Where She Lives and Why She Ponders

by marthastephens

Las Cruces, New Mexico.

IT’S EARLY MORNING in the desert, and I’m wiping off my counter, in a fog of abstraction, in my kitchenette. I don’t want a dirty counter. I don’t want any crumbs on my counter. So I wipe it off many times a day, wipings that are not especially efficacious, since it’s not so much crumbs or dirt on my counter but the blots, nicks, and discoloring hotspots of a long train of users over half a century and more.

When I first walk into my rooms at Plaza each year, I say, “I can’t possibly live here!” The old dark furnishings, standing alone in the bare rooms, seem completely uninterested in any relationship with me. Yet once my personal effects have been set about on these pieces, it’s as if they begin to reflect whatever I feel at any given time. When I’m cheerful, they, too, look cheerful to me. When I’m lost in a pondering mood of sadness and regret, they seem as bereft as I am.

I ponder what I will write today on my laptop, which rests on a small square of table a few feet away, behind the back of the old sofa at the front of the room. But first, it’s my swimming day, and I must pack up my swim gear, along with my purse, in a large shopping bag. My owner Joe will give me a ride to the pool. We’ll get into his huge red truck, and as I step way up to my seat, I’ll reach for the grab bar and hope for the best.

I swim in an old but rather beautiful pool, with a strange light-filled canopy for a ceiling, something like an airplane hangar. Feels good in there. Afterwards I’ll walk to a bus stop on the main road. It will take me to a co-op market down the way. I’m a member there. I’ll buy my food supplies, and then I‘ll sit in our deli kitchen by the great front windows with a tuna sandwich in a gluten-free wrap, looking out to the peaks of the Organ Mountains — which block us safely off from the turbid, unnatural life of the cities to the east.

I’ll ponder some notes on the memoir I’m writing — and my new letter-to-the-editor. The Bulletin printed last week a letter of mine on what it means to be poor in this county, and I’m composing a column for the same paper on the soup kitchen where I volunteer. In child poverty, New Mexico ranks dead last among the states. Why are we so poor here? Why is this country so poor? Some of us think we know, actually, but we have to keep reminding ourselves.

HEY, I’ve wiped my counter once more, and I’m going out the door, but wait — where are my eyeglasses? Wha-at? I don’t see them anywhere; but back inside, I pull back the spread in the bedroom and find that I’ve made them up in the bed again!
Too much pondering — and too little mindfulness. ##

Reader, what do you ponder? Would you care to say?

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