You Say Hello…

In my life “Good-byes” fall into four main categories — those I can’t avoid, those I instigate, those that are instigated by others, and those that happen slowly over time, kind of an “evolving door” rather than an exit.

The first “good-bye” I couldn’t avoid was the death of my grandmother Beall which happened when I was 10. I didn’t understand any of what was going on at the time, honestly. There was the adult world of grieving daughters — my mom and her sisters — and the quiet world of confused cousins, my peers. It was just strange. But it was my first experience with death. The second was to be my cat, Henry, who came home one day with a broke back and while I was at school, my parents had him put to sleep. It was right and completely different from my grandma’s death, not so much because it was just a cat, but because there was a clear injury. I’d gone out to the garage to let Henry in and found him like that. He tried to jump up into my arms as usual.

The next was my father’ death which resembled Henry’s death far more than it resembled my grandmother’s. I had the chance to say “Good-bye” to my dad one afternoon and from that I learned that, if you can, control that moment so you can hold within your heart a perfect memory, a perfect image.

After that, over the years, there was what anyone in this temporal existence expects. One death after another. One permanent good-bye followed by another. Grandmother, mom, aunts, dogs, dogs, dogs, friends. You can’t always say good-bye but after a certain time, “Good-bye” is part of every “hello.”

I’ve had to break up with some boyfriends, divorce some husbands, and end a few friendships intentionally. Those are hard good-byes. They can involve packing up some future-ex’ crap and putting it in a wheel-barrow in the front yard. They can involve difficult phone calls, “No, Sweet-cheeks, I really mean it. I’m tired of you calling me and venting about your horrible boyfriend and not doing anything about it. I’m not your sob-sister. I’m your friend. That guy treats you horribly. If you hadn’t told me all these stories about him over the years, it would be different. I feel used because you don’t do anything about it. I don’t want to hear from you anymore.” Ending friendships can involve “ghosting,” leading to numerous “Why don’t you call me back?” messages which you answer in your mind, “because you kicked my dog, you excrescence.”

And, of course, there’s being dumped. In my life that’s probably been no weirder than in anyone else’s.

Then, you know, people move away. People’s interests change. People’s lives evolve. A lot happens in our lives, and the silent “good-byes” often have no bad feelings. Maybe there are going to be thousands of miles between you or that our lives that — once similar and synchronous — are now wildly different.

I have a few friends with whom I’ve been connected for more than fifty years. The friendships have survived because someone has held on — loosely. Our lives have gone in their own ways over the decades, but the connection remained alive. Some of these friends are old boyfriends (now literally, senior citizens) which is actually kind of cool. Whatever the connection was back in the dim recesses of time, something more important than the feelings of being “in love” was born and endured. My best woman friend from the 70s is still my friend today. We never agreed on everything — in fact, we disagree on a lot of things — but we value the other deeply for certain ineffable qualities of being that we never discovered elsewhere.

“Good-bye” is inevitable and while I’m not sure that every good-by opens the door to someone new, it’s useful to believe it does.

Trail Fail… Responding to Wild Sensibility’s Challenge…

If you spend time in the outdoors, eventually something will go wrong. It’s a law of nature. But if you survive, those epic failures become the best stories! We’ve all read about amazing accomplishments in the wild, but now it’s time to tell us about the not-so-great times and what you learned from them. Share your best #EpicTrailFail stories on your own page, include this paragraph as a header, and then provide a link in the comments here or here. We’ll curate and circulate the best stories in future posts. We can’t wait to read about what you’ve survived!
Arionis of Just A Small Cog and Rebecca of Wild Sensibility.


Back in my thirties, forties, and into my fifties, when my right hip went south (without me) I ran miles and miles and miles and miles and miles and miles on narrow rocky trails in the California chaparral and in the mountains east of San Diego. I ran up and down hills like a bitch. Everyone said, “You should be careful! You’re going to hurt yourself!” but I never did. Never. Not once.


The trail and I were as one. I felt those trails beneath my feet with the same knowledge with which we know the lines on our own hands. No one could keep up with me let alone catch me.

I bet you can’t even SEE the trail…

Why once — when I hit the trails to run off a disappointment — I ran up the steepest ‘face’ of one of the ‘mountains’, down the other side and up the next mountain. I didn’t know there was a guy running behind me, trying to catch up. When I finally stopped, and the guy caught up, he said, “Damn, woman, you’re fast. I’m fast, but I couldn’t catch up. Do you do this all the time?”

I gave the guy a hard look and thought, “That’s one fit dude,” and answered, “Pretty much every day.”

But pride goeth or love hurts or something and I fell in love. No, not with the guy who chased me. The guy’s name was Mike, and he was (IMO) beautiful and very smart. It turned out to be a pretty good short-term relationship, too, and it ended in friendship that was even nicer than the relationship. But this was the beginning when people are incoherent, babbling fountains of unasked questions, reading each other’s faces and looks and gestures. He was also 15 years younger, and that was one reason for all the incoherent babbling and face reading. It was a little scary. We hung out a lot as friends and had a blast. But as happens, the friendship grew and hit the infamous When Harry Met Sally moment. Neither of us was sure about it. Meanwhile, we kept hanging out, eating dinner, going to movies, talking, hiking, and riding mountain bikes and stuff.

Then, one quiet Sunday afternoon we went to Balboa Park. Balboa Park is near the top of any San Diego sightseer’s list. It is the location of the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Museum of Art. Many of its beautiful buildings were built for the American Exposition of 1915. It sits at the top of a mesa not far from the harbor and downtown. It is completely and totally flat. As flat as the valley in which I live now.

Mike and I wandered around, talking and (gasp) holding hands. As we talked I realized this was that miraculous, rare thing called “requited love.” Inside I felt like a million Lawrence Welk bubbles were dancing in my heart. I was so happy that I turned to physical anarchy to release my emotions. There was a small square of grass, small wooden stakes pounded into the earth on each corner, encircled by a flimsy white string about 18 inches above the ground. I did a perfect scissors jump over it and then another over the other side. And then I screamed like all the tortures of hell had suddenly found my left knee to be inexorably damned. I’d landed with my knee hyper-extended not knowing, when I jumped, how much lower the ground was on THIS side of the string than the the side I’d jumped from.

Star marks the spot

Mike helped me up, got me to my Ford Ranger and I drove home. “Walk it off, Kennedy,” echoing in my mind, but when I stepped out of my truck, I collapsed. My knee wasn’t going to hold me. I managed to stand up and limp to my house, let myself in and get past the dogs to the phone.

“Mike, I need to go to the ER.”

Sometime later — a year or so — Mike and I were no longer an “item.” He was in college taking a keyboarding class. One day, in the mail, I got his homework…

4:30 on a Sunday Afternoon


“I didn’t say anything. I am just sitting here.”

“But your face.”

“Faces don’t talk unless the hole in the bottom region opens and emits sounds. Mine wasn’t.”

“Your face says a LOT.”

“I can’t help it.”

“So what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know. It seems like every time I turn around there’s some kind of, I don’t know.” Hubert sighed.

“Some kind of WHAT? Did I do something?”

“No. Not you. I guess it’s the times we live in. I just don’t understand it. So much is so easy that was once so hard and so much is hard that was once so easy.”

“Like walking, Dude? Your ankle is going to heel.”

“Stuff we took for granted isn’t…” Hubert took a long pull on his coffee. At least THAT still worked like it was supposed to…

“Did you know that during the reign of the Sun King the Great Pyrenees was the official dog of the French Court because it was just such a beautiful and majestic creature?”

“Are you trying to distract me?”

“Yeah, seems like a good idea. Look at Foster over there. Is that majesty or what?”

The big old dog looked up at the sound of his name. Seeing that nothing was happening that required his attention, he lay back down.

“Can you imagine how beautiful that was? All those people in those ornate, baroque, silk clothes, wandering around an absurdly manicured garden, prancing through the short labyrinths — short in matter of height not length — and all over the place were dogs like Foster.”

“Foster isn’t a Pyrenees.”

“Same basic theme. Big, white, livestock guardian, calm, independent. Why are you always splitting hairs? Did you ever think about that? How that egregious insistence on absolute precision in all things might lead to your depression?”

“If you don’t like me, you can leave.”


“Well, yeah. Why would you want to stay around here if you’re unhappy?”

“Hmm. Good point. Here, Foster. C’mon boy.”

The big dog stood slowly, stretched an immense white dog stretch, looked at Hubert questioningly, shook all over, throwing hair and dust all around the room and went to Anabelle. “We’re going for a walk. See if you can be a little less whiny and self-indulgent by the time we get back.”

Love on the Beach

Her winsome smile, her dimples, the way she sat on the edge of the ottoman beside his big leather easy chair when he told her about his day. With her sitting there, looking adoringly at him, Paul could believe he was the most interesting man in the world, not just an accountant sitting in a half/cube surrounded by other number crunchers.

He sighed.

“No way around it. Those were pretty boring stories, and she just listened.”

He got up, thinking a cup of coffee might help him shake off the empty feeling that shadowed him everywhere now. He needed to get some work done.

“Go on Tinder,” said Francine, his — and several other accountants’ — secretary. “Seriously, Paul, Lulu’s not the only fish in the sea. Francine waved her little left hand over the wall of her cubicle. Yeah, yeah there was a that diamond. Francine had gotten married just a few months ago. Second husband. She caught the first one cheating with her — such a cliché — her best friend.

“They aren’t Lulu.”

“Don’t you get it YET? Lulu wasn’t Lulu. If she had been Lulu, she’d never have left you.”

“Who was she, then?”

“Paul, look. Mr. Shorter is trying to get your attention.”

Paul turned around and, sure enough, standing in the ONE office with a door on this whole floor was Mr. Shorter. He did NOT look happy.

If you have TIME Paul,” he said mockingly.

“Yikes,” whispered Paul.

“Good luck, babe. Think about what I said.” She waved the diamond in this face again.

“Yes sir?”

“Come in and sit down.”

Paul took a seat in front of Mr. Shorter’s desk.

“Let’s get straight to it. Since your wife ran off with the circus your work has deteriorated abysmally.” He might be the boss of accountants, and an accountant himself, but his undergraduate major had been English. His dream of becoming an English teacher was shattered when he looked at his probable yearly earnings and he went for an MBA in accounting rather than following his passion for Thomas Pynchon about whom he hoped someday to write a totally incomprehensible analysis about subterranean themes in Pynchon’s work. “I understand you have a broken heart, but negligence hurts the business and could adversely affect our clients. Inaccuracy in calculations results in multitudinous regrettable outcomes, as you are doubtless cognizant given the issues experienced last month when we came precipitously proximate to losing the Lamont Account because of your mistakes. In the last colloquium, the board decided to let you go because of your problems handling that extremely lucrative account. I persuaded them that such a remedy would be an excessively punitive given the twelve years of exemplary performance you have given the firm, but you are henceforth on probation.”

Paul nodded. Mr. Shorter’s utilization of the vernacular made everyone want to scream, but he did make his point. Paul wasn’t totally surprised. The problems had been with the annual report for the Lamont Account, an enormous project he and his team worked on for months. It had come due the week Lulu left him. He was in no shape, mentally, physically, emotionally, for the intense (though often manufactured) pressure of that project. Mr. Lamont himself was never easy to deal with, and it was the company’s biggest account. And, let’s face it, Paul was a wreck.

Meanwhile, on the patio outside the narrow, three-story beach house next to the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, California, Lulu stood waiting for the charcoal to get hot enough to toss on the tuna steak her new love had caught that morning.

“I’m going out with Carmine and Tony,” he’d said. “We’re hoping to catch some yellowtail.” They’d been lucky and caught three.

She looked up at the ocean and saw him heading in, riding a six footer. It would be the last ride of the day. She loved living in California. It was so much more interesting — and a lot warmer — than Chicago. Once more she thanked her lucky stars she’d met Dude on the El that day as she went into the city to shop. What if she were still back there? November, Paul, those endless recitations of quotidian tedium of an accountant’s life. It had been such a strange coincidence, clearly it was meant to be. Dude’s pal, Lamont, was meeting with the board of Paul’s company about the annual report for his motivational speaking limited partnership.

Well, Lamont was definitely a weirdo and, thankfully, not around much.

The only thing about her new love that puzzled her was the plethora of hyper-realistic paintings hanging all through the house, pictures of dinosaurs, salmon, Smilodons, mammoths, a bear, an oak tree, pictures that sometimes, if she caught one out of the corner of her eye, bore a strange resemblance to Lamont, sometimes even to Dude.

But who could really care? Dude was funny, kind, had great stories, adored her and she was sure they would live happily ever after.

Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past lives which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.


Courtly love is the unconsummated love of a lowly knight and an unattainable noble lady who shares his feelings but is trapped in a marriage from which she cannot escape. They express their love in languishing sighs, Minnesangs (love songs), secret letters, tears, public rejection and vows of eternal love.

Because of his love for his lady, the knight achieves great things — wins tournaments, goes on crusade, kills dragons, whatever is in his purview to prove his worth and his love. His lady, in the meantime, longs for him but publicly scorns his suit, returns his gifts (some of them) and denies her feelings to any who have noticed their exchange of loving looks. Courtly love is a kind of “higher love” that makes both knight and lady better people which is kind of paradoxical from our vantage point. How can imagined adultery ennoble anyone? We all know what happens when courtly love turns carnal — Camelot falls.

Courtly love still exists. When I started this post, I thought I could speak candidly about its existence in our world today, but I can’t. Suffice it to say, it’s alive and well among extremely romantic people who want the feelings but not the mess of love, or, perhaps, those for whom Camelot has fallen quite enough times, thank you. 🙂

Tanzweise – by Walther von der Vogelweide

‘Lady,’ I said, ‘this garland wear!
For thou wilt wear it gracefully;
And on thy brow ’twill sit so fair, 
And thou wilt dance so light and free;
Had I a thousand gems, on thee,
Fair one! their brilliant light should shine:
Would’st thou such a gift accept from me,–
O doubt me not,– it should be thine.

‘Lady, so beautiful thou art,
That I on thee the wreath bestow,
‘Tis the best gift I can impart;
But whiter, rosier flowers, I know,
Upon the distant plain they’re springing,
Where beauteously their heads they rear,
And birds their sweetest songs are singing:
Come! let us go and pluck them there!’

She took the beauteous wreath I chose,
And, like a child at praises glowing,
Her cheeks blushed crimson as the rose
When by the snow-white lily growing:
But all from those bright eyes eclipse
Received; and then, my toil to pay,
Kind, precious words fell from her lips:
What more than this I shall not say. 

When From The Sod The Flow’Rets Spring” – Walther von der Vogelweide

When from the sod the flow’rets spring,
And smile to meet the sun’s bright ray,
When birds their sweetest carols sing
In all them morning pride of May,
What lovelier than the prospect there?
Can earth boast any thing more fair?
To me it seems an almost heaven,
So beauteous to my eyes that vision bright is given.

But when a lady, chaste and fair,
Noble, and clad in rich attire,
Walks through the throng with gracious air,
As sun that bids the stars retire,–
Then, where are all thy boastings, May?
What hast thou beautiful and gay
Compared with that supreme delight?
We leave thy loveliest flowers, and watch that lady bright.

Wouldst thou believe me,– come and place
Before thee all this pride of May;
Then look but on my lady’s face,
And, which is best and brightest? say:
For me, how soon (if choice were mine)
This would I take, and that resign!
And say, ‘Though sweet thy beauties, May!
I’d rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay.’ 

Walther von Der Vogelweide is, IMO, a great poet. “Unter der Linden” is a beautiful love poem, very sexy and evocative (not quite courtly love). “Alas! Where Have all the Years…” is something we all feel in the later years of life — even now, almost 1000 years later.

Rambling Diurnal Scribbling

What a summer it was! One thing after another, wearing subtly on the soul. I know I’m not alone, so I’ll just leave this here… And right now, some idiot is singing on my radio, “I bop, you bop, bopaloo she bop.” Seriously? And autocorrect keeps changing “bop” to bob… Listen, AC, I KNOW what I’m trying to type! What do you mean you know better? How???

Woke up this morning to a rejection. Not even a rejection for a manuscript; a rejection for a book review for The Price. To wit: “One of our readers enjoyed the story, but we felt it was not quite suitable to be selected for a published review on Discovering Diamonds. We do, however, ask our readers to consider placing a personal comment on Amazon/Goodreads if they should wish to do so.”

I wasn’t really surprised. Sending my book was a shot in the dark as the focus of this group of reviewers is usually — though not exclusively — historical romance. But, I could have done without, “One of our readers enjoyed the story.” 🙂

I’ve experienced so many rejections over my writing that at this point I resent every effort at tact or subtlety. A simple, “Not happening sweet cheeks” is all that’s needed. Oh well.

I’ve attempted writing romance but every attempt has turned into a cynical short story, usually published here in this blog. They all end the same, too. A couple is in trouble, not getting along, one of them is obviously more invested than the other, something happens to wake one of them up and the relationship ends — or it’s left hanging and the reader doesn’t know what really happened or what will happened. I’m thinking — since I’m marginally immobilized now with a sprained foot — of giving it another shot, but…

I’ve only read one romance novel in my life and, honestly, it was like a really sinister drug. I couldn’t stop reading it even though I hated it. It ended up in a trash can in a hotel room in Milan. My idea of a perfect romance is very different from what went on in the book I read. 🙂


“I HATE going out with you and your troglodyte friends,” said Cammie, scrutinizing her acrylic nails. “Do you like them?”

She held up ten miniature American flags for Justin to judge.

“Stupid and expensive and, Cammie, you can’t even open a bag of chips with those hands any more.”


“We’re going to ride go-karts, c’mon, Cam. You used to think that was fun!

Cammie sat silently for a moment. She actually DID think it was fun. But…

“Yeah, in high school. We’re too old for that now.”

“You’re only as old as you feel, sweet cheeks. Age is just a number. Oh, I didn’t tell you. Tony’s coming.”

“Tony Lamontino?”

“Yeah. He’s back from Nepal.”

Justin knew perfectly well that Tony Lamontino was Cammie’s first love. He’d always suspected she’d only married him because he was Tony’s best friend. Cammie took another look at her patriotic digits.

“I bet you want to come with me and my troglodyte friends now,” said Justin, a tiny, bitter edge in his voice.

“Will you see Tony again?”

“No. He’s off to New York in the morning.”

Cammie thought for a moment. Tony Lamontino. He was so beautiful with his dark hair, blue eyes, muscular chest, wide grin, adventurous spirit. There was no one like him in the senior class at Campbell Grover High School. He’d taken her to the prom. Her mind drifted back to the sweet pink dress she’d worn, the bundle of tiny pink roses on her wrist. They’d danced, dance after dance, the last dance, “It’s you and me and all other people/And I don’t know why, I can’t keep my eyes off of you.” Tony’s gentleness and the care he took of her, not pressing any sexual advances after the prom but saying, “It’s too sweet a moment for that. And you’re too pretty for me to rumple up in the back seat of my car.”

“OK. I’ll go.”

She went to the bathroom to fix her make-up and hair. She looked at herself carefully and critically in the mirror. The lighter blond highlights were good, definitely, she thought. Yeah, she’d put on a few pounds but she was still hot, no question. She was glad those butt-crack revealing bell-bottoms jeans were over, that’s for sure. No one kept their high school figure, did they? She dug her light blue sweater out of her drawer and pulled it over her white t-shirt and jeans. Cute. Definitely cute. No one would think, “Thirty.”

They were a little late and everyone was already there when they arrived, all of Justin’s high school pals and their wives. Tony stood at one end next to an exotic looking black guy Cammie had never seen. “Who’s that?” she asked Justin.

“Oh, that’s Tony’s husband, Jacques. They met in Paris.”

I promise some day to try to write a love story with a happy ending. 🙂

Believes, Hopes, Endures

Irene stood on the platform dressed in her best suit, a soft mauve wool gabardine over a cream silk blouse with a loose bow at the throat. Her stylish, new and, for her, expensive and very flattering (her mom said so!) black felt hat atop her smooth auburn hair. Her neat little feet were snug in black suede stacked heels.

“Wear your coat!”

“Oh, no, mother, no. It’s so old and ratty.”

“Not so ratty and it’s warm. It looks like it’s whipping up a storm out there.”

“Not today. It can’t possibly storm today.” Irene was sure her happiness controlled the weather.

“If you say so.” Her mother threw up her hands in resignation, but she understood her daughter. She’d been young herself, filled with yearning and hope, her own man away in faraway Europe — Holland, he was. Irene’s young man was one of the lucky ones in this war who’d fought on only one front. He’d seen action on some Pacific Island, but he was coming home.

Irene waited, her heart filled with anticipation. Finally they could begin their lives together as they had planned since high school. She’d filled some of the bleak and lonely months by preparing for their new home — embroidering tea-towels and pillow-cases that she trimmed with tatted lace. She’d made her first quilt! Her grandmother had shown her everything from piecing the design to quilting by hand on her old quilting frame. When she had money left over from her job at the five and dime, she bought something for their house. Pots, pans, anything she thought they would need. “I want everything new in my house,” she’d told her mother.

“We all do, dear,” her mom had answered, smiling at Irene’s youth and naiveté. She was not going to burst her girl’s bubble. She knew too well what that felt like.

Snow began to drift slowly in tiny, tense flakes. Irene looked up at the sky, a uniform gray. “Mom’s right,” she thought, wishing she had a coat. Flakes like that meant cold.

Suddenly bells clanged. Irene heard a train whistle, and the approaching chug-chug of an engine. It pulled into the station and the air-brakes hissed as the train stopped. Irene stood back, looking at the doors opening along the train. She wanted to watch him before he saw her, to savor the moment of his arrival. She had imagined this moment, running to him and him lifting her in the air in an embrace. They would kiss — a fervid, passionate kiss that captured all the years and fears, a kiss for the future, too.

The train’s brakes sighed. The conductors went down the train placing steps on the platform. The hand trucks were wheeled to the open doors of the baggage cars and the porters and baggage handlers began unloading the heavy footlockers. All the trains were full of soldiers coming home.

Irene, standing on tip-toe, watched the doors, her teeth chattering as the tiny flakes fell more rapidly leaving a sift of dry powder on the platform. Dozens of young men in uniform got off the train into the arms of mom, or dad, girlfriends, wives and children. Some came out with no one to meet them. They shuffled their duffle bags onto their shoulders and walked into the station and off to wherever they were going.

“How sad that is,” thought Irene, imagining their loneliness, wishing she could greet them all.

Then she saw him. She watched, thinking he would look for her from the bottom step where he could see above the crowd, but he didn’t. He stepped out and turned back to the train, smiling. He reached up to help someone, and down came a petite Japanese girl, dressed to the nines with a fox boa around her neck, smiling at him. Once on the platform, Jim leaned over her and wrapped her in his jacket. They hurried together into the station.

Irene walked home in the blowing snow. She wished she could take out every embroidered chicken and flower from every tea-towel, untangle every thread of tatted lace and return the threads to the spindles. She wished she could undo the pieces of the pretty quilt and put them back into the rags and scraps from which she’d cut them, and, instead of all those hours learning to quilt from her grandmother, she wished she’d taken the old woman out to pick buffalo berries and chokecherries for jelly. She wished she could walk backward through that miasmic fog of hope that had carried her to the bitter moment with the knowledge she had now and regain every lost hour.

But that’s not how things worked. Many of her lovely things made their way to the church charity Christmas sale. Irene was grateful she didn’t catch cold, and she never wore the hat again. All Jim had to say was, “I didn’t know how to tell you, so I didn’t. We got married in Okinawa.”

Reading a Friend’s Reflections

I’m reading a book written by a friend. The book is about some of his solitary journeys, mostly in Alaska. The writing is often beautiful and sometimes I’m able to perceive its beauty. The thing is, he writes in Italian.

In one of the stories he writes about arriving at the cabin he leased for several years and where he will spend five weeks. To get there he has to hire a hydroplane. In this segment the hydroplane has two other passengers. When they see that he is being dropped off in the middle of nowhere, they begin to caution him about the dangers of being in the wilderness alone.

One of the things I KNOW about this person is that would piss him off. We hiked in Arches National Monument very late one afternoon through dusk into night. Our destination was the Delicate Arch overlook. The road to the Delicate Arch was closed, and we wanted to see the arch, so we walked and ran. We had to hurry. On our way, a man tried to stop us telling us we’d never get there in time to see it and we’d never find our way back in the dark.

I thought my friend was going to belt the guy for interfering and slowing us down. I was pretty sure we’d find our way back in the dark. As for the Delicate Arch? NOT seeing it was not as important to me or my friend as trying. Did we get there? We did. You can draw your own conclusions about whether we got back.

My friend has written in his book that the last thing he needed to hear when he’s dropped off in the actual middle of true nowhere is a couple of strangers cataloging the risks. He knows the risks, and he is apprehensive, but how useful is fear when he’ll be there for five weeks alone?

As I read my friend’s words, I thought about Reinhold Messner saying in his film for Outside Magazine “My Life at the Limit,” that it wasn’t climbing Everest without oxygen that scared him. Doing it alone scared him. Solitude scared him and that was what he was conquering, not the mountain, not the lack of air to breathe.

I’ve never had to confront solitude like that, but my whole life has been pretty solitary, mostly by choice. As a kid I was constantly trying to get out by myself somewhere, the woods, the bluffs, the hills, the mountains. That and wanting a dog seem to have been the consuming forces of my life. When I got my first REAL dog (Truffle) I understood what the combination meant for me. Freedom. I could go ANYWHERE with a big dog. It was a liberating partnership.

My friend has described himself as a misanthrope. Maybe he is. That’s something no one but him can possibly know. I’m not. I like people, but there is a difference between solitude in nature and experiences in nature with friends. I like both, but probably I like solitude in nature (with a dog) best (though I never turn down a chance to hike with a friend because it is fun). I have been stopped on many trails by people asking if I were afraid to hike alone. My answer was always no, that I was more afraid NOT to hike.

Still, I have no experiences that compare with being dropped by a hydroplane at a remote Alaskan cabin where I will stay for five weeks, except, maybe, my whole life. That’s something to reflect on as I continue reading these stories.

Ladies Lunch

“Just the two of you?” asked the girl in the black leggings, black button down shirt and purple cummerbund.

“Yeah. JUST us.”

“Inside or out?”

“Outside, please.”

“Jenna will seat you. Have a nice day!”

Elizabeth and Sharon followed another legging clad nymph, this one also in black leggings and black shirt but with a red-orange cummerbund. “Will this do?”

“It’s fine,” said Sharon.

“Can I get your drink orders? Your waitperson will be Wesley.

“Sure, I’ll have a strawberry daiquiri and my friend will have…”

“A martini, please.”

“Perhaps you’d like to refer to our martini menu. We have a variety of martinis, strawberry martinis, sour apple martinis garnished with a Granny Smith apple curl. There’s our famous Abuela martini with Mexican chocolate and vanilla, or maybe my personal favorite, the Blood Orange which features two citrus juices, strawberry vodka and a splash of thyme infused…”

“A martini. Dry gin, dry vermouth, an olive. Do you have this?”

Jenna nodded. “We do.”

“Good. That is the martini I want.

Sharon raised an eyebrow, “Shaken or stirred?”

Jenna looked at the women blankly.

“Shaken or stirred. Whatever the bartender’s up for.”

As Jenna walked away with their drink order, Elizabeth shook her head. “Remember that Devo song, ‘Freedom of Choice’?”

“No. That kind of music never did anything for me.”

Elizabeth looked across the patio toward the fountain. At a small, intimate table in the corner an elderly couple sat holding hands across the table, staring stupidly into each other’s eyes.

“I just wonder why.”

Noticing the drift of her friend’s eyes, Sharon said, “You’re not going to make another foray into THAT are you? Jesus. You’re nearly seventy.”

“No, but looking back, I wonder why we were all so inarticulate.”

“Who’s having the martini?” Wesley appeared in a red-orange shirt, black pants and violet cummerbund.

“My friend,” Sharon gestured at Elizabeth. “The strawberry daiquiri is for me.”

“I think he could have guessed who the daiquiri is for, Sharon.” Elizabeth grinned. Sharon was the take-charge type, always organizing reality.

“Whatev’. You were saying?”

“Back in our fresh-blossom days, why were we so inarticulate?”

“I don’t think we were. I think we were VERY articulate. Way more than ‘Thx’ and ‘Ur wlcm’.”

“We didn’t have those options. I wonder if I’d been able to text I’d have managed to express more of my feelings.”

“Like what? ‘Luv u’?” Sharon laughed so hard that pulverized strawberries and rum nearly came up her nose.

“Yeah, maybe.” Elizabeth thought of at least ONE situation that would have been helped A LOT with a text saying ‘Luv U.” She took a long pull on her martini. “I don’t think we were all that articulate. Yeah, we could argue about shit, but self-expression? You don’t remember all those seminars, workshops, retreat weekends where couples went off to learn to ‘share’?”

“Oh yeah. Why I didn’t think of those? Those were SO helpful!”


“Well, yeah. I found them very helpful, now that you mention it. Didn’t you? Had a lot to do with LSD and self-discovery, if I remember right. It was about discovering our potential, sharing our authentic selves with others.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “I remember going to something at my church where we made collages from magazines to reflect our ‘inner selves’. To whom? All I remember of that collage was lighting a match, blowing it out, and opening the cardboard end to make a roach clip. I glued it to the collage, a 3D feature. As if that was information? It just said I was 18, and I’d smoked weed. I thought I was so cool.”

“Who had the braised veggies with braised mahi and braised vinegar and oil on a plate of braised air?” asked Wesley who’d returned with lunch.

Sharon had her hand upbraised. “I do and my friend is having…”

“He knows, Sharon.”

“OK, right there. A place where you DON’T communicate but you could. You could say, ‘I’m having the freshly smashed peanut puree with grape reduction on the housemade gluten free panini.”

“Esalen. That’s the place everyone was going to. What BS.”

“OK, Liz here’s the thing. You regret you didn’t communicate with the men in your young life…”

“Not as much as I regret they didn’t communicate with me. Now I’m older I get what they were trying to say.”

“…OK, you regret the poor communication, but you reject — out of hand — the things that were around to try to fix that. We were raised by people who didn’t communicate. They drank.”

“I still think those encounter group things are creepy, and I never did any drugs — well, weed. I guess the problem is I’m more Edward Abbey than a touchy-feely encounter group.”

“Edward Abbey? THAT was your model?”

“Maybe. You know what he said about that stuff? ‘Never did get to know those spiritual amphibia crawling in and out of Esalen hot tubs.’ That’s a great line. A Fool’s Progress.”

“Abbey didn’t do so well with luv, either.”