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September, 2004: 3 22 27

9/3/04-Fri.-Our dog, Puff, is gradually becoming a bit better behaved and a more fun companion. At times I now find myself merely playing with her for the heck of it, not worrying about monitoring her continuously. Indeed, she has had no accidents for over a month, her best record so far. And she's learning to sit, lie down, sit up, and roll over. Frances, in obedience classes, has even gotten her to heel when walking with her. Puff is beginning to enjoy a few simple games, besides fetch. As yet she is still often incorrigible, and will frequently not come when called. Or she will bark at us wildly, in excitement or outrage, necessitating a period of "time out" in her crate (personal kennel). Perhaps one day there will be improvement in those things as well.

Reflecting on an assumption of a few days ago, that we live as if there is absolutely nothing beyond our period of mortality, it strikes me that all the myriad ways we function, and that we philosophize on existence, are but our means of adjusting, as best we can, to our predicament or "the human condition," none necessarily more favorable than another, except in context.

We may ask ourselves, and try to answer in our vital journey, if there may be one or another approach that is in fact objectively better.

Might we find the most reward in hedonism, for instance, or anarchy, existentialism, love, productivity and the "work ethic," stoicism, nihilism, creativity, mysticism, being just an intellectual observer, or in art, humor, despair, rebellion (and civil disobedience - or criminality), drugs, terrorism (which I would reject, but can understand in some situations, the United States of America, for instance, having been founded by citizens using methods which today could be branded as "terrorist"), scholarship, social work, sainthood, or some other path?

I like several of the pioneers of psychotherapy and counseling, and believe that underlying each is a personal philosophy that may have relevance for us. I'm most partial to Fritz Perls' Gestalt Therapy, but also like Jungian therapy, Transactional Analysis (Erik Berne), and logotherapy (Viktor Frankl).

Perhaps the best answer is simply to enjoy relatively simple pleasures or satisfactions, while keeping expectations low.

This morning on the early walk there were cool hints at last of the autumn season that soon will be upon us.

Later, Fran and I indulged in lunch at Bombay Grill. Mmm, good!

This evening, I mowed the backyard.

The irritation, localized deep in my left nostril, continues despite prescribed medications, to the extent of my needing to sneeze from it several times daily and of congestion seeming to form as a consequence of the unknown thing there, that is partially blocking, or is adhering to one side of, the nasal tube. No ordinary activities, such as blowing or getting water in the nose, and so on, do any good to dislodge or alter whatever the irritant is. Well, I've a doctor's appointment on the 22nd of the month. We'll see.

One of Fran's pen pals has lost fifty pounds in the past two months, without having changed his routines or tried to diet. Now a spot has been discovered one lung lobe. Bad news!

I've been delighted to begin, with Volume One, The Birth of Britain, Winston Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples series.

Early Tuesday (9/7), I'll be off toward WY, making a relaxed road trip to, and including several days in, Yellowstone National Park. As I lack a laptop, my entries from that period will be added after my return, toward the end of the month.

The meditation suffers some from a sense of urgency about getting several things done before my trip. But, once on the way, I should actually have more time and less distraction, for peaceful contemplation.

There is indication of fresh volcanic activity under the lake next to which I'll be staying in the park. Geologists think there is a good chance of a small eruption for the first time in several thousand years at that location. Maybe it would make my visit more exciting, but I'd just as soon this does not occur while I am in the immediate vicinity.

Meanwhile, Fran will be busy, starting tomorrow and continuing through 9/20, with the new Austin Lyric Opera production, "Tosca." She'll also be finishing up our newsletter. I've written several essays for it in the last few days.

Just after I get back, she'll be leaving to join her sister (and the kids) plus her mother in camping and taking two of my sister-in-law's canines to a dog show, hoping for some champion firsts (and ribbons). Those dogs are trained.

Then our relatives will be visiting us for about three days, and Frances will be coming back here with them.

All in all, this should be a more interesting month than most.

I note the huge hurricane, with my wife's name, Frances, bearing down on Florida at present. Someone has likened it to a metaphor, from a Greek or Shakespearian tragedy, for the political storm in which our nation is now involved, the outcome of which may have lasting, serious repercussions for us and the rest of the world. I am not sanguine about the way either disturbance will turn out. I fear our leaders are no longer capable of rising above petty differences, to cooperatively get important work of the nation done. May I be proven wrong!

9/22/04-Wed.- It's the first day of autumn. We have made it through another TX summer!

A lot has happened since my last entry.

My mother-in-law in FL, Linda, suffered damage from Hurricane Frances to her carport (destroyed), one corner of her house roof, and two of her trees. Knowing Hurricane Ivan might be causing more problems, she left on a trip here to TX about one day before that storm hit, and managed to stay just west of it. She got stuck in big traffic jams, especially as folks from New Orleans were trying to escape that area (fearing massive flooding in the below sea level metropolis), but at least was not caught by the storm. However, Ivan badly damaged a section of Interstate 10, so she'll have to detour far out of her usual way on the return trip.

As mentioned before, she is here in TX for camping with Fran and Fran's sister, Trudy (and the latter's kids and two of her dogs) and for a dog show in which Trudy has entered the dogs. The show is being held at the location where the former TV show, "Dallas," used to be filmed. Frances is there with them now, and I'm a "bachelor" for a few days.

Then, late Friday, the women, the children, and the dogs (including Puff, who's presently having her first camping experience) will descend upon me. Then my isolation (and peace?) will be over. Actually, it probably will be more fun than not.

Meanwhile, to at least mention my own (Yellowstone National Park) trip, it turned out to be more of an ordeal, driving such a long distance (over 3400 miles altogether), than I had expected. I even got lost in the dark a couple times and also misplaced a set of keys, probably left at a motel (though, when I went back there, the staff denied having found them in my room). Part of the time, then, I felt rather frustrated, lonely, and discouraged.

Nonetheless, overall, I'm glad I went. There were some interesting experiences, and it was great to see such a unique place. I had a few thrills from close encounters with wildlife: bison; deer; and elk. I also saw a bull and cow moose. The scenery was often spectacular too. And I enjoyed learning a lot about the geology of that area. My cabin had been newly decorated and was quite comfortable. I also loved that, at least for the time I was there, the temperatures were generally quite nicely (about 30°F) cooler and more pleasant than back in Austin. Indeed, we had snow on each of my last couple days there. It was beautiful to see its frosting on the pine trees, and the white blanket on surrounding mountains, despite its still being summer by the calendar. I saw six geysers erupt, which was rather neat as well.

Had my annual physical this morning. The doctor says I'm doing fine. (He hasn't seen my cholesterol results yet, and I did not eat all that well on my vacation.) He reassured me once again that the left nostril problems are almost certainly due to allergies and sinusitis, not to cancer or anything else sinister. He also gave me a lot of sample medications, one of which, an antibiotic, knocked me out, almost literally, this afternoon.

I had a couple bizarre experiences this morning, which caused me to wonder if I might be having some other prescription effects. The lady checking folks in for the lab at my doctor's clinic seemed to be a person I had known in my dating days here in the early 1980s, before I'd met Frances. Yet the woman could not have been she. This person had the same youth and vitality as the young woman I'd gone with a generation ago, as if she were that person, only without having aged a day. Nor did she give any sign of recognizing me. It was strange, as though I knew this lady, but in a separate reality.

After leaving the clinic, I drove over to the central Trudy's restaurant for a late breakfast. I found a note on the door indicating they were closed for the day due to an emergency. In the parking lot, next to where I had parked, there was an SUV with a driver talking on a cell phone. We looked at each other, and it was Michelle, whom I'd dated thirty years ago and known off and on over the years since then. Except that this lady also did not act like she knew me. Yet her every gesture, all aspects of her appearance, her possessions, clothes, absolutely every clue as to who she was, underlined that it was Michelle. Yet she, in fact, is now a fifth grade teacher in Petaluma, CA. She has a husband there and two grown up kids, and she is now about fifty-four years old, while the lady in the SUV at Trudy's had the same (to me) sexy appearance of the younger Michelle I'd known before.

Thinking about these experiences later, I could see that, if a man were loaded with testosterone, he might see vaginas everywhere, but how could I explain that I had somehow superimposed, onto whatever was the true sensory stimulation from which those "hallucinations" derived, two very different women I'd known so well earlier, down to the smallest nuance of behavior or appearance? This would seem to be overkill if nature's intention were simply that I obtain release with the nearest female vessel.

The pair of episodes made the morning seem particularly dream-like or surreal, as if things that could not be true were mixed with those that were. Perhaps it is sufficient to note that it has been awhile (shortly before I left for Yellowstone) since Frances and I were intimately warming the sheets together, and that both this morning's mirages replicated women I had felt were "hot" when I had first been involved with them long ago.

I'll never know if today, by coincidence, there were really two ladies "out there" who were somehow almost identical to those I'd known earlier or if my imagination just created these clones of my former girlfriends. It is intriguing, but a little disturbing as well. How real is reality anyway? Perhaps I'm only going mad (smile).

9/27/04-Mon.- Our houseful of guests have now departed. Linda, Fran's mom, is returning to FL, with Trudy and family (except for Scott) in tow, anxious to see what surprises Hurricane Jeanne has wrought in her absence.

Fran, Trudy, and Linda were all quite appreciative of my mother's hospitality Friday night-Saturday morning. They had stopped in for a visit with her, as invited by my matriarch, originally intending this as just a break on the way (from camping and dog shows in the Dallas area last week) down to our Austin place. Yet, as things turned out, it seemed wiser for them to stay with Mom overnight, both because Linda, who had her own vehicle, does not drive well after dark and because all concerned were feeling exhausted and really needed a night of relaxation after the camping experience in TX heat. Mom was delighted to have them.

The weekend here was generally fun, including a visit to a park where we saw deer, took a long walk, checked out neat formations, saw nice ponds, explored a cavern, noted giant cypress trees, and so on.

But at our house the children were often into things they shouldn't have been or crying loudly or wanting to play when the adults needed more rest, so that there was little chance to feel refreshed.

Coinciding with our guests' departure this morning, we've had a rash of bad luck, our microwave having gone out, the air conditioner being on the blink, and major problems developing in the house electrical system. Hopefully these things had nothing to do with Linda's using our home's power to recharge her RV batteries yesterday. We've had several glitches with the electrical system in the past. It may be that the extra drain on it, at the same time the AC was working hard, has proven too much for an already weak set of circuitry.

I'm trying to adjust myself to the likely huge bills to replace at least part of the air conditioning unit and perhaps part of the electrical system as well. If I'd thought of the possibility of such expenditures so soon, I'd have probably cancelled the Yellowstone trip.

Fran has been made part of a small group of musicians who will be performing, for at least a modest fee, in local schools from time to time, perhaps the first concert coming up in October. So that's good news.

Once our present appliance, electrical, and financial crises are behind us, hopefully we can get on with the good life!

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