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BY suzy

01/01 Direct Link

I have a theory that last year was so lousy because I didnít welcome it and celebrate its shiny new arrival. In the hopes of making this year a better and happier one, I had champagne and watched a couple of films noirs, enjoying the sparkling wine and the sparkling repartee. I took time out from the glamorous past to check in on the present, watching the New Yearís celebrations in faraway London, Paris, and Moscow, along with the traditional ball drop in New York. Somehow, the New York celebration always seems like the ďrealĒ one to me.†

01/02 Direct Link

I wake up to a familiar smothering sensation. Itís my kitten, Clyde. Early every morning, when itís still so dark outside that it looks exactly like nightís twin, he climbs into bed with me. He puts his back legs on my pillow and drapes himself across my face, purring. His soft fur, as dark as the night, tickles my nose. If I move so I can breathe a bit easier, he bites the hand that feeds him. Eventually, we settle down, his purr getting slower and slower, finally stopping with a deep sigh as he falls asleep. ††

01/03 Direct Link

Yesterday, the sun shone for the first time in weeks. I felt my spirits lift as I watched the sun rise through the dark lace of the trees. Later, I walked the logging road behind my house. I jumped in a puddle, and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my back. The moss was a verdant green from the winterís rains, which had eroded the banks by the road, exposing the sculpture of tree roots. A log was ruffled with mushrooms. At the end of the walk, I lifted my arms to the sun in salutation and joy. †

01/04 Direct Link

I took the kittens to see the vet today. Her office is in a historic building in a quaint coastal village. Itís a pleasure to go there, with the beautiful landscaping outside, and the artwork and fresh flowers inside. The kittens were unperturbed, exploring the office and peeking out of the window at the office cat. Roscoe is exactly a pound heavier than his brother Clyde, and they are both healthy and happy. They didnít make a peep when getting their vaccines, and I was proud of them. I was pleased the vet was charmed by them, too. ††

01/05 Direct Link

I havenít been sleeping well lately, and Iíve been getting up early. Itís still as dark as night at six in the morning, and it seems a cold and hopeless time of day. This morning, the thermometer was just at the freezing point when I got up. I was glad to put on the heat and make some hot coffee before I met my sister and her dogs for a walk. She gets home from her twelve hour night shift at around seven, and we walk the dogs in the rising sunlight before she goes to bed. †

01/06 Direct Link

They both loved the car, but when they split up, she kept it.† She didnít know where he lived now, but he knew where she was. Some days, sheíd find a bunch of flowers on the passengerís seat. Or a pastry she loved, a new CD. Sometimes, the gas tank would be nearly empty, a crumpled, half-empty pack of cigarettes on the dashboard.† He always returned it just a little different. It kept up a connection between them. She could have asked him to stop, or put the car in a garage, but she never did.†

01/07 Direct Link

A sunny winter day here on the coast of Northern California is a beautiful thing. The day dawns lavender.† The ocean is a deep, hypnotic blue, with surf thatís both wild and spectacular from the last set of storms. The sky is that deep blue which it only is in California. I can look up at it and just feel lost and joyful. The sun, which strengthens through the day, is warm on my back as I walk the red clay of the logging road. At night, there are countless stars, clear enough to see the haze of galaxies.†

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01/08 Direct Link

He longs for silence. He is deaf in one year, yet that ear rings incessantly, a high-pitched noise impossible to ignore. It has been his constant companion for nearly a quarter of a century, and nothing and no one can cure it. He has tried everything. ďMany people in your situation commit suicide,Ē says one specialist, matter-of-factly. Even against the backdrop of city noise, the ringing is always there, nagging and persistent.He can hear it in his sleep, believes that heíll hear it even after his death. Why should death grant him silence at last? †

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01/09 Direct Link

My friend A is a remarkable woman. She was a model in her twenties, then got her PhD in pure math (in her fourth language), married a Dutchman, and settled in Amsterdam, working in international banking. They own a 17th century house in the heart of the red light district, where I have often visited them. Yesterday, Aís husband called me to say that A is in intensive care with pneumonia following flu. The thousands of miles between us have never seemed so long, and the waiting for news is so hard. I hope no news is good news. †

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01/10 Direct Link

A is doing better, but is not out of the woods yet. Her husband sounds so tired, says, ďItís good to hear your voice.Ē† Aís fever has dropped, but sheís on dialysis and is still in a medical coma. Her heart, affected by the kidney problems, is the same. Yes, this is good news.†I promise to call him tomorrow, and advise him to get some rest. He says heís ďtrying to feel normalĒ. Hopefully every day she will get a little stronger, until sheís well at last and all this is just a memory. †

01/11 Direct Link

Itís so early that the kittens arenít awake. I give in to my cat Audrey's demands and let her out into the darkness, make coffee. As I put on the outside lights and make coffee, the kittens open an eye and go back to sleep, cuddled up together in their bed by the heater. They know itís too early for breakfast, and even too early to play.†Iíve been yanked awake by allergies and nightmares, and staying awake seems to be the best of my options. Maybe the brightening of the day will brighten my outlook. ††

01/12 Direct Link

Even though winter temperatures in Hooterville can (and do) flirt with the freezing mark, sometimes slumming it in the south of 32 neighborhood, thereís usually something in bloom.

My neighbors have camellias in bloom, much as I did in Oakland this time of year.

Here, the manzanitas are budding, the blooms-to-be looking like little lily of the valley bells. One of the things that mystifies me about the huckleberry bushes which proliferate around here is that they bloom really early, but don't fruit until the summer. They're already budding, but we probably can't eat them until July. †

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01/13 Direct Link

It was raining hard this morning. I woke up to the rain drumming on the roof, Roscoe stretched out at my side and Clyde curled up on my pillow. Suddenly, they were galvanized into action and raced downstairs. Through the racket the rain was making, I heard the distinctive sound of Audreyís claws squeaking on the panes of glass in the front door. She always picks the door where Iím not, so itís good to have the boys be the doorbell, especially early in the morning. Though sometimes, especially when itís dark, it seems too early. † †

01/14 Direct Link

Thereís no doubt about it: the wedding is stressing Shannon out. The fittings, where the ancient Chinese seamstress urges her, ďEat chicken broth! Just chicken broth!Ē as she lets the seams out. Her mother, who takes one look at Shannonís new haircut and collapses onto the sofa, weeping, ďWhy do you want to sabotage your beauty?Ē as Shannon stands by, helplessly. Her future mother-in-law, who is not paying for the wedding, suggests a cash bar at the reception.

She picks up the phone and speed dials. ďHoney?Ē she says. ďLetís elope.Ē

Sheís not kidding. † †

01/15 Direct Link

I never thought of my parents as people when I was a kid. Same goes for my friendsí parents. Mostly they were there to say no and stop you from doing things you wanted to do and make you do things you didnít. But, as an adult, I look back and see that things were not that simple. One of my friendís mothers was raising her kids alone and they didnít always have enough to eat. It might be better that we donít have the words or the insight when weíre too young to understand. ††

01/16 Direct Link

I wonder if my parents thought of their parents in the same way. I think some things are universal and some things are influenced by the time and culture you live in. My father was brought up in London during World War II. His parents were not demonstrative, but he was their only, cherished son and they must have feared for his safety during bombings. My mother grew up in New York state, and was an only child, doted upon and undisciplined. Looking back as an adult, my parents were an unlikely pair to eventually marry and have four children. ††

01/17 Direct Link

An evening with the girls Ė the first one in more than six months. Everyoneís schedule is so busy and hectic that itís hard to find the time to get together. We order very girly pomegranate martinis (anti-oxidant, you know), and crab cakes with Caesar salad. Weíre sitting at a window table, overlooking the harbor. As the sun sets, the fishing boats come home, sailing through the darkening waters as the lights twinkle on in the town. The tired fishermen wave at us as they pass by, and we gaily toast them with our frivolous pink drinks. † †

01/18 Direct Link

Iíve been trying to get out and walk more often. Thereís really no excuse: I live in the woods, and I work at home. But itís hard to break away from work, and itís easy to put it off. Once I get out there in the fresh air, I always feel better. I like walking with my sisterís dogs the best, though. It makes me happy to see them trotting along, sniffing the air or the bushes, exploring with their tails wagging. They are good company, considering they donít talk. At least out loud. † †

01/19 Direct Link

Even though my sisterís dog is deaf, I still talk to her. I think she understands me anyway. Sheís eleven now, getting older, and has a lot of problems with her hips and back, but she is stoic. She still loves to walk, and sometimes even runs. The orthopedic surgeon said my sister should keep the dog in the backyard and not take her for walks, but we know the dog would rather run than be left behind. Itís a quality of life issue, and my sister wants her dog to enjoy the rest of her life. ††

01/20 Direct Link

My friend A is slowly improving. ďImprovingĒ in this case means ďstill breathing on a ventilator, 102 degree fever, and still sedatedĒ, but at least she is off dialysis. Her husband says she still doesnít recognize him through all the drugs, but is hopeful that she will be able to breathe on her own soon. Itís Aís second week in the ICU. It still seems surreal to me. I canít imagine what an ordeal this is for her husband of 25 years. I wish I could be there. They are in my thoughts day and night. †

01/21 Direct Link

The beautiful weather continues. Itís sunny and in the 60s during the day, starry and in the 30s at night. Itís hard to believe that itís January. I know I should be worrying about a drought Ė in California, we get all our rain in the winter Ė but Iím enjoying the sun. Days and days of rain depress me, the driveway gets puddle and rutted, and the mud surrounding my house gets tracked inside. The cats donít want to go outside, so they keep their naughtiness indoors. Weíre all glad to see the sun again. † † ††

01/22 Direct Link

I got a package of tulip bulbs in my Christmas stocking. They are frilly, purple and white ones, and we planted them in big pots on New Yearís Day. It seemed like the perfect time. Maybe itís the unusually warm weather, but they have already begun to sprout, poking like spikes up through the black earth. The fuchsia plant is beginning to bud, as is the honeysuckle on the back porch. My orchids have buds, too, so Iím bringing them in at night so the frost wonít kill them. I feel closer to spring every day. ††

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01/23 Direct Link

It really is easy to fall off a log! My sister and I were giving her dog a run on Saturday evening on a side path on the property. Part of the path devolved into fallen trees and bits of wood, and the only way across was balancing precariously on a fallen tree trunk. I only made it about halfway across before falling off the log, foolishly attempting to stave off the inevitable with my hand.

My fingers bent back horribly, and I spent a little time sitting on the log and swearing, no doubt scaring off the mountain lions. ††

01/24 Direct Link

Nothing was broken, but my fingers are now swollen and not comfortable, and bruised across the knuckles. It looks like I punched Muhammed Ali, but I canít clench my fingers enough to punch anyone. Same goes for actually straightening them out. Iíve been treating it with ibuprophen, that most pointless of panaceas, and an ice pack, which is almost as uncomfortable as the original injury. Today, my Horror Hand and I are heading to the safety of the city, where there are nice, even sidewalks to walk on and I can hopefully remain upright despite being gravitationally challenged. † †

01/25 Direct Link

The horror hand is slowly deflating and is slightly less painful. At least I can hold a shopping bag now, which I think is a big step forward. It was nice to walk a couple of blocks in the bright sunshine, with the wild parrots clattering overhead, and buy kitten food and other things not readily available in Hooterville. It was also nice to have bare arms in late January.

I did an excellent job of forgetting things when I packed for this trip. I left my camera and my business cards behind. Iím so not a grown-up. †

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01/26 Direct Link

Well, world, Iím sorry to report that your favorite glam girl has officially become a country bumpkin. I know, I know. But the evidence is clear: number one, I have completely lost my ability to talk on a cellphone in a crowd of people and traffic. I had to cover my free ear, and even then, it was a challenge. Secondly, I am now extremely distressed by homeless people, especially the guy who was yelling at his dogs. I used to take it all for granted, but now the sheer number and visible craziness made me want to cry.


01/27 Direct Link

I was on the Golden Gate Bridge by 3:30 yesterday afternoon, leaving the city behind in a blaze of sunshine. The Bay looked like a postcard, with Alcatraz presiding grimly over blue water dotted with white sailboats.

The green hills of Sonoma were aglow in the sunset, touched with pink and gold as the sun left them behind. By the time I reached the majestic stands of redwoods, it was very nearly dark. By the time I got to the ocean, though, I could see that it was still just barely pink at the very horizon. I was home.†

01/28 Direct Link

A kiss can change your life. In that moment, and after it, nothing is the same. Sometimes you donít know it at the time. Sometimes you do, and you do it anyway. Do you regret it? Keep it secret and think about it when you have some precious time to yourself? Walk away with your fingers to your lips, as if to hold the kiss there and keep it, long after the moment has passed? Or put it behind you, with a laugh or a tear, and go back to your every day life as if nothing had happened? †

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01/29 Direct Link

In my mind, this was to be the Year With No Death. Nearly everyone I care about experienced losses last year, from the death of a parent to a miscarriage to the death of beloved pets. I lost two of my treasured cats within two months. This year, I vowed, would be different. But I forgot to specify that it would also be†a year without catastrophic illnesses. Thereís always a loophole. Thatís why those stories where people get three wishes always turn out badly in the end. I hope this year lives up to my bright hopes. ††

01/30 Direct Link

Incredibly, A is still in intensive care, as we approach Week Four. Today, the doctors are doing a brain scan, in case this restlessness is due to brain damage. I hope that she can start breathing on her own soon. Speaking of steps: it hadnít even occurred to me that A will have to learn how to walk again, her muscles having atrophied during her hospital stay. Itís going to be long road back to Aís becoming once again the girl who bicycled to work and daily solved the most difficult math problems with ease and grace. †

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01/31 Direct Link

As I walked the muddy logging road yesterday, I kept thinking of A in her strange, twilight sleep. I was so thankful that I could walk, and breathe, and talk. And I marveled yet again at fate, or chance, or whatever you choose to call it. An unseen virus, sitting next to the wrong person on the subway, or however that bug got into her body, has wrought havoc on A and brought fear and sadness to the many people who love her, all over the world. Is there a lesson here, or is it a simple twist of fate?†

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