Working nostalgia

The top layer of leaves is dry.

Lots of them are five-pointed like hands; back in late December they waved gayly at the breeze before dropping forty feet from the top of the skinny liquid-amber tree. Others are small, fat autumn teardrops from the ubiquitous, weed-like buckthorns, cedar-waxwingbeloved trees of cedar waxwings, quick gray squirrels and women called Wren.

The fallen leaves have filled up a corner of Mom’s back garden, carpeting the ripply pavers.  Messy, she says. So messy! So I reach out with my late father’s old steel rake and drop the tines where the wooden fence meets the ground. The leaves, five-pointed or teardropped, roll up as I pull the rake back.

The scent of rain and earth and clean decay rises to my nose and makes me suddenly, sharply homesick. My eyes tear up. I blink. Shouldn’t I be over this loss? The home I miss is twenty years behind me and hundreds—even thousands—of miles away. It’s history. That old world, filled with rain, wind and fog and green is long-gone.

Three weeks ago it stormed gently for three days. There was a mild wind and some rare, sweet, soaking rain. The TV weatherpeople were breathless and excited, and there were SEVERE WEATHER ALERTS on the computer. Most of the leaves fell from the trees back then. But it’s been California-dry ever since, so the top layer of the leaves I’m raking is crisp and crunchy.  The older, underlayer leaves are wet and heavy with rain-memories.

I scrape up three big piles with the old wooden-handled rake. Then, with rubber gloves protecting my hands, I scoop all the leaves, wet and dry, into three black plastic bags. I put those into a tall, green plastic bin with wheels. A truck will soon come to empty it.

I was surprised to learn that our local garbage collection company won’t take the garden leaves for composting unless they’re first bagged in plastic. It seems odd to me. Even counter-intuitive. Do they hire people to empty all those leaf bags into the composter and then send the bags away for plastic recycling? Or do they just grind the plastic bags up along with the leaves?

Someday, maybe the Earth’s soil will be made mostly of plastic. What will grow then? Will the waxwings have buckthorn berries to feast on each autumn? Will there even be waxwings?

When it rains, will the air smell of plastic instead of home?

The extraction blues

toothacheOh god.

In about three hours I’m having a tooth pulled. I’ve never had that done before, but I’ve had nightmares about it for several years—actually, ever since the night the tooth actually broke. It’s a molar on the bottom right; I was crunching on an antacid tablet, and suddenly there was something foreign in my mouth that I couldn’t crunch. It was too hard. I took it out and… wow. Part of a tooth.

I was shocked. There was no pain. I went into the bathroom and peered into my mouth. Sure enough, there was no tooth surrounding the visible side of one of my bottom right molars. The old filling, done at least 40 years before, was still there, though, standing tough and alone.

I’d been laid off from work a month before. I had no dental insurance and my budget was already as tight as it could go. Screaming, actually. I didn’t have the spare hundreds I’d need for dental work, and all dental work, even the most routine, costs hundreds.

The broken tooth didn’t hurt. I could live with it. Once I found another job, I reasoned, and had medical and dental insurance again, I’d get it fixed.

I’m embarrassed to say that was several years ago. I never found another job. I was able to get medical care through the VA, as I’m a veteran, but they don’t provide dental care.

So I waited, hoping that the tooth would just endure.  And it did—until about two weeks ago.  The pain was minor, at first, but as the days passed it got worse and worse.  Finally, I broke down and went to a dentist.

Let me say here that I have a lifelong terror of dental work. It’s lame, I know, but along with the cost, it’s the reason I let that tooth go for so long. I’d break into a cold sweat every time I thought about getting that tooth fixed. I had long, lurid nightmares about it. I’d wake up gasping.

And now, well, the tooth is sick. There’s an abscess at the roots. It hurts like you-know-what. So, the day has come. I’ll get through it; millions do.

Wish me luck?

Untamed, unfortunately

For the last three days I’ve been, like a lion-tamer with a whip and a woodenTamingLion chair, fending off a real lion of a cold.

The creature ambushed my aunt on Christmas Eve. She’s still got the cough. Then it jumped my mom on New Year’s Eve and flattened her for a week, making her feel so awful she was barely able to get out of bed. Today marks her first decent day since then.

So, hoping to keep myself from catching it, I’ve been drinking lemon-lime Airborne three times a day. I figure the mega-doses of vitamins, in addition to the multivitamin tablet I swallow every morning, can’t really do me any harm and maybe, just maybe, they might keep the cold virus from setting up housekeeping in my respiratory system. I’ve been drinking lots of water and washing my hands frequently, too. I’ve been doing my best to get plenty of sleep. I’m staying nice and warm.

But I have a sinking feeling that it’s all for naught. This afternoon my throat feels sandpapery. My head feels like it’s packed tight with cotton batting. I can visualize my sinuses. My eyes feel hot. My voice is going squeaky. And I’m tired for no good reason.

Sigh. It got me.


To all my friends in this new year…


May the blessing of light be on you, light without and light within. May the blessed sunshine shine on you and warm your heart till it glows like a great peat fire, so that the stranger may come and warm himself at it, and also a friend.

And may the light shine out of the two eyes of you, like a candle set in the two windows of a house, bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm, and may the blessings of the rain be on you — the soft, sweet rain. May it fall upon your spirit so that all the little flowers may spring up and shed their sweetness on the air. And may the blessings of the Great Rains be on you, may they beat upon your spirit and wash it fair and clean, and leave there many a shining pool where the blue of heaven shines, and sometimes a star.

And may the blessing of the Earth be on you — the great round earth, may you ever have a kindly greeting for those you pass as you’re going along the roads. May the earth be soft under you when you rest upon it, tired at the end of a day, and may it rest easy over you when at the last, you lay out under it, may it rest so lightly over you that your soul may be off from under it quickly and up and off, and on its way to God. And now may the Lord bless you all and bless you kindly.

– Traditional Irish Blessing,

from Wren