The Party’s Over, The Dog Is Back & The Nest Is Emptying: Everyday Magic, Day 748

DSCN2222By 11:52 last night, Daniel was on the long, sonorous train heading southwest, less than six hours before the prodigal dog, once again vanished for a walkabout, returned home. Within a day, Natalie flies north, Forest starts classes again, work encapsulates a lot of our daylight, and the leftovers from so many gatherings ebb to crumbs. It’s the end of one wildly-vast holiday helping and the beginning of the regrouping, just in time for another bout of holidays later this month.

There’s something very satisfying about having done it all, then waking to a quiet, mostly still-clean house with a lovely bowl of local persimmons on the counter left by one guest and some handmade potholders left by another. There’s a sense of plenitude and saturation, all in the aura of fellowship that filled our house, first for Thanksgivukkah, then for the Hanukkah party with parties and festivities elsewhere in between. Mostly, there’s the lovely ease of having nothing to do but drink coffee, eat some oatmeal, and later, take a walk or take in a movie.

P1030903The weather helped with so many days bright and shining, temperatures making it easy to wander in the fields or through town. So did the company: a mash-up of friends from 30 years ago traveling through along with more recent friends, family threading together, new and old pals from different worlds overlapping over heapings of latkes, and finding Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish everywhere we went.

DSCN2236Now is the time to remember conversations about true sabbaticals into the wild, how being a turkey mama is a free pass to being accepted by the animal world, forging forgiveness with people who haven’t a clue, watercolor tattoos, the impending arrival of bluebirds, the wonders of Brussels sprouts, and animal adventures. Speaking of which, the post-adventuring dog snores loudly by my side while the chickadees begin to make the cottonwood branches tremble a bit with their weightless weight. So much to be grateful for, not the least of which is the time to be.

Drive, Hives & Still Alive: Everyday Magic, Day 689

Snow drifts on the drive were twice this high
Snow drifts on the drive were twice this high

That was yesterday, which included getting the van stuck in dog-high snow drifts, a doctor’s visit for stress-related hives, and narrowly escaping a speeding bullet of a car. It was also the Passover Express, the day to get everything set up for the big night of liberation at our annual no-holds-barred sedar.

In the beginning, there was snow. Despite only about 5-6 inches of the stuff in town, just five miles south, where we live, there was a foot, some of which melted and re-froze. Because I needed a big vehicle to pick up rental tables and chairs for Passover, which had been wisely (thanks to Ken telling me, “No, no, no, no, no!” about having people attempt to make it up our long and twisting snow-packed drive), I got in the van. Going forward and uphill didn’t work out so well, and going backwards led to inertia too. I pulled the snow shovel out of the van and went to work, freeing myself enough to go further down the drive, only to have it do it again. Within 40 minutes, I was exhausted and stuck in snow drifts. Rocking the car back and forth might work, but I was also on the edge of drifting off the driveway and down the hill. So I got out and walked to my mother-in-law’s home and borrowed the farm pick-up truck.

Rental place dog rug
Rental place dog rug

The snow sensation made me late for the doctor, and lateness translated into a very long wait. After round three of hives, I sensed it was time to go beyond deep breathing,¬†antihestamine, and watching comedies about asteroids destroying the earth. It was time for steroids, which I now have and which make me feel capable of cleaning every closet in the house. I’m easily resisting though.

After the doctor, the rental place, where I once again climbed over the massive rug of sleeping dogs, rented my usual amount of tables and chairs for Passover, and then headed toward Rick and Amy’s to turn their living room-dining room into sedar central. Telling myself to relax — I was on Prednisone, Ken would DSCN1055come home early to dislodge the van from the snow, all would be right in the world — while crossing 6th street, a speeding white car soared toward me. Thanks to quicker reflexes than usual (thanks, steroids), I slammed the brakes and avoided that car impacting the driver’s side of the truck. The driver, a woman maybe a decade or two older, froze in the middle of the intersection when she realized she had run a red light.

“You’re still alive!” Rick told me as we unloaded the chairs. Still alive, a little itchy and sore, but I was also very awake. Which may relate in some way to the theme of Passover, or not.

Aafter Ken saved the van and bladed the drive so that now it’s just a big mush of mud and snow, we had a wonderful sedar. We sang loudly, banged the table with panache, marveled over the matzo balls and the very intense flourless chocolate cake, and laughed so hard it hurt. Everything shone in the light of the candles, many glasses of so-bad-it’s-good wine, our new and old friends, and the gleam of the mashed potatoes topping the shepherd’s pie. I felt gratitude and even some liberation, the daily kind all too evident yesterday.

I hope today isn’t nearly so exciting.

When the View Changes: Everyday Magic, Day 677

downsized_0212131645Pack animal on the move — that’s my today. Awake at the ghastly hour of 5:45 a.m. (apologies for morning birds — I admire you, but I will never be one of you), and off to the airport, I hauled myself and about 57 pounds of luggage (carry-on, backpack and purse, all stuffed with 10 days’ worth of everything) from Kansas to Vermont. Well, actually, Ken’s car, two planes, a little bus shuttle in between, and Daniel’s taxi did the majority of the hauling, but I did help with the pushing, pulling and carrying of my stuff.

Now, as if it’s an ordinary day, which it kind of is, I sit in Capitol Grinds, my coffee shop hangout in Montpelier, Vermont. Ahead is a yoga class, dinner with fellow faculty at Sarducci’s, where the volume is loud and the food is luscious, and then unpacking said stuff into drawers and the closet of my dorm room. Then sleep. Then more of my Vermont life.

And it is my Vermont life. On the way here, Ralph, who I’ve taught with for 17 years, talked about Goddard being one of his homes, and I feel the same way. Although my Vermont home isn’t nearly as luxurious as what starlets refer to when using the same phrase (no hot tubs or ski lifts), it is mine: a corner dorm room with a view of the woods, a trek to the cafeteria on campus, an occasional foray into nearby Montpelier to visit my favorite places, and mostly time with my Vermont friends, co-workers and students.

Strangely enough, despite the view out the window being different — probably because of the snow, mountains, evergreens and politics — the experience of being here always feels like an extension of my Kansas life. What I care about, what the people I hang with care about, what work and art we do, and even, to some extent, how we dress crosses over. The hardest part of adjusting to this other view of my life is the transition between worlds, not just all the vehicles, winged and wheeled, that transport, but the switch from one home to another, one part of life to the other part (although these parts vastly overlap). I dream I’m in Kansas, I dream I’m in Vermont, the people I know and love in both places show up in the merged dreamscape of my biplacial life.

So despite missing the Mardi Gras parade in Lawrence again, I’m focusing on the view here: light snow, overcast skies, and the warm lights of shops and cafes, reminding me how much two opposing places can be part of the same home.

When the Given-Up-On Comes Strolling Home: Everyday Magic, Day 671

Cookbooks rejuggled reveal new recipes
Cookbooks rejuggled reveal new recipes

I felt a wee bit depressed today, and truth be told, for the last five days, thanks to a nasty virus dampening down cheer and hope in my heart. Some illnesses just feel sadder than others, and the timing of this one leaned toward grief: the 10th anniversary of my dad’s death, the third anniversary of a friend’s son’s death, and as of tomorrow, the anniversary of both Lou’s, and a year earlier, Maura’s deaths. I spent the morning moping around my computer, listening to music, trying to get things done with no desire for the doing of them.

The owls migrated to perch above the coats for a season or two
The owls migrated to perch above the coats for a season or two

So I did what any sensible person would do: lay on the couch in the sunlight and stare at the sun through the window, going in and out of mild hallucinatory slips of sleep until I couldn’t lie around any more. What to do next? Experience has taught me the value of moving and cleaning something, anything, at such a moment, and I promised myself a lovely tuna fish sandwich after I actually did something.

One thing turned into another, and while the progression is

My red camera taking a photo of Forest's long-long red camera
My red camera taking a photo of Forest’s long-long red camera

complex, I can say it involved moving piles of books, owls, small beads, and a bundle of teapots. What happened, though, shook loose my sadness, and also stunned out of hiding Forest’s camera, which I had only recently given up on finding after bouts of intense searching over the last three years. With the prodigal camera back, who knows what more would come?

I soon found out: an unexpected check from Natalie’s college for having overpaid her tuition in the final immense tuition check I mailed just weeks ago, plus a small owl I forgot I had, several cookbooks I wanted only to discover they were already mine, assorted small shiny stones, a $2 bill, and enough room for all the moved objects in their new places.

Now when I walk in the house, I see a shelf of owls, reminding me of how, just out of the corner of my eye, I may spy something in flight, maybe even, despite little viruses and old or new griefs, my own spirit.

Turns Out I Love an Old, Beaten-Down Car: Everyday Magic, Day 613

All four corners of the car have smashed in bumpers. One sliding door only works in the perfect conjunction of stars, WD-40 and gentle effort. The engine light has been on for seven years. No matter, I love this Toyota Sienna van, starting easily despite its 207,455 miles, a love I wasn’t so aware of until our financial guy told us to get rid of both our cars and buy a pair of cheap Hyundais. I was ready to follow his advice until I got back into the driver’s seat of the van. Then it hit me: this is the first and only car I’ve truly loved.

And why shouldn’t I love it? This car is not only comfortable with a vengeance, but it has hauled hundreds of things and thousands of stories, including:

  • A very large futon and chair that the shop owner was sure I couldn’t stuff into the van (but I did)
  • Our whole family, two tents, three coolers, a box of dry goods, seven suitcases, six backpacks, rain gear, two tarps, assorted tools, a small cooking stove and propane, a pile of graphic novels and Madlibs, plus who-knows-what-else for a week of camping in Colorado
  • Many vacuums over the years spied on curbs during half-the-town-move-out week in Lawrence (aka last week in July)
  • Six poets, including one 7-feet tall, all our luggage, piles of books to sell and lots of popcorn, chips and hummus, and rosemary shortcake to get us to the southwest cialis on sale corner of Kansas and back
  • The whole innards of Daniel’s dorm room, including stereo,
    Seriously, this chair is uglier than it looks in this picture

    computer, all clothes, a giant bowling pin and a particularly ugly (but comfortable) lime green chair

  • One canoe, two kayaks, six people, paddles, life jackets and lunches
  • The entire GSBTQQ (gay straight bi trans queer questioning) alliance of Lawrence High School
  • Kelley Hunt’s piano, red guitar, cowboy boots, CDs and t-shirts for sale, clothing for both of us for six days (including performance gear, aka black and glittery), my books for sale, 11 yoga mats, a mess of art supplies, and Kelley Hunt herself
  • A king-sized very heavy couch (strapped to the top of the van like a prize buck) that freaked out my daughter when I picked her up from school that day. Years later, a very large red couch and other furniture driven up to her in St. Paul (fitting miraculously in the van)
  • Over 2,000 bags of groceries, mostly from Checkers and the Merc
  • All five of my family plus my 80-something mother-in-law, eight suitcases, piles of Christmas gifts we were hauling back to Lawrence, and over 14 bags of groceries one snow-packed day, all of which needed to be ferried from where the van got embedded in the snow at the start of the drive to our houses
  • Two big dogs and a gaggle of teenagers