The Hair Of My Dads

11/27/09: I have a pair of silver hog hair brushes that were given to me by my father. One is here with me in Joshua Tree; the other is back at our home on Cape Cod. Each has a raised sculpture of a Blue Crab and embossed strands of seaweed. The Initials of "LHB" are engraved into the surface, and these stand for Louis Henry Blakeman, my great grandfather.

After taking my shower today, I brushed my hair. I then stood out at the end of the deck and used a comb to clean the old hair out of the brush. It blew out into the dry wash that runs past the deck. It dawned on me that this hair would have included some from my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather. I said Hello to them, and Welcome.

Love You Mom
12/17/09, probably about 6:00 AM or so, somewhere between sleep and coming awake:

I was in a room kind of like a small schoolroom. It was full of people I did not know, but not crowded - there was nothing special about the room or the people; they were just there, waiting, like me. I was standing facing the door but to one side, not blocking the way. Eileen was behind me; I didn't see her, didn't need to - we were fine. Though I had never in my life done so, I was holding a video camera up to my eye, so that I was seeing everything through the lens of the camera. I could not hear the camera, almost as though its only purpose was as something for me to look through.

I could hear people in the room speaking and rustling quietly. Eileen and I were also speaking quietly to each other, almost like you would in a church or library, commenting on being able to see Ted Kennedy's profile, as he was approaching the other side of the door, though having to politely pass around others in the hallway who were between him and the door. Somebody was standing between me and the door so that I had to look around him. His back was to me so that he did not know I was there. I thought it might be Kennedy's son. Then he suddenly moved across in front of me and out of the way so that I was able to reach out with my right arm and push the door open, for Kennedy to enter the room.

Then suddenly it was my mother standing there in the doorway looking at me and happy. Kennedy was gone, as though he had served his purpose and was no longer needed. My mother was calmly looking me in the eyes with a quiet smile and warmth in her face that said "I'm glad to see you", though no words were spoken. The love was in her eyes. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted.

She was dressed in her best and looked sharp as she always did when she was preparing for something special, with her minks and necklaces and broaches wrapped around her shoulders, looking good. Her dark hair was long, with strands of grey. Her favorite green paisley scarf was wrapped around her head and tied behind, as she used to do when I was young. I reached out with my left hand and laid it gently over both of hers, which were clasped in front of her. I felt her warmth just as I could feel the skin and bones of her hand. With my hand I helped gently guide her to a chair behind her as she contently sat down, settling between others in chairs to either side of her.

Then her body was suddenly cold and lifeless and she was no longer there and I knew it was okay; she had come to say hello, I love you and I am fine, and that was all she needed and all she could really do for the moment.

I transitioned naturally into waking up, feeling good about the whole thing. Though it could only be a dream, or could be something more real in a spiritual sense, it was a wonderful experience. I told Eileen about it as she too was waking up beside me.

Kennedy was good at quietly helping people accomplish significant things in their lives that they could not quite do on their own. Now that he has passed away, it is becoming apparent that he did this for hundreds of people, one on one, whenever he could, and generally never spoke about it publicly. Is it possible that he could still be serving this purpose, but on another plain? Did he somehow help my mother do something she needed to do? Was the camera simply a figurative way for me to see something that I would not have seen on my own?

Living A Little Bit Better
Just about every year, we add something new that makes a significant impact on our living conditions. Believe me, it is kind of neat to be able stand back figuratively and look at all these contributions from the viewpoint of a writer and/or photographer, literally from 3000 miles away, and observe what has happened. In a way, it is mind boggling. Who did all that? Sometimes, I really don't feel like I had a lot to do with it; it just happened, and it is fun to watch, and I'm immensely grateful that I am in the unique position of being able to participate at so many levels.

This year we added a compost toilet, a washing machine, and a really cool sink and vanity. We gained a roof over the shower so that maybe it will be a little more comfortable on cold days. We planted a tree, our first, and installed an interesting automated watering system for the tree, plus a sonic sensor on our water tank that tells us how much water is in the tank. As the above links suggest, all of these have been written about, with pictures, and can be found on our Joshua Tree 2009 web page, along with this journal.
One of my growing concerns is that we have added all sorts of water consuming luxuries (except the toilet; it does the reverse). Where a 500 gallon delivery would last 4 or 5 months in 2002, a 2000 gallon delivery today in 2010 is beginning to look like it might last considerably less than that. We got our first delivery on November 16, 2009, two weeks after we arrived.

The washing machine first went into action on February 3, 2010. I began watering the new tree on April 12. Our next water delivery was 7 days later, about 5 months after the first. I departed on May 6. A third delivery was made about June 22, 2 months after the previous. It is now August 17 and I hear from my neighbor Katherine that the tank reading indicates that it is about 3/4 down. Hence, the water is going fast.

I am probably overwatering the Eucalyptus. After planting it, I did not have time to determine its actual need for water before leaving. I hear that it is growing fast. I have also just read that one deep watering per month should be adequate. I presently have it set to water deep twice a week, which may be appropriate for new plantings. Anyhow, it looks like I will need to make some adjustments when we return in November. BTW (and note to self), they say "Do not top a Eucalyptus".

Molly's Non-Flights
On February 15, we loaded up the car with Eileen's stuff and headed for Los Angeles. She and Molly would be flying out early the next morning, or at least that was the plan. Her 'stuff' included very little clothing, instead it was primarily treasures that she had found in the local thrift shops that she planned to sell in her Cape Cod shop, which would open in March. I would be bringing back her clothing in May, along with a quilt and a number of throw pillows that she had hand-stitched over the last 3½ months, also for sale. As usual, Molly was with us in her open cage on the back seat.
We arrived at The Los Angeles Adventurer Hotel, a place we like for its laid back tropical atmosphere with large old trees and because it is very close to the airport. This time we had reserved one of their cottages set apart from the hotel and surrounded by a nice green lawn, Birds Of Paradise, and plenty of trees. Sitting out on its private deck checking my email and having a beer was very pleasant. The renovated interior included a bar with microwave and fridge, mirrored walls and a large round bed. Molly was not allowed in, but they did reluctantly permit her cage out on the deck as long as she remained unobtrusive and on a leash. It went well; she did not make a sound and she did not bite anybody.

We spent the day relaxing there; we did not venture out into the traffic jams that we had experienced in previous years. We ate dinner at their in-house restaurant and, as opposed to previous visits, this meal was just about terrible. Next time we will probably venture out for dinner.
In the morning we were at the American Airlines check-in counter and that too turned out to be somewhat tragic. In the end, they could not take the dog because the temperature was projected to be too cold in Boston. That was the only reason they gave, and no degree of Eileen's extreme skills of extended persuasion could change their minds. They rescheduled for a week later at no additional cost.

We returned home.

On February 22 at 6:00 AM we were again on our way, this time heading for Laguna. By 8:00 AM, we were sitting at our favorite table at The Cottage Restaurant enjoying an excellent breakfast. We checked into The Hotel Laguna at about 10:00 and enjoyed another laid back day, or at least half a day, casually strolling the beach and the town, including pastry and coffee on a tiled bench outside the Scandia Bakery. Well, at least the stroll was casual until then.

Somewhere soon after that, I discovered that the remote control for my Prius was gone. I had kept it hanging on a ring outside of my shoulder bag so that it would be easy to lock and unlock the car. Now I realized how dumb that had been. Fortunately Eileen had hers. We retraced our steps throughout the afternoon and I did it again that night and around 5:00 AM the next morning. We went by the police station a couple times to see if it had been turned in, and we visited nearly every shop on our route.

Over the next few months I called the police from time to time, to no avail. Eventually, back east in July I purchased a new one at Falmouth Toyota for $240. I had also come to learn that you do not want to risk losing that final remote. They can effectively duplicate that one, but if that gets lost they have to tow the car in and retool the car's system, or something like that, and that would be much more expensive.

That morning we drove north 54 miles to LAX. Again, a long drawn out battle with the AA personnel resulted in Eileen leaving without Molly. This time they informed us that the weight limit was 100 lbs; they did not happen to mention this the previous week. Molly and her cage weighed in at 116 lbs. In previous years, her weight had not been a problem, and she is no heavier than she was then.

They suggested that we try a local service that ships animals anywhere. I called while still at the counter, but they were not answering their phone at 8:00 AM. I did check with them a few weeks later and found that yes, they could ship her to Boston as long as I could bring her to them and as long as somebody was waiting at the other end. So what exactly would we be paying them for?? And, for this service they would require $679.70.

Eileen flew east. Molly and I returned to Joshua Tree.

Copyright © 2010, Van Blakeman