No Weddings, But a Funeral and A Rollercoaster

img_0081I hate rollercoasters. Let’s just get that down officially, shall we? It has been a rollercoaster week for me.

It began Monday, when one of the bigger triggers of my very-Cold-War-get-under-your-desk-kiss-your-ass-goodbye childhood was hammered by a news story where a restaurant owner ordered a “nigger” out of his place.  And yes, I AM going to by gods use THAT word just so you all can be reminded just how UGLY it is.    Yes, I grew up partially in the segregated South and that word was heard constantly.  Even in schools and (gasp!) churches.  I walked away from the news item reeling, holding back tears only half successfully.  I literally curled up in my bed in a pile of pillows and shut off the lights.

Tuesday was “date day” for the Minotaur and me.   We will see our 40th anniversary of marriage this month — and it has been “interesting” in the Chinese curse sort of way since we both suffer PTSD.  Mine is of standing clear to my childhood — he has it from a similarly abusive childhood AND the Viet Nam War.  So, pretty much one or the other of us is triggered at almost any given moment of difficulty.  The Minotaur, finally, after more than a year in VA counseling and marital counseling, IS in a better place.  Apparently, this cued MY little inwardly bleeding self to think it would be alright to cut loose and fall apart?

Because Tuesday, still tender from re-confronting memories of three months *of 5th grade hell in Louisiana — where the teacher opened each day crying “All you children who hate niggers raise your hands!” — I fell apart.  We were in the car, and the Minotaur was on auto-pilot “find a freeway” mode.  I hate our freeways; people drive Mad-Max-ish on them here.  So, I wigged out and we had a huge fight and no date time happened.  I beat myself up the rest of the night, barely sleeping and writhing in self-loathing for my personal failures.

*Only 3 months because I dropped out of school then.

Wednesday I put it on hold, choke-chaining myself into duty of re-stocking the cupboards before the other household residents got restless.  But, ah, Thursday — oh woe.  Thursday we went to the funeral of the 23 year old daughter of a guy from the Minotaur’s veterans’ group.

First off?  I am pretty sure the “Christian” god IS dead.  The funeral put me in a Baptist Church for over two hours and the very things I thought as the service droned on and on SHOULD have brought lightening down IF there was a god there, ok?  Yes, I know, harsh and melodramatic.

But rollercoasters bring out the melodrama in me, deal with it.

First, the “viewing”.  Oh my gods and goblins — she was SO young.  At 23, I got married.  She had just given birth to a pair of tiny twins.  Motherless twins, now.  It was shocking looking at that pretty young dead face.  There were Bible readings, the usual “green pastures” bits.  I told myself if it comforted the family, it was ok.  But of course, it was NOT ok.

Then the family members spoke with tear-stained faces of how much she meant to them, how she brightened every room and helped everyone she met.  Now THAT was brutal and grief-soaked.  Then there was a song about “holding the hand of God and keeping the mind on things eternal” and I began to risk a lightening strike.  Because for me, a humanist pagan?  This is NOT helpful or comforting at all — this is “shove that grief and anger in a bottle and be good little Good Book slaves!”  What about NOT thinking of the eternal and about questioning why the hell a 23 year old is DEAD? What failed that this young mother is DEAD?!

Then the youngish minister spoke.  He was incredibly proficient in trite platitudes about how time heals, god doesn’t give more than you can handle (apparently “god” thinks this family is a bunch of badasses?), etc.  He KEPT saying he was “almost done” and yet kept talking.  He explained that in times of grief and pain, it felt “as if God doesn’t make sense.”  Then he got downright revolutionary and daring and said, flat out: “God doesn’t always make sense to us.”  Of course, he went on to explain that was what “faith” was for — to help us through those things we cannot understand.  That’s when “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder began playing in my head at about 110 decibels.

The tear-soaked tissue in my hand was balled into a rock-hard ball by now.  I was SO hurt for the family in front of me suppressing sobs.  THIS is all their “faith” had to offer them?  Platitudes?  Hollow phrases about just getting through it?  Hel’s bells, I TOLD them that a couple days after we got the news: “When you are going through hell, KEEP going.”  The minister told them their tears should “endure through the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  What IS that — a Christian order to “shake it off” that a beautiful, smart, loving woman doesn’t deserve more mourning than that because god says so?!  What about WHY she is dead, what societal failure – aided by religious opiates of “stop bawling and move on back to work, etc” – made it so unremarkable that she IS dead?

So yes, here is Friday.  I feel like a beehive has been tucked into my ribcage.  If “God” is the answer, I think we are asking the wrong fucking question.  But I’m just a “godless heathen” — so surely my opinion is to be discounted if not ignored entirely.

 

Reclaimed! The Hexen Haus Awaits!

In 2001 my husband built an adorable house for my beekeeping, honey extraction, and candle-making.  We called it the Honey House.  (And in 2003, I built the Walk of the Fallen Labyrinth for those falling in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.)  But about eight years ago, my last hives died off from Colony Collapse.  And in 2011 my marriages nearly collapsed in a PTSD crisis.

First, I robbed the Honey House of its double propane ring so I could cook in my exile haven.  I had no will or energy for days in the cold Honey House; even in late 2014 when we put the gas ring back and I moved back to my house and celebrated my youngest son’s return home from the Army.

The roof lifted and leaked, black mold grew in the Honey House ceiling.  And worse, hobo spiders moved in!  In dismay I finally begged my sons’ aid.  Two weeks ago, we bombed the spiders and tore off the rotting roof.  We put in new roof boards and tar paper.  Today in October drizzle, my young “Raptor” and I put new roofing atop the rain repellent black cover.

Inside, I cleaned and started music!  And a new corner cabinet of venerable age was carried from the house – the container of my magic practice!  Herbs, salts, oils, ribbons, pins – potions, lotions!

A battered old metal flash hood, recrafted with pretty mythic calendar images during my long exile was brought out to illuminate the battered old table snatched from yard sale oblivion, I sit by its light warming my wet, chilled self with coffee!

Curtains are in the wash, dishes will be cleaned of bug bomb-ishness and returned to their place here.  Books are back on shelves.  The counting strands on the center stone of the Walk of the Fallen will be dried and brought in for the winter!

Oh, and yes – the “honey” is gone.  This is now, officially, the “Hexen Haus” – the Witch’s House!  Just in time for Samhain to end my year and the beginning of a season of renewal for me and the Minotaur!

Birthday Month – How Do We Age?

FullSizeRenderMy mother is 81 this year. I saw her last when she was 50. I look at myself in the mirror now, at 63 and it is her features I see in many essential ways. But when I wake in the morning and sit up to take my coffee cup from my husband, my mind’s eye does not see that image. I no longer see myself at age 23, when I was wed, either. I see and “feel” myself – oh, maybe 40? But lately, the last three years or so, I can feel something slipping into feeling oh so much older.

I notice it particularly on Fridays. Fridays are now when I most commonly walk the Labyrinth with names of men or women often younger than my youngest child. Sometimes, now, I walk it with no names in hand at all — I am trying to set a new habit, you see? Every day around 20 veterans suicide, I have no way to find their names to add to my bitter books. But I know they are gone and they deserve a walking.

I walk, singing, now amidst the fallen leaves and rusty pine needles. And I feel so very old. It is not, as one might think, the hurts to the body that alone age us. At 40 I had nerves dead of spinal injury and still felt young and hale, if in pain! In 2003, the year I built the Walk of the Fallen, I was 50 and I grew strong and muscular hefting big stones and digging soft soil lined trench.  I wore out several pair of heavy gloves.  I felt crazy hearing the air hum with voices of people who could not possibly have been there.

And then every week, several times a week, I took a cup and a list and walked – thinking for the nation that was busy “going shopping” or whatever else they were told to do to NOT think about the sons and daughters of the not rich 1% who make up the nations volunteer military.  Sons and daughters dying, bleeding, suffering, coming home in boxes, or in still-breathing pieces of what they used to be – before the war.  Sometimes, in the first three years, I came back into my own house, shivering even in summer, to collapse in exhaustion of a sort I’d never known.  But I kept going and got used to it – as used to it as one can.

But the war(s) are going on 15 years old with no end in sight.  The names are reduced in number because Afghanistan and Iraq are not done, although neither Presidential candidate mentions it — well, except for Trump blaming the twin wars George Bush began on Hillary Clinton.  So for the last couple years, onFridays in particular, I notice I feel very tired and aged from the second I open my eyes.  Yesterday I lingered till almost dark for the Friday walk, and then realized it was pouring a cold heavy rain.  So the walk waited till today.   And again, it seemed I’d need a set of jumper cables applied to get me moving.

I built the Walk in a fury, in heartbreak and in grief.  I wanted someone to care and practically nobody did.  Finally, within a few bitter months, I simply wanted to feel like the men and women whose names I cupped in my hands felt welcomed home, remembered — not so ignored as it seemed the general populace left them to be.  I was ashamed, not only of a President starting wars with no strategy to finish and get the military out, but of my nation for not caring that the blood of the military 1% was being spent so carelessly, thoughtlessly, heartlessly.  Fifteen years of war, with no real peace in sight.

What ages me?  The carelessness, the thoughtlessness, the heartlessness of my nation, that I carry in my shamed hands once a week.  The faces I saw in my sleep or in waking visions while treading sandstone age me — I’d happily have let slip my own cords to life to save one of them.  But that wasn’t my option.  I had no option.  Neither did they, “volunteer” military aside.  Education too costly, jobs too sparse — old men who send young men to wars they profit from, while none of their own dear ones go in harms way —  war and shame age me.

And looking at my world?  I am glad to be old instead of young.

Birthday Month – Never Easier

mcesThe storm blowing in from the Pacific comes in gusts that shake the house and set the trees to writhing as if they dance to music only they can hear.  In between the noisy bursts of wind, which jangle into motion the wind chimes the Minotaur-husband adores, it is too quiet — a deep unnatural stillness when if feels as if everything alive is holding its breath.

We wash every dish, afraid of the power failing at any instant and not wanting a sink full of dirty dishes.  Menu plans change if it calls for a long oven use – we cannot be sure of that.  And so, there it is: what CAN one be sure of in the year she, this one, turns 63?

Not much, apparently.  When I was one third this age, at 21, I did not error in thinking I knew everything.  But I was very certain of what I did know and sure I could quite easily learn all else worth my effort.  And at 42?  Oh, such a comfort of mind then, even as a physical monster threatened as I struggled to regain use of my nerve-damaged left arm.  I was happier then that ever before in my life – sure there were problems, but by then they all seemed old familiar ones that would surely respond to old familiar solutions.

Now, at 63, all those sureties seems such illusions.  My marriage was non-existent at age 21.  At age 42, it was troubled but stable in its instability.  At 63, deeply intertwined with my spouse like the M.C. Escher image above?  It is pained and difficult; no, dear ones in the world – it does not get easier with age.  We are new, we two long-wed combatants.  He is all raw nerves awakening from his own self-induced coma of inattention and the world is boiling with pain and shock.  Me?  Oh, I am jaded and bitter with long exposure to the salt and sea and sand of living like a raw nerve all along.

He acts like a man bewitched, enchanted by me – alternately wildly romantic and utterly detached.  I feel unseen, as if he has fallen for some idol of me instead of the woman I am.  I find it hard to feel romantic about him; his health and injuries keep me in care-taker mode and how can I love something so injured that my heart will break sooner or later?  He is, like so many men, spectacularly bad at self-care and when I try to impose it upon him, he is resentful and peevish with me.  I recoil, hurt and furious.

So, thus we dance around the ashes of the marriage that burnt down in a PTSD pyre in 2011; trying to find some ember, some spark.  But neither of us trust that ember not to burn US down, I think.  Neither of us is the person were were before that crisis night; and we need to get to know each other anew.  That is so hard amidst the clutter of daily life in old familiar surroundings.

I long for dates, dressed up pretty and wearing jewelry.  He takes me to coffee and the hardware store.  I go home to repair broken bird-feeders and resist the urge to live in sweat pants or pajamas.  I immerse myself in books; he spends half his time at the VA hospital in endless appointments and classes and meetings.

Nothing gets easier with age.  I am definitely too old for this brand of lonely nonsense.  And so it goes.

 

Falling Into Fall

:::Looks back over last weeks posts:::: Well, that was less celebratory and more pissed-off diatribe, huh? Such is life.  It isn’t all roses and chocolates from age 63, believe me.  Sometimes you have to put on pointy boots and kick a little ass to remind people that you aren’t a push-over.

gold

This week, as I come out of a fibromyalgia flare (or whatever-the-hell-was wrong with me), I worked too hard on Monday and Tuesday.    Tuesday night was sleepless pain.  So yesterday, a beautiful clear sunny autumn day, was spent in “reduced” mode: I did laundry, changed the bed, the catbox, and made sourdough bread.  In between those things, I sat in my sunlit living room in front of windows I had washed on Tuesday, and read a novel.

We have bad weather incoming, it has been raining steadily since last night.  So I prepared, yesterday.  As, I said, I baked bread while I still had an oven to do so.  Our oven is propane, but fired ONLY by electric igniters.  I did all the laundry.  Today, the Minotaur is making yogurt.  We filled every spare bit of space in the family freezers with containers of water — frozen, these will not only keep the freezers cold, but can be put in the refrigerator space to save food there in event of power outage.  We have firewood and a fireplace; normally out propane fireplace keeps us warm even in power outages, but this year it is awaiting maintenance and refusing to ignite.The full rain barrels will provide for toilet flushing, we have a huge tank of water with filters to provide drinking, cooking, and clean-up water.

Part of aging successfully?  Is knowing when to prepare and when to stop worrying about whatever you cannot control. I admit, I fear this “leftover typhoon” coming in upon the Washington and Oregon coast, will not be the last.  Our climate has been changing over the almost 30 years of living here — I fear I may live to see the day when a Pacific typhoon (hurricane) roars ashore full force!  I look at my trees and think to them, one living creature to another, “Please stay in your upright positions!”

To be human is to be vulnerable.  To be an aged human is to know and acknowledge that vulnerability.

Gratitude Catch-Up, July 20 Thru 23rd

Feeling scattered and shattered today. Suddenly life is both full and empty.  The last three days were very hectic.  I’ve not had/made time for yoga since Monday and am full of bodily aches and groans as a result.  So, counter-intuitive as it is, I am grateful today that my body has become accustomed to a new yoga norm and bitches about my UNhealthy habits!

Yesterday was hectic, rising early to hit the road to Seattle to one of Swedish Medical’s SIX locations.  The Minotaur had an appointment to consult with a neurosurgeon there.  Traffic was hellish, it took over two hours to drive there in a light rain.  Then finding parking took another twenty minutes.  Then the VA (Veterans Administration/Very Annoying) had NOT sent the promised necessary authorization codes and a further half hour had to be spent getting all those things.  They were not nasty, the dear people at Swedish, they did not chide us or cancel the appointment we were thus very, very late for — they simply re-alloted time.  I am grateful for that – a reasonable medical staff and a humane doctor.   But it was a two/three gratitude day!

Image-1I was also grateful that we took a traffic stress break after the doctor and drove to Volunteer Park to visit the Seattle Asian Museum and the beautiful conservatory there.  I took a picture of the trunk of an unfortunately dying cedar there and “Prizma’d” it — even in death was beauty.  The Seattle Asian Museum did not have my favorite gold and black 12th century screen on display, but I did get a poster, cards, and a scarf embellished with it’s image!

FullSizeRenderI love crows and corvids in general – so this image never tires me.  Our metal front doors on the porch were roughly modeled on this design.

Thursday’s gratitude was that the food at Appleby’s, where my German lady lunch partners chose to go this week, has improved.  I was able to find something that didn’t ping my allergies!  Also, it gave me a nice mental memory instead of a nasty one for that restaurant — laughing friends, instead of my son’s former in-laws in drunken condition!  (Also, on Thursday, we dropped by a favorite European Cafe — with French food and a French chef – to drop off a dried bouquet of lavender in memoriam of the dead in Nice, France.  The Citron is an excellent choice with delicious soups for lunch for only $6 or so!)

Wednesday’s gratitude was again for food.  My husband the Minotaur took us to lunch in Puyallup at the Roadrunner Bourbon and Burger House.  This was very satisfying and sustaining.  They have far more than mere bourbon and burgers.  The music is early ’60’s and the decor is maybe what I’d call early Las Vegas.  The food and booze is excellent and happy hour(s) is noon to six and ten to close!  

We don’t actually eat out very often, aside from my carefully budgeted luncheons with the former employees of Hess Deli.  So finding the Roadrunner and great happy hour and delicious food is a marvelous break.  Not from cooking, but from the world.  The ambiance is totally in the past — in the allegedly “great America” certain asshat-not-to-be-named claims he will bring back.  So why, knowing the Rat Pack years were certainly NOT ideal, do I revel in this place evoking all that?  Because it was the years of potential — the moments when I still believed everything was going to change for the better!  So, when I sit in beneath the crystal chandeliers in the Roadrunner’s bar, listening to Dean Martin, I take a break from the heartbreaking, mind-bending news of the day and go back to a time when I believed it was going to be different.  It actually does brace me up a bit and allow my batteries to re-charge.  It surely beats thinking about how everything did start to change and then suddenly went rapidly retrograde when every crazy white sort in America freaked out over a black man in the White House!

Now, back to the “salt mines” of a yard getting ahead of me, an election year that is insane, planning schedules around surgery and recovery time next month and much more solo yoga!

Gratitude 14 July

Best FeatherToday, in addition to being grateful for a decent night’s sleep, I am grateful for the realization of emptiness.

My husband left early today, while I was still doing yoga practice. My younger son is asleep, my eldest left for work. I got off the floor and walked through the peaceful, quiet house — my mind indulging in a long solitary sigh.

And then it hit me. These moments used to make me feel vaguely guilty – did the intense satisfaction mean I no longer loved my husband and would be happier if he was never home?  Today, I recognized the empty quiet as exactly that — a rare silence and solitude.  It is only pleasant and welcome because it IS rare.  I love my husband and sons intensely, in all their messy, loud complexity.

I like the shining clean glassware empty on the kitchen shelf, too.  But not when I am thirsty.  I love the single captured feather in a frame, but not nearly so well as I love the feisty little green bird in entirety!

7 July Gratitude

wedding cakeI am grateful for newness.

What does that mean, you say?

It means that as I’ve focused in harder on home life this week, as the Minotaur recovers from carpal tunnel surgery – that I’ve found the work load all on my shoulders just a wee bit difficult.

And that made me want to open champagne — or some nicer bubbly mead.  Because it is a new thing to not be used to carrying the entire household load myself!  That means our working on the PTSD damaged marriage has worked!  It means he has changed and been shouldering his part — physically and emotionally!  It means I can finally relax, stand down, admit my exhaustion and recover! With that realization, a few days or weeks of doing all the dishes, driving, etc. seems like nothing at all.  Well, except maybe, it seems like an act of love instead of weary obligation.  It IS a newness — we are new people,  Together and strong and new!

 

Summertime, And The Living Is….Asthmatic?

cedar gate 1It is a clear sunny early summer day outdoors. My husband, the Minotaur, is outside doing weeding in the garden boxes. I am indoors. It is a peculiar feeling to not be out muddying my knees and pushing hair out of my face while sweating and coughing.

A nice big high pressure area is keeping the sun shining and the temperature rising.  For me, that means it is also trapping pollutants in the air I breathe.  To be outside more than a brief (New York?) minute means I cough…or worse, I don’t really show ordinary symptoms.  Instead I feel an extreme exhaustion and wend my way through the days sleepy and listless.  My muscles feel leaden and every motion seems too hard.

It is difficult to let him work outside alone.  I did the same for years – always alone in the gardens while he was at work; and it was lonely and left me feeling isolated and resentful.  So since his retirement, I’ve been fastidious about sharing the work load.  He asked me to stay indoors today.  He isn’t being patriarchal, he is being protective.  It is hard to be protected.  It is vulnerable and frightening.  I hate it.  I hate needing protection.

Inside, the air is scrubbed by air cleaners. (Damned if I don’t feel like a sequence stolen from a “Dune” sequel when I say that!)  In these warm humid days, we don’t open the house at night to cool it — or the cough begins and sleep escapes me.  To have my Minotaur notice and do things differently is such a novel experience!  A welcome one, if one still disorienting in the extreme.

Ah summer, and love.  It is my summer of love — who knew?

Summer Sheaf

Our gardening efforts are coming rapidly to naught this year. The cucumbers and squash plants were eaten to the ground in a single night. The birds ate many seeds, even peacocks getting in on the feeding frenzy. But we don’t really care.  Our focus this year is each other.  If we get some green beans, fine.  We will fight the weeds to blight their efforts at reproduction.  We may attack the ivy and St. John’s wort eating the front hillside.  Or we may not — much depends on heat and how much time and energy yoga and meditation consume this summer.  Getting older makes me pick my battles with care.

kukri cake cuttingBut mostly, we are happy to have accomplishing “weeding” our marital relationship of radioactive fallout from decades of PTSD.  That was the harvest celebrated here on the eve of the summer solstice.  Possibly we are taking the “let me eat cake” thing a bit too far?  It was far too sweet – but very pretty.  Yes, yes, cutting wedding cake with a Gurkha made kukri is likely a bit out there….but hey, shiny sharp things are always good?

summer sheafThe gardens do not completely disappoint.  I harvested lavender from my aging plants; leaving at least half of it for the bees.  I missed the deeper blue French lavenders, they have already sprung open to tempt butterflies, bees, and even the hummingbirds.  As the world goes seemingly crazy, the Minotaur and I will take refuge in the living room where the soothing scent of drying lavender will provide some solace as the election year moves onward.  If that fails?  There are cake-sicles in the freezer and bottles of mead growing attractive coats of dust in the racks!