Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 15th

The Ides of March are usually tightly bookended between Lent and Lilac Time, but they always fall on March 15th.  History records this particular date as the day Julius Caesar disregarded the warning of the soothsayer and went to the Senate in spite of the universe being out of alignment.  Most unwise. Mrs. Caesar had also advised him against venturing out.  She pleaded with him to stay home that day, no doubt hoping she could get a little help with household chores…to no avail.  Even unwiser.  Julius!  Dude!  What were you thinkin’?
March 15th is also our anniversary.  I do not plan to stay home OR go to the senate. I may simply hold my own conclave – reminisce, ponder.  I won’t count the seasons, just the blessings.  There is a certain patina that comes with the passage of time.  I’ll find what I need in reflection. 

It is true that what is essential is invisible to the eye.   

Erin, Brodi and I will be together. I‘ll tell the stories of the events, circumstances and alignments that culminated in their mortality. We will acknowledge the anniversary, honor the day, and reverence the occasion in peace and some sadness.  No doubt there will be moments when we just let it hurt.

It seems like all the past has been preparation for the present.  Now our union lives on in me.  I am us.  I am our voice.  I will express our love, bear our witness and be glad.

Erin admonished me to keep my back straight and my head up.  With wisdom like that, who needs soothsayers?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Joan-Uh and the Whale

Some friends and I recently did something we’ve been threatening to do for years – we went to Hawaii.  We decided that since we’re not getting any younger, (a phantom reversal process known as “youth-enizing”) we should embark on this odyssey while we can still rock our thong bikinis.

As luck would have it, my friend’s family owns a condo and a boat in Kona, so our accommodations were provided.  Our task, which we happily accepted, was simply to arrive.  No problem.

Upon arrival, it took a while for my carcass to adjust to time and climate changes.  My circadian rhythm was in deep hibernation, and at 3:00 a.m. I would awake ready for my luau.  I was forced to sit in the dark in my grass skirt and lei waiting three more hours for the dawn to arrive.  Mornings come very late in Hawaii.

By the time the sun finally rose, I was famished, and, desperate for supper, roamed the streets and beaches shrieking, “KILL THE FATTED BUFFALO!  WOMAN WANTS MEAT!”  (Now I understand why native Hawaiians call us “Howlies.”)

 Saturday the agenda called for us to sail the ocean blue and do a little deep-sea fishing on my friend’s boat.  Now, I had envisioned a “Gilligan-esque” three-hour tour on the SS Minnow.  Perhaps a dinghy with an Evinrude and some oars. Boy Howdy! Was I mistaken!  This was not a “boat.”  This was an ark…a whole lotta cubits by a whole lotta cubits!  It came with a captain, a first mate, and 5 (count ‘em) FIVE fishing rods that stood like telephone poles around the vessel. 

Stunned, and in my usual state of unfiltered thought, I exclaimed, “Whoa!  How big are your worms?” 

Bill, the captain, said, diplomatically, “You must be Joan.” 

Bill explained that the bait of choice was lures, since the fish hooks are so large they’d need worms the size of pythons.  OK.  Roger that.  I like Bill.

This sailing vessel is a 50-foot Hatteras worthy of Ernest Hemingway named Pacific Blue, and celebrities like Dustin Hoffman charter it for obscene fees to have adventures on the high seas.

The water that morning was calm and smooth, which prevented the threat of nausea, and we spotted multiple “blows,” indicating pods of whales in the water.  They were magnificent.  It was inspiring to watch mother whales bump their calves to the surface for air.  I felt privileged.

However, I became concerned that we might inadvertently hook one of these behemoths and consequently become the victims of a “revenge swallowing,” like the Biblical morality tale we learned as children to scare us into good behavior.  The thought of being slowly digested by the juices of the gastroenterological system of a mammoth orca and ending up as fecal matter in the Pacific is enough to alter anyone’s behavior pattern.

But Bill reassured me that the probability of catching anything at all was extremely remote, so I should just relax… and start chumming.  I think he was being facetious.  I like Bill.

On the off-chance that we should actually catch a fish, Bill sat me in the “fighting chair” so I could practice and become familiar with how it works.  But I know all about fighting chairs.  After all, I’m a mother.  I’ve raised two daughters through puberty. I’m a veteran. Besides, I watch old re-runs of “Jaws.”  I was prepared for anything the ocean threw at me. 
Necessity being the mother of invention, I asked Bill if M&M’s would qualify as authentic bait.  I’d brought a large bag for recreational consumption, and I found them enormously alluring.  Perhaps chocolate would attract fish with similar addictions.  Bill said, “Why not?”

No sooner had I cast my candy upon the waters, than there was a tug on the center pole, and the line whirred as it began to unwind.  Bill got me in the fighting chair and yelled, “Start reeling!”

I was right in the middle of my “Aye aye, Cap’n!” when the fish gave a mighty heave, and nearly yanked me out of the chair.  My life flashed before me, (Oh, so many regrets) and I saw a momentary image of my obituary with the mafia motto captioned beneath my photo: “And now she sleeps with the fishes.” I had visions of being over-powered by an ancient marine leviathan and condemned to wandering the great Pacific eternally lashed to the side of a rogue fish, tethered by the seat belt of my fighting chair, clutching a bag of peanut M&M’s, my free arm mindlessly beckoning. Not exactly the stuff of Hemingway. It gave me the bends just thinking about it.

But Tobin was able to strap me into the chair before I went overboard, and the battle between the Old Woman and the Sea began in earnest.

Perhaps it was my imagination, but I thought I heard John Williams’ “Jaws” score pulsing in the background:

Duuuuuh – duh!

Duuuuuh – duh!

Duh duh duh duh/

Duh duh duh duh/

Duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh

This titanic struggle lasted quite a while, and required the agility of a Chinese acrobat. The beast was huge and as determined as I was. Two gladiators going mono a mono with so much at stake.

 I hollered to Bill, “We need a bigger boat!”

He said, “Just keep reeling!”

I shouted, “It’s a great white!  Get me an oxygen tank and a rifle!”

He said, “Just keep reeling.”

(I like Bill, but he has no sense of drama)

Finally, at the conclusion of this epic tug-of-war that will no doubt go down in the annals of history as the stuff of legends, just like Ahab and the whale, I landed the colossus…with a little help from my friends.  As a gesture to a worthy opponent, I suggested we catch and release, but Bill said, “Are you kidding?  This is a mahi mahi – that’s not puppy chow.  These things are delicious.”
A mahi-mahi?  Are you sure it’s not a marlin?  Bill reiterated that it was an average mahi-mahi.  But in my eyes, it was EXCEEDINGLY average, which adds to the perceived body mass.  I thought it was large enough to qualify as a mahi-mahi-mahi.  Bill conceded.

I did a victory lap to the front of the boat, threw out my arms, and yelled “I’M KING OF THE WORLD!”  I was about to dance the “Harlem shake,” and spike my fishing pole on the poop deck, but modesty kept me from being cited for excessive celebration in the crow’s nest.

It is my personal code of ethics never to eat those I’ve vanquished, so I gave the fish to Bill and Tobin.

I have decided to retire my fishing poles and hang up my lures.  I will become a fisher emeritus.  There’s nothing left to prove.

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence.

Dennis always taught me to be optimistic.  When hunting whales, (metaphorically speaking), be positive, expect success, and take along plenty of tartar sauce.

 I did.

He and Hemingway would be proud.