Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Peaceful Place

It's been hot. Too hot. And there's nothing I can do about it. Of course, one can take solace in the fact that it's a "dry heat". But really? The only solution seems to be the solution we are already very familiar with having lived on The Ranch for four years. We get up early, do as much work as we can outside until we're dying and then we go inside where it's cool for the rest of the day. Then later, as the sun starts to go down, we come out again and do more work until it's too dark to see. Sometimes to extend my endurance I soak my shirt and head with water but that only serves to keep me going about 15 minutes longer and then my shirt is 100% dry.  This system is kind of an inch worm approach to getting outdoor things done.

I am in awe of the field workers. I wouldn't last a minute out in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley. I wasn't born to the heat. As you drive along the highway you see billboards that advise the farm workers, "Agua. Sombra. Descanso." Which means "Water. Shade. Rest." They might be more accustomed but it's still dangerous and everyone knows it.

I grew up in central Iowa and when it got hot it was also humid, too. We didn't know anything about heat index at the time and we didn't have central air conditioning either. We didn't get central A/C until I was a teenager so I remember quite clearly how Mom would put a big fan in the hall way at night between the bedrooms to circulate air that sort of but not really helped to evaporate the sweat off our miserable sleepless bodies.

I don't know how my uncles and cousins did their farm work. They'd come in off the fields and take off their caps and their foreheads were white as snow against their darkly tanned faces. They would drink huge amounts of iced tea and lemonade my grandmother and great aunt would make. There were no air conditioned tractor cabs in those days.

We were out late in the evening the other day and the dusky air took me back in time in my mind. Being out that evening reminded me of the days back in Iowa when we would come out of the house in the evening to play or go for a walk or a swing on the porch. My grandmother, in particular, had a north facing porch the length of the house and a porch swing that we kids wore down until we almost broke it. On those sultry evenings the air was quiet and off high up in the trees we heard the drone of the cicada. The stillness of the air. The drone of the cicada. The dusky light. Swatting a mosquito from time to time.

My mom called them June bugs. I think she really knew the difference but we kids didn't and it didn't matter. You'd find a June bug that had shed its exo-skeleton and left it in the crook of two branches of the tree limbs. Fascinating stuff.

My Aunt J said: "I hated that June bugs would come in through holes in the window screens and would buzz around at night when I tried to read in bed before falling asleep.  I would holler for Mom if I thought there was a chance that Mom would come and get rid of the thing.  Mom usually said ”Turn out the light and it’ll go away." Or  "just catch it and kill it yourself.”  Ugh!  I would usually kill it because I didn’t trust that it would politely leave if I just turned off the light. The cicadas came at night in August.  We always knew summer was going to end in another month or so when we heard them start up.

My mom said she listened to them at night and that their buzzing was hypnotic in a way. Later when she learned a meditation technique she said listening to cicadas buzz was similar to meditation. The buzz of the cicada was like a mantra that helped her transcend the world and go to a peaceful place in her mind.

Monday, July 25, 2016

For Those of Us Left Behind

Georgia and I at the horse pasture a few weeks before she passed.

My friend Georgia Zurilgen Williams passed away peacefully last night. She was 62 years old. She had been living with a glioma brain tumor for nearly three years and had endured chemotherapy and surgery more times than I can recall. For most of those years she was upbeat and optimistic. She was hoping she'd beat it. It's true that some people can live for years with a tumor but it has to be very special circumstances. I have even heard of 25 years. Near the end she was not happy. As a matter of fact, she was miserable. The tumor took her ability to speak correctly and to reason and she knew it. There's no blanket way to deal with these things. It's all personal and if such a thing befalls us we each have to take our individual situation and decide what to do. There's no cookie cutter approach.

Georgia took her way and I was in awe of her bravery. I forgive her the confusion and anger she experienced near the end.

Our Friendship

I knew her for 30 years. We were partners in horses for that whole time. First, we had Magic, an appaloosa gelding, and Majestic, a paint mare. Then we had Dusty, another appaloosa gelding, and at the same time there was Baush and Spice. Seems like there was one more but I can't remember its name because I had moved out of the Bay Area by that time. Of course, before I met Georgia she had a slew of other horses because her history in horses started when she was a girl.

I remember once we went to a John Lyons clinic in Davis, CA. We slept in the back of her pick up in the clinic parking lot because we were both too broke to afford a room. It was better that way anyway. We could get up and be the first ones in the bleachers. We could wander around the grounds and commune with the animals.

There are so many things I remember about her. You know how a lot of times when you eulogize a person that in the back of your mind as you're saying all the nice things you're also thinking I wish I could say the whole truth of my experience with this person? Like he sure was a bastard in many ways and cruel and selfish? I wanted to say this about my dad. But I didn't. There's no point.

Well, in Georgia's case I can honestly say there was not a mean bone in her body. I can eulogize her with confidence about her sweet nature. She was an exemplary person who always looked for how it might feel to walk a mile in another one's shoes. She was kind. She was thoughtful. She had demons like we all do and she battled them and it made her a compassionate person. She lived that compassion in her daily life.

Of course, I'm going to miss her. Like I miss my dad's wife Teresa. Also taken before old age. Also taken while still young and vital. They're both gone on ahead to the ultimate adventure. They've both travelled up the road ahead of the rest of us and have left us behind. We'll follow them on that same path soon enough. May life set lightly upon you and give you have peace.