girl power

so this evening I was driving home from hours of rearranging my storage unit, and I am exhausted and hungry and really needing to hunker down and work…

I was less than 2 miles from my driveway and I passed a well-used pickup with Arizona plates sitting lopsided in the dirt on the side of my very windy road. Also sitting in the dirt are two middle-aged women.

I think, Arizona plates on an old pickup? They’ve got a long drive home.

Just wanting to make sure they were okay, I pulled over to see if they needed help and yes indeed, they did.

Flat tire. Broken jack.

I retrieved my gear from under Elvis’ seat and handed it over to to Rachel, the younger of the two sisters. Sarah, the elder, was busy limping (recent hip surgery) and dehydrated, neither of which stopped her from bending down and lifting up the truck herself.

It took some finagaling; we had to find a bunch of rocks to stack under the lift. Then we had to dig out a hole around the tire to make room to exchange the good for the bad. Super rocky soil and we dug with our finger nails.

I would like to point out that I have a reputation for having everything a girl might need in my truck. Hammer? Check.

Dog food? Check

Neck brace? Measuring tape? p-cord? corkscrew? dry erase markers? a selection of snacks? more tools? mascara? beach towel?

Yes to all of the above and so much more.

But, since I had just been on the river and then emptied my truck into storage, I had nothing useful, so when I stopped to help these gals, I had no gardening spade, entrenching tool, or work gloves, so we had to dig our rocks with our bare hands, while we lay in the dirt in the hot sun.

They’d been sitting on the side of the road for over an hour hoping for some help. I wanted to offer them some sustenance but the only thing I had available were the melted ghetto ice blocks I made out of old running bottles, and had just removed from my river cooler. I had no other water. None of my usual snack bars or chocolate. I pulled out a towel and some Meyer’s soap to clean up but then saw that the towel was covered in black grease so I was absolutely useless.

We got the tire changed. Gave ourselves a couple of pats on the back. Celebrated the power of three women putting their minds together.

We shook our heads and swore a bit about all of the cars that passed Sarah and Rachel, not stopping to see if they were okay.

I thought about why folks wouldn’t stop to offer aid. Too busy, in a hurry, didn’t notice, afraid of being murdered, can’t be bothered.

I don’t pick up hitchhikers, I avoid situations where I think kidnapping and torture could potentially be the outcome of stopping.

But seriously – two middle aged women, in broad daylight, plunked down in the dirt next to their turquoise dodge dakota, with a broken jack in hand?

Not really threatening.

So why wouldn’t anyone stop?

What happened to neighbors helping neighbors?

Sure, it was a bit of an inconvenience to me. I had to come home and shower the dust off of myself and my dinner was delayed by an hour. But think of their inconvenience.

We laughed. We talked about our kids. We commiserated about shopping in these bizarre times.

I showed them where my house is in case they ever run into trouble in the Canyon again.

Then they headed off to Many Farms and I made the short drive home with a smile on my face having had an unexpected adventure with two lovely ladies and wondering why no one, in over an hour, pulled over to assist these gals.

Everyone else missed out.

an emptiness in my heart; a hole in the community

I want to write about my friend, but am still totally reeling from the news of her passing so that I am not so sure about what to say, except,

I am really really sad.

And totally disbelieving.

How can such a huge presence suddenly vanish?

I went on the river with friends for a few days. Checked out from civilization, we floated in a news-free, politics-free bubble for 4 days. On the way out of the canyon we wondered, Are we at war? Is there still a global pandemic? Has the president been assassinated?

When you go off into the hinterlands and lose connection with all of connectivity, you never know what you might come back to.

Especially in 2020.

But as we drove back across the rez I had a fleeting thought, “Gail.”

And sure enough, she had taken her last breath just a few hours earlier.

There was an email waiting for me. I read it, continued to unpack, make dinner, shower.

Then the phone calls. The circle of friends who love her and therefore love each other; because she only brought the best into her world. Some calls last night, a few this morning.

Each of us shaking our heads in disbelief because how can she be gone. No one’s ever been able to get rid of her – once she loved you she stuck like glue.

I loved this woman. Loved her deeply and dearly.

We used to have long heartfelt discussions about who could go the longest without showering. She said one time when I walked in the door,

“Eight. Eight! Eight squirts of shampoo to get my hair to lather!”

Sometimes when I take my hair out of the elastic that’s been holding it in place for days, my hair spectacularly sticks straight up from my head, held motionless by its own grime.

I then take a photo of it and send it to my friend knowing that whatever she might be doing at the time, she will stop and laugh.

Last night after I cut out the rubber band and my hair didn’t budge I picked up the phone to take a photo and thought,

“Fuck.”

And that pretty much says it all.

Gail is gone.

Many of us are hurting.

No one else cares about my greasy hair.

FUCK

noncohabitation

I am in love: truly, madly, deeply.

We’re inching up on two years together.

And the question that I am most often asked – primarily by other women – often single women is,

“Are you going to move in together?”

The question doesn’t really surprise me but the reaction to my “No” response does.

“Why not?????”

“But you guys are so good together…

Don’t you want to take it to the next step?…

Don’t you want to create a life together?”

And the best: “He doesn’t want to? Is that okay with you?”

Let me address your concerns:

We are so good together because we don’t live together.

The next step, in my experience of cohabitating, would likely be a breakup. So no, I don’t want to take it to the next step.

We are creating a life together. That life doesn’t have to include bickering about how to put the toilet paper on the roll.

But doesn’t he want to? Well, frankly, no. But since when is it entirely up to him? And why would the assumption be that I am dying to live with him and I just wish he’d let me?

Which leads me to three things:

Questioning our society because the consensus seems to be that as a woman, I would naturally want to live with him, not alone. And that if I do live alone, it’s because my man made an executive decision that this lonely heart has to go along with, like it or not.

Questioning my reasoning for not wanting to live with him, or anyone else for that matter. Am I being a puss? Am I avoiding real depth in our relationship? Am I turning into a shrewish crazy cat lady (without the cats) who will spend her final days alone with her weird little dog?

Questioning why so many women (but, certainly not all) that I know feel that a relationship isn’t a success unless it looks more like a traditional marriage?

Here’s what I say to all of that…

I like being alone. It has taken years of struggle, pain, introspection, and “experience” to get to the point of truly relishing my own life, my own space, my independence.

I don’t want to fuck that up.

As it stands, I think this man is perfect. If I started finding his little beard hairs all over my toothbrush, I might not think so highly of him.

I don’t want to fuck that up either.

When we see each other, it’s always a date. We stop everything else and choose to be present with each other. No work, no housekeeping, no wandering into the other room to get some space.

We have sex every time we get together. Not spending every single night together, not scrubbing the toilet free of the other person’s morning eliminations, not staying up late working or watching television, not getting into a rut – not having these issues keeps us from getting into the habit of falling asleep with our backs to each other.

Certainly don’t want to fuck that up.

There are times when I want to skip the shower, let my armpit hairs erupt, eat cereal for dinner, smoke pot and veg, watch Bewitched at midnight, work at 2 am, and snore freely. And I want to do those things completely uninhibited.

I certainly don’t want interference. Or or a witness.

I’m haphazard in my interior design style. He’s tidy. I have plastic beaded curtains while he has original artwork.

‘Nough said.

We each pay our own rent. We pay our own bills. We clean our own toilets, do our own laundry, buy our own groceries, have our own routines.

We have routines and rituals together, but I have some of my own that I am not willing to give up that wouldn’t be as fulfilling if done in company.

Like painting my nails.

Writing.

Reading late into the night.

Watching Bridget Jones 223 times.

Girls nights.

Eating cookies in bed.

Rearranging the furniture.

Letting Elvis snuggle in my bed first thing in the morning.

And who wants to fight about closet space?

Am I avoiding reality? Avoiding really putting in the work to deepen our relationship? Avoiding conflict (without which there would be no growth)?

Nah. We’ve had plenty of challenges, tests, trials. Real things too – surgery, loss, children, moving, overwhelm. We’ve sailed through those things. We’ve got each other’s backs. We have been forced to communicate about awkward issues. We have been tested.

Sharing an underwear drawer is not the only way to grow.

I have a friend who is beautiful – stunning really – and smart and funny and just lovely. Divorced. Single mom. She wants so badly to have a partner in life. To her, a piece of that partnership is cohabitating.

She wants it so badly that she is willing to over-compromise, to look away from red flags, to try to force compatibility, to have her vision come to fruition.

She’s so amazing that it hurts me to watch.

I am so amazing that it would hurt me to over-compromise.

I might sound like I think that I am right on, that I think my way is the best, or only way.

I don’t.

I might even sound a bit cynical and disillusioned.

I am.

I used to listen to middle-aged women talk about independence and think, “She’s just trying to comfort herself in the face of failed reltionships and singlehood.”

Now I understand that it is through failed relationships and hardship and forced independence that many of these women have developed the strength and self-awareness to have reached the conclusion that no, they don’t want to give up that freedom.

I admire these women.

24/7 togetherness does not a successful relationship make.

Not necessarily.

Not for me.

going back home

Just yesterday we were unexpectedly invited to go on a river trip with a couple of TAM’s friends.

The river?

The mighty Upper San Juan.

Ho Hum, many a seasoned boater will yawn.

It’s not Cataract or the Lower Dolores or The Grand. There are 3 rapids in 27 miles and at this super low water level, we will be able to run those rapids without even being aware of them.

This stretch of water is not remote; the put-in is an hour of paved road driving from my house. The river corridor parallels the highway. You can check your email from almost every camp along the way.

I don’t do that. Kind of defeats the purpose of “getting away.”

There are no massive cliff walls or dripping springs or wild horses.

And yet, with all of those things not going for the San Juan River, it is the place that tugs at my soul unlike any other.

I haven’t spent a ton of time boating in the last few years – not like I used to, especially when my kids were young. And it’s been years since I’ve floated my home river.

My friends, K, K, Dodo – we ran laps aboard rafts, sometimes one weekend after another. We were on a first name basis with the oxygen sucking woman at the permit office and the sexy, charming river ranger, who was married to a woman who felt the same way as I do about the gift of 500 cfs in the middle of the desert. She wrote about it, sang its praises, put words to the feelings evoked by the quiet meanderings of silt washed down from the red cliff walls. We became friends, bonding over shared emotions stirred by the existence of a teradactyl-like blue heron guiding a boat downstream.

This is the river that raised my children. They joyously ran naked along these beaches with their friends, forming lasting relationships with other feral children and with this river, canyon, landscape.

We’ve camped on the banks of the San Juan more often than any other single place. Boating or car camping, the sand, the cottonwoods, the geese, the ravens, the sound of subaqueous rocks shifting with the current – these are the elements that have given my children and me a sense of place.

The silty water, the shady trees, the quietude, combined with the easy access to a locale just an hour from my house, have given me an escape when the world has been too harsh for me to endure.

My family has built forever-friendships here. My children have hunted for plastic eggs filled with rocks and flowers left by The Spring Bunny in the crevices of limestone in the sinewy Perched Meander. We have hunkered down in our tents for days on end waiting out snow storms playing Mad Libs and drinking Fresca, the river treat of choice.

My friendships – the three most valued of my adult life – were, if not formed, then certainly solidified, on this corridor of water, surrounded by layers of red and ochre and buff. We have shed tears, laughs, and tequila on the shoreline.

After the divorce, I ceremoniously tossed my wedding band into the depths. Perhaps some child will catch a catfish and find treasure in its belly.

In the midst of a nervous breakdown, the only place where I could find solace, the few times I found any peace, was a beach, with a ginourmous cottonwood and a cliff wall loaded with ravens’ nests and bullet holes; a place where my sorrows and instability washed downstream leaving me drained but sane.

This is where I want my ashes to go when I die.

I’m rowing MY boat. The boat that I won in the divorce. I gave up a lot of other things in the process, including the power tools and my marbles, but I was determined to get the raft.

That and my children.

My boat. My river. My place.

Peace. Joy. Contentment

I said to my son, the river guide that has traveled many a liquid mile across the deserts of the Southwest, “It feels like home.”

He said, “That’s such a good way of describing it, Mom. It is home.”

My excitement about returning brings tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart.

someone always knows something

The “beauty” of living in a small town is that whoever you are, whatever you present about yourself to the public, someone knows something about you that you might not want the world to think about every time they see you.

The problem with having been one of the town confidantes is that I’ve heard a lot of those secrets about people whom I often see.

And since I know those things, I can’t help but think about them when I run into that person.

And sometimes I wish I didn’t know these things; sometimes these tidbits of knowledge make me think less of that person.

Maybe to the point of not liking them. At all.

Here are a few that I wish I could un-hear:

He’s cute but worst sex EVER.

She had a foursome that included a dog.

He hits her.

She hits him.

He cheated on his wife with her.

She loves anal sex and he has a GIANT…

She is bat. shit. crazy.

They never paid him for work he did on their house and now they’ve ghosted him.

She drowns skunks.

She sends racist cartoons to her friends.

He drinks himself into a stupor every single night.

She slept with a high schooler.

His idea of pillow talk is about how much he misses his ex.

She sends nude photos to the married men in town.

He took nude photos of children.

He shoots mountain lions for sport.

She’s having an affair.

He drunkenly propositioned his best friend’s wife.

She doesn’t wash her hands after using the restroom.

He votes for the other side.

She pees in the groover.

so much to say and nothing to say

So I’m down here in Trump Country. Covid Country. Florida.

I was nervous to come down here – one, because of traveling and the virus, but two, I was anticipating that the hostility and polarization about masks would be a thousand times more blatant here, in a state such as this, than in my home town.

I was totally wrong. I feel 1,000 times safer in terms of my health down here in the hotspot. Everyone just wears a mask. Period. I also feel safer emotionally here because folks are just doing their thing and not getting up in each others’ business about being sheeple or rednecks or anything in-between.

My experience so far is that folks are respectfully keeping their distance. Most businesses are mandating masks and I haven’t yet heard a single complaint – even from some of the people who I know that think the whole Covid thing is a hoax.

I’ve barely seen a set of teeth since I’ve arrived and I’ve witnessed zero hostility.

When at home, I feel angst every time I go to town because people aren’t being all that nice to each other.

So I was going to write about that tonight. But then, I got on Facebook and as I scrolled through I came across a conversation within my community regarding signage at the weekly Black Lives Matter peaceful protest. The same protest that is being protested by another group, another faction of my small town.

The conversation, on the surface, was “an open discussion” starting with sentences like, “I’m curious,” but no matter how it was framed, my takeaway was that it’s another case of white people criticizing other white people for their approach to the racial issues at hand. What I heard was, “Your sign isn’t good enough; it’s too watered down.”

(Paraphrasing)

And it makes me really sad.

For one, I really like the sign, I like the message, “Human. Kind. Be Both.”

To me it takes the issue to the most basic terms – be a fucking kind person – to everyone.

Criticizing the message isn’t being kind. If I was the person(s) that attended the peaceful protest with the sign, I’d be sorely tempted to not go back.

My point here is NOT to get into a debate about signs or messages or the protests or racial injustice or any of it. My point is that my community isn’t practicing kindness towards one another and that I don’t like what it’s doing to my sanity.

Here I sit in a place I dreaded to visit and I remarked to my mother today, “I’d much rather go your grocery store than mine right now.”

How sad is that?

Recently I have written a couple of posts on the subject of the self-righteous. After the last one, I sat and thought long and hard about my words and my motives. I realized that I too was being self-righteous, in an I’m-not-pointing-fingers-but actually-I-really-am sort of way.

I didn’t like what was going on in my head and what was streaming from my brain to my pen. I felt kind of gross. So I chose to write about my mother, someone who I greatly admire, instead.

I’ve taken a deep look at my motives and reactions. I’ve tried to take a look at myself and where I’m being judgmental and or hypocritical. Where I am being ugly.

I had vowed not to engage in any more social media debates, and yet, here I am, all fired up, wanting to tell everyone where they are wrong. I didn’t jump in on tonight’s conversation even though I had 42 perfect responses for every comment in the discussion.

And I’m finished with that. I don’t like what all of this has been doing to my psyche and I really don’t like what it’s doing to the collective psyche of my community.

Think about it – I am here in what I thought might feel like enemy territory, in the South, and I am relieved that I’m getting a break from my home turf. How heartbreaking is that?

So I can’t change what is happening in my world, but I can change how I deal with it.

Unfortunately, for the moment, that means creating more space, distancing myself from this place that has been my home for almost 25 years because I am grinding my teeth and constantly on edge. I am having unpleasant thoughts about my neighbors, and I don’t feel 100% safe.

Sadsadsadsadsad.

I understand that tensions are high. I understand that really well-meaning people are trying to make monumental changes in the world and are all figuring this out as we go along. I understand that when people are on edge, sometimes they don’t always treat each other with respect and kindness.

But as I find myself succumbing to my negative and judgmental thoughts and feelings, I realize that it’s not healthy for me or for my community. I am going to take a step back.

I’m not really sure exactly what the will look like, but I can figure that out while I am safely and gratefully all the way across the county.

 

 

flying tomorrow

Florida

Trump state

In the middle of hurricane season

In the middle of a global pandemic

To move my 83-year-old, legally blind mother, a grieving widow, out of the house she and my dad shared, into, no, not assisted living, but a condo which she just bought and remodeled.

In the middle of a pandemic

In the middle of hurricane season

She’s badass

growing up

I have found that the longer I live in this tranquil little canyon, the edgier I am becoming when I have to go to town and be around people. I can feel it as soon as I hit the stoplight at the mouth of the canyon and turn north towards civilization.

I immediately begin to calculate how long it will be before I will return home. I begin to move things off the day’s to-do list so I can head back west sooner.

Part of the resistance to joining the world stems from what is here, at my home. I have peace and solitude and beauty and quiet and dark nights and calm and birds. Why would I want to leave here, ever?

And part of the resistance is due to what’s out there, in civilization.

Noise, lights, exhaust smoke, crabby people in masks, angry people without them, a virus.

The Saturday morning Trump Parade that I always forget about until I get stuck in between confederate flags on 666. That really fucks up my day.

And then another thing that I don’t see coming that happens all too frequently, like this morning…

I’m on my way to a meeting and I stop at the coffee shop. Park. Open door. Walk 10 steps and,

“Hi HDD. How are you? I heard that (MXB)…”

2 1/2 seconds later, someone else asks me about him also.

It’s been three years. I am totally in love with an incredible man. I have a new job. A new home. A new life. Three kids. A dog.

ASK ME ABOUT SOMETHING THAT I MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN DISCUSSING.

For Fuck’s sake. I don’t want to talk about him, Why would you even bring it up?

There’s the fact that it’s been three years and we’ve both moved on. There is also the fact that his name doesn’t bring up fond memories. It’s quite painful, actually.

I spend the rest of the day irritated that people felt the need to bring up his name to me. I’m completely baffled about why anyone would think it’s a welcome topic. And, I’m totally on edge because I’m all triggered and reliving shitty times.

In the midst of this I realize that I was suffocating in town. When I told myself that It was so far in the past that no one was even thinking about it anymore, I was wrong. People still connect us – obviously.

I don’t want to continue being “HDD that used to go out with MXB.” And I think I knew instinctively that I’d never be able to shed that identity if I were to continue leading the life that I was leading when our lives were intertwined.

I had to unravel all of it.

As I drive west, back towards my refuge, the pissiness begins to wear off. I shed the angst and take in lungfuls of air. I’m thrilled to be distancing myself. Overjoyed that I made the choice to fly the coop.

 

 

Peaches anyone?

Weird experience today and I could use some help understanding.

Often, when I am finished at the grocery store, I will share my bounty with one of the homeless (I am assuming) folks sitting at the parking lot exit with signs saying “anything helps”, or something along those lines.

I’m even more likely to do it if there is a yummy treat in my bags; a cold bottle of lemonade or a doughnut, even a roasted chicken once.

Today I had fresh, juicy, Colorado peaches.

I was loading my groceries into my truck and I looked over at the woman with a sign and looked at the bag of peaches in my hand and thought, “Wow, I bet she’d enjoy these more than I would.”

So I walked over with the bag and as I approached her,  before I even got very close,  she began to shake her head and said, “Nope. No. No.”

I said, “Are you sure? They’re…”

“No.”

She was adamant.

Then she softened and said, “No thank you.”

I walked away and got in my car, looking at the rejected fruit and wondered…

Did I unwittingly do something offensive?

I didn’t get a look at her entire sign but I did see the word “cash.”

I’ve never run into this before and the last thing I want to do is piss someone off because I’ve mishandled the situation.

Are people more unwilling to take food because of the pandemic?

Is it insulting to hand someone food when all they want is cash?

Does anyone have any insight?

On the way home I pulled a dead fox out of the road and tossed it to the turkey vultures…

I had to feed someone today.