Sunday, May 31, 2020

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

It has been a hell of a week!

Our 15-year-old granddaughter Olivia had been staying with us since the beginning of April. She ran away from home in very early March. It sounds silly but things were "okay" until the coronavirus lock-downs began. Her parents knew where she was (sort of) and she was in some sort of communication. When  schools closed and her therapy sessions were suspended, it became a very scary situation. She agreed to come live with us. At least she would be with family and on an island with no place to run to.

After a short while, the island, in lock-down, became overly oppressive. She wanted to go back to the mainland. We were all pretty sure she just wanted back so she could run away again. She talked with her mother nearly every day. In a three-way conversation with her mom and her therapist, Olivia finally agreed to come home and stay home. Last Wednesday, we put her on a plane to Baltimore. Her mom picked her safely at the airport. When they got home, Olivia asked for a few minutes alone before she went in. Her mom said ok and went in the house.

Somewhere between Monday when she found out she was going back and Wednesday afternoon, she arranged for some one to pick her up with a car. Within five minutes she was gone. She never even got a foot in the door.

PANIC! She was in the wind and no one had any idea where. There were some indications she might be headed either to Virginia or New York with people who may or may not be adults. Police were called.


Because she continued to post on Instagram and to have limited contact with her mother, the police did not believe she was in trouble. There was no indication she was in danger. She was "just a run-away" which is not illegal.

Since then, she has continued contact with her mother. The belief is she is not far from home. There is no indication she is running farther. Even though we don't know exactly where she is, for a number of reasons (if we aggressively try to find her, she may run truly in the wind. If we find her and bring her home, then what? How do we keep her from running away again?) the decision was made to leave her "in place" as long as she continues to communicate.

That was Wednesday, May 20.

Ben and his mother last September.

A few days before, on Saturday, Elaine went to visit our nephew Ben in the hospital. It's been difficult to get any real information but Elaine did talk to his nurses and they said, "We may be looking at hospice." As soon as Elaine told me, I called my sister, Ben's mother, and said "You need to get here." His sister Annie and Maggie got here on Tuesday. His mother came Friday afternoon, May 22, and got to the hospital around 5:00 PM. Ben died a few minutes after 9:00 PM.  His nearly year-long struggle with cancer was over.

“Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love.
The only way that I can “handle” Grief, then, is the same way that I “handle” Love — by not “handling” it. By bowing down before its power, in complete humility.

When Grief comes to visit me, it’s like being visited by a tsunami. I am given just enough warning to say, “Oh my god, this is happening RIGHT NOW,” and then I drop to the floor on my knees and let it rock me. How do you survive the tsunami of Grief? By being willing to experience it, without resistance." --Elizabeth Gilbert

Grief is a funny terrible thing. Some people need to separate themselves, isolate, to have space and solitude to grieve and process. Others want to surround themselves with friends and loved ones. Sometimes those two different needs crash head-on into each other. We've had a bit of that. My sister and nieces want to batten down in San Juan. We want to be with them, all of us together sharing this grief. They feel we're intruding; we feel left out.  It's a funny, terrible thing.

May 31, Update: As happens a lot these days, after I started writing this, I got sidetracked. The next day, May 27, Olivia was found. Someone recognized her from a police bulletin and called the "tip line." She was in Newport News, Virginia, about three-and-a-half hours from home in Tacoma Park, Maryland. We don't know exactly how she got there. Police picked her up and held her until her mother got there to take her home.

So for now, she is safe and at home. It's not pretty and there is a lot of hard work ahead. But she is safe. That is at least one less thing to I have to worry about.

Ben's body was cremated on Friday.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday, May 11, 2020 Day I've totally lost track

 About a week ago I found a list of Daily Quarantine Questions online. We ask each other these questions every night at dinner.

1. Who am I checking in or connecting with today?

2. What expectations of "normal" am I letting go of today?

3. How am I getting outside today?

5. How am I moving my body today?

6. What type of self-care am I practicing today?

7. What am I grateful for today?

8. What was my "best moment" today?

It turns out these are pretty good questions to ask yourself every day, regardless of the quarantine.

Hope everybody is healthy and staying safe/

Friday, May 08, 2020

Fifty years ago _May 4, 1970

This week, May 4 was the 50th anniversary of the killing of four students and the wounding of nine others at Kent State University in northeast Ohio.

That weekend, when there were no cell phones and many cars only had AM radios, some friends and I went camping. We didn't learn of the tragedy until late Sunday afternoon when we returned to the Wilmington College campus. (Wilmington College is in south central Ohio between Cincinnati and Columbus, about three hours or so from Kent.)

The campus, like most of the country, was in chaos, trying to figure a way to respond to the horror of American soldiers killing American students. Eventually it was decided that we would join students and faculty from other colleges in a rally at the state capitol in Columbus. We, the Wilmington students would walk from our campus to the statehouse and join the other schools.

I was on that march. We had to go the long way round to avoid Washington Courthouse, then the "home" of the John Birch Society in Ohio. The first night out we slept in a generous farmer's field, a cow pasture if I remember right. We woke in the morning with frost on our sleeping bags. The second night, a number of generous Friends (Quakers) just outside Columbus allowed us to sleep in their homes. The rally/protest at the State capitol was planned so we, those who walked to get there, would arrive first. We hung out on the capitol steps, a bunch of tired, mostly out of shape hippies who just walked roughly 75 miles in three days. There were plainly visible police snipers on the roof of the hotel across the street from the capitol and on the the roof of the capitol itself. Just to be sure we saw their show of force, the Ohio State police in full riot gear marched out of the capitol and surrounded the building Other state troopers came out and, again in full view to be sure we saw, issued tear gas grenades to to police surrounding the building. As tragic and horrible as our reason for being there was, fortunately the rally was peaceful, with no more violence.

This photo of the rally was taken by my classmate and friend David Fink (who also taught me a lot about photography).

This article about Wilmington College student, staff, and faculty participation appeared Monday, May 4, on the WC website.

In this Op/Ed in the New York Times, Dr. Richard M. Perloff, a professor at Cleveland State University, makes the case that the killings at Kent State were a watershed moment in American history. The effects of this moment are still being felt today in our ever-more radically polarized society. 

My fifteen-year-old granddaughter thinks history is boring. (Don't all fifteen-year-olds?) I tried to tell here that history, despite the way it is taught, is not always big, important people doing big important things. Sometimes we, the little people, are in the middle of making history. 

She, right now, in this time and place, is part of a history that her children and grandchildren will read about. (I hope they will still be reading!) And when they read about the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, she can tell them, "I was there! This is what it was really like."

Friday, May 01, 2020

Friday, May 1, 2020

Nearly two months in and the lockdown in Puerto Rico has been extended until May 25.

HOWEVER - as of today outdoor exercise - walking, walking dogs, jogging, biking, etc. - are now allowed. That means I don't have to hide from the police boat when I take the dogs for a morning walk on the beach. It's funny: today's walk really felt freer and was much less tense, much more relaxed, without having to worry about getting busted. Honestly, we were only bothered one day but the "threat" was always there. Now - WOOHOO! The beaches are still closed to activities like surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving though.

Some businesses, mostly one-on-ones like attorneys, insurance agents, engineers, and realestated offices can open by appointment starting Monday.

Things are starting to loosen up.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Wednesday, April 8 2020

the lure of freedom in the time of coronavirus

So like you (I hope!), we are "social distancing." Puerto Rico continues to have the most restrictive rules in the country and with recent changes even more restrictive.

The curfew was moved back from 9:00 PM to 7:00 PM and is in effect until 5:00 AM. People are only permitted out during those hours for medical emergencies. What days we can go out to the grocery or pharmacy are now determined by the number on the car's license plate. If your plate number ends in an even number, you can travel on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If it's an odd number, your days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Sundays grocery stores are closed and you can only buy gasoline and medical/personal items, no food, drinks, etc., and then only for emergencies. This weekend everything will be closed Friday, Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Gonna be a long weekend!

I've stopped taking the dogs to the beach for walks. Now we just walk around the property. It's not the same but at least it's outside, fresh air, and some exercise. I've been doing a lot of grass cutting and fence clearing around the farm.

Elaine spends a lot of time watching horse training videos on the computer so my computer time is limited. I have managed to get some time to experiment a little with some different photography ideas. The image above is one. Here are a couple more:

More to come. Stay safe!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Spring in the time of coronavirus II

In many ways this is a stranger time than the year after the hurricane. After the hurricane, we had no electricity, no Internet, sometimes no water, and only limited contact with the outside world. We had no real news. Within our own small contexts, we had contact, companionship, community, family. We could come together to help each other do what needed to be done, to care for each other, to help each other get through the grief and the fear and the darkness.

In this strange time we have all those things we were missing - electric, water, Internet, TV, news. (Although how "real" any of the news is is debatable.) But - by design and intent - we have very little human contact.

It's surreal. In a place where cheek kisses and invasions of personal space are the norm, people now stand apart from each other, trying to ignore the person closest to them because that person might be infected or might be a carrier. We cannot, we are forbidden to come together for comfort.

The fear - and the danger - are real. But they are exacerbated by a national government more focused on the "leader's" self-image than the national welfare. The media - the "news" - is either down-playing the threat or over-hyping the sensational. Either way, it is not helpful.

The "social-distancing," whether imposed from within or by decree as it is here in Puerto Rico, is already taking a toll. And there is no end in sight.

We are actually quite fortunate. Our finances are not dependent on a pay-check-to-pay-check job. And we don't live in an apartment. Our house is open and airy; we have a yard for our dogs to play in. We have 22 acres of ranch that we can be in without "leaving home." In fact, to tend to the well-being of our horses, we have to be out in the farm. So we have it much better than many others. And we have each other.

But I miss going out with friends to Ola Lola's. Or dinner with Carole. I miss our Horses of Hope volunteers and riders. I wish we could bring them to the ranch. But you know what I mean. I'm sure you're in the same state of isolation (unless you're doing spring break in Florida). We're all in it together, even if we're separated. And we're in it for the long haul.

Stay safe.

 Spring in the time of coronavirus

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

"May you live in interesting times." --ancient Chinese curse

These times are nothing if not interesting! Where do I start?

Two weeks ago I did my first DPV (Diver Propulsion Vehicle) scuba dive. I was really excited! I waited over a year for this dive.

DPVs are basically underwater scooters. Divers use them to zip around underwater, kinda like flying, or as one diver put it, "It's like riding a motorcycle underwater." With a DPV a diver can reach dive sites that are too far away for normal swimming. Because the DPV is doing the work, divers don't use as much air - they're nervous like I was. (For all that, I only used a little more air than the instructor.)

We went out into Aguadilla Bay where there are a surprising number of boat wrecks. Hurricane Maria and the "big wave event" the following March moved a lot of sand and uncovered stuff that's been covered for years. Some of the sand has started to fill back in and cover stuff again but it was still very cool!

When I got out of the water, I sent Elaine a text telling her I was out and safe and headed home, just like I do after every dive. She sent me back a message, "Call as soon as you can."

Two of our horses escaped in the night and were no where to be found. She spent the several hours I was gone looking for them. I started looking for them even before I got home. Nothing. No sightings. We made flyers and posted them all up and down the road. By nightfall they still weren't back. About 8:00 PM, just about 24 hours since they were last seen, Elaine heard what wounded like a car crash up on the main road. She went to see what happened and if anyone needed help. She called me. "It's Cas (one of our missing horses). He's dead." He was walking in the road, on his way home we think, and was hit by a car. The only two good things were the driver was not injured and Cas was killed instantly. He was not lying in the road in pain waiting for a vet to come put him down. Meanwhile, through a crazy. nearly miraculous chain of events, Elaine found Yunque, the other missing horse. We were able to get him safely through the chaos of police cars, flashing lights, tow trucks and rain and back home.

The next week was spent in shock and grief, building and rebuilding fences. Yunque escaped once to look for his missing buddy but fortunately didn't go far and we got him back in quickly.

Cas was our adventurer. For him the grass was always better just on the other side of the fence. He could and would go through, around, or over most fences. We found out after the fact that one of the neighbors on the main road actually saw him jump the perimeter fence! Run free, Casanova. I hope there are no fences and nothing but lush green grass where you are. We miss you.

As I write this, Puerto Rico is under lockdown because of the coronavirus. There is a mandatory 9:00 PM - 5:00 AM curfew. Only essential and emergency traffic is allowed. All non-essential business are closed until March 30. Restaurants can open but only for carry-out, no table seating. Even essential businesses - gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores - have to close at 6:00 PM. Schools of course are closed. Swimming beaches are closed. Everyone is supposed to stay in their homes unless they have to go our.

It is so eerily quiet. No traffic sounds, no music blaring from cars roaring down the road. The silence is even more profound than after the hurricane when we had no electricity. The post-hurricane sound track was the constant drone of generators. We have electricity so there is not even the generator noise. Anything that disturbs the silence - our neighbor cutting his grass for example - is jarring and feels out of place.

I hope our island gets a chance to recover soon. First the hurricane then earthquakes now this pandemic. It's tough going.

Y'all be safe and stay healthy!