Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Who, me, brave?

Over the past couple of months I've been surprised by the number of people who think my extended time on the road is a brave thing to do. This is a mystery to me. I sure don't see it that way. What it is is the only option that felt right. When the ex-husband began his song and dance in December and it became clear there was a girlfriend after all (his third over the years, BTW, *that I know of*, and shame on me for staying with him, and please, isn't there always one, only I was too stupid to see it), and I wasn't going to change the outcome, I tried to think of where to go and what to do. I looked for jobs although I was so fortunate that I didn't have to find work. If I forgot just how fortunate I was, I was reminded pretty quickly and forcefully that he "gave" me more than he had to. "Deserve" or "earned" was not a word in his vocabulary. Forgive me the bitterness. Six years from now it should be gone.

I applied for several jobs around the country and gave up when even the bottom of the barrel came up dry. I had high hopes for an archivist's job in Chapel Hill that was exactly, and I mean to the letter, of the work I did at the museum in DC, but nada. There was nothing on my application to indicate my advancing age and probable decrepitude, so I don't know the reason. 

The next foray into salvaging something of my life was a possible move to New York, which I L.O.V.E., and where a good friend lives, but putting finger to calculator showed me I *would* have to find work, which we've already seen was not forthcoming and I'd had enough of rejection for a while so I didn't keep looking.

Next up was an apartment, probably in Gig Harbor, Washington, where one of my good friends lives. She is re-retiring next week and we could work in the yard of her new house, or play in the Girls' Clubhouse. Or walk around the harbor. Or volunteer somewhere. It didn't matter. I enjoy every minute I spend with her, to the point an acquaintance asked if we were lesbians. Uh, no. We're just two great chicks over 60 who are on the same wavelength. She's more over 60 than I am but I never, ever say it. The thing was, I didn't want to be locked into an apartment for a year. 

As an aside, no one ever asks if my New York friend and I are lesbians. No, they just assume I'm her mother.

On to a weensy little house in Gig Harbor. There's that industry term again, if you've been paying attention. It had just come on the market and was in walking distance to downtown Gig Harbor, an unheard-of  bounty. Also within maybe half a mile of my not-a-lesbian friend. (I have nothing against lesbians. I'm just not one and neither is she.) But there's always a catch, isn't there? I could afford the place only if I pulled a ton of money out of my IRA and it needed a lot of work which of course isn't free. Thanks to all the remodeling jobs the ex-husband and I had done, projects I thought we more or less enjoyed doing together, my bad, I had the skills and tools to take on most of the work myself but you still have to buy the stuff. I dilly-dallied to the point someone else beat me to an offer on the place. I'm a believer that things happen for a reason. I honestly don't know what that means but I believe it. Of course everything happens for a reason, whether it's fate or karma or God. Whatever, I was not meant to have that house. The trouble was I was now out of ideas.

I've been asked why I didn't stay in the house, a pretty nice waterfront job on Hood Canal with fruit trees, raspberries and blueberries and great neighbors, and which had a brand new fantastic kitchen finished oh, two months before he told me he didn't love me, had never loved me, etc., etc. Two reasons. The first, I didn't like the house nine months out of the year because on the rare occcasions we got sun in the winter, we got no sun on the house. That happened only when the sun was very far to the north. It was so bad I bought an expensive light box to get me through the winter. The other reason was I couldn't afford it. Both reasons were good enough to me to encourage going somewhere else.

I do not remember how the idea of the van came to me. All of a sudden it was there and it was perfect. The good Sisters at St. Rita in Detroit might say it was the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I didn't argue with them then and they still scare me. I decided to travel while I still could and here I am. I already talked about my choice not to use our Winnebago, a decision I sometimes already question because Grace's walls can close in, but this is the choice I made and it will work out. Now here's the kicker: after I'd made the van decision and had committed to it in my mind if not with an actual purchase, the first deal on that little fixer in Gig Harbor fell through. How's that for fate or karma or God?

Thought of the day:

There is a certain logic to events that push you along a certain path. You go along the path that feels the most true, and most according to the principles that are guiding you, and that's the way the decisions are made. (Michael Nesmith (of The Monkees fame and cripes, he's 70))

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Official x 2

I was officially cruisingat60 a couple of days ago and today I was officially divorced. The ex-husband went to court with my attorney, saw the judge, signed the paperwork, and became a free man, just as he wanted.

As I've written before, I know I'm much better off without him than with him. I know he did me a favor by taking this step. Even so, I know I would never have left him because my life with him was not as hateful as he says his life was with me. I also know I would have done nearly anything to repair the decades of damage we did to each other so we could salvage this marriage and our history

don't know what he thinks love looks like, but despite his claims that I never showed him love, not once, and never, ever said it to him (seriously?), I know I loved him and showed him in thousands of ways that I did. Despite his claim that my interests, the things I liked to do, never included him, I know I tried time after time to include him so we could have common interests and time together, and he rebuffed my attempts again and again.  

I also know these contradictory things that have had me convinced I was crazy because what he was telling me bore no relation to what I knew - he now tells me he took his many overseas assignments so he could get away from me, but back then he wanted me to travel with him and when I couldn't, he brought me lovely, loving things every time he returned; that until this mess began he called me every day when he was away; that ten eight months before he told me he didn't love me, had never loved me, and had been faking it for 35 years, he gave me an extravagant version of simple jewelry I had asked for in passing; that in that same time period we had taken two long, enjoyable road trips to see our children; and that on our 30th anniversary, he said another 30 would not be enough. I have scores of these facts. They are not my imaginings, not what I want to believe.

For me, the head and the heart are two different monsters that are forever locked in epic battle, so here is what I feelanger, bitterness, and a strong, strong desire to see him crashed and burned. I want to see him in pain and broken. In my heart I know I don't want to live this way forever, consumed by visions of revenge and eaten up with hatred. Several times he told me he wanted me to hate him, and right now, once again, he gets what he wants. Right now I hate him with blazing intensity for his lying, cheating, manipulations, cowardice, and threats to take every penny away from me, and I need to let it burn for a while. I have to allow the reality of these feelings.  Right now I will take this hatred, bitterness, and anger, and own them, as a friend said. Then, when I'm ready, whenever that might be and I make no promises, I will hold them in my hands and take a good look at them. I will pick apart their layers, discard what isn't important, and get to their rotted core. I do believe that once I confront them and acknowledge their validity, they will lose their hold on me. I hope it will also lead to freeing myself of the unbelievable power of his continued hold on me. I can then take step after step away and continue to live my life the way I need and want to live it. I'm not expecting these steps to be on an easy path but no one ever said a path with heart was an easy one to travel. I just need it to be one that leads me away.


Thought of the day (regarding "manning up" if you don't see the connection):

Why do people say "grow some balls?" Balls are weak and sensitive! If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding. (Attributed to Betty White but thinks otherwise)


I've been off the posting grid for a few days. My stay with Melvin and his son Bob (I'm not making this up) kept me on the move and intellectually busy with not a lot of computer time.

They were so kind to me, beginning with a repair to Grace. She has very low ground clearance, somewhere in the neighborhood of the thickness of a piece of paper. When P and I were in Taos I backed up in a driveway that looked to have the slope of that same piece of paper. It did not, apparently, because we heard a scraping sound when I pulled out. A nasty, mean, expensive sound which turned out to be a broken water line to one of the fresh water tanks, meaning there is a second tank so it wasn't a fatal error but one that had to be fixed eventually.

When I got to Tucson and got an oil change I asked the garage to take a look. The mechanic came into the waiting area with the look of a surgeon delivering bad news. Not only was one thing broken, another thing was also broken. Don't ask me to get technical. I just know things were broken. When I got to Melvin's he gave me the name of an RV repair place which told me they were booked until the end of May, as was probably every other place around. Oh, grand. How the heck was I supposed to get this thing fixed? Melvin and Bob to the rescue. Bob kept running back and forth to the garage for this fitting or that tool. Melvin spent at least a couple of hours in the Tucson sun on his side under the van, repairing the water line. I don't want to harp on his age but if I'm as spry and sharp as he is when I get there I'm going to start buying lottery tickets because I'll be living with magnificent luck. Grace is now fixed and they saved me at least a couple of hundred dollars. I love these guys. They're on my list of favorite things. 

Melvin chauffeured me around in his Chevy Volt, an electric car that gets about 627 miles to the gallon when it has to run on gas. We went to the Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, and Bisbee, AZ, a cute, quirky little town near the Mexico border. We talked for hours about everything, which made me realize how much I'd missed in my life by not having meaningful conversations about anything with the person who'd been so important to me. It was very hard to unfoist myself from them but I didn't want to get to the stinky fish stage so I did and headed to Mesa, AZ.

I'm now at the home of the woman who shared a hospital room with me when our first sons were born. Judy and her husband Pete moved from Michigan to Lake Havasu, AZ not long after we moved from Detroit to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We haven't seen each other since 1979, lost touch somewhere in the 80s, and reconnected via Facebook. 

It's poignant to see the love they have for each other. Just like my long conversations with Melvin and Bob, the laughter and instant friendship among us, seeing the deep affection Judy and Pete have for each other makes me kind of sad. They were telling me a story about something last night and one of them jumped in to correct the other. This may seem a nonstarter to you, but had I done that to the ex-husband it would have resulted in instant shut down that would have persisted for some time. When it happened between them last night it was nothing to them; the other just picked up the story and on it went. I've missed so much in my life and never really realized it, but my eyes are open now.

Thought of the day:

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. (Attributed to Mark Twain but I'm not convinced)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A new foist

I've given my friend S a break from five days of me and have foisted myself on another friend, Melvin Shaffer. He's a World War 2 photographer I met when I was working at a museum in DC (no, not the Smithsonian). I got in touch with him because he was an expert on a collection of photos I was processing. I've wanted to meet him in person since I first corresponded with him and missed my chance when he was living in Richmond, Virginia. I again missed my chance when he was living in Santa Fe and I was traveling near there. But he's now in Tucson and I've nailed it. Maybe seven years after first learning about him and his extraordinary memory, I'm finally here.

The photo collection I was working on at the museum was from the MAMAS collection, which stands for Museum and Medical Arts Services. About 100 photographers were sent to the European and Pacific theaters to document what they saw. Melvin was 18 or 19 when he was sent to Africa, southern Italy, and France, and took about 500,000 official photos and thousands of feet of motion picture film. He donated his personal photos to Southern Methodist University, which has created a wonderful online exhibit that Melvin captioned himself. These photos are well worth your time to peruse. The captions really complete the exhibit because those are the words of the guy who was there. Those in the Flickr set are photos from the collection I processed and were put online by museum archivists, including myself. There's some fascinating stuff there. I could email Melvin and ask him about a particular image and even though he wasn't the photographer he could tell me who shot it and what the circumstances were. When I say extraordinary memory, I mean it. He remembers details from decades ago better than I remember last week.

I told him this is my favorite photo from the collection. Just look at that woman. Serene, in control, confident. I'm in love with this photo. I'm still in love with it even after he told me it was staged as a bit of propaganda because I know there were nurses just like her on planes just like this.
MAMAS D45-416-45G. Courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

 He then sent me one of his favorites, if not the favorite.
At the very height of the invasion of Southern France I was lying behind a sandbank, occasionally sticking my head up to take advantage of every photographic opportunity that might make itself available. On one occasion I glimpsed this French woman on her bike peddling furiously through the middle of the firing between the U.S. and German troops. I do not know why she took such a chance. What reason could possibly compel a person to do this? Her face clearly shows fear and determination. Her physical condition suggests to me a lactating mother. Did she make it to whatever destination she felt such an urgency to reach? Sorry, but I do not know. (Courtesy Southern Methodist University)

We had 13 shoebox-sized boxes of MAMAS photos at the museum but unfortunately none of them were Melvin's. His and the other photographers' official photos were sent to the Medical Museum, as it was then called, after the war and have since been misplaced. He told me last night that the photographers split the entire collection into three representational sets, and because planes didn't have a high success rate of getting where they were going, they were sent on three planes, as a way of assuring that at least one of them would make it to the museum. The photos did make it because he saw them himself when he was back Stateside. He also worked on them for a time himself after the war, but no one knows where they are now. As an archivist, this makes me want to start hauling boxes off shelves (the archives I worked in had 5000 bankers' boxes in storage at a warehouse) and as his friend, it breaks my heart. They're unique images that have never been published anywhere and probably haven't been seen by anyone since the late 1940s.

I'm a lucky, lucky woman to know a fascinating person like Melvin. His recollections are detailed and sharp and bring history incredibly alive. I'm so lucky.

Thought of the day: 
When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world. (George Washington Carver)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm official

I'm now officially cruisingat60, and my friend S and I had the best time celebrating. We started at Tanque Verde Ranch where she treated me to a lovely buffet lunch complete with bright pink prickly pear margaritas, very pretty, but we agreed they could have used a bit more of a kick. OK, a lot more of a kick. One turns 60 only once. 

A bit wind-blown.

S's home backs up to 60 acres of stunning, privately held land, a part of the Sonoran desert. The cacti are starting to bloom and I can't believe my luck that I'm here to see it. But the blooms in the desert, as lovely as they are, are no match for some we saw at the ranch. 
These blossoms are easily 5"-6" across.

A bloom in profile.

The back sides are maybe prettier than the fronts.

We were walking around the ranch before lunch and saw a road runner stalking its own meal. It pounced on this poor lizard and broke its tail off in the process. The tail flopped and twisted until the bird choked down the lizard and then hopped over to finish it off too.


After lunch we drove to Sabino Canyon where we took a tram ride up the mountain. It's a stark landscape but in the spring water collects in stream beds and makes nice picnic and swimming spots while it lasts.

The tram driver took our picture before heading back down the mountain. It was a good day.


Thought of the day:
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. (Oprah Winfrey)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Santa Fe

The first time I went to Santa Fe I was 17. That spring, about a week before my birthday, I took an ungraceful dive down the front steps of my house while heading out to school. In my defense, I was wearing a groovy pair of purple platform heels. I broke my leg and spent the next eight weeks in a cast. At that time I was in the midst of a deep crush on my biology teacher, all of 7 years older than I. He arranged with my mother to drive me back and forth to school in his baby blue VW. Be still, my heart! To this day I don't know how he got my mother to agree to that, except she had no other way to get me to school. Then, to her dismay because I'm sure she thought she'd let the fox into the hen house, when he decided not to return to teach at my school the next year so he could finish his Masters degree, he started calling the house, asking to take me here and there. Yes to a Detroit Tigers game but only with my little brother as chaperone. Yes to a fantastic used bookstore in downtown Detroit, and I don't know how he managed it but we went without a chaperone. But no to a Bob Seger concert. How could she?! I think it was about this time she came to the conclusion that a trip to see my older brother in Albuquerque would be a great idea and off I went.

Part of the entertainment my brother arranged was a trip to the Santa Fe opera. I'd never been out of the Detroit area, had never been on a plane, and for sure had never been to the opera. It was magical. We saw The Marriage of Figaro. It was outdoors on a silken summer night and I'll never forget that I got it! I actually understood what was going on.

But on to last week. When I picked up P at the airport we headed north to Santa Fe. I think I could live there if I could afford it which I can't.

One of my favorite things to photograph is churches. Maybe it's a holdover from being force fed Catholicism, but I love the old style churches and the just-out-of-reach mysteries they hold. The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe is a beauty in the traditional style and I was enthralled as soon as I stepped in the door. And for the spiritually aware, here is another powerful place. I felt it, no question.

I usually photograph churches with a tripod and take a couple of hours doing it, but not this time. Mass was starting soon and I had time for just a few hand-held pictures.

Not much of a picture but I love the legend. Don't just love one another, but do it constantly.

The play of light through stained glass windows is always interesting - not just the illumination of the window but the unintended places it falls.

This is one of the most realistic (what I think realistic would look like) crucifixion statues I've seen.

An honest-to-goodness relic of St. Francis. Who am I to say it's not?

Stations of the Cross are a favorite detail of mine, partly because they're unique. 


We also went to Loretto Chapel.This is the place with the famous staircase that has two 360 degree turns and is said to have had no nails used in its construction. Legend has it the carpenter was St. Joseph. It's lovely and graceful.

The altar is wood painted to look like marble and you could have fooled me.


Leaving there, we pursued more earthly delights with a wonderful meal of tapas, dining al fresco, another favorite thing of mine. I have a lot of favorite things. P persuaded me to have my picture taken but only with the assurance it would be taken from a distance and with a double layer of gauze over the lens.

As if there aren't enough places to go, Santa Fe is on the list of places to revisit. Taos, visited later in the week, did nothing for me, but Santa Fe is special.

P.S. The biology teacher? I graduated the following year and prepared to go off to the University of Michigan, thinking hot damn! I can see [this guy] now; Mom won't be there to say no all the time. What did he do? He went off and got married. I just know, 42 years later, that he still pines for me and had to settle for second best.


Thought of the day:
Nothing spoils the taste of peanut butter like unrequited love.  (Charley Brown (Charles Schulz))

Saturday, April 13, 2013

It's gorgeous in Tucson

The sun is out, it's the mid-70s, a little lizard thing is climbing the screen, and the birds are chittering. I saw three javalinas this morning and I'm all set for life; no need to see any more.

I'm staying for a few days at the home of my friend S, who (whom?) I met on Flickr several years ago. We both lived in Virginia then, but obviously she moved to Tucson. I'll stay here a few days then foist myself on another friend for a few, then onto a third friend for a final few. I need to keep cruising because you know the comparison of fish and company after a few days. Then I'll meander my way to Petrified Forest, hopefully by way of Canyon de Chelly.

I drove in from Albuquerque yesterday after taking P to the airport. It's a seven-hour drive through some beautiful country. We had such a great week together. As much as we were friends before, we discovered we have so much more in common than we thought, although talking politics bores the socks off me. After living inside the beltway for ten years, politics are like javelinas to me. But we're already deciding where next year's adventure will take us. My vote is for Bryce and Chaco Canyons.

There will be more interesting, hopefully, posts soon, with visuals. Off to Adobe Lightroom I go.


The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it. -