Tuesday night was the last of the sunset viewing from the roof of the Clearwater library. Come Sunday we will leap ahead an hour, which makes the sunset too late for library viewing. But when we roll the clock back this fall we’ll be enjoying this view of the sunset again. I’d like to say that my confidence is growing as I go to these photo shoots with this group, but the reality is that the more of these photo shoots I go to the more I realize how little I know about the art of photography. If patience is a virtue then my fellow photographers are very virtuous, because they certainly are patient with beginners like me. And I thank them.
When I let Ozzie out in the dark and quiet it was drizzling, which made me give up on the notion of joining the photo walk at John Chestnut park this morning. And an alternative plan I had thought of was to go to Philippe park and visit the owlet. I heard that she is flying between the branches now, and it was suggested that spotting her might be a bit of an exercise in Where’s Waldo since she would be camouflaged quite well in the thick Spanish moss hanging on the trees. But then I saw a photo that had been posted last night that showed her falling out of the tree, and she has been taken to a raptor rehab, and will hopefully be returned asap. With that sad news I decided that I’d stay home and take care of the house, but head out to 7:15 Mass first. I was oblivious to the sunrise until I took my first right turn to head west, and spotted this.
I had to stop, I just couldn’t take a chance that there might be a better place, a better angle to take a picture. Then I got to the corner and stopped again. That’s where I took the feature photo above. I felt like I was racing the clock, not because I’d be late to church, but because I hated to stop when I expected that the best view would be at the church itself. It sits up on a bit of a hill, and I was arguing with myself that I should just quit wasting time and get there before the color started to fade. But this last is the view from the church, not the wide open view I had expected. What did I used to do when I saw these incredible displays that nature puts on fairly regularly but I wasn’t ‘into’ photography? Did I not notice? Should I just credit technology, since carrying an iPhone means I’m never without a camera, so that’s the inspiration? Or just admit to myself that it’s probably that older and wiser thing…
Out on the lanai at 4 AM, enjoying the dark and quiet. Well, not so quiet. The pond creatures were chirping away, punctuated by the low, throaty strums of the bullfrogs. The coffee was ready, set to automatically go off at 3:45 AM even on a day off, because even if she hadn’t set the alarm her four-footed roomies would make sure that she was up in time to get to work. But it was not a work day, and the coffee was good, and hot. To be enjoyed the coffee must be scalding hot. The pond serenade was in full swing, sometimes increasing or decreasing in volume as if a hand was on a knob out there turning it up and down. How they all decide to step it up or down in unison remained a mystery to her, but she enjoyed the mental image of the hand and the knob. The star she thought she saw twinkling out there turned out to be the lights of a far off airplane, but then she saw that there were stars shining dimly, and she knew that she would head out for the sunrise. But that was still several hours away. One of her dogs had been out already, sniffing the air and finding all to be well. They had been enjoying the serenade together, but then the second dog wanted to go out, and immediately headed around front, requiring her to follow, in her pajamas, coffee in hand. There were new neighbors across the street and she wondered what they would think if they were up and saw the old lady across the street out wandering in her pajamas in the wee small hours of the morning. That maybe she was losing it? Was she losing it? She didn’t think so, but how would you know really? And then the wandering dog returned, and the coffee had cooled, it was time to start the day…
I suppose there are endless ‘what if’ scenarios I could play out in my head, especially at 69 years old. Lots of water under the bridge, over the dam, forks in the road, and many more cliche phrases apply. But there is something about being alone at this stage of life that has me thinking, wondering, about the person I was ‘supposed’ to be. How did I spend so many years ‘under the influence’ so to speak? I was a spunky little kid. My cousin and I once decided to go for a walk, and set off, a 5 and a 4 year old, having an adventure. We were spotted by a woman who I think chatted with us as we passed her chain-link fenced yard. The next thing I knew there was a policeman on the scene, asking us who we were and where we were going. My cousin must have been much more polite than I was because she told the policeman everything he wanted to know. Not me though. I was mad. I wasn’t lost, and I certainly wasn’t finished having my adventure, so I wouldn’t tell him a thing. But since I lived upstairs from my cousin that was a bit of a moot point. I don’t remember the upshot, what my parents had to say about it, I only remember the woman, the fence, and how mad I was.
I just love that little kid that I was. But I have to wonder, when did I lose her? How did I let her go and never notice that I had done just that? That memory, and there are more from when I lived in that house and was that spunky kid, all date back to before I went to school. Is that when I started worrying about what other people thought, and doubting myself? By the time I hit high school I was quite sure that I didn’t measure up in any way, and spent most of my mental energy on trying to make sure that no one else knew just how out of it I was. I never expressed an opinion, practiced a go-with-the-flow attitude, got married young to hide from the bra-burning women’s libbers who seemed to be saying that I shouldn’t want a marriage and family, which is exactly what I told myself that I wanted, mostly because I thought of it as ‘safe’. Don’t misunderstand, I really was happy, found myself living all over the country and thought that was quite the thing. Enjoyed the heck out of raising my kids, and appreciated the accomplishment of raising them to be the people I’d hoped they’d be. And at work with Charley I had a position of authority that I enjoyed, but I also was aware that I hadn’t earned it as much as I had married into it. It wasn’t a bad life at all, so why am I so unsettled now?
I am an old lady who, now that I am alone for the first time since I was very young, finds myself relating more to the little kid that I was than to all the years in between. No one hijacked my life, I willingly participated. But now what? If you thought that I was going to wind this up with some sort of brilliant conclusion you’d be wrong. All I do know is that I have a vague notion of heading ‘home’ this summer, back to the people and places that I find myself thinking of so fondly. Back to where I was a spunky little kid with my whole life ahead of me…
I hadn’t even gotten the title written onto the page when Charley commented in my ear that I was a girl when Hollywood was a prairie. That may be true, but what the heck. My trips ‘up north’ usually result in running back and forth, trying to visit everyone, and not spending enough time with anyone. Especially my life-long friend Kathy in New Hampshire. But we had a BIG high school reunion a while back, the one where when your parents had it you realized how old they were getting. And now it was our turn, and I went to New Hampshire and stayed put, and even then it wasn’t enough time together, we hadn’t run out of things to talk about. Or places to photograph. I was seeking stone walls, but found much more than that. Old chimneys that once had families huddled in front of it, or a pot of stew simmering in it. “Flower beds’ that would make you smile. Old red barns, and rocky rivers, not unlike the rocky New England beaches, like Duxbury, that had Charley shaking his head. Covered bridges, and hints of fall colors to come, but not while I was visiting. Lake Sunapee, on a perfect day. And the inevitable stone walls, some of them just outside Kathy’s door.
And no, Ozzie wasn’t with me in New Hampshire. I was playing with the Superimpose app and, like magic, there he was…
That Charley wasn’t always a dog lover would come as a surprise to most people who knew him when I knew him, but not to the people who knew him before he met me. They knew he was a cat lover. That I had a cockapoo was something to be tolerated, but I can’t say that he was enthused about having a dog in the house. But Barney grew on him enough that when it was time that Barney had to be put down he initially refused to go with me, saying that he didn’t want to go down forever in family history as the guy who took the kids’s dog to be put to sleep. He must have felt sorry for me though, because he did go with me, and he stopped and bought Barney an ice cream cone on the way.
But while Barney was still with us Charley instigated that we acquire Nugget, saying, “My mother never let me have a puppy”. He had bought me a necklace shortly before that, gold nuggets on a chain which I still wear every day. He would say to me, very dramatically and with his eyebrows going up and down like Groucho Marx, “Hey Neem, how’s your Nuggets?”, which the kids found hilarious. The innuendo wasn’t lost on them. Neem was a pet hame, if I stop to explain this post will be a mile long. So we were at the Mall and in the pet shop window was a litter of mixed breed puppies, and upon seen a golden one Heather declared, “Hey Neemie, it’s another Nugget!” We had her 18 years, I could measure the length of my marriage in the ages of the dogs which populated it.
Last week or so I talked about Charley, memories which had come to me because of this
picture. I took this when I first got my iPhone 7+, practicing using portrait mode and capturing Ozzie’s drool. But happening upon that picture reminded me of when I first met Charley when he joined the dental office where I was working as a hygienist. He was a brand new dentist on his first job, but even though we were the same age my schooling was so much less that I had 10 years experience in dentistry and he would sometimes ask me my opinion on things. That anyone would ask me my opinion on anything was quite flattering, but especially a dentist asking me my opinion concerning dentistry made me feel important. He asked if I had a pet peeve in dentistry, and I did actually. I told him that what drove me the most nuts was… ropey saliva! It would wrap itself around the prophy cup when you were polishing teeth and go flying! That cracked him right up. He loved that answer. I wonder if he married me because of ropey saliva.
So, the feature photo. Charley had been in the hospital a week, and he had become so dependent on the oxygen mask that he was reluctant to take it off to talk, so he was writing messages on the clip board I brought for him. He had been moved to the ICU the day before, and I had been told that visitors had to wait until 8 AM and that’s when I got there. The nurse told me that he was upset that I wasn’t there at my usual 6 AM or so, but when I did get there he wrote “U R Making me Comfortable”. He really liked the Arnold Palmer iced tea/lemonade that I had been buying him at Duncan Donuts. But when he wanted some he wrote Jack Palmer, I assume he was thinking of Jack Nicklas, when he wrote that and I was looking forward to teasing him about that when he felt better. I never got the chance to do that.
So dogs and ropey saliva, Ozzie has it in spades. Gleason could drool, but I think Ozzie has him beat. I may not be cleaning teeth anymore, but I’m still dealing with ropey saliva.