Wednesday’s Words/Nonfiction: Over the Ramparts We Go?

It was my intention to get up at a decent hour and head to the coast with Marc for at least a look-see. It was to be a considerable consolation to visit the Pacific Ocean for a day since we are not yet taking a hoped for road trip through eastern Oregon and Idaho. It meant I’d re-post a piece from a few years’ back, something I’ve rarely done in ten years of writing and posting on WordPress. But for such a great reason.

I just wanted out. To embrace some real freedom. Out of our home, out of our city, released of some of the binding constraints imposed by Times of a Most Terrible Virus. I had read about “quarantine malaise”, and I considered that it might be creeping up on me a couple weeks back. This day trip was a healthy act of self-care–for Marc and for myself. Blue skies predicted! The roaring lull of big waves guaranteed! Piney forest air plus sea salt=a thrill+peace. An equation for a span of pleasure.

Over the ramparts we go, then! Face the relentless threats semi-armed and mostly fearless! Off to sea and its radiant, wild delights!

However, life is a chameleon that will trick you despite solid strategies to avoid any such tricks.

Last night a chronic health condition flared badly and as usual with bad timing it followed me to bed, where I attempted to fall asleep, not fooled by my desire to do so. This is not a new thing; I have years of practicing the inexact art of living with insomnia. I sometimes am victorious without any aids; most often I sweat it out. But I can give in and take half a pill of something that seems much more benign than not halfway resting. Luckily, when I finally seek an aid, a little medicine goes a long way toward a triumph. This is noted for those of you who haven’t followed me long: I am several decades past being a drinking, pill-popping part-mad woman, a user of self defeating escape routes. For any reason. Some nights I nearly (but not truly) regret that–at wide eyed 4 a.m.–but persist in the ways to wellness. (I might add that I savor Sleepytime or Tension Tamer tea nightly, perhaps even Kava tea a couple hours before bedtime.) I know where I am headed by 11 or 12, and it isn’t always kindly there, no sweet rocking chair drowse, despite a fine book.

But I am lying there (alone–made the smart move long ago as he also has sleep issues) with intermittent punching of pillows to reshape/ reposition them, re-smoothing sheets (or even re-tenting the top sheet about my head), re-settling limbs into a tolerable degree of discomfort, listening to and shushing hidden innards griping–yes, lying there and thinking: This is not what June was to be. As if that would be a revelation to anyone in the world. I repeat a variation silently. This is not the life I had hoped for at 70. As if it was planned for by the 7, 17 or 37 year olds, the middle aged folks and beyond when one might feel a tad more secure or at least on near horizon. All humanity has been aghast at what lies beyond their door–and also inside it, at times. What on earth is next? I shall not fear– but fear I do now and then, as one does.

I get too hot, toss off a a layer. But the vexations begin even as prayers are recited with earnestness. And any whiff of gratitude is often noted on the bumpy night path. I can still breathe, no coughing or fevers, I am okay, overall, so far, and we have food to eat, and family not far.

Last night I was fortunate: it was not even 2 a.m. when I last looked at the clock. Which I do try to not look at, but I tend to count how many hours I will need to function. Say, at 2 I will still need at least 6 –until 8 or 9 in the morning–to function reasonably well. But this is not often fulfilled on that kind of night. Rather, hit or miss, take what you get and be glad to awaken feeling like an only slightly less than average older human, overall. I might get to sleep at 2 awaken at 5, finally sleep at 7:30 again, get up at–gasp–10. It is a messy way to live in some regard but works well enough if it must.

But not this morning did I roll out of bed and feel fit enough. I surmised I may not have deeply slept, at all–a blur of soreness and uncertainty, getting up and down, reading, trying to not check my phone, then at last almost acquiescing to sounds of the fan on low and a meditation app on repetitive ocean waves. And there is a fragrance diffuser that releases something like a lavender scent. It wafts about, then lingers only briefly as if reluctant to bear witness to my wrestling. There is a small lavender sachet under my pillow, though–a back-up.

All this did not spare me of dreamy fragments and waking exhausted. (I always wonder what planet I was on, what was that room crammed with people who looked like escapees from an old fashioned carnival?)

I came a bit more awake. The heralding sun sneaking through slats designed a stripey pattern across carpet and skin: a show of shadow, light. I watched it move, barely–I don’t see well without help–and it shimmered. But it was really the first morning I have lain there (since March) and had this thought: why must I push off bed covers and press feet to ground and run water for a shower and get dressed to greet the day? How is this day any different from all those that ran, pranced, crept, and slogged before it? But I kept on and dash it all to any doubts that came.

The high ramparts I saw in my mind were daunting, the views a mixture of dismal and enticing. It took me awhile to think that over and then: was I depressed? Not really; no classic symptoms. Generally speaking, depression and I are not cohorts much. The feeling has been different… lazy, dumbfounding in its ordinariness yet with streaks of strangeness. Distracted even when engaged. Maybe I was only in need of a break from all the reality we are forced to reckon with day in, day out.

So I didn’t look at the news on my iPhone before getting up–well, for just a moment. That helped only a little. Texting my son, then, about a casual family Father’s Day gathering in a big park didn’t help, either–I am glad of it but worry. I am sure we will try hard to stay six feet apart, we will wear masks, though my son tends to fight against a harsh reality made rougher with harsher impositions as if it was a fight quite worth winning. He likes to be in control, I get it. One of his sisters barely gets out, anymore–she works remotely–but naturally craves safe liberation. Well, agreed and agreed, my adult children.

I yawned and got up by crawling from one side of the bed to another–less walking required–slid down to the floor where soles of feet quite woke up, found the en suite and splashed cold water on my face, then turned on a steamy shower. Breathed. Dressed, brushed hair. I was doing it despite resistance and grumbling, achy spots. On to another day, sans leisurely trip to the coast for the time being. Probably best to stay off the beaches awhile longer, avoid any clumps of people there, anyway, I decided, though didn’t half believe it.

By the time I headed downstairs Marc had long been up and at ’em, doing what he does each morning. He has developed a marvelous cleaning routine since he lost his job–disinfects every vital area; 27 drawer knobs and 8 light switches; tidies up his work station for use; sweeps the balcony of anything fallen abundantly overnight from pines and maples and who knows what all, then checks every vegetable and flower. We have likely intolerable (sorry) kale, we have promising snap peas, and tiny leaf lettuce and faltering tomatoes and more in clay pots. My flowers seem happier as rain lessens somewhat and temps warm. (Though it rained so hard one night it recently drowned my confetti plant and three baby birds therein…awful to confront. Marc did this for me…) My hydrangea is soon to pop open in blues, the geraniums are coming along.

Sometimes Marc can be heard from far off singing out there, talking to a bird–or something. I call out but he doesn’t remotely hear me from the kitchen so I boil water and pop a bagel in the toaster. Several minutes more pass and he’s singing possibly opera, possibly his own made up song. His sweeping is new, as is his very presence, various ways and means.

Over the years of our marriage, he has been gone 500-75% of the time on business trips. And then was gone 14 hours days when working locally. Who is this man in my home? I admit this occurs to me… He has led one life while I have led another–quietly, industriously– except for week-ends, and only when he is in town. A shock when you realize you married at 30 (second for us both) and all those minutes and hours swept by full of kids and work and moves and then– solitude at last. And now you are 67, 70 respectively. What actually happened with all that, and now what? Another vexation at points. But I have thousands of photos to more clearly identify who we were and gradually became. (Same with five children.) It comforts me to look at them; I know what we have been through and achieved yet need reminders.

Because right now I might feel puzzled by my own face in a mirror– Cynthia, seeker of clarity, swimming through the murk of the 2020 Miseries. His attractively aging face? Getting used to it more and more. Even he must get used to it since he is not in dress shirt and slacks, now, and a black hoodie is perhaps a kind of relief, or a solace. And all of it a shock to his system and mine. Retirement is planned. Suddenly being unemployed is a hatchet falling but just missing you, leaving one breathless awhile.

It is a blessing and a conundrum, being at home together all the time. I can spot a similar congenial dullness or slight wariness in other couples’ faces. We all want to be good spouses, supportive more than ever for one another–but… “Could you please watch that show in another room? Also, leave the candles on that table as they were–try ear phones for your music more–and, oh, please stop interrupting me…”

Such togetherness is unknown territory but we prefer to have some fun. So, of course, getting out to the beach–anywhere at all–is a great idea. Better than Scrabble much of the time.

None of us had time to prepare mentally much less physically for a pandemic. We once had the nerve to think all was not so bad, even all was well. It is the deciding factor in nearly all we do. There are stringent limitations. Whole countries have been stopped in their tracks. Amazement at that, though we know it is the right way way to have responded. So, follow the rules and bide our time and yet we chafe at it. Social, questioning humans want to get up and go, mix things up, hang with others, explore places. The very thought that I cannot go somewhere any old time or chat with a neighbor without worrying about swapping germs–it adds up, a creeping unrest and then underlying surrender–both tiresome to cope with daily.

No, we cannot just “over the ramparts and off we go”, off to battle with something invisible but too often overpowering. There are some well suited to the battle, our true warriors of science and medicine. The rest of us adapt and observe the action; we try to ready ourselves the best we can for what comes. We live as we must live, working our brains to consider the previously inconceivable. We get up and do what we do in a blind faith that we will make it alright til bedtime, then get at it again… God or/and lucky chance willing.

I admit to feeling ashamed more than is comfortable. I can’t say I suffer so; there are fewer discomforts than so many have. I am not a medical employee or other front line worker facing often dangerous days and nights; I am not ill with the virus; I have enough decent food and requisite paper goods today. I might not in time have all that but today I am standing on rocky but stable ground, in a life still woven in part of good moments, basic comforts. So I try to alleviate guilt in small ways, help others– but it never is quite enough. Then I get out of my head, try for better.

Endurance and stamina as a way of being: this comes to the fore as I eat breakfast on the dappled balcony among trees. Flexibility of thought, and creativity of spirit. Patience and acceptance of what cannot be changed soon. If I am a little wearied by things–more than some, far less than others–I also have motivation to make each day better. Even this morning despite a weight of burdensome something.

We decide to take charge and go to the wide river, follow it like one follows the intelligent lead of a favorite teacher. I act as if I have energy and somehow it fills me enough that I make an hour and a half with Marc in and out of woods, past unique houses and a variety of boats, past teens splashing and laughing, and older people smiling at their roused and thankful dogs, and singles speeding by on racing bikes or running, hair flopping, many hands and smiles signaling hello. This is how it happens, how I rediscover what it good for me–even writing this simple post is a balm. It’s all in the living, one moment after the other, in any satisfying way it can be managed. The harder times, I pause, then just hold on–or let go as seems best.

Tomorrow I am meeting my best friend, a born fighter with significant battles already won. We’ll sip tea even in the new warmth of June, chatter away at six to eight feet apart, take to the winding park pathways, and laugh easily despite life’s harm and worry. It carries us better through the rest of it all. It makes us stronger and happier, and that matters even more these times.

Monday’s Meanders: Remembering Kah-Nee-Ta in the High Desert

I’m not a great lover of very hot weather unless there is a cooling breeze or and shade trees under which to take refuge (or perhaps a swimming pool nearby). I have visited the Southwest several times and even camped in the desert. Yet I preferred to move along to the next stop after a short time, the intense dry heat and empty landscape seeming forbidding.

Then I moved to Oregon at age 42 and not long after discovered it’s high desert. It felt like another experience altogether, magnetic and beautiful. It is the severity of sand swept, bare earth coupled with a variety of life that thrives; it is the everlasting sky into which thrust ancient rocky prominences; it is a wind that sears and sings and a sun that tolerates no weakness, foolishness. It immediately enthralled me. Central Oregon’s high desert remains a favorite place to visit.

In June of 2013, Marc and I visited the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon when we stayed a week-end at the tribal-owned Kah-Nee-Ta Resort. Little did we imagine that in 2018, it would be closed due to financial difficulties. I’m happy we had the chance to stay and explore the area some (also had fun during an attempt at kayaking together in one kayak on a short trip on Warm Springs River…but perhaps not again). Today I am revisiting those good moments.

A partial view of Kah-Nee-Ta Resort

We had gone for a work event with a new employer, but what I recall is a deep quietude of the land, air, sky. Stillness and then swift wind, silence and sounds I can’t well describe. It felt saturated with ancient time, people, sufferings, wonders.

Mt. Jefferson of the Cascade Range

As evening fell, the scenarios were even more captivating, perhaps, than daytime when our skin easily burned and vision seemed dimmed by the brilliant light even with sunglasses on–though each held unique pleasures. After dinnertime each night we sat on the room’s balcony, watched the orb of sun lower over the ridges, captivated–and then suddenly fierce, still-heat-burnished winds rushed around and over all.

And finally a deep mystery of indigo sky to dwarf us…

Monday’s Meander: Helvetia Country

Go by car! That happens more these days- and I am happy to get out and about so off we went toward Helvetia, Oregon. This beautiful, hilly community is a lush and close-knit agricultural area established in late 19th century by Swiss immigrants. About a half hour deeper into the Tualatin Valley, we turned off a main artery. We remained on a narrow road that barely allowed two way traffic–of which there was almost none Sunday.

This community is also known for historic churches and pioneer cemeteries–none of which I have seen before and did not see this trip. Only a drive through this time, eyes feasting on pastoral landscape that revealed the fine farmers’ hard work.

You may see a few blurred spots–rarely stopped as any moment a vehicle could barrel around the sinuous hilly road. Well, bear with me–it is a driving meander, after all.

You will note the abundant red clover above. There are fields and fields of it (Marc says “crimson clover”- apparently different from simply red) planted in between other crop plantings to replenish nitrogen in the soil. Many crops do well, including lavender, peaches, many berries, wine grapes; pumpkins, eggplants, carrots, garlic, garbanzo beans and much more. I noted there are also gladiolus raised, but none were seen this time.

I love the big sky and clouds–mountain ranges and valleys make for interesting formations.

There are many lovely homes, also, some newer, and older farmhouses indicate a historically prosperous agricultural community. Incidentally, Roloff Farms is located here (“Little People, Big World” TV fame).

We passed about a dozen white and yellow boxes of bee hives– and the bees were wildly a-buzz for a long stretch. With all that clover and a diversity of other plants, they must be in pollinating heaven.

I hope you enjoyed the drive. Next time a longer ramble will be taken, and historic places enjoyed–with, I surely hope, several stops at produce stands.

Monday’s Meander: Woodsy Walk in Carmel-by-the Sea

During the visit to mid-northern coast of California, daughter Alexandra and I walked quiet, narrow streets of Carmel-by-the Sea during her lunch break from work at Sunset Center. I so wanted pictures of the quaint but splendid, substantial homes (even much smaller ones) but this is a place where there are no numbers on houses or mailboxes–only names. It was clear a “cottage” here is not like a the cottages where, as a youth in northern Michigan, I frolicked about woods and lakes. I mean, Doris Day But in 2020, deceased…she owned the Cypress Inn Hotel) and Clint Eastwood lived somewhere around there. And the place felt like a movie set…So, not the time to point and shoot away. ( I sneaked a very fast shot above; though too exposed you can see a house in the back ground…)

The sunshine began to diminish as we walked along and the thicket of trees grew. We followed a pretty pathway through an opening. The light became more diffuse, soft as heat lessened, and the silence– save for bird songs or rustlings in branches–hung in crackling dry, fragrant air. Eucalyptus is ubiquitous; its sharp, pungent scent intoxicated me.

The flowers that appeared were lovely, and perhaps the best were lilies…

…though this was a marvel. Captivating.

Back to town, and a few days later, back to Oregon after our lovely California respite.

Monday’s Meander: Monterey, California

I am contemplating Big Sur…the wide Pacific, the light

Four years ago around this time Marc and I visited our youngest daughter and son-in-law in Monterey and Carmel, CA. Since the hit series “Little Big Lies” showcases that town and area, I thought it’d be a fun diversion to post a few of my sunny photos once more. (Daughter A. had a great job at Sunset Center in Carmel-by-the-Sea– a performing arts venue.) Carmel is fancier, Monterey more artsy and homey to me.

A view of Monterey Bay

It truly is as beautiful as it is purported to be. The light is extraordinary; artists flock there as well as other creatives. The weather is about perfect, the landscapes scroll before one’s gaze, ever changing visual gifts. The area is inhabited by the more moneyed, generally, but even we middle class folks enjoyed happy roaming about at our leisure.

Some of these shots are taken as we traveled to Santa Cruz, Big Sur and the Pinnacles National Park, around the Salinas Valley (the valley is John Steinbeck country). Included also are picturesque sights from Carmel-by-the Sea. It all delighted with attractive architecture, streets, seaside and valley views.

I hope it gives you restful pleasure to view some of the places we visited. We start in Monterey and Carmel.


A slide show is below.
We hiked into Pinnacle National Park. Great time climbing, checking out the views.

Heading into Big Sur country…

Back to lovely Monterey and next-door Pacific Grove.