Tag Archives: Life

Old houses give up few secrets

We’ve been doing some remodeling in our house recently. We’re not doing anything extreme like adding a third story, or tearing out all of the walls, but we are attending to several long-overdue maintenance tasks, like tiling a worn bath, replacing flooring, painting walls. Although our house is over 50 years old, we are only the third owners. This is a contrast from my first house, where I was the sixth owner in five years, one owner in a long line of owners stretching back to 1918.

One always uncovers something when you start to do such work. Yesterday I noticed that the painters who did the painting when we first moved in, didn’t remove some of the registers. While setting the tiles the contractor’s young assistant learned how chicken wire was used in old lathe and flooring. Since they apparently didn’t realize that those walls, though difficult to tear out, were paper-thin, I heard all about that in some rather colorful language while working in my office. While not anything I hadn’t heard before, I think they would have been embarrassed if they knew I overheard; they were most professional when around us. The contractors were not quiet either about how out of plumb the door jambs were. I’d never noticed the angle on the trim. I likely will have forgotten about it in a week or two. Crooked walls happen. But, while the house is older, it isn’t so old as to hold any fascinating secrets. Perhaps the property does — the old, tall trees perched on the hill that have presided over many generations — but there are no hidden rooms or secrets the walls might hold inside this house. And yet, there are always small surprises.

When we moved in, one of the bedrooms was covered in an old-lady-print wallpaper. It was fine stripes of cream, with peach and blue accents in a glossy sheen finish. Everything about the room shouted “The kids are gone! I made a pretty guest room!” When I eventually got around to tearing off that horrible wallpaper, the dart board holes in the wall, along with crayon colorings and inked cartoon drawings, confirmed that.

One of the first things we did upon moving-in was to replace many of the light switches with switches compatible with a home automation system. For some now inexplicable reason, the light switch from the cream and peach room, covered with the old-lady wallpaper, was tossed into a box of electrical supplies instead of the trash. Sorting through the box while looking for a dimmer switch for another room today, I came across the switch plate. Without thinking I threw it into the trash. But, as it sailed towards the wastebasket, the wall paper, its glue long since released, unfurled. I picked up the plate, curious. The original plate had an image of a boy and a name — Jamie — painted on it. It’s been years since I’ve met a boy named Jamie, although it used to sometimes be used as a nickname for my son’s given name. (Bodies would need to be buried if anyone had ever suggested that he be called Jamie.) The drawing, though, could have been him around the time when we moved in: a lanky, skinny-legged, redheaded boy of 10.

My son moved out of the house this past weekend, heading across country to begin his post-college life. Finding the switch plate with the little boy on it was a sweet reminder of the years when we first moved into this old house.

The switchplate, however, will go out with the trash tomorrow morning.


Oops: I wonder if that’s what the beavers said when this tree fell away from the creek.

Some days are just like that

And today was one of those days. A zillion things on the to-do list, none of them crossed off. Had planned a lengthy post for today, but that isn’t going to happen. There’s always tomorrow….and more things to do.

I was able to find out some more details about the mystery car parts abandoned in the woods. It was a Lincoln, identified by the only logo I could find, located on the speedometer. The speedometer only had speeds up to 80, so I’m guessing that this car was produced after the oil & gas crisis of the early 70’s when the federal speed limit of 55 was enacted. And, from pictures I’ve seen on the intertubewebnets thing, the steering wheels on cars in the 80’s looked differently.

If you’re interested in the Abandoned Car Writing Contest (with prizes (though minor)), click here.

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UPDATED Researched photos, catalogs and pre-1981 VIN’s. This is from a 1978 Lincoln Continental Mark V, produced in the Wixam, Michigan Ford/Lincoln plant. The “Miles to Empty” feature was the first time that such an electronic indicator for fuel consumption appeared in a production line car. The Continental was the last of the big Detroit cars; the last ones rolled off the line in 1979. After that, they were scaled down to human proportions. I once drove (in the mid-90’s) a similar land yacht: a 1977 Mercury Marquis. It was a beast but there was no question who got to go first at a 4-way stop if I wanted to plow on through. The only thing bigger were garbage trucks and semis. What a gas hog!

January WrapUp

So here we are at the first of February and I find myself wondering: Is it too late for New Year’s Resolutions? Should I have done something more specific?. But then I realized that I have accomplished a lot in the last 31 days, even if those things may not seem significant to others. On Jan 2, I wrote a post regarding my goals for the year, which can be summarized by the following list:

– Write — finish that novel!
– Read — something other than blogs/internet
– Shoot — take at least 1 photograph daily.
– Walk — this is part of a training program; more on this later
– Take note: find something beautiful, wonderful, awesome, out of the ordinary or just makes you smile.
– Be Grateful. Every.Day.
– Be Kind. Every.Day.

How did I do?

PHOTOGRAPHY: I took over 4000 photographs when I was in Florida. I was astounded when I realized the number. But, there were many that I knew, as I was taking them, that they would not be “keepers”. Instead, they were experiments intending to help me learn. Sometimes I would take 4 or 5 shots, making slight variations in shutter speed, aperture, composition to better understand what would make a “good” shot. My intent was that I would choose the “best” and delete the rest. I still haven’t deleted many of them — reviewing all of them when I downloaded each evening was just not always possible. But, it is still my intent. Already, I have learned a great deal, including discovering the “sweet spot” on two of my lenses and also understanding some of the idiosyncrasies of my camera’s built-in light meter. Overall, as I moved from using the semi-automated settings (e.g, TV or AV) to full manual, I learned to better judge what was going to work. I found that my the end of the month, if I shot something that I thought was going to be the “best” settings, and then shot in AUTO, I could guess what my camera would use as the settings. Furthermore, I began to predict successfully when I wouldn’t LIKE those automatically chosen settings. This is one of the most valuable learning experiments I’ve done since I received my DSLR 2 years ago. FUTURE: I need to not only invest a quite a bit of time in backing up all of the shots I’ve taken, but I need to spend hours going through all of them, studying what worked, what didn’t work, and being judicious about what I keep — there is no point in keeping things that aren’t examples of good work.

READ: I finished 6 books, listened to 2 audio books (completed 1, abandoned the other), and started 3 other books that I should finish soon. Ah, the joys of a “flop & drop” vacation where you have plenty of time to read! Maybe that audio book count should be 3 — my husband read enough of the Steve Jobs biography that I feel that I listened to the abridged version. I may read it myself; parts of what I’ve heard of it was fascinating, parts infuriating.

WALKING: I — by the length of a toe, I think — walked 60 miles in January. Keeping a log has proven to be very helpful. Also, having a visual of what I’ve done helps motivate me to keep up with it. My specific goal for February is 75 miles.

NOTICING: You bet, I did! Making an effort to have my camera with me every day helped this. Even without the camera, though, I was always finding something interesting to look at on the beach, or when walking in the mangroves and swamp preserves. The real challenge, though, will be to keep this up now that I am back home. It is always easier to find interesting things when you are in a new environment; finding them in your everyday surroundings, where so much blends into a blur or a background noise, is much more challenging. Be sure to check back at the beginning of March to see how I did in February on this one.

GRATITUDE: I think that I did a good job on this. However, it is so easy to take things for granted, to not notice. By the end of the month, I was forgetting to make a specific observation of something that I was grateful for. Did I fail? Of course not! Can I do better? I’m grateful that I can try to be!

KINDNESS: Well, I sure hope that I was as kind as I good be. But, like gratitude, it is so easy to stay within our comfort zones that we don’t make an effort to do an act of kindness when we can. The opportunities, while not hidden, are just not seen by us. Again, something that I can work on! I won’t go into details here on some obvious deviations for this. Deviations? What am I saying? I should say “times when I obviously FAILED, choosing NOT to be kind”. Were there some? Hell, yes! I’m not trying to become perfect. But, I think being aware that you are striving for kindness makes one more aware when you have NOT been. Always good for a course correction!

WRITING: Well, yeah, that didn’t happen. Not.One.Word. And that’s ok for now.

So, what is ahead for this short month of February? More of the work of these major areas. I am also considering a month-long “experiment” of some sort. I have a few things in mind and will be writing about them in the next few days.

Golden Light, Cutting Through the Fog

November already?

Always, at this point in the year, I find myself wondering “Where has it gone?”. A woman I once worked with gave me this pearl of wisdom years ago:

“Time seems to go faster the older you get, but the time that goes the fastest always is the time between when the alarm clock rings and you have to be at work!”

I stopped working 8 months ago today. In some ways I feel that I have restored some balance in my life, although it seems odd to me that “balance” was restored by jettisoning work. In that awful term of the corporate world “work/life balance”, I would say that my life is now as lopsided as it was last Spring. Except it isn’t.

Why? Because there is no such thing as “work/life” balance. There is only life balance. One’s work should not be something that is balanced against the rest of your life, some counterweight on the scales to family, to hobbies, to learning, to your spiritual life, to health, to home, to everything else.

One of the problems I have realized, with my life now is that there are times when I feel that I haven’t accomplished anything. It’s easy to extrapolate this feeling, from one day of unaccomplished tasks to seven months of them. But that isn’t true. I have found that I need a “to do” list as much — maybe even more so — than I did before. I believe that I am more effective now because I do this routinely each morning.

What has surprised me in the last months?
* I don’t sleep in. And I like it. Generally speaking I get up around 6:30, about the same time I did when I was working. Why would I want to waste the day in bed?

* I don’t get distracted by things like television. I don’t think that I’ve watched daytime television at all, unless I’ve been in a hospital waiting room (there have been a few of them) or at the tire store (where I’ve been a few times as well — elderly parents; old, damaged tires).

* I didn’t realize that I had closets that I hadn’t cleaned out in 13 years. I had a lot of junk that I didn’t need. The people at GoodWill should know my name by now because of all of the trips I’ve made to donate stuff.

* I love it that my house is getting to the point where one might call it “organized” — something that I don’t think it has ever been. I make myself do housework routinely. The routine — clean out the fridge on Tuesdays, shop on Thursdays, laundry on Fridays — seems such a throwback to the lives of my grandmothers, but it makes a lot of sense. Could I have done this when I was working? Sure. But I didn’t. I still don’t like housework, but I do find small pleasures in knowing where things are and not being stressed out about it. If I go back to work (or when I go back…) I will need to work to keep the same patterns.

* I didn’t plan — who would? who could have predicted? — that so much of my time would be spent taking care of my son’s grandparents. But, if I could have known, or if it was the full intention behind my self-imposed “sabbatical”, I would not have realized either how difficult it would be — how tiring some days — nor how rewarding. Don’t get me wrong: I am not being a martyr. Knowing that I can do small acts of kindness, of giving, of assistance, is much more rewarding that I ever would have realized when I was on that George Jetson-like treadmill that is the corporate world. I didn’t think I had that capacity within me. Turns out, I just didn’t give the time to fostering that capacity.

* I had intended to write a novel during this time. So far, I haven’t done much with that. I did take a fiction-writing course which was a great boost to my confidence in my writing abilities. I’ve written a few short stories — all which need to be revised, but I need to let them “settle” for awhile. I’m going to start working on an idea I have today. Since it’s November 1, I decided that I would make it my goal to try for the 50,000 word goal of NANOWRIMO. In some ways, I think NANOWRIMO is silly. You can’t write a novel in 30 days. But, as a discipline in writing every day towards completing a work, I think it is okay. I did NANO a few years ago, but one week into the month, I came down with a nasty strain of the flu and didn’t do much of anything for a week. I fretted for a few days over how many more words I needed to write daily. Eventually that was such a monumental task that I just gave up, overwhelmed. I resurrected parts of that novel for my writing class, but that is not what I am going to work on. My goal is to write daily, to focus on an idea that I have. You can expect to see some of my musings about that work, and the process here in the coming month.

* When I started to blog again in July, I thought I would try to post everyday. It wasn’t until September that I actually did. I continued the practice in October, although there were a few days that I wasn’t able to post. I intend to continue to do this daily, although some posts may be slimmer than others. I also am thinking about starting a blog on Open Salon, but I’m trying to define what would be different than this one.

* That I would become so much more observant of the world around me. I think a large part of this is because I am taking photographs almost daily. Seeing the world through a camera lens lets you see the world in an entirely different way. If I only have one “success” from this sabbatical time (or whatever I should be calling it), I will claim my realization of the small daily difference in the natural world as that success. From when the trees start budding in Spring through the current Fall coloring, there are changes every single day. And I previously thought that nothing really changed in summer!

A friend of mine posted on Facebook today that she was posting something she was thankful for every day this month. I like that idea. You can expect to see some of those things that I am thankful for here this month. Even if you don’t post about it, consider doing the same: what in your world each day do you have to be thankful for?

If this post counted towards by NaNoWriMo daily count, I’d only be about 500 words short for the day. If I was worrying about it. I can do this writing thing, I think. Whether it ends up being something good, well, that’s something that will be determined sometime far past the end of this month.

My Favorite Mile

It seems a bit silly to think that one has a favorite mile of roadway. I know of certain sections of roadway that are designated in ways to make them seem grand, such as the Magnificent Mile, in Chicago, or Museum Mile in NYC. While both of those are places I’ve been — and I do enjoy some of the offerings along those roads — they are not my favorites.

There is a road on the island where we vacation frequently. I’ve been there enough times that it doesn’t take me long once I cross the causeway to get my bearings. I had to adapt a bit a few years ago after a hurricane took out to sea pieces of some landmarks, leaving the rest for the wrecking ball and the inland dump, but I still have those places where I know I’ll get my first glimpse of Gulf blue waters. But it is not my favorite piece of road either.

Central Indiana won’t register on anyone’s list of scenic places. It is mostly characterized by its sameness, the flatness of the land and the fields of corn and soybeans that stretch onward towards more fields in all directions. Sometimes the land is broken up by housing developments, grain elevators, the occasional picturesque barn, though most barns are highly efficient metal pole barns these days. The only way to tell the difference, sometimes, between one section of highway and another is by the billboards. Travel a particular highway often and you’ll become more familiar with the billboards and the barns than with the mile markers.

Flatness, all around

Manufactured farm buildings

a "new" read barn

What becomes of used farm land: subdivisions

But, it is in the middle of this flat sameness that I have a mile of road that warms my heart; it is my favorite: Interstate 65, Mile 164.

I-65, 164

The asphalt divider of farm fields stretches on for about 20 miles without much change between Lebanon and Lafayette, Indiana. But, at mile 164 the road curves to the northeast and heads up hill. It is a slight hill — not at all like the gently rolling hills in Southern Indiana as you approach the great Ohio River — unlikely, an unexpected half-smile greeting.

I’ve traveled this section of road several times in the last five years. In each season, it has a beauty that seems to differ from the rest of the area. At the beginning of the year, with a hillside full of empty branches, the land seems to glisten from the snow and the ice more here than elsewhere. In Spring, the red-wing blackbirds find the trees early and you can pick them out in the treetops from their characteristic perches, their necks and beaks angling skyward. The flowering wild plums and the redbud trees burst purple across the hill in April, before turning the greens of summer. In Autumn, the reds and yellows of the leaves take over, giving the traveler a break from the browns of the harvested fields.

Autumn leaves just starting to hint at their hidden colors

But, more than the seasonal beauty, I like this mile because it is a marker. As I see the gently curving hill I know that I am only 20 minutes from my son’s college home. Just past the curve, where the road straightens out again, where the earth flattens out and forgets the little hilly amusement, is the welcome sign for Purdue, college of engineer and astronaut makers (because, you know, who is a boilermaker anymore, or even knows what one is?). If I am headed south, I know that I am 59 minutes from my doorstep. Either way, it marks the distance to my heart’s home.

Boiler Up!

Common Sight: Nothing runs like a Deere!

in a moment

Maybe it is because of the 9/11 coverage for the last week, most of which I have avoided — not because I don’t want to remember, not because I don’t need video footage replay and endless commentary to remember, and not because I think it is unimportant.

Maybe it is because I’ve seen carnage by the side of the highway recently: one slight distraction, one curve into the other lane at the wrong moment in a driving rainstorm.

Maybe it is because I am dealing with frail, elderly parents and have seen too many hospitals and health care centers recently that I can smell that unmistakable combination of human fluids, disinfectant and desperate, hopeful prayers in my dreams.

I don’t know the reason, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how things in one’s life can change in an instant. How everything you have planned for a day, or for a life, can crumbled to the ground, get twisted into a different form, or create a new rhythm on the heart monitor.

Certainly anyone who knew anyone in the twin towers learned that lesson ten years ago. Many of us who were hundreds of miles away and saw buildings disintegrate into a dusty nothingness and knew it wasn’t a special effect learned that too. For those who were there, it was inhaling the dust cloud that enveloped city blocks and the thunderous roar of the collapse, and later, for days, the stench of the smoldering rubble. For those of us watching on tv, it was the ear-shattering quietness that covered hearts and frightened our souls.

Driving down the interstate, it is too easy to rubber-neck at the accident site, almost as easy as driving by without noticing who is in the car, who is beside it, whether it will be drivable again, or if there will be an empty place at someone’s dinner table this evening.

Walking through the ICU ward a few weeks ago, I noticed that the names had changed on the boards, but I couldn’t have told you which ones, only the one that I knew. How easy it must be if you worked there to not remember who was there the shift before, or last week, though everyone I encountered cared deeply for the health, comfort and safety of their charges.

“Life is too difficult, sometimes” a friend of mine said to me the other day. Then added, after a pause: “I guess it is always that way.”

Things do change in a blink of an eye. You can wake one morning and have everything planned, not knowing what will lie around the corner at 10am. It is always the sudden, the tragic, the life-shattering that we remember: the moment that changes everything. It is as tangible as a moment can be, something to hang on to.

Yet, there are moments that we never know at the time what it will bring. Sometimes the ball starts rolling towards us and we don’t pick it out until later, or, sometimes, too late.

There are other unexpected moments we remember. People talk about love at first sight. A good part of the movie industry has been about just that (and, one could argue, the other part of the industry is about making movies for those other tangible moments). We believe in it, just as we believe that we won’t be in the wrong spot at the wrong time when the building collapses, or the car crashes, or the heart stop beating. In the blink of an eye, someone falls in love. Sometimes, it is years later and there is suddenly the realization that you’ve been in love since you met. It would be sad to realize that you didn’t know until later that you didn’t recognize it, but with love, unlike tragedy, loss and death, you feel good, so it doesn’t seem to matter much.

Life is difficult, as my friend said. Difficult, unplanned things that we cannot control can seem to overshadow all else. Being open to the unexpected, to grace, in all things just might take away some of the fear of straying too far from the life well-planned. But it is damn difficult to do.

I came across this quote today by WH Auden: “The difficulty for a writer…is that it seems to be a law of language that happiness, like goodness, is almost impossible to describe, while conflict, like evil, is all too easy to depict.” Maybe that is because we hang on to the memories of the terror so much that we know the language in which to describe them. I have told and been told stories — true, life stories — before that seem unbelievable. My cousin has said frequently about our extended family: “If you wrote it in a fiction workshop, the instructor would say: No way! Too unrealistic!” I’m sure that all of our lives are like that at some point.

Is there ever a day when you can’t say “I didn’t think today would be like this when I got up”? Would we really ever want a day like that? Sure, a day without airplanes hitting buildings, and bridges collapsing, and murders unsolvable, and unspeakable violence that we know the words to too well: nobody wants a day like that. But the other moments – the ones that we find so difficult to genuinely mark — isn’t that what we really want: inexpressible joy, beauty, grace?

Maybe I’ve been thinking about this because of 9/11, or car accidents, or illness and what I know is to come of it. Those things do make me hold those close to me closer. But wouldn’t it be nice if I was thinking about how things can change in the blink of an eye because, unknowingly, I saw someone fall in love and that made me want to hold loved ones closer still?

Return Trip

Late last night I received a call from my son. He was still in the design lab, working on a project. He said he had an appointment at Wright-Patterson AFB today, but, knocked low with a cold, didn’t want to make a 3 1/2 hr drive by himself. What he wanted, he implied, was a chauffeur, so that he could sleep for a few hours. I didn’t have anything on my agenda that needed to be done today, so I told him that I would be glad to drive him the 2 hours from my house.

When he arrived this morning, he told me that my movement on the base would be limited, so I needed to find a place where I could hang out for a few hours. Since I couldn’t get on the base without him, he had to drop me off someplace; I couldn’t drop him, unless he was going to walk some distance from the main gate. Since it was a dreary, rainy day, that didn’t make a lot of sense, although, as we drove in, he did point out several of the places where he has run previously in the Air Force Marathon. Had he not been sniffling today and if it had not been raining, I might have teased him that those very sights certainly meant that he could meet me and that I could have my car for the duration of his business on base.

While I considered a coffee shop and even contemplated the high-caloric snacks at one of them, I decided that I would wander around the Air Museum located adjacent to the Base. If I grew tired of the museum, I could wait in the cafe until he was done. He promised that he would be done before the museum closed at 5 and would not leave me stranded in the rain.

Heading to the museum, I thought about the first time that I had visited. It was in the early 70’s and we had, with a lot of help from my mother, convinced my father to go to King’s Island Amusement Park. But, a concession was needed: Dad said that there needed to be an educational component to the trip. Of course, we were not allowed to choose what that would be; he did: the Air Force Museum. “It’s on the way. We don’t have to stay there for long.” Somehow, I think that we all knew that would not be the case since planes were involved.

Some basic facts: Indianapolis to Cincinnati is a 2 hour trip. Indianapolis to the museum, located near Dayton is approximately a 2 hr 20 minute trip. Dayton to Cincinnati is about 40 minutes. There are now, as there were in the early 70’s, interstate highways leading directly to both locales. The museum — even to the most geographically challenged, which would never have described my father in any circumstances — is not “on the way” to King’s Island. You wouldn’t even end up there by missing an exit on the highway. One requires traveling due east on I-70. The other requires a drive southeasterly on I-74. The entrances to each interstate are located 7 miles apart.

This is the only “long cut” that I’m aware of my father ever taking. He must have really wanted to go if he put up for an extra hour in a car on a hot August day with four young girls, restless to ride roller coasters and not a bit interested in air planes. He warned us, as the car pulled into the parking lot, that every time we asked “How much longer?” he would extend the amount of time that we stayed. My sisters and I looked at each other as we surveyed the seemingly small airplane hangar. We knew we could last without that question. “That’s it? “Let’s go!”

I don’t remember much about that building, but I vaguely recall that there wasn’t much in it, other than a few displays. We tried to push on quickly, encouraging Dad to not read every placard. We acted interested, urging him towards the next display by asking “Tell us about this one!” Soon, we were at the end of the hangar. Even my mother looked anxious to get back on the road.

“But we have to go out back”, my father said. We tried to act enthusiastic, although we hoped that there wouldn’t be another hangar. Instead there was a very large field — filled with air planes. A few months earlier I had flown for the first time from Chicago. I had been allowed to fly by myself and I was convinced I was a savvy air traveler. “There’s more planes than at O’Hare” I complained “and they aren’t even going anywhere!”

I’m sure it wasn’t true, but that field that day — as we walked by every plane listening to Dad, posing for pictures at several of them — seemed at least twice the size of the amusement park. It was well after lunch when we left Dayton. I remember my sister lecturing me to not be grumpy or Dad would head back home. Eventually, hot, hungry and exhausted, we arrived at the park and were awarded by Dad telling us that we could stay until the end of the fireworks show at 11pm. I think that might have received some grumbling from my mother, but we were off to ride the tilt-a-whirl and it didn’t matter.

I don’t know if my father ever returned to the museum, but he had a lifelong love of flying machines. Sometime in the mid 70’s he earned his glider pilot’s license. Several years ago, for his 15th birthday, I took my son for a sailplane ride. In the middle of a corn field not unlike the ones near Dayton, he hitched a tow with someone from the Soaring Society. That day, there was an older gentleman who had known my father. He no longer flew, but he would come out to the airstrip to watch the takeoffs. A few weeks later, I received in the mail a copy of a photograph taken the day my dad had his first solo flight.

The museum, now named The National Museum of the US Air Force, still has a few planes outside, but most of them are now housed inside the sprawling museum. I didn’t have time to go through the entire museum, but it was fun to roam as I did. I didn’t remember the interactive displays from my last visit, when my son was about 12, but I thought they were cool this time. Like a child, I played with all of them. It is apparently a good thing that I don’t have to stop a spinning helicopter rotor, or capture a drifting space telescope. I think I walked just as far, though, as I did on that hot summer day 40 years ago when all I really wanted to do was ride a roller coaster.

My son, after his appointment today, is one step closer to AF flight school. I still have some reservations about his decision to join the military, though he is an adult and it is his path to choose. One thing I’m sure of though: flying must be in his blood.

Halves of Lives

I read yesterday, on a Facebook friend’s page, a comment about the second half of life — and, after an acknowledgement of a deficit in math skills — hopes for what the third half of life might hold. This idea of a third half of life — perhaps even a fourth — has taken hold in my thoughts. Halves, not fractions, is key, I think, as our lives are infinitely fractured. But halves, well, that implies a cohesiveness to a part, something finite, time-bound, even if only in retrospect.

I don’t know how long I will muse upon this idea. Perhaps it is the beginning of a short story — or middle, or end, or somewhere.

Once upon a time I lived the first half of my life. Then, before I was aware it had even started, I was almost through with the second half. Now, I begin the third half having learned that I know little of what has passed, and don’t have any ideas about what is to come.

Not real pleased with that, totally lacking in any interesting detail, but better (*) will come if I follow this, taming with pen and paper whatever story is out there in the wilds.

(Note 1: Sometimes, I like starting with “Once upon a time” to get past that first word on a page, even if those words never make it into any kind of final draft. Isn't everything once upon a time? Or never upon a time? Didn’t it work when we were six? And, this probably has something to do with time, although not chronology.

Note 2: Hat tip to the Facebook professor. His “betters” inspire attempts at improvement.)
Or maybe there isn’t a story waiting to be captured.

Maybe this idea of the third half of one’s life will worm its way into an essay. I think this as I sit, waiting, watching for the inevitable death rattles, of my son’s grandfather. Disease and dementia have overtaken his frail body. The first half of his life, he was the aviator-hero, Distinquished Flying Cross recipient, chest full of brass. The second half of his life he earned awards of a different kind for making smiles, teaching reading and shooing bees from his 5th grade classroom, and trying to give to his grandsons what he did not give to his sons. Now, in the third half of his life, the kalidiscope constantly changes, mixing memory fragments into newly patterned landscapes, beautiful gardens in their pieces but on the whole, dark waking nightmare forests without any waypoints along the trail. This third half is comprised of pieces of who he is, but it is not who he was. Neither a beginning nor a fair and fitting end. As fragmented as his memory is, this third half is still a whole part.

Shapeshifting in early morning light.

The Story of a Bee

This might be about a bee.

After all, it was a bee that found its way to the blacktop beneath my feet, within feet of my lens, with feet of its own achingly marching across the black rock sea. Its crisp wings humming, without lift. How my lens allowed me to see the yellow hairs upon its back. Soft to the touch? I wonder. I didn’t dare. The horrific eyes would be too terrifying to look upon if they were to human scale. Articulated legs. Not only the tiger has fearful symmetry.

How vast the world, the length of my foot, my car, my driveway, the nearest pollen sources half a world away across searing asphalt, over the stone wall, as unreachable as a sea shore, a lost palace of Incan kings, the craters of an outer moon. The broken joint, the exhausted memory, spinning round without compass marks.

He is not going gently into that night. Good a respite from the now. The leathered skin, the downy hair on the unshaven chin, the terrifyingly vacant eyes. Small, withered limbs adrift in white hospital linens.

A rallying cry to struggle, to move in some direction, across the rocky way. To gain lift, to hover if only for a moment longer to see the loved and lovely of a life long lived.

Stumbling at green meadows beneath his feet. Falling. Falling. Struggling for energy to scale insurmountable cliffs. Picking up the debris of years past. A missed flight, a lost ticket, a remembered smile from a honey-smelling girl in a gauzy gown. Faces of generations, crowded into the dim-lit space, between the sheltered light beams and the stagnant air.

There is no sting left in his words, except the sting of the approaching final breath. The grandfather’s boy, the boy’s grandfather, and the bee: fragile and confused and weak of limb, struggling to make sense of his surroundings. I could not help him be. I turn off my camera eye and walk away.

When do you stop being young?

The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A friend recently lamented on her facebook page that she will soon turn an age that most of her peers consider old: 35. While she realizes that she is not old, she still feels a stigma associated with the age. I wonder if I felt 35 was old when I was in my late 20’s and early 30’s.

I honestly don’t remember turning 35. I can look back and remember things that happened that year: I sold my first house and bought another; my son started school; I had yet to learn that not everything in the work world needed to be a battle — even if I were right — and that took a toll on my job; my father died.

I remember what I did on several birthdays — got married on my 39th, went to Paris on my 40th, spent my 43th in London with my son, had dinner at Le Bernardin on my 50th. But I don’t know that I ever was anxious about a certain birthday because of the number of years being marked. I remember a co-worker giving me a button on my 40th that read “I’m 40. So what”. Everyone laughingly agreed that it was appropriate for me.

There are days when I feel that I am so unhip that I must be middle-aged. My friends’ children are marrying. I mentally note which colleagues are young enough to be my children. I dye my hair and buy cool eyeglasses, but dress appropriate to my age. After all, as a friend of mine asserts, there should be clothing sized ‘M’ because nothing is shaped like it used to be, regardless of how thin one might be.

Other times, I wonder if I will ever feel grownup. Isn’t ‘old’ 10 years older than your current age? I feel younger than I thought my husband was when I married him even though chronologically I am that age now. And I no longer think of him as old, although he regularly claims that he is. Dealing with octogenarian parents with myriad health problems, I certainly feel the responsibilities of being an adult, but I’m not sure that I feel old. Nor can I draw a line at when I stopped feeling young. Maybe that is the goal, to only know what stage in your life you were when you look back at the arc that started so many years before.

What about you? What age seems old for you?