Just Another Day in Paradise

On our second day in paradise, we went for breakfast at the Top of the Baths, where we had dinner the night before.

It’s an easy walk up the road from our little Guavaberry hut. The plantings around the place are phenomenal, witness this incredibly happy white Bougainvillea.

Chickens set up the calls at dawn, sounding oddly like the coyotes from home. These will wander around under the tables until this one local guy gives them a look. The chickens know him and scurry out immediately.

All was peaceful and lovely until the cruise ship tour people made it up the hill and demanded rum punch. They were not peaceful and lovely.

We sat on our deck in the shade through the hot part of the day, catching the breezes and catching up on a bit of writing. Then we spent the afternoon and sunset on the beach. The water is clear and gentle. Fish everywhere. I saw a school of nearly 200 blue fish (I don’t know what they are) from dollar-coin size up to bigger than my head.

Tonight is a big party at Leverick Bay. We’re promised dancing and stilt-walking and barbeque.

Welcome to Paradise

On the second day of vacation, they slept in.

And it was good.

It cut into the pool time and I didn’t get any wordcount in, but it was great. I love the fur-family and we both miss Zip and the kitties. Sleeping in without being walked on or whined at was quite lovely, however.

We went an ate breakfast and cleaned up and lo, and behold, it was time to head to the airport for our adjusted plane flight time of 2:00. Or 2:30.

See, this is how it went: I booked us on Sunshine Air at 11:00 am for a flight to Virgin Gorda. I chose Sunshine Air, after extensive and careful research, because they were the only ones who flew to Virgin Gorda. Mind you, I booked these tickets back in January.

The other day, I emailed the place we’re staying, Guavaberry Huts, to double-check that the Jeep rental people would be meeting us when we landed. Actually, they responded, the Virgin Gorda airport was closed and Sunshine Air would be flying us to another of the British Virgin Islands, Tortola, and someone from the Tourism Board would meet us, take us to a ferry that would bring us to Virgin Gorda, and there, at that ferry dock, we would indeed be met by the Jeep rental people.

Okay then.

I did try Googling why the Virgin Gorda airport was closed, and only found an article about crosswinds and how the airport was .

Sunshine Air did call, also. I received their voice mail when we landed in Miami. They say in the message that the flight will be at 2:00 instead of 11:00. Apparently I was supposed to call and confirm 24-hours ahead. The gal suggests I forgot. She was nice, so I didn’t suggest that no airline requires you to confirm in advance anymore. She doesn’t mention the Tortola thing, so I do. She’s sorry. But maybe we get to see some sights, yes? Sure, we’re fine. The flight’s now at 2:00, I ask?

Or 2:30, she says.

So, David and I go to the San Juan airport and check in. The guy who checks us in has to make a phone call, then painstakingly hand-writes a form. He ruefully informs us that our 11:00 flight is now delayed until 2:00. Or 2:30. As it was 12:45 then, it seems like he should know that we had some clue of this, but we just nod. We get one “boarding pass” for the two of us, that looks a lot more like an NCR receipt, but TSA doesn’t blink.

We went and drank a couple of rum concoctions while we waited. The departure screens reassuringly reflect that we, indeed are on a flight to Tortola on Air Sunshine. At 2:30.

We wait at the gate. And wait. Cape Air is there and far more organized in that they actually have staff at the counter. They also have flights to Tortola, but not for us. In fact, they become highly annoyed if anyone looking for Air Sunshine or Laria (billed as THE airline of the Caribbean) asks them questions. A sign under the Sunshine Air logo says an agent will arrive before our flight and that we should stay in the area.

Like we’re going to wander off.

David eventually tells me the tv monitor shows our flight as departed, so I ask a guy who looks official by the Air Sunshine counter. He tells me he’s just the Door Guy. But that someone from Sunshine Air will fetch us. And they’d be wearing a yellow shirt. Door Guy has an important job because the sliding glass doors work only sometimes. Occasionally they convene a fairly large group of people to try their security codes on both the inside and outside scanners until eventually one works.

At 2:46, a guy in a yellow shirt, as promised, shows up and says Air Sunshine? Six of us gather around him. He doesn’t care about our boarding pass/receipts. He trots us out to his airplane – he’s the pilot, it turns out – and he points at me to sit directly behind him. I feel like I’m riding behind my dad, and not just because he has all kinds of crap on the dashboard.

We rumble down the runway and it feel like going too fast in our Jeep, especially when it catches the heavy tropical air. One passenger, who’s clearly a local, tells us we got the best pilot.

It only takes 30 minutes to Tortola and we land. There are many welcomes to the British Virgin Islands, but no mention that we’re on Tortola. Our boarding passes/receipts still say Virgin Gorda. I remark to David that, had I not emailed, we still at this point would not know that we were on Tortola instead of Virgin Gorda, unless we figured it out from the geography.

Tourism Board gal is lovely. She explains that we’ll take a ferry to Virgin Gorda. She introduces us to our taxi driver, who taxis us all of three minutes around the corner. Local guy turns out to be local to Virgin Gorda and the three of us board our “ferry,” which is this extremely gorgeous yacht. I kid you not.

I ask local guy what the deal is with the airport and he says nobody seems to know. It’s a mystery. I mention the crosswinds in the article and another local guy laughs and says “The crosswinds were there before the airport.”

Lo and behold, the Jeep people do meet us at the dock. Everyone is spectacularly

warm. The island is gorgeous.

Our little house is amazing, with a tremendous view. Here I am, calling my mother on undoubtedly expensive roaming, to let her know we didn’t die.

As exhorted by our hostess, we went down to the private Guavaberry beach for sunset.

We went to dinner at th

e Top of the Baths, which was both delicious and gorgeous. And we were the only patrons.

I sit out on the deck writing this in the tropical night air. And finish with that same full moon, a little blurry from the moisture, but so very lovely.

En Route

We left Santa Fe this morning at 4 am, the full moon dropping to the horizon as we made our way to Albuquerque.

I spend a lot of time in airports. But this is vacation, so I tried to set up this trip so we weren’t exhausting ourselves just to get there.

It ended up feeling like leisurely hopping, from Albuquerque to Dallas/Fort Worth, to Miami to San Juan. This is a really neat sculpture on the E Concourse at DFW. It makes music while you walk through it.

It feels like found art, except that someone put it there on purpose. It’s an unexpected delight, nonetheless.

We’re spending the night in San Juan. Tomorrow morning we’ll hang by the pool. I’ll get a little writing done. Then we’ll fly to Tortola and take a ferry to Virgin Gorda. I like this wending. With every stop, the weather has warmed and moistened. With each stage, the pace slows and we ratchet down to match.

(For my work cronies – we’re staying at that same Isla Verde Embassy Suites. And the access road is still torn up in exactly the same way. It’s as if time hasn’t passed.)

This evening we had dinner and drinks on the beach. And I got to meet up with Melissa Arroyo, FFP’s conference coordinator this year. She and I had only met online before this, so we had fun talking in person. She’s a real dynamo. Now when we meet at the September conference in New Orleans, we’ll recognize each other.

And son of a gun, this evening? There was that full moon again, rising up through the palm trees, seeing us on our way.

Ice Cream Castles in the Air

I thought this one looked like a giant white jellyfish in a sea of blue.

Actually, it looked quite a bit more like a jellyfish before I went inside to grab the camera. By then, it had started to drift and alter, as clouds do. They never stay the same for long.

Despite the fixed nature of my spreadsheets, my progress towards my goals change, too.

It turns out my lowly wordcount of Thursday was a harbinger. I’m learning that my not feeling well first manifests in low creativity. Which shouldn’t be surprising at all. I did get 1,126 words on Friday, so I was all pleased by that. But then Saturday I just couldn’t muster to write at all. Or do much else. And yesterday I woke up full-blown sick. Sinus headache from hell that was so awful it made me sick to my stomach.

For those of you who don’t know, David is going to school to become a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This has side benefits for me. I laid in my own bed while he treated me, which felt loving and soothing. He says my Wei Chi, which is a military term and is like an army that surrounds your body, trapped a Cold Wind Invasion (also a military term). So my immune system stopped the invading pathogen, but it was trapped on the outer edges.

He used moxa on me, which blessedly dispersed the headache and I proceeded to sleep most of the rest of the day.

Today is for finishing up work projects, packing an preparing for vacation. Our house sitter comes tonight, so there’s cleaning yet to do.

Sterling will have to wait yet another day. But I hope to put time in on it over the vacation. Right now I’m four days behind my goal finish date. I might be able to recover that. I might not. I also have a bunch of edits to work in from my critique partner, KAK, and you know how she is. I might be doing a lot of reworking, which is never a clean movement forward. It nevertheless counts as important work on the novel – a back and forthing difficult to capture on a spreadsheet.

So my goals might be mutating a bit, rearranging themselves when I have my back turned.

Just like all things.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Mother nature reminded us last night that we’re not quite out of winter yet.

Already the snow is melting as the sun hits it. But there was much dismay, wailing and gnashing of teeth over the mini-blizzard last evening.

Nobody likes going backwards.

I’ve discovered that much of my own emotional climate is tied to how my novel is progressing. You’re probably saying, um, didn’t you discover this before? The answer is yes. Yes, I did.

I’m revisiting that discovery, okay?

When Sterling was rocking along the last couple of weeks, I felt on top of the world. Looking down on creation. And it was good. Now I’ve hit the mucky middle and it’s slow slogging. Intellectually I know I need to just keep going and find my way through it. I reassure myself that I can go back and trim and tighten those scenes I’m afraid are dragging as much as I feel. I know this is a natural part of the process.

Emotionally I just want to stop.

My puppy isn’t fun to play with any more. Here, Mommy, you take it.

Yeah, this is the point where the grown-up has to take over and tell you to suck it up. You wanted the puppy in the first place, that means you sign up for the whole deal. That includes the un-fun parts.

Yesterday I gave myself a break. I kind of blew my wad on yesterday’s blog post, which came out way too long, but at least amused a lot of people. I only put in 73 words on Sterling – the first time in weeks I haven’t hit 1K on it.

David said it’s like a physical work-out – some days you just don’t have it. He, being the high school athlete, knows much more about that than I do. (Since I pretty much feel I rarely have it for the physical work-out!)

It’s funny how my paltry 73 words feels like going backwards. Just like a little Spring blizzard does. It’s not at all. It’s a natural part of the process. Into every life a little snow must fall.

And then it melts, leaving you just a little farther on your way.

A Lot of Effort for Some Boxes

So, I’ve never been that much of a recycler.

Or rather, David never has been and so I easily fell out of the habit once we were living together. He became quickly annoyed at the accumulating sacks of newspapers, cans and bottles. Granted, recycling was a pain in Laramie. For a long time you could only take recyclables to a certain place during certain hours of weekday afternoons. Even when they finally set up bins, those were usually full.

David liked to grump that he saw the recycle place hauling truckloads out to the landfill all the time. He particularly liked to tease our more avid recycling friends about it. They would frown, uncertain if he was making it up or not.

At any rate, like many things, it was easier not to and so I stopped.

Now, I work for an environmental consulting firm and the company is big on green policies. Which I suppose is only good and right. We have to purchase 100% recycled paper for our printers, should we be so wasteful as to print something out in the first place. We have to recycle our used paper, etc. And we have to take these pledges.

Well, we don’t have to, but we’re exhorted to. And if you know anything about me at all, I’m just not the kind of gal you force into making pledges.

But every year there’s this big campaign where, in order to support the efforts of a major client, we have to go on the internet and pledge to replace our lightbulbs with the energy-savings ones. My boss, Laurie, who is fortunately also my friend, is probably shaking her head reading this, because she’s heard me go on about the lightbulbs. At length. Maybe with the teensiest bit of ranting.

Suffice to say: I do not like them.

I do not like them in my house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them because they make everything look green: eggs, ham, art and people.

Laurie doesn’t get me on this. The aesthetic doesn’t bother her. But this is also the woman who reuses corners of paper and the back of Post-It notes. She’s literally taken balled-up used sticky notes out of my trash, smoothed them out and used them for notes. Yes, we’ve discussed her issues, too.

So, a few years ago, I caved, I did the pledge, and bought my two ugly-making lightbulbs. Laurie archly asked me if I actually installed them. I replied that I did: in the basement laundry room. (Laundry rooms are supposed to have icky awful lighting – it’s practically a law.) She conceded that was good enough. Then the next year rolls around and we have to pledge again, what with more bulbs. I started to run out of icky places to put the bulbs.

This year’s drive wound up yesterday. Only now they have this whole list of things you can do to be more green. Laurie commented that it’s getting harder to show movement each year. Which is true – I actually already do everything on that list except the freaking lightbulbs. The ones I left behind in the old house when we moved. To help the new people be green, I told Laurie.

She suggested I put their names on the pledge.

I turn off unused lights and appliances. I keep thermostats low and turned down during low-use times. Growing up in the Western drought of the 70s, I’m a habitual water-saver. One friend gets irritated that I turn the water on and off when I do dishes. “Why don’t you just let it keep running?” she asks. Because I can’t.

And now we have curbside recycling, so we do that, too! Amusingly, I even mentioned this once before on the blog. Back in August David and I were going back and forth on recyclables that don’t fit in the bin. Which brings us to yesterday.

Remember how I bought all that nifty new patio furniture? Well, it came in great big boxes. Heavy-duty cardboard ones. Our recycle pick-up comes every two weeks, so two weeks ago, I set two giant boxes filled with smaller scraps of cardboard next to the bin for pick up.

Shockingly the Waste Management guys did not take them.

(If you watch Breaking Bad, you can see our New Mexico Waste Management trucks. Kind of thrilling, no? Yeah, I didn’t think so. But it’s funny to us.)

We had a rainy day last week and David told me I should put those boxes out in the rain so they’d soften up and he could tromp them down and put them in the garbage bin. Our recycle bin gets really full at the end of two weeks. I said, no, I was going to break the boxes down and set them out for recycle again this week. “A lot of effort for some boxes,” he says and I said I didn’t mind.

So I spent a bunch of time cutting up and breaking down the boxes, bundling them into neat stacks, tied up with rope. With carry handles even. And we set them next to the very full recycle bin for pick up yesterday. The Waste Management guy arrives, sits for easily five minutes on his radio (I can spy on this from my office window). He backs the truck up like he’s leaving, then he pulls forward again, gets out, contemptuously kicks aside my careful bundles of cardboard and lets the automatic truck arm empty the bin. And drives away.

David says, “That’s why I wanted you to put that stuff in the rain so I could have tromped it down and put it in the garbage.”

I should insert here that today is David’s second-to-last day of finals and he’s hitting full grumpitude saturation at this point. I’m not calling him on it because, well, I’m understanding and loving like that. So, I don’t say anything to this.

I call Waste Management, very nice girl tells me that, yeah, in Santa Fe they’ll take only what’s in the bin. I ask if I’m supposed to cut these boxes into tiny pieces and dole them into the recycle bin over the course of months and she responds brightly that that’s a great idea.

I tell her not so much.

So she tells me that I can drop the stuff off at the county. Coincidentally, the place is right by where I have a salon appointment that day anyway. I put the top down on the Jag, pull to the end of the driveway and load the cardboard into the back. David helps, grumbling that it’s an awful lot of effort for some boxes at which point I, maybe not quite so lovingly, tell him that I don’t mind, I’ll do it myself and to go back in the house to study. He says, “Okay, I won’t say another word.” And I, very lovingly, do not say “Hallelujah!”

It goes downhill from there. The place the chirpy Waste Management girl sends me too is the lovely county office with no recycling facilities in evidence. I end up talking to the County Manager, who’s a terrific gal and says “I do not know what is wrong with those people at Waste Management!” She draws me a map to the transfer station, by the landfill, by the dog park, all places I haven’t been to yet.

So, yes, I drive out to the landfill in my Jag convertible, packed to the rim with cardboard pieces. The woman at the gate takes one look at me, says “let me guess” and waves me through. I find the big bin o’cardboard, where a very earthy/crunchy young man is emptying his vehicle of rectangles like mine. We stand in the sun and companionably toss cardboard into the bin.

And yes, I felt pleased with myself.

True to his promise, David didn’t say another word about it, so I don’t have to ‘fess up to the further complications, which would have truly driven him over the wall. I’ll have to think up another reason for why I now know where the landfill and the dog park are.

The pledge checklist doesn’t include a category for “went to a lot of effort for some boxes,” but I’m feeling like a good kitty-cat this Earth Day.

The best part? I didn’t have to buy any of those stinking lightbulbs!

Compare and Contrast

Spring has really brought out the contrasts in the landscape here.

I suppose pretty much every place but designated wilderness areas are now a hopeless mix of the indigenous and the exotic, the civilized and the natural. Still, it amuses me to see the clusters of stately hybrid tulips glowing against the desert background of cholla and pinon.

We saw an ad the other day for Cholla Busters! They promised to come remove our cholla, never to trouble us again. David asked why someone would want to get rid of their cholla and I said, you know those people who mow the desert so the space around their house looks kind of like a lawn? Those people.

This morning on our jog I pointed one out to him – flat and open, not a cholla in sight. It creates an odd image, with the house as the only visual contrast. I’ll take my camera with me to snap a photo if you all want to see. The house is on our usual route, so it wouldn’t be any trouble.

Getting back to the morning run is paying off. No, I don’t like to exercise either. But I love those results! I enter my weight and body fat into a spreadsheet every morning (love my spreadsheets!) and I’m pleased to see the body fat is trending down. I’m now at pre-Christmas levels. I know some people argue you shouldn’t weigh every day or worry about the daily values. I chart my weekly averages, too, which does give a better perspective. I’m one of those people, though, that suffer from ignorance. In the years I didn’t weigh daily, I managed to gain 20 pounds. It was quite extraordinary, as if I’d gained it overnight.

That’s what I get for not paying attention.

So, it’s good for me to track the changes over time. The days when I get unhappy news, I’m very tempted not to enter those numbers. As if, if I don’t record that high weight, that obese category body fat percentage, it won’t really exist.

(If you’ve never measured your body fat, you’d be appalled at how easy it is to be in the “obese” category. And there’s nothing above it. You get Lean, Normal, Overfat and Obese. It can be quite daunting.)

But I make myself enter those high numbers so I can see how far I’ve come. Compared to those obnoxious highs, the lows start to look pretty exciting.

I suppose Spring brings out the contrasts in me, too.

Package Deal

When we were house-shopping in Santa Fe last summer (which feels both forever ago and yesterday), our agent took us to a house on the other side of town.

It was a blatant attempt to upsell us. The asking price exceeded our upper limit by nearly $100K, though she assured us we could ask offer far less than that. Of course, she told us that same story on a couple of other houses, too, and when we did offer much less and they came back with indignant counters, our agent would sound all sad and act like we were crazy to think we could get it for that and the counter was actually an amazing deal.

I didn’t like her much.

Anyway, this house on the other side of town was fun to see. The selling agent met us there – which is also kind of a no-no – and really pushed us on the place. We had to have it, they said. A divorce sell, the house sat on a hillside facing the Sangre de Cristos. The view everyone in Santa Fe wants to have they told us. Never mind that the patio and hillside were so overgrown that you couldn’t actually see the mountains.

One room was a studio with 20-foot ceilings, which was neat, but not very useful if neither of us paints. With the odd shape, size and window-placement, it would have made a very unfriendly bedroom.

What with the stamped concrete, the high ceilings and open space, the house made for a dramatic showroom to entertain guests. It wasn’t much for living in. The real adobe walls (as opposed to the “Disney Adobe” of stucco frequently used) set off the massive and somewhat disturbing paintings that hung everywhere. Divorce paintings, perhaps.

The art, the selling agent told me, with a conspiratorial grin, could be negotiated into the purchase price.

And suddenly I realized who he thought I was.

Who buys the art with the house? Someone looking for their ready-made Santa Fe showplace. It’s like paying a designed to fill your bookshelves with attractive-looking spines, never mind the contents.

Art and books are usually personal things. You buy and keep them because you love them. You love them so much you want to have them right there within easy reach, or easy viewing, at every moment. Like all things, I suppose, at some point that becomes a business. How much will I pay someone to let me have it right nearby? The interesting thing is, it’s not the artist who wants to negotiate that price: it’s the middle man.

Right now, Penguin and Amazon are in a pissing match. As a result, Penguin’s new releases are not available on Kindle. Not just delayed, not for a different price. Just not at all. A couple of those releases are from authors I like to buy. I’d like to read those books. But the lion’s share of my reason for using the Kindle is to reduce the amount of space I devote to books. I want to have them, but I don’t want them on my already overtaxed shelves.

Which means, I won’t buy the hard copies.

The middle men want to make money from what we love. They will always offer us a deal, throw in a little something extra. The thing is, package deals always benefit the seller, rarely the buyer. Otherwise, the sellers wouldn’t love to do it so much.

All I can say is, I would never buy the art with the house.

Taoist Excavations

A dramatic arrival that produced nothing in the way of storm-action. And here I was hoping for a real gully-washer.

I spent some time this weekend digging out the culvert at the end of our driveway. We have dirt roads out in our community. Long driveways feed off the main roads and lead to the houses. Like most of the desert Southwest, we’re subject to ferocious rains. Monsoon storms drop relatively huge amounts of water, which all runs down washes that are normally dry.

In this case, water would all run down the dirt road that connects to our driveway, primarily in the borrow ditch next to the road. The only problem with that is our driveway would be in the way of that. Thus, all the driveways here have culverts at the juncture of driveway and road, to allow the water to run under.

This works just fine as long as the culvert isn’t filled with dirt.

Actually, I had two problems: a dirt-filled, neglected culvert yes, but also a wayward Direct TV van. I kid you not.

See? And you all argue with me when I say TV is evil.

During one of our last big snowstorms, a Direct TV service van slid off the dirt road and into our borrow ditch. Many people here treat deep snow as an opportunity to drive fast on crappy tires. It’s mind-boggling, really. So, this guy comes barreling down the road – yes, I saw him do it – slid all over and into the borrow ditch. Then he tried to get out. Mud fountaining up through the wet snow. We watched, since we figured our mailbox was not on his radar, but really didn’t want to have to go out and help. Finally a couple of passers-by who were much nicer than we are pulled him out with a cable and a pick-up truck.

(Incidentally, the Direct TV guy, once liberated, then attempted to pull a U-turn, though there are several ways out if you just follow the road and manage to stay on it. But no, he had to do a U-turn, that turned into something like a nine-point turn and nearly got himself stuck in opposite borrow ditch. If he had, we’d have been forced to go out and hurl his keys into the storm.)

It’s too late to make this a short story, but the end result was our ditch got torn all to hell and gone, with enormous (now dry) furrows. I seriously considered calling Direct TV and telling them to come fix it, but I decided it would be infinitely less aggravating just to dig it up myself.

Besides, I need the exercise.

Now, when I was a little girl, I tried to build a pond in the back garden. I built an earthen dam and canals, various channels, waterfalls and progressive lakes. It was a thing of beauty, I tell you. Which all promptly dissolved into sludge when I added water. My first experience with Taoism.

The great thing about Taoism is you learn lessons by observing nature. This time I paid attention to where the water would want to go and dug accordingly. Eventually I want to line the culvert area around our driveway with rocks, to make it look a little more “on-purpose.” So I cleared a space for the water to run. It doesn’t look great right now, but I have high hopes that a good gully-washer will clear the way.

If I did it right, nature will help me out this time.

It will be a thing of beauty, I tell you.

Tut Tut

The days are starting to shift here into the warm weather pattern.

Black-bottomed cumulus clouds cruise by like Spielbergian starships hunting for a tattered group of rebels. When the rain falls, it’s both fury and benediction.

Most of my life, I’ve lived in places where the weather comes from a direction. In Denver, the clouds build up over the western mountains all day, until they build up enough gumption to pour over the top and into the basin below. We could track the approach of a winter blizzard by the recitation of pass closures in the mountains: Aspen, Vail, Rabbit Ears, Loveland. By the time Loveland Pass and maybe even Eisenhower tunnel closure, we knew it would be upon us.

It was much the same in Laramie. Not surprising because it’s part of the same geography. The weather there streamed up from the mountains. Storms in Steamboat Springs landed on us an hour later.

Every once in a once, in both Denver and Laramie, a winter storm would charge over, then slow and back up again from the east. Those were the heavy snows.

Here, the weather blows up on top of us. The wind can gust from any direction. Storms pounce from any direction. I’m no meteorologist, but I think we get wet air streaming up from the Pacific currents in the southwest that combined with the Rocky Mountain chilled air. Our humidity levels drop from 45% to 10% as the day warms. Up above, the cool dry and the warm wet foment, spinning cumulus clouds that shoot off in all directions.

I suppose I could look up the meterology, but imagining the poetry of it all is more fun.

For predictability, it’s no good at all. The forecasts are often wildly wrong.

But for drama? For the sheer delight of vista and power? Just fabulous.

You can tell which camp I’m in.