I swear to God, the little herd of whitetail deer that bounds across our clearing between house and woods each morning around seven must have gotten Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s memo. They arrived on time, but instead of clustering close together as they normally do, I saw one pop out of the woods, then several beats of time and about six feet later, another, then another and yet another, each strung out with the recommended social distancing. One doe stopped to reach up to eat some greenery from a low-hanging tree branch. When she stopped, so did the others. When she took another step, so did they.
I was hoping for a cleansing rain, and maybe that will come, too. But like everything else, sometimes we have to take the bad with the good. Our online newspaper has a thick red “breaking news” alert across the digital masthead warning us all that Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are under a tornado watch.
The view outside my study window is green and calm, but when I walk outside, I see movement in the tops of big trees, a deep sway that makes me think of gospel singers in the grip. I feel a familiar heavy dampness in the air. Lou dog senses the fluctuating barometric pressure and whines.
I approached the airline ticket counter at least three times, holding aloft an object that looked like my cell phone only larger and encased in a heavy black canvas fabric.
The ticket agent was dressed in an ill-fitting uniform of sorts that looked like it was made from the same black canvas as my cell phone cover. She came out from behind the counter. “I wish to hell you would go ahead and buy your ticket.” She seemed exasperated, but there was an undertone of pleading.
“I have bought it. It’s on my phone . . . somewhere. I don’t know how to find it.” We stared at one another, then another passenger, a young man, walked up. “Take care of him,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”
I heard her say, “No. . .” — but I was gone.
I wasn’t driving the car nor was I a passenger. But I could see and experience everything. Maybe I was the car. There’s a weird thought.
The driver was a woman of an indeterminate age, maybe 45, plump, and somehow she seemed like an English woman from a different century. Ah, I know who she was. She was the head cook in Downton Abbey. You know, the one losing her sight.
She was driving quite fast in an ordinary sedan, and turned from the typical, simple streets of Pensacola into a different world. The street was more of a wide concrete boulevard. Her foot was heavy on the accelerator. Several large, three-story homes appeared on both sides of the road, capped by what could only be called a mansion at the end. It had a circular drive. Beyond it and on either side was water. The bay, I thought. All the buildings were made from the same dusty rose-gold brick. To one side, under a bright blue awning, a table was set for eight guests, one corner of the dazzling white tablecloth flapping in the wind. No people.
“Brakes!” I thought. “Brakes!”
She continued to bear down on the great house, but at the last moment executed a turn around the circle worthy of a Formula One racer and accelerated like a bat fleeing hell in the opposite direction. It was then I noticed several cars full of grim-looking men passing us, headed toward the jumping off place.
“Faster,” I wanted to urge her. “Faster.” I felt the danger; felt her impending death.
Back at the ticket counter, the same drab woman. “You again! Why haven’t you bought your ticket yet?”
Here in the piney woods of Florida’s Gulf coast, the panhandle, we barely had a winter this year, and now — it’s hot. Hot, that is, if you’re doing stoop labor to pick up roughly one gazillion pine cones that fell the past few months so you’re husband can mow the clearing. The warm sun on my bare arms created the perfect conditions for manufacturing Vitamin D and strengthening my immune system.
A first: My iPhone nearly caused me to jump out of my skin when it made a noise like an air-raid signal. It was an emergency alert exhorting folks over 65 to stay home. Lou Lou Belle thought a thunder storm was coming and hid under my desk.
And another first: Winn Dixie delivered groceries to us. I left an envelope taped to the front door with a cash tip in it for the driver. She texted a thank you from her car. I waved from behind the glass door and then, once she had driven away, retrieved the bags and brought them to the kitchen, where I placed them in the side by side stainless steel sinks. Buck offered to help, but I declined. Overkill, most likely, but while he is extremely fit and healthy, he is 82 and a lymphoma survivor. Also my greatest treasure on earth. He knows me so well. He stood in the doorway and watched as I disinfected, stored, cleaned the sink, washed my hands again (and again), and used a Clorox wipe on all nearby surfaces.
“Twitchy Baby?” he said, using my affectionate nickname.
I looked up and saw that tender look in his eyes, hand over his heart. “Yes?”
“Love.” That’s all. And that’s everything.
Today’s riddle: when is giving up on writing the best way to start writing?
Answer: when what you’re giving up on is what was holding you back; when it had become the excuse for not writing. As in: I don’t have time (or, ahem, inspiration or, ahem, discipline) to revise the 40,000 word partial manuscript for my novel-in-progress, so I just won’t write anything at all.
Something about a staring a pandemic in the face that makes a person have a “come to Jesus” meeting with herself.
To wit: I’m so uninterested in my youthful characters anymore that I can barely remember their names.
To wit: I don’t have any kids and have never observed the specie up-close. Sure, I have a couple of step-kids in their late fifties, but the youngest was 19 when I came on their scene. The grand-kids are off somewhere now in their own parallel universes, as much a mystery to me as I suspect their Granddad and I are to them. Won’t we ever just stay on the porch with the puppies and act our ages? And where the heck are those damn rocking chairs anyway?
That’s it. I’m packing up ye olde novel-not-so-much-in-progress. Nothing so dramatic or passionate as burning it. Whistling while I work.
The art journals I started for some of the main characters are something else entirely. They stay. Some very cool stuff there which I intend to use and have fun with.
So, what’s next? Writing whatever I please, that’s what! Free writing. I like the sound of it.
Be it ever so humble or never so humble, there’s no place like home, if you’re fortunate enough to have one. Buck and I remain at home on this seemingly perfect Gulf coast Florida day. I played ball with Lou Lou Belle while soaking up some rays and letting the old bod manufacture some Vitamin D. The soft breeze was a bonus.
On morning walks, I admire the industry and skill of spiders weaving snares for prey and homes with silken hammocks all over the woods.
And in our own kitchen last night, what could be more comforting than this rosemary maple butter roasted chicken? And yes, it was as delicious as it looks and the aroma of fresh rosemary, maple syrup and roasting chicken was intoxicating. I’m thinking the leftovers will make fabulous chicken sandwiches today.
Our county (Escambia) remained steady overnight, with no new Covid-19 cases confirmed. The current reported total is 21.
Maybe the deer knew there would be a hard freeze last night. Two mature does and three frisky yearlings spent an unusually long time in the clearing outside my window yesterday eating grass and out-of-season dandelions.
Longleaf Lou and I heard turkeys in the woods near the stream bed yesterday when we walked to the gate. First time in eons that I’ve heard that sharp cluck cluck sound. Coyotes, bobcats, foxes and feral cats have taken a hard toll on the wild turkeys around here. I used to collect fallen turkey feathers and lay them out on the dining room table. Is there anything prettier? I have videos of dozens of wild turkeys in the clearing and perched on the fence in the back yard, gobblers displaying and hens dancing. “Those were the days,” I murmur like some old-timer, which I guess I’ve become. Well, so what? The calendar may reveal it, but I don’t feel it. Gonna be a good day. Let’s get out there.
Worth a post? Probably not. But damn, it was good. Pretty, too.
Note: I’ve avoided frozen spinach for years because of experiences with rectangular blocks that, when thawed, was coarse, tough, and unappealing. I keep trying to think of ways to get more leafy greens into our diet without having a refrigerator full of stuff in various stages of turning into a science project. So I decided to try a bag of Publix’s Greenwise brand chopped spinach. Well, now, this is a whole different animal than my rejects of decades ago. It’s tender, sweet, chopped into tiny bits, and delicious. Perfect as a base to bake an egg.
I’m still adding back in old archived posts from earlier blogs, which throws categories and tags into a tizzy. It will take a while to get them to play nicely with each other and agree to subsume their enormous egos and let me assign them to several large, umbrella themes.
Like these: (Found in the Footer 1 Widget Area). Honestly, I could never “get” footers. I like to have “what you see is what you get” via a sidebar. I may have to change to a 3-column format. Mostly, I should shut up, quit fussing, and write. Right? Meanwhile: ta da, or something like that.
THEMES (master categories)
Comfort Zone: Home. It’s the comfort zone. Be nurtured by the cozy soft bits you collect to feather your nest. We need a place of retreat, a shock absorber for life’s shrapnel. Posts about health, aging, friends and food are here, too.
Creative Life: Struggle and exult as you nourish the some days fragile stem, other days lusty baby of whatever a creative life means to you. Write. Make art, music, love, a home. Read, listen, and gaze upon myriad human-made works until your eyes are wet with tears of joy. There is where wholeness dwells. Book reviews and writerly stuff found here, too.
Daybook: The master log. Everything, including the kitchen sink. A hot mess. My life. I love it. Most posts here are also in another category.
Inner Space: It’s the heart of the matter. Go inside your mind. Your soul will meet you there. Be awed by the mystery. It will feed you. Dream journals live here.
Love: Love wildly, like it’s a bottomless cup of the best elixir in the world. It is. No stinting allowed. It’s the ultimate act of enlightened self-interest and the most radical act. Stories from a long-running happy marriage are here.
Memoir: Remember everything. Make a record when you can. It’s a way of conecting the dots. No one else has been where you have been or will go where you will go. Your memories stand against the days of loss. They are stepping stones across an ocean of meaning to a continent of understanding.
Nature: Connect, weave yourself into the natural world. Lessons from the green nourish and change us for the better. Study the intricacies of lichen and web. Put down a taproot or become an air plant. Observe. Mind open and eyes wide. Breath. Photos and notes from Longleaf Preserve are here.
Travel: Perch like a bird on the edge of the world. Get out of Dodge and dive in. Experience the thrill of the unfamiliar. It’s found in that place outside the comfort zone, somewhere between fear and ecstasy. Touch and taste the incredible awayness of it all.