Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Last night I took Ruby for her walk after dinner, as the sun was going down.   As my feet wandered the paths we usually follow, my mind wandered its own paths.

What was uppermost in my mind at the beginning of our perambulation was the delightful repast I had just enjoyed.   Our patch of leeks is just now coming into its own, so Jim pulled a few and made a rather wonderful dish that involves braising the leeks in wine with herbs, adding chopped up prosciutto to that, and tossing it with pasta.   Since we have entered so deeply into the slow food movement, we not only grow a lot of what we eat (which is the epitome of slowness, really), but we no longer buy noodles and pasta.   Jim made some lovely fresh noodles for the pasta part of the dish.   It was positively delicious, and probably quite good for us too.

So my mind wandered over to the leek patch as I walked along.  I mused on the irony of leeks, so easy to grow really.   Leeks are a crop that is reputed to be a cool weather staple, capable of waiting for your attentions out in the garden during the cold of winter.   And yet, apparently, they are totally heat and drought hardy as well, for while our leeks do have a lot of burned leaf tips on the outside of the plants, the inner parts are as green and tender and succulent as anyone could desire from a leek.

Ah, I notice a spot of unnatural blue on the path ahead of me.   It turns out to be the label from a plastic water bottle and I note to myself in passing that no doubt I shall find the water bottle discarded up ahead sometime during my walk.   I pick it up, and a cigarette butt that rests nearby, and continue on my way.   I wonder about the people who so casually defile the home of the wild creatures I hear about me.  An armadillo rustles busily off to my right, just over the edge of the slope into the sinkhole.   When the leaves fall and there has been a frost, I will have to go down in there and pick up the trash that has blown into the depression during the summer.

A red tail hawk rasps out its high wailing call above me, and this brings to mind the visitor we had during our breakfast.   We were sitting at the table enjoying the applesauce pancakes I had made, when all the little birds in the yard disappeared into thin air as a large bird landed on the fence.   It was an immature red tailed hawk, still in its youthful plumage with barred tail and speckled breast.   It looked about, seeming almost confused.   But it wasn’t.  It was looking at the bird bath, and after a suitable period for checking the area for threats and planning its landing pattern, it swooped down to the basin full of water.

You know, my birdbath is not really a small bath, there is plenty of room for two or three grackles to bathe in a gang, several dozen bees can drink from the rim at once, half a dozen finches have plenty of room to share the rim.   Suddenly, the bird bath looked very small indeed.   The hawk contemplated the water surface for a while, then hopped down into the water.    The area was too constrained for the bath it clearly desired, and after it had been soaking its feet for a few moments, a cheeky cardinal landed in the elm tree above it and started scolding it from the safety of the stockade of branches.   The hawk gave up on the idea of ablutions and  flew off, back over the fence and into the field behind us.

As I continued walking, I wondered how big a basin a hawk like that would like for a good bath.   I thought perhaps a kiddie wading pool might be just the right size.  Would it want it raised above the ground the way the little birds like their baths?   Or would a pool built into the ground be okay?    I want a fountain associated with the pergola; a proper hawk sized bird bath could be incorporated into that plan.

I rounded the corner of the path towards the back of the conservation area, and sure enough, the empty water bottle that belongs to the label I found earlier was lying there.   I pick it up, and remove the lid.    The light plastic rolls neatly into a tiny bundle, I replace the lid and put it in my pocket along with the label, wondering why some people find a full water bottle so easy to carry but not one that is empty.

My mind churned on as I watched the sun sink slowly down to the horizon.  There were no clouds to interfere with the colors it was producing.   First the sky was a pure lemon color, then it faded to apricot.   Later on a peachy hue emerged, quickly brightening to tangerine and finally as the sun went down it turned the brilliant red of a blood orange.    Odd, I thought to myself, how all my colors seemed to be associated with fruit today.

I was watching the nearly full moon at the same time I was watching the sun set.    It is the second full moon of the month, so it will be a “blue moon”.   Far from looking blue, it almost seemed to be reflecting back the sunset colors, looking almost apricot to me.   I thought about the article I read about visual perception, rods and cones, and how at the peripheral vision you can really only perceive black and white but your brain fills in the colors it “knows” are supposed to be there.    I framed the moon away from all the other information with my hands, and suddenly I could see it again as it truly was, white/silver and serene in the sky, slowly brightening as the day light faded.

A movement high in the sky near the moon caught my eye.   A red tail hawk hovered in the thermal, fluttering its wings gently to hold position as it surveyed the field below, hoping for an unwary rabbit or a meadow vole to round out the day’s hunt.   I stopped and watched.   A bat flew past, early riser.   I hoped perhaps the great horned owl would join it, but she didn’t.  The night jars soared and dipped over the crown of the forest edge across the field from me, searching for their evening repast.  A flock of red winged blackbirds rose from the forest edge, their creaking voices silenced, exchanged for the thrum of their wings beating in unison as they headed purposefully for their night roost.

A helicopter suddenly roared to life over at the Armory.   Must be a training week for the National Guard, I thought to myself, as the black beast rose into the air.  The chopper sound threw me back into revery about all the times I have heard that sound.   What it must be like to live someplace like Iraq or Afghanistan and know that that sound presages gunfire or is a response to the bomb that exploded nearby.    “Apolcalypse Now”    The sounds of Viet Nam; for truly this helicopter that was disturbing the sylvan peace of my dog walk was an old surplus bird from that era.

That time in my life paraded through my mind.   Rick Jenkins, our star running back on our 8-man football team, come home to be buried in a black body bag, blown into little pieces by the land mine he stepped on.    John, the ex-Green Beret, who I met at a party I went to in Denver, who had the boa constrictor Horace and the bull snake Herman that I bought from him for $40 dollars (that included their cages), and brought home proudly to my mother.   He warned people when he met them that they should not come up behind him quietly and touch him; he was likely to take them to the floor.  At that party, I witnessed the effects of battle fatigue or PTSD when someone in the kitchen dropped a large pot, the clatter and bang was impressive.   I had been standing talking to John, I looked away towards the sound and when I turned back John was gone.   Confused, I looked around.    Someone called out,  “Oh, they just dropped some pots in the kitchen.  It’s okay, John.”  His head came up from behind the sofa where he had taken cover; sheepishly he emerged.   We all laughed at him, he laughed back.

I wonder where he is today?   Is he fine or is he dead of cancer caused by the Agent Orange he was liberally doused with during his tour?   Or is he one of the damaged homeless alcoholics littering the streets of our big cities, begging for sustenance?

And what about Tommie Smith, the Navajo indian who I wrote to faithfully during his tour?   How is he?   I wonder about him on a regular basis.   When he came home, we went out to a football game at the University of Colorado where he was exercising his veteran’s right to an education.   He rode his beautiful Harley up to our house to visit a couple of times.   Late at night, after I cleaned the floors and shake machines at the Red Barn where I worked, he would come by and we would sit on the curb outside the place after all the lights were out and talk and talk.   He finally came to me and told me he wasn’t going to come talk with me any more.  It wasn’t fair, I was too young and he knew too much, and besides he was afraid his family could never accept me the way my family accepted him.   I knew nothing about life on the reservation, which was where he was going when he finished school.   He would take his engineering degree and use it there.

I wonder where he is now?  Is he the engineer for one of their mining operations?   Or is he another of the dead too soon; or worse, a member of the walking dead substance addicted?   Or maybe a famous artist?    He had talent that way.   I sent him cookies, he sent me his soul committed to paper with ink.

And so my three and half miles pass, as Ruby becomes tired and hot and well walked.   We return to our home, I put the plastic bottle in my recycle bin, and do the dinner dishes that are waiting for me patiently.  Afterwards I look through my book of thoughts for the image Tommie sent me from Viet Nam, so I can share it with you, my dear friends.

And another day has passed into the past, possibly to be mused on in the future.

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Recently I have been finding myself in the phase of life where one finds oneself saying things like “When I was a young girl” or “Back in the old days” and then embarking on a tale designed to wise up the young ears that are supposedly listening to it.  Actually, some of my tales are racy and harrowing enough that the young ears hang on them.   I’m not sure they learn anything, but they do listen.

This is one of those tales.

Back in the old days (there, see?   I said it!) you could not meet people on the internet, because not only did the internet not exist, neither did the personal computer.   (Imagine being so old you remember when all phones had cords and the PC was the stuff of science fiction.)

Anyway, back in the old days you had to meet people by being introduced to them by your friends, or by running into them at parties where large quantities of alcohol could reduce your inhibitions enough that you would agree to engage in wild schemes.   I was still in college, and since I had no car I truly enjoyed having boyfriends that did have such a commodity.  (One of those gentlemen so equipped taught me to drive, but that is another story entirely, which you can find here.)

So as events eventualized, I happened to be at one of those sorts of parties where there were quite a number of young men present, but no alcohol as it was a party being put on by the Youth Group of the religion I adhered to at the time.   Contrary to my present manners, I was a rather happy-go-lucky young lady, more than adequately free with my favors, in fact you might even have termed me loose if you were so disposed as to be uncharitable.   Anyway, suffice it to say that one of the young men present was quite good looking, and not a bad dancer either.   During the course of events I also ascertained that he was a more than adequate kisser, and after a certain amount of that activity we pretty much decided that we wished to pursue the natural course of events in a more private spot.

We explored the possibilities of the home in which the party was being held, and discovered that in the basement there happened to be a very comfortable mattress.   We availed ourselves of the facilities for some indeterminate time (quite satisfactorily), and returned to the upstairs party not a little disheveled just in time to discover that we were among the very last guests to leave.  My ride had departed for the university some time previously.  Our host was laboring under the delusion that we had left the premises hours previously, and was dumbfounded by our appearance from belowstairs.   We did not find it convenient to educate him regarding what we had been doing.

Finding ourselves rather unceremoniously deposited upon the street, we discussed what we should do next.   Now bear in mind that I had never laid eyes upon the lad I was accompanying before that party, but I felt that I had become rather better acquainted with him over the course of the evening.   In fact, I felt that I had gotten to know him just well enough to want to pursue the relationship a little further, especially that evening.  In other words, I was hot to have a couple more orgasms should the opportunity arise (so to speak).  The gentleman had a car.  And he expressed a desire to take me home with him for further activities.

The downside of the situation was that he did not have a lot of money with which to purchase lodging.  He was a rather low echelon member of the USArmy which precluded a large salary, and he had a car, which has a tendency to suck cash out of your bank account.   The further downside of the situation was that he was not stationed at Ft. Wainwright, which was right on the outskirts of town, but rather at Fort Greeley, which was about 10 miles the other side of Delta Junction, a hamlet that was located some 98 miles from Fairbanks.    The downest of the downsides of all these situations was that he was living in the barracks, and even though I was still naive about some things, I knew that girls were not generally allowed in them.   However, when I brought this up he assured me that he had good friends that were living in quarters, and so if I accompanied him back to the base there would be a place where we could continue our acquaintance.

Let me just say right now that I do not approve of haring off on such addlepated adventures and will strongly un-recommend doing any such thing as what I then proceeded to do.   I will say in my defense that I was at least aware of the fact that once he got back to Fort Greeley, my chances of having him drive me back to Fairbanks were slim to none, and so I did ask him exactly how he intended to get me home if I was so idiotic as to go riding off into the night with him.   He blithely informed me that there was a daily bus from the fort back to town that I would be welcome to ride.

Reassured, I agreed that going on a two hour drive in the middle of the night in order to have some more fun and games was a grand idea, and so we set off.  Did I mention that it was mid-January, and the temperature was somewhere around -35°F (-37.5°C)?  The fact that we were making our negotiations on the street in that temperature added a certain hastiness to them, I am sure.   Perhaps my neurons were functioning poorly due to the cold.  I certainly cannot blame inebriation as at that time in my life I did not drink.  At all.

Anyway, as we were leaving Fairbanks my swain stopped off at a local emporium to acquire certain supplies that he felt had been lacking in the evening’s festivities so far.   This was the point at which I should have exited the vehicle and wended my way back to my nice warm dormitory, but I was still focused on the fun I thought I was going to have later.   However, misgivings soon arose in my sex-fogged mind as my chauffeur proceeded to indulge in the bourbon which he had purchased at regular intervals as he drove.   At least he poured it into a cup and did not drink straight from the bottle.

By the time I was fully aware of exactly what a bad situation I was in, we were approximately 40 miles south of town and when I say it was the middle of nowhere I am not exaggerating.   Alaska in the early 1970s was truly a unpopulated wilderness when you got away from town, and bear in mind that I was not equipped for solo walking at -35°.  I had just been at a party, for God’s sake.   Anyway, the farther away from town we got, the drunker my escort became  By the time we reached the outskirts of Delta Junction he was, for lack of a better word, plastered.   This did not stop him from making a pit stop at the roadhouse on the outskirts of town, ostensibly to call his buddy in quarters to let him know of our imminent (and until then completely unheralded) arrival.   He availed himself of the bar facilities there and topped himself off, whereupon we proceeded to the back gate of the fort and made our way to his friend’s place.

Needless to say, his friend was not all that happy to see us, seeing as how it was approximately 1:30 a.m., but in the time honored tradition of soldiers everywhere was happy to see a buddy about to get lucky, so he let us in and showed us to our accommodations, which were a very thin air mattress on the floor of the living room.

Let me just say at this time that imbibing large quantities of alcohol is not a good way to improve your sexual prowess.   The gentleman with whom I had gone off to adventure was basically completely incapable of any activity that remotely resembled sex.   And, since he was drunk as a skunk he very unpleasantly proceeded to insult me and inform me that his inability to perform was somehow my fault.   I disagreed, having done my womanly best to inspire his limp rag of a penis to stand to attention, using all my considerable expertise to do so.  Fortunately, before he could add physical abuse to the verbal he unceremoniosly passed out.  I availed myself of the couch and got some sleep.

The next morning we were awakened by loud and officious knocking on the door of the apartment we were in.   This was when my education in military rules and regulations was furthered.  It seems that there was some requirement for this low-ranked person, who was out on an evening pass, to actually be in his own bed in his own barracks by a certain hour, and not only was he not there but the guy at the gate had actually noticed his inebriation as he came onto post.  Fort Greeley was not that big a place, it didn’t take the MPs long to discover where he was actually sleeping, and they were there to take him off to “Special Duty,” where he could spend his Sunday walking around and around with his gear, his weapon,and his hangover.  That was the last I ever saw of my erst-while lover, as he was summarily escorted by armed men to a very official looking jeep.

The buddy and his wife were not amused.  However, they were kind enough to provide me with some breakfast (corn flakes) and then transport me to where the bus back to town was scheduled to depart.  They dropped me off outside the Post Exchange, and right before they took off I ran my eyes about the area, where I did not see anything that remotely resembled a bus, at least not in my lexicon and experience.

“Where is the bus to Fairbanks?”  I inquired, rather desperately.

“Right there!”  the buddy said.   I looked to where he was pointing, and all I could see was an Army 6×6 truck, completely with canvas top, that looked like it was surplus from WWII.  It probably was, actually.

“That is the bus??”  I asked, incredulous.

“That is the bus,” I was assured.  The buddy took pity on me, and exited his vehicle to discuss my situation with the driver of the transport and make sure that I indeed was going to be able to get a ride back to town.

There were several other folks waiting for “The Bus” to leave.  We were stamping our feet and swinging our arms in the brisk arctic air.   I looked in the back of the truck.   It was bare bones.   There were benches along the sides to sit on.   There was no heater.   I assessed the situation, and immediately began utilizing my womanly wiles in an attempt to get to ride in the cab with the driver.

Unfortunately for me, the presence of a Master Sergeant and a Colonel in the passenger list trumped my wiles.   I rode in the back.   I was ill equipped for the experience.  While I had on a proper parka, hat, gloves, scarf and mittens, I did not have on any long underwear, or a third layer  under my parka.  My footwear was not appropriate either, being Lowa hiking boots, which were fine for walking around in but not much good at keep feet warm at sub-zero temperatures, especially not when you are sitting still with your feet on a metal floor.  The driver did take pity on me and find an Army drab wool blanket for me to wrap up in.   It was filthy, but at that point I did not care.

I froze all the way back to town.   There was a pit stop at the half way point, at a settlement called “Halfway”, oddly enough.   The driver of our conveyance manufactured some sort of problem with his vehicle and that problem persisted until he was certain that I was thoroughly warmed up, despite the frowns and exhortations of the Colonel, who apparently had a plane to catch.   He also detoured through Fairbanks and dropped me at the bus stop for Walt’s Bus (a “real” bus) which would get me back to campus.   Walt allowed me to ride home to the University despite the fact that I did not have the fare at the time.   Walt was good that way; he would let you ride for free and as far as I know never got stiffed for a fare he fronted to an impecunious college student.

Miraculously, I did not get frostbite.   And I never heard from the Soldier Boy again.   If I had, I’m afraid I would probably have hung up on him unceremoniously.

My ardor had been thoroughly cooled.

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Norwichrocks tagged me for a meme the other day, and the subject was interesting enough that I spent most of the time I was walking my dog cogitating on it.  The subject of the meme was what ten things I would save if my house was burning down.   Thinking about such things makes you address how many “things” you have, the relative importance of them to you, exactly how materialistic you are.   Are things important to you because of their monetary value, or because of their sentimental associations?

And so forth and so on.

Of course, it is important to realize that no matter how important and sentimental or intrinsically valuable a thing is, it is still just a thing, and the most important thing to save from a fire is yourself with your skin intact, and your children and loved ones.   These are not negotiable, and irreplaceable.   It is also important to note that when you are thinking about subjects like this it is useful if you have a plan of exit in case there is a fire going on.    Not only that, but you should have a back-up plan in case your first route is unavailable to you; like, for instance, that route is engulfed in flames or the roof has fallen in on it.

All those caveats aside, I enjoyed Norwichrock’s discussion of how she really doesn’t have a lot of things accumulated because of her recent move.   We, on the other hand, have occupied the same place for 15 years now, and we arrived in it fully equipped with “stuff” and have only added to the collection in the intervening years.   Interestingly enough, there are some items that have been on the “list” for the whole of our relationship, and are still on it.  Also, interestingly (I think), we have “rehearsed” this exact scenario many times in the last few years, but not regarding a fire.   We regularly prepare for tornadoes in this area, with tornado watches, tornado warnings a part of our ordinary life.   So quite often, we have actually evacuated the important and valuable things to the storm cellar in preparation for potential destruction of our abode.

So, without further ado, here is my list.

The first thing on it is Ruby.  How could I not take this loving dependent out of harms way?   Could you leave this face behind?

Of course not.

The second thing on my list is my jewelry box.   This is a rosewood box that Jim got for me in Pakistan when he was there during a Navy exercise.  It is inlaid with brass, but it is what is in the box that is important.   By taking this one item, I take my opera length strand of pearls that was my “Good girl” award for sticking with him during the year long tour of duty on the LaSalle (there are two other posts that follow the one I linked to, if you are interested), my wedding rings, the “Universe” ring, the “heirloom”  jewelry from my grandmother and his mother, the first set of earrings for pierced ears (jade posts given to me by a boyfriend) I ever owned, etc etc etc.   I estimate that the sentimental value of this box (and its contents) is incalculable, and the monetary value is rather high.

Third:   the external hard drive of our computer.   Since our Mac backs up everything on the computer to this hard drive every day, this would retrieve all our financial records and all my digital photographs in one 3″x5″x1/2″ package.

Fourth:  the healing crystal collection.   Is this one item?   Not really, but grabbing the whole slew of them is as simple as gently pouring them onto a pillow case, which wouldn’t take much more time than just taking one crystal.   If you’re going to be snotty about it and not count the whole group as one item, then I would have to take the tourmaline wand.  It would fit into my pocket neatly, and I admit I’d probably cheat and take the laser quartz phantom wand in the same grab, since they live next to each other.

Fifth:  my altar.

Sorry, this is non-negotiable.   It counts as one item, and putting all the things on it into my cauldron, which sits right next to the actual table, takes about 15 seconds.   I know this because I have timed it.  I would leave the table.  That is replaceable.

Sixth, the Peter Max “Flower Blossom Lady.”   This is an artist proof of a lithograph which Max took into his studio and overpainted, so she is unique.   I fell in love with her instantly, she hangs in my massage room, and I use her as a visual “source” for color when I am doing chakra balancing.   In addition, she is quite intrinsically valuable, which you will discover if you start researching original Peter Max paintings on line.

Items seven, eight and nine are a series of dragons who live in the living room.   I would (of course) take their hoards with them, for a dragon without its hoard is an unhappy dragon, and you don’t want an unhappy dragon living in your house.  They are the citrine dragon (which I have covered elsewhere on the blog), The tiger eye dragon fan (which we purchased in Singapore), and the antique ivory dragon which was the first connection between Jim and me.

All of these dragons are intrinsically valuable as well as having sentimental attachments.   But we also feel a certain responsibility to the artists who carved them.  As unique pieces of art, we feel it is important that they not be lost to the world if it is in our power to save them.

Those are the things that immediately come to mind as the most important.   The tenth item was hard to identify.   It switches and wavers and I keep waffling about what should occupy the tenth spot, and then I wonder why is ten the magic number?

But if push came to shove, the tenth item would be the box of Christmas ornaments, because it represents all stages of my life and contains items given to me by every member of my family and just about all my friends for almost ever.   Worth nothing in money, everything in sentiment and memories and connections.

So, this is my list.  I’d be interested in yours.

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