Category Archives: Life & Death

Going where? The Stagnation of Predictability

21 March, 2022

Two years ago today, I was moving into a new house and putting many of my belongings into an off-island storage space. Two years ago today, I stomped rage into every step I took up and down the stairs of my former home and my new home. Two years ago, for the first time in months, I breathed in a truly deep and relaxing breath after I shut the door behind me that night and sat in bed letting the silence and isolation flood the room completely.

I spent a lot of nights in that little house on Thunder Road, feeling that same level of peace. I spent a lot of nights there staring at the ceiling and worrying.

I’ve said it here; I get anxious being in one place too long these days.

I leave this place tomorrow and move east. I had intended to be in the new spot about a month. I erred and didn’t get my reservations soon enough and can’t be there for more than a few days. I’ll go north for a while instead and that may upset some plans for others. I’m not happy with myself for the error.

I wonder, however, if I didn’t sabotage myself subconsciously. I wonder if I didn’t know my dawdling would put me in this situation to a degree (though perhaps not this badly). The original plan to stay a month was weighing on me the more I thought about it. It felt as stifling as that house I had shared with my ex-husband. I could see myself stuck. When you say you’re going to rent a space for a month, you pay for a month. You stay. A month in one spot makes me just a little nuts. I’m finding two weeks in most of these places to be pushing my limits. I’ve been in this current park since March 10th (eleven days) and I’m getting antsy and uncomfortable. I don’t know how to fully convey the feeling. It is a bit like being at a party to which you weren’t invited; it’s pleasant but you know you don’t belong. That feeling has nothing to do with the people around me; I’ve experienced this same sensation in a nearly deserted park.

A lake in central Georgia

I was speaking to a friend about relationships and loneliness and he said, “You’ll find someone whenever you stay put for a while.” (paraphrasing because—beer) I didn’t argue. I didn’t agree. The discussion moved on to other things.

However—

I wanted to say, “Well, that is exactly why I don’t want to stay put.”

I wanted to say, “My heart is tangled up right now. I don’t need to incorporate more threads.”

I wanted to say, “I want to come home.”

I am growing homesick, but I know it is not because I actually miss my house or the beach or the birds or the people I barely knew.

I am growing homesick because home was predictable.

Home was always going to be the ex down the street and occasional run-ins with his family. It was always going to be worthwhile but low-paying work that didn’t demand much of me mentally but often much of me physically and sometimes emotionally. It was always going to be that one guy who floated in and out of my life like a Portuguese Man-of-War. It was always going to be pretending to be nice to the ex when the grands came to visit even though every interaction was distressful for both of us. It was always going to be me giving time to the rescues (that I adored) and getting nothing in return except more wear and tear on my truck and loss of funds.

It was always going to be.

It was always going to be really good seafood and beautiful sunrises and gorgeous storms and mesmerizing foghorns and pelicans in huge squadrons flying up and down the beach ahead of a front.

Predictable is safe. Predictable is calming. Predictable makes other decisions easier. Predictable was all I’d known for twenty-nine years.

Predictable allows (even encourages) you to give up on your careers (yes, both) and then regret it the rest of your life because you have lost your skills. Predictable makes you bend to another’s will instead of standing up for yourself and saying, “I deserve the respect of personal autonomy!” Predictable leaves you in a marriage at least eight years longer than you should have stayed. Predictable keeps you in family dynamics that hurt.

Perhaps I am scared of lighting in any one spot for all of these reasons. Perhaps I fear that I will once again have my autonomy subsumed by the comfort of predictability. Even my friend floats in and out on his own whims such that I can’t assign much predictability to him and that feels oddly safe to me.

When I was married, I knew I’d be married until my death. I knew I’d die at a fairly ripe age and probably some time after my spouse. I knew I’d die in or about the home we shared. I knew all this because that is what the predictable day-to-day existence made me believe. Nothing ever changes when the person you are with and the person you have become both conspire to keep things predictable indefinitely.

I feel, every day, the unpredictability of my life now. I awaken not knowing if I will find the strength to go on, if I will find work that allows me to stay with Sam who is getting more and more dependent on me, if I will just have to run out of my savings and be done, if I will choose to shorten my stay in my current spot or lose the money and just pick up and go boondocking, if I will have a car wreck on the highway, if Blanche will have a blowout, if I will get COVID-19 and become too sick to travel and have to talk my hosts into some kind of act of kindness, if a tornado will blow through and upend all of us, or if I will simply have a stroke or myocardial infarct and die quietly inside Blanche to be found when my campsite is supposed to be taken by someone else. None of this is known.

I could be bothered by that and, in my former marriage, no doubt I would have been. I was taught to be bothered by such.

But predictable literally almost killed me in October of 2019. If unpredictable kills me by virtue of accident or ill health, then at least it did so while I was doing something with my life rather than sitting in a house waiting to die. I cannot imagine ever going back to predictable. I cannot imagine, ever again, being someone’s belonging that waits to be put in storage.

Sloshing: Trauma, Memory, & Blurting

In the grand scheme of things, nothing I do or don’t do is of any value. I am not a young military engineer sacrificing myself for my country in the destruction of a strategic bridge. I am not a nurse or doctor saving lives in some COVID-19 ward. Nor am I on the wrong sides of either of those equations; I don’t actively try to destroy life.

I am neither the activist screaming for change, nor the bloated capitalist determined to keep his millions a day earned on the backs of those he treats shamefully. I neither build nor destroy. I exist.

My life is perhaps one of the most meaningless lives on this planet. I am merely a vessel for memory and the shreds of hope left in the wake of leaving a life locked in a Hardie plank box. I have flashes of goals—flickers so brief they could be illusions like the sparkles you see when you press your eyelids hard against your eyes.

I have moments when I believe the ember of love remaining for the wrong man can someday regenerate for someone new — moments quickly smothered when I see behavior in men that mirrors that of one of my exes.

Through it all, I am struck by my memory—how in one instance it is hazy and fragile, the next, in sharp focus and fully formed.

I understand the whys; in one space the memories are the fog of trauma and reaction while in another they are the unforgettable shining of pain, rage, and love.

However, I can’t walk around day-to-day simply being a glass of the past, sloshing around and occasionally spilling onto unsuspecting passersby. I can’t continue to just spill all this trauma, drama, and emotion on people who stumble into my path.

The jar refills and I keep going, keep sloshing about. Nothing changes.

I wrote a poem and it speaks to this:

“Every night I try to empty myself

of you through

                 my eyes,

                 my throat.”

Every night. Every day. Sometimes multiple times a day, I try to empty myself of my memories in hopes of moving on and finally being someone, even something, of value.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day when the light is strong and I am “doing things” I can convince myself I am making progress. Then darkness arrives and I am simply alone, simply in the same space, simply treading water still.

I have no desire to give up.

I have no desire to continue.

I have no desire to do anything.

What would I do? Crack open this vessel, spill it all on this screen and let everyone see? No. I’ve been trying to do that. People don’t like that. If I shatter my vessel, theirs will take a hit in some way and we can’t have that.

So, once again, I am biting my virtual tongue. Not writing or living for me because I have always protected others. At least tried to.

And what of these memories?

I am astonished at how little I now recall of my second marriage. I know, rationally, that we had good times. I know I loved him more than I have ever loved anyone and more than I thought possible. Up until year 21, I’d have told you that despite some rough patches, I loved him more each day than the day we married. Up until year 28, I couldn’t fathom a life without him even though, by then, I was no longer “in love” with him and questioned the wisdom of staying.

I still have snippets of memories of good times. Laughter. Love. Passion. They simply hold no emotional value anymore. They feel like window dressings. Peeling paint on stucco.

I do recall many, many bad times and what triggered them, and how, always, I was ████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████

As far as my first marriage, I recall almost nothing. My first husband was a raging, physically abusive alcoholic.

By contrast, I can relate myriad details of those encounters with the wrong man in 2020-2021: every glance, every vocal nuance, every careful touch. Every conversation we had, good or bad is still seated firmly in my mind. It’s not that this relationship was exceptionally safe or secure, it simply didn’t warrant me blotting it out in rage. My writer’s brain demands I not relinquish those memories. No matter how many times and ways I recreate them on the page, they remain. Blessing and curse.

That same writer’s brain demands I not relinquish the anger-inducing memories of my second marriage despite months of therapy and multiple attempts to journal them away.

I know, ultimately, I must put these things on the page in a formal way, perhaps even on social media, if I am to heal. Not because I need to reveal anything or anyone to the world, but because I have wounds that won’t close as long as I keep stumbling into people in my life and blurting my pain in a haphazard and confusing manner. My siblings, my best friend, any potential lover, can only take so much of my blathering before they tune me out entirely. In my anxious blurting, I often make no sense or the import of what I say is lost on them. It is not the individual events of thirty-six years that formed and informed me, but the cumulative.

Will this theoretical/hypothetical formal documentation of those years mean anything? Will it change my earlier statement about being and doing nothing of value? Eh, probably not. I have come full circle then. Can I really justify, knowing potential harms, letting this vessel spill in its entirety?

Obligation: Buzzing around Blanche

This second week of March, 2022, marks two years since I moved out of the beach house my ex-husband and I shared on the Upper Texas coast.

The coming days will bring rain and cold. They have been sunny and beautiful all week. In the warmth and sun, the Alabama wetlands have released mosquitoes, tiny and quiet compared to the Gulf Coast marsh mosquitoes with which I am all too familiar. They are no less effectual, however. I never feel their nibbles, but my ankles and some fleshy parts are rather spotty now.

Along with those almost gnat-sized biters are the plump carpenter bees, zipping, hovering, ascending, and fighting all other flies, bees, and wasps. Sammy, who had mostly only watched until today, has since made several growling lunges at the male bee hovering a few inches from his nose. Thankfully the dog is at the end of his tether. Carpenter bees are not much of a threat; males have no stinger and females are fairly docile. However, I don’t wish to see my dog take out a harmless bee.

This bee’s game seems pointless from my vantage. Best guess is that he, hover-parked between me and the picnic table some fifteen feet away, is tirelessly defending the holes (the “gallery”) in the table seats drilled perhaps last year (they look old/dark but recognizably bee-made). He goes so far as to defend them from a Cloudless Sulphur flitting by. I have yet to see the missus.

Sammy requests air conditioning, so I let him inside Blanche and Sir Buzzalot vanishes. Apparently only the dog represents a threat in the moment. A few minutes later I test my theory and I stand and pace near the table. Sir B does indeed return to monitor me, as well, charging at my phone as I try to capture video.

Sir Buzzalot in SLO-Mo

Apart from the obvious, appearance and size, I am not unlike the carpenter bee. There are two things motivating me to exist right now: 1) obligation and 2) protecting my home. Perhaps that’s one thing; I’m not sure I can tease the two apart.

I am obligated, with regard to my survival, to certain people. Family, that is.

Sir Buzzalot is obligated to whatever female he has or will have and the offspring they will produce, but only in so much as he is obligated to the nest; the nest being critical to his future family.

I’ll leave Motivation Number One at that. I think most people understand the concept of staying alive for people we assume love us and would be hurt if we “left.”

Motivation Number Two: my nest. I spent money on her that would have gone to rent or other belongings. As such, she has value and I feel an obligation to stay and make use of her at least until I have nothing left.

I also feel I have an obligation to protect her. I have named her.  She has been my shelter for several months already and has become more to me than a material possession or shelter. She is indicative of my attempt (perhaps ultimate failure) to recover from the last 40 years of my life.

More than that, I am emotionally attached to her. Blanche isn’t just a trailer any more than Sammy is just a dog. She is home. She is safety. She is comfort.

I can’t entirely qualify this attachment to this “thing.” In contrast, I like Betty (my truck). She is useful and comfortable and works well. I appreciate all Betty has done for me on the job and on this journey. Blanche, however, is something else. It may be as simple as the fact that no one has intruded on her since I took ownership. I’ve had no men in this space (as lovers or love interests) and all my daily tasks take place within: cooking, sleeping, bathing, and most of all, writing.

From the first night in this little, fiberglass bubble, I felt utterly at home. I felt and feel as if I have wanted this all my life—to have my world condensed in this way while at the same time having the world outside completely opened up to me.

I have bored a hole in the universe and it is all mine. I can hover around this little hideaway and scare away interlopers and retreat within with Sammy and feel at peace.

After two years, I am home. After forty years?

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.

Night Shift: the Anxiety of Staying Put

Last night, the world was silent, still, and dark in the state park I camped in with Sammy, Blanche, and Betty.* So dark I couldn’t see the RV parked next to me just fifty feet away.

If I walked to the edge of the lake, lights from small-town enclaves pierced the darkness at the lake’s perimeter and stars punched holes in the sky, but to see the ground in front of me required a bright flashlight beam. Thus far, parks and roadside campgrounds have been blessedly light-free.

Trees in Lake Whitney

Tonight, I am “camped” outside a business in a suburb of Dallas. (Permission of the proprietors) Brilliant security lights make reading possible through Blanche’s largest window and freeway traffic noise is as constant and thunderous as a storm day on the Surfside revetment. But I have power, a full water tank, and safety, and I am only a thirty-minute drive from my grandchildren.

I appreciate this brief way station and the reduction in costs it allows. Dallas isn’t exactly a haven for campers. Campgrounds I might have chosen were either priced higher than I prefer to pay currently or had, shall we say, issues. Add to that the significant distance from my family and the idea of setting up in those places was unappealing at best. Nor would Blanche fit comfortably, even for a short time, in East Dallas neighborhood streets.

So here we are, listening to the traffic storm and looking at the patterns in the ceiling carpet.

Ok, so there’s no pattern. It’s just beige carpet. There’s not much to look at, it turns out. Sleep would probably come if I were actually sleepy.

Sleep might come if I could shut my mind off and stop worrying:

  • About all the things I cannot do and have not done. 
  • About all the people I have disappointed or have disappointed me.
  • About time and the cruel forward motion of it. 
  • About his moss agate eyes.
  • About how none of this really matters. Not him. Not time. Not my failures or that of others. Not traffic noises in a lot behind a business. Not stars nor darkness nor silence. 

None of it matters. When I am dust, I will simply be dust. 

Cheerful meandering, eh?

I awaken to brilliant North Texas sunlight and blue skies, a brisk breeze, and the kind of space within which I can take care of life’s tasks that get set aside on the road: my old phone needs attention, Blanche had an injured turn indicator, I need items from shops not available in tiny rural towns that have only convenience stores and local diners.

My mood shifts slightly if only because to survive, to keep going yet another day, I have these things to do: little errands that hopefully won’t smack my bank account too hard.

It isn’t being alone that strains me or even lost relationships or love. Those are the rocks and potholes on the road. It is the inevitability of failure drummed into me since I was a child: “Come on, baby. You’re smarter than that.” “You’re intelligent. You just have no common sense.” “Darling, you forgot x again.” “You’re so intelligent. Why aren’t you more motivated?” That last while putting constraints on how I could use my education.

It isn’t the road I’m on that beats me down. It’s the road that came before.

I’m exhausted from the voices of my past. The voices of my future don’t stand a chance.

Unlike all the people around me lecturing me on how to move forward and how to find strength, I can’t quiet those voices. I try every day with new efforts and goals, but every night the darkness (no matter how well lit by security lights or stars) reminds me I am still me and I have only come so far and have so far to go with yet so little time left ahead.

I want to end this entry on some pithy, upbeat note. Some motivational preciousness that will redeem my mood for those of you who will tell me to put on a smile or “let go and let God.” Compartments, again.

I am, perhaps, a writer for the very reason that I can’t do those things. I can’t pretend I have no discernible income. I can’t pretend my heart isn’t scarred. I can’t pretend I believe I will survive despite staring down the barrel of 60 and having nothing to show for it save a higher education and a dog companion.

So I wrote this and y’all just have to take the agonizing posts with the pithy and hopeful.

*I’ve finally named my bicycle: JT (based on the brand and model). Now all pets and vehicles are officially named and as such are dependents that require I keep going.

Wandering: Into the Earth and Out Again.

I am wandering with slight aim. I have a goal of Dallas but beyond that, I am uncertain. To that end, after Fort Davis, I simply headed east on I-10 and waited for the mood to strike.

Years before, my then-husband had mollified me with an overnight stay in Sonora, TX where we ventured up a small hiking trail — supposedly the hideout of the Sam & Tom Ketchum gang at some point. While I had little interest in revisiting the hike or the memory it stirred, I thought the town a fair enough place to pull up for the night and contacted the Caverns of Sonora. “First come, first serve,” said the chipper young man on the phone (who would later be our competent and pleasant tour guide).

The Caverns sit atop the fringe of the rolling, rocky Hill Country terrain about eight miles out from Sonora and are well-maintained with friendly atmosphere and personnel. This “attraction” is both a lovely peek into the underground world of the Texas Hill Country and a beautiful camping spot.

The Caverns of Sonora has facilities for campers of all sorts: from tent campers to small travel trailers like mine to fifth wheels and Class A buses. If you can drive it or haul it in, it seems you can set it up at the Caverns and the price is reasonable for water, electricity, showers, and restrooms if you need them. A well-stocked gift shop is on the premises with clothing, jewelry, and geological trinkets of all sorts. I felt utterly at home.

The view from Blanche at The Caverns at Sonora

What I found there on the hilltop was a beautiful, wide expanse at the mercy of winter winds. The blanket of night was almost as dark as the mountains but with a near-180° view of the stars. The Milky Way shimmered and a new friend reminded me of constellations I thought I had long since forgotten. I had the company of small oaks and juniper and we walked on soft grasses that kept Sammy free of foxtails and goat’s head burrs. And of course, I enjoyed the warm, humid depths of the caverns that surprised and impressed with their beauty and variety.

What I also found there, beyond the beauty of the caverns and the surrounding countryside, was a friend, several days of peace, “down time” to drink beer and chatter incessantly, and solid sleep after the dark restless night in the mountains.

It was difficult to leave, especially with only a vague idea of where I was going next and for how long. I could imagine myself there for days, but I could feel myself sliding back into too much comfort again. Back into too much reliance on the kindness of others to make me feel safe emotionally such that I would not move forward. How easy it is for me to make that mistake!

On day three, the wind let up and in 19°F weather, I packed up Blanche, Betty, and Sam, bundled myself in my coat, and said one last, difficult goodbye.

It was both a relief and sadness to pull away from the Caverns. Like most places I visit, I plan to wander back if my time on earth allows. For now, the niggling discomfort of the road is also odd reassurance I am on the right path.

Heading Northeast

Love & the Road: the Stuff of Nightmares?

I don’t dream with the frequency that I did before the divorce. Now and then I still have deeply symbolic nightmares.

A bit of set up: I met a nice gentleman on my journey who was kind, attractive, and intelligent. We had several fun conversations and enjoyed the same music from the same era though he was several years younger than I. We both love poetry and reading and shared our histories readily. He treated me to the tour of the Caverns of Sonora, dinner, and several starlit strolls with Sammy in the frigid winter air. All in all, despite age and origin differences, we had many things in common.

Obviously, I couldn’t let THAT go on.

Then, the second night I had one of those “this symbolism is so obvious it’s stupid” nightmares.

I dreamed I was a very attractive, youngish, homeless woman who had been killed in a rage by her childhood sweetheart. I haunted the place of my death but people who saw me only saw a lonely, waifish young woman. I would talk to them, entertain their advances only so far, then abruptly disappear.

On one such occasion a man took too much liking to me and got too amorous. While he meant no harm, he was playing at being aggressive because he thought it was sexy. My “character” began to panic and started warning him, “Stop! I will hurt you!” repeating this over and over, louder and louder. I began punching, biting, scratching, screaming until he let go with a hurt and shocked expression. My now non-corporeal self was flung backwards as it had been in my death and, as in my death, began bleeding profusely from a huge gash in my torso. Invisible hands dragged me away slowly as had my former love when he tried to conceal his crime. The poor man who simply wanted to fool around with a pretty girl, stared on in terror as an unseen force dragged me away leaving a thick trail of bright red blood on the concrete.

I awoke.

Such dreams take me several minutes from which to recover and gather my thoughts.

When, after about fifteen minutes, I was awake, clear, and had processed the dream, the symbolism slapped me hard.

I am in no way like that girl on the surface: I am “a woman of a certain age”, a little “fluffy”, and only passably attractive. Yet, I do somehow get attention from men. I am alone in this world now which is in itself something that attracts people.

The more important aspects of the dream are these:

I have referred to, in writing, my love relationships as “bleeding out” in a gradual process for thirty nine years. From first love to first marriage to second marriage to first-love-after-divorce I have experienced my vision of love and the men who present it to me as a “death by a thousand cuts.”

While I am not at all bitter at this point (I do not hate men!), I am entirely untrusting. I may feel completely comfortable with the person, but never comfortable with their hearts or my ability to navigate them.

A boy told me he loved me and slept with my best friend.

A man told me he couldn’t live without me while sleeping with exotic dancers and fretting he might get HIV (it was the 80s).

A man told me I was the love of his life and he was still in love with me yet held the divorce door open for me because exploring/fixing why we were constantly arguing was just too scary for him.

Lastly, a man told me I was his ideal woman but the timing was wrong.

So when a man tells me, “I think you’re amazing and would love to get to know you,” all my alarms go off.

Naturally, I screamed, “I will hurt you!” in some quiet, metaphorical way, and let the loves of my past drag my bloody corpse away from my new friend.

I have said many times recently and in many ways that I foresee a life alone from this point on. There are numerous reasons, not least of which are the houseless life I have chosen, my age, a heart still tied up in the last man, and a strong desire to be utterly independent. Ultimately however, being alone looks to come from my experiences and the doubt they have foisted on me.

To my new friend I met
on the RV-life trail
I’m sorry for the bloody corpse.

Someday these cuts may heal.

And yes, J, you were right. I miss your easy laugh and conversation. I miss our common ground, of all sorts. Wish I’d gotten that playlist, too.

Leaving Davis Mountains: Arriving at a New Piece of Self.

I chose to drive south from my sad little boondocking grounds and make the U to Fort Davis. South of I-10 and the McDonald observatory. The pretty little Texas town has a sweet historical Main Street with easy parking for my truck and trailer — at least in winter. Spring or summer tourism may be another matter as visitors seek the spring bird migration or the observatory.

The drive from my hideaway in the mountains to Fort Davis was pleasant: a quick dip downhill to run the foothills of the old volcanic formations and look out over the high desert that stretches toward the US-Mexico border followed by a deep U-turn northward back into the mountains and a steady 15-mile climb to Fort Davis.

Leaving the little burg was something else. I was not prepared for the emotions I experienced. Surely there are more stunning sights in this country and in the world, but for the little girl in me that had been cooped up in some version of suburbia for at least the last 20 years, rounding each bend was joyous. I called my daughter to check in at one point and as I came around a turn to be met with great, dark pillars of volcanic rock marching toward the road like an army crammed together at the fortress gates, I lost my words and began to cry.

Davis Mountains columns. A less spectacular view where I wouldn’t get run over.

My daughter said I sounded like her grandmother. That added to my joy. I will never be my mom but if I can regain some part of myself that is in any way reflective of her grace, I have made progress in my life.

I will never grasp how someone can spend their life hardly leaving their own town or county. I will never understand the reluctance to stop and see roadside beauty and instead simply race by it at 80 mph. One doesn’t have to take the extreme journey of buying a camper or van, driving across the country, and boondocking. But given an opportunity to witness beauty and variety first hand, why not take it? More so, why be afraid of what you may glean from it?

There is so much to be seen in this world that lies beyond our driver’s side window. So much that lies beyond our easy chair. If our only way to get there is television, that’s something. I would never judge a hardworking life that makes one feel they must stay in place because of economics. But, if one is driving from point A to point B, consider not worrying so much about the destination and focus more on the country rolling under your tires and the people that populate it.

I’m thankful I opted for the mild anxiety of driving out of my way and into unknown territory when I pulled away from that little splotch of gravel on the side of the mountain road. I will never forget the elation and tears from seeing those stunning columns.

I hope to see them again in spring and perhaps the other people drawn to them. Winter travel is solitary and starkly beautiful and I am gaining much emotional and spiritual ground with each mile. Still, I look forward to more social milieus.