A Pleasant Chat With Myself …with no regrets

Writing 201, poetry: Pleasure, Sonnet, Apostrophe
(not that kind of apostrophe…)

                     Say What, SELF?

Talking to Myself is something I do
Listing accomplishments, dreams, and regrets.
Bragging to Self is always permitted
as long as the truth is told.

But sometimes I resent what SELF has to say
in questioning and doubting and high-handed
pouting over things that
I never got to do.

Travel might have been, should have been, would have been
had the opportunity and ability been present
much sooner in life than it was..

What’s that you say, Self?–
I didn’t apply myself?
I wasted much of the time of my life
on the mundane and unnecessary (in the grand scheme)
pursuits such as housework and not
enough adventure and travel?

Well that’s not the case!  I hasten to say–
I’m not indignant, I just need to explain.
My years as a gadabout (now I only can write about)
Only regretting but never forgetting
the places I did NOT get to and sites unseen.

What’s that you say, Self?
I never got to Australia — why not?
Well you know the reason…lack of money.
No, it is NOT an excuse
a trip to my Grandpa’s land
never made the itinerary
until it was too late.

Well, I’ve been to Minnesota, where I’m infamous for closing the airport
twice in two years.

What’s that you’re saying, S?
Yes, indeed there IS now a sign on the door
It’s the airport that never closes,
rain, sleet or snow notwithstandingl
but it did clamp down in a blizzard
(NO it is not fair to blame it on ME,
just because of a misunderstanding…

Well, OK, do you remember THIS, Self?

I’ve been to the jungle and mountaintops, where I slept in relative comfort
guarded by masked men with guns.
I love that cool, lofty city, high in the mountains–rebels and soldiers, and all.
Now don’t get judgemental and argumental, it was all pure and nobel.
YES, I do admit to thinking as the shadow appeared on the wall–
what the hell am I doing here, after all?

 What’s that you ask, SELF?
Now–don’t take me to task, prattling about morality
and culpability, and what would people think?
You know that I always bask in adventure and human rights
YES I was able to deal with the ghosts aflight in the nights.

So, sophistication was never my thing, and try as I might there was no chance
to be anything but me–boring old ME.

What is it now, SELF?
You remember it all? You DID love the days when I
could run through airports without too much effort,
and react bravely to full-gear soldiers with rifles, looking for passports
— and exist for weeks on a few Spanish phrases.

At the end of this sonnet, if that’s what it is,
Myself and I have agreed that no changes are needed
to worry and fret and make-up regrets, and argue and re-hash old times we would change
Now I can WRITE about memories of times when I REALLY was traveling…
not just in rhymes.

Flying the friendly skies, back in the day

I LOVED flying. I even liked airports, whether the reason was actually going somewhere myself, a trip with a husband, or even just providing transportation for someone else. The atmosphere of the terminal was always exciting, with people walking fast or almost running down the concourse to make a flight. Dragging or pushing carry-on bags and packages, some carrying sleeping children.
My very first flight was when I was 19 or 20, destination Valdosta, Georgia, to visit a boyfriend stationed there with his Air Force squadron, on active reserve manuevers. The flight only took a couple of hours. I forget what kind of aircraft it was, but my seat mate was a Catholic priest, a fact from which I took great comfort. I was scared silly by the time the plane landed, and very happy to find my fighter-pilot friend waiting at the edge of the tarmac.

Having survived my maiden flight, so to speak, it would be a few years before my next flight…back to the states via a Military Air Transportation Service (MATS) plane. My trip over to Germany two years earlier was SO much fun that I was looking forward to the return voyage across the Atlantic Ocean by ship. It was a converted troop ship, partially transformed into a military version of a luxury liner.

On the nine-day cruise bound for German port of Bremerhaven, from New York, I shared a small cabin with two other army wives and their two-year-olds. The babies were in little steel cribs, and I had one of the top bunks. I spent every possible minute on deck, watching the ocean…except when it was my meal setting. I sat at a big round table with seven other passengers, mostly army officers and wives traveling alone, as I was.

I was keenly disappointed when we flew back to New York on the MATS flight…on the plane, which did not have windows at each row of seats, so my only glimpse of the ocean was through a small window I passed on the way to the lavatory. It was a very uncomfortable flight for me, as I was seven months pregnant.

[Next post will discuss some of the people encountered on airplanes…entitled “Fools in Flight.” The featured characters include ME in the title role once or twice.]

Not lost, not forgotten…just on another page.

[WRITING 101–DAY FOUR:  Something that I had once but lost.]

We are back in the days of the sailing ships powered by great billowing canvas panels,  dependent on wind power. I am not sure of the year, or even the type of sailing vessel.  It may have been a great Clipper Ship, or a fast-treacherous slaver, or a grand warship complete with cannons.  Maybe it was one of those Egyptian ships run by man-power, rowers whose jobs depended on their keeping rhythm, and almost super-human strength and durability.

But no, my sense of adventure and grandeur is getting ahead of me here, and in truth I believe the ship that I am on is actually a medium-size fishing vessel.  The chances are my knowledge of fishing and shipping is  limited by lack of years…I’m only  15.   Except for basic techniques and words of caution from my father and uncles, my brothers and I are learning the fishing trade step by step.   I have only recently graduated to get a job on a real fishing boat…a big one, three masts.

We have shipped out, and it is very exciting.   Mother was trying hard not to cry, but she is a fisherman’s wife and also the daughter of a man who made the family living working at sea on the ships…she is fully aware of the rewards, and dangers, of fishing and sailing. I was lucky to get a job as a deck hand, and since I’m just beginning my life’s work on the sea, there is a lot to learn.  For now my duties are simple…helping cook, running around with orders or supplies, fetching water, and generally keeping my mouth shut and do what I’m told.  That isn’t easy for me, but I realize that obedience and a good attitude and work ethic is mandatory for my future success.   So I am anxious to prove myself to be a “good all-around hand” so that I can advance to better jobs on the ships.

SIX MONTHS LATER, off the coast of England.

As I have been trying to keep up with my journals (actually we call them “logs, “like the captain does) it has been necessary for me to also keep studying my writing and reading lessons, which is a condition of my employment…insisted on by Mother.   Most of the men working on the ship as deckhands and sailors have limited educations, and have worked their way up through the ranks from their own “go-fer” status as young boys.  Some of them tell me that I should study and learn all that I can, but others tell me that having my nose in books is a waste of time.

The ocean waves have been choppy lately, and dark clouds gather where there should be blue skies and calm seas.  The Captain has ordered us to head back to port, so we are busy watching the wind and minding the sails and making sure that the water barrels and other supplies are held fast with great ropes.  The nets have been hoisted into place.   The good fishing time and conditions are growing less frequent, and safety rules in place .  The safest and most secure plan is to get off of the ocean and into safe harbor.

We are now heading into increasingly heavy waves, and the dark  clouds are low in the sky, removing any line of horizon between the sea and the sky.  The waves are deafening, twice as high as the ship on one side, water slopping onto the deck on the other.   The warning bells are sounding, and I can hear men shouting .  The massive sails have been lowered and secured to their masts.

I hear someone shout my name… “Boy! Climb!”

I am holding on to whatever I can, gripping the nearest mast as tightly as I can.  I can see the water deepening onto the deck, and I begin to climb.       Water reaches my ankles,  as I climb higher.   I cannot see any of the other men on the ship, only the whipping waves threatening to engulf the ship.  I am near the top of the mast–there is no place else to go.

But wait…Mother is there, holding out her hand…

My first glimpse of Paradise zooms back

[The prompt for Day Two — Writing 101.    “If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?”]

Now that is an easy assignment that took absolutely NO thought.  The question did indeed have the “zoom” effect.  My place that my inner image brings up is as much a place as it is a time, and a concept, a memory.  Perhaps it has to do with a past life experience, or a memory from the Akashic Records.    My site is like walking into a dream, the kind that features the doorway that opens to reveal a huge pastoral scene.

By way of background, the story starts out as pretty mundane.  It was 1960.  My soldier husband has just returned from Korea, and  with our three-year-old daughter we are heading for a new army base — Fort Huachuca, in Arizona.     We have packed up our 38-foot mobile home and set off across the country from Ohio.  Not exactly a covered wagon, but a similar concept.

We got as far as Kansas…and had a flat tire on the trailer.   We were driving along a highway, heading West, surrounded on both sides by very tall corn fields.  Every several miles there was a grain elevator operation, near a cross-road, where we had a brief glimpse of a town in the distance–but otherwise it just looked like someplace out of Stephen King’s horror flick,  Children Of the Corn.   

After limping along on the tire, we did manage to head for one of the little towns.   So help me, it reminded me of one of those old movie sets where the little town has sprung up along both sides of the road, and a few businesses existed–a gas station, garage, restaurant, motel, sheriff’s office, grocery store–until the town just…ended.    OK, I suppose there were some signs of habitation, but they have been crowded out of my memory.

To cut to the chase, the garage people were able to fix the tire enough so we could continue on our way  the next day.  There was some vital mechanical part that was not available in the town and had to be brought in from somewhere else.

We drove to the next big city…I have no idea what city it was, but it was large enough to have at least one mobile home sales place, and we bought a spiffy new 10-foot wide, 50-foot long trailer home.   Since we were a long way from home, on a very limit budget, the purchase required some communication with our parents back in Ohio to help with the financing arrangements.   We had to stay in the city for I think four days until that was all settled.  But soon enough we were back on the road–not pulling the new mobile home, which was too large, and had to be delivered to us in Arizona.

HOME AT LAST… and here comes the point of this tale.

We got to Sierra Vista, which was the little army town that had grown up around Fort Huachucha, late at night.  It was very dark.


In the morning, the sun had come up (it’s Arizona, after all 🙂 and the Huachuca Mountains were glorious!   The desert was in bloom, and I thought I was in Paradise for sure.

The actual idealistic picture as portrayed by my feelings upon arriving in Arizona, in the Desert…among the cactus and the sand, and the typical army town trailer park where we lived…has blended  into a fabulous panorama  fixed in my mind  over the 55 years since I discovered southern Arizona.   We  lived in Sierra Vista until 1961, then moved to Tucson, 85 miles to the north.

One of my great joys in life is the first sight of the Catalina Mountains when I arrive at the Tucson airport, coming in over the mountains from Houston, Texas, along the southern route.  It always makes me feel that I have come Home.

When I mentioned that I believe that I “belong” in the desert, my friend told me that is because I am a “desert rat.”   I told her I had more in mind a past life as a beautiful Indian princess.

My secret refuge high above the trees of Yucatan.

There is a place that I go to in my mind whenever there is a need for a shut-down.   It is called Nohoch Mul, a pyramid built by natives a long time ago on the southern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, near Cancun, Mexico.  It has probably been overrun by tourists by now, but when we were there years ago it was still in a pure state of ruin, cleared only of enough vines to allow stout-hearted climbers a relatively open path.

I had been to the Mexican pyramids before, but not this particular place… COBA     When I saw the great pyramid, I knew that I HAD to climb to the top.  I am terrified of heights, so when my husband looked up and found me half way up the pyramid he was bemused.  In fact… I was already wondering how I was going to get back down…but I was committed at that point, and concentrated on reaching the top. The last step is the worst, as there is usually nothing to hold onto.

Once my knees stopped shaking, and it became apparent just how far below was the ground, and looking down at the tops of the big old fir trees, I gazed around in a circle.  As far as I could see was jungle, with an occasional bump of another pyramid peeking above the trees.  There was a small building on top of the pyramid, made of stone, empty.

For a few minutes I was alone at the top, in awe at the beauty and air of ancient times.  This is the moment that has endured in my memory and the magic place that I go to when necessary to be free of all earthly concerns.

The next person who appeared over the edge was a man with a camera, a biologist or anthropologist (or just a guy with a camera.)  He went to the little building, reached inside one of the niches and pulled out — a BAT.   It was sleeping, since it was middle of the day.   To my amazement he took a pair of tweezers from his bag, and removed a tick from the bat’s mouth, saying that ticks were unhealthy for bats.

I made it back down the pyramid without having to call the local EMS helicopter, and lived happily ever after.