sandy

I waited too long to write last week’s dream. So many of the evanescent parts of it have floated away. But I am still left to wonder: why did my subconscious bring my old friend Patsy into my dreamscape?

Images from the dream are more like scenes from her real life, experiences I either saw or knew about as they were happening. So was it a dream or a series of memories?

We are sitting together on my piano bench at home, Buck and other guests milling about, visiting. Sandy is belting out an old Carol King line — pretty sure it was I feel the earth move under my feet while I accompanied her. She held a glass of wine in one hand and swore like a sailor in-between verses. Okay, so this was definitely a dream. I’ve played piano while she sang before, but it was a supper club of sweet Episcopalians and the songs were usually old Broadway or snippets from The Messiah. Sandy has a glorious contralto, the kind of singing voice I would like to have. I have near perfect pitch, but only thin squeaks come through my pipes.

I dreamed of Sandy sailing the Grand Loop with her ill husband and later hugging the shorelines and rivers of Florida when he was dying and they had to dock so he could rent a car and drive to one of several hospitals for another useless round of chemo. Maybe it wasn’t entirely useless. Maybe it bought him time. But my dream is of Sandy, nurse Sandy, giving him injections; Sandy, the game companion, her brittle bones fracturing time and time again when jarred by the sharp, hard wake of a rude boater and knocked into unforgiving surfaces. Betrayed Sandy.

Sandy’s blank look of shock when she first read her husband’s will and trust, then tears of heartbreak and later anger, as it sunk in that he put her financial well-being into a trust managed by a long-grown stepdaughter who behaved as though she had waited a long time to become Sandy’s overlord and was going to extract every ounce of suffering and pain left in this dear woman, not to mention impoverishing her in the process.

Sandy, kneeling for communion, praying at the rail, hands raised like a charismatic.

It’s been close to five years since Sandy’s husband died and her second time in hell began. But now, the lawyering is done, whatever could be salvaged has been, she lives in a sweet little house in a dear little town far from here, and has found a good life with friends and a gentle, funny man who truly adores her. I know this mingles dream and fact. But that fact is no dream, and I am grateful that the haunted look is gone from my friend’s beautiful gray-blue eyes.

if you own a house or vacant land . . .

Make a note to yourself to call your local planning and zoning authority and make sure that what you think is your zoning really is your current, effective zoning. Ask questions like: are there any overlays on my property? Is it within the footprint of a master plan? Is my normal county zoning the same as my effective zoning? (In other words, if I am in a low density residential zoning category (known here as LDR), does it mean it can be developed with 4 dwelling units per acre, which is in the Land Development Code for LDR. Or is there an overlay put on it without my knowledge or consent that reduces that number to 3 dwelling units per acre, plus requires open space design, meaning 50% of my land must be severed through a legal instrument and never, ever be developed, and requires mandatory clustering on the remaining 50%. Even if, like is the case with our neighbor’s land, there are zero wetlands — it is an old horse pasture — she would be required to give up half of her high and dry upland property. That is the essence of our challenge to the unfair overlay and our request to opt our land out of it and keep our normal low density residential county zoning.

The county put their public notice signs out Friday. We expect the files, including our applications and their staff analysis, to go online sometime next week. And then, before we know it, it will be showtime for everybody.

dreams deferred

“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.

dream journal

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.

blow down

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.

Wasp nest on gravel road.
See the circle that used to be some critter’s front door?

one a.m. 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.

“Okay.”

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.

that’s not on my bucket list

“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.”

“Yes.”

“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.

ready or not, here comes change

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.”

color of tears

“Don’t touch me!” She sounded angry.

Caroline looked up, surprised to hear any conversation at all from the couple on the sofa, much less this. But all she saw was the same thing she had seen for the last hour. A middle-aged, long-married couple sitting a few inches from each other, both hunched over their smart phones, thumbs furiously working the keys.

The man’s dad, Caroline’s husband, looked at her, raised his eyebrows, and shrugged. She could tell he found it both annoying and amusing that his son had flown across the county to see him, yet spent the precious sliver of time thus.

Caroline learned later they were continuing an argument begun who knows when. Hours? Days? Weeks? Decades? Turns out they were sitting right beside each other, texting all the while. Her angry outburst was almost certainly unintentional, but it spoke volumes.

They agreed to break for lunch on the patio. Poolside. A sweet breeze swayed the tops of tall old pines ringing the back yard. But their phones, weapon of choice, remained near their itchy fingers.

Caroline tried to steer the conversation, akin to herding sullen cats, to something fun, some topic at least lighter than a brick. Going anywhere interesting? Thought about where you want to live after retirement? How are the kids? (Always a danger warning zone, but she was desperate.) Ah, this one: tell me about your color scheme for the new house you just bought.

Caroline knew, though. The walls were the color of tears.