I do

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 10, 2017 8:40 PM

No one really knows when marriage first began though like many things ancient, it likely started with the Egyptians. In fact, The Elephantine Papyri, a collection of documents from the 5th century BC found on the island of Elephantine on the River Nile, found three marriage certificates. In one, the groom was named Ananiah ben Azariah and the bride was called, simply, Tamut. In 2300 BC, the Sumerian culture also recorded marriage certificates.

In the beginning of wedded bliss, people joined together for a number of reasons, most of which had little to do with love. Marriages were often arranged, joining two families together rather than two people, usually for practical reasons. One family wanted something another had and vice versa. Marriages were of convenience and for continuing lineage. In some parts of the world, this still happens, though thankfully not as often in this particular part.

The first record of a marriage license being issued in this country occurred in 1639 in Massachusetts. There doesn’t seem to be a record of who actually got married or why, or why, in that particular year, a license was required. Perhaps it was just something the couple wanted, or maybe it was so that there would be a record of the merger when it came time to sell crops or barter for food.

In the Western world, marriage has evolved to include couples of the same sex. Contrary to popular rhetoric, these marriages have not led to a plethora of people marrying children or their pets though I know some pets who would make better companions than some chosen husbands or wives. Most people seem to understand that things change, societies evolve, people become more tolerant and worldly. Most people understand this. Some don’t.

In the United States, most people get married for love. I have said “I do” twice, though it turns out that the first time I actually didn’t. The second time, I definitely did and do. I was too young to get married the first time. I have come to believe that people shouldn’t get married until they’re in their 30s for several reasons the main one being that I don’t think we know who we truly are or what we really want until we’ve experienced more of life than college. We need to work and travel and form opinions that are based on our own beliefs rather than those of our parents. We need to become our own people. This happens, in my opinion, starting in our late 20s and into our early 30s. We bring more to a marriage when we have become more of ourselves.

This weekend, we traveled to Des Moines, Iowa. I’d never been. Curiously Kevin, who grew up in Illinois and whose brother and sister-in-law live in the state, hadn’t been there either unless you count driving through. It’s not a place we had ever thought about going. When we do go to that part of the country, it’s to visit Chicago, something we haven’t done in years and something we always do at this time of the year. We love Chicago in December. It’s bitter cold but walking the streets and especially Michigan Avenue is spectacular under a near-Christmas sky. We had to change planes in Chicago, at O’Hare, and I felt a curious tug to stay, check in at The Fairmont overlooking Lake Shore Drive, and spend the weekend. Alas, we boarded another flight, a small commuter jet that took us to Des Moines International. Once there, Justin, who had driven in from Atlanta to meet us, picked us up and deposited us at the downtown Marriott in time to shower, change, and head off to a rehearsal dinner. We had come to town for a wedding.

Kevin’s brother Jeff has three kids, all of whom are in their 30s. The oldest, Eric, is 36; the youngest, Ryan, is 31. And in the middle is Laura, who is 32. Eric and Ryan are both married, with children. Eric and his wife, Becky, have two kids; Ryan and his wife, Marissa, have a little boy. It was Laura’s turn to get married.

In downtown Des Moines, a surprisingly wonderful city, reminiscent of a small and cleaner Chicago, the streets are lined with trees wrapped in white lights. Black, metal boxes, flared at the tops and supported by black metal stands, are strategically placed along the sidewalks. Each sports a small pine tree adorned with red ribbons. Wreaths hang above building entrances. In the lobbies, Christmas trees tower and twinkle through the day and night. Christmas music plays everywhere.

The temperatures were chilly. On Saturday, it was 25 degrees. An enclosed skywalk connects much of downtown, shielding pedestrians from the harshest temperatures. We used it for a while yesterday morning as we explored a bit, finally finding the Temple for the Performing Arts where the wedding and reception was to be held. This is the cultural hub of the city, where shows are produced, music is heard, and events like weddings are held. It was a Masonic Temple in its previous incarnation. In xxxx it took on its current persona. It’s a remarkable facility, old, with copper-plate ceilings, and stone columns. In the recital hall, where the wedding was held, the windows are stained glass.

Last night, at 5 o’clock, the ceremony began. The groomsmen ushered in bridesmaids, the ring bearers - Hartley (2) and Oliver (1) - made it mostly down the aisle as Eric and Ryan, both groomsmen, coerced and coaxed their boys forward. Rainey, 6, was the flower girl. Then came Laura, on her dad’s arm, walking toward her groom, Nathan. Glowing and gorgeous, and crying, the release of the tension leading up to this moment. The pastor talked of their choice, of the idea of hiring each other, that their courtship had been a long job interview and that they have both landed in a new career. They would be co-CROs. Chief Reminder Officers, whose job would be to remind each other constantly of their commitment and their love.

I had not heard that before. I smiled at its truth. And as I listened to Laura and Nathan exchange vows, I thought of how interesting weddings are, how much better marriage is, can, and should be, and how “I do” is, can, and should be what life and a partnership is ultimately what matters.

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Lost Soles

Royally

by Lorin Michel Friday, December 1, 2017 6:14 PM

Most days, I awaken feeling that we’re royally screwed as a country. By the time, I go to bed, nothing has happened to change that feeling other than to sometimes intensify it. It’s an awful way to live but I know there are a lot of us that do. We wake up and immediately check the news feed to see what awful thing has happened while we had the audacity to try to sleep. We rage on Twitter (though not me – I don’t have a twitter account). We rant on Facebook. We exchange furious emails. More than screwed, we are feeling powerless, frightened, and desperate for something, anything that even sounds happy and good. 

Enter the Royals. That’s something I never thought I’d type or even say. I am not a Royals watcher. I don’t care much about the queen. I was not one of those people who got up in the middle of the night to watch when Diana and Charles got married. We did watch Diana’s funeral. That just seemed terribly tragic, given her age and how she died. It affected both Kevin and I much more than either of us expected. Maybe it was because she was my age and her companion was Kevin’s. 

Over the years, I would see the occasional headline about the young princes. I never read the stories. When William got married a few years ago, I saw the photos online. Everybody looked pretty. I was surprised at how much William looked like his mother, except for the hair. 

I have been mildly amused by some of Harry’s antics; some not so much. I liked his red hair. 

It was interesting then, to find myself actually following this week’s announcement of the young prince’s engagement. Yes, we have watched Suits on occasion; yes, we knew who Meghan Markle was, though I wouldn’t call us fans. But I have to admit to finding a perverse kind of pleasure in one of Diana’s sons marrying an American, and a bi-racial one from Los Angeles at that. It seems so modern. And they seem so much more interesting that William and Kate, who are attractive but utterly uninteresting with their 2.5 kids and overwhelming sense of duty. I admire that. I like that they’ve done things differently than the Royals of the past but I’ve never thought about them one way or another. 

But the engagement of Harry and Meghan makes me smile. I’ve found myself looking at photos and watching the video of their engagement. I even read a story or two. It makes me feel hopeful, somehow. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had that soft spot for Harry. He has always seemed less uptight, less formal. I love that he’s marrying a woman who’s older than he is, a divorcee, an actress. I love that they’re going to live in Nottingham Cottage, a two-bedroom house in Kensington Palace, where his mother lived. And I love that the Royals all seem genuinely happy about it all.

I’m under no delusion that if he was first in line for the throne, there would be hell to pay. But he’s not, so he’s free.

It makes me happy. Evidently I’m not the only one. Today, I was reading Andrew Sullivan’s weekly column in New York Magazine. He’s British, also married to an American, and has now become an American citizen, just as Meghan Markle will become a British citizen. After his usual tirade and Trump-disgusted prose, he wrote this about Harry: “…the looming marriage of Prince Harry to a biracial divorced American is actually important… In an unglued world, it is a form of fixative. Its complete reinvention through simple human lives actually deepens national stability and cohesion. In the era of Trump, it appears like a kind of constitutional miracle.”

Royally.

Painting by DJ Rogers

 

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Sunrise in Templeton


by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 26, 2017 7:47 PM

It is early this Sunday morning, three days after Thanksgiving 2017. The sky has brightened, drifting from dark to gray to a pale blue. Wispy clouds streak across in oranges, reds and purples. It’s amazing how much sunrise mirrors sunset. It’s softer though, more muted. Perhaps more promising. Maybe because it fades into sunshine as opposed to darkness. We’re leaving Templeton early. The clock on the dashboard of the Sport reads 6:32. We had set a time of departure for 6:30. We’re doing well.

As we drive across Santa Rita Road, towering oaks form a covered bridge above us. Fallen leaves have collected on either side. A deer walks through and bounds away as we approach. Yesterday Roy said he encountered a gaggle of wild turkeys, 50 or so, celebrating the fact that they made it another year without being someone’s dinner.


The house we always seem to stay in - this is our third time - isn’t far off the freeway but seems completely removed from m the world, nestled as it is among the trees. A creek is just below. A trickle of water exists now as there hasn’t been much rain. Across the creek, a hillside flows up. To the east are more trees and somewhere, the road. To the west, vineyards have been planted. In the gray light of this morning, under the canopy of oaks, the stakes and white conicals covering the new growth are barely visible, tiny ghosts in the sunrise. By summer, they’ll be spilling over with green leaves and green grape clusters. By next Thanksgiving, they’ll be covered in fall oranges, rusts and golds.

When we sit outside in the evenings, gatherings around the fire pit we can hear creatures scurrying. Somewhere there are squirrels and rabbits, raccoons and more deer. It’s far removed from any civilization which is why we love it. We know the vineyards are there, too. We dream of the wine to come.

As we drift across the narrow bridge and ease our way up to Vineyard where we’ll head east toward the freeway, the sky is already losing its color. Soon it will be, simply, blue. There are rolling banks of clouds in the distance. The weather app had said rain but I never saw any time when it was actually supposed to fall.

Another Thanksgiving weekend is ending. The journey toward Christmas begins. But first, we travel 750 miles toward home.

We’re leaving Templeton under a rising sun and a brightening sky. And thinking about how we lived it out loud.

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live out loud

Waiting sleep

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 23, 2017 8:51 AM

Every night, as the sun goes down and the light of the day fades to black, the two solar inverters in our garage begin to pulse red. They do it quietly and steadily. Then, as the last of the light disappears, the red light flashes faster, briefly. On the LCD display it reads “Waiting sun.” Then they power completely down until sunrise. For some reason, this ritual occurred to me as I awaited sleep to revisit me early this morning. 

Lately I have been suffering from a relatively benign case of insomnia. I go to bed and fall asleep, but wake up somewhere between 1 and 2, and then can’t seem to get back to sleep for at least an hour, sometimes more. It happens almost nightly. I’ve tried to stop doing any work or even looking at the computer at least an hour before I go to bed. I’ve tried eating earlier than our usual too-late dinners. It works sometimes, but most nights, I have some variation on sleep-wake-stay awake-eventually sleep again. It leads to serial exhaustion. 

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing I’m thinking. My work load is too much. And I’ve been traveling for meetings. And did you have to go back to school? When I saw my doctor for a checkup recently, my blood pressure was a little higher than normal. She asked, innocently, if I have a lot of stress in my life. I suppressed a laugh, and said, maybe a little more than normal. 

The thing is I’m not quite sure how to alleviate any of it. I need the work to pay the bills. I need school because I love it, and I’m committed now for two years. The work travel will subside a bit but that will be supplanted in the near term with holiday stuff. We’re going to Paso Robles again for Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. We’re going to Des Moines the second weekend in December for a wedding, but we get to see Kevin’s family and Justin is coming. Then it’s full speed toward Christmas. Roy and Bobbi will be coming and we can’t wait. This year, we’re also having a New Year’s Eve party.

Plus there are gifts to buy and wrap, and in some cases, ship. There is decorating to be done. And school. Though school will be out on December 8 for about a month. But I will still have things to do during that month in order to stay caught up with my cohortmates, as the prof calls us. 

And so each night, the red lights blink in my head as I lay awake, alternating between too hot, too cold, and eventually just right. The figurative light flashes and flickers. Eventually, I can feel sleep begin to drape my body. That fuzzy, incoherent feeling that always delivers. The light flashes faster then, and just before I power down, the LCD screen behind my closed eyes displays “waiting sleep.”

Power down complete.

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live out loud

I wonder

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 18, 2017 7:35 PM

[Written late last night and posted today]

I am 37,000 feet above the earth. It seems an impossible number. I try to imagine 37,000 wooden rulers like the ones I had in grade school, stacked one on top of the other, end to end, an endless stick that points from the desert up into a night sky where only the pale flash of red lights gives away where we are. I wonder how 37,000 feet became the accepted height for flight. I realize I don’t care enough to find out.

I am on my way home, finally. I say finally as if it’s been weeks since I was there when it was only yesterday that I left. It just seems like weeks. I wonder if others feel this way when they leave home or if others think about it.

I wonder when Southwest Airlines started having such on-time awfulness. I wonder when flying became more awful, nothing more than a means to an endpoint. I used to like flying when I would board big planes in Los Angeles and fly all the way across the country without stopping until we landed in Boston. I suppose I liked it because my dad often gave me his first class upgrades and first class is always better than steerage. Southwest only does the latter. When I liked flying it was before 9/11, before the rest of us were made to suffer because of the government’s mistakes. The government started making flying less fun; the airlines just perpetuate it.

I wonder why it’s always nearly impossible to hear the pilot when he addresses the cabin. That’s probably not safe. I also wonder why there is always someone who farts at least once while the plane is in the air and why that person is always sitting just in front of me. 

Or maybe airplanes just stink.

I am on my way home from San Francisco.

I had forgotten how much I love it there. It’s an incredible city, sprawling and tall, dirty and glorious, filled with different types of people all melding into one. I watched people walking their little dogs last night in Union Square as I sat in a Thai restaurant eating curries and pad Thai and sipping a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. I miss the sophistication of a city like San Francisco. I had forgotten. I wonder why.

It rained on my walk back to the hotel, the kind of soft rain that you almost can’t feel and so you’re surprised to find out how wet you are when you step inside. Water dripped from the fire escapes above. People strolled, dogs pooped and owners cleaned it up.


Today I sat in a board room with walls of glass overlooking AT & T Park, where the Giants play, and the glass-like bay. The sun was shining, there was only the slightest breeze. People walked and jogged, dogs ambled. Tugboats chugged toward buoys. I wondered when I would have the opportunity to visit the City by the Bay again and have more time to breathe in its scent of ocean and bread and diesel and Thai food.

The plane has started its descent. The city lights are growing closer. Soon I will be able to see the cars on the road, the still and always illuminated flags waving in the desert night.

I love how the sound of the plane changes just before you touch down. The engines have slowed to landing speed; the gear is down, the flaps up. There is a hovering sound, a closeness, a tease of a kiss.

Home.

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live out loud

In the gray

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:42 PM

We’re officially in fall. I know that much of the country has been in fall for several weeks now, but the desert seasons are a little different. It takes us longer. But it has finally become cooler, the days have shortened and the darkness has lengthened. The air conditioning has been turned off, and the windows are open, the daily breeze flowing through and coating everything in dust. It’s impossible to keep up with the dust in the desert, something I had been warned about previously. It’s not as bad in town but out where we live, where the winds are stronger and the land is more plentiful, the dust drifts in with the breeze and settles on our furniture, books, the floor like a long lost friend. 

Eventually even cooler temps will arrive though not for long. The numbers will drift down into the 20s and 30s at night. We might get a spit of snow. In the mornings, as we walk the dog, we will wear sweatpants, sweatshirts, and slip our hands into gloves, wrap a scarf around our throats. The temperature of the desert in winter is icy even when it’s not as cold as it feels.

This morning, we woke up to a coated sky. Gray and white, the kind of sky that would signal snow in the Northeast or Midwest. It hovers, a sky like this. There are no defined clouds, there is simply a seamless blanket covering the city, the county, the desert. 

The sky up here on the hill is different somehow. Perhaps it’s because we are so sparsely populated. It just seems bigger, and smaller. And today, grayer. When the sky is like this, we seem to sit almost at the same level, like I could reach out and feel the cool of the hovering moisture.

I love the gray. I love the way it changes the colors. The greens are muted and quiet, the houses blend more into the landscape. Even those with red-tiled roofs, Mediterranean in style, seem subdued. The black of the pavement softens and becomes more accessible. The sun tries hard to push through but it never quite makes it, and so the desert flattens and softens. It looks almost two-dimensional from up here. It’s a painted landscape that stretches 10 miles or more in every direction except north. North lies the hill. In the gray, it seems closer than ever. 

There is something about the gray that makes me start to feel the approach of the holidays. Perhaps it’s the diminishing temperatures, or the shorter days. The gray, gauzy sky is what I remember from growing up in the Northeast. A sky like this always ushered in winter and with it, Christmas. The sky doesn’t look like this in the spring or summer. There’s something about the cold that makes the sky cloudier with less clouds. When the sky was this color, we would wait and watch. A single flurry could be cause for celebration. Maybe if it actually snowed and snowed enough, school would be cancelled the next day. It had to snow a lot for that to happen.

Now, the gray just allows for cool, and the promise of cold. The weather channel says it might rain. I don’t think it will. This is the kind of sky that settles in for a long nap. It’s in no hurry to do anything or go anywhere. It hovers.

In the gray, I find solitude and wonder. In the gray, I can think less of the constant chaos, and more about the world’s potential. In the gray, I find peace. Perhaps the world needs more gray.


Shades of gray. Painting by David Pearce

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live out loud

The mask of Don Justino

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 31, 2017 5:03 PM

One of our favorite fun movies is The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Sir (!) Anthony Hopkins. It’s one of those films we never grow tired of, and stop to watch anytime we come across it. It’s beautifully photographed, the story is great, the action fun, and the acting decent. It’s a little tongue in cheek, and everyone is just gorgeous, especially Antonio Banderas. Part of it was filmed in San Carlos, Mexico, a place I had the pleasure of visiting with my friend Susan earlier this summer. It was a perfect stand in for California. 

The film was released in the summer of 1998 when Justin was 7. It was rated PG-13 but we took him anyway. We had seen the trailer several times, figured it would be fun, and we weren’t disappointed. There’s a bit of violence, no language and no sex. It didn’t seem to us any more harmful than the Pokemon animation and other Japanese anime he was consumed with at the time. He loved the movie, as did we. No sooner did we get home than he found himself something he could make a mask from and armed with his Star Wars light saber, he proceeded to play the role of Zorro.

In the film, which takes place mostly in 1841, noblemen fight for the republic of Las Californias (California wouldn’t become a state until 1850), railing against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence. They are “dons,” established and respected men, men of social standing. The moniker of Don appears before their first names. Don Raphael is the bad guy; Don Diego is the older good guy and Don Alejandro is the younger good guy. Both good guys, naturally, also inhabit the Mask of Zorro.

For months, we were entertained by our own Zorro. And as Halloween got closer, and it came time to choose a costume, there was nothing to discuss. Zorro would once again come to the rescue of … Oak Park. Hey, it was California.

We found a costume, and with his pajamas underneath, and sporting his black cowboy books, Justin transformed before our eyes into Don Justino.

Every year, on Halloween we remember that costume. He wore it for weeks prior and weeks after. Sometimes he’d just wear the top part and shorts. But always the mask and the hat; always with plastic sword in hand as he singlehandedly saved the house from … whoever and usually Maguire. 

To this day, nearly 20 years later, he remains Don Justino. I doubt that the costume fits anymore, but the cuteness and goodness – the desire to save the world – definitely remains.

Winnie the Pooh and the very big brain

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 26, 2017 10:16 PM

My hatred of exclamation points is a running joke amongst both my friends and my clients. As a writer, I feel that if you need to tell someone something is important, then maybe it isn’t. If you need to shout READ ME, maybe it’s not written very well. Everyone who deals with me on a professional basis learns this very quickly. It is something I bring up often in the first conversation about a project as I seek to learn more about what they need, what they want, what they like and don’t like. I will tell them, especially if they’ve sent me drafts done prior to me, drafts littered with exclamation points, that we can do better. The words should be exciting and powerful and compelling enough that when someone reads them they get all of the wow without needing the scream at the end. Without needing the “!”

Writers who resort to exclamation points, in my humble opinion, are lazy. The exception - and there is one - is something that’s purposefully tongue in cheek. The other exception - so there are two - is email, text, and social media communication. These latter are often in place of a phone call where the person or persons on the other end can hear your voice inflection; can tell if you’re joking or having fun. Exclamation points in emails, texts, and social media serve, then, as stand-ins for emotion. Throw in an emoticon or bitmoji and it’s a complete conversation.

Bad writing is not the only place where exclamation points presage the awfulness. It happens in film, too. The movies of Oliver Stone come to mind. His films are the cinematic equivalence of exclamation points, in my opinion. Every time I’ve seen one, I always feel like I’ve been hit in the head with a baseball bat. Pay attention. This is important. LEE HARVEY OSWALD DID NOT ACT ALONE. !!

Michael Moore’s films are like this, too. Though to his credit, he’s more open about acknowledging it.

Which leads me to Winnie the Pooh. Stay with me. I promise I’ll make a connection.

A.A. Milne, the creator and writer of Winnie the Pooh, his band of cohorts in the Hundred Acre Wood, and all of their fabulous adventures. Whether he meant to or not, Milne imbedded a fabulous philosophy inside the yellow bear as well as and sometimes even more inside his best friend, Piglet.

Winnie the Pooh was not a smart bear. He was, by his own admission, a bear possessing a very small brain. But from that brain came profound statements. 

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”

There is currently something flaccid and yellow in the White House. I can’t call him a bear because it’s an insult to bears. That White House creature finds it necessary to tell everyone all the time how smart he is, how he has the best words, the best education, the most standing ovations, the highest IQ, the biggest brain.


He is the walking equivalent of a subhuman exclamation point. Every time he exclaims something absurd, trying so hard to tell us all, SHOUT AT US, that he is the best human being to ever be created, I feel rage and revulsion. And I feel sad.

Then I remember Pooh. Humble in his wisdom, confident in his place in the world. Accepted for who he is. It makes me understand what a truly big brain is. It’s honest. And that’s something to celebrate.

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Shelter in place

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 19, 2017 8:13 PM

It’s not uncommon for us to see a lot of creatures up here on the hill. During the summer, many tend to be of the reptilian variety but now that we’re heading, albeit slowly, into fall and cooler temperatures, the warm blooded animals of the desert are reappearing. This morning, we had a desert rabbit just outside the bay window in the master bathroom and just above the drive. As we walked west with the dog, we encountered a mama javelina and her little javelin-ette. They were standing in the road, staring right at us, daring us to come forward. We stopped, they continued frozen. Finally Kevin put his hands up in the air as if to say “WTF?” and the baby nudged the mom – “Come on, mom, let’s goooooo!” – and she turned and off they trotted into the desert south.

Further down, there were two deer in amongst the rocks of a wash. We stopped to look, they looked back. Then we continued on and we assume they continued to forage for food. 

On the way back, the deer were gone, but we encountered another single javelina in the road. Normally, these animals travel in packs so it was odd. We stopped, Riley whined, and then this one lumbered across and disappeared into the desert north. 

We continued on our walk, finally ascending the road that leads to our house. We do this walk four to five times a week, always taking Sundays off – the day of rest, we jokingly call it – and often Wednesdays. If it’s particularly hot or we’re too tired or it’s too late, we don’t go. The last climb is difficult and though we’ve been making it now for some two and a half years, it never gets easier. We get to the top and we are always winded, tired. In the summers, sweating profusely. We tell ourselves that it’s good exercise, that the dog needs his walk, both of which are true. But the real truth is that we’d both probably never do it again if we had our druthers. 

Druthers is such an interesting word isn’t it? I love that word.

I digress.

As we started across the driveway toward the front door and thus sanctuary and coffee, we heard a strange noise from above. It didn’t quite sound like a bird; we thought perhaps it was some type of cat, maybe a mountain lion or a bobcat. We don’t see them often but we know they do haunt the hills. We stopped and listened, and then, over the rocks to the east, came a single deer. She leaped down and across other rocks, then slowed as she picked her way through the cactus. 

It’s not unusual for us to have deer above the house. It happens fairly regularly though we haven’t seen any recently. This one stopped above us, ears pointed and twitching. We watched and said “hi,” as we often do. When Riley started to whine, I brought him in the house, and shortly thereafter, Kevin followed. 

From the kitchen window, we could see her. She moved slightly toward the west, then stopped behind a saguaro and turned back to the east, so still she could have been a statue. Kevin got his camera and we watched through the zoom lens. We could see her muscles twitch, her breathe in and out. It seemed that she was either waiting for the rest of here friends or family to join her, or, if there had been a cat, she had gotten away and the word in the herd was to always shelter in place.

She stood there for at least 45 minutes, maybe closer to an hour. We kept waiting for others to appear. We scanned the hillside with binoculars, looking for movement, signs of more. We never did find any and eventually we had to go to work. When we came back for coffee a while later, she was gone into the desert.

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live out loud

And, doves

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 18, 2017 8:11 PM

When I was a baby, my grandmother gave me a silver chain with a silver dove on the end. I don’t remember getting this gift, but I remember the necklace and wore it for years. I went through a phase in my teens where I preferred gold so I stopped wearing the dove and eventually forgot about it. The serpentine chain curled up into an odd spiral and sat wedged in the bottom of my jewelry box. I went through college and then moved west. My jewelry box and my dove traveled with me.

At some point, I got my left ear pierced again so that I had two holes in that lobe. For a while in the 80s I wore the big, dangly, wild earrings that went with the big hair of the era. When I was just around the house, though, I tended toward small studs in each ear. I was forever looking for something that would be interesting for that second hole. And then I remembered the dove on the serpentine chain. I found my old jewelry box, long stuffed under the sink in the bathroom, unraveled the chain to remove the charm, and inspected the now tarnished silver dove. It was as I remembered it. I was still wearing mostly gold so I had an idea: have another made in gold. I found a jeweler who would do just that, and within weeks I had a duplicate dove in 18 karat gold. I slipped it onto a small gold loop earring and wore it nearly every day. I still have it and still wear it regularly. It’s not necessarily sentimental even though my grandmother has now been gone for some time. It’s more nostalgia. And I actually like it. It brings me peace. Funny how a small talisman can do that.

This morning, from the bedroom, we could see there were birds on the railing just outside the breakfast nook. From our room, we have a view nearly straight through the house. One bird became two became three and soon a dozen, probably more. As we got up and inched quietly toward the great room, we could see they were doves. Some were sitting on the railing, some were in our planters, with four alone sitting in our lantana, nestled amongst the pink and purple and orange blossoms.

We had never seen so many birds, let alone doves sitting on our deck at one time. We have a number of doves that we watch flitting through the desert, landing on an ocotillo or a saguaro. We wonder how they do that – how any bird does that – without impaling themselves. They bob and peck their way across the driveway and the road. They coo. But to see all of them there at once was a sight.

Riley decided he wanted to see, too, but we called him back and made him sit while we crept ever closer to try to take pictures before they flew off. We got a couple, and then they were gone, leaving small downy feathers in their wake.

Doves symbolize peace. They have long appeared in religions from Judaism to Christianity to Paganism. They are depicted by the military and pacifist groups alike. Ultimately, they are a symbol of innocence, gentleness and freedom. They represent what is good and right and beautiful in the world.

In this time of constant outrage and fear, of continuing stress and angst, I choose to embrace that. Perhaps that’s why the dove from my grandmother has been with me so long, has traveled with me, has lasted some 50 plus years. Hope endures. It’s something to hold onto because even when it flies away, it eventually returns and that’s something to celebrate.

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