Monday, February 15, 2021

Gratitude

I have lots to be grateful for--just having a roof over my head for starters. But I'm also glad for a poetry group I belong to. It was formed a few months ago by the YMCA. What? you ask. The Y has a poetry group? Yes, for the simple reason that its mission is to promote healthy living--body, mind, and spirit. Concerned for its members who are older and likely lonely during the pandemic, the YMCA of Greater Seattle formed a committee of staff and volunteers to develop activities for its older members to participate in from home. Yes, there were (and are) wonderful virtual exercise sessions for healthy bodies, but also things like cooking classes, Laughter Yoga, Forest Bathing, and a myriad of topics to tantalize and intrigue its older members so we don't become too lonely or desolate in the imposed social isolation.

Every Friday different opportunities and ideas were presented throughout 2020 from late spring. Enter the "Try Your Hand at Writing Poetry" offering on two consecutive Friday mornings in fall of 2020. The first session was an informal introduction and a challenge to write one poem on an assigned topic to share (optionally) the following week with the group. This opportunity appealed to a surprising number of people and it's been adding participants and meeting over Zoom for one-hour sessions twice a month ever since. We get an assignment each time--and read our poems to each other the following meetup. We aren't expecting to develop into T.S. Elliotts or e.e. cummingses or Mary Olivers. We are doing it for fun, but there has been some beautiful poetry shared by the writers. Terry Busch, a local poet, invents the assignments and gently mentors us. The Zoom sessions are hosted and overseen by the Y. Two weeks ago I rhymed the assignment: "Write about a walk in your neighborhood." I offer it here--for a fun change of pace. 

Gratitude While Walking the Sammamish River Trail

My home is on a quiet street. 
It's easy enough to walk 'the beat' 
but I don't always want to. 
So I go beyond the community fence 
to better relax, to get less tense 
and enjoy the splendid trail view. 

As I start down the well-worn path 
a racing biker shouts in wrath 
at a child who's weaving on her bike. 
Her protective mom is yelling out, 
demonstrating her parental clout. 
"It's her trail, too--go take a hike!" 

I smile at them both, then hurry by, 
and looking up, see brightening sky 
rebuffing supposed scattered showers. 
I thank my stars for these lovely walks 
and food and shelter and daily talks 
with friends and family, some for hours. 

My walks along this well-used trail 
provide release from Covid jail, 
inspiring me to let things go. 
Crows are cawing, trees are swaying 
unaware what the news is saying. 
Maskless Mother Nature needn't know. 

Fresh air is mine to breathe and use 
but with it comes my lifelong dues 
to care intentionally for all. 
My personal privilege shields me 
from much despairing intensity 
that lurks beneath the Covid pall.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Fluky or Fortuitous?


Occasionally something happens in our lives that can feel uncanny in its timing, even providential, when it precedes something unforeseen in the future. Although this is a tiny, unimportant event to anyone but me, I recently had such an experience and feel compelled to share.

Last October I noticed a little flag on my Messenger App indicating a message awaited. "Hello, we don't know each other, but . . ." it began and continued, ". . . my husband and I were the first owners of your house. The California-based writer went on to mention she'd been browsing on the Internet and had found a real estate listing in my community and had become curious if anyone was still living in the community whom she might remember. As with anyone's 'Covid-leisure,' where constraints on routine outside activities drive a person to spend a lot of time online, she located me--the current owner of, she went on to describe, her all-time favorite home.

We had several exchanges: she told me about milestone events that occurred in her family's life while living here; I told her what changes had been made by the two owners sandwiched between us. We exchanged a couple of photos of the interior and generally, over the course of a Saturday afternoon, had a delightful 'conversation.' The last thing she wrote, without any provocation, was that the flat cement parking slab in front of my home was deeded to my unit and ended by saying, "And don't let anyone ever tell you differently! It is NOT common property of the entire condominium association."

The area in question is an extra parking area level with my front door, making my townhouse fully accessible. Because my late husband and I imagined growing old here (indeed, one of us has done so), it was an appealing feature. I've always considered it part of my unit, so I thought little of her comment. Until, that is, three months later, when . . .

But wait  . . . first I need to mention that parking in our community is, and always has been, in short supply. Each townhome owner has a two car garage, and another two spaces in the garage-adjoining driveway. Our street is too narrow to allow parallel parking. With life the way it is now--twenty-five years after the community was built--two things have changed. First, cars are bigger, so two in a garage can be a tight fit, and second, accumulation of material objects seems to be on the rise. As a result, many people need their garage space to store excess belongings, especially those with children. In 2021 more people are permanently parking in their driveways and overflow parking has become almost non-existent.

Early this month a heated dispute arose among my neighbors. What if a garage is a storage unit with no room for cars, and you acquire a third car? Then what? One idea was put forth: the parking areas that is basically in my front yard should be first-come, first-served parking area for anyone. After all, it belonged to the community, didn't it?

I have always shared the spot, whether it's to accommodate guests at neighbors' parties or visiting family with a car too big to fit in a driveway, a repairman working on a problem across the street, etc. I share it with anyone who asks, and try always say yes unless I am planning to use it myself for loading/unloading, for guests, etc. It is also the scene of all our all-community outdoor events, whether the annual potluck, summer-time Board meetings, or Covid-conversations when several neighbors bring chairs to the space to sit socially distanced and chat. But even when these events for the entire community have been staged there, I've always been asked, as a courtesy, if it's OK.

At one point I was confronted by a resident who told me the parking slab was NOT mine . . . never had been mine . . . and who did I think I was, anyway, to think Icould control the ONLY extra parking space in the community. "People don't have to ask your permission--they can use it whenever." That was one neighbor's strong opinion, at any rate.

Do I sound selfish? Probably. As a friendly and generally cooperative neighbor, I don't want to be a negative player in my community, but the thought of looking out my bedroom window and always see a vehicle parked just feet from my window, day and night, isn't appealing. It was my word against theirs . . . but how could I prove what I'd always assumed was true? And that's when I recalled the original owner's parting words on Messenger last October. 

After a number of attempts prowling through online county property records, I found the original Statutory Warranty Deed to my townhouse condo, amended to include a description of the accessible parking area belonging exclusively my unit. Indeed (pun intended) that parking space belongs to me, and now I have proof. This is not to say I won't share it generously, but it does mean I'll have a say over having it available for my needs. Meanwhile, the community parking issues have been ameliorated, at least for now. Our neighborhood is settling back into a semblance of civility, which we all hope will continue. It's a great place to live and exceptionally peaceful, as a rule. 

And that is the happy ending, for me, anyway, of this saga. I have proof of ownership through the statutory warranty deed filed in 1996. But if it had not been for that random communication by the original owner, and her unrelated shared tidbit about the parking pad, the outcome might have been very different. It feels providential. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Deadly Yellow Label

I am not unusual in my snail-mail experience; most of what I receive daily is what's known as junk. Grocery store ads, requests for donations, postcards and letters from companies hoping I'll need their services. Whenever I see an envelope that's been handwritten, I take notice immediately. Of course, many advertisers have discovered this trick, so it's not unusual to tear open an envelope eagerly, only to discover a form-letter asking me for something--money or patronage.

Today, however, I received a Christmas card I'd mailed to an acquaintance of twenty-plus years. To direct the card back to me a yellow label had been affixed to it. And while it was very sad news, the label also struck me as a little-bit funny. DECEASED . . . UNABLE TO FORWARD. Really? The USPS has to tell me it can't forward it?

But it got me to thinking. Wouldn't it be great if the post office could forward mail to our deceased loved ones? It would just be a matter of someone informing the USPS of which place the deceased has gone. 

Check one: ⬜Heaven  ⬜Hell  ⬜Limbo ⬜Unsure 

Most survivors could pick one of the above. USPS could provide forms and provide a drop box for the completed forms. Once received, it would just be a matter of the USPS recording the deceased's new address to be assured of delivery. I'd really like my idea because there are a lot of people not of this world that I'd like to communicate with. And, after all, in this day and age, I'd imagine a handwritten envelope would be welcome, no matter where the recipient is dwelling. Something to wish for, anyway.