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The Day of the Storm

Winter 1

 

I close my eyes and

Lift my face to the north wind.

Sweet kiss of winter

When the dog and I set out, the sky promised snow, but not anytime soon.  The temperature was in the mid-20’s, balmy after the polar vortex low of 20 degrees below zero just a few days earlier.

Before we’d gone two blocks, however, the first flakes drifted down, sparingly, lazily.  I didn’t even notice them in an actual way until another block went by.  Then another, where I could see across the street into the woods.  White specks driving sideways across dark tree trunks, it was really snowing!  Another block we went, turning into a wind grown suddenly sharp and brisk.  We had to watch our step as new snow covered old ice.  More than once the dog or I slid a bit, taken by surprise.

And even as we hurried slowly on, (the dog is fourteen, now), heading back to our cozy house, where the kitchen would smell of fresh-brewed coffee and the heat would gently hum, I was so glad we’d ventured out on an ordinary walk turned extraordinary.  The kiss of the wind on my cheek was sweet, pinching me back to life by this contact with the natural world.

As the dog investigated an especially interesting spot under a tree, I took a deep breath and looked around me—at the stark winter outline of trees, at two crows winging swiftly off on some errand, at the puffs of white climbing up from chimneys even as other puffs of white fell silently down to blanket the roof, the lawn, the dog and me.

To be in touch with nature, even for just the length of a walk, is to remember we are of this earth, as we are on this earth.  Mother Nature’s heart beats in each and every living thing, a gift I’m happy to acknowledge always, but never more than on days like this, when my boots crunch over fresh snow and the dog’s black fur turns white beneath winter’s flurry.

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silhouette photography of birds in flight and perched on electricity line

Photo by Elizabeth Tr. Armstrong on Pexels.com

Saw the most amazing bird acrobatics on my way up to the library today.  If there was one pigeon, there were thirty, and they burst into view from behind the church steeple, as if by magic.  Then, they soared and dipped and swirled as a mass, their wings flicking from black to white and black again with the movement.  Honestly, it looked like fireworks on the 4th of July—that great big one that bursts into a circle as green, then changes to red, then to white.  I stood there in the middle of the barely-plowed street and watched until they settled at last onto the phone lines that run over the road.  Then, I applauded.  “Bravo!  Good show!”

Another Store Gone

End of an era

The department store closes

And time marches on

I’ve just returned from one of the last trips I’ll ever make to the K-Mart in my town.  The store’s been slated to close in January, as part of Sears’ mad scramble to stay afloat.

This breaks my heart for several reasons.

First off, 75 people will lose their jobs and some of these employees have worked there for years.  What will become, I wonder, of the older woman with whom I’ve often chatted, sharing stories of the time we both worked at different Woolworths?  What of the 74 others?

Secondly, this will create another huge vacancy in our small town within the space of a year.  Earlier in 2018, the only grocery store we had left closed its doors forever.   That big building sits dark and empty now, a hollow echo of better days.  Soon the K-Mart will join the silence and become another hard-to-fill hole in our fair city.

And mostly, I feel the tug of memory.  See, I’ve lived here my whole life.  I even remember the little houses with long driveways that gave way to the shiny new K-Mart, way back when.

I’ve been a frequent customer, walking over from my childhood home and my current one.  I’ve clothed myself for every season from its aisles, purchased nearly every tree and plant in my backyard from its parking lot and filled a few prescriptions with the friendly pharmacist.  How patient and kind she has always been, taking time to explain directions and unscramble insurance snafus.  I’ll miss her, too.

I’ve spent part of every Christmas budget at our K-Mart.  That’s what I was doing today.  One year, I got up really early, to be among the first in line on Black Friday, my eye on a gemstone bracelet.  And I met my mom there, her cart already stacked high with wrapping paper and things for the grandkids.  Oh, how we laughed at the chance meeting which should have come as no surprise to either of us.  That memory always makes me smile.

Today, I wandered the colorful, cheerful holiday aisles, picked up another bracelet for my collection in the jewelry department and invested heavily, as usual, in chocolate. All the while holiday tunes filled the air.

As I flipped through the sweaters (got two!)I was hit by a sudden way of genuine sorrow for what would soon be lost, and had to blink back tears.

For what it’s worth, I’m not spending one dime online this holiday season.  The world has moved on, I know, from brick and mortar and friendly clerks who recognize you, but I’ll not be budged.  I’ll spend my money and my time with actual people, and merchandise I can hold in my hands, in my own community.

I can’t save our K-Mart any more than individual shoppers could save the other 40 or so stores slated to shut down in January, but I can be a loyal K-Mart shopper until the very end.

And, in February, when that store sits dark and cold, I’ll remember the days lights shone brightly in its windows and the big “K” in the parking lot lit the night sky.  And I’ll blink away tears again.

blog post july 2018

I could be writing                                                            

But, instead I am searching

Where did I leave notes?

 

Once upon a time, I was organized. Not just a little. A lot. I could find anything at any time in any folder. My motto was “don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today”, and that meant filing.

Yes, well, those days seem a fairy tale now, when at some point every day, I am rummaging around and searching.

This morning, I was hunting for notes on my new novel. Historically, these are slap-dash jottings of brain waves, scrawled on the backs of receipts or scrap paper, shoved in an envelope until I write them all down coherently. Today, though, I’ve misplaced the coherent thing.

When my husband can’t find his glasses, I wonder why he doesn’t just put them in the same place very night, as I do with mine. (So, some of my organizational skills remain, I guess.) But now, my own very important papers have hidden and I will emulate him, retracing my steps, trying to remember where I saw them last.

Is this lack of focus just an age thing, or is it the result of a shorter attention span, induced by our high speed digital lives? Or do I just have too much stuff to keep tidy? It’s probably a combination of all three, a real “first world problem” as the saying goes.

No matter the cause, I’ve brought it on myself and an hour from now, when I cry “Eureka!”, I’ll be a happy woman, indeed, resolved to get it together. Until the next time.

I checked my “junk mail”

And found some lost treasure there

You’d better check yours!

 

I never look in the “junk” folder of my email. Don’t ask me why, it’s just a habit I’ve never gotten into it.  If a message is in there, it must be for a darn good reason, right?  Well, I will now make it a weekly habit to take a peek in that neglected folder.

Here’s why: a friend and I submitted stories to a publisher looking to create an anthology. Months went by, which is par for the course, and I’d nearly forgotten about it, when she told me she’d gotten a “Dear Author” reply, declining her story.  I hadn’t gotten anything.  I told myself that must be positive—unless they were rejecting authors in alphabetical order, then I could still get bad news.

Overnight, my subconscious must have been working, because when I woke in the morning, I thought immediately of my “junk mail” folder. Sure enough, when I checked it, I found good news from that publisher.  My story had made the cut and would be part of the anthology.  I was smiling as I clicked the box that read “not junk”, moving the happy note to my inbox, where it should have gone all along.

While I was there, in my junk mail folder, I scrolled through about a hundred messages, most of which earned their place in that spot. I did find a few other messages that, while not crucial, were still important enough to move elsewhere.

It is hard to keep up with all the email messages that come in each week, and I’m glad Gmail, Outlook and others help a bit by sorting them. But you can’t beat human eyes for knowing best what should go where.  I’ll never neglect my junk mail folder again.

It’s been fourteen years

Since my father passed away

Gone–but in my heart

I can hardly believe it has been fourteen years since my father passed away. I’ll never forget that long dark night when the impossible happened.  My dad, who had been in my life forever, was gone. And I learned “forever” is just another word, with a million meanings that don’t fit. There is no “forever”, it seems.

And yet—

And yet, if I close my eyes, I can hear Dad playing the trumpet. If I concentrate, I can see his smile, hear his laughter, watch his hands as he sands the bumper on one of his MGs.

And yet, I carry on his love for plaid, and of all things British. I share his conviction there’s more to life than work. There’s curiosity and learning and the pursuit of an interest.

And yet, that creak in my knee sounds just like his. And my ankles are just as skinny, and my feet just as cold.

And so, I guess “forever” does exist, will exist, for a little while longer, after all—in my body, in my memory, and in my heart.

Happy Holidays!

christmas candy.tif

And so here we are at the end of another year.  When I was just a girl, my fifth grade teacher told the class one day that every year of our lives would go by faster than the year before.  I remember thinking that couldn’t possibly be true, but, sure enough, it is.  I told him that story when he retired, and I’ll bet he was reflecting on the truth of his words, just then.

If you ask me, these busy weeks around the holidays provide a respite of sorts from dealing with everything else that needs attention. At least, that’s how I operate.  “In the New Year,” I think as I add yet another note to my to-do list.  Of course, the trick will be in sticking to my resolution to tackle these jobs, when my track record with resolutions is as good as anyone else’s–that is to say, not very good at all.

But before all of that work comes the fun of being with family and friends, laughing and sharing conversation, and eating too much chocolate. I try to make a point of getting the same kind of chocolates Mom got when we were little, and I put them in the candy dish that belonged to my Gramma. I dropped that dish a few years ago, breaking it into several pieces.  It took me an hour to glue it carefully back together again and, if you look at three sides of the dish, you’d never know of the catastrophe.  That fourth side, though…well, let’s just say it’s best turned to the wall.  I’ll always use that little dish, and fill it with Mom’s chocolates as long as the company makes them.  Christmas is all about traditions, after all, and that’s one of my favorites.

Happy Holiday wishes to you all.