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Posts Tagged ‘Truckee’

  1. The Summer of the Wasps

    September 5, 2016 by Diane

    Truckee #5

    You go on vacation to escape your life. To set aside the worry, the stress, the gossip, the routine and mundane, the rut that keeps you blinded to anything above and beyond. You go on vacation to widen your view, and what better place to widen it than the top of a granite mountain, above the pines, a 360-degree expanse that gives you a glimpse of what God sees.

    But at the top of that mountain are yellow jackets. A whole gang of them. In fact, the region is rife with angry wasps, and as long as you keep moving, you’re no target. But the minute you stop, the minute you zip open your backpack to reach for your hummus and avocado and tomato, lettuce, pickle sandwich, they’re on you.

    You came here, to the high country, to the mountain lake, to listen. To ponder the dwindling finances, the mounting debt. To sit in quiet reflection until you have a “eureka” moment, a bolt of clarity that lights up your brain. “Ah! I know what to do! I know what path to take! I know how to unmuddle the muddle I’m in!”

    But those yellow jackets. It’s hard to relax, with the gang buzzing around your blue-painted toes, your blue t-shirt. They love blue. That lavender-scented sunblock? Ditch it. They love that, too. And the coconut moisturizer that gives your hair a fighting chance in this dry, high altitude? Lose it. Go au-natural if you want to sit and ponder at the lake.

    Those yellow jackets will challenge your morning meditations, too. Just how long can you sit with that constant buzz? You feel them tease your skin: a prick, a nibble. How long till you jump up and run inside, arms waving?

    They bite your friend instead. His pinky swells to the size of his thumb.

    “Whaddya think?” he says, shoving it at you like you’re the canary in the coal mine.

    If you freak, he’ll be concerned. Lucky for him, you don’t. It’s not your pinky that was bit. If it was, you’d be telling yourself that you’re allergic, you’re dying, there’s something poisonous in the wasps in Truckee, nothing like the ones at ocean level, like the one that bit you nine times in the thigh after buzzing up your pants leg. Nine times. That’s the story you’d be telling yourself.

    But it’s not your pinky.

    “Maybe you should rub some ointment on it,” you say.

    “Nah, I’m fine.”

    The next day, it’s bright red.

    “How about Benadryl.”


    The next day, it’s purple.

    “Lidocaine. Try Lidocaine.”

    If it was your pinky, you’d have a hard time breathing. You’d be afraid of waking up and discovering it’s as big as your head.

    But him? “It’ll go away,” he says, and he’s right. It does. That’s his story.

    Still, doesn’t make it easy, sitting on the piney deck every morning in meditation with the wasps buzzing while your friend sips his coffee and relaxes, eyes closed to the sun, arms crossed on his chest, that pinky turning hues. You leap up, head inside.

    There’s serenity inside.

    But hey! You didn’t travel all that way to gaze out the sliding glass doors from a cush of a couch in your landlady’s “cabin.” So the next morning, you sit longer. There, on the deck of that two-story granite and pine house that you can’t afford to stay in for a night, let alone a week, if it wasn’t for the plant-watering you did for the lady-of-the-land when she was away, and her handyman work your friend did, so the two of you could get away, cost-free. Him, to climb the granite peaks. You, to settle lakeside with a couple of books to lose yourself in, and a stretch of time to ponder your financial state while the cold mountain water laps at your ankles.

    Except for those yellow jackets.

    The only thing you ponder is a hazmat suit.

    No “eureka” moment at the lake this summer. This is the summer of the wasps. Someone will erect a monument in memory. A giant winged insect with dark slashes above bulging black eyes.

    No, your “eureka” moment will come when you arrive home, hanging onto that feeling of freedom, that absence of thought, that in-the-moment stuff you were living up there in Truckee. Your “eureka” moment will come when news leaks out…the bookstore where you work is on the market.

    Tough times for indies. You knew that. Hell, you were commiserating with the owner of the indie up in Truckee not two days previous. “You want to buy the place?” she said, her eyes aglow. You begged off, hands raised. “No, no. Just lending my good wishes that you’ll stay open.”

    Little did you know.

    Ah, who are you fooling? It’s no surprise. The place where you work, for all it’s attributes, reeks poverty-mentality. The broken, the unwanted, saved and displayed on the lunch table, up for grabs. Decapitated Buddha statues. Angels with broken wings. Expired food from someone’s cupboard. “It’s free! Take it! A little dab of glue…” Who are you fooling? Glue won’t hold together a leaky bank account.

    Maybe someone with a wealth-mentality will buy the place. That’s the story you tell yourself.

    Or it will downsize, like the used bookstore that closed and moved to Gilroy where rents are cheap.

    Or you’ll be laid off when the current owners cry, “Uncle!” At what point will the captains abandon the sinking ship, even if that ship is loaded with treasure?

    Time to get your ducks in a row, you hear. Right after, “eureka!”

    But to do that, to get those duckies all lined up, something’s gotta give. Will it be the blog? The novel? You’ve spread yourself thin, and that two-week stint of non-writing felt mighty fine.

    Hard choices ahead.

    But out there among the yellow jackets, you settled into yourself. You settled into that still place that you’d lost in the day-to-day grind. And you’re not willing to lose it again.

  2. When Anxiety Takes A Holiday, It Hitches A Ride With Me

    October 5, 2015 by Diane


    Retro car with Luggage on the roof, tourism

    Have you ever seen the movie Death Takes a Holiday? In the movie, the character of Death takes on human form to discover why people cling so desperately to life, and the whole time he’s on holiday, NOBODY DIES.

    I wish Anxiety would take a holiday. Because if Anxiety took a holiday, then I could go on holiday without feeling like the cord that tethers me home is about to snap and release me into a pitch-black universe, alone, for eternity.

    But alas, Anxiety never takes a holiday. Or if it does, it hitches a ride with me.

    For five days in Truckee, I lived in its clutches. But all was not a disaster. I learned the following lessons, which I will now pass on to you.

    1.  Before you pack, make sure the air at your destination is breathable. After filling the car with my bags, my clothes, my hiking gear, my books, my laptop; after wrestling with my nerves for days—that internal electrical system that sizzles and sparks whenever I think about going away from home; after giving my baggage a final once-over and then locking the back door to my cottage, my phone rang. “Let’s check the air quality,” Dave, my road buddy, suggested. With all the wildfires in California, Truckee was in the line of smoke. Sure enough, the air quality index pegged Truckee as: Don’t Bother Going Outside Without A Gas Mask. Which meant living out of my suitcases for three days until the air cleared. And wrestling with my nerves all over again.

    2.  Bring snacks for the road. If your road buddy is anything like mine, he won’t stop for lunch. Or a vista point (well, maybe one). Or a pee break if that business can easily be accomplished on the side of the road.

    3.  If your road buddy drives like mine, shout encouragement, like: “Slow down!” and “Why are you merging back and forth?” and “Two second rule! two second rule!” If, on the other hand, you drive anything like me, be prepared to hear your road buddy shout encouragement, like: “The speed limit is seventy, not fifty-five!” and “Merge, merge!” and “Keep up with traffic!” Be prepared to see him slam on the imaginary brakes from the passenger seat when you speed to a stoplight, and make noises in his throat when you drive forty in a parking lot.

    4.  If you’re heading into an altitude of 6500 feet and up, pack a good salve. Your nasal passages will dry out and crack and bleed and the chapped skin around your lips will turn bright red and give you a clown mouth.

    5.  When driving to higher elevations quickly, be prepared for your veins to explode. They won’t actually explode, but they will feel that way. At 7,000 feet, my carotid artery felt tight. At 8,000, it was the veins in my arms. At 9,000 feet, I thought my head would burst. When we pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead for Mount Rose, I looked up to the 10,779 foot peak and panic set in. “I can’t breathe,” I said. Dave tried to reassure me by pointing out the woman waddling to the restroom who was a good two hundred pounds heavier than me. “If she can breathe, you can.” It helps to have a level head at high elevations, especially if that head isn’t yours.

    6.  When hiking through dry riverbeds filled with rocks that can send you upsy-daisy quickly, when trudging up steep granite inclines with no obvious marked path, or end, in sight, make sure you bring a competent guide. Dave has an eye like a compass. He can find his way anywhere. I, on the other hand, get lost in my hallway (which, if you follow my blog, you already know.) However, I’m good at keeping up a steady stream of whining, like: “Where’s the f—-*ing path?” and “Where are the f—-*ing petroglyphs! I want to see the f—-*ing petroglyphs!” and finally, “I can’t go any farther!” If your human compass says, “It’s probably only another mile,” well, do the math in your head. One mile means two miles round trip, and you still have three miles downhill retracing those unmarked paths over slippery slopes. So, refuse the invitation to continue upwards, park yourself on a boulder, dig out your peanut butter and banana sandwich from the bottom of your backpack and enjoy the view, even if you think you can’t swallow. Trust me, it’s not a swallowing problem. It’s anxiety.

    7.  After battling your nerves, cracked nasal passages and lung-busting hikes in high altitude, after feeling pretty good about overcoming all those challenges and kicking anxiety and its baggage to the curb, do not, upon your return home, squat down and attempt to budge an immovable object. You will blow out your spine. Which is exactly what I did. I spent the next week on ice, longing to be back in that high-altitude, nasal-drying, vein-bursting land of pine and granite, trudging up unmarked rocky paths to breathtaking views. Because in hindsight, or maybe just from the vantage point of the mattress, Anxiety isn’t so formidable after all.