element that has turned the tide. The tide is such a fickle thing, so I'll focus on something else. Like how I will turn around and fly back here 48 hours after I arrive at my brother's house, so that I can then drive to my friend's house in L.A. and fly with her to Alaska.

Right now my mom is shuffling in and out of her room looking at the suitcase I've set in the hall outside her door. "Socks," she's muttering. Pills, I'm thinking. Who cares about socks?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Repair Central

A favorite piece of art by I Made Arya Dwita Dedok

Things are breaking here in Margaritaville. The microwave, the toilet. The sinks are dripping which is a criminal, given the drought. And last night I felt as though I was breaking, a crucial leak sprung, unstoppable.

But the microwave repairman has just left and charged me nothing even though he replaced everything (a re-repair.) And the plumber has made off with a hundred bucks. Not a terrible price for the assuaging of guilt and fixing a toilet and a sink.

I have friends coming to dinner and I'm lying on the couch, flattened by some kind of cellular recognition in my body that last year about this time, it was the beginning of the end for Dan. I feel it in the slant of the sun, the way the wind blows, and in how the fog rolls in. I feel it in the way the world looks as I walk in the surf, knowing that my feet are falling in the same places on the sand.

I keep hunting for ways to feel better and the only idea that sounds good is living outside. I googled it. I like the highlighted suggestions of other things to try. I feel hemmed in. It's hot in my house and stuffy. If the door opens for even a minute, my mother asks if the air-conditioning is on. The ceiling bothers me and I think the sky would feel better. I always think a second glass of wine, or a third will relax me out of sadness and I'm hardly ever right. I might pitch a tent on my patio and give a friend the key to my wine refrigerator for safekeeping.

My mother, thank god, is feeling well. Remember the moaning that has driven me insane for the past three years? She's stopped. And last night we had Chinese food for Mother's day and this was her fortune.

My fortune is more puzzling. 

I'm not sure where to find this merry heart medicine.

But I do think of one of my favorite pieces of art (see above.) My heart is heavy these days, and I thank those of you who are helping to carry it. Especially those bent beneath the unwieldy heavy end. A million thanks. I'm going to get up now and set the table.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The State of the State of Margaritaville: 2014 vs 2015

Mother's Day was nice. Quite lovely, in fact. A visit from M and lots of Skypeing with other family members. My mother thinks Skypeing is the best thing ever.

Then the caregiver came and  I went to my dance class and M made her 100 mile drive back to her place. There was the foxtrot and the swing and holding hands and standing close to this man whom I dance with yet know nothing about. "Find a boyfriend," my mother yelled to me as I went out the door this evening. "For me or for you," I said under my breath. I want to soften myself toward the possibility, and yet it seems ridiculous.

Because there was THIS. One year ago there was this. Once upon a time in Margaritaville, I kissed a dying man and he said,  "You knock me out."  When I remember the way he looked at me, I simply cannot get up off the couch.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

The day my daughters met their brother (click on this caption for some thoughts on being a birthmother)
I love my children with a full and open heart. They never stop surprising me. Spending time with any/all of them is pure joy.

And, at the age of 62, I still have my own mother. She's waking up as I type this, and I've just performed the two most essential morning tasks related to her caregiving: pushed the button on the coffee pot and jacked the heat up to 75.

And how can one celebrate Mother's Day without touching on the joy of being a grandmother?

They're A LOT older now--but just as adorable.

I wish you flowers, candy, cake, brunch while wearing fancy outfit if that's what you like. I wish you time with your family, breakfast in bed,  peace and quiet, a nap on the couch, wine and revelry until midnight--whatever works for you. Have fun. Love the love.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Report from the Gin Mill and Other Destructions

It was martini day here in Pillville. I put 18 2-oz martinis in jam jars and tucked them away here:

You don't see them, do you? Good. I also lock the door to my closet and to my room whenever I'm not at home. Yes, I am pretty much a raving nut case. If you'd like to read about my mental decline and how martini rationing was instituted here in Margaritaville, go here.

Meanwhile, millions more dead velella vellela have washed up on our shores.

The old crop from a couple of weeks ago are now higher up on the sand, reduced to their sails, their shiny blue bodies decayed and gone. Today on NPR, I heard that 13 million California trees have already died in the drought. We should probably ration all kinds of things here on planet Earth--especially in California.

And today in the state of Pillville we had a summit meeting. The Minister of Finance met with the Director of Planning and we concluded that my mom's money will run out in a few months. Options for supplemental income include opening a martini bar where the martinis are served in jars and hidden in various locations around the house, procured by a scavenger hunt. Jar Jar's Martini Bar Adventure. (Is this a good place to throw in a Yoda quote? "The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.") Stay tuned. Maybe we can work in some kayaking. Maybe you get a free drink if you dress up like Yoda or JarJar Binks.

In other news, the Director of Recreation in Pillville has suggested that I dance every night. I'd enjoy that. I think I'll leave my mom in charge of Jar-Jar's.

A freshly washed up velella velella from last August.

 And a freshly washed up me (from the early post-divorce years.) I love this photo, taken by my niece in maybe 2008 or 2009.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday Beach Report

Early morning and the marina is an old mirror, too gray and still for even the birds. The sailors are sleeping. But later when I step onto the sand, the ocean is a silver-green cauldron, and the waves are building.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Mystery of the Wine Thief, Some Wisdom from Ancient Rome, and the Rabbit in the Moon.

The Last Senate of Julius Caesar :: Raffaele Giannetti

The lovely M was in Margaritaville (her presence alone is enough to transform this place from Pillville to Margaritaville) this weekend. She arrived with plans to take me off to the theatre today, so from the moment I awoke, I began working toward our 11:30 departure time so that we could drive back to the L.A. area with plenty of time to make the matinee. One of my first tasks was to take last night's nearly full bottle of wine upstairs (I forgot to do this last night.) But the bottle of wine was gone. This discovery fell into place with the fact that I found my mom roaming around the kitchen and laundry room last night at 1:00 a.m. Aha, I thought, she's swiped the wine and hidden it somewhere in the laundry room. M looked for it. I looked for it. All the while, I wondered if I hadn't put it somewhere for safekeeping downstairs instead of juggling it up the steps with my glass of water, my phone, my book, my laptop. Maybe I tucked away somewhere. But where? All through this self-doubt though, my mom is my prime suspect. But off we go to the theatre.

The play we are going to see is Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar (probably the definitive play on power, politics, and war.) M, with her knowledge of the classics, plays podcasts about Julius Ceasar for us as I drive. We hear about Ceasar's return to Rome after his conquests in Gaul and over the Germanic tribes. So there Ceasar is, riding in his triumphal chariot with a slave standing behind him. It's the slave's job to remind Ceasar to look behind you because the future comes from behind. I insisted we hit the pause button right there. M told me about the Roman god Janus who has two faces, one looking forward, the other back, and we drove in silence for a bit before we went on to finish the podcasts.

M as Julius Ceasar at age 11
We happened to have dug out this photo album because of the visit from relatives last week.

 It was a fabulous production. Completely riveting, our brains swirling with past and present wars and political intrigues.

Then I drove back to attend my Sunday night dance class. I had a hard time focusing at first, but eventually my feet and my brain got together. The dance partner was entirely good humored. He's just happy to dance.

Afterwards when we walked out to the parking lot, the moon was a big yellow disk hanging low in the sky. He asked me if I knew about the rabbit in the moon. I did not. I'm 62 years old and I've never heard about the rabbit in the moon. I have, however, always felt that the future comes from behind. So, I tonight I saw the rabbit in the moon. And my dance partner gave me some beautiful homegrown lemons.

When I arrived back home, I was famished. And I wanted some wine. And there it was. On the dining room table just where we'd left it, untouched.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday Beach Report

 An ocean of emptiness.

No people, no dogs, no surfers, no boats.

As I finished my walk, a patch of blue sky appeared--and I ran into two friends.

It's Friday. It was a better than average week here in Pillville. My mom's sitting at the dining room table drinking a banana, strawberry, blueberry smoothie and reading the local paper. 

And me, I just played the caregiver card while trying to cancel my CitiPrestige credit card. Back in the day when this blog was known by its other name, I sometimes played the card that my daughters called the crazy divorced lady card. With this card in play, I actually managed to take a snow globe through airport security. I babbled something about not having traveled at Christmas for years and now that my husband had  suddenly and unexpectedly left me for someone 20 years younger, I was going to spend Christmas with my grandchildren and the snow globe was a gift, and....yep, waved right on through. In my defense, I was weeping and truly distraught. It wasn't an act or  a conscious manipulation.

The Citibank thing though--I knew that was the only way I was going to get off the damn phone. I mean the call took 14 minutes--and I wasn't on hold. "Well you see, Warren, those triple points for air travel, those double points for dining out, those extra points for entertainment--they don't mean a thing to me. I'm my mother's caregiver, and I don't go out." There was a pause. "Oh ma'am, I know what you mean," he said. And I believe he did. But he did have to run through his damn script anyway.  I thanked him profusely, and debated with him for a bit how I would use refunded remainder of the annual card fee. "Yes, ma'am, the card is cancelled but you do have a $20.19 credit balance." Whatever. He did his job. I wouldn't trade my job for his any day.