Coe Mansion and The Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, Long Island

What is it about a moving vehicle that encourages us to share confidences with total strangers? Or maybe it’s only true when the trip is a happy one, as the one I took yesterday via bus with a group of men and women over 60.    

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It was a warm, on & off drizzly day with sun for a bit in the PM, but it was good enough. We toured the inside of this truly gorgeous mansion (I’m not a historical room person but this had me from hello), climbing winding staircases while hearing about the Coe family’s adventures.

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Then we had a fabulous lunch nearby and returned for the PM tour of the gardens.  I love wild gardens – and these were that, plus some amazing trees with names I never knew, like all kind of weeping willow trees including cherry blossom ones (impressive even sans cherries) and so many species of hydrangeas, peonies and azaleas!

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But I digress. Because it was the woman I sat with (behind me at first, then by choice, next to me) whose lovely face and quiet voice I’ll remember just as well, and the excited chatter of the campers/seniors! We shared thoughts and stories about problems and solutions related to living arrangements, family, health, I don’t really remember the words so much as the pleasure telling a bit about who I am to a good listener and providing the same for her.

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That’s pretty much all I want to say except I almost didn’t go.  8AM????  My feet, my legs, my back, my laziness, my dislike of 90% of strangers I meet, my fear of fatigue on the walks, oy oy oy!!  Forget about it!  But…with a little encouragement, I climbed a narrow, winding staircases up to the balconies and 2nd floors … those rooms were so worth it!

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But of course, perfection is not to be had in this life.  On the bus ride home, cleverly put off until the very last 20 minutes, an announcement that someone had found a tick on her neck!  A groan followed, more low-voiced chatter, a little fear thrown in, but by the goodbyes, all was forgiven and the pleasure remained.

I know all about tick bites.  As a child, I pulled one off a doggie that then made a home in my neck and infect-ed me with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (which no one realized at the time) resulting in various kind of maladies related to aches and pains.

But I know the best thing is to climb into a very, very hot shower and soap good everywhere, plus shake the bejeezus out of your clothing and shoes.image

With all that, I wouldn’t have traded a month of Sundays in my city apt for this lovely outing with strangers … and a new friend.

WordPress Daily Prompt: infect

To an Old Friend

I wonder if you feel like I do tonight. We spent the day together, reuniting after a long separation filled with hurt and anger, twin feelings that can do so much damage for so long. It was a nice day; the weather smiled on us, the park smiled on us, the walking together was good, the eating together was lovely. It was a pleasant day, no more, I thought. Because it’s hard to hold the past in your hands, even when you reminisce and laugh over memories that go back 70 years. As the day ended, we hugged and for a moment we didn’t want to let go. You said words like: “We have to be in each other lives … we are family…” but the words weren’t what mattered. For quite a while, my heart hasn’t wanted to open very wide; even today I kept a close watch on it. But when something gets through it’s for a reason, and here you are, despite the fact that we’re full of wrinkles and stories about our health and doctors and so on, despite all that, we could easily have been at camp in 1950. Was it your voice, its inflections unchanged through the years?  Is it the familiar way you say things?  The years disappeared!  But what does that really mean? Here’s what I think: when you’re young and you give yourself to a day with a friend, everything is a first. The friend becomes the rough path, the chocolate soda, the feel of a late afternoon. The friend becomes her freckles, her yoyo, the songs you sing together. Something so exciting goes into every part of your body and spirit, because when you’re young you haven’t learned how to hold back. So it’s giving of self without reservation, and what you’ve given that way you can never take back. The millions of times my cells have turned over — memories that can hardly make their way through all that are right here tonight. We’re in your kitchen baking cookies, we’re at camp walking with our arms around each other’s waists, fingers hooked in the belt rings of each other’s jeans. I hear our shoes on the porch of the Main House. I see the slick raincoats and the tack board, the darkened ping-pong table, the big tree with the swing. I see the baseball field to the left, the infirmary with the view of the lake through its windows. I see the game room with the piano against the wall. I see the jewelry bunk and I smell the oil and hear the cutting sound of the saw as we shaped the silver into scotty dogs and flowers. I see Frisky the goat under the tree and beyond her, the smells are rising on the path to the lake. I see the water as it flashes in diamonds through the trees. I can feel the air cooling as we stand in the candy line after dinner and hear the laughter of counselors grabbing a last few minutes on the tennis courts. I remember the love comics we read during rest hour and the hearts with initials we painted on the tent walls. And you and I were there, Jo, and so was Elena, and so were Liz, Evie, Nora and Gittle, Walter, Connie, Earl, Kathy and Fran, Steph, Hubby, Jesse and Vic. You are right. We fill a space in each other’s hearts that no one else ever possibly can, and I welcome the joy and the pain that comes with our embrace.

 

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Shhhh…

It’s thundering over the desert.
Giant waves are approaching the shore.
Mosquitos are bringing both Zika & Lyme
and the songbirds don’t sing anymore.

Bears in the Arctic are dying,
Honey bees leave flowers on the vines.
Frogs aren’t making the sounds that they should,
and our seasons flow outside the lines.

A world that’s without all its wildness
is a place that will never suit me.
I’d much rather humans be routed
than one frog, or one bear, or one bee.

Metaphor Behind a Glassful of Pills

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You’re supposed to be a little intrigued by the title, and the photos fit – you’ll see.

So I carry my breakfast pills in a little green ceramic dish balanced carefully on top of the glass of “milk tea” or diet shake, along with whatever Jenny Craig breakfast they’ve doled out, into the den, where I flip the radio on (WNPR) and settle down in front of the computer to read my email and discover if the world is still there.

It works fine when the glass is a juice glass – my forefinger holds the edge of the little dish and keeps it in place. But this morning I used a full-sized glass. “That’s a little precarious, Ellen, don’t you think?” said the voice inside my head I never listen to. Sure enough, it fell in sideways and the pills went into the drink.

I was overwhelmed with feelings of stupidity and trying desperately to think of a way to solve this dilemma without losing either the pills or the nice, sweet/spicy tea drink I’d made, and suddenly I grabbed the spoon and fished the pills out  in twos and threes and drank them down quickly, leaving the tea unspoiled (the secret, of course, was that I was drinking cold milk tea, not hot).

I often think that I was given a good brain for one reason: to extricate myself from the trouble I’m always giving myself.  (There’s a line from a 1950’s musical, “Fanny,” that says:  “A wife is someone who helps you through all the troubles you would not have had if you hadn’t married her.” Of course it applies to all genders now!)

But also this morning, I saw into my future. That’s partly because with the coming of lovely Spring this year has come the one thing I hate: noise. My apartment sits above one of busiest streets in Manhattan: 1st Ave.  It carries an exceptionally large volume of ambulance, police, fire and interstate vehicles every day and night and I’m only 8 stories up, which means the sounds that come from the street might as well be in my den.  With the warm weather comes two additional offenses: car radios blaring through open windows and motorcycle gangs.

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I think of one of our bloggers, Quaint Revival, and her mornings quiet enough to hear buds opening, and my increasingly fragile emotional make-up, and I know I need to get the hell out of here.  That’s the solution my good brain is giving me. There’s just one problem: it could change my life and my life feels precarious enough.

It’s OK for now, my life.  I have a few friends, I have my poetry class, my piano, my cousin and his wife live not far away and my nephew and his partner come and visit too.  I have mostly pretty good health. I still have my confidence.

I have my really swell apartment with its pretty view of the river and a breeze that comes in sideways. I have doctors and hospitals close enough. I’ve lived here 16 years, which means I know the drugstore on the corner ( they do all kinds of sweet things for me) the layout of the supermarkets, and so on.

Well I’m just thinking aloud.  Always a good thing to do when facing the possibility of a major decision.  So thanks for listening, and all thoughts, suggestions, experiences or other comments are welcome!

Oh, and what’s the metaphor?  Well, old age– you could say the pills have spilled into the glass.  Now I must think my way into the rest of my life: how can I have the things I need without losing all the sweetness and spice?

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Continue reading “Metaphor Behind a Glassful of Pills”

The “Un-Cur”

ON READING THAT ‘COMBO DOGS’ HAVE NO ANCESTRAL GENES

Two little dogs drag their masters, who will follow rather unhappily so the pups can check each other out. Tails at the wag, they sniff all over, wanting to discover some- thing…but what? Are they hoping to find a lost descendent of a bygone pack their ancestors traveled in aeons ago?

But look again, how would that happen?  These are the Pomskies, Whoodles, Cocker-Peis, Mikis, Pitskies, Schnoodles, Horgies, Pugapoos, Chuskies, Chiweenies—even with their much-refined noses how will they sniff out, through all those permutations and combos, the scantest trace of an early-race progenitor, much less a pack of them?

Which is perhaps why they always seem a little let down as they trot off up the street to look for the next new buddy to greet. Let’s have these fanciful dogs get together and form their own new brand of pack. Spell it “Paque” if they must! They’ll design their own hunting patterns inside in the kitchens and yards of the HuChimps whose ancestors they easily smell and to whom, for a while, they’ll pretend to belong — until they’re ready to strike out on their own, with their tail-less, fur-less rumps held high, just as their untraceable ancestors might have done aeons gone by.

The “Un-Cur”

Two Choices

Falling asleep last night I had this thought: how is it fair that we only have two choices: life or death? More than a thought, it was a feeling. And I know I’m not the only one to feel it, because Americans are all about a search to get away from life without resorting to its unpleasant alternative.

Somehow in my half-sleep state, I knew, just for an instant, it’s possible to find such a place, different from all other known ways of what one might call ‘escaping.’ It would be a 3rd choice that embraced, not shirked, responsibility, a place where you could make things better, and in an artistic, enlightened way.

I think this pre-sleep feeling came from two strange bedfellows: the magnolia tree I saw from my window … and Donald Trump. However things turn out, Trump has come to represent, rightly or wrongly, destruction to me … and the magnolia tree in its fight to survive this crazy winter-no-winter-spring-no- spring season is both its victim and victor.

Like the magnolia tree that finally emerged in all its beauty, but for such a short time having tried and failed, tried and failed in the preceding weeks — we pay a price for fighting.  In my dream, there was a place where the magnolia tree found the sweet spot, the place that was not quite life since it was headed for a swift end, nor death, as it was beautiful—utterly unafraid and triumphant.

In my 3rd choice place, perhaps the magnolia tree’s petals could partake in covering all the destruction and hardship in the world as they fell.

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My Cousin J.

So she just sent me an article she wrote about her worms.  J. is my baby cousin who lives in West Texas, near Big Bend National Park, in a tiny house in the desert, on a gigantic ranch called Terlingua.

My cousin J. grew up as a nice Jewish-American girl in NJ.  But there were certain differences between her life and mine … there were horses, sailboats, a private home, a brother and a father, none of which I had. Let me be clear: her family was not wealthy: they didn’t own these things.  Except the private home, and of course the brother and father.

She rode horses in shows.  No one in the rest of our family did that. But it’s too long a story — where she lived, what she did for a living.  She always had played guitar and sang, just as did I, but she began to write songs, which I did not.  And nowadays,  she and her very nice partner travel back and forth between a 1-room West Texas stucco house and a trailer they own in Washington State.

What she does mostly now is playing guitar with a western-type quartet that performs at the Ranch, writing songs for it, and also playing oboe in an orchestra in Portland, I think it is.

When her big brother had children, J. was a fabulous, involved aunt, the kind who gets on a plane and goes to the concerts, birthday parties, bar mitzvah’s —  or just visits. Now  there are 2 great-nephews (maybe 3 by now) and she does the same thing with them, though mostly with the one who’s not living in Spain.

Somewhere in all this she lived through breast cancer, 3 marriages, the suicide of her 2nd beloved husband (bi-polar-related), and wrote a book called What Goes Up… .

She’s only been able to do this all because I, her older cousin, have permitted it.  I could have squashed her like a bug to keep my place on the talent throne, yeah but knowing her, she would have simply joined the ends of what was left and continued doing her thing, like the worms she takes such good care of!

I did not know that worms actually create soil with their “manure,” did you?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/song/

 

 

Is Feeling Good A Boring Blog?

If so, be prepared to be bored!

Yesterday in my 60+ poetry class at the Y in NYC, my poem came in for some praise. It was a risky poem – I rarely write about such personal feelings as childlessness, and the poem pulled it off without ever using the word. That’s a goal for poetry, for good poets. Show, not tell.

Take Stanley Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Laureate.  His poem about the seasons changing begins:  “An agitation in the air, a perturbation of the light…”  … and suddenly there are autumn birds flying south, and the sunlight of summer cooling down, all without his saying so directly!

Then yesterday, my friend B. whom I met 2 yrs ago in the poetry class, came over to my house and brought her flute!  She’s only just begun studying again – we had talked about duets but never done it.  And so we tried.  She has two things I require and then one more: she has musicality, a great sense of rhythm, and a lovely tone.

OTOH, I struggled with my sight-reading. These are easy pieces, dammit!  I tried not to disrupt our playing too much, but I just couldn’t keep up.  She’s leaving me the book and I’ll try  to learn them well enough so when the flute is there I don’t get distracted. Since music is my favorite thing in the whole world, with dogs and cats a close second, I’m quietly ecstatic about this. If only B. will hold out and not mind my struggles!

Last good thing: today my nephew’s partner C. will be here and we will work on the absurdly complicated paperwork my co-op building requires for updating my kitchen! She knows her stuff.  Then later, Sam from the contractors will come to measure. It should be a day of accomplishment.

Only one bad thing: I will have to remove the paper towels and steel wool I have crammed into every crevice under my stove since seeing a water bug.  When I take it all away, I’ve no idea if any bugs may skitter out. I’ve a tendency to want to move when I see a water bug!

One more good thing (can you stand it?), I broke the weight barrier I’ve been stuck at for weeks. Overall loss, 35 lbs, with about 6 more to goal weight. Slow and steady does it!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/disrupt/

Get on my Inchoate Bandwagon

I admit it.  I’m shamelessly using the word inchoate just to get your attention, but it’s a worthy cause.  I’m including a poem I wrote when much younger, or as we say at my age, much, much younger and maybe it will help chase the “Where the Hell is Spring Blues” away.  But just so Krista doesn’t throw me bodily off the site:

There was a delightful old poet

who was challenged one day with “inchoate.”

Though her ideas were many

She has left this to Denny …  (you know who you are)

For she knows, without doubt, she would blow it.

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OK???  Now, here’s the other poem!

 

Spring Quest

The time was right for Spring to come

But She was not in view;

Old Winter had secured a hold

And Spring could not break through.

““““

Oh, how the children cried, and mothers

Sighed to see them so.

But Winter held on stubbornly

And just refused to go.

““`

A little girl searched through the snow

To find where Spring was kept.

She found a house whose door was shut.

Inside it, someone wept.

““““

She peered in through a window 

That was untouched by snowflake

And there was lovely Spring, a-weep 

As if her heart would break.

““`

The little girl did not dare lift

The window in the fear

That Winter would come rushing in

And freeze each falling tear.

““`

So sad was she to see Spring thus

She too shed tears—and, lo

They fell like fire upon the ground

And melted all the snow.

““`

She flung the her arms up to the sky;

The air turned warm and sweet.

Soon gentle birds began to sing

and grass grew at her feet.  

 

Then Spring was standing near, with

Sparking eyes and cheeks of red, 

And bending, thanked the little child

With a kiss upon her head.

1953

 

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no pain, no pain

These days, taking care of my body is a little like playing Sudoku — or maybe more like those handheld games where there was only 1 square free and you had to keep moving numbers around that 1 open square until they were in order.

The square is the place on my body that I don’t have to worry about (all that comes to mind is my mouth!) and the other squares are the various treatments and medications  I take to address the worrisome places.

So…the medication I take to keep my knees from hurting conflicts with another pain medicine I take for an old hip injury.  The treatment for the numbness in my legs (that came from a previous medication) is so expensive that something else has to go.  The medicine I take to help my reflux/Gerdes issue can irritate the kidneys, push, push, push.

Ursula Le Guin says that when you start to get really old, you need doctors more, but getting there is much harder!  Hauling my ass to the doctors doesn’t really help with this puzzle problem anyway because each doctor believes their regimen should take precedence over all the others!

Does anyone have a cabin in the woods where I can detox from everything — one where screaming and watching old movies day and night at high volume won’t bother anyone?  And does Fresh Direct deliver there?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/haul/