Monday, September 19, 2016

My Sequoias

Told that visits to the giant sequoias were apparently not feasible during my visit near and in Yosemite National Park, I was keenly disappointed. Then I learned of a small grove that was relatively close, albeit on a road far less traveled (for good reasons). 

 Since the sequoias were a main objective of my recent trip, I found the road – actually, ‘road’ is too generous a term – and inched my rented car over the dirt ruts until I found the grove. After 45 minutes without seeing another human or vehicle, it was reassuring [and somewhat astounding] to spot two other cars in the little parking area. 

I had four sheets of paper with directions, descriptions, and maps of the trails around Nelder Grove. None of them were of any use to me. I have no idea which trail I took or which trees I saw. None of that matters. 

Within a few moments after leaving my car, following the soft dirt path into the forest, I was enveloped by the embrace of trees. Shade and silence, dappled by sunlight, drifted peace into my soul. 

I noticed little things: moss, a spider web, a heart shadow. 

And, every once in a while, a great old tree. I strolled, ambled and wandered for hours, absorbing the beauty, letting it heal me. 

Finally, hours later, thirst and fatigue forced me to turn back. Eventually, I found my car, the primitive road and the highway … and a restaurant where I drank a gallon of water with lunch. 

What a splendid, splendid day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Three Sun Salute

It's the week after Labor Day and Colorado weather is perfect. On the perimeter of my yard, three kinds of yellow flowers cascade salutes to cool mornings and evenings and days of sunshine.

.... sort of  Blackeyed Susans ... 

sunflowers ...

and on the side yard those yellow flowers whose name is a mystery

Perhaps we are not supposed to notice but other yellow things appear -- every once in a while one falls on the lawn, quietly, solitary. 

Each is a tiny prelude of the avalanche to come . . . reminding us to savor present conditions, present beauty -- to breathe in the gentle interlude -- the present moment.

It's all good.

Monday, August 22, 2016

One More Hero Gone

I don’t usually read the sports section but the New York Times’ final coverage of the Olympics drew me in. There, after all the gold medal stories, was Dr. Donald A. Henderson’s obituary. 

I knew him. I read his book, “Smallpox: The Death of a Disease.” I sat at the table with him in Rotary International’s board room in Evanston, IL and at the Pan American Health Organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

 It’s entirely possible that most people have never heard of him – have no idea that he led the successful global effort to eradicate smallpox. 

Two years ago another hero died, Dr. Ciro de Quadros, who led the successful effort to eradicate polio from the Americas. Dr. de Quadros was part of the smallpox eradication team – one of the hundreds of heroes whom Dr. Henderson honored with the “Order of the Bifurcated Needle.” [The smallpox vaccine was administered with a two-pronged needle.] 

When Rotary International committed that association to the eradication of polio, Dr. D.A. Henderson was one of the experts consulted. Sometimes he supported the effort (believing it possible), sometimes not (believing it more ‘evangelical than attainable’. And sometimes he changed his mind. 

Always bringing great intellect, common sense, and compassion to his dedication to human health, he was a hero among heroes. 

However tangentially, his life touched mine and I was enriched. And he saved the lives – and the quality of life – for hundreds of thousands of us. 

Thank you, Dr. D.A. Henderson.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Herbie -- The Velvet Glove

My cat Herbie has the softest coat I’ve ever felt on any cat – softer than rabbit fur. And he loves everyone – people he has known forever and total strangers. The doorbell (whether actual or on television) spurs him into action. He greets all visitors with great enthusiasm. If they sit, he sits on their laps and revels in their attention.

And he pays intense attention to me. For years, he has supervised my writing . . . and almost every other activity. (When he is not sleeping)
Herbie will be 16 years old in October and he has kidney disease.
Although the special food I buy from the vet seems to be helping, I know it will only slow the inevitable. Knowing that, I tend to pamper him – making sure he has enough food, enough water, enough love – and a clean litter box.
I’ve long held the theory that cats (or at least my cats) are remarkably similar to two-year-old humans. You know what happens when you pamper a two-year-old? They want more.
Now when I go to bed, Herbie joins me. He walks up to the head of the bed and with gentle pushes of his front paws, rearranges me. He wants the softest pillow. He often gets the softest pillow – there are others for me.

When I’m not there, the pillow becomes his throne.
Herbie – my gentle, loving cat – has become he who must be obeyed – an iron hand in a velvet glove.

Monday, August 1, 2016

New Bed

About a year or so after my mom died, I received a small bequest. At the time I needed two things: a new bed and a new car. Mom’s money made possible both a brand new 1998 Toyota Celica in ‘Renaissance Red’ and a queen-size brass sleigh bed. Both were amazingly sexy. Mom would have been delighted.

A couple of years ago I traded my bright red car, which I had named Esmeralda, for a Subaru Crosstrek in a decorous burgundy. I call it Sam. Snow does not deter its rugged energy. It’s a good looking, practical car. 

Now the skeleton of my great brass bed leans against the west wall of my garage, awaiting a buyer from Craigslist. In its stead, I have a white wooden platform bed. Significantly smaller than its predecessor, the new bed’s headboard is now against the north wall --- where I believe the feng shui is better – and where my brass headboard could not fit because of the slant of my bungalow’s ceiling.

My whole bedroom is open and airy. I like it. Herbie my cat likes it. And the new bed is lower, making ascent/descent easier. It’s a little more boring, more practical. But it’s still a double bed. The likelihood of nocturnal non-feline company for a septuagenarian with overabundant anatomy is not high, but you never know. 

Mom would have been pleased.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Shift Happens

The left shift key on my computer sticks.

It’s a minor annoyance when I’m working on something, easily remedied by tapping it then typing over whatever I have written. But it turns out that a stuck shift key is the equivalent of the nail for the want of which the shoe was lost.

Friday I was supposed to rendezvous with other members of my writers group at 8:30 a.m. then travel with them to another member’s new home. Herbie (my cat who is not doing well at all) threw up. Tending to him, I was delayed, arriving at the rendezvous point eight minutes late. No one was there. Although the directions to the new home had been shared, I did not have them with me. And because I left in a hurry, I didn’t have my cell phone. I could think of nothing else to do except drive the 20 minute trip home and find phone numbers and directions on my magic machine (computer).

When I logged in, I was rejected. No matter what I did, I could not access either my word program (which had the document with directions and phone numbers) or my email. Oddly, I could access Facebook. I still don’t understand that. I left messages for each member of the group but the odds of their reading/responding were astronomical.

I rebooted the computer. Still nothing. Then someone suggested restarting. [I had thought rebooting and restarting were the same. They’re not.] So I restarted and tried logging in … making sure the left shift key was not depressed. Voila! I found the document and called our hostess and got directions and got to the meeting, a mere 90 minutes late.

After the meeting, I lingered to admire the member’s new home. She suggested we go out to lunch. It seemed like something she’d really like to do so we did. We found a nice, cool restaurant and ordered a refreshing repast which we were enjoying when I asked the waitress what time it was – 1:47.

I was supposed to be at another meeting, in another place by 2 p.m. Indeed I was supposed to chair the meeting. And we needed to pay, to get my friend home and I needed to drive 15 miles south to the meeting in another town.

I was late again. This time ‘only’ about an hour. It was just one of those days. Beware shift keys.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Colorado Sweat

After I moved to Colorado from Chicago in the fall of 2002, I would often take great delight in telling those still embedded in the great metropolis, how much nicer the weather was here. 

Not to mention that we had more mountains.

Things are changing.

Last winter, checking the nation’s weather in our local paper, I began to notice that things were not necessarily warmer and drier snuggled up against the Rocky Mountains.

I didn’t brag as much.

Now it is, without question, summer.

Again checking in the local paper, I have noted that the temperatures in Chicago are more reasonable (70s and 80s) than here (90s and an occasional 100+).

Recently there was a small item in our paper that confirmed my worst fears. It seems that summer temperatures and humidity are rising faster in my part of the country than most others (including Chicago). 

It’s that non-existent global warming thing again … only it’s not global, it’s local.

This summer, more than its nearly 14 predecessors, I find that I more frequently have to protect myself with antiperspirant and strategically placed talcum powder.

I now defend myself, as it were, from Colorado sweat.

At least we still have the mountains.