|Twas the night before Christmas|
In my cabin made of stone
It's my first Christmas in a decade
That I'm all alone
I'm avoiding it mostly
I'm hardly in any condition
For a day made for family
And observing old traditions
Instead I think back
To ten past years' yuletides
The memories flow over me
As I sit by the fireside.
There were the yules of adventure
Often in far off places
New foods, new experiences
Left smiles on our faces.
In Dubai we saw excess
In all shapes and forms
In Borneo we saw monkeys
And got drenched in jungle storms
The Jamaican Christmas music
Was loud bumping reggae
In Vegas, Christmas dinner
Was a fully loaded buffet
In those years we were traveling
We felt wild and free
We had time to ourselves
Which is how it should be
But the years here at home
They also had there perks
We had many years
When we had to "work"
We'd housesit for others
And look after their pets
For Della snuggling puppies
Was as good as it gets
Shared meals with our families
Was another delight
But after ham, pie, and oysters
We'd call it a night
"The animals need us"
So we'd say our goodbyes
Back to our own space
Where it was just her and I
As these thoughts of past Christmases
Swirl around in my head
I see very plainly
A clear common thread
While each year was different
Della was always there
Having my partner right beside me
Was all that I cared
The years of Christmas memories
Are almost too much to handle
So I blink away tears
And light a her candle
I send thanks and love
Where e'er she may be
The candle blinks back
As if she agrees
This Christmas is hard
To even write out this verse
Without so much support
It might be even worse
Though I'm alone in my cabin
I still feel quite blessed
I know I'm not alone
Through the love you've expressed
I want to echo that love
Right back your way
And ask a small favor
On this Christmas Day
Hold your loved ones so tight
On this special eve
More love in this world
Is the best gift I could receive
A very merry Christmas
I hope yours will be
Now please excuse me
While I cry myself to sleep
|Thursday December 24 2020||File under: holidays|
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|Writing Della's obituary was really hard. How can one possibly encapsulate a woman like Della, much less with all the constraints (word count, readability, intended audience, history vs. heart, etc.) all the while in a state of such disorienting grief. I'm not displeased with the result, with much help from Deanna as well as a few choice phrases from others, but it hardly scratches the surface. With that in mind, I offer this addendum, some of the things I wanted to include but couldn't, about the woman I love.
|Saturday November 21 2020||File under: Della|
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"The light has gone out of my life." These words from Teddy Roosevelt upon his life's great tragedy constantly run through my head, because I am at a lack of words of my own to describe how I feel losing Della, my partner, my light. The light has gone out of my life.
This article from the Bozeman paper covers the basics. (Archival screenshot here.)
Words are failing on so many fronts. All the wonderful and heartfelt outpouring of stories, remembrances, and praise for the amazing, caring, funny, thoughtful, joyful woman Della was hardly begins to convey her wonderful qualities. I am brought to tears throughout the day by tiny reminders of her beautiful smile, compassionate nature, and hilarious spirit.
Much has also been shared on the loss to the community, which is indeed great. A Bellingham Circus Guild show without Della won't be the same without her thought-provoking yet hilarious acts, her playful greeting of audiences, and infectious enthusiasm for the cast and crew backstage. A trip to the grocery store for the scores of people who knew and loved Della without the probability inevitably running into her and having their day made by a reminder of some shared history or joke will be noticeably missing. But words can't capture that loss either.
But most of all, I can't find words, much less wrap my head around, my loss: the loss of my partner, my heart, my soul, my light. My future without Della does not compute. I can't make sense of anything. It's like I'm missing a part of me that made me able to function, to feel. Anyone who has known me in the past 11 years knows this better than any words could encapsulate: Della was my light. And now she's gone. The light has gone out of my life.
In the days since the tragedy, I've tried many things to cope. One suggestion I got was to write. And while even now, I know my words are hardly coherent, then I was doing all I could to get my thoughts down. One attempt I made came out in the form "How Lucky I Was". I'll include it here as I don't know what else to do.
It was less than 12 hours from when I first met Della to when I got to hold her in my arms. The holding was more a matter of physical logistics, as we ended up crammed in a 1-man tent because of a goofy dare. But we stayed the whole night, cramped-snuggled together, her sleeping soundly as if she was oblivious to the magic building (she was always such a good sleeper), me not sleeping a wink because my heart and mind were so full of possibility. The next day, people we met asked if we were married because of how we were together. It was zero to partnership, just like that, the kind of magical creation story to match a magical relationship.
And it was a special relationship, if I do say so myself. We were partners in all the senses. We built a business together, a business that succeeded partially on the way we brought audiences into our relationship with us. We managed our crazy lives together, staying at this house or that, shuttling, sorting, and fixing a never-ending stream of circus props and costumes, always something new to decide on together and rarely a routine to guide us. We supported each other in our individual endeavors. We did so many fun and amazing things together. We were a part of each other to the core. And maybe this is the way a lot of relationships are. I hope so. If what I call special is what's par for the course, that means more people are as happy as I was. And I wish that for everyone
I was often reminded how lucky I was to have found Della. It was never meant in a "how does a schmo like you end up with a gem like her" overtly, but we all knew the truth in the unsaid. And I agree. How did I end up being so lucky: to find a beautiful, kind, fun woman who accepted who I am, who agreed to live in my mom's garage with me, who helped me become better in so many ways despite my stubborn nature, who accepted my [sometimes smothering] love of her gracefully. But miraculously, I did. I was so lucky, so lucky to have built a decade of amazing memories—of travels, shows, stupid jokes, heartfelt moments, incredible experiences, mundane shared trivialities, touches, insights, These memories will be with me even though she won't. And to have these memories, I do feel lucky.
This blog has always been a chronicle of my life, a way to share the ups and downs with the few friends and family that still bother to read. Well, Della's death is a down, a down that I don't imagine will ever be out-downed. It is deep and painful and disorienting. But I'm hoping that sharing it makes it slightly less deep, hurt slightly less. I guess I'm just really sad and don't know what else to do. Truly, the light has gone out of my life.
|Tuesday November 3 2020||File under: love|
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|Last year, I posted about the Real Food Show, the elementary assembly show that uses the fun and magic of the circus to teach about healthy eating and lifestyle. (If you want to know more, check out that post or visit www.therealfoodshow.org.)
Well, needless to say, Della and I aren't performing the Real Food Show (nor almost anything else) these days, so we've got a bit of time on our hands. And since a lot of schools are doing the whole virtual thing, at least for the time being, which we only imagine isn't easy on the parents, teachers, or students, we got an idea. We decided to record the Real Food Show and make it available for all for free as a video on youTube. That way, when a kiddo needs a break or a treat but still needs to log those educational hours, they can watch us juggle junk food, balance protein blocks, and ride unicycles, all the while learning about healthy eating in a fun, engaging way! Our hope is that the show will reach millions of little eyeballs spreading the important message of health while causing smiles on both kids', parents', and teachers' faces alike, so by all means, if you know someone who might find it helpful, please feel free to pass it along: http://www.tinyurl.com/realfoodshow
And since I know you, loyal BdW reader, want to see what all the health fuss is about, I'm proud to present the Real Food Show. Enjoy!
|Monday September 28 2020||File under: circus, food|
Thanks to the time freed up by having all my work and adventures cancelled by quarantine, I've completed another long-overdue project! I've been dreaming and scheming of this money map for well over a decade. Every country I travel to*, I try to come home with one of each of the coins and bills under, say, $10. It's often the only souvenir I end up with. And over the past decade plus, I've built up quite a collection.
Before you ask, no, each country isn't made up only with coins from that country. I considered that, but logistically, it just doesn't make sense. Panama and Costa Rica together can only fit one small coin while Russia and China would have tons of repeat coins. It was hard enough deciding what to do with narrow land masses that were fractions of a coin wide. (Malay Peninsula, I'm sorry.)
It broke my heart to cut the paper money to make the shapes, but I consoled myself knowing that the money is either outdated, of so little value that it's no big deal, or that I won't likely return to the country to use to it*. Even so, there's well over the equivalent of $100 used which makes it maybe the most expensive piece of art I own.
This thing is not small, either. It is over 6 feet wide (obligatory artist with his creation shot for scale), partially to help deal with those pesky narrow land masses and small islands. And getting the coins to stick in place was a bear. I fully expect to awake to the plink plink of falling coins some night not too far off.
But overall, I'm inordinately pleased with how it turned out, and that I finally got around to completing a project that's been in my head for so long. Admiring at all the money while creating it and remembering the stories attached to each place was a great balance to the backache that came from being hunched over, gluing for hours at a time. Really, I don't think I could conceive of a piece of art better suited to my interest: travel and money. Sure, maybe I could throw in the equator made of gummi bears, but that's how you get ants.
What will the next long-overdue quarantine art project be? Check back in 5 months to find out!
P.S. If destroying money is illegal, I'm sorry. And I've got a lot of countries I better not show my face in again. Here's hoping the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles isn't an avid BdW reader.
|Saturday September 5 2020||File under: travel, misc|
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|This week, I turned 41 years old. I celebrated the occasion with good food, a little adventure, and inevitable reflection. As to this last point, I thought I might record a bit of those reflections here so when age 81 rolls around (which I truly hope it does), I'll be able to look back and know what I was thinking (and see how not fat and not completely bald I once was.)|
Notable occurances of this 41st trip around the sun were:
What solar circumnavigation #42 has in store is more up in the air than ever before. I hope my custom tailored life stays pretty much the same, maybe just cranked up a tiny notch or two: slightly more adventurous adventures, slightly more successful successes, and slightly more noteable noteables. But we'll see what Dr. Fauci* has to say about that. But even if this life on pause continues until I'm 42, where I am at 41 is not a bad place to be paused: safe and comfortable home, wonderful partner, and diversions enough to keep things from getting too boring.
All in all, on the occasion of reflection, I'd say all is well: the reflection of my life I see makes me smile and what better birthday wish could a guy hope for?
|Monday August 17 2020||File under: misc|
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|I've always viewed the data collection project I call Sleeping Around as being a great way to quantitatively encapsulate my life. Where I spend my nights seems to summarize my life for any given period pretty well. And with 12 years of data, I can make comparisons and see trends that I might not otherwise be able to do. And, in 20 years from now, I can look back and see what my 2019-2020 Sleeping Around analysis said—in short, what a strange year.
Needless to say, COVID-19 and its accompanying quarantine is the reason this year's data is so different. Cancelled housesitting, cancelled travel, and cancelled gigs all make for a pretty bland data set. In the 12 years I've been keeping data, I've never spent more than twenty-odd nights in a row at home, with anything over a week being a rarity. This year, I've only slept away from the Outback three nights in 5 months, with a solid 3-month uninterrupted at home chunk in middle of all that.
Nights at home vs. housesitting
And while I know comparisons are basically moot, I'm a creature of habit, so here's a table of data:
Other observations and thoughts:
This yearly recap always makes me nostalgic, contemplative, and excited for the future, this year maybe more than ever. And with so much around me different and upside down, it is nice to have the warm consoling arms of data to make things feel just a little bit normal.
|Sunday August 2 2020||File under: stats|
|This past Sunday, you might have seen a crossword puzzle created by yours truly run in your local paper. Well, let's be honest, you probably didn't because 1) who gets papers anymore? 2) the Universal Sunday puzzle doesn't run in that many papers anyway, with the NYT and LAT being far more common and 3) even if you get the paper and your paper runs the Universal, you probably didn't look at the creator anyway. That's why I'm posting about it here...though the readership of BdW is probably about as high as the number of people that noticed that I wrote the puzzle, i.e. fewer than the number of skittles in a fun size pack. But I digress....
Having a crossword come out is always an exciting event for me. Even though this puzzle is my 35th published puzzle(!), I still get a twinge of excitement knowing that someone out there is cursing my name—I mean, enjoying my work. The Universal, besides having an editor that I really like working with, has some prestige and even ranks high enough to get reviewed. And, refreshingly, this one got a not bad review: "Pleasant theme and grid. Four stars."
Besides skimming the reviews, one of my publication-day routines is to try and find a copy of said puzzle. The published version always differs enough from my submitted version (mostly in the cluing) that I feel like I need to grab a copy for posterity (and to add to my resume). This hunt sometimes takes me to interesting places. This time around, before I drove up to Alger to grab a paper copy and after a thorough tour of medium-size town's newspaper websites*, I found myself buying a digital copy of the Scranton Times-Tribune for the above image. There went all my profit...
Crossword construction has been a great diversion for me as all of our juggling gigs have evaporated this Spring and Summer. I've made some puzzles that I think are pretty dang neat. And a few of them have been accepted for publication to boot! Stay tuned for more crossword action here on BdW.
|Wednesday July 15 2020||File under: crossword|
In my continuing Minor Media Mentions series, Della and I made it to this week's Anacortes American! The article was about the recent event we did with the Anacortes Music Project where we went around to 6 different neighborhoods and did a short show (half circus, half music). The event went really well, and despite us being sorely out of performing shape*, we had a great time.
So far, 2020 is shaping up to be a pretty slow year for Della and me, juggling-wise. Almost all of our events have been cancelled or seriously scaled back. A few new gigs have trickled in (a birthday party here, a mini-celebration there), but all the biggies—festivals, library shows, fairs—are a no go. While it is hard to have the momentum of our career derailed, or at least put on hold, we know it could be worse. We're trying to use the downtime to stay practiced, rework acts, and even come up with a bit of new material. (Check out our instagram (@WrenAndDella) for the beginnings of our new chicken act!*)
In knowing 2020 is going to be so slow, it is nice to get this little nod from the local paper. And additionally, our good friend and AMAZING photographer Thadeus Hink, snapped some great shots!
|Saturday June 20 2020||File under: media, juggling|
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|We here in Anacortes are blessed with an amazing resource right out our back door. The Anacortes Community Forest Lands has over 50 miles of trails that offer an amazing range of vistas, terrain, and secluded little spots. I've been hiking these trails for going on 30 years and I had imagined, with all my wandering, I had probably covered them all. But with a need for a quarantine project, I decided I needed to do it up properly.
All it took was 19 hikes, spread out over about a month, averaging about 1.5 hours for me to systematically check off all the trails. I could have probably picked a more efficient route to knock them all off, though some backtracking couldn't be avoided. But hey, it's quarantine—what else was I going to do?
I was surprised to find a few trails I didn't recognize and also be reminded of a few favorite spots. But the greatest thing about the project was that it got me out of the house (in a time that it was much needed*). I got some exercise, I got to be surrounded by the calming beauty of nature, and I fully caught up on my all podcasts. The dozens of miles hiked (along with all the biking it took to get there) didn't, however, help shed those COVID-15, but so it goes.
Now that things are starting to open back up, I plan on turning me eyes to trails further afield, trails that I haven't hiked on umpteen times (yesterday, I hiked up to Cow Heaven and got to frolic in the snow!) But it's nice to know that I'll always have a wonderful trail right in my backyard the next time the need arises.
|Saturday June 6 2020||File under: Anacortes|
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