Sunday, March 31, 2013

Panama 1989 - Game of Jeopardy

It's complicated living an unordinary life in an ordinary way. Sometimes I feel like normal glanced my way and opted out for a double scotch neat at the local bar.  What I wouldn't give to be buddies with that allusive character for just one year.  At least that is what I'm always tossing out there into a conversation that has the misfortune of spiraling downward in logicality when quality of life - unhappiness verses contentment - becomes the topic.  Of course these conversations are always centered around and between the same two people, and the end is always to be continued next time... unresolved.  I swear, if another one of these talks has no ending, I do believe husband will be making his bed in the back seat of that little red Toyota Solara that's parked at the end of our driveway.

Boring seems to be the new worn out word in my vocabulary to describe the long dry spells in between the extraordinary times I've had.  I'm anguishing in the middle of a mind made desert at the moment.  Life's always seemed out of control when it comes to anything resembling normality, as I've ricocheted between normal, near normal, subnormal, abnormal  non-normal...whatever.  I think I'm viewed as a downright all out crazy nut case sometimes by my living on the tippy toe edge partner, and that in itself has to be some kind of enormous feat to have accomplished.  I'm having to embrace the fact that my life's becoming years overdue for another rush of excitement.

Quit panicking!  We're not talking house burning down, gas line explosion, car careening off a cliff, or heaven forbid - another pet from hell type of scenario.  We're talking adventure...a new game in life.  The difficulty is topping the Panama debacle and still coming out alive at the end.  Okay, I want it all...coming out alive and WELL at the end.  The discomforting part is that I'm always thrown into an adventure not of my own choosing, then working through a maze of obstacles in my quest to survive perhaps physically but mostly mentally in the process.  Now that I think about it...isn't that more accurately called having a misadventure?  Oh...pooh!  Adventure...misadventure...attitude determines the call, so am I an optimist or am I a pessimist?  I'm not telling, so THERE!

While my partner looks back at Panama as his adventure most excellent, I usually try never to look back at that exciting phase that definitely became the biggest misadventure of all time for me.  The threat of poison frogs, banana spiders, fer-de-lance pit vipers, tree vipers, bushmasters, and mosquito borne diseases paled in comparison to the plight of homeless diseased cats roaming the alleys and byways of city streets, and the extortion and thieving practices of the poor whenever we ventured out our front door.

Morgan Avenue became my sanctuary of contentment after leaving all the unrest happening in the middle of Panama City.  A quiet tree lined road with a sharp drop-off on the tree side, a row of neat yards surrounding large houses on the opposite side, all topped off with a lush backdrop of jungle covered hills beyond the tidy backyards.  Except for the billions of ticks, tons of mosquitoes, gigantic herds of fire and leaf cutter ants, sweltering humidity, over abundance of wild things, and anything left in the yard within half a day of its placement being stolen; it was pure heaven.

Another non-military couple near the beginning of the avenue became close friends and accompanied us on many of our shorter excursions.  The others were military and usually each week of the dry season found everyone at the playground area next to the backyards just beyond our living quarters playing volleyball and enjoying potluck dinners.  I was frightfully energetic back then and most of my wardrobe was hand sewn from those Pauloa and Victoria Jones Hawaii patterns...classy stuff, those long beautiful cotton dresses.  Joining the group of ladies from the avenue for a downtown excursion and lunch every month was possible after I terminated my job, and kept things more lively.  It was a lovely short stretch of peacefulness that was terminated too quickly before the oncoming Christmas season.

Always a late stay upper and a late get upper, the evening found me alone; an all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse type of night.  Watching a movie on the military sponsored channel, the only one in a language I understood, all was so silent that I do believe if I had coughed just one measly little cough, all of the walls of the house would have shook with a rumble.  Outbursts of rapid firing from guns softly interrupted my train of thought, immediately causing me to shutdown my entertainment and strain with my ear close to the window to determine direction of that elusive commotion that was starting to increase in the number of firearms being used.

Alarmed, I woke my husband out of a sound sleep and watched the disbelief on his face as he listened to my outburst exclaiming that a war was going on somewhere down the road.  This is the tropics, and our house is covered in windows with blinds to block out the view.  I swear my entire conversation after that was don't open the door, stay away from the windows, what the hell is wrong with you-do you want to get us killed?  As the momentum picked up, tanks and troops were on the avenue moving towards the Panamanian military station that was just over the hill on the next street from Morgan Avenue, the slums of that area overflowing with the poor.

Mind was still pitch black out there in the late night, and not much could be seen from any window.  It was all a horrible feast for the ears alone, and not knowing has a way of creating the most frightening fear of all.  Mortars began flying over the house from somewhere, a deafening sound that triggered our dog Misty on a rampage of barking.  All the lights were off, the blinds were pulled tightly closed and the doors braced as our yard and carport became deluged with people scattering from the hill and slums beyond to the safety of the yards on Morgan Avenue.  Fear that if people knew we were in the house the windows would have been broken in, we huddled on the bedroom floor with our hands over our ears to soften the roars of the mortars with Misty barking out-of-control for one of the longest hours I have ever experienced.

Daylight broke, and as the mortar firing ceased, troops and vehicles traveled up and down the avenue collecting all the bloody and scared refuges, taking them to a holding area.  A soldier knocked at our door and my husband talked to him.  I think everyone was surprised that all the resident of Morgan Avenue were still in their homes.  We later found out that we all should have been evacuated through a tunnel at the base of the hill behind us that led to the US base at the top of that hill.  We had no idea a tunnel even existed.  Falling through the cracks of bureaucracy, it was evident that our safety was a moot point to our government.  We were on our own.

We began talking to all the other residents on our avenue, and learned the solder near the far end from us shot and killed an intruder.  Several Americans driving through a Panamanian check point near us were gunned down and killed.  An American downtown who stupidly opened his apartment door to knocking was gunned down also.  Realizing that we were viewed as expendable collateral puts a different slant on where loyalty really lies in my physiological makeup.  I'm more of an all for me and my family first type of war product these days.

Fear of snipers in the sewer tunnels and the jungle areas kept things on edge for the next several months, and Christmas that year was spent with the Christmas tree lights never turned on, and a loaded six shooter always close by on the coffee table. Months passed before we truly felt safe when venturing out in our little non-air conditioned car to pick up groceries miles away at the PX. The revelation that evacuation to anywhere, even back to the states, didn't include the pets killed all desire within me of ever living abroad another time.

Much later, when returning to the states after four very long years abroad, I confess that an urge almost overtook me to kneel down and kiss the ground beneath my feet after I stepped off that Pan Am flight, even though my definition of loyalty had been rewritten.  I had changed.  I had advanced beyond naivety for all time.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March Doldrums

:'( Haven't we all met someone like this?

A man of words and not of deeds
Is like a garden full of weeds
And when the weeds begin to grow
It's like a garden full of snow
And when the snow begins to fall
It's like a bird upon the wall
And when the bird away does fly
It's like an eagle in the sky
And when the sky begins to roar
It's like a lion at the door
And when the door begins to crack
It's like a stick across your back
And when your back begins to smart
It's like a penknife in your heart
And when your heart begins to bleed
You're dead, and dead, and dead indeed.

Nursery Rhyme Possibly by John Fletcher 1579-1625


Kick that someone clean out of your life
garden, garden, garden

A spot of sunshine
in an otherwise common dreary day

"F" is for Fantastic Gardens   :)

This Hole Wasn't Here Last Year ???

Pretty Ladies in a Row

Moss Gardens

Sunshine on a Stem

March---color's shyly appearing on the landscape, except for that tenacious henbit deadnettle hogging every square inch of the gardens with its demure purple flowers that I suppose need to pig out on their space requirements in order to be seriously noticed.  And - we do so seriously notice this little interloper that steals onto the scene quietly, then creates a massive white fungal mess as the flowers fade away and our humidity does its damage.  Disappearing by summer, it's seeds silently wait to irritate the hell out of us again come next March.

Fluffy large rabbit spied in back garden hiding from the dog last week...small scruffy rabbit startled in the front yard today as the bird feeder was stuffed full of treats.  The call of the eastern towhee is heard often, and he's frequently caught scrounging around in the wild weeds on the ground foraging for his supper when he isn't heisting seeds off the back deck railing.  The resident mockingbird is perplexing us once again with some newly learned sounds that have us all guessing.

Seventy degrees one day, 36 degrees the next, buds plump out in the warmed air, then hold their breath as the cold roars back in again, ancient ash tree stands naked in the dreary cold drizzle, it will be the last to clothe itself in greenery and seed layers come real springtime, and the hollies wonder what the hoopla's all about, what's the big deal about all this lovely icy chill?  It's all like a fierce crouched tiger silently waiting for just the right moment to burst forth with all its might.  Spring's waiting just around the corner on the next calendar page.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


The gardens are under attack by waves of pelting rains that cannot make up their minds whether to wash everything down the street or take pity and ease up a bit.  Bird watching has come to a screeching halt...erererrrkerPLUNK!

I've been blessed with being sick but on the mends, and pleasantly reminded that birds do indeed find my yard blissfully irresistible. I find myself wistfully wishing I was retired, until I remember that spending money in my pocket is such a warm fuzzy feeling ;)

A flock of cedar waxwings mobbed the back gardens on Sunday gorging themselves on the blue-black berries smothering the two blackhaw viburnum trees.  Later a flock of evil starlings joined in, and I was compelled to open the sliding glass door and beat the living daylights out of an old square cake pan with the back of a serving spoon to chase them away.  Starlings fled, but the cedar waxwings were unfazed.

Late in the day just a small token clump of blue-black berries hung from the end of one lonely branch.  I thought Monday would be dismal, since I reasoned they would move on in their quest for winter foraging.  I was happily disappointed they hung around and began stripping the winterberry hollies of all their bright red fruit. If they hang around much longer, my resident mockingbird will be totally co-dependent on the feeder until spring.

A flock of robins joined the commotion early afternoon, and later a group of cardinals stopped by.  I rarely ever feel the satisfaction that should come from all those laborious hours that seem to never end with the gardens in good weather, but this week has brightened my spirits immensely.

Lacey's impatiently waiting for her broccoli to reach the al dente stage in the oven (yes - I do have a cat that pigs out on that green veggie stuff), so I bid you a fond goodbye for now.  I mustn't be late for my date with Dustin dog and Lacey to get our veggie fix. Just wish I could teach that feisty feline a manner or two, as she loves to bat her pieces of broccoli all over the dining room floor like they are green mice before she decides to devour them :'( 

First peek of spring...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thoughts like plump fuzzy snowflakes falling from the heavens

Zoe and I are bird watching,
probably for different reasons ;)
but we're enjoying it just the same.

Plump fuzzy snowflakes
are falling from the heavens,
and melting as they touch the ground.

Blue jays bully the pesky grackles,
but the two doves stay put
until the mockingbird appears.

It's always a colorful smorgasbord of feathers
at the feeder each morn
as the sunflower hearts disappear too rapidly.

I hear it's peeps and am delighted
to find my eastern towhee
still hanging out in my neck of the woods.

Purple finch, titmice,
a pair of black-capped chickadees,
and a noisy Carolina wren flit about.

Fresh chilly winter air
refreshes my inner spirit,
even though it all looks a bit gloomy out there.

A downy woodpecker makes its way up the tree,
as a group of slate-colored juncos
mess about on the ground.

The uninvited house sparrows
push out the white-crowned sparrows,
while a pair of cardinals wait in the bushes.

As a goldfinch lands at the feeder rim,
Zoe looks at me with those intense eyes
asking if breakfast is only a myth.

So I must pry myself away
from my window of many delights,
but I do so with a reluctant sigh.

A very nice beginning
to a most wondrous day
that just happens to be my birthday.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Massacre on Hobson Pike

Decisions came hard for her.  She was still parked on the shoulder with her engine idling when the yellow gas light popped on and instantly complicated her indecision.  Rats!  She stared at those twenty-six bloody bodies on the road (she had carefully counted them all), and the acid reflux from her churning stomach was gagging her.  Fumbling with the door lock, she barely pushed it open before her lunch she had spent thirty-five dollars on and devoured two hours ago was lying on the ground.  Great!

She sighed.  She was trapped in her little red car, because to straddle that console with her two chubby legs was not a plan that would ever occupy her head for even one second.  She was going nowhere without her tire rolling through all that crud, but she had to go somewhere, anywhere fast.  She looked at the car clock again - twelve minutes and still no one had driven over the top of the last hill or the hill beyond to join her in her predicament.  The engine was running on fumes, her cell phone was still sitting on her kitchen counter charging, and she had to so desperately pee.

She carefully drove back onto the road with the noise of upchuck flinging off her back tire, and grimaced.  She stopped.  She sucked most of the air right out of the interior of her little red car until she thought her lungs were going to explode; and then raced across those crunching bodies, over the next hill, and into the setting sun.  She put on her sunglasses, dug into her purse with her right hand, and fetched out a stale piece of sugarless gum to calm her nerves.  A semi, she thought.  It must have been a semi-truck barreling through a flock of birds.  It was a bad omen, all that carnage, and she knew the rest of her day was going to be shit - and it was.

The flock of birds was real...
the rest pure imagination.
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