Archive for the ‘On my mind….’ Category

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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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.

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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.

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“Closed for the season”

The sign at beach snack bar says

But I must disagree


Never one to blindly follow rules, I’m afraid my beach isn’t closed for the season just yet. Oh, there will be no more enticing smells of french fries from the snack bar, no chance at a cold beverage–or a hot one–unless I remember to bring it along, but that’s okay.

The wind and the waves and the birds and the trees are all still here for me, just where I need them, to disconnect from real life for a while each week.

It’s even better here, at the beach, in the off season. Such wonderful words: off season, implying the reality of deserted sand, stacked-up beach chairs, shuttered windows and, somewhere far ahead, a turn in the weather.

Now, I’ll absorb the scene and the sense of it all. Drink in the energy of the waves, the feel of the sun, the bliss–just the bliss-of the off season.


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Birthday thoughts


Old tree sways in wind

Surviving by adapting

Just goes with the flow


I took a walk on the bike path today, when a hint of autumn was in the air. Stopping to admire the view of the ravine, I followed the trunk of one tree up, up, up and watched the top of this obviously old tree sway in the breeze. The whole tree, actually, moved with the wind, adapting to its direction.

And I thought of how this old tree could still adjust to changes. Indeed, had to, in order to survive. there’s a lesson there for me, as another birthday draws near.

Adjust, adapt, survive.



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The Big Eclipse

Where will sun be

On Monday, for the eclipse?

I’ll watch from the sand.


After all the lead-up and breathless anticipation, all the mad scrambling for solar glasses and the day off, it was finally August 21, 2017 and time for a solar eclipse as hadn’t been seen in nearly 100 years.

My plan was to hit the beach with my husband for the duration. The sun would be nearly directly overhead and we would be ready with glasses, sunscreen, something cold to drink and our wonderful dog to keep us company.

Of course, it didn’t turn out that way. We left our old doggy home, napping, and had a nice lunch al fresco as the eclipse got underway, under clouds!

Holding up my solar glasses, I’d say, “There it is! Oh, now it’s gone. No, wait–” as clouds scudded by. Before we were done eating, though, the clouds had mostly cleared and it seemed we’d be in for a show.

We went to a park close by, where the Frisbee golf course made a big open space. Other families were already there, with picnic lunches on colorful tablecloths and dogs on the Frisbee course. One couple lay side by side on the back of their car, motionless as statues, their solar glasses in place.

Slowly, slowly, slowly, the moon moved into position. The breeze picked up and the temperature dropped, not things that would normally bring an exclamation from me, but they did that day. I knew from the program I’d attended at the library a week earlier that here in Milwaukee the eclipse would be blocking 83% of the sun. Even a mere 17% sunshine would keep the day bright and, indeed, the skies only dimmed, as if a storm were approaching. But that didn’t impact the spectacle of the moon’s motion for me.

The last time this event took place, 1918, my grandmother was eight years old. I think that’s the definition of once-in-a-lifetime. And yet they say we’ll have other eclipses in 2024 and 2045, so perhaps not.

I am so glad I took a vacation day for this amazing event. Neal and I had a wonderful afternoon there, under both sun and moon, sharing the phenomenon with everyone everywhere at once, or so it seemed.

Thank you, Universe, for two and a half minutes I’ll remember, forever.

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The Clock Ticks

Time with family
Precious and too limited
By our busy lives

I think of it as a hazard of modern life, this overbooking, overlapping, overscheduling, but perhaps it’s always been a challenge to fit in a social life.

Facebook is super for helping me stay up to date with people, one post at a time, but sometimes I want more than that.

“Let’s do lunch”, I write in Christmas cards and a year late I write it again, with no lunch date in between.

That’s no good.

The only thing that works, I’ve found, is to regularly schedule events, i.e. “the last Wednesday of every month”, etc. Or to start scheduling a get-together several months out.

Some cousins and I take at least two months to find a date that will fit us all and that date is usually two more months off! Still, it’s a way to ensure we see each other now and then. (And writing this is reminding me, it’s past time to begin planning our next brunch.)

When I was in 5th grade, our teacher told us, “Every year of your life will go faster” and I remember thinking that couldn’t possibly be true.  But, of course, it is.

So let’s pull up our calendars right this minute, to book some time with someone special. There’s not a moment to lose!

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