Eleventh

VV at Val'sI’m in Corvallis with Valori and Courtney and just woke up wanting to remember the name of some snazzy new blog but of course it has gone cold in the slide of dreams – Ice becomes Fire? Fire turns Ice? Silly.
It’s the 11th month. My brain is wrapped round this next period in some time warping way but the emotional part of myself is starting to loosen. Nothing can bring him back. Let go. Let go. Still I’m going to recognize the steps of his dying in this month… the unfailing and irreversible reality of how it was rather than what I wish it had been (in other words trying to figure out anymore what we might have done differently to alter the course.) I just don’t want to relive a lot of the painful parts, even if I will. One thing for sure though is at this time, even one month before his death he was still living completely and with gusto even as things like his appetite and energy were not as good as they had been.
In Glacier, on the fire road I looped on below the higher trails closed by the fire, I could feel a unity with Michael. I don’t know how to explain it but it was like a dual occupancy of my heart. In the quiet of this pre-dawn time here with my friends I can almost sense it still within me… just a faint “other” that nestles inside me and gives me the slightest peace.
In 2012 as we headed north for our Canada adventure, our last before the cancer, (all in the archived July 2012 http://www.veggievoyagers.blogspot.com) we stayed here with Valori and Courtney while Michael assembled the solar panels (he finished installing them out along the coast) and the whole project took a number of days to complete but he was happy in the act of problem solving and completely single focused as I came and went on walks with Val or rides into town on my bike. Valori was planting under the fir at the intersection of the road and the driveway back then and she later called that the Michael Healing Garden which I appreciated. Now the plants are tousled and woody and in last sprawling summer best before winter. Everything inextricably moves through its stages and even M in boatas I make a big deal about what has already occurred I and my friends are also winding our ways toward death. The trip has been good for me. I have shaken off some resistance I had to Chico and the people I am in community with there. The isolation that closed in after Michael’s death I think will be less when I get home… which is good with winter coming on. There’s some ways that all the kindness and companionship at the stops along the way have refueled me. There’s also a gratefulness I have to having the traveling end… a month seems like a long time… and now that month creeps toward Sept 22nd, the beginning of his end on Sept. 27th and I’m less afraid of the misery of the anniversary.
I’ll just close by remembering his sweetness (no, he wasn’t always sweet but it was there and woven into everyday, that quality I loved so much) and what a Good person he was, All that was Good of him which remains, often hidden or insignificant to others, but relished and frequented by me as I continue to move through the world and through memory. I still Love you Michael. It’s almost like part of me wants to tell part of him not to be afraid this month facing the death he already faced. Who knows?

Amelia, who was two weeks old when we came here last. Change happens!

Amelia, who was two weeks old when we came here last. Change happens!

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Izaak Walton had an Inn

IMG_7662Izaak Walton, Mr. Fisherman, thanks for the Inn. I slept 14 hours and woke with half completed tasks from two different lengthy dreams punctuated by two trips to the bathroom.

IMG_7687Trails are closed from 5 different fires but the crew is here doing thinning due to the risks to these old wood frame buildings from the Sheeps Creek Fire. I hiked about two miles and will strike out again soon, trying to avoid trail closure signs, after my lunch of Marys Gone Crackers, organic peanut butter, dried apples and two rum and cokes.
Before I have to hit the train again tonight I’ll eat a restaurant dinner and have a Jacuzzi.
What I want to write about isn’t creature comfort, it’s about the pleasure of walking in nature. Before my knees started shouting I was striding with such joy and comfort. I thought it would be wonderful to just walk forever, like Peace Pilgrim. Michael was a few molecules away, like his head being on the same pillow and the space of my consciousness was open to every sound and color and movement. I decided (after completely reviewing out time together in Glacier Park) that is was good and healing to lay down criss-crossing memories across the old terrain we have traveled. …Same discovery but reinforced from the Vermont/Maine part of the trip. These places that belonged to us still belong to me even as they continue their own stories in our absences.

IMG_7705I’m on an old fashioned porch swing, feeling a bit woozy from the smoke and rum but calm and refreshed although at the same time my knees haven’t quite forgiven me…
Portland, Albany, Corvallis and Valori tomorrow!

IMG_7702IMG_7697And I had to add, being me, an Amtrak derailment and a photo of the oil train coming by the porch while I sat here…

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Leaving my family in St. Paul

IMG_7659`This trip has been so filled with human connection. I have never known a time for this many sparks to catch and hold. We had that time with Laurie and got to know Gabe and Dan better. Then met Barbara in Santa Fe… all that time I had the opportunity to deepen my ties to Cathy. Then in Brooklyn I had such wonderful opportunities to have Priya and Ameerah all to myself and to get to know them both as well as a bit of Danny and sprinklings of Kevin and Christine. In Maine Theresa was distracted by work but the closeness deepened with Emily, her daughter and Jim, her husband and I got the feel of their home dirt on my hands and the taste of their peaches on my tongue. I had a sweet “fling” with “Hercules” in Gorham… getting to know a youth knee deep in his questing. Then I was able to have time with Darien, my dear old friend’s now grown daughter followed by more time than I’ve ever had with Kyle as well as sweet time with Guthrie and Ruby. To top it off, in the Twin Cities the time with Bonnie and George was just delicious and I got to have time with two of their kids and their partners. Auntie Marge was the most remote but still the ghost of her was there as well as fleeting touch of Liz, my cousin who I got about two hours with. As I sit on this train moving slowly deeper toward the dense smoky fires in Glacier, I remember my time with Michael along the Milk River and in Havre, where we did laundry at a Christian laundromat by this enormous train yard, filled with Cargil corn cars, natural gas tankers and now us, the Amtrak folks of great patience and sore butts. IMG_7583IMG_7592

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Gorham to Minot

8-18 I wasn’t going to write but my circumstances have been interesting—to me. I bought a 200$ GPS for this leg of the journey and left Wayne, Maine with it and no map yesterday after an amble together to Tubby’s for an ice cream cone that melted in the 92 degree heat almost as efficiently as a Shubert’s would have in Chico. I got to the town of Bethel without a problem and had lunch at the Bakery Theresa had recommended and also went to the new Gem and Mineral Museum before setting my sights for Gorham where I planned to spend the night.
Unfortunately I put Gorham MAINE in the GPS instead of Gorham NEW HAMPSHIRE and it was a relatively long time before I lost faith in the GPS and believed I was indeed going south and then east when my target, I knew, was due west. When I realized my error the GPS didn’t take me back the way I had come but looped me back through Bethel so I felt a tad discouraged since I did not want to add more fossil fuel use to my staggering karmic debt.
In Gorham I saw a sign for a Hostel called The Barn and it was indeed a barn next to a lovely old Victorian B&B. Inside were Appalachian Trail flotsam and a couple of young men. I struck up a conversation with a 27 year old trail-named Hercules and we ended up going to dinner to the Pizza place together and then I took him back to the trail after swinging by the Walmart for his resupply. (I tried to find dental floss last night and found to my dismay that the only place to get it in town is the Walmart—there is no other place to shop!)
Most of my roommates were glued to the TV until about 10 pm when I went up to our common room on the second floor. That area that would have been called a hay loft in the day was now wall to wall with mattresses. I was the first to bed down but in the morning most of the beds were full. I thought I’d gotten up first but someone was in the sole bathroom for a very long time as I paced outside the door. When the door opened it was a pale young being with a prosthetic leg. I’ll be lucky to hike a few miles today and I wish all the determined through hikers a very easy day.
8-21 Amazing that this is just 3 days later!
It was a good hike back in “the Whites” even though it defeated my knees. After that I stayed the night in Calais, Vt. with my friend Joan’s daughter. Joan died of breast cancer at 42 and her daughter talked a lot about family with me. Time has just flown by since Joan died in 1988.
Next I went to Burlington, Vt. to meet up with Kyle and Guthrie. My favorite time was playing a tile game at Guthrie’s after we went skinny dipping in her pool with bats diving and weaving around our heads. I also got to visit my friend Ruby who has settled in a Little House in her daughter’s backyard with her husband Lev. They are really grounded into a luxurious garden and car-free life. We talked about what one might do with one’s life at this stage (although she is younger than I am and has her husband and regular grand-baby duties.) Through the full three days I felt really supported and even got to see Kyle in a musical, just as we had done when she was a child.
This morning I left Guthrie and drove west to Syracuse with few frivolous side trips. I was glad to be rid of the rental car even though now I’m back into the completely proletarian people-mover systems. I’m in the Greyhound Bus station that adjoins the Amtrak. Staff assured me the train will be late even though it is on time now. I dread the night. I checked on the cost of the sleeper cars… they run 180-360$ a night. I’d rather hang by my fingernails than pay that much. It’s now that my aloneness may or may not close in on me.
I loved my friend
He went away from me
There’s nothing more to say
Soft as it began
I loved my friend
Langston Hughes
8/27 On the train again after a wonderful visit with my cousin and his family. The night was miserable, as expected but even though even here the sky is smoking I’m still feeling positive and happy, here in Minot, ND. Where we have been having a very long lay-over. We leave soon. I’m going to post NOW since I’ll loose internet in about 5 minutes.

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A Stop with Friends

IMG_7515Theresa used to be my best friend. I remember how when I first met Michael I obsessed about him and she, just with her presence, helped my mind to clear and not loop constantly about him. She lived in Chico and was my roommate when Orien was little. She had an old yellow bike and was just like she is now except that now she is focused on her work and is no-nonsense in every thing she does… I think by the end of the weekend she was having a little more fun but she has a full week ahead of her.

IMG_7541She and her husband Jim are living the happily ever after life here in Maine. Today we went to the beach but also took time before dinner to swim in the lake nearby right at sunset. It was idyllic.

IMG_7530Now I’ve gone as far east as I can go…ocean to ocean and it is time to head home. I have til Friday to wander around before returning the car I rented. Tomorrow I’ll try a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and then have some time with friends in Burlington, Vt. before rejoining the Amtrak in Syracuse, N.Y. for points west.

I’m not sad right now. I’m just in this sweet old house, with peaches ripening on the porch and the night sounds of insects at the window. There isn’t anything to say about how it is being a guest in the home of friends. These friends have lived about 25 years apart from me so that despite caring their lives are melded here and mine elsewhere. Tomorrow I’ll do some weeding then meet my dear old T for lunch before heading out to resume my loop.

See http://www.veggievoyagers.blogspot.com October 2007 for more about Theresa’s work and Wayne, Maine and our last visit.

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Brooklyn to Portland

photos wouldn’t upload…

I’ve been awake for a long time. There is some shift to light at the window here in Portland, Me. Where I am bedded down on the second floor of a three floor Victorian, Theresa and Emily above me. I arrived in Portland for dinner from Brooklyn and we ate at the restaurant where Emily works. Somethings triggered me at dinner… both the fact that Jim knew more about what was happening with California wildfires than I do and that I expressed to them what a hard year it has been.
After I got up to pee I couldn’t sleep again and first looked up the fires that are burning in my poor parched state. Then I went into the Veggie Voyager (www.veggievoyagers.blogspot.com) to read about this section of our original Veggie Voyage in Oct. 20007 and then into “this time last year” for the last time… I won’t be able to stand to look at Sept when it rolls around. Last year we were going up to high mountain lakes in between chemos and M was collecting veggie oil, buying boats and I was chattering on about a myriad of non-Michael topics with the abandon that a secure and happy life ensures. During these wee hours I enlarged each photo of him to study his face for signs of the ravages of the disease that would take him…yes, he was thin and his features were sharper than “normal.” I guess the biggest trigger is that I will driving in reverse some of the areas where we traveled together in 2007…. Beautiful areas that we claimed just because I fixed the points in the blog. I didn’t know that it would be a hurdle to return.
My time in Brooklyn seems to have focused on Priya and Ameerah since we spent the most time together. I liked it because it wasn’t a flashy time. We moved at the pace a little one would allow and didn’t do anything grander than a trip to the Botanical Garden. My mind filled up with Ameerah’s difficult developmental stage (major whining and tantruming) interspersed with very sweet sprightly little girl times. Her mom, cultured, elegant and a woman of the world (having been the daughter of a diplomat and lived all over the world,) is a fascinating person and we talked for hours. I also got glimpses into my nephews’ lives and even into the lives of Kevin’s dear one and the downstairs neighbor. My reflections there were about parenting, urban vs rural lifestyles, the challenges of making a living, working full time and raising a family, the creative art world of New York but very little about Michael. It was a relief to have my mind so filled with thoughts of others that he slid off into the sideline. On one hand I want to set him aside and on the other to pull him closer and not allow him to be forgotten.
As I write this it is August 15th, the half way point of my Amtrak trip. I’ll have this time with my old friend Theresa and then head west again. I think my time with family in Brooklyn is probably going to dominate my memories in the years ahead… just seeing them as they live and being able to participate a little in this relatively quiet time before Priya starts into her graduate work and Ameerah starts pre-school. I am filled with gratitude to them for welcoming me and at life for letting me do this trip. Sometimes lugging my suitcase up a long staircase in a train station as I did this last 24 hours (Bed-stuy to Penn Station then Back Bay Boston to North Station,) I wonder if my traveling days are nearing an end but I hope not. It is my joy to accumulate new experiences and it sure helps me put distance on losing Michael.

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Amtrak from New Mexico to New York

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August 9th–Today I spent mostly in the company of my own waiting. After I said goodbye to our host and then to Cathy, who dropped me off in Lamy, I walked around a little to the museum which was hosting a memorial that morning. The melancholy sounds of the pipes brought be over there. The whole railroad facility was like a setting of an old movie… dirt road and all.

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Unfortunately, what the dispatches called a “trespasser” (vs a pedestrian) was hit and killed by our train just after Albuquerque so the train was delayed about four hours. Instead of a three hour wait I had a seven hour wait. I mainly just read my book about UN “lifer” Sergio Vieira de Mello (Chasing the Flame One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power.) It has given me an important insight into the UN’s mission and performance from Lebanon up until the Coalition period of the Gulf War when Vieira de Mello was killed. Seeing all the conflicts through his placements makes me think how badly all the horrible conflicts in the world have been handled and how the genocides and refugee crises could have been abbreviated if we had a more flexible, inclusive and supported United Nations. Despite my fascinating book it was a long day.
Once boarded we only had a few hours of Northern New Mexico to appreciate before a glorious sunset, complete with rainbows and a lightning storm and then the dark. I dread the long night of trying to sleep sitting up but at least I’m plenty tired from not sleeping well last night.

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Poor Amtrak, besides occasionally murdering the unwary or suicidal, they are underfunded and often apologizing for being late. I’ll get into Chicago much later than I’d thought so won’t have the long lay over I wasn’t sure how to take advantage of.
Today was the Nagasaki Observance up at Los Alamos and I wish I could have joined those marching and vigiling at the gates of hell but instead I just sunk into a lazy patience and the day passed as uneventfully as the last century and a half has on my section of track.
August 10th- We move through the flat country of Kansas at a good clip after a wee morning two hour wait for a derailment ahead of us. Now we are even more behind but according to my handy-dandy app I’ll make my train to New York. The night was as uncomfortable and long as I’d anticipated but at least I slept. At about 4am I moved from my torture seat to the observation car where I was able to almost stretch out over three seats and make the 6:30 AM dining car to meet new interesting strangers for political discourse and a pricey breakfast. I’m not sure how the meals will go for the rest of this day—I’m down to corn nuts and granola bars.
As I may have noted elsewhere, most people travel in couples or lay out the words, “my wife” or “my girl friend” or other such notable attachments. I use the word “we” often since I do live in community with the people at Riparia….no point in saying more. It is then that I join the comfortably attached even as a little whiny voice is crying out for Michael to rescue me from my singlehood. (Although this trip would drive him bonkers!)
Aug. 11th—The connection at Chicago was like another movie set… refugees running for freedom, being turned back, running for another entrance, realizing freedom existed only in the gap that had been left behind and running back to bolt up the stairs of the restless train right before it huffed out of the station.
I could not sleep until I went to observation/café car where people were talking loudly. I did a face plant in my pillow and drooled my way through a few hours. Then I severely twisted up my hair and bravely made my way into the dining car with unwashed teeth in my three day old clothes for breakfast.
I regret that I will be so exhausted and dirty when I see my nephew but I can’t tell you how GRATEFUL I will be to get off this train!!! I’ve loved the countryside as the train route has no signs, no box stores, no traffic. It’s got wonderful diversity—lots of Amish and internationals and the staff are all agreeable. If I wasn’t so tired….

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