Votary in Miramar

WBR_LetGoOrBeDragged_v3Egyptian mythology says that if we follow the direction of the sun, we will heal our hearts.  I first learned this in Michigan, the halfway point of the driving-around-the-United States road trip. I knew heading east before heading west was the right choice, but I didn’t know why until then.

I do not have to tell you that I miss you or even how it still manifests itself every day. You watched as I jumped off that pendulum of emotions — dying and love; anguish and hope; fear and excitement — ready to live again despite your absence.  That pattern of feelings waged battle after battle, and it’s only now that I can see how you never left my side, not even a little.

You were the only one who knew just how broken I really was when I set out over a year ago, and you’ve been the only one who has understood how I’ve struggled to let go, let go, let go, let go. Starting over felt like agreeing to forget, so I came here to Miramar Beach, the end of where I’d meant to begin, to say goodbye once more to you and to my still wounded self, to the regret I hold in my heart superseded only by what I learned from loving you.

~  ~  ~

You know how I dream, and two nights ago I had another. I was driving a Jeep, not your burgundy color but a light, feminine gold. There really wasn’t enough room for all the people I’d offered to give a ride, but that didn’t stop me from continuing to invite more and more people to hop into the truck. As each new person’s weight settled in, the floor of the Jeep dropped closer and closer to the ground. I ignored it, pretended I wasn’t worried that I might break down, blindly driving in spite of the too heavy load.

The next scene was this same group of people but now we were returning from wherever it was that we’d come, again with too much weight. Because I was the driver and the last one to get in, I could see clearly how this excessive bulk could damage the truck. In fact, I don’t know how it didn’t damage it on the way to the first location. But I didn’t want to ask anyone to wait behind since I’d encouraged them to come along. It wasn’t far into the trip when I felt the tire go flat. I stopped so people could get out of the Jeep to fix it and that’s when I saw that it wasn’t one flat tire, but that all four were deflated. I’d been driving on three flat tires when the last wheel gave out.

After everything was fixed, after all four tires were inflated, everyone started to climb back in, each person’s weight once again putting too much pressure on the frame. I was standing outside of the vehicle, shaking my head. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but if I didn’t speak up, I risked permanently damaging not only the frames of the wheels but the entire structure of the Jeep.

In the last scene, I arrived at a house and saw a man who was familiar and knew that if I were willing to feign interest, I wouldn’t have to continue being alone. Out loud I said, “I could close my eyes and pretend it was you,” because even in my dream state, you were still dead. I did close my eyes and when I finally woke in the light of reality, I was shaking my head, No.

You have my love forever which did not end with your death, but today and always, I promise these things:

  • to let go
  • to never settle
  • to finish

Votary in Miramar.

~    ~    ~

Allan William Hook, September 3, 2013:  Votary of Nature by Thomas Say

Votary of nature even from a child

he sought her presence

in the trackless wild

To him the shell, the insect, and the flower,

were bright and cherished emblems

of her power

In her he saw a spirit all divine

and worshiped like a pilgrim

at her shrine

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Everything I Own

L-R: Hook's siblings, Walter and Claire then Allan with the big smile. Looking at his get-up, I'm going to guess 1955 maybe '56.

L-R: Hook’s siblings, Walter and Claire then Allan with the big smile. Looking at his get-up, I’m going to guess 1955 maybe ’56.

When I woke up this morning, it was still dark.  I looked at my phone wondering if it would read 2:10 in the morning.  Nope, 4:52.  Somehow this was the pass I was subconsciously hoping to receive: That I wouldn’t automatically awaken at the time of his death every September 3rd.

Before falling asleep last night, I decided that I needed today to be one of commemoration not of foreboding.  I donned my orange Hook Donor t-shirt in the hopes that people on the beach would ask, What is a Hook Donor? so I could brag on my husband and our endowment.  And that strategy may have worked if I hadn’t gotten so caught up in my shell collecting that I had to use part of my shirt as a cup-like vessel to haul back my beach goodies. Stretching and bending, I was in a race to beat the first sweltering rays before they escaped the clouds and landed on my unprotected face.

This, I thought, will be my yearly dedication to Hook — a northerly walk along an oceanfront – to honor not the miracle of witnessing his death, but one of the times he briefly returned to me in a dream, communicating without words at the water’s edge, where I could always go to find him.  Then, it was Port Aransas on the Texas coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, which spills out into the Caribbean Sea and onward into the North Atlantic Ocean.

On the 1st anniversary, I stood looking out toward the Indian Ocean whispering these words:

Waterman's Bay in Perth, Western Australia ... the rock cove where a portion of Hook's ashes were spread.

CLICK to enlarge: Waterman’s Bay in Perth, Western Australia … the rock cove where a portion of Hook’s ashes were spread.

Votary of nature* even from a child,
he sought her presence in the trackless wild

To him the shell, the insect, and the flower,
were bright and cherished emblems
of her power

In her he saw a spirit all divine,
and worshipped like a pilgrim
at her shrine

(*Votary of Nature by Thomas Say)

My whole life, I will never tire of reciting this ode to my husband, but there are three things I have learned in the last seven days:

  • Music by Bread is not to be listened to on a regular basis.
  • There is beauty to be found in the broken pieces of shells hidden deep in the sand.
  • Kitty Hawk was not home to the Wright Brothers; it was only where they learned how to fly.

~    ~    ~

My friend, Cheryl, loaned me a book in 2003 called Beachcoming at Miramar: The Quest for an Authentic Life.  The author, Richard Bode, took the bold step of leaving “the real world” in exchange for the freedom to walk the sand at Miramar in northern California for a year.  Bode died eight years later but not before he’d completed his quest:  To heal and re-engage his own life.

~    ~    ~

A week ago, I stumbled across a song that I am oh so very glad I did not hear two years ago.  As music often does, these lyrics tugged at tender places, and my plan for this anniversary was simply to post this song and nothing more.  That’s how wretched the heartache was from listening to it.  But the words describe Allan and me and where I am today, so perfectly, that I felt you deserved to cry, too:

Everything I Own by Bread (Click to hear)

You sheltered me from harm
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, set me free
The finest years I ever knew
Were all the years I had with you

And I would give anything I own
Give up my life, my heart, my home
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again 

You taught me how to love
What it’s of, what it’s of
You never said too much
But still you showed the way
And I knew from watching you

Nobody else could ever know
The part of me that can’t let go

Is there someone you know
You’re loving them so
But taking them all for granted
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away
And they don’t hear the words you long to say

~    ~    ~

In the future when September 3rd rolls around, I will not fret when melancholy sets in nor try to push back the sadness.  I will be grateful for what I have, not what I do not; and I will mourn a man so worthy of my tears.

Today, I am open and thankful and yes, a little disjointed in my thoughts. I am those jagged edges of the broken shells I keep collecting.  But I know that if I stay long enough by the water, I too will be smoothed over by the ocean.

~    ~    ~

When the Wright Brothers came to Kitty Hawk in 1900 to test their dreams of flying, they failed so often that people forgot they were even here.  It ended up being four miles south in what today is known as Kill Devil Hills where the brothers made their first successful “powered” flight.  But none of that matters because the Outer Banks was never home for Orville and Wilbur.  When they had done what they had come to do, they left North Carolina and returned to their family and friends, just as I will do when I learn how to fly.

Until then, I honor Allan William Hook, September 3rd 2013.

HDU_brokenpieces1

The colorful beauty of broken pieces.

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Processing the Sabbatical

Deep Eddy in the 1920s.

Three great things happened to me yesterday. The first was getting a swim lane to myself when I showed up at Deep Eddy, the oldest swimming pool in Austin, where frigid water temperatures begin at 65 degrees.  Me and bunch of other die hard swimmers lined up with our caps and goggles at 7:55 AM waiting for a half-naked Millennial to unlock the gates.  At Deep Eddy, you’re lucky if you don’t have to share a lane with two or three other people “circle-swimming.”  The shock of the water’s temperature nearly crushed my elation but my pre-menopausal hot feet loved it.

The second present was the call from my CPA.  Although I’d filed an extension which I inadvertently wrote on my calendar as, File Tax Evasion, and transferred a hefty number of dollars from my sad little widow’s account to the big ‘ol mean Internal Revenue Service, I still held up both hands with fingers crossed that my April 15th payment would be enough to satisfy the sadistic revenue bastards at the I.R.S.  When my CPA’s telephone number popped up, I immediately furrowed my brow and tightened my lips in the same way I might if I found myself in public realizing a bowel movement was imminent.  When I heard him say, “refund,” I gasped in disbelief then relief and wondered if I should go buy a lottery ticket.

The third surprise was the free soda at the movie theater.  Considering that one needs to take out a second mortgage to spend an evening at the movies, my joy was not out of place.  Except, to the teenager behind the bullet proof glass with an air hole at the bottom plenty big enough to fit a gun if someone really wanted to shoot him, my excitement may have seemed amusing.  I explained to him and his equally young co-worker about the swim lane and the CPA (because they would of course understand as they make minimum wage) and don’t you know that they suggested a lotto ticket.  But the Texas-sized soda was a wonderful end to an okay day that was trying very hard to impress me.

Troll

Rosemary troll is cute but she’s awfully annoying.

I tell you all of this because last week as I was running the Town Lake trail, the troll in my head said, I think I’m depressed.

After mile two when the head troll returned with the same thought, I screamed out loud, “Depressed people do not get up at 6 a.m. and run four miles! You are not depressed!”

Only two strangers heard me yell at myself.

It took some time to understand my melancholy.  This leaving for a sabbatical, it’s a process of regret.  There are stages I go through, have gone through, and will probably always go through as I say good-bye to one thing in anticipation of another.  And I struggle with this choice not only for the leaving but because I am still comparing this sabbatical to what the “great Australian adventure” was supposed to have been. It’s an emotional flagellation of sorts with letting go and letting go and then letting go some more.  But my marriage saw me graduate from the desire to travel solo to the desire to travel with someone, an independent someone — Allan. Acknowledging the irony of my situation did not help but it was a good reminder to turn towards people rather than away during my journey, including the part of this adventure which is now.

The Rolling Stones Again

I remember meeting three women at a youth hostel in Amsterdam when I’d checked into a backpacker-friendly lodge in 1994.  We were all in our 20s and as one of the women and I got to talking, she confessed that her friends bickered non-stop and were about ready to poke each other’s eyes out.  Although they’d planned to travel together for two months, none of them had thought to consider that being with another human 24×7 is not only unhealthy, it’s unnatural.  She told me how lucky I was to be traveling alone while I was thinking how lucky she was to have friends to share the experience.  I’d already navigated my way through four Western European countries by that time, butchering the language of each.  Chatting in my native tongue with a fellow American had me believing I should have planned my travel with someone.

It’s not uncommon to want the opposite of what we have, assuming that something different will make it all better, when usually what we have can be made to be fine or at least altered to fit us.  But sometimes what we want one day doesn’t fit the next. We have to know ourselves enough to know what our core needs then shift as our wants change.

I cannot hop into the Jeep with another person and drive cross-country through the U.S. If I did that, the next time you saw me would be on a t.v. screen with my arms shielding my face and a caption reading, Woman Stabs Road Trip Companion for Breathing Too Loud. It’s also why Gatita cannot travel with me.  After hour seven of her incessant crying, I would slam on the brakes in Texarkana and scream, “Get out!” as I crossed over the state line.  (Don’t worry – I think found her a home for the year.)

So as I’m figuring things out, I’m learning that it’s not same-o, same-o and how idiotic of me to have thought so.  But now that I’ve had this revelation, I can almost see Hook shaking his head as he stands at the kitchen counter rolling an American Spirit cigarette, his deep voice saying, “It’ll all be okay, babe.”  And I’m comforted to know that no matter how far away I might travel, I will never be without him.

Sabbatical Update

WHAT:  Shhh about Gatita as I work my magic on her unsuspecting (and not 100% confirmed) temporary owner who, as far as I know, does not read this blog.  They’ve met, he brushed her, she lifted her backside. I call that love. The only downside to Gatita is she’s close to 65 in cat years which is sort of like inviting a post-menopausal female with wickedly sharp claws into your home.  But again, shhhh.

HOW:  Although I’d put off calling the realtor until the second week of June, the house is officially available to lease.  That I have not cracked open even one packing box no longer worries me. I now know that my slow poke ways weren’t because I hate packing like any normal person but because I feel like I’m leaving Allan behind.  So all of my years of waiting for us to leave this house permanently now have me resistant to moving.  Poetic justice or poetic grief?  I’m thinking poetic packing.

Shark attacks in 2015: I will not be going in the water while in the Carolinas.

WHEN: A departure of July 15th is iffier every day but if a tenant takes the house by then, I will be on the road as planned.  The Jeep has four new tires and a recent tune-up, and it’s been shampooed and vacuumed inside.  When the detailer told me, “Don’t get upset if some of the coffee stains resurface,” I laughed, explaining that his team’s wash was the first time the inside of the Jeep had been touched by soap and water in fourteen years.  Oh, I’m also a new premier member of Triple A and they’ll drive 200 miles to change my tire or tow me away and save me from Deliverance.

WHERE:   I haven’t really thought much about the where on the long stretch of islands known as the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  But the other day, an artist neighbor I’d recently met shared that she and her husband would be heading out to Kitty Hawk on the stretch in the middle of July.  We agreed to connect if our travel time there crosses over, and I’m sure I’d be a welcomed third wheel after their month-long togetherness on the road.

~   ~   ~

I never should have written that I’d blog, weekly on Mondays. That was the crack talking.  It’ll be Thursdays and I’ll try for every other week until I hit the Outer Banks.

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Hook vs Pest Control

What did I expect?  The man took me to the jungle for our honeymoon:  Allan and Rosemary Hook, 2009.

Allan and Rosemary Hook, Lancandon Jungle in Chiapas, Mexico:  Allan took me to the jungle for our honeymoon.

Four months after Hook and I married and I’d moved out of my spacious, comfy, pest free home and into his eclectic, south Austin insect-friendly house, I cheated on him.

My betrayal was not of a sexual nature but it was a broken vow nonetheless or at least that is what Allan would have had me believe.

The evening Hook discovered my disloyalty was the only time in our marriage that my husband presented his cheek instead of his lips for our good-night kiss before bedtime.

How It All Went Down

Before I created my career services practice, Hook and I worked at the same university which is about a mile from the Hook House.  Since Allan was diligent about keeping to a normal work schedule, he usually arrived home before me.  This meant that any notes left in the mailbox or at the front door, he saw first. In retrospect, it was a tactical error on my part not to anticipate that yes he would eventually find me out.

I walked into the house that Monday evening (why did everything in our house happen on Mondays?) and saw Allan sitting at the dining room table with a queer look on his face.  It was as though his lips couldn’t decide if they wanted to smirk or to snarl.

His normal greeting was always, “Hey babe,” except that night he said only: “Do you have something you want to tell me?”

I half smiled as I walked over to give him his hello kiss, but I didn’t answer because I didn’t understand the question.  As I leaned in, he leaned back and pushed a school bus yellow, 3 x 5 card towards me.  It was addressed only to me.

“How long has this been going on?” he asked.

I hesitated but only for the briefest of seconds as I crossed my arms in front of me.  “A couple of months,” I said.

“How many times has he been here?”

“Twice maybe, I don’t know,” I replied trying to sound firm, refusing to sound guilty.

He stood up then and started to pace. At first, he was muttering under his breath stuff like, “I can’t believe you would do this to me,” and I will admit that yes, my heart did beat somewhat faster because I’d been caught in a lie by omission, but I was not going to stop what I had started.

And that yellow card that he found in the doorway?  It was a notice from the pest control service that read:  We sprayed! or We’re coming!  Something to indicate that they’d been there, more than once and that they’d be back according to schedule. I’d ordered the service months ago. Yes, I coordinated a time when I knew my husband would not be home. Yes, I hid the information from him. Why?  Because even after one of those revolting, flattened body, lightning-fast, shiny brown bugs tried to crawl onto the sofa with me one evening while we watched a movie, even then all Hook did was grab it with his bare hands and toss it outside.

“Kill it!” I screamed as he threw it in the yard. “Why didn’t you kill it?”

But he wouldn’t.  How do you reason with such a man? My purist of an entomologist would not kill a Texas tree roach.  He actually tried to explain to me why he wasn’t killing it.  I put up my palm to ward off any further conversation. It’s a wonder my nostrils didn’t expand to three times their size, I seemed to flare them all the time in those first few months of marriage. But he’d found me out. Well, so what. He was still pacing in the living room but now his voice was somewhat elevated.

“I can’t believe you did this,” he said.

“Oh come on …” I immediately replied.

That’s when he started tossing his arms up and down in the air saying, “You’ve embarrassed me in front of my colleagues!” and “I’ll never be able to hold my head up again.”

Whatever smile was beginning to form on my lips, it left my face altogether. I tried to make light of the situation by snorting, “It’s not like you found out that I’d posed nude or something.”

“That would have been better!” he snapped and I realized, My God he is serious.

Hook’s face was darker than normal and he wouldn’t look me in the eye. I had gone against his wishes and done the unthinkable — I’d brought insecticide into “his” house.

Our house,” I reminded him.  “I told you we had a problem …” I tried to reason but he cut me off.

“There is not an infestation!” he yelled and now it was my turn to give a queer look.

“I never said there was an in.fes.ta.tion.  I said there was a pro-blem.  When there is a roach that is a problem for me, be it one or two.  I saw four.”

Apparently every time I said the word, “problem,” Allan interpreted this as an accusation that there was an “infestation” and damn it, he was the entomologist in the house!

“You have to cancel them,” he said into the silence of the room.

But still, he would not look at me.  He was either too disgusted or too offended. It was hard to tell which, but he was obviously insane if he thought I was going to live with those hideous things crawling inside the house never knowing when one might scurry across my line of vision or – gross – across me.

My head started shaking back and forth, back and forth and now I was the one pacing. “I.will.not.cancel.them,” I gritted my teeth as I spoke, turning to face him, willing him to meet my eyes, but he refused.

Then I broke.

“It’s either me or the roaches!” I screamed.

Hook half turned to flash me a look but he never responded.  He left my ultimatum hanging in the air between us while my nostrils flared.  Years later when I asked him about it, he said I was lucky I’d stomped upstairs after wards because he was so mad at me that he was “this close to choosing the roaches.”  He used his index fingers to demonstrate how close — the length of a cucaracha – I had come to losing my place to a bug.

Hook stayed wounded that entire week which was interesting to watch because he wasn’t really someone who could hold a grudge. He still kissed me in the mornings and hugged me at night but if I tried to snuggle, he’d say in a pouty voice, “I’m still mad at you.”

The following weekend we ate dinner at Jack and Beryl’s, two good friends of Allan’s and two scientists whose opinion and respect he valued.

“Don’t say anything about the pest control to them,” he warned me on our drive over.

Seemed like all I’d done since Monday was roll my eyes and shake my head.  I’d spent the last five days trying to explain to him that if he took a poll at work, he’d probably find that the other biologists had a pest control service, too, unless they lived in the vanilla suburbs.  I don’t know if he ever asked any of his work colleagues, but we did find out from Beryl that yes, of course, she sprayed and soaked down her home with pesticides.

Driving back that evening, Hook said, “Okay, you can keep using them,” but he insisted on being at the house the next time the pest guy showed up.

I’d already advised the service not to touch the wasps’ nests but Allan wanted all nests including spider webs and ant hills untouched and absolutely no spraying outdoors, only indoors.  Save the bugs, kill us I guess.

At our wedding rehearsal, 2009:  Rosemary and Allan Hook.

At our wedding rehearsal, 2009: Rosemary and Allan Hook.

Earlier this year after I moved back into the Hook House, I reinstated pest control.  The service man said there was a standing order not to disturb the wasps’ nests, said he’d never had an order like that before.

“Yes, leave the nests,” I said quietly.

I don’t think I could ever kill a wasp even if an entire nest was dive bombing me.

“And what about the spider webs?” he asked.

I looked up toward the ceiling and yelled, “I am not responsible for providing food for the wasps!”

Then I turned to the guy and said, “Get rid of the spider webs.”

I love telling this story because I’d always been in awe of Hook’s singular focus on nature.  But it wasn’t until we’d gone through this pest clash that I could truly appreciate the depth of his emotional commitment to protecting the environment especially the one where he lived.

But what did I expect?  The man didn’t even urinate in his own home.  He relieved himself in the backyard. I would stand on the patio with him each time so I could ask, “Now why do you pee out here again?”

He’d always mumble something about nitrates and how it saves on water so that within the first year of our marriage, I’d adopted all on my own an, If it’s yellow let it mellow rule for all three of our commodes.

Such a unique man.  I miss him so much.

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Hook Plaid Shirt Story

Hook_plaidshirts

Some of Hook’s plaid shirts.

In defense of myself, I never expected the absence of the plaid shirts would mean so much.  I figured that by the time I’d gotten around to fessing up to Allan — 20 or 30 years later — how and when they disappeared in 2011 that so much time would have passed that he would have said, “What shirts?”

I understand now that Hook’s plaids were more than just a style for him.  They were a statement, an irreverent statement that said:  I don’t care what you think; I’m comfortable and warm.  Heat was a big thing for my husband because his bald head allowed so much of it to escape that he wore a baseball cap to keep his head warm and plaid flannel to keep his body warm.

On our first date when he showed up in a plaid shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, I assumed he had come from collecting and that that was his field attire.  When he showed up for the second date in similar clothes I realized … Ah, so this is how he dresses.  No matter.  Allan was kind, clean, and he made me laugh.  Besides, someone once said to me, somethingsomething Dolce Gabbana, and I thought it was a new type of chocolate then I thought it was patio furniture.  Fashion means little to me.

I supported Hook’s addiction to flannel, but I did not know (seriously, I really did not know) that I took issue with his allegiance to the plaid.  I not only hid this deep secret from him but hid it from myself at least until the day the Hook House was broken into and a plaid conspiracy emerged.

The Hook House Break-In: 2011

It was a cold December Monday in the early afternoon.  Allan was in exam week and I was off for the day so we were both in and out of the house except for one hour which is when the burglars struck.  The Hook House is on a street in which much of the foot traffic comes not only from young, hip families walking their dogs but also from the varied types of homeless that camp out where the street dead ends to the west.  We figured that we had disrupted the burglary because my black, duffel bag, normally upstairs in my closet, had been placed in the middle of the empty garage floor, unzipped, and stretched wide open.

Allan started to take inventory of his tools and said, “You should check upstairs to see what else they took.”

As I walked up those stairs, I felt nausea in my stomach at the thought of strangers rifling through our belongings.  I went to my closet first and saw the shelf where they had pulled the duffel was mussed, but otherwise nothing else appeared to be missing.  Then I walked over to Hook’s closet, which by the way was the larger closet, and I slid the doors open and looked inside.

Everything looked fine then I heard him yell from downstairs, “Is anything missing?”

As I stood there staring into my husband’s closet, that big, long closet full of shirts, I said to myself, “Why couldn’t they have taken those stupid, plaid shirts.”   And just like that, I got an idea.  I got a wonderful, awful idea.

I yelled from the master bedroom down to Allan, “Everything looks okay!”

Then I started yanking every plaid shirt off its hanger, flinging them onto the bed.  When I’d gotten every plaid out of the closet, I rolled them up into two huge balls and stuffed them under the bed.  Even though our king is elevated high, there was a long, chocolate-colored skirt around the entire bed so you cannot see underneath it unless you get on your hands and knees. It’ll take him weeks to notice, I thought, but it only took him 48 hours.

By Wednesday morning after I’d already forgotten my devious actions, I heard my husband say as he looked into his closet, “Some of my shirts are missing.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, careful not to make eye contact.  “Everything looked okay when I checked.”

I felt him glance at me from the corner of his eye.  “They’re not here.”

I walked over to stand next to him, to peer into his closet in solidarity at this outrageous situation. “Well here honey, here are your shirts,” I mumbled as I started to fondle one of his solid flannels.

“The plaids,” he said. “all the plaids are gone.”

“That can’t be possible,” I said as I walked away from the closet and into the bathroom. “That would mean that not only were the robbers ill-mannered by breaking into our home but they had bad taste to boot!”

I was talking now over the bathroom fan, “I’m sure they’re in there, you just have to look!” And as I spoke, I used my foot to close the bathroom door thinking, Oh please don’t let him look under the bed.

Hook usually left for work before me, so it was but a small inconvenience to pull the balled up shirts out from underneath the bed and dump them into a big, black garbage bag which I shoved into the storage closet in the garage.

Three days later, on a Saturday morning, I glanced up to see Hook walking down the stairs, and what does he have on but the plaid shirt of his that I abhorred the most (and which also happened to be his favorite, of course). I’m sure all color left my face. I know my lips parted.

With a hard swallow and a shaky voice I said, “Oh, well then, see, there’s your plaid shirts.”

Kelly Scott's display of Hook's shirts (apparently I tossed out more than just the plaid!) on driftwood in Port Aransas.

Kelly Scott’s display of Hook’s shirts (apparently I tossed out more than just the plaid!) on driftwood in Port Aransas.

All the while my mind was reeling, How did he find them? Why didn’t he say anything?  I should have burned them!  

But he replied, “This was from the other closet.”

Damn the guest closet! 

Then I heard a pout in his voice and him say, oh so very quietly, “I don’t think they took them.”

“Well honey,” I replied quite matter-of-factly, “if they didn’t take them then what did you do with them?”

Hook said nothing because he wasn’t sure if his wife was truly evil or just suspected evil.  There was a total of three of his plaid shirts in that guest closet, and he wore those every, single weekend – rain or shine, winter or summer – for an entire year.  It was pure torture, but I never said a word or at least, I never said the word “plaid” again.

When best man, Kelly Scott, came to visit a week after the break-in, I took that garbage bag out of the garage and stuffed it into the back of Kelly’s SUV — unbeknownst to him of course.

Calgary in the spring.

Calgary in the spring.

I can no longer recall when Kelly discovered the bag — if it was before or after he had driven four hours south to Port Aransas, Texas, and his condo which Hook and I frequented on weekends and vacations.  I do remember that he called asking why there was a bag of Hook’s shirts in his truck. I’m sure I threatened his life if he ever ratted me out which he did not. Instead, in true Kelly fashion, he decided to make artwork of Hook’s plaids and began to photograph the shirts in different poses on the Texas coast and in Calgary, Alberta in the spring, summer, and even the winter.

More of Calgary in the spring.

More of Calgary in the spring. Artist: Dr. Kelly Scott.

Two Weeks Before Hook Passed Away:  2013

Out of all the things a wife might confess to a husband before he dies, the whereabouts of attire probably isn’t high on the list.  But Hook had loved those plaid shirts and I had loved him.  With my head down and tears in my eyes, I sat next to his hospital bed in our home and told him I needed to tell him something.  My tears were genuine because I wished in that moment that he had had a different plaid shirt to wear every single day.

“You don’t have to tell me anything, babe, I don’t want to hear it,” he said assuming perhaps that I was going to reveal an infidelity.

I could barely talk I was crying so hard. “I took the sssshirts,” I whispered through gulps of tears.

Hook wasn't the only one who thought the plaids were warm! Artist: Dr. Kelly Scott

Hook wasn’t the only one who thought the plaids were warm! Artist: Dr. Kelly Scott

It took Allan a few seconds before he understood what I meant.  He had been slouching in the bed when I started speaking, but now he sat straight up and said, “I knew it was you! I knew it was you!”

I kept repeating over and over again how sorry I was while I rubbed his hand, but he wasn’t having any of it.  He accused me of throwing them away and I was happy to let him know that they were alive and well and living in Canada.

“Kelly knew?” he asked.

“Not right away, honey, and he didn’t know he had them until he was in Port Aransas.”

“They made it down to Port Aransas?”

“Yes,” I sniffled, “I think they were in one of Kelly’s closets for awhile before they left the country.”

Hook memory quilt, 2014.

Hook memory quilt, 2014.

In my confession to Allan, I left out how the shirts had been photographed on the beach or I did mention it but blamed it completely on Kelly. After Allan passed away, I slept in those three remaining plaids, rotating the wearing and refusing to wash them. Just before my move back into the Hook House, Kelly shipped the “stolen” plaids from Canada.

In November, almost a year and a half after Hook died, I gathered all of his shirts and hired someone to create a queen-sized memory quilt made from the Hook plaids. When I got the quilt home, I held it high up, marveling at what I now considered the precious beauty of these plaids. They were something he wore; things that he loved; now I would love them.

I can hear him now, I really can:  See, they’re good shirts, baby!

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Live Forever

Hook In Michigan at the Wachowiak house, 2010.

Hook In Michigan at the Wachowiak house, 2010.

Today I will spread the last of Hook’s ashes.

In the movies when a person does this, it’s made to seem as though ashes are but a cup full maybe two. The reality is that a human body cremated produces more than four liters of ashes.  I only know this because I dropped off four, one liter Kool-aide bottles — one lime-colored, one orange, one red and one blue — to the funeral home for the transport of Hook’s remains over a year ago.  He would have appreciated knowing I hadn’t wasted money buying a fancy urn.  And, the plastic bottles could be and have been recycled which would have pleased him just as much.

The blue bottle was taken to Trinidad where Allan was spread on a collecting trail he frequented in the Caura Valley, and on the grounds of Asa Wright Nature Center, and finally in the rainforest of Brasso Seco.  Hook loved everything about Trinidad especially the people and they had loved him back, appreciated him, understood his “mamaguy.”

The orange bottle was spread in the firefly meadow, where Allan had taken me at the end of our first nature walk and where I began to fall in love with him.

The red bottle was taken to Bastrop and spread in a family cemetery where a grandmother and a great grandfather are buried.  When Allan and I had the ash discussion before he died, we agreed that a portion of his ashes would be spread where mine would eventually be.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “You’ll be the only white guy in the cemetery, you know.”

“That’s how I like it, baby,” he said.

When I took him out there, all I could think to say was, “Hi Grandmother, I know we’ve never met but well, this is my husband, Allan. Please show him around.”

That was exactly one year ago, wicked cold just like today with the only difference that sheets of rain were pouring down. I hadn’t wanted to drive out to Bastrop in the rain but I’d wanted to honor Allan on his birthday.  The rain ended up being my good fortune because after I’d covered my grandmother’s plot multiple times, the white remains looked more than a little conspicuous.

Most of you already know how Allan made it into Australia which was not in one of the Kool-aid bottles. But this morning, I’ll pour from the lime-colored bottle and spread around the Mexican Oak which Hook planted in our backyard to honor the year we were married.  This final release is meant only as a pause and reflection of November 17th.  And on September 3rd of every year, I’ve no doubt I’ll either openly cry or shed a tear and eventually over time, maybe it’ll just be the welling up of water in my eyes.

This Time Last Year

Last week as I was driving down Manchaca in Austin, a memory swooped in and I almost had to pull off the road to catch my breath.  I shivered as I felt for the briefest of seconds that familiar abandonment and aloneness in the world.  2013 and most of 2014 had been a time suspended from living, what some might call the walking dead.  I shake my head now as I recall how unbelievably dark my world had become.  Until Hook had died, I had never felt deserted, rudderless, and such an unwilling participant in my own life.  As I continued to drive, the feeling eventually subsided but it was the perfect reminder of how far I have come in these last 14 months.

Since the anniversary of Allan’s death, my memories ricochet against this time last year not unlike how the entire first year of grief was lived.  Except, in all of those memories, Hook was still alive albeit sick and dying.  It was, quite frankly, a time of near insanity.  Now, my recollections are about how I grieved, how I honored, and what I learned and am still learning.

I wear my rings separated now, the wedding band on the right hand while the engagement diamond is on the left.  I tell myself that I am “emotionally engaged” and therefore unable to remove the ring.  I cannot imagine a time when I would ever stop wearing these rings, but then I could not have imagined a time when I would fall asleep at night without silently crying into my pillow.  Those nights occur less frequently now.

In the last month of Allan’s life, I asked him for a song request every day then I would post a link to the song on my personal Facebook page.  One of his requests was Joe Ely’s version of Live Forever.  I think when someone truly loves you, you live forever, maybe not here but somewhere.

Live Forever

(lyrics by Billy Joe Shaver; sung by Joe Ely)

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna cross that river
I’m gonna catch tomorrow now
You’re gonna wanna hold me
Just like I’ve always told you
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

Nobody here will ever find me
But I will always be around
Just like the songs I leave behind me
I’m gonna live forever now

For the rest of 2014, this blog’s name will remain Hooks Down Under.  Beginning in 2015, the name will change to Writings By Rosemary.  Between now and then, I’d like to share some seriously funny memories about Allan so we can laugh together instead of crying together.

Until then …

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The Hook Challenge

Hook_SEUlawn

Hook teaching students how to read nature and why it’s important for sustainability, 2012.

2016 UPDATE of donation link:

 

UPDATE 6/26/2014, 10:03amCST

When the St. Edward’s folks said, We’re going to do a 48-hour Hook Challenge to see if we can get another 145 donations, well I thought that was a great goal and I was completely unsure how we were going to achieve it.  But people were up late stirring the awesome sauce.  About halfway through the challenge, it seemed unlikely that we would even get half of our goal.  But as I mentioned, awesome sauce people were mixing it and a lot of natural juice was flowing and we came out even better than expected:

  • 115 donors; 146 donations!!!!  

Yes, our anonymous $25,000 pledge will happen because the total number of donations was over 145.  My personal hope was for 145 new donors but 146 donations feels great!  Yes, I was screaming out loud to Hook as the numbers came through (in case the overcast skies in Austin were blocking his hearing in heaven!).  Yes, I was scaring the cat as I danced around the kitchen to the theme of Rocky after midnight.

I’m not going to say I wish Hook were here to celebrate with me.  He was with me last night and he’s with each of you today in gratitude.

People have asked if the #HookChallenge donor link will remain open.  My guess is probably until June 30th 2014 at which time, St. Edward’s will close its official books on the #LoveBlueGiveGold campaign.  However, the regular link to donate to the Dr. Hook Wild Basin Endowment remains live indefinitely so individuals can donate at their leisure:

On behalf of Allan and all the future students who will benefit from the funds raised for research projects at the Wild Basin, I thank you.

Rosemary Guzman Hook
Widow of Allan | Steward of the Dr. Hook Wild Basin Endowment

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 12:14amCST

Final donor tally:  115 donors!  The donation link will remain open thru the night to get us closer to 145 donors:  bit.ly/seulbgive

Huge thank yous all around!

I’ve mentioned before how the Dr. Hook Wild Basin Endowment scholarships are open to any student in the world interested in conducting creative research at the Wild Basin in Austin.   What I may not have explained in detail is why this feature of the Hook Endowment was important to Allan and I.  We understood that to grow awareness about the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve and the Hook Scholars and the Hook Endowment itself, we would need to be open to offering these funds to more than St. Edward’s University students.

Hook and I were so grateful that St. Edward’s agreed and now here I am winding down on our second major donation push for the Hook Endowment — the first in 2013 when Allan was still alive and now tonight in 2014:

This has been a wonderful 48 hours spent torturing you with my blog and the count.  Thank you so very much!

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 9:19 pmCST

Some serious Wow is happening over here in Austin, Texas.  We are up to 97 donors with only 48 more to go!  That is your donation.  That is your donation on crack!  I’m speechless but only because I’m exhausted.  I even forgot to make myself a cocktail when I said I would.  I’ll update again around 11ish if there’s numbers available.  We can still do it.  We can make the goal of 145 donors by midnight!

Listen to some Rocky with me – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj0jzepk0WA – while you donate or while you motivate someone to donate:  bit.ly/seulbgive

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 7:04 pmCST

We are at 83 donors which is more than the halfway point!!!  (I’m counting Hook donors + Wild Basin donors). And it’s officially cocktail hour so I’m making a gin and tonic to celebrate!   Need 62 more donors by midnight tonight. 

Will you help us get there?

I just raised my fists up in the air Rocky-style and said, “Go Hook!”

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 3:34 pmCST

64 donors to the Hook Wild Basin Endowment and 4 donors to the Wild Basin Preserve for a total of 68 donors — woohoo!  I write “woohoo” but what I really want to do is throw my laptop across the room because it keeps locking up so that all of my online updates on FB, LI, TW, G+ and here on this blog are taking twice as long as they should.  On the bright side, the laptop still works so thank goodness for small gifts.

How many of you will stay up with me tonight until midnight?  My pledge is now up to $680 (68 donors x $10) and of course there is still the $25k pledge if we meet the goal of 145 donors!

Time for me to get some packing in for the next couple of hours, but I’ll check back in after 5 o’clock with an update.

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 1:24 pmCST

My contact lenses are starting to stick to my eyeballs, I’m so tired but I’m in this until 11:59 pm tonight!  In the meantime, I really need to finish packing up this house where I’m living in preparation for my move back into the Hook House.  Someday I hope the Hook House will become the Hook Scholar House.  More on that in another blog … as well as this mega move.

62 donors — yea!!!!   You all are amazing!  For the love of nature and education and Hook, let’s get 83 more donors!

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 12:54 pmCST

59 donors and growing!  86 more donors to go.  We can do this!

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 10:34 amCST

Made it to my breakfast meeting this morning but just barely.  The good news is we are up to 51 donors (Hook Endowment donors + Wild Basin donors).   I can almost hear Hook’s voice saying, “I can’t believe so many people are donating!”

We only have 94 more donors to go and our anonymous donor pledge kicks in with their $25k.  Hook’s concept of a “nature think tank” is becoming a reality.   Years from now we are going to look back and be amazed at how the support for the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve and the Hook Scholars have grown.

But, the Wild Basin isn’t Vegas.  What is learned at the basin doesn’t stay at the basin — this education will be applied everywhere, throughout the globe, and our awareness and reverence of the natural world will become the norm.  Thank you for that awesome sauce this morning … now, help us get 94 more donors!

UPDATE from 6/25/2014, 12:48 amCST

An anonymous donor pledged $25k if we meet the Hook Challenge of 145 donors by 11:59 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, 6/25.  We are currently at 42 donors as of 12:50 a.m.

Staying up late to track this stuff is a lot like cramming for an exam in college except I’m not 20 anymore and slamming caffeine lost its allure years ago.  No doubt I will fall asleep during my breakfast meeting which begins six hours from now at 6:50 am.

ORIGINAL POST from 6/24/2014, 10:47 amCST

This will be the shortest blog post you’ll ever read from me.  That is my gift to you, but today is about me asking for a gift from you.

Wait!  Please read this brief post to the end.  If you’re thinking, I already donated for chrissakes, well I’d say someone is feeling a bit dramatic today and quite frankly that’s my job. 😉

This week, St. Edward’s University kicked off a #LoveBlueGiveGold campaign to increase their alumni contributions.  They chose to include the Hook Endowment as part of this giving challenge not only for alumni donations but for any person interested in supporting the sustainability and education of the environmental gem known as the Wild Basin Preserve.  Here is what I am asking from you:

  • If you were one of the original 145 donors, would you encourage one family member or friend or acquaintance who has not donated to give $10 or more to the Dr. Hook Wild Basin Endowment?  http://ow.ly/ymVvI
  • If you have not donated yet, would you make one online contribution of $10 before midnight on Wednesday, June 25th 2014? http://ow.ly/ymVvI

Those interested in donating more than $10 are certainly welcomed to do so.  (If you’d like, read about the original giving levels established by Allan in 2013:  Hook giving levels)

You can watch the progress with me of how many people meet the Hook Challenge by 11:59 p.m. on 6/25: http://think.stedwards.edu/giving/progress.   For each new donor who commits online by the deadline, I have pledged to make a donation of $10 per donor toward the Hook Challenge.

For those not already in the know, here is a quick explanation of what the Hook Wild Basin Endowment is and what purpose it serves:

In 2013, my late husband Allan (“Hook”) and I established the Dr. Hook Endowed Wild Basin Creative Research Fund to provide scholarships to any student in the world interested in conducting creative research at the pristine, 227 acre track called the Wild Basin and which is part of the incredible Balcones Canyonland Preserve in Austin, Texas, U.S.A.  Allan and I managed to convince (asking, begging, guilting) 145 friends and family to donate to this endowment which resulted in eight Hook Scholars receiving funds in 2014 to study at the Wild Basin Creative Research Center  This center and the Wild Basin Preserve are graciously managed by St. Edward’s University, a private institution in south Austin and where Hook spent the last 25 years of his life as a biology professor before he passed away.

Please Note:  I tend to emphasize the “any student in the world” eligibility of future Hook Scholars.  I do this because it is not the norm for a higher education institution to open its scholarship coffers to students from other universities.  But as part of their overall global initiatives, St. Edward’s University encourages students from any university to apply to the Hook Endowment.  Why?  Because the greater the awareness, the greater the exposure, the greater the chances we have of keeping preserves like the Wild Basin as a learning vehicle for educating young minds about the sustainability and necessity of our natural environment.   Forward thinking.

#LoveGoldGiveBlue today and help us meet the Hook Challenge by donating or getting one person to donate by the deadline:  http://ow.ly/ymVvI

p.s.  Today’s original blog word count: 563 |  My average blog word count: 2920

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