We heard pleading meows off and on all morning. Went outside and looked on the roof, in the trees, in the laundry room, under the car, in the car. Nothing. So we went back inside.

A few meows later, I saw my son out in the carport, staring at the hood of my car.

“You think it’s under the hood?” I asked.

I popped it open from inside the car and he lifted it.

“There it is!” he cried.

I hurried to look, and there were two big eyes and two big ears peering up at us. It was trapped in a jungle of wires, down in the bowels of the automotive guts, just out of reach.

I ran into the house and came back with some cat food, placed it under the car, then looked back under the hood. It was still stuck in the cables, oblivious to the small open space it had probably entered through. Finally, it seemed to realize how to extricate itself from this dilemma it was in, and squirmed towards the opening.

I’ve had cats before. Had my fair share of litter boxes and vet bills, the heartbreak of euthanasia. But for years now, my philosophy has been that I’m not going to get myself another pet. If one comes to me unbidden, then maybe…

Maybe this little cat was my Maybe.

But when we got down on our hands and knees to look underneath the car, expecting to see and touch this adorable little kitten, it was nowhere to be found. It had disappeared into thin air!

I looked around the yard and walked up and down the street a ways, but no kitten.

Hopefully, it found its way home, but I’ll leave the outside laundry room door ajar and put some food and an old towel in there. Just in case. It’s going to be cold tonight.

Posted in animals, cats, emotions, family, human interest, love, pets, psychology, sadness, spirituality, women | 2 Comments

An Excerpt: Song of the Lark

A scene depicting the Colorado sand hills from Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark.

“As Ray Kennedy’s party followed the faint road across the sagebrush, they heard behind them the sound of church bells, which gave them a sense of escape and boundless freedom. Every rabbit that shot across the path, every sage hen that flew up by the trail, was like a runaway thought, a message that one sent into the desert. As they went farther, the illusion of the mirage became more instead of less convincing; a shallow silver lake that spread for many miles, a little misty in the sunlight. Here and there one saw reflected the image of a heifer, turned loose to live upon the sparse sand grass. They were magnified to a preposterous height and looked like mammoths, prehistoric beasts standing solitary in the waters that for many thousands of years actually washed over that desert: the mirage itself may be the ghost of that long-vanished sea. Beyond the phantom lake lay the line of many colored hills; rich, sun-baked yellow, glowing turquoise, lavender, purple; all the open, pastel colors of the desert.”

Posted in adventure, beauty, birds, books, dreams, emotions, environment, nature, poetry, romance, spirituality | Leave a comment

A Tribute to the Past: Thanksgiving 1990

Thanksgiving day started out good.

I slept late, turned on the radio, had breakfast and puttered around a little. Then, with two hours until lift-off, I began preparations for a squash casserole to take to my sister’s house, which I would deliver piping hot and aromatic from the oven.

Humming along to the radio, I opened the refrigerator and took my squash from the vegetable bin.  Aaaack! Half of them had squishy spots! How could this have happened?? I’d just bought the things two or three days ago and they were perfect!

I grabbed my keys and ran to the car, praying there would be a grocery store nearby that was open for people having last minute flukes. Surely someone would be open.

As I approached my neighborhood grocery store, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw the empty parking lot.

My car was almost out of gas, so I drove across the street to a gas station, filled up the tank and asked the attendant if he knew of any grocery stores open today.

“Publix and Winn Dixie are closed,” he said. “Try Save and Pack.”

I went home and called, rather than make a trip for nothing and waste even more time. I dialed. No answer. The clock was ticking. One hour ’til lift-off. I was beginning to wonder if there was going to be a lift-off. I couldn’t go empty-handed.

Taking a few big, deep breaths I decided to go to Plan B.

I examined the squash. There were enough good ones to fill a small casserole dish if I was creative. And I could be very creative under duress. I lined them up and made the cut: “You go, you stay, you go, nah–stay,” trimming off the soft spots until I had what I needed. I boiled and mashed, added extra onion, extra bacon, extra everything, whisked it into the oven, and then went to work on myself.

As the oven timer went off, I emerged from my bedroom, dressed and coiffed, and removed the squash. it looked okay, smelled okay and was definitely piping hot. I bundled it up, and the delinquent squash and I set off with five minutes to spare. Lift off!

When I got to my sister’s, I found out there had been a casualty with the sweet potatoes.

“I dropped them when I was opening the car door,” said my sister’s mild-mannered mother-in-law. “You should’ve heard me cuss!”  She’d had to make an emergency run to the store for canned yams.

“Someone was open?” I said.

“All the Kash and Karrys are open until 3:00 today, thank God,” she replied.

We took our places around the table, which was beautifully set–glassware sparkled, china gleamed, and above it all, faces beamed. Everything looked delicious, even the canned yams–all dressed up with little marshmallows. After giving thanks, we plunged in.

“The squash is delicious,” said my sister.

“It is?” I replied. I hadn’t tried it yet.

“Yeah, it is. I love summer squash. You’ll have to give me the recipe.”

Chuckling to myself, I took a forkful.

*Published in the University of South Florida student newspaper, The Oracle, on November 29, 1990

Posted in family, food, friendship, human interest, humor, nostalgia, Uncategorized, women | Tagged | 2 Comments

A Poem

by Ted Hughes

This house has been far out at sea all night,
the woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
winds stampeding the fields under the window
floundering black astride and blinding wet

till the day rose; then under an orange sky
the hills had new places, and wind wielded
blade-like, luminous black and emerald,
flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
the coal-house door. I dared once to look up —
through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
the tent of the hills drummed and strained its guy rope,

the fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
at any second to bang and vanish with a flap:
the wind flung a magpie away and a black-
back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

rang like some fine green goblet in the note
that any second would shatter it. Now deep
in chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
and feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
seeing the window tremble to come in,
hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Posted in beauty, birds, emotions, environment, fear, nature, poetry, psychology, romance, seashore, spirituality, weather | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Little Nun

She was short and sturdy and wore a big, cone-shaped sun bonnet with a ribbon tied around it. I was walking the convent “trail” — two laps to work off breakfast.

I was at a silent retreat in the country, far from the madding crowd. Rolling hills, green fields, lots of peace and quiet. The nuns at the convent were hosting it. The side of the convent I was walking on faced the morning sun and the little nun was tending pots of cheerful flowers on the covered portico.

Being a silent retreat, we participants respect each other’s wishes for privacy and space. When you pass someone walking outside or in the halls, no need to say hi; a smile is optional. Many are wrestling with something heavy on their minds or hearts, and appreciate not being burdened by social expectations.

But I can take only so much silence and I was in the mood for chit chat. I felt the little nun out. “Beautiful flowers,” I said with a smile. She returned it with a bright one of her own and said thank you. Encouraged, I ventured another comment and before long we were chatting.

Sister Mary Romana was from Belize in South America. “So you speak Spanish!” I said. She did. Well, I’m learning the language, and spent the rest of our conversation practicing on her and explaining in stumbling Español that my grandparents were from Spain. She asked my name and when I told her, she lit up. “Oh, the name of a good friend of mine who just passed away.” We had each found common ground.

After a few minutes, I said hasta luego to the good-natured little nun and she went back to her flowers, and I went back to my walk.

Posted in Christianity, emotions, flowers, friendship, gardening, human interest, nature, psychology, relationships, religion, spirituality | Tagged | 2 Comments

Birding in Paradise

What a shining day for birding!
A freshet blowing clean and cool,
a new site to explore, large and open–
with water, salt marsh,
mangrove, mud flat, hammock,
brushy autumn grasses and
tiny nameless flowers everywhere.

There’s a kingfisher posing on his limb,
a red-shouldered high on a snag,
an eagle winging quick out of sight,
a raccoon face staring down from a palm.

Then a sun-washed basin
filled with butterflies:
Buckeyes and Monarchs,
White Southerns and flat little moths,
and a bashful sedge wren hiding down low.

The basin turns to scouring scrub,
and a fickle trail, and stubborn walking
through wiry brush and slapping limbs,
sucking muck and mangrove caves, and
stay on my feet please!

And finally the trail returns in earnest,
and a welcome roof in the distance
and jokes of getting lost,
and what an adventure.
And all that shining sky.

Posted in autumn, beauty, birds, human interest, nature, pets, poetry, spirituality | 2 Comments

When Helping Doesn’t Help

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” *

I read that quote this morning in a daily email meditation written by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar, author and speaker based at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It hit home.  It reminded me of another favorite quote I saw in the office of a wise psychotherapist: “Help is the sunny side of control.”

I seem to be a chronic helper. A fixer. I like to make things right. Get them spot on, if I can. Life is messy and I try my damndest to clean it up. But that doesn’t always work out so well. Because it’s as much about me as it is about the “helpee.” And sometimes what I think will help just makes things worse!

I run into trouble when I try to help my son, who lives with me, and whose mental illness makes life a roller coaster. I get opportunity after opportunity to figure out when to speak up and when to keep quiet and let him figure things out. I feel like I’m on a mission to make him well. He’s my son and I will not allow this illness to destroy his life. Mama Bear on steroids. But it causes me a lot of heartache and frustration. And probably doesn’t help him a bit either.

What seems to work best is when I can loosen my grip on desired-for outcomes and just be there, be present whether he’s up or down, feel my own feelings and live my own perfectly imperfect life to the hilt. That’s when it’s liberating and healing – for me, whether there’s a ripple effect on him or not. But, incorrigible helper that I am, I can’t help but hope there is a ripple effect. And that’s okay.

*From a 2004 keynote address by aboriginal Australian and activist Lilla Watson, who attributed it to activists working in Brisbane in the 1970s.

Posted in children, depression, emotions, family, human interest, love, mental illness, mother, psychology, relationships, religion, spirituality, suicide, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bah, Humbug!

It’s been pretty breezy around here in sunny central Florida lately, and I want a wind chime for my back yard. I love wind chimes. I have several on my front porch. Some are high-pitched and tinkly, some have deeper tones and some are in between. They all sound magical.

But I don’t have any in my back yard, so I went to my local mammoth House & Garden Center this morning to pick one out so I can hear it when I sit out there to read or just relax. I was looking forward to looking them over and choosing just the right one. Maybe something with a decorative thingie hanging from it, or maybe a simple one with a nice tone.

I entered the store through the garden center, and went to the adjacent indoor area where wind chimes are normally displayed. There were none. Instead, there was row upon row of monstrous Christmas trees and shiny colored balls and garlands and lights! Summer hasn’t even officially ended yet!

So I snagged a big, burly assistant and asked him if the wind chimes had been moved. He went to check.  I waited hopefully for a little while, trying to ignore the Christmas paraphernalia, trying not to resent it. When the big dude came back he said, “Sorry, no more wind chimes.  They were probably moved out to make room for Christmas stuff.”

He suggested that I look on line and mentioned a brand he liked. I thanked him and politely explained that I really needed to hear them. In person.  Then went on my way.

I guess I’ll have to make a trek to another garden center farther away if I want one. But, honestly, the thought of having to see Christmas trees every time I go into that store for the next three months bugs me. And I happen to like Christmas! Just not in September, or even October frankly. Why not at least wait until after Halloween? But money talks and I guess the stats tell corporate they can make more of it by starting early. Hell, why not just keep the stuff out year round?  Hardcore Christmas fans would probably love that.

But not me.

Posted in Christmas, depression, emotions, gardening, human interest, humor, nature, psychology, relaxation, summer, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Chance Encounter

I’ve been in a bit of a boyfriend funk for the past couple years, since my last relationship went belly up. Disappointed in relationships, doubting whether I’m cut out for them. Expecting too much, too little? My head says, “get a dog,” my hopelessly romantic, sulking heart says, “where’s my Romeo?”

I’m 71 now and the clock is ticking. My hopes of lasting love have diminished with the passing years and I’m thinking maybe friends and family will do just fine. Or maybe a male companion, something platonic, someone to go out with now and then. Nothing heavy. Juliet will have to come around.  Time for the next phase.  Just let life happen.

So today, I was waiting in a long line at Lowe’s garden center. Hot as blazes in there, even with two fans blowing. The guy ahead of me was talking to the dude ahead of him, who had a chihuahua named “Pork Chop” on a leash.

The conversation turned from dogs to age and I got roped in. The guy in front of me was 71, like me and we reminisced about the swinging 60’s, then back to pets. Pork Chop and his master  checked out, and the 71 year old whipped out his phone and showed me his “woodle.” Seems his dog is a  Wheaton terrier and poodle mix. Woodle. Cute little thing, black as the ace of spades. I told him about my son’s adorable “schnoodle.” Schnauser-poodle.

We tapered off when he got to the register and that was that.  He was kinda cute and I didn’t see a ring. Juliet is telling me “maybe you should get some little cards printed up with your phone number to keep in your wallet.” My head is saying, “that was a cute dog, wasn’t it?”

Posted in dogs, emotions, gardening, human interest, humor, pets, psychology, relationships, romance, senior citizens, Uncategorized, women | 4 Comments

Thank You, Willa Cather

I wasn’t into yardscaping or gardening when I was younger. Too hot, sweaty and grubby for me here in steamy central Florida, and I had my hands plenty full with 4 kids and a household. But then I read Willa Cather’s novel, Song of the Lark.

There was an older couple in the story who had turned their property, just an acre or so, into a leafy little Eden, with birds and bees and flowers and trees and arbors and vines.  As Cather described its beauty and freshness, it sparked something inside of me.  Something that was probably there all along, waiting to be ignited. Continue reading

Posted in beauty, birds, books, gardening, human interest, nature, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, spirituality, women | 2 Comments