For the two years following the Paradise Camp Fire of 2018, Sam and I were all about repairing this “fixer-upper”, and treading the deep waters of what was lost. The repair work was grueling and held us hostage to the paint brush, drywall and sore muscles. We finally finished our last major project in early July of this year, and for a moment we rejoiced. But soon after, fires raged through California, filling our lungs with smoke. We watched the grass turn brown , practically overnight, birds panted quietly on the railing, and we collapsed into our respective recliner chairs, staring mindlessly at the TV screen.
On a particularly oppressive day, my sister, Connie and I sat across from each other at T-Fusion, a small cafe in Redding, each looking off silently as if absorbed in another stupid sitcom. We actually had nothing to say to each other. It just didn’t seem worth the effort; I blamed our lethargy on the isolation from the pandemic, I blamed it on the triple-digit temperatures of June and July. We chewed and sipped silently, while the cacophany of clanking dishes, scraping chairs and restaurant chatter went on around us.
I rather enjoy the breathing room of a comfortable silence, but sitting in that cafe with nothing more to say to my best friend, was painful. I finally broke the silence with the first thing that popped into my head, “I’ve been thinking about water aerobics, at the Y.” Which I had, but really didn’t want to, for a thousand made up reasons.
“I’ll go if you go,” was Connie’s eager response. So that was that. We joined the Y and started water aerobics classes the very next week
Being the new kid in the pool in the front row, the instructor focussed on correcting my every movement. I laughed selfconciously and at one point turned to Connie, wondering what she was doing right that I was doing wrong. There she was in the back row doing this side to side movement, her little gray-haired head sticking out of the water, bobbing back and forth. What got stuck in my head was Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down. It could have easily turned into a laughing fit moment –the kind where sisters have to be separated from each other in church, the green Kool-aid squirting out your nose and pee-your-pants kind– but the teacher was relentless in trying to help me to do it right and the spell was broken. But the bubble of joyful release that I had been missing for so long, remained. My sister, the Weeble doll, has me chuckling still.
Some of the fires are under containment and the smoke is clearing some. it’s still hotter than blue blazes and the world is still in turmoil. But I am seeing things differently now; like noticing how excited the birds seem, just to have a little seed and a daring splash in the fountain, and how the drive into town doesn’t seem quite as daunting as before.
I didn’t completely abandon my art through the two-year remodeling job. Between bouts of exhaustion and what’s-the-point moods, I managed to get back to my art room from time to time. Some of the pieces are deeper, some lighter – mostly I just walked into my art room and sat down to play. Check it out by clicking the link below this post.
As for the future… who knows. Intuition tells me this place here in Anderson is temporary, but just when I think we have our next step in life figured out a door closes on the idea. So while waiting for the next cue, we have decided to continue living. After years of fighting the idea of joining a club, I now look forward to my regular visits to the Y with Sam and my Weeble Wobble doll. I find it helps my mood tremendously; the water, the movement and an hour out of the day just for me, my body and my renewed sense of humor.
Summer visits to Redding might be given a second thought in the future. Who knew when the trip was planned that we’d be suffering the worst heat wave in years, and mid-stay the septic tank would back up. Anthony flew up from San Diego, Jonathan, Hina and Fern drove down in their own car, Genevieve and her favorite driving companion, Roger came together in her Nissan Rogue. In all his wisdom Big Roger stayed in Vancouver “to babysit” their dog, Max. So as not to deprive him of his in-law fix, we drove up to see him a month later. In the last hour of the Gen and Roger’s drive from Vancouver to Redding, the A/C went out in Nissan. It was only 105 degrees – Roger kept things on an even keel, talking his mom down from a meltdown. He has a magical way about him.
We went to Whiskeytown Lake. We played board games, laughed our heads off. Sam’s BBQs sustained us deliciously, we drank root beer floats and gobbled down homemade banana cream pie. Despite having to deal with car repairs, surface of the sun heat and pooping in the bucket, we managed to have lots of fun.