This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

What I read

A Pulitzer Prize is given “For distinguished fiction published in book form during the year by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.” But I’ve found in the past ten years that the writing is often too … what? … for my taste. Too bleak? Too outre? Too “matter of the moment”?

Andrew Sean Greer’s 2018 winner Less is a breath of fresh air.

And because so much has been written about the travels–and travails–of our hero, the almost-famous writer Arthur Less, and because those reviews provide the critical analysis the novel deserves, I’ll leave you to peruse the Washington Post and The Kenyon Review.

Instead, I’ll tell you why I think Less is a dear good thing:

  • Our hero’s experiences and his reactions to life’s twists and turns, while far from my own (Less, after all, is a single gay man turning fifty), remind me that there’s a lot to be said for optimism–even the kind that seems ridiculous in the moment.
  • Less is one of the few literary characters of late who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
  • His throwaway observations are anything but. Less’s insights are spot-on and guffaw-out-loud at times. Make no mistake–the novel tackles issues that are anything but humorous. Adultery and AIDS and loneliness and aging. But a little bit of wit speaks louder than the longest sermon.
  • Arthur Less is endearing. (Does anyone even like Olive Kitteridge or Theo Decker?!)
  • I loved this guy, plain and simple. And you can’t ask for more than that.

And this …

  • ” ‘What is love, Arthur? … Is it the dear good thing I had with Janet for eight years? Is it the dear good thing? Or is it the lightening bolt? The destructive madness …’ “
  • ” ‘Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young.’
    ‘Yes! It’s like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out how to get coffee, and drinks, and a good steak. And then you have to leave. And you won’t ever be back.’ “
  • “We all recognize grief in moments that should be celebrations; it is the salt in the pudding.”

What I lived

It was a good day, last Friday. Sunny. Warm. Spring was in the air, as they say. After bemoaning the fact that, according to our state’s initial estimates, I’d be getting my COVID vaccination in late summer, the supply and distribution picked up pace and I got my shot in the arm. Driving to the pharmacy, I teared up and worried I’d be a blubbering mess when I arrived–but the excitement! the relief! took over and by the time I pulled into the parking space I was grinning from ear-to-ear and couldn’t stop.

I chatted with a couple others in line for their vaccines. Friday was the day the U.S. reached 100,000,000 shots in the arm and we were part of that moment, this little cadre of 60-something retired teachers thrown together by an online scheduling algorithm. Waiting, waiting.

Me: I’ve never been more excited to get a shot. And I hate shots!

Pharmacist: Yeah, this is a fun one to give.

So. The months of shutdown. Weeks of quarantine. Four COVID tests. A loved one’s COVID diagnosis. The days and days of fever and fatigue he lived with. The financial toll it took on my household. The isolation from friends and family and hugs. That huge weight of worry.

It’s over.

That little shot in the arm? It’s definitely a good dear thing.

What I read … and lived

I just finished Hazel Prior’s novel How the Penguins Saved Veronica–a sweet (but fairly predictable) tale of how Veronica McCreedy finds purpose and healing after a lifetime of sorrow and rejection. After watching a documentary titled Earth Matters, Veronica travels to Antarctica to observe the scientists studying Adelie penguins–with the intent of leaving her millions to their research endeavors when she dies. You can probably imagine their reaction when an eighty-six-year-old woman writes to announce her impending arrival and won’t take no for an answer. Veronica is a force to be reckoned with and the team can only hope that the harsh conditions will discourage her from staying.

Of course she stays. Of course she finds love and connection and meaning–old age be damned.

But what is it, I want to know, with the spate of crochety-old-folks-turned-warm-and-fuzzy novels that fill the shelves over the past several years? Think about it, Friend. A Man Called Ove. Miss Benson’s Beetle. Heaven Adjacent. The Clock Dance*. The Misremembered Man. Lucille Boxfish Takes a Walk. Harold Frye. Miss Queenie Hennesey. Olive Kitteridge. Arthur Pepper. Good stories all, yes. Characters worth loving, to be sure. But why are all these old folks so darn prickly? So dour and gloomy? And why is it that we’re given the idea that to die happy we must set off walking across the country or butterfly hunt in the South Pacific or fly off to Paris?

Is this how the world sees us?

I became a bit leery of these portrayals when I noticed that many of the writers themselves are not even pushing fifty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I understand that writers don’t need to experience a circumstance to write about it. Shakespeare didn’t need to kill a king in order to write Hamlet. Tolstoy wasn’t a woman in love, yet Anna Karenina is among the best. No, a writer’s task is to take us to places we’ve never been and show us a world we never imagined–to seduce us into falling in love with characters who live only on the deckle edged page.

I get that.

I don’t think it’s the Grand Adventure that bother me, but the fact that we are lead to assume that the Grand Adventure will save us. What I’m wanting are characters who mirror my own experience–and that of my friends–more closely. Characters who don’t waste seventy years of their lives walled off from others, stuck in their suffering. Characters who live with life’s dualities–connection and separation, joy and sorrow, plenty and want, success and defeat–and still manage to eke out some measure of happiness. But I’m guessing a story like that would hardly be a bestseller and there’s the rub.

But back to that book again–How the Penguins Saved Veronica? Get yourself a copy and enjoy. It’s a delightful read about a cranky old gal.

* Anne Tyler is an exception at eighty. So it’s probably no accident that her Clock Dance was one of the best portrayals I’ve read of an older woman coming to terms with her choices with equanimity, a woman who moves forward into the unknown and says, “There is no limit to the possibilities.” (Also interesting is that my thirty-something daughter’s reaction to Clock Dance was “Meh”!)

On my return trip, I was able to see the landscape of Oklahoma and Missouri which, on the way down, was shrouded in freezing rain and freezing fog. What did I miss in Oklahoma? Cattle. And range land. And more cattle. Along with dirt a shade of red I’ve never seen before. Reservation land always saddens me, and I thought of the Trail of Tears every time I read the signs: leaving Chickasaw nation; Entering Osage nation.

If you’re a con man driving a minivan and you approach a woman at a gas station asking for money because your laptop was stolen and you need to get to your grandfather’s funeral (huh?), and she politely tells you she can’t help you as she gets back in her car (after she notices your distinctive drinkers nose …) , it probably doesn’t help your case if you call her a bitch. I’m a firm believer in meeting ‘angels unawares’ but I doubt an angel would use such language. Just sayin’.

I lost my bank card in a gas station restroom–only discovering the fact a couple hundred miles down the road. On a whim, I checked the transaction online, looked up the address on Google, and found the gas station. I called. A big shout out to Kelly who is mailing my card to me. In fact, it just might beat me home. There are good people in the world, dear Reader. When your paths cross, remember to pay it forward.

Audio books. I’m just not sold. My son and his wife gifted me an Audible credit to bulk up my pretty skimpy Audible library. I tried. I really did. But I listen … and then look out at the countryside … and then my mind is off and running, and I have no idea what has transpired in the last fifteen minutes. Turns out I am quite comfortable with my own thoughts. How is it that I don’t get bored? I have no. idea. But driving seven hours a day, alone, with only the radio for company, is quite satisfying to me.

I’ve heard other Northerners say that the desert–with its sparse vegetation and dust and grit–lacks beauty. How far from the truth. It is different from the lush green of the Midwest, to be sure. But it’s different, is all. The desert is spacious and the plant life is startlingly beautiful. It teems with all sorts of critters and creepy crawlies: bobcat and javelina and roadrunner and jackrabbit and ground squirrels and lizards and birds, birds, birds. The quiet is astounding. And the sun in the springtime is a delight.

There is no greater joy than walking with a Little who stops to look out over that desert and declares, “I never pass up a beautiful view” or who pleads for yet one. more. game of Go Fish to “see who is the champion.” After 345, 689 games, I can assure you there is no champion in Go Fish.

Sometimes is it just as sad to return home as it is to leave.

What I read

Catherine Ryan Hyde is a good read no matter what–the plots are simple, yet compelling; the characters, rich; the resolution, straightforward. (I wrote about two other titles here and here.) Her novel Walk Me Home didn’t disappoint. The story opens with sisters Carly and Jen running away from home in the dead of a cool night in New Mexico. They are supplied with a backpack each, a $20 phone card, and two bicycles. Mom and her boyfriend died in a car crash the day before and the girls have no one. Sixteen-year-old Carly suspects Child Protective Services will close in on them soon, but she is certain they’ll find safety if only they can reach their ‘step-father’ Teddy in California. They leave the bikes behind pretty quickly (eleven-year-old Jen crashed hers) and start to walk. And walk. Across the Southwest desert, no less, following the roads, hiding in culverts, and begging money for candy bars from gas stations to keep themselves fueled. They are hot. Sunburned. Thirsty. Blistered and exhausted. But Carly is certain Teddy is their savior. (Jen–for reasons we eventually find out–is silent on the matter.)

The girls are near death when they are finally rescued by Delores, an elderly Native American woman, who feeds them, gives them shelter, and puts them to work around her property to pay off their debt. While Carly is wary and lashes out at Delores, Jen settles in quickly, relieved to finally have a safe place to call home. Jen loves the work and the animals. She finds a grandmother in the old woman while Carly sees only a jailer. Carly eventually sets out to find Teddy on her own–and the story takes a more serious turn when she discovers the truth behind Jen’s reluctance to reunite with Teddy.

Walk Me Home is a satisfying coming-of-age story–perfect for a quick weekend read.

What I lived

A walk in the neighborhood

Last week I flew the coop. (Figuratively speaking!) January was a difficult month with a loved one’s Covid illness and the worry and financial impact it brings. It’s been months since I’ve visited face-to-face with friends. Home life can be complicated. And it was suddenly just too much. So four days, three nights, and nineteen hundred miles later, I landed myself in Tucson to visit with my son and his family. The drive was character building, to say the least, what with lake-effect snow, freezing rain, and freezing fog. It was just me, myself, and I for hours and hours, and I came to think of Red Semi and RV-With-The-Bikes as friends along the way. (That, and the NPR radio hosts I listened to as I jumped from city to city and station to station.) I learned, once again, that I can do hard things. And I must say I thought about those little girls Carly and Jen an awful lot. Which got me to thinking just how many novels involve a journey and then I remembered teaching The Odyssey all those years ago and I decided we are all of us just putting one foot in front of the other and … well, such are the meandering thoughts when a day’s drive covers five hundred miles.

It’s lovely here in the desert Southwest. A cool (?!) 70 degrees. Sunny. And oh-so-full of loves. My end game is not sightseeing, but reconnecting with my sweet six-year-old granddaughter Luna whom I last visited just as the shut downs began in March a year ago. (You can read about that trip here.) By my first full day here I had the Grand Tour of the Barbie Dream House, went shopping for dinner fixings, picked out her birthday gift–a sewing basket of her very own!–and stitched what she is calling her ‘sewing basket gnomes’. Today will be more of the same, I’m sure. (Did I mention it’s sunny here?)

Life is good.

What I read

Last week I read two novels that, in content and style were distant cousins, but in spirit were as close as sisters. Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted is a dystopian Western set in the not-so-distant future, a mash up of Handmaid’s Tale and Hunger Games and a cowboy dime novel. Esther Augustus stows away in the Librarian’s wagon and is found two days after leaving Valor, Arizona. Esther’s father had promised her hand in marriage to one of his cronies–but Esther, still mourning the execution of her secret lover Beatriz is desperate. Desperate to escape her impending marriage and desperate to rid herself (as she sees it) of the curse of her desires. The Librarians are morally upright women whose task is to lend Approved Materials in small towns throughout Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Joining their ranks might mean that she, too, could become morally upright. Except it’s soon obvious that the Librarians Bet, Leda, and Cye are not quite what they seem. For one thing, Bet and Leda are clearly a couple. For another, they transport more than just Approved Materials. Like rebels seeking to overthrow the authorities. Upright Women packs quite a punch in its too-short 170-odd pages–murder! gun fights! smuggling!–and it’s an anti-totalitarian, feminist, and queer-friendly tale well worth your time.

The Book of V by Anna Solomon weaves together the stories of three women: Lily, a struggling young mother; Vee, Lily’s mother’s one-time best friend; and Esther, queen of the Old Testament. I wasn’t familiar with the Jewish tale of Vashti and Esther, but Solomon deftly connects Esther with the modern women. And it’s a connection many women share: we compromise our aspirations and dignity for the sake of our partners and children. Lily finds motherhood stultifying and embarks on a chaste affair of the heart to gain control of her life. Vee’s marriage to a rising senator in the fifties ends in disgrace when she refuses his humiliating request at a Washington party. And Esther–a second wife just like Lily–must ally herself with the king’s first wife Vashti in order to save her people. Settling. Compromise. It’s the story of our lives.

What I lived

Never has there been a time when I have experienced such absolute delight in simple pleasures … and also incredible shadows. Times are sweet with the Littles in my life: I helped with virtual school when my daughter works–a walk now and then–loads of book-reading and Barbies and Do-a-Dot markers. I’m taking snapshots with my heart to last me a lifetime. My afternoons are often spent stitching critters and the time has come, I think, to start “stitch-bombing” (my twist on yarn bombing) the world with Mr. Socks and Very Nice Mice and maybe even Picnic Bugs. I’ve come to love a finger of bourbon on ice–I never saw that coming!–in the evening. Hour-long talks with a friend every week. Mass on Sunday. I can’t complain.

And yet.

It’s lonely sometimes. I miss yoga with Mary and drinks after. I miss flying to Tucson to visit my son and his family. I want to sit in Sweet Seasons for a couple hours with Denice. I miss a Girls Night Out. Hugs. Oh, how I miss hugs. We’ve had Covid in the house (not me) and it was nasty, just like they say. I follow the rules, but there’s a worry that nibbles around the edges: when? where? who? I watch too much news and mourn as our nation rocks with conflict. Our skies are gray in January. And February. And March!

The view at my feet …

But then.

There’s all those books waiting for me. A walk in the Gardens with my son. The scent of Murphy’s Oil soap after fresh-washed floors. Clean sheets. Aunt Alice’s wool granny square afghan at my back. The surprise of an Etsy purchase in the mail. A trip planned at long last.

I think I can do this.

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What I read

In this time and place–a New Year, the raging pandemic, my own struggles– Rachel Joyce’s Miss Benson’s Beetle was the perfect read, what with its story of an unlikely sisterhood, adventure and derring-do, following a dream deferred. Margery Benson is a a spinster lady in post-war England. She teaches (in a quite lackluster manner, it should be noted) domestic science in a girls’ school. Margery is “lumpy old woman”–tall and overweight with bird’s nest hair and a potato nose. (Do I even need mention nearly all of her frocks are brown?)

And when a random act of larceny propels her to leave her world behind and head halfway around the world for New Caledonia to search for the elusive golden beetle, Margery hires Enid Pretty–her opposite in nearly every way–as her assistant. Enid arrives for their four-month ocean journey in a bright pink suit, candy floss yellow hair, and sandals. With pom-poms at the toe, no less. Where Margery is a woman of few words, Enid’s flow endlessly. Where Margery worries and frets, Enid trips through life with endless optimism. She is the Tigger to Margery’s Eeyore. And while Margery tries to keep her at arm’s length, that is impossible.

So begins their hero’s journey. Both women, it turns out, are following their vocation: Marge’s, entomology; Enid’s, motherhood. Life hasn’t been easy or kind to either and the humiliations they endured in the past propel them to test themselves. There is one passport between the two of them. Lost luggage and supplies. A stolen Jeep. Heat and humidity and tangled jungle to battle. Meddling diplomatic wives whose snooping almost reveals their secrets. A cyclone and dangerous river crossing.

Miss Benson’s Beetle is proof that a coming-of-age story isn’t limited to young people. That it’s never too late to follow your dreams and find love–although both might be found in the most unlikeliest of places.

What I lived

It’s a quiet life I live now–much quieter than I imagined retirement would be. But it’s a good time for learning to live in balance, a good time to turn inward. When I read a book like Miss Benson (or the Book of V. which is next up for review) I realize in a very real way that it’s my relationships with women that have transformed me more than any other. They certainly offer more support than the romantic relationships I’ve had. [In fact, I’ve decided my pall bearers (long, loooooong time down the road!) will be women. Because they have carried me through life, they’re the ones who will carry me out. Quite literally.]

Other than such Deep Thoughts, I’ve taken on my grandson’s virtual school when Mom works and his sisters are at day care. I’m working through an online weaving course on my lap loom. And I’ve stitched more Mr. Socks than I ever dreamed I would.

Granted, life is quiet. But I am safe and warm. I have long chats with friends. I walk. I journal. I read, always. It’s true in my case, as it was in Margery Benson’s that, “Never in her life had she felt so near that porous line where her own body finished, and the earth began. And blessed. She felt blessed.”

What I lived

18,000 pages read
500 vlogs watched
150 podcast episodes
150 home-cooked dinners
75 masks sewn
71 Amazon orders
60 books
47 emails to Friend Denice
45 journal entries
30 restaurant take-out dinners
15 Revive & Thrive deliveries
17 Facetime visits with grandkids
12 stitched kitties
10 blog posts written
9 months
8 days camping
6 pedicures
5 haircuts
5 online meditation groups
4 trunks full to Goodwill
3 embroidery projects
1 flu shot
1 pound gained
1 sweet ol’ kitty euthanized
0 colds or sniffles (Can you say, “Masks?!”)

What I read

Tattooist of Auschwitz Keeper of Lost Things Doomsday Southern DiscomfortLost Girls of Paris Widow NashBecomingBridge of ClayOlive, AgainEvie Drake Starts OverThe Dutch House A Single ThreadIncomplete RevengeRadium GirlsLager Queen of MinnesotaHidden Valley RoadA Woman of No ImportanceThe Testaments Brutal TellingBury Your DeadState of WonderLaw of SimilarsMarch Handmaid’s TaleShine, Shine, Shine Making ToastMan Against InsanityNon Violent CommunicationWhite QueenThe FriendNiagara Falls All Over Again Flight Behavior

To the best of my recollection, this list makes up the first six months of pandemic reading. My favs are linked; non-fiction is bolded. (Some titles from the Maisie Dobbs and Louise Penny series are included, but I didn’t link those–even though they are well-loved–because they are like Old Friends and I’m biased in their favor.) I’ve read almost half again as many titles since the end of summer, but more on those another day.

Great Pause #8

It’s been a while, has it not?

And in the midst of a global pandemic where life as we know it has slowed to a crawl, I find it rather odd that I’ve not blogged more.

There’s definitely an emotional health aspect to this whole experience–one, I think, that is too often overlooked in our focus on face masks and social distance and hand-washing and Lysol wipes.

So I’ve sometimes had to do battle with my own demons: loneliness, isolation, fear. That unfocused feeling of moving from one thing to another to yet another without a real sense of purpose.

I’ve always lived by to-do lists. I’m a planner. I keep my ducks in a row. Every day has its own agenda and each task builds on the next.

But now?

I do some hand-stitching. Make a few masks. Bake a rhubarb crisp. (Or two!) Listen to NPR while I embroider. Dust a bit. (Well, maybe not so much …) Hang laundry on the line. Take a walk.

This little beauty from Taos Pueblo sits
on my writing desk

Don’t get me wrong. This “discomfort’ is one that only the privileged among us have leisure for. And my gratitude knows no bounds. I have a steady income. A house to call my own. Health! Friends who care for me.

Thanks to my husband the gardener our backyard is flush with zinnias and cosmos and gladiolas and butterfly bush and coneflower. The other day I watched a hummingbird flit from zinnia to butterfly bush and back again.

Her path wasn’t linear. Her flight seemed erratic. She hovered by each flower for only a second or two before zig-zagging off.

Kind of like me for the past two hundred and some odd days.

But no one on God’s green Earth would ever think less of that incredible little creature for her flight. Would never criticize her for lacking direction or being unfocused.

So I’m extending to myself the same grace. I’ll make like a hummingbird and flit through my days, moving from laptop to the kitchen sink to sewing machine and on out into the garden–without judgement. Compelled by whatever Inner Knowing pulls me forward and keeps me airborne.

What I read

My Nancy Pearl action figure on my writing desk.

This little lady right here, Nancy Pearl, my sister-from-another-mister–at least when it comes to all things fiction– recommended The Widow Nash … and all her other NPR listeners, truth be told. Like any of the other books I’ve read at her prompting, the story did not disappoint. (I’ve left a list of other titles she’s reviewed and I’ve read below.)

The Widow Nash settles in Livingston, Montana at the turn of the century. She lives for a time at the Elite Hotel where she mourns her husband, Edgar Nash, a man who fought in the Cuban war, but died of a lingering illness. Widow Nash becomes part of a cast of small-town characters who are either seeking their fortunes or running from their past–or both.

Widow Nash is indeed running, but her fortune has been lost. (Or has it?)

In reality, she is Leda Cordelia Dulcinea Remfrey. Dulcy. Her father, the wealthy mine-owner and inventor Walton Remfrey has just committed suicide in Seattle. And like a snake in the grass, Dulcy’s former fiance Victor insinuates himself into her life again. Despite his protestations to the contrary, Victor is just as violent as he was when she broke off their engagement after he raped her. Dulcy had cared for and chaperoned Walton since she was fifteen, following him all over the world from the mines he owned to the spas and clinics where he sought treatment for syphilis, and she is tired. Tired of a life which is limited by the demands of the men in her life and the repressive upper class.

So on the way to New York from Seattle, she fakes her death and eventually settles in Livingston. Here she meets hotel owner Eugenia Knox who runs the Elite with whatever panache she can muster in such a hardscrabble western town. Another widow, Margaret Mallow becomes Dulcy’s fast friend. The alcoholic police chief Gerry Fenoways whose sadistic streak is well-known. Samuel Peake, a newspaperman. And Lewis Braudel, the journalist who has his suspicions about her story, in part because Dulcy stole her fictitious husband’s back story from a novel Braudel had written.

Dulcy suspects that Victor’s thugs are never far behind, despite the fact that her family declares her dead after only a year. And her fears are well-founded. Will Dulcy be discovered? Will Victor drag her back to a life she no longer wants? There’s also that matter of her father’s lost fortune from the sale of a diamond mine–will his journals offer her any clues to its whereabouts?

The novel is washed in sepia tones–a touch dark, sometimes grim–but one that is totally compelling.

[Watch Nancy Pearl’s interview with author Jamie Harrison here–I think you will fall in love with her articulate, but unassuming and relatable, perspective.]

What I lived

If there is any fantasy that turns itself over and over in my head–especially during tough times–it is this one: I leave everything behind and reinvent myself some place far away. A simple apartment. Quiet. Solitude. No emotional entanglement (because no relationships, of course). I have thrown off the whatever I think is holding me down at the moment.

Of course, it’s only a pipe dream. Some fantastic plan I’ve concocted to step out of situations in which I feel trapped. Years ago what held me in place was my children; these days it’s my grandchildren. Because I could never leave those dear little hearts.

Bag End

During this Great Pause that fantasy has returned in full force. I’ve become obsessed with the Rubber Tramp movement, folks who leave “sticks and bricks” to live full time in their car, van, or RV. Entire YouTube channels are devoted to their adventures, but my favorites are Bob Wells’ CheapRVliving and Carolyn Higgins’ Carolyn’s RV Life. The vloggers are daring. Independent. Inventive. Free. Their videos are anthologies of how-to, travelogue, and personal philosophy. I can’t get enough of them–especially Carolyn, who also talks about the challenges women face on the road. For the past week I’ve been backtracking through her playlist in order to watch (almost) every one of her nearly five-hundred vlogs.

I see myself pulling out of the driveway, Bag End bobbing behind me, this Great Pause and social distancing and COVID-19 worries left behind in the dust. On the road I’ve got the whole world ahead and my tiny house behind. I boondock, maybe staying put for a week or two in one place before moving on. No shut-down for me …

At least in my fantasies.

Other Nancy Pearl recommendations reviewed on This is my symphony:
Etta and Otto and Russell and James 
Miss Hargreaves 
August Snow
The Half Brother

Great Pause #6

This week I accompanied my elderly mother to the hospital for an outpatient procedure. I was, to be honest, more than a little apprehensive. Covid, I was sure, lurked in every crack and crevice, covered every surface. And while I was able put those fears aside, the experience was eerie. Arrivals to outpatient services are funneled down a corridor at six-feet intervals, stopping at a Plexiglas wall behind which sit two gatekeepers. We were given surgical masks to replace the fabric ones we wore, and I had to wait outside while a nurse determined whether or not I was permitted to keep Mom company during the procedure. The waiting room was nearly empty, chairs turned backwards at intervals to encourage social distancing. And in the busy outpatient radiology department, she was the only patient for the entire three hours we were there. Not exactly the normal state of affairs for this busy urban hospital.

My project at home has been stripping wallpaper from the room that was once my husband’s office, now slated to become my sewing room. I. hate. removing. wallpaper. But I took my time, only one wall a day to preserve my arthritic hands, and now it’s just waiting for new (self-adhesive! removable!) wallpaper to go up. It only took a pandemic and a shut down to get it done.

To keep myself on an even keel, I stitch (you can read about my adventures here) and I’ve returned to coloring some evenings while I listen to podcasts. I’ve been able to “attend” a few online meditation events offered by a perceptive and gentle energy worker, Susan Duesbery. She has several practices available on her website, and I can’t say enough about her practice. I continue to read, of course, but have had to adapt my choices to fit my current head space. I’ve tried any number of titles in the past two weeks, only to put them aside after only a chapter or two. It seems only comfort reading will do. So I’ve read two Louise Penny titles and have already decided my next book will be another in the Maisie Dobbs series. Let’s call this the macaroni and cheese of reading–warm, “I want seconds” comfort-food.

Friend Mary and I enjoy ninety minute happy hour phone calls a couple times a week–and it’s like I’m fifteen all over again and lying on the floor in my bedroom, twisting the cord around my fingers while solving All Life’s Problems. We only talk about what’s important and life-changing, of course: coloring books and re-organizing the basement and what’s for dinner and camping trips and virus fears and elderly mothers and garden weeds and summertime and eating too many cookies and face masks and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Mentioned and books …

And just like that, it’s all good.