Man, did I totally sleep in today. I ignored it when I woke up at 8:30. I ignored it again when I woke up at 10:30. "Just a few more minutes," I thought. A few minutes later it was 11:45. As I'm prone to do when I sleep that late, I jolted bolt upright in bed, my embedded Yankee Work Ethic program instantly online and already berating me for wasting most of the day.
Fortunately, I had the good sense to hit the X on that old thing. I laid back down to stretch for a moment and then looked at how the world was doing out on the huge lawn. Annie was outside, loping here and there among the trees and shrub gardens, occasionally offering a bark or two in case anyone was thinking of coming inside the yard without her express approval. At 17, she's almost blind and her hips give out sometimes mid-lope, but she looks happy as can be on this giant green front lawn. Her ears bounce gently up and down as she runs slowly to each of her regular check points.
I found my coffee cup and went down a level to the living room, where Hopi and Dick set up a nice breakfast for her guests. I brought a cup of good coffee back to my room and sat for a little, sipping it. Looking out at the lawn reminded me that the night before, even with the crashing thunder and downpours, I'd seen lightning bugs out there. I'd almost forgotten about these magical creatures, which were a feature of my childhood back in the woods of New Jersey. (Yes, they call it the Garden State for a reason.) Like the beetles, my kid sister and I used to keep these bioluminescent insects overnight in jars, falling asleep to their rhythmic pulses of light.
Finally, I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. "Oh my God," I said aloud to no one, "I look like Little Orphan Annie!" And I did. My hair, which had been damp when I went to bed the night before, formed a tight cap of curls around my head. It seemed shorter, too. The humidity here is on a scale I haven't experienced in many years. Instead of battling dry, scaly skin as soon as I got out of the shower in California, I've actually stopped using lotion, since there's so much water in the air that it just gets sweated (sweated?) off in a few minutes. When you get in the car, you have to turn on the AC a little because your breathing steams up the windshield right away, even with the windows open.
I wrote for a while in my room. It seemed like the house was empty, and the quiet was really nice. Crickets chirped out on the lawn somewhere and birds sang their songs in the still-wet trees. I wanted to see Deer Park today and the town of Oregon, but the pleasure of staying in my jammies and sitting in bed beat out any plans or ambitions I'd had for the day. Hopi and Dick came home from grocery shopping a while later, and I realized it was 3:30 already. I wandered downstairs after a bit and got to talking with Hopi about all the adventures she's had. I'm just a pup compared to her when it comes to traveling! What experiences they've both had together.
"See, I raised my six kids for 32 years, but I love to travel, so I often brought them with me," she said. The family has lived in India a number of times, as well as in several European countries. Hopi earned a master's degree in German literature in her youth, and was working on her doctorate when she got interrupted. She and Dick are both masterful writers, and Hopi has kept a blog about her travels for years. She'd really like to get out there again and see Machu Picchu, but has noticed she's gotten slower in the last 10 years. "On one walking trip, one of the many pilgrimages I've done, I went with my youngest daughter, who was 27 at the time and in great shape. She kept waiting for me at the top of hills and stairs, yelling encouraging things in an aggravated voice. Finally, I told her, 'Look, in the interest of keeping the family peace, you go ahead tomorrow and save me a place to sleep.' That worked out OK. Then I got to take my time!" One of Hopi's proudest achievements is having walked the Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) in Spain, which was one of the most important Christian pilgrimage routes in the Middle Ages.
Hopi says she'd still be living in India if it weren't for Dick, who has announced he's done with traveling. They have an interesting relationship. I mean, after 58 years together, whatever works, right? I think the glue of having six children and traveling the world together must be extra sticky. They obviously love each other very much.
By the time I left the house to go do stuff, it was almost 5 and very overcast. I made my way over to Deer Park, and, unsurprisingly, there was no one around. Here's what I saw, though:
And here's the Mini, parked behind one of the intricate Buddhist designs hand-drawn on the driveway to the place:
After taking these photos, I drove into town and walked around a bit. I wandered into a store called Peaceful Heart, one of those beautiful shops whose odors of incense, books, essential oils, and world crafts lure you right in. A few people looked around and bought things. I remembered my #miniworthy discipline and refrained from buying anything, but talked for a bit with the young woman, Kelly, who runs the shop full-time.
With two kids ages 9 and 11, Kelly told me its not easy to live on a retail salary. But we also talked about the thrill of finding thrift store treasures and how peaceful it is to be happy with what we've got. Kelly showed me a $100+ crystal water decanter for sale on one of the shelves and said her daughter had just gleefully reported finding one for a few bucks at a local thrift store. We laughed and compared other great finds. I mentioned I thought being a happy, adaptable parent was pretty much the best thing she could do for her kids, and she agreed that "life is meant to be fun." We had a lovely conversation and I felt more at home here in Wisconsin.
Down the street, I had meatloaf with gravy and a baked potato at a corner place called Sonny's. It was amazing. But before I could stop myself, I'd asked my very young teenage server if the broccoli was organic, drawing a look of fright and confusion in response. (These California habits have to go!) She answered haltingly in a nervous voice, "Um, well, they bring it here and then we cook it." Ah. Of course you do! I'm learning.