2020: THE YEAR OF CLEAR VISION (a story)

One morning towards the end of the Great Pandemic of 2020, Lily suddenly looked out of the window, across the red tile roofs of the town, through the greenness of the trees and up into the cloud dotted sky and, for the first time in many, many years asked herself, or the Universe, or whatever, a question that came, not from her mind, but from somewhere deep inside her chest:

-Why are we here? Why is all this here?

And she meant, of course, herself and all the animals and plants and trees and clouds and bodies of water or streams and the insects, the mites, the bacteria and viruses. What for?

Immediately her mind leapt into action and began coming up with all the answers that had been registered there over time for Lily was not a dumb or unlearned person… but not one answer stuck.

-No –said Lily to her mind- I mean all this: the birds and the trees and the flowers and the viruses and the angels and the mites in our mattresses… and us humans and our dogs… Why are we here? Why is all this here? –it came from her gut, the question, and it produced not a little unease.

She knew it was an important question and also one that humanity has been trying to answer for most of its existence. She also knew that no answer had yet made her think oh… yeah: that’s it, and feel satisfied enough to go on with her life.

She had never believed all of religion’s fairy tales and horror stories of a Loving but Just God-Daddy who would reward the good and punish the evil, and the New-Age reasoning of being here to Create Consciousness –which at one time had sounded pretty good- had long since seemed full of holes: What for? was the obvious next question… and that was the problem: To every answer possible, there was always the obvious next question and it was always… What for?

Then she wondered: Will I find out when I die? And what damn good will it do me then? The Cosmic Joke… Then she could reincarnate… but What for? What for if you can’t remember the previous life and all the lessons learned then or what crimes you are being punished for and what karma you are cleaning… What for???

Could it be that there was no reason for all this beauty or all this ugliness? What if there was no FOR…

Einstein had said –or so she had read- that the most important question we must ask is: Is this a friendly Universe…? ‘He probably meant God when he said Universe- but couldn’t say so because God has gotten such a lousy reputation these days’ she thought. She too preferred ‘Universe’, it had fewer connotations, it was asexual and certainly had no overtones of daddiness. Universe was something impersonal. When she wanted something she always left it to the Universe and everything had usually gone her way in the long run.

Man’s Search for Meaning (and Women’s, Lily added in her usual feminist fashion), came to mind. She went over to her desk, opened the computer and googled Viktor Frankl. The book popped up. She had read it a long time ago, during her ‘searching’ period which had taken up all of middle life from 25 to 60, but the book had gotten lost in one of so many house moves.

She browsed down the offerings, all Kindle and each one a bit more expensive than the previous. There were four different publications, followed –strangely- by a book of recipes for dishes using cherries… She wondered what the connection was: the Universe is just a bowl of cherries? Sixteen million copies sold! Of Frankl’s book, not the cherry recipes.

‘Maybe I wouldn’t be searching for meaning if my books had sold 16 million copies,’ Lily pondered. ‘And supposing the answer to What for? is Just because…?’ she went on to consider.

Lily closed the computer, returned to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee; from the cupboard she extracted a dietetic cookie, and returned to her contemplation from the window.

It was the 53rd day of the Pandemic Lockdown and existence had become a very private and a very simple matter. Living alone, as she did, in a very small apartment, in a small town, far from family and with only a few select friends, her life had never been very complicated in these later years, but the Lockdown had definitely over-simplified it to almost nunhood.

Silence had never bothered her –she was not a listener of music and hated having a background anything- but with Lockdown it had become, what she thought of as, a Very Loud Silence. Twenty-four hours after the Confinement had begun, she had discovered that there was a ringing in her ears she had never noticed before. She looked it up on internet: tintinitis… no idea where it comes from and no cure. So much for that. As soon as traffic picked up again, and kids began riding their motor-scooters with the exhausts open and neighbors started conversing window to window the outdoor noise would probably din the ringing and she could forget about it.

But again… Why is all this here? What for? After all, she knew that cars and trucks and guns and department stores and hospitals and schools were here because ‘Man’ (that one-sexed, patriarchal species) had made them. But why was LIFE in all its manifestations here?

Lily thought back on her little life (so small, so meaningless) –since Lockdown there had been plenty of time to go over the years-. It had been a lifetime of searching… she thought, and what for? Oh, yes… Of course… Life had seemed unlivable… from the tender age of 19, she had suddenly understood that she understood nothing, that she felt she was losing it (whatever it was), and that she needed someone or something to give her an answer and to plot a path.

From that age on, she had searched. The first Someone was God, through the Catholic Religion. Not having been brought up in any belief, she went through the whole enchilada: catechism, baptism, confirmation and first communion… all in one and Life had Meaning, which was to Love God and Do Good. Lily found she wasn’t very good at either, especially  the doing good, since she met the man who was to be her husband shortly after becoming Catholic and ‘Sex raised its Ugly Head’ as her grandmother so liked saying.

At 20 she had dropped God, married The Man and wound up with two small children by the time she was 25. From there, the development of a freaking frustration that drove her up the walls was just a hop, skip and crying fit away.

The next remedy to existential anguish was Freud and the psychoanalytical couch. She was told that the problem was a Father Complex and a great amount of Penis Envy (something she found hard to ‘swallow’ both from the analyst and from The Man), but at least the couch was a first step towards a fascination with the Psyche, the Mind, the Noodle-de-Doodle and a certain degree of understanding as to how we function, if not -yet- the WHY.

Somehow, Freud managed to cement Lily to The Man long enough for the kids to marry before the final downward plunge leading to divorce. Although the Psyche had been fascinating, it had not been enough to keep her mind on the straight and narrow, so in her late 50’s she had joined God and Freud in a frenzied Spiritual New Age search that had ended at age 60 when she had finally settled into some kind of contentment and moved in with a small female dog for a companion. Since then Life had been good -although never understandable- and she had basically stopped asking THE QUESTION.

But the year 2020 –the year of CLEAR VISION as Lily had jokingly foretold- had been turned upside down with the Pandemic. And the Pandemic, with the following necessary Lockdown, had suddenly brought up the froth that lay quietly waiting beneath life’s contentment and there, on this morning of the 53rd day of Deafening Silence, the unanswerable question had bubbled up and burst out upsetting everything but the stolid noiselessness.

‘What in the hell for?’ Lily repeated, this time out loud. ‘I mean… Look at us! As a species we are a disaster: greedy, relentless, murdering, selfish, unfeeling, insensitive, egotistical… arghhhh, Beings… Why? What in the hell for?’

Lily was not happy at having been obliged to look again so closely at her own species, at her own self as she had been over the last 53 days. There were six days of Lockdown to go and then… What?

Was it to be Everyone back to as before? What for? What does it all mean? If we’re good, if we’re bad, if we’re generous, if we steal… Us and all this incredibly awe-inspiring, unbelievably beautiful world that surrounds us… WHY IS ALL THIS HERE… WHAT FOR?

Suddenly she looked at the trees as if she had never seen a tree before, and heard a bird chirping as if it were the only sound on Earth and felt the loving caress of the breeze that was lilting off the mountains … and tears began streaming down her face as she softly, oh so very softly… smiled.

ONCE MORE…SOYLENT GREEN

Yesterday, someone I love very much called me crying (this was a man and I had never heard him cry before) and said: “You have to see the Michael Moore film: Planet of the Humans (https://planetofthehumans.com/) which started playing on YouTube on Monday and is going to run free for 30 days. I turned on the film and watched all the way through. I did not cry when it ended although the director tried his best to evoke my tears showing the final scene of a scraggly orangutan dying alone in the mud against a deserted landscape with the trunk of one sole dead tree which had been its last home. The image is enough to bring me once more to the verge of tears, but I will not be provoked.images2WAUULWM

The film is a very convincing unveiling of the scam and the gold-mine for greedy investors (the Kohn brothers, et al), lying politicians (Gore, et al) and irresponsible Conservation Associations (Sierra Club, 350, et al) that green energy has turned into.

It is good that we should know this, and I appreciate that they relieved me of the pressure I was putting on myself to finally buy an electric car (that’s out), but I do not agree with blanket denunciations that offer no other solution, not even the slightest hint. The documentary reminded me of a dystopian thriller from 1973 (almost 50 years ago) staring Charlton Heston called Soylent Green that visits a future (year 2022!!!) of dying IMG_20200424_153115oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect. In the film, the world is suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation and depleted resources. For those who have not seen it, I will not spoil the surprise ending: it is worth watching. In this movie, there is no solution either: it is meant to shock you and make you think. Obviously it didn’t make any of us think enough for we are but two years from the fictional setting and there is still no solution on the horizon.

Back to my gripe. The movie offers no possible solution to problems that can only be solved, first by scientists and then by well-meaning politicians and investors. Yes, the lonely, home.ridden citizen can vote… and looking around at the array of politicians and people holding high offices in what we consider our democratic nations… that is not exactly a consoling possibility. We can support Associations that pressure governments and undertake projects to solve the problem… but that is exactly what we have been doing and what the film denounces as just one more scam (perhaps due in part to ignorance, but suggested to be caused by greed). So we’re back to zero. Unfortunately, films like these make one feel angry, frustrated and helpless which –for me- is the worst possible result, because I will not only not do anything about it, but will reject all further information.

So, after steaming a bit last night and then watching a short series on Netflix (The Innocence Files) where at least people are doing something to solve a problem (finding ways to free innocent people locked up in jail for crimes they didn’t commit), I found myself waking up this morning and thinking: “Well, what can I do and what am I already doing?”IMG_20200419_123856

First I went to what I do now. I buy as much bulk and as little pre-wrapped food as I can. I separate my garbage (compost, recyclable, glass and waste) very carefully. I make sure that all plastic bottles, cans and containers are crushed to occupy the least possible space both in the garbage and in the recyclable (one of the problems of garbage is the volume). I wash my dishes and hands and face with cold water (save gas) and with the stopper in the drain so I can reuse the rinse water to soak the next set of dishes 8aves water); I turn off lights I am not using in my house (all this is good for my economy also). I use the car as little as possible, mostly walking to where I have to go unless that isn’t a choice. I wear my clothes for umpteen years and hardly throw anything out; when I do get rid of something, I take it to the second-hand shop. When I throw out a pair of  nylon stockings I snip them into little pieces so, if they do get to the ocean, they can’t strangle turtles or other marine life. By the time someone informed me that there are now cotton buds with wooden sticks, I already had a 100 piece box with plastic sticks in my drawer. I hardly ever use them but when I do, I cut the plastic stick into very tiny pieces with scissors before throwing away. If I had a meat grinder, I would grind them up… might get one, now that I think of it. I use so little plastic wrap (I reuse it until it falls to pieces) that one box has lasted me the 10 years I have been here in France and promises to still be imagesU53O0PN6around when I’m not.

What else do I do… Well, I help de-contaminate the mental sphere of the world aiding women (and people in general when asked) in finding happiness, or at least peace, in their lives and stop suffering. I have been doing this, through certain therapies and groups, for the last 27 years.

Before that, I spent four years working for a Mexican Conservation Association called Pronatura (two of those years, as its President), mostly raising money to protect sea turtles and monarch butterfly habitat (several programs that were begun under the auspices of Pronatura continue to be in effect today). So I understand how difficult it is for Conservation Associations to come by money for their projects. When, at the end of the film, several associations are named and their pronaturacontributors listed (all big, ‘greedy’ companies) I remembered how I had gotten myself a bleeding ulcer giving pep-talks and soliciting big greedy companies for money so that we might carry out as many of our conservation programs as possible. Receiving money from these ‘enemies’ did not compromise our nature commitment in the least so I don’t really know if the film is uncovering misdeeds, or if its makers have been misled. Unfortunately, it does not show what conservation associations do DO, so it might harm those that are really fighting the good fight.

The Nature Conservancy was among the companies listed in the film as receiving big bucks from big bad companies. It was also an organization that Pronatura worked with while I was President, but I know from experience that The Nature Conservancy does marvelous work supporting conservation programs in developing nations and was an important factor in supporting us with big bucks in our sea-turtle protection program. What is wrong with getting big bad companies to support good nature programs and then giving them credit for it. Sounds to me as if they want to throw out the baby with the bath water. IMG_20200424_152554

So that about sums up what I did, and what I try to do now… Can I do more? I am open, I am willing, I am waiting for someone to show me a new way… That is something that Michael Moore’s film did not do.

 

SPRING HAS SPRUNG…

IMG_20200328_143854It’s here, there’s no doubt… it’s blooming, exploding, all around. I can see it, I can smell it, I can feel it in the warm, lush air. SPRING…  I am happy… How can I be anything but happy?

When I leave my small apartment to walk to the bakery and get my morning croissant (a gift of Corona), I suddenly notice a bustle of cars and… even people, not seen before in any of the days of this Lockdown. There are “dots” (the Corona version of lines) in front of every store that is open, and almost all the parking places are taken around the small Super Market close to my home. What is going on?

It must be SPRING… The LOCKDOWN has not been suspended and people keep dying from the pandemic, but I feel happy. I buy a coffee (also offered at the bakery), along with my croissant  and stroll over to a bench with Salomé in tow. There we sit, watching people come and go (it is soooo weird to see people come-and-go after … what is it? Four weeks??? of Lockdown) thinking: ‘It must finally be Spring’.IMG_20200326_144924

Sooo, what can I say? I am happy. Everyone I know is –so far- healthy; my son has completely recovered, the sun is shining, the unseasonal cold that crept in during the last two weeks has disappeared, and I feel like dancing down the sidewalk.

A neighbor is standing in front of her door. I wish her a cheery good morning. She immediately informs me –before anything else- that there are over 10,000 dead. I shake my head.

“Yes, and we are alive,” I say to her in my broken French, and, smiling, wish her a good day. I prefer not to dwell on things I can do nothing about. That might seem callous to some, but why would I choose to add more suffering to the planet if I don’t have to. Where can I make a difference? That is what I need to know, not where I couldn’t have anyway.

IMG_20200401_153436As I see it, Corona has given me a gift I never expected. Twenty-seven years ago, when I was pulling myself out of three addictions (alcohol, cigarettes and relationship), I needed the support and companionship of other women (after a life-time of thinking men were better company), so I formed a 12-Step Group for Codependent women in Mexico. Last year, when I visited my daughter there, I had the gift of attending a meeting of that group which still gathers and helps other women every Monday of the year. I was sad that I could no longer attend meetings regularly. So…. when Corona hit and everyone on this beautiful planet was confined to their quarters, it occurred to me that I could organize a Codependent’s meeting on line and therefore, could attend my beloved group’s gatherings at least as long as Lockdown existed. I proposed it and not only did they all jump at the opportunity, but also –as no one has a terrible lot to do these days- we now meet three times a week (in the morning for Mexico and the afternoon for Europe) and three friends from this side of the ocean have joined. What a gift!

So I am happy.

Yesterday I swept, mopped and dusted my whole tiny apartment (which seems much larger since I am doing the housework), and –even though I couldn’t see the dust before the cleaning- upon finishing, the rooms seemed to shine and wink in the afternoon sunlight.

As I write, a bee flies in the open window. I stop for a moment to watch it buzz around my plants looking for a flowering one… There is nothing sweet there and soon it departs through the same window. I smile and feel the happiness bubble up inside of me. Outside I can hear the birds singing (in spite of the fact that there are more cars today then I have heard in the past three weeks) and I begin singing along with them: “The sun is shining, Oh happy day… No skies are cloudy and no skies are grey… Oh happy day, oh oh oh lucky me.”  Won’t you join me today?IMG_20200325_143258

P.S. How can I be anything but happy…. This afternoon I left for our after-lunch walk at 3:45. One look at the sky told me that the heavens were going to fall any moment. My IMG_20200411_160745ears caught the rumble of thunder. I was not to be discouraged: I needed cheese. So -I decided- if the sky falls while I am in the Supermarket, I will just wait it out and walk home when the rain stops.

Well, I got to the Super without a drop falling and was on my way back when I crossed paths with one of the ladies that wait on people at the pharmacy. Just because there was no reason not to, I asked for the umpteenth time if there were any masks available. To my surprise she said “I can IMG_20200411_163326give you two”… Seeing as I had none and was not about to test my clumsiness trying to make one, two was a treasure-load of masks -and for free. I gushed my thanks and trotted off home with my bounty, arriving just in time to avoid a soaking. I mean… How can I not be grateful? What a life!

Adelaide’s Body

No, it’s not the solution

to throw yourself under a train lilke Tolstoy’s Anna

or to drink Madame Bovary’s poison

or wait on the plain of Avila for the visit

by the angel with an arrow

until throwing a shawl over your head

and beginning to act.

(…)

There must be another way that isn’t called Sappho

or Messalina or Mary of Egypt

or Magdalente or Clemencia Isaura.

Another way of being human and free

Another way of being.

–Rosario Castellanos

The day the carpetlayer arrived, Adelaide met her Destiny. He was short, skinny, disheveled, and very macho. He had red hair and a beard. As he wove a net of smooth, beguiling words around Adelaide’s beauty, he laid the carpet, and then he laid Adelaide herself on the carpet. He took her there the first time with the smell of new carpet tufts exciting her nose; then on her grandmother’s sofa that exhaled ancestral dust with every thrust; twice under the dining room table while she saw Christmas lights and gave thanks and, in a final superhuman effort, he besieged her in the broom closet where he fell exhausted on the mouse droppings.

Adelaide straightened what was left of her skirt, while the redhead gathered his tools, snapped shut his toolbox and his fly, bade farewell with an arrogant gesture, and disappeared through the back door where he had entered just an hour earlier.

She never saw the carpetlayer again, nor did she ever have another carpet laid, or tidy any sofa, or mess up another skirt. She abandoned her house to dust and time and with iron determination began to pursue that Fatal Star that had shone for her under the table as the carpetlayer enjoyed something she couldn’t understand. It didn’t have anything to do with nocturnes by Chopin or exercises on the piano or cross-stitch embroidery or art history classes or the elaborate preparation of succulent meals for a future husband or knitting little sweaters for mothers-to-be or bridge parties on leisurely afternoons or rosaries for the dead or even that pleasurable and undoubtedly sinful sensation of washing certain parts of her body under the tepid caress of water. In other words it had nothing to do with anything that she had ever known.

Unknown or not, Adelaide was convinced that that was her Calling in life and with her usual tenacity she dedicated herself to pursuing her new goal. Exactly how many bookstores she explored in search of ancient guides for her exercises or how many hours she spent prostrated before the makeshift altar with her forehead against the hard tile floor or how many days of fasting and sacrifice she endured or how many different names she invoked before hitting upon the one that corresponded to her century, will never be known because they are secrets that remained behind the closed door of her bedroom. But exactly at 11:59 p.m. on the second Saturday of May, just before the merciless hand of the clock marked the first hour of the date that is so stressful for the Wicked One, Mephistopheles grew tired of hearing such a string of nonsense and anachronisms in the sharp, persistent voice that silenced even the hissing of the infernal fires and decided to make an appearance in order to find out what the devil she wanted.

Satan arrived precisely at midnight. Adelaide was waiting for him in her blackest, tightest, most sensual dress. When she saw him she uttered the well-known but archaic formula of three, and she awoke in the spirit of the Spirit a nostalgia for the ancient rhetoric.

“Oh, mysterious and morbid lady who so fearlessly and insistently invokes the Spirit of Evil, the Prince of Darkness, the Invincible Satan, the Fallen Angel, Lucifer, the Supreme Instigator of Sin! What dark, secret and impeccable. . .I mean, peccable purpose has moved you to such conjuration?”

Adelaide rejoiced upon hearing the tenebrous tones and stood upright and proud to deliver her plea.

“Oh, Indisputable King of the Dark Gloom, Sinister Prince, Ill-fated and Ill-favored, Malign Being invoked by me since I realized my malevolent and lascivious desire, night after night in the long nights of this winter of my life. . .”

“Get to the point, wench! Many barren women are waiting for me tonight so they can wake up mothers-to-be. I suppose you want the same.”

“. . .in the long nights of this winter of my life, who on this Transcendent Night, Unique and Inimitable, has deigned to respond to my black-hearted and unyielding faith by appearing. . .”

“Hush or I’ll make you a zealot!”

“. . .appearing in Perverse Person and in all your Turbulent Grandeur to grant me my only burning and ill-conceived desire, without which I would prefer to descend to the eternal fire rather than continue in this miserable world, I beg of you. . .”

“. . .to make you a mother!” concluded Satan with a sigh of relief.

“. . .to make me a man!” concluded Adelaide, piercing him with an implacable look.

“Impossible!”

“Don’t recant! I am ready to sign with blood, saliva, or any other bodily fluid to close the deal and surrender my Soul to you for all of eternity.”

Mephistopheles gave her an incredulous look and burst out laughing with such violence that he extinguished the devotional candles and set the curtains aflutter.

“You poor little, insignificant thing! Innocent and naive creature! Women don’t have souls.”

“But I thought. . .”

“Just spiritual demagoguery to keep you under control. I’m sorry. No merchandise, no deal. Arrivederci!”

Mephistopheles spun around on one foot and headed resolutely toward the door. Adelaide felt her last opportunity slipping away and she held out a trembling hand.

“Wait! If I have no soul, I will give you my body.”

The Prince of Darkness stopped and, turned slowly around, his astute glance caught by Adelaide’s determined look.

“What good is it to me?” he asked cautiously.

“It’s young, strong and healthy. It’s got years of use ahead.”

“It’s imperfect, unstable, unpredictable, and in general, extremely defective.”

“By no means,” refuted Adelaide, slipping off her stockings and unbuttoning her blouse. “It’s a perfect, natural clock; tireless, accommodating, and docile. It has an endless capacity for enduring pain and tedium; it harbors an ancestral resignation; it withstands humiliation and mistreatment. It is a source of temptation, an indecipherable enigma, deception of innocent souls, bitter sweetness, a lair of contradictions capable of confounding the wisest sage or the holiest saint; it requires very little upkeep and will never aspire to fame or glory. . .”

Adelaide let her voice fall along with her bra, as she approached her bidder and allowed him to inspect the merchandise: the firm breasts, the smooth thighs, the flexible back, the aroma of the neck, the softness of the belly, and the incessant undulation of the hips. The deal was closed with no further haggling.

“Tomorrow you will wake up a man, and your name will be Adel,”  Mephistopheles exclaimed, as he disappeared.

“. . .and my trade: carpetlayer,” sighed Adelaide before she fell asleep.

+  +  +

The day he arrived at Aida’s house to lay the carpet, Adel met his Destiny. He was tall, handsome, blond, and seductive. As he wove a tapestry of sweet and insidious words around the beautiful body reclining on the sofa, he laid the honey-colored carpet and then he tried to lay Aida on the carpet, but she made him chase her all through the living room, around the table, across the sofa, into the kitchen, upstairs to the bedroom, and back downstairs until he managed to corner her in the broom closet and fall exhausted at her feet.

From that moment on, Adel was convinced that that was his Calling in life. He devoted himself night and day to the task of laying carpets so he could save enough money to dress that irresistible body with silk, adorn that smooth neck with pearls and diamonds, and bestow golden slippers on those tantalizing feet. He grew grey hairs and his skin became wrinkled as he labored endlessly, imagining in his solitude the ultimate possession of the body he so desired. In delirious dreams he constructed feverish altars for her and he saw her naked and tender, docile and resigned, fertile and submissive. Between carpet laying jobs he would visit her, giving her lavish gifts, kissing her feet, and besieging her with declarations of eternal, boundless love. Finally he reached his goal. On the afternoon of Holy Friday, Adel arrived at Aida’s house dressed in a suit of pure silk. He was only ten years older but it looked like twenty; he had the latest-model automobile with a chauffeur, an enormous diamond ring, and a bank account with seven figures. He laid it all at her feet and asked her to marry him. When he heard her resounding “No!” he exclaimed with desperation, “But, woman! Have you no soul?”

Aida gave him an incredulous look and let forth a peal of delighted laughter that ruffled the curtains and made the crystal chandelier tinkle.

*  *  *

(From the book of short stories “When I Was a Horse”

by Brianda Domecq; translation by Kayla García). 

Available on Amazon.

 

NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

more newsI used to watch the News every morning… in French. It was to practice my French, I said, so while I was dressing I would turn on the TV and watch the news. Sometimes, if there was a particularly interesting or frightening or world-changing story I would actually stop dressing, sit on the bed and watch until the item passed.

I seldom watched at any other hour, I almost never used the news viewed as a topic for conversation, you know: “Oh, by the way, did you hear that…” or “Oh my god! What do you think of…?” I would watch the program and then get on with my life.

newsHowever, one morning about three years ago I was watching the yearly strike of the French train workers and I found myself yelling at the screen –in English, as if they would understand me- “Why don’t you lazy SOBs get on your feet and back to work” and then some expletives to underline the seriousness of my from-home intervention. Suddenly, I caught a view of myself in the mirror on the wall. What I saw was a half-dressed woman, shaking her fist at a televised version of people striking  the previous day, a woman who was obviously losing it over something she could no more control than today’s coronavirus.

WIN_20170722_130919 (2)I stopped dead and thought: I don’t need this. I am standing here, getting upset and angry about something that 1) has nothing to do with me 2) affects my life in no way 3) I have no control over even if it did 4) and serves me no purpose to know. That was the day I stopped watching The News. I even called Orange and asked if they had some kind of package deal without television as the only thing I watched on TV was the news (they didn’t).

I have only turned it on once since them and that was the night I received a Whatsapp from my son saying Notre Dame was going up in flames. That I wanted to see.

Since then I know one thing for sure: everything I need to know will somehow get to me; if it doesn’t, I didn’t need to know.

Sometimes, someone will ask me: “Did you see what was on the News this morning?” and when I say that I do not watch the news EVER, they will look at me as if I were some kind of undesirable fungus on their fancy dinnerware.

“Not ever??? How do you find out what`s going on in the world?”

cof

“I don’t. .. If I need to know something, the information will get to me somehow.”

“But don’t you feel you need to be informed, to know what is HAPPENING?”

“What for,” I ask innocently: “If it doesn’t affect my life, if there is nothing I can do about it… Why should I be up to date on the latest bombs dropped on Syria and how many are dead, or the most recent idiocy that has popped out of Trump’s mouth or a terrible snowstorm that blocked all communications to the polar bears in the Artic? Would that make my croissant any tastier or my coffee any hotter? Would it help me to be a better human being today?”

“That sounds selfish and self-centered, don’t you think?”imagesQCC8BODY

“Yes! That’s right! SELF-CENTERED… hurray, at last!  I spent 50 years of my life being OTHER-CENTERED and the only thing I got from that was unhappiness, frustration and rage. So I am self-centered in the sense that I take care of myself: I don’t expect anyone else to do that, it’s not their job, it’s mine. And part of that taking care is not allowing a lot of unnecessary and upsetting information to be emptied into my brain causing negative thoughts and, therefore, unpleasant and unhealthy emotions.”

“Oh, I don’t know… I don’t think I could go through life without knowing what is going on…”

“Oh I find out what I need to know, and even what I don’t need to know. The other day a friend came over looking terribly sad and when I asked her what was wrong, she told me about the brush fires in Australia: ‘and all the wild animals are dying, they have nowhere to go…’ she informed me.

I immediately had a visual image of all those furry little innocent animals, trying to outrun the fire and failing, and my heart shriveled up into a little ball adding a good dose of unnecessary stress to the atmosphere.

“If I am suffering for the animals in Australia, and getting angry at the authorities for not doing the right things, or big companies for polluting… I am in other people’s business and I am not doing my job which is to make sure that my passage through life does the least damage possible and to support with donations–where I can- those organizations that occupy themselves with these problems on a national or global level. So if someone needs me to sign a petition, they’ll sent it to me; and if someone needs me to donate money, I’ll be requested to do that too. In the meantime, my personal suffering does nothing to alleviate the suffering of others, quite the contrary…”

So now I am in Lockdown as is the rest of the Planet, and I continue not looking at the news. There is no change. I do not need to know how many people died in Spain yesterday (and in case I did, my brother just informed me that it was over 1000). No, I don’t need to know that today…

Instead, I am subscribed to something called Good News Network that comes to me through my email (gnn@goodnewsnetwork.org) and that tells me about all the KOALAwonderful and positive things people are doing for the world and others. It not only makes me feel good to be part of the human species, but gives me ideas of how I can make a positive contribution to the well-being of others and our Planet. For instance, it tells me about Australian soldiers who are using their time off to care for Koalas displaced by fires.

Or about a German supermarket that resells tons of food that other stores won’t thus helping our waste problem and about a Chihuahua pup that can’t walk befriended by a pigeon that can’t fly…PIGEON

Am I ‘hiding my head in the sand’…? Maybe, but I am also adding less negative ‘vibes’ to the atmosphere and more positive ones… so, I guess it evens out.oznor

Have a good Lockdown day, love yourself, give yourself what you need to… (I was going to say ‘get through’ but you deserve so much more than that): ENJOY the day ahead and have a full life while in lockdown.

DAY 18 OF LOCKDOWN

IMG_20200216_161054Things I have done.

I ran the vacuum cleaner for the first time in about 50 years (hadn’t done that since I was first married). Mopped and dusted and even made my bed one day (threw my back out, so since then I just pull the covers up).

I bought a whole chicken and made chicken and veggie soup (now I have to see what I am going to do with all that, but I guess Salomé will be delighted to share it with me).

Cleaned two shelves in the corner of the living room that is my office, and organized a Twelve Step Codependent Women’s group (in Spanish) over Internet. Threw out a lot of old papers and organized the ones I wanted to keep in new folders.

Whatsapp-ed everyone who I care about at least once every two or three days. Watched uncountable videos, cartoons and jokes over Whatsapp. Have finished two books, one on the Patty Hearst trial back in the 70’s (not worth the time), another American Pastoral by Phillip Roth (good). Just ordered Walden by Thoreau by Kindle… will tackle tonight.IMG_20200221_104425

I have finished the first revision of my Proustian memoires (1386 pages at the moment) and realized I will have to let them sit for a while. Feel frustrated because I am not writing, so decided to hammer out a blog post.

Watched three chapters of the short Netflix series “Dirty Money”; got depressed and disgusted… decided I didn’t need that. Watched a Turkish movie today because Netflix recommended it and it is the best, the very best movie I have seen in years (The Miracle of Cell Number 7).

Have bought and consumed a croissant every day in honor of all the ladies on the Titanic who didn’t eat dessert that last dinner so as not to gain weight. Bought a pint of Häggen Dazs ‘macadamia nut brittle’ and ate the whole thing watching the movie (tch, tch).

IMG_20200306_094958Salomé and I go out four times a day every day so we’re getting our exercise. She has finally given up going straight to the coffee shop. Have hopefully watch Spring burst forth on each walk, in spite of the bitter cold wind this afternoon. It would seem that the winter we didn’t really have keeps trying to stick its foot in the door.

I check the mailbox every time I go out even though I know the post is not passing now (oops, wrong: just ran into mailwoman and she says she comes three times I week… Yea! I can order a book over Amazon. I cover my hand with the sleeve of my jacket to open doors; if it is cold enough, I wear mittens.

I have washed my hands dutifully every time I come back home. I leave the latest meal’s dishes in the sink and wash them at the same time: two for one. Even that way, my hands are so dry they hurt. I have not found a way to take off the semi-permanent nail polish that has grown out half way and is all chipped, so apart from dry, my hands are a mess.

My son called four days ago to say he had the virus and was isolating from his wife (they were caught in a very small apartment rented while they finish the remodeling of their new house). He spent three days with bad fever and now he is better. Feels good in the morning, gets worse towards evening, but the high fever has not come back so he is getting better. He has dutifully kept me informed and I am taking it in my stride.IMG_20200309_212522

I am surprised how good I have gotten at controlling my mind and, therefore, my emotions. When I first heard the news –from him- my mind immediately said ‘What if he dies?’ and I stopped it right there. ‘Nothing has happened yet’ I told myself firmly, ‘he is a sturdy, middle-aged man in good health; there is no reason he would die… and anyway there is nothing you can do about it so take care of yourself and let life take care of him.’ It is surprising how calm I have been, not bothering him every five minutes for updates, waiting for him to offer the news, not even doting on the subject all day or bombarding myself with negative thoughts.

I downloaded a game of Dominoes on my phone and play against the computer all the time. Many times I win. When I am not playing dominoes, I am playing Scrabble against the computer. I bought two newspapers and have played Sudoku in both of them (I can’t do crosswords in French); not too interested in the news.

Things I have not gotten around to: cleaning any drawers; organizing books on shelves and getting rid of those I have no need for anymore.  Writing the second half of my Proustian Memoires. Cleaning out my filing cabinet. Taking out summer clothes (waiting for the warmer weather). Ironing a couple of pairs of jeans I washed. Baking a cake… (no way I am doing that!)dav

So I am being good, I am taking care to not breathe on anyone, to cough or sneeze into my elbow, to wash my hands all the time, to take sips of warm water all through the day, to keep my defenses up, to get a good night’s rest…

And yet today I was suddenly on edge. I think I was tired… tired of trying not to be sad, tired of trying not to feel how strange everything is, tired … just tired. I snapped at my personal trainer with whom I do exercise over Skype and refused to finish the class because I was so uptight. I snapped at Salomé when she took too long to come down the stairs on her last walk. I felt my chest heavy and sad as I walked in the silence of the night. I felt the aloneness, not only of myself but of everyone in the world as we sit out this strange, silent, invisible war. I longed to find myself on a sofa somewhere, with someone loved and let myself be held; I longed to sit at a table with my family sitting around and laugh, or joke or just chat while we ate our meal; I longed to hop on a plane and fly to Mallorca and visit my brother; I longed to take my car and drive to Madrid and have lunch with my best friend there… I longed…

So I try to be gentle with myself. I will help me into my pajamas and crawl into my bed, snuggle down under the blankets, lay my head on the pillow, close my eyes and drift off. Tomorrow will be another day…

LOCKDOWN ‘FALLOUT’

“So slow down, friend. Take a deep

and conscious breath. Trust the

place where you are, the place

of ‘no answers yet’, the precious

place of not knowing. This place

is sacred, for it is 100% life.

It is full of life, saturated with

life, dripping with life, drenched

with life. Don’t try to rush to the next

scene in the movie of ‘me’. Be here

in this scene, Now, the only scene

there is. Now is the place where

questions rest, and creative

solutions grow.

Jeff Foster

I take three walks a day, at least, four if I get antsy… Today, around 2p.m. Salomé and I set off for our after-lunch round about in silence as thick as cookie dough and not half as sweet. Somebody that lives in a big city says that now they can hear the birds singing. In Salies, we have always been able to hear the birds singing (small town, not much traffic) but now all we hear are the birds… announcing that it is Spring… a “Silent Spring” pops into mind, the title of a book written by Rachel Carson and published back in 1962 untitleddocumenting the adverse effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. I think to myself that this is what the world would look like if we had a nuclear war and were all wiped out by the atomic fallout. Not a soul on the streets, no one looking out of their window, no voices, no music, no cars… nothing. Thick, gooey, uncomfortable silence…

When I get home, I put on some music. Salomé is not convinced. She knows something is wrong and she comes over looking worried. I pick her up and sit her on my lap; she lays across my knees and lets herself be loved. We are company to each other; I love the gentle warmth of her body heating my legs. Afterwards, she seems to be comforted and takes her nap on the chair. I continue working on my Memoires…

Ten minutes later, Salomé is up again. She goes into the bedroom and barks. When I don’t run to see what she wants, she barks again… and again. Finally I get up and walk to the bedroom. “What?” I demand.  She just looks at me and then trots back into the living room: attention is what she wanted. I pick up a ball and lazily toss it down the hallway, IMG_20200318_135716she retrieves it. We play for a few minutes and then I tell her I want to finish writing my blog. She settles down again on the carpet. Thank goodness for Salomé; without her… don’t even want to think about it.

Ok: fallout from the Coronavirus: The rebirth of this blog-page; more time on Whatsapp; contact with people I haven’t heard from in years; more time doing The Work over internet, music. I seldom listen to music, I am too busy and my hour or so in the Café mornings chatting is usually enough noise for me to look forward to my two or three hours of silence before lunch. Now, as I do my exercises (stretching) I put music on the computer (YouTube), as I wash the dishes I listen to music, when I play with Salomé the music keeps us company… This is good.

I have never been much of a talker, but now I am convinced that by the time this is over I will have forgotten how to carry on a conversation, so I try to have at least one a day –over Whatsapp, usually- with my daughter, my son, a friend… anyone. I have decided that The Work I do over internet is another way to keep in touch and am now offering two sessions for the price of one; if this goes on long enough, I’ll give them for free.

IMG_20200320_125010Yesterday I went out for our morning walk and the first thing I saw was a man driving his car, all alone, windows rolled up… and he had a mask on. I wondered who he was protecting himself from… Today I noticed another woman with the same thing. I don’t have any masks; I haven’t even asked at the pharmacy because I know they are all gone, just like the hand disinfectant (I’ve been told more will be arriving next week). In the meantime, I wash my hands more than I have ever washed them in my life, but so as to not wash them double or triple times, I leave the dishes from my latest meal in the sink until I get back from my walks and then I wash them, along with my hands, of course.

Then, as suggested by Whatsapp, I take a clean Kleenex with me when I go out and use to hold onto the banister, to open the door and even to grasp Salomé’s leash. Today, instead of kleenex, I used one of the disposable dog-poo bags over my hand and it was the perfect glove… ummm mitten. Even though I have temporarily given up makeup, I still change my shirt every day; I have been living in the same blue jeans, though, but at least they are blue jeans. The other day I saw a woman out walking her dog in a jacket and pink flowery pajama bottoms! I wondered if she was just absent minded (and forgot she hadn’t taken off her pajamas, or actually thought that no one would notice).

I have taken to going to the bread shop for a croissant every morning, after all, if you think of all the ladies that last night on the Titanic who didn’t eat dessert so as not to get fat… At the bread shop, people now stand in dots rather than lines as they keep the reglamentry distance one from the other. I become a dot in the line. With my croissant in hand -which I will take home to eat with my home-made expresso- Salomé and I take off IMG_20200320_161149for another walk around the block. Salomé looks at me crossly: she wants the cracker she always gets at the Café. I patiently explain to her that the Coffee Shop is closed and I will give her a cracker at home. She doesn’t believe me and pulls stubbornly in the direction of town and the Café. I follow her: it is the same difference to me which way we go home.

As we approach the Coffee Shop, Salomé sees the flower pots still in front of the door and realizes it is closed. She lets me lead her in the direction of home. I will give her a piece of croissant. Strangely enough, I am convinced she knows something is wrong. Since lockdown began she has become constipated and I had to call the vet and get a canine laxative for her after two days with almost no production. We are now doing well, but I continue with the laxative.

Once home, the unexpected happens. My body which is not used to doing housework and has been made to arrange the bed covers after three days of use, decides to protest and I throw my back out. A lumbar vertebra apparently moves, I feel a sharp pain and suddenly I am bent over like a 99 year old. I call my osteopath: both his phones go directly to messaging where I am told the message boxes are totally full. No help there.

I connect with my personal trainer in Madrid with whom I have been working over Skype since moving to Salies. He is an angel and directs some exercises that help. When I am finished, I can at least stand up more or less straight and go out with Salomé. After I have taken care of my back, I go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and discover I have developed a sty in my right eyelid. A sty!!! Haven’t had one of those since about the age of 15. Things are definitely deteriorating!

IMG_20200318_191125But then I work for a while, listen to some more music, go for another walk and have a conversation –keeping our distance- with someone also walking their dog whom I have never seen before, come home and write this blog and it is time for supper.

One more day gone by… I have lost count: is it four or five or more?

We are living in strange times, in the times of IMG_20200319_110909‘never before’, in the times of ‘I hope this doesn’t last’, of ‘Please keep my family safe’… and also of, Thank you, thank you… I am so grateful for all I have. After all, it is Spring and there is a bright pink tulip in a flower bed to prove it.

 

LOCKDOWN: DAY 1

026 (2)

March 17, 2020

Again, I awake at 5 a.m. Again the mind begins to race: Am I coughing, does my throat feel funny, what am I going to do if I get sick, who will take care of Salomé… on and on. Stop!!! I tell my mind that as soon as it is light we will go to the computer, we will find all the answers, we will write them down… go to sleep, sleep… I drift off again and don’t reawake until Salomé shakes her ears telling me it is breakfast time.

Hmmm, day one of lockdown. As I switch on my cell phone a message pings. It is from Gouvernement, the French government. Every single answer to my questions, every single instruction is there. By the time I have finished reading I know exactly what to do and what not to do. Good! I feel protected, I feel cared for, I am grateful.

Day one of lockdown. What a relief: there is no need to put on makeup as I will not see any of my friends, so I wash my face, clean up and dress in blue jeans and a sweater. sdr_softSalomé is asking for her breakfast; Salomé does not understand lockdown, Salomé only understands food-or-nofood. I fill her dish and serve my own cereal in a bowl and add some milk. I have stocked up on milk.

Breakfast done I sit at my computer thinking it would be nice to go back to bed; I am sooooo sleepy I could drop off in a wink. Maybe I am getting sick… Stop mind! Then I realize: it is –of course- caffeine suppression syndrome: I need my morning coffee.

As there are no cafés open, I take out my ground expresso and prepare a pot of coffee. Even the smell knocks the sleepiness out of me. With my nice hot cup of morning expresso, I decide to do my “café” over Whatsapp and begin sending messages to friends and family near and far.

As I have saved myself the 20 minutes of makeup duty, Salomé and I leave early for our walk (the instructions say that it is permitted to do some exercise or take your dog out for its needs). My doggie, thinking –of course- that we are going for our coffee, heads right off in that direction pulling at the leash. It is obvious that her dish of dogfood –as always- has not been nearly enough and she is anxious to get to the café and the sweet biscuit I always share with her.IMG_20200317_101803

“We’re in lockdown,” I tell her, “the café is closed. No biscuit today.” She looks at me. She knows what she knows. When we get to the café, she runs to the closed door, sniffs, peers through, turns her head to look at me, looks back at the door and then sits down to wait.

“I told you it was closed” I tell her pulling gently on the leash. Reluctantly she follows me, looking back a couple of times to make sure I am not trying to fool her. When we get home, I give her half a biscuit and she is happy.

Once I am home, nothing is any different from any other day –except that I know we’re in lockdown. First I go back to the Gouvernement instructions to see about a document (attestation) I have been asked to have to go out after noon today. I find the form and print it out. It is very simple: I fill in the spaces, check off ‘dog-walk’ and sign it. Then I put it in my purse, just in case…

After, I have an appointment over internet which lasts from 11:30 to 1 p.m. (I do all my work over internet) so when I am finished it is time for lunch. I usually do lunch in a small restaurant in town called ‘La Grignotine’, but all restaurants are closed. However, a while ago when I was doing a diet I discovered a service called ‘Kitchen Diet’ that IMG_20200317_154017delivers ready-cooked, vacuum-packed meals that are pretty tasty and help you lose weight. Upon realizing on Friday that restaurants would be closed and we were probably going into lockdown, I ordered my two-weeks of pre-cooked meals which  arrived this morning. I was all set.

Took out one of my favorites (penne with salmon and sauce), added some stir-fried veggies I had prepared two days ago and heated it all up in the micro. For dessert I had a tangerine (fresh), a handful of nuts and a square of bitter chocolate.

So far, not that much has changed with the exception of the morning coffee group. During lunch I work on my Memoires which have become a Proustian job because I can remember soooo much (I wrote it all down in diaries, ha ha).

At 3:30 Salomé gets up from her after-walk nap and barks once to tell me she wants to play, or go out or eat something and that I should stop working immediately and entertain her. Obedient mom that I am, I leap up, don my coat and we’re off again, this time to the center of town.

IMG_20200317_152300I want to see exactly what is open and what is not, and am specially interested in a small shop that sells grains, pastas, nuts and lots of etcetera’s in bulk so that you must take your own container.

Once again Salomé is terribly disappointed because our afternoon café (where they actually have dog biscuits) is closed, but this time she is not even fooled because they have placed the large flower pots in front of the door. The restaurant next door is also closed, but IMG_20200317_152551surprisingly the French government considers wine and liquors as a primary necessity and the liquor shop is open, as is the tobacco store (I once again thank the powers that be for my almost 28 years without tobacco or alcohol).

IMG_20200317_152435My little shop is also open and at the door are the instructions for entering. One is to sterilize one’s hands with the alcohol gel provided in a small bottle, only two people are allowed in the shop at the same time and everyone is to keep a distance of at least one meter from everyone else, and only the store attendant can dish out the produce. Ok, understood.

Once inside, I open my purse to take out the paper bags I have brought for my products and the owner yells at me as if I had pulled out a snake: I am to put them back and she will give me new bags. ‘That’s a waste,’ I think to myself as I obediently put the forbidden objects back into my bag.

I buy almonds and walnuts and pay for them with a credit card as has also been instructed on the rules sheet. As I am leaving, a beautiful head of fresh lettuce catches imagesP3UUIVHFmy eye and –keeping my finger far enough away so there is no mistaking my gesture as a desire to touch the greenery- I ask how much.

Lettuce safely tucked in bag, Salome and I set off once more for home. No one has stopped us; no one has asked for our ‘attestation’ which I have so carefully filled out… actually, there is no one around. Town is deserted.

Once home, I have my afternoon coffee (taking care to give Salomé half a biscuit) and settle down to write this blog-piece. Day One has not been so different from my usual days here… except that I know it is different

AND THEN… THERE WAS WAR

oznorFor a long time I have been saying what a wonderful life and what fantastic luck I have had, to have been alive at a time when I haven`t had to go through any wars, not personally anyway. The wars I have heard about have been far away and have not touched my life in any damaging way. I have not known a World War as my parents and grandparents did. I have not lived in a country being invaded or under siege.

I still say it, although in somewhat of a state of shock. Covid19, the Coronavirus whose worldwide attack we are now all suffering from in greater or lesser degree is about to prove me wrong. There are no bombs or helicopters, no invading armies shooting at Fotos Galaxy (411)each other, no canons bombarding buildings and shelters… yet we are under attack, the human race as a whole. Yesterday, Spain declared a State of Emergency with which special powers were given to the government to close down every non-vital business and center, meaning only supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open for business; France is now following suit, closing restaurants and social gathering places and discouraging travel.

It is a strange feeling, a feeling of being under attack by an invisible enemy; a feeling of something lurking unseen in every corner. Everyone in town has stopped the customary kissing of everyone else, handshakes are out too. We say ‘hello’ to people we care about from a distance, we wash our hands so many times a day they are dry and cracked, we open public doors with our elbows, and now, we find ways to not leave our homes.

Internet becomes our umbilical cord to the world, our phones –always important- are now life-lines to our loved ones nearby and far away, and even to neighbors as we stop leaving our houses. It is strange… the enemy is invisible, soundless, scentless… It could be a story, fake news… yet we know it is real.

davThere is a strange feeling of apprehension and also of underlying awe at the grandiosity of the whole threat. Suddenly, there is the understanding, with a great amount of disbelief and a frisson of excitement, that we may be living a turning point in history, a shift for humanity… For the better? For the worse?

As the countries of Europe curl in upon themselves like threatened snails while being told they are now the epicenter of the pandemic, I sit in my little French town and wait for news to get to me the same way it has since three years ago when I stopped watching or listening to it on television or radio, or reading newspapers: by way of mouth. Someone sends me a text message: restaurants, cafés and the like ordered closed in France; Spain shuts down… The frontier is probably closed. From someone else, a set of rules arrives on how to best avoid contagion. Over and over again we are told to wash our hands as if we were dirty little children rushing in from the playground. It is all unreal; there is a feeling of living in a bubble that will burst any moment and we will discover it has all been a bad dream.

I awoke at 5 a.m. this morning. My nose was all stopped up (“the corona virus does not affect the nostrils the way a common cold does”)… still; I decide it is just this allergy I have had for some time now, but the feeling of fear persists. I am alone; it is 5 in the morning… what if? I cough a couple of times… Is it a wet or a dry cough? I cough again… yes, there is a little wetness in it. Whew!

The emergency number: is it 212, 211, 112,121…? ¡fuck! What is wrong with my cofmemory… It is 112. I would dial 112 and they would ask me in what language I want to be spoken to. Should I say ‘French’ and run the risk of getting confused or not being able to describe my symptoms adequately, or ‘Spanish’ and run the risk of being switched back to French when they ask me where I am located. “¡Stop! It is 5 a.m. Just breathe deeply and go back to sleep.” Breathe… is that deeply enough, am I having trouble breathing deeply? I take a few more breaths and they seem adequate; I turn over on my back. My nose clears immediately and before I know it I have gone back to sleep and awoken at 8:30 this morning.

Today I get a message: “embrace your fear, don’t try to push it away”… Yes, that is good: treat yourself like a frightened child, don’t stress, wash your hands, stay away from public places, eat well, wash your hands, breathe deeply…

There is an incredulity about all this. Here it is: the 15th of March 2020, the year of great visibility, the year we should be seeing clearly (20-20 vision), and I sit in wonder of what it is that we will be seeing tomorrow and the next day, and the next. Last night, as I watched a movie, I noticeD how reality had become much more Hollywood than Hollywood, more unpredictable than the best plots.

Today I take a walk through town. Salomé –my schnauzer- thinks we are going for a coffee and her usual biscuit, but the coffee shops are closed, the restaurants are closed (one has a sign on the door saying they with attend ‘take-away’ but there is no telephone number), the stores are closed because it is Sunday but they will be closed again t20140406_145414omorrow and the next day and the next… The town is almost empty of people in spite of the fact it is a beautiful spring day, warm and sunny. We walk through the semi-deserted town and on home where I give Salomé a compensation biscuit.

I can’t concentrate, on movies, books, my daily chores, the memoires I am writing… It is as if I am waiting, waiting without knowing what it is I am waiting for; a state of suspended animation, a stillness that is filled with sudden starts.

There is a sense of expectation, as if something were about to happen, as if someone were going to come knocking at my door suddenly to announce the first case of Coronavirus to be diagnosed in Salies, a wonderment about what everyone is doing in their individual lives now that we are under attack. Do I have enough food to last out the lockdown? Will I be affected by the virus…? Will the bookstore stay open? What about the bank? Will someone let me know when it is all over? Will it ever be all over?

Yes, I was grateful that I had lived a lifetime without war… and I am still grateful even though  I now find myself –at 78- involved in the strangest, most unknown war of all: the war against an invisible enemy. I sigh and fall back on old ways of coping: take it One Day at a Time, Let go, let God… trust that this too shall pass.

 

A VERY SMALL DOG… R.I.P.

If we believe that death separates our loved ones from us,

we will push them away when their memory comes,

remembering the only thing we keep of them: their death.

We won’t let them ever live again, shutting ourselves down to their visits

and to the love we could still keep feeling for them until the day we join them.

As we believe that their death is painful, when the thought of them comes,

instead of feeling the love we always felt when we thought of them,

we feel the pain of their supposed separation, and we push them away.

Death, July 28 2017

Lolipop has gone. I had her for 16 months and 26 days and in that time she became a happy dog. I am grateful for that and for all the wonderful moments we had together. Once she began to get over her fear, she was a delight. And she could run like the wind. I would take her into the garden and say Run! Run! and she would be off like lightning oznorround and round. Then she would race up the front stairs, jump up on the guard post and be King-of-the-Mountain until Salomé and I got to the top. She often wanted to play with Salomé, baiting her in her doggie way, but my little old lady was too oznorGrand to play with a little mutt. When we walked into town, Salomé was her usual dignified self, walking in a straight line and only occasionally stopping for a sniff or two, but Loli was all over the place, running from side to side, up and down and over and under till the two leashes that I tried to keep organized would be so entwined that I would have to stop and spend time untangling them.

She was still scared of thunderstorms but she got used to the trucks rumbling by (as I have) and it was only with howling winds that she would stick her head under the chair believing that if she couldn’t see you, she was well hidden. But most of the time, when at home she just lazed on her easy-chair IMG_20181026_170519.jpg(I have two and cofeach dog chose their own, so that I seldom got to use either).

Eating was a another matter: she wouldn’t even go near the dish if anyone was looking at her, so I would place her food under the table between the two chairs in the picture and then leave or turn my back so she could eat in peace. The protection of the table and the fact that she thought no one was watching allowed her to eat, but it was a fussy process. She would take a mouthful of kibble and carry it out to deposit on the rug. Then she would eat piece by piece. Most days I ended up collecting dog food spread about under the table and on the carpet, or just let Salomé go in and vacuum it up with her insatiable appetite. IMG_20180602_144306.jpg

As for sleeping, Loli decided that a dog bed was not her cuppa, and slept every night on one of the two chairs in the living room. But come morning, she would trot into the bedroom to see what was going on. Once or twice she climbed into Salomé’s bed but  my older dog was not the cuddling type and would usually leave the room in disgust although once or twice she just seemed puzzled. IMG_20190808_081510.jpg

IMG_20180715_182625.jpgAs for preferences, there was nothing, but ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, Loli liked better than having her tummy scratched. Therefore, she spent more time on her back than on her four paws.

So life got good for Lolipop and I was quite content with our little family of three. We went everywhere together and the whole town -before quite familiar with Salomé- now knew Lolipop as well

Then, as always, things began to change. Around the end of September, beginning of October, Loli stopped eating. She fussed, smelled her food and walked away. She would, however, eat any treat offered and frequently, during our walks, would find an old chicken bone or some other horrid delight that I would have to extricate from between IMG_20180922_123049.jpgher sharp little teeth. I noticed she was eating only the wet food, licking or sucking it off the dry and spitting out the small kernels of dog food. So I began separating wet from dry. Then, one day, she stopped eating all together. I changed to another wet food and for a few days she ate that, then stopped again. By the third week in October I got seriously worried because she was losing weight and had become listless so we went to the vet’s.

The diagnosis was renal insufficiency. A friend immediately reminded me that it is fear IMG_20190716_145501.jpgthat affects the kidneys and I knew Loli had lived in alot of fear most of her life, first being left in a pen with larger dogs when she was very young and then being abandoned the better part of the day and night all alone on a terrace where the wind and rain must have kept her shaking with fear and loneliness.

For two days, the vet kept Loli, in a cage, with an intravenous needle in her front paw, in an attempt to flush the toxins out. I took her home. She refused to eat until I cooked up some turkey breast. That she ate one day.

Two days later, another blood test served to prove that she had only gotten worse inspite of the efforts. I decided she would undergo no more torture and took her home, knowing that if things got bad I would not let her suffer. Sunday morning, things got bad. I called the vet, he put her to sleep in my arms. My sweet little Lolipop went very quickly IMG_20190207_123805.jpgbecause she was so weak. I spent most of the morning crying, and today -because life will guide you if you let it- I read the above opening quote from an old blog post on death and made the decision to let Loli keep on living in all my sweet, sweet memories of her.