Sunday, April 26, 2015

On Shields and Swords

Frank, what do you know? It's you and me again tonight.
 The rough riders, tearing up the streets, just like old times.
 This old bus is a warrior, Frank. I have tried to kill her, but she will not die.
 I have a great respect for that.
 Tom Wall - Bringing Out the Dead

An elderly man sits in front of a cold television set, the house is warm, but silent this day. There are plenty of homemade meals, frozen and put carefully away and labeled, things his daughter made for him, on hand. But tonight, he just wanted some canned chicken  soup and a generous  drop of amber liquid, something familiar and warm for his soul.

Outside the wind blows, new spring leaves clinging to still bare branchess as fiercely as flags. Inside, the phone rings, it's the neighbors, a couple of "kids in their 60's", as he calls them, calling to check up on him across the little white brick fence.  For they'd not seen anyone leave the house for a walk in a couple of days. Beyond the simple expression of Christian caring, they were concerned. He was fine.

He was glad they noticed.
His son used to live here, and he remembers those last days, his son sleeping, even early in the day, taking in little nourishment, but that which is needed for the pain. The two of them had some adventures, there in those days after the chemo was done.  It was a a brief period of endless times, tearing up the streets, if only in the form of a road trip or two, a huge bottle of pickled herring, a six pack and a trip to the ER because someone got bad acid reflux.  Good times, times winding down, he thought as he watched his son sleep most of the day, as if the heavens forgot to rewind him.

Tonight, his son is gone and his wheels are silent.  He's alone with his thoughts and the past, hoping the phone will ring.  It would be his daughter, who lives so far away, who checks on him daily and visits when she has days off that allow for a quick flight out there and back.

He thinks of her, not as a grown woman, but always as that little auburn haired child who would sit on the couch for hours.  Her companions were the books she coveted, books that she did not so much simply love, but crave like an addict, the fire that flowed from the writers mind through fingertips to be burnt upon the page, then doused with the water of laughter or tears, and wrung out again.  He always said there was no interrupting her when she was like that, the house could burn down around her as she embraced the words among the flames.  She remembers him saying  "She'll  love everything that hard.  That will be both her blessing and her curse".  She wonders why she remembers it now.

He settles down as he waits for her call.
She, in turn, is glad he has neighbor's that check on him, and a nurse's aide with him morning through night. He is a man that's already outlived two children and two wives, been part of a Great War and watched his friends die, limping back from battle in an aircraft punctuated with German greetings.  He's as tough as some hardy winter plant that can bloom under the heel of snow, unaware of the heart's unceasing combat with its own thinning blood

So someone always checks on him and she has had more than one call when his curtains weren't opened or the dog was barking, only to find he'd simply fallen asleep in the chair.  Apologies were made but she would dismiss them, for better to be concerned and have it be a false alarm when look away from someone is in need of dire help.
We are so afraid of getting into any one's business or even looking closely at our own, that we often fail to look around us, to watch for threat, even as we appreciate all the good that is still around us. Tensions builds, darkness threatens, yet there will always be someone, head down, not noticing , with a "lalalalala". It's scary when I see that in a young woman, prey for so many. It's even scarier when I see it in those, that by their power, are supposed to make things safer so when I am ready and willing to defend myself, it's against a manageable target.

It wasn't always this way. In my Dad's time, a nation attacked us without warning and we dropped a very large atomic bomb on them. Today, we apologize profusely to those who wish to kill us, closing the shutters so we don't see rogue nations continue to build their nuclear capability. We close our mouths, stopping our protests before they become sound.
Off work for a few hours, I go for a short run in sweatpants and  a beloved dark blue Citadel sweatshirt, trying to work off ten pounds that set up base camp after my brother's death, the need to get out in the wind briefly stilled.  With the bad knee it is a work in progress, moving always, finding the composition of lift and motion that will propel me forward, help me get past  pain that is more than a knee, scanning the horizon for anything unusual, gun on my hip under my shirt

The place I live in when working is in a little town some miles from the city but close enough we have to be vigilant. It's relatively quiet, with some nice houses, a young neighbor I recognize walking a lab, his wife, pushing a stroller. But there are still a few homes that look like the only lab that have is of the meth variety. I see an older neighbor and stop and ask her about her grandchild, she asks about my family and tells me she misses seeing Barkley.  I thank her, small connections, small reassurances.

I see someone on the bike trail that goes past my road. I recognize her, a city clerk, another volunteer at the food kitchen, we chat briefly and wave goodbye. As I head out into the open area that's part of a nature preserve. I see a movement off in the brush. Dog? Coyote? Now I knew I was in no danger from the coyote or his brethren, as there were many walkers about, but I was in his world. To my eyes, his world was dark, every noise I make a threat or a promise. Where he could see, I was blind, where he could smell, my senses were mute. What he could hear eluded me completely. What drew him in, was as old as time and as uncaring. While I had intellect and size he had the grimness of infallibility, instincts honed through generations of survival in an ever dangerous land.

Despite the scientific part of my brain telling me that logically I was in no danger there are primal forebodings that stir softly in our blood. Times, despite logic, that cause a less than subliminal sense of something lurking, watching. Something that stalks quietly, closer to our world than we want.
As I headed back towards my garage,I see a young man I don't recognize, coming from the direction of town I tend to avoid. His eyes are binge drinking slits, downcast, his hands in his pockets, his whole movement, one of coiled tension and anger, at his parents, at life, who knows. I clear my throat and make eye contact and move across the street towards the gleam of a light in a window, walking head up, hand ready, determined in my movements, even if I still have a bit of a limp when I'm tired.  He moves away and past, paying as little attention to me as he does his own grooming, not knowing that had he moved with the intention of harm, I would have dropped the whole world on him.

I care, for people, for friends, even for strangers who, having lived lives of work and honor, just need a little support. And, as Dad surmised, I love deeply.  But I have a limited capacity for empathy for scavengers and predators, having seen in my travels around the world, some absolute realities beyond the billboard of illusion that the socially and politically naive never imagine.
I go inside my little crash pad, setting down on the table my own sword; one in the form of a large caliber firearm, dropping the badge in my  coat pocket on the table; my shield, one that grants access to grief but does not protect me from sorrow. For sometimes you think you can fly, only to be destined to drown.

For years, I did all I could to protect not just my physical form, but my heart-- doing what people the world over do when they are hurt. I pushed everyone away.  I also pushed my boundaries, sometimes hanging up high in the air, the g-forces on my body a distraction from the pain, the air parting like the Red Sea, my only need to move on at maximum risk to my body, and minimum risk to my soul.

I wanted nothing from the world but the ability to push through it without being touched.  I talked little to people but much to the sky, whispering to it my regrets as I rolled through 40 degrees of bank, taking counsel with that great blue solitude.
You think that cheating death like that would make me feel alive but for a time, it was a battle without passion, grey and colorless, with neither the urge to win, or the fear to lose, played out before an arena with no audience.  I came within a few knots of a final pronouncement more than once, and found that I had nothing left to say.

The only sound was the wings cleaving the air, a sound that is like all other sounds of profound mystery, the lap of a wave upon a shore, the echo of taps, the whispers of a voice that speaks to you in dreams from an eternity away, heard but not comprehensible.

There were a lot of good times, there were a lot of good memories wasted as more than once I said "should  have" or "would have"  Those are words in all of our hearts, at least once. We recall much of a life as each year passes, candles on another cake, warm breath against the flames. But what do you remember most - the best day of your life or your last regret?

The difference is profound.
How often do we stay silent, when we are searching, when we need help, when we are hurt?  How often do we shut ourselves away when we want a cool touch upon the brow or a hand that helps us up a steep slope. How many times have we wanted to say what was in our heart but kept silent. There is so much that can keep us from the truth of things, holding us in that toil of a heart's hesitation.

Sometimes it's pride, sometimes it's hurt. Sometimes it's history.  Often it's the fear of being judged, or even rejected. The safety stays on, the mouth stays closed and while we think we are protecting ourselves, we're merely closing a door on life, one that can be as fixed as one of a prison.  In doing so sometimes we lose a friend, we lose an opportunity or we lose on love- that improbable, inexplicable and sometimes bewildering thing that binds us together despite our blood, or through it.

I look at my Dad, and when my brothers name is mentioned he gets this look of profound grief on his face, even as I've learned to get through the day as a stoic. He is a man who is not Time's trinket and for him, my brothers collapse and death on Good Friday was if it was yesterday.

But he'd not have given up the experience of adopting and raising him, both of us, for any happier ending. As I make my plans to call both he and my husband tonight - that's what I will remember.
I go inside and pull out a photo that's not on display, someone in a dark uniform, not here, but always present.  But I feel comfort in knowing, as I sit in this place alone tonight, that for now, this moment, our world is quiet. There's a certain warmth in knowing that someone you love is safe, even if they do not need to be present for that feeling to exist, the feeling, a wet finger on a burning wick, hot, but not scorching, possessing a slow deep solidity of heat that only the tragedy of time's cessation would truly extinguish.

Back home out West, someone is knocking on my Dad's door, with food, with care, making sure he's not alone tonight. He looks through the peephole, unlocks the door and opens his home and his heart, all that is left to him. In his closet is a military uniform, on his porch an American flag, and within his reach, until he was too frail to handle it, a shotgun that had fed and protected him for over 75 years. On the table, a photo of a tiny spitfire of a woman, years before her bones shrank inwardly, her mind and her flesh growing sparse in those last days that he never ever, left her side.

We love with great depth, we defend with great pride, we protect with a generation's honor, even as we always keep our guard up, our eyes open equally to worry and wonder.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Strays - A Chapter From "Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption".

I have some very close friends that have a half dozen cats at their country home, all of which I believe, were dumped out there by the unfeeling .  All were found cold and extremely hungry. It's good to see them now, well fed, happy and cared for as indoor cats in a spacious country home with a huge basement for them to explore. I remember evenings with my old black lab Barkley up on the couch, surrounded by the original four cats, their purr of content as they lay on top of the couch or next to him, drawing on the warmth of his big furry body, suffering the occasional snoot with a clawless and gentle swat to his nose.

These cats are family, but still, I am a dog person, even as I have a soft spot for any animal that is homeless or mistreated.  Walking through my neighborhood with Abby, our new rescue dog, yesterday, I saw a cat, arrested within the eyes of that dog, pulled up high in the apostrophe of fear as he held poised for fight or flight.  I pulled Abby gently away, as she had cats at her foster Mom's house and we weren't in for a rumble. But I didn't want Abby to get a clawed nose for her curiosity.  The cat's coat was in good condition as far as I could tell,  but it was a thin, likely a stray. I was going to see where it went, where it might have a home, but  it was gone in a flash before I could check on its well being. I'd seen her before, always hanging around the same spot in the fence, where she likely had found a safe place to sleep.
We see them on the streets, in shelters, the fortunate ones collected by rescue groups, the unfortunate--the look in their eyes, heartrending.

But animals aren't the only "strays" we see, people fall into that same category.  I'm not talking homeless, necessarily, but those people that by circumstance or transplant find themselves in a new city, for a new job, or a fresh start, where they don't know anyone, or are stranded somewhere while traveling for a day or days, due to weather and fate.

I found myself in that circumstance the first year I was in Indiana.  I'd only been on the job a few weeks, not enough time to make any friends. I'd  moved here from back east, too far to visit any old friends after the cost of the move. My parents were in San Diego at my Step Aunt's condo, where they spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas after my Mom died and my dad remarried two years later, to a widow with three adult kids.  I wasn't invited-- the place not being big enough for the whole blended family.  Dad felt badly I'd be alone, but he wanted his wife to be happy, her time with her sister, growing short, the rest of her siblings gone. I understood that, and would visit them for a belated Christmas at home on their return, but it still made the holiday lonely.
I remember walking out to my little VW Jetta from my workplace the night before Thanksgiving that first year there, as the sky spat cold rain, and felt a tear on my face. I'm not sure why, as a professional pilot in my younger days, I'd spent many a holiday alone, on call or in a hotel.  Years, later, holidays were busy times at work.  But that night it sort of got to me-- I really had no place to go but home to Barkley and a sandwich, my kitchen torn up for remodeling. I was hoping someone would remember that I had no family near, and would turn around, pulling back into the parking lot to ask me to join them for dinner the next day. As I walked to the car, I got a gleam out of the corner of my eye in the darkness, a movement and I smiled thinking someone remembered me and was turning back with an invitation. But it was nothing more than an illusion, that faint glimpse of reflection imagined there as you gaze into the depths of a wishing well, only to find cold stillness.

There was no car, just a flash of light reflected off a nearby rode, and  it brought back every moment as a child, those moments we have all had, when we feared we just didn't fit in, that we didn't belong..
I was always the one inviting the new kid to play with us, befriending the nerdy and the odd.  Perhaps it was because I viewed myself that way. So when  I was a very young flight instructor, living out of a suitcase with no roots, I decided to continue that tradition and  share my table with others like me. With most of us on call to give an "introductory flight" to a prospective student, hoping to earn some dollars to pay next quarters tuition, or too broke to fly home commercially, many of us had no place to go on Thanksgiving day. So I hung a flier up on the instructors bulletin board at my airport, for any errant corporate pilot in the area or my coworkers. An invite to come over to my little place for Thanksgiving dinner.
I'd not say I was "friends" with all these guys from the perspective that we would continue to hang out together when we finished college, going off to fly for the military or the airlines.  These were simply people I'd spent hours in the cockpit with getting my various instructor ratings occasionally getting the &*#@ scared out of us, absorbing the wonderful colors and shapes and shadows of the sky, making temporary homes in a series of small apartments with multiple roommates, cramming as much as possible into the rare 24 hours we actually were off.  So yes, we were family, if only related by adventure and empty pockets. And for that, I could think of no better reason than to peel thirty pounds of potatoes, bake five pies, and to to bat my big green eyes at the butcher to talk him out of that extra ham at half off.

Yes, thirty pounds of potatoes, for although I expected RSVP's from about six people, I ended up with twenty-seven people, pilots I worked with, a couple of our mechanics, and a few corporate pilots that used our facility and stayed at the local hotel while their passengers enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and they got free Cable. They arrived with drinks and chips and  thankfully, some extra rolls and a couple of  pies from the Safeway store.

It was a wonderful evening, with massive quantities of food eaten, countless stories told and much laughter, eating until we couldn't eat any more. There was something starry in the kitchen that night, where I learned as much about my ability to organize and create as I did about the essential bond that a meal around the table creates, even if it's a bunch of card tables shoved together with white bleached sheets over them.
Did it mean that we all got along perfectly after that night? No, for there were still those days that intruded darkly on hours normally full of light. Those long close quartered days where we plowed through thick dark clouds to reach ice covered firmament, cursing the weather and long lines for takeoff. Days where the alarm clock snatched us violently out of wrung out sleep, sweeping us all back into the thrall, impotent for days against returning to home, knowing that instead of getting a nap afterwards, most of most of us would be heading off to night classes.  As much fun as flying could be, after a few months of such a schedule, even the best of us got a little self absorbed. Add  in constant travel, books and study hall, and it was a life of scattered adrenalin, little sleep and scant time for real relationships. Just like life for many of us now, with families and jobs and pets and demands.

But that night, if only for a few hours, we had that bond of family and food, warmth and safety. It was that moment when chance aligns with time, whose only foe is death, and together, death's darkness seems so very far away.
You see them at any airport, that frazzled traveler that just missed the last flight, that young person sleeping on the floor after their flight cancelled, without  the means to secure a hotel room. I've offered a hot coffee and a sandwich with a smile to more than one soldier or college student I saw stranded at the airport. Because I have been that young person with rumbling stomach, surrounded by strangers, wanting only to be home.

I had a flight between two Midwest cities a few years back after I'd picked up a couple of days work as a contract corporate pilot  The city whee I was flying wasn't home but it was near where I was spending Thanksgiving with friends when I got the call to cover for a pilot out sick, for a company I'd done some contract work before.  Easy money and the holiday was about over anyway. 
The sky was cold and cloudy as I waited for my return light, to be followed by a long drive home, but there was no precipitation  All of a sudden, our flight was cancelled, with no reason given, but we were only told we'd be on another flight real soon. I didn't see any mechanics at the plane, and the flight crew was all there, so I called Flight Service, for the aviation weather, giving them the N number of the plane I'd just flown in, the previous night.  There was severe icing aloft, unusual to be so widespread, but deadly. No one, big or small,  was going to be flying out of that airport, and likely for the rest of the day.
At this point, we were standing in line to be re-booked, the word not having gotten to the gate that he airport would essentially be shutting down flights.  There was a well dressed gentlemen behind me.. We had chatted a bit and it turned out his wife worked at the same bank one of the folks I had spent the holiday with worked at.. I quietly told him about the weather and explained that NO ONE was going to be flying, and I was going to get a rental car now, as the flight was just a "hop" and getting home back to where my car was parked was just a three and a half hour drive. A couple other people overheard.  I said "do you want to go with me?"  With a quiet nod, four of us snuck out of the line.  For it only takes word that the last flights are cancelling to start a disturbed hum in the customer service line, like bees, before they move in an agitated swarm to the rental car counters, with stinging glances to the Priority Customers, the worker bees hoping for one solitary KIA to be left.  I wanted to get out before THAT happened.

The weather out of the clouds was great, just a little snow and we made the trip in four hours, everyone calling their spouses or friends that they would be a bit late, and whether they needed a ride from the airport.. On the drive, we were strangers and we weren't.  We talked of holiday plans, and kids and vacations when it got warm.  There were bad puns, and WAY too many references to the "Trains Planes and Automobiles" movie--something only folks that saw that movie would appreciate. "You're Going the Wrong Way!" one of us exclaimed and the whole car erupted in laughter like we were a bunch of grade school kids, the cool kid--"Those Aren't Pillows!"-- as we laughed again, just having fun, with no fears of rejection or hurt or loss.
With a stop for sandwiches at one of the toll plazas, we soon made it, only to find the terminal pretty much deserted, most of the flights coming from north or east also cancelled inbound.  They thanked me for making that call and offering to pay for the rental car. I had let them pay for gas, and that's all I wanted.

We said our goodbyes and walked away towards home. The sun, who's brilliant form dwarfs us all into the smallest of particles upon the earth as we are held within it's glare, was hidden behind the steeled gray of cloud cover. With it's brightness now captured behind a stratified door, the night fell upon us as we walked to our cars, it was as if we were all just shadows, covered with a fine, soft scattering of night, falling like ash.

I never saw any of them again.
Thanksgiving for me that year was one of those "sandwich days", not for lack of an invite with friends, but personal and work related.  Still, it gave me time to think and reflect, something that is as important as giving thanks.  The human heart is is large enough to contain the entire world, and it's small enough to be felled by just one being, yet it is valiant enough to to bear all burdens, when you realize you are not alone.

As the phone rang with the cherished voice of my husband, letting me know he had reached his destination safely,  I realized I had much to be thankful for. Even in an empty house there was a gentle doggie snore of an adopted friend until the clock struck the duty hour and I gathered a black bag and gear in case the phone rang in the middle of the night. But before that occurred, there was something I needed to do.  With a quick warm  hand pressed for a moment on top of a cold square box in which my furry best friend lay, I left the house and walked to a little store a block away, a can opener and a little plastic bowl in my pocket. I got some cat food, and put it out in a bowl along a solitary fence.

For everyone, at one time, is a stray.
 - Brigid

Book can be ordered today from Amazon at the following address:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Saving Grace - April 22 2015

Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption has been published.  Paperback is available at Amazon. (Kindle copy in the works, and should be available in a few days).

If you liked the style of writing in The Book of Barkley you will enjoy this story. It started as a journal I wrote to my daughter after I gave her up for adoption as a teen.  It wasn't anything structured, just notes here and there of thoughts and stories of her birth as well as my life growing up in the 60's and 70's with the brother I was adopted with.  In a series of vignettes of life and memories crafted from those notes,  I hope some of you will see much of your own journey to family.This book is for my daughter, in memory of my brother, but I hope the world will enjoy it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Buried Hazards - Hidden Treasures.

Due to the hour in which my guests made it in - it was dark before Abby was taken for her pre- bedtime walk and we could get a snack and catch up.

It really was a beautiful evening - despite the brisk, chill wind.  Other than the area of the street lights, it was almost impossible to see the difference between sky and open land that lies next to where I live, no fences, just open ground.  It made for a serene and enigmatic landscape.

Houseguest F. went with me.  With a six foot tree inches of muscle at my six position,  I was comfortable taking Abby further out afield to walk then immediately around my driveway, for even armed, as a woman, I don't wander far into the shadows.

"Let's go this way" I said, with that tone that was less a woman giving direction and more that command that was mine for so many years.
As we strolled silently, fanning out into the grass, Abby sniffing everything in reach, I thought back to that day where I had command of my first ship, a large ugly box of a transport plane, but it was mine, as were the bars on my shoulders.  As I gave the command to "Turn Two", there was a momentary dryness in my mouth, as I spoke those simple words to a night much like this, silent and heavy with both probability and dew.

Taking on that yoke of responsibility, comes with it much reflection, as you open that cockpit door for the first time as the Skipper, as full of faith as if opening the door to some secret shrine.  You learn quickly, how to adapt and change and even more importantly, that you are just one person and without your crew, you are nothing.  Especially, to  that crew chief that fears neither God nor the Devil, man or weather, and hates all pilots on sight and you most of all, which all new pilots secretly believe, even as it's not true.

With the wry countenance of a watchful parent he gives the signal, fuel is introduced and your night starts

It was hours later, the mission completed, when I was fighting sleepiness even a the stars themselves seemed to tire of the night, that the seat started to feel familiar.  But it's something that never left, and with rare exception, I'm usually the one in charge,.
Being married to another  Type A personality - well that can get interesting. Driving with each other is sometimes fraught with much laughter and gentle teasing as one of us tries, without success, to tell the other what to do. You know, as each of us clearly knows we are the superior driver, But we try and be patient, and take terms being Pilot in Command, he with his dark glasses that might hide that look, me with my invisible brake pedal. Apparently, we are  not alone in this.  Last weekend, Partner in Grime looked at me and said "I just watched that Amazing Race Show.  You know how we are in cars? . . we're AMATEURS!".  And we both laughed.

But it's my nature to lead, even as almost all of the people that are close to me are also natural leaders.  Some honed that skill from the cockpit of an airplane - which can be as serene as the imperceptible motion of a becalmed ship or as violent as a paint shaker.  Decisions are made with split second timing  and often much adrenalin only to then sit for hours with nothing happening, as the land profiles ahead of you as flat and as matte as black paper cut from the sky, fallen to earth Others do it in building a business, or those battles that are the downfall or the saving grace of man. Some aren't cut out for it, such decisions leaving them a doubtful shadow of themselves trembling in the glare of action.
But I'm aware of my nature and try to walk that line between leader and bossy. My friends understand, they themselves holding that sense of preparedness that often, only those that pursue a calling they love, are aware of.  We know our strengths and we also know when to ask for help,  We also expect the unexpected-- something that not only pilots are familiar with.  Anyone that deals with mother nature in the course of their work knows about it. We know too well those fitful and deceitful winds that built and dashed hopes, promises of destinations ending in lost grounds and  strange airports. We are the bearers of those dashed hopes for a hot bed or even a hot meal, expiring in sighs that die into mute stillness in which the weather gods had to have their own way--their own inhospitable way.

Anyone that deals with human nature knows it as well, vain hopes and fitful errors, grandiose plans broken down by ego into small bits waiting for others to sweep it up and make it whole, while they move onto the next disaster.  Then there are the critics - people that love to tear down that which they themselves can not build.

Still - I'd take it over a life that's flat, safe and bland, as unseasoned as the soul that walks in it.
Such are the things I think about, even on a night's walk with a friend.

We ended up cutting across an open grassy area of property in the little community I live in, even if part time, the grass cut short that day. F,, walking at a distance at my 9 o'clock, had Abby's leash and she stuck her noise town in the grass drinking in the smell of something.

And it wasn't grass.

As she popped her head up I could see from the faint glow of a streetlight that she had something in her mouth, about the size and shape of a smaller  Nerf football.

F.. looks down and says, dead calm, "It's a dead rabbit".  Likely killed by the mower.

"Abby Drop it drop drop it", I cried out, helpless to do much else from a distance.

She knows "drop it" from playing with toys but she wasn't having any part of it, even for the treat I pulled from my pocket and hoped she would see from the distance in the darkness.
As I said "Drop it" again she tried to wolf Mr. Rabbit down, I could see the movement in her throat as she tried to swallow it whole.  Remembering the explosive results of just one piece of chicken I didn't want to go there, even if it didn't choke her in the process..

"F -  get it get it  get it!

F was already reaching down to pry the dead rabbit from her mouth- which he did both expertly and gently while I moved to her side.

Abby was very pissed off, giving him a look that menfolk the world over would recognize.  I also realized that no mater how much you think you are in charge, how many titles you have, or what your rank is, to a dog with a piece of dead animal in it's mouth you are simply

Blah Blah Abby!  Blah Blah Abby!

Sometimes we need that lesson.
Life doesn't always go the way we want, rain may etch marks into the perfect earth humans may rend and tear that which you have built up, and somewhere there is always a wascally, wascally wabbit,

As we headed back towards the house so I could call my husband, I realize how very lucky I have been in my great misadventure which is life.  I look upwards, at the stars, and see with it the sun, the light, the darkness, great seas and vast skies the limitless creation of God's own seven days, which this one small soul blundered into unbidden, connecting with other small souls that then joined in that web that is camaraderie, that is life.

I wouldn't trade any of it for anything.
Kill the Wabbit

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It's that time of the year again.

There's a big Firefighting Conference thing going on in Indy.  Why is that important?  Well-- I have some squirrel friends that  work as volunteer firefighters and attend using their vacation and their own dollars. So every year, my home in Indy, which is now my crash pad, is the docking station, with showers, laundry, food and a place to hit the rack, for one or all.  Barkley used to love these visits as they'd send the coolest high tech, high energy dog toys out in advance of arrival, something to enjoy in my previously fenced yard.

It looks like a testosterone bomb went off in here and Abby is looking perturbed that couch, futon and all extra sleeping spaces are no longer hers.

There's many years of history here, and there will be some tales told under the "Cone of Silence" where a toast is raised and at least one tale will be told about a wrong way tank and a Bosnian goat (a tale that's in my next book but not told here tonight).   I don't have a real little brother of the blood kind, but I really do have my own band of little "brothers", and for that I'm grateful for their presence.

We think we have also lured Tam over for Poutine and Beer on Friday night.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Old Times and Tenderloin - a View From a Diner

Not far from the old Indianapolis airport terminal there was this really cool and very old looking diner, run down and closed a few years ago. Noticing that it disappeared,  I was saddened to see it torn down.

But it was NOT torn down.  The city in Plainfield worked with some local folks to get it moved to the historic downtown area and restored to it's glory of 1954. I sort of stumbled across it one day and promised to drive back and eat there. With my husband around this weekend it was the perfect time.
The Oasis Diner.

Partner and I made the drive to check it out and are really glad we did. They've been open several months now giving them time to work out the kinks that can come with any new business, and establish a good menu.
The main dining room (which was decorated with a lot of automobile license plate memorabilia) was pretty full so we went around the corner to the counter which also had a few smaller booths.  The decor was restored to its original look and it was just perfect.  But decor notwithstanding, I was trying not to drool at the homemade cakes and pies under glass as we ordered our drinks (coffee for Partner, this amazing locally crafted Butterscotch Root Beer for me).

MMMM, Spice Cake

It was pouring, so we ate inside but there is outside seating, including an area where your pets are welcome (the restaurant is right off of a walking trail through an extensive city park so this would be a great spot to stop with the kids and the dog for one of their hand crafted milkshakes, malts or old-fashioned soda floats on a warm summer day.)

There's some standards and some not so standards like Grilled Cheese, full of not just cheese but lots of bacon, roasted tomatoes, avocado relish on homemade (baked right there) bread served with a cup of tomato basil bisque. Then there was something called "disco" fries which looks wonderfully like Canadian Poutine - with french fries covered with melted mozzarella, brown gravy and fresh chives.

They also sell their whole pies and loaves of bread to go.
Partner in Grime had the breakfast special, A Monte Cristo style breakfast sandwich with bacon and eggs sandwiched between two slices of french toast, dusted with powdered sugar.  He said it was very good.

I had the tenderloin sandwich (and yes, there ended up being a "to go" box involved --it was HUGE). Crispy and tender with a surprisingly delicate, yet crisp and tasty coating, it was worth each and every calorie, especially with a homemade bun and garlic mayo and my choice of their many sides - in this case poppy-seed  infused creamy coleslaw though I almost went for the bacon mac and cheese. Partner headed back to Chicago in the morning with half the sandwich (which didn't last the trip) and called to tell me how good it was.

As we relaxed and chatted  it was like going back to a time before I was born, one of simple food and simple fun.

Looking out the window, at small town America, I was thankful that such  family run businesses are still succeeding.  There across the street, a bus from a Baptist church, a city flag honoring our soldiers, and another local business.  This is the kind of town I grew up in, and though I'm officially a "big city" resident now, I love to return to my roots  Especially with wonderful meals to go with it.
We got ready to leave, when a basket came past our table to be served to the gentlemen quietly reading a book at the booth behind us.  Something on the menu I had missed.  Beignets!  Hot from the fryer and dusted with sugar.  Why yes, you can add a basket of those to our tab for $2.  Our server was so sweet to make the last minute change.  The perfect ending to our meal.
The service was efficient and ever-so-friendly, Partner's coffee cup was refilled promptly, a manager stopping by our table to make sure we were satisfied and we promised we'd made a drive back again. If you're heading across central Indiana on Interstate 70, just pop north on the Hwy 267 exit just west of the Indy airport, take a left on old Highway 40 (West Main Street, where the road "T's, at the Kroger--you can't miss it) in Plainfield and you'll find the Oasis just down the road a couple of miles on the left.  It's well worth the stop and would be a fun outing for anyone in the Indianapolis area with the great park here, with water and so many walking trails.

To the owners and staff of the Oasis Diner-- here's hoping for another 50 or so years.  We will definitely be back.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April 19, 2015. Twenty Years in History

Twenty years ago today, the Oklahoma City bombing.  If you've not taken the time to visit the memorial there, you should.

In my travels I try and take the time to visit local places of history.  Wherever I am, be it for work or play, if I have time I will explore. In my travels,  I've stayed in places as exhilarating as the Rockies, as surreal as the desert, and as desolate as a corn swept landscape. Yet even in the most innocuous of places, there are discoveries.

I had a couple days in Hutchinson, Kansas a few years ago and went to the Cosmosphere. Yes that's right. A premiere Space Museum in Kansas. With a U.S. space artifact collection second only to the National Air and Space Museum and the largest collection of Russian space artifacts found outside of Moscow, the Cosmosphere's Hall of Space Museum is uniquely positioned to tell the story of the Space Race. In the middle of the plains you can actually touch capsules that went into space. Many of them look more like Frank Genry designs on crack. Or something my brother and I would have attempted to build with our erector set, giant tinker toy constructions, resembling bulky 1960's foil Christmas trees more than modern spacecraft, topped with antennas that could have been placed on top by someone,s drunken Uncle after a holiday evening of cookies and grog.

Yet I walked away in wonder, seeing it all and thinking that all of the things I built as a child and a teen, the weather radio, the rockets, could have become something like that, with no more imagination, simply more education. Museums are like that for me, a humanness of history that brushes you as you pass each display, clinging to you even after you leave. Guns, Germs and Steel as Jared Diamond coined the title of his Pulitzer Prize winning book; the genius, fixations and rage of humanity.

Some of it is sobering. Visit the Holocaust Museum in our nation's capital and you know, too well, the bromide of evil. The piles of shoes, obsessive compulsive logic of sick record keeping. Sit among the silent chairs, one for each life lost, at the Oklahoma City Memorial. You can't help but think that a good portion of our misfortunes arise, not from fate or ill health or the vagrancy of the winds, but from human rancor, fueled by innate stupidity, and those ever present justifications of the same, hell bent idealism and proselytizing mania for the sake of religious or political effigies.

Some are places in which you leave feeling as if the presence of those it immortalizes stand silently beside you as you solemnly take it all in. Such was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum up in Whitefish Point. I was in the area on business and had a day off before heading home and got a rental car at my own expense to go explore. It was well worth the drive, with a detailed display of sights and sound that chronicled the many wrecks due to the furies of that vast lake. But with respect to all the lives lost on the Great Lakes over the years, I especially wanted to see the display on the Edmund Fitzgerald, the most mysterious and haunting of all shipwreck tales heard around my beloved Great lakes.

It was this bell I wanted to see. In looking at it, at the inscription of the names of the crew lost, it was personal. These weren't just numbers on a wall, or dates on a memorial, these were people living, these were people who like myself, loved the wind on their face, the draw of wild nature.

In looking at the artifacts of loss, the fascination comes from the step we take into connection. Strolling past the exhibits, pieces of wood and glass and rope, what we are looking for are familiar things, the small quarters where the crew gathered, the hall where the hungry and thirsty ate meat and beans and drank strong coffee. We know that when the ship sent down, there were people thinking and scheming, composing a letter to their families in their minds, the seas too rough to write; worrying, handling a task, dreaming of calm seas and the blue eyes of the one they loved. That knowledge, that thought, brought with it a chill, and a touch of familiarity. Like a hand from the vast waters touching my shoulder, what I left with was not a concern for the dead, for they are at peace now, but for the living, those people with me, now.
There's a reason we visit these places, those that honor the dead, remembering the cruelties that brought them to that place, so that we don't forget, that man does not forget. That is why I stroll the halls and displays of vast buildings that encompass all of man's wanderings, earthbound, sea bound and airborne, paths both light and dark. For every journey I've made in this life there are some that had outcomes both joyous and bright, and others that during their course I saw things in my nature that were less than good. Times when I found darkness not only in the sky, but in myself.

Such it is with history, and the viewing of its pages, finding darkness not only in one's world but within oneself. It is at such time, when we are truly solo, truly adult, that we accept responsibility for a soul that survives in a world of such anomaly. You make good decisions based on the bad ones others have taken before you, or you, yourself will spiral down into the blackness.
Most of us get the little things around us, from simple to sublime, some posting them cursively on paper, others capturing them in photos, some just cataloging them away in the brain for quiet afternoons of reflective thought. Some walk through life with a remote in their hand and blinders on, not realizing what they missed until all they hear is the final shut of a door.

Others look only ahead, paying no attention to the past, the remembrances of brave men, the battles and freedoms we have fought for. My flag was at half staff today and I bet half the neighbors did not know why, seeing only what's going on in this moment, however useless, with no intention of availing themselves of the lessons of history that rattle around in our pockets like rare coins.

Not I. For me, I'll take the slow path, the closer look, the unseen poetry in a drop of melting snow, the land and soul that thirst, the blood and the tears that united a nation.
Like all things mechanical, all things living, what we look at is much more than a sum of its parts. Those early space ships, the eroded surfaces speaking of the intense heat of reentry, the thin outer skin belying the courage of the man that it cradled, just waiting to be blasted into the unknown. A Mercury wonder of heat and design and engineering unheard of in its day. Compare it with the Soviet ships, odd instruments with Cyrillic labels, foreign yet familiar. An animation can never give you that little surge of awe I got on seeing that warning stenciled on a Soyuz reentry module: “Man inside! Help!” -- words that are dense testimony to both the dangers of a landing and the human ignorance that may exacerbate it.

So today - give pause for those souls lost this day 20 years ago.  And next time that you trave--l instead of going out for wings and a beer, take time to look at those places of history that often go undetected.  Stop and look in a museum, stand in places where history stood still, the courtyard at Monte Alban in quiet sunlight you can almost feel the air shimmering with life, priests, victims, warriors, the ball court where to lose the game was to lose life. Those lives vibrate through you.

That which remains are all things, past, present, they make us what we are, everything the human mind has invented, everything the human heart has loved and grieved for, that bravery has sacrificed for. It may touch only a few, but it connects us all.
I've felt this way in the field, hours spent bending down, sorting out the smallest detail.  Glaring into the sightless night, which was broken only by the events that brought me here, I tune everything else out, but that sound that will never be annealed until I am done, even as I sleep, the events, the pieces, the history, the why, roaring down around me until they stiffen and set like cement and take form.  Small things, inconsequential things, that, when woven with human decision and the vagrancies of fate, form something that remains, for lessons, for closure, even if no more tangible than shattered echoes.

Remember those who have gone before us.

In the Cosmophere in Kansas I reached out and touched a spaceship that had gone to the heavens, and the cold metal felt no different to my hand than the cold forged metal of a lost diving bell. As my hands warmed it, I realized that there are not absolute answers to all of the great questions. I can simply persist to live through them, as I learn and remember.

On a small table at my home this morning, lies a simple crafted box in which contains the fired remembrance of pure love and loyalty. Each day as I leave, I gently lay my hand upon it.  Remember me, remember this, from God's intricate creations of blood and bone and sinew, to our own divined dust, the distance is small.
 - Brigid

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Happenings - That's the Way the Violet Crumbles

What's Going on at the Range -

Actually it's crashpadville again for today, as I'm getting ready to move to another crash pad.  My lease was up, after three years my rent had gone up and the nice police officer and his wife had bought a home and moved.  I now have the Buffalo family sharing the wall and the driveway with me, as their herds of stampeding children run and squeal and play. They're a nice, hard working young couple, but multiple kids under the age of five doesn't work well when I often work weird hours and have to sleep in the day. So  I'm moving to a brand new one bedroom condo with granite countertops, a huge tub, better construction, one that shares a wall with another one bedroom, likely to be quieter.  It's even closer to work which is also a plus. No, it's not cheap, but here I'm "Gibbs".  If I transfer closer to home I'll be a Ensign Ricky from Star Trek, on the bottom of the totem pole with pay that matches and on the road all the time or a desk bound bureaucrat. So Partner is all for me staying and doing what I love for now.

So this weekend was getting stuff packed up to move soon.

I bribed Partner in Grime to come down from the Range today to help get organized for the next long weekend when I can make the move.
Cinnamon Rolls from Scratch earlier, frozen, then thawed and heated up.

He earned it.  This weeks Range project was to put in a backwater valve at the same time we replaced a sewer line that had a crack in it.  Flooding was a problem after unusually heavy rain events back to back, last year.
No - that's not heavy.

So he was ready for a little break. After the moving boxes were assembled and set in the spare bedroom it was time for lunch.
Mix half and half sweet chili sauce and soy sauce and add a couple teaspoons of honey and some crushed red pepper flakes,
Stir fry with rice noodles, chicken and veggies.

Then we ran a few errands.
To the retro candy store on the West side of the city.
So I could get my Violet Crumble fix.

As well as Dad's favorite - huckleberry salt water taffy.
Back at the crash pad it was time for a game of backgammon..  The backgammon is new for us, and as competitive as we both are, we laughingly refer to it as backstabbingammon, as we pounce on each other's lone piece to send it to the bar (like a penalty box).
Come on Mom, quick playing games - Animal Planet's Coming ON!
MOM - It's not Animal Planet - It's "What Hillary Accomplished in Washington" on the TV again. 

OK Abby - we'll watch something more entertaining than a blank screen with you while we have a snackie supper.
Coney Dog Sauce Nachos

Ring - it's the phone - It's Dad and he wants to say hi to both of us!
 No - I was not stealing a Nacho. I was keeping your spot warm, and look, I'm asleep. (peep)
 Really - I don't know what happened to that missing cheesy chip
It was worth it bwahahahahaha.

And finally - since it was "Buy a Gun Day" this week.  Here's a photo Partner took of our purchase, taken down in the basement.  With the new kitchen floor, major basement re-plumbing, moving costs and Dad care, our gun budget was a bit limited.

You all have a safe and wonderful weekend.