Natural threads
Wednesday June 13th 2018, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

My gray hair is a whistle deterrent.

He was too old to do much whistling anyway.

But as I stepped into an alley to stay in the shade on my way to the annual lupus group summer get-together, the scruffy old guy by the motorcycle called out to me, “Nice outfit!” with a smile on his face that, to my surprise, conveyed a love to and for the whole wide world.

“Thank you!” It wasn’t so much the words, it was the clear generosity in his intent that had me responding in kind. He just totally made my day.

He had no way to know my earlier inner monologue of, That shirt looks frumpy. You can do better.

Well I AM frumpy.

Don’t give me that. You don’t have to look frumpy. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you look better there. You just have to get off your duff and iron something nicer.

And so, ten minutes before it was time to go, I finally turned that iron on and got the job done in a bit of a rush.

He totally made it worth it.

My iron just got its old summer job back.



280 grams and 140 grams
Saturday June 09th 2018, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

A friend was throwing a Relief Society (women’s organization) potluck brunch get-together. She has a beautiful big back yard with picnic benches for a crowd, perfect for a summer day.

Her small house did not have enough space inside for her guest list. I said the June sun was the issue and I was sorry I was going to be missing it.

She talked me into coming anyway, parking close and sitting at her table just on the other side of the window from everybody.

She excused herself from the group and came and kept me company for awhile; one-0n-one is so much easier for me to hear anyway. Cool. So did several other people by turns, and it was much appreciated. I’d brought my knitting and it filled in any gaps. Meantime, her kids, teens to 21, passed by going from here to there in the house.

Plus one young woman I didn’t know. Who saw the work in my hands and on the second time by decided to stop and ask about it.

Turns out she was their niece, visiting before her move overseas Monday for her graduate studies at Oxford.

Turns out she’s a knitter.

Turns out she’d never heard of Colourmart, but now she’s hoping to visit them in person and is quite excited about it.

I told her I’d knit in high school but had had to give it up in college: I simply had had no funds for yarn (she nodded in boy-ain’t-that-the-truth agreement), and it took ten years for me to get back to it. I regret those ten years and would love to make it easier for someone else to keep going; what were her favorite colors?

Was I serious?!

That’s what yarn is for, yes.

And that is how, a year after I bought it, that huge 420-gram cone of dk cashmere I’d hanked and scoured finally got wound up and ready to go. It took…awhile this afternoon. (That big ball nearly qualifies for planethood. The bowl it’s in is platter size.) I’m not giving her all of it and I’m not sure it would fit in her suitcase if I did, so, some for my cowls project, some for her. Whichever one fits in her luggage. I want her to have something that sustains her wanting to knit.

And now it’s finally available to me to actually work with, too.



You dim sum you lose some you win some
Monday May 28th 2018, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Lupus

We decided to go out to lunch. She picked out the (allergy-friendly) place. I hadn’t had dim sum in years–I was looking forward to this.

The food was very good, the place fairly formal and even in a long skirt I felt a tad underdressed. Quite a few of the patrons were on the older side, but not all.

There was a dad who picked up his adorable little girl of about 18 months a time or two and walked the aisle with her to keep her from becoming too restless.

There was another family in a corner in the other direction with a daughter of about nine and a boy of about two and I confess to wincing inwardly as he waved his chopstick with enthusiasm. His was blue. When he wanted to jump and down on his seat waving that baton his parents watched him carefully and finally put a stop to it.

Dim sum is not a fast meal, which was fine with us; we wanted time to catch up on things.

Back to the first family: the third time it was the mom that got up with her. By that point I had a bright-striped red/green/blue/white parrot at the ready. It had the most perfect face. (Chosen over the ones shown here.)

It was hard to tell which one of them was more delighted but it was clearly a great success.

It was a goodly while later and the other family’s dishes were still coming out but that little boy was quite done eating. I asked the maitre d’ as he was going by: was it okay to ask him to give these to those two kids over there?

The green and yellow lizard and the banana-eating monkey swooped and giggled in his hands, imagination going full tilt, his parents playing with him, his big sister putting down her phone game to watch him with a grin and their meal transformed. They turned towards our table and we said, Happy Birthday!

And then went back to our conversation so as to try not to intrude overly.

But here’s the thing. The staff were in the middle of lunch rush in a busy downtown location running full tilt on a holiday and were clearly stressed. But now there were smiles all around where there hadn’t been before. At all.

The first family headed out, the little one back in her daddy’s arms. They paused just before our table and she waved bye-bye and thank you so enthusiastically with her whole arm waving side to side as far as she could go that it wiggled her all over, the parrot held out at the ends of her fingertips to show us her new toy, the parents grateful for older couples who remember how cute toddlers are.

Been there!

We were done and headed out.

Almost at the door, seeing the sun outside, I realized I’d left my new hat behind and was suddenly acutely aware of the time I’d done that and in just a few steps away from a restaurant it had been grabbed and vanished and was never seen again–just as today’s maitre d’ came rushing towards us with this one to try to catch us in time, glad to be able to give back.



Feel like…letting my freak flag fly…
Friday May 25th 2018, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Lupus

There’s this big and I mean big-brimmed black wool hat that I bought when I knew I was going to be spending some time outside at noon at high altitude, lupus or no lupus. One does not miss the graveside ceremony at one’s mother-in-law’s; it was good that as a piece of clothing for such an event it seemed the proper thing, never mind the lupus.

Richard was feeling a bit cabin feverish and wanted to run a quick errand this afternoon: which meant me driving. That was going to be it, but then we both thought out loud more or less in unison that Costco today would be a whole lot better than Costco on a holiday weekend. (I did not say, but the sun at this hour…)

Somehow that big hat was the one that was in the car (there’s always one), okay then, nice and big and protective, and the only parking space we found was way across the lot. Good thing it’s such a cool day, right? Well we’ll just be a tad formal then. I put it on and then threw it in the cart after we got inside.

After the wind had thrown it off me a time or two as we walked in. That brim sure made for quite the sail. It made me appreciate how still the air had been, how reverent, when we were saying goodbye to his mom.

There was one woman in the store who looked enough like a neighbor I hadn’t seen in awhile that I noticed her–but she showed no flicker of recognition, just stress and hurry, so, no, and we went quietly about our separate business.

One of the first things I did was buy a new SPF-rated sun hat, right there on display right as you walk in the door. That one would stay on, and it looks a heck of a lot more like summer.

Why I didn’t put that one on to head back to the car I couldn’t have told you; it would have made a lot more sense, but no, even while telling myself this made no sense I decided I didn’t want the tag flapping at me before I could get it off–so I put the black one on again. Bigger brim equals more sun protection, right?

That silly hat flew off several more times again in the brisk Bay-side wind and after avoiding being hit by a car retrieving it I kind of clamped it down on my head to try to go load up mine. I could at least still see looking downward.

Turns out that woman had parked next to us. Turns out we got done at about the same time.

Richard cannot bend much right now and I told him not to worry about the groceries.

Airborne!

I caught the woman’s attention. Excuse me? Do you mind if I reach under–my hat just blew under your car…

It what?! She did a double take, then laughed and told me not to worry about it, she’d get it for me, but by the time she looked it was out the other side and heading for the belly of the next car over, more paper airplane than wool. She got to it in time and gave it back to me, much amused. And quite delighted to be able to be of help.

She’d looked so stressed. She looked so happy now. Hat’s off to her for stepping up.

I threw it straight in the back seat. Even if it was a nuisance and needed to be retired, that hat carried memories. It was not allowed to escape.

The new one is ready for duty.



Who? Beads me
Monday May 21st 2018, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

Well, that was a surprise.

I got a lovely note today and had no idea who this person was; I had to scroll down through the email chain, trying to figure it out.

Two years ago a friend had given me a big bag of craft supplies she wasn’t interested in anymore, nor was I, but I told her I could post it on Freecycle.org so that she could know it would go to someone who would be glad to have it. There were quite a few beads in there and someone could have the fun she’d hoped for when she’d bought it.

And so I did that.

I’d long since forgotten all about it.

The note was from the woman who had gotten that bag. She was no longer a medical student here but now in residency at the same school where my brother-in-law did his. Cool. But I remember the descriptions of what it was like to be in training as a young physician and the severe lack of personal time it entailed and I’m not surprised it took that long for her to really search that bag.

But yes, she had held onto those craft supplies while moving halfway across the country to her new place.

And only then did she discover that, by her description it sounds like I gifted her with a cowl along with a note that meant a great deal to her, whatever I said. She is studying the specialty of one of my favorite doctors, and if I didn’t then I did today, telling her what a difference he’d made to me and wishing her well in her life. She was very touched (and here I was, reiterating that message, I’m sure.)

I don’t remember doing that. But I know I would be doing exactly the same thing all over again if given the chance–with a plain-vanilla-wearable-by-anyone cowl at the ready, or any one that just felt right. Because one of my doctors–and because of Rachel Remen’s stories on the subject–taught me what a difference it can make to a physician to know that there really are patients out there who appreciate what you go through as you aspire to do right by humanity, the whole reason you went through all that you went through to get to the point where you could offer of yourself and your life like that.

That they’re not forgotten when the medical crisis is past.

I wonder if maybe, just maybe, two years ago wasn’t when she needed to hear that message: maybe today was. I have watched life dance to the choreography of G_d enough times…

Knitting is love made tangible. Even if I wasn’t ever her patient, I know well the life of a patient. And I know it’s not always easy to be a doctor.

I’d better get to it on the next cowl to have it ready to send out into the world.



Early start
Saturday May 19th 2018, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Lupus

We read silly books, we played, we cheered.

Or rather he did, at least during the games. Since I can’t be out in the sun our daughter took me to her favorite dessert place downtown, and after we got back, the big screen got set up to show me some of the boys’ best moves so I could see them in action, too and their daddy could brag on them.

A little later, I pointed out the pretty orange flowers in the tree to Maddy and how the petals were falling on their swingset.

She did a double take at my audacity and corrected me: “Those. Aren’t. Flowers.”

I laughed. For that I had to step outside a moment with her, sun or no sun. “Yes they are!” I held her up high so she could see a cluster from quite close.

Nothing doing. Trees don’t have them. “They’re not flowers. And–they’re BLUE!” and she ran off giggling.

The logic of a three-year-old.

She might figure out now how the jacaranda trees are all purple right now. (In San Diego. Ours haven’t quite yet.)

When the last flight home for the day was coming right up, I explained to her mid-romp that we were going home to our house now.

She looked up at me, stunned, her face begging, WHAT?! NO!!

We got caught up in saying goodbye to Hudson and Parker and hugs and then we were off in their aunt’s car for the airport.

I only later realized I’d forgotten this time to promise them that we would come back. The boys are old enough to take that for granted but their little sister needed that reassurance.

But we will. I promise.



Well at least it reminded me to prepare
Friday March 30th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

I was looking forward to seeing the fully-open flowers in the morning.

When I got up there was no sign they’d ever been there.

I checked around the ground for snails and cut back some of the ground cover too close to the tree that they could have climbed over from.

As the day went on some new flowers showed white at the top of the tree and I was looking forward to the sun getting lower so that I could go out there and get a closer look.

What I got to see instead was a squirrel this afternoon hanging upside down from the very top of that branch, the very top of the tree, snarfing my flowers. My flowers! There would be no cherries up there, either.

This is how I learned that yes, you can run halfway across the yard with the handset in hand snarling at squirrels in the middle of a conversation with your parents, who are suddenly quite confused as to how the conversation took *that* turn, and not have the line drop out on you.

One very surprised squirrel scrambled out of there at top speed.

I explained what all that had been about.

Meantime, yonder squirrel (or its double) after awhile came slowly back along the top of the fence to within leaping range but stepped no farther. It looked at me from across the yard and through the window. I gave it The Look. It hung its head. It looked at me. I was still giving it The Look.

It gave up and slunk away.

After the phone call was done I went out there with my forgotten-till-now spray bottle of *grape Kool-aid, still good from last year. I was going to make those buds not tasty and not wanted. ZAP. Away with you!

Those were the very first Stella cherry blossoms of the year and thankfully there are a lot more coming.

—–

*Wikipedia: “Methyl anthranilate acts as a bird repellent. It is food-grade and can be used to protect corn, sunflowers, rice, fruit, and golf courses. Dimethyl anthranilate (DMA) has a similar effect. It is also used for the flavor of grape KoolAid.” Let me add, and squirrels think it’s nasty stuff, too. They might actually have a point, but hey.



So he got to look forward to making her happy, too
Sunday March 25th 2018, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knitting a Gift,Lupus

My thanks to all those who participated in the March for our Lives yesterday–I would have given anything to join in. But lupus. And sun.

But wow those kids! They are the courage and the conscience of the nation.

Knitting stuff: my friend Karen’s son told me his wife was home with a cold. You should have seen his face light up when I gave him the butter-yellow cowl to take to her–and then the matching hat for their baby on the way. The joy and the love for both of them and the anticipation… I came away feeling how fortunate they were to have each other. That baby is going to grow up in a happy home.



In happy anticipation
Wednesday March 14th 2018, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Lupus

I had a skein of Malabrigo Mecha (130 yards) on short US 7 circs with the ribbing all done and a row or two of stockinette above: all set for the next time I needed to throw a brainless project in my purse.

I grabbed it on my way out the door to a lupus group meeting just in case.

It was perfect: my hands could go round and round and round the hat almost without looking at all while keeping me fully focused on whoever was speaking, and two hours later as we closed up I was to where I needed to measure and start the decreases at the top. Cool.

But rather than finishing it once I got home, I picked up some Rios (210 yards), another pair of 7s, and started doodling. Never made a pattern like that before. Never saw it from anyone else, either, and I kept knitting until nearly the end of the ball to see what it wanted to be when it grew up, knowing I have to do this again and I have to write this down and I have to put this out there–I really like it.

Looking up in surprise at the hour, it is time to call it a night. I will leave the cast on for the morning.

Most of a hat and a cowl-minus-one-row for one day. Clear’em on out so I can get to the butter yellow tomorrow.

If you keep on knitting the knitting gets done. Why does this always surprise me?



Betty
Thursday December 07th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

The repairman will be here in the morning.

Meantime, a friend who’s turning 93 this month had a small stroke this week along with some cardiac funkiness and just returned to her assisted-living facility today from the hospital. She’s been blind from birth, her hearing’s going, and although she remembers Richard–he once worked for a company that developed the software that read her her longtime computer, and for years she would call him as a friend for help about it, which he was glad to do–but she no longer remembers me. So when we found there were no parking spaces for blocks around and that the long walk in the sun was going to be a hazard to my own health, Richard hopped out to go visit her while I drove over to the chocolate shop. It seemed the best thing to do at that point; in her disorientation, I wasn’t sure my presence would be a comfort anyway.

I’m glad he got there so soon after she was discharged: he was able to find out what bothered her. The AL staff had moved her bed while she’d been away, not enough that a seeing person would be bothered but she could no longer find her computer nor her things nor was she capable of walking to go search for them. He got the staff to let the bed be moved back. A few feet–and having time to listen–made all the difference to her.

The doctor came by, and quietly told him that everything he could say that could help her reconnect to her memories would help. Betty had lived in Alaska decades ago, so, Richard told her about our Thanksgiving in Anchorage with our baby grandson and got her reliving the days.

She worried whether her seeing-eye dog, naming one of the ones she’d had over the years, had been fed well enough while she’d been away.

He’s been gone for several years.

I, meantime, got to go see Timothy and Adams, both. It had been awhile and I had missed them and it was a comfort to see them. The 65% hot chocolate? Well, yeah, I’d missed that, too, sure.

Richard texted that he hoped I’d ordered him one, too.

I grinned at my phone. 85% dark, just how you like it, coming right up.

We waved to each other as he spotted the car across the street from the nursing home again and we discussed as we drove off how we could best help her next. From his description, I wasn’t sure how many more nexts there would be, and he wasn’t sure, either.

And yet.

“Betty’s a tough old bird,” I pronounced, and he agreed strongly. He told me then that she had wondered herself if things were coming to an end now.

He’d told her, “You’re here as long as you want to be, Betty. And we’re with you.”



Boxing match
Thursday August 24th 2017, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

It was a dumb, weird thing of no worth and no consequence.

Until it wasn’t.

I just couldn’t seem to get rid of it. That box was labeled Heavy, and it was; you could really twist an ankle trying to stomp it down for the recycling truck, and having once fallen off my roof sweeping away the leaves so the rain would stop leaking in, I am a little particular about that part of me. Shove the sides in? Don’t make it laugh. It would trampoline you right back. I put it by the side door to go out with the recycling bins anyway, knowing they only take the pre-broken-downs, hoping it would somehow cave in to my will if not my feet nor his, but it just never made it out there and it stayed stubbornly clean, dry, intact–and inside. And the next week, too, and the one after that. I would look at it, determined this time, and it would go nope, nope, you’re not doing that.

I gave in and put it where it wouldn’t bug me. Still inside. Still looking brand new. That thing was designed to last.

There was an email on the ward chat list last night, a young couple that were suddenly having to leave; they were flying to Arizona this weekend to find a new apartment and did anyone happen to have any moving boxes? Help?

We’ve seen this before: someone finds themselves between jobs with a renewal on their year-to-year coming right up, or a sudden job offer somewhere else, and if they can’t talk their landlord into a month-to-month during the transition they’re out of here. Rents are far too high in this town to risk it.

I only had the one, but it was bigger than the usual moving box; not worth their coming to get it but worth my dropping it off, I told them before heading over. I figured they had enough to have to do right now. I fervently wished I had the energy to offer to help them pack.

Let’s see, that was 380 #2, not 320 #8. Right? Right. I was sure of it.

But there were no numbers on the doors, and there were a lot of doors opening up over the courtyard cum driveway. If I walked over to the… But it was a time of day when the sun was still an issue and I could spend a lot of minutes wandering around those open-air walkways looking. No can risk.

Just then the UPS guy, who’d parked out on the street because there’s no way his truck could turn around in there, walked by. Well, everybody orders everything online so if anybody would know–so I asked him.

“Sure,” he smiled, “it’s that one right there,” pointing to the door nearest us just steps away. I looked again for a number, wondering how he knew, while he chuckled; yeah, it is like that, isn’t it.

380, it has to be…

The door opened and there the guy was. Phew!

I reached back into the car and pulled out the box that was filling up the back seat.

“Oh that is *perfect*!” he exclaimed, lifting it from my hands, very very pleased.

And I thought, you could put every book you own in there and it would be as solid as a bookcase in the transit. But then how would you pick it up to load it in there, but never mind.

And I am left marveling at how that all worked out for him and his wife in spite of all that I’d thought I’d wanted to do for lo these weeks.

I need to find out her favorite color. Got to take some of California with you wherever you go from here, right?

The kicker? I have no idea what was originally packed in that box. Something was sent to my daughter’s friend in San Jose and somehow its empty box got brought back here, where it could be ready for the day when a young couple really needed the help in their moment of change and chaos and stress.

 



Mathias saves the day
Tuesday August 15th 2017, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus,To dye for

The color of the sky, she said. That was her favorite.

I looked over the blues in my stash yesterday, and then again today, willing it to be there. I have some really nice yarns that were close but they just weren’t quite…they were my types of blues, not hers.

I could wind white yarn and haul around dye baths and wait for things to dry and hope I guessed right on amounts or I could go for a little more instant gratification. Besides, I hadn’t seen Kathryn in months and I missed her.

Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco was a hike, but: “Today you can do it–do it today,” I tell myself all the time and I wanted to get started and I wanted to see what Malabrigo had to offer these days (turns out she has a new shipment coming in soon, too) and if anyone in the area had the inventory it would be her. There. Talked myself into it. So off I went.

I wanted superwash for a young mom; she helped me find the most perfect colors of Malabrigo Mechita and I had myself envisioning an entire cowl finished by bedtime.

Yeah as if. But I got to meet her daughter! Too cool that hers is also named Sam–and that it was her birthday.

Came home to a robo-call to pick up my prescription before they returned it to stock. Fudge. That had definitely not been in the plan. Wound a ball of Mechita and headed back out into the early rush hour.

Hit the top of my head, hard, on the car at the pharmacy. Klutz. Had a quiet little freakout to myself over head injuries but seemed to be okay.

Still, it took me a couple of hours to pull myself and my sore head together and actually finally sit down and start knitting, and oh did it ever help. That sweet anticipation as beautifully dyed wool wrapped around wood, again and again and again as I pictured my friend’s face…

My phone buzzed.

Our Sam and her family are in Texas, visiting Mathias’s Great Grandpa. (Where our Alaskan born, on being taken outside into 100 degree heat, was initially stunned: what IS this?! Make it stop!)

After all the news of these past few days–weeks–months–it all comes back to that poster in my obstetrician’s office years ago: “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”

Baby giggles, or even just pictures of baby giggles. They make the world whole again.

 



For J and A with love
Monday August 14th 2017, 10:44 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Lupus,Politics

There are times when I really, passionately regret and even resent that my lupus does not allow me to spend time in the sun, not even five minutes in the middle of a summer day.

Because I want to be one of the counter-protesters when they come here. They intend to come this weekend, these evil men who are trying to out-Westboro the Westboro idiots. Maybe they’ll see how many of their peers are being identified and arrested or fired after Charlottesville and do like Westboro does half the time these days: make lots of noise and threats and then stay home.


With so much going on that is so beyond words, I took comfort in reading accounts of good people who took care of others in Virginia, and in finishing this today, one of the softest things I have ever knit. In looking forward to seeing my friend’s face when I get to give it to her.

Knitting it was also my way of conveying to her immigrant husband how glad I am that he is here and that he is married to her: he’s a deeply good man. We are fortunate to have him here.



Healthcare bill
Tuesday July 25th 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: History,Knitting a Gift,Lupus,Politics

Being the political junkie that I am, I got some good knitting time in while watching the Senate vote 50-50 today with Pence tipping the scales. Watched John McCain give the speech of his life after casting the vote that utterly mocked everything he would say immediately thereafter. He could have put a stop to it all right there, and it would have been over for good just like the version in April was. This was a vote to allow the bill to continue to the floor, and he promised not to vote in the future for that bill as it now stands. (Knowing full well that after amendments and arguments it would not be as it now stands, for better but also for worse.)

But that is pure hubris anyway. He might be in the hospital then, he might not even be alive.

I don’t know how many people know that the current Republican bill, among its many other problems, would allow employer-based health insurance to reach in and deny coverage to the chronically ill—lupus is specifically targeted, hey, it was nice knowing you all–coverage that the employees are paying for out of their paychecks, and with the ACA gone we patients would be unable to buy any anywhere else, either.

But hey, I got a lot of blanket knitted!

I called McConnell’s office, got through on the first ring, and told whichever intern answered the phone that McConnell is only pushing on that bill because my uncle the late and generally-right-wing Senator Bob Bennett of Utah is dead. Because McConnell wouldn’t have been able to look Bob in the eye.

Bob was a Republican, but he also believed American businesses could not compete as long as their workers knew they were one medical crisis away from losing everything. He had lived through losing his job and his insurance when he’d had a young family to support. He knew.

So he wrote, with Ron Wyden, a Democrat, the first draft of a bill. Romneycare had worked in Massachusetts, so…



Up the canyon
Sunday July 23rd 2017, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Lupus

The hats: they knew I loved to knit but they never at all expected me to knit for them.

And I never really expected them to instantly treasure them that hard, but they did, which made me want to jump right in and do that again for someone else. Some people just recharge the knitting batteries by who they are, y’know?

The figs: rolled in melted butter, roasted, then drizzled with a little honey–mostly because they were from the store and picked before they were as ripe as they should have been, and once you pick them off the tree they’re done. Not much to these on their own.

And yet.

The scent didn’t quite pull me in all the way but then that first bite did: instantly I was back at the summer when I was eight and a half and my little sister turned seven. Our grandparents took us on our first plane rides (one dressed up for it in those days) to stay with them for two weeks in Utah.

And part of that stay was at the cabin they owned up near one of the ski resorts high in the mountains. There was no phone service, unless you took a goodly walk down the road to the country store there, and that made it perfect for Grandpa to have an actual vacation: nobody could reach him unless he wanted them to, or unless they were willing to make the long steep drive up that mountain, and if it was that important it would be something they didn’t want discussed on a public phone in front of everybody, in which case we kids were to clear out of the cabin till called back.

My grandmother tells the story in her autobiography of being woken up in the middle of the night by the phone ringing in the next apartment over at their DC place, and as soon as she was awake enough to be glad her freshmen Senator husband wasn’t important enough for reporters to flock to for a quote and started falling back asleep, by their own. The Cuban Missile Crisis had just broken and reporters wanted these two Senators’ reactions to the news. Well, actually, they were sound asleep and oblivious, thanks. Were.

Grandpa very much believed in being of service to his constituents, but those two weeks every summer he wanted his time to hike and think and just be. To have a break. I think they said that just once, someone on staff had made that drive up, but I’m not sure.

There were a few paths through the woods and there were rules: one does not play in the creek. The drinking water is taken straight from it to all the cabins up there as is and one does not contaminate it. Ooh, but look at the fish! And that tiny chipmunk. It’ll take a peanut from your outstretched fingers if you hold very very still. This over here is stinging nettle–if you touch it you’ll find out how it got its name, and you don’t want to. (I did, twice, but not on purpose, and Gram was right. It hurt like mosquito bites itch.)

I remember how very very cold the water in that creek was (I let it run and splash over my hand but I did not put my feet in it. On purpose, anyway.) It curved right below their patio out their back door. The idea that it could be barely melted snow in the middle of summer was a wonder to me.

I pulled lunch out of the oven this afternoon and wondered, what…something…

Something wild that grew at that cabin that my brain could almost, almost pick out from half a century ago, so close, and if the figs had been ripe I think they would have missed it entirely.

I could hear my grandparents’ voices again, from when I thought they were old but had no idea. They would have been 67 and 68, with 96 and 95 still to come.

When they died, there was no way to pass the place down in the family; there were too many of us to divide it up amongst. But a cousin bought it, and she and her husband are generous in sharing the space.

And so, two summers ago, we cousins were nearly all of us there again taking in the familiar old log cabin essence, with maybe an extra couch now as we squeezed in. I didn’t take the hikes through the woods that the others did for old times’ sake, thanks, lupus, and yet the air was crisp and cool as I remembered it, full of unique growing things that do not live where I do, the wildness in the elevation and air and trees.

Those figs. I wonder. Something surrounding that path by the creek. Someday I hope to go back and maybe I’ll find what they were trying so hard to belong to.