LIFE HATES EMPTY SPACE

EVERY GOODBYE BRINGS ITS OWN MIRACLE

Tuesday evening, the 28th of October, 2020 (what I had called ‘The Year of Good Vision’) I found the courage to give my precious Salomé and myself the gift of love and peace, before she suffered too much or I suffered too much. It was a sweet parting, followed with tears that threatened to never stop. I took a small pill and did sleep the night through. The tears started again the following morning so I wrote the previous Blog piece (Absence)

and ran through all her pictures and cried some more. Then I picked myself up and began cleaning out all her things: I had no intention of getting another dog soon and as I had taken 3 years after the death of my last dog before getting Salomé, I figured that when the time came I would get everything new.

Then something strange happened. I heated up my lunch, sat at the computer to eat it, opened internet and suddenly found myself typing in: ‘Dogs for adoption in Southwest France’.  I didn’t think it, it just happened… and then the MIRACLE. The miracle is called: JULIETTE (does not include Romeo… too bad) and looks something like a cross between a small fox and a tiny kangaroo… Juliette…

Even the name said ‘Love Me’, but the look and the fact that she was so similar to Loli-dog in size and appearance told me –in no uncertain terms- that I had to have her.  Unfortunately, Juliette was not close by, but halfway across the south of France to a place called Perpignan, a four-hour drive even going at top speed which is 130 kms/hr. 

I sent off an e-mail asking if she was still available (perhaps they had already adopted her out… fear substituted tears immediately); when I had no answer 20 minutes later, I sent another e-mail even more desperate than the first. The thought that I might be going crazy with grief passed through my mind, so I picked up the phone (one thing had nothing to do with the other, I see now) and called the number under La SPA (stands for Societé Protectrice des Animaux) Refuge CAP de Perpignan…

The “SPA” part made it sound like a very pleasant place filled with pools of warm water and loving masseuses who looked kindly after unwanted animals. A very nice lady answered the phone and assured me that Juliette had not yet been adopted.

“Please hold her, I’ll be there for her tomorrow” I said into the phone, noticing that I no longer had any need to continue crying. It was 4 in the afternoon, and I had the feeling that something other than my own free will had taken over as I  printed out directions for getting to la SPA, loaded the live-animal cage into the car, packed up a few necessaries, laid out the money for the cleaning girl and a note specifying not to touch anything that was in the hallway, and decided I should probably be locked up in la SPA myself or put gently to sleep forever due to insanity. None-the-less, the decision seemed to have made itself having nothing to do with my loss, or my sorrow, or any conscious will on my part… it was just happening, so I let go and  ‘went with the flow’.

I was careful, however, to not mention my imminent trip to Perpignan to the many well-wishers who were kind enough to call me and offer condolences that afternoon, as I was convinced that they would find me callous and uncaring… perhaps even inhuman, which were the only explanations I could think of for what I was planning. 

The only person who heard of my folly that was a dear friend who came by to ‘walk’ me (leash-less) in the afternoon (seeing as I would not be walking anything) around the beautiful village of Sauveterre… ‘A brisk walk’ she said, ‘something you mentioned you missed with Salome’s ageing.’ The miracle of kind friends…

Wednesday night, as was expected, President Macron announced our re-confinement as of Friday. I heard his

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speech, admired his directness and clarity, accepted the inevitable and thought to myself: ‘Whether I get the little girl or not, at least I am going to hit the highway the last day before being locked up again. It will feel good.’

At 8 a.m. Thursday morning (market day in Salies), oblivious to what awaited me on the highway as a response to Macron’s announcement, I climbed into my car, set the TomTom for Perpignan and departed. After an hour speeding along at the allowed rate, I stopped for the coffee and croissant I had promised myself upon waking. I was in high spirits and had told myself very clearly that if I didn’t feel absolutely certain about adopting Juliette, I would simply drive back and count it as a much needed excursion.

After coffee, I set off for Toulouse and the … ¡surprise! A swarm of poids lourds’ (heavy trucks) were carrying out “Operation Snail Pace’ around Toulouse, protesting against Macron’s decision. I heard the announcement on the Traffic information station on the car radio, contemplated the fact that I still could turn back, knew damn well I wouldn’t and hoped it would be too bad. It was.

East, West and Southern Periphery Rings were backed up for kilometers and the time for getting past the city ranged from 30 minutes (instead of 10) to an hour. Sure enough, I promptly ran into the tail end of the blockade and my travelling speed went from 130 to about 5km an hour.

Never the less I pushed on, losing only an hour which turned my travel time into 5 instead of 4. Upon making it past Toulouse and entering A9 which turned me southward towards Perpignan and the Mediterranean, I stopped for a rest and a baguette with chicken and salad of which I ate half (saving the other half for a snack on the way back). Coffee and a fruit cocktail completed my lunch.    

 As I neared my destination, I made a wrong turn which took me some 20 kms in the opposite direction to that which I wanted. Suddenly, I felt frightened. What in the world was I doing? Driving all that way, getting tired and with an aching back… without considering that I am 78+ years old!!! Finally, thanks to trustworthy TomTom, I found my way and arrived at the refuge.

The place was clean and spacious; there were cages something like what one sees in a zoo, and large pens where I suppose they let the dogs out to exercise. They took me immediately to a pen that contained two small doggies: a white, furry male and… Juliette. She looked so the size of Loli, but different, more alive, less terrified (she was perfectly capable of growling and snapping if you frightened her). The young lady who took care of me explained this and the fact that she liked women more than men generally, as she proceeded to lead us both to a large pen. There we were left to see if we could get along.

So there I stood, in a pen with a strange dog perfectly capable of biting me if I made a wrong move. It was hot and dusty in the pen and there was only a low stoop to sit on if I wanted. I had been given a hotdog to offer her pieces in exchange –I suppose- for not taking her teeth to me.  I felt a bit silly: like someone suddenly left in a cage with a hungry lion and not knowing what the hell to do. 

I had her on a short leash so we walked around a bit till I got bored and sat on the stool. At some point, she came over and sniffed me. I reached out and tried to pet her but she pulled back and, at that moment, the clasp on her collar opened and she was free. She ran straight for the gate, apparently hoping that someone would rescue her from this idiot of a woman who seemed to know nothing about handling a dog.

Aha, thought I: this is when the hotdog comes in handy. I will just snap the collar back on and give her a little piece as a prize. Well, she was having none of it. She growled and snapped at me with which I dropped the piece of hotdog, which she immediately gobbled up. After three unsuccessful tries, I gave up and started yelling for help.

Finally, the girl came back, snapped a new collar on, attached the leash and handed it back to me. I guess she thought I wouldn’t take Juliette, but she was wrong: I liked the dog, she had spunk, she needed lots of love (and Salomé had well-trained me in that field), and I had the feeling that once we got home and were alone things would somehow turn out.

Long story, short: I signed the papers, paid the money and watched while a young man enticed Juliette to enter the cage by sticking big gobs of white cheese through the rear opening. Once in, I loaded her in the car with the cage door facing me so she would have to look and listen to me the whole way home. What I didn’t suspect was that the whole way home was going to be a lot longer than expected.

I left La SPA after five so it was night by the time I reached the outer limits of Toulouse. What I encountered coming back was this (an actual picture taken from a newspaper report of the problem):

After ‘Operation Snailpace’ there had been a terrible accident just past Toulouse and the back-up was more than ten kilometers long. It took Juliette and me two and a half hours to cover those 10 kilometers. There was nothing I could do, nowhere I could turn off, no other route that I knew of. I sat there, my legs aching, my back aching, my eyes tired and a poor, trembling dog in a cage sitting next to me. I put music on, I sang to her, I talked to her; I gave her a blow by blow description of our predicament, I said I was sorry a dozen times.

As a result, my drive home took seven instead of four hours: in total I had been behind the wheel 12 hours in the day and, having left home at 8 a.m. I arrived back at midnight.

I extracted a frightened Juliette from her cage, but no before she had smeared white cheese (which she had apparently not eaten) all over the leash and the front seat of the car, and walked her around the garden. Then, leaving the cage and anything else I had in the car, we went upstairs and I set about the task of introducing my little lady to her new home. Given the hour and the exhausted and nervous state we were both in, and after realizing that I would not sleep if I locked her in the bathroom, or if I left her free to run around the apartment peeing, I felt I had no choice but to put her to sleep in bed with me.

This I did and, surprisingly, we had a pretty good night with no more mishaps.

(To be continued)

ABSENCE

Wednesday, October 28. I wake up. It is a cloudy morning. All I see is ABSENCE. Beside my bed, there is no doggie basket holding the still sleeping, curled up black and white ball of fur. In the living room, the chair with its colorful cushions is empty; there is no toy bag under the small side table waiting to toss up its balls and sticks. The dog dishes are gone, washed and put aside to give away; the floor of the kitchen is without objects to trip upon.

The hallway is empty; no little four-paws waiting by the door, no leash hanging from the coat hanger, no small raincoat drying on the radiator near the entrance way. Only empty space waiting at the door for me to open it.

Absence…

As I sit at my computer, I can feel the empty black armchair behind me, the armchair she always slept on while I worked and that in the last few weeks she could no longer jump up on. I remember the way she would stand in front of it, looking up, and wait… wait for me to turn around, notice, get up, and help her to climb onto the chair for her nap. Now no one waits… There is a vibrant space where the small black and white body used to be, where I used to see her when I turned from my work. Absence…

Silence is not a problem. She was a very quiet dog, never barked… I mean never… well except when I held the ball and she insisted I toss it… she would bark. But never, not when someone strange came to the house, not when there was thunder, not when she was hungry. She commanded by her gaze. She would look at me, and look at me, and look at me until my attention –doing whatever it was doing in that moment- came unglued from my task and turned to her.

Today there is no look, the space between the armchair and me is empty… there is only Absence.

When I step into the shower in an attempt to wash away the sticky tears I couldn’t stop last night, there is no small black schnauzer creeping in to lie on the floor mat in front of the small electric heater I turn on.

Nothing is asking to be fed this morning except my own stomach which refuses to be satisfied with nothing but choked back and swallowed tears. No small nose pokes at my thigh asking to partake of whatever it is I am eating.

I think: ‘I should get dressed, I should go out…’ and then remember there is no rush, there is no imperative reason, there is no-thing that makes it necessary to go out this morning.

I remember that it has been a long time since I have had a brisk walk, a long time because little legs began dragging behind not wanting to walk far, not wanting or being able to walk fast. I can today go out and have a brisk walk with nothing but Absence trailing behind.

And then I know, as I approach town and begin to see the folks I pass every day, they too will see it, they will see the empty space behind or beside me. And they will ask… Absence will have to be explained over and over and over until she is all gone. It is called mourning, and each neighbor, each kindly question, each tear shed carries it nearer to ending. After that, only the beautiful memories remain… I so look forward to that day.

But this morning is only the first morning of ABSENCE, the first day when I will notice every corner and cranny of this space that we have shared for the last ten years, of this lifetime that we have spent 14 years of enjoying together… and only see its emptiness, its not-thereness, its memory-of-herness…

And as the tears begin once more, ever more, to fill my eyes and slip silently down my cheeks, I cry out to that oh so present ABSENCE, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for being part of my life, for being here with me for so many beautiful days and nights… Thank you, thank you, thank you…”

And she fills my heart with love once more and the tears run again down my cheeks and wet my pajama top and I reach out my hand and clasp to my chest the small blue mouse with red ears and feet that has been her ever-so-carefully guarded toy since she was a pup. I can feel her in this tiny soft toy, all her joy and all her beautiful being wrapped up in a silly mousy toy that squeaks. Thank you, thank you, thank you… forever my sweet ABSENCE. 

MAGNIFICENT MAGNOLIA

Today, Sunday the 31st of May, is the next-to-last day of lockdown. It has been two and a half months. Day after tomorrow restaurants and cafés open; today the church bells chimed their hearts out as the first Mass in more than 75 days was celebrated.

Calendar March April May 2020 Template

I have a friend who hasn’t been out in two and a half months except two or three times to the supermarket. I, of course, have been in and out all along, and, except for my morning and afternoon visits to the cafés to have a coffee and chat, my life hasn’t changed that much. But nothing felt the same all this time. The streets were quiet, people wore masks (they still do) and said ‘hello’ from afar (they are getting a bit closer, but still keeping distance). No kisses even on one cheek, much less on both which is the custom… It was as if everything had gone into stand-still… waiting, holding its breath.

Today, as I walked past my friend’s house I rang the bell and she invited me in for a coffee… just like before. We sat at her kitchen table, chatted and sipped our cups of coffee. Day after tomorrow we will be going to the café to join the coffee group once more.

As I step outside  and turn to walk home, I stop for a moment and listen to the church bells still chiming away. Tears come to my eyes: ‘This is what it must have been like the day WWII ended and the bells could finally chime again,’ I think as I strike out for home.

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At home the Magnolia awaits me: yes, Magnolia, with a capital M. You see, there is a magnolia tree right up the avenue from me and when I walk that way with Salomé and the tree is flowering, I can smell it from a block away. Now it is flowering, and day before yesterday, when I walked past the dark, shady tree, I saw the Magnolia: it was a imagesMBEBL073bud but it had already lost its protective rust covering and was all white, ready to burst open. It was on a low branch… the temptation was too much. I clipped it and smuggled it back home with me: what a delight! I would smell its sweet perfume as long as it lasted.

Of course, this is not the first time I have absconded with one of my neighbor’s magnolia blossoms but, somehow, lockdown has created a heightened state of consciousness and, suddenly, my Magnolia became a living thing, a newcomer to my small apartment.

IMG_20200530_094043When I got home, I trimmed off the extra leaves so as to give her more power, filled a small glass vase with fresh water and placed her gently on the dining table in her new home. Throughout the afternoon, the pregnant bud grew plumper to the point of bursting. The perfume was still faint, barely discernable. When I went to bed, I anticipated the delight that awaited me in the morning with the perfume, but I never expected the marvel that was to fill my life for two whole days.

At 9 a.m. I noticed the bud had begun to open and the room was filled with the sweetest, most delicate perfume. I took a picture, topped up the water in the vase, said ‘thank you’ and ‘good morning’ to Magnolia, and went about my morning.

When I came home an hour later from my walk, the delicious scent greeted me the IMG_20200530_103512moment I opened the door. I went to see how Magnolia was doing and noticed progress. The wonder of the miracle of life filled me and I decided to follow the unfolding of this miracle throughout the day. Half an hour later, Magnolia looked like this:

I can’t even begin to describe the perfume that was wafting out of the unfurling bloom and filling the apartment. It would be what joy and love and tenderness all combined would smell like if they were a perfume.

Our love affair was on; there was no avoiding her allure and my curiousness as to what was thereof to unfold (literally). I longed to have a video recorder that could record for hours and then be speeded up so I could see her move IMG_20200530_104937myself for –no matter how I tried to make myself patient and stare at her moment after moment- I could not capture even one slight pulse of a movement, and yet, not even 90 minutes later she had bloomed.IMG_20200530_121825

How did she move ever so slightly, ever so cautiously that my eye could not capture even the slightest twitch? All day long I observed her, breathing in her heavenly perfume and thanking the heavens I had been so bold as to steal her for my own.

And then, around five o’clock in the afternoon, as the sun began its descent in the western sky, something even more miraculous happened: she began closing her petals slowly around her center once more. By five thirty she was halfway closed, and –although she never got back to IMG_20200530_204800being a bud again, by evening, there was no doubt she had gone to beddy-bye.

She and I slept all night. The following morning, I arose to the sweet, blessed scent of Magnolia, at around 7:30. The day IMG_20200530_184031promised to bring in the summer full on, and be hot and sunny and even vaporous. But in spite of its brightness and warmth, Miss Magnolia didn’t budge until around 9 a.m.

In spite of being a ‘sleeper’, she hurried to start her big day and was more than half-way open twenty-six IMG_20200531_093643minutes later with her yellow and red stamen filaments beginning already to fall.

Two hours later, she had finished her job and by evening she was ready and willing to go to sleep, having done a hard day’s work.IMG_20200531_101950

My house continues smelling of sweet magnolia blooms, but I feel sad, knowing that the following day, although she will open again, her petals will begin to brown and her perfume to smell a bit stale and soon, too very soon I will be obliged to consecrate her once more to the ground via compost.

Dying

So summer comes, the magnolia blossom does what a blossom is destined to do and the Lockdown comes to an end slowly…

I can only wonder what the world will bring tomorrow.

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.