Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Bus to Bellevue, Part Two

So I got off the #44 at 15th and Campus Parkway, in the U District, always an interesting place to wait. Two college-age women who looked kind of gorgeously Middle Eastern were waiting, one of them on the phone all the time, saying, "Mona this," and "Mona that." When the #271 arrived, they got on too. Another chat with Mona ensued.

It was a lovely autumn day, and I was glad not to be driving. I'm always glad not to be driving, but today it meant I could devote my full attention to the fall color. Over there on the Eastside, as we cyclists know, the roads are smooth and the potholes few. I hadn't realized, though, that the freeways are lovely. We traveled along roads where the meridians between streams of traffic are planted like mini-mixed forests, already beautiful in their youth. Years from now, I guess you won't see the other side at all.

At one intersection, I saw a pedestrian Stop signal, the raised, red hand, where somebody had carefully removed the lightbulbs that illuminate the middle finger, producing what I guess is the Trekkies' hand sign. Clever.

I'd like to read on the bus, I guess. On my usual short jaunts, there's too much to see. But 80 minutes! I'd brought along a New Yorker, but only the four minutes at the Bellevue Transit Center were dull enough for me to open it.

Speaking of dull, I guess this post is kind of dull. I probably need to say how Bellevue is like another country when you live on my side of Seattle, so think of it as a report on my recent vacation.

The Bus to Bellevue, Part One

I spent 80 minutes Tuesday getting to to Bellevue to meet a friend, who took me to Issaquah for lunch. The trip started well, on the #44. I sat down next to an elderly gentleman, and said hello. He was on his way to the dentist, he said ruefully, and I said, on the other hand, how lucky we are to have dentistry. He agreed. Then he pulled out a photo of a man in the cockpit of a single-engine airplane. Handwritten on it were a name, Bruce Stine, and the year, 1942, and "the Pacific." He whipped off his hat and turned so I could get a good look at him full-on. "Recognize that man?" he asked me.

So that was Bruce in 1942. I asked if he'd read Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand's superb bestseller about Olympic athlete and WWII hero Louis Zamperini. He hadn't. And he was there!

He told me his wife had gone to heaven five years ago, and then he pulled out a hand-done flyer on pink, with a few quotes I could relate to about how short life is, and how important, along with some Christian words about eternity. "Read this before you go to bed tonight," he said.

Altogether, the most pleasant proselytizing that's been aimed at me in a long time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Everything You Need

"Everything You Need is on hold for you at the Fremont Branch Library." So said the email.

Imagine my delight!

Unfortunately, it's just a book title.

But it's a start!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now You See It

When you're feeling blue, there are all kinds of stories you can tell yourself about why. I have the disability story, of course. And here's another: It's a good thing I'm so old, I say to myself, because at least I won't have too many more years of this increasingly impersonal digital world where everybody just stares into phonepads all the time instead of looking at each other and doing stuff.

I've changed my mind on this.

I read in the New York Times, a reference to a book on the science of attention. Once I got hold of Kathy Davidson's Now You See It, my attention was all hers. And I'm way less blue now about the future.

According to Davidson, the problem is not so much that we are distracted today, but that we mistakenly believe the human state is otherwise. But it's not true. Not only are dyslexia and ADHD rampant, but even people without diagnoses have runaway brains. If you're ever tried meditating, you know this. (It may be why you've tried meditating.)

And of course, there's too much to know. So with the combination of attention blindness -- we all see selectively -- and sheer quantity of info, we rarely see the same things and certainly not the same way. Luckily so, because it means more approaches to everything. And since we have this digital world, we have easy opportunities to pool our strengths and mitigate our attention deficits. Think Wikipedia, for example.

Davidson applies these ideas to schools and the way we learn, positing a new 3Rs: rigor, relevance, and relationships.

She talks about work, and how work as I knew it was a product of the shift from an agrarian to an industrial age. Going to a workplace, 8+ hours a day: there's nothing inherently right about it, nor was it inherently less disruptive than working from home with email dinging all the time. The exciting edge of how we work today does not lie in trying to fit computers into an old form, but in using them to open up collaboration beyond the constraints of time and geography.

And she talks about aging. Given that everyone has attention deficits, attitude is more important for collaboration than biological limits. Everybody has "senior moments;" it's just that seniors focus on them. Stop it, she says.

I feel better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goodbye to Mom

It was nearly a week ago I took Mom to the airport for her trip back to Menominee. She wanted to be at Sea-Tac by 10 am, and we were still playing Scrabble at 9:20. In the end, each brushed her teeth while the other played.

As I drove back home, alone, I was thankful for the opportunity, in sharing my little home, to practice kindness. Not just to be kind, but to practice, as in, doing something over and over until you get good at it. Of course, any novice would find Mom easy. As I said on our first morning together, as I was doing my usual whatever and Mom sat down on the couch with her book to read, "I love that you do that, Mom!" That she doesn't hover, but takes care of herself.

The kind of kindness I mean is really just patience, I guess, because I love speed and efficiency, and Mom can no longer move fast or hear well. I gave her my room, and took the sofabed; I decided to treat the twice-a-day bed-to-sofa-to-bed dance in the living room as meditation instead of tedious chore.

When I got home from the airport, I didn't want to put our game away, the board full of the words we'd made. For lunch, I mindfully ate the last of the squash soup with fresh ginger Mom had made. Her cloth napkin is still on the table.

That last morning, Mom said, "You'll be glad to get your house back; I know I always am." And it's true, and I still miss her.

I've had some blues this fall, as Mom knew. She came in my "hour of need." Single as I am, I wonder who will be there when Mom isn't?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mary and Mom Visit Orcas Island

I suggested to Mom this morning that we each take a few minutes to write about yesterday's trip, then share what we wrote.

What I Wrote:

The single sight most etched on my mind is the glittery Christmas-tree of an oil refinery on the edge of Anacortes, lit by the late, slanting sunshine into what I imagine a Chamber of Commerce postcard of Qatar must look like.

Yes, this image even more than the views of the San Juan Islands we had on Mt Constitution. Not at the tippy-top, however. There it was all cloud, no island views. And yet, as Mom described it, it seemed like Middle Earth, an amazing green of thick moss on the ground and the fallen tree trunks that opened up the woods to us.

The islands, though. Like the other few tourists, we pulled into mini-pullouts up and down the road that circles the mountain. Below the cloud, we could see what seemed like a vast archipelago between clumps of tall evergreens. And then, over there, another! and another, and another. So many islands. I forget this when I come, even when I take the ferry, unless I get myself up to a high point. Because most of the maps just show the big islands. Are there even names for all the small ones? Or did the namers finally slump over in exhaustion?

As to weather, we had occasional sunbreaks. You'd think Mom was a Northwesterner, the way she enjoyed "the sun" on the terrace at the Orcas Hotel -- that watery light strained through layers of cloud.

Here's something I love: When I travel with Mom, I get everything I want to eat, and not too much of anything. Except for our Orcas cappuccinos and our own cups of soup at Roses for lunch, we split everything: French ham and gruyere sandwich and a pot of tea at lunch, and a cranberry orange muffin with our afternoon coffees.

Ferrying back at 5:10, I proudly pulled out my travel knife and bread and apples and -- where was the white cheddar and Seastack cheese? Whoops. Home in the fridge.

Oh well.

What Mom Wrote:

When I arrived at Mary's, we talked about the weather. Today was the only day with a fairly promising forecast, but she questioned if I would want to immediately take off on a day-long jaunt to the San Juan Islands. I said I really wanted to go. Jean had been so enthusiastic in talking abut my getting to see that area.

I am so glad we went! The sun did come out. Maybe three quarters of the way up Mt Constitution, Mary made a startling turn across the highway at a curve (the road was all curves) into a pulloff and we got out. I got tears in my eyes at the splendid views.

Back up: the ferry ride was good, really good. I especially like when I am close enough to shore to see houses. I asked Mary if she wished she lived in wonderful places where she visited. I always do. I want lots of lives. I want to live in the farmhouse with the big dark brown sheep in the fields. I want to live in the sweet little towns with the good coffee shops, great restaurants (where I am the old lady who knows all the local lore). I want to be a parishioner at the white, shining Episcopal church. (I'm not so sure about all the sightseers trooping through my sanctuary.) 

The sun was out, pushing the clouds away and coloring them shades of lavender, as we sailed away. I was sleepy but couldn't sleep on the bench in the ferry lounge. I noticed what looked like a cozy cabin way up top of the ferry. I wanted to be the owner of that cabin and when all the pesky riders got off, I'd pull my beautiful boat into a quiet cove and settle by a window and read my book. 

Truly a God Day!*

*This is a reference to a phrase in a book we both read recently, Mr Golightly's Holiday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Preparing for Mom

My mom is coming to visit for a week, from Menominee, Michigan. She arrives today at 5:32 pm or so. I'm driving (!) to Sea-Tac to pick her up. Last year I rode the bus and the link to meet her, but I guess it wore her out. Maybe I'm in denial that she's 82. (For one thing, think how old that makes me!)

In my one-bedroom condo, Mom will get my room. I've changed the sheets and emptied a drawer for her. I've put a few changes of socks and underwear and my PJs in the drawers of the side table next to my sofa, where I'll be sleeping. I've brought my yoga mat out too, so I can do my stretching while she snoozes.

I'll be fixing spaghetti squash al pesto for dinner, though we don't know if she'll arrive hungry, or having eaten at the Chicago Airport. In any case, I saved us each a piece of birthday cake.

I'm staying relaxed about planning activities. I want badly to take her up to Anacortes for the San Juan views, but tomorrow may be the only decent day all week, and she just got off a plane.

Or she can come with me to my Antigone class at Lifetime Learning Center. I want to take her to lunch at The Tamarind Tree, since it's like a little trip to Vietnam (not that I would know).

I'll be taking her out for cappuccino, since she loves the coffee and the cafes. And I bought one of those foam-making doodahs at IKEA. I tried it out this morning: strong coffee in the old Braun drip pot, warm half a cup of milk in the microwave, then whip it up and pour in the coffee. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Starbucks Thing

Today at Herkimer, I read the paper. I read that Starbucks has a program where customers can give $5 to a loan fund for USA small business development and local entrepreneurs that create jobs. I wasn't reading this in a Starbucks, though I must say they always play better music. And I have my questions about whether this loan fund will really work. But I love that they're trying it. And $5? Even a cheapskate like me has to think, it's worth a try. I'm going to do it.

Jean Gonick

Okay, I admit it. I was a little hurt when my friend posted on Facebook that Jean Gonick is her favorite blogger. Even though I too love Jean Gonick, she doesn't write that often, and I'd lost track of her last couple of months' stuff. So I clicked on her site -- which you can do directly from my own blog -- see Failing at Life in "Blogs I Read."

I just spent half an hour catching up and laughing my head off.

She might be my favorite blogger too.

No wait. I'm sorry, but I just have to be my own favorite. I have to.

On 78th Street

Just to update you, it turns out it's not Achilles tendonitis. It's arthritis. They can't fix it -- or can they? Two weeks ago, they shot cortisone into the heel joint. I'm not pain-free, but yesterday I walked a mile to my car repair place, moseying through neighborhood streets and past residential gardens I'd lost track of in this painful summer. Then I walked back to get my car. And then last night I walked to the bus stop, and from there to Central Library, and then back home from the bus stop after hearing Russell Banks read from his new novel. (Which sounds wonderful.)

By the time I went to bed, I could feel my foot, but it wasn't awful.

And this morning, I decided to walk from the car detail place at 78th and Aurora, up to Greenwood and on home. It's probably around 40 blocks. My foot doesn't hurt yet.

It's funny. In June, when I couldn't walk to Markettime and back -- five blocks -- I was outraged. I had planned to continue my eight-mile city walks until I was 80. Now I'm thankful for any mile.

And especially thankful for 78th Street. It's one of those Phinney neighborhoods, and lots of the folks have planted burgeoning gardens in their front yards and parking strips. You can hardly see the house for the six-foot-high white Japanese anemones in one yard. Some of the homes are big, but I also saw a lot of the small cottages I love. Nice paint jobs. Quiet traffic, with roundabouts at every intersection. A pleasure.

I had decided to treat myself to coffee at Herkimer on Greenwood. I'm fond of this place, partly because they sell Macrina's cinnamon brioche slices, and partly because they don't take credit cards, which seems charmingly anachronistic.

Unfortunately, the music this morning was raucously of our era. I ordered my cafe latte from the nice man, who began to bounce along to the loud beat. I said, "Oh, I see you're enjoying this music which I was about to ask you to change to something more mellow."

"We've had mellow for the last four hours," he said. "I need to wake up."

"Thanks for the information," I said. "It's kind of like how One Bus Away makes you feel better about your bus being fifteen minutes late, just because you know what to expect."

I don't think he realized what faint praise that was.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eat, Drink, and Be Mary

"Will there be seconds, or do I need to nurse this along?" asked Sharon, one bite into the Coconut Cream Cheese Cake I'd made for my birthday celebration.

I had invited a few literary women to purchase and read a book of my choosing and come discuss it with me over birthday cake. What better way to celebrate my birthday?

I'm lucky to have such friends. These are busy women with jobs and their own writing to do, one in the throes of moving to Seattle. Sharon said last night she'd told a friend about my invitation, and the friend replied, "Are you going to do it?" Because it was a commitment. I told them if they didn't read the book, they couldn't come.

The book is Salley Vickers' Mr Golightly's Holiday, the story of a man my age who takes a cottage near Dartmoor for a few months to rework his once-great opus, now losing its appeal. And all that happens in his little village.

I won't give more away, but I will say my friends felt as I did, that it's funny, erudite, thought-provoking, full of poetry, and positive. Let me know what you think.

And I'm proud that, as a single woman, I didn't mope -- all alone -- and I didn't hope -- that someone would rescue me. I figured out exactly what would thrill me on my birthday, and I made it happen. Together with my friends who care enough to indulge me.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Lost Friend

As usual when I get home from a bike ride, I'm thinking of my lost bike buddy. He's possibly my favorite person to ride with ever. Not only are our paces so compatible that we don't even think about them, but also, as we ride, he's talking about the Iliad and the Odyssey and all the other classics he's embarked upon reading before he'll even open one of my favorite contemporary novels. When you get a flat, he has just the right combination of respect for your know-how and willingness to help. Like me, he doesn't mind a drizzle, and he'll share a cinnamon roll.

So where the heck is he? I don't think we've spoken since April. And I've tried. At first I'd leave a cheery message on his phone. Recently, I got kind of testy. Because if he's alive and well and just dumping me as a friend without a word of explanation, that makes me mad. And sad. Sometimes I miss him and other times I think, Who needs a friend like that anyway?

But what if something has happened to him? It's not like anyone would call me about it. We don't have friends in common, really. I even looked him up on the UW website, where he teaches. He's still listed.

I thought of him as I read a favorite blog recently, Time Goes By. Writer Ronni Bennett suggests bloggers follow her lead and prepare a post titled, "If You're Reading This, I'm Dead," and let your heirs know how to post it.

And just so one day you, dear reader, won't be feeling as I am today about my lost bike buddy, I'm going to write that post.

All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies