Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sculpting a Day.

Yesterday it rained.  It was one of those days that you know, before you’re even fully conscious, that it is the perfect day to stay in the warmth and coziness of the bed nest.  Unfortunately, there are those of us for whom nature will not abide cool rainy mornings at the end of summer.  I had to get up and pee.  I had to get up because I had an appointment for a massage.  How hard can it be to get up and go for a massage on a Saturday morning?


I can make hard work of just about anything.  The reason I have so many unfinished projects littering my life is that I make all of them into something so vast with so many layers of complexity that I just cannot work up the energy to complete any of them.  Granted, I love nothing more than to get into one of my creative projects, the kind that has its intestinal parts strewn from the front door through the front room, into the living room and onto the large kitchen table.  These are the projects that I love to live with for days and sometimes weeks on end. 


I can visit them every morning in various states of undress while on my way to the kitchen.  We see each other in all our unadorned incompleteness.  There are days I don’t make it to the kitchen for hours because of a conjugal visit with one of my projects.  This is not always a good thing – to commit to art before caffeine.


When I was sculpting my triptych of the three phases of a woman’s life, I spent many mornings working in my underwear in the living room.  Not having the luxury of a studio, I had the pieces arranged in the living room.  The piece I was working on at the time, The Maiden, was giving me all manner of psychological and spatial fits.  I wanted her emerging from the earth among the roots of the tree I used as a connecting force for the pieces.  At first she was strangled by the roots, she was in completely the wrong place, even though she had a face Matisse would have loved. 


I had to learn a serious lesson in art with this piece.  She had to be freed from the roots; she had to be moved.  My instructor, Ski, took one of my tools and made huge gashes through her beautiful face, her hands, the roots, through other sections of the piece. 

            “ You have to move her from here, to here.  You can whack or you can whittle.”

I chose to whack.  Mainly because I couldn’t bear to live with those gash marks.  I moved her and in the process freed her from the root prison where I had placed her.


It hurt me to remove her beautiful innocent face piece by piece, scraping the grey Roma clay from her bones, pulling her hands apart and laying them piece by piece in a new location.  Like a forensic scientist, I reassembled her, centered her, and freed her all at once.  It seemed like an incredibly long process.  After a few hours, her face was almost completed; her bones were covered with the new skin of youth and she was emerging once again from the clay like a face emerging from the surface of still water.  Ski told me the process changed me from a woman with a project into an artist.


Artistry has its price as well as its process.  You have to be willing to live with frustration and undergo regular visitations with pain.  It’s almost like living with cancer; the best you can hope for is survival.


The Maiden sat on the inclined artist table in the living room.  She beckoned to me each morning of that summer to come work on her, to finish the whacking job with the finesse of whittling.  The whack or whittle thing is really not a choice, regardless of which you choose, you still have to, or end up doing, both.  Many mornings, in the rising warmth of my old house I paused, picked up the tools and began to whittle.  I worked patiently on the hands.  I wanted them to evoke both softness and strength, a delicacy of self love and a fierceness of self protection.  I held up my own hands, inspected the photos I had taken of my daughter’s hands, I whittled into the heat of the summer mornings.


By the end of summer the hands embraced but barely whispered over the skin of the Maiden’s face, long slender neck, gently curving shoulder, and rising breast.  On my sleepy-eyed journey to the kitchen I would pause to inspect her.  I felt a mix of pleasure and uncertainty – there was something terribly wrong and I just couldn’t place it.  The face had matured under the plastic surgery of relocation; the hands became more real, free and loving rather than struggling out of the roots.  What was the problem? 


Some problems are hidden in plain sight; they await discovery with an abiding anticipation.  My hidden problems are often like those pictures hidden under a repeated graphic – no matter how long I stared, no matter how many different ways I scrunched up my eyes I could never manage to see the picture hidden in a plethora of small designs.  My children could not comprehend my particular form of blindness.


Some problems are just sensed rather than seen.  They defy a full on stare; they flicker through the periphery of our consciousness until one day we realize there is something flying through wearing fuchsia pink tights, orange brocade shawl, and burgundy pumps.  It demands our immediate attention.  That’s how it happened.  One morning on the way to the kitchen, I didn’t stop, but I saw it, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the full deformity of it all. 


And, it stopped me in my tracks.


There’s only so much you can do when faced with a self-created monstrosity.  After staring for a long time in complete disbelief, after checking to make sure I was finally seeing things as they really were, I began to laugh.  First it was an embarrassed behind the hand titter with a check to ensure that no one else was watching.  Who would be watching into the life in my living room?  Then it was a full on laugh, followed by exasperated sighs of frustration.  I picked up the tools and began to work.  How had I managed to do this?  How did I miss seeing it? 


Epiphanies are like that – surprising and simple.  I want to believe they are also timely but sometimes I wonder if the Gods simply want something to laugh at.  I had managed to sculpt two beautifully constructed right hands on my self-embracing Maiden. 

I have learned that it is easier to whack at mistakes rather than whittle away at them.  Even if they are resurrected in a new deformity, they provide the possibility for future learning.  And that, I guess, is what happens to some of my days, especially the cool rainy ones.  Yesterday my body did not want to participate in the day but I dragged it to the luxury of a massage and ultimately it was grateful.  The day that remained rainy saw me in a chair, not doing a whole lot, allowing the massage to permeate every cell membrane, playing with my laptop, watching for a break in the rain over New York so the tennis could actually happen. 


The rain didn’t stop.  I didn’t do anything creative the entire day.  I didn’t do anything that exerted brain or body the entire day.  I lazed and I dozed.  I read a book.  The only mistake was that somewhere along the line, I berated myself for doing nothing much of anything for the day.  I know better than to abuse myself that way. 


There’s a large gash in the clay of yesterday.  My perception of it has to be moved.  It needs to be freed from the prison of my busy little internal “doer” who every now and again will arise to pee on my parade, usually the parade where I am well fed and cared for and carried on a lush litter through the day.   


            Written while awaiting the final of the U.S. Tennis Open.



Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Zen of Whining

I feel like sitting here and filling my empty coffee cup with tears; tears of frustration and self-pity.  Some Saturday mornings are like that – full of frustration and self pity accompanied by the smell of  On What Grounds coffee, the clank, huff, and whistle of the espresso machine, the tramp of feet past my wrought iron perch, and a funky New Orlean’s style version of “You Can’t Take That Away From Me.”


I feel as if everything has already gone – nothing left to take except the wanting.  The small hoped for things that aren’t really things but hang in the air like silver spoon wind chimes constantly tinkling in the wind reminding me over and over of the song I want to sing.  Not that I’m a singer, it’s some kind of Zen reference to finding your own note, your own unique note in the Universe and sounding it.


Sometimes I just want to smack those Zen things but there’s nothing tangible there, nothing that will sound with a solid thwack.  They just hang around, sometimes in my peripheral vision and sometimes square center in the core of my being.  Some of the time they give me a little more endurance to keep on hanging in with the wanting and the living life on life’s terms. 


There’s a story that keeps regurgitating itself into my memory.  It’s the story about the artist student going to the Zen master who has her paint a blue check mark day after day, week after week, month after month until she finally complains more loudly and vehemently than usual.   So the Zen master takes her latest effort of a blue check mark painting away.  He comes back a little while later and beckons her to go with him.  Now, this is the point where violins should start shrieking in the background; it is not a Hallmark moment about to happen.  The student has to make a choice whether to follow and receive the inevitable Zen slap upside the head or just walk away.


Of course it wouldn’t be a story if, despite the wailing violins and the inevitability of pain, the student victim didn’t walk into whole point of the story willing to be impaled on the whole Zenness of it all.   She follows the master into a room full of paintings of blue check marks.

            “Which one is yours?” 

On Saturday mornings like this one, I see the Zen master as just being too smug for Zen at this point.  I know he is full of compassionate light and all that happy love stuff but after months of painting blue check marks, if I was the artist student, I know exactly where I would want to be putting my next blue check mark.


Unable to discern her own unique check mark, the artist student is humbled, if not humiliated, and returns, full of insight and empty of complaint, to the process of bringing herself, her full self, out onto the canvas via a blue check mark.  What if all the check marks were hers?  If we are all One, wouldn’t all the check marks be hers?


I’m sure there’s a Zen sequel to this facetious response but I haven’t yet come across it.


Some days you just have to be allowed to snivel into your empty coffee cup and act as if the Zen masters of the world are in fact recalcitrant sadists with severe detachment disorders.


So, back to my self-pity and it’s current resistance to Zen.  Just what do I have to be sorry about?  Let’s start with the fact that it’s Saturday and it’s raining.  All week the weather has been close to perfect, warm sunny days perched on cool morning air.  These are the days where I am shut into the dark prison of my job.  I am grateful that I have a job; I am not obsessively ungrateful, my whining has its limits. Each morning I enter the lower level of the school where I work at my desk, at my computer, in my windowless classroom.  It feels like a prison where the guards come by every now and again to run their nightsticks across the bars and yell and holler their frustration at me. 


When you’re the low person on the totem pole, the yelling and hollering all ends up like so many sharp pointy barbs hanging out of your flesh.  This is the place where there is a need for a Zen shield, some kind of protective device that bounces all the sharp pointy barbs off into the stratosphere.  Maybe it needs a blue check mark, a very definitive blue check mark painted on it for it to work.


Someone told me this week that my students were fortunate to have me in their lives, that I made a difference.  That day I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself.  I laughed and told them I would inform my students of their good fortune.  I didn’t of course.  Maybe that was the point where I allowed the sharp pointy things to enter my flesh, to feel the barbs tearing away at the places that are vulnerable. 


No matter how confidently I enter my prison, no matter how Zen like I am about embracing freedom as an inside job, no matter how many prayers of gratitude I send into the stratosphere, I usually crawl from my day broken and dispirited, exhausted and bleeding, with more left undone than completed.


It’s been this way for a while, a long while.  I want to be able to crawl home to a home that feels like my blue check mark home.  I have found it, close by and in a community where I would feel comfortable.  This week I put in yet another bid on yet another townhouse that I just love.  I have to sell my house, my old falling down house, to make the whole thing happen. 


The last people who looked at my house said they were “in awe of the beauty and care” on the inside of my house.  They haven’t made an offer.  They haven’t come back.  I called my realtor this rainy Saturday morning hoping he would lasso them into some kind of deal – any kind of deal.  This crazy “I want, I want, I think it’s happening, the door is open, oh no  - it closed again, I can’t have” journey has been going on for more than a year.


The "now you see it, now you don’t" peek-a-boo game of serendipity gone awry challenges all my levels of acceptance and humor.  It slashes through the flesh of the psyche with razor sharp precision.  It exposes all my vulnerable places and I end up in sitting in On What Grounds on a rainy Saturday morning oozing into my empty coffee cup, not the ceramic coffee cup that Lori forgot to give me this morning, but a paper cup.  She said she was sorry; it didn’t make me feel any better.


I will have to endure this rainy Saturday, this frustration with my current life events, my falling down house, the ingratitude of my job.  But, because it’s Saturday, I can choose whether or not to be happy about it.



Monday, September 14, 2009

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

There are few things more satisfying than a sound night’s sleep.  Last night I slept deeply on a futon bed in Susan’s guest bedroom.  My arms and shoulders were aching from the serious weed whacking I had done the evening before.  My body was protesting every move that didn’t involve the prone position.  The futon bed wrapped itself around me, the light-weight duvet warmed me in the cool of an end of summer night and after a few pages of a new book, I fell into a deep, complete sleep.  Even the barking of the dogs in the early morning hours did not bother me.  I heard them, rolled over and went straight back to sleep.

Usually I don’t sleep well the first night I spend in a strange bed.  I learned to carry my pillow with me when spending the night somewhere different.  Like a security “blankie” my pillow helps me rest easily in strange surroundings. 

Not that there is anything strange about the places I choose to spend the night, not any more.  I have noticed that as my body ages it has developed a preference for stability, for dependability, for sameness.  When I ask it, as I have so many times in the past, to indulge my latest concept of adventure, it protests, dragging itself reluctantly behind the excitement of my mind, or perhaps it is my ego.  Without some smidgen of familiarity, like my own not-too-soft, not-too-thick, just-right pillow, my body just flat out refuses to go.

Yesterday I forgot my pillow.  By the time yesterday was done, I was so tired I would have happily slept on a rock. 

I did once - sleep on a rock out of choice.  It was a long time ago in the space of my life but I can see that evening from here more clearly than I can see yesterday.  We were in Pakistan.  We stopped late into the evening.  The youth hostel we had planned to stay in was no longer in existence. Our guides kept the truck rolling until we found a reasonably secluded spot. We stopped on the roadside where the grass grew full and green down a rolling slope.  No-one bothered to pitch a tent.  We ate our usual meal of tomatoes, cucumbers and flat bread along with some re-constituted dried meal from the rations on the truck.

Karen and I surveyed the terrain, walking and circling it like a pair of dogs looking for a spot to sleep.  We decided the grassy slope was bumpy, uneven, and probably swarming with insects just waiting to dine on our unsuspecting flesh.  We chose the concrete slab that once held a picnic table.  It was flat for starters.  The rocks and pebbles embedded in the concrete were nowhere near as lumpy as the mounds of earth under the lush grass.  And, more importantly, it was far from the snores of our companions.

Choosing the hard place to sleep doesn’t necessarily make that much difference.  We lay on top of our sleeping bags.  I wrapped myself in the yellow cotton sarong I had purchased in an Indian bazaar.  I had learned that the soft cotton allowed a greater degree of comfort in the steamy nights we slept through in India and Pakistan.  I packed my towel and a sweater into my pillowcase forming a solid thin square. I fell asleep as quickly and as soundly as I slept last night on Susan’s futon bed.

Pakistan has probably never been a place for sleepy westerners on the side of the road.  We were awakened during the night.  Karen and I further from the truck than our companions could hear the shouts and see the beams of flashlights.  Bodies appeared to be moving in all directions.  The shouts were not friendly – from either side.  

Lying on the relative obscurity of the concrete slab, I immediately became pre-occupied with what was happening in my sarong.  Something had found its way between the layers of soft yellow cloth and was heaving up and down on my chest protesting the accommodations.  Perhaps because I was in that non-thinking place of sleepiness and panic, I leapt up and tore at the sarong, pulling it off my body until the frog, angry and probably panicked, fled from my body, leaving me nearly naked staring into the turmoil of the night. 

The light was shone inches from my blinking eyes by a thoroughly entertained Pakistani soldier.  He grinned beneath his red beret and thick moustache.  He and his companion  herded Karen and I at gunpoint towards the others.  Some of our companions were protesting noisily at their sleep being disturbed.  Even then I knew better than to argue with a man with a gun, no matter how antiquated that gun appeared.

The soldiers were conspicuously armed at every seam with knives, scimitars, hand-grenades, and guns.  Who knew what they had beneath the folds of their khaki uniforms, tucked in their socks or beneath their cummerbunds or their red berets? 

They were very clear.  We could not litter the side of their road with our sleeping bodies.  We had to go to a hostel.  The hostel, as it turned out, was incredibly close to their barracks where they were heading on foot.  And so, on a relatively cool night in Pakistan, we shared the back of our Bedford truck with a small troop of delighted soldiers.  They grinned most of the way.  We glowered back at them.  I remained quiet and simply followed along passively until my heart began to beat at something that resembled a normal rate. 

We all survived that trip through the Pakistan night.  Now, more than thirty years later I can barely survive a night on Susan’s futon bed without my own pillow or unless I am incredibly tired, so tired that I think I could sleep on a rock if I had too. 

These are Things a Woman Notices

These are things a woman notices:

Whether or not she is appreciated

Art that is about something

Death in art,

a ruptured thing, decapitated by a streak of green

handless arms dressed in bright orange

knitted by missing hands.

A flower dying gracefully in the presence of acid rain

Discards from a world too hurried

to see the patterns of life in each cast-off.

The land already filled with itself

in no need of our refuse

The purple tinged toes, barren of life

hanging above the crumpled earth

The earth ground colors of soil

-after rain

- after too much sun

- after a hanging.


Personal politics;

The defiance of a naked form

seen through the eyes of a woman,

The places where courage has seeped through

the cracks of patriarchal strongholds

to explode onto canvas in bright, harlot lipstick, red

leaving some places completely untouched, raw and wild.





things that curl and coil onto one another

- fall into one another

- hold one another

separate from one another – at the seams

bringing together burlapsack beings

in communion.


The rising bald black spheres of the unconscious

shiny with their secrets.

Pink plastic rose-strewn chairs

among standing room only men.

The pale, pink, flush of a child’s cheek about to

feel the first sharpness of teeth

The soft dewy redness of raspberries fresh from the field

The round heft of a melon

A small swish of bright yellow chiffon hem brushing

through a child’s world

-       as she rises

-       imperceptibly

to feel the passing waft of an angel robe.


The solid warmth of polished stone




The way skin stretches and folds over pain

- and age

The wistful froth of lace

at the neck

covering the rising breastplate

Eyebrows opening

Windows viewing

the places where bodies break and

wings fall to earth.


The way a hand rests upon an open page

- waiting

For words to turn the page, to reveal

-       to astonish.

The power of words to break

-       to inspire

-       to heal

The bright round moon luminescence of pearls



-       released, unable to stop

a woman burning with desire

to paint, to mold, to sculpt,

to create.


            - enacted

The fragility of bold ideas

- who considered the purple star underside of open crocus petals?

The need for luck

           - and monofilament line

The color of light


The diaspora of art

The brevity of beauty

The line of orange against grey

The crumble of white polystyrene against solid bronze

The crease of hair against skin

Shoulders, clavicles, bone and tendon, flesh and tissue that hold

the weight of breasts.


These things are sign of Woman

walking through a world

where She sees herself

into Being.



Written in the National Museum for Women in the Arts

September 5, 2009



Sofas, Bridges, and Trucks –Oh My!

It seemed simple enough.  But, simple enough turned out to be a little more complex than any of us had imagined.  The basic premise served everybody; well-to-do couple discards good quality living room furniture; poor working class mom who needs new furniture accepts donation.  There were a few obstacles to be overcome so plans were developed.  The plan developers were women of a certain age who had navigated life’s obstacle courses with some degree of success.  Women who have dealt with single parent-hood and a working life in the education system, could reasonably be expected to come up with something simple and effective.  These are the kind of women who should really be In-Charge-Of-Everything. 

Life is tricky.  Life is often complicated by unforeseen forces that want to intrude on simple plans as much as they do on grandiose plans.  These forces cannot always be placated by prayer or manifold supplication –they simply have to be endured.

The first obstacle was distance.  The furniture was in Bethany Beach, Delaware.  It’s new home is in Chambersburg, PA (still pronounced pee-ay).  That, according to the odometer in the yellow Penske truck, is a distance of 238 miles.  However, I’m no longer sure of the trustworthiness of the Penske truck or it’s supporting company.  However, I shall get to that. 

The simple plan conjured up by my friend, Greta, in Bethany Beach was to collect the truck, the furniture, and drive it to her side of the Bay Bridge.  I would drive, with a friend, to meet her at a delightful restaurant, The Fisherman’s Inn, on her side of the Bay Bridge, buy Greta and her friend lunch, collect the truck and furniture and drive it back to Chambersburg, PA.  This is as simple as a relay race in slow motion.  Slow motion means you have plenty of time to pass the baton and are therefore unlikely to drop it. 

The second obstacle was getting the furniture into my house after the old furniture had been removed.  This was a twofold obstacle; old out, new in and could not be accomplished with a gaudy dropping ball and a down-count from ten to zero.  It required some careful forethought and the assistance of a number of friends and the same unforeseen forces that can complicate matters. 

Removing old furniture from my house is also not as simple as it sounds.  I live in a very old house that once served as home for railway workers.  It was moved to its present site by an enterprising railway company that moved houses for its employees to where they were most needed.  The railway station in Chambersburg was once situated on the highline almost directly opposite my house.  During the century or more in its current location, the house had a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom added onto it; the placement of the back door was changed, and subsequent owners added all manner of interesting little quirks to it.  The result is an interesting mélange of old.

In the middle of the house is a relatively narrow but long room that connects the kitchen to the hallway.  I use it as a living room; it has the TV and my Pilates machine in it.  The TV receives considerably more attention than the Pilates machine.  Here is where I wished to place the smaller of the two sofas I was about to receive.  Here is where I had a large faux leather, double recliner sofa with a drop down table top that I didn’t discover until I tried to pri the whole thing apart.  I inherited this sofa from a co-worker for a mere $25.  In order to get the sofa into the house, it had to be completely dismantled and then reassembled once all the parts had been squeezed through the 28 inch wide hallway opening; an opening that cannot be angled around as it also happens to be about 30 inches long and barely six foot tall.  The hallway wall has been repainted numerous times after each furniture departure and arrival. 

The friend who originally squeezed the faux leather double recliner sofa into the living room was unavailable.  I had to resort to my companions of creativity.  Mark is an unexpected lead singer in a rock band.  I say unexpected because he has a calm and sweet personality that does not seem to fit the presumed angst of the rock band singer.  Mark arrived with friend-with-tools and within 10 minutes the faux leather double recliner sofa was dismantled and on the sidewalk alongside a springless chair from another room.  Both now wore “Free” signs.  And, there were no holes or scrapings on the wall.  Mark would return on Saturday to help carry in the new furniture.  So far, so simple.  That was Tuesday. 

On Monday and Wednesday I spoke with Candy, a young lady employed by Penske.  I had already spoken with Michael after my online booking for the truck that would carry the furniture from Delaware to PA.  Michael assured me of the cost, the after hours drop off availability, the lack of probable problems.  All would surely be well.  Candy required that I send a permission note for my friend to pick up the truck plus a copy of my driver’s license.  I faxed, I called, I forwarded e-mail information, I ensured all was done as it should be.  It still seemed like a reasonable and simple plan.

Now here’s where everything starts to stretch out, like a never ending bridge that seems to disappear over the horizon to hoped for dry land.  Presumptions are dangerous and tricky things.  They lurk in the coyote brain of life waiting to surprise, infuriate, distort, and change the shape of things to come.  They ride on the conniving back of things known, which often turn out to be just more presumptions. 

On Wednesday, I returned home late in the evening after a hot and tiring day of work and commitments and tasks that all had to be accomplished before the first day of in-service training.  The furniture was no longer on the sidewalk.  My neighbor rang my doorbell as I was putting away groceries and contemplating a well-deserved plate of Edy’s Butterfinger Overload ice-cream.  She had been told, and didn’t know if it was true or not, but her brother saw it happen, and so she knew that the furniture had been dragged up the high-line by some neighborhood kids and put on the railway tracks.  I contemplated this news through filters of incredulity and frustration.  It definitely had an adverse effect on the ice-cream. 

The highline is steep and thickly wooded with a good measure of underbrush.  You would have to be crazy to even think of carrying that faux-leather double recliner sofa up there.  Who would be crazy enough to do that?  The answer was simple, the neighborhood kids.  I called the police on the non-emergency number.  I have it on speed dial.  They had the good grace not to laugh.  The last time I called them was to inform them that the neighborhood kids had backed a white van over my car and it was inserted at a dangerous angle into the car’s hood.  I was concerned about the possible effect on a train driver of hitting a large faux-leather double recliner sofa at speed.  They would send an officer up to take a look.  I didn’t hear back from them. 

Friday was a hot day at work.  The downstairs air conditioner broke when they finally turned it on.  My windowless room is downstairs.  I arrived home about 5:30 to find a message from Candy on my home phone, despite the fact that I had called her on my cell phone and faxed her the number.  She wanted to give me directions to pick up the truck.  This, despite the fact that we had three conversations about my friend, Greta, picking up the truck and I had faxed her a permission note for my friend to perform this task.  A small pimple of doubt erupted and I called Candy, who had of course departed for the day.  I spoke to a pleasant man, explained my frustration and asked him to call my friend with the pick-up details, which he did.  I know he did because I checked.

On Saturday morning I was greeted by a clear blue sky.  I collected two frozen caramel coffees from Panera and waited for my friend Michelle to collect me.  The coffees were sitting on the roof of my car when I noticed the neighborhood pitbull and an unknown person over by the basketball court.  The man was talking to the pitbull, a noisy, untrained dog starved for affection as well as food.  He asked if it was my dog.  I headed down the street toward the large house two doors down where the pitbull is usually tethered with a car chain under a desolate tree.   I banged on the front door.  No answer.  I went to the side door all the while telling the stranger and Michelle where the dog is usually kept.  Michelle loves animals.  The pitbull is instantly in love with her and will do anything she wants including following her back to his prison with cooler full of green water and fly-infested surroundings 

As we walked back down the side of the house, I noticed the faux-leather, double recliner sofa and springless chair from the sidewalk on their front porch.  The sofa is still in pieces but it is arranged well.  There is some consolation in knowing that no train driver was traumatized by an unexpected meeting with my furniture.  I wonder, briefly, what the police response will be to my next call.

Michelle and I head out towards the Bay Bridge.  We left on time.  We allowed three hours for the trip, plenty of time.  We presumed that most people heading to the beach for the weekend would already be there and that those returning would be on the other side of the road or not returning until the following day.  The frozen caramel coffees were wonderful, the sky was blue, the traffic was moderate.  What could go wrong?

About an hour and half into our journey I checked my phone (maybe I will one day blog about my hate-hate relationship with AT&T) .  Suffice it to say, the phone tells me nothing.  Later, it would tell me there were two missed calls and two new messages.  I listened to them.  I heard Candy tell me that she would need my credit card number, then I heard Greta’s voice say it could be put on her card.  I was puzzled.  My credit card information was all inserted in the online booking.  I listened to a message from Greta.  I couldn't  hear all of it but I understood that they were running late.  I called Candy and I was not feeling in my most pleasant disposition.  I made a few determinations about Candy and none of them were positive.

It seems that the unforeseen forces at work in all our lives had crept into the Penske building and departed with the computer, coffee pot, vacuum cleaner, tools and other undeternined, assorted stuff.  Candy was apologetic but said my friend was very nice about it all and they put the truck rental on her card.  I aspire to be as understanding as Greta. 

I called Greta who told me that not only was Penske burgled, but they decided to give me a bigger truck and change the front tires before departure.  The result was a need to stop at all weigh stations en route and at least an hour’s delay.  Greta told me that Candy didn’t know what to do without her computer.  Greta has the opposite problem.  She stepped Candy through the process of using a credit card without having a computer.  She waited while they changed the tires.  She noticed the Penske building was located next to the police barracks. Greta was in the midst of horrendous traffic.  They were leaving about the time we had anticipated arriving at the Fisherman’s Inn. 

Michelle and I approached the Bay Bridge.  The lines were long and sedentary.  A haze of carbon emissions and heat rose  into the morning brightness.  The cars snaked out across the broad expanse of the toll-booths weaving in and out of lines only to crawl with mind-numbing slowness towards their destination.  

We hit the EZ pass lane with relief and a smidgen of gratitude that we had circled around the block to retrieve my pass before leaving Chambersburg and the pitbull.  Within minutes we were through and heading across the bridge.  More calls to Greta indicated they could be even further away than expected.  We decided to while away the time at a nearby outlet mall. 

There are some places I should not go.  The first time I tasted a Harry and David’s chocolate truffle, I knew I should never, ever set foot inside one of their stores.  I have to admit after that first bite, I did check out the locations of their stores.  But, I managed to resist any movement toward one of those stores.  As we pulled into the mall, I noticed from my unaccustomed spot in the passenger seat that there is a Harry and David’s store off to our left.

            “I’ve never been in one them.”

            “You are not serious.....”

Michelle flipped the car around the one way system and slotted it neatly into the parking lot directly in front of Harry and David’s.  The gods have a way of tempting the weak; first of all they provide the best parking spot, then they make sure that the greatest number of samples are present in the smallest possible space.  I had no intention of spending any money above and beyond the cost of the Penske truck, gas, lunch, and a few dollars to recompense people for their time and energy.  That was as far as my meager budget would spread.  Somehow I managed to stretch it even further to cover two boxes of the maltballs on special –they were the first sample hit just inside the door, a jar of asiago cheese spread, another jar of mango salsa and one bag of dark chocolate truffles for those dark days ahead.  At least, that’s what I told Michelle.

Two hours and numerous calls later, calls that AT&T saw fit not to deliver to my cell phone, we finally made the rendevous with Greta at the Fisherman’s Inn.  Lunch was at 2:30 and it was wonderful. 

Another trip back across the Bay Bridge at a speed no EZ pass could expedite.  It just had to be endured as I fiddled with the air-conditioning, the mirrors, the seats, the placement of my cell phone, chocolate maltballs, and water bottle, all the things that the long distance driver needs at hand.  The trip was singularly uneventful.  All the weigh stops were closed so it is still a mystery to me what happens in those little pull-over strips.  The Penske truck performed its job well as long as I did not require it to go over 65 miles per hour.  At that point it began to shudder and sway and scare me.

Chambersburg dragged itself closer and closer and once again that relationship with AT&T failed me yet again.  Finally as I was pulling into my street I learned that Mark would be there with a friend.  And sure enough he arrived within minutes on his bicycle with his former girlfriend, AJ.  He was already hauling stuff out of the truck by the time I answered the door.

Some summer days in Chambersburg the humidity is sufficient to make breathing an iron-man exercise.  Saturday was one of those days.  We were all covered in sweat as we quickly realized the sofas at their smallest point were not going to pass through the 28 inch doorframe.  A great shuffling of big things and cushions and chairs and tables occurred.  Eventually the small sofa and chair adorned my built in front porch, the large sofa was in the front room with fireplace and computer and the papason and spare chair were in the television room.  All was well.  And best of all, AJ decided she wanted to buy my house.

Michelle retured and the Penske truck was dropped off in its unlikely spot shared with a tombstone distribution center.  Some alliances just should not be questioned. 

When I walk into my home these days, I am instantly reminded of the beach.  Against the first edict of The Art ManofEsto, the green and pink furniture matches the art and also the color scheme of the front porch.  I wait with the endurance and patience for the time when I can place the furniture in the living room of the townhouse I have picked out – just as soon as I sell this old house in a falling down neighborhood.  It’s a perfect investment, a great fixer upper, a home for the inspired creativity and energy of the young. 

When I reflect on this small adventure with obstacles, I know there are some things that reach beyond the sphere of presumptions whether or not they are about presumed knowledge. I know that given an EZ pass and a sunny day, there is nothing that women of a certain age cannot make happen.  I know that everyone needs at least one comfortable chair to sit in at the end of a long, hard day.  I know that dark chocolate truffles help make the troubles of a long, hard day seem less important or oppressive. I know that bridges cross impassable spaces.  I know that friends help weave together the fabric of a life helping to bridge the difficult and painful spaces, the spaces filled with obstacles.  I know that laughing along with the unseen forces at our efforts to control the uncontrollable makes the chair more comfortable and the chocolate smoother, creamier, and far richer than I dared to dream.