Meliorism

Happy very late Sunday night Travellers,

Let’s start with something I said last time I was here about great words and how we tend to neglect a flourishing vocabulary in favor of what is comfortable…this evening I have a good one, meliorism which is the belief that the world can be made better by human effort. Obviously better is subjective, but what a great word…what a great thing to try and do despite everything…

In case you are just stumbling into this space, I’m going to do my formerly regularly scheduled Sunday night dish of goodness that I haven’t done in a long time…

I should warn you that some of the things I’m going put on the table may not in fact seem like goodness. I’ve become very aware of in the past few years that great pain leads us to places we may never have ventured on our own. And I think it’s a gift to arrive in the space that despite it all, you would never undo the choices that led you there. Because it makes you into you.

And maybe the best wisdom or goodness is gleamed in the darkness. I think this is where courage grows for us all. It’s like the night shade of virtues.

I was driving to Lawrence Saturday night, and I took this shot of the sunset from a rather unusual perspective for me. Later I realized I liked it so much because it reminded me of the last moments of the “Six Feet Under” finale. Something about catching the sunset behind me instead of in front of me. I’m not sure how to describe it, so give it some thought…

I know we’re not suppose to look back too much in life because we can’t drive or move forward very well, but a glance can’t be helped now and again, can it?

And this was a doozy of a sunset. The way it unfolded itself was exquisite. I’ve seen a few this year that left a lurking afterglow on the horizon. Almost like the sun wasn’t ready to go to bed…

It’s Fall right now. I realize that many of you don’t have Fall where you are reading this from, I can’t imagine that kind of absence. My dear friend who moved to Texas always says she misses the seasons.

Fall in Kansas is like fireworks done in the medium of vibrant leaves. Minus the exploding noises, but you get the idea. All the colors of red, orange and yellow in all pigmentations and combinations. I find myself often lingering and staring as I drive down the streets in wonder…

I could shoot hundreds of photos of said leaves on trees, but here are my two favorites.

The first is a tree in a neighborhood that I pass through each day on my drive into work. It’s the color of sunshine and I kid you not, it glows when the sunlight hits it. It’s ethereal and unreal. AND I desperately want to go lay under it and take a photo like I’m looking up it’s skirt, but I’m not sure how the homeowner would respond to a random girl laying in their yard taking photos so this is what I have…maybe close your eyes and imagine what it would look like laying under it’s boughs…the staggering grandeur.

One more thing, the day I took this photo, the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue. Actually, azure. And the combination of the colors was just the kind of thing that makes you want to memorize the details and pack it away in your suitcase of memories on Earth.

This one is my blueberry bush. Not sure if it’s Larry or Curly at this point, but the two new ones went fiery red while my original one is experiencing his first outdoor Fall. This will be the first year his leaves will change colors outdoors. You can see he is currently resisting as his foliage is mostly green, BUT I am seeing colors. I’m oddly happy for him getting to experience this with fellow blueberry bushes.

One final note on the Fall leaf situation, I’ve found myself drawn this year to the leaves lying about the ground or when I happen to pass by and catch them floating mid-air on their descent to their earthly graves. It’s beautiful in a way I have failed to notice until now. It’s like a slow strip tease for trees and life. Just strewn about, all around us. They have become the teenagers whose clothes are ALL OVER THEIR ROOM and not getting picked up anytime soon.

I bought a new cactus. Shocking I know…the guy who grows these is the most inspired gardener I’ve ever met… I will bet he names all of them and talks to them. He can grow varieties I’ve never seen in my entire life… some I keep alive, some not so much…SHHHHH!! Don’t tell him…I loved this one because of the pink blushed edges on it’s leaves and these little guys growing on it…again, wonder is alive and well in this world AND you can care for it…GROW WONDER. How about that???

Okay, so here’s the serious plot twist..one week ago, Dave’s dad passed away from Covid. Mike was a good man and a parent to me in my life when I needed one. He was honest and hard working and had the best genuine positive attitude. I can still here him saying my name in my head as I type these words.

The last time I saw Dave, Mike was with him. Dave once told me that I reminded him of his Dad and Mike told me that’s probably not a good thing Amy. I never talked to him after Dave committed suicide, but I always remembered when he once said to me that Dave had never been happy in his whole life in the middle of an odd conversation about plates. And I felt for him in that moment. My whole heart hurt for him. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a child struggling with an illness that is foreign to you. Mental health is so hard to understand because we cannot feel each other’s insides and it’s the hardest bridge of understanding to cross, isn’t it?

I genuinely consider it my privilege to have known him. And again, I don’t know where we go next or how long we linger or what part of us remains here with those we love, but I hope we meet again somehow.

On the one year anniversary of Dave’s suicide last month, I had reached out to his mom and I realized in that moment, she and I were always still traveling together through this life. Silently for most of this past year, but together.

When she called me about Mike, I thought of the gift she gave me when Dave left as we were divorcing. She sent it back with Mike for me. It says “Be Brave”. I know she will find this post and I don’t know what the words are right now to help you know that you’ll make it through this, so I wanna tell you about something that happened tonight instead…

Years ago there was a place in Lawrence called Ingredient. Over the course of a decade or so, we frequented it in varying combinations of myself and Dave, Martha and me, I think all four of us, and Martha and Mike. It closed a few years ago, but there was this soup. The greatest tomato bisque in the history of humanity. Yes, the greatest, nope, not gonna back down from that claim…

Tonight I believe I experienced what can only be described as a celestial culinary event.

A supernatural alignment of soup.

That bowl above is from the local Co-op in that same city, but tonight it was EXACTLY like the soup from Ingredient. Taste, texture, viscosity and this very specific thing that I’ve never had anywhere else. It’s a little tiny crunch.. Until tonight…tonight there was magic here in my house.

I actually giggled when I took the third or fourth bite…because I recognized it, because I have missed it, because it’s not from this place, because flavor is as unrepeatable as moments.

BUT for just that moment, I felt very connected to all of us. Martha, Mike, Dave and me and the life that we all shared. Those memories before the world broke open. The life that remains here for her and I without them. This month is Dave’s birthday and I have to say Mike’s death knocked something loose in me and reignited my feelings about Dave in a way that I can’t explain. The human nervous system is a mystery, but we’ll talk about that another time…

ALSO worth noting, mac and cheese from said Co-op is AH-MAZING dipped in this soup. Always always try new things. Especially food, what do you have to lose anyways?? That’s actually one of the best things I learned from Dave, taste new things.

Now I’d like to leave with a song that I don’t want to explain right now, but I wanna leave it here anyways…and something the weirdly wise Keanu Reeves said when asked what happens to us when we die. He replied, “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” I like to believe they miss us too, don’t you?

See you soon.

An evening with Herbert

Buenas Noches Travellers,

This is a very late edition coming to you from the rain drenched plains of Kansas. It’s been raining here everyday for at least five days with no end in sight. By no end, I do mean the forecast for the next two weeks includes rain almost every damn day.

And truly I’m not living on the plains, but rather in the center of a city, which makes what about to say all the more wonderous.

Tonight I arrived home from work to find a most unusual guest on my back terrace.

One little lone duckling waddling along.

As I approached he began feverishly running around. Trying to climb the back step which was twice his height, then trying to run up the siding on the house, then falling down. Then getting up and doing it all over again.

A duckling alone in the city.

Looking like so…

I named him Herbert. Because when I looked at that little face, that’s the name that came to mind.

And obviously I had to catch him because HELLO, dog and cats everywhere here!

I have NO IDEA how he came to be in my backyard as it gated and fenced all around. Did his mother bring him here with his siblings? Had he gotten separated somehow on his own?

We searched the yard, no other ducks in sight. There have never been any ducks in my sight in this neighborhood. Until now.

I’m not gonna lie, part of me gave serious thought to the idea of keeping him. I mean here he was plucked down in my yard in between cloud bursts, don’t we call that fate?

Do I know how to take care of a duck? No, no I do not…

So we called the Wildlife rescue hotline instead and left a message instead. I didn’t expect to receive a call back tonight, so I moved him into the bathtub and set up some kind of livable space for his evening…

He actually seemed to be alright all things considered. Doesn’t he look alright?

I always imagine what life looks like from a smaller animal’s perspective. I must have seemed like a giant that scooped him up into a box with some strange fuzzy thing. And this tub would seem a vast basin of white slickness like he’d never seen before.

I noticed he was shaking, I’m certain he was scared.

I would be scared too, wouldn’t you?

I sat and talked to him and ever so gently touched his back to attempt some kind of reassurance that he was alright.

I’m not sure there is a fear greater for any of us than being completely lost and separated from what you knew to be truly yours.

And since I live almost 14 city blocks away from the nearest body of water or about 7 blocks from the nearby creek, he was far from home, wherever that home may have been.

A nice lady called within an hour of my message asking about him and said she would consult the other lady who worked with her that did more bird rescues and get back to me shortly with instructions to keep him for the night. While I waited I did some online searching and discovered that ducks are not solitary creatures and can easily become depressed or lonely which can make it difficult for them to thrive or survive as ducklings.

It said that they feel loneliness, isolation and grief much like humans do.

The other interesting thing I learned this evening is that ducks, like most other animals, will gladly take in offspring that is not theirs at birth. The nice lady called me back and said she needed to come get him tonight to get him rehomed because he would have a better chance at survival. She planned to take him to that pond I mentioned earlier because other ducks would be there, hopefully a female with ducklings and she would leave him with them.

I have to admit, I’m the skeptic here. Trusting strangers with a super cute duckling that the universe brought to my door isn’t my strong suit, but sometimes you have to do what’s right because it’s right. No guaranteed outcome.

Not a single life here has any guaranteed outcome, does it?

So I packed up my very temporary little duck and said good bye and sent him off into the rainy night with that friendly lady who promised she would find him a new home.

Now let me tell you the weird thing.

This whole event made me think of Dave…There’s a store here called Orscheln Farm & Home that sells farming supplies and each Spring they have Chick & Duck Days. We went several times during our relationship because I loved seeing the chicks and ducklings and holding them. We hadn’t done that in years, but in March he sent me a text with a photo of me holding one of those chicks and asked if I remembered that day. To be honest, he did that half a dozen times before I ever talked to him which angered me and also made me wonder if his life wasn’t as amazing as he thought it was going to be. Otherwise why would you be reminiscing about the woman who you said would be replaced by a better one? I’m going to always wonder if I had said something different, would he be alive still? Was that him reaching out and I failed to see that?

But when I saw this duckling, I realized that strange random wonderous things are still gonna happen in my life.

Because I wasn’t left behind to die, I was left behind to live.

Now if you would all do me this kindness: Pray for Herbert’s safety and long life. Ducks can live up to 20 years and perhaps he and I will meet again someday.

Or send positive energy or whatever you do, just do that…