Infamous Beyond Napoleon Dynamite

Today is a historical anniversary of a sad day in the United States. I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it. I’d wager very few people have.

Last month my dad told me that when he was a little boy growing up in a small southern Idaho town, he’d occasionally find himself in the local post office staring at a large painting over a doorway. He told me he’d study that painting and wonder. It drew his attention like nothing else he’d seen.

I’d been in that post office last summer and didn’t notice the painting. To be honest, I’d never heard about it, and I was focused on buying stamps. I should have paid attention to the cool architecture of the old structure, the classic lines, the pillars, the traditional windows for each clerk to stand behind. The old formica square tiles caught my eye that day, but not much else.

This town looks like hundreds of others throughout the west, with one main street of businesses, lots of modest homes radiating out from the central part of town, and newer houses encroaching on farm and ranch land. Not much to set it apart from all those others. Although a small film made it semi-famous among teens for a while. You may have heard of “Napoleon Dynamite.” Or, if you didn’t have teenagers at the time you may not have heard of this little comedic gem.

Preston, Idaho has another little known but infamous event tied to it.

Just before Christmas I spent a week with my parents. In spite of the snowy weather we ended up doing some scenic drives. It’s one of Dad’s favorite things to do. He tells me about different places as we drive past, points out curiosities, shares funny stories and sad tales. He grew up in that part of the country and knows the history well, played and fished and worked in the area until his late teens. One story in particular caught his attention in grade school but he could find little information about it beyond the brief  mention of it once.

Driving north out of town he pointed out a little cove off in the distance and casually said, “That’s where the largest massacre of Indians in the United States took place.”

I was sure he couldn’t be correct.

But he knew details and he told me about the painting in the post office and his fascination with it.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. For some reason that story and that painting were on my mind. So I opened my computer and typed in a few search words and found out that Dad did know what he was talking about. In fact, in an odd coincidence, the anniversary of this sad and senseless event took place on January 29, that’s today.

I found out that just after dawn 153 years ago today, in 1863, the Bear River Massacre of the Northwest Band of Shoshone Indians took place. Over 500 men, women and children died at the hands of the U.S. Army that day. That’s more than double those who lost their lives at Wounded Knee.

Why would this be on my mind last night? I’ve never seen the memorial plaque, which is pictured in the link above, along with copious amounts of research and details that will surprise and haunt you. Besides driving past the site and dad’s brief telling of it, and the painting, which I paid serious attention to in December, this hasn’t crossed my mind.

Like my Dad, it caught at my heart and has obviously been tugging away this past month at my subconscious.

Maybe this painting, and the story will tug at your heart and mind as well. I hope so. Such a thing ought not be so quietly dismissed or forgotten.preston post office

~~~~~

“In Shoshone, there’s a saying. It’s a long one, and it doesn’t have an English equivalent, so bear with me.  Sutummu tukummuinna. It means, I don’t speak your language, and you don’t speak mine. But I still understand you. I don’t need to walk in your footsteps if I can see the footprints you left behind.” ~ Rose Christo, Why the Star Stands Still

 

 

Categories: Death, Holidays, People, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

New Wheels, New Outlook

When he was young, my son used to test run shoes when he needed a new pair. He’d ask me if I thought one pair was faster than another. It was difficult to tell. Some shoes had serious speed factors, while others looked fast but might not run at top speeds. In the end the fastest shoes were always the shoes we bought. I loved that.

I think I stumbled on something similar in myself recently. Stay with me on this one while I mosey over to my point.

Want to see a sad photo I took while I spent time in snow country a month or so ago?

IMG_5514I know, right? Perfectly good bikes stuck in the snow going no place for a long time. They’re maybe even accumulating some rust, and weather related wear and tear. Poor, forlorn bikes.

It’s sad to me anyway. A big portion of the country lies buried or is shoveling out from under this white stuff. And bikes spend half the year in a dusty garage or shed corner, or left outside like these, unused, unridden, forgotten and silent. Blessedly, we don’t experience that here in the desert southwest.

Which means I get to ride my bike all winter long! In fact, it’s the best riding time of the year. Cool temperatures, sunny skies, dry trails, light breezes.

Want to see a really happy photo I took recently?

IMG_5667I’d like to introduce you to my new mountain bike. I wish I knew her name, but she hasn’t told me what it is yet. She’s a bit shy.

I’m extra happy about this new addition to my life because, well, it’s my first bike ever that isn’t a hand-me-down from someone else.

I shopped, and researched, and took six months to prove to myself how committed I felt to biking. Turns out I logged a bunch of miles from July to December last year. I rode over one hundred miles in October and November! Not too shabby. I fell in love with biking more than I thought possible. Getting around under my own power gives me a feeling of freedom like nothing else. It’s a bit addictive.

So after six months and lots of miles later I researched and shopped and test drove. And then spent a few days of angst and worry, and talking with bikers, and researching again.

Silly, you say. Maybe so, but I’d never spent so much money on a bike or anything else for myself for that matter. So this decision needed to be the right one.

The day I rode her home from the bike shop those two and a half miles felt spectacular. Christmas morning, Valentines Day and Easter plus my birthday all rolled into one couldn’t have topped that sensation!

I took her out for a short four-mile ride the next morning, since that was all I had time for a ride that day. I needed to get used to the newness, the quick response, the slightly wider handlebars, the bigger tire radius, the grippy foot pedals. I got overly confident and smashed my shoulder on a fall, which still has a bruise on it. But it didn’t deter me.

The following Tuesday turned into our official inaugural ride as a team. I’d intended to go less than ten miles. But, it became twice that. Yes! I rode twenty-one miles that day. I felt like a rock star. A personal best! I hope it’s the first of many twenty-plus mile rides. I also hope to take on some more challenging mountain trails as I gain more confidence and muscle.

Here’s the thing I’ve wondered; was it my bike or me that did that?

It’s a much better bike than my old one, well tuned, lightweight, new. Everything worked great, all twenty-four gears, the hydraulic brakes, and the front adjustable shocks. Those monster twenty-nine inch tires made the ride smooth and easy on my back and seat. Gravel, rocks, curbs, bumps gave me no worries at all. I felt like a kid out there with the world all mine to explore and conquer.

I wonder if I’m a bit like my son with his fast new shoes, convinced my bike is faster, when all it really amounts to is my mindset. I’m pretty sure the work I put in pedaling transfers more efficiently, but who knows? Maybe it’s all in my head and not in my feet. I feel pretty fast, though.

My gratitude overflows for such abundance in my life. How blessed I feel to own such an amazing piece of machinery that lets me go wherever I need or want to go, powered only by my legs, my heart and my determination.

Categories: Biking, Exercise, Gratitude | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Couple of Diet Cokes and a Convo

Let’s say you and I go pick up a Dirty Diet Coke and a sugar cookie. We’d drive to a nearby park, and we’d sit on a park bench (this is Arizona, remember?) and chat while we munched and sipped.

FullSizeRender-3 copy 3“Mmmm…I like that touch of lime,” you’d say.

“I like the coconut undertones,” I’d reply.

“The cookie’s a bit too chewy for my idea of a sugar cookie,” you’d add. “But still, it’s delish.”

Only, you probably wouldn’t say “delish” because we only really shorthand things like that in texts or on Facebook and other social media zones. Even though it is “totes adorbs,” it sounds pretty silly in real life, doesn’t it?

Our conversation would wander from dinner plans to cloud formations, from recent things we read to the symbolism of some odd dream we had the night before. We might even discuss something religiously contentious, or skirt along the edges of politics. It’s always fun to see where things go when we talk.

Somewhere in there I’d get around to asking a question that’s been on my mind, but it’d be weird to just blurt it out without some context, or without having it relate even vaguely to what we might be discussing.

Since we aren’t having sodas at the park, I can just throw out the thought that I’ve been wondering about off and on for years. (If you want to grab a Coke or Mountain Dew or something non-caffeinated, go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Here’s the question:

Do you think there’s some inspiration or creative source or new ideas or muse somewhere in the atmosphere or something that different people tap into, or ask to access, or that they simply breathe in, that they then turn into art, or song, or a written work?

And a related question:

And if that’s the case, isn’t it likely that several, if not hundreds or thousands, could “come up with” the same or similar ideas all around same time?

And another question:

Is there really any original thought or are thoughts or the seeds of thoughts put into our heads?

Fine, it was three questions…

I see us finishing up our sodas and dusting cooking crumbs off our shirts long before we exhaust the possibilities of these questions.

Surely philosophers and psychologists, Mensa members and religious people all have something to add to the answers to these questions. I’m just wondering what the everyday, soda sipping, cookie crunching public thinks.

Here’s my two cents.

I’ve had many experiences where I’ve thought of an idea, or started writing a blog post, or hummed a made-up tune, and then, within a day, or a week someone else talks about, writes, or sings the same or eerily similar thing. What is that all about?

Seriously!

Cosmic music waves hitting in-tune people? Writerly angels whispering words? Serendipity? Inspiration? What is it?

I don’t think there’s a correct answer, but it’s a discussion I’d sure like to have, with or without a soda and cookie.

On second thought, cookies should stay in the equation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: good ideas, Wondering, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday Letter: The Traffic and Song that Never Ends

Dear J, J, L and L,

Finger puppets might save your sanity.

It all started with Lambchop, although I don’t remember when he began riding along with us in the car. I just know that one day we found ourselves sitting in traffic amongst a zillion other cars going nowhere and getting there at five miles per hour. More than likely, two of you, (guess which two) were arguing or whining in the back seat. No doubt the radio played nothing but the Macarena or advertisements. And most likely the AC failed in its efforts to cool our car just as summer arrived.

Whatever the circumstances, I remember putting Lambchop the finger puppet on my left hand, and letting him wildly sing his signature song whilst dancing out the window.

“This is the song that never ends…it just goes on and on my friend…somebody started singing it not knowing what it was… and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that never ends…”

Here’s a reminder if you’ve forgotten that ditty:

The Song That Never Ends

One of you in the back half of the car probably slunk lower in your seat or said something profound like, “Mooooooooom!!! Stoooooooop!” or may be not. Maybe you laughed. Maybe someone in a car behind or beside us laughed.

Then Lambchop changed the words. “This is the traffic that never ends…it just goes on and on my friend…somebody started driving once not knowing where they were…and they’ll continue driving now forever just because this is the traffic that never ends…

Lambchop was a hit. I laughed. Ya’ll laughed. Tension dispelled, at least momentarily.

From then on I was on a quest for other finger puppets, which it turned out, were rare and hard to find. (Pre-Amazon and Google, y’know.)

FullSizeRender-3 copy 2

Moose, the finger puppet. Who could resist this smile?

This guy, Moose, joined our car late in the game. He liked to sing “We wish you a merry Christmoose,” if memory serves me correctly.

There may have been others, but some of our more traumatic years seem to reside in a foggy region of my brain that I’m unable, or unwilling, to access. But Lambchop, for sure, spent a ton of time on the dashboard, reminding us of the threat or the possibility of performances while stuck in traffic.

Now the most traffic I encounter happens while trying to cross Greenfield road on my bike. And of course, your father doesn’t appreciate the finely honed skills of finger puppet singing. So Lambchop now lives in the closet with all the other stuffed animals. I found Moose covered in dust next to a certain restaurant gift card on my dresser.

If you remember the names or songs of any of our other sweet car companions, remind me. Good times ought not be forgotten. In fact, perhaps they ought to experience a comeback.

Hey, whatever it takes to maintain your sanity in traffic seems like a great idea.

May all your roads lack multiple four-way stops and frequent construction zones. And may you laugh daily and often.

Happy driving!

Love ya tons,

Mom

Categories: children, Family, Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters, Fun, Traffic | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

I Just Called to Say I Love You

FullSizeRender-3 copyFew things in life cause a person to contemplate their own mortality more than the death of someone they’re close to.

My friend, Kathy, was only ten years old when her parents were killed in a drunk driving accident. Needless to say, death sort of hardwired itself into her head at such an early age. That explains why at the back of every journal or diary she ever had she wrote out her funeral plans. They changed a bit over the years. Those plans got more specific at a certain point in her life.

Irony stepped in big time with Kathy when multiple myeloma kicked in. I hate irony. And I hate cancer. But those are two different topics altogether.

Having terminal cancer will bring up the topic of death and dying in an unrelenting way. Kathy and I chatted about it the way most people talk about plans for the weekend. Mostly I was always in denial. She never was. Not ever.

Why do I bring up Kathy? It’s been two years today since she passed away. Two years to think about her, to avoid thinking about her, to process what she taught me, to avoid processing what she taught me. Have I come to any conclusions? No.

I know this much. She wouldn’t want me moping around and being gloomy. She’d want me to celebrate life and live it large and crazy. She’d kick my butt if she thought I was sad in the least bit today.

So, fine. I won’t mope or mourn. I will, however tell you the two things that keep popping into my head.

The weirdest of the two is a Stevie Wonder song. As far as I remember she wasn’t a big fan of Stevie. It’d make more sense if a Beatles song kept running through my mind. But no, no Beatles. It’s this one:

“I just called to say I love you.”

At first I thought that’s what I’d say to her if I could call her up in heaven, collect, of course, and have a chat. “Hey girl! What’s up? I just called to say I love you.” After all that’s how I’d say goodbye whenever I left her house. “Love you! I’ll see you later.” It’s even how I said goodbye the last time.

But then, I thought, maybe she’s trying to call me! Now there’s an idea, huh? I’m sure they don’t get unlimited calls and texts from heaven, but maybe an occasional one on special occasions?  Who knows. It could happen.

The other thought for today is from a photo I took on a snowy walk about three weeks ago. It’d be what she’d tell me to do. What she’d tell everyone she knows and loves to do.

It’s this:

FullSizeRender-3

She was always all about the happy.

So to honor her, I’ll try to be all about the happy, too.

And since we’re on the topic, I’d want to be remembered as a happy person too.  But don’t go playing any Stevie Wonder songs at my funeral.

 

 

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Happiness, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Friday Letter to my Kids:Can You Spare Some Change?

Dear J, J, L and L,

I have to publicly thank you for the awesome Christmas gift of a wifi photo frame. I think I’ve never recieved a gift that I liked more. It fills a void that’s slowly been opening up as each of you has left home, left the state, left your old selves behind.

IMG_3284I find myself staring at the photos as they fade from one to the next, awestruck that each person in each photo is part of who I am. Each person represented by those pixels on the screen makes me a better, brighter, happier me.

It’s stunning to see how quickly you’ve each changed and how suddenly your children grow from newborn or toddler, to yes, even a teen. How does that happen? How young you all once were. How young you still are.

I often feel I’m not much older than those photos I see, and at the same time I often feel ancient and treelike. I feel stuck in time while everyone around me changes, morphs and transforms into stunning works of beauty and art and joy.

As it’s a new year the topic of resolutions swirls around in conversation and status updates. I posted a Calvin and Hobbes comic on Facebook that actually is meant to be sarcastic but today captures how I feel about each of you and your families.

Calvin, in his usual bravado, tells a blank faced Hobbes, “Resolutions! Me?? Just what are you implying? That I need to change?? Well, buddy, as far as I’m concerned, I’m perfect the way I am!”

I want you each to stay just the way you are, young, nearly perfect, happy. I want to capture you, suspend you in amber and keep you just so. Don’t go making resolutions and changing. Change happens far too quickly without any encouragement at all.

This sounds like I’ve forgotten all the difficulties of raising kids. I haven’t. But I think, in the long run, and maybe even in the short run, the balance of good times won out over the tough stuff.

I used to jokingly say, “before you know it you’ll be all grown up and off to college.” Well, that’s already happened. Now I say it about the grands and the speed of it actually happening takes my breath away.

Nothing I say will stop the change that goes on day in and day out. I can’t hold the past in my hands any more than I can keep water cupped in them. Life drips through, like sand through a sieve, and you each keep your momentum, growing older, wiser, able to laugh more.

I guess I want to say how proud I am of each of you. What sweetness you did and do bring to my life. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. Thank you!

Make whatever resolutions you will, or don’t make any at all. Know that how I see it, in my memories and in digitally transmitted photos, you’re perfect just the way you are. Calvin thinks so, too!

Happy New Year!

With love and gratitude,

Mom

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Categories: Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters, Holidays, motherhood, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
 
 

Foggy and Fifty-Four

Not every day out on the bike feels wonderful. During Monday’s ride I cursed myself for not dressing warmer for fifty-four degrees. Also, it felt like someone filled my front tire with lead. Every single push on the pedal pushed my patience closer to the edge.

This morning I planned better. I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt and covered my legs. Forty-five degrees feels pretty cold when you’re used to eighties and nineties during the day. Still, the humidity seeped in and the wind-chill, even at nine miles an hour, kept my muscles from warming up. I found myself urging the sun to move faster and break over the horizon so I could catch a little heat. Tomorrow I might need to break down and wear a jacket and something to keep my ears warm.

And this time, I’m pretty sure someone filled both tires with kryptonite. Or maybe I just left my wonder woman bracelets at home. That’s probably it. My breath kept fogging up my glasses, too. That makes for an extra hilarious ride. I adjusted my breathing pattern and that problem went away.

It’s possible I need to fuel my body with healthier choices. And I might need to get more sleep more consistently. A new bike would be nice, too. So would a new body, one with less creaks, aches, twitches and padding. Oh well, I’ll do what I can with what I have.

Just me and my shadow, out for a ride.

Just me and my shadow, out for a ride.

Of course after saying all that, most days on the bike rock my world and make the whole day better! That’s the truth.

I’ve set a higher mileage goal for the month of November. On today’s ride I found myself rethinking that goal. How realistic did it seem? Why would it matter anyway how many miles I ride? Who would know but me that I wasn’t reaching the goal? An awful lot of arguments with shoulder angels and shoulder devils happen while riding a bike. I think the shoulder angel won this morning. I did, after all, log eleven miles. Not too shabby.

That abundant self-talk occurs alongside a bunch of anticipation. What’s that on the path up ahead? How am I going to navigate around this four-across walking group? What are that dog’s plans and am I involved in some way? What would I do if I ended up in the canal? Should I carry pepper spray? Why is that jogger going faster than me? It’s a mental workout, too.

I feel lucky to have easy, quick access to so many trails and paths. There are hundreds of miles of canal roads, paved and not paved. My mountain bike can do both, so I’m not limited that way. There’s also plenty of power line trails, with sidewalks and without. There are even some wide paths that follow the freeway in a few places, with a tall wall so I’m not actually seeing the traffic. Sadly, very few people see the landscaping along there.

One reason I’m trying to increase my mileage lies in the curiosity I have about other paths, roads and trails. I’d like to be able to go further, see more, and explore the lesser-seen sides of things. Also, I’d like to kick some butt, get brave and try a few mountain bike trails in the San Tans or Usury Park. That sounds so, what’s the word, youthful and just downright fun. Forget this nonsense of acting my age. In my head I’m still only a teenager. Well, maybe more like a twenty-something.

Foggy sunrise.

Foggy sunrise.

This morning I’d posted a photo on Facebook of the fog today with the comment, “Foggy forty-five degree morning. Perfect for a little ride.” One of my friends replied: “Sounds like my kind of morning! I’m forty-five and a little foggy.” That made me laugh. It also reminded me of one reason I ride. I’m trying to stay clear-headed and happy. I don’t want the fog to move in to my brain and settle there, not for at least thirty more years. Maybe riding my bike will keep that mental fog away. Maybe it will help me feel younger than my middle-aged self currently feels.

I’ll see what I can do about those kryptonite filled tires today. Tomorrow’s ride can only get better, right?

I wish you happy trails and a wonderful journey wherever the path leads.

Categories: Biking, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Something the Cat Dragged In

Cute, yes?

Cute, yes?

One of the four cutest kids I know has a cat at her house, named Penelope Buttercup. Also, there’s a dog named Pabst, which you should imagine as a teddy bear that Penelope has targeted as arch-enemy number one. Oh, and this sweet girl also has a stuffed toy mouse who goes by the name of, well, Mouse.

When I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at her home she uses some big words for such a little girl. And by big, I mean loud. If the cat walks past she’ll yell “TAAAAAT!” If the dog walks by she hollers, “PAAAAAAAP!” And if you show her the stuffed mouse she proclaims, “MOWW!”

There’s no question which of those three she’s referring to. Not sure why the dog isn’t called “DAWG!” I suppose “PAAAAAP!” can be shouted easier. Who knows what goes on in those little computer brains of babies these days.

When I see a cat now I automatically yell in my head “TAAAAAAAT!” It’s my little equivalent of seeing a moon and thinking someone else I love who lives far away is seeing the same moon. I see a cat and know that my little palindrome grand-daughter sees a cat during her day, too.

Every I look I see cats. Especially online. Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats.

Why?

These aren’t particularly friendly critters. Hardly. They’re standoffish and snooty. And yet the human race seems to embrace the furballs with unbridled ridiculousness.

Of course, I used to be the same way. As a tweenager I adopted a stray cat every time the last stray disappeared. Which was often. Weird. They were various combinations of black and white, whose names I don’t remember except for Zorro, which, of course, sported a little black mask around his eyes. And there was Tom, the feral cat, who was horse cat of a different color.

The term “something the cat dragged in” could have and often did refer to my Tom. You can read about him here if you’re curious.

My oldest daughter’s cat, pre-Penelope, would bring lizards and live birds in through the cat door at her house. Things got a bit exciting then, especially with multiple cats and a dog or two living there.

In Washington state we had neighbor cats that used to leave dead birds on our doorstep as a gesture of friendship. How sweet. We felt so…loved, or some other emotion. Just recently I thought that some human relationships are just like that. One person presents what they perceive as astounding gifts of love and sacrifice and the receiver only sees mayhem and grossness. That’s one of the saddest kinds of stories I know.

MSH hasn’t ever been a cat person. In fact, he taught my son at a very young age about the “handle” on a cat. SMH (Shaking My Head.) I’m afraid he took too well to that teaching and hauled many a neighborhood cat around by its tail.

My middle daughter and I once watched a cat play with a mouse in a sloped driveway. It was all kinds of fascinating. That is until the cat bit off the mouse’s head and played with that for a while. When the crunching started we left the area.

In a similar tone my parents’ cat leaves dismembered field critters on the driveway, proving his usefulness in spite of all proof to the contrary.

Sweet half-size Oreo.

Sweet half-size Oreo.

A notable exception to uppity cats is my son’s recently adopted dwarf cat, Oreo. He’s fully grown but still quite small, with a smooshy face and no meow. He doesn’t really jump or climb or do much of anything cat-like. That is, except for taunting the grand-dog Blondie by walking near the dog food dish. Subtle but effective snark there, if you ask me. (This little guy belonged to my brother who has five kids at home and has now rehomed of all the pets.)

Figuratively speaking, I often look like something the cat dragged in after a few hours of yard work, but then, don’t we all? Actually I think I look that way first thing in the morning too, but a bike helmet covers that up pretty well.

Some days I feel like something the cat dragged in, discombobulated, disoriented and “dis” in general. Days like that I kind of wish I were a cat, able to lounge about in odd places, soaking up some sun, or sprawled along the top of the couch. Maybe curled into a ball in a dark corner somewhere. Those days I just want someone to rub my neck and reassure me that I’m worthwhile and useful and loved and that yes, that “everything is gonna be okay.”

Ever so un-catlike, I have to actually be useful. I go about my days and nights fulfilling my obligations, contributing to society and the well-being of a few people I know and attempt to stay cheerful. I think I’m more like a dog than a cat. But that’s not all bad.

If all else fails I can always watch funny cat videos on YouTube, right?

~~~~~

“Meow” means “woof” in cat.” 
 ~ George Carlin

Categories: Being Human, Communication | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Always Ready to Party

I pass this house on my bike rides either coming or going. I slow down as I pedal past. I try not to stare but it’s difficult not to. You see, it’s still a bit dark when I’m going past and strands of white twinkle lights light up the yard. That’s not something you normally see on an October morning.

I should mention it’s the back yard, not the front. I have no idea what the front of this house looks like. I should ride over that way and see sometime, I suppose. Many of these homes were modestly built out of cinderblock during the fifties, nearly identical inside and out.  Quarter or half-acre lots back up to this part of the trail which serves as a power line easement and passes backyards filled with dozens of stories and even more questions.

This particular back yard captures my imagination and holds it hostage.

Photo by Codo (The passion of the mariachi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) ], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Codo (The passion of the mariachi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In the slowly brightening sky the outline of a mariachi band plays against the twinkle lights. More specifically, life-sized, rusty looking metal statues of a mariachi band face the back of the house. There’s no actual music. But the feeling of a song just ended hangs in the yard like a fine morning mist.

Several matching rust colored umbrellas stand at ease amid various patio tables. A small swimming pool reflects light on to heavy tied-back patio curtains.

In contrast to the perfectly manicured yard and setting, two vintage cars and a small lawn tractor sit nearby. A row of desert trees skirt along a white fence.

I imagine that on closer inspection I’d find a more than adequate barbecue set up, a fire pit and a mini bar.

The interior of the house usually stands dark and silent. Oh, how I’ve wanted to stop and take a photo. But that seems intrusive and paparazzi-ish. So I haven’t any images to share. I hold only a mental photograph I snap every single time I ride past. Somehow, I’m sure, a photograph wouldn’t capture the vision I see and feel.

While walking in the ordinary light of day past this home the magic pull of this back yard holds far less sway on me. It’s just another backyard in the sunshine. I’m not sure what it is but there’s something about the pre-dawn light that makes it all feel as if someone just sprinkled pixie dust over the entire site.

Photo by MzScarlett / A.K.A. Michelle from Missouri (Ice Tea) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by MzScarlett / A.K.A. Michelle from Missouri (Ice Tea) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In that early morning hour I sense I’ve always just missed the last snippets of a long night of whispered conversations, laughter, ice clinking in glasses and wet footprints leading away from the pool. I suspect I’ve missed out on serpentine stories and long jokes with intelligent punchlines. The only taste I get of the party just finished hovers lightly as the scent of creosote in the chill early air.

Do I think this household throws a party every night that last long into the wee hours? No, not at all.

What I do think is they have managed to capture the essence of a nightly party and hold it there in a quarter-acre space. It must conjure wonderful memories to look out from the kitchen window of that home and see ghosts of guests long since departed. What joy it must bring to remember, amid the twinkle lights, friendships and family, chatter and music, stars and breezes.

Clearly I’ve romanticized and idealized what happens at this home. Whatever really goes on, whoever really lives there, I don’t want to know. I’d rather keep what I’ve imagined and call it truth.

I wonder if I could create something similar. Surely I don’t need a metal mariachi band to capture that sense of excitement and wonder at daily life. Maybe something as simple as candlelight and music softly playing at dinner, even if it’s meatloaf on the menu. Perhaps a strand of twinkle lights draped along the patio and plugged in every night, party or not, just for the sake of celebrating life.

I’ll have to give this more thought. Is this just a Better Homes and Gardens or House Beautiful photo shoot I’ve stumbled on and can’t possibly recreate? Or is there something real there, something in the idea of celebration that I could blend into my daily walk and talk? It’s an intriguing idea.

Party on, my friends, party on.

~~~

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” 

– John Lubbock

Categories: Celebration, Family, Fun, good ideas, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments
 
 

In Search Of: Missing Groove

A friend of mine recently mentioned “getting her groove on.” That led to an interesting discussion about what that meant, which led to Googling a random movie neither of us have seen, which led to a comment by me that I thought my groove might be moldering in the washing machine.

You know that mildew smell right? Ew.

Have you ever mopped up spilled milk with a towel and then let the towel sit for 24 hours or so? Or spilled a whole gallon of milk in the car in the summertime; oy, that’ll put you off driving for a while.

Mildewing groove. Gross!

Groovy crop circle. Not my missing groove though. Photo by Cropoilbrush (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Groovy crop circle. Not my missing groove though. Photo by Cropoilbrush (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

So what IS a groove and how do you get it back? And in my case, how do I get rid of that smell?

Here’s a mashup of what a few of the online dictionaries said about it: “Hippie term: Taken from music, but relating it to life, social situations, and nature. Generally feeling good , in tune and in the rhythm of nature. Enjoying life. An established habit. Enjoying oneself.”

According to that definition, my groove, and my friend’s groove, have both definitely gone missing. Me in tune? Nope, I’m way off-key. In rhythm with nature? I wish.

And just so you know, Diet Coke does little to alleviate the void left by missing grooveness. Although, ice cream can briefly mimic having a groove, but once the bowl empties, that feeling dissipates quickly.

When I ride my bike pre-sunrise I feel “in the groove.” But that sensation slips away sometime before noon. Sad, I know.

Maybe music would help. Cranking those tunes (<— click it, you’ll thank me) during the day could ramp up the groove meter. A little disco never hurt anyone, right? (Don’t answer that.)

Has YOUR groove wandered off?

Possibly that lack of groove finds its roots in one or more of the following:

  • Fifth month of relentless heat, with who knows how many more weeks still to endure. (Think cabin fever, but with heat in place of snow.)
  • Consistently running short on sleep
  • Little time spent in recreational reading
  • A deficit of fun
  • Not having something to look forward to
  • Missing family members or friends
  • Lack of a consistent schedule
  • Spreading myself too thin
  • Overcommitment
  • Too much time lost in my own circular thoughts
  • Worry, about lots of things that I have little or no control over
  • Lack of concrete goals
  • Not enough laughter in a day or week
  • Internalizing other people’s stress
  • Lack of balance between work and recreation
  • A disorganized desk, room, house, garage, car, life.
  • The ever-present money worries
  • A plague of pumpkin spice everything, everywhere!

Not a drastic, life altering list of anti-grooveness there, but just enough of a handful of them to make things smell a bit moldy and feel off-kilter.

A336,_The_Wave_at_twilight,_Paria_Canyon-Vermilion_Cliffs_Wilderness,_Arizona,_USA,_2011

Pretty groovy, but not the one I’m missing. (photo © Brian W. Schaller / License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Your list for a missing groove certainly reads different from mine. Maybe you’re a caregiver with little respite, or a worn-out mom of toddlers, or a school teacher (bless your soul). Any one of those things right there can throw a person off track and leave them dazed and drained and with no groove.

Your list might include a hormone imbalance, or chronic pain, or living in a stress-filled situation. Maybe you’re completely clueless about why your groove got up and went. It happens.

How you find your groove might feel nearly impossible with time and energy constraints beyond your control.

Small and simple things like adding a bit of outdoor time, or hitting the gym, or a class or club you attend once a month might be completely out of reach. As would a regularly scheduled babysitter. Even making plans for something cool in your future which could light the fire under your groove and get it boiling could feel pointless. Even sneaking in a nap occasionally to revitalize your dormant groove could seem like a pipe dream.

Small moves, tiny changes, bits of brightness. Sometimes that’s where I often find my groove. Easy to overlook, and yet powerfully energizing, even if only briefly. Hearing a bird song as your walk in to work, catching a glimpse of blue sky through the window, noticing the flavor or texture of the food you’re eating,    breathing out a short amen to the sweetness of the pillow beneath your head as your finally, blessedly get to go to bed.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s more to that off-putting smell of mildew. Maybe some big repairs wait in the wings. A remodel, a mold removal service, a new roof. Meds, therapy, counseling, intervention, multiple steps, moving on or moving out, or simply hanging in there until forever or whenever. Heaven forbid that your groove goes that bad.  I know it can. Prayers for you, my friend.

A Cat Story

My cat was much scruffier looking than this beauty.

My cat was much scruffier looking than this beauty.

I adopted a stray tom cat when I was a teenager. Named him Tom. (I know!) He’d disappear for weeks and then show up battered, bloodied, matted, patches of fur missing, limping, open wounds. I’d clean him up, do my best to comb out his fur. He’d spend hours on my bed in a patch of sunlight, purring, healing, content to just be. And then a month or two later, he’d wander away again. After several years of his comings and goings he just never returned from one of his wild adventures.

I worry that my groove resembles scruffy Tom. One day it might wander off and not come back. I hope that’s not true. Not for me. Not for you.

I’m not really looking for a new groove like that animated emperor. I just want my old, comfortable one back. Sure it’s a little frayed and ratty looking, but it fits nicely and does the job when it sticks around. It likes to hum along to that Simon and Garfunkel tune “The 59th Street Bridge Song.” (Y’know, “Feeling Groovy.”)  Do you think there’s much chance I’ll find it? I sure hope so.

I’m posting a mental wanted poster: “Missing: One Groove.”

If you need me, I’ll be out searching.

 

Categories: Being Human, Mental Health | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: