This year I have a helper. More and more, as Cleo grows up, she insists on being a part of whatever I am doing. When I write, she lays on the table beside my keyboard and watches the screen. Supervising and guiding me, I suppose. If she gets bored and wants to have her ears scratched, she lays her tail on my keys. She makes it look like an accident so that I must stop to pay her some attention. It is the same for whatever I am doing. When I go down to the cistern to check my well water level, there she is right behind me all the way to make sure I know my way back to the house.
Everything changes. No matter how hard we try to keep a wonderful moment from ending or changing, sooner or later, it ends and slips away like sand between our fingers. That’s all right. When we continue to step out and have new experiences, our good memories keep, and we add to them. Cats change too. Cleo, my friend and writing associate, is a case in point. Now that Cleo is nearly two years old, and no longer a teenager, she has put away kitten attitudes. Cleo has developed not only a mind of her own but very definite ideas about how her world should be.
As you may recall, I once had a cat named Calico. Mrs. Fallon, the widow neighbor lady, who lived across the road and passed away a few years ago, was the reason I acquired Calico. She had cats. After she was gone, the cats ran wild. When Calico came to my house, I adopted her. We became good friends.
I’m not a person that believes in ghosts or spirits. Nor can I claim to be religious. I do believe that our awareness does persist after death in some fashion. However, I also have a deep respect for science and the laws of chance. A few things have happened to me during my life that any mathematician would agree were way outside the possibility of chance. Like the time I was in downtown Los Angeles thirty years ago.
Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ The simple act of pretending happiness, or pretending courage, or beginning a task you know you cannot do, accomplishes other miracles. When I am sad or fearful or dead certain I cannot accomplish some formidable task, the simple act of acting and pretending as if I am brave or happy or see that job already finished makes me happier, braver, and, somehow able to finish the job in style.
This morning, when my cat, Cleo, and I, peered out the window and saw, in the growing morning light that the hills on the far side of my valley were clear, the dark smog had vanished and, once more, the air was the purest anywhere in the world. Covid-19 is like that. Here we are in the home stretch of a world-wide plague that has laid us low for nearly a year. It has given the world’s economy what might have been a death blow. It has sickened millions and killed hundreds of thousands world-wide. The morning is coming.
Every person I have met during my fifty tears in lake County, and especially in Witter Springs, are good neighbors. They are the sort of folks you would want living next to you. Next to my farm in Witter Springs, I have two of the best neighbors you could find anywhere. Maybe it’s because of Carl Sandburg’s poetic prose about neighbors; ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’ We all have fences in Witter Springs. Naturally. Otherwise, our cattle and horses would be sitting on each other’s front porch.
Animals communicate. They can’t speak words, at least that’s true most of the time, but we once had a mongrel dog that could. My dear wife, who found the dog in San Francisco and brought her home, taught Sweetness (that was the name she gave the dog) to speak. I’ll swear to it. Our friends heard her speak as well. Many times. Sweetness had a limited vocabulary, but it could say ‘I love you.’ That’s what my wife taught the dog to say. Sweetness did it every time she had an audience, and when my wife asked her. Of course, it was rough speech. Actually, the dog said something that sounded more like, ‘Ahhiiiee wuuvvve oooo.’ But that is what it was trying to say.
Driving my Jeep from Witter Springs to Lakeport, on my way to my monthly support group at the Pizza palace on Eleventh Street, I had a crackerjack of an idea. First off, let me tell you the support group meets once a month every Thursday in the back room of the Pizza Palace. Naturally, everybody buys something for lunch. It may be anything from a slice of good Pizza to a Veggie plate. I usually get the Veggie palate and load up. It’s a good way to get my veggie vitamins and keeps me cranking full speed ahead. Once everyone has arrived, we talk.
A good friend reminded me of something I had forgotten. It relates to the old warning that the greatest danger and the greatest chance of a mistake happens in the last mile on the way home. Driving home from a journey, we may let down our defenses when we are closest to the finishing line. I know it’s not easy for you. For nearly four months, after being Sheltered in Place, except for a very few times going out as a masked stranger, there have been times when I was ready to climb the walls. Since I live alone, the best cure has always been to call a friend and listen to their problems, or just have a good conversation. It always helps me forget my problems and, I believe, the other person benefits as well. There have been times when the only thing I could do, rather than stare at four walls, is to drive around my valley and see how beautiful the world still is.
Before I started writing this article, I had second thoughts. What I wanted to write about was personal. I want my friends to think well of me. To say what I wanted to say, I had to unload myself and tell my friends about some of my faults. Exposing my mistakes might lower me in their estimation. On the other hand, if I can’t speak freely to my friends, who can I tell?
Every day I make mistakes; usually, one or two. I expect that, but yesterday I made my quota, and they were doozies. You may think a person as old as I don’t make mistakes anymore. After all, by the time you get to be ninety and, if it is true that we learn from our mistakes, then I should be perfect. Right? Not so. I keep on making mistakes all the time, no matter how hard I try to be perfect.
I am a persistent person. Once I set out to do a job, like a dog with a bone, I cannot quit or let go until I have got all the meat off the bone or finished the project. While I admit that I am not always the brightest bulb in the room, I’ve discovered even a dim bulb, given time enough to shed light, may furnish enough light to do a job.
The next thing to being famous is to have a famous friend. My cat, Cleo Paleno, is famous. I know she is famous because on three separate occasions, total strangers, as well as several of my acquaintances, have gone out of their way to tell me how much they admire Cleo. That warms my heart because I consider Cleo my best animal friend and a cat deserving of admiration and praise.
Sometimes life gets complicated. Like a slap on the side of your head when you least expect it. The other day my reading glasses right ear hanger fell off. Being a person with a razor-sharp intellect and the reflexes of a jungle cat, and since the same thing happened to me a hundred times before with other glasses during the last twenty-five years, I knew instantly what happened; the screw that fastens the ear hanger to my spectacles had come unscrewed. Over time and use, the screw had come loose and fallen out.
Anxiety is another word for unnamed fears. When I heard a CBS News Caster say ‘Anxiety can be worse than death for people living alone than death,’ I decided to write down my thoughts. The odds are a bit greater for we oldsters to recover quickly from a bout of Covid-19 than it is for the kids. According to Monday’s CBS report, children recover at, or nearly, a hundred percent.
It’s always wonderful to get presents. Not just on birthdays and Christmas, but any time. The most wonderful day of the year, when I was a boy, was Christmas. My three sisters, two brothers, and I would go to sleep on the night before Christmas with visions of … well, you know what I mean. That was during the 1929 Depression years that most of us older Americans remember. It was a time that lasted almost until World War Three. The thirties were the hard years, and nearly everybody had to scratch to keep body and soul together. Our family was as poor as the rest but, living on a farm and growing our own food, we didn’t know we were poor.
Last Wednesday afternoon I had my one minute of fame. I was given 60 seconds to tell one of the most influential, and powerful group of Lake County citizens, ‘One Hundred Women Strong’, why the Silver Foundation, deserved their support. That’s because, a year ago I was lucky enough to be asked to be on […]
Hiram Peacemother is a man not easily bothered. In his line of work it pays to be relaxed and not let anything ruffle your feathers. It would hardly do to get excited around your customers. Hiram runs the local Funeral Parlor and Crematorium that me and my neighbors in Witter Springs will probably patronize when […]
I’ve talked a lot about automobile mechanics like my friend Joe, the Apostle of Automobile Engines. The folks in Lake County depend on their truck and tractor engines and motorized tools more than most. In the big city, you can always call someone to do a job. Here, in Lake County, and especially in Witter […]
Birds like my garden. Especially the half dozen Peacocks that hang out on my land. Listening to the news I learned that the City of Los Angeles keeps the seagulls and carrion birds away from the refuse dumps by stringing rope across high poles. The birds don’t land on the garbage. They won’t risk breaking […]