I hear the wind before I feel it. I step onto the patio, and wind-whipped leaves swirl around my feet. The unexpected drop in temperature hits my face like a splash of ice-cold water. Grey clouds drift in from the west, beating the ubiquitous desert sun into hiding. I pull my worn cardigan tighter around me. The scent of rain, maybe snow, permeates the air.
I grab an armful of kindling from the small stack next to the firewood and twist the door open with the tip of my fingers. I push it shut with a hip. The kindling falls and scatters on the hearth. I reach into the fireplace and top the scrunched newspapers with some starter twigs, and then flick a lit match against the paper. The big screen TV draws my attention.
US warns Ukraine that Russian invasion is imminent....
I hit mute, leaving the news to scroll soundlessly across the bottom of the screen. Serious faces stare back at me—muted mouths moving. Two years of disruptive domestic politics and the ever-present fear of the pandemic has pushed me to the edge. I can’t bear to hear whatever it is the talking heads want to tell me. Hopelessness descends; a heaviness like liquid mercury filters into every cell. Day-to-day life has only just begun to resume normalcy. Is it time to admit defeat? We are such a failure as a species. The pond scum rises to the surface but we neglect to skim it off. The scum always reigns supreme.
Biden: Sanctions declared against Soviets....
I slide onto the couch and pull the soft cotton-weave throw around my shoulders. Breath: slowly in, slowly out. I pick up my book and snuggle into the safety of escapist fiction. The story unfolds in a small English village where hollyhocks and sweet peas bloom, and neighbors stop to talk about nothing on the cobblestoned streets. The most pressing news is how the new minister's wife will manage the pending bake sale at the Anglican Church.
Outside the wind tests the strength of my newly planted backyard sapling. Through the semi-opened wood blinds I watch it whip back and forth, more of a struggle than a dance. Holding its own. Fighting to be resilient. My eyes stray to the flickering screen.
Boris Johnson said the international shock of a Russian attack would "echo around the world", as the UK urged Moscow to engage with talks to prevent a conflict....
The announcers' unsmiling faces exacerbate the grim theme unfolding. Unthinking, I lay the book on my lap, hinged open, pages down. Nothing distracts from this feeling of dread. Have I lived too long? Is too long when everything inside you goes quiet when you realize nothing you’ve done matters, nothing is ever going to change. Protests, letters, marches, sit-ins, registering voters, Vietnam, the Middle East, Desert Storm, The Gulf War, school shootings, the environment…. We are failing as a species. Worse, our species is failing those dependent upon us.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces are trying to seize the Chernobyl power plant….
The sticks of mesquite atop the balled paper catch, sending up reddish-orange flames. As I
step onto the patio for larger logs, the wind whips the French door out of my hand. It slams against the stucco wall. One pane of glass cracks. Just one. I pull two logs off the firewood stack and add them to the fire. Outside a gloomy darkness settles in. The fireplace charges the dim room with a false sense of coziness.
Dozens of soldiers are killed as Ukraine tries to mount an all-out attack….
I should turn on some lights. It’s too dark now to read. Grabbing the soft throw, I turn off the TV and sit on the floor with my back against the couch. I pull the cottony blanket over my head and hide in the safety of my shroud.
To quote Bob Dylan (yes, aging myself), the times they are a changing’...but does that mean we have to as well?
Pictured is my grandmother at 71, in a sharp (for the 1970's) pantsuit, requisite cigarette between her fingers. Even as my mother and grandmother aged, they rarely looked dowdy. Struggling to follow their lead, with the exception of the ciggies, every season I pull one or two ideas from the current offerings to incorporate into my wardrobe. Picking and choosing from what the designers and “influencers” are touting keeps me reasonably up-to-date without (1) looking like an aging hooker or (2) looking like I’m competing with my best friend’s granddaughter. I don’t pretend to be anything but the age I am, but I hope to never get caught schlepping around in muumuus, polyester elastic-waist pants, or in fuzzy-wuzzy slippers with the heels worn down. But, you gotta do what works for you. No judgements here.
Jeans keep me feeling young, or I guess youngish. Denim, the miracle fabric, has a girdle affect on one’s stomach! Anyway, I recently placed an order with my favorite jean vendor, "Not Your Daughter’s Jeans." Luckily they had the hard-to-find, light-wash denim in stock.
When I received the order, the fabric looked damaged, worse than a factory second. It was snagged and ripped, and then the “ripped” sections were badly top-stitched together. This is not what I’ve learned to expect from this vendor. Something was amiss. Of course, a call to customer service was in order. I was sure this fabric lot was a mistake, and I could get a rapid credit and exchange. Turns out—couldn’t believe what I was told--the jeans were SUPPOSED to look that way? !! WTH? Keep in mind that this company is “NOT Your Daughter’s Jeans. Evidently, this type of denim is called “distressed”. I bloody don’t think so. Call a spade and spade. Defective is defective. It was me that was distressed! Again, WTH? Dismay doesn’t begin to sum up how I felt.
No, I don’t live in a vacuum. I am sadly aware of the trend towards parading around in ripped jeans. Jeans that, in my opinion, a homeless person would pass on. Even worse, it turns out that companies charge a fat little price to sell a product that, years ago, wouldn’t have made it to the shelves of the seconds stores. Every day I see people in jeans that hang together by threads. It’s an unattractive enough look on those whose great muscle tone and supple skin peek through the tears. However, on those not in great shape, young or old, the look just comes across and as a tasteless attempt to make the wearer look Instagram-worthy and on trend. Doesn’t anyone have a full-length mirror in their home anymore? Reality check.
Just after I cooled off from the denim fiasco, I came across a social media article about the “old” (meaning out-of-fashion) standards for entertaining guests in one’s home. It seems that simple gestures like greeting one’s guests at the door, hanging up their jackets rather than throwing them over the back of a chair, planning the guest list with an eye to compatibility and variety, setting a nice table with—gasp--candles, and the worst offender of all, mailing out invitations, are signals that you are behind the times. Bloody hell! Irritated to the max by this one. Exactly when did graciousness go out of style? In this case, I’ll happily abstain from being on-trend.
And did you know (another annoying social media news bite) that just about every hairstyle that is flattering to the over sixty-five crowd is now verboten and off-trend? Didn’t anyone tell these style gurus that older faces need a bit of lift in the hairstyle department? We need softness, layers, and often a bit of teasing to add fullness. Yes. I said it out loud. The forbidden word: teasing. Take away my teasing comb and my hairspray and you’ll get a more than a taste of how much fire is left in this old furnace.
I swear I am trying to age gracefully, and I’ll stay in the game to one degree or another; but, it sure sounds I’m well on my way to making it onto every fashionista/influencer’s
“what not to do” list. So be it. As Bob Dylan’s the times they are a changin’...” lyrics keep running through my head, I realize I am beginning to care less and less about keeping up, if that means lowering my standards. The times are changing alright, but not for the better, and I think my gearshift is permanently stuck in reverse. I can live with that.
Let's see what this season's runway brings us.
My mother in the early 1960s