Saturday, June 29, 2019

High desert highs

When you spend your whole life wishing
Wanting, and wondering why
It's a long enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly?

I’m back.

Six nights on the road, almost a thousand miles on the odometer, a lot of time in the sun, and a little in the rain too.

Southern Utah is amazing. America is a beautiful country. And huge. And a lot of is remote, but well worth the time and travel.

We left on a Wednesday. I had less than my usual pre-trip anxiety, maybe because it was just a month since our last trip, and also because our next trip is a couple of months away.

Our flight to Las Vegas was long, more than four hours. We arrived to blistering heat, took a tram to collect our luggage, then a bus to the car rental center. From there we embarked on a 260 mile drive to Bryce Canyon National Park, with stops for food (Cracker Barrel because I had a gift card) and supplies (sports drinks, trail mix, pretzels, M&Ms) at Target in St. George Utah.

As we drove, I had the feeling I was going further and further away, but from what? The house? The cats? Routine? Familiarity?

All of the above, maybe.

We checked into our room at Bryce Canyon Lodge after dark and on Mountain Time. With the two-extra-hour time difference, it was time for bed.

I always feel better with the first night under my belt/body/bones.

Our first stop in the morning was breakfast. Neil had an omelet and hash browns and toast. I ate a half piece of his toast and his orange slice garnish. Next stop was the visitor center by shuttle, where we watched the park film and bought the all-important park mug made by Deneen Pottery. From there we rode the shuttle to the last stop, Bryce Point, and back to Sunrise Point, where we did the Queens Garden hike, part of a three-prong loop. The connecting prong, the Navajo Loop, was closed, so it was an in-and-out (or down-and-up) hike. I ate half a frosted Starbucks cookie at the bottom, which I regretted hiking out.

It was hot and mostly sunny, so we got to model our new sun hats.

We hiked over to the General Store so Neil could get a cold Dr. Pepper and I could sit a spell. Then we had an early pizza dinner because the pizza place (highly recommended by our shuttle driver) closed at 6 pm. After pizza, we headed for the Lodge for some Internet connectivity (Neil) and the gift shop (me). A ranger talk about the night sky was a nice end to the day.

Next morning we had a Lodge breakfast, eggs for Neil, yogurt parfait with granola and berries for me. Our plan was to explore the further reaches of the park, Rainbow Point and Yovimpa Point, about a 15-mile drive beyond the last shuttle stop. We hiked the Bristlecone Loop, an easy trail, and then made our gradual way back by car, with stops at some of the scenic outlooks over the Bryce Amphitheater.

Next in our plan was an easy, we thought, walk along the Rim Trail. Brilliant Neil suggested that we walk from Sunset Point to Bryce Point, about 2.2 miles, and catch the shuttle back. It made sense because the shuttle runs in a loop and from Bryce Point it's just two stops back to Sunset. However, we failed to account for the elevation gain, almost 300 feet, which is less than the Queens Garden, but there's a lot of up and down along the way, so you climb a lot more than 300 feet. The views were spectacular and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But in reverse. Although down is harder on your knees than up, so Neil might not agree.

We'd planned to do another hike, but the Rim Trail took a lot more time and stuffing out of us than predicted. So we rested a bit, then had a dinner of leftover pizza and a fresh chef salad. We finished up the day with some time at the Lodge and a ranger talk about wildlife.

Funniest comment of the trip. A ranger said, I'm a ranger, not google.

We checked out in the morning and opted for breakfast at Bryce Pines Restaurant. Neil had pancakes. I had pie. Boysenberry. A la mode. Breakfast of champions and hikers.

Fully fueled with fat and sugar, we did one last Bryce hike, to Mossy Cave, which is in a separate section of the park and conveniently en route to Capitol Reef National Park, our destination.

One hundred and twelve miles of beautiful scenery and winding country roads later, we rolled in to the Capitol Reed Resort, right on the outskirts of the park. We checked in, then drove to the visitor center for another park movie and another mug.

Most of the action in Capital Reef is along the top third of the 60 mile long, six mile wide park, on Route 24 between Torrey and Caineville.

On our first afternoon we took the "Scenic Drive” to the end of a two-mile dirt road and hiked a couple of miles further into Capitol Gorge. We tried to get to the end of the trail, but every time we thought it was in sight, there was more trail around the bend. So we set a goal, then turned and hiked back out.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant, recommended by the barista in the coffee shop in Torrey. Yes, Torrey has a coffee shop, quite a nice one, which we made good use of, including breakfast the next morning.

After breakfast we went back to the park for the day. We hiked to Hickman Bridge, a 133-foot natural bridge, and got back to the car just as it started to rain. We sheltered at the Visitor Center until the rain stopped, then hiked along the Fremont River, described as an "easy stroll along river, then steep climb to panoramas." We climbed part of the way up and it wasn't so much steep as treacherous, a narrow dirt trail with a steep drop-off. So we decided that discretion was the better part of sanity and headed to the petroglyph panel for the daily Fremont Culture ranger talk.

We wound up the day with another dirt road to two hikes, the Goosenecks (breathtaking views of water carved canyon switchbacks) and Sunset Point (dramatic panorama of the Waterpocket Fold and Chimney Rocks). Drunk on the beauty, plus a lot of Gatorade, dried fuits, and nuts, we said goodbye to Capitol Reef, which may be the most gorgeous national park you've never heard of.

I carried beads for the first time in a while.

We had dinner in Torrey (lasagne for Neil, veggie burger for me) FaceTimed with Ryland (Fathers Day), and caught the first episode of Season 6 of Endeavor, with one day of vacation to go. In the morning we skipped breakfast in favor of lunch at Bryce Pines, since we passed it on the way to our next stop, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, in Kanab. And yes, I had pie again. Blueberry banana cream this time.

(I also may have sweet talked Neil into a small detour to the Lodge so I could buy a pendant at the gift shop to match the earrings I'd bought at the gift shop.)

We drove the rest of the 176 miles to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, which Neil and I had visited many years before.

And then we backtracked just a little, so that we could take Route 9 through Zion National Park on our way to our hotel in St. George.

This is my favorite map of the entire trip. It has everything.

I want to marry this map.
We just had time for a stop at the gift shop for a mug and a shuttle ride to the Zion Park Lodge where we split a caramel macchiato with almond milk.

I felt so happy on the drive through Zion. It wasn't just the perfect weather, or the mind-blowing scenery, or the fact that I was going home the next day.

It was just a feeling that everything would be OK, that Trump and climate change and loneliness and all the bad things were really not important in the moment.

For a couple of hours, I was present.

It didn't last though. By the time we checked in to the hotel I was listless. Neil thought I needed food, so we went back out, to the Black Bear Diner, where I had a couple of eggs and an over-toasted, over-buttered English muffin. It didn't help though. Before the night ended I was tearful over little things, like my hurt elbow, which sends a shock of pain up my arm if I lean on it wrong, which I keep doing.

I'm rapid cycling, I told Neil. I was so happy at the park, and now I'm crying and I'm not even sure why.

So be it. Our trip home was long, our flight was delayed, we had a lot of time to kill at the airport, but we had passes for the United Club, so we were well-fed and comfortable at least.

More cars to buses to trains to planes to buses to cars. But then, to home, the cats, and our own bed.

It's been so good to be home that I didn't even mind Neil going to play softball again over the weekend. Followed by a week of peace before we have ...

House guests.

In this world there's a whole lot of trouble, baby
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world there's a whole lot of trouble, but
A whole lot of ground to gain
Why take when you could be giving?
Why watch as the world goes by?
It's a hard enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly?

In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
In this world there's a whole lot of shame
In this world there's a whole lot of sorrow
And a whole lot of ground to gain
When you spend your whole life wishing
Wanting, and wondering why
It's a long enough life to be living
Why walk when you can fly?

And in this world there's a whole lot of golden
In this world there's a whole lot of pain
In this world you've a soul for a compass
And a heart for a pair of wings
There's a star on the far horizon
Rising bright in an azure sky
For the rest of the time that you're given
Why walk when you can fly?

(Mary Carpenter© Mary Chapin Carpenter Dba Why Walk Music)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Channeling equanimity

I'd stay home at night, all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there, yeah

Neil left for his softball tournament. I’ve been crying on and off, pretty much since I got out of bed this morning. Not weeping or sobbing, just tears that steadily seep out of the corners of my eyes. Neil doesn’t see them, or he pretends that he doesn’t.

He asked me what my plans are for the weekend. I said nothing. I mean, I said something, which was “nothing.”

Nothing today. Nothing tomorrow. Nothing Saturday. Nothing Sunday.

Sometimes, at times like this, I ask myself, WWSD? What would Sara do?

Sara was my best friend in college. She was one of the most self-possessed people I’ve ever known. She did not wear her heart on her sleeve, ever. She kept a veil of mystery about her. She was practical, reasonable, unselfish, poised, self-reliant, self-assured.

So many things that I was not, am not.

And beautiful. And clever. And funny. And all the things.

At the start of our sophomore year, Sara began dating a friend of mine who I introduced to her. I met Lin in the first class I took at Colgate. I thought he was funny and cute. I asked him to go to a poetry reading with me. Which he did. I’m not sure whether or not I’d call it a date. No romance was kindled, but he became a friend.

He fell hard for Sara, as she did for him. They’re still together now, 45 years and counting. But he wasn’t an uncomplicated person to love. Sara is wholesome, grounded, sensible. In college, Lin liked to close the bars down, playing pool, drinking beer. He liked to stay up until dawn and sleep until mid-afternoon. He would pull all nighters before exams and deadlines for papers.

I’d have been whining and judging and feeling slighted and and angry and hurt. I don’t think Sara ever gave him grief. She was there for him when he came home. I’d have made it about me. She was compassionate and steady, a rock in his sea of craziness. He adored her.

In those days, Colgate was trying to go to a year-round format, and all students had to take at least one summer session. Most of us chose the summer after our sophomore year and took off the following fall semester. Sara and I made plans for a five-week-long trip, taking the trans-Canada railroad from Montreal to Vancouver, with stops to go camping and hiking (and hitchhiking - it was legal then) in Banff and Lake Louise.

Photo of a (very old) photo. Sara, her childhood friend Nancy, and me
in Montreal, getting ready to board the train for our grand adventure.
At the end of our sophomore year, I started dating Gerry, a good friend of Lin’s, and we fell in love. We spend all our time together over the summer, but in the fall, Gerry headed off to Skidmore College. He’d registered for an exchange semester there before we got involved. I was very unhappy about being apart. I did enjoy many of the wonderful experiences that Sara and I had on our trip but I carried my birth control pills with me as if they were my most cherished possession. Eventually the plastic disk made a permanent impression in my cheap plastic raincoat.

From Vancouver we ferried to Vancouver Island and from there to Seattle and on down the coast to San Francisco, where Sara’s mom and grandmother lived. On the Oregon coast, I wrote Gerry’s name in the sand. I spend a couple of weeks in San Francisco, and I remember feeling happy that when we went to bed at 10:30 pm, Gerry was probably going to bed in Saratoga Springs, New York, where last call at the bar was 2 am.

I missed Gerry constantly. Sara missed Lin but she handled the situation much differently, with acceptance, patience, and maturity. She stayed on in California after I took the red-eye home to New York and my parents’ house. Her parents had divorced the summer before, her dad was living in New York, her mom in California, and she felt it was fair to spend time with both.

Sara was the perfect role model for how to handle separation. She took it in stride or put on a hell of an act that she did. I think it was real. She loved Lin and was happy to see him again when it was time for her to return to New York, but she didn’t experience separation as the end of the world. It was part of her special mystery and allure that she was her own person, not needy or dependent or jealous.

Lin grew up to become a disc jockey, eventually landing in Chicago, where ironically, given his penchant for late nights and sleeping in, he has worked the early morning drive-time gig for years. He also became a local celebrity or personality, so he has spent much time making appearances, going to all sorts of openings, tournaments, fundraisers, concerts, and generally living the life. And none of that was Sara’s jam. I imagine her at home, cooking healthy soups and baking bread, and later, raising the child they had just shy of her 40th birthday.

Equanimity. I think that’s the word I want, to describe the way that I think Sara handled Lin’s crazy hours and life in the limelight. Of course I don’t know for certain how she really felt and behaved, that’s just my surmise. She isn’t on any social media, so I can only guess that she made her own life, a quiet one I suspect, and that she’s still his rock and there for him when he comes home, unless of course she’s off doing her own thing, in her calm, confident, self-sufficient way.

So what would Sara do this weekend?

Well, she wouldn’t have been crying or being pathetic. She wouldn’t have been playing the wounded, lonely, sad piece of work, wanting her husband to feel guilty and badly for abandoning her.

What will I do?

Since I can’t magically cut friends from whole cloth to get together with, I can only try to make the time pass as pleasantly and productively as possible.

There was a time when I would happily have made beads on all three days. I no longer feel the pull, but I might try it once or twice anyway and see how it feels.

Shopping is always good for killing a few hours. I don’t need a lot of stuff, but I might look for a couple of things on my nice-to-have list, like a new bathroom rug.

I have a gift card for Bath & Body Works.

I need to go by the Art Center and pick up the last ceramic pieces that I glazed earlier this week. Open studio is Saturday morning. I don’t have anything left to work on but there are usually people there that I know and could chat with.

On Saturday there’s an event at the yarn store. I might push myself out of my comfort zone, take one of my works-in-progress and spend a little time there. I’m close to finishing a shawl and another blanket. There’s yet another blanket and a scarf on my near-term project list.

There are lots of things on my streaming watchlists to consider binging.

I have podcasts bookmarked.

I have books to read.

Of course I will walk, on the treadmill, maybe a stroll into Birkdale Village.

There might be a movie of interest, although we did just see Rocketman, which was pretty amazing even if they pulled all the cliche stops out. But the acting and the music were great.

So, we’ll see how well I can do.

Especially at channeling Sara.

Composure, serenity, peace of mind, those are my weekend goals.

Dealing with loneliness, and how fragile, vulnerable, and stuck in the past it leaves me, those are tasks for the longer term.

Wait a minute baby
Stay with me awhile
Said you'd give me light
But you never told me about the fire

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
But now it's gone
It doesn't matter what for
When you build your house
Then call me home

And he was just like a great dark wing
Within the wings of a storm
I think I had met my match
He was singing
And undoing, and undoing the laces
Undoing the laces

Said Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
But now it's gone
It doesn't matter what for
But when you build your house
Then call me home

Hold on
The night is coming and the starling flew for days
I'd stay home at night, all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there, yeah
Ask me and I'm there, I care

In the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
But now it's gone
They say it doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Then please call me home

Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, and don't you ever stop
Now it's gone
No it doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
I'll come by

(Stevie Nicks © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.)

Monday, June 3, 2019

White knuckles

Who's gonna pay attention
To your dreams?
Who's gonna plug their ears
When you scream?

Oh yes. I was going to tell you why I'm not posting much about beads these days.

There are a myriad of reasons. First and foremost, I’m not making many beads right now.

It’s funny that I say that, since I just finished an order for 100 pairs for Beads of Courage.

This time I had to make most of them specifically for the order, because I had very little to pull out of inventory.

Since the first of the year, with a few exceptions, I’ve stopped trying to sell beads on Facebook. Lampwork beads have been in a slump for a while now, and not just for me. There are still a few bead makers who sell everything they list, but many more are not selling as they once did.

I won’t complain. I had a pretty good five year run selling my beads on Facebook. There were slow periods but I had a few good customers who continued to come back for more. In the end though, there were diminishing returns vis-à-vis the amount of effort required for selling and the bottom line.

I took a few breaks from listing beads and the last break has continued indefinitely. Occasionally I think about listing some of my remaining inventory, maybe as some orphan lots or some kind of clearance sale. But I haven’t been able to muster the energy to go through all the steps - stringing, photos, listings, and if they sell, invoices, packaging, shipping.

I marvel that I did it all so religiously, for so long. And then, almost overnight, I burned out completely. In fact, I have no interest in any of the venues where I used to purvey my bead wares. I have no desire to sell at bead shows, trunk shows, craft shows, or any sort of live event. I let my Etsy shop listings expire. I gave up on eBay.

My website is out of date and I’m considering shutting it down, even letting the domain go. I’ll probably keep it one more year to be sure my loss of heart is permanent. The big question I have to consider is, if I stop selling beads entirely, is there a good reason to keep making them?

I’m not ready to address that question yet. I want to give myself more time, to see if the desire and drive really is gone for good or if this is just a longer-than-usual hiatus for my muse. That also allows me to defer other questions, such as what I will do with all my studio supplies, including pounds and pounds of glass.

There’s no especial urgency to decide. We have plenty of storage space, I’m not in need of funds, and there’s no reason to think that my heirs will be burdened with my estate any time soon.

Plus, I’m still in love with the colors. I still enjoy the process although perhaps less than I used to. There are so many steps, from dipping mandrels to cleaning out bead release. I once loved each step. Now I am not sure what I love about it any more.

For now, I’m willing to let it ride. I plan to continue to dabble, partly so that I don’t lose my skills, partly because letting my equipment sit idle does it no favors.

Because I’m not selling on Facebook now, I’m finding it much less interesting to be on Facebook. I still glance at it once or twice a day, but I no longer live there. This is both good and bad. A lot of my human interaction came out of my online business. I had some interesting instant messenger conversations with customers and other members of the lampwork community.

The reason we live where we do today is the result of a conversation I had with a customer in Charlotte some years ago. She recommended this town as a place to consider. I don’t even remember her name offhand, although with some effort I could probably find the chat log.

I still check in to the forum Lampwork Etc. most days, but instead of the tips and techniques or the garage sale topics, I look at the off-topic area, because it’s the most active area these days. Facebook groups pretty much replaced the substantive parts of the forum, and the people that are left there may or may not still work with glass. Usually I just lurk, although I do pipe up from time to time.

It’s not such a big part of my life any more, just a harmless habit that doesn’t need to be broken. And I haven’t found anything to replace it yet.

One decision I will have to make soon is whether to go to the lampwork retreat in Asheville at the end of September that I signed up and paid for. I was waitlisted the last two times the retreat was held. I thought it would be a way to meet lampworkers in the region, but that assumes that I intend to continue with the craft, enough to spend the money and push through my discomfort zone.

At this point, I’m leaning toward going. It might be the tonic I need to rediscover the love I once felt about bead making - or it might clarify whether I push on or toss in the towel. Of course, it’s easy to feel that way while it’s well in the future. As time shortens, I know my anxiety will rise, and at some point the rubber will meet the road and I’ll either give up my spot or resolve to see it through and see how the chips fall out.

Man, I’m a full complement of mixed metaphors today.

Despite my best intentions to figure this whole life thing out - or at least be kinder to myself while I’m treading water - my knuckles remain white. I’m day to day and hour to hour.

I’m feeling very vulnerable because Neil already is packing for his softball tournament next weekend. I tell myself, enjoy this weekend, don’t ruin it by worrying about next weekend. It doesn’t help that Neil senses my anxiety and it makes him tense. And I hate being so dependent on him.

A few days after he gets home, we leave for our next trip. Then we’re back for a couple of days and he leaves for another tournament. If not for the cats, I might go with him to the tournaments, even though he says I’d hate them. What I think he means is that he’d have less fun because he’d be worried about me not having fun.

And he’s probably right. We are together a lot. A short break isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Last summer, after some trial and error, I was able to enjoy some of the time I had alone at home. I’m just feeling so fragile right now - and so impatient with myself for feeling that way.

It will be fine. I will get through it. I have always gotten through everything. That has actually been my hallmark.

I will be OK. I will be fine.

I am OK. I am fine.

Who's gonna tell you when
It's too late
Who's gonna tell you things
Aren't so great
You can't go on
Thinking nothing's wrong
Who's gonna drive you home tonight

Who's gonna pick you up
When you fall
Who's gonna hang it up
When you call
Who's gonna pay attention
To your dreams
Who's gonna plug their ears
When you scream
You can't go on
Thinking nothing's wrong
Who's gonna drive you home tonight

Who's gonna hold you down
When you shake
Who's gonna come around
When you break
You can't go on
Thinking nothing's wrong
Who's gonna drive you home tonight
Oh you know you can't go on
Thinking nothing's wrong
Who's gonna drive you home tonight

(Ric Ocasek © Universal Music Publishing Group)