Tag Archives: love

The Land of Ooze

“What time is it?” I whisper to Katherine, the only lady at the monthly Game Night wearing a watch. There are ten of us here at Marge’s and this is our second round of Catch Phrase.

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I was first invited by my friend Deborah. I had a great time in October, missed November, and tonight – December 3 – she just got up and demonstrated several 1960s dances (Twist, Watusi, Jerk and Pony) and our laughter rocked the entire 16 mile square subdivision.

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“Eight forty-five,” she says.

“I said I’d be home by 9,” I say and a couple of the ladies across the table just howl at my curfew. We are all wild and whooping it up, sipping wine and munching pupu platters and staying out late. Still, half the women live in other subdivisions, one has an outside job, and yet another’s cat allergies have kicked in and her eyes are watering. Everyone agrees to wind it up.

By 9:30 I’m out the door with my empty cookie plate and a big slab of apple pie in a plastic box for the Bearded One.

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The moon is huge, just 3 days from full. I see the constellation we call The Three Twinkly Ones – Orion’s Belt – clearly and think as I always do when seeing these three stars in a row of our three adult “kids,” all of whom were actually here together last month.

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After they left, unsurprisingly, I felt a bit bereft, pondering life and my navel and badgering everyone for a definition of home.

NeNe, my swimming buddy, says home is where your beloved is. The Bearded One says home is where you don’t want to live anywhere else. Our younger daughter, the Nurse, says home is where her hair products and cat are.

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I climb into the dark truck. It starts right up and stays started. Monday it was with Ed at Kolohe Car Repair on 19th Street getting its fuel pump relay replaced. Hawaii is hard on cars. Lava cinders grind the tires down, salt water and vog eat the paint and feed the rust, and the roads are rough. “Just gonna rattle the truck to death,” says the Bearded One.

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On the other hand, it’s December and the weather is exquisite, in the 60s at night, low 70s during the days with sun rays and a trade wind breeze. These are the reasons we moved here 8 months ago.

I back out the pitch black driveway and swerve to avoid a pothole the size of a toilet. I think how Ed the Mechanic reminds me so much of Virge the Mechanic back in Washington, good guys who come to our house to pick us up since we have just one car. I don’t want to be in Washington, though, I think.

I feel tired as I drive through the dark. I weeded one of the pineapple patches earlier today while the Bearded One weed-whacked.

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I can only imagine him trying to stay up for me. It’ll be 10 before we’re in bed. This with a man who went to bed at 2-3am most nights for the first decade or so we were back together.  He shifted his clock for me.

I turn left onto Paradise Drive, past the piles of uprooted albizia trees from Tropical Storm Iselle back in August, and I’m halfway home.

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One of the other Game Night women behind me turns right toward Pahoa, where the lava flow has picked up again after stalling out last month. “The vog set off our smoke alarm last week,” she told us between game rounds and pupus refills. She shrugged and smiled – what can you do?

The lava river has split and is oozing more toward us now, but it’s still miles away. A slow motion, months-if-not-years event.

And the feral pigs. One of which, a small black hog the size of a golden retriever runs in front of the truck as I turn onto our road off of Paradise.

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The Three Twinkly Ones and the moon shine brightly above our house as I enter our driveway. It’s 9:40 and the Bearded One greets me at the door in his jammies – electric blue surfer boy pants. The house behind him is dark.

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“I’m so sorry I’m late,” I say. His eyelids droop sleepily and he mumbles something about being happy that I had fun as he shuffles toward the stairs.

“Here,” I say, “I brought you some pie. Maybe a few days’ worth.”

“Pie?” He looks at my outstretched hand.

“Apple.”

He perks up, takes the pie to the kitchen and turns on the light. There is our new microwave oven, the smallest available at Target, but still uses lots of watts. Carefully he microwaves the pie, and then sits down by the window under the universe of stars and eats it all. There’s no place like home.

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Clothesline Love

“Have you been sniffing stuff again?” he asks.

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It’s time to do laundry, and I have just announced this fact to the Bearded One, who manages to get absolutely filthy each and every day here. He’s been cleaning up Tropical Storm Iselle debris for three weeks, and has turned the project into rehabbing gardens and tending to the new bananas. Neat stacks of twigs, sticks, and branches dot the landscape now.

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“Of course I’ve been sniffing stuff,” I say. I sniff everything, it’s what I do. “You are out of T-shirts. We’re gonna have to do the laundry.”

He pauses and stares across the landscape.  His banana patch is taking off. “Tomorrow.”

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This is an offer of an actual plan, something he is loath to make, so I pounce. “Done.”

Until then, I will wash out my favorite top and lightweight cotton cropped pants and his favorite soft old underwear and hang them on our new clothesline. Which he rigged between two palms out front between the gate and the house.

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Our “simple” off-grid life is still pretty complicated at this point. The solar panels are installed but not yet hooked up to the inverter nor to the battery nor to wires in the house. So we use a small generator to run the water pump (toilet, sink, and shower water from the catchment tank), computer, printer, and fans. The fridge, stove and hot water heater are propane, and will stay propane. The big solar system generator is also propane. But our small generator is ethanol-free gas.

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Each week we haul in some combination of propane, gas, and drinking water, and will continue to even after we have the solar running.

Right now I’ve got to start the little generator so I can wash out the favorite clothes and get them on the line. It’s sunny and windy today, the perfect combination.

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I walk around the side of the house to the utility area where the new catchment tank sits. The bank of 4 solar batteries is still covered by plywood protecting them from Iselle. That’s also roughly where the Bearded One is pondering space for a movable washer and dryer.  On big dollies.

I head under the house and duck walk to the where the little red generator sits on its pallet.  I greet it, check its vitals (are the shims in place that tilt it just the way it likes?), turn the switch to On, plant my left foot on its side and pull the rope. Starts right up. Always a noisy relief.

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Lightweight clothes wash and wring out easily, but it’s still a lot of work. At least I have running water with the generator on. Clothes washers, in my opinion, are the best invention of mankind.

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I’d also like a dryer. Some days are just too wet and humid to dry anything, and I could run a dryer off the big generator. But I could also live without it. Lots of families do. Dryers take a lot of electricity, solar or otherwise generated.

Clotheslines are all over Hawaii. Colorful layers, odd combinations of people’s stuff, the overlap and flap of lives. I love our clothesline. So does the Bearded One. He comes over to help me hang the little tub of clothes. He kisses me from behind as I pin up my tissue thin orange top.

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I laugh and turn around and sniff his neck, a nice long snuffling sniff — he smells wonderful — then I kiss him back.  Laying it on the line.

Island Babe

Sweat beads on my upper lip. Then my entire face seems to break out in moisture, followed by my neck and the middle of my back. We moved from Olalla, Washington on the 47th parallel, to a tropical island on the 19th. We’ve lived in Hawaii 4 months now, 2 months in this house. I haven’t sweat like this in 35 years.

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“There’s mildew on my suitcase,” I say to the Bearded One, who sits on a folding chair beside the pile of solar panels in front of a fan in the dining room. When it’s hot, the secret is to sit still.

I’ve just come from the storage room where our friend worked this week on the new electric breaker box, and where all our clothes are stored, as well as the twin inflatable mattress that I just yesterday cleaned the bejesus out of. I did that while the guys – the Bearded One, our friend and our son – installed the solar framework on the roof.

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The plan is to put the panels up this week, weather permitting.

“Oh, there’s also a pile of suspect mainland clothing in the storage room,” I add. “We need to just chunk ‘em.” I look my sweetie in the eyeball. His instinct is to hoard. “We need to move them on.”

“What about when we go back to visit?” he protests.

“Wearing mildewy clothes?” I say.

“Good point.”

I’m still feeling a bit gritchy after the generator and water pump conked out last night and showers (or even spit baths!) seemed to become optional.

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The Bearded One got it working again, thank the Goddess of Generators. I’m all for natural, I tell him, but even birds take baths! I have standards, I say. We may be hippies, but we aren’t dirty hippies. I’m learning how to live in this climate with 130 inches of rain a year. Which lessons include no upholstery, no enclosed cabinets or storage, hang as many of your clothes as you can, and get wool futons for bedding. Wool doesn’t absorb the moisture. It’s full of natural lanolin.

“And then there’s all these new tops,” I say and point to six lightweight, brightly colored frocks my sister, the Goodwill Goddess, mailed this week.

“Fash-un show! Fash-un show!” chants the Bearded One, grinning from his folding chair.

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“Okay,” I say, a smile slowly spreading across my sweaty face, “as long as we sort your clothes, too.”

“Done.”

And so it begins, me parading around in feather-light cotton tops, mixing and matching with equally breezy bottoms. You need so few clothes here, really, I say, as the Bearded One heartily agrees. But it’s when his eyes twinkle and he tells me that he likes how I’ve gained some of my lost weight back that I start to have fun.

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I like the weight back, too, I say, and then add, “Your turn.”

He has no trouble jettisoning the pile of undershirts and three precious wool sweatshirts, or two of his three long-sleeved dressy shirts, or even two of his three pairs of jeans. It’s not until he gets to his stocking hat, dickie and gloves, the staples of his life for the past two decades, that he is stumped.

“What if we go hiking up on Mauna Kea?” he says.

I look at him. “A dickie?” I say.

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In the end, he puts them all in the give-away bag.

“I love to get to live with you,” he says, twinkling again. “You’re such an island babe.”

A drop of sweat drips from my nose, and I lick it off. “Yep.”

Ten Glugs

The Bearded One is all soaped up in the shower when the generator runs out of gas. I know because I am sitting by the lantern in kitchen with our son, His Majesty, and the electric fan stops. Then I hear the Bearded One whistle for help. “Oh no!” I cry. I spring into action.

This is a clear “Mom” overreaction to the generator stopping, and His Majesty lets me know. “Sheesh, Mom. Calm down.” He is yoga man, but he is also a naturally calm soul whose chill presence in the kitchen at Kalani has gotten him promoted to trainer already. He gets up and turns on his headlamp. “I’ll go fill it up.”

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“Thank you!!”

He pats me on the shoulder, says, “It’s okay, really,” and walks through the dining room, which no longer houses our inflatable bed, but is full of solar panels

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which we’d hoped to install today, but Tropical Storm Wali has been bearing down on us all week, the tin roof’s wet and too dangerous to walk on, and tonight the rain is supposed to be torrential.

The Bearded One has been preparing for the storm all week, including building a rain-proof box for the solar batteries. He loves storms. Lately, it’s just been hot and humid. The storm was due at 6pm. It’s 7:30 now. The Bearded One gave up and got into the shower.

I run to the bathroom to let him know help is on the way. I am a bit frantic, I admit. This week, on top of the storm preparations and the solar panel delivery, our tiny electrical system died, so we had no running water in the house for a couple of days until Tom told us how to hook the pump directly to the second generator. For those days, we hauled water from the decrepit old open catchment tank (new one due to be delivered this week) to flush the toilet

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and drove the 2 miles to Tom’s for a shower. I heated potable water on our propane stove for washing dishes. Living off-grid means learning your own infrastructure really well, hauling in drinking water (8+ pounds per gallon…), monitoring the propane supply, and the ethanol-free gas for the generator, and it’s still a bit overwhelming to me.

“How are you doing?” I ask my sudsy sweetie.

“Tell His Majesty that from the small gas can, the generator takes just ten glugs, and then it’s almost full.” His mind is still under the house, where he was juggling fuel cans and engines and electrical wiring all day with His Majesty while Tom installed the fourth window upstairs.

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I spent the afternoon cooking a spaghetti casserole while Tom’s dog Rufus watched me from the lanai and waited for the drippings.

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All of us took timeouts to check the radar on the computer to see how the storm was materializing. Up to 12 inches, some said, but it seemed to be dissipating. Still there was plenty of flood risk, which energized the Bearded One. Our house is kind of down in a hole.

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“Once the lava is saturated,” he said to me with absolute earnestness, “all hell will break loose!”

“Got it,” I say, race to the storage room window which is right above the generator, shout “Just 10 glugs!” His Majesty shouts, “Okay!” and the generator is going again in minutes. He comes in and we resume our conversation in front of the fan, which is a lifesaver with no breezes and humidity that turns cardboard limp as tissue. This is the tropics.

Rain drops begin to plunk and then pound on the tin roof. His Majesty’s eyes flicker under his headlamp and he smiles. “I love that sound,” he says.

“Here it comes!” shouts the Bearded One from the bathroom.

We laugh. “He is so funny,” I say.

His Majesty agrees. “His timing is great.” Then he gets his guitar and walks out to the dark lanai. It’s 7:40 and we’re heading to bed before too long. No TV, no lamps. The Bearded One sits on the lanai, too, listening to the rain and the guitar music and even plays some himself. It’s been a long time since he’s touched a guitar. I can feel his happiness.

When the rain stops, we listen to the ocean, which is extra loud, crashing into the lava cliffs of the Puna coast less than a mile away. “Concussive,” he says, giddy. “Want to go to the ocean? See if we can get blasted?”

I say to the boys, “Probably time to go shut down that generator. Save the gas.”

“Almost ready, my sweets,” says the Bearded One. “Just one more glug.”

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A Window of Opportunity

I climb out of the truck and reach for the house key on my key chain.  Which now has only one key, the truck key.  Oops.  I removed the house keys from both our key chains yesterday.

One of my jobs was sorting all of the keys, separating and labeling them for the new owner and it dawns on me that in the excitement of the Title Company’s call — “The papers are ready to sign!”

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— I’d grabbed only my truck key as had the Bearded One.  We are, for the first time since moving here seven years ago, locked out of the house.

“Call Kathi,” the Bearded One says, taking charge.  “I’ll look for an open window.”

“Roger,” I say.  I leave a harebrained message for Kathi the Realtor.  Her electronic realtor gizmo can open the official realtor box with a key inside.  Maybe she’s nearby.

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We hardly ever leave, I think, but for one reason or another we’ve left the house every day this week.  Garfield knows something’s up, possibly even that we’re all leaving soon.  He walks around the living room regularly inspecting his own cat carrier and luggage (he’s being adopted by my niece and her husband and 18 month old daughter) as well as the fascinating 4’x4’x4′ cube of stuff (mainly our tools) we are shipping to Hawaii.

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The Bearded One circles back around the house to report he’s found an open window, the downstairs bathroom, and he’s going to fetch a ladder from the barn.

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Kathi calls back and I explain and thank her for her willingness to come all the way from Tacoma (half hour) with the key to the key box, but we will get in, no problemo.

Meanwhile, the Bearded One is determined to save the day.  He props the ladder against the house, and heads up to climb in through the teeny window.

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“I am so much better than you at wiggling through tight places,” I say, and he takes this is as a challenge.  Yeah, right, his expression says.  We have a wee argument as I hold the ladder.

He carefully removes the screen and hands it down to me.  Then he slides open the window, examining the 9″x20″ opening and the toilet below.

I steady the ladder and watch as he leans sideways, angling his head and arms and chest through.  Then he drops his head down toward the toilet and all he has to do is get his hips through, and they will not go.

A sad state of affairs, and I am truly concerned that he not hurt himself, but, dang it, he was so insistent, and now….oh my lord….he is kicking his feet wildly, trying for purchase against empty space, stuck in the bathroom window 10 feet off the ground.

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I don’t make near enough effort to stifle my laughter.  The Bearded One is mad, but also contrite.  This apparently is a bit less humorous to him right at the moment.

We have helped each other in every way we can these past busy weeks, holding each other tenderly when we are both exhausted and a bit scared (me) and talking things through when we’re (me) grumpy with new computer stresses and playing out little disaster scenes in my head, and we are together and he is my heart and soul.

And here I am laughing at him.  I apologize.  He’s fine.  He grins.

“I thought I was skinnier than that window,” he says.

I wiggle through the window in seconds, drop down head first with one arm extended.  I couldn’t have done it without the toilet right there below the window, I explain later, modestly, after having saved the day.

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I crawl down the toilet onto the floor, slowly kneel then stand up, brush myself off and trot through the house to open the door.  “We’re in!” I say — if only for a few more days.

Falling Into My Lap

All weekend, Hansel reminds his dad about what will have to happen in order to actually get a puppy.  “If one falls into our lap, that’s what you said.  If it just falls right into our lap.”

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Hansel’s father is a fair man.  Their last dog, when they still lived next door to us, was a wild thing that got cancer at age 3 and had to be euthanized, so he is justifiably wary and put the issue — his three children’s deep and constant yearning for a puppy — into the realm of the Almighty.  “If one falls into our lap,” he had indeed told Hansel all autumn, and now it is January, and the Almighty has spoken.

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All week the Bearded One and I revel in the decision to move to Hawaii.  We take stock and clean out, things we might have done anyway after the New Year we tell ourselves, as if we haven’t really decided.

Never mind that we’ve talked to a realtor neighbor and have considered whether to include the goats to make it an already-stocked-farmlet, or to advertise the goats on Craigslist just like the ad we responded to two years ago.  Arly sniffs through the piles of files, boxes of art supplies, and bags of clothes, absorbing all the stories.  He shreds the Bearded One’s flop.

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“Are there Flop Trees in Hawaii?” the Bearded One asks me on Sunday night, and I laugh.

I’m on the couch and cuddling Arly’s solid little chesty 21-pound body, kissing his velvet ears.  He licks the lotion from my neck.

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Hawaii has a pet quarantine law of up to 120 days, which is four months, which is how long Arly has been alive on the planet.  Too long for a pup, so if we are really moving, finding a new home for him sooner rather than later seems the way to go.  Better for him.

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Garfield is seven, but since our idea is to rough it in Hawaii for a few months and explore, we need to re-home him as well.  On Friday I emailed Hansel, Gretel and Batman’s mom asking if they would like to adopt Arly.  And now, on Sunday, they’ve accepted.  This is our last night together, and I’m enjoying the best part of having raised this sweet puppy for two months.

*   *   *

Hansel, Gretel and Batman pile out of their car.

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Arly races to meet them.  Hansel crouches to pet the wiggling puppy.  Gretel presents me with a gift, a drawing of a chicken —

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— which matches the button she gave me the last time they were here, and which I’m wearing at this moment.  Gretel notices and smiles, showing her emerging two front teeth.  Batman clings to his mom, since Arly scratched him on the chin last time.

We all go inside to talk and get Arly’s luggage.  His favorite pillow, his bag of food and treats, bowl, leash, basket with shampoo and nail clippers, and a couple of our favorite dog picture books…Good Dog, Carl and Hideaway Puppy.

There are boxes everywhere, including one with oodles of office supplies — paints and markers and construction paper and tablets — and I offer the whole pile to the kids.  Seven-year-old Gretel beams.  “I always wanted a clipboard!” she says.  There are two clipboards, and Batman seizes the other one.

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Batman, too, has had a dream come true.  He smiles and says that Arly, who perches on Hansel’s lap on the couch, is better than last time.  Calmer.

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Hansel is in charge of Arly, and he takes him out on the road on the leash while we load all the puppy and art supplies into the car.  Then we help buckle Batman into his car seat.  Gretel climbs into the middle of the backseat and immediately continues work on a new chicken series on her clipboard.

Finally Hansel walks back into the driveway and offers Arly up for us to say good-bye.  I’m so happy for Arly — he’s been rather bored this week since Roger left — that I can hardly be sad.  I’m full to overflowing.  This is a giant step into the rip current taking us to Hawaii.

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All of the theoretical obstacles to a big move are falling like dominoes. The Bearded One grins, and pulls me to him.

Hansel gets into the car next to Gretel, his long legs cramped, his smile lighting up the world as he pulls Arly into his lap and says, “YESSSSS!”

The Trail at the End of the Road

“This is where I stopped,” says the Bearded One.  We’re on a large knoll, built up by the long-gone machinery, at some future turn on this new road a couple of miles from the farmlet.

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The continuation of this wilderness road, which appears to have been plowed out this past summer, is narrower and more choppy, but at least it’s dry.

“Is that a ravine in the distance?” he asks.

The land dips and I see a darker area at the far end of this rough dirt road which, as I study the route, winds through a meadow first and then past two enormous piles of stumps and branch debris.

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“Is it water?”  I am profoundly lost.  But I’m catching the Bearded One’s sweet enthusiasm for the discovery of a New World.  It feels good to be in this new landscape together and to literally not know what is on the horizon.  Where are we?

Our mile-long gravel road dead-ends into a trail through the woods which heads west and which is called Bear Trail.

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We’ve never left the trail.  We always follow it until it turns and heads off south to distant homes.  Yesterday, though, the Bearded One discovered this new road punched through the woods at the turn.  He realized he hadn’t been on this walk in months and was excited for the new sights.

Now the Bearded One comes in closer to my side as we approach the mysterious silver line.

The sky is overcast and we walk through mist and over tire-sized dirt clods of the recently churned up forest floor.  Large roots poke up like snakes.  The road goes on and on.

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Cedar needles rain down on the neon orange property line flags and blue spray-painted water lines.

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The Bearded One says this would be a great place to bring a new pup, and we talk about Corky, the dachshund mix we applied for, but not soon enough.  He was already adopted.

Mushrooms are under every tree, in every nook and cranny. Whites, creams, browns, and bright oranges and reds that the Indians used for dyes.

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This is a record-breaking year for mushrooms.  There are 5,000 kinds and around 50 are edible.

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Mycologists make the front page of the Kitsap Sun.

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“It’s a road!”  The Bearded One identifies the mystery and he isn’t disappointed.

“There’s a house in those woods,” I say and I pick my way across a raised track in the mud puddle we’ve encountered and hop down onto a paved road.  I can’t see another house or car or anything, just the distant outline of a blue house.  Neither of us knows where in the world we are.  We’ve walked farther than we thought.

“Let’s go this way.”  I head to the left where I can see the road curves.  Then I see mailboxes on the side of the road and a row of tidy homesteads with lots of barns and sheds on big lots.  Some have elaborate gardens.  There are RVs with charming built-on decks and awnings.  There are ship-shape mobile homes with lawn ornaments.  It’s about noon, though, and the entire place is deserted.  I can’t find a street sign.

And then out of the mist comes the mail truck.  It zooms up beside us, and our lovely, good-natured, fast-driving, crazy mail lady has a big grin on her face.  “Do you need me to give you a ride home?” she says, laughing at the sight of us.

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The Bearded One hoots and I giddily explain how we got here.  I point and describe.  The whole road project is news to her.

“Where are we?” I say, finally, distilling the entirety of my psyche and laying it before her.

“You,” she says, wide-eyed and hugely amused as she waves goodbye, “are in a trailer park!”

We have really stepped out, I think.  We’ve widened our territory and had loads of fun.  But — gracious — we’ve still got to make it back home.

Love, Lover, Glover — What’s in a Name?

Garfield crouches on the finished part of the new deck where he can see into the living room.  He watches me on the couch as I practice my four lines for our daughter’s wedding.

“Rumi was a much beloved 13th century Persian poet,” I say.  “Here are his words from 700 years ago.”  Lines one and two flawlessly delivered.

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The cat gives me an eye squeeze.  He’s all about love these days, with his dog pal Ruby dead two weeks now.  I look out past the cat at the sweet pea teepee which is going to seed.

Its deep purple blossoms, the same color as my party skirt, catch my attention.

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I blank on the third line, which is the actual quote.  Dangit.

*   *   *

My long purple hippie skirt sways as I walk our dirt road a quarter mile to a neighbor’s backyard party.  It rained the end of last week, so the dust is minimized. My feet stay nicely pebble-free in my sandals.  The Bearded One wears his Hawaiian shirt and clean picnic baseball cap.  He takes my hand.

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In my other hand I carry a gift bag for a 22-year-old headed to Marine boot camp in North Carolina tomorrow.  She can’t take anything with her except white underwear and a sports bra, so the jam and book (Transitions by William Bridges) are really for her parents.  Everyone on our road is in transition, it seems, so I ordered an extra book when I bought Momma Goose her copy.

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“I’m going to introduce myself today as Christi Glover,” I say to the Bearded One Glover, my husband since 1997, and smile big.  I made the decision to change my name this week, but no one but close family knows yet.

I kept Killien not only because the kids were young and we wanted them to have the same last name as their mom, but also for my children’s book writing career.  Now the kids are grown and getting married, and what I’m creating is different, so I’m marking it all with the third name of my life.  I was born Christi Marie Overturf, changed to Christi Overturf Killien in 1980, and now until the end, I think, I’m Christi Marie Glover.  I love the “lover” in the name.  It feels right.

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I’m nervous.  And excited.  And a bit giddy.  This feels like such a huge deal.  The Bearded One squeezes my hand again and again as we walk.  He kisses my palm.

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We stay at the party for an hour.  There are just a few people I don’t know, but I don’t get to use my new last name at all.  In fact, even though I’m still glowing, to the rest of humanity I can see that it’s really no big deal.  Which, I decide, is another good thing.

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Now I remember the quote part.  I get up from the couch and clear my throat.  The cat listens intently.

“Let yourself be silently drawn,

by the strange pull

of what you really love.

It will not lead you astray.”

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Boards and Bags

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“Mighty fine-lookin’ bean bags you got there,” says the Bearded One.  I’m sitting in the hut at my 1980 Singer sewing machine scowling at the Instruction Manual and trying to complete the simplest project — 8 regulation 6″x6″ Cornhole bags.  I look up.

Ever since the Bearded One proposed last week, he’s been flirting shamelessly — he calls it sinuendo — and I smile, because I’m not really irritated.  “Ha!” I say, and then he tromps up the half-finished new deck stairs into the house and I return to my bobbin problem.

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We’ve got a new project — construction of a horseshoe-esque lawn game called Cornhole, including 2 outdoor game boards and 8 bean bags, for our daughter’s wedding reception in less than two weeks.  Neither of us had ever heard of it before, and thought the name a bit sketchy, but it’s actually a real game and there’s even an American Cornhole Association, and we’ve been asked to make a set for use at the picnic reception.

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The Bearded One’s doing the boards and I’m doing the bags.  And even though I’m wrestling with this machine, it’s truly a minor glitch.  For some reason, we both have seized upon this project and thrown all else — deck construction, gardening, chain-sawing — to the wind.

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Garfield walks past the open hut door to get my attention.  Then he sits on the deck and looks out at the backyard, clearly thinking about Ruby, our late dog, who he would most certainly be pestering right now if she weren’t still dead.

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He returns to the hut doorway.  “Meeee — Owwwww?”  I keep explaining this to him.  Dead means gone forever.  Things are different, or at least more different than usual.  As if he can’t tell.  Ruby was his only other “animal” companion.  Gone.

I’m moving things around.  Like this sewing machine, which I haven’t used in eons.  I set it up out here, where all the deck action has been, around this 4-foot-diameter cedar tree which has a little lagoon between roots and where the hose waters it for hours.  It sounds like a fountain.

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I bought the machine brand new in 1981 and I’ve sewed curtains, window shades, Princess Diana-style 1980s skirts and jackets, and lots of children’s Halloween costumes including a buckskin suit and the famous Batman ensemble.

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Four of the Cornhole bags are cut from leftover buckskin scraps — polyester ultrasuade — and now I’m remembering how hard it was to sew this plushy stuff.  I have to wrestle it under the presser foot so that the little metal table beneath it rocks.  I made the buckskin suit in a little rental house 17 years ago.

The other four bags are denim from the hem of a forgotten skirt.  The officially correct cracked corn I’m filling them with is from our barn,

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where the Bearded One has cut and sanded and stained the two Cornhole boards, the same dark stain as the deck.

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“She’s dead,” I say, “and you are a sweet, sweet kitty.”  He licks his paw then walks away, down the deck steps and out across the dry lawn to inspect the lawn chairs the Bearded One set up for us to watch the meteor shower.  If it’s not cloudy.  Which it probably will be.  But maybe not.

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The screen door at the top of the deck opens and the Bearded One clomps back down the steps with a Coke.  He stops at the hut and peers in, inspects the two finished bags on the table again and raises his eyebrows.  “Yes sir, a matched pair if ever I saw one.”

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Ruby Slippers

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She lies in the woods just 100 feet from the house, under the crook of a young cedar which branches from an old nurse log. I can see her vertebrae she’s so thin.  The lumps on the side of her neck are thick and growing.  Her stomach rumbles very loudly, almost without end.  She woofs out air to clear her lungs.  Everything is going at once.  Besides that, she’s calm and serene and deeply tired.

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Two days ago Ruby entered this cave, after two weeks of not eating.  Yet still she breathes, and occasionally opens her brown eyes.  She’s an old dog and is dying and we are caring for her, but not trying to rescue her, and it’s hard. Planes rip across the dawn sky.  Coyotes scream in the night.  We visit often to stroke her bony head and rub her ears and paws.

*   *   *

“Where’s Ruby?” the Bearded One and I began to say to each other last week in greeting.  In the high weeds under the plum tree?  Behind the hut in the salal?  Under the house?

The Bearded One knows dogs.  He used to train sled dogs in Alaska, and he has had to put dogs down with a gun.

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If Ruby shows signs of pain or distress, I’ve asked him — after he offered and after studying the euthanizing options — to take her into our woods just off the nature trail where we’ve already dug her grave next to her brother Jake and shoot her with his gun.  She adores the Bearded One.  He is her person.  This is her home, and there’s no place like it.  He has agreed to this.

But neither of us believes it will come to that.  She is too far gone.  “She’s trying to ride it out,” he tells me, and I get an image of her galloping into the sunset.  In fact, the one thing Ruby seemed to enjoy this last week, before instinct pulled her under the log, was lying in the sun.

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*   *   *

Our daughter the nurse knows about dying from up close and knows how long it can take.  “She’s dying, but not dying fast enough,” she says.  I laugh at this raw truth and take a breath.  Dying is a process as consuming as marriage or divorce or graduation or any of life’s big transitions.

*   *   *

Saturday we helped our neighbor Brooklyn Man harvest his 53 meat chickens.

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Weasels killed all of ours, 58 total, in just two hours in broad daylight on June 29, but Brooklyn Man escaped the weasels and he gave us 10 birds as a thank you for helping with the 6 hour harvest.

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Momma Goose wasn’t there.  She’s in her own empty-nest transition to some new life and, fingers-crossed, a job with her brand new license driving truck.  Maybe a crane.

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Their son, Jonah, was there, his new golden wedding band twinkling in the sun.  He got married two weeks ago.

Our oldest daughter gets married in two-and-a-half weeks and I have finished the 235 half-pint jars of 4-berry jam she’s giving all the guests.  The Bearded One has about 70 labels to go.

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He also made the sign holders for the reception out of plum and alder and cedar cross-sections.  Earlier he finished the 9-foot arch under which she’ll take her vows.

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My reoccurring college nightmare forever, which thankfully I have just once or twice a year, is the Bearded One refusing to marry me.  I beg and beg and he won’t do it.  And of course I had it last week, on Thursday.  I woke up crying.  Weddings bring it back.

“Will you marry me?” the Bearded One whispers in my ear in the kitchen that afternoon.

Tears spurt from my eyes and drench my eyelashes, then my glasses, then drip down my cheeks onto my lips.  I click my heels together and say “Yes, yes, yes.”  So what if we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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*   *   *

Ruby died at about 6pm, August 6, 2013.

The Bearded One was with her at 5:30pm.  He held her close and sang her the Dogsology.  He put an ice cube to her parched lips.  We loved her and her litter mate Jake very very much.

 Born 2/23/2001 — Jake died November 17, 2009

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