In February, we went to visit my darling oldest niece, who was studying in Madrid at the time. I have traveled a good bit, but not very often to Spain, and not anywhere since the pandemic started. So, to say I was over the moon to travel to Europe, especially to see my niece, was the understatement of the year. She spent significant time with us, despite her ongoing studies, and even stayed with us one night on the rollaway bed in our hotel room.
The next morning, we set off for the smaller city of Toledo to take a guided tour. Off we went, down in the teeny tiny elevator to the lobby and the front desk.
“Buenas Noches,” I started to the woman behind the desk. My niece looked me querulously.
Oops (Apparently Buenas Noches means “Good night”).
Summer is upon us. I look out the window at mid-day while working from home and it just looks hot. The lilies are blooming now at the “little house” and the cattle across the road huddle in the shade of the bordering trees. Yesterday the neighbor’s chickens were in the driveway again, making themselves at home. It’s idyllic here and I love this spot on the earth.
This week I thought a lot about memories — and how they can be so wonderful and at the same time so painful. For some reason the summer, or maybe it’s the change of seasons, does it to me. I remember those white, cotton curtains at the parsonage where I grew up in Oak Ridge, New Jersey. They used to blow in the summer breeze. I remember my father’s whistle on the stairs. And now, years later, I dream of cadets in grey marching on a steamy, hot, grassy Plain at the Military Academy. I’m back at West Point. It is the start of the new academic year. I’m late for formation and I can’t find my uniform. It’s the same every time and I wake up with a start. Nothing is as vivid as those memories.
2022. Two thousand twenty two. Hopefully it’s the year where we finally perfect a process around managing Covid and assume life as we once knew it. As Omicron persists, I wish I could plan a trip, or even a day at a museum. I love to go to the Yale University Art Gallery, located in New Haven, CT — or to the overwhelming and fabulous Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Walking through those spaces, ideas come to me for writing and for my own pieces of art. These experiences feed my soul.
In late August, our travels took us up to Belfast, Maine with an Airstream trailer in tow. MyUPSGuy has always wanted a “silver bullet.” We’ve been a couple of times to visit the Airstream dealership in New Jersey, and we talk about “one day,” but to afford one is, well, quite something.
But … the good news is … you can rent them!
So we did just that, took a week off, and made our way up the east coast to Maine. Belfast is a small town north of Freeport, right on the coast and beautiful. We love it. This is our third time visiting this lovely town, which is full of boiling lobster pots, seasoned mariners and the occasional bald eagle resting on the rocks.
On our last day in Belfast, we opted to poke around in some antique shops and junk barns and it wasn’t long before we came across what we felt was a “good find.” At Hobby Horse Antiques Marketplace, chock full of antiques large and small, sun-bleached moose antlers, old bottles, antique tobacco containers and the like, was … wait for it … an explosives detonator.
Now I don’t think either of us woke up in the little tin can that day thinking that we would go buy a detonator, but it was just a unique piece. The shop’s owner shared openly what she had paid for it, could see we were extremely interested and made us a gracious offer that couldn’t be beat. The credit card went down on the counter, MyUPSGuy picked up the wooden box, and off we went. He then surfed the internet to find a wooden dynamite box to sit next to the detonator on the fireplace hearth while holding … the dog toys.
When I was a young cadet at West Point, nearly thirty years ago, I brought my creativity and artistic nature to a vast sea of military conformity. Now don’t misunderstand me. “Sameness” is a part of essential military discipline. Soldiers are dressed the same, learn the same tactical skills, sleep in rooms that look the same, and so forth. This is part of what it means to be in the Army – to keep up the discipline and consistency that serves us well on the field of battle. But amidst that conformity in the summer of 1988, I was a yearling (2nd year student) at West Point and opted to carry in my right ammunition pouch a toothbrush and toothpaste … and a pair of scissors.
Now the vogue Army way of cutting anything is with a buck knife, preferably of a large and intimidating size that will serve a myriad of purposes and perhaps save your life in a myriad of ways. And knives are good and fine, but I just found that those scissors were … so … darned … handy.
This might not seem like a big deal… and frankly I didn’t think it was a big deal either, but afterwards?
Let me explain.
I have very thick hair. For years, I’ve worn it long, to the middle of my back. And it was lovely. But the little house’s hot water tank holds only 15 gallons of hot water (A regular household hot water heater holds more like forty)! To wash my hair in fifteen gallons of water was a project. Every time. And I hated it.
After a year of this nonsense, I went to Meghan, my wonderful friend at Ricci’s Salon in Newtown, CT, and said, “That’s it. Cut it off.”
Big chunks of hair fell to the floor and I felt… oddly relieved.
It started with a conversation about my husband’s long tenure at UPS… and over time it evolved into a discussion about owning an RV.
This December, MyUPSGuy will have racked up 31 years in brown. Unbelievably, he started as “holiday help” many years ago, sorting packages at the age of 24. He was hired that year, and drove the familiar square, brown package truck for the next twelve years, often hitting the road with dog biscuits in his pocket for the many furry friends that would come and greet him along the way (If you haven’t seen the hilarious Facebook page with UPS dogs, give it a try at: https://www.facebook.com/upsdogs/).
Since his days as a “package driver,” my husband has been driving a tractor trailer for the company. He’s made a great life for us, but like anything there are pros and cons. With many 60-hour weeks, particularly around the holidays, MyUPSGuy has had many stretches of time with little time off and little time to do much else except be uniformed in brown.
I took in the scene in the front yard. A large, black cow stood about 20 feet away and simply raised her head to gaze back to me… and then resumed grazing next to our snowball bush.
I called to MyUPSGuy, “There’s a cow in the front yard.”
“Yes, and I have to go to the hair salon, so I guess you’ll have to walk over to the farm to tell them to come get their… steer,” I said, looking at 800-pounds of bovine creature-ness now grazing happily under the crabapple tree. I mean, what cow doesn’t want to have someone’s front yard all to themselves?
With temps in the 70’s this past Saturday, I hoped that Spring was upon us, and yet, here in Connecticut, it has been rainy and cold all this week, still feeling a bit like winter. Sigh.
Spring can’t come soon enough. And with this time of year comes spring cleanup. Like any relatively rural setting, the small yard of the little house is full of downed branches, broken limbs, leaves, and brush. Underneath the brush, small green, living things are poking out, waiting patiently to make a big entrance. It is time for the rebirth to happen, and what a joy to watch it unfold.
But the newness of the earth can’t happen without loss. Watching everything go dormant in November is a stark reminder that things begin… and they end. And you can probably see where I’m headed… that the end is sometimes gloomy for all who must weather the snow and barren landscapes.
Two heads popped up from the edge of the air mattress.
“Good morning!” I said.
Our dear friends, Juan and Kate, were staying with us. This was our first foray into having house guests and we weren’t sure that the little house, with its 660 square feet, could accommodate more than two people overnight. But we definitely wanted to give it a shot.