Lessons learned while washing dishes

In the 1980s, while I attended a small liberal arts college in the Midwest, I worked at the dormitory cafeterias. I held a variety of jobs, from serving students food at lunch to replenishing donuts for brunch to working on the dishwasher line.

On the dishwashing line, my fellow students and I sorted out the plates, bowls, glasses and silverware from trays that glided by on a conveyor belt through a small square hole that connected the kitchen to the cafeteria. Just below the conveyor belt was a small shallow sink that ran its length, complete with flowing water that would whisk away any leftover food from the trays. The four of us students also had a giant garbage can within easy reach.

The small, square room was hot and steamy and bathed in bright light. Each student had an assigned task — one would take the glasses, another the plates, a third the bowls and the fourth person would tackle the silverware. We all had to throw any leftover food or liquid into the sink before us and toss any trash into the garbage cans at our sides. As the trays glided by, our job was to snatch our designated item from the trays, empty them of any food or liquids and deposit them into the industrial-sized dishwashing racks. Then our four professional colleagues would lift the giant racks and place them in the maw of the giant automated dishwashing machine. The machine would roar and growl and do its work, and the workers would remove the clean racks from the other side and set them apart for use at dinner.

We wore giant aprons as we performed our tasks. The students learned the rest of the uniform quickly: Don’t wear long sleeves, but wear jeans and close-toed shoes. Don’t wear your best clothes. Expect to get wet and dirty. And be sure to schedule a shower when you are done.

I worked in the busiest cafeteria on campus during the biggest meal of the day – lunch hour. We could see up to 800 trays coming through in two hours on a given day. We would start out our shift with cordial greetings and banter, asking how everyone had been since we were last together. By 11:30, a steady stream of trays would begin coming through the tiny window, and we would continue to joke and talk as we worked. At some point, one of the workers would turn on some music, which often sparked a lively debate about who liked what kind of tunes.

By 12:15, the stream of trays had ballooned to a deluge, and our pace shot into sprint mode, hands flying as we sorted and racked. An occasional glass or plate fell to the ground and brought a round of ribbing from our co-workers, as well as a swift move by one of them to grab a broom and dustpan to clear the sharp objects out of the way. At the conveyor belt, we were rooted in place, arms flying back and forth, music playing in the background, singing to the tunes, handing the full racks to our coworkers and replacing them with empty ones as fast as we could move.

By the time 1:30 rolled around, the deluge had returned to a trickle. We would congratulate each other on finishing another successful shift. I would leave, my muscles tired and aching, smelly and sweaty, my shoes covered in spilled milk and soda, satisfied that I had earned my money that day.

On rare occasions, someone would call in sick. On these days, we would have to improvise and parse out what team members would do, either for sorting or for racking. For instance, we might help out the rackers by bringing our own racks over to the dishwasher, or they might help us out by pitching in to sort dishes for a while.

On one memorable occasion, the building lost power during the peak time at lunch. The conveyor belt halted. The water in the sink stopped. The only light in the room came dimly from high windows. Students continued to bring their trays and push them through the the small opening that led into the cafeteria. We frantically sorted dishes and stacked them in racks, and then the rackers stacked the racks to await the power. Trash began to pile up along with racks of unwashed dishes. The sink began to fill with discarded food and beverages. When the power finally came on after two hours, we cheered and jumped up and down and hugged each other as if we had won a victory. It was a day that showed how essential our work was to everyone who wanted to eat lunch off of clean dishes.

I learned many things in college, and working in food service taught me even more. I discovered that caring, friendly co-workers make work better. I learned that all members of the team matter and that it is important to show up. We celebrated our victories and respected one another. We had each other’s backs.

An perhaps most importantly, I learned that ALL work matters. We performed an essential function for the college, and working with my colleagues in food service gave me an opportunity to know and respect them and their work. Over the years since then, I have observed people treat workers in certain positions as “less” because of what they do. I say, put yourself in the shoes of the workers to honor the work they do and its essential place in the world.

The feather

Dear Bird,

I found your feather today on my walk

Lying against the crisp brown late-summer grass.

I wonder:

Did you pluck it purposefully from your skin,

Because it had lost its usefulness?

Or was it torn from your wing in a dispute

With another raptor?

Did it shake loose in a tussle

With your dinner-time prey?

Or did it simply fall unnoticed from your body

As you soared into the sky,

Leaving this small token to land on the earth,

At my feet?

I wonder:

At the colors and patterns the tiny barbs create,

A small part of the larger creature you have become.

The feather lies between my fingers, insubstantial.

It feels like nothing, yet

Hundreds of these lift your body into the blue day

Thousands of feet above, hundreds of miles away

From me

Here on earth

With your feather.

Tangled

I knit, which means I spend a lot of quality time with yarn. A lot of yarns come in skeins, which are strands of yarn looped together in a loose coil. These large loops become easily tangled, so knitters often use a yarn winder, a device with a handle that you can crank and a cone in the middle for a strand of yarn, plus a yarn swift, an apparatus that holds the skein in a wide circle, to wind the skein into a compact ball. But if you have a yarn winder but no yarn swift, there are lots of opportunities for the yarn to become tangled as you attempt to wind it.

When a ball of yarn becomes tangled, it can be tempting to fight it. You may instinctively want to take the long strand of untangled yarn, the one part that looks “normal,” and pull on it. And at first that might work. But you will soon find that this strategy yields a tight knot at the center of the tangle that will not budge. Time to try a different solution.

Instead of pulling the tangle tighter, the opposite often proves more effective. It helps to loosen the knot, to pull back and relax the yarn instead of tugging on it. This letting go requires patience and attention, a willingness to explore what exists in your hands. You have to follow some paths that will get you nowhere. You may have to backtrack or even make things messier before they become neat. No matter how much you crave to make order from chaos, you sometimes have to dwell in the chaos for a while before order arrives.

The same often proves true in life.

A writing life

My junior year of high school featured a huge disruption that would change my life moving forward and inspire a habit that stays with me to the present.

In 1982, my mom, dad, sister and I traveled from Pullman, Washington, to London, England, where we lived for a year while my parents took a sabbatical from their jobs at Washington State University. The 4,695 miles might has well have been on another planet as far as communication with people in Pullman goes; we had no cell phones, no internet, no email. Long-distance phone calls cost a lot of money. As a 15-year-old, I had left my peer group of friends behind and making new friends in a foreign country can take time and patience, not something teenagers are known for.

So I wrote letters.

I wrote regularly to at least seven of my friends. I wrote to the boy I had been dating when I left home. I wrote to my grandmothers and my Aunt Mary. I wrote to my high school French teacher — in French!

I penned postcards from places we visited. I composed missives on aerogrammes made of lightweight blue paper designed for international post. Once, I found toilet paper — yes, I mean real, waxy paper from a public London toilet — and I look some sheets back to our flat and wrote a letter to my best friend Kathleen on them, just to express my horror that someone would expect a person to use that material on ones butt.

Of course, that was many years ago. Today, many people see letter writing as quaint and old fashioned. After all, we have the ability to immediately connect with people via text, email, social media and anytime calling! We can reach people pretty much at any time and any place that we so desire. Why would anybody ever bother writing a letter? Well, I would. Here are a few reasons I still love to write letters.

A letter has finite length. There’s only so much space on a page or in a card. In addition, you can’t hit the “back” key on a letter. If you write something on the page in ink, you must either cross it out, throw the entire document away or live with what you wrote. This means you have to be thoughtful about what you write. You have to decide what merits communicating. You have to edit yourself before you begin, to think about the most important things you want to say in advance of saying them.

Another aspect of these constraints: They force you to focus on the recipient. If I only have a little space, what do I wish to convey to the person? What might they be interested to know? What has happened since I last wrote or talked to her? What has been her most recent state of mind? When I sit down to write, thinking about these questions makes me feel connected to the person I’m writing to. I can visualize them, hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away, reading my letter days from now, possibly smiling at the same words that made me smile when I placed them on paper.

You hold letters and cards in your hand, the paper smooth or crinkly against your fingers. Letters can be written in cards with evocative photos or art work on the cover, or on different colors and types of stationary. You can send little trinkets, such as pressed flowers or herbs, in between pages. You can bundle letters together and save them to savor at another time. It’s a different experience from receiving a missive on your device, which quickly joins the thousands of other items in your phone or iPad.

I don’t write letters nearly as often as I did in London in 1982. But when I do, it still evokes the same satisfaction, happiness and connection that it did so long ago and reminds me that I will probably never dispense with the pleasure of writing letters.

Tending a Garden Through the Years

In my youth, I fantasized about living off the land, planting, growing and consuming all of my own vegetables. I knew almost nothing about gardening, and as I began to try this activity, I questioned whether my childish dream would ever happen.

I questioned this especially in the mid-1990s when I met Austin Springston, a retired farmer from Elkins, Arkansas, who lived next door to our house in the country. In his late 80s, Austin grew a most impressive backyard garden, sporting lettuce heads larger than basketballs, tomato trellises full of giant red fruit that seemed to touch the sky and enough zucchini to keep an entire high school football team fed for about a month.

A glance at his high-octane garden and back at my meager, hole-filled crops produced many sighs. I battled weeds, grass, bugs, fungi, varmints, too much rain, too little rain, too much water, not enough water. I planted my veggies in the wrong place at the wrong depth in the wrong soil at the wrong time. It was too hot or too cold, but never just right.

Austin and I often chatted over our shared fence, and he occasionally shared insight into his methods. He used a BB gun to shoot birds that landed in his garden, along with pint-sized steel traps to catch varmints who tried to raid it at night. He composted using horse manure from the local stable, which bred race horses, and I couldn’t help but wonder if his lettuce heads were chemically enhanced as a result. A visit to his garage revealed shelves of chemicals designed to kill every single thing in the yard except possibly the vegetables. No wonder my garden was a haven for all the neighborhood critters and weeds. I couldn’t bring myself to adopt these tactics — I preferred a more organic approach — so my garden was what it was.

Despite small yields, bug-ridden plants and failures, I kept planting a garden every year.

Over the course of several years, I began to learn a few things. Tomatoes don’t like nighttime temperatures below 50 degrees, and they won’t set fruit if the thermometer rises above 90 for a good portion of the day. They need to be pruned back and trained up to produce well. Cucumbers like space and should be planted in mounds. Lettuce does not like freezing temps but will bolt and excrete a milky, bitter substance when temperatures climb above 75.

My brain began to contain a mini almanac of information, and slowly, after several years of hit-and-miss, it appeared that I could grow vegetables.

What followed were a few years of happy growing. I grew lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers. I grew jalapeños and we gave them away to friends and neighbors who liked spicy food. I grew strawberries and herbs — basil, rosemary and mint, oregano and thyme.

Then in Florida, my almanac seemed to disappear. During our 5 1/2 years there, I tried a few times to grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, but the mercurial weather patterns got the best of me and the plants either gave a paltry harvest or withered away. I finally made the decision to stop trying and devoted my energy to other things.

But when we moved to California, our new house had a little raised bed on the side. It looked a lot like nothing. It sported some dry, tired, overgrown weeds that had withered away. But I saw its potential.

I ripped the weeds out. Brought in soil. Put up a small wooden trellis across the back and a small fence in the front so that our dark chocolate lab, Shadow, couldn’t use it as a resting place and wreck the tiny shoots.

Then I went to the farmer’s market and I bought a few plants: Two tomatoes, two peppers, two strawberries, basil and some cucumber seedlings. I put them in the ground, watered them and held my breath.

As the weeks have gone by, I’ve derived great joy from seeing the garden’s progress. I didn’t realize how much I had missed gardening until I began to do it again.

Every morning now, I devote some time to the garden. I check around the plants and under leaves and stems for flowers and fruits. I inspect the leaf tops for tiny holes made by bugs or discoloration from diseases. I stick my finger in the soil to see if the plants have enough water. I pinch off rogue shoots from the tomato plant so it will bear better fruit.

And my ministrations have paid off: The tomato plants have grown to five feet tall, still expanding towards the sky. The cucumber vines are heading up the trellis, creating a backdrop of green for the tiny space. Peppers, strawberries, basil — it’s all growing very well.

Now that I know I can successfully garden in California, my vision can grow along with my plants. I look forward to what happens next. And even if a particular plant doesn’t work, I can now see, looking back, that it was all those seasons of failure in the garden that have led to this current beautiful bounty.

The perils and perks of picking blackberries

Summertime in the Inland Empire means days so hot the moisture evaporates leaving behind oven-like breezes. Back in the 70s, it also meant my mom would load my sister and I up in the back of our ’66 Dodge Dart and point it into the countryside to look for blackberries.

Blackberry picking takes grit. The brambles scratch your arms and thorns prick your fingers as you grasp at the fruit. The sun beats down from on high, making every clothed inch of your body sweat and the parts that aren’t covered feel burnt in seconds. You must watch out for bees, which also love blackberries, for sometimes they alight on a ripe one and, heavy and drunk from its juice, have trouble flying away as your fingers descend. Birds may dive bomb from the bright blue cloudless sky as you plunder their favorite snack.

Once when picking blackberries in Arkansas, I returned home to find a platoon of chiggers had attacked my legs, leaving behind angry, itchy, red welts in perverse polka dots across my calves. I spent a week rubbing salve on my shins.

Blackberry picking also takes patience, something a youngster eager to taste the fruits of her labor sometimes lacks. You can’t judge the ripeness of a blackberry merely by its color, although if there is any red left at all it is not ripe. To find a truly ripe, melt-in-your-mouth blackberry, you must invite it to drop into your fingers with a gentle tug. If it does not willingly fall into your palm, it is not ripe, and you should move on.

At first I did not grasp this concept, and so I grasped the berries to eagerly. If I popped one of the unripe specimens into my mouth, I would get an unexpected crunch and a sour taste that let me know it wasn’t ready. I’d pucker my lips and move on.

But when I found the ripest, most luscious berry and bit into it, a sweet-tart taste like I had never experienced burst on my tongue. The smell of it, the feel of its warm softness in my mouth and the flavor combined to make the moment unforgettable. I wanted more.

I began to pick my target berries with more care, and to pull them more tentatively. Soon I also learned that the gentle grasp worked best with the ripe berries — if I grabbed with too much force, they would disintegrate between my fingers, leaving nothing behind but liquid and seeds.

As I continued to learn from bitter experience and loss, I began to develop a gathering rhythm. I could spot a dark orb beneath a leaf and guess its ripeness with one look, or pick out the ripe berry from a nest of dark ones. My fingers began to sense the right amount of pressure and pull. More and more, I heard the satisfying “plunk” of berries as they landed in my bucket.

Pretty soon, or perhaps a few hours later, we would return to the Dart, rubbing the sweat off our faces with purple-stained fingers and aching, scratched arms. I seem to recall that my sister and I would fall asleep on the way home, lulled by the car tires on the highway.

Although all these years later I still love blackberries and occasionally get them at the store, the experience leaves a lot to be desired. Blackberries taste best when eaten within a few hours of their plucking from the bush.

So I’m thrilled to live along a trail that has rows of blackberries. A few weeks ago, the bushes sported a white veil of flowers, and now light green globes sit in bunches atop the dark green leaves.

I can’t wait to get out there under the hot sun once more.

Tanzania then and now

Landing at the air strip at an airport near Arusha, Tanzania, I did not know what to expect on our 12-day photo safari. The itinerary outlined where my mother and I and our companions would go, with beautiful names laid out in flat black and white letters on a page: The African Tulip, Tarangire, Serengeti, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Crater. These word did not prepare me for the wonders of our journey.

I did not anticipate the heady smell of tropical flowers that greeted us when we opened the car doors at our hotel that first night, or the musicality of Swahili and the laughter of children playing in the neighborhood. The sounds of insects cut brightly through the night. The first morning, upon opening the window, birds calling in a foreign language greeted my ears, reminding me we were far from home.

Growing up in the western United States, I have visited some of the most pristine wilderness that America has to offer. I’ve hiked the mountains in eastern Oregon, the Northern Cascades and the Olympic Mountains. I’ve been to one of the places with the most wildlife left in the continental U.S., Yellowstone National Park, where I saw buffalo, elk, deer, moose, bear, snow geese, otter, beaver, eagles and more.

So when we arrived in Arusha and started on our trip, I expected that it might be similar to Yellowstone. We would see some animals, at a distance, if we were lucky. My hope was to see at least one lion, at a distance, if we were lucky.

Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see such an abundance of wildlife and wilderness.

After leaving Arusha and arriving in the national parks, most of the time when the vehicle stopped to look at animals, no human-made noise marred the landscape. The still air allowed us to hear the sounds of an elephant’s footfalls, the low purr of a lion, the fighting call of impala.

The animals we saw weren’t on display. They lived their lives before us while we watched from a distance. Herds of hippos sleeping in a pond. A group of male impala chasing each other to compete for mating rights. Wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti, which means “endless plain.” Zebra barking dog-like warnings at one another. Bat-eared foxes stalking their prey.

We saw hyenas, jackals, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hartebeest, gazelles, eland, crocodiles, Cape buffalo, black rhinos, mongoose, chameleons, lizards, monitor lizards, giraffes, baboons, vervet monkeys, dik diks, hyrax, leopard turtles and warthogs.

At night, from our perch in a Land Rover, we saw a bush baby, a genet, a spring hare, porcupine and a pride of 16 lions that included four cubs.

And the birds! My god, the birds. There were big, brassy birds such as ostrich and marabou storks, secretary birds, African crowned cranes and Kory bustards. There were birds of prey like the tawny eagle, the African fish eagle and water birds like the Nile geese. There were small jewels like the hornbill, the oxpeckers, the lilac-breasted roller. There were birds with interesting names, like the red and yellow barbet.

Our first taste of the adventure that awaited us came when we arrived at Tarangire National Park and drove through the gates. I scanned the savannah, looking for wildlife. Finally, someone spotted an elephant off in the distance, walking through the golden grass. Seeing this animal moving freely in the wilderness brought tears to my eyes. I remember thinking that if I saw no other animals the whole trip, that that one glimpse of an elephant was enough to justify the days-long journey to get there.

Not long after that, we saw another elephant a little closer. Then another one even closer. Finally, we saw one this close:

I held my breath as I gazed at this beautiful creature. I could feel my heart pulsing. I could hear the elephant’s steps and breath and the flapping ears. In the meantime, the elephant proceeded about his business as if we didn’t exist.

This encounter preceded almost two weeks of nonstop wonder. I will share what I can with you here, and I will try to do justice to the awe-inspiring sense of this place.

Finding the words, finding my voice

I posted a piece a few weeks ago, a letter to my 25-year-old self. I got some very positive feedback from people. The only person I didn’t receive positive feedback from was me.

It took me several weeks before I could bring myself to hit the “post” button.

“Who cares about your 25-year-old self?” A voice said.

“No one will be interested,” another voice said.

“There are so many more important things going on in the world right now,” chimed in a third voice.

All of these voices live in my head, of course.

I thought about posting the piece several times, but I didn’t. Then I thought about posting it but not sharing it on social media; that way no one would see it, and therefore wouldn’t notice that it sucked.

But then I heard a story on NPR about a poet. He read his poem out loud, a deceptively simple poem, and then told the interviewer that the poem reflected his thought process and explained it with simplicity. I was enchanted and inspired.

“That’s just what I’m trying to do with my writing,” I thought.

So I decided to go ahead and post the blog. The Voices of Doubt tried to chime in, but I silenced them.

“Who are you!?” I shouted at them, “And why do you think my work is not worthy of sharing?”

The voices skittered away into the shadows. I pulled up my story, read through it, made a few edits and posted it. Soon after, I gathered up courage and posted it on my Facebook page.

The Voices of Doubt crept back into my brain.

“You could have talked more about this and it would have been a better piece,” one whispered.

“Why did you mention that particular event and not another one? This is crap,” another asked.

“It could have been so much better,” the third voice admonished.

I’m working hard not to listen to them.

I don’t know how these voices became lodged in my psyche. I have no recollection of welcoming them in, or of a particular time or incident where someone said any of these things to me. Although at times in my life I have felt silenced, and my nightmares often revolve around having no voice, the origins of these feelings remain obscure. I’m working on fighting them, but they remain strong.

Frankly, the voices doubt that you will ever read this, which speaks to the vulnerability I feel every time I put myself out there. But. I will not cave in to their demands. They will not silence me.

Which is exactly why I will brush the Voices of Doubt from my hair and post this: My words, my voice.

One thousand and one unrelated facts

My dad knew a lot of random facts. And he would bring up these facts at random moments. He could also quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail at will. Now, sometimes, those facts spring forth from me.

For instance, at a recent work meeting, we were discussing nibbling amoebae, as one does when one works at a top 10 public research university. And we began to discuss the plural of the word amoeba and its pronunciation, because we weren’t quite sure how to say it out loud, although we knew how to spell it.

I chimed in with, “well at least we know how to spell the plural form. Most people don’t know the plural form of ‘ octopus.'” Which prompted people to chime in with “octopi.”

“No, no,” said I, “because the root word is Greek not Latin, so the plural of octopus is octopodes.”

Everyone stopped and looked at me as if I had three heads, or eight limbs. So I did something my father was never able to do: I Googled it.

And there they were, the facts in black and white, except that octopodes is used so infrequently that octopuses has become the acceptable plural.

The group looked at me funny, as if to say, “how do you know that?” So I felt compelled to explain.

“It’s genetic,” I informed them. “It comes from my dad. He always threatened to write a book called ‘1,001 unrelated facts.”

Comprehension and amusement dawned on their faces.

I know for a fact that fact came straight from my dad. He took Latin and Greek in high school.

Another random fact from dad’s archive in the 1970s: The longest word in the dictionary, at the time, was “antidisestablishmentarianism.”

I passed this fact along to my son, Emile, while he was in grade school in the early 2000s. The next day he came home from school and proudly informed me that antidisestablishmentarianism was NOT the longest word in the dictionary any more.

“Oh? What is it?” I inquired, intrigued.

“It’s pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniconiosis,” he replied. What does that mean? You ask. It’s a black lung disease.

His grandpa would have been so proud.

We practiced that word until we could say it quite rapidly, and pulled it out for friends and family to see on special occasions.

The next random fact is all mine. One day, during a quiet, meditative moment in a yoga class, the word for elephant popped into my head. In Russian.

The word is “slon.”

Now, I took Russian in college. When that word popped into my head, it was from a class I had taken more than 20 years ago.

And why “elephant?” How useful is that word, plucked from the archives of my overflowing cerebral library?

There are so many other, useful facts that I could pull together at any given time. The location of my next meeting, what I need from the grocery store, the name of my co-worker’s cat.

But instead, I have octopodes, pneumonoultrasilicovolcanoconiosis and “slon.”

I will just have to be resolved to the fact that I will always be asking myself, and others, the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. And wishing I could remember the name of a person I met yesterday.

Just don’t ask me if it’s an African or European swallow.

You are welcome.

A moving experience – dismantling a life

August, 2018: Earlier this year, I helped my mother and stepfather move from a house they had lived in for 20 years into a retirement community. I flew from Florida to Seattle and spent five days taping together cardboard boxes, filling them with possessions, marking them with sharpies and stickers so the movers would know which rooms to put things in, stacking the boxes in garages and spare bedrooms, and making trips to Goodwill. I was a packing machine. Together with my mother’s organization skills and the help of my friend Jennifer and son Emile, we packed up their house in a matter of a couple of days. I took pride in my mad packing skills.

Now it is our turn, as my husband Curt and I are moving across the country, from Gainesville, Florida, to West Sacramento, California. There’s the furniture, the car, the truck, the boat, a cat, a dog and two humans that need to be exported from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, a journey of about 3,000 miles, no matter how you slice it.

I packed my first box, and as I finished it, I could feel a whine rising in my throat.

“This is SO much harder than packing my mom’s entire house!” I groused to my spouse. I knew it was ridiculous. I also knew it was true.

When I told my mother about that moment a few days later, she said: “Well, you are dismantling your life.”

Aha!

We are applying what I call the “California Standard” to our move. It’s very simple: Is the item important enough to one of us to haul all the way across the country in a plane, truck or automobile? If the answer is no, it goes.

The dismantling sometimes produces unexpected feelings. We decided to sell our formal living room furniture. It came to us used from Curt’s parents and has been well-used by two generations of people and pets. It has served its purpose, and it was ready for a new home.

I was completely on board with this, and when a woman came to buy our dresser and said she wanted the sofa, love seat and ottoman, we gamely helped her load it, giant pillows and all, into her truck and trailer.

As we moved the love seat, I spotted a black and white blur, and realized with a sinking feeling that our cat Tidbit had been in her favorite hiding place. She looked dazed and confused and headed for the back of the house. I suddenly remembered how much she liked the ottoman, perching on it like a proud lion, waiting to greet me when I came home from walking or yoga or dance.

When it was gone, I felt a little bereft.

I know there will be many more such moments during this journey. Moving can be bittersweet. Saying goodbye to furniture is nothing compared to saying goodbye to the wonderful people we have come to know here in Gainesville. But it is important to acknowledge the endings so you can fully enjoy the beginnings.