Thursday, June 26, 2014


Today I want to write about the way that grief inhabits your body. The way you breathe around a lump in your throat, the way you hold the steering wheel and your shoulders hurt, the way your chin feels wobbly. The way your stomach has that sinking feeling all the time walking around. People say grief gets better with time.

In a way it is true. In another way, it is not. There is vestigial grief, vestigial digits and fingers of hurt that come back. My sister and her husband have to put down their dog this week. She has been their dog for 13 years. She was young with them when their marriage was young. They were exploring California after they left Wisconsin, taking her on hikes to explore mountains and beaches and the American River. She was with them when 9/11 happened and comforted my sister when her husband was traveling.

I have my own memories of Daisy. She comforted me. When I first moved out here after my divorce,  I lived with them for a period of time. One night I was crying, silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I was trying to be private about it. I was in the basement away from everybody. Except Daisy. She came down to check on me and with an empathy I've seen only in her, she laid her head on my knee and just rested it there.

As I grieve Daisy, I feel the old pain inhabit my body. So quickly the body relapses into the interstices of that old grief. I feel for this loss and it feels like the old loss. I feel for my sister and her husband. To contemplate that most horrible thing. Putting down your friend, letting her go. There is the decision-making, the second-guessing, the effort to be rational when your emotions are cloudy. Then there's the pain of watching her in pain and wondering if you've done it soon enough. It is a horrific proposition.

And they will miss her. There is that side yet to come.

There is a time-sucking quality to grief, especially in stores. Scene today: waking up from reverie so many minutes later in REI wondering what it was again I was looking for. Passed the dog section. That's what set it off. When I divorced, seeing willow trees set me off. Heh. Breathing set me off then.

I get why people have to die. I mean, how many layers of experience can the body hold? Yet then, I feel sad for Daisy dying. She won't get to see all the beautiful things in the world anymore. The hikes, the smells of piney woods, the splash of the creek, the doggy joy in catching a tennis ball.

The joys. The time when Sis and Brother-in-Law sent me on a 12 mile hike in California with Daisy as my guide. I was new to mountains, new to hiking, new, new, new. Daisy was my seasoned guide and boon companion, trotting by my side, carrying her joy in the loll of her tongue, the wag of her tail, the bounding steps of exploration. Crossing a stream, she would fetch a rock from the stream and bring it for me to throw again. Pure frolic.

The same joy I feel in water. And that's true too. As I carry the interstices of my old griefs, my body and mind carry the remnants of past joys as well. On the water kayaking with my sisters earlier this month, I remembered learning to kayak from someone who loved me. When you learn to paddle from a lover, your memories are of chasing moonlight across a lake, of ducking into "garages" made by bent willow trees, of stopping and kissing, pulling up alongside. That magical, magnetic pull. I remember nearly dying waiting for him to do the car drop and come back so we could be together. Of watching him log-jump, of being his cheerleader, his confidante. Of him watching me dive to the bottom of the river, running my fingers through the sand-rolling, pebble-running bottom. Coming up for air and his face, his smile. And the knowledge that he would be there, enjoying my joy.

I get why people have to die at a certain age. I mean, how many layers of experience can the body hold? There must come a time at which the interstices of joy and grief have carved deep enough wrinkles into the skin and that is the time.

Daisy has reached that time. In dog years, she is 91 and cancer has eaten up her body and carved an end point to her time. I salute the layers of joy - and grief - she has given my family.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Men Are Like Fishing

Since I’ve gotten back from my trip (three days ago) and re-posted my pictures on the online dating site, I have “talked” to several men. One is a quick hitter; he swooped in, liked me, blew up my inbox. We flirted hard for two hours. Good sense of humor, this one. Then *poof.* He disappeared. Like the turtles who nabbed my mom’s nightcrawlers, this one returned to the muddy depths with all my bait. *Sigh.*

Another is a professional correspondent. This type comes on slow, like 3-inch crappies working a 5-inch crawler. He nibbles around the edges of conversation. He continues to nibble. When I go on a trip, he grows fonder. I hear from him 4-5 times per day. When I’m in town, we set a blistering pace of 3-4 messages per week. These men (for the current correspondent is not an anomaly; he is a type) amuse me. I picture them with their iPhone in hand, thumbs working away, smiling and flirting. Glancing down, you see their feet - the polar opposite of all that activity above - potted in clay.

Others are the kind you land. They can handle the bait - 8 inch crappie on a jig. This kind can even follow the bait. Two of my 8-inch crappie have checked in with me since I returned, asking if I am now ready to meet. Then you disaggregate… one is a slow burner. I said yes, I can meet and gave him two nights that will work. Wait for it, wait for it… no reply yet.

The other was quick to choose a night, now is choosing our venue and time. I may actually land one!

And then what??

More types to come!

Monday, June 09, 2014

My Track is Good

That statement is true.

Some snow, lots of beauty at the start.
I took a hike up Herman Gulch today and broke the trail. It started with just some snow, but soon became all snowy and postholey.

Gushing stream.

I got my bearings on the stream at first (keep it to your left) and then the jaggedy peaks that peeked out in occasional clearings in the forest.

My track! I broke right on up this steep
snow slope.

And I landed on the top, turned right, and landed at the lake! I wasn't sure the whole time, and I am 100% sure I didn't stick to the designated trail, but I did land - as if helicoptered in - at the intended destination. It was beautiful. I feel so proud of where I've come with my navigating skills. Used to be I couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. Now, I can actually tell people, like the couple visiting from Ohio who followed me... "My track is good!"

Plucky, pioneering Globeflower
 This applies to other areas in my life. I feel like I'm living so non-traditionally and like there are no role models. Single, mountaineering, independent females were not the women around whom I grew up. I now take snippets from everyone around me, but sometimes, it has felt downright lonely and like I'm pioneering. Sometimes I've felt like my track is not good. Sometimes I had no sense of my life, my track, my legacy at all.

The snow is melting fast. Trail clearing in the scant 2.5 hours
since my first picture.
But I'm getting there. And I want to be there. It was such a joy to see the Ohioans on my descent and reassure them that my track would take them to the lake. I want to have something to offer. And I have, just as with my hike today, taken some younger women (and climbing men) under my wing. I'm starting to sense that, in many senses, "My track is good."

Monday, June 02, 2014

To Do List: Fall in Love

Okay, so I also have on it to clean the fridge and send invitations to a dinner party I'm hosting. But really, falling in love is at the top.

To that end, I've started online dating. Again. I gave it a whirl for three months last November after I finally decided to make the Convenience Man my ex-Convenience Man. Online dating was... interesting. So interesting that I stopped in March because I needed a break.

Now it's June and I am ready to undertake it all again. The messages in my inbox proclaiming that I'm all that on a cracker (OK, those aren't the exact words. They are that colorful. Just more R-rated.)

And then the times I reach out to a promising man and never. hear. back.

That's what was so difficult the first time around. The people I liked didn't like me, and the people I didn't like seemed to think I was hot stuff. It was downright disheartening.

So what am I going to differently? I am going to really try this time.

Please laugh at that.

But in a way, I mean it. I'm going to stick it out and meet lots of people and steel myself for disappointments and keep it all in perspective. I really would like to meet someone who was right.

Ideal? A climber, a peak bagger, with a side passion for relaxing like a fiend after the hard stuff is done. A thinker, a reader, with a passion for laughing and banter. Someone for whom I want to dress in pretty clothes and go get sushi. Yet he thinks I'm just as striking in my climbing gear and harness.

What a sweet dream. Makes me smile just writing it.


What I'd settle for? Someone who would support my passions and let me support his. Someone who fit with my friends. And was sorta hot. Or really hot. I'd be okay with that too.

What I have to wade through to find him... people who like my pictures but don't like to hike. Or don't like my brains. Or that I don't want kids, or that I'm an atheist, or that I'm... me. At the base of it, that is what I have to not take personally. I am me. And some guys are just not going to be into me. I have to be into me enough to hold out hope that there is someone out there who is just as (even more??) into me than me.

And that I dig him like crazy. I wanna dig somebody. It's such a great feeling to love someone and want to treat them like gold. To anticipate, to read them, to want their happiness like I want my own. To help them get it, to make them laugh, smile, sigh, dream bigger... Yeah, I'm ready. It might take 2 dates, it might take 200, wherein enters my endurance training, right? I'm ready, set... GO!