Archive for August, 2021

A Morning Sunrise

August 26, 2021

This is an example of a beloved diary entry that evokes strong memories of yesteryear. I go back to this entry frequently. What you write in a diary can be just as powerful as a photo. So much is forgotten, but this won’t be. I will remember this morning forever.

This is a diary entry from 1972. I was nearly 25, working as a milker at the dairy at Walker Creek Ranch in California, living in a bunkhouse with other young women. I was off that day but I hitched a ride over to the dairy with the ranch crew after breakfast in the communal kitchen. These were not really mountains, but the rolling hills of coastal California.

25 September 1972
Eyes burning, night memories twisted, body sweating, I delivered myself from my bed. Hot, house on fire, whose furnace am in? Sleep wouldn’t come again with peace. These are the forms which beget nightmares—rows upon rows of beds with bodies in them. (…) Ah, dreamily I focused the blame, saw the thermostat. Well, let them roast in their own hell, I’d rather freeze. Out into the cool of night I fled from my thoughts of day. Cold air blasted my fevered face, relieving, reviving, and I fell into the star-spangled night.

After stuffing myself with pancakes that stuck going down, I climbed into the pick-up truck. We drove down the road on a path of milk dust shed by the roundest of moons, the chariot horses careened wildly from side to side as our Jehu raced the daylight. The world was lit with a surrealistic moon-glow.

Eyes still glazed from fire, I picked up the kitten and began rolling my stone up the hillside. I brought the kitten along because I was not sure what I would find on the top of such a mountain before dawn. The time was 6 a.m. The kitten started purring. Then I found the spot. How is it that we find these places we are looking for, when we have never seen them before? You always know the place when you first see it. There was a rock with lichens and we sat. We sat to watch the dawn come, freezing now, toes very stiff. Cat still purring.

The first light was creeping over the horizon of the distant mountains. I was the audience-of-one in a large amphitheater. There were several displays in a panoply of color. I rotated myself, did obeisance to the east, west, north, south, and for every revolution there was a change. The clouds went from pinks to orange, purples to grays. The last colors were red. The sun pushed a brilliance over the edge. Although I watched carefully, I missed the moment that day pushed away night. That is what is so intriguing—you never see it at all even though you think you have watched a sunrise.

About that time I became drowsy and kitten and I fell asleep, she, tucked under my sweater, and I, huddled against the rock. We slept off and on while watching the sun get brighter and brighter and then, when day had finally taken over the midnight world and the moon gave up and disappeared from sight, we walked down the mountainside together. She was purring all the way. In fact, the only sound I remember all along was the rumbling purr of the cat.

At first I had tried to make her go away. But she kept sneaking back after a brief interlude of stalking, resuming her incessant clawing and rubbing. Death did not walk these hills this morning and her birds got away. So we welcomed each others warmth and worshiped together the first rays of the sun by doing what felines do in the sun—sleeping.


A Memory of Dad

August 22, 2021

I was poking through old diaries again and I came across this entry about a visit to my parents in Florida. My dad had a stroke in 1996 and missed his granddaughter’s college graduation, a moment he was eagerly anticipating. Fine one minute, he stepped out of the car into a different future. In one cruel sweep of fate, my dad, the perpetual student, the avid reader, the social activist, the civil rights demonstrator, was gone. He lived 6 years more and just missed knowing about 9-11, which would have destroyed his spirit.

Me? I didn’t meet Death as expected, but have lived on now for another 25 years.
Here is the entry, with minor editing. Remember that a diary is all “first draft.”

November 1996
I want to live 1997 as though it will be the last year of my life, the last chance I will ever have for anything. The older I grow the clearer it is that life is short. Death becomes more certain. I count on nothing. G. K. Chesterton said: “The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”

One of the recurring themes of this visit to the sunny isle of Florida is facing old age and death. Saw the mobile home park where my parents lived when they arrived 16 years ago in 1980. I remember it when it was new and they were surrounded by friends. Death is the “disease” which has taken their friends off until there are only a few left.
Saw Orin and Jeanette—he close to death when an appendix burst . Saw Charlie, who lost Jule, and is now lost himself. Charlie, trying to clean out the mobile home and warning “watch out or your possessions will possess you.” Without Jule what is left of his life? And Orin says “I am living for today and I will tell it like it is no matter what anyone thinks about me.” Wisdom from those facing death a bit closer than I am.

November 18 Life is short. It does not seem possible that I am near the end already. You really have life about twenty years – age 20-40, with your 30s being the best years of all. Oh sure, I saw a white-haired old woman today at ECHO, who was the “wise woman” teaching herbs to the youngsters. Could it be that they didn’t know what she was teaching them? Could it be that I knew what she knew? Do I need to become this wise woman?

Life is short and this visit has been short. We have done nothing. I have mostly, simply, been with my parents. Tomorrow I leave. Where have the days gone? I came to say good-by to my father. I cannot say it. We sit across the table in silence. He fades in and out of mental acuity. Sometimes he is totally confused by the schedule of the day. The rhythmic events of the day seem to be his anchor: breakfast, shaving, lunch, dinner, news. Tonight he seemed clear when he was reading his old letters written to Mother when they were married less than a year. They had built my first home, 19457 Freeland in Detroit in 1941, and then he had gone off to war. Dad was also mentally “in gear” later on as we sat side by side on the sofa in his office and read books together. He made comments on his book and asked me to pronounce words for him. But then he said “I wonder how this good book turned up in our house?,” and I told him I brought it for him on this trip. He didn’t remember that.

With panic, I realize tomorrow is my last day with him.

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