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November 15, 2019

     It goes without saying I am grateful for all the loving people in my life. In the interest of not taking anything for granted, though, I remind myself to be thankful for …

     The healthy spring of my legs out of bed every morning, my feet on a warm floor.

     My eyes that see, my lungs that breathe clean air.

     The water that runs freely through the pipes for me to drink and shower beneath.

     Refrigeration. The food in the refrigerator. The electricity that runs it.

     Having a plan for my day and the means to carry it out.

     The town infrastructure that picks up my trash, keeps the library open, cleans the streets.

     The countless, invisible people who go to work every day, despite illness, worries, and troubles, to support the occupations that keep this old world turning.

     The natural rhythms of my body telling me it’s time to eat, exert, sleep....

October 15, 2019

      Coyote sightings were recently reported along the biking/hiking trail in my neighborhood. Coyotes—an animal I associate with the Wild West, lonesome prairie towns, and the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote. I took note of the precautions issued by the police department: don’t approach them, make loud noises to scare the off. I also did a thorough Internet search to better inform myself. Armed with facts and a whistle from Wal-Mart, I ventured onto the trail, determined not to be afraid.

      And discovered I was.

      And discovered, to my delight, I was glad to be afraid, not only out of respect for the wild animal whose path I might cross, but because the emotion of fear brought me back to my childhood.

      Years ago, I read Annie Dillard’s splendid memoir, “An American Childhood.” Among the passages that struck a chord with me were those in which she described her free, unsupervised wanderings through resident...

September 15, 2019

     The story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is one of the most enduring legends of all time, lending itself to retelling in novels, poems, plays, poetry, paintings, and films. The doomed love triangle between King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Lancelot has been the focus of most of these versions. “Camelot,” a Broadway musical, is full of lively, lusty, romantic songs which capture the heart of the tale. One of my favorites is “If Ever I Would  Leave You,” in which Lancelot gives a reason for every season why he can never leave Guinevere. For example,

     “Or could I leave you running merrily through the snow

      Or on a wintry evening when you catch the fire’s glow”

     This song would never work if their love affair took place in, say, Southern California where winter doesn’t exist (and where everyone waxes rhapsodic about rain because they never get any. Which reminds me of another musical,...

August 15, 2019

        Whenever I visit a major city, I am struck by the resourcefulness of its residents when it comes to getting around. They employ every available means of transport: skateboards, scooters, bikes, rollerblades, cars, taxis, buses, subways, trains. If it has wheels, they use it.

      I admire such ingenuity, especially the way class distinctions dissolve in the use of public transportation. (Someone posted an iPhone photo of Helen Mirren riding the New York City subway. As if she wasn’t totally cool already). We’re all just a bunch of people trying to get where we’re going. Cars, on the other hand, are a different story. Status is conferred depending on the automobile one drives—or at least that’s what car ads would have us believe.

      Walking is my preferred means of getting from point A to point B. Second choice: a bus. It’s cheap, for one thing. And the view from the window is generally scenic (and occasionally com...

July 15, 2019

     I went to Catholic school for twelve years so feeling guilty about pretty much everything comes with the territory. Guilt is both a habit and a default setting. It takes serious effort to conquer it (not that some guilt isn’t a necessary part of being an ethical person), but goshdarnit I’ve tried.

     In the interest of enjoying life to its fullest, forthwith are some things I refuse to feel guilty about:

     Naps.

     Eating potato chips. And ice cream.

     Splurging on expensive underwear.

     Travel.

     Buying books. And shoes.

     You know what.

     Did I mention naps?

     Reading when I’m supposed to be (fill in the blank).

     Avoiding toxic people. And boring ones.

     Tipping extravagantly.

     Stop reading a book that simply isn’t doing it for me.

     Binge-watching BBC detective series.

     Gett...

June 15, 2019

     I have a confession to make. If I had a choice between being either Jo or Amy in Louisa May Alcott’s novel “Little Women,” (no one want to be Beth, for obvious reasons. And sweet Meg is as compelling as oatmeal. And has twins. In the era before disposable diapers.) … Anyway, if the choice is between Jo or Amy I want to be Amy.

     Oh, I know. Shame on me. After all, Jo is the obvious heroine of the book. Of the four March sisters she is the most spirited, talented, and ambitious. She doesn’t give a hoot about frilly clothes (one of her dresses has a burn mark on the back), or hair (she cuts and sells hers to help the family financially), or boys (being something of a tomboy). In short, she is a proto-feminist. A character girls aspire to. Or should.

     I read and reread “Little Women,” never failing to laugh, cry, and shake my head in recognition of the sisters’ emotions, flaws, and foibles. And never fail to wanna be Amy....

May 15, 2019

      It’s one of life’s lovely happenstances that in my corner of the world, I put in the vegetable garden on Mother’s Day. Both events honor the urge to create, the desire to coax tender shoots into healthy plants. Both require patience, nurturing, and vigilance. They are a testimony to hope. Unlike produce from a garden, though, children aren’t grown for consumption. If anything, they consume. And consume. But they feed the heart and soul like nothing else on this earth.

     “Planting season” are two of my favorite words, if only because they give me license to play in the dirt. From the minute my hands grip the handles of the wheelbarrow I know I’m in  for a vigorous workout. While swimming and hiking I occasionally check the clock to mark my progress. I lose all track of time gardening. My body falls into its own rhythm of walk, push, bend, dig, stand, walk, etc. The slow movement of a band of shadow across the garden marks the passa...

April 15, 2019

     I’m fortunate to live in a walkable suburban community. It actually has sidewalks and a walking/biking trail, a rare luxury these days. My car, I’m proud to say, spends most of its time in the garage. Everything I need access to—dentist, doctor, hairdresser, restaurants, and joy of joys, the public library—is within walking distance. Even the supermarket is, though the car is handy for bringing groceries home (some day I may relive my student years and wheel them home in a cart). Short of living in a city, this is as close to self-sufficiency as it gets. And reducing my carbon footprint is a welcome bonus.

     Diets and physical fitness plans, like many activities in modern life, go through phases and fads. Paleo, pilates, you name it. While I am a dedicated lap swimmer, I have yet to find any exercise as invigorating, natural, and simple as walking. All you need is a good pair of shoes and a desire to get off your butt and get movin...

March 15, 2019

            … do detectives on TV shows/movies write in teeny, tiny notebooks when they’re interviewing suspects?

            … do labels on products leave glue gunk behind that is impossible to get off?

            … do lines on forms/applications leave so little space to fill in information, especially email addresses?

            … do hotels never have enough (or any) hooks/shelves to put your stuff? And public bathrooms too, for that matter?

            … do basements flood when you’re not home?

            … do good books end too soon and boring conversations and bad dreams go on forever?

            … do potato chips taste so fricking good?...

February 15, 2019

     Watching the annual Westminster Dog Show makes February bearable. I’m a sucker for pet videos on the Internet, especially those of dogs greeting their owners after a long absence and cats snuggling with toddlers. Nicole Hollander is one of my favorite cartoonists, not only for her biting wit, but because cats abound in her “Sylvia” cartoons. Memories of my own pets over the years can draw a tear or two at the mention of their name. So it’s no surprise I’m attracted to news articles that feature critters.

     Dog stories, as one might expect since they are “man’s best friend,” are a dime a dozen. But their commonality does not make them any less extraordinary.

     Years ago, a Pekingese, Danny by name, was accused of having a face lift and nearly lost his title as Supreme Champion at the Crufts Dog Show in the United Kingdom. I can only imagine what would be involved in “lifting” a Pekingese’s pug face. Though considering it...

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