Corona slug

I wake up about 8AM. Open one eye to check the time and go back to sleep for at least one half hour, preferably one whole hour. After a few minutes of stern self-speak, I arise, trying to remember what day it is. Then it hits me, It doesn’t matter, because I’m omo (on my own), each day possessing a numbing sameness to the day before, extending uninterrupted into the foreseeable future.
How odd.

We are in Week Two of Sheltering in Place. Morning. Not too early! After a quick swallow,I can conclude, no my throat doesn’t hurt, I give myself a little encouragement to carry on and get the hell out of bed.

No one I’ve spoken with is happy with the current state of affairs, but I must admit, many of my friends sounds absolutely buoyant when announcing to me that they’ve cleaned out several drawers as well as organized their shoes. Good for you, I respond lamely. Others have dug into their kitchen drawers with equal satisfaction and success. “mm, nice,”I murmur unimpressed..
Inevitably the conversation turns to me. What am I doing to make good use of my time? “I’m not sure you know, I say with feigned confidentiality, but I’m writing a book.” (Did I just say that?) There’s usually dead silence after this announcement, so I allow a few minutes for the impact of that statement to sink in for the listener. Then I spend a few minutes saying it’s just a guidebook to Kyoto, so I don’t sound like a show-off. If they have had any doubts about my competence to carry on in a national disaster, I hope this will dispel them! After that conversation, I pass by my bed and easily decide it might be nice to lay down awhile. In no time at all, I’m curled up and napping.
Wake up # 2: It’s approaching noon! Quick swallow, Still no soreness in the throat area. Relief. I might make it through the day unharmed. Time to eat a fine salad my husband has just put together. Regarding my husband, he’s been the model of togetherness. He awake before I’m finished my dream cycle, and gathering ingredients for his next healthy, farmer’s market-based meal.I easily express my gratitude.
My husband astonished me a few days ago when he walked into our bedroom holding the vacuum cleaner. Gosh, I thought this place must be filthy to drive him to do this! He looked as if it’s something he did regularly, so I decided he must not be too upset about it.
After lunch. I have an entire afternoon to deal with. Maybe if I actually DID something I too could have the telephone glow my friends seem to possess now or i imagine them to possess.
Back to the book. I can’t figure out exactly where I left off writing. I think it was in the Kyoto Temple section, but I have much less down on paper than I thought I had. It’s weirdly interrupted by a strange tangent I went off on, talking about the importance of indulging in snacks in the middle of the day. I decide to check out kitchen. nothing going on of interest. Returning from the kitchen, I have a hard time figuring out which temples to add to my list. I easily decided that the Snack Intro really belongs in another section! It seems like a good place to stop for the day. That’s about it for my day’s work as a writer.

By now it’s approaching mid afternoon. Many days I manage a half hour walk. Nothing at all to brag about, but better than nothing. That easily sets the stage for another short nap until it’s time for Anderson Cooper to bring me up to date. Since the bulk of the working day has passed, I can easily convince myself that I have all day tomorrow to work as well, so what’s the rush?

In just a few short hours it will be time for bed.


Crises Recalled and Survived

The Polio Menace

My Mother’s eyes filled quickly with tears which soon cascaded down her face. I looked at her, surprised. “You’ll never know what a relief it is for a parent to live to see this day!”she blurted out. I had been taken by surprise. Apparently, the discovery of a polio vaccine was a dream come true for parents. I’d never realized the dark shadow the threat of polio had cast across lives.

iron llung

That conversation took place the day the success of the Salk vaccine for polio was announced to the public.

I spent most childhood summers avoiding swimming pools and movie theaters. My Mother’s orders. That’s what you did in the 50’s if you were middle class and the threat of catching polio hung over you every summer. At off seasons I sat uneasily in movie theaters as collections of dimes were inserted into cardboard slitted containers for the March of Dimes as rows of helpless children captured in giant breathing apparati, appeared on movie screens. The iron lungs helped victims to breathe as the disease took its nasty toll. It was particularly hard on children and lungs. It was hard on children to watch as well. I think I pushed the threat of polio for myself to a far corner of my mind. It was just too much to iron llungcontemplate.

Summers became a lot more lighthearted following the introduction of the miracle vaccine. Polio in countries that vaccinated quickly became a distant memory.polio free

The years go by. As does a lifetime. Politicians go by. Wars go by. The Korean, The Vietnam, WWII,The Cold War, 9/11, The War on Terror. Each bringing its own threats and concerns. Some are quickly forgotten, others carve deeper scars. And life does go on. As does disease.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with these unpleasant facts of life. After making the decision that it was wise for us to shelter in place, life is rather dull, but very relaxing. I’m afraid it’s making me lazy, but I don’t really care enough to change it. Better to be relaxed than panicked, I think. Maybe the end result of all this will be a country that is more functional? Voters who are wiser, politicians who value the truth, and a greater understanding of what it means to be in this stew together. Maybe this mess will bring greater international cooperation among nations? Maybe we’ll value the arts more, now that so many venues have been closed?

Long story short, I want to wish my readers well. Thanks to everyone who takes a chance on their own health by caring for those who are ill. Let’s all try to be our best selves in helping others when we can. If only with kindness and a smile.It can make a difference for all of us.

Let’s also hope there’s a brilliant rainbow behind the fucking black cloud overhead.

My Remarkable Friend: The Immigrant

ga landscape
Her first question to me after we met was, “Is everything dead?”  I was taken back, unsure of what she meant.  When she explained that she saw no leaves on trees, or flowers growing, I was relieved to tell her that in Georgia, where she was now living, it was winter! I promised her she’d soon see trees covered with leaves.

sri lanka

She had just arrived in America from Sri Lanka, along with her husband, a newly hired professor of Theology, and an infant son. She had moved from a life of some privilege, to a small garage apartment.  She was relatively clueless about the USA.  But she was a fast learner!

Her husband was a soft spoken former Buddhist priest.  She was a lively vivacious, extravert. She loved to party and loved to dance! For awhile, I helped her navigate her strange new world, wondering, all the while, about how she would survive here.

One day I got a call from her (we were next door neighbors) asking me apologetically, to show her how to bathe her young baby.  She explained that “the servants” had always done it at home. I was of course, eager to comply. She remained grateful for that help until this day!

It wasn’t long before she announced to me that she wanted to become an ESL teacher. Her husband had a pretty hands off attitude and seemed to know better than to try and stop her.

Sure enough, she persisted and got her degree. She mystified many people who met her in Georgia, because they couldn’t determine if she were white or black. I think it surprised her. She endured racism because of it, but plugged on. She is so charming, that she makes friends wherever she goes, despite inherent racism.

rural poverty in GA

She ended up teaching school in one of the state’s poorest counties. A county that few teachers wanted to work in. Her students had few comforts in life and a bleak future. But she was determined to make a difference in their lives. Because of her innovative efforts at working with these kids who most had given up on, she ended up becoming a Georgia Teacher of the Year!

She noted that her students had very few clothes (including shoes) and sometimes would not attend school because they had nothing to wear. She singlehandedly created a special closet in her classroom full of clothing for them she got from friends and neighbors. The children could help themselves to whatever they needed, no questions ever asked.

She did her best to get the parents involved in their child’s education. That was a struggle, but again she persisted and was able to enlist the help of parents in their own child’s educational success. Breakthrough!!

Her beloved husband passed away a few years ago. Although their personalities were very different from one another, they was tremendous respect each had for the other.

She found the courage to move closer to her sons, both of whom lived in California. She left behind many friends and a beautiful home that she and her husband had lived in. She moved into a retirement village not far from her family in California. She began teaching zumba there. She recently managed to buy herself a bright red Tesla. Her son, without telling her,had a stop device installed on the car so it won’t go over 60mph. I laughed when I heard it. Smart man.
This past weekend, her sons, one now a cardiac pulmonologist and another an attorney, threw her an 80th birthday party at the retirement complex where she now lives. Over 100 people attended her party! She danced through it all, with more energy than seems possible. She’s going strong. The room was charged with the energy and good will she brought to it.
One of the residents told the group that their retirement home had been changed forever for the better when she moved in. I believe it.
When I hear people begrudging immigrants, I think of my beloved friend. The extraordinary commitment she brought along with her to improve the lives of others shines like a universal beacon for the rest of us. Let’s look and learn and welcome.


Roses are Red…

The olde nursery rhyme, Roses are red, etc. is probably one of the first rhymes that American children memorize. It’s a charmer for a young child, easy to recite, and to manipulate the last two lines for their own needs be that loving or cutting.
rosese nasty

I remember loving Valentine’s Day from the early days of elementary school. Each teacher I had would lavishly decorate a box that would hold all the valentines our classmates brought to school for their friends. They would be distributed at one time on V Day. All the kids waited anxiously,( the less popular ones probably more anxious than the self assured), hoping to have a substantial accumulation of envelopes piled on their desks to confirm he/she was not an outcast. Unfortunately, these were the yoyo(you’re on your own!) days. There were no mandates that a student should bring or make a card for each classmate.  The distribution of cards was inevitably unequal, and actually an unnamed popularity contest.  I remember the distribution being occasionally excruciating as I waited for a card that failed to materialize. Oh, the heartbreak!

THE powerful and mysterious VALENTINE BOX would appear several days before V Day. They were mostly crepe paper works of art that any young  child would think is gorgeous. I remember studying their construction each time I walked past the teacher’s desk, hoping hoping hoping that my name would be on a reasonable number of envelopes.

caany hearts

Some cards from friends included some small candies which would be an added bonus. Let’s face it, the chalky pastel heart sayings never tasted good, but they were fun to look at and I managed to eat them even if they didn’t taste very good.

I think by the time we got to middle school the Valentine Distribution was over. At least I have no memories of such events. Just as well, because I know it would have been painful for me. Those years were awful as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know who my friends were from day to day.

I used to enjoy going antiquing in New England with my Mom. I quickly began to collect vintage Victorian Valentines. I think they’re beautiful to this day.
victoriaan valentine

The truth is I like to decorate things. Vday makes it easy. When one of my granddaughters passed through her first VDay I saw it as a perfect opportunity to dress her up. See digital card below.
nat valentines day

Vinegar Valentines could be found in the Victorian era if needed.

Fast Forward to having my own family. I tried to do it up for my kids when they were young. My mother would always send large boxes of candy for each child, along with other Valentine -themed miscellany. My Dad had a grocery store, so I imagined that she had fun with a grocery cart at the candy counter piling up the junk. My kids were invariably thrilled. I kept the Valentine tradition going, probably longer than I needed to!

My parents gave me Valentine cards as long as they lived. My father often bought me a heart shaped box of Whitmans’s candy. That was a Big Deal, because he hated to shop, even though I knew he’d probably gone next door to the drugstore to buy the heart!   I’d kept those boxes as treasures and the chocolate scented paper cups and liners that contained the candy too. The lavish heart boxes resembled coffins as far as I was concerned, but they somehow managed to still look glamorous.

I continued the tradition of giving each of daughter a card each year, long after they were grown.

One year, after experiencing a drought of cards from my children, I let it be known that my feelings were hurt. The daughter I shared my sadness with, looked at me with alarm and curiosity. “Why should I give you a card?”she wanted to know. “After all, I am not your boyfriend.”

Now I still will get a card for my younger grandkids, but the older ones? They’re on their own! (TOTO)They never inquired why I stopped sending them cards.  Sadly, I don’t seem to be on their lists either, assuming they have one! But it’s understood we love each other, I hope!

A Contemporary Valentine:

Dear Donald Trump,
Roses are red,
Like, so red.
So red, you won’t even believe that they’re real roses.
Trust me, I know roses.
And these roses are red.

Spoonbills, White Pelicans & Seashells, o my!

I’ve wanted to return to Sanibel Island since I originally left it after a day visit in 1964. The island has been legendary as a mecca for masses of seashells on its shoreline deposited there because of its unusual placement in the Gulf of Mexico, close to Ft. Myers, FLA.

In the 60’s we took a small ferry to the island, as we noted with some sadness that a few large bridges were being built to connect the island to the mainland.  At that time, as I remember it, the island was largely undeveloped, the beaches knee deep in alluring seashells, largely untouched.  The shells were almost overwhelming in variety.

Sanibel takes some getting to, but when I learned there’s now a ferry from Key West, I became determined to check it out again after 60 years. Who knew what we would find or if, once the bridges were complete, we’d find the island we were initially drawn to now a fading image, something like our younger selves?

Ft. Myers Beach

It was easy to sense that Ft. Myers Beach, where we landed for our first night after the ferry ride, had a dark side, despite the bright citrus colors most buildings were painted as a colorful ploy to suggest upbeatness.   Seamy bars lived in each “resort” where one could disappear for a lifetime. Alfred Hitchcock could have used it a movie set.  If I had been five years old, I might have thought it was beautiful.

Someone on the staff had a talent for making towel animals.  Poor bunny.

I woke up in the morning grateful for not having any bedbug bites and eager to get the hell out of there and on to Sanibel!

Sunrise, sunset. Updated.

sunset on Sanibel

No way I would have recognized Sanibel. I felt grateful that it obviously was being taken care of, despite the inevitable development after the bridges came on the scene.

There are no food chains, no billboards, all tasteful but uninspired building and lush landscaping, and groomed residents, you get the picture.  We drove through a beautiful  wildlife sanctuary where it was easy to spot oblivious roseate spoonbills and white pelicans luxuriating in the late afternoon sun. 

It’s a mid -western retiree’s heaven.  Bicycles abound on the long straight roads through the mangroves, but the real excitement takes place at the beach at the crack of dawn, as obsessed shellers greet the day by beach combing for special shells, still fairly abundant.

Nature’s Show

Nature is the show here in this natural paradise.  Humanity has  intruded in a respectful and fairly sterile mode of development. There are no inspirational flashes of creativity that are apparent to me.  They are setting aside large tracts of land and mangroves in a continuing effort to preserve.  I admire that.  But where is the artist’s input? Those in charge have played it very safe.  I understand that.  But a little EDGE would have been fun and stimulating and have really added to the mix.  It’s not too late. See Naoshima and Setouchi Triennale.


the White Pelican Gang
Roseate spoonbills!

Speaking of the beach, it’s gorgeous and uncrowded, walkable for miles, which I was too lazy to do. We watched sunrise and sunset from our motel room window and a full moon rise in the early evenings. Perfectly satisfying.

View from our motel room, The Shalimar.

When I casually asked my husband if he would like to return, he said, “been here, done that. ” Not the response I’d hoped to hear, but I understood.  His fishing attempts here yielded nothing, what did I expect?

I would still like to return, but realize it probably won’t happen.  It’s just that time of life.