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Words

I try to pinpoint words that when strung together, like beads in a necklace, express something with texture and richness; I hope for the occasional sparkle of a well placed gem. I frequently fail miserably. But on a good day, as with a candid photo, I unexpectedly capture a heartbeat, and it feels as if I've successfully seized fog with my hands.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Plus Ça Change

Long ago in a land nearby I worked for a world famous surgeon. Sounds like an exaggeration, I know, and I guess somewhere in the world they haven’t heard of him. But those in that somewhere wouldn’t have access to healthcare. In most other places, he'd certainly be known.

Around here he was first known for a man he worked with, then for the team he assembled, and the hospital he put on the map. But long before that he was known for a balloon catheter he invented to restore blood flow in occluded vessels. Its creation changed the way physicians thought about and administered treatment. His impact has not diminished over the years. The number of inventions and patents has increased (I hear 70 now) as have companies and ventures launched by him (apparently 30 or more).

I worked at the back end of things collecting coin for the practice owned by him and his partners. It was heady stuff at first, didn’t want to mess up. Felt proud I’d been chosen and was always conscious that I represented a class outfit that managed every aspect of their business with excellence. Especially patient care, and stewardship of employees and hospital staff. They excelled in those categories.

I would have been more awed and nervous but for one thing, the guy with the name was mostly a regular Joe and sometimes a world-class bumble-head. He sort of mumbled when he talked, and sounded like he was eating when he wasn’t. His hair was thinning and usually in need of a trim. His shirt was barely tucked. He paired his dusty brown shoes with a worn black belt that cinched a slightly protruding belly. His polyester slacks rarely stayed put so the crotch and butt sagged and the pant legs dragged along the ground behind. If his car needed a wash then his muddy Toyota Land Cruiser begged for a scrub.

From a different generation and with positive intention he sometimes used terms of endearment with female office staff not considered appropriate for a work setting. Never mind the racy poster of a naughty nurse behind his office door. Because we were certain he wouldn't purposefully be disrespectful, he was more apt to get a look than a problem. Occasionally he'd be reminded about things deemed politically incorrect. World Famous Surgeon Sued for Sexual Harassment was not a news headline we wanted for him because of an absentminded exchange as he foraged for cashews in the snack drawer. We took his care and feeding seriously which was no more than he did ours.

I hadn't long worked for him when one morning I drove into the back parking lot slightly after he did. He was exiting his car and I saw him pause to talk to the gardener who cared for the flowers in the concrete planters and blew leaves from the parking lot. 

“Good morning,” I said and passed them to enter the building. I overheard their conversation about the next group of annuals the gardener planned for spring. The boss nodded and collaborated the same way he would with any colleague and friend as they joked and chatted.

It was after that I began to formulate my description of him. When asked by dozens of individuals throughout my stint and for years after what he was like, I answered, “He has a way about him—you can’t do what he does and he can’t do what you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gardener or a surgeon. You both do something special and everyone's the better for it. That’s who he is.”

He left the organization years before I did. He practiced down the road, became dean of a university biomedical engineering school, continued inventing, and tended to a vineyard venture that bears his name. One he’d started slightly before I met him. His house was on the property, too, as was a small man-made pond he kept stocked with fish for catch and release. I’d picnicked on the dock of that pond and fished there with my young son, back in the day.

A couple of days ago I visited the now large winery that stands on that property remembering when its one bookkeeper shared our office. The pond now has a fountain in the center and is the entry point for a vast operation with event venues and tasting rooms and vines as far as eyes can wander till the Santa Cruz Mountains block further view. The area where we walked to the pond is now paved parking for winery visitors.

I tasted a few of the many wines. I wandered through time to the first three he shared with us. Chardonnay. Gewürztraminer. Champagne (when the French allowed us to call it that). The pine gift box with two bottles of wine he would present to each of us at Christmas. I remembered the day I watched him with our building groundskeeper.


A young woman took my credit card when I paid for the tasting flight. I said as I signed off, “A long time ago, before all of this was here, I worked for him.”

“Really? What was he like, back then,” she asked.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. You know how I love that French stuff (except l’escargot because there’s no language that makes snails okay) but in English I love this phrase even more. Frequently we say it meaning we wish they really would. This time a dear place inside me awakened to find, most pleasantly, the more things change the more they stay the same.

I described Tom as I always had. “You don’t do his job, and he can’t do yours. But together you do something special.”

She looked at me intently, cocked her head slightly and squinted. “That’s him. That's exactly who I work for.”

And we're both the better for it. 


Friday, January 20, 2012

I Admit It

Okay. You're right. I admit it. I got some kinda girl crush goin' on here. 

Clever, imaginative, beautiful, lady-like, strong, courageous. With  history, too. If you haven't visited this blog, you're missing something special. Get there. Now. Especially for today's post. 






Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Random Re-Post

I read this blog piece this morning. It resonated for me because it's significant for its thinking about art and I believe has broader application.

I share it with you hoping the article will jog your memory. Has a previous experience provided you with a perfect, undiscovered answer just waiting to be applied to a current dilemma? I'm pretty certain my own answer is, Yes!

Enjoy! And if you do, pop by the artist's website. I'm sure she'd love to meet you. Or visit her Facebook fan page. 


Joyce Wycoff                     



Friday, January 13, 2012

Sediment

City trucks were supposed to come at 7:30ish, and I’d moved the cars the way they asked so they could do their work. But they never arrived. Odd start to the day.   

I made a field trip to my favorite department store to stroll around and window shop. But something felt off. A gnawing. Discomfort. Tightness. Edginess. Sadness. Disconnectedness. I thought maybe a walk and then a visit to shopping Mecca might help. Sometimes I feel this way when I’m alone too much. And I had been.

Wonderful black hobo sack with big bright polka dots for spring. Just the right amount of whimsy. And style. I touched it. Probably wouldn’t buy it but wanted to try it out. See if it looked as good on my shoulder. But I couldn’t play with it because it was wired together with other bags and attached to the display rack.

I’ve seen antitheft devices in many stores but never this one. This store was civilized without being uppity. Fun place to feel the toys. Big girl playground. Hadn't thought about shoplifters wrecking the vibe. It just always felt good there.

Until it didn’t.

Wondered if it really isn't civilized. Any more. Or it is and that’s how civilization rolls. Some one or more violated the store. Which really means they violated me and those who pay with dollars, and dignity. It flowed downhill. Eventually the store violated us, too. I don’t steal but they won’t ever know. That’s patternicity*. Someone thinks they can't afford to find out. Don't trust us now. 

Sales lady told me a woman had come in with her little dog on a leash one day before. And the dog pooped on the carpet. Not too good but worse the customer walked away. She didn’t ask for help, or a tissue, or a bag to put it in. She moseyed on to the make-up aisle. Sales lady said now maybe pets can't come in the store. Big wigs talking about new policy.

Polka dot bag hung on the rack. I didn’t want to hold it any more.               

People disrespecting each other and the spaces in which they move. Then little pieces of life disappear.

As I walked to my car I noticed a missed call on my cell phone. I saw a buddy’s number and called her back. She said her dad was moved to hospice and he might be gone in a couple of days. He was. But it only took an hour.

Kazmo
The dog across the way, the biggest, fluffiest, whitest gift of hairy affection that ever walked up and down our street will likely be turning in his ambassador's badge, and maybe his life. He’s 14 and struggling. So are his owners.

And the black bag with the cream colored polka dots, daring me to dream of spring around the corner, was not enough to lighten the load of knowing people were losing bits of life. People that I love.

I went to the computer to search for flights to Cincinnati to be with my grieving friend when I saw a Facebook post by a much younger cousin. She’s a photographer. And a daughter, wife, mother, sister and no doubt friend to many. She started a project for her New Year. Project 52: Look What I Can Do. 

Each week she’s adding one photo to Facebook that represents something she’s doing, thinking, being. This time she posted a beautiful photo of her nona, to represent Winning and wrote about her grandmother’s “ferocious” love of family. And life.

Nicole Haldeman Photography**
With her photo I saw the flying disparate fragments of my day, the swirling, whirling, worrisome, unsettling particles as they began to quiet. So much accumulated sediment. As in good wine or syrupy and delicious espresso.

It’s life. Not the part we like but life still. 

So I’m calling it good.

I thought again about the big splotches of delight and liveliness I'd seen on the beautiful satchel, and remembered sometimes a field of stuff I don’t enjoy much is bound to that which I do. But the dots and the background in combination, well, -- I really do like that handbag.

I might have to go look at it again. With my refocused eyes.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sweet Surprise

I leaned into the cart to pull out my items. To set them on the moving belt. At the counter. In the grocery store.  

Ahead of me uniformed men finished their transaction. Kinda like firemen. I mentally logged them in. Without paying much attention. They were laughing. Talking. With the cashier. 

Waiting my turn. Lost in thought. Maybe I was staring. The Star. A tabloid butt wearing a bikini.

The last man ahead, he turned and caught my eye.

“Would you do me a favor, please?” He stretched my way.

“Pardon me?”

“Please. Take this. And buy yourself some flowers.”

He handed me a coupon. $10 off your next shopping order

Ah. They were firefighters stocking their pantry.

“Buy yourself some pretty flowers. From me.”

Young and handsome. Big grin, too. 

I’m too old to flirt with. Too young to help across a street. 
But I am just right for flowers. 

For no reason at all.

Thank you, CalFire man.

Not as much for the flowers as for protecting my beautiful state. Eureka.

Though the flowers? The perfect touch. My, oh my, sweet surprise. Heavenly thing to do.

Your mama. She musta been a lady. She raised a guy like you.

I don’t know your name, Firefightin' Man, or your mama’s either. If I did, I'd send a proper thank you. The lady thing to do. 

Instead, this is my best.

Thank you for makin' my day. 



Monday, January 9, 2012

Everything In Place

It’s so quiet I can't think. The silence is distracting. This Monday morning.

Friday was a storm of busy. Getting ready for Sweetie’s son and fiancée. Coming for the weekend. Planned arrival mid-Saturday afternoon. Visit, dinner, overnight stay, breakfast. Gone by noon on Sunday for other scheduled plans.

And so they came. A pleasure to have them here. But the recess in me that has to fight to be with people, relax in their presence, drop my guard and know I’m safe, keep from bracing because I’m a tad bit scared -- well, I was worn out from trying to un-kink and stretch into being easy even while delighted to have them. Tickled by their affection and regard for each other. Especially thrilled my sweetie had a son and almost daughter-in-law so near. 

After they'd left and we’d swept up, we lay on the bed and listened to the calm. Everything back in place we did our debrief and decided it had been lovely. They shook up our air and added some fun. Then it was nice to be quiet again. To feel life settling back into normal rhythm.

For three hours.

Until with the doorbell came my son. Attached to his duffel bag and backpack, ready to spend his last night at our place before flying from San Francisco to a work week in Chicago. And because his weekend had been busy his laundry came too. The hum of the washer that had barely stopped its rotation with sheets stripped from the guest bed began again.                                          

Energy shifted in the house once more. Peaks and valleys, volts and amps, the flow of people and their electric busyness. Hard to tell our house from a charging station. Plug in, wind down, spin up. Whatever it is you need. 

Things that had been at rest came out to play, to straighten and again to set away. Reminding me of something my hairdresser says. “Women grow hair to cut it, and cut it to grow it again. Always wanting what they just had or maybe will have next time.”  

I’d wanted busy. Only to revel in stillness for not quite long enough before engaged again. I wondered when peace might return so I could put everything in place.

To end a lively weekend we gathered my folks for pizza and cruised to a local spot that had just cleared out after the day’s final football game. Perfectly quiet. Almost. Maybe too quiet? Awkwardly quiet? As though we should all whisper. 

Until fans who viewed from home came in a mammoth wave filling booths and tables. A whole lotta noise. And in its midst we attempted to trade family news. 

I mentioned Sweetie and Boy were leaving for the week. Mom asked if a week alone would be bad or good. I took no time to answer.

“Goo-ood.”

By 7:45 last evening Boy was packed, his laundry drying. Sweetie’s suitcase was zipped, Kindle and iPod charged. I was lying in bed. No noise save the snoring cat and I was mere hours from everything in place. Yet again.

A single LED snowflake shone on my dashboard this morning to warn of icy roads as I took Sweetie to the airport at 6:00. A quick stop for Starbucks. A drop at Delta's door and I returned home in stillness surrounded by dark.

I was already back as Boy rose and readied for his trip. 

The car that came to fetch him arrived at 8AM. Boy was checking email, checked into his world when his driver pulled away.

Laundry began to churn. Maybe I did, too, as I set about my morning chores.

Some tasks completed today will need not be done again this week for they will not be undone by man or boy, or cat, or me. Corners of my house will not be disturbed. Will remain without footprints. Pillows will stay plumped.

I remember my mother asking if the week alone would be bad or good. Now I’m not quite so certain.    

I shoveled ashes out of the fireplace. Remnants of having been surrounded by the warmth of loved ones. All that's left is to fold the last of the laughter when ready from the dryer. And put it all away.

Is it a good thing or bad thing, this week alone? Everything in place? Is everything in place when everything's in place?

I think I am a cat.

Do you know what a door is?  Something that stands between a cat and where he longs to be.