Summer Bucket List: A Recap

Today is the first day of Fall, which for most of you means you’re elbow-deep in scarves and blazers and pumpkin spice. For me it means that the long stretches of triple-digit temperatures are FINALLY behind us, but it’s still sweltering on the regular (yesterday it was still 103, btw). Back in May, when it was also sweltering, I posted a fairly ambitious list of things to accomplish over the summer, and despite a LOT of unanticipated changes and craziness over the last few months, I am so proud of myself for really sticking to my plans, which were pretty great to start with.

Summer Bucket List: 2016

    • No sunburns, no tan lines, and religious sunscreen application!
      Yes, ma’am!

Arizona Backyard After 5_feistyharriet_May 2016

    • Finish up the landscaping in the backyard.
      Yep! Also done! And it looks SOOO GOOOD!
    • Schedule a personal day off from work: go to a spa, get a massage, a pedicure, take myself out to a nice lunch, and maybe a movie, just because I can.
      This….did not happen. I need to revisit this idea, stat.
    • Go camping!
      Yep! National Park camping, FTW!

Arizona Backyard After 4_feistyharriet_May 2016

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    • Eat at least one full meal harvested entirely from the backyard garden.
      Mostly yes. It wasn’t a full meal in one sitting, harvest times being staggered and all, but we ate as much produce as our backyard garden would churn out: tomatoes, peppers, butternut squash, herbs, and my fridge is still full of eggplant.

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    • Make homemade ice cream happen.
      Yep. Batches of strawberry, black raspberry, and peach. Delicious!

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    • Visit four new National Parks.
      Three/four. I only made it to 3 new parks (Joshua Tree, Sequoia, and King’s Canyon), but also visited a few National Monuments, so, I’m counting it done.

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    • Go to a rodeo!
      Absolutely. Strawberry Days Rodeo is one of my favorite traditions.
    • Tackle and manage a joint budget with Mr. Blue Eyes.
      Ish? I don’t know if this is complete, meaning finished, but it has been tackled, and tackled again. It’s a work in progress, basically. Merging lives is hard, ya’ll.
    • Continue my current health and exercise regimen.
      Yes! I haven’t lost as much weight as I did in the spring, but I have been steadily improving my speed and distance. I still feel fluffy, but a lot less fluffy than I have for years. This goal will continue for the foreseeable future.

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    • Read a LOT of books. Inside. With the AC blowing directly on me.
      Yep, yep, yep. Fifty-nine since summer started (ok, since I posted this as an item on my summer to-do list).
    • Finish the last bit of painting inside our house: 2 rooms and a closet.
      Well…the closet is done… Ahem.

Ok, so overall, a pretty decent summer, with a lot of food-based highlights…which I didn’t quite realize until I started looking for images for this post, ahem. Additional wins included presenting at a non-work-related conference with a non-profit I’ve contributed to the last couple of years, and starting a new job here in Arizona.

My previous lists and successes, here.

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A million colors of white

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I dabble a bit in painting, I would hardly call myself even an amateur, really. But it’s a fun hobby and I get a ridiculous amount of joy from an afternoon in my little studio with all those little tubes of paint, mixing and painting and remixing and painting on another layer.

There are probably a lot of lessons to learn from mixing and painting, but there is one that I can’t stop thinking about. If you’re trying to make an interesting painting–contemporary, abstract, realistic, whatever–you need lots of layers and subtle differences in color. Red is never just red, in fact, it’s most interesting when it’s got a little green in it. Blue is most interesting with a little orange or yellow in the shadows or highlights, respectively. And white and black are the most realistic when there are bits of all the other colors mixed in.

That image up there is a still life by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. From across the room it looks like floppy white roses; but when you come up close, one white rose is lined in lavender, another in seafoam green, blues and purples, yellows and reds are probably more frequent than straight up Titanium White, the whitest white.

Consequently, the deepest, velvety black patches of paintings have bronze and purple, forest green and burnt umber, and sometimes even stripes of silver or yellow to offset those deep, rich dark colors. (Also, coincidentally, it’s a LOT harder to get a decent cell-phone photo of all that variation with unforgiving museum lighting and guards nervously pacing, anxiously intervening when they think you are too close. Ahem.)

I like to think about people in terms of those flowers, and the dark skirts of Victorian ladies, or the sumptuous midnight backgrounds of Dutch portraits, with gorgeous browns and vibrant reds and inky blues. We all have undertones and edges that change who we are, that reflect where we have been and what we have experienced. The variations and changes, the subtle glint when the light changes, the differences in perception depending on where you stand.

This is what makes us human. This is what makes us interesting. And this is what makes us so dang hard to understand each other, and so beautiful to each other when we finally can see all the colors and undertones and variations that work together for each, individual person.

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Not giving a damn: a prime list

It’s been quite serious around here of late, not that I’ve ever made a habit of not discussing uncomfortable or real situations, but even so, sometimes it’s time for a list.

And because I’m generally crabby and cynical of late, this list will be all the things that I just do not give a damn about:

      1. College football. Okay, all football. And all other Sportsball.
      2. Pumpkin spice.
      3. 99% of TV shows.
      4. Pennies. Completely useless. (Although I no longer throw them away, I now put them in a separate change jar, far away from the rest of my change.)
      5. Award shows. I’m already bored.

        I just don’t give a damn.

      6. Lip gloss, lip stick, lip stain. Can’t do it.
      7. Voicemail. Upgraded my phone last November, haven’t set up my voicemail yet, which is an improvement from my previous phone where I’d just go months and months not listening to the messages. At least now people are aware they couldn’t leave a message.
      8. Trying to figure out Instagram stories…I just…meh. Not interested.
      9. Other people’s opinions on my taste in music or books or the 1% of TV shows that I enjoy. (A note: I don’t have “cool” or “trendy” or even “popular” taste in any of those areas. And I don’t care.)
      10. Celebrities…I cannot keep up with the gossip/romance/weight loss/whatever.

        Yep, don’t give a damn.

      11. Lately, Facebook. I go through phases, the last few months I’ve been on the outs with Facebook and have not noticed any significant decrease in my online happiness.
      12. Boutique hotels. Honestly, 9 out of 10 times I’d rather just book something I know will be clean and reliable, and if that’s a chain, great. I do not need hipster sheets on my vacation.
      13. Flossing. I’ve tried to care, I have, but I just don’t. Sorry, Dentist.
      14. Video games. I literally have never even played a Mario game. Ever.
      15. “Tradition.” I’m not a monster, I like upholding and creating new family traditions or self-care traditions or what-have-you. But I refuse to do something stupid or ridiculous for the sake of *cue Tevye arms* TRADITION!Don’t give a damn.

        Yep. Fiddler on the Roof reference, right there. Told you I don’t have cool taste in music.

        Still don’t give a damn.

      16. The brand of my yoga/workout pants, only requirement is they be black.
      17. My eyebrows.
      18. Star Wars. Star Trek. The enormity of the difference between the two.
      19. The fact that diet soda will probably kill me, I’m drinking it anyway.

        I just don’t give a damn.

For some reason, I feel it necessary to mention that “I don’t give a damn” was the 7th iteration of this sentence. Various other swears and combination swears-some quite funny–were typed in, and deleted. Honestly, “damn” was the least funny and least crass….but ultimately, the things I don’t give a flying fuck about are a lot more antagonistic than this fairly banal list. For example: I don’t give a flying fuck about bigots, perverts, Trumpists, racists, misogynists, dickwads, rape apologists, zealots, and anti-feminists. But, I am a lot more adamantly opposed to those things than I am to, say, the Emmy’s, or Star Wars, which hardly register on my consciousness.

Confession: it took many minutes to decide that a) it’s time to go to bed instead of come up with one more thing about which I am apathetic; b) 19 is a perfectly acceptable number of things in a list, because 19 is a prime number. And while there are 19 things I don’t give a damn about, the prime-ness of the number of items on that list is something about which I am deeply concerned.

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Around, and around, and around

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Do you ever feel like you fluctuate between two opposite extremes? One day you want fuzzy slippers and leggings, the next some killer shoes and a sharp blazer that Stacy, Clinton, and Tim Gunn would swoon over. Or maybe one day you’re all about salads and lean protein, and then next it’s chips and guac, mac & cheese, and a bucket of ice cream.

Right now, I’m caught on this particular roller coaster, constantly swinging from side to side, with a few moments of contentment somewhere in the middle. One day I want a lovely back yard and garden (which are truly lovely, and I still love them) and the next I want to sell everything and spend my life wandering. Or I want a nice, stable, dependable job with state benefits and a reserved parking spot…but then I want to spend 3 years in a creative commune and, I don’t know, go hunting for berry pigments to turn into dye, or paint, or pie (I’m not entirely sure what happens at a creative artist commune, clearly.).

When I get knocked off kilter, it sometimes takes me a while of flailing around to find my center again. I feel like I can see where that center path is, but I keep missing it, criss-crossing it haphazardly, but slowing the pendulum swing…eventually I’ll find my feet confidently walking where I want them to be, and until then, I’m just trying to survive the ride.

It occurred to me in the last few days that I probably need to be on medication. Again. I have always dabbled around the edges of depression and for the last few years have also been fighting anxiety attacks and overwhelming moments of panic stemming from everyday situations. I’ve tried therapy and meds, and more meds and different therapy. And those things have all helped to some extent; but depending on how extreme and powerful the forces in my life…well…I think it’s time to up my meds.

 

 

I know that part of my issues of late have nothing to do with my brain chemistry, they would be shitty for anyone in my shoes. I also know that my particular brain chemistry sometimes needs a little boost to stay even. So, while I know my doc–who is well acquainted with my brain–wouldn’t hesitate to re-write me a prescription for something to help me manage my day-to-day; part of me wonders if that’s a cop out. Wonders if it’s my brain, or if it’s just the situation. I don’t want to be broken, but I also sometimes wonder if I’m gas-lighting myself. And then I remind myself for the umpteenth time that regardless of why, it’s okay to not be okay. And it’s okay to take meds, or go to therapy, or do whatever it is that works in order to get back to a place of feeling okay again. And when I, myself, try and convince myself otherwise…well, that’s not a very healthy behavior, now is it.

Oh, the hamsters in my brain, if you could only see and appreciate how they work, and how they work me over. It’s exhausting.

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When you can’t see the trees from the fire in the forest

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Earlier this summer I took myself on a detour-road trip on my way to San Francisco for a wedding. As I drove through King’s Canyon National Park I was stunned and terribly saddened by the devastating damage from a recent forest fire. The photo above was taken at the end of May; there should be carpets of green covering everything, tender new shoots and leaves everywhere. Instead, everything was charred and dead, it seemed like the fire had consumed as far as I could see. However, when I got out and started exploring, there were thousands of wildflowers peeking up through the ashes and burned stumps. Maybe they stood out more to me because of their charcoal background, but in that setting they were absolutely vibrant in a way that could only exist with the fire scars surrounding them.

Sequoia National Park_feistyharriet_2016Later that day, in Sequoia National Park, I wandered for miles through the giant trees; there was a particular little spot where most of the trees had been gutted and scarred by a forest fire (or twenty); it seemed like every tree had gaping black gashes on it’s body. Yet, even with so much lost to the blaze, these trees continued to grow, putting out new branches and needles. I read at the Ranger Station that some Sequoia trees had survived dozens of forest fires in their hundreds of years in the forest. They have adapted to be able to absorb the flash-point heat of a quick-moving fire, and some even need that heat in order for their seeds to germinate. I spent a lot of time in one particular grove, trying to capture these giants with burned out canyons rising twenty or forty or sixty feet up their bodies, charred bark to their heart, deep enough to swallow my length of my arm.

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And yet, the forest continues to grow; the forest is healthier because of the fires. The necessary adaptions and evolutions of the trees in order to survive for hundreds of years is the reason places like Sequoia NP and Redwood NP exist. Sequoia trees are some of the oldest, largest, and strongest living creatures on earth, able to withstand heat and cold and fire and drought and earthquake and any other kind of natural disaster (or man-made disaster) that has been thrown at them for thousands–literally, thousands of years. Those trees are thriving, with the yawning black cracks likes badges of honor.

This last little while as I’ve been both reeling from my own personal fire, and also feeling sorry for myself (yes, I’ve been wallowing), I had forgotten about these trees; I’d forgotten how long I wandered among their burned trunks, putting my hands in the scars and trying to wrap my head around how they were still alive and growing and expanding. I had forgotten. I’m not sure what jogged my memory, but I’m glad it did. Everything may be on fire, but it won’t always be on fire. The flames will die out, the smoke will clear, and the coals will eventually stop smoldering. And yes, I’ll probably carry some scars from the experience, but I am a fucking Sequoia: a fire cannot destroy me.

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P.S. Thank you to all who have reached out in concern; I haven’t responded to many, I’ve literally been just trying to breathe. Last night’s epiphany about the Sequoia’s was an a ha! moment for me, a crisp, swift breeze that brought me hope I haven’t felt since this whole thing started. Yes, I’m being vague. I’m sorry. Actually, I’m not sorry. This is my little corner of the internet, and I use my writing as therapy. You’re the weirdly voyeuristic part-stranger who is reading my therapy sessions for recreation.

P.P.S. THANK YOU, all you voyeuristic weirdos! You are My Tribe.

P.P.P.S. ooxxooXoXXx