Saturday, September 29, 2012

Regaling Arugula . . . . . . .88:1001

This week, I'm sure I'm a Druid.

Many reasons.  Mom is a pyromaniac. No one who knows her thinks I'm kidding. Liked to go into the woods with a beer, a hot dog, and her dog / cat retinue and light big fires.  This act has all the Druidic bells and whistles: mind-altering drink; hot dogs / sacrifice; dog/cat whatever; big fires.  And then there is her general Gallic personality.  And Grandma Sassenger.   And Dad's share of shaman DNA, from Wales and South Carolina.   I'm in.

Supporting this argument, The Facts: I compulsively compost organic material, from onion skins to tree limbs, knowing I will go to hell if this ritual is not religiously followed.  My Immaculate Conception Garden (detailed a few posts back) is living proof of my Druidic Universe Entanglement.  The Virgin Mary statue left guarding my garden over the years has attracted a fine following of un-husbandry type yields.  That is, they don't get planted, they just grow.  Is that Virgin, or What?  And....I just finished a quickie mind-candy novel on druids in Hibernia.  And other things . . . . . . .  Although these mystic feelings, when they stir, make me feel guilty like I'm cheating on Carl Sagan/ ultimate Real Science person: they stir.

But the big thing THIS week that convinces me of my Druidic bent is the Arugula In The Yard.   This summer was nasty, hot, and dry.  I gave up on the flora denizens of my yard.  They were on their own.  I thought we should all just give up and die.  But no.  THEY struggled on.

The grass died.  The weeds thrived.  My never-been-planted-by-Human-Hands specialty cherry tomatoes flourished.  The Blue Balls from Space Thistles increased.  The Rose of Sharon bushes, planted to screen the neighbor's kid's playhouse from me--and the Burning Bush, allowed to grow rampant to shield the other neighbors from me period---went wild.  Note: these are all Biblical type names. 

So a few days ago I allowed myself a leisurely cold six-pack whilst sitting in my pergola and observing the growth pattern of my second-year grape vines.  Not up to wine making, yet.  But while enjoying the recently reviving weather pattern, it suddenly hit me as I glanced around my teeny yard domain:  the grass was dead, but the Arugula was Growing.  In the middle of the Dead Grass.

This, I mused, is like another Resurrection.  (These--resurrections--happen in my yard all the time.)

So it seems that it would be the wiser option to embrace this unavoidable reality.  Me and the flora have an understanding.  Whether I will or not.  The Arugula seems to have sent the SIGN that it will take over the formerly wasted space where dubious grass grew.  IT has decided to thrive through old growth/ dead growth grass, and who knows how in the hell it got there in the first place. I have indeed planted Arugula in the past, and may have neglected to dispose of it's discarded, past-peak progeny immediately in isolated conatiners.  That is, I might have left it's clearings laying all over the yard when it was at its seed peak.  I don't remember doing that, but hey.  It Lives.  Nay, It Thrives.  What The.

Friends are uneasy about the whole mystic revelation thing, as manifested by their reaction to Arugula in gift bags to them.  "Are you sure," they politely inquire when I tell them where it came from, "that this is Arugula, and not some deadly poisonous weed that your yard is trying to kill people with?"  They can accept my reassurances. Or not.  I Know.

I have not put any chemicals on the yard since it became mine, purchasing the house over a decade ago.  This means:  I have organic dandelions growing everywhere.  ORGANIC dandelionn GREENS.

Uh-Huh.  I can give up doing other stuff, follow the lead of my flora friends, and become an ageing hippied organic salad dispenser.    The whole green thing in my yard renews constantly if I bother to mow it; newly sprouted Arugula and Dandelion Greens could be mine ALL YEAR.  Who in the heck needs a yard of grass, with the power of druidic flora behind them? 

With a deck of Tarot cards in my hand-- 'cause as a linguist/artist/ musician I do Symbols like Nobody's Business--this could be a package. 

I cannot ignore the role of the The Virgin's Chipped Plaster Statue in my garden, in the decidedly increasingly interesting twist to my involuntary Druidic investment.  Which statue's presence I think has added to the pot of interesting and wildly independent growth patterns in my yard/ garden.  The Virgin is, some believe, the vestigial Catholic Christian nod to Gaea/ Earth Mother religions, quashed milleniaium ago by jealous type male chauvinists.  To the Druidic worship of all life.

Arugula, beautiful name, beautiful smell, beautiful taste, growing in my yard.  I'm going to till up the entire side of my pergola facing my teeny garage and devote it to the Magic Arugula next spring.  Next Spring; the hope of every true Druid, the call of every wild garden, and wild gardener.  The promise of rebirth, the lure of fantasy, the call of the wild.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Feeling It . . . . . .. >100:1,001

Talked to Mom today, for the first time in a few weeks.  We live 600 miles apart.  Six hundred miles is about the right distance for most of my nuclear family to have between them.  There are many reasons for this, but most of them are difficult to nail down and talk about.  I'm convinced it's true, however, that it's a good idea.  A psychologist I once visited on a regular basis told me that it was, and I believed him. 

Still, it sometimes seems hard to keep safely away from nuclear family.   Who else can you turn to for some kind of confimation about your life overview?  Mom, for instance, is 90 years old, and an inspiration for growing old and keeping active.  I can only hope I have inherited her consitution and vigor.  I love my Mom, and she loves me.  In her way.  It's just that a family is not always what it is expected to be, or rather what Beaver Cleaver would have had us believe it should be, some decades agon on his popular and mythical TV show.

Mom and I had a good talk on the phone.  We both live alone, we both garden, we both love cats, and we think alike about a lot of things. Sometimes I think we get along so much better now that we're both older.  My father passed away 2 years ago, Mom survived a bout of breast cancer, me and my siblings all moved far from the nest and have had our own lives for years.  We aren't all in each other's face.  We've all gotten past some invisible barrier to peaceful co-existence.  I think.

But none of this is really what I mean.  What I mean is:  sometimes we love people, and don't know how to love them.  What I mean is, sometimes people change, and understand things that were never in their universe before a certain point in time.  Sometimes, when you get older, you become a different person. 

Mom is a good example, to me, that Second Chances happen at any age.   That's good to know.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Requiem for Red Rose . . . . . . 1001:76

Woke up this morning and made tea with the cheap brand I have used for years. It's always been a good-enough tea for morning, although I have strayed into other, more exotic brands freely when not at home or when gifted.  Besides, my old tea company has nice little ceramic collectible figures inside the boxes, which I am hooked on.  And I used to live in Canada, and the tea is popular there.  The tea is also cheap and, I used to believe, tasty enough to greet the morning. 

Sadly, this morning's cup of tea just didn't do it for me.  And I know why.  I've been cheating.  In an inexplicable act of self-indulgence, I found and bought a large-sized box of Twinings English BreakfastTea a month or so ago.  It wasn't one of the smaller boxes with like 20 teabags.  Oh no, this was one of those serious boxes, like Lipton or Spartan comes out with, with 40 or more teabags.  (Spartan has a place in my heart because they do NOT use staples on their tea bags, and I can throw the whole thing, string/bag/used tea leaves in compost without worrying about staples invading the garden soil.)  Enough bag-time to get me hooked.  Its nice, and one bag brews really, really strong, the way I like it.   It's also pricier than the Other brand.   No brainer, though.  I want my tea, and I want it strong and tasty. (I admit that I am a lazy tea-drinker and only use recyclable and more easily adjusted tea-balls sometimes.  I feel guilty about that.)

So I'll give up my ceramic figurine collecting, drink fewer cups (good idea, anyway, before I become a Tea Granny), and upgrade the at-home tea.  Maybe not the at-work tea, . . .

It's true you can't go back. 

(Short post!  I did a short post!! I can do this!)

Madonna and the Immaculate Conception Vines 1001:75

I Am A Slob Gardener.

I used to be an Upright Kind of Gardener: plant seeds and water them and tend them tenderly.
Now: plants plant themselves, elbow aside weeds, and have to be 100% drought resistant to survive.
Amazingly, the plants that make their home in my garden do all those things.  They are Ultimate Survivors.  I attribute this miraculous garden to three things.

First, the line from Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum says "Life will find a way" refers to the cloned dinosaurs' ability to procreate, despite the odds.  This line also applies to my garden.    It finds a way.  Relentlessly and amazingly.

Second, there is a statue in my garden of Mary, Mother of God.  It was left by the previous owner of my house,  when I purchased it over a decade ago.  Although I am not Catholic, I felt she had squatter's rights, and she has genially stood guard in the garden for all these years.  I can't help but feel she has had a positive influence.  Note the healthy growth vying to snuggle up to her.  These plants just showed up, lacking any kind of gardening husbandry, which adds to my theory that if she can conceive immaculately, so can the garden.

Third is my quirkish philosophy that every organic material that enters my house has a right to return to the earth.  So I compost in a bin I sometimes maintain in the back garden, or--shortcut--throw stuff in the garden to rot.  Thereby hangs a tale. The little pumpkin in the photo above has a family tree:  "Mama" was a decorative pumpkin purchased from Busch's groceries.  When Mama lived out a long and useful existence decorating my classroom last year, I brought it home and tossed it in the garden.  And forgot about it.  This spring, when some vines started growing in the general vicinity, I didn't know what it was--all those vines look alike--but was hoping that I'd tossed a watermelon there.  A month ago, they manifested in their true form, and the whole lineage became clear.  So I will have some cute little pumpkins to put in my classroom again this year.  But no watermelons, sadly.  Or pattypan squash, yum.  Although the cucumber vine I have been waiting on all hot, dry summer to show something for its nice foliage DID finally come up with . . . a zucchini.  My fault.  I actually planted this one.

The other vines clinging to the Virgin are cherry tomatoes.  I think cherry tomatoes are in line, right behind cockroaches, to survive nuclear holocaust.  They have incredible survival rates.  These tomatoes, I'm pretty sure, originated many years ago from some cherry tomatoes my Dad sent home with me from the farm in Illinois.  The leftover/rotten ones of which eventually got tossed in my garden.  Since that time, cherry tomatoes have dominated my garden landscape, and I haven't planted a SINGLE ONE.  Much as witchgrass dominates my yard.  "Multiply and be fruitful " are words straight from the Bible, extremely well illustrated by the cherry t's, and appropriate to their locale next to the Virgin.

So my Lazy Gardener persona--didn't Buddha have a few irresponsible incarnations?--does, actually, give me a great deal to philosophize about, buttresses my spirituality, and gives me good stories.  As well as usable produce. The neighbors aren't impressed by my trailer-trash landscaping, but they will never know, with their chemically treated yards and climate controlled plantings (they actually sprinkle their yards, because they can), the Miracle of the Unplanted Garden. 

And then there are the Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans, which are maybe behind cherry tomatoes and cockroaches for Apocalypse Survival.......  Slob Gardeners are surrounded by Wonder.

 Note:  the little white patches on the pumpkin vine leaf are crushed eggshells from the ducks and chickens in my backyard neighbors' coop.  I get a dozen organic/free range chicken/duck eggs once a month, delivered to my door, by Nina and Amelia, for which I recompense them $6, which my Mom thinks is Horrible and Ridiculous.  The shells are like neighbors, so I can't just throw them in the trash, and they go the Throw Them In The Garden route that non-composted organic material follows at my place. 

Disclaimer:  I really don't believe the shells will grow into eggs, but if they do, I will write a sequel to Jurassic Park.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inter-related ness . . . . . . a lot +1; 1001

Mulberry, Rose of Sharon, and Mystery Treelet Universe
I worry about my yard sometimes.  It is full of weeds, right now.  It is also full of trees, bushes, vines, perennials, and annuals.  All of which have struggled into existence during the years I’ve held sway over our dominion.   Our dominion is full of random occurrences, orderly progression, luck, work, mistakes, and beauty.  We are working out how to get along with each other. My yard is a working relationship. in progress.
My yard is a small universe.

What I worry about is that someday all of us life forms that support each other in this micro-mini universe will have to make way for bigger things.  Like somebody who buys my house when I’m too old to take care of it will tear it all down and that will be that. 

Stars are born and stars die.

There is a towering young  mulberry tree in the corner of my yard.  It fireballed into existence out of some random bird droppings several years ago, hidden from notice in its corner until it reached a respectable height.  A puny six-foot sapling that has chutzpah is hard for me to take out.  Because of its determination to live a chancy and ill-placed existence, it sneaked into the gravitational pull of my heart.   It’s now a big tree, providing shade and bird food and jelly fruits.   It was not a planned thing.  Some people, my mom included, call mulberry trees “weed trees.”  They drop  really sweet purplish fruit all over the ground, which stains everything , including bird poop.  And I really love that tree.

Galaxies born and galaxies die.

There is a row of Rose of Sharon bushes along my back fence.  I carefully planted 6 of them, mixed white and purple and red, when they were scraggly twigs on sale at Home Depot.   They were so happy to get out of their root-bound pots, I remember.  That was 6 years ago.  They’ve grown into a sizeable hedge between me and my neighbor’s kid’s ugly plastic playset.  They are in bloom now, and so pretty.  They spread their branches in a growth pattern, reaching out to each other, and to the mulberry tree, and to some other little tree which has grown up out of an old stump nearby.  The stump-treelet is random, but interesting, and I’m waiting to see what it turns out to be.  The reaching-out to each other is something trees do, with a specific name: canopying.  Trees grow purposefully towards each other.  They support each other, shading each other’s root systems.  Sharing information.  I love the galaxy of shrubs and trees in my yard.  They shelter each other and the yard and me, in shared and interdependent life.

The universe was born, and the universe will die.

Sometimes I think I shouldn’t plant any more things, in case they are left on their own.  I’ve left houses before, as I’ve moved around.  Frequently, new owners will pull up everything, including big trees, and mark their territory so to speak with new plantings.  Like spoils of war.  So to eliminate that false hope that my mulberry might live to be a hundred—as it could under ideal conditions—I  should maybe never have encouraged it. 

But then I think, hey, look around.  Everything in the world, and out of the world, is born and dies.  Some have very long happy lives, but quite a few have short or violent ones.  It’s unreasonable and defeating to throw in the towel to avoid an ending.  What the universe and my yard have in common must be that they began, randomly and with headstrong will.  They exist.  For now.

I resolve to not worry about my yard’s future.  I’ll enjoy my mulberry weed random tree as long as we both shall live together.  And we’ll  enjoy our universe.

 (For further reading on stars and life, check out: Carl Sagan’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My First Day of School. . . . a lot: 1001

A long time ago, when I was a child, a really long time ago, I lived one cornfield away from my school.  Our family was the closest family to the school.  Other students lived several miles away, and got to ride the bus.  If, the Gods of School District 159 decreed, you lived less than a quarter mile from the school you had to get there on your own.  The cornfield stretched for less than a quarter mile.  Therefore one of the big regrets I had about grades 1-8 (no kindergarten or middle school) was not getting to ride the bus.  All the other kids did, and I thought it was the greatest thing to do.  BUT disappointing transportation issues aside, I loved school.  It was the most exciting social aspect of life as I knew it. I've gone to school off and on ever since.

But you never forget your first day.

Mom  had a small house full of 5 kids.  I was #4, and she probably smelled 'freedom' with 4 kids in school.  I was born on the cusp of school attendance deadlines, so Mom didn't think twice.  I started First Grade at 5 years old, having no idea what school was, except my older brother Kenneth--who also told me that the old gray cat dug in the sandbox to get to China--told me that school was horrible.  Kenneth has turned out pretty well, a hugely friendly, outgoing, and canny guy who can do a mean BBQ for a company of soldiers or a VFW full of townspeople.  But he flunked First Grade early on in life and had no love for school after that.  He, too, was a deadline birthday, and Mom had figured out that the sooner one more child was out of the house, the emptier the house would be. 

My first day of school, I was decked out in a dress which Mom made, of course.  She is a great seamstress, with a good eye for decorating.  She made all of our clothes when we were little, except the underwear.  For Christmas, when we were older, the girls got material instead of clothes.  I longed for a real store-bought anything for years.  But my first day of school I had no knowledge of fashion.  I just really liked the way my big tied bow flew behind me as I rode on the back of my brother's bike.  He said, "Now hold on tight and don't let go," because despite the fact he had to take his little sister to school on his bike in front of his friends, he was a kindly big brother.  He was in 8th grade then, having fared better in all the grades after First.

That's really all I remember about the Big Day.  Flying behind my big brother on his bike to an unknown destination which had been given some bad press.  But I went with a happy heart and innocent expectation.  Although many of my school years I was so painfully shy of other students that I only looked at my feet all day, I was a good student.  Learning came easy to me, and it gave me a sense of belonging which made up for a lot. Now I teach school. I still love it.

So I'm prepping for another September.  Buying some new (store bought) clothes, writing up syllabi, hooking up with the other teachers who've scattered to families and vacations and personal business all summer.  My students come from many countries.  They are adults. They, and I, live in a large metropolitan area.  I've checked my online roster for classes, and reading the names I wonder what the people behind them will be like.  Most, I'm sure, will be nervous and excited.  When I walk in the classroom the first day, I will be happy to meet them.  To my advantage, I still love being there, still love learning, and got over the shy thing a decade or so ago. 

I plan for them to have a good memory, many years from now, of their first day in class.  Whether their transportation is memorable or not is out of my hands.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Doing It Right . . . . 1001;89

Today's Goals:  (2 goals are about right per day, to get ONE done and ONE thought about.)

1. Order some REALLY GOOD shoes before school starts and I spend 8 hours a day on feet..
2. Move Massive Sofa to the Nether Regions towards the ongoing goal of eliminating visual and spatial clutter.  Which eliminates mental clutter by default.

1. Shoes (Then):  Not so long ago, I wore cheap shoes with abandon, and going barefoot was fun. 
Shoes (Now): looking forward to spending big bucks on luxury and comfort.  Deficient arches, hard wear, and random universe actions all seem to create potential foot pain. Must be dealt with, since feet take me places and can make life difficult for ankles, knees, hips, etc..
Lesson learned:  ageing body malfunctions sneak up on us, a little at a time.  By the time you notice them as more than an annoyance, they are usually right In Your Face.  When you feel twinges anywhere, keep an eye out for future problems. Feet are Important, don't mess with them, put them in comforting and supportive environments while there is Still Time.
What I do differently now:  Shoes with lower heel, more arch support, higher price tags. More red shoes. Splurge on comfort with good conscience.

2. Sofa (Then):  It's comfortable burgundy bulk has held down the living room floor and reputation for years, in good form.  It's a good sofa. The cats love to flop on its broad back.
Sofa (Now): No fault of Ms. Sofa, but I'm suffering from a deep need to move stuff around in my life.  Burgundy, cordouroy, massive, and "too much" spatial /visual stuff; Must Be Ousted.  The sofa's immediate future is to be suitably mated to TV, which lives in basement. 
Lesson learned: ousting stuff is exhausting.  Reminds me to Not Get Stuff to oust, i.e. live on minimal stuff already extant in household.  Note for other stuff to move or toss: floor sleeps just fine with single futon mattress. Watch out, Bed.
What I do differently now  Moving furniture requires more careful forethought, including removing doors/ rails/ sofa feet before moving.

Tomorrow's Goals:  Think up a couple more goals to check off before Summer ends and life changes into Fast-Paced and Filled Up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

First and Second (Family) Chronicles....55:1001

Raglan Castle, Monmouth, Wales
Recently,in sync with getting old and pushing the boundaries of longevity, the idea of resurrection has been in my head.  Resurrection: re-creation;spanning future/ present/ past; beyond the moment; eternal.  I've decided that  resurrection has many forms. 

Grandparent-hood, I've decided, is a form of resurrection.  The world is re-created from the perspective of a very small person. Watching the assembling of a life gives me reason to keep contributing towards the future, restores my belief in Good and Possiblity  (Sandboxes and Resurrections).  And Grandparent-hood means my DNA is out there, physically being born, over and over.  (Or at this point, just "over." Get going, kids).  It means that body / soul,  past / present are contributing to a Future.  And, just as important in timeflow, children are because the past was.

Recently I found another kind of resurrection--geneaology. The Connection Resurrection, I call it.  The  Old Testament books of Chronicles I and II, and all the genealogical lists in the Old/New Testament, list: ancestors.  Specifically enlightening in my newest theological interest has been the nifty website:   I plugged into information and stories and family like I never knew before. Bingo, jackpot, Eyes Wide Open, Research Heaven, Mormon Geneaological Library, Marriage/Death/ Birth Certificates, Census rolls, photographs, stories.  It's official:

I Belong.  

To a long list of DNA.  To a slew of ancestors.  Ancestors who have always been there, and ever will be.  Theres no denying them.  They are Me.  I found a distant (living) relative while googling my father's family name.  He casually opened a door for me which will never close.  I know where  I (parts of me) came from.  I infer from the sheer mass of forebears I found that the odds are good I'll go to somewhere (parts of my DNA will).  I'm a little nexus of my personal little eternity. I am drowned in an ocean of Others Who Are Me.  Looking Backward and Forward (to descendants now forming),  I am Not Alone.

This is a good place to thank iconic American author Thornton Wilder (Our Townfor illustrating this idea in his book Theophilus North.   In a very small part of the story, Wilder wrote about an archaeology student who, on a summer intern dig in Italy, had helped uncover an ancient Roman road.  The student recalled finding the paved road, covered by centuries of earth.  He thought about the thousands of travelers on that road, who had purpose and destinations and cares and joys, and who were now long dead.  The student's comment in the book was that, after that moment, he never again feared death.  All of the people in the world who had died before him, suddenly became real to him. He became part of them.  Life and Death became seamless.

Ancestors do that. Through that distant (living) relative dug up on Google, I unearthed 500 years of a family who survived, suffered, found love /hate/joy/pain and did everything weak little humans do.  And who--to a man and to a woman and to a child--died.  This is liberating.  All those people whose existence points right down to me--and to any who come after me.  I am grateful. I am awed. Two important components of religion.

The Old Testament chronicles, cultures that revere lineage, ancestor worship: looking beyond metaphor, I get it.  They have died, and I exist. Inclusive patterning.

Overwhelming.  Easy.

Balance ...........1,001; 68.5

Woke up this morning in my comfy bed, feeling uncharacteristically cheerful.  This may have been linked to the aspirin I took last night to ease aching muscles due to some age-inappropriate yard work yesterday.  Whatever the cause of this great windfall of optimistm, I lay in bed reveling in The Happy, smiling at the lazy overhead fan, newly painted wall, sun-filtered curtains in the bedroom, and tolerating the cat bumped up against my leg.

I spent some time thus employed--not moving body while mind raced through personal universe at the speed of a Higgs-Bosun particle.  So it was that the pleasant Living in the Moment thoughts eventually wandered over to my other mood: the Dark Side.  The Dark side is not amenable to maintaining a cheerful morning outlook, but it pops in as it will.  So as cat #2 hopped up to join the party and ask for food, I peered into my personal void.  I thought of a friend who is worried about a basal cell melanoma he had removed a week ago and wonder if he got word on its cancerous potential.  I reflected on the strained relationship I have with one of my children, feeling emotionally helpless.  I wondered if the bugs, frogs, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, maybe possums in my backyard were getting enough moisture during the horrendous heat and drought, or if they were accessing the rag-tag collection of bowls and dishes and baths of water I scattered around.  Feeling the weight of this world, I had a cry, disturbing both kitties.  I believe (when not participating in the actual act of crying) that it is excellent tension release.  This morning, I accepted that Happy Thoughts and Dark Thoughts were both in my head.  There is room for both. I decline Giddy and I decline Wrecked.  They both exist and, I made up my mind, they can share space. They can Balance in my life.

So in about 15 minutes jumbled between sheets and kitties, I was called to Joy and Sunlight, went through What the Hell is My Life About, and back to Furballs Who Love and Want Breakfast.  I decided to go forth and face the day, with warm furry bodies and innocent expectation of good.  Their form of love is trusting me:to provide for them.  Provide: daily breakfast treat, regular food, clean water, clean litterbox, daily excursions into the great outdoors, and the occasional rubbing of head and back.  Their form of grief is being ignored all day, not getting breakfast treat, and getting bored.  They demonstrate an accessible lesson in balance.

So before rolling my spiritual and corporeal self off the bed and towards the Light and Fridge to retrieve spitiual nourishment for the Feline Ministry Mission, my form of prayer this morning (my 90 year old Mom regularly informs me she prays every morning, ergo I should pray every morning, so in recogntion of being thought-of daily I accede to her directive in the form of Thinking Thoughts) was to take joy in this moment of my life, recognize the equal amount of grief in other moments of my life, and go forth in balance. 

I reflected, I felt, I conquered.  I balanced the good and bad.  I balanced outlook, cats, and Mom in one fell swoop. 

Great way to start the day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Good Day ...... 68:1001

News Flash: Grandchildren are a total body workout.

Early one morning, The Grandchild was delivered to my door with foldup crib, stroller, and baby bag. To celebrate, I made blueberry pancakes, because she loves blueberries.  I loaded her into the high-chair.  But alas, she was not interested in the pancakes.  She made this clear by averting her head and staring over her shoulder until hated proffered food was removed from her immediate vicinity.  Other choices were placed before her.  She accepted several spoons of peanut butter (smooth, no sodium, no anything except peanuts).  PB is excellent for getting on and staying on small spoons, and she is working on that.   Additionally, the blueberries which were roaming free and not inside pancakes were readily eaten.

After breakfast lost its luster, I unloaded her from the high chair, and we moved outside into the sun.  Holding hands (her hand, my finger), we took a Walk around the yard and determined that the grass was still there.  All the bricks were in order.  The dog next-door barked.  The Zombie Walk (side-to-side Frankenstein waddle of small legs just learning the art)  was practiced on turf, cement blocks, ashphalt drive, and even/uneven bricks.  The exciting garden hose filled the blue plastic pool with exciting water. 

Before we could get to Bubble-Blowing 101, though, it was NapTime.  Back into the house, preceded by one of the two cats (the brave one). A tall sippy-cup of milk, a book with pictures, and a disagreement about being left alone ensued.  Nap time came hard, but it came.  During the lull,  I disposed of dirty diapers, cleaned up bottles and dishes and toys, made real  mashed potatoes, and fell onto the sofa.  I haven't slung a growing baby in a few decades, and my body reminds me of this. 

She woke up in due time.  I picked her up and cuddled her to ease wake-up.  She weighs around 22 lbs. now, I think, but its hard not to pick her up and hold her at any opportunity. We assembled a selection of healthy food and ate outside under the pergola. 

 Food is tremendous fun with babies.  Its like that old television commercial where the 2 little boys say, "Lets give it to Mikey! Mikey will eat it!"  Babies will try most things you offer them, and make their preferences clear.  But every food in the world is a new adventure. The hand-crafted potatoes were a bust on this day.  Little frozen peas were popular--they, like blueberries, are little balls, which must have something to do with it.  The no-sodium garbanzo beans--also ball-shaped--were not even fully inserted into mouth before being ignored.  Protein source was, again, peanut butter.  I'll have to try her on tofu next time. To signal the end of lunch, she began to squash peas and smear PB around on things.

Post-lunch, we tossed stones in the swimming pool.  The brave cat beguiled her. The less brave cat jumped over the fence. After our fill of stone-tossing, we took a trip to Home Depot (which all babies adore), and checked out hardware and plants.  While observing the world from her stroller, she polished off 2/3 of a little box of raisins.  She likes the raisins because of the little box, I think, as much as their gummy tiny-ness.  Then it was home again, giving me the opp to load and unload her from her car seat again  (did I mention loading and unloading her stroller?) (coming and going?). 

Diaper-change time. I let her run around butt-naked while I emptied poo into the toilet and set-up the travel crib.  The nice cool breeze on little bums has to feel good when stuck in wet paper all day.  Before I could think "Puddle," though, she had Zombie-Walked into the living room and watered the little rug in front of her toy drawers.  The act of diddling didn't visibly impress her; she continued to check out Mr. Slinky in the middle drawer without missing a beat.  I mopped up and decided she could still run around butt-naked while I ran her bath, since she was emptied out.

She wasn't emptied out.  This time, though, she noticed what she was doing.  I like to think I assisted in concept formation, here: wet stuff falls between legs and feels wetter than when wearing diaper. I cleaned it up again, off the bare wood floor since the rug was in the laundry now.  When I tossed the cleanup stuff and came back to insert half-naked baby in bath, said half-naked baby had done another little tinkle, and seemed very interested in this one.  I scooped her up and into the tub for a rinse, not really caring if she tinkled again at this point.  Neither of us would notice since the tinkle part was already submerged. 

We got clean and settled in for a read and a good tall milk.  She rubbed her eyes and did not want to be put down on the floor to wander around, always a sure sign of Tired Baby.  I let her flip the remote for the television for a bit, and when that lost its shine I carried her into the Death Dungeon ( a.k.a. Room with Crib).  She immediately recognized the danger and wailed, adding huge and plentiful tears.  Grandma, however, was pretty darned tired at this point, and gently laid her in the incarceration facility with a blanket and a Wolfie, and tiptoed out the door so the floor creaks wouldn't be heard over the loud and heartbreaking screams.

Without much shame, I flung myself on the sofa and waited for the cries of a soul in purgatory to abate.  Then I checked and made sure she hadn't suffocated under the blanket.  Then I gathered as many of her scattered and essential possessions as I could into easily transported bundles. After supper, a guitar practice session was slated for me, so I loaded guitar, music bag, toy bag and food bag into the car. 

Did I mention I'm old? 

I showered quickly, and finished just as a little head popped over the rail of the crib, sleepy but ready to assert self-will. Then I lifted an awake but foggy baby into my arms, and reassured her that the world was still good, the kitties were still nearby.  For supper, the favorite was, again, spoonfuls of organic, no-sodium PB, so you know that is really healthy stuff and I just handed over a big glob for her to put her spoon in, with the rest of the blueberries on the side.  She thoughtfully chewed and sucked on several spoons of PB.  I orchestrated final car-loading arrangements, including her.  She is well-versed in being loaded and unloaded into her car seat, and actually helps by reaching up, down, twisting.  Baby Car Seat Loading is my workout for lower back and arm extension.

Fully loaded and with the remaining raisins in hand, we drove off leaving the cats behind.  We disembarked at a dark, interior, studio-type setting, where four noisy strangers were busy playing guitar, mandolin, percussion, and voice.  Loudly.  She was mesmerized for almost an hour, in her stroller, hitting the apple juice heavily while absorbing the scene.  But then her quintessentially Good Baby personality got restless, and I brought her onstage with us.  She stood clinging to my leg for a while, I held her for a while, and she sorted guitar picks and thumb picks and finger picks in a little tin box for a while.  Then she played the tambourine and danced and got a little braver, and then it was finally time to go. 

Grandma loaded guitar, baby, stroller, music, and self back into trunk and car.  I drove slowly into the sunset, took her home, and unloaded most of the above.  I handed the prize baby over to Daddy, flopped into my car, drove home and unloaded myself and remaining articles.  I felt about a hundred years old, and vowed to work out between baby sitting sessions.

It was a good day.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Looking Back, and Forward .....1001:56

It's been a year or so since I started blogging on the topic of "Growing Old."  My goal: write a post-a-day of personal observations, until reaching the magic number 1,001.  This would've taken 3 years at the Scheherazade rate of "1 story per day."  I aimed to "Inform, Enlighten, and Cheer"  about the road to ageing. 

Time to review Goals.  I still want to I, E and C.  But writing regularly, as any writer knows, brings its own personality into the mix.  The writing itself arranges some things, and I try not to stand in the way.

First Goal Review: although I see a definite advantage in disciplining myself to write every day, it's easiest to write when the muse moves me.  This decision quashed the post-a-day thing, but preserved the joy-in-writing thing.  It will take longer than 3 years, but I'm still shooting for all 1001.  I'll never make professional writing status with such a lack-a-daisical attitude, but maybe I'll manage daily writing (a.k.a. chairbound) for when I can't move around much anymore.  Something to look forward to, provided I can still keyboard.

An unanticipated bonus Goal is, obviously, honing my writing skills.   Writing, like anything else, can be constantly analyzed and improved.  My writing goals now include: trying to move beyond my trademark heavy-philosophical-sociological-Latinate-Madeline L'Engle/ Carl Sagan-worldview to Simple Statements.  Whittling down Great Thoughts to manageable proportions.  Alternating sentence sizes.  Short is Good.  Edit, edit, edit.  And all those goals slide from the belly of the Beast of Practice, Practice, Practice. 

Also, because I love to write and it makes me happy, the Goal of joining a writing community manifested itself.  I recently joined a local writers group.  Feedback is good.  I anticipate benefits on ideas and publishing, as well as a new community to enrich my life.  Relatives come and go, but communities hang around.

Finally, the blog has invested in me as I have in it.  It's given back the interest I've put into it, like a reflecting mirror. An essence of ageing well is embodied, for me just by the act of writing this blog: doing things you love keeps you on your toes, involved, and most of all it keeps you happy to be you.  That is the best advice I can possibly give myself about ageing, or living.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sandboxes and Resurrections

When my son was born 33 years ago, I was a young and very inexperienced mother.  He was born in December, the day I put up the Christmas Tree.  Foremost in my thoughts that season: "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Child is given."  It was like having Baby Jesus in my home, and the story was a comfort to me.

Thirty-three years later--last Christmas--I held my son's baby daughter and reminded him of that story.   His smile as he looked at his personal little Christ Child was, undeniably, beatific. 

Yesterday I sat with Lila, all of 15 months old now, in her new sandbox.  Her Dad set it up a few days ago: the nifty, ubiquitous, green plastic Turtle Sand Box replete with Moat and Lid.  Under the shade of a big tree growing up through the wooden deck, she and I sat and Explored Life.  Sifters, cups, and dippers of sand.  How sand feels on feet, in hands, how it pours itself sweetly onto all things. We tasted sand (well, she did, a little).  We dropped things in the moat, and poured water in the sand.  A trio of squirrels ran through the tree and across the deck, another distracting and brand -new experience.  When a good breeze nudged the tree, helicopter seeds swirled lazily down, requiring some attention.  The heavy metal wind chimes bonged dreamy angel music, without repetitive melody, no anticipated rhthyms.

We took a break from sand duty to walk through the grass--rife with more amazing distractions, including but not limited to: ants, twigs, dead grass, and rocks--to the hammock.  I put Lila on the hammock and pushed her.  She was not pleased, and wriggled her way down and out of the confining ropes.  Feet firmly on the ground, she took firm hold of the hammock and pushed it herself.  Back and forth, with concentration.  Her own unanticipated melody, not formed yet, reminding me that she is finding her notes and they don't fit my patterns.  What a kid.

What a brand new, independently activated, New World Child.
Being Grandma to the Christ Child's Child is every bit as resurrective, I find, as being the Christ Child's Mama.  The Memories of First Things, reborn with every baby, lifts and cheers.

With practice, Resurrection gets easier.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Last Tango over Gray .........1001:45

I did it.
Or, rather, Gigi did it.
Because really, she was as excited as me.

We've been in this client/ hairdresser tango for a couple years, as only those who have a deep relationship with the person who cuts their hair can know.  Our back-and-forth was on the subject of Going Gray.  We have had differing opinions.  She voted for keeping color with the hard-to-resist argument that "you're too young to go gray."  As a woman who is going gray and who strives for seeing things clearly, I felt obligated to Be Me aka Gray.  Both of us had some good points to support our views. 

Back when I turned 49, and began acquiring a few silver hairs, I gave myself the Clariol Curse.  Hair dye is like plastic surgery:  once employed, the natural course of things alters.  Things like self-image, projection, reflection, expectation.  You can skip past Inevitable and go straight to Avoidance.
But avoidance is exhausting.  I've never been a good liar because its a lot of work to keep alternate reality facts straight.  Hair color is like keeping up a charade.  Too much work, my brain needs a clear path to too many other tricky life requirements to share the cargo space with non-essentials.  Getting Older lends itself to dumping the non-essentials.

I went to my appointed round with Gigi yesterday at 4:20 p.m. for a trim.  By 5:12 p.m., I was my True Color. 

Gigi pre-empted my final moment of realization by a few months. I just wanted a quarter inch off to lose the split ends and nudge those cursed fomerly-colored horizontal stripes to oblivion.  She knows how long I've been working to Be Me, she's argued against it, she's helped cover IT, and she's heard my pros and cons for a few years.  Finally, she cheered me on, saying a few cuts back that "theres no going back now."  After all the waffling and the slow growing-out time, she wanted to see WHAT the hair would look like as much as I did.  I could've dipped my toes into the water for a few more months with just a trim.  But she shoved me in the deep end.  She clipped past the Brassy Dyed Leftovers, straight to the heart of the matter.  Which meant that my hair is shorter than I wanted it.  But it's a wrap.

Right away, it felt good.  Short.  But good.  It was a Let-Go moment.  And a Hello moment.  I like it very much.  I think that people react differently to me, in the last 24 hours.  Maybe I have acheived Eccentric Status, because being gray and acting like I usually do--abrupt--is more acceptable under gray hair than it was under dyed.  Its a whole new world, which I am happy to explore.

Gigi likes it too.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trash Amnesty..........44;1001

Great Weekend in my little burg: Trash Amnesty Day came and was celebrated with appropriate gaiety.  Once a Year, on a Saturday, on all streets, Plymouth picks up ANYTHING (almost) that you care to put out at the curb. Sofas, mattresses, kitchen cabinets, kitchen sinks, erstwhile front doors, busted up toys, intact dining sets, working and non-working TVs and appliances. Kids. Well, they aren't left at the curb, they just run back and forth in all the other stuff left at the curb. Its A Party all over town. Its The Opp to kiss all those things Goodbye that you know you should never have bought, or things that required or didn't recieve too much maintenance, or that makes you think of someone you just can't think of anymore, or that your lifestyle became to opulent to countenance any longer.  A story in every reject, there is.
I even contributed to the party this year: an old futon mattress bequeathed me by an ill-natured former renter, a busted office chair, and a wooden, hand-assembled CD shelf thingy that some well-meaning student insisted I wanted years ago.  The chair and mattress were irredeemable, but someone took the CD tower, and that is as it should be.  The Protocol of Trash Amnesty: anybody's junk is everybody's potential treasure.

As the Friday prior to TA Saturday draws towards a close, excitement picks up.  People are hauling all kinds of stuff from the depths of basements and the caverns of garages out to the public feeding ground of the residential streetside curb.  Everyone checks to see what everyone else is putting out.  Soon, traffic patterns change on the residential streets.  Trucks appear, SUVs, pulling a variety of trailers, driving slowly up and down, with people peering intently towards the curb.  The cargo-carrying vehicles pull over at likely-looking spots, sometimes 2 or 3 groups of pickers per spot, if its likely-looking enough.  Everyone is driving slowly and looking, but I notice careful driving and parking.  However, first to arrive at the targeted trash has to act quickly if there are others zeroing in.  A particularly nice chair or cabinet will draw several contenders, for example.  One year I watched a kid on a bike go for a really neat world globe, and an older picker politely stepped back from taking the same item.  There is a protocol, and I will document it one of these years, to store in the annals of Local Sociological Customs Concerning Trash.

Of course, many people profess to sneer at Trash Picking.  If something has been tossed, it cannot, they reason, have value or maybe sanitary surfaces.  Of course, this is not true.  It has simply and purely been abandoned because someone could afford to look the other way and abscond responsiblity for acquisition.  A Trash Picker is Re-Use On The Hoof.  I am certainly an advocate of Trash Picking, although I am constantly mindful of bringing THINGS home that may not have a guaranteed future at my home--even reclaimed things that merit second chances (yes, and people and cats).  I dearly love bookshelves, for instance, and weird tables; yet, I can only use so many of either of those items, no matter how interestingly they beckon me from someone's curb. 

One year, I was walking around and saw two women pull over in front of me and hoist a sofa onto their flatbed pickup truck. I offered to help, but they declined. I couldn't help but stare at the several other sofas and chairs they had loaded up at other stops. One woman saw my look, and felt she needed to explain: "We run a shelter for dogs, and they love to have sofas to hop up on." That was a good story, and one I would never have made up. I do think however, that training dogs to get up on the furniture can not enhance their adoptability. 

I try to resist.  This year, I enjoyed a long walk downtown, around town, and back home.  All along my route I checked out the Trash Picking Event, with a reserved and detached smile.  Children were jumping up and down on abandoned mattresses here and there, cheerfully squealing.  This is good for them.  Bedbugs can't be much of a risk during outdoor jumping, can they?  Adults were eyeballing discards along the streets with an eye for uniqueness and intactness.  Groups were cheerfully formed on front porches to watch the proceedings and comment on them.  Children also got to indulge in the neccesary growth development skill of Personal Acquisition, as they pulled likely-looking junk to their bosoms.  Roller skates, gumball machines (euw for sanitary there), games, books.

Ah, books.  I was walking home and all alone on the sidewalk near my feet there it was: a cardboard box full of books.  My unconscious reaction to books is always "Look."  So I did.  Immediately I saw "Birds of North America" in a nice hardback book, with completely different format than the ubiquitous Rogers book of the same name.  Without thinking, it was in my hands.  Maybe it leapt up.  Then I saw "Garden Gifts,"  a lovely picture book of flowers and still lifes, indoor and out.  Who could pass up this pretty book, which could be used for framing, coffee table, or collage purposes?  (This book was proved worthy when my grandaughter found it a few days later and promptly tore out a nice big Sunflower Scene.)  Finally, a 2 volume set of Encylopedic Dictionaries, which also leapt into my arms, which were getting pretty loaded down at this point so I stopped looking.

I trudged home with a smile on my face, the five blocks full of interesting vignettes as fellow residents gleaned the harvest and exchanged sociological rites of all kinds.  Its kind of a tribal rite thing: if you eat the heart of the sacrifice you are bonded, only this is participating in the trash kill and communion.

And the next morning, the sound of groaning, invading garbage trucks fill the early Morning After streets. The scattered remains of the Picking are gathered up and taken away, with only a lingering sense of Another Ritual Acccomplished in the air, and much emptier garages and basements in the 'hood. 

Next year, must get videos and do interviews.  This is a true sociological event, not to mention a very interesting and possibly very useful tradition.  The Art of Trash Picking, I'll call the book....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Of Hair and Self (part 3, I think).........55:1001

Self-Image is inescapable in the U.S., betwixt mirrors, mass media, and other people's opinions.  We Know Us by Reflection.  That Reflection changes over time.  If we live long enough, there are BIG changes.  It's strange  to see pictures of me now, and pictures of me from 1-59 years ago.  Did someone airbrush not only the metabolic rate, but also the bone structure?  Okay, maybe not the bone structure, just the muscle tone.

As a lifelong dedicated observer and artist of the human body, I know in my head that photos fall way short of what we look likeProjections of self to the world are far different than self-image Reflections.  Looks are composite: physical atrributes, mental attributes, driving philosophy. The way we move, groom,  turn our head, raise our eyes, smile, put one foot in front of another.  As an artist, I'm all in favor of pretty looking things, but "beautiful" is spelled i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g, defined as many small things.

Of course, photos are easier for quick reference.

It's not possible to know ourselves, the way someone who loves us--or is otherwise forced to see us everyday--can know us.  But photos are an accepted way to satisfy our curiousity about our image.  Photos can be manipulated to our advantage. We can cover up our feet, our gut, fix our teeth.  We can do some useful things to hair, too, for a Captured Moment.  Ancient Egypt seems like a practical cultural model for hair, with shaved heads and wigs.  And whether in History or in photos, hair is an up-front Big Alteration to Self Image when we get old.  For better or worse, Hair-Image invokes our sexuality.  Going Gray = Losing Reproductive Sexuality.  I, personally, like to think it moves us along to another kind of sexuality, maybe Maturely ProvidentOr something. I'd say Grateful, but that's age non-specific.

Yeah, hair Gauges the Changes.  In college, early 70's, I escaped from childhood home perms to Hair Freedom.  Under room-mate tutelage,  my natural curl grew wild, without controlling hair spray, rollers or other popular diversions of the era.  Later in life I moved on to electric stuff, rollers, rods.  Did some time with hair brushes and blowers.  Went into a Let It Be stage again.  And someday I'll look back and gauge how my hair stage, today, compares.

Alfred Lord Tennyson advised poetically in Ulysses, " Let us row then to the West, for something yet remains . . . . "  I apply this advice to my hair.   It's not dead yet. There are still interesting things it could do, despite being old.   Like: since my favorite trusted hair stylist is taking a road trip (again) the hair has grown a little longer (in horizontal stripes of New Gray and Old Brassy Dyed).  So,  feeling  Tennysonian the other day, I twisted it into a clip and a 60's French Twist.  I documented this foray into Self-Image with a picture.  I do not love the camera, and it does not love me.  I have to trust you a lot with a camera in your hands.

My favored spot to capture me is in front of the bathroom mirror, where I can see the image captured in the camera viewer reflected in the mirror.  (Future literary analysis: Reflected Reflection Projection.).  Also, that spot is where I designatedly think about what I look like, while brushing teeth, checking for puffiness and Bed Hair   Total Disclaimer: Due to fortunate DNA, and to Mom's incredible Luck--which I did not inherit but which covers me under her policy--I am grateful for the many years I've miraculously stayed alive.  I'm grateful I have all my limbs, I can see (with help), I can walk, I can talk, I haven't had major crippling diseases or accidents.  I've had good nutrition and shelter, all my life.  I know a lot of people who have not had my Great Good Health and Luck.  I only bemoan my personal pimple-sized vanity problems because I also know people who vacation in Hawaii and get plastic surgery.  And my World View is schizophrenic, biased, and clouded.  in front of my favorite shower stall.

So I check out my current Something Yet Remains photo, kindly.  What's new?  I have a covert look to my eyes, loss of innocence having occurred on a daily basis for 60 years. But I look capable of teaching English because of innocence-loss Acquired Knowledge, possibly manifesting in that piercing blue-eyed gaze.  Said eyes are back in the saddle with eyeglasses these days, but they are both still in place and functioning.  The famous Old Neck Look is here to stay--but neck still rotates nicely.  The cheekbones look good in 3/4 profile, some character, yeah.  Facial muscles are shifting, downward.  The Gray is good, feels honest, blends with age spots on skin. 

Yep, that is an older woman than I saw last bathroom photo session.  But I like her. Outside the photo, I happen to know she has my sense of humor.  We can do some Tennyson-ing together. We can be friends.

 Heres a great article on image, including IQ, EQ, MQ, and BQ!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Food Chain State of Mind (1,001: 39, maybe?)

When Dad was in his 70s, his robust physicality went south with a bang.  World War II shrapnel and years on construction jobs contributed to his chronic back problems.  Persistent nasal polyps required repeated and painful surgery.  He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but elected to not have surgery;  he successfully co-existed with that particular predator on his body for over a decade.  And about the same time as all these other battles were occurring, he had heart surgery--which fortunately pre-empted a heart attack.  A physical man his whole life, he was now looking mortality in the eye. Again.  The facedown isn't pretty. Betty Davis is credited with the apt observation:  "Old age isn't for sissies."

Dad was no sissy.  He was fostered out at 9 years old, when he lost his mother, to a succession of strangers as a farm hand.    Some of them were good people he kept in touch with his whole life.  Some were abusive.  He signed up for Civilian Conservation Corps at 15 (illegally using his brothers SS  number, which caused a lifetime of problems for his brother) and again lived far from home, working in the outdoors.  He was a Marine in the Central Pacific during WW2.  He learned early and often that life is not for the faint-hearted. 

He knew how to stick.  But brave or not, watching his body betray him understandably got him down.  Going away from the world might be sudden; his was a slow, getting-to-know-you kind of going. 

So we, his family, got to know the going of him slowly, also.  I began to face his mortality, and my own, one day when he was 78 or so (he lived to be 89).  Dad was sitting in His Chair in the living room.  I walked by.  He was looking out the window towards the yard and the trees and the road.  I said how you doing Dad, and headed out the door without expecting an answer.  But he surprised me with an answer.  And not with a cheerful "Oh, you know, just thinking of a good story,"  or a teflon "Just fine, PatsyAnna." Nope, he threw me a Philosophical Curve. He gave me An Answer.

"Well, you know, I was just thinking." 

I waited.  He was still looking out the window. 

He said,"Sometimes I get tired of all this stuff, all this sickness.  Sometimes I'd like to get up out of this chair and go out in the woods, and just never come back.  Get away from all this."  And then he looked me in the eye, as though daring me to understand what he was saying.  Or maybe daring, for a moment, to feel a little self-pity.  Being an orphan and a Marine, he was never a complainer.

I was surprised by the words. More than that, I was afraid that he was human, and not a Marine/ God, and that I was going to have to deal with that revelation, right then.  I was suddenly afraid he would talk about dying.  I was suddenly afraid he would one day die.  While I was stumbling over these undeciphered thoughts, he answered himself.

 "But I don't," he said.  "I stay right here."   And looked back out the window.  Towards the trees.

I am woefully inadequate at understanding many things.  But even then, I understood a little.   All of his life he was a farmer, a construction worker, a soldier, a hunter.  In the woods, in his head, he still had weapons.  He could fight back at Something, or go down trying.  As it was, in his chair, he was going down in pieces, without any ammo except his own endurance.  And the redoubtable ammo of Mom--the main reason he hadn't gotten up and run off into the woods years ago. 

Looking back, looking for my own understanding, I have an idea what he was saying, and why that small conversation hasn't left me. 

Not to be gruesome, but: I have always wanted to die under a tree, alone, and decompose into the ground and tree roots. Thinking of this gives me great comfort. I do not want to be shot full of chemicals and confined to a slowly decomposing boxed-in area.  Since I live in the 'burbs, and currently there are no suitable candidate trees within my grasp, with requisite isolation, I shall settle for cremation.  We all have our druthers.

One of my friends recently mentioned going off in the woods to hunt when he was ready to die (we have wide reaching conversations, sure). Whoah, I thought.  Is this a trend?  I counted: Dad, me, Indians in old movies, all of the dogs I've ever loved, the friend who wanted to go to Alaska and die on a glacier (although people have offered him their freezer for free); all want/ ed to die alone and en terre.  This death-wish pattern of "hunting" and "facing nature" led my facile and morbid line of thought to "predator and prey."  And therein lies the thought/ philosophy/ spiritual truth which I'm slowly getting to:  death is the ultimate predator.  As long as we live, we are debiting the food bank.  We aren't being prey.  However, millennia of DNA has stamped us with instinct to give back to the (ok, the Lion King said it with music)  Circle of Life.  When we die, primal instinct is to pay up. If we, or our ancestors, survived all the other predators that wanted to debit us, the only predator left is: dirt. 

I like this picture, because I understand it.  I realize my brilliant thought is not new.  I just never thought of it before.  Some part of us, depending on how close we feel to dirt to begin with, seeks the deeply spiritual return to dust, so some other life--any life--can debit us. "I decompose, therefore I regenerate," to badly paraphrase DesCartes, and the Resurrection Myths of several religions..  Or as My Hero Carl Sagan posited convincingly in Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, all life on Earth began with the dust of distant stars, drifting down with the necessary ingredients for complex protein development--"dust to dust" as our own Blows in the Wind back into the atmosphere, maybe to become the twinkle in some future little star's eye. 

We generally kill our food at Kroger's or MacDonald's or the like, and deny the Kill or Be Killed part as much as possible.  Yet the memory remains.  All the pounds of hamburger, or lettuce, remain within us, wanting back their pound of flesh, literally.  We  therefore (she reasons) want to go into the woods and do our instinctive part in the cosmic plan.  Become compost.

If you've read this far, maybe you are wondering if I'm weird.  Or maybe you are as old as me, or (like me) prepping for a graceful exit somewhere down the road.  I feel far more comforted by the thought of dancing with the earthworms--as a beautiful song whose name I cannot remember goes, but I heard it sung by Claudia Schmidt and its on one of her CDs--than by eternally existing in a place with wings and light and pure thoughts.  I only think this way sometimes; a lot of the time I'm thinking about other stuff, really.

But I'm always trying to understand how to face my own mortality with courage and peace.  Buddha and I have this in common, I think, if nothing else.  In the context of my experience, Dirt as Payback works for me.  I trust I have some time to consider it further.

And Dad, I'm glad you didn't run off.  You have taught me to Stay.  Thanks.

Spot Patch #2: Losing It (1001: 88, randomly)

Right on, Home Girl (thanks for the comment on the last post).  Losing the hair is, beyond Going Gray, another Reality Hit of surviving past youth.   Kiss luxurious and sexually-appealing locks "Goodbye."  Hair is now a signal of Grit, Gray, and Gone--all of which marks us as Survivors, which is a good thing.  It's part of the gap in self-image between youthful sexuality and senior sexualtiy; as a senior, gender appeal tends to pool towards the ability to move freely about, to stay clean and groomed, to have a good sense of humor, and maturity.   It's okay that the rules change, as long as I can figure out the rules.  I like to stay ahead of the game, and it makes me feel pretty good to push past into the Challenge Game. 

Guys who lose hair, especially young men, don't like it much.  However, in the decades since TV actor Telly Savalas projected Kojak-the-hard-boiled-detective as an overweight and unconventional sex image, things have changed.  Always a good thing.  Now, its common to see hot younger guys who buff up and shave down and generally decorate the landscape in a good way.  Coming from a distinctly military and conservative clutch of male friends, relatives, and neighbors in my youth, I see shaved male heads as Drill Sergeant Hot-ness, regardless of age.  (Have I mentioned Sean Connery?  Too often?)  Any guy who puts his hair loss out there like a badge shows cojones.  It is, after all, a testosterone thing to lose hair: male pattern baldness just shows up the gender difference, like spikes on a woman (did you read the Yahoo article on Shoe Rage, btw?  Women have begun to use designer spikes to attack men on the streets.  Bizarre but very interesting social development.).

Women losing hair, alas, is still developing as socially appealing.  I am watching the thin patch on the back of my head with resignation, not to mention noting the general all-over thinning reflected in my part.  Sigh.  I recall a gorgeous older woman I used to teach with, who shaved her hair and looked exotic.  She was also in great shape, which I think had a lot to do with the total look. 

No 2 ways about it, being in good shape is key to sex appeal at any age.  Dammit.  Work, work, work.  And facing the changes our body springs on us is equally appealing: it says we can cope, we are survivors, we keep on trying.  Nothing tops the appeal, respect, and honor due to someone who survives.

If I lose ten pounds, and firm up the triceps, I'll consider shaving off that hard-earned gray thats growing out.  Or trimming it down to a few wiry inches, maybe....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Patch Job #1 : What to do with the Hair 1001:36

I've mucked around with "going gray" for a few years now.  My favorite hairstylist assured me for a long time that I did NOT want to go gray, because I was too young, even though I qualify for Senior discounts in some places.   I began to suspect that she might have vested interested in my pricey layered hair dyeing.  That unkind thought has been laid to rest, however, because as she noted the other day while clipping me up:  "youre past the point of no return now."  My hair has been "growing out" long enough that it actually looks more salt-and-pepper than it does brass-ends-of-old-dye jobs.   A relief.  I've commited and am through the looking-glass. Now, about the other side....

I like my salt-and-pepper.  Many people have said "oh it makes a woman look so old when she goes gray."  Well its true that it looks old, but on the other hand its way easier to deal with, and cheaper than, monthly dye jobs.  And it encourages me to accept my ageing, I hope, a little more gracefully when I look at it every day in such a succint form.  A voice in the wilderness for those following this path:  gray hair doesn't look nearly as old as overweight and out of shape does, nor as much as "feeling" old does.  State of health, state of mind--these override hair color.

Kudos to the classy women with gray hair, stylishly dressed and groomed, and just as distinguished as some old men look--Sean Connery being a classic example of Great and Gray.  Gray hair is very cool, hard-earned (for some of us, although some get it the easy way in their 20s), and is a beautiful or handsome that sits easily past the point of no return of youth, procreation.  Gray hair doesn't advertise breeding potential.  Nope, we're too tired to breed, just let us think about it,  a lot's happened over the years for us to access if we can remember it.

True that gray hair is hard to handle: my naturaly curly hair has added Brillo-pad texture now that hair dye no longer soothes it into submission.  And yeah, brillo-pad gray DOES look classically "old".  However, there are oils to be had and heating rods to be applied, and an embarrassing variety  of hair spray products that lend a hand in taming. 

So what do you think?  I can always use buttressing. Or validation. 

And then there's losing hair......

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mow, Mow, Mow 1,001: 33

I bought a Sears rotary blade mower 9 years ago.  Partly for nostalgia, partly for Green reasons.  I resolved to not pollute yard-ly (organic and edible) dandelions with gas fumes.  Nor fume the birds or vegetable garden (or me), and most surely not to fume the already-battered ozone layer. I've stuck to the rotary mower about half the time.   If I'm disabled, in a hurry, or facing a badly overgrown yard, I resort to a gas mower.

Since last evening was a truly fine spring specimen, I ventured into The Yard to see about Law and Order. 

This time of year, I am subject to Yard Frenzy.  There is dirt to be dug, stuff to be planted, thoughts to be thunk regarding The Garden.  Nothing is as wonderful as playing in The Garden. But I put garden aside for the moment; the grass looked particularly healthy, thick and long. I hauled out the rotary-blade mower, Betsy (I name all my favorite inanimate objects Betsy), and buckled down to an upper-body workout doing the May-November routine.

I love mowing. Mowing yards qualifies as a Mystic State. I get this partiality from DNA, specifically Mom.  She used to love mowing.  It was one of her escape methods from 6 people who shared her medium-sized house.  It was also part of her philosphy, dredging up dialogue with God undercover of engine noise.  Years later, Mom's decision to leave the farm and move into a town duplex came about when she realized that she--a diminutive 87-year-old--was spending the whole summer mowing the yard.  She said, "I'd mow as much as I could every day, and as soon as I got it all mowed  I'd have to start all over again."  Finally, she started out to mow one day and found that both old push-mowers had simultaneously died.  She said it was The Writing on the Wall:  her mowing days were over.

For us kids, mowing was recreational. Comparatively speaking. For childhood summers, we didn't go to camps or beaches.   That was for sissies.  Our summer season arrived when we pulled out the lawn mowers.   As able-bodied-and-available statuses changed out over my 18 years on the farm, I rotated lawn-mowing duty with 4 siblings.  It took several hours to mow the whole thing--a quarter acre--at once.  More often, we'd break it up into sections and take a day or two to spread the fun around.  We'd do the orchard ( a few fruit trees encouraging each other to survive and sometimes produce) as one section, the front and side yards as one section, and the no-man's land behind the flower garden as a section.  There were little hills and valleys throughout the mowing field. Aside from the occassional snake (Mom swore they were all copperheads and cottonmouths, because she hated snakes, but Dad said they were all just black snakes.  My brothers were adept at mowing over hapless snakes.  My sister and I ran.), and the possiblity of thrown stones blinding us, or of rusty/loosened/deadly mower blades throwing themselves at our innocent lower legs, it was not dangerous work. It was fun.

It was not fun when we hit rocks or roots hard enough to knock the blade off balance, thus necessitating a trip into town and the spending of money.  But finding the most efficient ways to navigate the mini-terrain was nice strategy.  In fact, it was meditation.  The drone of the mower, the smell of the gas, the bite of insects, sweating out every toxin our bodies could drum up, pushing and walking and singing and being all alone, while bringing peace and order to our small world. 

By the time I was old enough to mow, hand-pushed gas-powered mowers were the norm.  After all kids moved away, Mom and Dad eventually got a riding mower which Dad used.  Given the un-golf-course-like terrain of the yard, it wasn't all that effective, but that was not an issue because Mom kept doing the intricate mowing areas with her push mower.

But before the gas mower and the riding mower, the rotary blade was used.  It's clacking sound is permanently merged in my head with humid summer days and evenings.  One old wooden-handled specimen remained around the barn for decades, to trim up small areas of yard and entertain kids.

My Sears rotary-blade mower/ reincarnation requires a little more upper-body maneuvering.  It does NOT mow in nice, crisp lines with evenly and thoroughly mowed results. The results look more like goats were staked out to munch it down, clumpishly.  And it does not mulch anything, which leaves an overall yard-ly look that is not highly sought-after ( I find it interesting). BUT.  Its that soft non-definition, lack of precision, and meandering cutting-style of the rotary blade that makes it primo in my heart.  The yard looks kind of like a picture I once saw of Mark Twain's yard, minus the goats: misty, serviceable, pre-mass technology.  Friendly and faulted.

Once in a while, I'll be clickety-clacking with my mower in the tiny yard round the front of my tiny house, and some passerby will smile and wave at the old woman with the nostalgic mower.  I smile and act like I'm nearly a saint, and a paragon Eco-warrior, and we pass in the summer sunlight like descendants of the Leave-it-to-Beaver-Cleaver family.   I don't have opportunity very often to acknowledge to said passersby that its really like hauling a dinosaur around the yard, with limited performance.  But thats not whats important, anyway.  A lot of us mature folk, having survived numerous technology improvements, just love doing things without an engine: using our own power,  smelling the grass, and reliving good memories.  


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit! 1001;52 (or thereabouts)

March 18, 2012:  Dad always planted potatoes on St. Patrick's Day, down in Southern Illinois.  This week in SouthEast Michigan, to commemorate the Spring Planting Itch that is surely in my blood, I pulled out the dried beans that had wintered (on the ground or on the trellises) in my garden, and shucked them.   (Alternate Persona Linguist's Note:"Shuck" is such a great word, so flora-specific.) Love it.)  Most of the beans, of course, I ate last summer, when they were nicely green, fresh, and succulent.  But Old don't make these babies Bad, just Different.  If they don't get picked in their youth, they transmutate into seeds for next year's crop.  And into alternate, dried  food.  So I gathered up the survivors, and shucked 'em and checked 'em.

I was impressed.

As you can see, the Kentucky Wonder Beans (little brown ones) look ready to roll.  Their much bigger and dramatis brethren are Scarlett Runner Beans.  Pink and black and big all over, my my my.   Last year was the first time I planted them.  And wow.  They grow like Jack in the Beanstalk Beans: overnight.  They have pretty red flowers all over themselves.  They grew to the top of my pergola and beyond, thereby entering themselves into Favored For Cheap Summer Neighbor Shut-Out category.  

And God are they Lovely.

Its a shame to put them back into the ground, they're so pretty.  But that's what I'll probably do with at least some of them, in a week or two.  With the weather so warm so early, I'll probably stagger the plantings and do a few now, a few later, in case Mother Nature indulges in a flirtatious little freeze before March leaves us.

But the Really Cool Revelation I had when holding them in my hot little hands this week was that they would make excellent dried beans.  The kind I could keep in a nice mason jar on my counter to look at all next winter.  And eat.  I'm forming an Apocalypse Gardening Egregrium (ok, I made that last word up so the acronym could be A.G.E., but it works), and the 4 people who compose it have been told that they can exhcange food with each other in seasonal increments.  (Or duck / chicken eggs, if we get Cindy in on the mix.)  So it is essential we have a variety of foods, with varying maturity dates, not to mention protein rich foods, as we get our Egregrium on its maiden feet this spring.  Right now, Scarlett Runner Beans are my projected contribution to variety/ protein. 

As my bean lust grows, I've been purveying the beautiful (and free) catalog of Seed Savers Exchange, overwhelmed by the variety of dry bean seeds they are offering (and by the very existence of SSE). Scarlett Runner is among their number, so I'll stick with it this year.  Garden space is, alas, limited, as all addicted gardners lament.  We can only grow so much.  Ahhh, but we can dream.  (Note:  run to your computer, google the Seed Savers Exchange, and experience the illumination therein.  People Do Care About the Planet.)

While checking out the SSE catalog and drooling, I also came across a little beauty called Jobs Tears, which is a marginally edible plant whose dried seeds have a little hole in the middle, and thereby are natural beads--like in necklaces? And  YES I'M GETTING SOME!!! I will become the creator of Jobs Tears necklaces by next winter, if all goes well.  My other non-edible ergo functional plant alumni include the lovely sponge gourd which I was semi-successful with last year (they are actual stiff sponges, which could scrub the paint off my Honda [what doesn't, these days, its a 2003]; and my snake gourds which make really cool rainsticks (percussion instruments, which some of my musical friends politely "hm" at when I make percussion with them). 

So, I'll let you know about the mason jar full of beautiful pink and black beans by next winter.  Likewise the natural bead business.  They have to be planted, grow, bloom, produce, and dry before then, but I have faith.

I could try mustard seeds, come to think of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Memory 1001:31

This morning, sunlight and music dissolved my thick fog of sleep.  A hearteningly bright February sun slipped between
the slats, accompanied by the ethereal guitar of J. Blaska
 / .  Last night's aspirin immobilized all traces of arthritis, bursitis, and other souvenirs of age.  My senses, drifting around in the zone between Dead and Alive, felt like Heaven.  It was a fine way to start the day.  Maybe this kind of awakening is a preview of that famously discussed final act we all expect to share when the time is right: "Go Towards the Light."

So morning pours in my window in the morning, and sublime instrumental guitar pours into my head, and I am still sleep-stupid (which can go on for quite some time between deep sleep and awake). And there is enough dream-state left to resurrect memory as reality.  So this morning, I remember Hawaii. Or maybe it remembered me.  Either way, it appeared in my head like reality.

On the island of Kauai, if you drive all the way around the island from the tourist hotels and beaches, to the other side of the island--past the whale-sighting beaches and the tents tucked away between the huge tree roots and the helicopter rides--you eventually run out of road. At least, 12 years ago I did. And when the fading road went over a foot-bridge, it dissolved into a thin twisting ribbon of beach, with trees undulating between jungled forest and ocean. There was a bench someone had left on the bit of beach between the trees.

And on an island in the middle of a vast ocean, on a small beach facing the playground of whales, no one was there but me.

I remember this place sometimes. And there it was this morning, in my head, between the Light and the Music. I was, in this morning's quasi-reality, on the little beach in Kauai, years and distance notwithstanding.   Bliss.

I love Memory. The phenomenom of Memory doesn't really fit linear time.  Memory is not just Past Events, it is also Present and it is Future. Or it is Everytime.  Once something enters our consciousness, if we choose to remember it can be re-created.  Or we can hope for something and thereby remember our hope for it, drawing the future to ourselves; Expectation as Reverse Memory.  Or Memory is a fiction book.  Once a book is written down, its action remains constant.  At any time, you can experience the action or timeline of the book by opening it to a specific page.  Whether the action described happened in the story's past or the story's future, it is happening at the moment you read it.  You can go back to that page and that described event over and over, and it is still happening when you read it.  It has happened in the past in the sense you have read it in the past, and it will happen in the future in a sense if you have not read it yet, ever.  The Memory of a book is not unlike our own memory: it runs in a loop.  And the re-reading of it is a selective comfort.

As I get older, memories are a great source of joy and comfort.  Even if remembered events and people had negative aspects, I am getting good at harvesting the happy parts. One of my friends noted that its sad to lose Memories.  I can't imagine how that would feel.  But if space abhors a vacuum, so must the mind.  Whatever fills my thoughts, even if it is the simple view of what is in front of me, I am practicing The Art of Choosing Beautiful Thoughts.  A useful future tool for ageing.

Like Barbra Streisand sang in The Way We Were: "Memories can be beautiful, and yet-- what's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget."  Good idea.  If I ever lose my mind, to paraphrase Cat Steven's (Moonshadow), I won't have to be particular about what I remember.  I hope I remember Hawaii, but I would be equally happy to remember Australia, Alaska, Greece, or Idaho--places I have never been, yet. 

It's got to be the thought that counts.