It’s Summer!

Remember how you felt the first day after school was over? You were free. Free to do so many wonderful things. This summer I’m taking class with Steve MARTIN!

Man lying in a beach chair reading
Photograph, Nednapa Sopasuntorn -Shutterstock.

Remember how you felt the first day after school was over?

How the summer stretched out in front of you so impossibly long that it didn’t seem that you’d ever have to deal with September?

You were free. Free to do so many wonderful things.

Each year, even now, I feel like that.

In my house, my daughter Catherine has just graduated from high school. She worked long. She worked hard. It’s paid off — we’re thrilled that she’s heading off to Fordham University in the fall with an amazing scholarship.

And now the summer stretches out. I just feel the need to celebrate that, to glory in the feeling of free.

Then — summer plans. I LOVE summer plans. For me, it’s always a combination of things — summer reading, catching a few summer movies, maybe a doing a project that I want to do (not have to do).

First stop: Cat’s a counselor at a camp for children with seizures (Camp Spike ‘n Wave)– she can hardly wait to get back to the campers she bonded with last year.

Then we’re headed to Zambia with my sister on a family trip. We’re all so excited about this that the vaccinations didn’t even hurt. Much.

Once we’re back from the big trip, then our focus will be on getting ready for Cat to move to New York in the fall.

My summer project last year was taking the Masterclass with Aaron Sorkin. I write almost everyday, and while I don’t plan on writing screenplays for television or film, I firmly believe that learning from a great writer is something that benefits me. And I think it’s fun. Yes, I know. I’m a little odd — but I find learning new things entertaining.

Steve Martin in his Masterclass
I plan to spend part of my summer watching Steve Martin and doing homework in his Masterclass.

I had a wonderful time in Masterclass last year. I was impressed with how well the course was written: 35 lessons, each with a video of Sorkin talking, then assignments, and a interactive hub where students discussed and shared. I had a great time and learned a lot, and I particularly like that the class continues to be available to me. I’ve gone back and re-listened to some lessons several times.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the Sorkin class, and it led me to my summer project this year: I’m taking class with Steve Martin.

I’ve just listened to the introduction for my Masterclass with Steve Martin. How I love this guy. This is going to be fun! The course is Steve Martin Teaches Comedy; and no, I don’t expect to become a standup comedian. But hey, if I end up as a guest  on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, you’ll know the course worked really, really well 🙂 .

Why am I taking a comedy class if I don’t plan to be a comedian? All of the things I said about taking class with Sorkin apply here. I write. And I believe that my ability to handle comedy within short stories and blog posts will improve by doing this work with Steve Martin. I’ve already found a group of students on the Masterclass student Hub talking about the same thing. Very fun to connect with fellow writers!

I’ll report back on how class with Steve Martin goes, and give you a full review my Master Class experience, along with my best take aways.

Gotta love my pre-class homework assignments: Watch Roxanne, Bowfinger, Father of the Bride, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels . . .

Which one would you choose first?

Steve Martin teaches Stephen Colbert all about comedy. Love these two goofballs!

I think I’ve got my work cut out for me . . . I’ve just been reviewing Steve’s office hours — he’s doing video answers to students’ questions. Students submit a video asking a questions, and Martin records his replies. I’d better get with the program and do some real homework so that I can ask an intelligent question!

Here’s to a great summer for everyone!


Podcast of It’s Summer:


*** Masterclass has given me free access to Steve Martin Teaches Comedy. I have taken two courses with Masterclass previously that I paid for — both the class with Aaron Sorkin, and the course with James Patterson. I’ve loved my experiences, and I’m a big believer in the Masterclass courses. As I take the class with Steve Martin, I will write an honest review.

She’s so hot, Hot, HOT!

Champagne being poured. Photograph: bluefern, iStock by Gettty.It all started when I was having champagne with Captain Darcy.

He was a handsome man, and we had talked many times over the two weeks of the cruise. I was not surprised I’d been invited to the Captain’s dinner. The Captain’s guests gathered for champagne and conversation before dinner, and while I was chatting with the couple from New York, Darcy took the club chair next to me. He touched his glass to mine and smiled.

Then someone turned a propane torch on under my derriere and my core temperature rocketed into the stratosphere.

Vincent Price in The House of Wax.

I looked at the circle of people sitting around me, sipping their wine and talking.

As my makeup began running down my face in rivulets like Vincent Price’s skin in the House of Wax, I thought — they all seem so normalhow are they standing the 900°F temperature change?

I considered going to the bar and asking Reynaldo if I could stick my head into the ice machine.

Instead, I excused myself and went to the restroom to dab my makeup into some semblance of normal.

Yes, it had happened to me. Menopause came calling. Sooner or later it comes for all women.

I was warm-natured already. But oh, dear lord, I had no clue what hot was!

Want to understand what this feels like?

To the guys, sons, daughters, and younger women whose friends, moms, wives, and significant others are going through menopause . . . empathy is such a great thing. Duplicate the experience, and I promise your understanding will improve.

Instructions:   Get seven heating pads, and warm them up to full throttle. Tie the pads around your chest, abdomen, butt/thighs. The seventh is for your head. Sit like that for twenty minutes.

Oh, and this is key. Be sure to pick a really public time to do it — like a boardroom presentation or a business lunch.


Entering the Combat Zone

After a year of suffering with this, I am taking my life back! I’m sporting a new, shorter haircut — I mean, I spent a year with my mane clipped to the back of my head . . . why keep it?

Connie Sherman, owner of Hot Girls Pearls, talks about how she came up with the idea for her product.
Connie Sherman, owner of Hot Girls Pearls, talks about how she came up with the idea for her product.

I’ve found a natural supplement with black cohosh to be helpful. I’m using a product called Estroven, and after about three weeks of taking this it’s helped, I have fewer flashes each day, and they aren’t as extreme. There are many different black cohosh supplements out there, so look to see what seems to suit you.

And yes, I know foregoing coffee and red wine would also help, but there is no way in hell I’m giving up either. You’ll pry my cold, dead fingers off of my coffee cup and my glass of red wine.

Of course it’s not just menopause – people suffer with hot flashes for many reasons including medication side effects, cancer, and auto immune disorders.

There are a number of products on the market that may help combat the discomfort caused by hot flashes.

Connie Sherman describes making a necklace of plastic ice-cubes — then having the idea to make necklaces of cold pearls filled with non-toxic freezable gel. And voila! Hot Girls Pearls were born.

Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family interviews Connie Sherman and displays Hot Girls Pearls here.

Hot Girls Pearls -- frozen pearls for your hottest moments.
Hot Girls Pearls — frozen pearls for your hottest moments.

The pearls are big. I mean REALLY big. They have to be to hold enough cooling gel to stay cold for an hour.

For me this  is a problem because I don’t wear chunky jewelry. The Hot Girls Pearls are so large that I’d feel self-conscious wearing them, but hey — each of us has different preferences here. For women who wear bold statement jewelry, they might be just the ticket.

My first encounter with a cooling scarf was the Austin City Limits festival last the fall. My sister’s good friend, Annette, brought scarves for each of us, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was a revelation.

There are many of these on the market, styled for outdoor and exercise activities. Okay, that’s great for canoeing, music festivals, and gardening — but there’s no way I’m wearing one of these when I’m dressed up and in a business meeting or out on the town.

The “fashion” version of the scarves have bandana prints on them. Really? This is fashionable? — What planet do these people live on?  Cue Dueling Banjo music while I’m giving a boardroom presentation.

I found something hopeful when I was searching for better looking cooling scarves- a scarf insert that you can hide inside your own scarves when the sport scarf look just won’t cut it. Secret Scarves is a new product from a female entrepreneur; you can see her demonstrate her scarf insert on the Secret Scarves Facebook page.

I ordered one from Amazon and have tried it out a couple of times. It works, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind here. Since you wrap it it in another, more attractive scarf, the cooling power simply isn’t as strong as the cooling sports scarves. Also — obviously, you should use either a cotton or a polyester scarf since the water will likely stain and ruin your silk scarves.

Changing the type of makeup I use has prevented another House of Wax episode. I’ve switched to a Mac Cosmetics product called Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation which I apply with a flat makeup brush. I’m able to wear it without powder — and it has not sweated off of me. I’m sure there are other similar products in most pro makeup lines.

A tube of Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Foundation.
Mac Pro Longwear Waterproof Foundation — one option to keep a hotflash from melting your makeup.

Talking about makeup brings up another topic: trying to put the makeup ON after I’m all hot after a shower and blowing my hair dry. Only two things I can say here: time and cold water. Plan enough time in your dressing routine to sit for a minute, drink cold water, and cool down before you start your makeup. Rushing causes stress. Stress triggers hot flashes. This might also be the perfect time to wrap one of those cooling sports scarves around your neck.

The three things that help me the most: drinking cold water, having something to fan myself with, and keeping my sense of humor.

Ladies — here’s to being hot — on OUR terms.

 


Continue the conversation . . .

In the comment section, please share funny flash stories, along with tips and products you’ve found that you think might help the sisterhood out here. Once we get a few tips and product share going, I’ll add a table with the information.


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

About Ann

I grew up in Mississippi and New Orleans, have lived in both Seattle and Manhattan, and finally moved back to Texas in 1990’s.

I have a darling teenage daughter who heads off to university in the fall of 2017. I have been divorced and am now widowed. Finally, I am a colon cancer survivor.

I am now writing and traveling full time — what a wonderful thing!

This website is a forum for many things. I want to talk about life, in all of its rich, wonderful and terrifying forms. I want to share my travels, my thoughts on life, and my experiences as a woman and a mom. I want to talk about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and to celebrate being alive.

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.


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Learning to Love Museums

Girl standing in front of a Picasso
My daughter Catherine at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. My work here is done — she now goes to the museum and takes her friends.

Want to make someone hate you?

Find a person who doesn’t know much about art and force them to spend hours as you drag them to every painting in every gallery in a museum while you read every placard as they fidget next to you.

Yep. I guarantee that by the end of the day, not only will they hate you, they’ll be damned sure they never get close to another museum again.

I can say this with authority.

You see, I have a degree in Art History, and I might be considered to be a very dangerous person when it comes to death by museum. Except for one thing. My mother taught me to love art, and she taught me a method for helping others to do the same.

Cafe at the Uffizi
Taking a caffeine break midway through touring the Uffizi in Florence.

It’s not rocket science. If you want someone to love something — make it pleasant, make it fun. Don’t punish them with it!

When my Mom took us to museums – the National Gallery in Washington, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, or the National Gallery in London — she would do this simple thing.

She usually had one or two artists, or perhaps an art period that she wanted to see. We would arrive at the museum, go to the shop and pick up a museum catalogue, then go sit and have coffee or tea and browse through the catalogue. My sister and I would both choose things we wanted to see, and then the three of us would set off to find those things. At other times, we would buy an audio tour and use that instead.

man using the audio guide: the British Museum My Way.
My husband Drew using the audio guide: the British Museum My Way.

Plan a Rational Museum Visit

I’ve spent most of my life teaching at the college level, and when I create lesson plans, human attention span is critically important. I work with 10 – 20 minute blocks, changing what we are doing — and being sure to involve my students. Then every 50 minutes to an hour, they need a break.

That’s the way I approach going with someone to a museum — whether it’s my daughter Catherine, my sister, my good friend Joyce, or my husband Drew.

With the internet, it’s easier than ever now  to do some pre-planning. If you are going to a world-class museum during a heavy tourist season, find out about getting tickets ahead — nothing makes a non-museum person grouchier than standing in line for an hour before your visit starts.

It’s also important to agree on about how long you’re going to spend at the museum so that everyone is on the same page.

Unless someone is heavily into art — you should limit the visit to 2 to 3 hours. If you are taking young children, or a really antsy adult, the time should be shorter.

Try to go to the museum early in the day — before it gets too crowded, and while you are still fresh. We all know that the more tired someone gets, the more difficult it is to pay attention.

Catherine with Autumn Landscape, Tiffany Studios.
I love the The Charles Engelhard Court in the American Wing. Here’s Cat with the Autumn Landscape, Tiffany Studios.

When Drew and I went to the British Museum, we got the audio guide The British Museum Your Way. Then we also used one of the museums object trails: 3 Hours at the British Museum — great set of highlights with things we both wanted to see. We had lunch in the museum cafe halfway through. Stopping for a rest and refreshment is key. It does several things; most importantly, it allows you to process some of the things you have seen. My husband and I watched people. We chatted about the Ashurbanipal lion hunt. Then we picked up with renewed energy and went on to the next gallery.

When I took my daughter to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for the first time, she was fifteen. Before we went, we stopped and had coffee and Catherine thumbed through the Met website on my iPad. When we entered the museum we had a plan — and it was a great experience for her. We did the same thing on our next two trips to the city. Since then, Catherine’s been back to New York for a mock trial trip and to visit a university — and she has taken her friends and her Dad to The Met. I love museums, and it brings me great happiness to see I’ve raised another museum lover.

Catherine viewing Death Becomes Her, A Century of Mourning Attire.
Death Becomes Her, A Century of Mourning Attire. Catherine chose this exhibit to visit on her first trip to The Met.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art now has a smartphone app, The Met App, that can help you plan your visit. Another way to tour the Metropolitan is new to me — there is now Viator’s EmptyMet tour that I’d like to try the next time I’m in the city — the chance to visit the Metropolitan when it is closed to the general public.

But I Want to Spend ALL DAY at the Museum!

Yes, darling. I know that there is an art lover out there right now reading this and feeling very put out.

What if you’re in Paris for the first time and you think you may never see the Louvre again? And you just want to spend the WHOLE DAY wandering the galleries of the Louvre.

My advice? Do a short visit with the other person, then send them back to the hotel in a cab — afterwards, you can geek out with your art to your heart’s content. Obviously, if you have small children, this won’t work — but then you know that already.

The big thing is this — if you exhaust someone who doesn’t have the same level of interest you do — and make them hate museums, then you’ve done everyone a disservice.


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

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Of Paper and Books and Ink

In an age where everything is increasingly digital, why do we love paper so?

It’s the delicate scrollwork of a printed design. The fragrance of a leather book. The way a thick sheet of paper folds under your hand, pushing back up at your fingers . . .

Florentine paper framing our room with a view.
Florentine paper framing our room with a view. Photograph and digital imaging work, Ann Fisher.

What do I bring home from Florence? Paper, gloves, and wine.

Florence is famous for two kinds of paper designs: the printed variety, inspired by traditional Renaissance patterns, and carta marmorizzala — handmade, marbled paper.

Florentine paper history: travelers first brought marbled paper, “Turkish paper” or ebru (art of the clouds) to Florence in the 16th century, and it was not long before local artisans began producing it. Florence is now one of the few places in Europe still making hand-marbled paper. Giulio Giannini e Figlio, founded in 1856 and located across from the Pitti Palace, is the oldest marbled paper maker in the city.

In Venice, I found a shop with leather books, journals, Murano glass writing pens, all hand tooled. The quality of the work, really breathtaking. I brought a small journal back for a friend, and one for myself. The books were so very beautiful, I doubt he has used his. I know I have not. It’s a thing to remember, that when a notebook is so special, one hesitates to mark in it . . . it defies rough drafts. It asks for Shakespeare. Who can live up to that?

My mother says that my family has always had the book disease. In college, I would go hungry to buy a book I wanted.

Fine paper and books bring pleasure to those who love them.

Independent booksellers are jewel-like. They offer a curated selection of books — it is as much about what is not there as it is about what is there. Which edition of a classic book did they choose? How are things displayed? What volumes are next to one another? These bookstores offer the serendipity of finding things we might never see otherwise.

Faulkner House Bookstore, New Orleans.
Catherine browsing in the Faulkner House Bookstore in New Orleans. Photograph by Ann Fisher.

The Faulkner House Bookstore is one such favorite. Shakespeare & Company in Paris. Front Street Books in Alpine, Texas.

My book disease is a problem as I downsize my life. My daughter has one more year in high school, and rather than rattle around in a large house for another year, we are moving into a condominium. I may not be retired yet, but downsizing my life so that I can travel more is an appealing idea. But going from a 3500 square foot house to a 1400 square foot condo presents challenges – downsizing many possessions, but not with choosing which furniture to take.

It’s the books.

Who comes? What goes?

Yes, I use the Kindle app on my iPad, but the books we choose to live with say something about us. And the physicality of being in the room with books is most definitely not the same as having the collection digitally. Library you say? Well, if I were better at returning things, perhaps.

Even with the downsizing move looming, my daughter Catherine and I brought home another half-dozen books from the Faulkner House Bookstore when we were in New Orleans. She picked up a lovely edition of Pride and Prejudice. You’ll see the the same Canterbury Classics design for Persuasion to the left.

Edition of Jane Austen's Persuasion with quotes on the cover,
The Canterbury Classics editions of Jane Austen’s books appealed to my daughter. Now Catherine is reading her first Austen. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

My husband Drew loved American history — particularly biographies of the presidents. When I look at his shelves of books — at Doris Kearnes Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, I can see him.

Books tell stories about various points in my life. The group of art history books and a collection of Edith Wharton remind me of my college years. Percy Shelley brings to mind the crazy, deconstructionist professor ranting in front of the class. I see the yellowing paperback of A Moveable Feast, and all of a sudden I am at Shakespeare and Company when I was seventeen. George Whitman sold me that book.

What to let go of? It’s not so easy.

Drew’s brother Eddy has worked on his own library with these criteria, choosing particularly good editions of books, gradually getting rid of poor paperback copies. I think that’s going to my strategy for culling down collection: creating an elemental collection of editions of the books I want to live with, using digital editions of books when it makes sense, and selling books back to the second-hand bookstore.

I leave for Italy in two weeks, and I will inevitably come home with more paper. I use Florentine stationery for notes at work, birthday greetings, small thank-yous, and the notepads for lists and thoughts. The sensuality of the thick, creamy paper with the delicate designs pleases me. I will go visit the man of the leather books in Venice. I promise to share . . .

Florentine paper narrow

Expedia.com

 

Outside of Shakespeare and Company, December 2012.
Outside of Shakespeare and Company, December 2012. Photograph by Drew Dennard.

Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.

 

 

 


 

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Additional Information on paper:

McDonnell, Sharon. “The Magic Of Marbled Paper.” National Geographic Traveler 28.2 (2011): 29. Hospitality & Tourism Complete. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

Lumsden, Susan. “Marbled Paper from Florence.” The New York Times 13 December 1987 

Only in a Leap

Only in a Leap of Faith by Ann Fisher

“Only in the leap from the lion’s head will he prove his worth.”

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
One test Indy must pass to achieve the Grail.

There were three friends at unhappy points in their marriages. We talked numerous times about what we should do. In 2003, I am the one who left her marriage. It took me two years of thinking. I was afraid. Finally, I knew.

I took the leap from the lion’s head.

It wasn’t easy — it was frightening. Like many women, I had no credit history. Starting a life again outside of that safe, known world was not easy. Would I survive it? I wasn’t sure. There were difficult years. My daughter watched me struggle to make ends meet, and I did some tough things. In the end though, it is one of the best choices I have ever made.

My two friends stayed in their marriages. In one case, it is easy to see that it was the right decision. In the other, much more difficult because their relationship is now so poor that it is painful. Yet to say my friend should have left his marriage because that is what I did is presumptuous.

We look at others’ lives and judge their decisions through our lens, our experience. Why? It’s human. Knowing different people, traveling to new places, reading and considering new things — all of them help us to grow past our own personal understanding, and develop wisdom.

We must choose a path at many points in our lives, or stand at the fork in the road staring blankly one way and then the other.

Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life.
George Bailey contemplates suicide in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

To be happy, we cannot look back and dwell on the results of particular choices. It is pointless. Analyze, understand, and learn, yes, of course. Wallow in sorry and self-pity? No.

Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the annual reminder that good things often come from decisions we regret.

In my life, I think back to 1988 when I moved to Seattle, leaving New Orleans behind. It was a long way from home, and I was lonely. I began to worry that I had bitten off more than I could handle financially. The man I had been dating in New Orleans flew out to see me. He proposed; I accepted. I knew almost immediately that I should not have, but I wasn’t willing to admit my mistake. He turned out to be verbally abusive and controlling, and I entered a very dark period in my life.

When I look back at that single decision, it is easy to think that I should have stayed in Seattle. But if I had, none of the rest of my life would have been the same. I went on to get my graduate degree in literature, live in Manhattan, and eventually meet and marry Catherine’s dad. So had I stayed in Seattle, I would not have my daughter, Catherine. None of my life would be the same.

Are the differences as dire as George Bailey’s Bedford Falls? Of course not. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a story, and a story from a period in our film history where good and bad were painted in absolute ways. Isn’t it part of the charm of the film? The strength of the story?

What is the “right” decision? It is different for each of us, and often different depending on points in our lives.

Only in a Leap of Faith by Ann Fisher
Only in a Leap of Faith . . .   Photograph by Ann Fisher

The idea of “only in a leap of faith” brings many things to mind. For the devout, it is faith in their religious beliefs. I do not attend church, but I believe in God. I think that each of us has a divine spark. For me, there is something in my intuition that I see as part of that. The knowing, the confidence in the right thing. For me at the time. For you at the time. The only times that I have made really poor decisions, I failed to listen to that inner voice.

You see the old volume of Shakespeare in the the photograph above? My Grandaddy Fisher used to read it to me when I was very young.

We could talk of Hamlet, and indecision, or Lear and poor decisions. Decisions made or not made devil us all at points in our lives.

Is it simplistic to talk about Indiana Jones or George Bailey? Or about Lear or Hamlet for that matter? Some would say yes. Joseph Campbell would say that there is power in our myths and stories. Each of these stories, whether it’s the Saturday matinee hero Indiana Jones, or Prince Hamlet, or everyman George Bailey, or old King Lear — each of these stories gives us the opportunity to think about decisions and then examine our own lives. In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell talks about the importance of mythology in contemporary lives.

Bill Moyers interviews Joseph Campbell for THe Power of Myth series on PBS.
Bill Moyers interviews Joseph Campbell for THe Power of Myth series on PBS.

The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers interviews of Joseph Campbell, are truly — well, I think they are amazing.

Moyers interviewed Campbell over the last two summers of Campbell’s life. The interviews were filmed at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. If you have never heard of Campbell or the interview series, you are in for a treat.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

If you are interested in purchasing the DVD set or the companion book, here are links to Amazon, or look for them elsewhere on the web.

The Power of Myth (25th Anniversary Edition)

25th Anniversary DVD set.

The Power of MythCompanion book to the interviews.

Twenty-five years ago, renowned scholar Joseph Campbell sat down with veteran journalist Bill Moyers for a series of interviews that became one of the most enduringly popular programs ever aired on PBS. In dialogues that adroitly span millennia of history and far-flung geography, the two men discuss myths as metaphors for human experience and the path to transcendence, touching on topics as diverse as world religion, heroic figures, and pop culture.

Now featuring newly recorded introductions by Bill Moyers, this series demonstrates that, despite superficial differences between cultures, all stories are humanity’s story.


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Ann Fisher

All Hallows Day

 

I took this picture in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston in March of 2008.

I had an assignment for a photography class, and my daughter, Catherine, agreed to be my subject. Bribery with Italian cream cake was involved.

Girl covered in a black veil, Glenwood cemetery
Memento Mori, Glenwood Cemetery

Drew was with us in the cemetery. It was a bright day, and light filtered through the trees. He followed as I shot, through the light and shadow patchwork — from this monument to that, this idea and then another.

There is a later photograph of Drew that afternoon with the sheer black veil covering him; he wore a broad grin, incongruous with his black veil. He was a silly man. Catherine sat snuggled next to him. Hard drives are fragile things and that picture exists now only in my mind.

I give you another image.

Drew on the floor next to the hospital bed in our room at 2 a.m.. Dementia was setting in, and he had fallen getting out of the bed on his way to an imaginary meeting.

While he weighed less than 100 pounds, I could not lift him. At that moment, Catherine came in on cat paws, a flutter of light nightgown. We sat on either side of him and snuggled him close, the three of us together for the last time.

Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne, Still Life—Memento Mori, 17th century
Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne, Still Life—Memento Mori, 17th century

 

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Ann Fisher

The Fedora Rides Shotgun

Painting from the Gage Hotel

“Mom, you’re so weird.”

I just returned from camping by myself in Big Bend National Park.

I had not been camping since 2009, and as I looked at what to do with a few days off in September, all I could think of was what it sounds like to wake up in a tent.

Fedora on headrest of car
The Fedora Rides Shotgun

There have been times in my life that I slept in a tent to drop the overall cost of a cross-country vacation. I moved from New Orleans to Seattle and eventually back to NOLA, and multiple times both direction I camped with my cat, Jenny, and my bird named Charlie. Then when my daughter was going to Girl Scout camp in the Davis Mountains, I took my tent and launched out to various places, like Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I don’t need to camp anymore, but I’ve found that I miss it. This is where I need to be really honest. I don’t camp in the haul-it-in-on-your-back way. No, thank you. It’s car camping, so I have a cot and a nice tent and a great camp stove.

Catherine saw my grocery list for the trip. “You’re bringing red snapper? Orzo? Normal people make easy stuff when they camp.”

Preparing steaks, new potatoes and asparagus for the grill
Steaks, new potatoes and asparagus for the grill

Yes, I like good food, and I enjoy cooking. I’ve learned that there are many delicious things I can make with a grill, some foil and a little ingenuity.

At the end of the day, what this is really, really about  — it’s seeing the stars, and hearing the breeze pull at the tent. It’s sitting with my coffee in the morning and watching the last stars fade out, the light grow until the sun peeks her head above the horizon.

Campsite
Fixing another cup of coffee

Big Bend National Park. It happens to be my personal park.

No, really. I have been many times, simply because it was the closest big western landscape to Houston. I can go and get my desert, big sky, big rock fix in less than a week — if I have to do so.

When I came here with Drew in 2010, it was before he was diagnosed with cancer. On the Lost Mine trail, there is a vista that opens up between the peaks in the Chisos mountains and the desert stretches out into the far distance. I told Drew that right there, that spot, behind the big rock we sat on as we enjoyed the view, that would be where to bring my ashes when I died. He looked at me and said, “it’s perfect. That’s what I want, too.”

We thought we would live to be . . . well, old. I promised to chase him around the breakfast table when we were eighty.

Life had other plans for us though, and we took them as gracefully as we could. We talked several times about where he wanted me to take his ashes when he died. He never wavered.

Drew on our rock, Lost Mine Trail, 2010
Drew on our rock, Lost Mine Trail, 2010

Wasn’t he a beautiful man? I did go spread his ashes in January of 2014. Several of his siblings were able to join me, and it was a very special pilgrimage.

View from the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend
The view from our rock

So now the fedora rides shotgun with me. This time, my trip was not about ashes and it was not about mourning. It was about feeling the Big Bend again and being very, very alive.


 

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Ann Fisher