Sunday Confessional: I invited myself over

It was 35 years ago today that Zippy and I had our first date. At the time, I lived in North Hollywood and he lived in Bakersfield. It was a tough time for me and I desperately needed to get away from my tiny apartment for a day or two, but was living in poverty and couldn’t afford anything. I knew Zippy through my brother (they’d gone to college together) and we’d recently reconnected via several  phone conversations, so I brazenly invited myself for a visit.

Bakersfield is no one’s idea of a getaway, but I was thrilled at the prospect of being somewhere else. When I arrived that Friday evening (knuckles scraped and bleeding as a result of my hand slipping while prying a very stubborn lid off a bottle of the engine additive needed to keep my poor old car running), Zippy suggested we go hear some live music. Chris “Hammer” Smith and his blues harp were at Suds Tavern which was located in the Wall Street Alley. The tiny place used to be a fire station and fire horse stable, and reeked of character. And cigarette smoke (of which I was a contributor, ahem). We had so much damn fun, drinking beer and dancing dancing dancing. During Hammer Smith’s break, we ran across the alley to Guthrie’s Alley Cat where there was a pool table and even cheaper beer, then dashed back for more live music.

Guthrie’s Alley Cat

Fast forward: I ended up moving to Bakersfield for two years (before we moved to Anchorage) and we logged a lot of hours dancing at Suds and shooting pool at Guthrie’s. Turns out, plenty of people thought that alley was in  “the bad part of town” and stayed away. To my mind, that scene was one of the shining lights of that hot, dry, and dusty city. I was thrilled when I met a fellow teacher who shared our love for that alley.

Alas, Suds is no more.  It’s apparently now a restaurant called Two Goats & The Goose and, because I couldn’t find a photo of Suds, I’m including this image to show the exterior (with an accessibility ramp that was not present in the 80s).

Turns out, Guthrie’s Alley Cat is still in business which makes me very happy. All these years later, I’m very glad Guthrie’s was part of my introduction to Bakersfield. Mostly, though, I’m grateful Zippy graciously accepted my self-invite.

Sunday Confessional: we were lucky

Last week we drove two hours from home for a two-night camping trip in the White River National Forest. We hoped to get a first-come-first-served site at Cataract Creek Campground, in large part because of the multiple hiking trails there. Minutes before we arrived at our destination Zippy exclaimed, “Oh, that’s not good!”

He’d just realized he hadn’t brought any shoes. All he had were the Tevas on his feet. He didn’t want to drive back to Silverthorne and shop for shoes because he didn’t want us to miss out on getting one of the five camping sites. So, we went ahead and were fortunate to claim a great site. This was our view:

Misty morning on September 29, 2021

After getting settled at our site, we hiked around Lower Cataract Lake where we saw the moose. It was about a three-mile hike, mostly level, and comfort-wise, Zippy had no problem wearing Tevas (with socks). The biggest issue was the worn-out velcro on the straps that required frequent readjustment.

September 27, 2021

The next day’s hike, however, would present more of a challenge. We’d planned on hiking to Eaglesmere Lake which was about an eight-mile round trip from the campground with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet. Zippy insisted he could do the hike so we got ready by late morning and headed out . . .at the same time it began to sprinkle. The rain wasn’t a problem because the early part of the hike was in the forest. So on we went, me lagging behind Zippy and Emma because I couldn’t refrain from taking photos. Everywhere I looked there was yet another beautiful sight.

September 28, 2021

We encountered a couple from the campground as they headed back. They hadn’t hiked to the lake but turned around partway there. We chatted and continued on. And on and on and on as it sprinkled rain, off and on.

“How much farther?” I asked.

That’s when Zippy remembered that he’d printed out trail info before leaving home but had forgotten it in the van. Cool. We’d also neglected to use his phone to take a photo of the trail map at the trailhead. I’d photographed one the day before with the camera and that image was now buried below many, many photos I’d taken since. Who had time to look for that? Zippy did remember the info saying that there was a downhill before the lakes.

Eventually, Zippy had had enough and sat on a log. (He didn’t tell me until later, but the pad of his foot was blistered below the skin.) I, however, was determined to make it to that damned lake. We’d come so far and I wasn’t going to miss out.  So we divvied up the trail mix, I replenished his water bottle from my camel back, and we synchronized watches, noting the time I left. Zippy said he and Emma would wait there 20 minutes. What wasn’t discussed was whether he’d head back to the campground or follow me.

On I went, hiking fast and hoping each curve in the trail would reveal the downhill taking me to the lake. As I cruised along, I came upon a sign post. I checked it out (but didn’t photograph it then ) and continued to bear left where there was a visible decline on the trail.

Soon, I heard water and figured the lake must be fed by a waterfall. Down, down, down I went until . . . a creek. No lake and no sign of the trail. It’d just ended. I stood there on the rocky outcropping above the water, exclaiming WTF over and over, as I thought about how I’d just given myself a whole lot more of uphill. There was nothing to do but turn around and head back up the trail. Several minutes later, there were Zippy and Emma coming to find me! I was very happy to see them. Zippy wasn’t sure which way I’d gone at that sign post but decided it was correct to bear left. He started to worry I’d gone to the right but then saw my wide toe-box footprints and knew he was on the right track.

I told him I’d since realized I should’ve turned at the sign post, but we both agreed there was nothing on the sign to indicate Eaglesmere Lake. Wrong! When we got back to the sign, Zippy noticed the faded white arrow pointing to the right. Aargh! I still wasn’t willing to give up on seeing that damned lake so we went up the trail a ways until it was obvious there was still a long way to go. They sky was darker and thunder had been rumbling off and on throughout the afternoon so it seemed extremely foolish to push on. We agreed we’d come back next fall and do the correct hike.

We hiked miles back to the campground, rain pelting us. The one and only smart thing we’d done was bring rain coats and gloves. Emma, however, got water in her ears and had to shake now and again. By the time we made it back, Zippy and Emma had gone about nine miles and I’d hiked ten. We were wet, muddy, and cold. But in light of all the stupid things we’d done, we were very lucky that was the extent of our discomfort.

We’ll see Eaglesmere Lake in 2022!

Sunday Confessional: I wanted to shove a woman in a ditch

I went for a run on the trails this morning and, as is my routine, wore a bandana around my neck. Whenever I see someone coming my direction, I stop to pull it over my nose and mouth. I do this because running makes me breathe more heavily and I want to minimize the possibility of me infecting someone if I somehow have Covid (and am asymptomatic). Because this was a Sunday, I encountered a greater number of people on the trails (walkers, runners, and one mountain biker). I was the only one masked, but that was fine, and each encounter was friendly. (Okay, the mountain biker reactivated my animus by being an entitled trail-hog.)

Near the end of the run, I saw a person coming toward me. I stopped, masked, moved over to the right, and started running again. When I got closer I realized it was a woman who lives on my street, and I waved hello. Her reply?

She scoffed and yelled, “I’m triple vaccinated!”

As I continued running, I said some bad things out loud to myself. Mostly WTF and what kind of monster shames mask-wearers during a freaking global pandemic and then some stuff about that woman’s intelligence level plus a few choice words about our useless government and how this pandemic is only going to get worse. Whew. Then I reminded myself I was running on narrow, uneven trails with lots of rocks sticking up and that it would truly suck to trip, fall, and add to my collection of scars. So I began chanting my trail-running mantra:

Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground. Feet on the ground.

Image by yellowcat from Pixabay

It worked. I let go of the emotions and made it home without injury. And in writing this out, I just realized that mantra is probably a good all-around reminder to help me stay in the moment during these difficult days.

Feet on the ground.

Sunday Confessional: artist unknown

I’m cleaning my writing room and can already breathe more easily.  I’ve recycled a bunch of paper (hello, holiday cards from 2019!) and have a small Donate pile going. My weight bench is almost visible again after I whittled down the stack of books, papers, notebooks, etc. While doing so, I found this gem:

In case you can’t read it: Thank you Tracy for my Calvin and Hobbes book. 
I liked it when Susie got hit with the water balloon.

Confession? I think (but don’t know for sure) one of my nephews sent this to me a long time ago. In my defense, I’ve gifted a lot of Calvin and Hobbes books over the years. Wherever the artwork came from, I unearthed the gem a while back and obviously couldn’t bear to part with it. Well, I’ve toughened up in the meanwhile and am ready to let it go. Posting it here makes it easier to drop in the recycling bin. 🙂

Also? I’m remembering all over again that Susie Derkins endured an awful lot of mixed messages from ol’ Calvin.

Sunday Confessional: all birded out

I’ve about had all the bird drama I can stand for a while. There’s a scrub jay nest in our across-the-street neighbor’s pine tree and when Zippy and I returned from our run on Friday, we heard a cacophony in that yard. A fluffy white and gray cat (often seen roaming the neighborhood) was being dive-bombed by screeching scrub jays. Why? The cat had a fledgling in its mouth. I screamed and ran at the cat who dropped the baby bird and ran away. While Zippy stood guard over the stunned bird, I ran across the street to our house and looked up the closest bird rescue site. “Temporarily closed.”

I did a little more research and determined it would be okay to put on gloves to pick up the bird. So that’s what Zippy did and then placed the baby in a shoebox lined with an old t-shirt. We couldn’t spot the nest so he stuck the box up in the tree, wedged between branches, as the parents watched.

Adult Western/Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay, probably one of the parental units.   June 13, 2021

A while later, the cat returned and this time I kept following it. It crossed the street, nervously checking over its shoulder, again and again, to see if the angry woman had given up. When another neighbor told me where the cat lived, I went to that house. No answer. Throughout the day, Zippy and I checked out our windows to see if the cat had returned. We didn’t see it again.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, just as Wildebeest and I returned from walking Emma, there was another raucous uproar in the neighbor’s yard. This time, the fluffy white cat sat calmly (no bird in mouth) as the parent jays dive-bombed it. Again, I ran  at the cat and chased it away. After another no-answer when I rang the cat’s home doorbell, I went home and wrote a very civil note, explaining the situation and asking that the cat be kept inside.

We haven’t seen the cat at all today. I did, however, see the fledgling on the ground presumably after testing its wings again. It seemed fine. Fast forward six hours. As I sat reading, I heard yelling and yelping. I ran outside and heard the next-door neighbor say “baby bird.”

This time, the unfortunate little fledgling had the bad luck to end up in Rainbow‘s yard.

Rainbow frolicking on December 18, 2021

The good news is that when Rainbow’s human yelled for her to drop the bird, Rainbow listened.** Zippy again donned the gloves, caught the baby who was much more feisty this time, set it in another box I’d prepared, and wedged it in the tree as the parents watched.

I’ve never wanted to be able to fly (possibly related to my fear of heights), but I’m wishing very, very hard for that little scrub jay to soar overhead. The sooner the better.

** Especially good news in light of the fact our neighbor believes she inadvertently adopted a “serial killer” when she adopted Rainbow. Recent victims include a chicken and a prairie dog.

Sunday Confessional: expiration dates

I add food scraps to the worm bin every weekend which has become a bit of a challenge now that it’s only Zippy and me. When a son or two lived here, there’d be more fruit and vegetable matter for me to chop up for my worm friends. Now I have to search the refrigerator to ensure they have enough to eat during the week.

That’s why when I found a bunch of cilantro past its expiration date today, I was really happy. Slightly slimy cilantro in the drawer? Excellent! Now I didn’t have to rely on feeding the worms a ton of coffee grounds (which the worms love but I sometimes worry hops them up too much).

Image by Gábor Adonyi from Pixabay

While I chopped those greens and added them to the cauliflower and zucchini pieces, I thought about how I welcome stuff past its expiration date. Not only furry fruits and rotten veggies, but also coupons. Why? Because expired coupons are a no-brainer: they go into the recycle bin. An expired coupon means one less item in my problematic piles of paper. Straight into the recycle bin.

Sometimes it’s good to let things go, you know?

Sunday Confessional: Frayed R Us

The day got away from me and I didn’t want to shut off my laptop without posting something here. A quick search through my photos brought me to this image. It feels appropriate as I’m feeling a bit worn out, my wings frayed like this butterfly.

September 12, 2020

I shall rest up and fly again tomorrow.

Sunday Confessional: played by a hawk

The other day, I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a hawk on the power line. It turned out to be a Cooper’s Hawk and I remained still to admire it, knowing from experience how quickly predator birds will leave the wire. But after a couple minutes, I decided to take a chance and went for my camera.

January 22, 2021

January 22, 2021

I went to a closer window and took a bunch of photos that looked to be pretty good. The entire time, the hawk stayed right where it was on the wire, head turning as it scanned the ground  in all directions.

Satisfied with my still shots, I changed the camera settings in preparation for the hawk taking flight. I’d had enough of my many blurred, out-of-focus shots of birds in flight. This time, I’d be ready.

I stood at the window and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually, I went back to the kitchen to make my smoothie, glancing out the window every now and again. The hawk remained. I took my smoothie and stood by the sliding glass door, the camera around my neck. Set to capture motion.

The hawk started turning to his/her right to look directly at me. I raised the camera to my eye and waited. Nothing. I decided to take a quick photo of it glaring at me and so changed the settings. Yep. That’s when the hawk decided to take flight.

I yelled and then laughed. Played by a hawk.

Sunday Confessional: literary limbo

I cannot decide what to do.

The situation:

I have an incomplete first draft of my new project because just before reaching 40k words I realized the dual  point of view (POV) was not serving the story and as a result of that epiphany I began rethinking all sorts of things (characterization, plot) and I’m now so muddled by the MANY possible directions for this story that I’m unable to complete the draft which is causing me huge anxiety** that I will lose this project forever if I do not complete a draft  because the one and only manuscript I failed, the one I’ve never been able to write to my satisfaction, was a project that began with an incomplete first draft.

But how to complete something that is quite possibly fatally flawed ?

Yesterday I decided I’d utilize my upcoming January critique group reading slot as a brainstorming session. YES!, I thought. Instead of asking them to read that mess of a draft, I’ll provide my critique partners with the ingredients I know for sure I want to keep and their collective genius will get me back on track. YES!

Today I thought it would be a good idea to read the draft so far to note what I like and want to keep so that I can share that with the group, and now I’m muddled all over again! Some of the things I love in the draft came about as a result of the dual POV.

Image by nir_design from Pixabay

Damn damn damn. What circle of Hell is this?!

** eta: my mental health needs the refuge of this project because of the horrific reality we’re experiencing, as evidenced by Congress today announcing they’ll give us each $600, for a grand total of $1800 during 9 months of a pandemic.

Sunday Confessional: thoughts in a twist

I’m adhering to the 1,000-words/day schedule I began on November 1st as I write the first draft of a new middle-grade novel. That’s the very good news. One other piece of good news is that as I draft, I’m learning more about my characters. Hooray for more well-rounded characters, right?

Yes, except for the fact that those character revelations frequently punch holes in how the story’s written thus far. Holes that slightly alter the plot. Holes that put the entire timeline in question. Holes that shake my confidence about how to best proceed. Forge ahead? Or, cut and paste so the entire draft reflects what I now know about how the story plays out?

Image by modi74 from Pixabay

I’m 29,000 words in and some of what I wrote/figured out yesterday should come much earlier in the story. Go back? Move forward? Insert notes in earlier chapters that will (hopefully) help me sort it all out after I’ve completed a 45,000-word draft?

One thing I know for sure is that it’s important for me to maintain momentum on first drafts. So, I guess that means forge ahead. Apologies in advance to me when I frantically work to shape this tangled mess into a semi-cohesive manuscript for my critique group to read in January.

Sunday Confessional: focus issues

I’m struggling to focus today so it feels very appropriate to post an out-of-focus flower from my garden last spring.

Cranesbill. May 23, 2020

Even though it’s not a sharp image, the bright pink and the various shades of green are soothing. And I have nothing but admiration for a bloom that stands tall while others hunker down.

Sunday Confessional: writing under pressure

As I walked into my writing room this afternoon, determined to add 1,000 words to my new project, I felt pretty good about facing another day’s word count. Because not only am I keeping pace with my NaNoWriMo goals, I’m a wee bit ahead of schedule. But when I saw the prism-created light display around my computer, my confidence evaporated. Instant pressure!

November 15, 2020

What if my words didn’t shine? What if they landed on the page, cold and lifeless? How would I possibly produce anything approaching this level of magical? Waaaah.

Fast forward to a couple minutes ago when I closed my Scrivener file after adding 1,000 words to the story. Are those words cold and lifeless? Absolutely not. Are they shiny? Some of them, yes. Magical? Only time will tell. The only things I know for sure are that I met my goal, the pretty lights have vanished along with the sun behind the foothills, and I’m grateful I didn’t cave to the pressure.

Sunday Confessional: one week in & already days behind

Last Sunday was Day One of my modified NaNoWriMo efforts. For a very short time, I was ahead of my goals. Hooray, I thought, I have a little padding for those inevitable days when the words don’t come so easily!

Image by klimkin from Pixabay

HAHAHAHAHHAHA.

In one week, I’ve changed a major premise of the story. All the original elements remain, but the plot line has shifted. What does this mean for my goals? Well, I dumped much of what was written and now have a grand total of 4,430 words when I should have 8,000.

Guess I’d best get to it.

Sunday Confessional: the pressure is on

Today is Day One of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in which people set out to write a 50,000-word manuscript in the month of November. Last year I did a modified NaNo and wrote a draft in about 45 days, and I’d like to try that again. And to hold myself accountable, I reached out to my critique group to ask for the January meeting slot. It’s mine! Hooray! Except, oops. That’s NOT what I did last year.

Last year, I requested the February slot which gave me more time to tidy before asking my critique partners to wade into my messy first draft. I won’t have the luxury of those extra weeks to clean  up the worst of the mess. I could email them all now and ask for the February slot instead. But where’s the fun in that?!

Wish me well . . .

Aspirational quotation

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

September 12, 2020

Maybe not the best day in the year, but I did turn things around today. Lost my patience this morning after vacuum became unplugged several times, screaming and swearing loudly enough for the neighbors to hear. Promptly put vacuum away and sat down to read a book and drink coffee. Then set my sights on other tasks.

Pleased to report I ended up accomplishing much and smiling often(ish).

Sunday Confessional: murder

I started the quarantine with only about eight checked-out library books that I read *sob* and then held onto for months until my library system started accepting returns again. While I did download a few ebooks this spring, I don’t enjoy that format, and instead concentrated on my bookshelves. The bad news is, I’ve already read most of what I have at home. The good news? I don’t mind rereading books.

This past week or so, I’ve reread three Raymond Chandler novels featuring Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep; The High Window; The Lady in the Lake) and two Rex Stout novels featuring Nero Wolfe (Might As Well Be Dead; Death of a Doxy).

Witty private detectives + murder = self-care.

Sunday Confessional: tree no more

For years, a cherry tree flourished in a four feet by four feet space on the patio. It was lovely and we made pie with its fruit. The birds, bees, and we loved it. Then the tree became sick and we had to cut it down. Last summer, one volunteer sunflower grew in that space.

Sunflowers on patio. July 12, 2020.

This year, it’s a literal sunflower forest. I just took my camera out there to finally document the tangle of stalks and blooms. And I smiled the entire time. Here’s a tiny sampling of the happy flowers thriving there.

My confession? Right now I hardly miss our dear old cherry tree.

Sunday Confessional: Underwhelmed edition

I didn’t leave my house today, not even for my daily walk around the neighborhood. In fact, I didn’t get exercise of any kind, unless I include snuggling with my cats and dog.

I did, however, sit in front of my computer most of the day, revising the final chapter of my novel. I’m not thrilled with the results.

Young scrub jay.  June 21, 2020.

I did also photograph a young scrub jay as it preened its wet feathers. In fact, I took about 50 photos of that scrub jay and this one is probably the best. (I can’t say for sure as I tired of looking at/deleting them and somewhat randomly selected this one).

Am I satisfied with this Sunday?
Does it matter at this point?
It is what it is and was what it was.

Sunday Confessional: Welcome to my head

I use this blog to maintain a record of my day-to-day and appreciate the documentation it provides me. This site means more to me than anyone else who might happen upon it, and I acknowledge this truth.

So why is it still sometimes so hard to give myself permission to post a regular day’s snapshot of me when I feel less-than-great?

Image by Monsterkoi from Pixabay

For instance: I ran today (after not running much over the past quarantine months), and instead of experiencing typical post-run endorphins, I wanted to punch something. Still do. I’m feeling stabby. I’m feeling old and slow and tired and fucking over it all.

There, I said it. Welcome to my head.

Sunday Confessional: I’m in a glass house

There’s a pair of Black-capped Chickadees nesting in the trunk of the neighbors’ crabapple tree right outside our front fence, and they are frequent visitors to our feeders and bath. One of them (for some reason, I’m thinking the male) keeps landing on the fence to peck at the top of the slat.

Backyard. April 25, 2020.

As far as I know, there aren’t any bugs in that wood. I never see the chickadee come up with anything in his beak. It’s possible it’s a territorial thing, making a drilling sound to warn off other males. Or, maybe this bird’s into pointless, repetitive behavior that may or may not give him a headache. What a silly bird, right?

Then I thought of how I return, over and over again, to Twitter where I’m confronted, over and over again, with example after example of humans being ignorant, hateful, selfish, greedy, thoughtless, hypocritical, and more.

Obviously, I’m in no position to judge this chickadee for knocking his head against the fence.

Sunday Confessional: sometimes anxiety just is

I’ve been trying to work on my revisions this afternoon. I’m listening to Beethoven through my earbuds in an attempt to drown out the present reality and it seems to work in short bursts. I’m focused and then . . .I’m not. So I decided to look at some photos to find something to put here, and began examining pictures of birds, flowers, waterways, and other typically calming images.

May 3, 2019. Clearwater, Florida.

Well? Right now, my heart is racing. Adrenaline is pumping and it’s as if there’s no escaping my anxiety.

Rather than try to (unsuccessfully) distract myself from these feelings, I’m going to try another approach. I’m going to sit with my anxiety. Because maybe it’s like how you’re not supposed to run when you encounter a bear: if I don’t run from my anxiety, maybe it’ll quit chasing me.

Sunday Confessional: on becoming a conformist

When I was in first grade, my teacher sent a note home to my parents. Mrs. B was concerned I wasn’t taking time to color within the lines and included a worksheet as an example. I’d filled in whatever blanks were there with the correct words and then scribbled with crayons across each of the pictures I was supposed to color.

Maybe my fine motor skills weren’t that well-developed. Or, perhaps I’d already caught on to the busy-work aspect of school. Either way, I wasn’t interested in coloring inside the lines.

My attitude has changed. Today, I’m sitting in my self-isolating bedroom (upright in a chair, rather than in bed), and just finished this Sea Dragon picture from the coloring book I bought months ago. This time around, I found it very soothing to focus on staying within the lines. No time for anxiety while trying to follow the complex paths of green foliage! I suspect I’ll be coloring more pictures in the days to come. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend.

Sunday Confessional: the true image of my Self is sometimes pure chaos

Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed. ~ Indra Devi

House Finch. January 25, 2020

At noon today, I was getting focused and situated at my desk for the afternoon’s revisions when I received a text from a climate friend with a request that blew up those revisions plans. And guess what? I’m totally cool with that because sometimes To-Do lists are overrated.

Sometimes we gotta let in the spontaneity and chaos. Sometimes those elements are the purest reflection of my true Self.