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Somehow, the culture people of Portland got my email address, and now I’m at their mercy. I get periodic emails that show up with special price offers at irritatingly convenient times, like Just In Time For Christmas Gifts!
I’ve mentioned before that Tara is crazy about Broadway shows. I sent them a text last Fall. “Hey, Finding Neverland or RENT?” The response was 19-year-old appropriate: “Duh.” I should have guessed that they would want the classic show inspired by La Boheme.
“Classic” sounds kind of funny, because I actually saw RENT not too long after it came out, and that wasn’t terribly long ago. Right? Ahem, the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour is what we went to see. Apparently, I’m old enough to be classic.
The first time I saw the show was in rural Arcata, California, in the late 90s. I remembered that the storyline addresses AIDS, which was still a national scare in those days. And racy for the time and location were the homosexual relationships on stage. Most of all, I remember Angel, the dynamic cross-dresser who was the voice of love and reason for the group of young, desperately poor New York singles.
Arcata is a college town, but most of the audience was made up of patrons of the arts in their 40s or older, who didn’t know the story. And don’t forget that I said “rural.” The audience first sees Angel dressed in masculine clothing, when he meets and falls in love with Tom Collins. But soon comes the big entrance as *Angel!* with glitz and glitter and makeup. Angel pranced out on stage in a white and silver skin-tight costume, ruffles, high heels, red lips, and a dazzling smile that lit up the theatre. She came right up to the edge of the stage – so close I had to tilt my head – and struck a pose.
You could hear a pin drop.
I think I could actually hear people snapping their mouths back shut when they realized they were gaping. There was no cheer, no laughter. Total paralyzed silence. Maybe a muffled sneeze in the back. I had been just about to give a “whoop!” but then realized something was wrong and held it in.
This time the show was different for a few reasons. Notably, I’m in Portland, which is like a baby San Francisco, for all the tolerance we’ve got. And furthermore (it’s apparently 20 years later, and) concepts like homosexual love, drug use, diseases that kill you, and breaking into empty buildings because you’re homeless are not as shocking to find on the stage anymore.
This audience was fully on board. No, not just on board, but cult followers or something. The scene when Angel comes out in drag was preceded by raucous cheers before I even knew what was happening. The outfit was different this time, but the people went crazy for it!
The production still uses telephone answering machines to bring in missing characters (like parents) and to make connections in the story line. And it still works. The difference is that the first time I didn’t pay it any mind, and this time, it caught my attention every time. Answering machines! I remember those!
The first time I saw RENT, there was one relationship that carried it for me. The interactions between Angel and Collins are lovely at every stage, from the joy in the beginning, to their successful negotiations to unite their friends in times of trouble, to the heartbreaking hospital scenes when Collins takes care of Angel. Their love is pure and immense – big enough for all of us.
This time the relationship that carried it for me was between Roger and Mimi. He’s a musician struggling to be true to his art. However, his bigger struggle is with self-worth. He doesn’t really believe he’s good enough to be a musician, so he never finishes a song. And then he and Mimi fall in love and he suspects he’s not deserving of her either, so they break up. She’s an addict and really really wants to quit, but just can’t admit to herself or to Roger that she is weak, and she wants to be loved and forgiven despite that. They wrench apart, and fall together, and wrench apart again.
It was just awful, watching their pain, and knowing we so often bring our pain upon ourselves like that. We are happy or satisfied or loved purely based on our perception of who we are. Arggh, humans!
The ending is sad and hopeful, and Tara and I were still wiping the backs of our hands across our cheeks when the actors bowed. I wonder if art is supposed to make its audience find a truth? Maybe that’s why the same story hit me two different ways at two times in my life. When the artists don’t use direct words, we have to give it our own meaning, and then, it has a distinctly personal message for the most dramatic impact. Oooh, those artists. So clever.
Second big hike in a row with no mountain goat sightings. Do you think it’s me?
I hiked into the Goat Rocks Wilderness for three days and two nights with my boyfriend. Our timing was uncanny, and we were up there during the only three rainy days in between sunny weeks either side. Though I went up into the mountains seeking profound vistas, thankfully I was able to see the beauty in front of me when the vistas were obscured by fog.
We began at the Snowgrass Flats Trailhead and hiked to a bypass trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). At the trailhead it was pleasantly warm (in the 60s) and there was a beam or two of sunshine. I photographed a lake and crammed my mouth full of ripe huckleberries that loaded the bushes on both sides of the trail.
The trail climbed about 2000 feet to the place we chose for our campsite. The rain set in as soon as we unloaded our gear, and it gradually picked up as the night went on. Since everything was wet, we were comfortable starting a fire. We hovered over the warmth that night and during the next couple days. Temperatures cooled to near 32 at night (0 Celcius) and warmed to the middle 40s during the day.
As is my tradition, I brought the fixins for delicious meals and was so delighted to have a climbing partner to share the weight. It’s amazing how much of a difference that makes! It was so light, my pack barely caught my attention. The first night we had Salmon Curry Couscous, a new meal I tried out that turned out great and was a snap to put together. We set down our dishes and within minutes a mouse arrived to investigate. The mouse left right away: not a fan of curry, I suppose.
For breakfast we had hard boiled eggs, bananas and homemade oatmeal cranberry cookies. Another meal was Bacon Carbonara (with angel hair so it cooks quickly), we had Margaret’s famous baked brie in brown sugar and red wine with dried apricots, and on the final day we had burritos that I had designed as a cold meal to eat on the way out, but since we were so cold I cooked the refried beans and D toasted the tortillas. Tortillas are packed flat against the back of the pack to keep them in one piece on the trail. We enjoyed fresh avocado of course! The trick to bringing produce is to bring it unripened. The firmness protects the fruit and after a couple days it’s ready to eat!
The second day we climbed north on the PCT toward Old Snowy Mountain, which I climbed a few years ago. However, the rain and cold slowed us down and there were no views to be had. I couldn’t even tell which direction to look for Old Snowy; it was likely right above us. I was discouraged. The last time I was on this trail, the weather was much more cooperative, and no matter where I hiked or which direction I faced, the views of mountains blew me away. It was the most impressive thing about being here. So on my return trip, I sort of had it locked into my brain that unless I saw a view, I was not really at Goat Rocks. Often our visibility ranged from 20 to 100 feet, and I remained disappointed until the splendid and rare scenes in front of my face got through and slapped me around a little bit: LOOK! Look at this!
We wandered through meadows and found scene after scene of astonishingly beautiful wildflowers in full view despite the fog. We discovered a huge spring where water literally bubbled up like a fountain, and in other places poured out of cracks in the earth. At the trail there was no creek, but twenty feet down the hill was a creek bigger than the one on my property. That’s how much water burst from the lush green hillside.
It was fun to talk to the through hikers. Those are the ones who stay on the PCT for months, doing sections and sometimes the entire length of it. We met several of them, as August is a good time of year to travel through this section: recently cleared of snow. You could spot the through hikers because they were dirty and seemed weary. Or, maybe, not as thrilled with the wildflowers as I was, having probably seen them for a month already. They were consistently humble, the ones I met, downplaying their feat of endurance, insisting that they had “only” been on the trail six weeks, or that they were “only” hiking the Oregon and Washington sections.
We didn’t stay out long, and were tempted to go back to camp where we could have a fire and get warm again. Upon our return, we found that other campers had vacated a great spot on the edge of a cliff. If we were there, even if the clouds only lifted for 2 minutes, I would get a little bit of a view. Hee hee. We moved our camp and had a new fire roaring in no time. Typically I try to avoid fires in the mountains in August. As you all know, wildfires are nothing to mess around with and I never want to tempt fate. But on this occasion, everything was soaked and I was supremely confident that the forest would not burn due to a flying ember.
That evening a troop of Boy Scouts came in and were considering a camp site right next to ours. We promptly and “helpfully” directed them to the campsite we had vacated the night before, which is up the hill and completely out of sight from where we were. “And it has a stream!” added my boyfriend, trying to sell it while he had the chance. They took the bait and moved on. The Scouts brought a mule named Sadie, and we spent a lot of time talking with Sadie and her elderly master, Bob, who had been hiking this mountain for 30 or 40 years. It was interesting to hear him talk about changes that had occurred. He referred to the trails by their old names, and I had to mentally scramble to keep up with which trails he was talking about.
Bob took Sadie out to the meadow next to us to let her graze, and right then the sun came out. Such a lovely gift for the evening. (Isn’t it a sign, when I can clearly remember each time the sun came out?) We went out to pat the mule and let the old man talk. He was a heck of a talker. In among the words though, he mentioned a nearby waterfall that sounded impressive. We got directions (south on the PCT, instead of north, as we had traveled that day) and decided to hike there in the morning.
The theory was (well, at least this is the Pollyanna spin I was giving myself) that a waterfall is going to be entertaining in the fog. Sparkling, loud, exciting, wet, interesting…waterfalls are always a win. So in the light morning rain we packed our day hike gear again and traveled and chatted and made our way through the fog. My boyfriend is almost obsessed with Trump news, and we enjoy sharing our theories on what in the world is going on here in the states. How does Trump come up with the crazy stuff he says? How can so many Republicans say “Yes, his comments are often out of line and intolerable, but I’m going to vote for him anyway.” D can’t stand Hillary, like much of the country, and I harbor bitter thoughts that America is misogynistic as hell, and suspect that as racist as some of us can be, even a black man is a better choice than a woman. But I don’t say that out loud.
And before we know it, there’s the waterfall! And it was just what I had hoped for: large, loud, exiting, beautiful.
We climbed around on the rocks and talked to through hikers for a half an hour or so, and suddenly the skies opened up. I gasped out loud “Oh!” And we spent another hour there, watching the clouds lift up and sink down, revealing a different piece of paradise each time. I found myself thinking of the story of Heidi, who goes to live with her grandpa in the mountains. This was a final and perfect gift from the Wilderness, before it was time to hike back down the hill.
A year ago I read a blog post from a friend who had a “good things jar.” (A quick browser search shows that many bloggers have touched this topic before my friend and I.) All year long, when there were notable events or thoughts or accomplishments, it was written onto a piece of paper and put into the jar. The post I read was about the day my friend pulled all those notes out of the jar and read over them.
I was so inspired by the idea, I put together my own good things jar!
I chose one of the large, old-fashioned jars my mother had given me. She was in love with anything old, and particularly loved the old canning jars with glass tops instead of the new metal ones we use today. This jar remains fully functional, with the metal ring still able to tightly hold the glass top. If I were to replace the hardened seal with a new rubber seal, it might be good as new.
Tara chose a piece of artwork, a block print made in art class, to decorate the jar. We screwed on the metal ring lid and then rested the glass piece on top. That way, any time a good thing needed to be added, it was easy-peasy to lift the glass, drop in the note, and put the glass disc back into place. Tara cut up a small pile of scrap paper and put the blanks on the shelf next to the jar. (I have to make things easy for myself – good intentions are not enough to keep me motivated for a whole year!)
Tara and I both added to it all year long. Though we never discussed this in advance, an unspoken agreement grew that we never told each other what we had included, and we never looked into the jar during the year. On New Year’s Day 2015, we pulled out the jar and sat on the floor in the living room, and took turns removing the pieces of paper, one by one. We read the papers we selected out loud to each other, even if the other person had written the note, and then spent a moment remembering the event that caused us to write what we did. Sometimes we didn’t remember. Sometimes we disagreed today (with 20/20 hindsight) that the thing we wrote was a good thing after all.
Some of Tara’s:
- (written on part of a score sheet) “games with Mom, particularly Scrabble”
- “living in an open-minded home” & “welcoming online communities”
- “Daddy got a house”
- “The kind of lonely where you know exactly when you’ll feel better.”
- “the ability to forgive and be forgiven”
- “Dungeons & Dragons” (new group meets at our house Sunday evenings)
Some of mine:
- “I had a wonderful conversation with Javie this week.” My sort of father-in-law, my ex-boyfriend’s dad, was in the hospital. We visited for a long time, I went on a walk in the halls of the hospital with him, he told me Navy stories, we laughed and cried, and he told me he wasn’t scared. He died two days later.
- “identifying birds in my back yard” I’ve become a total bird geek.
- “Thanksgiving. I am grateful that Dennis is the father of my child. I am grateful that we shared this holiday together.” Dennis could not afford a hotel room, so he stayed with me.
- “Tara and I trust each other.” & “Tara and I have a great relationship.”
- “Arno (ex-boyfriend) and I are perfect when we’re not afraid.” Aren’t we all?
- “The AC is not cranked at my workplace anymore!” Now that I work at home, climate control is all mine.
- “Every time something expensive happens, I can afford it. (Malware on computer.)” Yeah, I’m still recovering from the trauma of financial ruin in 2007-2009. Makes me grateful every time I have the money I need. As it should be.
We both wrote about how much we love the cat, ha ha! I wrote multiple times about daffodils and my ability to recover from setbacks. Tara wrote multiple times about having a best friend, and about macaroni and cheese.
In the beginning, I thought it would be a nudge to help us remember to think of the good things in our lives, day to day. And I was right. Every time I’m in the kitchen and see the good things jar, I ask myself, “Is something so good right now I need to record it?” Now that we’ve gone through the whole process, I see that there is also value in looking back and reevaluating each thing with a different perspective. I also got to know more about the secret life inside my child’s head, and I am more in love with Tara than ever before.
Obviously, the jar is already back in its place, waiting for new slips of paper in 2015.
Well, the good news is: I no longer own property in Massachusetts.
Other good news is: I have some pretty awesome friends…
And on top of that: My man is my very best friend, and the best guy I could ever imagine being with (and he’s hot)…
And: somehow, even though I was very recently arguing with a bankruptcy attorney about why I *should* file bankruptcy, and even though I did not make my September mortgage payment on the Mass house because I finally came to terms with the fact that in order to buy groceries I would have to cut something out, and the house was my first choice of the place to default – even with that, somehow in the end my credit is still excellent…
And: in an America where so many, many people are suffering with unfortunate real estate decisions, and the inability to unload their burdens – I sold my home…
And: Even though it sold for a gigantic loss, it only took 4 thousand to close and make it a done deal…
And: Even though that 4 thousand was almost the very last penny we had – we had it…
Yes, when all is said and done, there is a lot of good news to think about. My friend Deb-B said I should fill my cup. “Think of all the good things,” she said “and fill your cup with them.”
In several ways!
Patience and perspective are always the order of the day. Right now I worry about money and that just seeps into everything else. I am not sleeping well, I feel pressure and I’m afraid of the future. My growth is in resisting panic, maintaining my happy spirit, letting go of things I have no control of, believing in myself though I am not getting validation in the form I wish for.
I am still unemployed, and it’s hard to keep my demons quiet. In the midst of persistent mortgage payments, mounds of educational loans, and the need to get my daughter equipped with all her school gear, I ask myself, “What was the point of going back to school? I should have just stayed in that job where I was miserable, and worked rotating shifts and had no chance of advancement… At least I had a paycheck to take care of my family.”
Icky dark thoughts. They do nothing but promote more dark thoughts. Perspective helps me remember what a beautiful life I have, which is full of so many gifts: my daughter, my partner, my family and friends who love me. Though I whine about the cost, I have a home. Though I whine about dipping into my retirement fund, at least I have one to dip into. The things that bring me the most joy don’t cost anything at all, so what, really, have I lost by being poor? I’m not keeping up with the Joneses.
Well! If that’s all it is… I guess I’m just fine after all. Thank goodness!
Comment from the old blog:
Hello my beautiful friend, First, thank you bunches for my birthday gift! It’s so lovely and perfect for my altar. Second, I know how tough this has got to be for you so I’m happy that you’re focusing on the lesson of patience, staying in the beauty of the present moment (perspective), and faith/trust in being supported by the Universe. The whole job hunting process is so hard (even when employed like I am). The job I’m being considered for right now is $10,000 more a year than I’m making and since we’re barely scraping by, with a car that’s about to fall apart, that could make a huge difference for us. I keep telling myself as I go to interview after interview that it’s like dating–it’s about the chemistry, not my worth as a person/employee. Love you and thinking of you…Ophelia