Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unexpected Wonder

Walking through the door of a "Board and Care" (re-resourced home) facility, I see a podiatriast completing care for an elegantly while simply dressed Chinese-American woman in her late 90's. She smiles towards me and raises her eyebrows in shared recognition.

After he leaves, she calls out to the facility manager, "hey, he left his glasses and that bag." We laugh. She says matter of factly, "absent minded."

As we talk, she laughs and says, "I quipped with him that when I die, I will be the best groomed corpse!" This leads to her telling me, "I've lived a long life and am not as strong as I used to be. I sleep most of the time and now I dream. Memories from my childhood..." 

I say, "sometimes I wonder if life is like a dream." She smiles and says, "oh yes, because we wish for things but in a dream, things don't turn out as you expect." 

I see a bright sparkle in her eyes.

I ask, "knowing that, what's important now?" She says, "to live one day at a time." I ask, "and as you do that, what then?" "Oh," she says in a softer tone, "I am thankful."

Just then, I see a round cake with candles lit. Everyone is singing, "happy birthday to you..." The cake is for a fellow resident. 

We all stop and enjoy a piece of unexpected wonder.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

At Arm's Length

Admiring his parrot pal, this fellow says to me, "hey, you wanna hold him?" He sees surprise and cautious delight on my face. Without hesitation, he places the bird on my arm.

I hold him, indeed, at arm's length as that coined-phrase takes on viscerally clear new significance. The colorful creature open his mouth and lunges (or so it seems from my vantage point) at my face. I instinctively pull my head back. Just then, the fellow laughs and says as if congratulating me, "That's good! You pulled your head back and not your arm."

The feisty bird offers no commentary. He remains to all appearances contentedly silent. I wonder if he is smiling.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Red Rocks Legacy

"I like your Tshirt," I say as this fellow walks by with friends. "My friend designed it," he replies, and introduces me to the man and woman beside him. And so begins a delightful interchange and a brief dance by these red rocks beyond Las Vegas.

"It's my legacy... Love."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shared Embrace

Visiting with a 90-something woman brightens today. As we talk, she shifts from grieving loss of identity cuz her body functioning is declining. What shows up is an amazing smile, tears in her eyes, as she recognizes that who she is comes down to whom she has embraced. 

When I get up to leave, she says, "I'm sorry I can't walk you to the door." I reply, "you're with me every step of the way right here," as I place my hand over my heart. I see the tears and her smile once more. "Thank you," she says softly. I feel the simple, full beauty of shared embrace.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


"Free!" says a bright yellow paper hanging off a wooden set of drawers as I wander beside this driveway on Potrero Hill. 

Hours later, returning with my car, I also see some potted plants. Just then, a 30-something couple with their six-something son get out of a car. Man says, "oh great! I'll help you carry whatever you want."

I thank him and explain having just moved and wonderful to discover their gift! His wife says, "oh yes, I see your NY plates!" Spotting again the pots in the corner, I ask, "the plants stay, I'm guessing?" He says, "yeah, they stay." 

Minutes later,  as I'm adjusting placement of the drawers in the car, I look up and see a bright-green, potted jade-like plant in his hands. He smiles and says, "welcome to California!" Then he adds, "If you pinch off these large outer leaves and stick them in the ground, they will grow." All at once, I am home.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wandering on Potrero Hill

Wandering on Potrero Hill, I become fascinated with juxtapositions of this world in transition. One side of the Hill is pure pleasure: beautiful, smart, serene. It attracts me from the first moment arriving here last week as I meet likeminded and upbeat folks. Then someone tells me of the other side of the Hill, the one housing the projects where gets unsafe. 

Today, up top by the park, I see a young couple wearing grey sweats with a baby held in the woman's arms. They enter a ramshackle one-story apartment building. I look downhill and see what must be the projects. I turn and exit the park.

Added to the mix in this neighborhood are signs of its history, the wealthier side anyway, having been a working class neighborhood. Traces of this remain as if time traveling, subtle in spots while noticeable. 

I am reminded of Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land." Then something remarkable happens. I'm walking downhill, a steep hill, in bright while crisply cool sunshine. I hear an old woman's voice cry out, "Can someone help me?" As I turn around to assess where it is coming from, I hear her cry out again and again.

I walk back uphill a few steps and look into her open doorway, a Victorian home several steps up from the sidewalk. A woman with long, unbrushed, grey hair is sitting in a wheelchair holding what appears to be some kind of housecleaning spray bottle. The interior seems ancient and neglected. In the distance, faded light grey carpeting in what looks to be a messy bedroom stands out behind the worn wooden floor in the front hall. Hanging on the bannister leading upstairs are clothes drying. The musty smell is palpable as I walk up the few steps to meet her.

I ask what she needs. She asks me to unscrew the bottle top. Takes a few tries yet I manage to do so. She thanks me. I introduce myself and ask her name. She tells me. I tell her just moved and am exploring the neighborhood. She says, "yeah, I don't know why people want to move here." I reply, "sounds like you've been here a long time." She says, drawing out the words, "oh yeah." I ask, "what do you like about it here?" She pauses, sighs as she smiles then says with a trace of melancholy, "Oh, I'd be lost anywhere else."

We chat for a minute more and I turn to go. She thanks me again, I reply, "my pleasure" and head down the steps. As I turn downhill, I hear her door close and see a 49ers flag flying from someone's rooftop with the stunning cityscape shimmering below. I see a couple of boys throwing a ball back and forth. I take a deep breath, cool and clean. Not knowing what street I'm on, I do the only thing that seems natural. I keep moving.