Pandemic Mountain

2020-08-30T16:45:22-07:00Categories: featured posts, hiking, politics, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

In the middle of this pandemic summer, in a tent on a ridge just a stone’s throw from Mt. Baker, my husband and I woke in the wee hours to the sound of two young voices, chatting away, getting closer and louder every second. We could see their headlamps bobbing like a pair of fireflies as they hiked towards us, up the steep trail known as the Railroad Grade route to the Mt. Baker climbers’ basecamp. Our tent was just a few feet off the trail. We’d left the rainfly off: on this silky July night, we needed nothing between us and the starry sky but the tent’s inner mosquito-net shell. We hadn’t seen anyone else for hours. But here they came at 1:40 a.m., these two young men, hiking with headlamps, ready to climb Mt. Baker. They must’ve left the trailhead around midnight. They were nearly on top of us when they finally saw our tent and lowered their voices a little. We pretended to be asleep. They walked on by. We watched their lights bob out of sight. It took us both a while to get back to sleep. But there had been something so happy and cozy about their camaraderie, in the wee hours, that I felt lucky to have heard it. I don’t remember a word they said, only that they were animated and buoyant, as if their packs full of climbing gear weighed nothing. As if they were waterskiing uphill. It was like hearing voices from the past: from that innocent [...]

Pandemic Mirror

2020-06-30T16:28:53-07:00Categories: brain, creative aging, family, featured posts, health & medicine, memoir, midlife, quiet, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , |

“When did my hair get so long?” I ask myself, as I look in the mirror. “And I look so  OLD!” I am 63. We are winding up Month Four of the pandemic. No. I’m not 63. I am seven, and I am winding up two weeks of being home sick with the mumps. I’m standing in front of the full-length mirror that hangs inside my parents’ bedroom closet door. When the door is open, there is plenty of light on the mirror, so it’s ideal for getting a good look at yourself, which I haven’t done in many days. One of my cheeks is puffed out like a popover. But almost more fascinating to seven-year-old me is how long my hair looks. Can it have grown so much since I last took a look at myself? I am also admiring my new pale blue, pearl-buttoned bathrobe, with its fake-fur collar. How did I, the third of six children (five at the time), acquire such a fancy robe? Was it a gift from my elegant grandmother, given to me because I had the mumps? Was I the only one of us who had the mumps? I don’t remember. What I do remember is what a novelty it was to look in the mirror and see only me: my brother and sisters were at school; my baby brother was taking a nap, or maybe he was with Grandma. And I didn’t look like me, pre-mumps. Never mind the puffy cheek: this was the second one to pop [...]

Pandemic Road

2020-04-28T09:16:00-07:00Categories: family, featured posts, health & medicine, memoir, writing|Tags: , , , , |

The taste of blood mixed with gravel is metallic, it’s gritty, but most of all, it is surprising. I hadn’t opened my mouth on purpose; the taste was just suddenly there. Remembering, I can taste it now. Just as I can hear the big kids yelling: “Go get her mom! She’s bleeding!” I remember lying in the gravel, squinting in the bright sun. And, before she dropped me, how it felt to be carried by the neighbor girl: sweaty and awkward, our limbs criss-crossing in the wrong places; but so worth it, because I felt important. I felt like a princess. When she let go of me in the middle of the street, it was like being dropped into a swimming pool—there was that one whooshing instant in the air—except that where I landed, chin-first, was not in water but in gravel. And what I tasted was not chlorine, but my own blood. Sitting here on a pandemic afternoon, this is the scene from my early childhood I find myself trying to recall. I don’t remember much more. I was only about three years old. We lived just north of Seattle, on a no-sidewalk block of modest ranch homes. My big sister had lost interest in carrying me, because we now had a new baby sister, but the neighbor girl was willing to give it a try. In this way, she explained, we could cross from my house to her house without breaking my mother’s rule that I must never walk across the street without asking [...]

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