Friday, September 17, 2010

How Did This Happen?

Most of the people I know work very hard, but I'm pretty sure most of them love their lives. When I get into a pensive mood, as during the past week, I sometimes wonder if my own life is tragic or glorious. There have definitely been tragic moments, such as when my cousin Liz died at the age of 46. She'd been one of my closest friends since we were babies just learning to walk. We talked on the phone every day, saw each other often. I was the one the cops came to with the news that she'd crashed her car. I think she herself (or some aspect of her) came to me as well, that same day. I was working in the garden and suddenly saw a vision of a bloody face. My first terrified thought was that something had happened to my daughter, and I ran to the house to make sure she was OK. I learned later, that the vision came at the same moment Liz died.

My father, whom I adored, died five years after Liz. 

I've also been, at various times, financially destitute, divorced, near death from pneumonia. When I was a young person first trying to make it on my own, I sometimes didn't have much money for food and had to subsist on beans, brewer's yeast, vitamin C pills, and food people left on their plates at the restaurant where I worked as a waitress (I would encourage customers to order meals I especially liked, hoping they'd leave some for me). 

Even during the times when I had very little money, I never felt poor. I always considered it a temporary condition. And yet, I've also had, from as far back as I can remember, a sense that things can change in an instant. I lost two childhood friends, one when I was two, to pneumonia, another when I was 5, to leukemia. Maybe that's one reason ... maybe too because the threat of nuclear war was a constant ... our neighbors had a bomb shelter that doubled as a pool room, and in school we had to do drills where we cowered in the hallways with our arms covering our heads. I can remember, even as a young person, thinking at a birthday celebration where a decadent chocolate cake was served after a rich meal: "I must remember every detail of this, in case some day I am starving and have only my memories as comfort." 

I have never even come close to starving. Even when I was eating the leftovers off customers' plates in the restaurant, the worst thing I suffered was a boring cuisine. I never actually went hungry, nor was I even undernourished. In fact, I usually felt really good. I think the beans and brewer's yeast were a pretty healthy diet, or would have been if I'd thrown in some fresh fruits and veggies (at the restaurant I tended to love such treats as cheese blintzes rather than fruits and veggies). 

I eat very well now, my main problem being self-restraint. In fact, my life is close to everything I every dreamed of having when I was young and poor: a loving, highly intelligent husband; work I enjoy; pleasant places to live; occasional travel, but not too much travel; a beautiful, intelligent, sweet daughter. Almost every day is a joy to live. Of course I know it can't last forever. I'm already getting old. But, as someone called Mary Butts once said, I "build a little fence of trust around today."

One of the most wonderful things about my life is that I can walk to work, and it is a lovely walk. I've always arranged my life so that I could either walk or ride my bicycle to work, but some walks or rides have been better than others. My present walk between home and work in San Antonio is one of my favorites.
Below are some photos of what I get to look at when I walk to work. From late spring to late fall, the sun is so bright, and the shade so deep!

A couple of days ago, I took a short break from working on tax returns. A couple of blocks from my office, there is a Methodist church. From the sidewalk, I could hear the sounds of an organist practicing. I followed the sound; the front doors of the church were locked, so I sat on the steps and listened. Here is my view west from where I sat on the steps:

And here are some photos I took with my phone as I walked between the office and home:


  1. I think you were very wise as a child...and very wise now.

    Life CAN change in an instant, so important to not take things for granted (at least not often)

  2. Hey Dina, thanks for stopping by! And for your kind words.

  3. Thanks for stopping by all the way from London, I might add! I'm so glad you're going to keep a British diary!