A Milagro

By Leslie

This is a story over 50 years in the making. I have previously related the receipt of two beautifully crocheted handkerchiefs bequeathed to me after their creator had died of inoperable stomach cancer. She was my patient, “granny,” for whom I cared on the female ward of Cook County Hospital in 1966. I still have these handkerchiefs – carefully wrapped, and treasured.

Yesterday the Hispanic women who clean our home once a month were accompanied by their elderly mother. She was crocheting a lovely cloth, on which I remarked. I showed her “Granny’s” very fine creations, which she greatly admired.

When the women were ready to leave, the elderly woman – Margarita – came over to me, opened her bag of crocheting, and . . . gave me the cloth which I had admired. I was stunned – and moved to tears by this act of incredible generosity. Although, I physically ailed, my spirit was buoyed for the entire day, and continues to be so. How often do we witness, or are the recipients of, pure acts of loving kindness? I feel blessed and know that yesterday a not-so-small miracle took place, one that showed the beauty of the human soul.

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The Kindness of Strangers

By Leslie

A couple of weeks after my husband fell on our cement sidewalk and hemorrhaged in to his right leg and knee, he was still having many problems – standing, walking, etc. One night when he went to the bathroom, I heard a thud. He had slipped and sat down so hard on our wood toilet seat it broke! He was sore, but really okay. However, the toilet seat was a different matter – fractured, through and through. Since I needed to use this bathroom, he devised a temporary repair, splinting the seat with a piece of wood and wrapping fiber tape around the seat.

The next morning I called our plumber (of more than 20 years) explaining the situation. He said it sounded like we need a safety toilet with grab bars – available at the Walgreens and other medical supply stores. I told him we had no one to go and purchase this, and I, at least, would temporarily be happy to sit on a non-splinted, non-splintery seat!

To make a long story short, Donny and his fellow plumber arrived at noon that day, with three safety toilet seat set-ups! We chose one that worked the best in a very tight space and, believe it or not, he returned the other two to Walgreens whence they had come.

I was overwhelmed with his kindness. Of course, the pediatrician/mother in me gave him some books to read to his three month old infant, as he would take no recompense for all his extra trouble on our behalf.

Whoever said that kindness has fled this world? We continue to be the recipients of many gestures of kindness – from friends, family and even, as in this instance, relative strangers.

August 2019

Monsoon Moods, Tucson Yesterday and Today

By Nando

He squatted, looking north, resting his back on a thick mesquite trunk along the arroyo’s south bank, the single shot .22 boy’s rifle across his knees. It was late afternoon, past the time cottontails or jackrabbits would be seen lying on the shady side of chollas or palos verdes. Earlier the few he had seen scampered or bounded away at his approach. Now, the shadows were long and developing contrasts among the canyons and foothills of the Santa Catalinas.

A slight breeze shifted then accelerated enough to raise dust off the arroyo’s wide sandy channel. The fluffy dust aloft and the sun’s slanting rays blended into a pastel translucency illuminating and shadowing the mountainside’s ridges. The air at thunderhead height was clear and contrasted with the towering clouds’ vibrant whites and varied grays. As he watched, the white cloud tops rose, the gray bottoms seeming to spread in place as the air eased into a yellow-green tint.

Along the dry El Rillito creek bed the cooling winds were intermittent, stuttering before the approaching front. A dust devil had “dervished” and expired. Ahead of the nearing clouds, the dusty wind accelerated, now carrying teasing hints of moisture and an occasional drop amid aridity and dust. Within minutes, the winds carried the moist creosote aroma that only first raindrops impacting desert-dry plants and soil could generate. He wrapped his T-shirt around the 22s short metal barrel.

He breathed deeply, his anticipation now heightened by the delicious aroma’s promise. The lightning show was next expected, with thunder reverberating and echo-rolling around the valley’s stark mountainous rims. He most wished for the first huge monsoon raindrops that hurt your face if you looked up, and to feel the exciting direct cracks of nearby lightning strikes and their bouncing, rolling thunder.

His experience, as limited as his pre-teen life, nonetheless told him this gusting activity would likely pause, then resume with vigor, or entirely pass. He checked the gun’s safety, got up and began trotting south towards a nearby ocotillo and adobe casita to try to have the advantage of both staying dry and being near the mountain sounds and heavier rain he hoped would soon follow.

He found shelter under the shack’s metal porch, squatting again, hoping to hear the unique percussion of hard rain on its corrugated iron surface. Facing the Catalinas he waited, each inhaled breath nearly intoxicating. Then it started . . . the thuds of pelting rain approaching, then the sudden and sustained crescendo on the metal roof . . . More than an hour later, day now darkening, with only occasional drops now falling, he put on his slightly damp shirt and began his long walk south to his home south of Old Main.

That long-ago storm . . . violent with wind, lightning, cloudbursts, and glorious tumultuous bank-to-bank hissing and occasional roaring of the Rillito, was still a strong memory, that of a participant who mildly regretted not having been able to capture more of the storm’s magnificence. He had settled for deep delicious breaths of damp desert air.

He returned more than half-a century later, driving mostly via paved roads and over a short rutted desert trail to the now weary and less isolated old casita, its adobe walls crumbled, cracked and fissured. Its corrugated roof, absent all but one wall’s support, was a rust streaked lean-to and rusty where nails had pulled loose. Unchanged were the gusts, felt through his open driver’s side window, of a monsoon on the way . . .

He returned to the pavement and proceeded northward past the arroyo, up into the lower foothills to an isolated spot. He removed the obstructive Handicapped tag from his car’s mirror so he could better see the sky and mountains. The whir of all the electric windows lowering was modulated somewhat by the wind and sand gently striking his parked, northwest-facing SUV. He waited, watching the horizon, this approaching storm seeming less a wonder. He pondered the growth of the city upwards into the hills, with civilization’s additions giving them depth and contrast perceivable even without sunset lighting from the west.

The thunder this evening sounded softer, muted perhaps by the stucco softness of the structures which now contributed to defining the foothills. There was no rolling, just an occasional thunder echo, also dampened. He wondered how much of the sharpness of close thunder was attenuated by his aged eardrums and how much by civilization’s acoustics on the once empty hills. This monsoon flurry passed as a dusty freshet weakly giving rise to the “eau de damp earth and creosote.”

The clouds west of his location thinned and opened as he watched. New light slanted through their openings and over the mountains. A broad rainbow formed across the foothills, both ends anchored in misty panoramas of tile roofs and pastel walls. He continued to watch the fading illumination’s shifting shades and the lights of the foothill homes as they engaged darkness.

He raised his windows, ending his return, and started his car. Its automatic high-tech beams reflecting off moist mesquites, he turned south, downwards towards the ever-sprawling city’s gentle mantle of cloud-reflected city lights. He soon stopped at a Trader Joe’s on Campbell near the Rillito. He bought a frozen rabbit.

August 2019

in an instant

By Kat

the scream came from far off. it came again, close this time. another from somewhere over to my right. silence for a moment; then they came swooping in. four of them, one following the other, slid silently across the road in front of me.

i had been watching all summer, waiting, somewhat impatiently, for this moment. four baby hawks, wings finally big enough to hold them aloft, slipped by silently and separated to land in four palm trees framed by my front window. oh such a joyous sight to behold!

following the every move of the quartet’s parents had become a favorite pastime of anyone and everyone at the pool. we shared stories of what we’d observed the day before or an hour ago, as the pair flew off to find food and returned to nourish their chirping offspring.

the babies sat deeply snug in their nest high up in a tall palm tree, only an occasional bit of fluff visible to us on the ground. and we waited. and we waited. and waited. then suddenly, here, framed in my own window, the scene so anticipated unfolded before my eyes.

the beauty in their wings, the freedom of their flight, was delightful, as they swooped from palm tree to palm tree, playing games of tag with one another. from the direction of the pool came a louder, more urgent scream – mother hawk calling her young to dinner. all four, strung high across the sky, responded to her call and, in a instant, were gone.

August 2019

All I Want for Christmas

By Leslie

My husband has always worn and loved Timex watches. Well, almost always. Several years ago the watches began to fail in an untimely manner. So for our anniversary I bought him what I thought was a tried and true, good old American watch – a Bulova. The only problem was it was difficult to set – in English – and, of course, like almost everything else, it was not American made. And for many other reasons, Bill took an almost instant dislike of it. So some lucky person became its recipient. He bought himself another Timex. Unfortunately, its Velcro band quickly became non-sturdy and the watch light failed.

This past Christmas I got lots of hints – to which I paid little heed. I was not going to purchase a Timex watch for Bill. But come Valentine’s Day, I relented. This time I purchased a watch with all the features he wanted – digital, back-lighting, and a non-breakable (so we thought) watch band. Fast forward – after three weeks of wear, the so-called metal band snapped off the junction of the watch face and band, only to reveal a plastic interior.

Wow! I insisted – you know the principle of it all – upon pulling out any warranty we had. Sure enough – “1 year guarantee.” After more fuss, bother, forms, packing – oh yes, and a check for “handling”, we returned it.

And behold. Three weeks later – a “new” Timex arrived via Fed Ex. I assure you, it will be the last time for this time piece!

May 2091

Our Book Group

By Bill

Our Tucson Book Discussion Group is nearly 20 years old. However our roots go back much further to St. Louis, whence we moved in 1990.

In St. Louis we participated in a well-established group which dated way back to the 1970’s, when they formed a group to discuss the selections from the University of Chicago Great Books Program. Eventually, they completed the series, and decided to continue, selecting their own choice of modern significant books. The pace was torrid, 2 books a month, with summers off.

By and large, the 2 discussion leaders selected the books. The discussion was firmly kept on track, untouched angles broached, and meanderings from the topic cut short.

When we moved to Tucson, we missed the discussions, and could find no comparable group, so decided to start our own. Our approach was different, 1 book/month (we take 2 months off in the summer, and try to schedule a long book as the first one for the new season). Meeting places originally rotated between the member’s houses. However, we now meet at only one house, whose member has a permanent neurological disability. Membership has changed through the years, but has always been diverse – currently a biophysicist, an administrative secretary, four doctors, a physical therapist, a biologist, a librarian, and an accountant. Each participant selects his or her own book to discuss. Our diverse backgrounds make for a wide range of selections. Books include both fact and fiction, from classic to modern – last year’s included “Frankenstein”, “Hidden Figures” (black women mathematicians in NASA), “Lazy B” (Sandra Day O’Conner’s autobiography), and “Gilead”. Our discussions are lively!

During the first few years we formally acted as discussion leaders, as in St. Louis. Later, we have backed off, each member leading the discussion of their own book. We still keep alert though. When members go off on a tangent to air their pet peeves, we more or less subtly bring the discussion back to the book. After all, that’s why we’re here.

July 2019

weeds

By Kat

see the field of weeds,
beautiful weeds.
some people’s weeds
are others’ wildflowers.
how they grow, grow, grow,
ringing in the Spring
with beauty and delight.

some people’s wildflowers
are others’ weeds.
pull the weeds, again and again
as they grow, grow, grow.
pull those weeds,
with aching back.

sing out weeds;
and tell them all
you are wildflowers,
meant to grow.
grow, grow, grow,
to no one’s delight.
grow strong in day’s light.

pull the weeds
and pile them high.
haul them away
to be burned to ash.
in the fire’s light
they disappear, those singing flowers.
the weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds, weeds.

July 2019