Be in like

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 17, 2017 8:53 PM

I am not in the habit of taking advice from celebrities, having given up any kind of hero worship when I was in my teens. I can like certain types of music and the artists who sing it; ditto actors who are easy on the eyes and who do the kinds of films I like. In my professional life, I’ve encountered far too many celebrities who are so consumed with their own importance that they are nasty, horrible people. Nearly every project I have worked on with a celebrity client was awful, so much so that on the occasion that I get a call from someone’s representative, or even from a celeb themselves, I almost always turn it down. If I don’t, I charge more because I know it’s going to take years off my life. In my business, it’s called a PITA fee. Pain. In. The. Ass.

Many, many years ago, in the late 1980s, early 1990s, I worked with Sting and his wife Trudie Styler on the Rainforest Foundation Fund project. I found them both odd though not as difficult as others. I had never been a big fan of Sting when he was with The Police, but after he started his solo career with The Dream of the Blue Turtles, a jazz infused album, I quickly changed my tune. To this day, I remain a big fan of his music, including his odd Christmas album which isn’t really a Christmas album at all. Which might be exactly why I like it. It’s more atmospheric, with heavy Celtic influences. It remains a favorite, even though my husband doesn’t like it. Likes Sting, just not that album. 

Yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, I had USA Network on while I was on the elliptical. Often times they run Law & Order: SVU or NCIS all day long, one episode after another. It’s great mindless entertainment while I get some exercise. In the mornings, they have this feature called Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf. They’re short interviews between shows with top celebrities that are hot, that have the “buzz” for whatever reason. These interviews take place on a recreated city stoop, and almost always include her bulldog – currently a rescue named Steve – on the stoop with her and whomever. I don’t often pay a lot of attention but I do like the idea.

She had an interview with Sting the other day. I only saw the promo so I looked for it on YouTube. He talks about his new album, he talks about his kids and his “anthem or motto.” He jokes about “Keep Calm,” which is unfortunately a terribly overused British mantra. He talks about staying curious as an artist. And then he gets to relationships and he said something so simple, and so profound. “Be in love.” 

And perhaps even more importantly, “like the person” you’re in a relationship with. I found myself nodding along because it couldn’t be more true. Love is wonderful and necessary, but when that all-consuming, fiery love fades after a year or two, it becomes something truly remarkable. It becomes real and honest. To like the person you’re with, to laugh together, to enjoy the same television shows and movies and music. To like to do the same things and go the same places. To want to be with that person more than anyone else. To find them infinitely and continually fascinating. That’s what it’s all about.

I have that with Kevin. I am lucky, I am blessed. He makes me laugh, I make him laugh. After all these years, we are head over heels in like. It continues to be something to celebrate.


Kevin and Lorin as Willie Nelson and Cher. Halloween 2016

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Dream a little dream and don’t forget to move your feet and plant your garden

by Lorin Michel Friday, June 16, 2017 10:45 PM

Dreams are fascinating, aren’t they? I am continually amazed at what the subconscious brain can do, the tales it can weave, the possibilities it can create, the horrors it can craft. I’m also amazed that what can seem so vivid and real and thrilling, can also evaporate in moments.

Such is the stuff of dreams.

I was watching Riley this afternoon. He was sleeping in my office as he so often is in the afternoon. His head was against the French door that leads out onto my deck. He likes to have his head against things when he sleeps, and if not his head, sometimes his whole body. His bed is in a corner of our bedroom. Two sides are against the wall. It’s how he likes it. I think it makes him feel safe.

I heard an odd noise and looked over at him. His eyes were fluttering, his tail kept raising and lowering. His back legs twitched and started, awkwardly. His front paws pawed the air. He sighed. He snarled. He hiccupped. He was dreaming. It lasted for only a few minutes – dogs never seem to dream for long. Then his feet stopped and his eyes opened. He sighed, then closed them again. Must have been a good one. 

Maguire didn’t dream a lot. Cooper was an avid dreamer but his dreams seemed to be more violent. He always seemed to be in distress, his feet moving so fast, as if he was trying to escape something. It broke our hearts to watch him sometimes, even though we understood it. He’d had a tough life before us. We don’t know all of the situations he was in, but we do know that he was passed around a lot, that no one wanted him until we did. Oh, did we want him.

Riley was surrendered. That’s what they call it in rescue land. Owners who no longer want their dogs for whatever reason turn them in rather than do something horrible. Too many people do too many horrible things to their pets, to their children, to other people. Riley was 15 months old when surrendered. He has issues, some of which we attribute to him being a golden retriever, some of which we attribute to things that happened to him in his first months of life. But he is coming around. And his dreams are rarely violent or scary. I like to think his dreams are of chasing deer across the desert, or rabbits, or lizards; of belly rubs; of cookies.

When Kevin and I woke up this morning, he looked at me with his morning eyes and proceeded to tell me about the dream loop he was caught up in that involved Gisele Bundchen. Now other wives might not appreciate being told first thing in the morning that their husband was dreaming of one of the world’s biggest (now retired) super models. Especially not when said wife’s hair is going all over the place and she hasn’t yet brushed her teeth. But I just laughed.

His dream about Gisele wasn’t what other men’s dreams of Gisele are. No, his dream had to do with a garden and whether she grew her own vegetables, if she dug her hands in the dirt, if Tom (Brady, her husband) helped. Over and over and over he dreamed and wondered and then Riley came over to his side of the bed. Time to get up, dad.

Where do these things come from? Who knows. But it sure is fun to dream a little dream and celebrate the fascinating weirdness of it all. Isn’t it?

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The power that isn’t

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 15, 2017 9:08 PM

If ever there was a metaphor for how I’ve been feeling lately, it’s this: today, we were without power. This happens occasionally, though not as often as you’d think given the strain on the power grid during the summer months. And it is definitely summer even though technically it doesn’t officially become summer for six more days. In mid-June in Southern Arizona summer simmers. Last year at this time we were in California, wine tasting. We drove home on Father’s Day during excessive heat warnings. As we went through Palm Springs, the temperature on the car and on my iPhone both topped out at 121º. One hundred. Twenty. One. Degrees.

Today, the mercury was hovering around 112º when suddenly the screen on my computer dimmed. I wondered what was going on. Since I work on a lap top, when the power goes out, my computer battery automatically takes over. It’s a seamless transition. It took just seconds for me to realize that the tiny green light on my power cord was off. Then I heard the microwave beep, the clocks in the bedroom fizzed, the overhead fan clicked and slowed. Finally, the internet said ‘see ya, bye.”

Fully knowing the answer I shouted the question anyway: “Did we just lose power?”

Kevin was already on his way across the house. I heard him say “yup. Gotta number for TEP?”

One of the great ironies of us having solar panels on our house, panels that capture more than enough energy to power our house, is that our solar inverters run on electricity. The second great irony is that in order to use the solar power we create, it has to first go to the electric company in order to be converted. 

So plenty of solar, no way to capture it, and the house slowly began to melt into the desert. Welcome to Thursday afternoon.

Power runs our lives all the time but during the blistering summer months it also keeps us alive. We wouldn’t have died without power for a couple of hours, even through tomorrow, but it would have become uncomfortable. We also have no water pressure. In order to maintain water pressure, we have a pump that works fabulously. As long as there’s power. 

Power is needed to cook and clean, to open and close the garage doors, to run the ceiling fans. It is desperately needed for air conditioning and water, for music and television, for the internet. It is necessary to light the night, to keep our phones and computers charged, to run our smoke detectors and our alarm system (though both do have battery backups). When you’re powerless, it’s an odd sensation. You don’t quite know what to do, how to act. You feel out of sorts, almost confused. You feel as if you have absolutely no control.

Mostly how I’ve been feeling since November 8, and definitely since January 20.

After about an hour, our power whirred back to life. The microwave beeped again, the light lit on my power connection, the overhead fan began to spin lazily. If only it were so easy to regain power as a citizen. If only it took just an hour.

Something to think about and hope for as we power forward.

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In my next life

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:41 PM

Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Violence. Belligerence. Incompetence. Understanding. Hate. Love. Joy. Happiness. Sadness. Resilience. Resentment. Contempt. Acceptance. I am reminded of the words spoken by Rodney King so many years ago: “Can’t we all just get along?” Evidently not. I admit to hearing the news of today’s shooting and having mixed feelings. I am against guns and violence so my first feelings were of disgust. But then I thought how fortunate that those who required medical attention had health insurance. Good for them. I wondered, then, if being shot would qualify as a pre-existing condition.

I read the articles, I didn’t watch the news. Everyone always says the right things during times like this. Can’t we all just get along? And no one ever takes responsibility for their role in instigating and perpetuating and wink wink nod nod. Perhaps we could all get along if we didn’t demonize and excoriate and condemn and relentlessly criticize and cajole every person who doesn’t believe exactly as we do. Maybe. I am filled with doubtl.

I suffer from these feelings, too. I feel fear and loathing, not for my fellow citizens but for the government. A government of, by and for the people except it’s not. Except that it is. As Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently put it, and to paraphrase: You go to war with the government you have. Only he said army, not government. It’s one and the same these days. The word government can be interchanged with the words representatives, governors, politicians. 

Each day I grow ever more tired. Each day I try to put it all in the background as I concentrate on my work, my life, my good fortune. Each day, I fight the urge to succumb to it all. Each day, I am successful. So far. 

Then I begin to wonder: where does it all end? How much more can we take? Can’t we all just get along? 

My dog is where I find the most joy during the day. He is happy. He bounds through the house, he loves his toys. He lays on his back and joyfully holds his toy, his “guy,” up above him. He has no idea of the angst and turmoil and horror that each day brings. He doesn’t know that we have elected a complete buffoon as our leader. He would greet Herr Hair with the same energy and enthusiasm as he greets our friends. He just loves people. 

My dog is pure. Fun. Energetic. With a wicked sense of humor. Who likes to talk. Who loves to go for a walk and loves being on the deck over-looking the desert even more. Who curls up on the floor to nap. Who has a Martha Stewart bed in our bedroom (it was on sale at PetSmart) and another one in my office. Who alerts us to creatures crossing the driveway. Who has taught us to pay attention when he’s on high alert and looking up the hill because there are always deer descending or ascending.

Who has the life. So much so that in my next life, I’ve decided I’m going to be a dog, with good owners and a nice house, with lots to eat and too many toys from which to choose. In my next life, I’m going to not worry, not fuss, not lose sleep. In my next life, as a dog, I’m going to live in pure joy.

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Bye bye birdie

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 13, 2017 8:27 PM

As of the end of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wildlife Strike Database had reported 70,577 incidents of birds striking aircraft. They started keeping track in 2010. The amount, which has undoubtedly risen in the first nearly six months of 2017, averages out to one strike every 45 minutes. Those are just the ones that are documented. It’s possible there are more. The good news is that only 7% are actually damaging events.

One of the most famous bird strikes occurred in January 2009 when US Airways flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia in New York. Two eight pound geese flew into each of the plane’s engines, causing massive failure and the famous water landing that’s been dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson.

Birds have been known to dent aircraft. They also don’t discriminate. In 2012, birds hit Air Force Two, with then Vice President Joe Biden onboard, as it was landing in Santa Barbara.

I bring this up today not because I was in an airplane that was struck by birds. Rather, I was in a house that suffered a strike this morning.

As I have written about before, our house has a lot of glass. Glass on the front of the house, not as prolific as glass on the back, but still prevalent, looking up onto the hillside behind us from the dining room, the front door, and the kitchen. On that hillside, are birds. Ravens and falcons are the big ones that haunt everything and lord over everyone. They occasionally land on the roof but never attempt to fly through the glass. Smaller cactus wrens, woodpeckers, humming birds are more brazen. The biggest culprits seem to be doves. 

This morning, as I was sitting in my office, I heard a horrendous crash, the noise coming from the vicinity of the dining room. Kevin had already asked me earlier if I had a bird hit the glass in my office. I assured him that what he heard was me slamming a fly swatter against a very large wasp. But this noise, this crash, was obviously a bird. I came out of my office, Kevin out of his, and we met in the dining room. There, on the glass, was a lot of red, some feathers and streaks where the liquid was running down the glass. 

I gulped, afraid to look down into the portico below. As I got closer, I realized that what was on the glass was not what I feared. It actually had seeds. And was more pink than blood red. But laying in the portico, not dead, was a white winged dove. We’ve had bird strikes before, some that have killed the poor creature. Most times, though, it simply stuns them. They sit, very still, staring straight ahead. Eventually they fly off.

This bird had obviously tried to fly through the glass with a piece of saguaro fruit in its mouth. It was the fruit that splattered on the glass. The dove was lying in a pool of juice. It was breathing, its eyes were open, but we were concerned. What to do?

Eventually, it righted itself but didn’t move. A longer time later, it began to walk around. We noticed an initial few drops of blood but then nothing. It extended its head, its tail feathers fluffing up and out. It tried to fly but had some trouble, instead settling down onto the portico, in the shade. 

We checked on it regularly. We hoped that it would be OK. We felt bad. After all, someone – us – dropped a house here in the middle of its desert. In the middle of the homes of all the desert creatures. It’s why we don’t kill anything, especially if its outside. Inside might be another matter. We have killed two scorpions and several spiders. We had a red headed centipede that we had to kill. But generally we try to be respectful. And we don’t like that we have caused several birds harm, including today.

After a number of hours, when the bird hadn’t yet been able to fly, I called the Tucson Wildlife Center. They’re a hospital for rescuing, rehabilitating and then releasing all manner of wild creatures here in the desert. I was all set to scoop the bird up and drive it to their facility. I couldn’t let it stay there all night, exposed, hurting, perhaps dying.

Riley stood at the window and whined throughout the day. And then, he stopped. I went to check. The bird was gone, having flown away, finally, and hopefully to continue living it out loud in the desert above.

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Dream a little dream

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 12, 2017 10:08 PM

I have always tried to live by the dream. By that I mean I believe, strongly, that dreams can lead to great success, extraordinary happiness, and yes – I realize – intense disappointment. But I believe that dreaming of better things, newer things, more fun things; of adventure and love; of possibility is what it means to truly be alive.

I dreamed, long ago, of living in the west and I have for more than 30 years. A dream come true. I dreamed of a marriage that was a true partnership, filled with laughter and fun, of sharing the same goals and enjoying the same things, and I have that with my favorite husband. I dreamed of having a son, and I have an amazing one. I dreamed of a Samoyed husky and while I’ve never had one, I have had three extraordinary dogs that I have and continue to adore, including the current goof known as Riley Boo. I also had a dog growing up, who was my savior when I was bullied in 8th grade, who met me every day as the bus dropped me off. I’d walk, dejected and miserable along the side of the bus toward home and I’d hear the gallop. Looking up, there he’d be, Chaudee, his ears flying, tongue hanging out, coming to greet me, to welcome me home, to make the world OK at least for a few minutes. 

I dream still. I admit, freely, that I dream partly to avoid reality. Lately especially. Reality reigns down. It rains down, as well. Reality is the antithesis of dreaming. It is right here, right now, deal with it, figure it out. Horror. But dreaming is not yet realized. It is all about hope, and maybe. It can be something as simple as hoping for nice weather, dreaming for cool in the hot of the desert. It can be something as drastic as wishing for new government and direction. Dreaming is, by nature, oblique, ubiquitous. Possible. 

I dream of retiring. I dream of traveling, strangely enough for me, in a travel trailer. Strange because I don’t camp and have never once in my life dreamed of camping. I love nature, love the outdoors. I have no desire to sleep amongst it unless I can bring my own room with me. I dream. 

I dream of making wine and making a living at it. I dream of sleeping for more than six hours a night; I dream of being well-rested. I dream. 

I dream of writing a phenomenal book that is well received and praised, something that matters to people, that makes a difference. 

I dream. 

Lately, I’m dreaming of this: 

We have long had motorcycles as our way to enjoy the day. In California, we regularly rode the back canyons to wherever, along the ocean to somewhere north and away from the heat. Here, not so much. It’s simply too hot in the summer and in the winter, we have too many projects. 

I dream now of having a convertible that can be used in summer and winter, under the sun and to escape it. The idea of a car like this is nothing I’ve really dreamed of. One of my college roommates had a 1967 MGB convertible. It was fun; we had fun. But it’s never been a dream to have a convertible.

Until now. Now I’m not just dreaming. I’m salivating. Because it would be a great way, another way, to live it out loud.

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There is a delight

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 11, 2017 8:59 PM

On March 15, 1910, just over a year after he left office, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote that “there are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” He was in Khartoum at the time, leading an expedition to Africa in search of specimens for the Smithsonian’s new Natural History museum. Khartoum is in the Sudan, and at the time, was a burgeoning metropolis. It is now the capital of the region. But at the time, it was surrounded by the white sands of the desert and the rich fauna of the Nile Valley. He wrote those words about the vistas and landscapes he had encountered. I use them today to describe the vistas and landscapes we encountered this morning.

I don’t know what compelled me to move west. This magical place was just where I always imagined myself to be. I do know what compelled us to move to the desert. It wasn’t anything we’d ever even considered but when we brought Justin to school here in August of 2009, we knew it would eventually be our new home. Settling into the east side of town, we continually marvel at the vistas and landscapes. We are surrounded by rock and mountains, by saguaros and ocotillos and trees. From our house on the hill we can see for at least 10 miles and probably more. The desert, rimmed by mountains, stretches before us to infinity.

Kevin was up early this morning, by 6:15, early for a Sunday, the day we jokingly refer to as “the day of rest.” He didn’t sleep well, probably because he was overtired. Yesterday he started rocking outside, finishing the lower swale, at 5 am. He was done by 7:30 and then he switched to finishing the front brakes on the Classic. Luckily, I convinced him to buy an air conditioner for the garage so it was at least somewhat hospitable in there while the temperatures raged outside. He worked all day, and then couldn’t sleep. 

I got up about a half hour later, when I heard the coffee pot sputter and snarl and spit signaling that it was almost done brewing. My boys were on the deck. I poured two cups of coffee and went out to join them. We marveled at the calm of the morning, at the temperature just in the low 70s. At 7:30, I said it would be a great morning for a motorcycle ride and suggested we go. I didn’t have to suggest twice.

We climbed aboard the Gold Wing and took off south and east. We weren’t going anywhere in particular so we never reached a destination. Instead, we simply meandered, finding a road we’d never taken before and following it. The day was still early; there were almost no cars where we were. Even the churches we went by, and there were many, weren’t yet open for business.

We went past Saguaro National Forest east, something that often makes us smile since we seemingly live in a saguaro forest of our own. We headed toward Colossal Caves knowing that we weren’t going to stop, but it gave a place to turn around. The road surface was smooth, unlike so much in the desert. There were no stop signs or stop lights, just a wide open two-lane road. The sun was warm but not hot. I watched quail and roadrunners crossing the road; I watched for deer and cattle. We saw horses, and an osprey that landed in the middle of the road to extract something that used to be something else. In the trees to the east, huge black ravens sat perched on the branches of mesquite trees, their feathers glistening in the morning sun.

I was struck by the vastness of it, the desolate nature, and sheer glory of this Sonoran desert we call home.

The fuller Teddy Roosevelt quote says: “There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” That from a republican president. Something to celebrate on this Sunday.

What my mother said

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 10, 2017 8:23 PM

Lately I have been having trouble finding things to celebrate, which makes it hard to write this blog. Regular readers, if I have any left, have no doubt noticed. It's not that I don't want to write; it's that I am often not in the mood to celebrate. Since the election, I have found myself adrift. An anger simmers just below the surface, threatening to erupt at any time. A frustration, singular and consuming. As much as I hate to admit it, there is fear and loathing. 

 

I find solace with my friends, solidarity with those who share my disgust, fear and overwhelming sense of dread. I am consumed with the news, more so than ever. It threatens sometimes to take over my day. I hold it at bay, but after every project completed, I immediately check the Washington Post. I have news alerts set on my phone. They buzz through hourly. Sometimes they're innocuous but I am compelled to always make sure that we haven't started a war, to see who we've insulted, to try to understand the wanton cruelty that now exists and emanates from the White House.

 

Yesterday I spoke to a client who lives in New Jersey. It had been sometime since we connected, since she had any work for me, probably well over a year. I asked how her business was and she sighed, telling me that it's OK, but that she just hasn't been motivated to solicit new business, even to nurture existing business, not since the election. As I so often do, I nodded along. I told her that I try to ignore it and to focus on work, but that my personal writing has suffered; that I simply haven't been writing as much; that I miss it terribly. I could hear her nodding as well. Solidarity comes from these connections. 

 

I was in New England a week ago. My mother kept apologizing for the weather and I kept telling her it was fine; as if she had anything to do with it anyway. The weather was fine. It was cool and cloudy, a little bit of rain, a sometimes blow of wind. But I didn't need sun. I live in sun. I have sun. All. The. Time. 

 

She mentioned that I hadn't been blogging as much and I told her the reason. I have trouble finding things to celebrate every day – which is the whole point of Live it Out Loud. I find frivolous some of the things I used to write about, things like my memory of eating blueberry pop tarts at my grandmother's house in the summer. They never had frosting. Seeing something along the road and inventing a story, like the watch we found on a walk in Oak Park, or the orange plastic skeleton, sitting cross legged under a drain pipe behind a store. These memories, these items were fun. Why can't I find the fun anymore? 

 

My mother said something very profound, as mothers are wont to do regularly, especially once you're no longer a teenager under their roof. She said: look around you. Look at what you have, look at what you've accomplished. You have a husband who loves you, a son who is successful and happy and likes to visit, a dog who is healthy. You have a wonderful family. You have friends that you enjoy spending time with. You have that amazing house. You're healthy. You have a good life. Celebrate those things. 

 

She's right of course, about it all. And I am eternally and forever grateful for everyone and everything. I have to get out of my head. I have to not be so combustible, so consumed by anger and fear and loathing and disgust. I need to heed my mother's advice. I need to find my way back to living it out loud. 

 

Perhaps I'll start by getting back to writing every day. I miss that. I miss my readers. I hope you're still there. Are you?

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The weekend

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 5, 2017 8:04 PM

I spent the weekend in New Hampshire with my family. My niece and godchild, Shawn, graduated from high school. I hadn't been back to visit for two and a half years. Life gets in the way. Doesn't it always?

It's so green in New Hampshire at this time of year, after the rains. On the back roads, and they are plentiful, the trees form high, thick canopies that nearly block the sky. During the day, sunlight flickers as it finds a way through the leaves to paint abstract patterns of light and shadowed dark on the roads below. The bugs can be plentiful, too; the mosquitoes thirsty, especially after the rains.

I always forget how thick the green is, how prolific the bugs.

The temperatures were cool, though, and windy especially on Friday night for the graduation. The air was clear and nearly crisp. At night, with the windows open in the bedroom I slept in, it was cold, a nice change from the heat of the desert.

On Saturday, while Shawn slept after an all-night party, my mother and sister and I journeyed east and north, first toward Durham, where I went to college and where Shawn starts in the fall, and then up to South Berwick, Maine which is just over the river. Gregg, my mother's companion, has a gorgeous house there, with glass walls overlooking the water, and high, open ceilings reaching toward the sky. We had lunch in York, across from a surprisingly calm but still gray ocean. I've never known the Atlantic to be anything but gray. Perhaps I haven't been there at the right time. It fit, though, as the day, too, was a cool gray with spots of rain.


But Sunday morning was glorious. I got up around 9, slipped into my sweats and walked toward the kitchen. I noticed my mother's room was empty though her bed was still unmade. I expected to find her in the living room watching television. But she wasn't there either. Alone and craving some exercise, I laced up my sneakers and decided to go for a walk.

I didn't grow up in New Hampshire. I was 15, nearly 16, when we moved there. I was an angry teenager who resented having to change schools after just one year. I never became fully acclimated so I don't know my way around very well. I know enough, though, to be able to walk from my mother's house on New Boston Road toward town. I hadn't given a lot of thought as to where I'd go. My initial inclination was just to the end of the road where New Boston meets Boston Post. But the day was glorious and there was little traffic save for cyclists, joggers and other walkers so I continued on, thinking I'd simply make a big loop around. Instead I found myself walking toward the cemetery where my dad is buried.

I hadn't been there in years but I thought I remembered where to find his grave. I walked through the open gate framed by two stone pillars, and continued along the grooves of the well-worn path. When we buried my father in 2002, his grave was in the back, the last row. Behind was empty space, waiting to be filled with the dead. Strange to think of land that way, especially when it's so green and lush.

The cemetery had become more populated since I was last there. The tall, deep red cherry tree that used to mark his grave site was gone. I remembered that my sister told me it had died several years ago and that we weren't allowed to replace it. Something about the town no longer allowing it. Small towns in New England can border on authoritarian.

Without that tree and with so many more headstones, I found myself not knowing which way to go. I turned to the left but knew that wasn't right. I was alone - no one else was visiting their dead. And you can't ask for directions in a cemetery. I wondered how I would find it.

Then I saw a statue of a dog, one of those cement statues that people sometimes put in their garden or at the entrance to their house. I remembered then that the grave in front of my father's had a statue of a dog. I walked toward it and found his marble headstone engraved with "Shields."

There was some moss on the marble; weeds had begun to encroach into last year's mulch. Every year at Father's Day, my brother once again cuts away the grass, pulls the weeds, removes the old mulch and puts down new.

My dad isn't there in the cemetery, of course. The remains of his body are buried there, near a small pine tree that needs to be trimmed, and a perennial plant that was blooming deep pink as to be red and next to a small statue of a golfer also covered in the dried moss of age. With a dog standing guard not far away.

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Somewhere else

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 1, 2017 7:28 PM

The morning before the dawn is blue. Ghostly. Haunting. Beautiful. It looks like ice and winter and somewhere else. Somewhere else is where I'm getting ready to go. Somewhere else is where I'll be tonight.

It is June 1. In 30 days we will officially be half way through 2017. I am relieved, suspicious and apprehensive. It has already been an interesting year, completely different and totally the same. It has been busy and filled with work and friends, laughter and fun, and yes, anger and frustration. Such a strange brew of emotions. It's a cocktail I don't actually enjoy but it is the cocktail we've been served. I'd like to down it all at once in order to get it finished and over with. Unfortunately, this cocktail is still in the sip and see mode.

Such a metaphor. Such a crock.

I awoke this morning at 2:25, as I so often do. And as so often happens, it took me a while to get back to sleep. In fact, I didn't really. Rather I dozed. My brain was racing around in my head, ideas were flowing like rain. I was hot and slept with the sheet over me, my feet sticking out into the air conditioning. I kept checking the clock, something I don't usually do. It is what it is when I'm not sleeping. I just let it happen and trust that when my body is ready, it will allow me to drift.

But this morning was different because this morning I had to get up at 4 in order to go somewhere else. At about 3:45 I felt the familiar wash of nothing. My brain began to quiet, my body temperature dropped. I was falling back into dreamland and yet I couldn't allow it. A cruel thing to inflict on oneself.

At 4, I got up. The day had not yet knocked; outside it was still dark. Dark enough that all of the solar lights lining the driveway, that can be seen through the windows in the master bath, were still on. Dimming, awaiting sun to recharge, but still lighting the way.

And then came the steel blue light, the strange color that bathed the desert; the cool before the warmth. The promise of something else.

I'm traveling to New England today. It's been two and a half years. No longer home, it remains where my family is. My mother, my sister and her family, my brother. It's a familiar place and yet foreign. I know it and yet I don't. It’s a place I lived but not for long; it's where I went to college, where I started my journey from. Interesting that I often think of it that way. It gave me the tools and possibility, the courage to leave. Now it's somewhere else. It's where I'm journeying to rather than away from. Where I'll be living it out loud until Monday. 

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