Foggy Bottom

IMG_2119Since being shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, I’ve felt like I’ve been living in a fog, disoriented and unsure of the ground under my feet. But then I’m reminded of a hike my friends and I had taken in Sibley Volcanic Preserve in the East Bay, and it hit me in that rather misty morning venturing into thick brush and hardy stalks of flora deep within the canyon of a silent volcano characterizes what I’m feeling at the moment. However, I was with friends, and I was reassured these are the women I could rely on in an emergency, even an apocalyptic crisis. At one point in the hike, we reached a plateau that provided a view of rolling, golden hills for which California is known. While the region, state, nation and the entire planet is being ravaged by this pandemic, memories such as these are meant to evoke better days when we could breathe freely, and nature will assert her incredible power when it is pushed to the brink.

 

Never Grow Old

It is quite true the axiom that no one could avoid, and that is of course about growing old—a constant, befuddling challenge after another Christmas holiday that at times renders us ageless until January rolls around for a reality check.

Closest model I could find of Tony’s car
I am reminded of Tony, an elderly portly fellow I met ten post-Christmases ago when I was returning a Zipcar. He was emerging from his 1983 Mercedes-Benz coupe and required a hand since the car was built low to the ground. I was at first wary of being drawn into such circumstances with a stranger, especially during the holidays in San Francisco. So I compromised and half-heartedly held out my hand for him to grasp, while giving myself enough space between us, should I need to let go and escape.
We started chatting once we were on level ground, and as we dove deeper into conversation he decided he was selling his impeccably maintained car that survived only one major accident (maybe it’s more like averted), being smacked in the middle of its windshield by flying rebar. Not exactly a muscle car, it is built like a tank. While it seemed like a snap decision, perhaps in his storytelling it was a natural conclusion. I told him I would think on it, but his parting words were “Rachelle, just never grow old.”
I passed on the car and never saw Tony again, but he gave me that impossible truism that nags me into the twilight of another decade. What does it mean, and how does it look like?

East Coast Revival

Of all my vacations, I had to work myself into this one, as though bigger girl panties were required emotionally. I wasn’t feeling particularly strong for various reasons, but I eventually found my footing due to familiarity like my family home and quite frankly my second family, as it were, of friends. I had intentionally focused my time with them on this trip—so much life has happened since I was last there in 2016.

Even on the first leg of my journey, there was a tinge of sadness. New York City, while still electric, seemed quite frankly deserted due perhaps not only to the stifling heat and humidity in July, but also the steep cost of living residing there. My consolation, though, is I had more of the city to myself. On my last evening, I happened to go into a local Target in Gramercy Park and mixed with ordinary Saturday shoppers and neighbors, some strutting shirtless on the sidewalk, absorbing the early evening sun before nightfall. It was like any other urban neighborhood I had known, and it felt like home. Only fitting, raindrops fell on the morning of my departure.

But my hometown beckoned, and I was on an Amtrak train heading for the Burgh as I had done on previous trips before. However, as I do more traveling solo, it’s more and more about me and how I evolved since 2016, ergo the mandatory bigger girl panties. I am a lot more at home in the world than not, and being more in charge of my destiny is my constant wish.

It has occurred to me that coming home this year, my friends and I are facing challenging situations, like ill parents, struggling marriages, death of a spouse. After all these years, we are still connected as adults as we were in our younger days. As if by design, the states of our unions remain strong. In other words, we are in this lifeboat together until it no longer exists.

To be sure, it was a short homecoming, and I left Pittsburgh well-fed and entertained. It is always personal with opportunities of going deeper. But I somehow prevent myself from diving too deeply for fear of never resurfacing. However, as years go by and I grow older, there’s no avoiding it.

The Joy of New Beginnings

It was months ago last year in October to be exact that I wrote about eagerly anticipating my next move, and now I can happily say I have turned that page. I can’t say it was easy, but as I am told often, anything hard is more than likely worth it.

This was a no-brainer. There were no conflicts or fears on my end–just it was time to get out and be more me. So here I am with a new job and a freedom I don’t think I have ever known because I am so unequivocally joyful. I see it in wanting to watch my nephew play ball and being my own boss in whatever I choose to do. It is, as overused as this term might be, liberating once again and as ever a moment of gratitude and abundance–twin states of being I could only express in how I live and who I am.

 

Averting Death

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Poolside: MLK weekend getaway before a brief scare on the return flight.

I was taking off in a plane last month on a windy morning from Palm Springs, and before the critical 30 seconds when the aircraft would have reached a safe level, it started to bounce violently like a puppet being willfully pulled by invisible strings. Obviously, I survived, however, the event nudged me to think how final moments are never shared after the fact because, well, one would not have lived to tell them. Once we disembarked, my travel companions and I reunited and immediately debriefed to comfort each other. Later, I also texted my siblings.

I was seated in the last row, where one could feel every bump and disturbing noise expressed from a plane’s gut, when it started rocking in a not so pleasant manner. I turned toward my sole row mate, and he looked about to lose it, including all his saliva, judging how he was cupping his mouth. With little assurance there, I took hold of the arms of my seat, curling mine around them, imagining I would have some kind of protection if separated from the plane in a hard, vertical fall.

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My nephews are babies no more but still raison d’etre.

Then my phone popped out of the pocket in front me. When I had a chance to grab and pick it up, the top screensaver of my two nephews around two or three at the time, lit up, as most phones sensitive to any touch or movement are want to do, and glowed in the gray well of my row. I locked into their angelic faces that were increasingly coming into sharp focus, as I brought my phone closer to me. I thought if this is my final moment, then I am at peace and good with whatever follows because these boys, whom I consider at times my own, were the last images I would have seen.

But I dodged the grim reaper again, and well, I guess, at this juncture, the directive is more or less the same as time immemorial–live like there’s no tomorrow–but also speak of what’s in my heart, especially when without any notice, it may suddenly be on its last tick.

Even-Keeled

Self-Portrait

A portrait composed by my coworkers on the whiteboard of my office.

I just thought it’s the perfect moment to plant a flag on something I’ve often wondered–whether my own plan would at some point coincide with reality. Office desk

Here it is–I have a job I’ve come to appreciate because it supports a life I love. By the same token, I approach my job situation in similar fashion as my personal life: It’s how I feel about the job not the company that’s primary. Therefore, it’s about my partner not marriage that’s foremost. I am hopeful on both fronts as I navigate my next move. 

The Zen in Food & Design

Pictures tell the story best how comforting food, art and architecture are in these even more chaotic days when what’s required is at times not so easy, that is, to embrace, if not rise above, uncertainty.