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The Perils Of Hiking Naked

Hiking in the wrong attire feels like hiking naked. Really. I am the living expert. Just take a gander at the masthead of this blog. That’s me, hiking in Edinburgh in a dress.

Show me a mountain with the barest hint of a trail, and up I go. It’s like I’m Teddy in the play “Arsenic and Old Lace,” bellowing CHARGE! as I disappear up the sheer incline into a thicket of who-knows-what. Living life feels like a blind charge sometimes.

It’s always a blind charge, but we humans only realize that sporadically. Last week, I found myself devastated, alone and out of sorts. Being alone isn’t something I do well. My nagging worries feed my neurotic insecurities until I become someone even I want to flee.

Luckily for me, I could see an undulating, green mountain from the window of my hotel. A few taps on Google revealed that it was a public park with hiking trails and a 360 degree view of Los Angeles. It was so close I could almost touch the relief the open air would give my sagging spirit.

You know how things look close on the expanse of ocean, even when they’re miles and miles and miles away? As it turns out, the same phenomenon happens on land.

I used my trusty iPhone to map the best pedestrian approach to the park. One.four urban miles, it jingled, through the Hollywood Hills. Easy-peasey. Perhaps I will see a celebrity! I thought as I set off up the gentle incline of the sidewalk in a dress and Mary Janes. When the sidewalk ended a third of the way, I kept charging uphill. That’s what TR* would do, and I love TR. The neighborhood was eclectic, and I wasn’t really sweating, and the car that buzzed me was possibly driven by Steve Martin or his evil twin. Fresh air. Gasping Strolling up a 15 degree incline. Just what I needed to clear the old noggin.

By the time I reached the famed Mulholland Drive, I was soaked and disheveled. More than once, people studied me like I was casing the whole area with the intention of breaking and entering. Bull-headedness propelled me along the side of the dusty, twisting road. In less than ten minutes, I found it. My phone practically exploded with the news that I was at the (now) fabled entrance to Runyon Canyon, a wonderland of hiking bliss sprawling before me.

“Beware of rattlesnakes. They are everywhere.” I wasn’t twenty yards up my chosen trail when that sign announced my impending doom. With a sigh, I forged onward. I wasn’t going back the way I came – Steven Martin might really hit me with his car. The only way through the park was through it.

A handful of ginger steps in my dress and snake-bait bare legs led me to a summit. I sat and surveyed how far I’d come when I was so unprepared and ill-equipped. Life always shows us we can do things, even when we doubt ourselves, especially when we don’t think we can. I sat on that mountaintop in my dress and Mary Janes.

And I laughed.

*TR is Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.

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Happy Halloween!

Gone to Ground

This is the first post in this week’s series, Grounded: Stories From the American Southwest. I’ve always been fascinated by its alien landscape. As always, thank you for reading my little blog.

A backdraft smacks him in the face when they open the door of the plane. Concentrated heat melts into him, causing his skin to crackle. He can hear it burn as he trudges along the jetway. By the time he makes it to his rented car, he is sweating, but before he can wipe his brow with the back of his hand, the welcome sensation of dewey wetness evaporates into the parched air.

He didn’t want to be here. In Arizona. The desert. At least, he’s come to say goodbye, if one can ever say goodbye to a person whose death won’t kill him. Parents, they live on within the landscape of our selves, even when they aren’t welcome there.

He surveys the terrain zipping past his windows. It matches his disrupted mood. The ground bakes under the relentless sun. Driving through the country is like visiting another planet. Strangled brush makes an otherworldy carpet on the dusty ground. Giant spines of cacti – would they become trees if it rained enough? Forests of them dot the rolling hillsides as far as he can see.

Water. He stops to buy a bottle. The hard ground scatters bowls of dust in the wake of his footsteps, the remnants of the runoff of the river of time. When he pours some water on it, the soil contracts like constricting pores, refusing to take the wetness in.

He stares, knows he’s stalling, delaying the inevitable, the possible rekindling of something within the core of his combusted soul. When he sees his father, he feels like the rocky, starved soil surrounding him. It’s mesmerizing. It goes on for miles.

Yet, there’s nothing there.

Connections can wither without a healthy dose of water, the proper amount of light and shade. Even predictable storms erode layers of feeling if they do nothing to relieve the harm of the aftermath they cause.

His father is dying in the desert. This wasted land will be a fitting place to say farewell to the man who withheld his care in a lifetime without rain.

NOTE TO READERS: WordPress seems to have a comment glitch this morning. If you aren’t logged into your WP account, the comments are absent from the bottom of the post, and when one clicks on the comments from the main page, the comments are not visible. I sent a note to support regarding this issue. I apologize if you are trying to post a comment and are unable to make it work today.

Alas For Her!

This post is part of the Mirror Series. If this is your first visit to the Mirror Series, please click here and follow the arrows at the top right of each post to read the series from the beginning. Thank you for reading!

John Donne 72.

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,          5
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,   10
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Darkness. It engulfed me. My heart still raced from the madness of it all. She was dying – she WANTED to die. Finally, I convinced them to let her go. The chaos stopped. I know I saw her walk into the light.

With the casual flick of a switch, I was blinded. Gazing into the gaping path of pure whiteness can cause sight issues when the beam stops glowing, when it is replaced by nothingness, a void. The room was silent. Where people had been swarming all around me just seconds ago, I felt no one. All that possessed my mind was the compulsion to move to the right, to get out of the way lest the light return too soon. It might decide to devour ME next time.

I knew this place. Confidence illumined my blackened steps as I plowed through the murk. Something brushed past me, and I knew if I followed it, I would find my place. Returning to myself again was always easy. This in-between time was the portal, the mirror, that eased me back into ME. If I kept moving I would make it. Almost, I was ALMOST there.

My knee struck something hard. I bit my lip to keep from screaming. The searing pain made me dizzy, but it didn’t make me deaf. I heard an object fall, its bouncing echoed through the needle-like silence of the room. With every reverberation, I felt my doom, forever to be trapped in the in-between. Heart throbbing in my center, I stood. Scrapes along the floor ebbed and charged, seeking to block my return. Could it see in this blackout? Waiting. Anticipating it, the menace that threatened to banish me .

When the lights came back up, the first thing I noticed was……..laughter?

My exit stage right at the end of the play Wit was a crashing, deafening disaster as I careened into the long forgotten desk from Act 1 that was stored in the wings. To have to go back onstage, face the audience and take my bow – it would surely be the death of me.


Of Them All

This post is part of the Mirror Series. If this is your first visit to the Mirror Series, please click here and follow the arrows at the top right of each post to read the series from the beginning. Thank you for reading!

You almost came to be when I was two. Nobody could tell who you were. Brother? Sister? Yet, you’ve haunted me for years. People make impressive lists chronicling the People They’d Like to Meet, always designed to impress.

Of them all, I wish I could meet you.

Sometimes, I glance up from the bowl of the sink as I’m washing my face and wonder how much yours would’ve resembled mine. I see a striking sunset and try to imagine whether you would close your eyes and let the final rays warm your face in peace or scrounge for the camera and miss it like I do all the time. Would our personalities attract like the right sides of two magnets, perpetually joined with the familiar bond I envy with a twang in my heart every time I see it in the wild? I daydream that we’d be close, trading secrets, understanding what it’s like to not-quite-fit. Maybe you’d visit me, and we’d stay up all night sharing the minutiae of our separate lives.

I think you’d be a singer, blessed with our Mother’s ethereal voice, belting out show tunes at parties with our Father’s uninhibited personality. Worry wouldn’t furrow your brow. Regardless of your genetic encoding, you’d be the person to make me lighter, as I encouraged you to realize your dreams.

Perhaps.

You had lots of dreams, floating in your tiny sea. Snatches of them flit by my ears embedded in particles of air. On the street, I see remnants of them in random unfamiliar faces. I seek you everywhere, hoping you landed inside someone I’ve yet to meet, a person my soul will recognize because part of me died with you. Bits of me were never born, because you never existed to complete them.

You rattle chains around my aura and tap my headboard when I dream. Of all the phantoms that walk the Earth, What Might Have Been is the hardest one to shake.

Who’s the Eeriest?

This post is part of the Mirror Series. If this is your first visit to the Mirror Series, please click here and follow the arrows at the top right of each post to read the series from the beginning. Thank you for reading!

She did it one time too many. Mistress left me with Boyfriend for the night. Work Reasons, she said, though I made sure the last time she did it was the Last Time She Did. Chewing up her favorite pair of stilettos and peeing on them gave her a satisfying indication of my ire.

I didn’t like staying with Boyfriend. His bed was lumpy, and he rarely washed the sheets, and sometimes he stayed up all night watching television, and there was no room for me to squeeze on the sofa. Being there was disruptive, because I was not the Boston Terrier Queen.

Now, hold on. Before you roll your eyes and say Garth Stein already wrote the best-selling dog book. I’m not wasting my time reading another story told from the dog’s perspective, give me a minute. I’m Jazzmine, and I’m a DEAD dog. Seeing my whole life flash before my eyes from page 1 to 250? LAME. I can tell you all about being dead, what happens when you die.

Ghosts tell the best stories, because to us, they’re revelations of fact. Autobiographical, if you will. They enlighten the listener with the vision of what’s true, what they can expect on the flip side of life. To me, the most telling combinations merge the two – what you can see reflected in the mirror of what you think you will see when death happens to you.

On this night, Boyfriend let me have a whole side of the bed. I snuggled up next to him and pretended he was her, let out that long sigh that always preceded running in my sleep. Only, sleep wouldn’t come. The white hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, and the black ones along the length of my spine followed. Even wallowing on my back didn’t help. Those hairs were like acupuncture needles, pricking me a thousand times. With a loud snort – the preeminent signal of my disgust – I flipped onto my four paws and stood, rooted around the covers for a more fitting place to doze.

At the foot of the bed, I saw it. A shimmering image of a mustachioed man dressed in a checkered lumberjack shirt and hunting pants, topped with a trucker hat, waving its arms in slow motion, slicing the air in front of it without disruption. Whoever this glowing intruder was gave me what I craved – the perfect excuse to bark my head off. I charged it, but it was planted and didn’t flinch. My most ferocious snarls only caused it to reach toward me as if its touch could make me stop. My thoughts of hiding under the bed were interrupted by Boyfriend’s shouting Who are you!?

This thing had to be real. He saw it, too.

While he tried to shield himself with the stinky sheets, I attacked with renewed purpose. Whatever-this-was could not scare me. I jumped from the bed and tried to tear into it. Instead, I banged my flat snout into the side of the bed. Weaving on unsteady feet, I chased the floating apparition until I ran face-first into the glass of the back door. Foiled again, I stood there and kept demanding that it stay away from me. I think I barked for two nights in a row.

I never saw it again, until I died.

That’s when he cornered me, told me I didn’t understand what it was like to see someone else living in my house. He died in a hunting accident, years before, but he always liked to immerse himself in what had been his life on the anniversary of his death.

I understand now. I haunt those places, too. I’m here to tell you it’s all true.

For Jazzmine. I miss you.

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