And so

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 31, 2016 10:06 PM

I am struck by how many posts I pen while sitting on the deck in the early morning hours, absorbing the quiet, delighting in the gentle breeze that tests the resolve of the  temperature. Not will it rise, but when and how high. In the early morning on the deck, I can pretend that the hot summer is coming to an end and that I'll be able to soon wear long pants again.

Sunday is especially quiet out here away from town, away from people. Up on the hill, we survey our kingdom and think of The Lion King, a film that remain a favorite, perhaps because it reminds us so of Justin. When he was little, just three, Disney released the animated tale of a cub named Simba who grew to be a lion, and ruler of the land. Justin never went anywhere without his stuffed Simba. I think he was the young cub, come alive in the guise of a little boy with red hair and big glasses. Now he is the roaring lion, ruling his own kingdom with kindness and generosity. Perhaps that's why I hear Mufasa's words on these mornings on the deck. All the light touches.

As 7 o'clock becomes 8, I hear the horses down below, I hear the buzz of the desert, a sound that becomes as natural as the silence. It is the life of the Sonoran, with all of its prickly nature and prehistoric creatures. The cacti are all in full view but what lurks beneath, those making the music, remain mostly hidden. There but not.

Birds flit and chirp, not many, not nearly as many as the mid-day will bring. No one else appears to be up and about. There are no cars; no dogs let out after a night in the house to roar and bark. The houses remain in slumber even if its occupants aren't.

Lazy. That's the feel of the morning. A justified and accepted lazy. It's Sunday, the day of rest and relaxation, the day acting as precursor to a busy week. It’s soft and easy. The morning feels exactly that.

I am struck by my life. My good and plentiful life. On Sunday mornings when it's early and cool, I feel it most. Perhaps it's because I'm not consumed so much with what I have to do but rather can relish in what I have.

It will change when I go back inside, into my big beautiful home, with its artificial coolness and the world waiting inside my laptop. But I have these moments and I have this moment, on the deck, thinking about Justin, watching my dog survey his kingdom too, with my husband next to me. A cup of coffee. The desert.

And so I am blessed. And so I am.

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live out loud

Oh it was early

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 27, 2016 10:00 PM

It was still dark and lightning flashed behind the still heavy clouds shrouding the city. The lights in the distance seemed muted. There was no rumble of thunder, no tap of rain on the skylight. The air in the room was cool, swirled by the ceiling fan. A soft rush of still cooler air pushed from the vents up near the ceiling. I heard the whoosh of water from the shower and rolled over to look at the clock. 3:28. 

I could hear the coffee pot beginning to gurgle and sputter. I wondered how it was that Kevin had managed to get up, walk into the kitchen and get it going, how he’d managed to get ready for his shower without me hearing him. Without me feeling the weight of him lift from the bed we share. 

Oh, but it was early. And let me tell you why: Kevin was going to California. And let me tell you why: He finally bought a truck. 

Last week, we journeyed up to Prescott with cash in hand, ready to purchase a 1987 Range Rover. We didn’t. While we were up in that area, we went to look at another 1987. We didn’t buy that one either. Both were beyond rough in terms of aesthetics. But those could be fixed. It was the mechanical issues that made the ultimate decisions. Too much trouble even for $2500. Not drivable. 

But Kevin test drove both and he had the bug. He had made his decision. He wanted an old Range Rover Classic, something between 1987 and 1995, preferably before 1993 when Rover started putting air shocks into the cars. And while those shocks are nice, they are incredibly expensive to fix when they break and they always break. We had to fix them at least twice on our first red Rover. 

We continued to look, mostly at Craig’s list. There was nothing in Arizona so we got the idea of branching out a bit, into Southern California. We found one in San Diego, more money than we wanted to spend but we thought we’d look. Take the dog, maybe spend the weekend at the beach. 

That didn’t pan out. And it’s just as well. 

Yesterday, I happened to expand the search into the Inland Empire, the vast stretch between Palm Springs and Los Angeles, and there was a 1992, listed only 9 hours earlier. It looked phenomenal. In great shape. Pretty. Pre-1993 so no air shocks. Kevin called the guy at lunch yesterday. It was our luck that he had already received several calls but was unable to show the car yesterday. They talked, and hit it off on the phone. Kevin said he’d fly in to see it, and probably buy it based on their conversation but he needed to know that the truck would be there when he arrived. The guy said he’d be happy to hold it, and would even pick him up at the airport. 

Which brings me back to this morning at 3:28. We had to leave the house at 4:30 in order to get to the airport around 5:15 so that Kevin could make a 6 am flight. At 4:45, I felt a hand on my shoulder; I had fallen back to sleep. It was time for me to roll out of bed, slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and drive my husband to the airport so that he could go buy a car. A truck. Really this time. 

Oh, but it was early Oh, but I was and remain tired. But as I write this, my husband is driving home in his new old truck. He says it’s great. It’s in good shape. He had the oil changed, the radiator flushed, the power steering fluid changed and whatever-else fluid changed at Jiffylube and then got on the road. 

We will now have R3. Oh, did I mention it’s red?

Kevin's new ride: 1992 Range Rover 

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I'm competitive

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2016 9:58 PM

I feel like I should stand in front of a group of fellow competitives and announce, solemnly, “Hi, I’m Lorin and I’m competitive.” 

All together now: Hiiiii, Looooorrrriiiiin.

Let me tell you my story. For some time now, I have needed to be the one who won, anything. When I was little, I was a terrible sore loser at board games like Candyland. I loved Candyland, but got angry and surly when I lost. I stopped playing board games shortly thereafter. 

As I grew a bit older, I used to compete with my dad. I don’t know when it started; I’m not even sure why it started. Perhaps because my dad used to engage in certain sporting activities that I also enjoyed. He was pretty good on ice skates. When I was in fifth or sixth grade, I took ice skating lessons. I was decent; not great. But I enjoyed it, and I could skate a mean backwards 8. Behind our house in New York was a sort of swamp-pond that would freeze solid in the cold winter. The family would often go skating on the weekend. My dad would lace up his black figure skates and I would lace up mine. One day we decided to race and I was determined to beat him. For some ridiculous, youthful reason I needed to beat him. We raced. He caught a toe-pick on a small protruding branch or stick and went sprawling. I remember being elated because I’d won. I don’t remember being too worried as to whether or not he was OK (he was). 

Another time, we were playing tennis. I had taken an interest in the sport when I started watching Chris Evert. My first racket was a wooden Wilson racket that sported her signature. My dad had played tennis in his youth and again, for unknown reasons, it became very important that I beat him. We would bat the ball back and forth. Whenever I managed to put some spin on a ball that got past him, I would shriek with delight. At one point, on a particular Sunday, I went up to hit an overhead, determined to smash it past him. I came down, lost my footing, fell to the court and broke my wrist. I was so competitive though that I didn’t stop playing until I could no longer hold the tennis balls. 

I never liked to admit defeat, I didn’t like to be beat. I still don’t. But I’ve become a slightly better loser. Slightly. It’s something I recognize and work on, or at least try to. Except lately. Lately I am very competitive with my husband. In fairness, he is also competitive with me. 

When Justin was home, he was finally able to get us the fitness trackers he had “given” us for Christmas. Both Kevin and I chose Garmin Vivosmart HR trackers. They have a swipe face, with large letters and numbers making it easy to use and easy to see. We wear them every day. And every day, throughout the day, our conversations go something like this: 

“How many steps do you have?” 

“Did you reach goal yet?” 

“Not yet – wait. Goal!”

We have become obsessed with our step count. Each morning begins with a question: How many steps are you supposed to do today? The steps are automatically increased by a certain percentage based on whether or not we met the previous day’s steps. When Kevin gets to his goal before me, I feel dejected. Beaten. When we’re walking up the hill in the morning and he announces “goal!” because he’s met his stair-climbing goal and his wrist buzzes, I feel wronged. The Garmin’s screen shows fireworks and flashes the word GOAL! in celebration. My first instinct isn’t “great!” or “congrats!” Nope. It’s “why haven’t I met goal? We walked the same distance, we climbed the same hills.” Usually before I’m finished whining, my wrist too begins to buzz.

I don’t play board games anymore. I haven’t played tennis in ages. I can’t remember the last time I laced up skates. But none of that matters. I now have a fitness tracker, and it has reinvigorated my competitive streak. 

Say it with me: Hiiiii, Looooorrrriiiiin.

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An advocate for torture

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 17, 2016 9:07 PM

We are pacifists. We're not big on war though we do understand the need for it in certain circumstances. We supported going into Afghanistan after 9/11. I did not support going into Iraq. Kevin was less reticent largely because he likes the war toys. Fighter jets, cargo planes, explosions. He quickly soured on it all when it became a deadly folly.

We don't own guns and don't particularly want to even though we live in the wild, Wild West. I have shot guns and enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would. It's exhilarating. I felt powerful. Perhaps that's the lure and the danger.

When Justin was little, he was told that the only way he would go to college was if he joined the military. We quickly put the kabosh on that. We had a college fund, we assured him. He went to college without going to Iraq and for that we were profoundly grateful.

I – we – are not anti-military; we are anti-needless war. We are anti-torture and as much as we enjoyed the show 24, understand that it's not effective in the real world. I also choose to believe that we're better than that. If we're going to be an example to others, be something to look up to, representing people with integrity, we have to be better.

Which is what makes it so surprising that I am an advocate of waterboarding when it comes to my dog. Allow me to explain my seeming change of heart and mind.

It all started this morning when I was stupid. We had people over for dinner last night and we doing some final cleanup, putting away placemats, and trays, washing wine glasses and other delicates. Kevin was wiping off the counter. I had made coffee and decided to go out to get the paper. I also decided to take Riley with me.

It rained last night. The ground had dried and the humidity was high. I thought we'd be ok. I checked for lizards and saw none. I figured if the dog saw one and gave chase, the lizard would win easily no matter how fast Riley is. I looked in the portico. Clear. I glanced in the corners up the steps and didn't see anything but a small rock. I motioned to the dog that it was OK and he bounded out with that unique dog enthusiasm, the kind of wonderful joy that is completely pure. I'm going outside and it's the greatest thing. In. The. World. Paws down!

We had been outside for perhaps three seconds. He squared off against the small rock. Which turned out to be a toad. Toads are not that fast and definitely not as fast as my boy, who pounced, cat-like, and grabbed the toad. I yelled. He dropped it. I cursed. He looked at me like "well, what did you expect me to do. It. Was. A. Toad."

I grabbed his collar and yelled to Kevin. "Toad!" He knew exactly what to do. I took the dog toward the garage, Kevin met me there with the hose. And for the next 10 minutes we proceeded to push water through the dog's mouth. Rubbing our fingers across his gums. Again and again and again.

Flushing the dog's mouth for 5-10 minutes after a toad encounter of the poisonous kind is standard procedure. It's meant to remove any possible toxins before they can work into the dog's system, causing severe illness, seizures and even, in the most extreme cases, death.

In order to avoid death, I waterboard. I can't say I enjoy it; that would make me a monster. But I am advocate now.

I am also an advocate of waging war, a continuous assault on toads, in order to rid the world of their terror. They are a scourge, a blight. Dangerous. To dogs everywhere.

I never thought I'd be ok with torture. Technically, I'm still not. But if it saves lives, like that of Mr. Riley Boo, who am I to judge?

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In which Kevin wants a truck

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 6, 2016 8:41 PM

On our first date, Kevin and I met at a place called Yankee Doodle in Woodland Hills. It was 6 o'clock on a Wednesday, and we were only going to have a drink. Yankee Doodle was convenient. I worked in Woodland Hills at the time; he lived in Woodland Hills.

Neither of us had been there and we quickly deduced that neither of us liked it. We never even sat down. It was a pool hall of sorts and had zero atmosphere. It was noisy, the music was too loud. It simply wasn't conducive to having a drink and talking. We walked back out into the parking lot and decided where we’d go instead. After a few minutes, we came up with a place called Monty’s, also in Woodland Hills and on the Boulevard. We also decided to take one car. 

In my divorce, I got one of the two Porsches, the 944, while husband number one got his precious 911. I was fine with that; the 944 had always been mine. But I wasn’t making very much money at the time and when the car rolled 100,000 miles, it started costing me a ton. I had to replace the clutch. I had to replace the water pump, and other things. So I made the painful decision to part with it. In its place, I got a Mazda MX-6, the single most boring car on the planet. Or maybe it was just because I’d been used to driving something dynamic.

Kevin and I stood in the parking lot and he said, “I’ll drive.” And I said, “where’s your car?” He pointed to a gray Mitsubishi pickup truck. The disappointment must have registered on my face. Me, in a pickup, simply did not compute. (In addition to being a hotel snob, I’m also a bit of a car snob.) Needless to say, we went to Monty’s in the pickup. It was the first of three dates just that week, and from then on we were together nearly non-stop, pickup notwithstanding. Not too long after, he sold his pickup and bought a BMW.

What he’d always wanted was a 1990 Land Cruiser FJ62, and several years later, he got one. It was gorgeous. Mint. But the ride was rough. Eventually we sold it for something a bit more refined. But we’ve always missed it, much like I always missed my Porsche. 

I eventually replaced the Mazda, first with a used BMW 325i and then I replaced that with a brand new 328i. Once I was working at home, I couldn’t justify having a car payment for something that sat in the garage most of the time. I turned in the Beemer, found a 1987 944 Turbo on ebay and bought it. That was in 2000. It’s been a phenomenal car; fast. Sexy. And we’ve had fun with it.

When I decided I also needed – needed – a Range Rover, we sold the Land Cruiser. We’ve had three Land Rovers since, a Discovery Series II, the first Range Rover that we affectionately call R1, and the current Range Rover Sport. My pride and joy, the current love of my car-life. It’s our go-to car. Our “daily” driver, the one we can always count on. It’s not practical, but it’s wonderful.

Kevin has taken to using it as his truck, putting bags of mortar, hauling rocks, putting trash cans stuffed with brush and debris into the back. And me being the anal-retentive car-freak that I am, doesn’t like it. It’s a beautiful car, an expensive car, and even though mechanics commonly refer to Rovers as trucks, I prefer to think of it as a limousine that can climb a tree.

So Kevin wants a truck. More importantly, he needs a truck. So lately we’ve been talking that maybe it’s time to sell the Porsche, which is fun but also not practical, and get him something that he can bomb around in on the weekends, go to Lowes or Home Depot or Ace or the rock store or the dump or wherever he needs to go and he can load in wood and dirt and rocks and mortar and trash and whatever he wants. And I won’t care and he won’t worry about me caring. 

We’re going to go back to a 1990 Land Cruiser FJ62, once we find one. It’s serendipitous, it’s cyclical. It’s perfect. Because Kevin wants a truck. He needs a truck. He deserves a truck.

And so the car adventures continue.  

Big wet nose

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 5, 2016 8:35 PM

Several days ago, Kevin took a selfie with Riley. Riley is very photogenic but hates getting his picture taken. The minute you get close to him with a camera or the iPhone, when he’s doing one of his best cutes, he drops his ears and turns away. Sometimes he peers back like he’s making sure that the evil evil camera is gone. Just as often, he gets up and walks away to ensure that there will be no photos. It’s like he’s in witness protection or something, which he could be since he’s a rescue. It’s amazing that I get as many photos as I do, and that’s largely because I manage to take them before he even knows what’s happening. The exception is when he doesn’t recognize a device. 

He’s onto my iPhone. He’s not onto the iPad, so I managed to get a good one the other day because I was holding the device and he was curious as to what it was. Before he knew what was going on, I’d captured his cute little face peering up at me. Mom?

He was also not onto Kevin’s iPhone so when Kevin sat down behind him and held out the phone to snap a selfie, Riley was curious. Hmmm. What does this smell like, dad? Can I eat it? Does it taste like chicken? 

Whenever I need a smile, I now just look at Kevin’s phone. He has it as his wallpaper for his home screen. That big wet nose, pushed up nearly onto the screen of the phone, and the curious eyes, questioning what he was looking at, are just precious, innocent. Cute.

It’s the nose. There’s nothing like the feel of a wet nose on your arm in the morning, nosing you awake. Mom? Or pressed up against the glass, creating nose art. Or shining brightly during the day. 

Evidently there’s a legend that says a dog’s cold, wet nose is a gift from the heavens. When the world was flooded, the legend goes, all life on the planet was inside of Noah’s ark. The two dogs Noah had chosen constantly patrolled the boat, checking on the other animals, and generally just poking around as dogs do. One day, the dogs were taking their daily stroll when they noticed a coin-sized leak and water was rushing in. One dog quickly ran for help, while the other dog gallantly stuck his nose in the hole to plug it. By the time Noah and his sons arrived to repair the hole, the poor dog was in great pain and gasping for breath, but a major disaster had been averted. So a dog’s cold, wet noses is simply a badge of honor, conferred upon him in memory of that heroic act. 


According to those in the know, like veterinarians, the real reason a dog’s nose is wet is because dogs lick their noses a lot, sometimes to help keep them cool. It can also make them pick up scents better. It’s perfectly natural for their noses to pick up moisture from the ground, grasses, plants and other areas. Making a cold, wet nose.

The bigger the dog, the bigger the nose. The cuter the nose. Our dogs have all been fairly big with equally big noses. Wet noses that nudge and nudged, that sniffed and smelled, that created nose art, and brought unlimited joy into our lives. Joy that we were able to capture easily because Maguire and Cooper loved to get their pictures taken. Maguire was a total ham, looking directly into the camera, ears forward, nose glistening. Take my picture because I am gooooooodddd lookin’. Cooper was more shy, but he at least looked at the camera, albeit with a little bit of what we called the side-eye, nose wet. I am a good boy, I am a good boy and the picture will prove it. 

Riley and his big nose are sporadically captured digitally but they’re forever captured in my memory, my imagination. Cold, wet, beautiful. Proud. Nosing it out loud.

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The last supper

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 30, 2016 10:31 PM

The joke goes something like this: “Do you know why Jesus and all of the apostles are on one side of the table?” Silence. “So they could all be in the picture.” Ba dum bum. I have always chuckled at this joke, mostly because I’m a lapsed catholic and because it’s very sacrilegious. It’s one of those sarcastic jokes that’s not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny. More like smile-broadly-with-teeth funny. 

I bring this up because the last supper has gone from being a popular bible story to an exquisite painting by Leonardo Da Vinci to meals for the condemned. I suppose in some ways the bible story is also a meal for the condemned even though Jesus didn’t know he’d been betrayed or was about to be, and hadn’t yet been sentenced. I don’t really remember. The Leonardo Da Vinci connection is more about the renaissance painters and the bible than the bible. It was a very religious time in Rome. Witness the Sistine Chapel. 

The condemned man (or woman) in prison is allowed a last meal of their choice. It seems odd to me that you’re going to give someone a really great dinner and then put poison into their system. I don’t know if it’s the state’s way of seeming to be humane but it’s just another barbarism if you ask me. Which I realize you didn’t. 

The thing is, I’m writing about the last supper today because Justin leaves tomorrow. At approximately 7:45 am, his United flight lifts off from Tucson International Airport for a short trip to San Francisco in order to catch an All Nippon Airlines jumbo jet for Narita, Japan. He’ll be there for about three months, starting off in Sendai, spending time there, in Tokyo and other places in the country. 

When he’s done there, he goes to various places in Europe. The tour, Disney’s Frozen on Ice, which he’s been with for about a year and a half, is taking their act overseas until April. After Europe, they go to Australia/New Zealand. It’s the experience of a lifetime, and though he’ll be working, he’ll get to see the world without having to pay for it. Truly amazing.

He’s been home for six weeks. A long time. In some ways, it seems like forever; in others like he just got here. It happens every time, and we never really get used to it. I know he’s ready to get back to work and to being with his girlfriend, and his friends. I also know he loves being home. He genuinely likes us. Go figure. He also likes home cooking and good wine. 

I asked him what he wanted for his last meal, his “last supper.” He grinned at me. As if I actually needed to ask. 

Ribs. Ugly steaks. Twice baked potatoes. A cherry tomato salad with a balsamic glaze. Wine. 

I've been busy preparing and cooking while he’s packing. Tomorrow morning we’ll get up to see him off, and rubbing our eyes and clutching our robes, we’ll wave goodbye. We’ll cry and then we’ll go back into our quiet house. It will be light, the day will just be starting. Riley will need to be walked. Our day will start like usual. And he will be gone. 

But tonight we dine on his favorite foods. We’ll laugh and talk and eat and drink. We’ll have our last supper together for a while, and even though we won’t all be on the same side of the table, maybe we’ll all be in the picture anyway.

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The international travelall

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 19, 2016 10:19 PM

On Thursday night, after traveling through the desert all day, we arrived in Simi Valley. We had reserved a room in a Best Western, a brief respite in our journey up to Paso Robles. It’s a very long drive from Tucson and while we do it as Thanksgiving, we decided for this trip that it would be nice to break it up a bit. Even then, it was still 8 hours to the hotel.

I am a hotel snob as most who know me know well. I go away so seldom that when I do, and when it’s vacation, I want nice. If it’s just a place to lay my head, I don’t need five star. But I do want decent; I want clean. I don’t want to walk into a hotel room and feel like I can’t take my shoes off for fear of what lives in the carpet. The Best Western we stayed at was actually quite lovely. We arrived and they were serving wine and cheese in the lobby. We helped ourselves to a glass of wine each and walked to find our room. It was in the back, off of the main road and away from the pool so it was relatively quiet.

After we inspected the room and sipped a bit of wine, we went back to get the car. The spot we found near the room was right next to a very old, turquoise-colored station wagon, something from before station wagons were all the rage in the 1970s. This was probably from the 50s, maybe the 60s. 

It was very low to the ground, like it had been lowered no doubt for an enhanced cool factor. But the paint was dull, and there was rust along with wheel wells. A small visor jutted out over the the front windshield and another over the back window. It had four doors, bench seats in the front and the back, and white wall tires. It was fascinating. Not necessarily attractive but definitely distinct. I made brief mention of it. Something along the lines of “look at that car.” This usually leads to a bit of an education from my husband as to what it is. While I’m a car person, and know quite a bit about current cars, or at least cars from the 70s forward, I know little about anything preceding. I know what I like – the big gangster like cars from the 40s, with the big wheel covers and lots of chrome – but I don’t usually know what they are until I’m right on top of them and can see an emblem. Kevin knows what they are from a far. 

We took our stuff and went inside for the night. The next morning, the car was gone, and I didn’t give it a second thought. 

Today, we were on our way back down the 101 from Paso Robles, heading south and then east into the inferno. The traffic started to bunch up right outside of Santa Barbara and down into Ventura. There were sporadic pockets of not bad, but then it came to a screeching halt. We were close to the 126 east so we made a fast decision to jump on that to avoid the traffic that would no doubt get worse the closer we got to LA. Because LA. 

So there we were, cruising along the 126, through Santa Paula, heading toward Fillmore, and there it was, putting along. The same turquoise car, with the same white wall tires.

“Hey!” I said. “Isn’t that they same car from Thursday night?” 

“It is,” my husband concurred. “I think it’s an international travelall.”

There was a youngish couple inside, sitting very low to the ground. The windows were down – I’m sure they didn’t have air conditioning and if the car ever did, it ceased to work a long time ago. This was not not one of those old cars that’s been kept in pristine condition. This was a car that is all original, save the tires. It had character.

I laughed. What are the odds of seeing the exact same car again – because there can’t possibly be two – within days? In Los Angeles. There was something weirdly serendipitous about it. Perhaps it was us in a former life. Or us in a future life. Regardless, we waved as we went by and they waved back.  

I smiled as they faded to a speck in the side view mirror. It was, somehow, a perfect way to end the weekend, seeing the same old car we’d seen at the beginning of our trip. It was a sign, of what I don’t know, but it had to be something to celebrate.

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live out loud

Something about sitting in an Adirondack chair looking out over rolling hills and vineyards

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 18, 2016 6:52 PM

We took our coffee, the first of the morning, and went to sit. The trees were rustling in the breeze, birds were arguing good-naturedly, somewhere a tractor did what tractors do. I heard a dog bark. From inside the house, music. It might have been Eva Cassidy. I found out later it was someone named Lisa Tingle. Roy has a great collection of music. He is our designated disc jockey.

A lizard squirted by, black and scaly, a miniature version of an alligator. 1:100 in scale. Probably more. Or less.

Kevin was walking in the field below though it wasn't much of a field anymore. It's been plowed and staked. New vines will be going in soon. Ever the would-be vintner, he was looking for tips, maybe for validation. He had a cup of coffee with him. A hawk soared above.

Roy was off somewhere taking pictures. Bobbi was still in bed. I was sitting in the back. I had turned one of the old, weathered and nearly broken Adirondack chairs toward the sun, feeling it warm my legs.

This is a different house for us. The past two trips, we've stayed in a two-bedroom guest house in the J & J Vineyards. We fell in love with the space, with sitting out on the porch in the morning, having coffee, overlooking the vineyards. Kevin and I often were up before Roy and Bobbi and we’d go for a walk. Last November, it was cold. We walked anyway, crunching through the vineyard, finding passed-over clusters of grapes. Cold.

But that house, for whatever reason, isn't available anymore. We had to find something new, equally interesting and obviously different. When you get used to a place and really like it, it's harder to change. Bobbi and I want back and forth, comparing places, locations, amenities, and finally decided on Homestead Hill off of Kiler Canyon. We arrived last night near 6 pm. It's definitely different, atop a hill rather than snuggled in and amongst vines. I didn't like it at first; I was disappointed. I don't know why. I think just because it’s new and different.

We made dinner; we relaxed. We went to bed. The windows were open in our rooms. We listened to the crickets and the quiet of the night. We felt the cool air drift over us. We woke up to the birds and the rustling leaves.

I sat with my coffee in my Adirondack chair, my feet on the edge of the dormant fire pit, peering out at the world through my Maui Jims. It had been cool when I came out but the sun started to warm the day. A heat wave starting. It will be all over the west. 

The house is growing on me.

The sun was comforting, comfortable, the day just beginning; beckoning. The vineyards glistened next to the dried brush. It was glorious. A perfect morning beginning a perfect day.

Sitting in an Adirondack chair.


by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 9, 2016 10:40 PM

Our lives here on the hill are somewhat reclusive which is not to say lonely. We work and have near constant interaction with others even if it’s only on the phone or via email. We do have constant interaction with each other and we’re just fine with that. We’re very simpatico, the husband-unit and I. Which is not to say that we don’t sometimes argue. We do. But that’s not the point. The point is that we live up here, far removed from those we love most, even from some of our new friends here in Tucson, and yet I rarely feel alone or even far away. 

Once upon a time when someone moved away, it was forever. Then, as the 20th century became more transportation oriented, moving away no longer meant people wouldn’t see each other again. It simply meant that they wouldn’t see each other as often. Kids began to go to college in other states; families moved because of jobs in other cities. We became separated, transient, and connected via telephone and letters. 

These days, in this time, we still stay connected via phone though not always as often. Mostly it’s via email and text. With the advent of video phones and now Apple’s Facetime, we can talk to each other, even see each other, share a glass of wine across the miles. It’s almost like being together.

When we decided to move, we never really thought that we’d be alone. We knew we’d miss our West coast family, our Roy and Bobbi, our Diane and Gene, our Maryann, and so many others but we weren’t chastened by it. When we actually did move, three years ago, we were more chastened especially as we had our farewell Fritini and then when Roy and Bobbi came the night we were packing, to help us, it became harder. The knowledge of what we were about to do became heavy, scary. We did it anyway. We scattered. 

Since our move, some of our other people have scattered, too. Maryann moved to Florida, to The Villages and she’s happy as she can be. Diane and Gene moved to Medford, Oregon and they are absolutely thrilled. We have other friends who either have moved or are thinking about moving. Roy and Bobbi would like to move out of LA; our friend Dave and his girlfriend are also going to move out of LA. They’re scattering, too. 

Even when you scatter, moving from place to place, state to state, away from friends and family, everyone remains near. They’re in our hearts and our minds, they’re within reach via phone or Facetime, email or text; even old-fashioned letters. It’s impossible to feel too far away even when you are. Even when I am.

I moved away from the East coast in 1984 when I was 22. I got into my 1979 Toyota Celica a week to the day after I graduated from college. I was ready. My mom went with me, softening the blow of leaving everything I had ever known behind. But I left my dad, my brother, my sister. Even my dog. I’ve written before about how, when my mother got on a plane, some three weeks to a month later, heading back to New England, I had never felt so alone in my life. I had scattered all by myself and I was alone in the wind. 

But I made friends, I grew as a person, I made new roots. I found Kevin and Justin and Maguire and Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and everyone else who became so integral to our lives; to my life. So permanent. So real. 

Scattered doesn’t mean away, not anymore. Scattered is the new hi, how are you, what’s happening, let’s have a glass of wine. Facetime on Sunday? Perfect. Scattered is the new way to celebrate and I’m embracing it, always and every day, from up here on the hill.

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