California Poppy

I love the California Poppy. Eschscholzia californica, also called Cup of Gold. Its such a simple but spunky flower. Opening up like a cup taking in the sunlight. And when the weather gets unsavory and cold, like at night, it closes up nice and tight as if saying, Eff you World, Im gonna hang out in my own space.

Olympic Peninsula

I still believe there is no more beautiful place than the Olympic Peninsula on a bright day. Morning coffee at my beloved coffee shop. Dreamy faces and heavenly scents. Early geri-excersise group on the docks. I lose myself in the exquisite brew and my favorite album, as i cruise. Down the highway. The road is bright, cradled in the arms of the the forestry. No more beautiful colour than sunlight streaming thru leaves. The trees tease sashaying their hips to reveal glimpses of the water. Sparkling like crystal blue fields made of sapphires. Until they open completely and the channel is the end of the road. I board the ferry to the big city, find seat in the sun, and as the seats around me fill up… the sounds of meaningless chatter pull me from the dream.

Daffodils

I love Daffodils. They are tenacious, blooming early in the year, fragile and temporary, they are small and under appreciated, they are beautiful without asking for attention..

Life and Death

It was Christmas, 2015 that the explosion happened at the dinner table. My brother and I, my parents, my aunt and uncle, and two younger cousins. We might have been having fun, wearing tissue paper crowns and racing wind-up penguins across the table. It was much later and the two younger ones were locked into their electronic devices, the rest of us remained at the table, wine glasses close to empty, listening to my uncle tell stories. And then my brother snapped.

I dont remember how old I was when I finally began to understand the kind of person my uncle was. My mom tells me she saw the look that crossed my face the moment it happened. That my aunt saw it too. 

It took years for my brother and I to finally decide we’d had enough of my uncle. My brother had packed his things and nearly drove home that night. It took an hour long, heated conversation for him to finally come out and say he wouldn’t do a family gathering that included my uncle again. My brother was eventually persuaded to stay, but it was the last Christmas we would spend with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.

December 2017, right before Christmas, my last grandparent passed. Some time before that my mom and I had gone to lunch and she’d told me what my grandma’s life had been like. How hard it must have been. It was lovely to hear she’d had a smile on her face when she passed. That perhaps my granddad had finally taken her hand and that they were reunited.

And it was that passing that finally brought us all back together. To raise a glass to celebrate her life and love, together.

Not present, was my uncle. 

Five days prior, the doctors had discovered cancer in his bones and lungs. They told him he had a few months at best. That day he stopped eating. My aunt believed he had given up hope. She called her eldest daughter, away at college, and told her she needed to come home as soon as possible. And that afternoon we helped my aunt get ahold of hospice.

I’ve struggled to remember the anger I felt, to remember why it was important. Maybe there is a reason it all happened like this. My sweet and endlessly loving grandmother, hanging on to life for so long. No one knows why. Perhaps it was for this. Perhaps it was to bring us all back together at this time when love and support was needed. Perhaps this was her lasting gift to us.

The Drive

It is dark when I set out. My small jeep and my small family. The road is long, like 280 miles long, but its a road I’ve come to know well. I program Google Maps to give me directions. A route I easily know by heart, but perhaps so the journey wont seem quite so lonely. Another voice to me, where the cats will only meow. I have my podcasts cued up, 6 hours worth. Usually something of an educational nature, or sometimes mystery crime stories. Something to keep my brain engaged, where the dark monotony would pull me into sleep. 

In the darkness, the world seems small. Just two strips of pavement and a steady stream of white and red, like two string lights side by side, bending and curving along. The rain is falling, making the windshield explode with white and red light, like a muddied fireworks show, instantly whipped away with each sweep of the wipers. Its possible I get lost in it, the kaleidescopic patterns flashing before me, just following the stream of red lights. The cats each claiming a side of my lap. The voices of the podcast suddenly lost to me, something about math and physics and the birth of the universe… and then I notice red lights flashing more rapidly. Red and blue..

I pull over, out of the way, but the lights remain behind me. I continue to pull over. I hit the rumble strips as I pull off to the shoulder. The slowing speed rouses the cats. I watch as the flashing red and blue follows me off to the shoulder. I don’t have the tightening in my chest, or the pit in my stomach, the way I did the last time I was pulled over. Over 10 years ago, sorrowfully driving back to college. The year I dropped out and moved to Oregon. 

The flashlight beam illuminates my passenger window. A police officer and my uncaged cat lock eyes. I roll the window down and am informed I’m being recorded. He asks me if I was aware I had been going 70 mph. 

“No. Not really.” I respond, blandly. 

“Whys that?” He asks.

“I guess I just wasn’t really paying attention.” 

He asks where I’m going and I tell him Seattle. He scoffs and says I have a long drive. After having just gotten off the most patience draining 8 hours of work, I simply nod and say, “yeah…”

He lets me off with two warnings. One on paper, the other by telling me he didn’t want the next time he drove up to me to be at my traffic accident. I laugh, but he reminds me that he is being serious.

“Watch your speed when you pull out.”

I watch him as I pull out, adhering to the speed limit, unsurprised when, after a few moments, I see his lights go on again, for someone else.

The rest of the drive is unremarkable. My speed slowly creeps back up. I follow the lights, like lights guiding me to an exit. One cat settles across the center console, my empty Red Bull can crinkling under his weight. The other settles between my thighs, face resting in my stomach. We drive like that for the next four hours. Occassionally the voice of Google Maps will calmly remind me which exit to take.

The road gradually grows smaller. Three lanes, to two lanes. The white and red lights grow fewer. And the trees begin to close in. Until eventually I am alone, on a two way road with a yellow line down the middle, cradled in the green embrace of the trees. I am listening to the sound of an old man’s voice recall the murder of his daughter. My speed slows as I come to my first stop sign in 6 hours. Both cats perk up. Soon enough, we’ll be there.

Sick Day – fin

324 miles and morning seems like a lifetime ago. But I woke without the foggy, thick feeling in my brain. My nose still ran like a faucet, but I think I’m pretty well resurrected from the Death Plague. I made some coffee for my mom and I, and we video chatted with my dad, in London. It was nice to smile and laugh together. Then, in our own time, which took alot of time, we head out. Just down the road, my jeep waited, also resurrected.

Its only been a couple weeks past our one year anniversary together, and shes cost more money than shes worth. Yeah, I call my jeep a “her.” She’s far too small and dainty to be referred to as a “he.” Like an Undine, all deep, aquatic teals. Small, mighty, and trouble. She’s been nothing but a thorn in my side. Never failing to hit me in the head when I open the back to load things in, and her back window refusing to stay up on a hot day in the sun, despite functioning a/c, and never, never failing to go dead after the slightest amount of neglect. All boats are referred to as “she,” perhaps because men loved them as they loved women, or perhaps because they were as high maintenance as a woman. 

I am hoping the approaching new year will prove better for us. For her and for me. A new beginning. Although truthfully, I don’t hold much hope. My heart has been cracked and broken too many times to hold much of anything within it. Everything is just going to happen. Maybe one day I’ll meet someone who knows the art of Kintsukuroi.

She brought us home. I unloaded her contents back into my small apartment. I sat on my couch, while my cats settled back in. It was dark, and late, and cold. Tomorrow, I’d be back to work. No more sick days.

Sick Day – day 5

My mom shoots a look behind us as the sound of Christmas music blares from right on our heels. “Thats me. Its my purse,” a woman offers. “It helps keep my cheer up while on my lunch break,” she doesn’t smile. We both turn back to the cashier and complete our transaction.

Its not a mystery how Christmas snuck up on us. Its just hard to be cheery when your last grandparent is laying in a hospital bed, no longer eating or drinking, no longer recognizing anyone. Its hard to be cheery when you’ve just celebrated the life of a 32 year old woman whose hand you held at her wedding, and then she was gone 12 hours later. Its hard to be cheery when you’re making follow up appointments to address your own cancer scare.

The mall is tedious and full of people. Its lunchtime on a Tuesday and I’m not sure why they’re all at the mall. The presents for friends are easy. The presents for pets are the easiest. We get those all done before noon. Its the presents for the family that are the challenging ones. We walk thru the mall, eventually stopping to get underwear for my dad, and plain tank tops for myself. We stop at the center stand to get Summer Sausage. What do you get when no one really wants anything.

I’d noticed the Christmas decoration boxes upstairs. Out and open, but not unpacked. No Christmas lights along the roof, no stuffed Santas, or holiday table runners. Just the small set of bells on a bow, around my kitten’s neck. Tiny jingling as she trails around underfoot.

This year proved challenging for all of us. Externally, as well as internally. With a heart attack and a triple bipass surgery. The loss of a well paying job. A serious job suspension, served twice. And a car that keeps dying despite multiple auto mechanics saying they can’t find anything wrong. 

I suppose the holiday blessing isnt in the gifts or the decorations or the music played around every corner. The blessing is just us. We can all be together, happy (ish) and healthy.