Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's finally happened. I've lost . . .

the beginning of a blog post. I know I started one before all this PowerPoint nonsense, (and by the way, I was absolutely brilliant at the VSRA conference in Richmond).

The blog post was going to be brilliant too. I'm sure of it, because I saved it so carefully, in such a safe place. You know those sorts of places, the spots where you store special things so you won't lose them and then can never find them again. Yeah, like that.

Brilliance, and the expectation thereof.  Or if not expectation, then at least hope. I don't know if it's the same for everyone. Perhaps a few of you non-A type personalities have managed to learn, somehow, to expect only what seems achievable.

Not me. I have never thought to myself, "Tonight I will make a perfectly adequate dinner that will fulfill everyone's needs." Or, "I think I will write a poem about that tree, and that deer, and it will be a good poem, one that will say what I want to say."

A friend sent my wife a wonderful book by Harry Roberts. Our friend had marked a place inside with a quote from Roberts:

"Today I have done the best I could with what I had to do it with today."

Today is March 17. St. Patrick’s Day. The Ides of March passed without incident. Basketball’ s March Madness is upon us. It still seems odd that the college basketball playoffs can go on without me sitting by my father, trying to understand this game he enjoyed so much. For a while there it seemed like every March my father had a health crisis, and at some point I was there with him and we were watching March madness.

Next week is the five-year anniversary of my father’s death. I will light 24 hour memorial candle in remembrance. I don’t really need the candle though. Not yet. He is still a presence in my life far more often than once a year. He comes to mind at unexpected times, for unexplained reasons. More than once lately it’s been because I wish I could’ve shared something with him.

My father did many things very well. He also did some things merely adequately, and yet he continued to do them because he enjoyed them. My father wanted to be a writer, and he ended up running a factory. In college he thought he’d be writing plays, but the closest he came to that was acting in community theater. He played golf his whole life yet rarely broke 100.

And yet, if you had to say one thing about my father’s life, I think it would be safe to say that he had a good time. Almost all of the time, regardless of what he was doing. And other people around him had a good time because of that.

My father did the best he could do with whatever he had to do it with (or make do with it) on just about every particular day.

Now that is brilliance.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Because, snow.

I've been out in California the last 10 days, managing to miss just about all of the worst snowstorms in my adopted home state of Virginia.  Our first big storm happened the week before we left, and barely cleared in time for us to leave. Then, the day after we left the massive snow dumps began (massive by our standards; sorry, New England).

The caretakers were snowed in up on the mountain, the house/dog sitter snowed in at our place in town. 
Clear driveway, repeat. And repeat.

The temperature was in the 60's in northern California and they were praying for rain, with none in sight. Feast or famine, drought or flood. What's worse, a dust bowl or a mud hole?

I miss snow on the mountain. I don't particularly like wading a mile through unplowed snow up and down the steep hill to where the car is parked.  I don't miss the power outages and the downed trees, or the 100 dollars per trip plowing bills and 600 dollar propane bills.  I really don't miss putting two wheels in the ditch and doing a "controlled" slide down the steepest part of the road, trying not to notice the nasty drop-off on my right.

I do miss the silence snow brings, the blanket of quiet and calm it wraps around the house. I miss knowing animals are circling just at the edge of the woods, and knowing this because I have seen their tracks. I miss imagining the shapes of these animals as I identify rabbit, skunk, deer, coyote, bobcat, and the wondering of where these creatures are going to or coming from.

I miss the sound the creek makes when it's almost frozen bank to bank but still running swiftly under its ice and snow blanket. I miss those first years when both Jesse dog and I were strong enough to enjoy those moonlit walks back up that unplowed road to the cabin after a night at the restaurant. 

I miss that dog, and I miss that woman who still had the strength to work a shift and then walk back to that cabin with that dog, towel dry us both off, build a fire and sit steaming before it.

In town the plows come by every couple of hours. We can pay someone to shovel our walk, clear off our cars and dig out the snow ridge the plow leaves across the drive. I can walk into town, or to the grocery store, in less time than it used to take me to walk down my driveway.

There’s the constant sound of those plows, and neighbors calling to each other as they shovel out. There are cars and trucks racing and sliding up and down our street the moment the snow stops. The only non-human tracks I see are those of the dogs in the fenced yard. A couple of blue jays and a cardinal are no match for a trio of red-tail hawks hunting in a slow circle above you

I may not miss that tree falling across the road, but I miss hearing it fall.