Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Winter Saga

On October 20, 2016, I officially became a recluse. The cause? Having to give up driving because of my narrowed field-of-vision due to Glaucoma. The serenity of my reclusion changed recently with a fifteen-day saga that ended on February 20.  During those fifteen days, I met a plethora of helpful and concerned strangers, all of whom made my problems theirs. Here’s the story:

Upon rising at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, February 5, I turned the thermostat up from 58° to 70°. Ten hours later, the temperature had risen only to 68°. I noted this, but thought little of it. \It happened again on Saturday. Then Sunday. Clearly something was wrong. 

On Monday I called a recommended furnace repair service. Marvin came the same day, checked the furnace (“Fine!”), then examined the filter onto which was attached a quantity of insulation.

“Must be a hole in one of the attic flex ducts,” he said. Deftly, he climbed the ladder and disappeared into the attic. (I have no basement.) 

When Marvin came back down, he said, “Ms. Ready, you must have some animals in the attic because I found eleven places where the flex ducts were ripped open.” 

Many nights in the past four years, I’d heard the sounds of racing, especially above my bedroom. I’d pictured a nightly Indianapolis 500. However, friends and family members thought the sound was just squirrels scampering on the roof. Stilling my inner voice that thought differently, I’d ignored the sounds. Result? All along the pounded-down insulation were eleven way-stations providing heat to the merry marauders. 

Before the duct work could be repaired, the animal(s) had to be caught. Another call and explanation. On Wednesday, February 10, Ben came, walked around my one-story home, found an entrance/exit hole right above my bedroom, and set a trap beneath the soffit. 

Ben returned the next day and found a trapped raccoon. He reset the trap and returned for the next four days. Concluding on the 16th that the raccoons had vamoosed, he nailed some sort of metal sheet to cover the hole. Marvin then returned on the 17th to repair the ducts. Yesterday, insulation was blown into the attic that would, Greg assured me, save me considerably on my heating bills. 

During those fifteen days, the house grew increasingly chilly. Starting on the 8th and ending on the 17th (the days of the Arctic Vortex rampage from Texas to the East Coast), the furnace valiantly tried to heat the rooms, the attic, and the air outside that raccoon entry. The task was impossible. For eight days, the room temperature hovered between 58° and 61°. For two days it got up to 63°. I bundled up and looked like the Michelin Man. 

One last thing: On Monday morning, the 15th, at 1:14 A.M. a neighbor’s security camera recorded that someone drove her/his car down the street, onto my driveway, and into my garage door. I heard a loud bang. Thinking it was a raccoon overhead, I simply turned over and went back to sleep. The next morning, when I opened the kitchen door to the garage, I discovered light pouring in from the bottom two panels of the four-panel overhead garage door. 

More calling and explaining to seven different people. Ultimately, a police officer came; someone from an overhead garage door company; and someone from the insurance company.

Brian, the garage door representative, proved to be a “prince of a man.” He used his clenched right fist, his right hip, his booted feet, a hammer, and an electric screw driver to gerrymander the damaged panels backs into a position that he could lock. “You’re safe,” he said, “until the door comes.” 

I was safe. Cold but safe. And I tell you that feeling safe was more important to me than feeling warm. 

Thus, did the month of February shatter my seclusion/reclusion. How fortunate I was to meet and talk with such helpful, courteous, friendly, concerned service representations who saw me as a fellow human being and not as a statistic or a bloodless number. 

My Meniere’s mantra has always been the following prayer of Julian of Norwich, who lived during the Black Death pandemic of the mid-fourteenth century: “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceedingly well.”

So it has been and is and will be for me. Gratitude wells up from the deep center of my being where Oneness dwells.


PS: For those of you who left comments for my previous posting, I finally was able to respond. So if you're interested, please scroll down and read the thoughts that came to me after reading your welcomed comments.

Photographs from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Inspired to Walk the Walk

Way back in October 2019, I published the historical novel The Reluctant Spy. A month later, I had a left knee replacement. The recuperation from that was both difficult and disappointing. It’s been fifteen months since then; problems persist. In addition, two of the three cats with whom I live have had health concerns that involved visits to the vet and my vigilant attention for six months.

Those health concerns coupled with two others—vision and Meniere’s—contributed to my not publishing in 2020. However, something more basic explains my not writing: I slipped—perhaps plunged—into a malaise accompanied by a hefty dose of self-pity. Throughout the past year, I stepped backward into the start-and-stop writing pattern of the years 1989-2016, when I wrote the memoir Prayer Wasn’t Enough.


To illustrate that pattern, I’ll share with you the on-again-off-again writing of those twenty-seven years. Right now, on this computer, I have the following:

·      a rough draft of a historical novel, which takes place in Bronze-Age Greece; 

·      a rough draft of a contemporary novel about four ex-nuns and the mystery tying them together;

·      partials of two cat books—one about the Stillwater cats and one about the cat saints who followed the teachings of Bastet-Net, the great god of cats, whom some of you may have met in The Gift of Nine Lives.

·      a series of prose poems in which angels comfort those of us living with the problems of simply being human;

·      two children’s stories—both about enterprising cats; 

·      partials of two memoirs: my childhood and the ten years after I left the convent. 


If I were a follow-through person who wasn’t easily bored when in the midst of a project, all the above, except for the memoirs, would be finished and published by now. But, once again, the truth is that I start things and don’t finish them. I move on to a new challenge. So, all those first drafts and partials await the work of completion: the final polish, the edit, copyedit, and publication.


I simply haven’t been equal to that in the past year or so. An old Chinese adage is that “the journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step,” but I simply haven’t been able to take that step forward. That’s the malaise speaking. And, perhaps, also the self-pity.


In the final week of 2020, however, I figuratively took myself by the scruff of my neck and asked, “Is this the way you want to live? You say you want to write—that it’s your passion. Yet you do nothing. You talk the talk; you neglect to walk the walk. Get with the program, Dee!”


The prompt for that admonishment? The ongoing journey with stage 4 cancer that my “adopted” grand-daughter Elisa is going through. She’s living her new life with courage and joy. She continues to work—at home—to earn a living. She continues to write her own books. She continues to play board games with her children, listen to them recount their school day, celebrate their lives.


Despite the prognosis given her by the cancer specialists, she hasn’t put her own life on hold. 


Her uplifting attitude prompted my letting go of the grip of that octopus we call “malaise/depression/down in the dumps/the blues.” She inspired me that last week of December; she inspires me still.


Since January 1, I have been writing at least a half hour each day. I’m working on a childhood memoir in which I explore the painful events that led to my emotional immaturity in the convent and beyond. Wish me luck!