The Boy on the Balcony and Other Chance Encounters

“Hello!” shouted a youthful voice from somewhere above and behind me. I looked up and saw a little boy standing on a balcony, waving.

“Hello!” I said, waving back.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Walking!” I shot back.

“Don’t walk in the road,” he said.

“There are no sidewalks!” I replied. “But I’ll be careful.”

“Okay,” he said, sounding satisfied. “See ya!”

I’d never seen the little guy before. Maybe he was bored and lonesome, with no one to play with, like many of us during the Covid era.

A little later I passed a man bringing his trash can up from the curb, with a gold and white cat sitting in front of the driveway. A cat I’d seen frequently on my walks, who loved to be petted. A cat I called Honeybun, because of its gold and white coloring.

I stopped and asked, “Is that your cat?”

“I firmly believe that cats adopt us and not the other way around,” he replied. “But, yeah, he’s ours.”

“What’s his name?” I asked, bending down to pat Honeybun.

“Jonesy,” he answered.

“Have a good one,” he said, walking back up the driveway with his trashcan as I gave Honeybun one last pat.

Then, a little later, my path converged with that of an elderly gentleman walking his dog across from the softball field.

“Cute dog,” I said.

Sensing my interest, he told me she was an Australian Shepherd named Sugar. Then, warming to his subject, he told me of Sugar’s sweet disposition, and how she got her name. “She’s a tri-color; the three colors of sugar: dark brown, light brown and white.”

Pretty soon we parted ways and he turned toward his house. I said good-bye to Sugar as they peeled off and she turned her head toward me. “You got her attention!” laughed her master.

I may never see these people again; they’re just random encounters. But they lift my spirits every single time.

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The Hug

I live with my forty-five year old son and four month old kitten. My son isn’t big on hugs. Birthdays, Mother’s day, yeah, but regular days are not meant for hugging as far as he’s concerned. He’s just not the huggy type. So, at this time of Covid isolation, I’m pretty hug-hungry.

But I get my hug fix every morning from my kitten, Jasper.  Jasper has his own bedroom, complete with food, litterbox and cat toys to keep him company overnight. I can’t sleep with animals and I don’t trust him to wander around unsupervised all night. I’d probably be awakened by a big crash in the wee hours!

So every morning when I open his bedroom door, I pick him up, put him on my shoulder and give him a big, long “schnuggle” as we walk down the hallway to the living room, with him purring loudly all the way. I put on my best baby talk, tell him good morning, ask him if he slept well, if he’s ready for a brand new day (he always is!) and then he hits the deck running.

I look forward to this little ritual of ours every morning, and I’m pretty sure he enjoys it as much as I do. I hope he never outgrows it.

Posted in animals, cats, Covid-19, emotions, family, health, human interest, humor, love, pets, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, spirituality | Leave a comment

The End of the Tunnel?

Maybe there’s light at the end of this long, lonely tunnel.  Some of my friends have already gotten their first Covid vaccine, and one is getting her second tomorrow. I’m still trying to snag an appointment for my first shot. At this time last year I was getting ready for a week-end away with friends. Little did I know it’d be my last adventure for a year!

I finally learned how to slow down and take pleasure in simple things; in some ways my anxiety level was up, in others it was down. I guess it ended up even-steven. But slowing down didn’t come easy. It took awhile to shift gears; to transform boredom into mindfulness–like a cat sitting still, just being a cat.

Speaking of cats, the kitten I brought home in November sure made life funnier! I traded Zen pursuits for strategies to outmaneuver this little bundle of curiosity that loved nothing better than to get underfoot! His antics made me forget whatever loneliness was still trickling through my veins.

And there’s another thing that arrived in the midst of this plague. An unlikely thing. A possible boyfriend-in-the-making. A man I met at my socially-distanced outdoor community pool to whom I bravely gave my phone number and address back in November when I quit swimming until the weather warmed up. “In case you’d like to get together and do something after Covid,” I said.

To our surprise, we discovered we lived just a couple blocks from each other.  I bike down your street all the time, he said. And I walk down your street all the time, I said. Who knew? And so, one afternoon he showed up on my doorstep and we chatted on the porch. And I stopped by his place while walking one morning. And so it goes. Little by little we’re getting to know each other, and an easy friendship is forming. We talk about going places post-vaccination. It’ll seem like a whole ‘nuther world.

I’m grateful that I got through 2020 without hardship, without serious illness, without gaining 10 pounds!  Christmas with the kids was cancelled, I gave up gym workouts, traded in-person activities for this thing called Zoom. I got by. But if all goes as I hope it does and the world returns to some semblance of normal, I’m ready!

Posted in animals, Christmas, Covid-19, dating, emotions, friendship, fun, human interest, humor, love, pets, psychology, relationships, romance, senior citizens, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | Leave a comment

New Years Eve

Bang! Bang! Bang!

New Year comes charging in
with raucous abandon,
music blaring,
whistles blowing,
fireworks blasting!

Bang! Bang! Bang!
She lands on her feet,
applauding her entry!

Bang! Bang! Bang!

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A Covid Christmas

Christmas is on the way. Not the Christmas I’d envisioned a few months ago, when all four of my kids were planning to be home at the same time for the first time in years.  I bought a new tabletop Christmas tree, started planning the Christmas menu, even thought about buying a ping pong table to put in the carport. Just for fun. And then Covid ramped up again.

We’ve decided to wait until it’s safer to get together. After a vaccine is out. I already have respiratory issues even without Covid, so it’s for the best, as one of my sons said.

Now that I’m faced with a much more subdued Christmas, with just me, my live-in son and our new kitten, Jasper–what will it look like? Well, for one thing, it won’t be all that subdued with Jasper around! He doesn’t know how to do anything but have fun. He makes us laugh when things seem bleak. He reminds us what it’s like to be irrepressible and full of life! It’s hard to be down about anything around him.

Pretty soon I’ll start putting up Christmas decorations, ordering Christmas gifts, planning a smaller Christmas menu. My son and I will have a big breakfast of blueberry pancakes with all the trimmings, I’ll take a long walk, play with el gatito, talk to or Zoom with family. Crank up a wood-burning digital fire on the TV if it’s cold enough; never a sure thing in my Florida city–I’ll be happy if we don’t have to turn on the air conditioner!

Christmas will be good because we’re alive and well, because there’s a vaccine on the way, because we’re part of the human family, even if we can’t all be together right now.

I just hope Jasper doesn’t destroy my new Christmas tree!

Posted in animals, cats, Christmas, Covid-19, depression, emotions, family, health, human interest, humor, love, mother, pets, psychology, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | 4 Comments

Covid Kitten

I suffered a momentary lapse of reason recently. A kitten climbing up my chest and nuzzling my neck. That’s the lapse. After losing my last cat ten years ago, my golden girl of softest copper-colored fur and amber eyes, I’d decided to be pet-less for the duration.

Never say never.

What caused this lapse? Covid loneliness? A friend of mine got a girl kitten a few weeks ago, an adorable little blonde fur ball. The friend had a naming contest. I kept running cat names through my head for days afterwards. This was all under the radar. I never said to myself, “I want another cat.” No–just cat names: Phoebe, Zelda, Daphne, Francie…  Every once in a while a new name would pop into my head.

And then came the post on my neighborhood e-board. “Stray kitten looking for a home. Female. White chin, bib, four white paws. Sweet as can be.” Someone asked for a pic. And there she was. Sweet as can be, all right.

The next two days I went over all the reasons why I didn’t want a cat. I need my sleep. I need my freedom. I don’t need fleas or vet bills. Or a litter box. I have breakable treasures all over my house.

I messaged the owner. Is it using a litter box? Yes.

I have to think about this, I said. A pet is a big commitment. Let me get back to you.

My live-in son was not in favor. He had as many reasons as I did that it was a bad idea. I even resorted to pulling Yes or No out of a hat. “No” came up. Three times!

I texted the owner saying I was going to pass. I hope it finds a good home, I said. And then, finger poised over the send button, I deleted it. Instead: Can you meet me at the park, just to take a look? I’m not at all sure about this.

They took her out of the carrier, handed her to me, and my fate was sealed. I brought the little darling home and named her Zelda. The next day the vet looked her over. Turns out she was a he! Oh well. I was hooked. Even my son was hooked. Meet Jasper. Two pounds of inquisitiveness, exuberance and snuggle.

And, yeah, it did cure the Covid loneliness.

Posted in animals, cats, Covid-19, depression, emotions, family, human interest, humor, love, mother, pets, psychology, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized, women | Leave a comment

Looking for the Moon

On Halloween night
I went looking for the moon.
A full moon my calendar said.
On Halloween!
But as the day marched forward
I forgot about the moon.
Then, getting into bed at night, I remembered.
So I threw on robe and slippers
and went outside,
wondering if it’d be
large and beautiful
or small and distant.
But as I peered up through
the dark lines of trees,
all I saw was a milky gray sky,
as if still half lit by the
residue of day,
a pale, amorphous sky.
No Halloween moon…
Yet, still, there was subtle magic
in the moonless night
and I was glad I went looking.

Posted in emotions, environment, Halloween, human interest, nature, poetry, psychology, spirituality, Uncategorized, wonder | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Meditation Hour

Today wasn’t a great day. I woke up tired and old things came back to haunt me. I call them “grief spurts.”

Having made it through the day, at the appointed time, after dinner, with twilight closing in, I sat down to meditate. A few minutes in, I opened my eyes briefly and out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of fiery orange blazing in the west through the oaks.

I stepped outside into my front yard, and there sat the cat, facing west. He probably wasn’t aware of the sunset, but I liked to think we were watching the brilliant performance together. The heart likes a companion at times like these.

It reminded me of a passage by one of my favorite writers, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who described a setting sun in her book Cross Creek. I’d like to share it with you.

“Folk call the road lonely because there is not human stirring. Because I have walked it so many times and seen such a tumult of life there, it seems to me one of the most populated highways of my acquaintance. I have walked it in ecstasy, and in joy it is beloved. Every pine tree, every gallberry bush, every passion vine, every joree rustling in the underbrush is vibrant.  I have walked it…in despair, and in the red of the sunset is my own blood dissolving in the night’s darkness. For all such things were on earth before us, and will survive after us, and it is given to us to join ourselves with them and to be comforted.”

I never got back to my meditating. The sunset was enough.

Posted in autumn, beauty, birds, books, Christianity, emotions, environment, human interest, love, nature, poetry, psychology, sadness, spirituality, wonder | Tagged | Leave a comment

Lizzie

A small scrap of weary life,
limp and gray
lays on the heating pad
upon the floor.
I’ve come to say good-bye.
This barely alive little thing
had once been mine.
An acrobat
full of leaps and bounces,
a wild thing
in the smallest cat-body
I’ve ever seen.
My little Lizzie,
worn out and nearly lifeless now,
a tiny, string-chasing kitten
twenty quick years ago.
I stroke her bony back
and she looks at me
as though
she still remembers.

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The Old-Fashioned Way

The building was an unnatural shade of green. The year was 1989. I’d just turned 42 and hadn’t dated anyone in 20 years. As I entered the office, Billie Jean Bilbaugh, petite and blonde, greeted me in a high, chirpy voice.

She led me into a small room with a fake fireplace and furry beige carpet on the floor and up one wall. Some framed newspaper clippings hung on another wall, and a huge tropical plant stood in the corner behind her desk.

“Excuse the smell. The man who just left was drowning in cologne. The men always reek of cologne and the women smell so fresh,” she laughed.

She started asking me about myself. How had I heard about them. What was I looking for. I told her I was divorced and just wanted to meet someone to go out with now and then.

“Good,” she said. “You’ve come to the right place. We’re the oldest introduction service in Tampa–in business for twenty years.” She showed me some plasticized credentials.

“We don’t use videos. We do it the old-fashioned way. You fill out a personality profile, we put you in the computer and match you up with a man with similar interests. We call him and tell him about you–if he’s interested he lets us know. Then we call you, tell you we have an introduction for you and describe him. If you’re interested we let him know and he calls you. That’s it. We’re matchmakers.” Continue reading

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