Getting A Grip

I’m getting a lot of mail from companies like Viking, oozing with drool-worthy trips, most of which I can’t afford, and which also irritate me as their discounts are tailored to couples. Penalized for being a single person, like you’re not worthy of a deal. Last year I had this incredible once-in-a-lifetime Alaska adventure planned, a cruise and land extravaganza. Covid took care of that. One of the ancillary disappointments from that loss was that my over-priced soup to nuts travel insurance which covered everything, didn’t. Everything except a pandemic. So even though I canceled early, after having paid the full price which is demanded by the cruise line, I didn’t receive a full refund. They’ve given me a credit toward my next cruise which needs to be used by the end of this year. Can anyone imagine deliberately booking a trip on what’s been demonstrated to be a floating petri dish? The travel agent who helped me plan this Alaska thing wrote me the other day to remind me to plan my next trip. I’d already written the cruise line about getting a refund since I’m not likely to get on a cruise ship this year or perhaps never. They’ve refused to listen to my reasonable arguments and won’t refund my money. The agent isn’t helping either. Maybe if I was wealthy I wouldn’t be so annoyed. Or maybe I’d be more annoyed. Whatever. That ship has sailed, both literally and figuratively.

And then there’s unfortunate bucket list business. I’m one of those lucky people who bought my National Parks Pass years ago when it only cost $10.00. I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth. Out of these 62 parks listed on the back, I’ve been to 21. That number doesn’t include many of the National Monuments which aren’t categorized as parks. I doubt that I’ll have the time nor the means to see all of them. But I’d love to see a few more before I’m unable to travel for health reasons, or any other reasons for that matter.

I admit it. I’m getting antsy. I wanna blow this pop stand. For you youngsters for which that phrase is unfamiliar, that means I want to get out of this space. I’ll be seventy in May. I have no idea how long I’m going to be alive and able to go anywhere. I’ve been following all the recommendations for dealing with Covid. I’ve had both my vaccinations. Some of my friends are ready to break loose and do whatever they choose, while I fall on the more cautious side of what’s safe. There are so many daily changes in the scientific recommendations. But I’m just a regular person who isn’t ready to hang up my traveling shoes just yet. Some nights, I’m studying road trips and other nights it’s tours by train. Bumping up against those urges is knowing that I’m starting to think about getting another pet. I’d rather do that after going somewhere so I can focus on the animal, whoever that may or may not be. I’m in that phase of life when all this stuff is connected. Back in the day, Michael and I loaded up whatever ridiculous vehicle we had, plus both dogs and just took off. Over time, things changed. Lots of my peers pick travel over animals or vice versa. I wish I was more impulsive but I’m not. So I’ve been spinning around in those irritating circuitous grooves that afflict most people at some point. I really don’t like those cycles which are a big waste of time. Time to be getting a grip. I hate when I sound like a spoiled punk to myself. There are people who never get out of their hometowns. I’ve had a decent share of adventures. Having more would help compensate somewhat for Michael’s absence. But I’m reminding myself to appreciate the moments I have instead of worrying about the things ones which may or may not come.

My garden is showing signs of life. Getting out to dig in the dirt is always therapeutic for me. Last night I remembered everything I put away last fall in the hope that I could conjure them back this year. I’ve got the seeds I harvested. And beautiful canna rhizomes along with dahlias. So hopefully there’s new life to coax out of my containers.

My plant gluttony remains. I’m combing through the catalogs and have orders ready to go. I’ll be nice and tired really soon.

I’m also looking around at my very eclectic and decidedly unstylish house. I remember once almost 25 years ago, my daughter brought a new school friend over here for the first time. She looked around in wonder and said, “you have so many things that are out in the open.” She said her home was spare with nothing interesting on display. She wandered around, touching books, looking at the different art and collectibles on the walls and the tables. There were also the many racks Michael had built to showcase his music collection, his hot sauce collection, his spices collection. We both made things. They’re strewn around the house too. My grandfather built a shadow box which hangs in my dining room covered with little knick-knacks which came from my grandmother and my mom. I decided to have a fresh look at all that’s accumulated in this place, art and photos and memories of trips that happened long ago but are still vibrant in my mind.

A tapestry Michael brought home from Panama.
A tile from Mexico
A Manet print with the guy on my right who looks like my dad with paper cranes made for Michael by his students.

I walk through these rooms and it’s like walking through my life. All the ideas I’ve had for decorating with the shells and rocks I’ve collected from shorelines of lakes and oceans. I remember where I was when I gathered them and often wonder what made the ones I chose any more special to me than ones that lay right beside them.

Gulf of Mexico shells
Sanibel Island shells
Photo of Sanibel with shells from the beach
Rocks from Lake Michigan – shells from the Gulf of Mexico.

My grandfather’s shadowbox is in my dining room. My grandmother’s pink poodles are there along with her swan-shaped pillbox among other small mementos. The most peculiar item on it is my daughter’s childhood parakeet’s egg still stuck in the hysterectomy organs, floating in formaldehyde. A reminder that we were crazy enough to pay $200 to save the life of a bird who was quite old. Michael’s idiomatic art piece, “Written in Stone,” sits on the cabinet in which I keep my early American pottery collection. Those shelves are also filled with family photos and handprints of my kids when they were little. The first statue I ever received from my first serious boyfriend in 1969 is there, along with a porcelain collie Michael gave me for a birthday years ago. And on top of that unit is the dancing lovers figurine Michael gave me for an anniversary gift.

Strewn around the rooms are souvenir art prints from exhibitions attended and mounted street scenes from the cities we loved like New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah. My mom’s crewel work is on a wall along with a display I made from all the stray buttons she’d saved over the years. There are tapestries from London and China which were gifted to us. Artworks of renowned artists mixed with those we picked up in our travels to local studios.

Looking around at the riches acquired over a lifetime is an excellent practice for an attitude readjustment. I’m going to be completing my 43rd year in my house this September. In this country, the average person can expect to move almost twelve times in their lives. I’ve only lived at length in three places, two as a child, and then here, in this last city, where I went to college and built my adult world. This is the base from which I’ve done my traveling. It is filled with the echoes of far away places as well as the signs of a deeply rooted home life. Both aspects of what I’ve done, going and staying, are well-represented here. But all I’ve been thinking about in the midst of these uncertain and turbulent times is going. Somewhere. Anywhere. I think there’s a tendency during a forced confinement to stop looking at what’s in your face. How often do you take stock of what you have when there are so many bright, shiny temptations of where you’ve yet to go, of what you’ve yet to acquire? For most people right now, that seems to be what’s most frustrating, that inability to go and explore more, get more. And more. I don’t like that impulse in myself. I feel spoiled and ungrateful. And I know better. So the wandering through this place, photographing what I already have, and in a way, where I’ve already been, is helping me get that grip on what’s really important back. Kind of like splashing cold water in your face to wake yourself up. I’m going to try staying aware and refocusing on the present. I love my space and what’s in it. I have more than enough great things, both material and spiritual. What happens beyond now will be a bonus. I’ve led the good life. Maybe not as exotic as some people’s, but good enough for me. Whatever comes next that’s an adventure is icing on my cake. I’m making that my new mantra.

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