Monthly Archives: February 2022

Boggy Memory: Filling the Gaps in the Path to Peace

I have holed up in Blanche today here in central Alabama. It has been a cold, dreary day and weekend fun seekers have been trickling in all day, filling this little park over half full with travel trailers, tents, flag-decorated trucks, and bouncy houses. This area certainly has a different feel on weekends compared to other parks I have visited. The activity could be due to the waning winter although it is supposed to get to near freezing temps at night in the coming week. I am thankful for my private, warm little home.

Sitting in wetlands at the base of rolling hills, it is beautiful, boggy, and buggy, and everything is damp. I’ve been spoiled, these last many winter weeks, to dry climates. Even Northern Louisiana with its bayous and lakes and cypresses had day after day of low humidity. Here, my floor constantly feels damp and any cooking-generated heat fogs my windows. It is reminiscent of the beach house in some respects. My pillows and sheets feel damp at all times and even when Blanche is warm, I struggle to get the chill out of my bones.

Recalling Surfside’s spring fog has sent me into a bit of an emotional tailspin. Memory can be exhausting.

The current state of the world is exhausting. I have nothing to offer but words that have no value and unrelated trauma that serves no purpose.

So, I will spin here in my own little world.

I think often about what Blanche means to me and why I can’t imagine living in a typical house again. I can imagine living in a tiny home, a truly tiny one. That is, I can see living in one the size of Blanche. I’ve seen some “tiny” homes that have a large master bedroom or storage space hanging off of it like a husband’s concession to a wife longing for her shoe closet or a wife allowing for an overstocked garage.

Not for me! I would want the equivalent of Blanche on the ground with all the amenities: water, electricity, internet, and septic. Tools would, at best, reside in a small shed the size of Betty’s cargo space.

I would have one addition, a tiny mud room up front. I do so hate the dirt Sam and I drag in.

In other words, I want no more belongings than I own now, no more material shackles or commitments.

I was considering all of this (as if any of it matters and as if I will even live to see that day) and in the humid bubble of Alabama Blanche, I recalled the different home decor paths my ex and I took after the divorce.

Neither path is better than the other; they are simply different. He and I had different aesthetics but we were fairly good at compromising when it came to home furnishings. Unfortunately, compromise typically meant colliding visions. Still, we managed.

The changes we both undertook after the divorce were, I believe:

1. a reflection of our different tastes/desires in a home,

2. the need to express that difference outwardly (he/she can’t tell me what to buy now, so I can get what I damn well please!), and

3. a need on both our parts to sculpt our homes into a space in which we felt less alone and less ensconced in memory.

I think the first two are fairly obvious but I’ll present a couple of simple examples. Again, these are just personal preference. I wanted a “beachy” beach house with bright, lightweight, weathered furniture. He wanted “functional and comfortable.” We compromised. Which meant neither of us really got what we wanted.

When I left, I took only my grandmother’s hutch and some little stuff with me because I was moving into a furnished rental. Little of what we bought was what I’d truly wanted, anyway.

In time, he refurnished a great deal of the den with massive, dark theater seating that visually fills the room. He purchased a few other pieces and while the house is by no means crowded, it is—full. It makes him happy and comfortable; that’s all that matters.

I, in my rental, was never happy with the furniture. It came with dark leatherette futons that were too big for the 630 sq ft space, a beachy distressed wood table, and little else besides beds. I bought a few small items trying to make it mine, but it never felt right.

Now, of course, I have Blanche. She is her furniture. There are no tables or chairs or shelves to buy or add. At most I could possibly add a small knickknack shelf in the corner of the bed area but—why? I’d just kick it in my sleep or Sam would hit it when he gets up in he middle of the night. Everything has to go into cabinets for travel and there is no sense in “hanging pictures” or decorations of any kind on Blanche’s minimalist walls. That would just make her look smaller.

However, it is the very act of being here in this tiny space that is the equivalent of my ex’s decorating changes. While he decorated with what he wanted in contradiction to what I would have agreed to, surely, I have chosen to live entirely as I wish to in contradiction to what he would have agreed to.

Put another way:

– He chose his aesthetic (function over form),

– he did so consciously or subconsciously in defiance of my preferences (because he can!), and

– he did so in a way that fills the emotional space and eliminates pieces of our past and memories that were in all likelihood problematic.

Likewise:

– I chose my aesthetic (minimalism),

– I did so absolutely consciously in defiance of his preferences (because I can!), and

– I did so in a way that reduces my space to one so small that I do not have room for the pieces of him (or any other man) that were definitely problematic.

We both seemed to have sought to reduce an ill-defined emptiness, but we took entirely different paths to do so. Is he aware he did so? Who knows. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. I just found it fascinating to consider that while we are both different people, as humans we dealt with a facet of divorce/solitude in different but parallel ways. I would posit that some of this may be explained by age, both the similarities and the differences, but that is another post.

Meanwhile, my neighbors in the park tonight have had a few beers and are as loud and vocal as any group that might have been enjoying themselves in a large beach rental on a Friday night. It’s just another small part of the evening taking me back to last year.

It’s hard not to wallow some in things I miss: actual faces and voices I knew, places I could walk or drive to at any hour without discomfort, companions I could call on occasion when the lonelies got a bit too tough.

Still, in the belly of this little fiberglass bubble on wheels, I remain at peace with my choice of home and “decor.” In Blanche’s limited square footage, there is scant room to be overwhelmed by sentimental tchotchkes or spatial and cognitive emptiness.

Abandoning Attachment: Ghost Trees and the Unattainable.

I have tried repeatedly to capture the unique texture, dimension, and outright ghostliness of the cypresses here in Louisiana. I’m sure a better photographer could come closer to doing so. Perhaps a video in the golden hour would be more effective. Perhaps a special lens would do them justice. I wasn’t prepared creatively or technically for the almost otherworldly nature of these trees: especially those hanging skirts several feet above the earth, no water hugging their roots.

Is there anything more beautiful than the unattainable? The sunset no cameras can capture. The mountain dimensions no words can accurately express. The softness and deceptive strength of an infant’s hands. The love we are certain will set us free.

All these fleeting moments and things that are beautiful by their very impermanent nature, we desperately want to cling to as if they are the mountains themselves.

Sunsets fade in seconds, not minutes. My camera can prove that. Mountains erode, though not so much in our lifetime, certainly in our mind’s eye after we drive away. Our little ones grow up (in a perfect world) to become better adults than we are (if we do it right). And love? Love, even if real, can be chipped away at by harsh words and actions or is simply, achingly lost to time.

Louisiana Cypress Trees at Golden Hour

I believe there are people I will always love, despite not being loved by them as I love them. In time, might they have freed me? Let me be me and still swing joyously in their orbit? Certainly, they made no rules and pushed no boundaries.

How long does that last? How long before the love I feel now would wither in the day-to-day grind of stress and expectations.

I see some in my circle of family and friends who seem to balance the conflict with the respect and I see autonomy given easily between them. But, life is ephemeral and I see the grief of the lost as well. Loss of a spouse to illness or accident brings an entirely different sort of spiritual effacement.

This soulmate concept, this “love will set me free” sentiment – why do we clamor for it so feverishly only to be beaten down again and again?

I have set in my head that, at this age, it is easier to live in the pain of a love I can’t have than to ever explore or wait for a love that will only be taken from me again. Easier to recall his voice and mossy eyes and smile and miss those things rather than to look forward to being “set free” by someone who will only chain me again with one sort of demand or another.

Easier for me to take photos of sunsets and trees and mountains.

I realized in typing those last words that when I told him I was going on the road not because of him but for myriad other reasons, I inadvertently lied. However, it’s not so simple as, “I’m running away from this because it’s too painful.”

It comes down to this; on the road, I can’t stand still. I can’t form strong attachments because each exchange is fleeting. That is what I want. Being alone is necessary for me to heal after the demises of a twenty-nine year marriage and a brief romance.

When I drive away from here, I’ll feel, as I do each time I move on, a slight misgiving as if I’m forgetting something. I’ll check and double check all the connections, scan the site for belongings, and search my pockets for bits and pieces. And, I’ll feel that smallest of tugs to go back to Texas, to what-ifs.

I’ll wish I’d somehow captured those damn trees. They’ll be there when I come back through, but they’ll never be quite real to me as long as I can’t record them accurately.

Like Louisiana cypresses, love also will never be quite real to me.

Cypress Roots in Sepia

Integral Lee: Returning to Me

With time, my blog continues to change focus because I continue to change focus.

And yet, not really.

Ultimately, I simply write about my life. My attempts to categorize or constrain my words into one box or another have resulted in a blog collection that seems to have no unifying theme. I am not a food blogger or a pet blogger or a nature blogger. I am a “life” blogger and I have no desire to alter that.

In 2018, I pursued a nature blog that would follow outdoor life in Surfside Beach, Tx. That blog had fits and starts as I wrote about real life disruptions on my main blog. Here and there, real life and outdoor life seemed to mesh so well that those disruptions became nature blog entries.

I realized with my more recent beach blog entries that I simply can’t separate the two. My love of and approach to nature is as integral to who I am as my pets, my relationships with other humans, my writing philosophy, and my coping with grief and depression.

Now my life has shifted yet again. This new direction is, simply put, all directions. I have stated here that I have purchased a travel trailer and will be traveling the country. Currently, I’ve made little progress outside of Texas for various reasons, but my intent remains to see as much of the country as time, weather, and money will allow.

As part of this journey, I am looking for me.

My second husband spoke often about marriage as, “two becoming one.” I didn’t see a problem with this until much later in the marriage when I sensed but didn’t fully recognize my near-complete effacement. I’ve written about this here and in bits and pieces throughout my blog.

In finding me, which is quite a process, I have returned to the name I used in high school. I have been detached from the nickname my ex gave me since my divorce (the name that titled this blog originally) and my given first name has become an epithet. I am most comfortable with the simple moniker, “Lee.” It is my name and it is a family name and it was me in many respects more than any name I have ever otherwise used in my life. The teen who was Lee was excited for her future, believed in herself, believed in her talent, and loved people and the world as a whole. The me of the last thirty-nine years (two marriages, two divorces) only had brief glimpses of that girl. The me of today, the Lee-me, sitting here in a travel trailer in central Texas, alone but not lonely, can see all of that girl again but for some gray hairs and extra “fluff.”

Like the volcanic columns that leapt into view a few days ago in the Davis Mountains, the view of Lee-me brings me joy and gentle tears.

My ex once groused that I had changed. He saw my recent growth as rebellion like that of a child. In truth, I changed early in our marriage to accommodate his needs and my desire to be the “good wife.” I supplanted myself with a version of the self he expected and I believed he needed. I didn’t change in the last years of our marriage. I changed back. I had returned to the woman I was when he met me: strong, resilient, independent, and outgoing.

I am furthering that return to me today. I grow stronger, more resilient, more independent, more outgoing, healthier, and happier than I was even thirty years ago.

To that end, my blogs will be changing structure and names in the coming weeks. Most notably, “KC” is being killed off and you will see the name “Lee” in the URL eventually. That’s me. In fact, that’s truly me.

I am happy to focus, if not on a blog theme, at least on being wholly me again — integral me. Integral Lee.

Just trees.