The Ugly Side Of Pretty

It isn’t hard to remember that Southern California is basically a desert. Much of the topography is chronically brown and dusty. The last ten years I lived there, the state was undergoing a massive drought, so the color palette of the geography was a rhapsody in beige- except for the fire-scarred black patches. Irrigation- water sucked from the Colorado River and the mountain snowpack in the northeastern part of the state and managed by manmade dams and reservoirs- creates a deceptively lush landscape in populated areas like Los Angeles and Orange County.  It can be jarring when one drives through the Inland Empire and over the mountain into the Land That Water Forgot.  The adjective that comes to mind is “scraggly.”  Everything is dusty and bare.  Anything that does actually grow does so in tired, uneven patches of angry-looking brush.  The ground looks like a brown dog with a bad case of mange. 

Yet, there are people who love the desert.  They maintain that the desert is beautiful in its own harsh and primitive way.  My own parents were desertphiles. I never really understood that perspective, I have to say.  We often camped in various “desert parks” (an oxymoron in my book) when I was a little girl.  Hallucinogenic heat by day, cold so chilling you avoided moving inside your sleeping bag by night, and tarantulas in the public restroom never inspired me to wax poetic about the delights of the Mojave Desert.  The desert, in my mind, was always something you endured until you once again entered the world of water politics in an oasis like Las Vegas or Laughlin.  Such places are still desert, but have the advantage of air conditioning, swimming pools, and frozen cocktails.  I like my deserts properly cooled and hydrated, thank you very much. 

During our recent trip to California, we included a road trip into said desert.  We drove from Orange County to Laughlin, Nevada.  Laughlin in a small resort/gambling/water sports mecca on the Colorado River. It is across the river from Bullhead City, Arizona, and a few miles north of Needles, California.  I feel ridiculous attempting to explain where it is by referencing such thriving metropolises as Bullhead City and Needles.  Suffice to say that there isn’t much of anything out there except the river and six or seven hotel casinos.  We like it because it tries so hard to capture the kitschy glamour of Las Vegas in a location completely devoid of glamour.  For as long as I can remember, there has been a hand-lettered sign on the side of the road as you enter a corner of Nevada that proudly proclaims: “BABY FERRETS FOR SALE.”   You just have to admire the pluck of the place.    

As we prepared to climb over the mountains on our way out of Orange County, there was a noticeable lack of brown all around us.  The drought went on for so many years, I honestly forgot that there is a rumored “wildflower season” in the desert.  Old wives tell tall tales of brightly-colored patches of blooms cropping up in undeveloped Southern California areas after a rainy season.  I never put much stock in such yarns because I never truly believed there was such a thing as a rainy season. 

During the past winter, though, Southern California did experience a rainy season that would have worried Noah.  As I drove into the desert, I learned that the old wives did not lie about the wildflowers that bloom in the wake of the winter storms.  It wasn’t just “patches of color,” either.  It was whole hillsides draped in bright yellow mustard flowers.  It was miles and miles of pink, purple, white, and orange ribbons of blossoms running alongside the desolate highway.  The news called it the “spring superbloom.” I’ve never seen anything like it.  The beauty was gob smacking.  I think I drove the entire 280 miles from Laguna Woods, California to Laughlin, Nevada with my mouth hanging open.  I couldn’t get enough of it. 

I couldn’t get much in the way of pictures. I was driving on a basic two-lane highway through the middle of nowhere with no place to stop.  There are no “scenic viewpoints” because, usually, there would be nothing remotely scenic to view.  I did take a picture of a mustard flower covered hill from a Walmart parking lot.  It isn’t great, but try to view it with the eyes of someone who has never seen that hill dressed in any color but brown. 

You would think that so much beauty would make me happy.  Initially, it did.  Then, I started thinking about what comes next.

You see, that glorious beauty foretells a dirty little secret. The wildflowers, gorgeous though they may be, are still just weeds at the end of the day.  In about six weeks, they will wilt and die.  They will leave vast fields of dry detritus in their wake.  The world will not long remember the wonder that was the spring superbloom, but its summer aftermath will lie in wait.  The dead foliage will get drier and drier until it spontaneously combusts.  All it will take is a heated argument or a smoldering look and the superbloom remnants will burst into flames. Wildfires need fuel and the wildflower superbloom is indeed super fuel.  Fire season will harvest the dried, dead superbloom and scar the hillside.

Then, if the rains come again next winter, the newly barren hillsides will saturate and slide dangerously into oblivion.    At first, they will ooze slowly out of their topographically boundaries, dissolving into a trail of goo covering roads and towns.  Then, the volume and the speed will increase, causing a rushing river of muddy destruction.

All that beauty generating all that disaster… hard to believe, although I know it is true.  Pray for the firefighters and first responders in Southern California over the coming months.  They are the ones that will be dealing most intimately with the ugly side of pretty.  They will need all the strength, skill, and luck they can get to stay safe.  Yes, please pray for them.  They will need all the super grace we can summon.   

Do you have any experiences of “the ugly side of pretty?” What are some examples?  What seems beautiful, but camouflages a more sinister side?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a completely pretty day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

The hill in the background that looks kind of light green is actually covered with yellow mustard flowers. Sorry it isn’t a great picture. If anyone has a better picture of the superbloom, please post in the comments!

An Overabundance Of Love

I used to think there was no such thing as too much love.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe what the world needs now is love, sweet love, but I think it can do without any more lovebugs.

Before we moved to Florida, many people questioned me about whether or not it would be inordinately buggy in my new home.   I believe we were all thinking about mosquitoes.  I know I always did picture Florida as having more than its share of mosquitoes.  In truth, I haven’t really noticed much of a mosquito problem.  Yes, I have had a few encounters over the past four years that have left me itchy and swollen and pretty grouchy.  In general, though, mosquitoes have not been an issue.  Maybe it is because I am rarely out after dark, but I have no major mosquito complaints. Truth be told, my issues with mosquitoes are not peculiar to Florida.  I’ve come away on the losing side of mosquito interactions in California, as well.  What can I say?  To mosquitoes, I am delectable…coast to coast!

I have to learn to think bigger when someone mentions “bugs.”  Clearly, mosquitoes are not the only insects that populate Florida.  It is lovebug season and I am a lovebug natural disaster. My car is speckled with dead lovebug guts. I could feel bad about all the lovebug tragedy I leave in my wake, but I really don’t.  I just think the world has more than enough lovebugs and we don’t need any more. 

I don’t think the lovebugs got that particular memo, though.  In fact, lovebugs seem to have only two purposes in life- to mate and to crash into cars… often simultaneously.  For a few weeks each year, the lovebugs swarm all over like locusts in the Bible.  They spin through the air in a frenzy of copulation.   The sky is gray with them.  They fly, two by two, in passionate embraces, towards their doom.  That doom is usually the windshield or grillwork of an oncoming car.  You can see them mating through your windshield and they are obviously pretty into each other because they are completely oblivious to the fact that their love is going to be very short-lived. 

Lovebugs don’t bite or sting or hurt people in any way.  I’m not afraid of them.  They just make me feel icky.  They are so prevalent in the air around me, I am constantly fighting off the disturbing conviction that I may have just swallowed one (or more than one because they are not exactly loners).  Also, their guts contain some horrible chemical compound that eats into paint, chrome, and even windshield glass.  You are supposed to get your car washed immediately when you see the acid rain that runs through the lovebugs’ veins splattered on your vehicle.  I’m sure the carwash places thrive more than the actual lovebugs during lovebug season.  Unfortunately, unless you stop driving completely for two weeks and leave your car in a hermetically sealed garage, you might as well never leave the carwash during the height of the bugginess.

You do hear a lot of complaining about the lovebugs.  They are inconvenient and a bit aggravating.  But isn’t that true of everything, even love itself, sometimes?

Kidding and minor annoyance aside, the lovebugs are not a big deal.  First of all, they are a self-limiting problem.  In a couple of weeks, they will be gone.  If I swallow them, well, I guess a little extra protein isn’t a huge problem.  If their self-destructive behavior in the midst of coitus causes your children to ask awkward questions, I guess it can be a teaching moment. 

Yes, even if the lovebug goo causes some problems with my car’s paint, I guess I can live with that.  What I can’t live with is a world without love.  Maybe having lovebugs take over the planet for a couple of weeks each year is worth it if it reminds us that love is all around us!

What is your experience of lovebugs?  Do you think they serve some metaphorical purpose or are they just plain annoying?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com 

Have a loving day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Hug A Mom Today

I saw a Facebook post the other day that said, “A mother’s hug lasts long after she lets go.”  So true.

My mother died almost two years ago.  She wasn’t able to physically hug long before that. I can still feel her hugging me.  There is no other feeling like it.  It might be the most powerful energy force in this world.  I think, when God wanted to give us a little taste of how it feels to be loved by Him, he invented the mother’s hug. 

I realized something about physical interaction between a mother and child when my mom was in the various care facilities. Because of her frailty and cumbersome mobility assistance devices, it had been many years since I could easily hug or kiss her.  I was always afraid that I’d fall into her if I leaned over and around enough to get to her.  We talked about loving each other and demonstrated it, certainly.  Still, physical affection, like many other aspects of her physical life, deteriorated more and more as she became more and more infirm.

When she was in the care facilities, it was much easier for me to reach out to hug her and kiss her and hold her. The barriers that helped her balance and move were not necessary anymore because she wasn’t balancing or moving.  There was no need for me to lean awkwardly or worry about falling.   That ability to connect physically was very nice for me and I think it was for her, too.  Being able to reclaim physical affection was a gift we received during her final months. 

I don’t think either of us realized how much we had been missing touch.  One time, I was sitting by her bed, holding her hand, when I decided to leave because her roommate had a whole army of people visiting.  I had difficulty loosening my hand from hers. Although she could no longer express herself well enough verbally to let me know how much she was loving my touch, she was communicating that message by clutching my hand.  Now, I wish I had stayed right there holding her hand; army of visitors be damned. 

You see, a daughter’s hug lasts long after she lets go, too.  I hope my mom can still feel me hugging her now, even in Heaven.

Happy Mother’s Day!  How are you celebrating?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a wonderful day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Stage Fright

I recently performed in a play at church about women in the New Testament.   I played The Woman Caught In Adultery.  There were no auditions or anything like that.  Basically, the very talented lady who authored the play just asked for volunteers.  Many of the volunteers said they would be happy to play any part… except The Woman Caught In Adultery.  People even cheerfully volunteered to play Mary Magdalene…just not The Woman Caught In Adultery.  Maybe they had a certain amount of respect for someone who, at least, demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in a time when there weren’t a lot of career options for women.  The Woman Caught In Adultery seems to have abandoned her moral principles simply for the sake of giving the milk away for free. 

Anyway, I was cast as The Woman Caught In Adultery not based on talent but on my general guppiness. I’m pretty much willing to do whatever anyone asks me to do to help (well, maybe not actually commit adultery), with or without the scarlet letter. In this case, there was no scarlet letter… just a vibrant banana-yellow head scarf.  It is safe to assume that the respectable women in the community would be able to see me coming. 

It was kind of fun preparing for the play.  We rehearsed each Thursday night for about a month.  I enjoyed working with the other women.  I juggled inflection and volume with my lines, trying to ascertain what combination of emoting produced the most effective result. I liked experimenting with makeup. We thought it likely that women in Biblical times would be too busy to just sit around and talk.  The director asked us to each find some sort of hand work we could do while we reminisced about our experiences with Jesus. I taught myself to knit using a YouTube tutorial.  Mind you, I didn’t learn how to FINISH knitting, but I did manage a rather mangled stretch of congealed blue yarn.  I felt quite accomplished.

I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play.  At least, I wasn’t even particularly nervous about the play until the day before the performance.  Then, the goblins in my gut started dancing around with torches.  My insides felt skittish.  I had a couple of dizzy spells the night before and the day of the play.  None of this is surprising.  What is surprising is that it took so long for the stage fright to set in.  I tend to experience a pretty high level of anxiety just living normal life.  The other surprise is that the show went on and everything went well.  Nobody died.  There was no blood on the floor.  Contrary to all the good wishes I received, I did not break any actual body parts.  I’m not joking.  Between my long robe, ascending a couple of steps, and doffing my glasses (apparently, no one wore glasses in Biblical times…. although, it seems they did wear a rather alarming amount of makeup), I was kind of a danger to myself and others. 

This experience led to me to think about the concept of stage fright.  Can you still have stage fright, even when there is no stage?  I wonder how often in my life I have resisted doing something because of anxiety or fear of failure.  As I mentioned, I live right on the edge of manageable anxiety most of the time.   I can remember times, especially as a younger woman, where I talked myself out of activities and experiences because of that anxiety.  The anxiety meter slipped over the line into the red and I shut down.  I missed out on meeting new people because I was always sure that I was a waste of their time.   There were times I drove to events and then could not go inside.  There were times when going to school on a given day was impossible for me.  I missed a free trip to Ireland because I couldn’t get past the idea of traveling with people I didn’t know very well.  I am sure my career progression was slower and more painful than it would have been if I had been able to check my anxiety at the door.

I’m not sure what has changed over the past few years.  Maybe it is retirement.  Maybe it is maturity.  Maybe it is figuring out that EVERYONE (even me) has a right to pursue happiness.  Maybe it is my ever-increasing awareness that the clock is ticking and I want to make the most of all the time I have left.  Maybe it is the Holy Spirit.  Maybe it is a combination of all those things.   I still wrestle with the anxiety and insecurity, but it is no longer the battle royale that it used to be. Most of the time, I win the battle.  My “play” is going pretty well, despite the stage fright. 

I am learning that, despite the jitters, everything will probably be fine if I step out of the shadows.  Everything might even be BETTER than fine.  In general, nobody cares what I look like or how badly I perform when I try something new.  I’ll either get better or I won’t.  I’ll either enjoy something or I won’t.  I’ll either be a blessing for someone or I won’t.  God will still keep the earth turning on its axis. 

Maybe Shakespeare was right and all the world’s a stage.  If so, that might explain my anxiety. Stage fright is normal, but it doesn’t have to cripple me. 

Have you missed out on things because of “stage fright?” How do you manage anxiety?  Do you find it gets easier or harder to overcome as you get older?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a brave day!

Terri/Dorry 😊