Warrior

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #123: warrior

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It’s just awful. I worry every night I could bring something home to my husband.

Her dark brown eyes wide above the blue face mask, she looked straight at me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Her fear was palpable. I know her husband has health issues and is most likely over 60. They say masks cover the mouth and with it all facial expression, but I disagree. Not always the case.

I had asked her what it was like working in health care now. How she was doing with it all. She knew I was familiar with hospital work from years ago.

Have you seen your kids? I asked after we discussed the reason for my office visit.

My son is 29 and he got married this summer over Zoom from California. She then described the experience of watching from across the country an event she had never envisioned happening as it did.

The pain in her voice. The look in her eyes. This woman has been one of my doctors for probably 15 years and I had never seen her like this. Always a handshake and a smile when entering the exam room. No handshake this time of course, although I suspect there was a smile behind the mask.

But nevertheless she was as professional and empathetic as always. She listened to me and took notes by hand. No computer screen diverted her attention. We are partners in my treatment plan. It’s no mystery why she has earned Patients’ Choice and Compassionate Doctor awards. Doctor of the Year as well.

We also briefly discussed the pandemic situation in New Hampshire and the ignorance (her words) of people who won’t wear masks. Her voice tight she added…I am just holding on for the vaccine. We need the vaccine.

After my appointment was over, she left for the hospital to begin her afternoon surgery schedule. A hospital with Covid patients.

I couldn’t help but think she deserves one more award.

She is a Warrior.

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: November 20

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: November 20

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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The following post was published on November 20, 2018 – as an entry for V.J.’s Weekly Challenge. I know this sounds cliché, but two years feels like a lifetime ago.

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Deviation

This post is inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #24:  Deviation

Which way?

Deciding.
A constant struggle.
When drilled to
Never stray.
Never deviate.
Playing the part
Paralyzed.

That knot in my gut
For years
Warning me
Within the haze
To take a different path.
Safety
Just an imposter.

Which way?

To face the fear
Finally.
Finding the courage
And strength
To discover that
Old realities
Were in fact
A fragile fantasy.

Choosing
A new search for why.
Predictably
Becoming the bull’s eye
For anger.
For arrows of shame.
Exiled.

Finally
Just
Grateful.
The cloud lifting
While there’s still time.

jan 13, 2011

Not So Frivolous

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #120: Frivolous

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Another Tourist Trap! my father would inevitably snarl as we approached a Country Store…my favorite destination for souvenirs as a child. My sisters, brother and I would be poised and ready to jump from the family station wagon as it pulled into a dusty parking lot. The result of a small side trip off the main road. We were all excited. He was not.

Keep in mind my family only went on a few – maybe 3 – “family vacations” when I was growing up. My mother always pushed for more, but my father was not interested in the minutia of planning and disruption of routine. To be fair, it couldn’t have been easy with 3 or 4 kids to pack up, transport and stay overnight in a new place. One time my paternal grandmother traveled with us, which severely dampened my mother’s usual enthusiasm.

But I loved a Country Store. There was one in particular in Vermont that we stopped at on the way to Expo 67 in Montreal. Penny candy. Those little wax bottles filled with colored chemicals that tasted like liquid candy. Straws filled with colored sugar. Barley rock candy on a stick. Candy buttons on strips of paper…(do you detect a theme here?). I think this was a Big Deal mostly because we weren’t allowed much candy at home. So it was okay to fill one of those small brown paper sacks with sweet treats “just this once.” A sugar high ensued for the rest of the trip. Tourist trap indeed…a kid’s little slice of heaven.

I didn’t usually have more than a few dollars to spend, but I always inspected all the shelves and displays…not just the candy bins. The “Gem Stones” or “Seashell Collections” glued to cardboard. Lucky Rabbit Foot key chains. The supposed pelt of a small animal (which I now hope was not really…real).

Nothing in those stores was essential. It was all unnecessary…and yes, frivolous, and would eventually rest in a drawer or sit on a shelf in my room. Never serving any useful purpose in the long run…at least that’s what my increasingly practical self concluded.

Except for one item discovered during a “day trip” which included a trip to a Country Store. A denim shirt. This was 1967 and denim shirts were extremely Cool (or as the term was back then: tough). I didn’t need a shirt. I couldn’t justify it in my mind as I could with the candy…I never get candy at home...because I did have enough clothes. And it was a men’s shirt. But boy did I want it with all my teenage soul. I hadn’t wanted something like this in a long time.

I don’t remember how much it cost, but even though I had my own money from babysitting I had to justify it. It was (sort of) a Vacation! One-day trips were out of the ordinary after all. And so were purchases at a Country Store. And it was clothing (even as a kid, I was sensible). My mother was most likely not thrilled I was acquiring a non-feminine men’s shirt. But it was my money (a life lesson right there).

I wore that denim shirt constantly. All the way through college. It eventually became threadbare in places…and what does one do in the ’70s with holes in one’s clothes? Patches!

Later, after I was married with a family and a house, it became my “work shirt” during home painting and staining projects. It faded with each washing. Eventually…and sadly…the fabric started to shred in my hands after being laundered.

I had to stop wearing it. But I still have it.

My frivolous purchase survives to this day…retired and safely tucked in a drawer. Perhaps to remind me that it’s okay to splurge and only with time will the value become clear.

Even if it’s from a Tourist Trap.

Most of my other fervent purchases would collect dust and be saved for decades…until the purge of downsizing began.

But not this shirt. It’s a keeper.

I did need it after all.

And it’s no wonder that the moment I first heard Mary Chapin Carpenter sing this song many years ago, I fell in love with it.

On May 21, 2020 she performed “This Shirt” as part of her “Songs From Home” series she has been posting on Instagram during the pandemic.

During this series, her sweet dog wanders through the kitchen during her singing and can be heard off camera sometimes as well.

Except this time

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #117: except

Does anything ever go the way we expect? Notice that expect and except have the same letters, with a slight twist. Look forward to seeing where this prompt takes you.

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Before March 2020, I would have answered V.J.’s question quite differently. Life was plodding along…as expected…for the most part. And I must admit I took it for granted and sometimes whined (mostly privately, but not always) about how monotonous everyday activities and plans sometimes were.

Not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my retirement and new adventures in writing, photography and blogging – because I was – very much so. But, you know, same old same old.

Now it’s a different story. Exception defines most days…right down to the minutia.

I will share one example.

Driver’s license renewal time came and went in the Spring – put off due to the state wide shut down. Okay, I was fine with that. I applied for and was mailed a temporary license that expired in October. I was fine with that too.

Since I needed to convert to the Real ID license format, I would eventually have to appear in person. Again, that was okay with me.

Renewing a driver’s license (every 4 years) has always been easy.

Except this time.

In August I called the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make the required appointment – online not allowed – and after a 30 minute hold (totally expected), connected with a nice lady who set up a date and time. Her advice: Don’t come too early. Mmm..that’s different.

I arrived at one of the (only) four open DMV locations at exactly 12:50PM (for a 1PM appointment) on a sunny Wednesday in September. Clutching my passport, temporary license, social security card and mortgage statement, I had proof of who I was…although these days I’m sometimes not sure who that is anymore. Mask in place. So far so good. I walked across the parking lot and followed the one-way arrows up the ramp to the entrance.

The door was locked.

That’s when confusion set in. Not what I expected. What the? A few other masked citizens were milling around – staying away from each other – muffled voices asking the obvious. What’s going on? Why are the doors locked? Nobody had an answer.

So we all stood patiently. Waiting. Reading the yellowing signs on the doors about Covid-19 transmission and using hand sanitizer and masks and distancing. Nothing about why the doors were locked.

At exactly 1PM, the door opened and a woman with a DMV badge stepped outside holding a clipboard. She began shouting names from a printed list. Ostensibly those with an appointment around 1:00. I marched over after hearing my name called. A small group of us obediently lined up – spaced about 6 feet apart. I’m thinking to myself this is so weird…

And then Weird jumped to a whole new level when the woman with the clipboard started shouting again…

Does anyone have these symptoms? Fever? Shortness of Breath? Loss of taste or smell? Cough? Runny Nose? Sore Throat? Vomiting? Diarrhea?

Diarrhea? I am standing outside under a bright blue sky with a group of strangers – all here for a driver’s license or to register a car – and we are disclosing whether or not we have diarrhea. I know it could be a symptom of Covid, but seriously? And who is really going to answer any of those questions – in public – in the affirmative? It was one monotone No after another.

Even after six months experiencing the pandemic, this was NOT going the way I expected. After we all declared ourselves free of digestive and respiratory difficulties, we entered the inner sanctum of the DMV.

First the eye test.
Check-in Lady: Look in the machine. You don’t have to touch your face to it now.
Me: But it’s a bit wavy standing back.
Lady: It’s okay – what can you read?
Me: Um..the middle row has JRDL I think.
Lady: Great! You passed.

I was given a number and took a seat in the waiting area for the next step in the process.

It did not take long…

First the Review of Paperwork. I held my breath, hoping it all passed inspection and matched as I thought it should. It did.

And then…The New Photograph.

Lady at the desk behind the plexiglass: Stand over there and remove your mask. Look at the lower red light.
I attempted a smile. She let me review the photo on the screen. Oh my. I looked positively manic. Eyes popped wide open. Mouth stretched into what could be mistaken for the prelude to a scream. And I thought I was smiling.
Me: Well, I look a little tense.
L.A.T.D.: I’ll take another one.
I attempted to smile less tensely.
L.A.T.D.: Well what do you think of that one? Do you want another try?

I experienced a remarkable cosmic shift moment as I stared at my reflection. Even though the paperwork all proved I was who I said I was, this photo did not. Or did it?
It was then I decided that the face staring back at me from the screen was a perfect illustration of all that had gone on since March.

Me: No, that one is fine, thanks.

For decades I have always held out for a more flattering photo at the DMV.

Except this time.

I will own my authentic Pandemic Photo until 2024 when license renewal happens again.

A 2020 memorable “Portrait In Time” when exceptions ruled.

It will also most likely match my expression the next time I pass through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.

Fandango’s Friday Flashback: October 9

Inspired by Fandango’s Friday Flashback: October 9

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year…How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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The following post was published October 9, 2018 – always pleased to revisit a V.J. challenge.
(even after 2 years this project remains a work in progress…more intense – in both the gathering and writing – than I anticipated)

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Gathering

This post is inspired by:

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #18: Gathering

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Turning my attention toward the positive this week…

I am gathering source material. I like the way that sounds…source material. For a very long story about “the house” — or rather, our home, of over 36 years. As I have written about in previous posts (NestPhotos), my husband and I downsized and moved to a condo a couple of years ago. It was probably the most exhausting thing I have ever done (besides giving birth to two 9 lb+ babies, but that didn’t take as long).

I was more than ready to move. However, our adult children (who had moved out over a decade earlier) were clearly NOT ready for us to move. Especially our daughter. Our nest was their nest, empty (of them) or not. The reality of no childhood home to return to for their (infrequent) visits was jolting. Did they try to talk us out of it? Absolutely not. But their emotional ties were evident. “Coming down the stairs on Christmas morning” together…(every single year) would come to an end. The “remember whens” without the familiar backdrop of home…hard to imagine. Our new grandson would not be able to run around in his mama’s old backyard.

On the final day before the sale, I toured the empty house on facetime with my long distance 34 year old daughter.  We shared a last look at the rooms she grew up in…and some memories of each. Both of us in tears.

I then realized the enormity of this home’s real significance in our lives. But mostly in our kids’ lives. This surprised me since I never had any deep emotional ties to my childhood homes. None at all. I could not fully understand their attachment. How deep it is.

I am going to write about those 36 1/2 years. For them. For us. For me. A story…the house that became a home and what happened. I am very curious to see what evolves.

But first I need to begin gathering my materials (after shopping at my favorite office supply store):

  • Hanging file folders. One for each year – to sort & organize.
gathering files
  • Calendars for 37 years – chronicling all our activities. Each one a diary in itself.
calendars
  • Photographs. Lots.
gatheringphotos
  • Journals.
  • Letters – still gathering.
  • File boxes of house receipts and info that escaped shredding.

Once gathered, let the writing begin.

And…
I am so glad I saved all this stuff!

So Many Shot Glasses

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #114: What’s in the Box

This week, I challenge you to open one of those boxes, or drawers, and write about what you discover. Have fun. Be creative.

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It just so happens that it was not too long ago when I was surrounded by…boxes. When we had to empty our 2 small storage units in the condo garage. Because of mold issues, blah, blah, blah which I have written about before (and hopefully gotten out of my system since it is as “fixed” as it’s ever going to be).

However, in the process of putting everything back, my husband and I made a list of what was in Every Box and Where Every Box was located – in each storage unit and on which shelf. Of course I had to at least peek inside each box/tub/container – some unopened since 2016 when we moved from our house. The lids still taped shut and some with labels. My kids might wish that while we were at it, we could have Thrown Out some of these treasures, but…sorry…not ready yet.

Out of curiosity I rescued one small box of “Miscellaneous” and brought it up to the condo. Inside I discovered a random collection of what one might put in a junk drawer. What the?…

My husband remembered where it came from…

H: This is what was in the drawer in our old hutch!

Me: The hutch we donated to Habitat Restore since nobody in the family (or otherwise) wanted old dark cherry furniture?

H: Yup! Remember?

The hutch that nobody wanted

Ahh…then it came back to me. The fancy miscellaneous junk drawer. Where you shove things in to possibly use when “company comes” or when you drag out the “good dishes” for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Or because there’s no other place to put it when sorting comes to an end.

Top of the pile would be the place cards my daughter carefully made out of index cards. Those make sense and belonged there. A sweet memento of times gone by.

But 10 (ten) shot glasses? If this box had been unearthed in a time capsule of sorts 100 years from now, it would not have given an accurate depiction of who we were. Nope – not a sit around the dark cherry dining room table from my childhood throwing back shots type of family. Although, I will admit, the subject never came up. Careful measuring for an occasional gin and tonic or…well, that’s about it. For some reason, though, shot glasses were the perfect souvenir. For years we’ve had a couple in use to hold our daily vitamin supplements. “Everyday” shot glasses placed next to the salt, pepper and napkin holder sometimes prompted odd looks from visitors, especially our kids’ friends.

Yogi Bear? Well you can’t go wrong with Y.B. and the key chain holds an impressive collection of wine glass tags. Just in case a dozen or so wine drinkers showed up. The owl toothpick holder was my mother-in-law’s, who collected all things owl. Those vintage toothpicks were probably hers too. More sweet mementos.

The never used carving set was a Wedding Present Put Away For Special Occasions. I regret the never used part. Why wait?

Tam Tam papers? Um. No idea.

So there you have it – a story of the Miscellaneous Forgotten About Box and what I discovered inside. Frankly it was a very welcome diversion from another kind of box – which my father referred to as the “idiot box,” an unkind slang used back in the era of 3 channels. Yes, that flat screen was once a box and at one time it even had ears – so to speak.

When you turn on today’s box, it is rarely a welcome diversion of any kind during prime time. Case in point: Tuesday night’s so-called “debate.” Where I could have put a few of those shot glasses to use…if I had lasted longer and was a drinker. What could have been!

So, thank you V.J. for this week’s challenge. It was a pleasure.

Now…what to do with all those shot glasses?

From Camp to Kites

A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away. 

Eudora Welty

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This post inspired by two challenges this week…

Lens-Artists Challenge #115: Inspiration

We look forward to seeing your thoughts and images on what inspires YOU.

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #113: How It All Started

…think back to those moments that changed your life. No need to use the prompt; just demonstrate how “it” started.

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I was only 10 years old when I got my first camera. And fell in love with photography. I don’t remember the circumstances of who gave me the camera or why. I just thought it was cool (or as we used to say back then…”Keen!”…”Sharp!”) and I’ve never been without one since.

My first attempts at photography – with a Kodak Brownie camera and black & white film – manifested as square blurry images of trees, lean-tos, and other 10 year olds at Girl Scout camp. Hard to believe that a week of rustic living became a defining moment in my life as a photographer, but I guess it did. This despite my most vivid memory being the latrines (just plywood for seats, people – I mean seriously?) and how I dreaded making the trip to That Building (no pictures, sorry).

It was also where I discovered (after the film was developed) that when I held the camera on the lean-to railing the blurring disappeared…

Over time, I slowly improved at steadying the camera and moved on to capturing my younger siblings when they least expected it. As the years went by I became the family photo historian by default. Even more so when I advanced to color film! Very exciting.

My friends knew I would always show up with a camera as the unofficial keeper of the memories. Even at a young age I became acutely aware of how quickly life – and people – could change. It became very important – for me at least – to preserve what I could. I do remember feeling all of that. Which kind of astounds me now.

Oh…and it was fun.

I was 14 ½ when my 4th and youngest sibling was born and he became a willing subject for photography practice. Never mind that he was exceedingly cute and followed me around constantly. I was “in charge” of him most of the time so taking pictures was easy.

The photographs I took at college and summer jobs are best left off the internet, but they are definitely treasured keepsakes.

I graduated to a Canon SLR camera shortly after I got married and burst onto the taking-pictures-of-my-children-at-every-milestone-possible scene. They were my inspiration for decades and have appeared in many blog posts, so I will restrain myself from adding them in here. Same goes for my grandson, who is now 4 and very comfortable getting his picture taken as a child of the smartphone generation.

However, now (accompanied by a Canon DSLR camera) I am also inspired by the ordinary…what’s outside my window…down the path into the woods…winding around that chain link fence. The mesmerizing waves at the beach. I am constantly looking up and down and to the side…not in as much of a hurry as I used to be.

The best photo moment – for me – still springs from the unexpected…no matter what (or who) the subject happens to be.

Last week I was able to return – after several months of Covid restrictions – to walk along the water’s edge at Hampton Beach. The tourist season is over. Crowds are gone. The parking rules have been relaxed. I couldn’t resist the trip on such a beautiful…sunny…blue sky windy day. Even with a mask on, it was worth it.

As I made my way across the sand to walk back along the street, I spotted something bright in the sky.

Off came the lens cover.

It wasn’t the surf or the rocks or what usually fascinates me about the beach.

I had to get a closer shot.

I set the camera on what I call Grandson Mode or Freezing the Action Mode.

And I was off…

Hampton Beach, NH

And…by the way…it is still fun.

The Last Day

Four years ago next month, my husband and I moved for the first time in 36 years. We emptied our beloved home of…well…everything. Lots of “stuff” as I generally referred to it all. It actually took many years to get to the point where we could pack up and move. Little by little, carload by carload. I unearthed boxes and bags of long held treasures that needed new homes – which in this case meant antique shops, Craig’s List, Goodwill, the Salvation Army and a few garage sales (not my favorite thing as everyone haggles over the smallest items which quickly becomes tiresome).

I have written about the downsizing process when I started this blog. It was a slog, but I remained fixed on the goal: Simplify our lives and reduce stress. Unforeseen “things” had been happening for a number of years. Health issues mostly. I knew that our priorities had to shift…requiring change. Major change. Not one to wait for a crisis, I went into planning mode. It evolved into a long term plan which took place over about five years.

We finally found a new place to live that we could afford. A condominium where we would have less work to do. All on one level to reduce the risk of falling as we got older. Near my husband’s job. It is a beautiful place – certainly not perfect – with its own challenges as we discovered, but the right decision in the long run.

So, packing up in 2016, we prepared for the future…again. To make life easier for our “golden years.” An empty nest would bring new and hopefully exciting opportunities for our next chapter.

But nothing really prepared me for the very last day. That day in October 2016 when the house was finally…completely…unoccupied.

Empty of all that was us. Our family.

I was alone that last day. It was a sunny breezy fall afternoon as I made the last rounds – the final check to make sure all the closets and cabinets were empty. The holes in the walls patched and painted…erasing all evidence of the photographs that had hung there for years. Marking holidays and birthdays and sports and graduations proudly displayed down halls and around corners. We were a well documented family. Mostly because of my obsession with freezing time with a 35mm Canon.

So of course that’s what I did that last day – I took pictures with my (digital) Canon – of all the rooms in our (still ours until the following day) home. Which had grown from 4 rooms and 1 bathroom in 1980 to 7 rooms and 2 bathrooms in 2016.

I had a moment though as I stood in the original living room space that last day. Remembering through tears the very first time we had occupied it…filled with packing boxes and hand-me-down odd pieces of furniture one cloudy April day in 1980.

It was just my husband and me – so young still – in our twenties.

The first thing we did was hook up the turntable and speakers, snaking the wires between all the unpacked stuff. We found Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a box of records and dropped the needle on “Our House.”

We sang and celebrated the beginning of what would be a grand adventure.

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Unoccupied

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #111: stuff happens

An All Too Brief Pandemic Pause

 

on the road

What a sight it was a week ago Friday.

Six hours of driving (almost) nonstop. Highways to city streets to country roads. Following the GPS lady’s directions – every minute bringing us closer to our CovidCation. The weather was beautiful – almost too good to be true.

Faster and faster we drove (well I did…my husband’s foot is not as leaden as mine).

We were out-running a virus after all.

Get my lunch out of the backseat please! The car was packed with 2 coolers, 2 suitcases and laundry baskets full of necessities. My gluten free toaster in one of them. As we learned bringing our kids to college, laundry baskets work out well for car trips…as they can nest when they’re empty for the trip home.

It occurred to me that travel by car meant I could bring Full Size Bottles of whatever I wanted. So I did.

My laptop and our cameras…carefully packed. We remembered the tripod for a group photo. Paw Patrol bubbles (but of course). Decks of cards. Guitar.

We arrived at the lake house in the Pocono Mountains around 6:30 pm.

Within a minute a short blonde 4 year old came running out…Grandma! And somehow he was up in my arms with his arms wrapped around my neck, legs encircling my waist. I don’t know how I picked him up but I must have. The first full on leap into my arms hug since February. Far too long.

After that, my daughter and I shared a good long hug. Face to face for the first time in 6 months. Then hugs for my son-in-law, my son and his girlfriend. We had tested and quarantined and stayed safe. Carefully planned and orchestrated.

All those hugs felt so good.

Of course we were joined by the two family dogs: Lutra and Taco (who have been featured in this blog before). They enjoyed themselves immensely as well.

We were in our own little bubble.

bubbles

A four day pause from virus fears.

firepit

What a sight to see.

No masks.

No social distancing…except from the family swimming across the lake.
(Grandma which one is the dada and which one is the mama? Grandma I think the bigger one is the dada….)

ducks

It was glorious.

~~~

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #109: What a Sight
Ragtag Daily Prompt: Pause
SixWordSaturday

To listen or not to listen

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #107: listen

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Breaking News! – more bad stuff happening everywhere!

Well, technically, that’s NOT what is announced nightly from my television. But it might as well be…as an earnest news anchor rattles off the News Headlines Of The Day when the show begins. She leaves the one bright spot – a friendly citizen delivering food to a neighbor or making someone smile – for the last 5 minutes of the broadcast. Saving the feel-good news for the end.

So…I ask myself…why do I listen at all? To the TV reports. To news radio. I jokingly (but not really joking) reply…well maybe there will be a cure! a solution! a miracle! Either that’s a sign of my foolish hopefulness or unfortunate naivety. I guess I want to know what’s (mostly) going on. It’s the continuous not knowing that I find so hard to live with.

So I turn on the news and try to pick up on what positives I can. There must be something hidden between the lines to hold on to. If I pay close attention.

However…what would I rather listen to?

The sound of waves hitting the beach. It’s predictable and calming and I don’t have to pay close attention.

This video of Hampton Beach, NH is from last year. Now, due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is next to impossible to access the beach in person. Too many people. Not enough parking.

I could listen to this all day.