A Day at the Beach

It’s been just over a year since I moved here. Husky-mix rescue dog Lily did not like ocean waves at all then. Now she does not mind them much. I had a border collie years ago who attacked waves with abandon. She attacked all water, actually… fountains, garden hose sprays, sprinklers, but she went at waves with relish.

Lily, not.

Now she allows them to come over her feet as she walks, as long as it’s not a rogue wave or one that makes her think she’s going out with the tide. But this day was calm, we were on the south point of this little island where the island curve goes into Mason Inlet to Banks Channel. Not much wave action here at all, especially not at low tide.

But as we arrived we were treated to this–


Not up on my sailboats… maybe a sloop? Anyway something that needed a crew. They all looked very busy, and happy about their venture.

Since I was so taken by this and not paying attention to Lily at all she took it upon herself to take off


but she never goes too far. What, like she’d make her home on the beach with the sand crabs and skimmers? Maybe a fisherman would toss her a fish head? Likely she’d be more inclined to roll in it than eat it. No, she did not go very far before, taking leash in mouth, she came right back


Besides, even though the rules say dogs have to be on leashes it is also understood I suppose that a human has to be at the other end.


Still, I suppose a little exploring never hurts. Besides, those police suvs are pretty audible even in sand.



It is not often a book moves me to the point of transformation. Most books today are written for mass market interests rather, money makers. There is a rare occasion where a book is written for its own story and gets so far inside as you read as to become an unchangeable part of who you are, how you think, see things.

Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale is the latter.

Written from a modern-day (1990s) elderly woman’s life, she has received an invitation to a reunion. A gathering of those who lived in the heart of the muck, the evil, terrifying, humbling, unearthiness of a mobilized, imprisoned small village in France during the second World War. Those who in some way helped the ones who were weaker than even they.

We all have our personalities. It is who we are when we are born. War changes all of this, Most of us today have lived blessed lives. We have experienced turmoils, terrorists and pockets of terrorism. But many or most of us have never experienced anything that consumed our entire lives to the point where our persons or personalities became simply persona. A costume we place upon ourselves so as to protect, hide, unrecognize who our true selves are.

This beautiful, terrible story is written from the raw vulnerabilities of those whose lives are completely displaced by the Third Reich. How they deal with less and less food, less and less mercantile, less and less furniture as that which they have known in their families perhaps for centuries is looted, less and less dignity. We all take so much for granted that, to read a book such as this is to be transported to a place beyond ourselves where we feel actual starvation, actual pain from brutal interrogation, actual humiliation of rape or the loss of dear families, friends until we have nothing but that which is at our very core, that which nothing and no one can take from us. It is almost too painful to read as we imagine it was for those who lived through it. And hard for me at times to remember that this book is a work of fiction. Because all that it describes within its pages were all too real during this war. As the sister of the narrator tells us after she has survived days and days of interrogation, then months in Ravensbruck of this plundering of all that she is except for her soul:

” ‘You know what I learned in the camps?

“Vianne looked at her. ‘What’?

“‘They couldn’t touch my heart. They couldn’t change who I am inside. My body … they broke that in the first days, but not my heart, V. …’ ”

Somehow, no matter how small we make ourselves our hearts where we hide our most precious, inmost selves never, ever completely disappear.

Quote from The Nightingale, by Hannah, Kristin, (c)2015, St. Martin’s Press, pg. 422-423. All rights reserved.



Strange chemistry

A neighbor where I live gave me a collection of succulents she no longer wanted, one in particular that looked a lot like a Dr. Seuss plant with a long gangly stem and thick lobed petals at the end. A couple of short branch offshoots with more thick-leaved petals at each tip. It does not appear to require much attention so I water it every so often. Not at all pretty but because it is a living thing and was given to me I cannot bring myself to put it on the compost heap. Besides, my neighbor might ask about it.

But it is of great interest to a squirrel that frequents the yard. This squirrel has eaten all the lobes off of one branch and a couple of the larger ones off the main stem. Each time he does he catapults into a few back flips from the flower pot onto the trunk of a tree. I can’t figure out whether this squirrel is a little nuts or the petals of this plant have an odd effect on him.

Where I used to live I would sprinkle bird seed on the railing of the deck off the back of the house. The birds flocked to the seed in winter so not having a deck here I put some seed on the windowsills on the back of the house here. Eventually the birds became braver, particularly the cardinals, and this one squirrel.


I am guessing it is the same one. The first few times it came to feast on the seed it licked the (probably filthy) window screen, copiously. I did notice lately it has stopped the licking, but vacuums up nearly every seed on the window.


So I am making more frequent trips out to replenish the window sill. Lily, my husky-mix rescue dog has recently taken a strong interest in this window. It appalls her that this creature which she generally takes great joy in chasing all over the yard would have such nerve as to practically make itself a houseguest. She will look at it, smugly gorging itself on the sill, then slowly turn her head to me as if to ask, “Are you actually going to tolerate this affront to my dignity?”, and turns just as slowly to stalk the back door I suppose so as not to alert the squirrel to her predation (so far Lily has not caught one yet).


The chase is on, squirrel deftly springing from sill to mid-trunk of a nearby pine tree. Lily chases nothing all over the yard, squirrel now safely in the tree branches.

I suppose Lily has an image to maintain here.

Breathe easy, a cautionary tale

About 6 years ago I was in the midst of looking for a house to move back to my home state of North Carolina from New Mexico. It was not going well at all, my realtor either wasn’t listening or I was doing a terrible job of describing what it was I was looking for. She and her husband went skiing over the New Year holiday which gave me several days’ break from confusing house floor plans, and so I caught a virus.

It could have been flu, but it was not a simple cold. This thing had a fever, chills, aches, and generally left me feeling like the proverbial truck had slammed into me. And a persistent cough.

I did finally find a house to buy, with another realtor, but the cough stayed with me. At Thanksgiving my brother invited me to join his family in Texas and went after me the whole weekend to see someone about this  annoying cough. Annoying to him.

So I went to see my gp at home. He took x-rays. Yes, he said, they saw a spot. More x-rays. Still inconclusive. C-T scan. My brother (a lung oncologist) asked for a copy of the scan which I sent to him. About the same time the tech at home gave me the diagnosis my brother gave the same one: adult-onset asthma.

Now this made no sense at all to me. I’d never had problems breathing. I ran 3-5 miles every morning (still do) with my husky-mix rescue dog Lily. I had never had pulmonary problems of any kind.

Not until this little cough which by now was gone. Too late. I was on the middle of this roller coaster ride.

My gp scheduled an appointment with a pulmonologist who ordered a pft (pulmonary function test) which turned up my breathing capacity at 90-95%. What’s wrong with that? I asked. Well, since we see scarring we want to prescribe something to help keep the lungs open. They can collapse otherwise.

Collapse? A whole lung??

This went on for 5 years. In that time I experienced shortness of breath only once, alone in a movie theater watching a political thriller that was not very good anyway. No sooner had I left than I caught my breath again. Three successful pfts and a new pulmonologist later and I am still running with Lily. Still having no problems breathing. The little persistent cough is so historic as to not even register in my long-term memory.

And I have moved again. So I schedule one last appointment. Another pft. Still breathing 100%. The doctor says yes, I can stop with the appointments but to cover himself or maybe just to appease the pharmaceutical company he prescribes one last emergency inhaler which I do not have filled.

Still running with Lily every day. Still able to catch my breath. And a commercial comes on the television showing a wonderful new asthma drug with the caution: “using this can cause death”.

So glad I am better now.


Years ago (those years I could afford one at all) we were fortunate to find places that sold live Christmas trees. One year I bought a 5-foot Norway spruce. I planted this tree outside the bricked patio of our small condo. It grew to a stately, lovely shaped tree. I was an original owner at this subdivision so could do this, also could have 3 dogs if I wanted them. Had I known this at the time, prior to our association hiring a management company I would have likely had 3 dogs. As it happened, no sooner did I move than that beautiful tree was chopped down.

Oh my.

Another year I found a smaller but equally pretty Colorado blue spruce. My father, hailing from Colorado, I decided just had to have this tree at the beach house my mother and he had just built. So after Christmas I loaded this tree into my car and drove the 3-4 hours to South Carolina. The root ball was dry I discovered, and the portion of tree that had been at the window had lost most of its needles but no worries, I just knew it would be so happy to be planted on a native Coloradoan’s property.



We all sorrowfully watched it turn a deep brown as it died a rather slow, painful death. Painful for us I suppose.

I don’t like seeing anything die. Not a flower, or a tree, a pet. Nor a parent, a friend. But it happens. Death is part of life. So in this new year which is simply a connected day to the previous and next days moving onward in the space and time measurements I will meld with life, come whatever may come. I have spent most of my life’s years becoming indignant over small and great slights and upheavals. I have crusaded for causes I was positive could change the course of all life for the better. I have pounded in search of ways to make things better for people, for animals, for the environment. And whatever difference I have made is so small, minor, insignificant I wonder what makes a difference at all.

I am spent.

Not that things do not matter, but so much energy is misdirected, a chasing after the wind.

So I will look for an opportunity to find the trees and let nature take care of its forest. I will wait before acting. Consider, listen before speaking. And most of all deny discouragement, disappointment their victories because nothing ever stays the same. All things become new. An unwritten law that has existed always.

I finally get it.