Lucky You

My family and friends love to play Zilch, a dice game.  Zilch is 99% luck and 1% strategy. Know when to hold em, know when to fold em; win big…or lose big. Conservative players take “a bird in the hand”, and others willing to take bigger risks, “go for it”. Either way the dice roll is what you get. You can pray, put ju-ju on the dice and rub your good luck piece, but in the end it is just dumb luck.  What is dumb luck?  :the way in which something good happens completely by chance, without being planned or deserved.  So the part of this definition that really pisses me off is “without being planned or deserved.”  Basically I can’t earn dumb luck; I can’t control my way to dumb luck, and a mass murderer is just as likely to experience dumb luck as I am. Is this right? But wait, is dumb luck always “good” luck? Joe just happened to be standing under the tree when lighting struck the tree and he was killed. This  “completely by chance, without being planned or deserved” sad occurrence seems just as much dumb luck as hitting the jackpot in Vegas, of course with vastly different outcomes. 

Am I just playing with words again? This notion of good luck and bad luck feels very central to my angst at the moment. I tried very, very hard to bring some justice to my good friend who has been wronged by our HOA Board. Orson Welles said: Nobody gets justice, people only get good luck or bad luck.  My cynicism says my friend has the bad luck to live in an HOA where the Board has an adversarial approach to their neighbors. She did not cause the damage to her home, but she has the bad luck to face an unethical board. She had the bad luck to have a pipe the HOA is responsible for leak for a long time inside a wall, and eventually cause enough damage that mitigation required her kitchen be gutted. This after she asked them repeatedly to check the pipe because she smelled mildew and moldy smell in her cabinet. It seems there is no justice for her and nothing but bad luck.  If Mr Welles is right that nobody gets justice why not just give up and let the chips fall where they may. If Lady Luck is random is there any reason to seek influence with her?

Bad things do happen to good people, and suffering, destruction and distress are the result of  random tragedies. Hiding in your house with a blanket over your head does not guarantee that tragedy will not find you. The roof could collapse or an earthquake could rock your safe world. Do we make our own luck? If the universe is just a collection of random events, then we are not that powerful.  Maybe we can work hard to be in a place that can better allow good things to come into our lives. Maybe.  I think I may need to accept that uncertainty, luck and randomness are a fact of life, but I do have control over a very important variable: my attitude. I can choose to view negative events as catastrophes or as learning experiences. This sounds a bit hollow to me right now. I am not really sure if I could answer “Yes” to Dirty Harry’s question “Do you feel lucky?”

In the meantime these 2 quotes gave me a chuckle and I am so lucky I can still laugh!

Depend on the rabbit’s foot if you will, but remember it didn’t work for the rabbit.  R.E. Shay

I believe in luck: how else can you explain the success of those you dislike?  Jean Cocteau

Lonely Hearts Club

No one ever wants to admit they are lonely, and it is never really addressed very much between friends and family. But I have felt lonely many times in my life.    Bill Murray

There are certain things that are usually not talked about, loneliness is one of them.  Who wants to admit that they feel disconnected from others, don’t fit in and aren’t popular?  But lately I am lonely, I can’t shake this feeling.  A ghost you can see through. I don’t register on the radar, there’s no blip for me. This loneliness is not a pity party; it is more visceral than the particulars of a good whining session. I am looking in the windows of other peoples lives, an observer, not a participant. Maybe I am scared because sometimes I am too comfortable being alone. I fear I will not be available or reach out to others, so I will never have another love relationship. I hold all of these conflicting feelings. In the meantime, I sometimes feel lonely.

Ambivalence is a messy feeling, a push/pull of emotions. Pros and cons don’t do the deciphering for me. Is it a moral failing to be lonely? Is it all my fault? Do I just need to unfold and shake myself out?  All questions I ask myself, to help me make sense of this loneliness lurking in the corners of my life. Is a male/ female love relationship the only antidote to loneliness, or is it even an antidote? That kind of love relationship is nice, but I don’t think it is necessary to relieve loneliness.  I am 100%, no one can “complete” me.

I don’t turn on the T.V.  when I get home in the evening, the noise aggravates me. I have heard people say they have the T.V. on even if they are not watching it so they don’t feel lonely. I do talk to my doggies a lot: “What would you like for dinner? Do you need to go outside?. They know when I am sad and do their best to comfort me. My special four- legged lovers are often easier to love than people. Love is Love.

I am convinced that loneliness sells a lot of records or DVD’s, CD’s,videos etc. “Lonely” has to be one of the words used most often in lyrics.

Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band  (Lennon and McCartney)   And bein’ lonely, makes you wonder why. (Neil Diamond)   Too lonely to fall in love.  (Neil Young) Hey there lonely boy, lonely boy.  (Ruby and the Romantics) Down at the end of Lonely street at Heartbreak Hotel.  ( Elvis Presley)   Lonely days, lonely nights.  (BeeGees)  Lonely without you.  (Porter Wagner) It’s a lonely man who wanders all around.   (Elvis Presley) You get the idea…

So many people share the feeling of loneliness. If they all got together, would they still be lonely? I feel less lonely.

Mountain Woman

I just got back from a trip to Crested Butte and I was thrilled to experience the beautiful wildflowers and striking mountains surrounding the town. Crested Butte is the crown jewel of the Colorado Rockies and the wildflowers are saturated with color. Blue. Orange. Red. Purple. White. The colors stand on their own and don’t apologize for being so flamboyant, but are best appreciated in bouquets still rooted in the earth. The mountain sides seem brushed with color, a lavender swipe there and a yellow swipe there. My phone was “click, click” with photos, but I was also very conscious of keeping my focus on the 3 D beauty right before my eyes and the memories I was creating. Susan, my best friend and traveling companion, and I were a little affected by the altitude. At almost 9000 feet, Crested Butte is about 4500 feet higher than Fort Collins, so we did have a bit of Rocky Mountain High. ( couldn’t resist)

We spent a night in Fairplay/ South Park—yes that South Park! After dinner we went down to the river to watch the sunset and check out the views. We were very excited to crash a housewarming party!  Well it was really a beaver dam-warming party and they were working like you know whats. We watched them glide through the water and carry branches in their mouths to their dam construction site. Beavers are actually pretty big and these measured between 3 and 4 feet from the tip of their nose to the tip of their broad tails. We hoped they would slap their tails in the water to warn each other of our presence, but apparently we were not threatening. One of the beavers decided to take a rest on the shore and we rushed (quietly)to get a better view and a photo. Of course the beaver slid into the water as soon as we got closer. The beavers put on a show that was better than T.V..   Meanwhile lots of fish were jumping out of the water and the sun was setting. We slept well that night.

Where were the best hiking trails? The locals had lots of ideas and just as many different directions to the same trailhead. Throw in afternoon thunderstorms and things got more complicated. One late afternoon we decided to go for a walk and headed to the edge of town to a gravel path and just kept walking.  “Green Lake Trail” the sign said and this was the “Just go to the end of this street.”  the locals told us about. We weren’t looking for it but we found it!  The trail thru the forest was breathtaking and we were so grateful for the quiet beauty. Yes! And I almost forgot, I saw a bear in the trees as we were driving down a mountain pass! 

Sometimes I just want to throw the fish I catch back in the water and ask for another that is more to my liking.  If I just keep fishing I will catch the “big one” many times in my life. My bait  is perseverance and hope. 

Writing on Writing

Threatening or welcoming, depending on my mood and inspiration, the blank page begs to be filled with paragraphs of inspired writing.  Sweating bullets, but not sweating the words I want. I love words, and vocabulary was my best score on all standardized tests. How boring to use  mediocre words when there are awesome words to use. He’s “nice”, but how about  he’s “pleasing” or of “good quality. Nice is just “nice”.  So how do I write? One. Word. At. A. Time. Teasing, demanding, and cajoling my brain and imagination for the perfect word. As we all know perfection is unattainable, so a “good enough” word is indeed “good enough”.

The tongue pierces deeper than the sword.   Hazrat Ali

There is one realm where words often fail: emotions.  I am “angry” is not the same as  “makes me want to hurt other people”. Whoever first said: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”, was obviously not in touch with their feelings. Instinctively, people protect their bodies when they sense they will be hurt physically, but words attack too quickly and  blows to the heart can strike without any self defense. Words can be lethal weapons when used to injure another or a relationship. We can all remember a taunt from a bully or words a lover used to end a relationship.  Some words are so loaded with pain or venom we don’t say the whole word like the “n”word or the “c” word.

Love is just a word, but you bring it definition.    Eminem

No matter what language “I love you.” is spoken in, the heart translates and cherishes the feeling of being loved. Words can encourage and comfort when giving up seems the only option. “You can do it. I’m here.” may be words that keep someone on the road to their dreams. Iconic speeches have moved our nation: “Four score and seven years ago our founding fathers ….” or “I have a dream….” both directed citizens to love each other and fight for what is right. Before these words were spoken so elegantly, they were composed and written on a piece of paper.  Words are powerful, double edged swords so thinking before you write or speak is better than having to eat your words and wash them down with regret. 

So sentences are words strung together, a piece of cake right?  A subject and a verb and off we go. Not so fast!  Some days I don’t feel like talking let alone writing. Maybe I just don’t have anything to say, so I write about “not writing”, or having nothing to say. I write angry. I write sad. I write happy. I write bored. I just write. Writing is good exercise for my imagination, I create pictures in my head and find the words to paint the picture. Some day I hope I am  inspired to write a masterpiece.

Red Flag Warning

“We could sure use the rain.”  I am a farm girl and I heard this many times growing up. Colorado is in a drought now; I hear this wish for rain almost everyday. Even the snowpack has been low for years. Personally I wish for a sprinkler system so dragging the hoses out to water will be but a distant memory. Who needs green grass?  The dryness has its own rating system: red flag warning, conditions are ideal for fire combustion.  Just recently an entire forest, the San Juan National Forest was closed to the public. No hiking, camping, fishing- don’t even think about it. That is high fire danger on steroids. People in Fort Collins talk about “The Fire”, the High Park Fire in 2012.  Hundreds of acres of forest and many homes were burned by a fire that was fed by the tinder of a dry forest. I watched the flames jump from tree to tree from the “safety” of  a position on the opposite side of a large reservoir. World wide, famine caused by drought has cost the lives of millions of people. 

The scorched brown fields, forests, prairies, brush and lawns are all thirsty for water.  Can’t even spit. A lightning strike, a campfire not extinguished and FIRE. It feels like the dirt is brittle, ready to  crumble to powder. Human beings are about 60%water, we can get dehydrated like the fields and lawns. When it’s so hot, 100 degrees by Thursday, I have to force myself to keep chugging water. I remember this story and parable: In hell the dipper for water has a handle so long that poor souls can’t get the water to their own mouths, but they can bring the dipper to other’s mouths and give each other water. Such a visual for me, and even in hell cooperation is the key. I hate to see people spraying off their driveways when water is so precious, use a broom. Think of the poor people in hell!

Dried fruit is yummy, but dehydrated humans can be in a world of hurt. Headaches, dry skin, shallow breath, orange pee, sleepiness, no tears or saliva and heart palpitations are all symptoms of dehydration. I think of all the tears I have cried in my lifetime, a river of tears, and I wonder how I ever refilled my tear reservoir.  When Roger died there were many times when I was sure I couldn’t cry anymore, but I was wrong. How odd that grief feels dry and brittle, but on the outside it’s all wet with tears.

In the West, here in Colorado, most of the time we have dry heat and water evaporates in a short time. Winds dry the earth quickly and also fan the forest fire. The wind whips the fire into a frenzy and drives it across the landscape. This morning I was angry and I stoked that anger by thinking about my resentments. My anger moved into areas not really connected to my original source of anger. I tend to cry when I am angry, but I think sometimes my tears put out the fire of anger too quickly. Anger scares me, it burns,  so I throw the water of my tears on it. I don’t want an angry forest fire, but sitting around the campfire may be just what I need. Of course,I will remember Smoky Bear and put out my campfire when I leave.

My Comfort Zone

For a long time I’ve wanted to visit New York City —before I rode off into the sunset! My best friend Susan and I just returned from a week long trip to New York City. Cross that off my bucket list! I’m still processing my experiences with the many sides of New York. I explored New York as a tourist and a greenhorn. I saw it, heard it and felt it. I can hear my English Comp teacher assigning a paragraph of descriptive writing. 

So hear goes…. Noise. Lots of noise. Horns honking, sirens blaring, the engines of cars and buses almost stacked on top of each other as they crawled through the streets. Only a masochist would drive in midtown Manhattan. Below this surface noise, underground is the subway. More noise. The train has a low and loud chugging sound as it rolls in to a stop and people rush off and more people squeeze in. Moving people from place to place is noisy.

A see of humanity! At first Susan and I saw only chaos, but after a few days we began to see the patterns and the rhythm of New York. Complicated choreography is a good way to describe the sidewalks and public transits;  some how everyone gets where they are going. It took a bit of observation and practice, but soon Susan and I were dancing with the New Yorkers.  Basically head down and dodge and weave! We even progressed to the dodging between cars move. Hiking in New York City only happens in Central Park.

Stinky! What were those bags of trash doing on the edge of the sidewalk? They looked like mountains but they stunk. Figured out (of course) that there were no alleys to access so garbage trucks came down the streets at night making the trash disappear. The many food trucks spread the smell of good food. The street grates belched stinky steam. Saks 5th Avenue did not stink!

Sunshine through skyscrapers creates an unusual quality of daylight. It’s hard to look straight up to see the sun and to keep walking. A forest of skyscrapers blocking the light. Fifth Avenue is filled with huge holographic billboards and are almost blinding to the eye at night. They are all screaming “Look at me!” We were under their spell. I felt the vibration of the street acts, music and more people moving this way and that.

You learn a lot by traveling with someone. Susan and I have travelled together several times, but New York’s craziness really highlighted how differently we navigate from point A to point B.The temptation is to redefine “different” into the right and the wrong way. I look at a map, get it in my head and take off, Susan uses her phone and google maps and tracks her journey. And this is walking not driving! There were a few cracks in the sidewalk before we reached acceptance of each other’s differences in navigating. I knew I was never lost if Susan was chugging along a few steps behind me, yes even our walking paces don’t match. I love you Susan!  

New York was such a foreign country that I wished I had packed my comfort zone. Returning to Fort Collins, I breathed a sigh of relief to see lots of green and hear the quiet. This is my comfort zone. I am familiar with the streets, restaurants, and  shopping; the sidewalks are my domain. And of course my family and friends live here. My travel to New York reminds me how different the world is and how life experiences shape us. I had to face my fear of not always knowing where I was, or what to do. Grow, or else!! Susan grounded me, she was home to me right there on the city sidewalk. Lady Liberty welcomed us with open arms.