Sunday, January 29, 2012

Droid Astronomy

January 29, 2012

Good Sunday Morning Andrea—

A shear veil of rain surrounds Steve’s house.  The lake is full, overflowing, creating a small pond, its surface echoing falling raindrops. 

The trees, stripped of all pretenses, stand bare.  Broken limbs, some big around as my waist, lay everywhere, a testament to forces beyond my control.

Since you died I have been searching for order.  For a way to explain your death in a way that makes sense to me.  For a way to incorporate the incorporatable. 

I am giving up my search for order.

Surrendering it to forces beyond my control.

I do not need to understand, explain, rationalize, apologize .

I can just be.

Except your death surrounds me like the dome of stars I laid under last Sunday at the dark beach at Barking Sands.

Oh my Gosh—you would be so amazed at what you can do with a phone now.  You can take your I Phone, or your Droid—did you die before or after the I Phone or the Droid? I cannot remember. 

Anyway, there are apps for the I Phone, the Droid that you can download.  If you have that app, you point your phone at the light shining in the night sky and it will tell you the name of the planet or the star you are facing.  The map outlines constellations.  Names stars and planets.  I never have to stand on a dark night and wonder, what is that shining in the distance.  Now, I can know.
Knowledge is a choice.

Holding the phone up to the night sky, I am at the center of my universe.

I am one small speck on a slightly tilted turning globe of land and water. 

A satellite can track my existence.  My presence in  physical relation to everything else on this planet.

Every choice, every act, is significant. 

I start each day now, expecting nothing.  The anticipation of surprise propels me forward.  Enough, I am rewarded. 

Days run together, undefined.  I find myself sometimes in unexpected places.  I am changed when I become aware.

Like the pond rippled with raindrops, everything around me changes until it dissipates.

When I surrender, I am strongest.  Only then am I aware of all my weaknesses, those things I must protect.

The memories of you.

It is essential that I cry out. 

I am in the process of delivery.

Delivering myself from the weight of grief so I can cradle it in my arms. 

She who has gone before, my new friend, midwife’s me in my grief. 

We talk about you, her son, knowing everything the heart cannot speak and how delicious it is to wrap your names around our tongues like the first time we named you.  Barry.  Andrea.  We taste the vowels and consonants  sitting on the beach together sifting sand. 

Love, loss, memory. 

Shells, no bigger than a figment of my imagination, collected, will transport me back to this moment from some future point in time.

Last Sunday night Steve and I took our Droid’s, two pillows, beach towels and a blanket.  Barefooted, I followed him out to the shore.  We wanted to lay flat, explore the universe above us, around us as the day and tide retreated. 

On the bed we made on sand and lumps of vegetation, we held our phones above naming stars, constellations, planets.  Jupiter was following Venus who had just passed below the western horizon. 

I laid as perfectly still as I could, held my breath, opened my eyes as wide as I could, focused on nothing.  It was then I could see myself in the middle of a 360 degree circle –a horizon encircling me.  The darkness, punctuated with specks of light varying in intensity.

Each light has a name.  Its name has been spoken back to the first awareness of its meaningful existence.  A place to navigate from, to.  Passed from tongue to tongue in breath, in sound, in song, in kiss.

My birth sign, Gemini, is above us. 

I move my phone.  Find Mars.

Saturn.  Spica, the star.

I do not trust my eyes. 

Me, pressed against the earth by the centrifugal force of movement.  The earth spins on its axis.  The sky appears to be moving.

Directionally confused here, I cannot feel north, south, east, west.  I am at an intersection where earth meets water, meets air.  A cool breeze blows over me.

I count five falling stars.  Five falling stars for this woman born in the 5th month of 1955. 

Five secret wishes only my heart knows. 

And you, Andrea--Saturn and the Spica.  Two ships, whose helms you stood at out at sea. 

At breakfast my friend Jean, her husband, tell me “Oh that was an ‘oh hi mom’.”

You are so much more than just a memory.

I see ripples of that everywhere.

Sadie says to tell you hi. 

I love you.  


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Back from Vacation

January 28, 2012

Hi Andrea,

Yes it has been awhile. 

Steve and his neighbors are out picking up tree limbs.  There is devastation from ice and snow and wind everywhere.  Last week, while the snow fell and ice covered trees breaking huge trunks and branches, froze pipes, left homes without power, Steve and I explored Kauai from the beach at Ke’e to Barking Sands.  Purposefully, I unplugged from phones, computers, televisions, newspapers.  I got lost in the pursuit of solitude and sun. 

I have not looked at the weather for Kauai, but I am certain the sun is shining there today.  The sand is pink speckled with miniscule bits of broken shells still sparkling from the receding tide, the dolphins are surfing the breaking waves, the shearwaters are diving for their daily meal, and a whale blows a plume--waves a pectoral fin, rolls over, then launches its massive body from the ocean, forms an arch and dives back in.  If I listen hard enough I can hear a rooster crowing.  A shama singing.  I hear the doves wings flutter as a tanned old man with long gray hair, held back in a ponytail sits in the sand throwing breadcrumbs in the air.

Today I spent the day with Lisa and Annalise.  Next Saturday is Annalise’s first birthday.  She has two little teeth right in the middle of her lower gums.  Her laughter opens doors in my heart that would rather stay closed.  Love is risk.

When Annalise polks her pudgy index finger in my mouth, I nibble it with my front teeth.  She giggles, pulls her finger back, puts it in my mouth again.  Then she teases me, holds her finger out, makes me come after it.  I let out a little growl. Annalise  laughs with all her being. 

Love is really all there is.

It is worth the risk.

In the end, it is all we can take with us.

Last Monday night, my last night on Kauai, I slipped between cool sheets wearing nothing but Fig Leaf and Cassis lotion.  Outside, there was a breeze blowing towards the northwest--towards home.  It rattled the wood blinds as it entered the room.  Finding Steve and I curled up together, the breeze traveled the hills and valleys of our bodies.  

Back to back, I aligned by spine against Steve’s, pressed into the warmth of his sleeping body.  He did not stir.  I closed my eyes, let the sound of the outgoing tide, the eerie moan of the wedgetailed sheerwater escort me to the realm of sleep.

Tuesday morning, 6 a.m. my alarm went off for the first time in 10 days.  At noon, Alaska Airlines Flight 852 would speed down the  runway, lift in flight, travel the jet stream pushed to Sea-Tac by strong tailwinds.  After I hit the snooze button, buying five more minutes, I thought, “I could leave everything for this moment.”

The alarm rang again.  Steve stirred, rolled over, pressed his stomach into my back, tucked his knees in behind mine.

“Mmmmmm.”  He said.

I felt delicious, ripe from seven full days of sunshine.  I let out a small moan of pleasure as Steve ran his open palm over the rise of my hip.

“You have no jammies on.” 

“Mmmmmm.”  I answered.

“Let’s go for a walk on the beach.”  Steve whispered as he nuzzled his nose behind my left ear.

“Perfect.”  Because on this last morning, while the winter sun was still working its way over the southeast horizon 22 degrees from the Tropic of Cancer, a walk on the beach would be.  Perfect.

I wrapped myself in a pareo, dark blue with yellow flowers blooming on one edge.  I tied two ends criss-crossed around my neck, making it into a dress.

Hand in hand we quietly left the little cottage at the beach.  It was still dark, in front of us the planet Mars was the brightest light in the western sky leading to the place where vegetation stopped, beach began.  Right over us was Saturn with its pronounced and visible rings.  Just off to the side was the star Spica. 

Saturn and Spica.  USS Saturn and USS Spica.  I have t-shirts, baseball caps, from those two ships you served on as an able bodied seawoman.

We stopped at the picnic table, the last point before beach.  Facing the island Ni’hua, the channel where humpback whales spend winter days, where dolphins wait for the tide to change to feed in breaking waves, I turned my face toward Mars, navigated to your planet Saturn, star Spica, breathed deep. 

The wind tugged at the corners of my makeshift pareo dress.  Steve, behind me, encircled me in his arms.   

The ocean rises with a single tear. 

Crying dissolves unseen parts of me.  I taste the salt of ocean spray as it falls from my eyes, making its way to waves broken at the steep drop before shore, still moving across a polished sandy beach until worn out.

Yesterday I saw my tears pass through a humpback whale that waved a pectoral fin, then blew a plume of water.

Humbly, bare, beneath a piece of cloth tied with one knot behind my neck, I invoked a blessing from sky, ocean, sand.  From who ever, what ever, might be listening.

I turned to Steve.  Stood face to face with him under a sky still dark enough for stars and planets to show themselves as tiny specks of light.  Pulling apart the front of my makeshift dress, I exposed my most vulnerable self .

My breasts that fed you, my belly that carried you, the passage to your birth.

I am safe in a way I have never been with anyone. 

Steve pulled me close.  Burying my face in his neck, he and I danced together as the sun rose over his left shoulder. 

The stars and planets disappeared.

I accepted my blessing.

To know, to feel love, is worth the risk.

                                      Love you Andie—

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kauai Calls

January 11, 2012

Hey Andrea,

Kauai calls. 

I hear her and I will be there soon.

In the meantime, this is a conversation I had with Steve via text messaging this evening:

Me:  “I have never traveled for ten days w just a day pack
and carry on .  This is a challenge.”

I have horse packed into the Maroon Belles Wilderness Area in Colorado; into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.  I have taken a dog to New York City for Westminster, twice.  I have gone to Finland, Russia, Sweden, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Cleveland, Boston, Reno, Los Angeles, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, La Paz, Norfolk, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, and places I have since forgotten.  I have  never traveled light.  Traveling light requires planning, making choices.

Steve:  “Check Rick Steves’ website for suggestions.  Pack multi-
use articles and plan to wash them.  Four days socks & underwear max.  Can you wear a pair of hiking sneakers on the plane?  Bring nothing “just in case”.  A long pair of pants, a pair shorts.  You get the idea.”

Only four pairs of underwear max?  Only four pair?  I will close up my suitcase before he gets to count anything.

“Bring nothing ‘just in case’”. 

My whole suitcase is full of clothing and items “just in case.” 

Because you never know.   

Bring nothing “just in case”.  Is he kidding?  What if…How am I supposed to know what I want to wear next Tuesday, next Friday.  I have a hard time with what to wear one day at a time. 

Me:  “I totally have the idea.  Implementation of the concept is
the problem.  If goal is achieved you will have to recognize  what a major achievement this is for me.”

Steve:  “Congratulations on the effort.”

A second later.

Steve:  “Subaru gets 22mpg.”

The effort.  Steve has no idea.  This is the first major trip he and I have taken together.  Flying to Palm Springs a year ago last Christmas does not count.  I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Grandpa Veil had a stroke.  He was laying in the hospital, soon to be moved to hospice.   I hope he has found you, and grandma.

Rick Steves.  I Google “rick steves packing list”.  There is a separate packing list for women.  If you want you can compare it to the men’s list.  I am not so inclined.  What would be the point?

Apparently, when Rick first came up with his packing list, women complained.  It did not account for all their needs.

Which is why men should never be architects.  But that is an entirely different subject you and I shall discuss later.  Back to packing.

Me:  “Checked out Rick’s packing list.  He says I can bring two
pair of shorts.”

No reply. 

I need to account for all my needs.  And fit them all in a carry on and backpack. 

There are piles everywhere.  Shirts, shorts, bathing suits, slacks, skirts, dresses, different color sandals to match each outfit.

Snorkel gear, cameras, camera chargers, colored pencils, a blank notebook, something to read.

I have always carried more than I needed.  Wrestling with the weight of it lugging it from place to place.  Weighing me down.

Wait, that shirt with the palm tree is really cute.  I might want to wear that next Saturday.

I check Rick’s list.  4-5 shirts.  I already have 7.  That’s a compromise.  I am not taking 10—which is how many I wanted to bring.

The last time I went on vacation was the February after you died.  I flew to Miami, met with a tour group—Senior Cycling, and bicycled the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West.  On that trip I UPS’d my bicycle, brought a backpack, a carry on and a large suitcase weighing 50 lbs.  I had the most and the heaviest luggage of anyone on the trip.

Remember when I used to fly to Norfolk when you lived there?  Not only would I bring a carry on and a suitcase, but I would end up buying a suitcase at Marshall’s or Ross to carry all the clothes and other things I bought when you and I went shopping at the Outlet Mall and around Norfolk. 

You inherited the maximum amount of luggage gene from me.  I will never forget your tantrums every time you left home to meet a ship.  You could bring anything you wanted as long as it fit in your duffel and one other bag.  Your favorite pillow and down comforter competed for space with nail polish, eye shadow, strappy shoes and a little dress.  Then there were the work clothes.

I had no idea how much collected luggage you and I had until after you died.  We never traveled light.  Anywhere.

And now it is a requirement.  It is a test I must pass.  Traveling light.

Me:  Got everything in carry on and in backpack.

Everything I need.

                   Love You Andrea,