“Patsy” and “Doc” will have to wait. Luckily, I wrote down enough of the dreams when I first staggered out of bed yesterday morning to fix the memory in place. Buck and I spent most of yesterday preparing for and briefing some of our local officials on our property rights issue coming before the planning board February 4th. Today is for reading the fine print on some ancient scrolls (old meeting transcripts) and a luncheon of the Pensacola High School class of 1955, Buck’s graduating class and a group of folks I have come to love. I’m always the “babe” in the room because of my relative youth (only 68), but they seem to like me okay anyway. We meet at a little local Italian restaurant called Franco’s. They make a mean minestrone soup. Hang in there, Patsy and Doc. I’ll tell your story soon.
At last. It happened last night the way it used to, way back when I was writing every day. I dreamed words, sentences, amazing images — a world. I’ve been sleeping too shallowly recently to dream at all. I’m still reeling. Still in the dream. Dreams, really. There were three, but I was only able to stagger out of bed and write and notes for two. The other, the first, is dim, fading. I doubt I can recover it. Of the two I remember, the first is “Patsy;” the second is “Doc.” I’ll post them later.
By the way, I attribute the restarting of dreams with the restarting of a daily writing practice. The words were so dry at first, like unused paint in a long-neglected tube. But they are beginning to feel a little more fluid, beginning to come from a deeper place. And now, dreams. A good and encouraging sign.
Longleaf Lou and I walked our usual path from house to gate this morning. The short 1/3 of a mile gravel road was nearly covered over by small twigs, leaves and pine needles. I picked up a dozen or so branches and threw them off the road and into the woods.
My hair turned into a dark cloud of humidity-saturated frizz. The silver lining to living in a damp Florida forest is that it’s kind to aging skin. Hair not so much!
Birds, wasps, and other critters are not immune from losing their homes in a mid-winter rain and wind storm.
White light flashes in under the heavy, floor-length drapes bold as the headlights of a parking car blazing into a ground-floor cheap motel room. Intermittent high-pitched yips burst froth when Lou can’t contain her anxiety. “Kennel,” I say in a quiet voice. “Kennel.” A snuffle, then silence until the next rumble of thunder, gunfire at the edge of the clearing. Then she is on her feet again, this time a paw on the bed, nose practically in my ear.
We slip out of the bedroom. Like me, fear activates Lou’s bladder, and she runs outside into flashing lightning to pee. Afterward, we stalk around the house for a few minutes. I drink a glass of water and hope we have seen the worst of this storm. January 14, shortly after one a.m. and 72 degrees. We’ve only had one short-lived freeze so far this winter. I need to start digging up what used to be my pretty little border garden in front of the house and rescue it from the disaster I’ve allowed it to become. One in the morning is not a time for self-congratulation. It’s when I can easily list my shortcomings on both hands and my bare feet, the things I do but shouldn’t and the things I don’t do but should. A time I would rather sleep through.
Ah, well. Let’s get a treat for Lou, go back to bed, and hope for the best.
“So where will you live if you have to live without Buck?” my sister asked in our long phone call last night. “It’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it.”
No, no. There’s nothing imminent going on, thank God. But she knows that Buck is 82 and I am 68 (good solid peasant stock and so far remarkably sturdy) and so barring a freak accident or random deadly disease, the brutal calendar suggests I could be a widow for a long time.
Flo is ten years my senior. She turned 79 yesterday and her husband of 56 years turns 81 today. “If I have to live without Charlie,” she said in her voice which has grown breathy and thin, “I think I’ll stay here with my kids. Plus I love Arizona.”
“We’re not in control of the timing of things,” I say, “so it just depends. We know we need to sell the big house while we are still strong enough to do all the necessary things on our own.” Flo has opened the door, and I muse aloud. “When we sell here, when that time comes, we plan to go to Jacksonville and hunker down somewhere close to the Mayo Clinic where we’re assured of great medical care.”
“And they know you there. They have all of Buck’s records.”
“So you think you would stay there, then?”
“Probably, I don’t know. Somewhere in Florida, for sure. I love old Florida, somewhere on the water, maybe a river, but near the ocean where I could walk the beach everyday. Mother was so strict, I never got a sunburn as a teenager.” Flo and I quietly laugh. Oh, we both knew our mother.
Well. It’s early morning now. I realized that conversation was still on my mind when I called Lou dog by my sister’s name when I got out of bed in the dark to leave Buck and my bedroom, trying as I always do not to disturb his sleep and failing as I always do. He stirs and reaches for me.
Buck bought the first sixty acres of thick pine woods we call Longleaf in 1974. The only access was a dim road, a hunter’s trail, paper company land on three sides. He was a man of many hats even then: corporate executive, husband and father to three young teenagers, community volunteer, part-time farmer, and entrepreneur. I was five years out of high school, married and living 350 miles east in Florida’s capitol city. We had not yet met.
Who could have imagined that by 2020 Buck’s first wife would be dead? His middle son dead. My first husband dead. That next month we will have been married for 35 years? That I would have no natural children, but two beloved step-kids who are my good friends, seven grandchildren and three great-grands.
Or that our county plans to build a road through the middle of the now ninety acres of Longleaf where we built a home and have lived since 2000? Or that we would learn the county approved an overlay on top of our land and that of many of our neighbors that would diminish its value when the time comes to sell? Of course we are working to remove this cloud. It has taken more than a year of research, but we are ready. Our case will be heard by our local planning board on February 4, along with three of our neighbors. Should be quite a show.
As for the road, we support that, even though it changes forever my morning walks to the gate and the total privacy we have enjoyed all these years. We and our neighbors need the road. The current one is narrow and way below basic county standards, with multiple blind ninety-degree curves. It has become the corridor between new businesses and subdivisions at one end and a new elementary school and existing middle school at the other. More than 50 school bus trips a day run the gauntlet. We cannot in good conscience oppose it. So. Two different issues. Both presaging major change.
2020. Shaping up to be a barn-burner. My “word” for 2019 was FLOW. This year’s is READY. I told Buck about my word. He chuckled and said, “Mine is MOVE.”
I’m not the only one who likes the small runner that was delivered by Federal Express yesterday.