Unextraordinary views

A wide creek flows off ankle deep in the wake of a mill falls, rippling fingers across a streambed of rocks and mud. Moving points of light flicker and flash on the surface, the sun's rays filter through translucent layers of broadleaf boughs overhead. A stone wall curves away towards Tilden Street bridge, steel I-beams painted public works green, supported midstream on a tapered block stone pier, carrying traffic in and out of busy Washington DC. 

I ignore the old dam with its wide sheet of cascading water behind me, and the picturesque whitewashed mill building above the bank. I'm interested in these quiet layers that frame this scene, unremarkable on first glance, its mysterious appeal only revealed to me because my mind is calmly receptive to the wonder and beauty of nothing out of the ordinary.



A Sunday in August like yesterday, when the skies are bright blue and sunny and being outdoors is pleasant rather than unbearably hot and sticky, is rare in southeast Pennsylvania. After feebly telling myself that I really still need to rest quietly for a few more days, (see the previous post), I put my sketch bag and medication kit into the MG, lowered the ragtop, and set out on a leisurely old fashioned Sunday drive with no particular destination in mind.

40 miles later, I found myself on PA Rte 143, a less traveled road that winds along a creek through woods and patches of farmland, dotted with Pennsylvania Dutch stone houses and barns, heading north. Stopped in Wanamaker at an old general store that makes sandwiches worthy of any deli enthusiast's palate. Polished off a pastrami on rye then dashed off a sketch from the front porch before continuing up the road to drop in on my friends Denise and Paul Grothouse up in Germansville.

When I rolled up to their house, perched on a hilltop with breathtaking views, Paul was indulging himself by washing his car, and Denise was inside canning and pickling vegetables from her gardens in the kitchen I designed for them. Last visit I'd taken a sour cherry pie that proved a big hit, so I mentioned that if I'd have known I was going to end up there I'd have brought peaches and blueberries so I'd have an excuse to use the new kitchen. Denise immediately seized on the opportunity, saying that just two miles down the road was a local produce stand that would probably have both. Fifteen minutes later I was making a mess, hunting for utensils, throwing together pie dough, peeling and slicing peaches, and earning my dinner.

We hung out by the pool while the pie was baking, talking about business, politics, movies. Enjoyed an ad hoc meal of homegrown fare. Had big wedges of pie. Relaxed and talked some more, catching up on each other's lives as the sun faded to the west. It got late. Denise put together more fresh produce and pickled beets and eggs and beef liver than I can eat in a month and we loaded it into the MG. I drove the 80 miles home under a star studded sky.

Before a rash of bad luck made cross country travel impossible for me this month, I was to fly out to meet Ina in Wyoming to see the eclipse. We were both sad that I couldn't do that. Still, a beautiful drive on a fine summer Sunday and an unplanned visit with friends I don't see enough of, while not exactly an historic celestial event, took some of the edge off that disappointment. Wandering, and spending easy time with good friends. I remind myself that I need to do more of that.



Resting up

Ellie is not normally allowed on the furniture. She knows this. Yet today, she senses that I lack the will to scold and shoo her off my reading chair. She knows that I'm not my normal stern self.

Ten days ago, I was on an outing with my daughter Nora, home for a visit from Guadalajara, and her mom, with whom I have a friendly relationship. Nora wanted to see and photograph some obscure old abandoned places in rural Lancaster county, and she and her mom wanted me to tag along. I was tired, but brushed it off to fatigue from some big and energy consuming changes that are catching up to me. During the field trip, though, a sudden painful urgency made me think, "Dammit, I probably need to go see my urologist and get a prescription."

Later at home, before I could arrange an office visit, things rapidly deteriorated. Coming on like a summer tempest, chills and fever, nausea and weakness hit me hard and within a couple hours I could barely function. I called my ex-wife and asked if I could drop Ellie off on my way to the emergency room. She immediately insisted that I was in no condition to drive myself, and she and Nora headed over.

Business was brisk in the ER that night, but they finally put me on a gurney and got me into a treatment room, putting me on IV antibiotics and saline. Nicolette patiently waited until after midnight when they released me with a prescription and follow up instructions. 

Next morning, as I was realizing I still felt pretty lousy, the hospital called and informed me that the infection had entered by blood stream, and I needed to get back there fast. This time without delay I was whisked to a private room on the 7th floor of Lancaster General, starting treatment as they rolled me down the halls. They eventually discovered that my pathogen was resistant to almost all antibiotics. I was told that sepsis kills. The stay stretched to five days. Ina showed up from Washington with books and magazines and tasty food. I passed the time reading and did a couple sketches, and slept a lot between being stuck with needles and fussed over by hospital staff.

They sent me home with a catheter from under my left arm to just above my heart through which for the next three weeks I give myself hour long infusions of medication. I was advised that I need to be serious about rest. I really don't have time for this, but I also have no choice but to comply.

So that brings me to the manipulative little rascal who snuck onto my upholstered reading chair this morning after returning from our sedate walk around the block. Better enjoy it while you can, Ellie. I'll recover soon, and when I'm back, I'm going to be worse than ever.



Morning nap

I am fortunate for this: dogs sleep a lot.


Little dreamer

I am not a dog person. Depending on the temperament and behavior of the individual, I often find them intrusive, annoying, or outright offensive and intolerable. At best, they make me anxious because I worry (a global problem for me) about whether or not they need to poop or pee, are hungry, lonely, or sad. I had a German Shepherd in an earlier life, and much as I loved him, I worried about him all the time. My own neuroses make me less than an ideal pet owner, but with my son living at home and having a three year old female white pit bull, I am reluctantly pretty much just that.

Yet while I am inconvenienced and sometimes exasperated by Ellie, there is something redeeming about being responsible for another living creature. Not quite the same but on a similar spectrum to becoming a parent, which I also thought I had the wrong disposition for. So this morning, when I saw Ellie sacked out on Gabe's bed, my thought was that I am grateful, if sometimes grumblingly so, that she is with us and, as have my children, she helps me to remember that the effort of caregiving can be rewarding beyond all measure.