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Jim said, “No flamingos.”
Not a surprise from the guy who’s never stuck a sticker on a car, staked a voting sign in a yard, flown a flag on anything, sported a tat, accented or ornamented any dwellings or vehicles. For Jim, ornamentation distracts from functionalism and, once the forbidden cutesy has been released chaotic proliferation follows the tail winds.
We’re different that way.
So, I told him that, “the flamingo is a symbol for the Sun God Ra. In Egyptology, the flamingo, Bennu, became the mythical Phoenix – the alchemical fire-bird that frees the earth-bound from the physical barriers and limitations of the common world … Did you know, you’re soaking in it right now.”
“Yeah, well, there’s no room.”
He’s right. When you’re full-timing every square inch matters. Okay. No flamingos. I get it.
I might as well banish my secret thoughts about Dali yard elephants – even though they’d be the perfect complement to our Beauty. For me, the spindly-legged elephants express our fragile longing yet deliberate intention to journey full-time in Beauty and The Beast and to accomplish the thousands, if not millions, of delicate and deliberate step-by-step tasks which that lofty goal demands. The silvery grey skin and corporeal structure jive with the surreal floating aspects of the Airstream. Also, the intelligence, functional form, legendary memory and long life of the elephant empathize with the goals of Wally Byam the designer of the Airstream, “Let’s not make any changes – let’s make only improvements.”
Flamingos are pink. I love pink. Pink and gray are complimentary colors and, together, elephants and flamingoes cover the spiritual spectrum from earth to sky.
The elephant embodies my own preferences of the divine as a creature that bears up the joys and anxieties and terrors of humanity. Elephants boost our flighty imaginations, heft our insatiable ambitions and groan beneath our abundance of contradictions. Yet, their evident wisdom and attitude of slow and steady determination demands our avoidance. The pain of giving conscious attention to their suffering under the burden of our massive needs and paraphernalia is almost too much – even for care-takers. To the contrary, flamingos don’t carry burdens, they carry the soul away from them … RIP Don Featherstone and thank you.
At this point, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear me go on about The Elephant in the Room – and, in this case, the elephant in our 2001 Airstream Excella, Beauty. Here, on my sixth post, as we languish through this dead-time when the sale of our house is in the limbo of a grueling escrow; as our lifetime of possessions caravan grotesquely out the door; when the living trust, POLST and funeral arrangements are drawn, signed and in the safe deposit box; as Jim winds down his employment activities; when our calendar, after August 1 is a complete blank, as our Beauty sits in a dusty storage lot seven miles away … the polite thing would be to carry on and pacify your imagination that all of this is just such a lark.
It is a lark but, the lark is sitting on the back of The Elephant.
The elephant-in-the-room is the unavoidable subject you must acknowledge when you’re choosing which year you will sign up to receive your social security benefits. That sober-eyed beast looms large as you consider that almost half of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Then, familial risks of cancer, heart disease and life expectancy come in to play. Counting deceased relatives jumping over the fence at bedtime isn’t morbid – it’s the necessary work of planning out the end game. Every day is a gift. So, how many? Counting steps, healthy diet, limiting alcohol, not smoking and regular check-ups will squeeze out a few precious days beyond the estimate … but, when you reach the place of no return – when health and abilities begin the downward descent into the part of the golden years no one wants to talk about …that’s what I mean by The Elephant In The Trailer.
Once you have a realistic and likely count up to That Day, you massage the elephant and ask these questions …
Will the money hold out? When this old dog dies shall we get another? Shouldn’t Alaska and the Grand Tetons be accomplished earlier than later? How fast could we get to our docs in San Diego if …?
These questions and others will be turned over and over again as the years, hopefully, go on – and someday at some amazing place on this magnificent planet I and my childhood sweetheart who will not let me have flamingoes – will look out on the landscape of our lives and laugh at the harsh realities of aging and the fears and anxieties of our youth.
Meanwhile, we go on a wild rampage! Hot Springs, Breweries, Music Festivals, Wineries! With our fine elephant, Beauty (may she outlive us) we will mow down armies of despair and find refuge in contemplation and soulful, purposeful living with maybe some very, teeny-tiny flamingoes … if I can talk Jim into it.
“For some, checkers, clubs, gardening, and grandchildren is not enough. Out of this boredom, ailments are born.” – Wally Byam