Happy New Year- January 9, 2023
Covid. I think enough has been said about the last two years. Each one of us has a story about that time. And here's mine.
About a year ago, on February 17 to be exact, I was put on dialysis. I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease about four years ago and was able, with diet and exercise to delay the inevitable. Dialysis itself is not unpleasant but it does change your life. The fatigue after is almost unbearable. The worst part for me is the curtailing of so many activities I loved and took for granted -- traveling, yoga, long walks on the beach, visiting venues such as museums, concert halls, theater -- and I think this may be true for so many of us who are concerned about our health and taking good care of ourselves. Most people I know don't really go anywhere where there are large groups of people.
It has taken me a year to accept and adapt to the "new normal". And I am not sure I am "there" yet. My husband has been my hero and takes good care of me. I couldn't go through this experience without him. It is true that in times of need you find out who are your true friends. I am so very lucky to have good, supportive people in my life.
One excellent! thing came out of 2021. I wrote and published a book! It is called LIVING OUT LOUD -- A Six Month Odyssey. It is a memoir of six months my husband I spent in Europe. You can check it out and order it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. There are several books with this title (much to my chagrin I didn't know this at the time) and mine has a red cover with a picture of me on the cover.
Next time we meet I will tell you about how I live my life now. Good to be back with you.
And I would appreciate feedback. Thanks!
GOING GREY - December 22
Going grey. I did a zoom meeting a few months ago with a club. Every former brunette, blonde or redheaded woman was grey. The beauty shops are open and some of us are going for occasional haircuts, but far less are going for color. The reasons I hear -- "it is easier, one doesn't have to worry being indoors too long, saves money, no maintenance required." Baloney.
At first it was really "I don't give a shit" and then being grey became a statement of "the world is in terrible shape how can I possibly care about the color of my hair" and then "I like it! I accept it!" But. Going grey on the outside doesn't mean going grey on the inside.
Motivation and persistence are called upon now to determine how we live our days. Most of us are home all the time. And hopefully we like our homes. This is the time if we don't like our homes, to make changes, albeit small ones. More importantly, this is the time to make peace with our homes. And don't let them get grey. This is it folks. For a while anyway. If you live where I live, at the beach, and in good weather you are ahead of the game. You have your paths and roads to walk. You have fresh air to breathe. There is sunlight. If not, it is a challenge to create a pleasing environment. But it can be done.
Now the hard part. What to do with all the time. Endless hours that have to be filled. Most of us rely on the known to get us through, television, books, and staying connected. Some of us are working from home. We have computers and television sets and the phone, and no one is more than a few seconds away. No motivation needed here. Staying connected is paramount. Humanity depends on it. Reach out and initiate.
Some of us make plans. We are going to write. We are going to play the piano; we will take a class online. We may even do virtual tours of other countries. But do we actually do these things? We think about it a lot. But thinking is not doing. But where does this resistance come from?
For years we have worked. We have socialized. We have been out in the world-- theater, concerts, museums, sport events, restaurants, travel, gathering with friends. The stuff we all like and many live for. The rewards for a hard day's work. Now there are no rewards. No way to earn rewards. The stories we tell ourselves -- when I am done working, bringing up children, helping here and there, I will have time to live my life as I fantasize. Now is that time.
Look in the mirror. You can go grey on the outside but not on the inside.
We resist doing the things we like and that we think are going to fulfill us, not out of fear of acceptance or rejection. Why? Maybe we fear we aren't worthy. I think it is more apt to say, "I don't deserve to do things that I enjoy". Somewhere in our childhood we may have been told we didn't deserve to be happy. Not exactly in those words but in the negative messages our parents sent to us. To some of us.
Emile Zola said, "If you asked me what I come into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." Are you living out loud?
Clean out a drawer. It's a start.
WOMEN WHO READ ARE DANGEROUS
(Translated from German with a foreword by Karen Joy Fowler)
Story by Allegreta Blau
A book with a most provocative title, which begs the question, just why are they dangerous? We women who read should take a moment to put down the book, this or any other, and look around us. We are experiencing a rare period of triumph. We can read freely. This has not always been the case. In days gone by, when reading is associated only with piety and chastity, it has generally been approved. What about other reading? In this book we see chapters headed "Where the Word Lives", "Intimate Moments", Abodes of Pleasure", "Hours of Delight", "The Search for Oneself" and "Little Escapes".
We sit quietly, but maybe in these times when we are almost always surrounded by those we live with, not so quietly. Silent reading did not exist before the days of St. Augustine -- he was so amazed by the reading behavior of Bishop Ambrose of Milan that he entrusted the experience to his Confessions, written toward the end of the fourth century. There was a practical reason for reading silently, Augustine did not want to be distracted or need entrance into discussion with other readers. Silent reading saves time compared to reading aloud.
The act of gazing silently at the pages of a book creates an atmosphere of intimacy that separates the reader from his immediate surroundings -- and don't we all need that these days - - and yet allows him to stay at the center of them. In the midst of our household bustle and difficulties with dealing with the pandemic, in the presence of others the reader could remain undisturbed in his own company.
With the ability to read, however, there developed new patterns of private behavior that were to threaten the legitimacy of both the Church and secular authorities on a permanent basis. Women who learned to read at that time were considered dangerous.
For the women who reads acquires a space to which she and no one else has access, and together with this she develops an independent sense of self-esteem; furthermore, she creates her own view of the world that does not necessarily correspond with that conveyed by tradition or with that of men. All this does not yet signify the liberation of women from patriarchal guardianship, but it does push open the door that leads to freedom. The following gallery of images of women reading functions as a virtual museum. The reader can stroll around it, catch glimpses and make connections. The short commentaries are intended to support this tour. Even images of reading need to be read.
In "Women Who Read are Dangerous" there are over 70 paintings showing women who read. To name a few: "Mary Magdalene", by Ambrosius Benson, "A Dutch Mother-To-Be" by Johannes Vermeer, "Marquise de Pompadour" by Francois Boucher, "A Mother and Her Children" by Anton Ebert, "Suzanne Manet" by Edouard Manet (being read to by her son), and the coup de gras, "Marilyn Monroe" a photograph by Eve Arnold of the subject reading Proust.
One painting of a passionate reader in search of herself is "Dreams" by Vittorio Matteo Corcos, painted in 1896. Elena Vecchi is a young dreamy-looking woman lost in thought. This painting graces the cover of the book. She is sitting on a yellow bench, and the fallen leaves on the ground suggests the first theme of this painting: the transient nature of existence. There is a pile of yellow books on the bench with her. What is she thinking about? Her gaze is strong and direct. She is looking right at us, almost defiantly. Among the wilting leaves there are also red petals. The departing summer has turned a young girl into a self-possessed woman. Perhaps her reading has also contributed to this change, so it could be that the rose has been serving as a bookmark. She has no wish to return to her state of innocence. The title of the painting is misleading. This reader is no dreamer.
In"Woman with a Yellow Necklace Reading" by Felix Vallotton painted in 1912, the interior here as well in most of his paintings, is an arena of human passions and sorrows. However, psychological background has been abandoned and the feeling of oppression has given way to a composed contemplation of a book containing images of expansive landscapes. Even though the scene has a slightly staged appearance, Vallotton shows us a woman reading and smiling mischievously who seems to find peace within herself.
Subject matter although all about women who read, is further subdivided into categories such as "Where the World Lives", "Intimate Moments", "Abodes of Pleasure", "Hours of Delight", "The Search for Oneself" and "Little Escapes". Reading, said the French writer Jean-Paul Sartre, is a free dream. Often we tend to see at first the fabricated dream and less the created act. And yet intensive reading is exactly that -- a challenge to our creative freedom. Do we know what to do with this freedom? All the depictions are colorful, heartwarming and inspirational. The New York Times Book Review calls this book "A treasure trove of visual riches."
Enjoy. Allegreta Blau
I am marking the specifics as this is the first day I am writing. It's been two months since the coronavirus has started to change all our lives. I thought I would use all this at home time to write, but at first I was so traumatized, then depressed, then elated (there will be an end to this lunacy) and then back to depressed. I find I am more steady now, having gotten somewhat accustomed to a new normal.
I am not at all bored. I could be busy with a hundred different tasks all day long. The issue is wanting to accomplish anything. Anything at all. There will be millions of words written about this terrible time far more eloquent than mine. However I forge ahead with my story. I think the story is different for each of us.
In the early days time was spent hunting down toilet paper. Then it was food shopping (god forbid we should run out of food) and then getting used to the idea that we could bring in food from restaurants. Didn't trust this for quite a while.
The events changed rapidly. For example, I have acrylic nails and they were growing so long as to be uncomfortable; I really didn't care what they looked like but I did care that I was finding it difficult to play the piano or even type at the computer keyboard. The roots of my hair are brown and grey now where they are usually light brown and ash blonde. And I really need a haircut. And my dog needs grooming badly. Do I have an adequate amount of bath products? I live for my nightly bubble baths. I read my New Yorker magazines in the bathtub.
It was cold at the beginning and I chose only to go out to walk the dog. I noticed that many more people were walking their dogs and a lot more often; obviously a good excuse to be outdoors when we are told to stay home. The dog walkers are friendly and those I know wave and I think beneath their masks they are smiling. At least I'd like to think so.
After awhile it became mandatory to leave the condo. Cabin fever was a real thing and escape was necessary. We started with short car rides, mostly to the food markets and then to a spot we know where we can sit and look at the water. We would take our dog with us and walk her for a few minutes wherever we would go. Not incidentally, our dog loves it that we are with her all the time. She shows her gratitude with abundant kissing, licking hugging and waving of her tail. Now we are meeting up with friends and family in parks, sitting at least six feet apart, wearing our masks and trying to be upbeat.
Amazon becomes my best friend. Now, two months into this horrendous time, we still get many packages a week; sometimes two or three in a day. I think I am buying what is necessary but probably doing some frivolous shopping as well. And zoom. A blessing or a curse, I am not sure. I don't like looking at a screen for hours on end and worse, having someone look at me. That is why I don't do Facebook much either. Youtubes are great because they are entertaining and informative. My husband just discovered that he can watch a 1993 Simon and Garfunkel concert given at Central Park. Before he never had time for Youtubes. And all the fun Youtubes people are sending!
Now in the new normal my day goes like this -- upon arising I make coffee, feed the dog and watch my hero, Andrew Cuomo on CNN news. I can't say enough good things about this truly honorable and giving man. Would that he were President. After Andy, I do exercises, yoga and meditate. Then to the phones and the computer. It's slowed down but at the beginning friends were really reaching out, especially my friends who live alone. Gotta be tough. Then brunch/lunch. Reading, piano, writing, TV, paper work (yes that never ends). Then we may go out for a bit, come home, long bath, have dinner and TV and/or reading and bed. It's not bad at all. Twice a week I play Mahjong on line with 3 ladies from my usual game. Once a week I have a zoom singing lesson.
What I miss -- museums, concerts, lectures, theater, restaurants, the beach, the beach, the beach, the parks, and in person meetings with friends. And travel. Planning a trip. All this will return but I am not partaking until I feel it is truly safe. Now is not that time. I do understand the need for some to go to work. Economics demand it. I hope the powers that be will be prudent in selecting what where why and when.
Trying to keep my brain and body active but there are times, especially on grey days, I like to just zone out and watch a movie on TV, in bed with a cup of tea and a small piece of cake. Or just sit and talk to my very patient hubby. I dont' know how we do it, but we found a way to distance ourselves from each other even in a small condo. There are those times when we need our truly alone space.
Now I am going to make a cup of tea and play with my very long haired doggie. I need some face licking.
In essence, a vacation is a leaving of something to go to something else. My husband and I recently returned from two weeks in Mexico. Sun and surf, good food, fun times. No work. Repeat: NO WORK. I go from a vacation from blogging to a vacation from daily life. How do you like this segue?
For me it was a vacating rather than a vacation. Leaving work and routine behind. No dishes. No laundry. No cooking. No grocery shopping. No errands or chores. No obligations or responsibilites. Heading for nothing but good times. How great to awake and do nothing or do a lot. How great to have the choice.
"Getting there is half the fun" was, several years ago, a commercial for an airline, I forget which. Now in the 21st century, getting there means planning and making the "to do" lists way ahead. Flights and hotels to be arranged, clothes to be washed, ironed and packed. Who's going to take care of the dog? Remember to have all her supplies at the ready: food, toys, bed, shampoo. Keys and locks and where to hide the good stuff. Make sure the car is locked, and take anything valuable out of the trunk. (Yes, my husband's basketball is valuable. At least to him.) Alerting the neighbors to our absence. And I know that I don't have to tell you about all the airline/airport lunacy.
At last we arrive at our hotel. On the beach. In the sun. Room with an ocean view. (Don't they all have ocean views?) It is a beautiful place; we've been many times before and we love it. We are familiar with the lay of the land, how to get around, all the amenities. We even know some of the people who work here. So, let's see ... oh right. We have to go out and have fun. We can't waste a minute but then again whatever happened to waking up and doing nothing OR doing it all? Still my choice?
Structure and agenda. Can't get away from this. They won't let you. They want you to take day trips -- "What? you haven't seen the Botanical Gardens in all the years you'be been coming here?" go to particular restaurants, the omnipresence lure of the tequila factory tour, shopping all over the place -- you don't have to go to shops; they come to you in the form of vendors trodding up and down the beach. They wear white because they are fully clothed and it is hot. They carry heavy goods -- blankets, clothes, cases loaded with silver jewels, even rugs. And they are relentless. Just to make a few pesos. Not easy.
Expectations are self defeating. Better to let the trip come to you rather than seek out the pleasures. But I will miss out on something wonderful if I don't take this one day tour to the jungle!
Where I live it is pleasant most of the year so escaping to sunshine is not enough; I live in sunshine and warm weather. The visitors from the icecube that is Canada are thrilled just to sit by the pool and bask. But I can't be! I have to make this vacation perfect and great in every way. Impossible you say. But I try so hard to do this! In other words, no these are the exact words -- having a good time takes WORK.
I envy those who are happy to just be. I strive for this! At least I think I do, but the striving is WORK.
Sorry, but I have to go. I checked my watch. It's time for my power walk to the Marina for lunch, followed by massage by the sea and a mojito. I am, when all is said and done, ultimately grateful to be a tourist. And do STUFF. My way. Ta ta!
I think constantly about whether or not I have anything to say of interest. Or that's new. Millions of words go over the internet every day -- what makes mine special? Maybe they're not special; maybe they don't have to be. A lot of maybes.
My last blog was about our upcoming trip to the Great Northwest. As planned we started in Seattle, drove down to a party in Tacoma, and drove west to the Oregon Seacoast. In essence we made a giant 1,149 mile U-turn, down the Coast from top to bottom, east to Ashland, north to Portland and finally north to Seattle with a lot of stopping and detouring along the way. It was one of our better trips -- hauntingly beautiful scenery, comfy car, great driver (my husband all the way) staying with really nice people in really nice homes, good weather, stress free. And Tillamook cheese.
What pleasantly surprised me is how gracious all our friends were. Maybe seeing each other just about once or twice every five years is the answer. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Actually they are dear people and we were so happy to share time and space with them. Shall I state the obvious? No one is getting any younger (yet another cliché) so somewhere in the back of our minds is how many times will I see this person again? So kindness really counts. And the scenery. The Oregon Seacoast is so naturally beautiful my heart ached. Words of description are empty; you have to be there. I urge you to get in the Chevy and just go. I kept kind of a diary; that is I wrote down a few words about each day, on my trusty IPad. How does anyone live without an IPad I wonder? I started to write a running list of each days' events in this blog but decided no. Should you want to, you are all welcome to ask questions.
My next entry on the webpage will be a story called "The Egg and the IPad." I rather like it and hope you will too. Namaste, Allegreta