When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to fill graphic design color books with marvelous artwork. What he made of those pages of geometric lines and curves still makes me wonder at his imagination and talent. He did not allow the pages to tell him what to draw or color. He made someone else’s black lines dissolve into his ideas. It must have been immensely satisfying, because he lined bookshelves full of this beauty.
Some years ago, I started thinking his hobby was worth exploring. I always liked colored pencils and sometimes crayons, and often chalk. Instead of talent, I capitalized on my ability to stay within the lines, my stubborn attitude toward completing things, and a great eye for good quality paper and pencils. Television-watching has never been more fun than it is now, because I can pay as much or as little attention to either pursuit – the TV show or the coloring page – as I want at the moment. What a worry-free zone I created for me.
Until now. Everyone seems to be buying adult coloring books and art supplies for stress relief. We have coloring books that direct grief and coloring books that keep you from eating and others that encourage you to quit smoking. I have been years in this pursuit, and show no signs of stopping. I don’t remember picking up the hobby because of stress. It just seemed like a good idea. But it’s sort of like if the medicine helps your condition, didn’t you have the disease? And then another thought occurs to me. Shouldn’t I at some point in time feel cured and leave the books behind? All this commercialization of coloring has me perplexed.
I am left with one question. It’s not should I be worried? It’s how worried should I be?
As long as I have lived in California, we have had drought on our minds. We are either entering a drought, recovering from one, or – as right now – in the midst of an historic period of wishing for rain. We have been at it for so long, we classify our type of drought, so as to fool ourselves into thinking we are transitioning from one climate to another. But it’s all about relative drought, and we worship what we don’t have. We worship rain.
And then it comes.
And comes again.
And the next day, too.
It damages the neighborhood.
We Californians are not known for our ability to focus for long periods of time. Didn’t the word ‘fad’ begin here? We love those things that come and go and come again, so we don’t have to pay attention for too long. We’re always entertained by the next new thing.
So, for Stanley and Marsha, two native Californians, four days of rain indicated an end of the historic drought. Didn’t it? Certainly, it should have.
After four days, I’m ready for the new fad: no rain. New wildflowers.
Everything in life changes, and I suppose your purse should change every once in a while, too. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. My purse was just what a purse should be. Why change? I had downsized it when I’d downsized my life. Extra Kleenex? Lipstick? A comb? Who needed it? Give me a driver’s license, credit card, ten bucks, my sunglasses and keys. The small shoulder bag my Mom handed-down to me was perfect. For a while.
Our county has entered that enlightened no-plastic bag era, an era I approve. And when I go to Trader Joe’s, by habit I reach for my three bags. But those other shopping trips, the ones I hadn’t planned to buy but one or two items and ended up with an unexpected sale of ten necessary boxes of loose tea, those times were driving me wild. I could purchase a reusable bag each trip, but I had a large selection already.
Some of which I keep with me at all times. Well, sort of with me, if locked inside the trunk of my car while I’m in the store is close enough. But, you know it isn’t. Yesterday, I’d skipped into the store with my tiny purse, carefree, for a bagged salad mix. Then added ten items to my basket. A store clerk asked if I wanted to buy a paper bag. I didn’t want to buy one, but I had to. It simply adds to my supply at home, since I will not throw out bags by themselves. They must accompany something with a purpose, like our diminishing amount of refuse. Even if they carry an item away from the house – returning a food favor to a neighbor, for example – they always seem to come back with the next gifting.
I was in favor of this no-plastic change, but the third time in a week that I’d forgotten my reusables made me think again. If I was going to survive, I would need to change my purse.
With great reluctance, I handed-down my handed-down purse, and brought back the big guns. Now, I run around with a large open shoulder bag. Big enough to handle those surprising tea finds and a bargain or two, I am hoping that I’ve side-stepped the bag crisis. If only I wouldn’t yearn for those care-free days of a small and simple bag-ette.
We had been fortunate with travel weather. The small amount of rain had cleared the skies and refreshed the flora. Sweaters and light jackets kept us comfortable. But, as you probably already know, I am an unapologetic wuss when it comes to warmth. I live in a climate that ranges from 65 degrees F to 75 degrees F, all year-long. I look upon gloves as someone else’s fashion statement, hats with ear flaps as something no one should ever need.
I come upon this love of warmth through many, many years and much hard work. I had grown up in California, moved to Colombia as a young adult, then on to Texas. All warm weather havens. I should have foreseen a complication, but when I moved to Ukraine several years ago, the cold winter weather slapped me in the face and never let go the chill. People there welcomed me, but the weather stamped ‘return-to-sender’ on my down coat and sent me on my way after a cold, cold winter. I have never recovered.
I didn’t see the wind chill coming as we drove north through the UK. The countryside is charming, the roads wonderful. When we arrived in Edinburgh itself, I saw a gorgeous, almost surreal city. People looked lively, friendly and inviting. Then I stepped out from the car, and felt the ice of the air. I was cold the entire visit.
There are moments when you travel for the joy of seeing new places, but there are other times when you can’t see past your own discomfort. Everyone has their soft spot. I ease my way through long travel days by packing light. I can make up a meal wherever I go. I clean hotel rooms when they need it. I take overnight bus trips. I know how to use squat toilets. I can cleanse my own water.
But cold weather shuts me down. Poor Edinburgh. It didn’t have a chance with me. Others were fine – I didn’t even see many people decked out for the cold. They wore maybe a light jacket, or a scarf. I wound myself in three layers of protective gear and still felt the cold in my toes. Worse: I don’t believe I even got to mispronounce its name out loud. Teeth chattering kept me from saying much. And it wasn’t even winter yet.
Most alarming item of information: people actually golf here. Isn’t that an outdoor sport???
Having had heart-warming successes in Northern Ireland finding personal connections that I could actually touch, I was tempted to explore my family roots in Scotland. Prior to planning this trip, I had vague recollections of a long ago Scottish connection through my paternal grandmother, but without the voice of my grandfather to bring that connection to life, I put it out of my mind.
But my brother did not. He enthusiastically researches all kinds of historical stuff. Without him, I would not have had anything to look for in Ireland. A couple weeks before I left on this journey, he sent me a reminder of Grandma Brown’s past. We were descended from a Brit named Sherburne and a Scot with an unusual French-sounding name. On a lark, I typed that name plus ‘Scotland’ into Google – it being the less common name and, I figured, more likely to bring pertinent info.
Right back at me came news article after news article of a famous – or infamous – fellow from Edinburgh. He had been a well-known boxer in the late 1900’s. Then he beat up a guy (badly) after which he killed another during a time he worked for some very serious crooks. The fellow in our family who eventually made in to the USA in the mid-1800’s had fled Scotland after believing he had killed his uncle (the uncle survived.) These two stories were a bit too close for my comfort, so to avoid a potentially embarrassing family history of extreme violence and prison sentences, I decided to let my attempts to pronounce Edinburgh fill my academic time in that city. Some family secrets you just don’t want to know.
As it does every year, the time for writing long-version has come. Marsha becomes Susan and her universe remains tilted for just long enough to finish a book. Or maybe finish a book, depending on the weather and the garden and the soup simmering away.
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