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Coming Home

Updated: Apr 25

First, let me assure you that yes, I am currently standing on US soil and am safely home in Vermont.

My body arrived first, on March 29, the Friday before Easter Sunday. I say: my body because, in hindsight, I am realizing that other parts, like my energy, are still landing.

I started to feel excited when, approaching Logan Airport, I could see the Boston Harbor.

And even more excited as we landed...

When I got off the plane and used the toilet at Logan Airport, I noticed the signage. You may recall other pictures of airport signage that I have posted. Boston definitely has its own style.

My dear friend Melody met me out front. Hello dear Melody.

We were so excited to see each other. We both squealed and went in for a hug. Mel said: "Don't hug me too tightly. I hurt my shoulder." We instantly adjusted and, without words, agreed to go for the long gentle version of a bear hug.

The length of our hug had the potential for rivaling the hug (her son) Eli and I had outside the airport in Stuttgart, Germany. There was no contest though, as Mel and my hug was cut short. Part way into our squealing gentle bear hug, the car parked behind us, who had honked once, started honking with more urgency. It seemed the driver wanted to alert us that the rolling cart that held my luggage had just rolled away and was heading into the street. It was all very exciting.

After all was settled, Mel and I headed toward Brattleboro, Vermont. We stopped for dinner at the Wagon Wheel in Gill, Massachusetts. The Wagon Wheel felt nostalgic for both of us for different reasons.

For Mel, the Wagon Wheel is where her family stopped to eat when driving back and forth from their home in Haverhill, MA to Norwich, Vermont, where first Eli, and then Julia attended college. For me, the Wagon Wheel is where Ash and I would go before or after we made the switch from Barry to me or visa-versa. Through our memories, the ghosts of our families still live there. Maybe that's what makes it a favorite haunt.

After we ate, we headed north on I-91.

Hello dear I-91 North. Hello dear Green Mountains.

Strangely, the small town of Brattleboro has 3 exits. I asked Mel to take the first one, Exit 1, so we could drive through downtown Brattleboro.

Hello dear Exit 1. Hello dear Canal Street. Hello dear downtown Brattleboro. "Ooo... There is a new store," I said. "Hey, there is another one." My dear Brattleboro had changed. Exploration would need to happen.

Hello dear rotary by the Common. Hello dear Chapin Street. Hello dear Oak Street. Hello dear Chase Street. Hello dear driveway. Hello dear Auto. Hello dear house. Hello dear Kenzie-cat nibling my feet and staring at air molecules.

When we arrived, it was too dark to see the outside of the house. It would not be until the next day that I would think: Hello dear Totoro-on-a-painted-tree-branch-on-the-side-of-the-house. I am so glad that, after time away, I think it came out OK.

Melody stayed for the weekend. This was a very happy surprise. On Saturday, we walked into downtown Brattleboro to explore the changes. Hello dear downtown Brattleboro.

We wandered around in The Marketplace. There, we saw this sign:

I would not realize until later just how much I related to the (above) sign's sentiment.

We explored Ray Gun Comics, the new store in town. Hello dear new store. We went shopping at the co-op, one of my roots in town. Hello dear Co-op.

At home, I cleaned and organized the house and unpacked. Saturday night I made dinner and we watched The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. I do not remember what we ate, and actually, Mel fell asleep on the couch. I do remember I watched Buckaroo through to the end. I really love that flick.

On Sunday March 31, I woke up ready for a new day. Mel was surprised I was up early. "The sun is up and so am I," said, quoting Anna from Frozen. "I'm surprised you haven't crashed," Mel said. Actually, I too was surprised. It would come. Wait for it...

Mel and I exchanged pictures from our travels. I have not been the only one traveling. There are so many people I know who have been doing a lot of traveling. It is impressive.

Mel showed me a video that her half-brother in California took of her in front of a poppy field. The wind is blowing the poppies and Mel is gently waving her hands at them saying, "Poppies..."

Mel left Sunday afternoon. Shortly after, Ash (and Ash's friend Ben) arrived. We had made a plan to walk to the Latchis Theater to see the new Studio Ghibli film, The Boy and the Heron. Even though Disney bought them, Studio Ghibli still delivers. We enjoyed the film.

After the film, we walked home and I made us dinner. At some point, I started feeling very sleepy. Poppies... After Ash and Ben left I think I started my decent into the inevitable jet lag crash.

Monday was April 1. I believe I walked into the woods with my friend Jenny. Hello dear Jenny. I know I participated in our online meditation group. It was my first day in the group zooming from back in my home. The whole day is a bit of a daze.

Over those next few days, I honestly do not remember which day what happened or if anything happened at all. Recovery from traveling and jet lag had starts and stops. Some days I saw neighbors and friends. Hello dear neighbors. Hello dear friends. At some point, I saw Suki, Cara, and four-year-old Idgie who came over to visit. Hello dear Suki. Hello dear Cara. Hello dear Idgie.

Between April 3 and April 4, it snowed. My dear friend Jenny took me out for another walk, this time in the snow. Hello again, dear Jenny. Hello again, dear woods-in-the-back. It was bizarre and beautiful, like first snow.

Jenny and I hiked up to the field past the Ice Pond.

First tracks on the trail from the Ice Pond to the field
The virgin field

My glasses became so fogged up and wet from the precipitation I took them off. Here is a picture or me (below) looking like the visually-impaired Vermonter that I am...

This picture (below) is of my back yard...

On Friday, April 5 I joined the BAJC (Jewish community) for Shabbat service, dinner, and "TED" talks. I was interested in all three talks. Miriam Dror talked about restorative justice through the Navajo nation's peacemaking practices. All three talks were well presented, informative, and meaningful. Most importantly, each one opened me to expanded ways of understanding, and deepened compassion inside me.

On Saturday April 6 I visited my friend Peter May. On my walk over, I saw daffodils in the snow.

When I settled in, Peter and I talked until we ran out of time. Hello dear Peter.

You may recall from many posts ago, back in November of 2023 maybe, that Peter had called me while I was on the streets of Istanbul. I had been feeling a bit lost and lonely. When I saw it was Peter calling, I had to answer the phone. The problem was that the Call to Prayer had just started and, being close in proximity to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, it was loud. There would be no way we would be able to talk. I answered the phone and said "Listen" and held the phone for Peter to hear what was going on. After the Call to Prayer ended, we both laughed (about the way the call began) and talked for what felt like a comfortably good long time. I remember the call had felt grounding. It had been a joy to talk in English with someone who I could imaging sitting on his couch in his home in Brattleboro, Vermont.

That night I joined my friend Mark to see Popa Chubby at The Drake in Amherst, MA. We had an excellent Thai dinner in a restaurant across the street, then crossed over for the show. This would be the first time since before I had left Vermont in October that I could let loose and dance in the fashion in which I am accustomed to. It felt soooo goooood to move freely. Dancing freely brings me to a such a place of joy.

On Sunday April 7 I was a book at an online event for The Human Library. I had not participated in a Human Library event while traveling, as I could not be sure when I would have stable internet. It felt like a long time. Being back felt meaningful.

The Human Library is a place where people can safely explore their inner biases and learn to "un-judge someone." It is a meaningful organization and I am a better person each time I participate. If you do not already know about this very happening, crazy-cool concept, I highly recommend you and anyone you know check out The Human Library. (Start by clicking on the embedded link above).

Monday, April 8 was the day of the infamous 2024 Solar Eclipse. I am sorry to say I did not brave the traffic to Montpelier or other points north. Instead, Daniel and I drove a mile or so west to the Living Memorial Park in Brattleboro to watch the partial solar eclipse.

It was a very quiet and sweet little scene. We ended the event chatting with friends on the hill. Later, I watched videos of people in total solar eclipse areas. In many videos, the screams heard rivaled the eclipse seen. All accounts seemed surreal, magical, and well worth the extra effort it took to get there. If you would like, check out the NHPR account of people's experiences in and around Vermont during the Solar Eclipse HERE.

And then it was Tuesday, April 9. This date was the reason I came back to the states. For six months, I held on to this as the end date to my nomadic travels. I knew I needed to be back because April 9 was Ash's birthday.

I drove to Keene, New Hampshire to meet up with my now 21-year-old grandchild. 21. Twenty-one. 21! In so many ways and on so many levels, Ash turning 21 was the most phenomenal event of my six-months. There is no way to fully explain the gratitude I feel for having Ash in my life, and how that ripples out.

Ash and I enjoyed simple pleasures on that day. We walked to downtown Keene for a coffee at Prime Roast, Ash's favorite coffee stop. Next, we stopped in to Chaos and Kindness, an old haunt of Ash's from their Ashuelot Academy days.

We learned that the Keene Chaos and Kindness store will be closing. This was sad news for Ash. If it is sad news for you as well, you may want to know that there is a closing event at Chaos and Kindness in Keene, NH on Sunday, April 26 from 11 am until 4 pm.

While at Chaos and Kindness, Ash picked out a few choice items. All the items at Chaos and Kindness are choice, really. The clothes and hats and whatnots are good quality items that have great messages on them. You have until 4 pm on April 26 to check them out.

Then we stopped into the witchy-cool store next to Chaos and Kindness. I had not seen this store before; it was new to me. There, we had a snack and put together matching (and completely unique and personalized) bracelets for Ash and Ash's bestie, Seth.

Ash's best friend Seth (who is Ben's brother) shares the same birthday as Ash. So on Tuesday, while Ash turned 21, Seth turned 26. April 9 is also Svitlana's birthday. Way over in Antalya, Turkey, Svit turned 32... the same age as my son, Michael. (Svit shares Ash's birth date and Michael's birth year). So, during Ash's birthday, we talked with "Uncle Michael" on the phone, and texted with Seth and Svitlana. It was a very relaxed, sweet, connected, Happy Birthday day.

Later, after Beto got home from work, Ash, Beto, and I went out. We wrapped-in celebrating Beto's birthday too, which would be in 2 days. We had sushi dinner at a place downtown, downed ice cream from Rick's Gourmet Ice Cream shop minutes before movie time, and saw Kung Fu Panda 4 at the Keene Cinema. Aside from the belly ache from eating so much, it really was a delicious, sweet, and fun day.

In the late afternoon of Wednesday April 10, I texted my friend Walter. It was Walter's birthday. "Happy Birthday dear Walter," I texted, "Hope today is still filling up with beautiful moments." "Thanks, dear Ami," he texted back, "Yes, MANY beautiful moment before and after my fall this noon." Come to find out, Walter had stepped in a pothole in front of their house (in Albuquerque, New Mexico) and injured his hip so badly that he would have hip replacement surgery the next day.

I shared the quip from the sign (way above) about how even M and T on the calendar are followed by WTF. Walter, in the emergency room, texted back "Did I get F two days early?"

Then he texted "Every time I give a staff member my DOB they go, This is your birthday?"

I do not know why that floored me. I could not stop laughing. Maybe I was feeling Walter's shock. Maybe I was crashing into a weird super-silly-state. I wrote "I am literally laughing out loud" and added three sideways crying-from-laughing-so-hard emojis. Walter texted back the emoji where the yellow face is squinting really hard and sticking out their tongue.

Wednesday night my friend Larry Mac came over. I made us dinner, we talked, and we watched a movie. I think we watched Barbie. I was still existing in a dazed state.

Thursday April 11 was Beto's birthday and I participated in another Human Library event. Then I joined a Zoom meeting with Michelle T. Michelle and I decided to take a SAND course together and meet weekly to discuss the modules. This was our first meet-up to do that.

Friday April 12: April flew (back to Boston) after being in Texas (for the week) to view the full Solar Eclipse (and visit with her cousin), and stopped to see me on her drive back home (to north of Bratt). I think we did stuff. April has since told me that I made us food. Mostly, I think we crashed. I remember that Ape slept on the couch and I slept on the massage chair. I think we slept in our spots for a goodly amount of time.

Saturday April 13: the tri-Birthday celebration lunch at my house. Ash, Seth, Ben, Beto, Daniel, and I were present. Colette stopped up to say Happy Birthday and gift us her homemade zucchini bread. So good.

I did not mention that for the three days prior to this (Satur)day I shopped and cooked. I prepared for Ash's party for three days. There were six of us celebrating 3 people's birthdays and I spent ~$300 and prepped food for three days. I can go a little overboard. But hey... Ash! 21!

While all the above wonderous events unfolded, there were also significantly stressful things happening here at 18 Chase Street.

When I arrived back home on March 29, I immediately started dealing with the repercussions of having been away for six-months. I have been doing triage, dealing, and healing for three weeks.

I will start out by saying things are settling down. All's well that ends well? Yes, I think that may work out to be true. I am hopeful.

I was not as hopeful before as I am now. Now, I will explain and complain about the before.

While I was gone, my housemate took care of Kenzie-cat and the house, and lived what I imagined was "the good life." Come to find out, that is not necessarily true.

My housemate was sick with Covid three times during my absence. During my absence, my housemate fell, hit his head on concrete, got stitches and a plate put in, and has been experiencing symptoms that point to the fact that, from the fall, he has had a concussion and a possible TBI. While I was gone, my housemate's girlfriend broke up with him and in response, he has been grieving in a way that looks much like depression. It turns out that for much of the time while I was gone, my housemate was not living "the good life."

I did not know all that, though. For days after my return, I repeated to myself this idea of my housemate having lived "the good life," along with repeating to myself the saying: When the cat's away, the mice will play. These were my mantras. Saying them was my attempt to accept the state of the house I walked into.

I figured 6-months is a long time. I figured it is easy to make oneself at home when the home is empty. I was not joyful that liberties were taken. I expressed my dissatisfaction fully with my housemate. I felt done with that issue. Now, I am realizing that my housemate's pain and suffering played a large part in how the house came to such a state of chaos. And yet, maybe I am not done with that issue.

I am particular; my housemate is not. That is not a fault. It is a difference. When you are the one who has a higher standard of cleaning and organizing (I am talking about me here), you (I) will be the one to do more of the cleaning and organizing.

I like everything in its place. I find peace in the details. When I got back, it took me a while to make the house feel like a peaceful home again. The house had been professionally cleaned just before I arrived back home. Still, I cleaned and organized.

My plant-babies had not been pruned. There were 6-months worth of dead leaves to pick off of more than 65 plants. Some plants had been underwatered, some overwatered. Some plants suffered dire outcomes. I was not and am not angry about this. My housemate is not a plant-person. I am. I understand this. Still, when I walked in and saw my plant-babies looking like they did I was horrified.

Some items had been broken - the most significant being a panel of the new roof over the new deck. The roof had not fared well from the snow and wind storm that had torn through the area the weekend before. My housemate did not think to let me know what had happened, nor had he thought to contact my contractor to have the roof fixed. When I walked in and my housemate showed me the damage, I texted my contractor. My contractor came over as soon as he could, which was the day after Easter Sunday. He replaced the panel and reinforced the rest of the roof with more screws. Fingers crossed that is enough. So far so good.

There were other, smaller items that were broken. There is the wheel of the rolling tea cart, the electric kettle, pottery plates, the smooshed back corner of Auto. All still broken.

The smooshed back corner of Auto is now a moot point. Auto is unsafe to drive and the rusted frame under the car by the back rear wheel is unrepairable. I need to sell Auto for parts. This seems like a bummer, though maybe it is not. I have, for years, wanted to live without a car. I now have the opportunity to try that out.

Then there was the box of mail.

In my box of mail were notices like, "Fill-out this form by this date to update your health insurance," and "If you do not fill-out that form we sent you, you will lose your health insurance," and then, "Your health insurance has been cancelled."

Not only was my health insurance cancelled, my grandchild's health insurance was cancelled as well. That was very disturbing news. My grandson's full-time care provider and all other services they receive are covered by that very same insurance. I was (once again, and even more so) horrified. Actually, I felt nauseous for days.

As soon as possible (the Monday after Easter Sunday), I called Green Mountain Care. It was not a reassuring phone conversation. I have been on the phone with Green Mountain Care and our Health Care and Rehabilitation Services and Developmental Services case manager daily for the better part of three weeks. Round and round we go, when it will land well I am not sure. I will not rest easily until this lands well. My grand's case manager assures me that this will ("most likely") end well. Fingers crossed she is (positively) correct.

Then there is Medicare. While away, I turned the ripe age of 65. Sixty-five, it seems, is ripe enough (for US citizens) to (be forced to) sign-up for Medicare.

Medicare notices began to arrive in my mail long before I left for my epic adventure. I did not want to sign-up for Medicare. In my infantile wisdom, I ignored all Medicare mail. It turns out that ignoring mail does not make the mail go away. It has, in fact, the opposite effect. Lo and behold, when I got back, the Medicare-related mail had significantly piled up.

Note: If you are a US citizen, you can not avoid the aging process. Unless you leave your body before it turns 65 years of age, you must sign-up for Medicare when you chronologically turn 65. Leaving your body counts. Leaving the country does not.

I have completed the first part of the application process for Medicare. Yay and blech.

Then there were taxes.

Some people suggested that I file for an extension. Turns out that filing for a tax extension does not mean you do not have to pay your taxes on time. Vermonters must figure out what they owe and pay that amount (while filing, period, or while filing for an extension) by the end of the day of April 15.

I had been advised that I would owe "a lot." I was told four times that I would owe "a lot." Each time I was told that I would owe "a lot" I subdued panic attacks. I had no idea what I would owe. I was not sure what "a lot" meant. I was not sure where "a lot" would come from.

What I did know was that I would need to "do" my taxes to know what I needed to pay. If I need to pay taxes (even if I file for an extension) and need to do my taxes to know how much I owe (while filing for an extension), Why not just "do" my taxes (and not file an extension) thought I.

The reason for coming home was Ash's birthday. Ash's birthday and birthday party were now behind me. Now, I would do my taxes.

Sunday April 14: I woke at 6 am with a pressing anxiety to get started. I worked on my taxes through the day, until after 1 am that night. I am happy to say that I finished and submitted my federal and state income tax returns by the evening of Monday April 15. I did not file for an extension. I did not owe any taxes.

I feel a bit salty about the scary advice that I was given... that I should file an extension and would owe "a lot." I want to say: "Ha, So there," to the scary advice giver. Ha, so there, I did not need to file for an extension. I did not need to pay a lot. Your projected worry was not helpful; it just caused anxiety. It may be that I am saying this to me: Ha, so there... see, you did it!

Looking back through the daze, it has been a full three weeks. In between the doing, I am grateful for the moments of being, and for sleeping. In between fear, I am grateful for the moments of compassion and joy.

I am grateful for Jenny taking me for a walk in the snow. I am grateful for our hugs and talks. I am grateful for Idgie coming to my house for a visit, for her four-year-old honesty, her wide open eyes, and her sly little smile. I am grateful for the three sweet Melissa's in my life. I am grateful for every kind spoken-word, text, phone call, visit, and hug from friends walking by or driving over purposefully to see me. I am grateful for the good thoughts coming my way, and the good thoughts I am having about you.

I am grateful to learn that our beloved Moles Eye reopened as Midnight.

I am grateful for our beloved meditation family. Here, no matter what breathlessness I felt before or what hyperventilating future thought I have after, in this hour, I am breathing in the present, touching down into my peaceful base, connecting with love.

I am grateful for every time I am in the present moment, Mindful. Here, I deal with one thing at-at-a-time and appreciate my surroundings while doing so.

I am grateful for the clouds behind Brattleboro's steeples at sunset. I am grateful that the "first snow" was so pretty. I am grateful that the last snow has melted. I am grateful for my new hiking boots that allow me to walk unincumbered through mud. I am grateful for my home, put back the way I like it. I am grateful for my housemate, who understands and accepts me for being particular. I am grateful for the beautiful images in my mind from the last 6-months. I am grateful for Ash, for Michelle and Barry, for Michael and Kira. I am grateful for this little breath of air on my face. I am grateful for all who fill up my heart.

Now that I am caught up (or at least calmed down), I can get back to blogging. Next, we will travel back in time together, through Europe and the UK. Next, we will go together to Stuttgart, Germany...

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