Thursday, November 15, 2018

Channeling Norman Thayer

In the 1990's, when I lived in Arizona, I used to skydive. Yes, it's true: for about two years every other week or so I'd go to a drop zone, spend too much money, and throw myself out of an airplane at an altitude of 13,000 feet. It was lots of fun.

One time, I was practicing back-flips in the air. I exited the plane and was falling through the sky. Freestyle skydiving was the New Thing, and I was practicing something called a stag pose (one foot down, one foot back, arms out in what I think was supposed to look like deer antlers). Then it was time for a back-flip. "Okay!" I said to myself. "I'm going to do a back-flip." I continued to fall through the air in a box stance. "Back-flip!" I had just practiced them on the ground twenty minutes ago. "No. Really; I'm going to do a back-flip now." And then the most curious thing happened.

A strong mental image appeared before my eyes, momentarily blocking out the Tucson mountains and the sun and the moon and the wispy clouds. In my mind's eye, I saw a string trailing along the ground--it disappeared into a dark hole.  I continued to fall a mile a minute through the sky.  Okay, I thought, I'm going to file this away for later and go back to stag poses.

On the ground, of course, I knew that jerking my knees to my chest in free-fall would cause a back-flip.  The next time around, I managed to one.  Memory and thinking were different while skydiving; I used to call time spent in free-fall "jumping into my sky-mind."  I think my sky-mind was using the image to say, "Look, I don't know what this phrase your saying means, so I'm going to use the symbol of strings into darkness to tell you."  Sometimes I could remember dreams of skydiving more clearly than actually skydiving.

Fast forward to 2018.  We were going to beach for the weekend. I volunteered to drive the first fairly straight part, from Eugene to Corvallis, because the winding coastal mountain roads bothers Mark's stomach less if he drives them. We had a short discussion about the merits of taking I-5 verses Highway 99W.

I got behind the wheel of our new car and adjusted the mirrors. It's different from the smaller car I've been driving for the last fifteen years. The newer car doesn't have a parking break lever: it's got a toggle that you have to press down to release the break or pull up to set--if I pretend the toggle switch is a break lever I can keep the break settings straight. It doesn't have an analogue speedometer dial: instead, it's got a digital readout. The clock is in the upper right-hand corner of a LCD screen instead of centered over an analog radio-CD player combo. The new car's body is just a little wider and longer than the old car, and the hood sits in a valley between two large headlight bulges--so there's a wider blind spot along the front sides of the car than I'm used to.

None of this is bad, only different--like wearing boots after wearing flip-flops. But it meant I'm thinking about how to drive the car instead of automatically driving it, sort of like thinking of e a c h  l e t t e r   i n   t h i s   s e n t e n c e   as I type it instead of wiggling my fingers and having whole words and phrases magically appear.

I signal, pull out, drive about a half block to a stop sign, and realize that A) I know I want to drive to Corvallis, but that B) I can't remember which way to turn to begin a trip I've made twelve times a year for the last twenty years. Some crossing pedestrians buy me time, and I play the journey backwards in my head, starting at Corvallis and heading past the airport toward Eugene. I can see a stretch of Highway 99W in my mind's eye, but I can't stitch the path from where I'm currently at a stop sign to the place on the highway. I tried again, and I get farther, to the Expressway, but I was still having an "A to B, B to C, therefore A to C" disconnect.

"Um," I said. "I've forgotten how to get to Corvallis." I'm heard those words come out of my mouth and tryed not to freak out. "Which way do I turn?" Both ways seem equally wrong somehow. I'm hoped that going through the motions will jump-start the procedure.

"Are you impaired?" Mark asks. "Can you drive?"

"I'm fine," I said, although I felt like an Alzheimer's patent. "I just need to know which way to go."

"Turn left," he said, and I did. There was no resultant ah-ha moment as I drove along the street (in hindsight, we were facing east instead of west and I would have turned right then right again).

I played the travel tape in my head backward once more and the topology of the valley unfolded in my head like the full, four-part chorus of a song--but I needed to sing the opening verse, and I couldn't recall the first words.

I tried to recall harder, and the image of a dark hole opened up in my mind, with strings or highways disappearing into them.

I pulled the car to the side. "I still can't remember."

Mark and I traded spots, and as he took his usual route (I've never understood why he takes this particular way), I watched, and waited a few blocks for recognition. It's not exactly an ah-ha moment, more like a oh-right with a whole lot of "Holy crap, I'm going to become one of those Old People Who Have To Be Driven Everywhere Because They Get Lost And Had Their Driver's License Revoked." Before I'm 55.

Crap. Is this Golden Pond Norman Thayer Moment early-onset Alzheimer's? Is Mark going to have to watch over me so I don't wander? Should I send him away on a cool vacation now while I can still function on my own? Should I arrange a companion for him now so I can go into a Happy Memories Fake Village knowing he'll be with someone?  (My friend Ellen laughed and said "How like a Capricorn to order someone else's life from an old folk's home" when I shared this with her.)  Can I even afford a Happy Memories Fake Village from age 55 onward? Damn, how long did Terry Pratchett have to live once he got Alzheimer's? Damn, damn, damn.

Except... that string into a shadow image felt more like that sky-diving moment than like being lost. I knew where I was--but I was stuck trying to find the starting point in the procedure... sort of like getting stuck thinking too hard about the difference between the clutch, the brake, and the gas.

Maybe this is a Frankie from Grace and Frankie style stroke. Except that I can smile on both sides of my face and raise both arms. And I'm not a 80-something Lillian Tomlin.

Maybe it was state-dependent learning--a new environment (and starting east instead of west) interfered with the recall of a normally automatic behavior. Maybe thinking about driving instead of simply driving resulted in "choking" on automatic behavior. I'm going with this explanation, because the others rattle the hell out of me. When I correctly remembered when we hit the coastal highway in Philomath at 13th street, I felt a little better.

At a stop a couple of hours later, I thanked Mark for driving and he brushed it off with a "You've always had difficulties going places." (This is true; my Adventures in Geographical Impairment are a source of frequent mirth). "You're old, you had a brain-fart." And then he followed it up with a comparison between the look on my face and that of my Grandmother in one of her less lucid moments.  (Which made me feel oh-so-sexy....)

The next day, I drove us back home. Because I could. Because when you fall off a horse, you have to get back on.  And the next day after that, I'm drove the old car around Eugene and thought, cautiously, "Yeah. It was the car."

Friday, November 09, 2018

November Jack-O-Lantern Prophecy

November 1, I hung the tiny jack-o-lanterns from the tree out back.  I think I'd like to fill the tree with about three times as many pumpkins next year (although they would be tempting for the stupid squirrels and I'd have to practice just accepting that a few of the jack-o-lanturns would be mauled for seeds.  

But having a tree filled with glowing faces and illuminated with flickering candlelight would be worth it, I think.  I keep thinking that I'd like to have an outside Tarot reading table for Halloween night, but the logistics of getting folks into our yard are tricky.

Cicero was uncharacteristically cooperative with the camera, and I got a few good black-cats-and-pumpkin shots.  Mark was unimpressed because A) what's the big deal about Halloween and B) yet another cat photo on the Internet.  Oh well.   

Now it's been a week and The Child was wistfully wondering if he could take a baseball bat to the hanging jack-o-lanterns, one of which has had its face gnawed off by squirrels.  I told him no because A) it's post-Halloween and B) beating effigy heads is for the uncouth and ignorant.

Besides, I think there's a kind of prophesy at work -- the first jack-o-lantern to fall off the tree was the one with the jagged smile, and the one with the mauled hole for a face looked like a knight, and will frowny one be the last?  There must be a meaning in there.  


I'm guessing that if this were one hundred years ago, the last jack-o-lantern hanging would turn out to be my husband.  It sounds like researching crow counting rhymes and other folk oracles may be in order.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Paper Clip at Shadowspinners

Today I'm the guest blogger over at ShadowSpinners.  They published my "tale of mystery, inspiration, and not-so-ordinary objects."

Larison Creek Hike

Over the weekend we went to Larison Creek to hunt for mushrooms.  There weren't so many this time; either we were too late for them, or the weather had been too dry or too cold.  The creek bed is part of a large reservoir, and the slopes above the creek's banks are terraced by previous higher levels.

The most obvious mushrooms were the shelf mushrooms growing on the sides of trees.  Slightly less obvious, but ubiquitous once you started to look for them were some teeny-tiny ones growing out of moss-covered logs. 

At the parking lot there was a dead dear carcass.  Something about the empty eye sockets made it look oracular from its position between the worlds.  If we had been in a Grimm fairytale, we would have nailed the head to a gate and asked it questions--but it was old and gross and the rest of the family wouldn't entertain the thought of dead deer bits in the car.

The more coral-like ones remind me of Sheri S Tepper's novel, Raising the Stones. 

 These were growing about eight feet up on a tree.

Near our turn-around point, we came upon a kind of cascade of mushrooms.

This was my first mushroom hike with the new camera, and I'm still running into situations where the focal length and the zoom confuse the auto-focus of the images.  The flip-screen does make it easier to get at difficult angles without having to lie in mud or damp forest litter.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Halloween Gym Report

Gym report:  I've been getting back into a gym routine, which is nice.  I did the usual elliptical thing for about 20 minutes, followed by a sideways elliptical thing on a different machine (I've decided it feels a little like RollerBlading).  The machines report 250 calories burned.   Downstairs a typical routine is 12x(50+60+70lbs) on the lat pulldown, 3x12 Roman Chair curl-ups, 3x12x10lbs combination of 45degree inclined 10lb dumbbell presses and dumbell flies, interspersed with 8x10lbs dumbbell curls.  If I have enough time and my joints feel okay, I'll add 5lbs dumbbell side-and-front arm raises (usually about eight each).  End with 12x(20+30+30lb) triceps pull-downs.   I've been keeping the weights on the low end, and so far my left elbow has remained happy. 

Went the Monday before Halloween, skipped Halloween, the Friday after Halloween, and a catch-up session Saturday.  Went yesterday.  Even with all the candy of the last week, I think I've managed to stay pretty close to my current set point (although it would be nice to get down about four more pounds). 

Friday, November 02, 2018

Tarot Spread

I dealt out some Tarot cards for myself Halloween night.  As I shuffled, I was thinking of of people who have passed in the last year, specifically Ursula Le Guin (who I've met for 20 seconds), Kate Wilhelm (who used to host a critique workshop at her house), and Dianna Rodgers (a fellow writer and Wordo). I wasn't asking any particular question, and the card spread lends itself to a general statement more than a collection of proscribed action.  Here it is:

The bottom line is typically read past-present-future or situation, reaction, outcome.  The top is a kind of "you are here," the bottom card is symbolic of one's role or general feeling, and the crossing card an obstacle (or at best a distracting by-product).   

As I wrote earlier, this spread is saying, "work hard, focus on one thing, and stay grounded in order to manifest things from the realm of the imagination" reading.  ("But darlin', you knew that already, didn't ya.")   More specifically....

The Queen of Cups is the intuitive dreamer who is focused on an interior world or crystal visions.  The Lovers Reversed is about choosing; it also is associated with bringing opposites together to make a unified whole--but it's reversed so integrating things is blocked.  The King of Pentacles reversed is someone who manufactures and has built up a kingdom (of works) -- another blocked card; so fire isn't being expressed as earth here.  The Moon is energy of the Crystal Vision the Queen is seeing, and the challenge is to bring that inner vision to the physical realm where it can be expressed.  But, oh, no!  The Chariot, which symbolizing unifying conflicting drives through poise and will is reversed.

So... the watery vision needs some structure to crystallize.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

More Halloween

At the eleventh hour I finished carving pumpkins and got them put up and lit and everything.  Whew.  The Child didn't go trick-or-treating this year (well... maybe a little) so he stayed home to hand out candy and Mark and I went on a pumpkin walk through the neighborhood. 

I don't know if the weather or another event had drawn folks away, but the streets were much less crowded with folks than they have been in past years.  Maybe Mark and I missed the peak time.  In any case, the whole scene seemed more subdued than I remember from the past.  It's also possible that Halloween on a Wednesday had something to do with it and I'm recalling Friday and Weekend Holliday masses.

Later, I did a five-card Tarot spread for myself -- and got the usual "work hard, focus on one thing, and stay grounded in order to manifest things from the realm of the imagination" reading.  Cue Miss Cleo saying, "But darlin', you knew that already, didn't ya."

Monday, October 29, 2018


The last few days last week were not the best days.  I'm not going to dwell on them, but I should probably develop a protocol for self-care and mood improvement for when I recognize symptoms of melancholia lodging in my chest.  Points in my favor:  I did not exacerbate things by listening to Annie Lennox, Stephen Sondheim, or K. Flay.

Tuesday (10/23) night was an editing night:  I polished up some older manuscripts.  I'm beginning to think that three months in a drawer does wonders for improving my ability to spot stupid sentence constructions, missing words, and syntax errors.  And... uh, yeah... these stories had been submitted to a few markets already.  I console myself with the thought that they were the best I could make them at the time.

Wednesday (10/24) I went to my second--and last--Zumba class.  Well, OK, maybe I'll take an intro to Zumba class if they offer one.  I decided I was too busy trying to figure out what steps (and hand motions) I was supposed to be doing to get any aerobic benefit.   Also, I was getting frustrated and I figured I should go work on the elliptical instead.   (The tempo was just a little too fast, the sequence of moves was chopped up into two-measure motions and by the time I figured them out we were onto a different two-measure motion, I wasn't loving the Reggae-based Hip-hop-whatever music, and I was really wishing the instructor would call out the steps.  It's also possible the 5:45 PM class time was hitting a sugar low time.)  I guess I'll do "John-ba" at home to 80's music.

I also applied for insurance, which, while I'm grateful for the cover, is a real pain to sign up for.  There are about three websites one has to visit, and two of them feature a bunch of forms to navigate through.

Friday morning, I had raccoon eyes.  I promised myself that I'd get lots of sleep over the weekend... and promptly stayed up way too late playing a video game called "Rime" which started out as a light-hearted puzzle game where one scurries around fixing Greek-like ruins, but has gotten progressively darker, where one scales lizard like up sheer cliff walls while avoiding getting carried off by a giant raptor. 

Saturday The Family went to Eugene's first Coffin Race.  It was go-carts with a Halloween theme.  Many folks were in costume, and there were some very clever carts decorated as hospital beds, coffins, and obelisks. Then we went to a low-pressure farm site to buy pumpkins.

Sunday night was more Rime, and after swimming -- and nearly drowning -- through an underground maze, I bumped into a statue, which broke and released a wraith which sucked my essence out through my face.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Halloween Decorations

The neighbors up the street have hung this over a corner.  I'm probably dating myself because the first thing I though when I saw it was the U2 lyrics:  "they look for you, but your spirit is in the air -- baby you're nowhere."

Other neighbors have put up spiderwebs.

I guess we need to get pumpkins....

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saturday Gym

Grumpy / tired / sore today.  'Nuff said.

Went to the gym:  35 minutes on the elliptical with about 333 calories.  Downstairs 12x(50+60+70+70) lbs on the lat pull-down.  3x15 hanging curls on the Roman chair.  3x12x10lbs 45 declined press-ups.  A number of side-and-front-raises with 5lbs.  12x(20+30+30)lbs triceps pull-down.  Oh, and some assisted dips mostly for fun than anything else.

Lunar Album with Mars and Venus

Wednesday night's (10/18/2018) conjunction of the Moon and Mars.

Moon conjunct Mars, Sept 19,2018

Full moon near Mars, July 26, 2018

New moon near Venus, July 19, 2018

Dec 7, 2013 (shot through a telescope) 

Feb 20, 2015 (also shot through a telescope)

 Feb 26, 2009.  The moon is next to Venus.  

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Gym report:  Well... Mark was right, I do dance like I'm taking a Zumba class.   I'm not sure how well Zumba classes will work out.  The class was pretty much "just start dancing" and then the instructor did some uncalled, fairly complex cha-cha-grapevine-yoga steps -- I think if I hadn't already taken some dance classes I would have been pretty lost; as it was there were several times where I just tossed any notion of doing the hand and arm motions out the window and tried to not kick my left foot when we were supposed to be kicking our right feet.

On the plus side, it's learning something new, and there are a couple of steps that will improve my balance. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Gym Report

Went to the gym Monday.  Only got to about 260 calories on the elliptical.  12x60 + 2x12x70lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x12 Roman chair curls. Assorted free-weight stuff... um, inclined press 3x8x10lb er, kneeling triceps pull-thing 3x8x10lbs, side-and-front lifts 8x5lbs.  Triceps pull-downs 12x20lbs+2x12x30lbs. 

And it turns out Zumba classes are included in my gym fee... so maybe I'll go Wednesday night.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dancing Music

Last spring we go a new patio table. It's larger, which means we can have more folks eating outside with us, but it's rectangular, which means in the late afternoon when the evening sun swings west, one has to move to the far end of the table or get an extra dose of sunlight.

The other day I was curating a playlist and Mark commented that the transition from one song to the other was jarring.  I was a little confused because I usually compile songs together because I like them (they might have clever/snarky lyrics) and I think they'll be fun to dance to, too.  Okay, I also will add a song because I think it's funny.  In this case, I went from a song with a strong Rock-n-Roll feel to one with sterile Techno feel.

As we worked through the list, with me trying to figure out what Mark was getting at and trying to craft better transitions, it came out that 1) We Don't Know What Dance John is Dancing (for the record, it's usually a modified Cha-cha) but he's Really Into It, and 2) OMG, you would totally get into a Zumba Class--you should take a Zumba Class at the gym--because you really aren't getting enough cardio with your current routine; you could go and hang out with all your Zumba Woman Friends who would totally be into you taking a Zumba Class like the Belly Dancers were all your best friends when you were belly dancing.  And you could pal up with the instructor to make a play list and maybe even become a part-time Zumba Instructor yourself.