Late Sunday evening, I was urged to look outside my door, because Oakley-girl, the wander dawg, was pretty lax and low, and when deigning to move, was moving slow.
Surely, a weather change in the works?
Please don’t let it be her traveling further down the path to the Happy Hunting Grounds is my prayer of the past year.
No wind is screaming – no hail ricocheting off the metal roof or modern spouts that deliver heat and hot water energy gases into the open air, instead of into my small house, alert me to look outside.
I am called sans any outward signs, immediately apparent to me, to open the door, once more, to gaze upon the external landscape that has been ignored until just now! while I worked my through my ‘cyber checklists’ on various fronts.
I was surprised to view a quiet, gentle, continuous drizzle of rain, delivered from dark with moisture clouds.
Clouds that covered the sky fully in many shades of grey, but did not carry the angry colors or swirling of hot and cold fronts meeting in battle.
After the warm weekend days prior, the house was warmer than I prefer to sleep in, and I opened my small window in the bedroom, in hopes to sleep to the sound of the rain.
Alas, the gentle rain fell so steady, so softly, I could only sense it’s beauty through my nose, rather than my ears.
But my soul recognized the smell, and my nose was enough to gather in that which would feed my soul.
I slept deeply, gratefully, for a time.
I woke up around 4am and pulled the winter comforter up.
The same comforter that was previously pushed back impatiently in the heat of spring temps, to once more cover the bed and me.
It’s cold. Colder than I figured it would get in my interior landscape, even though, the forecast deemed it was possible.
I gave up going back to sleep by 4:30, donned my layers of clothing and decided, upon viewing the dog, lying close to the wall furnace where a pilot light still burned, but no heat was forthcoming in any real way, that perhaps, I really, just now, should quit being a miser/conservationist or only thinking about myself and the warm bed I sleep within that allows drawing up/drawing down of covers, and sadly, realizing, how long it’s been since I gave up providing padded bed with lots of covers to paw and and shove into her needs, as she never lay within them.
There is quantity of life and quality of life and all that I’m ‘saving’ on extending her quality of life, should be spent on quality of life, right?
I am pre-mourning the loss of the one thing I opened my heart fully to, after my son died that wasn’t known to me before he died.
That one spirit, appears, to be destined to leave before I do –
I’m struggling with it. I confess.
Perhaps she doesn’t have much time left, doesn’t dance a happy jig if I try to put a sweatshirt or crocheted layers on her (I don’t know, I never tried, I figure, her and I are of one heart – she is not a doll to be dressed up in things, but perhaps, before her joints ached, I COULD have tried? But why bother? She has a great auntie who made sure she had a pretty pink collar and leash – with LED lights to guard her on night walks, and a groomer pal who always helped aide her health, but had her dancing prettily like a princess all along the way) and if the days she struggles and I that worry me over her continue to last longer and longer before a good day?
Yup, I just added way more words – but, I, for me, no matter how arrogant, or selfish, know any other way than to celebrate her, celebrate what all she did for me in the dark days after my world fell apart – I know not other how to tell the ‘truth of her and her spirit’ and her saving grace, than telling you what a saint she is when I walk my path in non saintly ways – ever moment, of every day.
I don’t know – each year – she skips days of eating or bounding about to dance or call me to dance, when spring/fall storms commence.
But, in my human mind?
Time is passing and her grey hairs and mine only grow more in number, every year.
Why on earth would I make the hard days more miserable for her?
I’ll do it to myself, to save on carbon footprint, to save on $, to do everything I can, best as I can –
But not for her and her kind, loving spirit – nope – for her?
Up went the manual dial on the thermostat from ‘off’ to 65.
Yup, for my weakness of love for those I love, I and perhaps others? I shall gladly pay the price – now or later.
I trundled to the kitchen to reheat the coffee I brewed the night before, just in case I would have restless night and no time to brew the wakey-wakey juice I still crave, come the next day’s dawn.
I gazed upon the pre-dawn landscape while the cold coffee reheated and gave thanks to the moisture.
A couple hours later, during a refill of mug?
I felt the chill invade the house and heard the furnace running more.
And gazed out upon the rain, then slrain, finally turning into snow.
Normally, a beautiful day – full of gifts and blessings.
But not today…for me….in my internal world.
I was summoned to report for jury duty today, over a week ago.
Jury duty that takes place nearly 35 miles from me, but lies, along the shortest , most fuel costs effective route, across 9 miles of country road that becomes a bloody, muddy mess, in spring time, just like all the county roads of my youth do.
I had viewed the wet ground and driveway of my place in the grey pearl of dawn and thought to myself,
“Those nine miles of dirt road to get to the highway that will carry me to the county seat, is gonna be a muddy mess and a bear to travel”
I wasted a few moments, even then, contemplating my stupidity for not asking for a deference of service the week before….
I knew the weather forecast – and right or wrong – it’s Springtime in Colorado – and all is to be expected, whether it bodes well for me, personally or not, that particular day.
As the snow started to fall harder, but reported road conditions only said “poor visibility, high winds and wet roads” my heart sank.
No frozen hard service to slide along the ruts created before it froze. No closed roads.
Some how sliding across ice, to me, while more scary, is always less a mess, effort and trouble driving the same roads and getting mired into 3 feet of mud.
I prepared to ‘go out and about’ and gave myself a pep talk:
Just nine miles of muddy mess during which me and my aging truck will traverse without wrecking or getting stuck. Please, Please, Please, if anyone is listening to my prayers….Cuz I have nothing at this point, other than to depend up the divine forces I still don’t claim to understand. Thanks!
I DO, however, spend some cowardly moments, contemplating what it might look like if I call in sick or to report vehicle troubles.
I am, human afterall? Maybe?
But I just can’t figure out a way for any ‘fictional story’ to be told, that is also, true for me – at all – as, as my inner voice continually rebuts,
“You just don’t want to go, you coward! Stop trying to avoid that which you don’t want to do, and just go already! If you’re not meant to be there, sure as shooting, you’ll not arrive.”
I still hope that my truck that wouldn’t start two weeks ago, ACTUALLY needed a new alternator instead of a new battery.
No such luck – I replaced the battery that served for 7….8 years? With a new one and well –
The truck starts right up, warms up and there are no saving graces to be had, that are the truth, in reality, just now and I set out.
3 miles into the wilderness of mud?
Max speed is 30 mph. But hovers around 20-25 mph.
I know – those stuck in rush hour traffic of metro areas for decades are laughing at me, wondering just what my problem is.
Sometimes, even with good tires on and straw bales heavy with moisture in the bed of the truck to provide better traction for the rear-wheel drive axle that sits at the end of full length truck bed, I find myself grasping the wheel, two handed – hands at 10 and 2 or 9 and 3, whatever feels right, given my diverse training between Driver’s Ed and Emergency driving fronts –
Training that occurred on what to ‘do’ but happened nearly two decades apart –
Just confuses me in rationale,
So I continue, to this day, as I find myself in various traveling conditions, using one or the other as the case may be, but never fully rectifying the vast differences between the two instructions given. fully.
I adjust positions, but manage to grip the wheel just as tightly with each, while I accelerate to get enough speed to make it up the next hill, without bogging down and WITHOUT going so fast I lose control of the slippy sled of heavy, horsepower, destructive potential power, I’m in charge of right about now.
“Bad things happen when you underestimate the power you hold within your hands or overestimate your skills in holding that power in check” My Dad’s simple ‘operate a motorized machine’ #1 rule – from chainsaws to minibikes, to motorcycles, to work trucks, with pressure cookers and propane tanks thrown in here and there. He also repeated this warning when we were out and I was learning gun safety.
I meet one vehicle, that poses danger to me.
I’m not fully in the middle of the road, but avoiding the soft edges and soggy ditches below, all the same.
The heavy duty, 3/4 ton, Ram 3500 with flat bed end, is roaring towards me, in what feels like approaching light speed, given my slow and cautious crawl, and I figure, they have and are in, 4wd mode.
You wade across pastures and country dirt roads to do your work, day in, day out?
You most likely invested in 4WD out here.
I dare not brake or slow down before I make it through this bog, just before the hill crest – and so, I hope this oncoming work truck is manned by one of my neighbors who is used to idiots traversing this roadway and since so many of my neighbors purchase grey or white 3/4 ton plain work trucks, and don’t purchase fancy colors/’cool! road cars/trucks’ to get ‘er done –
I don’t know if the approaching vehicle is driven by one I know who will forgive me, my sins, or one who will curse me over beers to their workmates at the end of the day and perhaps, for the rest of my life and theirs.
The driver moves over, effortlessly, closer to his side of the soft edges, waves and passes by and I take one tight handed grip off the wheel to turn on up a notch, the speed of my wiper blades.
I hope he sees my hand move for operations as a ‘howdy!’ wave, quick, before the wave of water and slush that flies out from his roaring, mud gripper tires, hits my windshield, and I drive blind for awhile.
I need a bigger truck and some mud gripper tires, really – Since I drive less than 2,000 miles a year, I figure, why waste the funds? But I see myself as a fool, for not doing. investing in such things, right about now.
I drive some feet – yards? Past our meeting, before I know, I am no longer moving slowly forward, totally blinded to what might lie before me – a small car, a baby calf, a deer, a bog that will roll me into the ditch –
Then, once more, I can see what is ahead of me – after the wave of slush and water splashes onto my windshield in a glaze that the warmed windshield cannot melt/dry fast enough with the defroster, but the ‘intermittant wiper setting’ needed before we met, is not smart enough to know,
“Um, maybe I should swish once more before the timer is up.”I trust manual operations more than auto-computers, just saying. My truck has a computer, but it is old and not really, unless I connect via hardware freely provided by insurance companies, able to help with any needful things – It just reports how I accelerate, brake and speeds I traverse, so it can punish me in fees at it sees fit. That’s what I think about ‘savings’ add-ons from insurance companies – 😀
I don’t wreck, don’t cause him to wreck and I’m not flipped the bird nor is a fist shaked at me –
I give thanks for the ‘win’ and carry on.
Only two more hills to navigate, before I get to pavement – right?
I’ve been so stuck in a low visibility landscape and my own concentration to not wreck, I’m not entirely sure how far along the road I am.
The odometer tells me about where I should be, but the expanse of time argues with the odometer reading in my mind.
How close am I now? To the highway? That may be my saving grace OR my demon of death?
Who knows what the highway will look like, really?
Slick with wind driven flurries or wind frozen black ice or just wet, warm pavement to be traversed?
My blood pressure is finally spiking. I haven’t had to travel in adverse conditions weather or traffic, for so long, I have forgotten how to remember the full pep talk of all the years commuting to work – in urban, rural or both, conditions.
“Just another day of work, you’ve done it before, you can do it again.”
My neck and arms ache with the tense hold I have on the wheel – my anxiety to not wreck, hurt another, or tumble me and my truck into a deep ditch, due to lack of ‘paying attention’ and the brute strength needed at the steering wheel, given my soft, ‘worked in front of a computer all winter” muscles, must be applied also, with the gentlest and softest of responses, but with strength enough to fight the wheels, the steering wheel, the road -all at the same time.
Brute strength coupled with the softest of touches – Neither of which, let alone, singly, either one, am I very good at.
During a flat spot, with a different road base (over many years of application!) I remember to ‘rest myself’.
The going is easier, but I do not speed up.
I traverse it steadily while I do deep breathing exercises to calm my nerves and heart.
I relax a bit my arms, my neck, my upper body muscles, so they may have a break in this journey, too.
I breathe into my aching lower back, my tense and starting to scream in outrage, upper neck and shoulders, my aching hands –
But most of all, I breath into my fear, my heart and my anxiety –
“So Far, So Good”I say out loud to myself. I’m much too focused to sing myself into calm. Al I can do is breathe and talk out loud to myself
And then, the next bog looms ahead – I can see it from here.
The different color of the earth – the tracks made by those who have gone before me.
I see where the water stands – separated in standing/moving, but only, just until!
I plow through and carve new channels for it to flow/settle into while it waits for the road base to absorb it fully.
I see how the wind and swirls are changing in the patterns of snow in front of my windshield, even as I work hard not to become mesmerized by the hypnotic trance of blowing snow.
I gird my loins, symbolically, with a deep breath and placing both hands on the wheel, but now?
No more do I feel the ache of my back, my neck, my arms.
No more do I feel my heart thudding in fear or worry.
My entire focus is on my truck, the steering wheel, and navigating the coming path to be walked.
All else fades away as I focus on the path before me.
The path I already decided must be traversed, and so, now nothing left to do, but to do it best as I can, with as little cursing as possible.
I let loose with a few choice words out loud, to relieve the inner stress, all while, my internal mind sings out Thanks and Hallelujah to the Divine for the moisture that has blessed our drought-ridden landscape, all while I curse having to navigate that same landscape, personally.
All while, the tracks made before me, and recognition from so long ago of patterns, like lions lurking in the grass, alert me to steer into the slide that will occur, sometime, during this hill – most likely, about 3/4s of the way up the hill.
This whole assessment takes place – the saint, the sinner, the grateful, the ungrateful, the warrior, the coward, all takes place without me even being consciously aware of it all.
I start the climb out in my lane, even closer than I would prefer, to the soft edges that fall away into deep ravines (to aide with run-off).
I don’t particularly have a death wish, on the other hand, it seems so much easier on my soul, and, perhaps? more honorable? in the end? to sacrifice myself than it is to sacrifice another just to make up for what I cannot do well, right about now – not in equipment, skills or nerves.
As I near the crest of the mushy hill – I hit the bad part,
And whether through fear of the ditches unconscious steering or by divine grace, the truck that carries me, that I’m in charge of, but feels as if I’m just a passenger on, floats effortlessly nearer the middle of the road- and completes the crest after steering askew into the slide.
The slide during which, the rear end of my full bed truck is way further over the the ‘middle line not marked’, than my truck’s front end is.
But, in luck, I’m not totally sideways and no oncoming traffic pops up over the hill, sliding into my tail end nor do I collide into another who was just making their way forward with no knowledge of what fate awaited them them just over the crest of the hill.
I’ve been ‘blessed’ by the grace of a the vehicle I’m in charge of turning full sideways on a country road, approaching a hill, and having the space and time to think upon meeting my maker and who’s death I will have to answer for, before.
No one died and I didn’t wreck and the wide open plains after the blizzard of Christmas, 1992, blessed me – but I’ve never forgotten that long slide and no way to avoid whatever happened by my own efforts.
I’m blessed by grace, that I do not believe I fully understand, once again.
The second hill that gives all the signs of being just as cantankerous, and has a long history of being more of a mess to navigate (at least in my mind!) is charged in my tense stubborness of ‘all in’ and taken in the same way as the one prior.
And blesses me with the time and space grace of the Universal Dance of nothing bad happening, even when, I had prepared myself for bad to happen.
And then, I am at the highway – waiting – to gauge the color and edge of the highway that indicates the high winds reported, which have lowered visibility, and may have delivered that beautiful opponent called, black ice.
Black Ice shows up when you weren’t expecting it.
It’s dangerous, but you cannot see it. You can only feel it through the extension of the feeling of your tires and the vehicle they are attached to, through to the steering wheel and the hands/arms you possess.
But sometimes? You can see it if you look carefully at the edges of the roadway.
Sometimes you can feel it and sense it just by having the window down and breathing in the changing air as you navigate across a landscape.
But not always.
I wait and see, best as I can, if the hills on each side of the intersection, might be hiding the oncoming traffic that is tooling along at speed limit or better. Because, perhaps, the roadway is wet, they don’t know better, or are confident in their equipment and skills.
And just here? Even if I pull out, there is no wide turn lane or shoulder to quickly navigate to if some one traveling at light speed pops along their merry way, over the hill and sees my rear-end, just in time to curse me to the heavens before smashing into me, and we both go flying into whatever the fates have deemed for that moment.
I make it safely onto the highway and over the coming miles, traveled through visibility, standing water, areas of slush, but no black ice, that I was aware of.
I manage not to wreck or get rear-ended for driving slower in some places than posted speed limit and in a hurry traffic behind me.
I made it 68 miles, round trip, safely.
I did that journey for two days in a row to do my civic duty to show up and either be chosen or dismissed.
COVID restrictions mean I can no longer just show up via mailed summons and be dismissed in one day.
I have answered every call for jury duty.
I believe jury trial, by a jury of ones peers, to be the single greatest thing in our country past the right to vote and speak our mind.
Alas, I’m never chosen for duty.
Whether because of my work history or because I answer the questionnaire honestly or whether I just look/speak like an idiot, I cannot tell you.
Thank goodness I remembered after checking chains, bottled watered, gloves, blankie, water, crackers and peanut butter, were packed in the truck, I remembered to grab a book off the shelf, to read for pure pleasure while I bided my time, waiting to be chosen or dismissed.
Not a ‘non-fiction’ learning book –
Instead, one chosen for the pure beauty of the story and how the words flow together to paint the story.
I chose an Ellis Peters, Brother Cadfael book – both day one and day two.
For, after arriving the first day, reading while I had a bite to eat, and then girding my loins for the trip back home, I simply arrived home and ‘had to finish the story’, even though I knew how the story ended, already.
I picked another title from the series, for the second day.
And the ones I chose, turned out to be books books about traveling 25 miles or less – over 3 – 7 days, on foot.
About murder by ne’er do wells along forest paths, civil war and the unrest and lawlessness that happens when leaders are vying for power over one another.
About the hope that when storms hit, and travel is slow and bandits or armies walk the land, in their own fights and destruction, there are always kind souls along the way that give a shelter, food, warmth, whatever they have to share, when another is in need.
During better roads/weather/visibility on the traveled way on day two of the journey?
I gazed about the hills and dales that pepper this eastern Colorado landscape as a ‘trial test’ of courage of uphill battles, that stood before pioneers in wagons facing the crossing of the Rocky Mountains and/or the Great Divide.
I thought of the reports made, regarding weeks spent to dig wooden wagon wheels out of deep spring mud, that may or may not have been broken.
Of broken axels, or wagons that stopped for illness or child birth and then carried on by themselves, and hoped to catch the main train of collective protection, before the truly hard landscape, hard weather or known ‘enemy territory’ became the reality to be faced.
I thought of Native American tribes who traveled in bad weather, through need or stress from enemies, who patiently stopped as needed, their forward movement, to remove mud from the hooves of horses that carried them, their homes and their food stores.
And, I thought of those tribes who pushed on in hunger, bad weather, crappy trail and landscape traveling, all to try to reach some measure of safety after those who promised safety shelter, and food, lied or turned a blind eye to give up to slaughter, those who were seen as easy targets to ‘make an example of.” by those who hadn’t. struggled/suffered that much at all, really.
I said 9-miles and I thought to only write 1,000 words to replace the ‘picture’
If you haven’t already guessed, I didn’t stop to take a picture of it all – 😀
And “they” say a picture is worth a 1,000 words.
I didn’t take a picture, but for me? The words written, the hopes, dreams, fears and journey I walked, both in the external world and my internal one, the past few days?
Well – one picture and only 1,000 words?
Not enough – for me, on any level. I’m not an artist, nor do I say anything in short, succinct ways –
And well – perhaps, you’ll never see 9 miles the same, or perhaps you always will.
Not mine to say – my only job is to tell you about my 9-miles.