Spring and Stuff

I’ve been going round and round trying to decide what to write about this week. It’s been a mental musical chairs without music, chairs or much in my mind. The going in circles part, I’ve got down. I’ve been thinking about stuff, because it’s everywhere. I’ve been thinking about Spring, because it’s been elusive, since hitting the calendar last Saturday.

The “stuff” thing took centerstage in my mind (yes that scary place where I spend most of my time) when, while driving, I saw a homeless person pushing one overflowing grocery cart while pulling behind him, two more bound together by a heavy strap. It appeared burdensome. I thought, wow, even the homeless are weighed down by stuff. When my Dad died, and my siblings and I gathered to clean out our childhood home, there was a lot of stuff; my parents’ treasures. They had worked to collect those treasures, and we were left to work to dispose of the treasures. Rather than, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasures;” it was a case of “one man’s treasures are another man’s trash.” Stuff is ambiguously seductive.

So, what about Spring? It, too, is ambiguously seductive. My grandchildren and I spent the first full day of Spring pulling weeds from the rocks in my xeriscaped front yard. Weeds had popped up during the warm final days of Winter. By the fourth full day of Spring, Spring had donned her dominatrix outfit and whipped Albuquerque about the buttocks and back of the legs with branch limbs, ice and sometimes trees. Stuff (ha!, get the connection?) was everywhere. I hope the city’s homeless had enough stuff to keep themselves warm.

As I sat in my house, watching snow and my yard furniture swirl around my backyard, I created a community (I’ve been longing for community during the pandemic) in my mind (yeah, we’re back there again). In this community, people live in boxcars that surround an octagonal round house (there are eight boxcars). The people gather in the round house for meals and fellowship, and retire to the boxcars to sleep and engage in peaceful contemplation. There’s not a lot of space for stuff, but there are enough people to help each other when the weather or emotions make a mess. I hope all of the people are nice, sincere, honest and empathetic. The community will be a happier place if they are.

The sun is trying to come out. Life is good. I better go out in my yard and try to right my backyard furniture and gather and dispose of the felled branches. Life is good, but it ain’t easy.

Spring pansies plus small wind-blown branches.

Maximus Caticus

Max was a big cat. Friend Mayra reminded me of this, when she told me that her daughter remembered Max as “the biggest cat she had ever seen.” Max was NOT a gentle giant. He was a fierce hunter and fighter. Those were the traits that brought Max to our home. When our son and his wife brought home their first born, they asked us if we could bring home Max. Thus, began the establishment of what our son-in-law deemed our “cat retirement home.” Years later, one of their cats retired to our home.

Max was a big cat. Max was headmaster of The School of Unconditional Love of Cats. It was a tough school; like one of those English boarding schools where the headmaster beats the kids if he believes them to have misbehaved. The school had many rules. Max allowed three pet strokes. If you proceeded with a fourth, he drew blood from the offending hand. Max patrolled the hall leading from the living room to the bedrooms with the ferocity of a gang boss protecting his turf. Many a calf felt the incision of his incisors while, what Max interpreted as not-so-innocently, traversing his territory. We loved Max.

Max would lay down beside you, with his head on your arm, purring loudly (until you moved and then he would bite you – moving wasn’t allowed). Max was a huge believer in the adage, love hurts. Max was a big cat.

Max was followed by Gravity (Jessie and Neil’s cat – according to Jessie, she fell from the sky, hence the name Gravity), and now my beautiful rescue cat, Cinnamon. I was well trained by Max, and have loved each of these cats unconditionally. It’s a good thing, because each of them required unconditional love. I have been rewarded with love from each of them, along with an occasional bite. Love may hurt, but life and cats are good.

Headmaster Max
Big-boy Max

Let The Sun Shine

My mini daffodils persevered through the late February polar vortex to bloom in March. Way to go daffodils! March in New Mexico is a tease. It can be seventy degrees one day, and cold and snowy the next. I’m not sure which the daffodils prefer. I simply prefer the daffodils – rays of sunshine in my backyard.

Daffodils reflecting the sunshine.

I have a love/hate relationship with my backyard. I love the out-of-doors refuge that it provides. I even love the work it requires. I can’t say that it’s less expensive than a gym (yard maintenance can be very expensive, even when doing the work yourself), but it is a very rewarding way to get some exercise. I have severe allergies so working in it in the Spring requires lots of tissue and antihistamines (antihistamines make me grumpy, so I try to be a daffodil, and persevere without them). Backyards also invite mosquitos which then dine on the table of Jennie’s ankles. It is an unholy communion that irritates throughout the day and night.

I love to sit inside and plan my Spring backyard planting. It’s all so beautiful in my mind and my plan never includes allergies or mosquitos. My mind, like my backyard, vacillates between a beautiful place to visit and an uncomfortable scary place, even when there are no mosquitos.

My backyard houses my She Shed, a small pergola and deck, a labor-intensive saltillo-tiled patio and many memories. My backyard has evolved. There is currently much less grass than there was when we bought the house. Both the peach and mimosa trees were casualties of our home ownership. The yard now is home to many herbs, which I use to make herbal remedies, and flowers, which I use to make me smile, and a small patch of Bermuda grass which uses me to fulfill its sadistic goals of irritating skin, eyes, and nose.

My backyard has been the site of many gatherings of family and friends. Other times, I have sat alone on the deck and enjoyed the beauty and solitude of nature (until a mosquito buzzes by, and then I go inside). My Rosemary bush is beckoning. It likes to share its scent with me and its pollen with bees. It’s a nice Rosemary bush. My backyard and life are good.

Ticket to Ride

Phil and I both had passports that went unused. Mine expired before being used and Phil expired before using his. That was not very nice to him. I had gotten mine in 2008 when Wheel of Fortune still gave “a lucky wheelwatcher” the trip won in that night’s Prize Puzzle. Apparently, I was not a “lucky wheelwatcher” despite being a prepared-to-travel wheelwatcher. Phil had gotten his in hopes of riding his 1989 Harley Davidson ElectraGlide from New Mexico to Canada. He had ridden it up to Washington state, but had to stop at the Canadian border because he did not then have a passport. I got my passport in 2008 and it expired in 2018. Phil got his passport in 2018 and he expired in 2019. The international travel Wheel of Fortune never seemed to land on Phil or me.

Phil, happily riding his “bike.”

I have traveled domestically. While working in research, I traveled to cities all around the country to assist with clinical trial kick-offs. I loved getting to see my Country and would always try to see as much as possible at the different locations. While I’m always ready to rejoice in my retiree status, I remain extremely grateful for the travel opportunities I was afforded while working.

I do have an easily-renewed PBS Passport (a mere $75 annual donation) which allows me to stream the many wonderful and often exotically set programs they broadcast. I love to travel to the High Dells of Yorkshire while watching “All Creatures Great and Small.” I have seen the beauty of Corfu in Greece while watching “The Durrells in Corfu.” Like Zoom meetings, I don’t have any travel time and don’t need to be overly concerned about my appearance (with Zoom, from the shoulders down; however, in all honesty I look bad from the shoulders down no matter what I do and not much better from the shoulders up), but unlike Zoom meetings, there’s no social interaction. Being that I’m socially-awkward, it keeps me from reflecting badly on the United States, which is a good thing. My PBS Passport has allowed me to further my domestic travels also. I’ve rejoiced in, “The Black Church,” and further explored my local culture with my local PBS station’s program “Colores.” The PBS Passport has been great, because it allowed me to continue my virtual travel (local and abroad) during the pandemic. The Pandemic. THE PANDEMIC (this is a written echo – the pandemic is always ready to sneak in and reflect back into everything I do).

The pandemic… I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday. In three weeks, I hope to get my second dose. In my mind (oh no, we’re not going there again), this will be my pharmaceutical passport to leave my house for more than an hour or two at a time. Where will I go? How will I go? What will I do? Who will care for Cinnamon (who has with no intent at all, preserved my mental and emotional health over the past 12 months)? Thank you Pfizer, for re-introducing where, what, who and how into my life. Thank you PBS Passport for allowing me to see so much of the world’s beauty without leaving my sofa. United States Postal Service, hang in there. I may want to renew my passport one day. Life is good!