Sometimes time shatters. The neat blocks of days and hours split like dry kindling into shards and bits, pieces that burn 'will be' to 'is' to 'has been'.
Sometimes the imaginary, neat, digital lines human beings draw on the face of the analog flow and ebb of time are just quietly ignored out of existence. Sometimes merely deemed useless, arbitrary, constraining reality without cause or need. Sometimes left behind for more important things: like breathing.
Sometimes all that's left then is what is, not when, not neatly ordered, not detailed to dust, but brilliantly piled like Christmas gifts under the tree, each a mystery, an object given with love and life and thought. Life and time and the steps within that time.
The snow fell, before we left again, soft, fluffy, white flakes, turning the world into magic, making it clear and clean and white, covering all the dead, hard ground with softness and light gleamed from it all, reflected from it all at night when we went to walk Fezzik. Fezzik was moving fast and high and free, dancing in the cold whiteness, crunching through frozen crusts, sticking his nose into everything and snuffling wildly. I think the cold does something to his sense of smell, hightening it, rebounding it off everything else. He ran like the big dog he is, legs pumping, feathers flying, breath streaming white on the still air. He was in his element, and the arthritus, for once, wasn't bothering him or his left leg. So he danced and ran circles around us and while we chided him mildly when he stayed too far behind or ran too far ahead, my heart wasn't in chiding him, I liked seeing him run again.
On the way back to the house, our neighbors stopped to talk with us, as they were driving back from a party in their cherry red Land Rover Defender, the snow a constant veil before their headlights. We told them about Colorado and talked with them a bit about what might happen, what was the rough time schedule and what might be expected. We've always dealt well with the Bonners and they with us, so it's been a good thing. They were sorry for us going, but glad of the adventure. So we'll see. Fezzik lay down, patiently, on the snow as we talked, the falling white slowly covering him. By the time he got home, into the light on the patio, he was covered with white flakes over his black coat, flocked dog. Luckily, he shook off before coming inside to the warmth.
The magic of modern transportation. Breakfast with the Rostyki Christmas Eve morning and dinner with my parents Christmas Eve night. Better magic was seeing George's face when he opened my Christmas presents to him. The Rostyki drew a single name from a hat during the year and gave presents to that one person. No mad scramble to make sure no one was left out or to out-buy others or having to mash in the malls and find *something* *anything* they might even remotely like. I thought about it for nearly four months, and before I even knew I had him as the person I got to give to, I wondered if it wouldn't be fun to give him sourdough. He liked to bake bread and it was a fun, experimental kind of thing. So I raised up extra of my starters, bought a thorough book for him, rather than going about it my way, which was haphazard and entirely experimental, and wrapped up the book, at least.
Brother David called me a few weeks back and recommended a headlamp as well, as he was intrigued when examining David's on a visit to their house, so, while we were at Eagle Hardware I grabbed one for George as well as one for John.
What was so cool was how much George liked both gifts. The uncertainty I had had about knowing him well enough to give him something he really liked was lifted when he expressed his like, especially since he'd been eating pancakes, just then, from the very sourdoughs I'd given him. That was cool. He loved that. But he loved the headlamp even better. All the things he'd be able to do, even Isabel thanked me, because then she wouldn't have to go out into the cold darkness some winter night to hold the light for him when he needed light to work.
Just at the end of the vacation John was trompling out to get firewood in the midst of the rain and mist and darkness of night, and he was laughing because he got to wear his new headlamp out into the darkness. "It's *so* Neat!" he said. It's always better to get someone something they wouldn't have bought for themselves. Kathy, my sister, is always really good at that. She's better at it than anyone I know, to really listen to someone, really know someone and then give them not just what they asked for, but what they really wanted.
Now *that* is a Gift.
Brother Paul had mailed me my gifts, and I opened them at breakfast. One was a book, the other, also a book, but an intriguing thing, handmade from handmade papers, the cover had a bear totem in the Native American designs, the internal papers were all kinds: stiff bond paper, crisp rice papers, papers with real pressed flower petals running through it, and some of them were stamped with dragonflies, with characters, and with a chop. I asked my parents, what the stamps in Chinese characters meant. It turned out that the chop meant, "Remember me." The stamped characters were a touch more bizarre and I wonder, somewhat, if the maker knew what they actually said, but it was a slogan of China while it was at war with Japan (which was often), and it meant merely that China would prevail.
I guess gifts run all through this season. Genevieve's gifts arrived with the snow, books, lovely books that I took with me on the vacation. One was Deathmasques, a book set in the Judge Dredd universe which was properly graphic for the comic, and distrubing at interesting levels. There was one character in it that she had sent it to me for, a really lovely, keen forensics investigator, a woman who took near delight in her profession. She was really cool, and Venezuela in Fiat is based on her. That was cool. Another was a Doctor Who novel where the Dr. Who with the funny brown suit and funny round hat goes with Chris and Roz and dang, I've forgotten her name... anyway, another woman companion to a world that was built as a sphere around a sun. Pretty cool stuff. I liked them both, good airport and airplane and beach reading.
Gifts were ripped open Christmas morning at my parents' house. It was really cool. With such a small family, it's good to get everyone something fun and something interesting as well as something they asked for; and the balances were pretty much perfect. It isn't too much with so few people to do it thoroughly, and I think that everyone really liked *something* we gave them, so that was good to see and do. Kathy really loved the Taste recipe and food encyclopedia I gave her, Dad loved the photo albums, and Mom loved both a horsehair pot we bought in Albuquerque and her birthday gift of a Nordstom's gift certificate. She loves to just wander through there.
Yeah. Oddly, now, it's more important, to me, that what I give is loved than what I get. Or maybe I'm just getting old.
Or maybe peculiar. I traded the large pad of watercolor paper Mom gave me for a three smaller ones and a pad of sketch paper. There are so many things around here I want to capture before I'm gone to Boulder. Kathy bought me a surprise pair of Oakley sunglasses that I've been longing for but afraid to buy, and I traded them up a level in light protection so that they could stand the San Diego sun and, therefore, were more likely to stand up to Boulder sunlight. Mom and Dad got me the Circa address book, but with the astonishing and long lasting addition of the leather cover. Wow. It's really, really nice in the hand, and it's making me wonder if I really don't want the Junior notebook in leather. Likely not.
Kathy did her trick and got John a Color Game Boy with the red Pokemon game cartridge, he was playing it all week. Very happily.
Meals. I do love food. Quite a lot. Perhaps a bit too much all this holiday season, but I didn't worry too much about it. Probably a good thing, in the end. Otherwise I would have lost weight I didn't have any need to lose rather than losing weight that I wasn't going to miss and bring me back to my normal weight anyway.
Mom's dinner was mostly the traditional turkey dinner, but with a Chinese twist in that she cooked the sticky rice with seven treasures stuffing outside of the turkey, served it on the side, rather than greasy with the turkey fat. That was good, and the pumkin pie lasted for desserts and breakfasts for the next week.
Kathy took us on a sushi adventure the last night we were there, her favorite sushi bar with uni so fresh it melted in the mouth and blended so sweetly with the richness of quail egg yolks that was just marvelous. We went through about eight courses of just marvelous fish, and we were luckily seated by the chef chef at the bar, and he made lovely things while we watched and suggested really lovely things. The best, by far, was the fresh salmon, which he cut in to long ribbons, placing them on the platter so that they looked like nothing more that gorgeous goldfish swimming along the surface, glistening with fish fats. "Fish bacon," said John.
We were peering in the cases, wondering what things were, and he was good at telling us what was what. Then, one time, we were pointing at what looked like large clams still in half a shell and the chef said, with a completely straight face, "Parsley. That's fresh parsley. Local grown. Totally fresh."
We looked at him in disbelief, tried to ask again and then I just died laughing. I laughed so hard it delighted the chef, who, it was now obvious, loved making that joke.
That was very good.
But was was even more fun was slipping away from the regiment of Mom and Dad's agenda for food and how time was to be partitioned away, and John and I sneaking in a lunch at In and Out Burger. Going in, standing in line, a big burly guy staring, thorugh mirrorshades, at my hair in astonishment, "Aren't you thirty years early for that? I thought only old ladies had their hair turn blue?"
I laughed and answered, "I always was a fast learner. I thought I'd get a head start."
He laughed and ordered two double-double Animals to go.
John and I ate in the sunshine, the Oakley's doing a remarkable job of cutting out the worst harshness of light and being completely transparent to my sight. No distortions at all. The food was as lovely as usual, the ripe tomato, crisp lettuce balanced beautifully with the meat and sauces and grilled onion. Yum. Neat and nice and lovely as a whole.
A single tiny bird fluttered nearby, watching us, as I ate the handcut fries. I set a crumb on the table edge. I ate and didn't watch it, and saw just the blur of its flight away from the corner of my eye. A huge pigeon then plopped itself on the edge of our table and tried to lunge for our fries. I felt its feathers under my hand as I bapped it away.
Just one bird, better than defensively eating In and Out Burgers on Pacific Beach with a whole flock of seagulls shrieking at us to give them out food. It went away and we enjoyed out food.
There were Chinese meals galore, including a dim sum meal with Steve Higgins and his wife and son, that was really fun. Dim sum is the perfect meal to visit over, talk around all the mini courses and eat as you like, as absent or present as one pleases. That was really good, to visit again and to share a meal and share our lives for a bit again.
It's the beaches I tried to get to the most, all in all. The beaches that *I* remembered and I loved, not just the ones that Kathy and Dad and Mom now frequented. Mom and Dad love walking in Pacific Beach and along the Bay. I think that they like the people, the flat paths, the easy walks, the shops, the broadwalk and the flow of people. Kathy likes Scripps best, I think for the tidal pools as well as for the beach itself, with its surfers and the reefs there that are beautiful and filled with life. She always liked that Scripps has far fewer tourists, year round, and in the winter is nearly deserted.
My favorite has always been Torrey Pines Beach.
So I asked to go. Dad didn't know my memories, took us to the State Park, which was actually a really great adventure, walking the dusty paths above the sea, amid the thorn and desert cliffs. Seeing the creatures and the endangered Torry pine trees and walking to the points and edges to see the work of eons of erosion, the sea, everything. So beautiful there. Sunset colors soaked into the sand stone as if the sun's warmth had baked in in layers over sparking sea. That was cool.
Better was knowing that John knew *me* well enough to listen to go where I went and we went and found the beaches under the cliffs on which perched the old trees. The beach turned out different, there were smooch round rocks along sections of the beach that were a pain under bare feet, but most of the cliff-side beaches were smooth and easy, but there were patchs of walking in the surf just to have smooth walking. That was actually more fun than problem. The cold water near numbing my feet, but then drawing away to give way to sunshine. It was good to share the long, long strip of beach that winded among cliffs, a multitude of points to the south, each rounded to simply find another. All the sunset colored sandstone now towering over our heads, with the circling of seagulls and hawks and the dancing of sandpipers. That was marvelous.
We did get to see Kathy's tide pools. Hopping from rock to rock, marveling at my leg and knee which a bare six months earlier couldn't even step down from one rock to another, now bravely taking in multitudes of yards of hopping and climbing and sprawling. That was fun. That was really good. Then crouching amidst the outmost rocks and looking in on the living, moving, waving life in the pools. All there, all beautiful, all alive and in the water. So keen. Anemoniea, mussles, crabs, thousands of tiny shells, raindrop sized fish, all moving, all bubbling with the water moving in and moving out.
I do love the sea. I miss it, even in Seattle. I rarely see it up here, but it was comforting, in part, simply to know it was there. No such comfort in a place named Boulder.
Time between one breath and another. We got home. Went to give gifts to John's niece and nephew with his Mom and Dad, that night, John suffered a bad, bad case of food poisening. Threw up, shivering and wretched, he slept most of the eve of the new year, and I took care of him, fed him mild stuff, tucked him in, got cold clothes for him. Worried.
He went to sleep before midnight. I stayed up to see the new year in and in the few minutes before, I felt my throat starting to scratch and itch and by morning, I had a full-blown nasty sore throat that hurt whenever I swallowed. Sinuses filled, lungs filled. That's the way colds are with me. Then fever. Shaking fever, with steadily less and less air. I started to just fighting for my breath. Darkness to light, light to darkness, and I didn't really notice or care about it so much as I cared about breathing.
Some day. Was it two? maybe one. I forget, but John was talking to me that it might get better, you just need a bit more rest and liquids and I said in a whisper because I couldn't speak for the breath it took, "You just don't get it, do you? I need a doctor."
Our insurance was uncertain, but we knew then that seeing a doctor was certain no matter how it worked out, because of the job change, we had no proof of medical insurance, yet, so had to work things a certain way. We went into a walk-in clinic, I was half blind from no contacts and tears from coughing, and we saw the doctor. A gentle doctor's assistant got me through all the initial tests, noted my fever, and I noted that in just the day or two I'd lost all the poundage I'd gained over the holidays... I don't think I remembered to eat. Just drink. And my symtoms and I talked the doctor into giving me amoxycillian and codine cough syrup and an inhaler of albuterol and I needed 'em all, badly.
Twenty four hours after the I started the penicillin dosage my fever hit high and then broke. So far as I can tell it was something that needed the penicillian to kill it, and I don't think I could have done it myself. In those 24 hours, though, I found out why horror monsters are covered in mucus. I dreamed that when I die, it will be by drowning in the liquid in my lungs. The codine helped bring some remarkably vivid dreams as well as calm my coughs to manageable levels.
But time really broke down for me then. The markings mattered so little compared to the drawing of each breath. So I was only aware that John had gone to work a day or maybe two after the fever broke, and I could sleep alone and not bother him with my nose blowing. Sleep was more important than work and its odd clock of time to spend there. So I slept.
Anyway, I now probably have really darned strong lung muscles, from all that work to draw breath.