Friday, March 28, 2014

The long, long trailer

Today was a day off for me, it wasn't blowing a gale out there, and the sun was shining, so the hitchhiker and I decided to be tourists right here near home. There are several tourist-trap kind of places near the park along I-40 and we headed out when it was about as warm as it was going to get.

We hit four spots and the best one was this place, Stewart's Petrified Wood. 

OK, a school bus at the top of the hill is eye catching, but if that's all you're seeing, you're not paying attention:

Oh, the dinosaur!! you say. Yes, but look a little closer. Now we're talking.

This is a hint of the fun and interesting things Stewart's has to offer, like feeding their ten ostriches, but my favorite thing here is glass.

Lots and lots of gorgeous glass.

It's brought in by the barrel-full from Arkansas. We were told it comes from a cave and is naturally-occurring.

The colors are brilliant and rich and many pieces are loaded with texture, like the striations in the one below.

Or this one, where the bubbles are below surface.

I, who acquire next to nothing because I live in 31 linear feet, had to have a piece. Just a little one.

What a dilemma. It's impossible to compare any of them to another. 

I couldn't understand how all these colors came from one spot, so I did a little googling. It's not naturally-occurring at all, but is slag glass from steel foundaries, the product of silica removal from iron ore. Slag.... Knowing that doesn't make it any less beautiful.

The article I found said the glass is popular for aquarium use. I can believe it. With all the clear glass areas, the specks and swirls of color would appear to be suspended.

How to choose, how to choose?

This is not the one I bought and in fact haven't even taken a picture of it yet, but when I processed all the photos I kept saying, why didn't I buy this one... or this one... or this one? Does this look like the ocean or what?

According to the article I read on Rockhounding Arkansas, blues and greens are the most common; red, yellow, and orange less so.

Here's a a forest in spring.

Champagne, anyone? Complete with bubbles.

I felt like Lucy in The Long, Long Trailer. I wanted about 80% of everything I saw, but space is a reasonable excuse for exercising restraint. And the weight of these pieces. The mpg on the truck is bad enough, and it burns diesel to boot.

I came home with a little piece. It sells for $4 a pound and mine came to a little over $5. That's pretty small. Maybe I'll go back and get just a couple more.

Say good bye to T-Rex. Never mind they didn't even exist in the Triassic era.


Thought of the day:
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. --- Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
People are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.
People are like stained - glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What a distance a year makes

One year ago today I left my house for the last time. It was the darkest day of my life. I was terrified of being alone, of having something go wrong with my van, of the horizon-less unknown, of not having enough money, of some unimaginable disaster crashing down on me, of ultimately having nowhere to go. I had been betrayed by someone I trusted and should have been able to trust. I was lied to, cheated on, threatened, and bullied. I was disoriented to the point of suicidal depression. I, who never met a meal I didn't like, completely lost my appetite and 20 pounds in the space of a few weeks. I was thought so little of that I was not worth telling the truth to. He was so eager to get rid of me that he was willing to pay nearly anything to see me go, except the price of the truth.
That was then.
I talked to my very good friend in New Jersey recently, the one who said to me last year, "Kathleen, he's lying to you" over and over until it penetrated the immobilizing blankness of my mind. When I talked to her last week she asked me what I was going to do to celebrate my anniversary of going on the road. Celebrate?! Was she serious? Indeed she was, and her question turned my attitude from dread to thoughtful.
Much has happened in the last year, but not one thing, not one bad thing to hobble my slow but steadily forward progress. I've had hard days, sure. Sometimes a sadness sidles up softly (funny, I can "see" it and it never comes from behind or head on) and settles in my heart like a weight that will never be moved: why wasn't I good enough? But as softly as it comes, other thoughts of how much I like my life just the way it is nudge their way in. Twice in the past week people have told me that I look younger now than I did ten years ago, and that I've never looked happier in all the time they've known me, so something must be going in the right direction. I must be doing the healing things.
So I've been reflective since my conversation with my friend and have concluded some things, the woulda, coulda, shoulda, and the dids.
What I would have done differently:
Been smarter about all the evidence staring me in the face. I trusted and I shouldn't have. He'd cheated on me twice before that I know about and I was blind to the signs. What an idiot.
Gotten a better lawyer. If you live in North Kitsap and need a lawyer, let me know and I'll tell you who to avoid. I had to tell this guy how to do his job, he still didn't get it right, and it ended up costing me money.
Kept the motor home we had instead of buying the van. I wanted to avoid towing a car because it was so hard to put the car on and off the trailer. What I could have done instead was buy a small manual-shift car that could be towed flat without a trailer. That would have saved me a lot of money. I know this in retrospect but at the time it seemed like the right decision.
Not pulled money from my IRA for a purchase I shouldn't have made. Not only did it reduce my nest egg it cost me a bundle in tax. I told the ex-husband of my hesitancy and was bullied into doing it anyway.
What I did just right:
Snooped his email when things were just not adding up. Yes, I did, and a darn good thing; I otherwise would not have learned about the girlfriend, his Mei Chi, his "I've been looking for you for 40 years." Whatever.

Got a lawyer, even a lousy one, when I found evidence of the girlfriend instead of trusting him to do the right thing about everything I was to be "given."

Found a five-month volunteer job in my field, in a great location, with wonderful people around me. It let me rest my heart and my mind and build some confidence again. It gave me a place to "be" in more than one sense of the word.

Denied him financial assistance when he asked for it. His overextended finances are not my problem.

Lived frugally but not miserly. I have no debt and my vagabond life has allowed me to actually save money.
And finally, the things I've done or not done that I'm proud of, even though they may seem insignificant.
I have done nothing I can't hold my head up about. I have cheated no one and/or on no one, lied to no one, been more courageous than I ever thought I was capable of, and feel pretty steady on my feet.
I have been productive even if not for money, as he rudely pointed out. I have volunteered nine months out of the last twelve, for more than 1100 hours, and I wasn't just twiddling my thumbs.
I have traveled about 14000 miles since I left my house, through 18 states, and have visited 30 national parks, if I've counted right.
I have pulled a 31' trailer with a 6-speed manual transmission pickup (I sold the van last year when I picked up a hitchhiker) through Kansas City mid-day construction, through Houston, the highway to the Florida Keys, up mountains, and across deserts, shifting about 7000 times.
I have snorkeled in the Caribbean, camped in the desert, and hiked hundreds of miles. At the end of long days I've parked the rig in the woods, along the road, in too-expensive campgrounds, in casino and church lots, and at Walmart.
I overcame the catatonia-producing terror of the early days through sheer grit and pride.
I have stopped every-damn-where I wanted and never had to explain, rationalize, or apologize.
I have allowed myself to love and be loved by someone who will never cheat on me, never cause me to have to edit what I say or do; someone who supports, encourages, and pushes me out the door to do the things I want and need and have to do; someone who challenges my brain like I've never been challenged; someone who delights in being with and doing things - anything - with me; someone who loves the woman who was buried for a long, long time.
The ex-husband doesn't have a lock on finding that one someone after looking for 40 years; I just had the grace to wait until I wasn't married anymore. My hitchhiker, my fascinating, loving, thoughtful, gentle, and kind hitchhiker was the bounty on the other side of the barren land that was last year. My life has been changed to wonderful.
Thought of the day:
People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them. - George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren's Profession
P.S. Among the flow of lies from the ex-husband's mouth were two inadvertent, glimmering diamonds of truth. One, that he is a bad person. Two, that I deserve to have the kind of life he couldn't give me. Yes. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Can I hear an Amen!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I told you I was sick!

Cemeteries can be interesting places. Along with churches, museums, architecture, landscapes, critters, the sky, old signs, and good old Detroit steel, they're one of my favorite things to photograph.

While in Key West, way the heck back in January, I took one of those hop-on, hop-off tour buses. Part of the loop included the Key West Cemetery, whose location is at 701 Passover Lane, and whose motto, if you want to call it that, is Herein Lies Our History. It is a Florida Heritage Site, founded in 1847. Just think what a wild, primitive place is was then, and give a shout out to the person who either named the street after the cemetery was founded, or placed the cemetery on that road.

Under the heading of Crazy Coincidences is this marker for Sophronia Bradley Hall. Between mosquito-killing sessions at Everglades National Park, I found a tablet in memory of Guy Bradley. He was an Audubon warden who was killed in the line of duty in 1903 (according to his plaque) by feather hunters. He was 33. His widow, Sophronia, died 40-something years later and was buried in Key West. I'd never heard of either of them before January, and within the space of a week I'd heard of them both.

Under the heading of Why Him? is this grave marker for Edward Kurhn. He is buried in the military section of the cemetery where there is a statue dedicated to the men who died when the Battleship Maine blew up in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, just one of the incidents which precipitated the Spanish American War. 

As you can see in the second photo below and as you may have seen in the Andersonville photos I've posted, national cemetery headstones are usually plain affairs; everyone's is more or less the same. But here, Edward Kurhn has been given a nice memorial, dedicated by his shipmates of the USS Buffalo, where he died in 1902. Why him?

This gorgeous creature was enjoying the sun. Does anyone know what kind it is? I'm too lazy to look it up.

I always make a beeline for mausoleums because, as I discovered in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC, some of them have stunning stained glass windows at the back. The window here was so-so fair, but look at this Flickr page to see some real artwork.

Here is a tribute to A Gallant Confederate Soldier Awaiting the Bugle Call. He was just 18 at the end of the Civil War. What took him from Mississippi to the farthest reaches of Florida? Was he a prisoner at Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas and just never left the Keys when the war was over?

These are always sad. This is a particularly lovely stone, still in crisp relief.

If this doesn't creep you out I don't know what would.  The flyer distributed by the cemetery said no one knows the significance of the bound woman on Archibald John Sheldon Yates' grave. I don't want to know.

I somehow missed the announcement that chickens/roosters are a Key West mascot of sorts. They run wild everywhere. This rooster had three or four hens in attendance.

This guy must have been some character. Norm Taylor, AKA Captain Outrageous.

This tiny mausoleum, even though it didn't boast any stained glass windows, made my day.

You've heard of the grave that's marked with the famous words, "I told you I was sick"?

Et voilá!

Not to be outdone, though, was this one over the door:

It says, "I'm just resting my eyes."

And this one, mounted on the post at the exit of the cemetery:

I love a sense of humor.


Thought of the day:

Monday, March 17, 2014

A little slice o' heaven

Sunday was a picture-perfect day around here, as opposed to Saturday when the wind howled and gusted and rocked the house, and today, when the wind howled and gusted and rocked the house. It was so bad on Saturday that the sky above the horizon disappeared into a dusty wall. But yesterday - sublime - which called for another mini roadtrip, this time to Sedona, a little slice o' heaven.

Just about two years ago to the week the ex-husband and I drove through Sedona but for one reason or another we didn't stop. I always wanted to go back and in fact, my three good friends from high school and I were supposed to meet there last April to celebrate (?) our 60th birthdays, but we all know what was going on with me last April. It wasn't fun, games, and bottles of wine, but this almost-April is very different from a year ago.

Before I experienced this part of the country, I long maintained that the Oregon coast was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen, but Sedona surely gives it a run for its money. I could keep both of them as favorites if I say it's comparing apples and oranges - the coast and the high desert are both very beautiful and very different places.

So off we went to Sedona on Sunday morning, my partner and I. It's just a short distance south of Flagstaff, which is a couple of hours west of the park on I-40. I've seen many pictures of Slide Rock State Park and we happened on it before hitting the town of Sedona, so we pulled in.

The park was in private hands for some time. Frank L. Pendley arrived in the canyon in 1907, formally acquiring the land under the Homestead Act in 1910. Due to his pioneering innovation, he succeeded where others failed by establishing a unique irrigation system still in use by the park today. He established an apple orchard in 1912 and over the years expanded the varieties. In the 1930s he built tourist cabins; this is one of the remaining buildings.

His own homestead was built in 1927. The apple tree in the background is trying hard to burst into bloom, but the one at the back of the house is ablaze with flowers.

The packing facility is still standing. It appears the state is still maintaining the property as an orchard as well as a public park; there was a crew behind this building planting saplings and fencing them off.

The scenery is spectacular.

Sedona is known to some for its areas of spiritual energy, an area believed by some to have vortexes that are conducive to healing, meditation, and prayer. I don't know about this but I keep an open mind. It would seem to me that you'd have to feel something when you come to an area of such power and presence.

Below are the younger trees in the orchard. On the other side of the walk to the creek and the water slide is the one remaining tree from the original orchard.

Here's the real draw of the park. People don't come here to look at old buildings and apple trees. They come for the creek

 There's an 80-foot natural slide in here somewhere but I never found it.

I suspect that in the summer it's standing room only, but yesterday it was just cool enough to keep the crowds down some.

I kept this photo because of the size of the boulder beside the creek. It would keep me looking up over my shoulder at the cliffs above.

Above the creek was a lone apple tree soaking up the sun, such a welcome sign of spring.

At creek level.

The creek has thankfully not been "improved." There are deep passages and shallow basins, rocks, and polished channels, all creating their own textures, encouraging a longer look.

Highway 89A crosses over the creek and creates this shady oasis. I could spend a long time just looking at the color in this one spot alone.

We spent a really nice couple of hours here and then went into Sedona for a quick look around. It's a tourist town. That's about all that can be said for it. The $10 spent to gain entrance to this park gave us more pleasure than if we'd spent 100 times that on anything the shops had to offer. My motto, after years of collecting stuff and finally seeing its true worth: Collect moments, not things. The ex-husband never got it. My partner does.

Thought of the day:
May those that love us, love us.
And those that don't love us, may God turn their hearts.
If he can't turn their hearts, 
May he turn their ankles
So we'll know them by their limping.  (In honor of St. Patrick's day)