Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...
The author of Mark's Work

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Crossing the Eel River at French's Camp

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
Butter in the fly...

July Jewels

July Jewels
Bees to the Kingdom

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Price of Admission


The Price of Admission

I like JT’s post this morning.  She asked what made 2012 valuable and what surprised her readers.  I responded that it would take a long time to accomplish writing about this year, and I would need therapy at the end of it.  Since I am already in therapy, I guess that’s a moot point.  However, if I attempt to abbreviate matters, and I leave my sweetest of Apple Blossoms out of it as much as possible, I see value in the exercise.  So here goes, a month by month score-card, as it were.

January opened with blogging being the center of my universe.  I was communicating with folks all over the country, as though I had known them all my life.  The writing was effortless, and stimulating.  Then came the 24th, and the shocking murder of my former student and good friend, Jamal Andrews.  This propelled me onto an emotional roller coaster, during which time I made commitments that I was later unable to fulfill.  This tumultuous time made it obvious to those around me that I had a mood spectrum disorder, what old-schoolers would call being bipolar.

February began with my Apple Blossom deciding that my moods were too challenging for her to deal with, so she left me, out of sheer self-preservation.  When she returned, it was to try and gently transmit to me her concerns and those of my family, that I was ill.  I was (of course) clueless, but I read everything she sent my way, and found out by taking a simple quiz, that there was a great deal of truth in her assertion.  I had originally protested that the manic side of things was accurate, but not the depressive side.  Then I began to examine the last few years of my teaching career and concluded that those around me were accurate.

In March I began to see a psychiatrist over on the coast and was shocked when he prescribed Seraquel, an anti-psychotic drug, with side-effects described in the accompanying literature, that so terrified me that I never ingested a single capsule.  They remain in my bathroom cupboard, a mute testimony to my fear.  Though I benefited from the therapy, I never trusted the good doctor again, and eventually decided it was not a fit, and sought therapy elsewhere.

April precipitated a burst of creative writing, which saw me write more than fifty short pieces of fiction, which I had hoped to start publishing in cyber space, but have not been able to, because I cannot penetrate the technological wall of knowledge required to do so.  I was shocked that I could successfully write short stories, and disappointed that publishing them has remained unattainable.  My writing in this genre continued well into May.

May brought about a resurgence of my carpentry career, something that I thought would no longer be possible, because of the physical challenges incurred the previous fall, when I spent time up at Island Mountain, from which I spent the entire winter recovering.  I built a twenty by ten, two story addition to my workshop, a multi-purpose facility that has proven invaluable since it was completed.  It took all of the summer, being finished by the start of September.

June began with our making two trips over to the Central Valley in three days, to attend both the wedding of a nephew and the graduation of my youngest son from Cal Fire’s engineering school.  Both venues reinforced me with the knowledge that my lifetime of panic attack syndrome was over.  That is shocking all by itself.  June also saw me switch therapists to a man who works in Ukiah, and has proven to be a very good fit.  He was instrumental in helping me, individually, and later, in helping me and my Apple Blossom contend with the critically important challenges of trying to put our thirty-year marriage back on track. 

July remains the single month during which I can safely assert, I was almost normal.  I kept meticulous track of the ebb and flow of my illness, continued working, and thought I had the whole thing conquered.  July was the calm before the storm.

August began with a weekend excursion up to Eureka, which culminated with a precipitous journey from Eureka to Willits, because we thought my Apple Blossom was passing a kidney stone.  She was savagely attacked by pain and nausea, and it was eventually determined that she had a tumor the size of a softball, enveloping one of her kidneys.  Simply stated, she has cancer of the kidneys, and the infected one was subsequently removed.  Unable to contend with this adversity, despite my best of intentions, I was unable to provide support for her, so she once again left me, this time indefinitely, with no time-frame in place, a fact which left me reeling, emotionally and physically.  

September was crushing in its totality, with me inconsolably depressed and lonely.  I was not permitted in the arena where the surgery was performed, and not allowed to be in the same venue as my Apple Blossom.  September was as bleak a time-period in my life, such as I had not experienced since January of 1972, which marked the first month of my incarceration in the military.  My wife and my life took an apartment in Willits, an hour to the south, leaving me by myself on our mountain.  I was despondent, with no hope for the future, but I was also determined to keep her household afloat financially through my construction efforts.  Being so into time, I could not view life rationally, without any hope of reconciliation in the near future with my Apple Blossom, and the net result was one of the most shocking transformations in my life.

In no order of importance, I decided first to stop ingesting marijuana in any form.  Now, I had stopped for the first five years of my teaching career, and for up to as long a time as two years later on during that same time period, but now I was motivated by a different reason-the return of some semblance of normalcy.  I also stopped all alcohol consumption, though I have never been much of a drinker; I stopped all caffeine and cut out all processed sugar.  I also made an appointment at the veterans facility in Ukiah, with the resident psychiatrist, and began taking the medication she prescribed for mood spectrum disorder.  

I did all of these life-altering actions, without consulting my better half, in the hope that she would take note and reconsider her departure from my life.  It just proved that I never knew or appreciated what I had going for me, until I lost her.

October was an extension of September, with all of the changes in place, and I proceeded with a fierce determination to make an impression on my sweetest of Apple Blossoms.  I included time up at Island Mountain, just to prove that I was still willing to go to any lengths to provide income for two households.  The one bright ray of hope came when we started to see the therapist in Ukiah together, to try and work out some of the impediments to a resumption of our married lives together.  That, in and of itself, gave me some hope.  I also reinforced my personal philosophy that whining doesn’t solve anything.

November brought Veterans Day, and with it the glorious reconciliation for which I worked so hard.  Again, I must point out that I was not asked to quit the reefer and I was not asked to start taking the medication for mood spectrum disorder; I did these things on my own, and that was a big factor.  Though we still live apart for much of the time, never more than three days pass before I am able to be with my Apple Blossom.  I do not dwell on this because it makes her feel guilty.  I know she feels badly, and it stresses her out to have me complain, so I don’t.  She can no longer deal with the hardships of winter on the mountain, and I have responsibilities up here that I cannot shirk.  Thus, it remains what it is so I revel in the time we spend together and stay busy the rest of the time.

December brought with it a diminishing of my childlike fascination with the Christmas season, something that needed to happen forty years ago.  It’s just not the same thing when you spend much of your time by yourself.  However, December also brought about a thaw in the impasse between my number two son and myself.  We have managed to get past our differences, and I spent Christmas day with him and his awesome wife, enjoying a scintillating day of bridge and the company of family. 

Why anyone would care to read this entire passage is incomprehensible to me.  However, I have rarely written for others; almost all of my prattling is merely a way of expressing those thoughts which lodge within me.  That being said, if you made it this far, take a deep breath, and know that I am very happy-very content with life at the end of this tempestuous year.  I have learned much and remain committed to keeping my frame of mind open and uncluttered with the complications surrounding my illness.  

The price of admission for this topsy-turvy roller-coaster ride was nothing, but the result has been monumental.  Just know that I am madly and passionately in love and have acquired some valuable tools for helping me cope with my illness.  What could be sweeter than that?  After all, love is the greatest power.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No Business Like Snow Business


No Business Like Snow Business
That used to be my mantra, when I was younger.  Simply put, I thought snow was the epitome of all that is wonderful about Mother Nature.  Silly me.

Judging from the posts on FaceBook, I am in the minority.  However, to me, snow is the guest who overstays her visit.  Snow is beautiful; I will grant you that, the way it drifts down through the oak trees.  But when a person lives on a mountain, and the snow makes a grand entrance, it impinges on every aspect of one’s life.

I must keep both stoves going full-blast, simply to keep the house from freezing.  That involves bringing in vast, unlimited quantities of wood from-where else?-outside.  Back in the day, when I was teaching, I kept a four foot-wide, by four foot long, by four foot deep woodbox, which I then proceeded to pile up about six feet high with wood.  That was all well and good, until it came time to fill it.  Then it took about six wheelbarrows-filled-to replenish the wood.  

My reasoning was simple.  We left for school each morning, still in darkness, and we got back up on the mountain, while it was once again dark.  Therefore, that woodbox lasted all week long, and I could refill it on the weekend.  Now, to bring in that amount of fuel, is prodigiously difficult.  So I got rid of the woodbox, and replaced it with an iron ring, which holds, at most, two milk-crates of wood.  That just means that I must continuously bring in armloads of wood, all day long, in order to keep the home-fires burning.  It’s a pain, but infinitely better than the grueling task of loading up all of those wheelbarrows filled with oak.

The primary reason for being less than enamored with snow, is the simple fact that every outdoors experience is fraught with danger.  To let the chickens out, to start the generator (there is no solar power when the panels are covered with snow), or to venture outside for ANY reason, is to tempt fate.  Icy conditions for a sixty-year-old, pose a constant threat.  If this makes me sound curmudgeonly, I can only protest that it is self-preservation that motivates my line of reasoning.

After all, old bones are far more brittle than young bones, and I am not getting any younger.  A common occurrence is to see the snow pile up, and then have a warm front pass through.  If there is enough rain to melt the snow, all is good.  Unfortunately, what frequently occurs, is that the rain settles in, the storm passes, and the temperature plunges below the freezing point, and the snow turns to a deadly ice coating, making difficult walking even more treacherous.  Ach tung, Chucko.  Watch your step!

So when I hear people chortle with glee, or even worse, hear about people venturing up on a rooftop in sub-freezing weather, with a hose in tow, to spray water out onto the front yard, in order to create “snow,” I have to wonder about their mental state.  

As for me, I want to book passage on a warm bus to Anywhere, USA, as long as the word snow is associated with cones, and the available flavors are cherry, orange, or lemon-lime.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the Season to Be...


‘Tis the Season to Be  ...
Christmas is coming-there can be no doubt about that.  Stores everywhere have their displays up, and two-thirds of the commercials on television feature yuletide messages.  What I have noticed about people’s responses is, you either love and embrace the season or...let’s see now.  I dislike using the word “hate”; it’s more that people disdain Christmas.

I am someone who cherishes this time of year for all of the usual reasons.  Growing up in a big family, it was one time of the year when one and all celebrated in harmony.  Of course, Mama required that we all pitch in and help clean the house from top to bottom, and that was not necessarily a lot of fun.  But we also knew that when the job was finished, the next step was to get the tree.  In our house the tree did not arrive until the twenty-second or the twenty-third, because Mama felt that the tree should stay up until the 6th of January, long past our return to school.

I can understand people who are overwhelmed by the additional requirements of contending with Christmas, while balancing the task of trying to cope with small children.  After all, an individual can only do so much before pure exhaustion takes over.  I think it is more that some people just get annoyed by the omnipresent trappings of the season, thinking to themselves that commercialism and the need to make a buck, force them to partake in a process that does not match what they would like to see.  I feel bad for these people, because they probably would participate on some level, but that to have it rammed down their gullets, leaves them shaking their heads in frustration.

As for the commercial aspects of Christmas, any given approach to gift-giving is based on the economics of each household’s capabilities.  For most there are given limitations to what can be done, but often those limitations are exceeded and the result is an economic burden.  That leads to additional resentment and I can understand that.  However, there are ways to get around this difficulty if one simply looks at the picture with an open perspective.  

Saving for Christmas over the course of the year is one option; toning down the extravagance of Christmas is another.  One additional strategy is to go with a home-made theme, instead of a commercial one, or using some combination of the above.  Baking cookies, or making candy that can be gift-wrapped and presented to others is a viable way of contending with gift-giving.  Even if the recipient is not into sweets, there is always the option of redirecting the goodies to someone else who is.  Receiving a portion of home-made fudge certainly floats my boat, even if I  only partake in a piece or two, before making it available to visitors or family.

As for Christmas music and films, I adore them.  Of course it ties back into my upbringing, but I have maintained the custom throughout my lifetime.  Last year I set a personal record by watching nine different versions of “A Christmas Carol,” and I will exceed that number this year, since Annie discovered Henry Winkler’s “An American Christmas Carol,” something she knew would turn me on.

I can already hear you saying, “Why would you want to watch the same story ten times?”  All I can say is that I do not watch them all in one day.  Rather, I spread them out during the entire season, and many I watch while working an assortment of jigsaw puzzles.  I have a half-dozen or so that I work each year, that have Holiday themes.  

So I guess there is a method to my madness.  I am hopelessly addicted to Christmas and all of the trimmings that accompany it.  Call me twisted-call me obsessed; just call me in time for Christmas dinner.  I will be ready with bells on.