Very Cold & Snow

_DSC0024.jpg

I woke to bone-chilling cold and a bit of snow on the ground. The sun, before being seen, announced its presence by coloring wisps of pale pink clouds. As the sun continued to rise, the light-floating clouds lost their color against the thin blue of the winter cold sky. The clouds seemed anemic after shedding the weight of the snow they had been carrying.

I sat in my favorite reading chair in my small room listening to the silence. I am familiar with the silence of cold and snow, and this silent cold seeped through the windowpanes to my right, not respecting the boundary between outside and in. The silence of inside was punctuated by the clinks and clunks of the heat ducts as they rested between attempts to push back the cold. I know when it is more-than-cold outside because that cold has more power than any form of heat but the sun. And soon the cold joined forces with a wind that howled and growled around the corner of the house and onto the porch to overpower the promise of sun-warmth. Late morning we ventured out into the battle in an attempt to say we wouldn’t stop our life for nature’s display of brutal strength, but we were humbled.

In the dawning-day hours, though, I enjoyed the silence of the tempered cold as I sat in my chair by the east-facing window. I held my warm mug of chi tea between my hands and against my chest so the warmth seeped into my soul. As I sipped, letting the tingle of spices and softness of cream linger on my tongue, I watched the white light of morning sun, softened through slatted blinds, drift across purple wall and artwork, lamp and bookcase – illuminating memories of a life lived with joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, pain and pleasure, brokenness and redeeming love.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

20121113-Tuesday Morning 085

I found this photo from a few years ago of a place we sometimes had breakfast on sunny Florida winter mornings. I am fighting the deep grey feeling that comes from our deep grey winter days now that we are in Michigan for the holidays. I’ve been working on culling out photos that aren’t interesting or there are multiples of due to downloading from storage when I bought a new laptop – or maybe I was inept at creating my filing system in Lightroom. I’ve been focusing on Florida photos, hoping the sunshine will brighten my spirits. They do, but not for long. During Michigan winter I have to fight the desire to hibernate.

We are working our way into our Michigan schedule of exercising at the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Once or twice a week we motivate ourselves by going out to our favorite place, The Wooden Spoon – or “The Spoon” for breakfast. On our drive there today Jim was saying how much easier it is to go exercise when we are in Florida. I knew what he meant but he continued – “you know, putting on a heavy winter coat over multiple layers and finding gloves and being stiff from the cold.”

We walked into “The Spoon” and our favorite table by the window and across from the kitchen was open. Before sitting down I walked to the next table where a regular group of family and friends sit every morning. We laughed about my jug of maple syrup that we take in for our pecan pancakes, we laughed about the map I drew on their table that extended off the right edge and up Don’s shirt, we laughed about all the layers I had on – until I said that I better sit down before I get myself in trouble. I guess the warmth and joy of relationship and conversation doesn’t care if the sky is grey outside. Maybe all the shared pieces of ourselves and our laughter brightened the room.

Jana and Theresa don’t ask if we want coffee, one of them just brings it when we sit down, pouring two mugs and sitting the carafe between us. They have learned what we like so they bring a bowl of just flavored creamers. Then we experience the pure joy of that first sip of coffee as we hold the warm mugs in our cold hands. We sit in silence as we sip and refill and sip, listening to snippets of conversation from the big round table next to ours. This is where the old guys come and go throughout the morning, greeting each other by name. “Sam got a new trailer…” “…kids coming?” “…left that damn think right next to…” “…look at the size of those horns…” Sometimes one of them will direct a question or comment to someone passing by, most of the time the conversation volleys within the invisible but permeable boundary that encircles them. Our usual order of two eggs over medium, whole wheat toast, and a short stack of pecan pancakes with no syrup comes and we split it up so each of us gets one of each. We talk about how it is the best breakfast we have ever had. Jim fills our cups again and we discuss the errands we need to run after we go to exercise. We fill up on the comfort and good will that is around us, in no hurry to leave. As I look out the window at the grey sky, I think “life is good.”

Why Did I Marry an Old Man?

_DSC0097

A beach cherry? – Lake Michigan shore.

We went to breakfast this morning at our favorite breakfast place in Michigan. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot, but when we went in we saw that the back end, around the corner, was empty so we sat in the booth in the far corner. We do this so we can talk and Jim can hear without his hearing aids picking up all the ambient noise of a voices. We are learning the hearing-aid friendly places to go for this-and-that conversation over breakfast, lunch and dinner – but that is another post.

Yesterday was our 55th anniversary and as usual we forgot about it until we received an e-mail from our financial adviser wishing us a happy day. It used to be a card from my mother that reminded us of the occasion. Yesterday we made quick plans to go out for supper, mainly because I hadn’t thought about what to fix for supper. You can tell that we don’t take this day really seriously, probably because we remember on most days how much we appreciate our time together, which makes a special celebration feel redundant and unnecessary.

This morning Jim said “Happy Anniversary” to me after we had each fixed our coffee with one sweetener and two creamers. I looked into his eyes and smiled. I told him how he was a perfect husband for me and that I believe each of us is a better person because of the other. We have been a part of each other’s lives for 60 years, through some very difficult years, many years when we were too preoccupied with the work of maintaining a household and raising a family to assess whether they were good or bad, and lots of times throughout that were full of joy and happiness. During this time we talked and laughed, talked and cried, talked and screamed, talked and went silent. During this time we impacted each other’s thoughts and emotions. We changed how we behaved and what we believed in. We became more of the person each of us was meant to be and also more tolerant. As we developed our own personalities over the years, we also became more compatible.

Last week I was thinking, with an internal giggle, why I had married an old man – the old man that I wake up to each morning and then say “I love you” to every night as we squirm around trying to find a comfortable position that allows sleep to take us in. I enjoyed this question over several days and thought about the wonder of growing old together, but didn’t know how it would be received by Jim. So one afternoon as we met in the middle of the kitchen with a cheerful hug that was almost sensual, I asked him why he married such an old woman. He laughed heartily and didn’t lose a beat by replying, “Ah, but I see a resemblance to a woman that I thought was really hot in a long ago time.”

Lake Michigan, Harbor Springs

_DSC0074We went “up north” last weekend camping with friends. This wasn’t a new location to us, with lots of new areas to explore. No, we have been here before, many times so it was more like going “home” to the “up north” that includes anywhere above the midpoint of the Lower Peninsula into the far west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have vacationed at different places throughout this large area for close to 50 years so we can engage in many “remember when…” conversations. Conversations like; “Did we come here with … or …? Wasn’t this the place where Mike… or Sharon… or Carol …? Didn’t we have the …. camper when we camped here, was it in 1976? This sure has changed a lot – its not as I remember it.

It was a beautiful weekend in Petoskey, on the shore of Lake Michigan almost to the tip of the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. The temp was in the low 70’s with a cool breeze to complement the warm sun traversing a very deep blue sky. On Friday we drove north along the Lake Michigan shore making our first stop at Harbor Springs. I did a little shopping but mostly tried to capture the spirit of the small towns that cater to tourists who are discovering the beauty of our Great Lakes for the first time or the people like us who have been going “up north” for decades. Many of the people were young families with strollers and young adults in small groups.

Harbor Springs was just waking up to summer, enjoying the laid back quiet before the throngs of summer visitors arrive. The planters were newly planted with bright summer flowers and spring iris and daffodils were blooming. There weren’t many boats in the harbor marina and hardly any people walking the streets or shopping in stores. A couple of shop owners told us this was the first week of being open, probably recently returning from their winter of managing stores in southern Florida.

The most obvious sign that we are in northern Michigan is the presence of fudge shops – lots of fudge shops. It appears that this shop is stocking up for the 4th of July week-end.

I resisted, although Lynn and Gary confessed to indulging in something decedent and very tasty. I am convinced, however, that I gained about a half a pound smelling the wonderful aroma coming through the door that was propped open to the morning breeze.

I really enjoyed meandering through the gift shops looking for things that I normally don’t shop for. I only bought a few little things but was reminded that this is a shopping area with a short season evidenced by their simple way of writing up an order. No fancy technology here – the clerk is getting my change from a small metal money box under the counter.

_DSC0034

As my purchase was being bagged the clerk said that if I liked cookies I should go to the next corner, turn right and cross the street. And of course we did.

We bought enough to split one now and another later, and some to share with our friends. The ones with chocolate were the best, but I didn’t need to tell you that.

Our friends were exploring somewhere that Hemingway is said to have frequented when he visited upper Michigan. While they were doing that, I was admiring a bronze statue of Hemingway that was for sale in front of an art gallery. The owner of this gallery had an eye for talent that resonated with my taste. Fate intervened to require that our credit card be cancelled and a new one issued the day before we left and Jim had the single other card we have as backup. Sometimes life just works out like it should.

_DSC0020

Funny how certain tiny events can evoke big and beautiful memories. We had crossed over to the shady side of the street and I had sat down on a bench to enjoy being who I am in that moment in time. As we sat, two boys passed in front of us, one a little older was striding with purpose, with a dollar bill in his hand. The second boy was younger, full of excitement, and bouncing down the street sideways. I overheard the younger ask if maybe they could get some ice cream at the general store that was their destination. The older replied with the authority of age that they would have to check the price.

_DSC0048

Those boys were me 60-some years ago. I remember the power of having money in my hand, especially money I had earned, heading for the corner market to make my decisions about what penny candy to buy – without adult supervision. I remember hopping along beside an older cousin I trusted and admired as we went down the street to the dry cleaners that also sold stamps for our stamp collections. Yes I remember this summer day from the being of a child, from the being of a young mother responsible for the fun and earned privileges of her children. And best of all, I experienced this summer day from the being of an old person with time and money to spend for small pleasures.

The Joy of Aging

_DSC0127

The second cup of coffee sipped quietly as the morning light strengthens
and we stretch out the stiffness.

A leisurely decision about how to spend the day in creative pursuits
nary a worrying about time-clocks and meetings.

Freedom to choose when mundane tasks are done
anytime between now and never.

Shared memories with loved ones only to discover that we lived different
lives together at the same time and place.

Comfort within ourselves as days flow from solitude to companionship
with friends who fill us for more solitude.

Laughter over things gone wrong when once
we were filled with blame and shame.

Comfort in being mortal as faith promises that a worn out body will be
replaced with a new non-titanium being.

Favorite places and times indexed in our brain to visit when current
place and time become too complicated.

Bitter-sweet memories of people who influenced our minds and our lives
but who are no longer walking the earth.

Being who we always have been even as we are different in so many ways.

I’ve been a bit morose as of late. Maybe the noise from the condo above has rattled loose my brighter side. Whatever is going on, I’ve been fretting about roads I wasn’t able to travel, opportunities I couldn’t seek out… and time has run out. Last Sunday in church, the phrase that stuck from our public prayer of confession was, “We look back with regret, rather than with gratitude.” I tried writing an essay from the depth of my morose — hoping to write my way out. It didn’t work. This is my attempt at gratitude because I really do enjoy who I am and where I’m at. If I like where I’m at, the path here couldn’t have been that bad.