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?


live out loud

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.


live out loud

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. 


live out loud

Lizards, and deer, and rabbits oh my

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 31, 2017 8:51 PM

When it gets hard for me to find something to celebrate, I turn to nature. I do that a lot lately, marveling at the color of the sky, the green of the desert, the harshness of the wind. I find solace in the blooming cacti, so many of them sprouting different colors and different shapes of flowers and fruit. The saguaros have done their annual halo of white flowers. They’ve mostly all bloomed and are in the process of drying and dying, to fall and be picked up by birds. While they last, they’re angelic. The tiny cactus that flood the hillsides – I can’t recall their names – have been vibrant with red and hot pink while the prickly pear have been red, and the hedgehog cactus have been pink. The whipple cholla are currently teasing us with an amber, almost copper colored flower.

The creatures are out, too. We have deer all year long, and javelina, too. But now we also have snakes and spiders and lizards and toads. And rabbits. All of whom send my Riley into orbit. 

This morning, after our walk and is his habit, he takes wubba, dashes onto the deck and whips poor wubba back and forth, growling, barking, and generally announcing that any who would dare show their face in his desert. HIS. DESERT. should consider themselves warned. He does not take kindly to intruders, even those who came before him. 

So there he was, out on the deck, standing guard at the rail, staring into the abyss of the desert stretching beneath him. He seemed fixated on something. His tail was rigid, his ears forward, his body ready to spring. Which he eventually did, bouncing up in the air as if on a pogo stick and barking simultaneously when into his territory came a rabbit. A rather big rabbit by desert rabbit standards. And this one was brazen. Even though there was much commotion happening above him, he seemed to instinctively know that the wild animal in red fur couldn’t get to him. And so, Mr. Rabbit took up a spot just below Mr. Riley, in full view of Riley, taunting, while he proceeded to nibble on a bit of mesquite. He nibbled and nibbled, then sat back on his rear haunches, and stared straight ahead. Riley, big tough dog, could do nothing.

Eventually the rabbit got bored of his game and hopped up and over the deck. I thought we might be able to return to some quiet.

I was wrong.

A lizard, or three, each well over a foot long, shot down the hill and across the dirt below. Riley loves lizards, loves to chase them. Has even caught one or two. But again, from the deck, all he can do is whine and snarl and bark and dance. Every once in a while, he’ll look back at me, sitting inside, at my desk, watching him with a smile, as if to say: “Do you SEE what’s going on down there? How can you be so CALM?” 

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go meet my friend Stephanie, I noticed movement in the window behind me. In our master bath, we have a pedestal-type tub that sits nestled in front of three large windows that look out onto the driveway and the hillside beyond. It had been windy but the movement wasn’t the wind. I turned to look and there, just feet away from the house, were two – no, three! – deer. They had come down the hill to munch on some cactus and mesquite. My movement made them freeze and stare, directly at me, directly through me. I moved slowly from the bathroom, tucked Riley into my office and closed the door, and then called to Kevin. “Bring your camera.”

We hadn’t seen them that close before. Just like the rabbit had never been so brazen before, or the lizards to teasing. Perhaps we’re getting a reputation for being soft on wildlife. Perhaps they know that no harm will come to them here. Kevin and I wouldn’t hurt them, and Riley can’t get to them.

There are lizards, and deer, and rabbits. And so many more incredible creatures and wonders in this desert, so many colors, so much extreme and so much majesty. Something to celebrate not just today, but every day.

A day on the bike

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 27, 2017 8:24 PM

Ever since we moved into the house, most weekends are spent doing house things. Kevin spends his Saturdays working outside, building rock walls and swails, shoring up the rip rap on the hillside below the house and to the south. We have erosion problems. Not to the extent that the house is going to slide down the hill and end up in the backyard of the Roesly's, though I do joke about that. The hillside is mostly solid rock, but the dirt and fill continues to erode because of the horrendous rains we get and because everything above us runs down onto us and then gushes on by. The rocking is a necessity as well as a catharsis. He might not love it when he's doing it, but he loves the result. And he does enjoy the total mindlessness of it. Brain power replaced by brawn. 


While he rocks, I often run errands. Or clean. We have yet to retain cleaning people and instead prefer to do it ourselves. This is good and bad. Good in that we know that things are done correctly and exactly to our specifications; bad because the house is big and it's impossible to clean the whole thing at once. So I piece-meal it. The guest room and bath are clean so I don't have to do anything in there; ditto the bathroom off my office. But the master bath, which gets the most use, needs more attention. Our shower alone can take me an hour and a half. 


So Saturdays are spent in and around the house. It has occurred to us that, with the exception of spending time with friends in the evenings, we don't have much fun anymore. When we lived in California many a Saturday was spent happily drifting through the many canyon roads. We'd climb on the motorcycle and go off to Ojai for gas, taking Kanan to Westlake, then south to Avenida de los Arboles to Moorpark Road. Heading north, we'd make our way to Tierra Rejada, turn left and take that until it ended at Los Angeles Avenue. Another left and we'd twist along until we hit Balcom Canyon which would wind its way to Santa Paula where we'd pick up the 150 and cruise into Ojai. It was a delightful ride and while it could sometimes be hot, we were always moving and there was some shade, some respite from the heat.


Tucson doesn't have a lot of back roads or canyons that wind to somewhere else. To get anywhere you have to move through the city which means near constant stoplights. To the north is Mt. Lemmon and that's a lovely drive, cool and lush, but you can only go to Mt. Lemmon so many times. 


We've been wanting to go to Apache Junction and Tortilla Flat, old mining towns that are to the west and north, heading toward Phoenix and Scottsdale along the 79. But we haven't been able to get ourselves out before the weather turned scorching. It's a two and half hour drive under the unrelenting heat of the desert sun. We decided, again, not to do that today. Instead, we opted for Oracle which is on the other side of Mt. Lemmon. The only way to really get there, though, is to head west through town, go north on Oracle 77 and then wait to break free of the stoplights just south of Saddlebrook. It takes about an hour to do that. Mileage wise, it's not bad. Traffic light wise, it's brutal. It's about 40 miles total, and takes about an hour and a half. 


We left the house just after 10. It was already starting to get warm. The sun was lazy and the sky was white. The wind, which has been gale force all week, was softer though still hot, the breath of the desert breathing fire. We were lathered up with SPF 50 so we wouldn't get burned; we'd just feel like we were disintegrating in the atmosphere. 


Oracle is slightly more elevated at about 4547 feet, so we knew it would be cooler. Otherwise, we didn't really know what to expect. What we found was a small town, a lot of abandoned homes, a lot of trailer parks. There were several restaurants. A pizza place we had no interest in; a Mexican place that's closed on Saturday. We found a place called Ore House Hilltop Tavern and buzzed up the short hill. Both of us started to grin. It's a total dive, a wonder of a spot that time forgot. The dusty road and parking lot are red dust. There's an old travel trailer in the shape of motorcycle helmet. In front of that is a rusted out old motorcycle with a metal skeleton rider. A rusted metal horse pulls a dilapidated wooden wagon.


The building itself had to have been an old mining location. The floors are uneven; the ceilings, all wooden planks, are low. Scattered around the outdoor patio area are various old and rusting pieces of equipment. Our kind of place.


One of the things we love about going off on the motorcycle is finding a true dive. To climb off the bike in the summer, dusty, sweaty, is one of the true joys. In the winter, it's much the same except then we're dressed head to toe in leather including chaps. We're bikers when we're on the motorcycle, and bikers love biker hangouts and biker hangouts tend to be dives with great people, decent though not healthy food and cold beer on tap. 


I had fish and chips; Kevin had a panini Rueben. We decided on root beer rather than alcoholic beer, and we had a wonderful time. Afterwards, we wound our way back to a truly miraculous hole in the wall called Jerry & Sue's Trading Post. The place shows off all kinds of rusted pieces of antique equipment alongside rusted metal sculptures of people and animals. Inside, there's a plethora from which to choose including Christmas ornaments, antique plates and glasses, pre-owned cowboy boots and new cowboy hats, books, artwork, and tomahawks. 


We didn't buy anything but thanked Sue and climbed back onto the bike for the very hot trip back to Tucson. An hour and a half and too many stoplights later, we pulled into our garage. Hot, sweaty, tired. In need of more water.


It was a good day on the bike. One spent living out loud. 


live out loud


by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 24, 2017 10:42 PM

For some reason, I was reminded today of a Saturday late morning in 2008. I was in my kitchen in Oak Park. I had the television on because there was a rally at UCLA and I wanted to watch it. It featured Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. It was relatively early in the presidential campaign but I was already infatuated with Barack Obama. To me, he was a once in a life time politician, someone I found inspiring, intelligent, funny, personable, and believed with my whole being was what we needed after the previous eight disastrous years. I still believe that.

I don’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, but there I was, listening to Caroline and Oprah and then Michelle, who I also found to be compelling and inspirational. As I watched, and as her speech came to an end, she started talking about a surprise guest. The CSPAN camera panned the audience of mostly women as Michelle talked about this inspiring guest, someone who understood, someone who had a relationship all of the women on the stage. Then she introduced the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor then. I hadn’t supported him, but I always believed that he couldn’t be “all bad” (to quote True Lies) because even though he was a Republican, he was married to a Democrat, and a Kennedy to boot. California’s first couple had never made an attempt to pretend that she had suddenly changed her way of thinking and believing. She hadn’t, and as she strode to the stage, in a long suede duster, hair swinging, looking regal and down to the earth all at once, the crowd went wild. I was enthralled. It was a moment. 

I subscribe to her newsletter and read her thoughts every Sunday when she sends out her weekly email. I always liked her, admired her. During that 2008 impromptu appearance she spoke off the cuff. She was genuine and real, human and funny; self-deprecating. And she said something that has always stuck with me. Some nine years later, it still resonates. 

“Life is made up of moments.”

The moment we leave home. The moment we first fall in love. The moment we decide to move on. The moment we first eat cookies and cream ice cream. The moment we taste our first truly amazing red wine. The moment we become married; the moment we become parents. The moment we get sick, the moment we get better. The moment we see an eagle soar. 

The moment we decide we’re tired. The moment we realize the sun’s coming up. The moment we breathe in the day and marvel at the sunrise.

The moment we decide who we are; the moment we decide who we want to be. The moments we laugh, the moments we joke; the moments we cry. 

The moment we lose a parent, the moment a loved one is hurt or becomes ill. The moment we get the phone call. The moment we grow up. The moment we reach for something new. The moment’s we change.

These moments become hours become days, weeks, months, years; a life. They are moments we should embrace and celebrate. Because they are the moments we live it out loud.

Abstract moments by David Downs


live out loud

Seeking seclusion

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 22, 2017 10:26 PM

I sometimes dream about existing in a cocoon. Not one spun by caterpillars, not a hard shell, just a safe place. A place where I can be quiet and safe, where the outside world doesn’t intrude; where the inside world comforts. 

I am not prone to cocooning, not usually. I’m not an extrovert but I’m also not an introvert. I’m private, reserved. I don’t necessarily keep to myself but I don’t let people in easily. It’s hard for people to know me and I realize that at this age, I won’t be changing. I am what I am. 

But lately, as the world spirals ever out of control for all of us, I feel the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head, to burrow, to cocoon, at least for the next few years. Nearly four to be exact unless something happens and it’s less. But it’s still four until we have an opportunity to truly change the trajectory of a country leading the way in the spiral down. 

I am consumed by news. It’s the first thing I check in the morning, the last thing I view at night. I get News Alerts throughout the day from various sources, often telling me the same thing. I think – I dream – about how nice it would be to not care but I don’t know how to do that. How do you not care about what’s happening in the world?

How do you not care that there are those determined to hurt others? That some of those doing the hurting are those in great power, those who control the government?

How do you not pay attention to the terror, the fear, the ineptitude, the ridiculousness?

How do you absorb the constancy of change, of not knowing, and continue to be upbeat and positive and work and play and drink wine and spend time with friends and family and enjoy life? 

The answer, of course, is that you simply do. There is no other choice, or rather, the only other choice is unacceptable.

I am an optimist by nature. I didn’t used to be but as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that facing the world, facing the day, going through life with a positive attitude is much more conducive to having a happy and positive life. It’s something I actually learned in college when being miserable and feeling sorry for myself for reasons I can no longer remember made for a very unhappy and unproductive existence. Back then, I had to force myself to be positive, to simply go through each day with a smile. I had to pretend that things didn’t bother me. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I made the decision a long time ago. I embrace it now. It’s part of me. It’s easier. 

And harder. Since November, I find it more difficult to exist in a state of perpetual happiness. I find it easier to be angry and frustrated and hateful. I don’t like it.

So I seek a cocoon; I crave seclusion so that I can get back to my life as I know it, as I remember it. Life that is good, filled with love and laughter and potential. That’s the life I embrace; that I crave. The life that is living it out loud.

Painting: Seclusion Redux, by Roy Guzman

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live out loud

And just like that

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 21, 2017 10:29 PM

And just like that, we race toward summer. I am amazed at how quickly this year has flown, how fast time is passing. Just yesterday, it was New Year's and the yesterday before it was Halloween and the world was safer somehow, even on that night of demons and ghouls.

Today I awoke to nothing horrific. And yet I didn't breathe a sigh of relief. There are few sighs like that today from people who think and feel as I do, as my husband and kid do; as my family and friends do. Full of fear and loathing, of apprehension and uncertainty. It’s unsettling. We all feel, strangely, displaced. We are who we’ve always been and yet we’re not.

I awoke later than usual, to the sun shining. I could tell it was warm. There's a different light on the desert when it's warm. Whiter, yet more dense. It's as if you can see the heat. It will get only hotter as the day becomes tomorrow becomes next week, next month. Summer. It’s coming. It’s already simmering.

Just like that, life continues. I'll journey back east in two weeks to see my family and see Shawn graduate. It will be a happy time, joyous. The light is different there in spring and summer. More clear and warmer even though the temperatures are cooler and the humidity higher. Fascinating the way the light changes with the temperatures and the geography. The air becomes thinner and yet more dense. The temperatures expand and contract. Rain falls but not here. Only heat falls here.

And so it goes, so it continues, so it will always until it doesn't. This pace is unsustainable, or at least it feels that way. We awake to the impossibility that it is still happening, that nothing has changed and yet everything changes daily. We despair. We  worry and stew and study and pray and scream.

And just like that we are awakened by the light and the day anew. Time passes and it doesn't. It's too fast and not fast enough. The light is bright and warm, the day equally so. Just like that, we are in today. Just like that, tomorrow will come and next week, next month, next year.

Just like that it can all change. Just look at the color of the day, the light from the sun, the density of the air and hope. 


live out loud

The shadows

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 18, 2017 10:42 PM

The few clouds that drifted across the sky starting at noon seemingly floated lower to the earth with each passing hour. Big, black patches of shadow covered the valley below. Each was rimmed with the sun. The winds were whipping from all different directions. It actually hissed as it pushed across the deck and through the view port where it whistled through the bamboo reeds we have in a big clay vase. It was both ominous and beautiful, much like the world today.

As I watched the shadows ebb and flow with the tide of the wind, drifting lazily and violently, I thought of how life is much the same. We have sunny days and dark days; we have calm days and those not so calm. Lately, the days are mostly windy. It’s spring now. The calm of the fall and winter, even with its occasional calamitous storms, was strangely soothing. The days were short and cold, but we knew what each would bring. Now the days are sometimes cool and oft times warm, and the winds blow with the ferocity of chaos. They careen and damage, they threaten and cajole. They blow away the sunshine, and then the shadows descend. 

The metaphor is a bit heavy-handed, I know. But as I watched the shadows rimmed with sun, I saw what our country has become. Our spring drifts toward summer. The shadows are strong and the heat is intensifying. It’s what we are experiencing, and what we hope desperately will blow out to sea soon. 

I’ve watched the shadows descend upon the country for the past three and a half months. Always dangerous, they have become ominous. The last two weeks have bordered on the ridiculous. If I wasn’t watching and listening and absorbing with my own ears and eyes, if it was registering inside my brain, I wouldn’t believe it. A novel written with these plot twists would be deemed implausible. A film with these scenes would never get made.

And yet, here we are. Caught up in a horror movie of our own making. Each day we awake and open our smart phones to check the news, dreading what we’ll see and some of us strangely hopeful about what might come to be. We are confronted with headlines that shriek and scream. It’s like the boogieman hiding in the bushes coming out with a knife. And an Uzi. And enough c-4 to blow us all to Mars. 

Kevin and I are probably too political, even more so these days because of what has happened, because of the abomination in the oval office; because of a toddler throwing a perpetual tantrum.

There’s something lurking in the shadows. It’s frustration and fear. The wind blows and shifts the shadows and the frustration and fear becomes anger and rage. But regardless, all continue to be rimmed by sunshine.

Rimmed with hope. Hope that whatever is in the shadows dissipates.

Tonight as we watched the sun set, we also watched the shadows fade. The world and the turmoil quieted, at least for a bit. If only that would happen the real world.


live out loud

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