16 April 2009

The Return of the Horns

The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

According to a website run by the National Park Service, their time for breeding runs from February until July.  I saw my first Great Horned Owl right here in Ohio, when I was about 12 or 13.  Maybe a little younger, the memories get fuzzy with the mists of time.  It was at my parent's old house, which is across the street from a forest preserve.

The call of the Great Horned is a very particular ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo, which actually sounds like "Who cooks for you?  Who cooks for yoooou?"  Once heard, and identified, you would never mistake this giant for any other owl.  As kids, my sisters and I would search the trees whenever we heard the call to spot the owl.  The call is as loud as it is unmistakable.

I haven't heard it in years.

Last night, lying in my warm bed, just about my favorite place in the world, as I tried (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep around 8 PM, I heard the call plain as day.  I was determined to try to get to sleep without any artificial aid, you see.  No OTC sleeping pills.  No chamomile, no melatonin, no valerian, no prescription!  I was adamant.

Hearing the owl, I smiled, and turned over on my back, listening again to see if he or she was close.  (n.b., I actually have no idea if it is the males or females or both that make the distinct call.)  I heard it several more times before giving up on falling asleep on my own and dragging out a book after dosing myself with chamomile tea and melatonin tabs.

I have such good memories of looking for that owl with my parents and sisters, the excitement we felt when we spotted them during the day (a rarity) and the straining to see the owl in the falling darkness.  Their silent flight, graceful as it is deadly, is a beautiful thing to watch.

I know they never left; I probably should say the return of my awareness of the Horns...but it is an unmistakable sign of spring to me to hear them ask, "Who cooks for you?  Whooo cooks for yooooouuu?"

10 April 2009

Cancer just sucks.

"Take time with a wounded hand, 'cause it likes to heal" 

sang Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots in 1992.  STP were known for their metal-leaning hard rock.  I wouldn't have called myself a fan, necessarily, but I didn't turn the radio off when their stuff came on, either.

That line, 'take time....to heal' is something that's on my mind.

I wrote a while back about my hairdresser, and his struggles with cancer.  A battle that he was losing, slowly.  The beast won the battle just a few days ago, and the wound of his passing is still very raw.  

He and I had been playing a merry-go-round game of 'cancel the appointment' for a few months.  He cancelled on me because he wasn't up to cutting hair.  I cancelled on him when I had a miserable head cold, and knowing his immune system was weakened, I didn't want to expose him to the germs.  He cancelled on me again a week or so later.  We'd been having a game of phone tag, where I left him a message, he'd leave me one, and we hadn't talked for about 2 or 3 weeks when I heard of his death.

The last message he left me (which I hope I will always be able to remember) went something like this: "Lucy, its C.  I'm sorry about not getting to you, but I'm just not having a very good time.  We'll get you in before you leave.  I'll talk to you soon."  I didn't call him back, worrying that if I did, he'd feel pressured to....hell, I don't know.  I wish I had called him, because I didn't really have a chance to say goodbye.  Not that I would have known I was talking to him for the last time.  He wasn't keen on a big emotional scene, anyway.

I didn't find out about his death until 3 or 4 days after it happened, and I was not surprised that he had passed, but saddened that I hadn't heard sooner.  As I had known would happen, the job of telling both of my sisters (they of the opposite coasts) and my mother of his death fell to me.  I did not make it through even one of those phone calls without breaking down and crying.  The hardest was my NYC sister.  She had not heard either, and it broke my heart to be the one to break the news to her.

You might be reading this and wondering why so much sturm und drang over the death of a hairdresser; but he was so much more than that to me.  Friend, artist, teacher, fellow liberal, collector of off-color jokes, a real character.

After that last phone message he left me, I called someone else I know that cuts hair and asked her if she could trim my hair for me.  I had been putting off doing that, knowing if he called me on a day that he felt up to it, and I was to show up with my hair pre-trimmed, his feelings would have been very hurt.  I put it off by trimming it myself around my face, to keep it out of my eyes, even though cutting your own hair is generally not a good idea unless you know what you're doing.  I don't.  But I figured me hacking at it would be less hurtful to him than actually seeing someone else.

Two days after I heard of his death, I had the appointment with the someone new.  DH told me that he was surprised that I had someone else do my hair so quickly after his death, but I'd had the appointment for more than a week, and I'm leaving in 9 days, so I went.

No one has cut or colored my hair besides C in 15 years.  No joke.  

I spent the entire appointment with the new hairdresser blinking back tears.  Every thing she did, everything she touched, brought back memories of conversations I'd had with C, every discussion about cut and color and dyes and products reminded me of something else he'd done.  I always liked the way that C washed my hair.  Don't ask, I can't describe why what he did was different than any other hairdresser, it just was.  He moved through 4 salons in those 15 years, and never varied at all the way he set up his station, laid out his scissors, washed hair, put the color in.  My hairstyle and color changed drastically, and clothing styles altered too, techniques for coloring and cutting hair went on a roller-coater ride from grunge to highly styled in that time, but the methodical way he worked through each client was consistent.

He had a gentle voice for someone as tall as he was, and a very slight tinge of his native Arkansas could be heard every now and then in his speech.

I was looking for something upbeat to put as my Facebook status that also was meaningful, something that my friends would know I was still thinking about him, and I found something by Thomas Campbell that seemed to fit, and I will leave you with it.  (n.b., I have no idea who the bloody 'ell Thomas Campbell is, but I like the sentiment.)

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

He touched the hearts of many.  I will miss him something dreadful.

02 April 2009

Never Enough Time. Ever.

Counting down the days to Sweden, and I have not enough time to get everything done, done, and done.  If I was the worrying type....sigh.  We all know I am.  Between the amount of things to get done and the amount of worrying I apparently "need" to do, I have a devil of a time falling asleep.  I also have been dealing with a lot more heartburn than I really need to.  

One of my many, many faults is that I'm a procrastinator.  Yes, I freely admit it.  It is a very, very bad habit, and I have learned over the years that if I get things done ahead of time instead of everything last-minute, huh, I don't feel like a nervous wreck.  How 'bout that? 

Since I've known for a few months that I'm going to go, I'm ahead of my usual curve, and really, I don't have all that much left to do for the trip itself.  Everything else in my life, though, I'm not so sanguine about.  

I know what I'm packing.  Get this  - which should give you a big chuckle - I am really and truly attempting to cram absolutely everything that I need for the 5 weeks of the journey into bags that I intend to carry on the plane.  Every time I fly international, my luggage gets lost.  Every time.  So I have a nicely matched set of a small rolling suitcase and tote, and that's what I'm taking.  I'm not taking enough of any liquids to need to check them.  I have Lush to thank for solving the shampoo/conditioner problem; they make a SOLID SHAMPOO that is wonderful.  They also make a solid conditioner, and I'm not as crazy about that, but it at least eliminates me trying to either check through big bottles (and hope against hope that they don't explode all over my clothes)  or to locate small bottles of stuff that fit into the stupid TSA restrictions.  

I plan to take 1 week's worth of clothes.  I will have access to laundry facilities, and I plan to take advantage of them.  I have a bunch of stuff that can be balled up and crammed in a suitcase and still come out looking like a million bucks.  The only fly in the ointment for me is shoes.  I love shoes, and trying to figure out 2-3 pairs to take and no more....is torture.

A good friend suggested making a list of absolutely everything that needs done in my life, and as they get completed, checking them off, and leaving the list displayed where I can see the progress.  Things currently not done:

Write a newsletter article
Clean the closet room
Write a press release for a non-profit board I sit on
Compose voice-mail "away" message
Compose e-mail "away" message
Add international calling to my mobile telephone plan so I can use the Crack Berry in Sweden
Mail my sister's birthday present to California
Write some ads

Pretty short.  In the midst of this is Easter, which I have hosted at my house for my husband's family every year for about the past 5.  My darling beloved begged off to his mother on my behalf.  I love that man!  If I were hosting, you could add about 17 more things to the list, all involved with trying to make the house spic-n-span and cooking Easter dinner.  Instead, I have 2 things I need to make, and more than a week before they need to be made.  That's working well for me.  

Except for the fact that my oven is still broken.  

(Which is a story for another day.  A calmer day.  A day without screaming insanity surrounding me in a 360-degree manner.)