To the Birds, I Go

I may have found my next home. 

It’s in this massive mound of sticks, twigs, and grass, resting in aerial perfection two miles from where I presently live.

It’s been here who‐knows‐how‐long.

I discovered this utopia on Friday when cold weather (relative to Houston!) sent me to the gym, not the sidewalk, for my daily exercise.

On the road, I spied these five dark blobs. Each sat in its own corner atop a single high‐voltage electrical transmission tower, aka Power Tower.

Nearby stood more poles, all bare of any dark spots.

Is that because Deadsville hosts a mile‐long strip of power towers parked in a sea of brown grass? Is that why I walk so fast through here, never looking up to notice anything resting in any tower?

I crane my neck. More questions rush in.

How did I miss seeing these nests in seven years of daily walks? This question begs another: if I missed this, what else do I not see? 

I stop the car, taking photos, including some artsy iPhone flips. Up close, the blobs reveal as bird’s nests. More questions download :

Why did the birds build their houses here?

Lofty height? Warm currents along the wires? Baby bird protection? Access along Power Tower Lane?

My eyes look again, noticing another first: cell phone trifecta up top of the pole.

Is this a double‐duty tower: power and phones in one?

So much looking up and my neck cricks. I glance at the ground, spotting a second first.

This fall’s first batch of hay bales lay, already bound for farmers, at my feet. That’s a seasonal thing around here but it’s earlier than normal.

My imagination launches.

I envision an unfurled hay bundle, sliced to pallet size, sliding up the pole. And me? I’m beyond ready to join the birds. 

Smile meets reality. I’d be looking down, not up.

On second thought, I’ll stay grounded awhile longer.

So much still to be seen down here on terra firma.

More stories to write, too.

The Art Road

What to do during these last few warm days in Houston? Tomorrow we are guaranteed cool weather. A 30 degree temperature drop. I can’t wait!

But last weekend it was still warm and I was restless, so I decided to head over to Sawyer Yards and stroll through some art. Sawyer Yards is a collection of industrial warehouses that have been converted into a thriving creative community with building names like Winter Street, Silver Street, The Silos, among others. It is not unusual for them to have market hours during the weekend when almost every artist is in their studios showing off their work. I have never been able to make it through every building in one evening. There is just too much to see and experience.

Last Saturday evening, I made it through both Winter Street and The Silos. My first stop was at the studio of Marsha Glickman who does a lot of collage work. I was very impressed by the wide variety of materials that she used in her pieces.

Collage is a new artistic passion of mine. I am having great fun taking classes and visiting studios to see how other artists are doing this. There is no end to the types of materials one can use. Magazine pictures, found objects, beads, etc. are all fair game with collage. Here are some examples of Marsha’s work:

Then I made my way to Josena Arquieta who is a painter. Josena and I have teamed up to prepare a study in “Compassion” that will be presented next June at the Holocaust Museum Houston. She will make a visual representation and I will provide an essay.

Here is another example of Josena’s work:

So many talented artists! Never enough time! Never enough money! Never enough art supplies!

By the way, next Tuesday, October 15th, The Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA) is hosting a pop‐up market at the Printing Museum. WIVLA is an organization where creative women can meet and network. Throughout the year there are art shows, poetry readings, and various collaborations among both the literary and visual arts members. At the pop‐up market you can find works of art by a variety of members. There will be a raffle and all types of artisan goods. The Printing Museum is located at 1324 West Clay. The pop‐up market will run from 5:00 p.m. — 8:00 p.m. I hope you can join us!

Until next week.….

The Older, But Better, Road

I got a facial this afternoon. I went to the Greenhouse Day Spa which is by far my new favorite spa here in Houston. I got a facial from Annie. She is excellent. I visit this spa on a regular basis to get both facials and massages. I highly recommend it. However, lately I realize that my conversations with Annie revolve around keeping my skin hydrated and protected from the sun. I now use sunscreen on a daily basis. Does my attention to skin care mean that I am getting old?

Women my age…” I am told have funny little hairs pop up their faces out of nowhere. Well, yes, that occasionally happens to me, but I am quite sure that doesn’t prove anything. Facials used to be just a nice luxury treat rather than a long‐term maintenance plan. Doesn’t the waiting room of Greenhouse Day Spa look relaxing and inviting?

Twice during the past six months I have visited doctors for the most routine of appointments. Okay, so one appointment was for an arthritic knee. Yet, since weight loss surgery and losing enough pounds to have a small humanoid walking beside me everywhere I go and attending routine water aerobics classes, my knee is much better. Thank you. Yet during both of these appointments I heard the phrase, “Women your age…” and “You may start noticing different pains…”. Seriously, just because I now make noises when I stand up after sitting for long periods of time, doesn’t mean a darn thing!

Okay, over a year ago I retired from my full‐time government job. However, I retired early so I could devote the next 30 to 40 years to writing and art. I have been very lucky when it comes to aging. I never had any grey hairs until I was in my 50’s. Wrinkles didn’t seem to become permanent until I was in my 60’s. I am still in my very early 60’s. Medicare is still very much in the future.

I am sure I do not look anything like what I envisioned someone my age to look like when I was younger. I do not feel anything like what I saw people my age feeling like when I was younger. I wonder how younger folks see me?

Fortunately for me, I have never felt better! I haven’t been this active in a long time. I am passionate about both writing and art and now I have time for both. I both write and go listen to other writers. I try my hand a various different types of art and spend a lot of time in art galleries and museums.

I have also noticed that among me and my friends, the older we get the more self‐assured and at peace we are. I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.

Also, another great source of joy is the fact that it is now October. After a very long and hot summer, we are supposed to get our first cool front next week. I have been waiting for this. Now I am off to do some more Halloween decorating. I revel in this time of year. BOO!

Until next week.….

Is Lost Ever Found?

Two miles north of home, I spot him: T‐Rex.

Dirty T‐Rex awaits new home: trash bin?

He’s white‐dirty, covered in grass clippings as if tossed, an afterthought, behind Mower Man.

Is little Dino lost, or now Found‐but‐Forgotten?

I snap a quick picture.

My feet return to hustle‐heart speed.

Amid my heels pounding on the sidewalk, my imagination takes off. I envision a little boy scampering from here to the Next Best Thing.

Maybe he imagined treasure awaiting beyond the approaching hill? My feet speed to a near run.

A quarter‐mile down the sidewalk, I crest the rise and jerk to a stop. There lies a brand new, multi‐colored T‐Rex, still skirted in cellophane. A girl?

Which side is up on Red Rex?

Is this Lost‐but‐Found, V.2.0?

Picture time repeats.

This time, I imagine a little girl who simply does.not.like old dead animals.

Why do I envision Red Rex as a girl’s toy but Dirty T‐Rex belongs to a boy?

And so the flood of questions begins.

Familiar queries rise up from ancient muscle memory: who, what, when, where, how and why here? On a quarter mile strip of sidewalk out in Nowheresville?

Ex‐reporter now daily writer conjures a million stories out of 100 answers that follow. Stories emerge from little boys and girls with old toys who become adults with nightmares. Colors pop, fade, burst. Boredom expands to the unmanageable before eventually, all is forgotten and everything dissolves into none of the above.

Minus the questions, all I really know is that here on a narrow sidewalk, Forgotten became Found, squared, and Lost never existed. Maybe.

I learn that discovery is what matters with its offer of hope and meaning. Maybe what’s left behind is a gift that invites us to make stories of every find we make. 

Do I have a journal problem?

On this Monday, such are the weird wonderings of a walking writer who, as soon as she returns home, writes it all down.

Journals await.

What do you do with what you find?

When Films Beat a Flood

Imelda — she of sudden tropical storm fame — sent me this week not for cover, but to the movies.

Residing in a safe zone — unscarred by any water impact (this time) - DH and I felt desperate for respite from weather sirens and incessant rain drops.

Star Cinema Grill’s Onyx, the new‐to‐us movie theater, beckoned from nearby Richmond. It’s the first cinema of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The big boast centers on its picture screen — a massive 46 feet wide:

Can you spot the tiny rows of seats, all dwarfed by this massive movie screen?

When the screen lit up, my mouth dropped open at the first commercial:

Onyx Dancer prances across a field of fireworks…

The image offered a unique combination of LED picture contrast married to stunning graphics.

Please forgive my obvious commercial plug here. I’ve never had a movie experience like this.

It’s a comfortable space. Ask DH.

He bought us pod tickets. That’s the upper theater section where seats come cordoned off in pairs.

New meaning for two‐peas‐in‐a‐pod?

Blankets, pillows, reclining seats, and extending tables create a viewing environment that spoils.

For the ladies, there’s another first, this one a double: every pod includes a seat light and a purse bench.

Not even airplanes carry such prized additions. Both operate perfectly. White light aims where you point, and bench extends beyond the seat back.

Hmm…if I’d brought a book to the movies, I’d have room to bench it here.

Food abounds as both solid and liquid fare. The latter ranges from basic tap water to high‐octane alcohol.

In another first, menu options reflect gourmet hands. Quinoa and edamame meet buttery popcorn and Junior Mints.

My only complaint?

It’s pricey. A pod costs nearly $40 for two people. Individual ticket price equals $19.75. Cost does not include food or drink — ouch! 

There’s a similar high‐dollar movie place in Houston. $68 per pod pair. With smaller screens. Google tells me its owners filed for bankruptcy mid‐month.

What did we see, you wonder? We viewed a double‐header: Downton Abbey and Ad Astra. The latter smokes the former. Big time, says this amateur film critic.

Spiritual meanderings about the meaning of life beat claustrophobic rantings among an antiquated aristocracy.

The royals didn’t hand out any cool pins.

Rainy days demand more love.

When Roads Flood

Wasn’t it just days ago that Melanie visited the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern? The location that used to hold much of the drinking water for the City of Houston? It is no longer in use.….except to catch flood waters when the rains set in.

I can only imagine that the Cistern is now full of water. Houston, and many surrounding areas have now been dealing with Tropical Storm Imelda for days now. For the longest time, Houston was spared the worst of the rains. However, all of that changed today. Starting overnight and all through today we have been enduring a severe rain storm. It technically started out as a “rain band” from Imelda. Then the the rains started a thing called “training”. A line of storms just keeps raining over and over the same area until everything is flooded.

Much of the talk on the television news reports that have been running all day make many comparisons to Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Allison. Of course this area received 50 to 60 inches of rain during Harvey. So far we have only received 20 to 30 inches of rain with Imelda. There is an ever increasing list of creeks, lakes and bayous that are out of their banks. News reporters are out in the field and have assisted with many rescues of folks who need to evacuate their homes.

The saddest part is that many people who were flooded out by Hurricane Harvey two years ago are once again flooded out by Imelda. Some just moved back into their homes last spring. Other Harvey victims are simply being tested with PTSD today and trying to remember to breathe and relax.

Since the weather wasn’t so bad early this morning, many people made it into work and kids made it to school. Now freeways are both flooded and congested. Schools are letting out, but kids can’t get home and parents can’t get to the schools. Here is a picture of a Metro bus that is close to the Intercontinental Airport. Shortly after this picture made the news Metro suspended all of their routes until “conditions improved”.

Of course there are always those who will get out in the middle of a storm and try to buy one more batch of groceries just in case the lights go out. Here is a glance of the grocery store parking lot near my home. It is not a very good picture, because I was standing out of the rain. I wasn’t going to get any closer. I hope all of these folks made it home safe and sound.

How did I fare? Since I am retired from the local government job I had for many years, I am home safe and sound. My lights flickered a few times earlier while it was lighting and thundering, but the electricity never went out completely. I was supposed to go to hear the Houston Symphony this evening and that has been cancelled. Many streets in the downtown area are flooding or flooded. Much of the downtown Theatre District just got completely up and running after the damage done during Harvey. I have not heard about any damage this time. I am keeping my fingers crossed. Compared to many who have just lost everything for the second time in two years, I am very lucky and thankful.

Until next week.….

When Old Water Brings New Light

I’m tardy with this post. A first in 16 months of blogging. Here’s why:

This place, which I visited last week, left me gasping.

I’m still trying to catch my breath.

What is it, you ask?

It’s an old home. Not for people. For Houston’s drinking water.

That’s what the promotional materials for the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern read. But I see no water here, only transcendence.

My imagination fills in the blanks my mind creates: could this be the image of crossing over? Yes, to There.

Hardly what I expected during last week’s road trip. The cistern was only one more bullet point on my “Houston‐to‐Visit” list. DH’s trek to his home state offered an excuse. And Thursday tours are free at the cistern.

First, I saw the pipes.

At the bottom of this large intake pipe gurgled a small but steady flow of water. It goes nowhere these days. Historical effect equals raw power. Who knew?

That yellow glow near the stair rail triggers first impressions. The down staircase echoes those step effects seen in the initial photo.

My mind surges with otherworldly imaginings: where are we descending to/climbing from? What is that light and where is it guiding us? This first water — does it offer anything to us today?

The tour guide takes us around the full walkway of the cistern. It’s longer than a football field and humid. But only two inches of water cover its surface now.

221 concrete pillars stretch the length and width of the space. Each pillar rises 25 feet high skyward.

Its last fill‐up? Hurricane Harvey, two years ago. Accidentally. The waters rose 17 feet, reaching halfway up the guardrail that tops the cisterns’ sidewalls.

All the light is artificial, installed a decade ago when an irreparable leak forced decommissioning of this reservoir.

Instead of demolishing the space — as is Houston’s historic custom — someone somewhere offered: let’s save this, make it an art space. Two shows — one offering rain, the other light and video — will be followed in 2020 with a third, not yet chosen.

What the cistern rescuers created, in addition, is a holy place.

Everywhere around lay impressions: light and dark, above and below, stair steps and pathways. Water embracing it all.

Images offer symbols, all for later pondering and translation.

As with our dreams, personal interpretation heals best and deepest.

And that’s where our stories begin.

Where Were You?

Where were you? I have now lived long enough to be able to answer any number of these questions. For example:

  • Where were you on November 22, 1963, when President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas?

I was in the first grade in a small Lutheran parochial school in Memphis, Tennessee. My classmates and I were on our way back into our classroom after recess. We all noticed that the 8th graders were watching television. Since this was 1963, watching television during the school day was very unusual. When we were all seated and quiet, our teacher told us what had happened.

  • Where were you on January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded soon after take off?

I was a full grown adult living in Houston, Texas and working for your typical oil company. Since it was the 1980s I was wearing a suit with shoulder pads sewn into the jacket. My heels matched my suit, of course. I was actually traveling to a lunch time meeting when the news broke on the radio station I was listening to in my car. The meeting was with the American Society of Training and Development. I was hoping to develop a career in corporate training. I remember thinking at the start of the meeting, we should take a “moment of silence” in remembrance of the astronauts that were killed. I didn’t mention this to anyone and we didn’t do it. I still regret not speaking up.

  • Where were you on September 11, 2001, when our country was attacked and the twin towers fell?

I was running late for work. In spite of the fact I was trying to hurry, when I looked at the television (I always watch morning news) I saw the first tower on fire with smoke billowing out across the New York landscape. For whatever reason, this image caught my attention and I just sat down and watched. I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Then the second plane flew into the second tower. Our country was under attack. I knew I had to leave for the office. I was a Manager with the Social Services Department within Harris County. I called into the office and spoke with one of the Supervisors. I told him to turn on the television in the client waiting room. I thought both staff and clients needed to know what was happening. By the time I made it to work, the radio was announcing that the Pentagon was on fire. Not much work was done that day, except all clients who had appointments to receive assistance with utility bills and rent were seen and processed as normal. Even if the world is falling apart, there are still people living in poverty who need help with their bills. While all staff continued to help clients, we also stayed glued to the television as much as possible.

I can only hope going forward I have many days of to remember where I was when something good happened.

Until next week.….

Reading & Remembering the Home Team

Sports and me don’t mix. Blame my DNA.

For evidence, I enter my most recent road trip.

Free tickets and curiousity lured DH and me to watch the Houston Astros play Tampa Bay.

We saw our last Astros game in 1993. As in back in the previous century. Our Astrodome was still the 8th Wonder of the World. Nolan Ryan came back to the old home field to pitch one last time. He blew out his elbow and we never attended another Astros game.

Playing ‘gotcha!” with the past — as in three times in one night.

Imagine our surprise last week when, upon arriving at the new‐to‐us ballfield — Minute Maid Park — we spied this. Our first Astros jersey of the night. Ryan? Good old #34 — emphasis on old.

What are the odds that my return to sports would involve the same team and the same player on the same night — 26 years later?

Meaning comes where you find it. Especially when you’re not looking.

Playing with food: a ballpark game for adults only.

By the time we f.i.n.a.l.l.y. maneuvered to our seats, total exhaustion overwhelmed me.

So many people. So much color. So much noise.

Struck out by all the incomings, I returned to my standard healing response: gentle play.

What else to do with a cold pretzel on a hot night?

Look around. Make something new.

Voila! Pretzel + Diamond = Ballpark Playtime. Can you spot the two diamonds?

Reading books: the best game in the universe (all of them).

Afterwards, I turned to my first love: reading.

Yes, I brought books to a professional baseball game. Two of them, because options and variety matter. Like playtime.

My mother taught me well: bring a book because it will always feed you. Life won’t.

Her life‐long mantra echoed in my ear the following morning when I spotted my cousin’s words.

Lila had spotted my reading picture on Facebook. In response, she offered the Compliment of the Year: 

Seventy five years later — Austin to Houston — like mother, like daughter — I’ll gladly be the chip off that old block.

Everyone else can take baseball; I’ll take my books.

Anywhere.

Strange Week On The Road

What a strange week this has been! So much news about hurricanes which is typical this time of year. However, Dorian really is one for the record books. I am sure we will be hearing about the death and devastation for some time now.

Here in Houston I hear people say that they are thankful the hurricane did not come to us. It is so odd to hear (and feel) grateful at another’s misfortune. Yet, it is a sentiment with some wisdom behind it. Sooner or later Houston will endure another hurricane. Too many people are still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. Every year I have the same wish, “Not this year. Please not this year.” So far, so good.

With all of this going on, I have been engaging in a bit of escapism. To begin with I went to the Stages Theatre and saw, Sister’s Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and Other Terrifying Tales. There is a whole series of “Sister Catechism” plays. At Stages they all star Denise Fennell as Sister and they are all hilarious. This one was especially good, because it dealt with Halloween. Now, I am not Catholic. I was raised Lutheran and converted to Judaism. Still, the humor in these plays really crosses all boundaries. Fennell is masterful at working with a lot of audience participation. This is playing until October 13th. I highly recommend you go.

I also went to see the movie, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It was so good I had to go out and read the book. Cate Blanchett stars in the movie. Maria Semple wrote the book. Both women are geniuses. Both the book and the movie are funny and interesting. The main question I have to ask myself is, “Am I a menace to society or do I just need more outlets for creativity?” I think this is a good question any aspiring writer or artist should ask. What do you think? What would happen to you if life handed you both success and failure at the same time?

I have also been reading another book about the life and times of artist, Georgia O’Keefe. It is called, How Georgia Became O’Keefe by Karen Karbo. This book chronicles the life of O’Keefe starting during the time she lived in West Texas as an art teacher. Even in her early days, this woman was determined to live life on her own terms. She did this and continued to do so until she died. I have read many books about O’Keefe, but this one really does take a unique approach to such a fascinating person. I will always be inspired by this artist.

Well, that’s been my week. Later this afternoon, I am going to my new favorite spa, GreenHouse Day Spa for a massage. Books, movies, theater and massage. Sometimes a little escapism is good for the soul.

Until next week.….