My First Pandemic Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday – the first one (and hopefully the last) that I’ll have spent during a worldwide pandemic. And to honor the occasion (and also, to stop myself from obsessively checking Facebook for Happy Birthday greetings), I wrote a poem about how my day was going.

But first, I just have to show you some adorable monkeys.

corona-5032904_1920

Okay, now the poem:

My First Pandemic Birthday

It’s my first pandemic birthday
And it’s really no big deal
I’m thankful for the greetings
I’m feeling all the feels
Most people did remember
And if you forgot, that’s okay
But at least you didn’t send me
That cremation offer I got today.

Yes, I walked out to the mailbox
Expecting a card or two
Instead I got an election flyer
And junk mail out the wazoo.
But that offer for cremation
Was the icing on the cake
So I threw it in the garbage.
It was just too much to take.

When I returned from that errand,
I discovered I had a gift —
My new doggie who’d been hiding
Had left me something that I whiffed.
But she’s been the perfect canine
Well, up until today
I won’t hold one mistake against her
But I hope there aren’t more on the way.

Now it’s time to plan my evening.
I think I’ll make a special meal.
Cooking can be good therapy
For emotions I’m trying to heal.
I’m making my mother’s recipe
For Uncle Frank’s spaghetti sauce
And for dessert, I’ll eat a scone or two
Then we’ll see who’s boss.

Me or the corona virus?
Just which one will it be?
I think I can beat that bugger
Cuz I’ve got a mask or three.
And soon I will be Zooming
With some Tucson friends of mine —
I’m already getting ready.
I’ve opened a bottle of wine.

Photo credits: Chairs by ParentRap; Monkeys by Chiplanay (both on Pixabay).

 

 

Do You Have a Muse?

Do you have a muse? Someone or something that inspires you to create? I guess I do, because it seems that every time I decide to post a photograph, I end up writing. Take today, for example.

I sat here at my desk with the intention of posting a photo of a hummingbird, one I’d seen while out for a walk yesterday. I usually write a few words to go with my photos, so I wondered what I could say about this one.

Before I had a chance to start typing, though, I heard a voice (my muse?) telling me what to write.

“Write a poem,” the voice said.

“About what?” I asked.

“Well, what are you thinking about right now? What are you feeling?”

“Well, duh,” I said. “I’m thinking about the pandemic, what else is there to think about?”

“Okay, but are you sure you want to write about something so intense? Maybe just write a poem about a bird.”

“I have to write about what’s on my mind,” I countered. “Maybe I can work the little bird into the poem somehow.”

“Alright” the voice said, “it’s your blog. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

You see, I’d been lying on the sofa today, feeling a sense of unfocused inertia. I’ve been feeling that way on and off for the last couple of days. Have you been feeling that way, too?

For the past month, I’ve been busy doing things like working from home, writing, making masks, talking to friends, figuring out how to safely get food, and, of course, watching Netflix. I’m not a total nerd. But I’ve also been glued to the news, and that’s okay, because I want to know what’s going on. I think it’s important that we stay on top of things. But sometimes I try to do too much, and then it seems as if my brain just shuts down and all I can do is crossword puzzles. And that’s okay, too.

Anyway, I was feeling very foggy-brained and distracted by (a) my phone, (b) a crossword puzzle, (c) my Spanish flashcards, and (d) thoughts about the pandemic. (The correct answer is all of the above.) I had  just told myself to focus on only one thing at a time when I got up to get something (I forget what) and I found myself sitting here at the computer. I know, I probably need meds more wine.

And while I’d been on the couch, I kept thinking about something Billy Collins said recently in one of his live-from-home poetry talks. In speaking about social isolation, he said we’re  living under a “futureless condition,” not knowing how long this situation will last or what life will be like afterwards. He compared it to being in 4th grade, where the only future you can imagine is “5th grade.” I thought that was a great description of how I’ve been feeling. And again, it’s okay to feel that way. I guess another way to describe it is how Bob Dylan would have put it: “no direction home.”

Then I looked at my little bird photo through the “futureless condition” lens, and I could imagine how that bird must feel, clinging to a tiny branch, swaying in the breeze, not sure why he was there or where he would be heading to next. And I knew I wanted to try and put all of those thoughts and feelings and images into a poem.

I did write the poem, but I have no idea whether it’s “any good,” so I’m going to let it steep for a while before I publish it. Meanwhile, here’s my little muse, the light little bird that inspired all this heavy thinking today.

And before you go, if the spirit grabs you, don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing. Do you have a muse?

Black-chinned hummingbird watermarked

 

 

Zooming and Blooming

Today’s post is about Zooming (video conferencing with my kids) and Blooming (photos I took about a month ago).

I haven’t been outside with my camera for several weeks, for fear of encountering someone on the trail who might sneeze on me. That actually happened to a friend of mine. Maybe my next batch of photos will be of the still life variety, taken indoors.

Let’s see … I could artfully arrange that pile of work folders that’s sitting on a stool in my living room. I might create a colorful collage from the pile of fabric rectangles stacked up next to my sewing machine. Or perhaps the world is ready for a sculpture I’ve created out of my pile of dirty laundry — the laundry I’m hesitant to do in the community laundry room. Then there’s my dwindling pile of toilet paper rolls … I really had better photograph it before it’s gone.

I’m doing okay, though. I just had a fun three-way video chat with my daughters. Tomorrow is the older one’s 40th birthday, so we celebrated by using Zoom. After the initially unsuccessful attempt at connecting, there we all finally were on the screen, looking like a pared-down version of the Brady Bunch (without the makeup, weird hairdos, or fake smiles). Well, in my case, I had put on a touch of makeup. They may have, too, but I couldn’t tell because they always look beautiful to me.

It wasn’t exactly the birthday party my daughter would have wanted, but it definitely made my day. I got to see with my own eyes how they’ve been coping during the pandemic, and it was reassuring. They even hilariously modeled their new masks, which they’ve made by cutting up the many pairs of leggings that they own, and making holes in them to place over their ears. It’s genius!

As always, they made me laugh, demonstrating how the stretchiness of the masks enables the wearer to quickly change them into long earrings, headbands, or a clever way to hide a double chin.

It was also a chance for me to visit with my grandsons. The 4-year-old (who tells his parents every day that he’s “so sick of the coronavirus”) said “I love you” (unprompted) and the almost 1-year-old smiled and waved and blew me an almost-kiss, touching his open palm to his mouth and holding it there for about 20 seconds. I have to say, it might have been one of the longest kisses I’ve ever received. It was definitely one of the best, anyway.

I hope you enjoy these photos of budding life and the promise of spring.

Bud 1Bud 2Bud 3Bud 5Bud 6

 

 

 

Learning Curve

It

was

early

in March,

nearly spring,

the season of hope,

and my grandson Elliot

would soon have a birthday —

his first. I couldn’t wait to see him.

I had my ticket. Flight 351. April 24.

 

Then, like a giant evil raptor, the pandemic

swooped in, wrecking havoc across continents.

The world was shocked. Thousands fell ill. Many died.

I cancelled my trip. Elliot would have to wait to see Grandma.

People are saying: “It feels like a sci-fi movie,” and “This is weird.”

Some say, “I’m scared,” or even, “It’s like living in the Twilight Zone.”

I watch the news. It’s real. I learn about mitigation and flattening the curve.

I live alone. The silence is deafening. When this is over, I think I’ll get a puppy.

 

We are in this together. We all buy wipes, wash our hands, stand six feet apart.

We cough into our elbows, sew masks, sing from windows, applaud helpers.

We call our parents, record funny songs, take up new hobbies, practice yoga.

We praise our essential workers. We send them big tips and free pizzas.

Our houses are spotless, our cupboards are bare. We’re okay with that.

We try to embrace love and deny fear. We don’t always succeed.

We check our wipes and toilet paper supplies on a daily basis.

We tell ourselves we’ll get through this. Most of us will.

 

When this is finally over, I will visit family.

There will be laughter, and also tears.

As for the rest of the world, will we

reflect on things? Will we know

what we did right? Appreciate

how we cooperated? Mend?

Will we ask ourselves

“What did we learn?

What

was

it?”


Written for Cheer Peppers as part of a daily writing prompt for the month of April.

From My Isolation Outpost to Yours

Greetings from Lori’s Isolation Outpost, otherwise known as my home office. My disembodied voice is coming to you through the wonders of a website called WordPress. It’s an apt name for a space that allows me to figuratively “press” you (as opposed to shaking your hand or otherwise coming within six feet of you).

Isolation Outpost is actually my spare bedroom. It has an old oaken table, a sewing table, a dresser, a keyboard, a guitar, and a fake oriental rug where I do a few exercises each morning. (OK, maybe not every morning.) This is where I do office-y things like writing and editing photos. It’s also where I do non-office-y things like online shopping, checking my Facebook page for likes, watching YouTube videos, and researching important topics like how to copy and send mp3 files via email. No home office deduction for me, not after the IRS sees this post, anyway.

I guess since this site’s called WordPress, it would be appropriate to have a Word of the Day. Well, in that case, my word for the day today is PALPITATION. My heart’s been going ker-thump and ker-thumpity thump on and off for about a week now — in fact it’s doing it as I type this sentence. Palpitations can be brought on by any number of conditions, but in my case, I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

You wouldn’t know it to see me. In fact, you wouldn’t even know it to BE me. I look, act, and FEEL very calm most of the time. But I have a feeling this pandemic is getting to me in insidious ways. It may be my new normal. But I’m going to fight it. I’ll reduce my coffee intake, I’ll meditate, I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll watch more comedy. Yes. That’s my plan, anyway.

And I’ll keep taking photos. Here’s a juvenile vermilion flycatcher. He looks pretty chill.

Juvenile Male Vermilion Flycatcher-4

Adult vermilion flycatchers are brilliant red. (I once wrote a song inspired by one.) Young males like the one shown above look like they’ve been partially dipped in a bucket of orange paint. This one’s spreading his tail feathers to sun himself. Maybe I’ll do that today — sun myself, that is. A walkabout in the Arizona sunshine would do my heart good. And maybe it’ll inspire another song!

Here’s a roadrunner I saw a few days ago, also sunning its tail feathers.

Road Runner Preening

He or she (hard to tell the difference) seemed very content to stand still and preen itself while I took its picture, although it did warn me to stay at least six feet away.

Whatever you do today, I hope it’s relaxing and good for your heart … and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Jumble of Emotions

Dear friends,

HUGS.

cartoon-1296501_1280

I hope you are well.

To say I’m going through some weird feelings at the moment because of the pandemic is an understatement. It feels dystopian. Unreal.  It’s a little like the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some days, I experience all five. This post is going to be a jumble of emotions. So be it.

Two days ago, I think depression was winning. But I’ve been trying to cope by reading, writing, watching TV, going for walks, and taking photos. Here’s a cute black-tailed gnatcatcher I saw the other day :

Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher-2

I admire his optimism. I hope some of it rubs off on me.

I’m worried, especially when I think about those of you in parts of the world, and in my own country, who are struggling the most. Italy, New York City, nursing homes, hospitals. The unemployed, parents who need childcare, people in prisons, the homeless, the sick, the elders … it’s mind-boggling and I know we’re in for a long ride. I never imagined being here. None of us did.

And I’m sad because my family lives 2,000 miles away. I’ve even fantasized about driving there, sleeping in my car along the way so as to avoid hotel germs, and arriving on their doorsteps with sanitizer in hand (which I don’t actually have because the stores were out of it) … but I’d just be a possible carrier, adding to their problems, so it’s best if I stay away. (Which reminds me: Have you seen Mel Brooks’ video where he tells his son to “go home”?)

I guess I’ll have to rely on texting, calling, and even dreaming to stay in touch with family. I literally dreamed about my two young grandsons last night. They will each have a birthday that I will miss this year.

My city, Tucson, just closed all restaurants and bars today. I think take-out is still an option, but sadly, I’m sure that doesn’t apply to bars. Glad I stocked up on wine, but three bottles doesn’t seem like nearly enough now.

On the bright side, scientists, medical professionals, some political leaders, small businesses, ordinary people are actually pulling together and making sacrifices for the sake of the greater good.

And I’m actually pretty impressed with how many of us humans are acting humanely, and are even finding and spreading humor on the internet. Is there a reason that the words “human” and “humor” are so similar?

By the way, here’s what made me laugh today:

90357626_10156672820196326_781163901562650624_n

In the days to come, I hope to continue with my emotional outpourings. In the meantime, please let me know how you’re doing. Are you coping? Do you need a virtual shoulder to cry on? If so, I’m your person. Comment away.

 

 

 

 

20 x 20: A Chart to Inspire You

My friend has come up with a brilliant idea for the year 2020, and I think she should patent it. But since she hasn’t done that yet, I’ve stolen borrowed the concept — and today I’m passing it along to you, free of charge!

I’m calling it a 20 x 20 chart. Here’s how it came about: One day, my friend got to thinking about the year 2020. She liked the fact that it was a “double year.” Double years are rare. Since the year 1 C.E. (A.D.), double years have occurred only 20 times.

Yep, there’s 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, 1010, 1111, 1212, 1313, 1414, 1515, 1616, 1717, 1818, 1919, and 2020. (I admit it, I counted them. Duh.)

She especially liked how 2020 looks in Roman numerals (MMXX). Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and write out the other 19 double-digit years in Roman numerals. My brain hurts just thinking about it.

Anyway, my friend wanted to do something special in honor of the year 2020. She quickly discarded the idea of making one grandiose New Year’s resolution, since resolutions tend to get broken, and once that happens, that’s it for the year. Instead, she decided to do something more ongoing — and something she could actually accomplish. The result is her 20 x 20 spreadsheet, seen below. (Side 2 would have columns 11-20.)

20 x 20 Spreadsheet

At the top of each column, she wrote a mini-goal for herself (20 goals in all). Each goal was something challenging, yet do-able — to be done 20 times during the course of the year. (For example, “Write a letter to a friend.”) As she accomplishes each task, she places a check mark in the appropriate box. By year end, she should have 400 check marks.

I’ve decided to take the 20 x 20 plunge, and you may want to try it as well. If you do, I’d love to hear what challenges you’ve come up with. Here are mine. Remember: My goal is to do each one of these 20 times by December 31.

  1. Send a card to my grandson
  2. Learn to play a new song on guitar
  3. Watch a movie
  4. Read a children’s book
  5. Learn to say “I love you” in a new language
  6. Attend a yoga class
  7. Write a poem
  8. Learn the capital city of an African nation
  9. Write three things I am grateful for
  10.  Contribute food to the local Food Bank
  11. Listen to a classical music piece
  12. Watch a Ted Talk (5 of them in Spanish)
  13. Read an article about an artist whose work hangs in the Louvre
  14. Give up social media for a day
  15. Walk 12 miles (20 km) in a week
  16. Practice piano at least 20 minutes
  17. Try a new type of tea
  18. Read a short story
  19. Visit the gym
  20. Write a blog post

So far I’ve managed to check off 20 boxes — wait, 21, counting this blog post! Only 379 left to go. Hugs to my friend for inspiring me, and hugs to you for reading this. Happy 2020!

Oh My Gluten (Free)

My sister is flying across the country tomorrow to visit me. She’ll be staying with me for five whole days. YAY! I love family visits. I don’t get them very often, so I hope to make the most of it, with the usual food, fun, and frivolity.

She’s gluten-free (and I’m not), so that just adds to the fun of preparing for her stay. I’m not being sarcastic. I actually enjoyed my gluten-free scavenger hunt at Trader Joe’s tonight. I googled “Trader Joe’s gluten free” and found a list that included these yummy items. (I can’t wait to try that almond cashew macadamia drink.)

d2

For dessert, we can snack on Lara Bars. I love the cashew/date ones. I hope she leaves those for me. Actually, they’re the only ones I’ve tried. That lemon bar looks good right now. Hope I can wait till she gets here.

d6

I also bought some fruits and veggies, and made a centerpiece to welcome her into my home. Luckily, my sister gets my sense of humor.

d1

Is wine gluten-free? Oops. I just might have to consume these all by myself.

d4

I KNOW these aren’t gluten free. Impulse purchase!

d3

Tucson is an International City of Gastronomy, which means we’ll definitely be going out to sample some gluten-free tacos, tamales, burritos, salads, baked goods, and Margaritas while she’s in town. I’ve got my Best of Tucson issue on the coffee table so we can find all the best places.

d5

Needless to say, I might not be posting anything for the next five days. But after that, I just might have some food photos to share!

nanopoblano2019 Badge

This is post #5 (but who’s counting?) of NanoPoblano2019. Don’t know what NanoPoblano2019 is? Just click the link! It’s gluten-free, too!

 

The Hourglass

A massive granite boulder stood erect and solid on the shore, gazing at the
distant line where sea and sky collide, deep blue below and pale blue above, azure
edges bound together as if stitched with an eternal thread: a border on a quilt that never
ravels, never wears. And as the boulder watched, it felt the ocean’s salty waves,
until it cracked and crumbled, turning into shards and stones, and then,
like sea and sky, the rock and water merged, becoming sand.
One day a child with pail and shovel scooped the sand
into an empty hourglass. It glittered as it trickled
from past to future, pulled by force of
gravity, swept along
from end to end
drifting
down
in the
one direction
it could possibly
go, without knowing how, or why,
until a wild and random white cap plunged
itself upon the shore. It flipped and tossed the hourglass
as if it were a fish, until it was no longer standing as before,
but now its top was bottom, bottom top, and the unwitting sand began to
travel back through time, not knowing it had made the trip before, not realizing that
the hourglass was its eternal home, neither half-empty nor half-full, only a vessel
carrying moving energy, the kind that’s made when sea and sky collide.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is a rough draft of a poem I’m working on. WordPress messed up the formatting a bit, and I’m not sure about the title. Suggestions welcome! (I’ve never written a shape poem before.)

This is post #4 for NanoPoblano2019. Click the link to see great stuff by other wild and crazy November bloggers!

nanopoblano2019 Badge

Dona Nobis Pacem

The Roman Colosseum, built between 72 A.D. and 80 A.D., is a symbol of brutality.

It is widely believed to have been built by tens of thousands of slaves. During some of the spectacles, it is said that 10,000 animals were slaughtered in a single day. Gladiators fought to their deaths and criminals were executed, all for the sheer entertainment of crowds of 50,000 or more. It is not my favorite place.

In fact, I never was very interested in Roman history, or in seeing the Colosseum. But when I was in Rome for two days in September with someone who did want to visit the Colosseum, I said, “sure, why not,” and went along.

It’s big. It’s old. And it’s kind of shocking to be strolling along on an ordinary cobblestone street, turn a corner, and there it is, looming over everything. Kind of spooky, actually.

Colosseum 3

But for me, the most compelling part about the Colosseum was the fence around it — a fence that was covered with children’s colorful drawings calling for peace. I loved the contrast.

Maybe there’s hope for this world yet.

Colosseum 2.jpg

This is post #3 for NanoPoblano2019. Click the link to read some other posts from a wonderful bunch of dedicated bloggers known as “cheer peppers.”

nanopoblano2019 Badge