Archive for the ‘home’ Category

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred.  Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.  There is no place to hide and so we are found.” –Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place

I wrote this on June 4th:  “It’s such a cool morning, it’s hard to believe it will be so beastly hot this afternoon.  It’s the kind of morning that’s the start of an excellent road trip, full of possibilities and discoveries.  What a shame to be stuck in an office where the most exciting thing that can happen is likely some misfortune, like someone falling down the stairs again.”

Those cool mornings didn’t last.

This is the time of year I think about the British rulers of India, who always sent their women to the mountains in the summer.  June is my least favorite month. Like India, we have monsoon rains, and the deadly heat is necessary to set up the monsoon season.  But the intense heat seems like a heavy price to pay for the rain and the mild winter.  Of course, I complain about the cold in the winter, too.  We don’t have short-sleeved winter days anymore like in the seventies when my parents moved here.

I have never done well in heat, even when I was young.  I get nauseous when I’m hot, my face gets all red, and it drains me of energy.  You can always put more clothes on when it’s cold, but there’s only so much you can take off, in public anyway.  It’s like the Wisconsin winter.  I just want to hibernate/stay in my house.

It was always my intention to move to California.  The almost-perfect weather is surely the main reason so many people live there.   But I realized I could never afford it without roommates, and I did not want to live like that.

But Arizona has not felt like home since my father died, perhaps even before that when my mother did.

I bought a book of essays and poems by southwestern women writers, thinking that it might re-kindle my appreciation of the desert.  It did the opposite.  It made me realize anew how deadly it can be.

There are devil winds that spin the sand into dirt walls that cause pileups on the highway. There is scorching dry heat that can suck the life out of you if you’re not prepared or you get lost.  A couple of weeks ago two young women died while hiking in the Tucson mountains in separate incidents.

The monsoon can be dangerous, too, with sudden, blinding walls of water that can wash away trees and boulders.  But when you’re home on a Saturday afternoon and don’t have to go anywhere and the first rain you’ve seen in months comes pouring down and the thunder and lightning isn’t too close, it can be glorious.  And the sunset can be, too.

Monsoon Sunset


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Nostalgia comes from the root word “Nostros” which means “homecoming.”

For some time I’ve been wondering why I kept thinking about my hometown in Wisconsin ever since my trip back there last summer.  I know I don’t want to live back there, but I just kept thinking about it, searching for web sites, and thinking it would be nice to have a summer cabin there.

I also had sent someone some photographs of her grandmother, who did a lot of traveling with my grandmother until they had a falling out (no one knows what it was about).  She thanked me but I never heard another word from her after I sent them.  We also never heard from the relatives that held the reunion, and I had sent them some photographs, too.

I thought part of it was because nature and the outdoors is so much in peoples’ lives, and I envy that.  There’s a more pronounced four seasons than in Arizona.   But I don’t have any close relatives up there any more, and there are other reasons I choose not to live there which I would rather not reveal here.

The other day I had an “Aha moment” as Oprah says.  Some of the people have lived there their entire lives.  I knew I was mainly glad I had lived the life of an Army brat, and we never lived in one place more than three years (until Arizona).  But there was also a small part of me that wondered what it would be like to walk down Main Street and see a childhood friend.  So I think it is that part of me that keeps thinking about it and tried to make friends with the granddaughter and our relatives.  I still consider it my home town, and in fact that is where I will be buried, next to my parents.  The cold won’t bother me then.

But lately I’ve had thoughts about having some of my ashes scattered at sea, too….I liked the life of a sojourner.

“The Sea is our mother rocking, rocking.  See how she fills her blue arms with gifts ~ with slippery bits, weed, white shells, fish as bright as wisps of moon.  Hear how her voice lifts, falls, lifts while she sings our life.” – Tony Johnston

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Roots Bound

As in spellbound–hopefully it will make sense if you read on.

Last week my sister e-mailed me that the immigration and travel records would be free on ancestry.com for the week.  I plan to do a lot of family research when I retire and have more time, because a subscription isn’t cheap.

So I started my search.  Actually, I wasn’t able to find much in those records, so I went to my other sources of family history to get more information, mainly https://www.familysearch.org/.  The more I found, the more I was intrigued.  As a friend said, it’s like a puzzle, and it’s exhilerating when you find something (and can become addictive, I’m sure).

I was trying to find immigration records for my great-great-great-grandfather, who immigrated from Norway.  The spellings depend on the interpretation of the transcribers, and a lot of ship passenger lists were very splotched, undoubtably by the sea air.  Part of the difficulty was the naming conventions in Norway, which were unlike those in this country (the surname became the father’s first name and -son or -datter), and they changed again when they immigrated here.  But along the way I came across a person who had done a lot of research on my great-great-great-grandfather.  I tried e-mailing her but got an error.

This obsession took up half of my Labor Day weekend.  I gave up.  But today I did a search on the history of the town where he lived, and while I didn’t get any information on that, it did bring up more information from the mysterious researcher, as well as a new e-mail address for her.

So I sent her an e-mail, and I received an enthusiastic response of 14 pages of information, including every encounter in his Civil War unit’s journey to the sea with Sherman.  I had not learned about his marching with Sherman until many years later than I lived in Augusta and Fort Benning, Georgia, which is fortunate since we never got past the Civil War in school (I know nothing about World War I and II).

I just wish I had found all of this out many years earlier and could have shared it with my dad.  He loved history so much.

(The picture is of my great-great-grandmother Christine (right), a librarian, pianist, wife, mother, and painter, who  tragically died because of the great flu of 1918, and her sister Anna (on my father’s side of the family)).

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When I learned Wednesday a former neighbor had died, I sent an e-mail to my sisters.  One of them asked if we wanted to send flowers for the service.  My older sister questioned why when we had lost touch with them.

Why?  I used to babysit their children (and they were the best kids I ever watched), but that’s not the reason.  Yes, they were our neighborhood children (we used to call Lynette “Lynetti Spaghetti”–hope that didn’t cause any problems for her later).

It’s because I know where the family is–in that cold, dark place where the grief comes in waves so strong you feel you are going to drown.  But first you have to get through the numbing shock that makes you think you must be dreaming; this can’t be real.

Yes, we had lost touch.  But they came to both our parents’ funerals.  And they had stopped by our parents’ house here a few times when they made trips to Scottsdale to buy Southwestern turquoise jewelry.

We were just up in Wisconsin over a week ago.  We drove by our old house but didn’t stop in to see them.  And now I was feeling the pain again of losing your father through those kids.  The oldest is five or more years younger than me.  Living 75 years might seem a lot to some, but losing your father at any age is devastating unless you had a horrible relationship.  Even then, the closure would probably never come.

That is part of the reason we made the journey north.  We had not been there in 5 years, for my father’s funeral.  I wanted to see my hometown again and attend to their graves, hoping it had been long enough to get some kind of closure.

I had forgotten how truly beautiful the northwoods are.  We stayed in a cabin, and except for the noisy neighbors it was so peaceful and and restorative.  I made a vow to get out in nature more now that the cooler weather is finally coming.

We also attended a family reunion with some relatives we had never met.  Our grandmother and her brother had a falling out over an issue no one knew anything about.  My grandmother was a proud person, and when she had a falling out with someone she never talked about the person again.  They were truly nice people, and we agreed it was a shame we had not been a part of each others’ lives for all those years.

We visited my dad’s second cousin and his wife on the lake and were joined by some other old friends of my parents.  The next day we had lunch with one of my mother’s dearest friends and her husband.  There was a lot of talk about the past and how things used to be.

We drove around to all the lakes and places we used to go to.  A lot had changed, of course, and my overall impression was the one most commonly noticed when visiting the past, that everything used to look a lot bigger.

We did clean the graves and put silk flowers on them.  We had not seen the headstone from the Veterans Administration, since it was placed after we left.  We also visited our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ graves.  A rosebush my grandmother had planted on her parents’ graves was blooming but needed a lot of trimming.  My uncle, whose family we are estranged from, had been buried the week before.  But we did not have to look for his grave, as he was buried right next to his parents.

I’m glad I made the journey back.  It’s nice to remember it as our childhood playground for a while, and not the place where we buried our parents.  I probably wouldn’t have sent the plant if we hadn’t just been back there, but I hope seeing it at the service this morning made his wife and children understand there were old friends who appreciated their father and felt their loss, knowing that their lives are forever changed.

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Blue Christmas

“Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you’re home.”  ~Carol Nelson

Lake Hayward

The quote is from a post on “Christmas Blues” by Cindy LaFerle.  Like me, she feels nostalgic for Christmases of the past.  As I always think about the holidays, “There are just too many ghosts.”

I was going to be all ready this year and have a plan.  Then it was Thanksgiving, and I had not done one thing.  So rather than feeling rushed and behind, I’m looking at all my holiday traditions and asking myself what they mean to me and if they are worth keeping.

Actually, there is very little I HAVE to do.  I chose to send out Christmas cards because I love receiving them to see what’s going on in everyone’s lives.  It will be interesting to see if being on Facebook takes away some of the pleasure.  Other things I do because I’ve always done them, so those are the traditions I will be looking at changing or not doing at the advice of my mentors.

And I know, there’s the whole “give to others and you will feel the joy of the season” advice.  That does help, at least temporarily.    But the crass commercialization of the holiday weighs me down.    I am trying to tune it out as much as possible.

I once suggested to my family that instead of exchanging presents, we should go up to the White Mountains (here in Arizona) for an old-fashioned Christmas.  They weren’t interested.  I’ve also thought about spending Christmas somewhere it wasn’t celebrated, but I never thought of somewhere like that where I would want to go.

For the first time I made an advent wreath, and I’m trying to celebrate the real meaning of the season.  I’ve been using the calendars from Living in Season because I’m tired of the months going by in a blur.  I’m trying to be more present, especially when I’m out in Nature.

I’ll “muddle through somehow.”

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I always knew my return to Hawaii would be emotional, but I did not expect it would take me so long to process those emotions.  I went to Hawaii in May, and I am still trying to process them.  Some of the emotions are too private to share here, but I feel the need to start expressing them so I can feel like I can move on. 

 The emotions were so powerful.  As my sister said, “It’s like going home.”  It really was like a flashback from the TV show “Lost” which went back to the island in the 1970’s, which is when I lived there.

 In some strange way it was fitting that we went to Hawaii right before “Lost” ended.  It seemed like part of the closure I was looking for.  “Lost” was a way for me to escape reality, as Hawaii is.  Somehow the real world doesn’t measure up to either.

Everything seems easier in Hawaii, which of course is not true.  But I really believe it is a healthier lifestyle…more time outdoors, fresh fruits in your diet, and the importance of ohana, or family.  Of course, the ocean is a big part of it.  But there are beaches everywhere, and deep down I believe that Hawaii really is special.  You have to go there yourself to see what I mean. 

But maybe it’s because I lived there.  I said I could never live there again, but this trip changed my mind.

And I’m not sure I wanted to come back.

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