C is for Cabin Fever

I’m an introvert, so social distancing isn’t too difficult for me. What is getting to me, however, is being inside.

We have had a lot of rain these past few weeks. Normally, I love rain, but right now, it is making me feel like a caged animal.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m home is sit on my patio and work or read. It’s too wet and cold outside to do that. The patio is covered, but with no walls for protection, the wind blows right through it.

I am also pretty content to get my vitamin D by visiting my fruit trees and wandering the backyard to look at rocks and insects. Right now, my backyard is a two-acre mud pit. I’m sure I would have loved it when I was a kid, but I’m mostly beyond that.

I keep telling myself that I will start taking long walks around the neighborhood for exercise and a change of scenery. The idea of getting soaking wet and being cold the entire time is very unappealing.

Sunshine, I’m sorry for all the times I cursed you for blinding me with your rays while driving. Please forgive the many times I declared my dislike of you because you’re too hot, too bright, too intense.

Please return, Sunshine, so at the very least, I can get outside of this house and set my eyes on more than the walls that surround me.

B is for Brother

I was visiting my mom and sister in Edmonton, Canada, when I got the news. It was the day after Christmas, and the West Edmonton Mall, where my sister and I were spending the afternoon to distract ourselves, was crowded.

Our brother had been taken to the hospital the day before because he was not well. My mom, sister, and I could see this when we Face Timed him Christmas morning. My sister-in-law brought him to the emergency room in Idaho Falls, and he was admitted immediately. His liver was failing.

The news from Idaho got worse and worse as the hours passed, and my mind was shadowed with what if thoughts. But we didn’t really expect him to die. He was only 40 years old! Sure, he wasn’t in the best physical condition, but he had three young sons and a wife who needed him. Things like this don’t happen to us.

But it did.

The call came as I was considering a purchase in a store that doesn’t exist in the states. My sister was the one to get the news from our sister-in-law. She turned to me and said two simple but life-changing words: He’s gone.

I was in shock at first. Then the white-hot pain of irrecoverable loss seared its way into my core. I was gutted.

We abruptly left the store. Our mom, who lived within walking distance of the mall, needed us. Tears now rushed down my face as I dodged shoppers, strangers who knew nothing about my pain, looking at me as if my secret-to-them tragedy might be contagious. I wanted to fall to the ground and cry out that my brother—my baby brother and one of my best friends—was dead.

I tried to call my husband, but my US-based carrier wouldn’t connect until I was outside in the cold. My sister led the way as I followed far behind, trying to tell my husband what had happened. In my distraction, I almost walked into a man who was crossing in front of me.

Canadians are supposed to be nice, but this man’s look said, “Watch where you’re going, idiot!” I stopped, prepared to challenge him, to stone him with four-letter words. It might have felt good to take some of my anger out on this man, but he kept walking. That was a good thing, for both of us.

My hands grew numb during our walk, which was longer than my sister implied. She carries her grief differently than I. I wear my heart on my sleeve; she keeps it inside. My hands grew numb, and I was glad. I welcomed the pain, the distraction.

By the time we reached my mom’s condo, my southern California body felt nearly frozen. But that didn’t stop the nauseating disbelief and emptiness. It didn’t bring back the breath that was knocked out of me at the news. It didn’t stop the tears.

I was broken. I am broken. My brother meant the world to me. He was good. We shared a bond through our love of nature, a similar sense of humor (he was so much funnier than I am!). We worked together as team teachers at the same school for a while, and I never tired of talking to him.

My brother was loved by countless people—former students, school families, friends, co-workers. Again, he was good. He touched lives every day. His wit, combined with his non-judgemental heart made him easy to talk to.

But he struggled. Underneath his humor and his generosity was a man who was filled with anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. The grace he extended so freely to others, he rarely gave to himself. Not many people knew this side of my brother.

He felt he didn’t have much to offer, that he wasn’t able to impact people in a positive way. This bothered him greatly. He passed on with these doubts. One thing that comforts me is that I know he now knows how much his life mattered to everyone who knew him. He now knows how loved he was.

We had a memorial service planned for my brother. It has been postponed because of the pandemic. As is natural, the loss of my brother has taken a back seat at the moment as Covid-19 slithers its way into countries, cities, communities, and families around the world.

Andrew was a father, husband, son, uncle, brother-in-law, cousin, friend, teacher, counselor, mentor. He was my brother. He will always be my brother, and for that I have been eternally blessed.

A is for Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. It lies on the eastern edge of San Diego County, with parts of it extending into Riverside and Imperial Counties. The park is well known for its wild flowers in the spring, hiking trails, camping, diverse animal population, and unique beauty. For now, the park is closed, like so many others across the country, due to CONVID-19.

It has only been in the past couple years that I discovered the beauty of the desert. I was born a mountain lover and used to turn my nose up at the seemingly barren, uninteresting landscape of the desert. A couple recent desert visits changed my view forever. The desert—Anza-Borrego, specifically—is anything but barren and uninteresting.

From a distance, the desert looks drab. From the inside, it is a colorful place. Flowering desert plants, patches of flowering ground cover, reddish sand, striated cliffs and boulders, and minerals of red, white, and black are just some of nature’s swatches this desert hides from those who don’t venture in. In the spring, Anza-Borrego explodes in color in the form of wildflowers, giving even the most desert-averse the gift of its underappreciated beauty.

This is a gorgeous example of spring in Anza-Borrego. This is not my photo. Attribution is given in the caption below.

I can’t take credit for this photo. Instead, this talented person took it: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/
Visit his flickr page for more.

If I had to choose between the mountains and the desert, I would still choose the mountains, for that is where my soul is bonded. Without the mountains, the Anza-Borrego Desert might be very different from the one I’ve learned to love. In this way, they are tied together, an attachment only nature can form.

These photos are from a recent winter excursion. I was hoping to go out in the spring to see the wild flowers, but social distancing happened. Hopefully next year.