Monday, October 5, 2015

Know your Canine

Name:  Barkley

Breed:  Lavatory Retriever

Distinguishing Characteristics:  Will fetch anything that's soft and squishy, including your very last roll of toilet paper.

What is YOUR pet's secret Pet Breed?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Neither dogs nor the daring live forever,
but the guarded never live at all.

- Brigid

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dinner on the Fly - Lessons on Life from the Kitchen

Folks - the internet will be likely shut off Friday or Saturday morning in preparation for the move out of the Crash Pad Saturday so I will save this to come up to give you a short story and recipe. Hopefully I will be back on line Sunday, safe at home.

Back when I was in my late 20's, I had an evaluation for a leadership position for an outfit I worked for.  It was something in which no woman had ever held the position and certainly not anyone my age.  I'd like to say I was cool and collected but I was nervous as hell.  At any point in the interview I expected the next thing out of my mouth to be "Beer" or "Donut".   The senior folks read through my resume (oh please, please tell me I used the word "Statistical" and not "Sadistical") and  commented on the recent MBA (not my first choice in studies, but I knew that just being a science geek or a pilot isn't guarantee of leadership positions later).  They also mentioned my age (back in those days you didn't have HR breathing down your next going "Good Heavens, Man, you can't ask THAT question?)

After the technical type questions I did OK at came the deal breaker - "Describe your organizational skills".

I thought of all those classes, I thought of Peter Drucker books and multi attribute utility diagrams; I thought of getting a big box of an airplane across a big desert with steam gauges and sweat. One never forget those flights, suspended in space, hanging from a point between mobility and absolutely motion, thinking there is no better job as you chase the wind, knowing it's too good to last. I thought of budgets and acquisitions and purchase orders and how none of them do you any good when you're looking down at 200 miles of open water and the EICAS panel is lit up like a Christmas tree and everyone is looking at you to make a decision before the other one flames out.

All those things I thought, but what came out of my mouth  without pausing for breath, was "I once cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 23 pilots including real mashed potatoes and pie without a microwave and everything was hot on the table at the same time.

"Oh, Crap, did I just SAY that?"  I thought, as I felt a breeze on my cheek, the axe falling, most likely. What's next, conversation about dishware and shoes?

But I got hired.  A couple days later I was riding herd on a couple hundred people.  I hoped they didn't all expect pie.

So for tonight, a little lesson on creativity and timing.  Sometimes it all comes together, sometimes it's "Hello Aurelio's?"  There are a million cookbooks out there, but some of the best meals are when you just get creative with what's in the kitchen. Sure, there is the occasional disaster (do not substitute duck wings for chicken wings and cook for the same amount of time unless you have a craving for rubber bands) but with practice and a few hints, most folks can learn to craft such a meal without resorting to a sodium drenched frozen something that costs three times as much as making it yourself.

It started with a  pack of two turkey tenderloins I got on sale for less than $4, some fresh veggies and some dry goods/  I said "tenderloin with garlic sliced in a chardonnay sauce?" and Partner in Grime said "stuffing with onion and celery as a bed?" and it went from there.

It ended up as this.

Turkey Tenderloin in White Wine Reduction with Garlic and Mushrooms served on Onion/Sage stuffing with Walnut Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pear Cinnamon Balsamic glaze. 

No recipe, no rules, and two big thumbs up.

Start with the tenderloin(s).  Marinate in a dab of olive oil, a little lemon juice and then rub with garlic and roast until not quite done (about 10 minutes less than package directions, still pink in the middle). While that cooks, chop a couple large sweet potatoes in two inch chunks, toss with a litttle walnut oil and place in a cooking pan. While you're in the chopping mode, chop 1 and 1/2 onions ( the half in small pieces, and the whole one in bigger chunks) and also chop  2-3 stalks of celery.  Throw the whole onion in bigger pieces in with the potatoes.  I have these nifty Ceramic knives that Old NFO gave me a few years back that make it easy. Preheat oven to the temp on tenderloin package.

Get out a box of Stove Top stuffing (also on clearance) put water and butter per directions in pan with 1/2 teaspoon of sage and set on cold burner.

Saute the celery and the half onion bits in a pan with a little EVOO until the celery is JUST starting to get limp and the onion is starting to caramelize.  Toss the celery/onion mixture in the water for the stuffing, and put pan back on a cold burner.

About now, the timer for the turkey should go off.  Remove it from oven and let cool slightly, then slice in pieces.  Place potatoes in oven, the temperature raised to 375 F. and the timer set for 30 minutes.

Turn the heat on the water for the stuffing on warm (you want it to heat, not simmer).  In the same pan you did the onions and celery in, saute some sliced mushrooms and a child sized handful of fresh basil.  When the mushrooms are starting to soften, drain off any liquid and add 3/4 cup of white wine, and a splash of lemon juice, stir until the liquid begins to cook down a little bit. Place turkey slices on top and let it finish cooking, stirring occasionally to let the wine reduction cook down, adding 2-3 tablespoons of butter at the end to thicken. Leave pan on low, stirring occasionally, while potatoes finish up.

When timer goes off for potatoes (or when they are starting to be get soft) drizzle1/4 cup Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar over top (from Artesanos, or your favorite balsamic).  Stir and return to oven for 10 minutes or until soft in the middle when poked with a fork.

Raise the heat under the veggie infused stuffing water  and heat to boiling, add stuffing mix.  Stir, cover and remove from heat.

When potatoes are done, everything is done. Serve turkey over stuffing with sweet potatoes. Drizzle any extra juice from the glazed potatoes over the turkey and stuffing. 

It might not be dinner for 23. It may just be dinner with your best friends of the two and four legged variety; time to laugh, time to shed the worries of the week, watching them all fly away as the wine is poured, burdens vanishing as they approach the color of wind.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Barkley Memories - The LOVE-seat

This little couch was on a sun porch in the house I bought when I moved to the Midwest. It overlooking a large retaining pond as well as a prolific flower garden.

It was Barkley's favorite place to see, looking out on the water, the ducks. With windows on three sides of the little room, the other side open to the living room where I would spend my evenings, it was his favorite spot.  There were also other people he could sometimes see, a little neighbor girl who would go down near the waters edge while her Mom looked on, shouting out "Aflac!" to the ducks, which always cracked me up.
There would occasionally be two boys that would fish there behind my fence, after they asked if it was OK.  I agreed, they were little boys who lived down the road, the water edge being on my property, not theirs. I don't know if they ever caught anything but they had fun, and Barkley would also go out to get his head scratched though the chain link fence.

This is also the spot from which he launched himself that night when the teens were smoking on my property and I told him "Barking good!" a story which those of you who have read the Book of Barkley will remember. Good times.

I gave this couch to a friends daughter when she got her first apartment and was I was selling my house.  It certainly had a lot of dog hair on it, but was still in good shape, but in downsizing I didn't need it.

I look at it,  in pictures now, and I look at him, and am still in wonder at a creature who looked on the entire world with a happy and incorrigible  conviction of the inherent goodness in all people.  That yard was his whole world, from which he barked equally at geese, teenagers, and squirrels.  If I close my eyes, I can still see him as I called him back in, running as fast as he could across the expanse, the vain stippling of shadows across the green grass, suddenly broken by a moving dashed line of black, running  back to me, back to his escaped shape of love.

And HIS couch.  For it ceased to be mine when I moved it home, even though I tried to keep him off of it by putting pillows or other objects on it.

Don't ask, don't tell.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The World is Full of Magic Things

The world is full of magic things,
 patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

As I grew up, I took better notice of the world around me. That kept me alive more than once, when looking away might have meant my day ending in an explosion of surprised pain.  I might not be the youngest or the most fit in the group, but when need be, I can fire out of a dangerous place as if stuffed with powder, or fight back.  It's perception, it's nothing more than awareness of things around you, when to take cover and when to take flight. You learn through time, or by staring at your reflection in the weapon of your own destruction.  I see the little things, I'm trained to, yes, but I try and look past the obvious into the shadows.

It's not just situations, it's not just  people, it's words.  Politics will teach us, if anything, that words are just that, words, and without any sort of commitment to their substantiation, they mean nothing. Words not just spoken, but crafted and spun and spun yet again until they are as lightweight and meaningless as brittle thread.
Simple words, but words that bear power.  Remember the big fuss when Crayola had to get rid of the crayons we all colored with for generations, one called "Flesh" because it was a light shade, the color of Caucasian skin.  Like "Indian Red" it was soon sent to the bin of obsolete colors. Flesh, certainly, is every hue and shade, but what the word brings back is whatever you bring to it, that small exposed place on the inside of the wrist just below a cuff of blue shirt, the shadow there beneath the nape of the neck, where the hair is as soft as down underneath your lips as you slip down into colorless dark.

Indian Red.  For me that does not bring to mind a Native American, but the fire, the variated sky of the desert, the hues of life and death.  It is the color of nature's power and the deceit of man's ego, which not only rises but sometimes sets, on crimson holes in a ravaged shirt, that bloomed like sudden flowers in the darkness.  It is  the color of muddy, bloodied ground, from which the soul strives to leave before being pulled beneath it forever. It is the color of a sunrise in your lovers eyes, the light of hope and given promise.
Words, just words, that bring to them meaning which is yours alone.

A person is more than their words, and more than their form.  As a woman, not just a mother, I hate to see the images being given to our daughters, in word, in pictures, as to what is "beautiful".

Models in magazines aren't just thin and pretty but they have every single pore and "imperfection" photo-shopped away.  Wrinkles aren't a badge of a life well lived, but yet another thing to be blurred by a computer, and heaven forbid we be a healthy weight, as apparently if you're not a size zero you should just go buy your Muumuu and hide at home..

How did we reach such a place where what is considered beautiful or desirable is defined by a magazine?  You must be this thin, you must be this age, this shape; you must be this tall to ride the ride.  And I watch, we watch, as a nation of daughters starve themselves into an image that was never their perception of beauty, only their perception of belonging.  Men can be no different, for that pain of  unrealistic expectations knows no gender.
It's a sad world indeed, when we care more about how someone looks than what they can create. When one's worth is based upon what they can give us in our lacking, not what they are. But we are the population that, for the most part, would rather watch the talentless of reality TV than pick up a book written two hundred years ago that is still sold today.  Who among them, has ever experienced sitting in quiet with such a book, as words come swift and secret in the night, dressed in garments of longing and lust and greed and triumph, the likes of which no episode of reality TV would even scratch the surface of.

It's perception. It's how you look at the world and how much of the world out there, hidden away from prying eyes, you take the time to really look at.  To many - a life lived is little more than breathing, pleasures and darkness. To others it is a richly layered landscape of both risk and reward.

Two different people looking at the same thing will never see it the same way. Standing at a Western art show looking at works representing bygone eras,  I'm entranced by a one particular painting,  It is a simple one of an older woman on the prairie wearing clothing from a bygone era.  A young woman next to me gives it a cursory glance and says - "old woman in ugly dress, moving along".
I look at it and see so much more.  The woman in the painting is not twenty, nor is she beautiful by today's standards.  The artist has her in a shapeless dress, the dark colors of which could represent widowhood or mourning. but do not still the hunger of the flesh that's there in her eyes.  I do not notice her fashion choice or her form, only hinted at under the voluminous folds of faded fabric.  I simply see a face calm in what had to be an era of great suffering, I see hands that can weave cloth, cook, plow a field or bury a stillborn baby, standing there in the painting, much as the guide was in this auditorium, steadily watching and waiting for what life still remained.

The dilapidated farmhouse behind her looks empty, the land is covered in dust.  There are no children or others around her, just her form, standing straight and tall looking off to the horizon.  There is no history as to what the painting represents. but looking at it, I see her not as a woman approaching middle age, but the form of a butterfly as it emerges from the cocoon, carrying nothing of what it was into what it is,  emerging complete and intact as the wild rose that suddenly blooms from barren soil.
"Old woman in ugly dress".  I shudder to think how little the younger generation may really see, beyond what's on their smart phone or current "selfie".

But among my generation we can be just as nearsighted.  Some people would look at a small safe in which lie several new and historical firearms and simply see "gun nut!" (often muttered with the same tone as "shark!").  Others would see money that could have been given to others, as how selfish to actually wish to enjoy the fruits of my years of hard work.  Others will see what I do, tools of value and defense, of which I am the custodian of their careful use, just as I am the custodian of the world I carry around inside me.
I finish up preparing for my day, gathering up notes on what has been torn apart, and set them under a stone. It's a rough piece of rock, that when cut in half, would reveal the most incredible colors.  Look closely, look deeply.  There's a dark purple so rare, that for a commoner in ancient times to don it, would be on pain of death. There's startled jays of blue, soft pinks and whites that flower from within, the color of flesh, dripping from limbs like paint, forbidden fruits, their taste only a memory as you trace the emotion of those hues with the tip of a finger

To some, this would simply be a "rock", never turned over, not examined closely, never revealing that beauty that emerges when it has been cut.  To not see that, to not know that, will be their loss.

I turn the desk light off, as the morning sun vanquishes the darkness, wondering too, if these words will be just words, spun off into the dark.  But it's enough to know, that, which I've learned through the years, that seeing and hearing are both blind and deaf, but the well worn heart can see that which is absolute magic.
 - Brigid

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kilted to Kick Cancer

Team Hast Kilted to Kick Cancer Selfie

It's Kilted to Kick Cancer Time! Each year Home on the Range highlights one of the gun bloggers who is donning the kilt to kick cancers keestser!

As my Dad has fought this dreaded disease for several years, it's a cause I hold close to my heart. Thanks to breakthroughs in treatment helped by generous donations to organizations such as Kilted to Kick Cancer, Dad has had several years with us, he might otherwise not have had, a generation ago. Still - one in 38 men will die from Prostrate cancer.  Let's reduce those numbers.

I'm a bit late to the party with the move and the new job this month but here it is!

This year we're highlighting

Michael Hast of  -

You can visit his blog for the daily postings about the fundraiser as well as see a video of Michael petting a spider while wearing a kilt (I would have been waiting in the safety of the jeep) or another one of his beautiful wife Jennifer shooting a 50 cal in a vinyl cat suit  (thanks Michael - ,my offer to just put on a dress for dinner for my husband tonight now pales in comparison).

Take a look - there are many great teams to donate to, you can list you you like in the checkout process. Look for the drop down menu as you check out for the teams.

I'm doing it for my Dad. (Pictured here with Barkley, on his 88th birthday).  You've got until the end of the month to get in your show of support as well.
Go donate toward the cause here.

Go Team Hast!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday Shoot Out - A Day with Friends

It was a quiet Saturday at the Range.  Partner in Grime was building the shelf and frame for the farmhouse sink to attach to the wall in the kitchen so the counter that has the little sink will be able to be ALL counter when the new cabinets are put in come Spring.  
We took a it of a break for a little cowboy action shooting in the living room.
We found this at a local drug store last Christmas and had so much fun with it, I went out and found a couple more at a later date for friends.  Each target (fence, buzzard, etc) lights up in a random pattern and you have to aim and shoot at the light wiht the infrared gun.  Each successful "hit" increases your score and when the time is up and it yells "yee haw!" at you, you're done. It's not as easy at it looks, you have to be dead accurate to score.

Turn you sound way up for the banjo music that plays while you shoot.

As we're going to round three, I get a  message - it was Og!   He and Mrs. Og were in the city and wanted to stop and spend some time with us.

"Abby - you're going to see one of your favorite ladies!"

They're here.

Abby (otherwise known to Mrs. Og as "Princess Wondercoat")  gets pets from Og and his wife.

Abby just LOVES Mrs. O.
Right there . yes. . .THERE.
Stealth dog detects lunch pizza.  Hmmm. . do they see me? Can I snag a piece without anyone noticing..
MMM. Pizza.  The pizza place they brought the pizza from is a little unassuming looking hole in the wall you'd not likely even think of stopping at but they have great thin crust pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.

I can't honestly remember the last time I ate a "chain" pizza.
It was good to catch up, with much laughter, engineering puns and stories of family and friends.

Too soon it was time for them to head home as we resumed the household work.
"Before you go - I bought you two a little something."

We waved as they headed out chuckling as to the exchange.

Og:  "I'm going to put that in the bathroom!  I can mount it on the wall and hit it from the john".

Mrs. O. - "You are NOT going to put that in the bathroom!  We have ONE bathroom.  I'll NEVER get in there."

They were laughing, as we were, as they drove off.
Our house is small, but it seems smaller when friends have gone, only the echo of their laughter remaining.

Friday, September 25, 2015

On Being Free

Government is by the people for the people, not the elected individuals pride and ego, but the service of those that put them in office.  It's a free government of free men, until it fails to remember to let men live free, not beneath it, but beside it.

When it fails to do that, it is not free government, it is sovereignty, and that's something our nation shed it's blood to be rid of.

Remember that when you vote, remember that as you pick up your phone, sign that petition, that  letter, tools of the law abiding, to let your voice be heard.

They may be small things, but small things wielded by thousands have changed history.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Small things - Big Smiles.

In my curio cabinet there is a tiny little piano (I've played the piano since childhood). Looking at it one day, after a shooty gal friend was over, I noticed what looked to be a small vase of flowers on the piano.

If you look closely, you can see what the "vase" is, with a tiny bit of "baby's breath" inside.

.45 acp

I love my friends.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Range Remembrance and Recipe - Monkey Bars

A playground in Montana. A time long ago. I'm the little redheaded girl that looks as if she's ready to give someone a little help down the slide. We used to polish them well  with waxed paper to get even more speed out of them. (hehehe.)

Big Bro was going to go swing like a monkey from the monkey bars.  He was safe. . . for now.

Have you noticed that some the playground equipment has been seriously lawyered up since you and I were kids?

The slides are now about four feet tall and have bumpers and areas of thick soft mulch to fall in (we had rocks). Monkey bars are getting harder and harder to find, and the ones out there aren't exactly high off the ground (oh no, I might fall 3 inches!)
What happened to that merry go round that was the childhood equivalent of a G Force accelerator. If you got going fast enough with a siblings help, hanging on by one hand, you could get up to about 2 g's. Or come flying off and break a tooth as I did and get banned from the playground for a few days. Then, there was the teeter totter (lever and fulcrum = initiate launch sequence!) Yes, we had discipline, the 9th and 10th amendment were alive in our parents hearts, but Mom and Dad let us get a few bumps and bruises alone the way, so we'd learn, not only our limits, but how to take care of ourselves. Mom also made sure, when we got home, there were homemade cookies or bars to munch on.

So with that memory I did a little creating in the Range kitchen this afternoon.  I just combined elements of a a brownie and snack cake recipe using bananas  I found on line, then added a couple Range touches. When I brought the wooden spoon with a bit of the glaze to Partner, he tasted it, smiled and said "you're evil" ( and he hasn't seen me with a waxed 20 foot slide).

It turned turned out better than I expected.  The sides and bottom were chewy, like a brownie, the interior was light and moist like a snack cake and the glaze made a sweet aromatic crunch to the top.  Add in the chunks of dark chocolate and the browned butter taste, it's going to be hard to keep your hands off of them.
Monkey Bars (c) Home on the Range

3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 very ripe bananas (skin starting to turn dark brown/black) sliced into chunks and then smashed
1/4 cup milk minus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 cup flour
1/2  tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
A generous (overflowing)1/4 tsp Penzeys Cake Spice (a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, or use an equivalent measure of one or more of those spices)

40 grams of dark chocolate (use a thin bar, roughly the surface area of a CD), chopped
Brown Butter Glaze
1/4 cup butter (not margarine or spread, it WILL burn)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 Tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon milk

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease an 8 x  8pan

For the bars
If you've not worked with leftover bananas, over ripe is good.  The texture is soft and the fruit has a lot more oil in it giving it an intensity of flavor in baked goods you will NOT  get from a fresh banana.


In a coffee mug, combine milk and apple cider vinegar.  Stir well and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and cake spice.

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the sugar and the egg, then add bananas, beating until combined (it won't be totally smooth).  Beat in the milk  mixture and vanilla on low speed, then slowly drizzle in butter while mixing on low.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients all at once and stir with a spoon until blended.  Then fold in the chocolate Spread the batter evenly into greased pan. Bake 22 to 26 minutes or until  edges are dark golden colored and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (center will  be light colored and appear soft)

Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then make glaze.
For Glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat  the butter over medium/high heat until boiling, reduce heat to low and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the butter turns a darker golden brown color (like honey) and has a nutty aroma, moving it immediately from the heat. Depending on your stove,  that's just a couple of minutes after it comes to a boil).  Let it cool for a minute, then whisk in sugar, vanilla and milk, blending until creamy.  Spread on bars immediately, or it will start to crystallize up a bit.

Then retire to the shop with your stash to play with stuff  that's almost as fun as playground equipment.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Restoring Ourselves

It was that time of the evening when things grow both restless and weary.The sun has dipped below the horizon, just enough light remaining to make out the forms of a couple of bicycles strewn across a lawn down the street, abandoned by children called in to supper.

As I get ready to go out for a quick jaunt around the neighborhood before dark, it's not hard to see the houses that have big screen TV's in the living room as they are directly evident if the windows are open, or providing that tell tale glare of light through the curtains. For many people, the TV is on as soon as they walk in the door, People come home, turn on the television, turn on the video games, draw the blinds, their view of the world that which comes through on the TV, losing imperceptibly their sense of the outside, of the world beyond a news anchor.

If someone walked past our porch at night, they'd see no such light. For we don't have a big screen TV. We don't have a TV at all, but for a small one in the in basement where we can get the weather with an antenna on the roof if we're down there due to Mr. Tornado.  If we want to watch a favorite show we have boxed sets, (cheaper than cable) from which to pick, watching on the computer monitor that can be turned to face the cozy futon in the office. Even that is something we only do on some weekends.
The crash pad had a nice TV from my old house, but it's being given to the young couple in need who are getting all the furniture, which we really have neither need nor room for up here. No - anyone curious or casing the Range to rob it would see hardwood floors, restored antique furniture, lots of leaded and stained glass and a Victrola. Sure, there are firearms in the house, some of them dating back to the civil war, but they are carefully cared for and locked up in a safe that is built into the house itself.
As big and beautiful as it was, I don't miss my old house.  It was your typical McMansion, those huge suburban  houses that are less home than monopoly game house squares of plastic and cheap lumber and wasted spaced.  What wood is there is usually laminate, the walls not thick enough to withstand a really good storm or the thump of a neighbors bass played too loud. They look OK now, but I can't imagine what it will take to sustain them 100 years from now, if they're even still standing.  But they are big  and "new!" with three car garages full of a lot of things that aren't paid for yet, the neighbors house so close you can't swing a tax assessor without whacking your next door neighbor. Some didn't even have furniture - the people buying them not having enough money after buying the too big house to properly furnish it.
Our house is old, it's small and it's sturdy.  There is no big mortgage, there is no credit card debt for the furnishings.  But for a small table that was a family heirloom, everything in our view we bought with cash, or picked from curbside trash, restoring it as best we can, those items that another found to have little worth.  I think the only things well under 50  years old in the house are the computer, the mattress, the frame of a couch we restored and the two beloved souls I live with, both two and four legged.

I've had a couple casual acquaintances look at the sagging porch that needs to be redone, the antiquated kitchen and a sun porch that makes the Green Acres house look upscale and make a subtlety snarky comment about it. They're not invited back. It's a work in progress, the whole house being a restoration project, much of the work on things you won't see on the surface. I look at it differently, I guess.  I don't see what still needs to be done.  I see what HAS been done.
The little village within the big city we live in is small, with a train station, a small grocers, a mom and pop pizza place and a couple of pubs.  The houses themselves are grey, white, brown or brick, no trendy Victorian doll house colors, no urban renewal shades of  yuppie reclamation.  The houses and porches are the shades of time and shadow and quiet murmured voices gathered between columns, as if time and breath had made them all one quiet color, a hushed vestibule where all is forgiven.

Within a short drive is a trendy urban area where people live in half a million dollar apartments, taking the train into the city, some not even owning cars as every bit of millennial spender and excess is within walking distance. We do go there as that's where the big home improvement store is.  That's where we bought all the copper pipe and wood for the house and a nice runner for the hall at a good discount, because the young man with the trendy haircut couldn't multiply $12.97 times 6 on a piece of paper when the calculator went missing.
No, I'll pass on all the "hip" places unless they have tools.  I'm perfectly happy browsing in an antique book store or standing in line at the grocer with elderly Polish women.  Dressed as if they are going to church, many of them have survived more than one war, holding our numbers and waiting for the deli clerk to slice meat that was roasted in the store, not unwrapped from cellophane, shaving the meats and the cheese and carefully wrapping them up for me with a smile. There's homemade sausages, salads, and potato pancakes, foods known well to the immigrants that settled in this place. I'll pass on the toaster strudel, and buy one of the real thing, made by hand, breathing in the scent of sugar and yeast as I head home with my bounty, driving past an ancient church and a small park which knows know only the shades of those first children that played there.
Am I just getting old - looking at the past as simply stories of youth and bravery, doomed to forgetfulness as I eventually pass, as we all will, those points of affection and regret into a fog that quietly dims the lights? Or have I simply changed what parts of the world are important to me based on how I have touched the world, and it has touched me in return?

I think it is the latter.  Getting to middle age is is some way, like surviving a war.  There are false truces and negotiations, retreat and reconciliation, triumph and treachery. In the end, if you are lucky, there is peace, your warrior's medals and ribbons being internal, only recognized when you look into the mirror and see those first lines around your eyes and smile because you know that despite it all, your sustained breath is its own little victory.
It's a peace I enjoy and as some of my peers rush around getting Botox and fillers, putting on enough makeup to make Krusty the Klown jealous. I'm perfectly content to put on sweat pants and tactical lip gloss and just hit the road, face bare and long red ponytail trailing behind me like those red warning flags you see on timber hanging off the bed of a fast moving little pick up.

So tonight, I'll  take a jog down through the village across the railroad tracks and down past the old church.  In the small graveyard there stands upon a grave site, a  stone angel, her shadow painting a canvas of dimming light as I move past.  She is a melancholy spirit, crafted in another century, her eyes closed as if in prayer, her mouth open as if she turned to stone in the moment she uttered her life's final secret.  Around the grave there is a garland of living flowers, grown wild, even as the rest of the small graveyard fades to dust, flowers reaching for one last bit of sun, there amidst the silent stones, the histories that live on in this place.
I wonder how many people have walked past her, with earbuds on, or their head down with texting, not realizing the significance of a forgotten grave - that one small thing, that soul - at one time, the most important thing in the world to someone, held through sickness and health, and cherished even as they grew old and faded as flowers will.

How many now, truly possess that which holds weight and value, something that when viewed, when held, lights up the eyes with the triumphs of all risks and renunciations. Or have we become a society of the easy and disposable, be it a product, a relationship, or worse, even a life?

As the sky begins to spit rain, I hurry home, but not before lifting my closed eyes up to heaven, mouth open, catching drops of clean rain on my tongue, a self-communion of one, as I say a blessed thanks for a long safe travel through life.
As I approach our house, the light dimming, I see the glow of the television sets in other homes, an unearthly artificial glow, as canned laughter seeps out of an open window. As I arrive home, climbing up the tired stairs unto the large porch, there is light inside from the wall sconces, rewired but decades old, bright as a spark, significant of human shelter and repose. As the key rattles in the door, there is a soft woof of an old Rescue Lab, her grey muzzle snooting me happily as I enter the house

A burglar casing the place would look through the front window and shake their head, seeing little for which they would give value. I look inside and see the riches of a strong house that shelters me with vigilant accord. It has stood for a hundred years, with an air of history and invincible possession, which will remain, long after I am gone.

I set my keys near the Victrola and my husband's Fedora.  As he calls out a greeting from the kitchen, I pat Abby the Lab on the head, looking at the small precious things that have been rescued and now live here, grateful for eyes that finally learned to see.
 - Brigid