Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I don't have to drive in to "work" every day, like many in offices do. Often I fly out, and am gone for days, sometimes weeks. But I enjoy the drives in when I make them, often in the dark, before the roads are busy.
I've made most of my vacation drives by myself though a friend from college and I recently drove across half the country in a couple of days, to visit our families who lived in the same area. I remember when we pulled into the subdivision where one of my relatives had moved, I'd only been there once, and I got lost in all the streets, each bearing the same name but with a different ending. Magnolia Lane, Magnolia Drive, Magnolia Trail (that's not confusing), etc. I had a map printed from Mapquest out but it was ignored in the back seat. My gal friend said "uh. . you want to grab that map" and I was "no. . I'll get it, this looks familiar" as we got further lost. She says again, "say, how about that map behind you" and I responded "nope, I'm sure this is it". She started laughing and said "OMG. You're a GUY! You don't want to ask for directions."
If I'm alone, sometimes I watch other drivers. On one truck a NRA sticker with a older fellow driving. When I came abreast of him, the driver looked at me, expecting some sort of liberal stare down but I just gave him a smile. When he pulled past me and saw MY stickers he gave me a friendly wave. Speeding past us both, a young girl, driving 20 over the speed limit in the construction zone, as she tossed what appeared to be three days worth of lunch bags and trash out onto the roadway, cups, bags, everything. The fact that she had a bumper sticker of our current elected official on her beat up car did not surprise me.
People often drive as they think, modestly, slowly, recklessly. Some move in and out of traffic with the brisk efficiency of a surgeon, others, shyly and with hesitation, invite themselves out to dinner with the Reaper. Myself, I just roll along, not faster than anyone, not slower than anyone, not wanting to stand out, simply watching the centerline break underneath of the vehicle.
When I tell people that I sometimes drive to the Rockies to visit family there they look at me like I'm daft. "You can fly there in an hour". Yes I can. but I like that time to myself, no schedule, no commitments. When I get hungry I stop and eat. When I get tired I find a quiet, clean place to sleep. If I want to stop and look at the world's largest ball of yarn, no one is going to tell me "sorry, that flight has already left the gate." Though I still wonder about some gas station bathrooms. Why do they lock them? Are they afraid someone might break in and clean them?
As we travel through life we often pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we blow right by it. As adults, we usually fail to stop and just look at what we have right here as we pass by it, things hidden by the layers of indifference casually tossed on us by others, dreams gathering dust while we toil to somehow make our world conform to what we are told it's expected to be. And everything in a hurry. Maybe it's the specter of mortality, maybe it's just this new generation of entitlement that's trying to nudge common sense out of the way, but people seem to expect things they've never earned.
I'm not sure why I enjoy the slow and hard look at things. Perhaps it's just the process of becoming slowly born that are those years leading up to middle age. Perhaps it's what I do for a paycheck. Maybe it was all the hours hiking up into mountains of the West as I grew up. You really learn to appreciate the slowness, the detail, the stillness of a day in the outdoors. The ascent may be hours or it may be days, but with a compass and a few tools, you simply gather your wits around you and head uphill. What you expect to greet you is up ahead of you,even when you can't see it. It's there in the blue, and it only remains for your body to reach it. Patience, one blister, one tear, at a time.
The wilderness gives you time, for the wild, though changing, is still eternal. That's what long road trips are like for me. I keep the horizon in my window but still look back, savoring the journey. The tumbled landscapes of glacier stone, and great pristine rivers, thin as a strand of pearls as I travel on past. It's time, my time, filled with the immaculate sameness of hours bathed in the sun's warm honey. Anything that really requires detailed thought, the engine setting, a scan for traffic, occurs in brief, unhurried intervals. The miles roll by with the thoughts, miles of tears, of laughter I've not known since youth, of love, of mechanical, rhythmic memories of the past that I carried with me as I started this journey.
Those memories are not always happy ones, which is part of the trip you will make. As the miles flow past, you realize that when you are young, no one really tells you the truth about love, about life. About coming into your heart and your strength and what it means when you realize what you have beneath you.
When my friend and I took that trip, after hearthbreak for both of us, we finally talked about many things we never had. Sure, we'd shared many a cup of coffee and a beer discussing past dates from hell over the years (what do you mean you have guns? Eeekk!), kids, parents, coworkers, and dog hair. We'd talked about old loves, about the hopes for a new one. Like old friends, we hadn't really talked of those things that seemed obvious.
Talking matter of factly about about such things seemed banal, like proving a right angle or finding the equal distance between two lives but it felt good for us to share our joys and our griefs on that drive. The two lane highway rose slowly out of the Plains as I tried to navigate through words that carried with them both joy and pain, holding me back like the weight of a dead end. So we talked, not in a great gush of words, but as friends do, in small bits of ourselves spread out on the table like show and tell of things that troubled us, those hurts that built up over years of living. The miles and hours flew past, fields clutching onto the skeletons of flowers that long ago died, of bare, windswept trees, and clusters of burrs that stick to everything with a tiny pinprick of pain. Things were sticking to us both.
All that was left was the words; and they flowed, like the laughter and the tears, until I opened the window to let the wind dry my face. Wind that would carry those old hurts to where they would simply bounce off the landscape like a piece of discarded trash, delicate, crumpled tissue best left to be disintegrated by time. Better left behind as the sun began to relax on what would be a renewed journey; the road pulling away from discarded thought, the highway lines breaking up like Morse Code as we moved forward. Moved away from that painful past, those roads best not traveled, til it was just a speck in the rearview mirror.
My friend has found her happiness, and I've found mine, nothing left but the memories that I'm making now, moving on into new skies, open roads. Time ticks past as the diorama of a life unfolds in the window up ahead, the rush of the world, fast food, fast life, suspended for a few hours. The truck still moves on, this time to find a place to rest for the night and I do, cleansing myself of blood and bone and the grime of the day. The hotel room has all the ambience of a dental lab and I can't help but wish I was instead at hunting camp, sleeping under a fluttering tent, canvas murmuring to the whispers of the rain.
As I lay there, I think of Heraclitus, of whose writings are only left fragmentary remains, who said it better than I, expressing the nature of reality as flux in words, the way I'd express them in motion today.
The rule that makes
its subject weary
is a sentence
of hard labor.
For this reason
change gives rest.
Sometime it's time for a change of landscape, of thinking, a journey forward. No agenda but to see the day transfolded before you up ahead. You need those moments alone, those miles of open road, miles of open sky.
Those times of solitude, for souls like us, are simple moments of inwardness. In our simple code of life, quiet independence stands guard over courage heightened by change. This is our own compass north, that directs our paths, the self in isolation, resolve, honor, emotion, thought and liberty held in like breath, until they are amplified within us, becoming direction in life's unhurried journey.
Mark Twain said in Huckleberry Finn "We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened". But I know they were made. Made to serve as tiny points of light to guide a distant traveler back home.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
When I decided to downsize it felt great to get rid of old furniture, beat up lamps and knick knacks I didn't need. But getting the closests organized in a smaller home took a litle more work. Over the Thanksgiving holiday my favorite engineer helped me get the last of the stuff out of storage, wrestling my boxes of Christmas ornaments into one of the closets.
He recently redesigned his bedroom closet to accomodate clothes, with a very large gun safe set up. I said "I wonder if I need to do something like that".
Having seen my closet he sent me this.
That pretty much covers it :-)
Monday, November 28, 2011
I feel like a zombie, and more so than the typical Monday. Barkley, now forever known as "GastroDog", is happily sleeping on the floor with his toy after a couple of interesting evenings of "guess what I ate!"
It started out Saturday with the thought "I'm changing Barkley's name to Hoover".
He's always been a good dog about staying out of the kitchen until recently, when, with guests, dinners for two and holiday desserts, suddenly he's on alert for every crumb and goody that hits the floor and snagged more than one.
He rarely gets people food as it tends to upset his stomach. The occasional little piece of plain roast chicken, frozen peas (he loves them, nibbling them from your bare fingers like little ball bearings). But he's not particular. I've seen him chew on my old slipper, a lemon and a worm, all with the same gusto.
This weekend, guests gone, he just had dog food, no extra treats, but he snagged a big chunk of pepperoni before it even hit the floor as I assembled a homemade pizza. If a dog could smile, he would have. Later, I caught him in the garbage looking for more (once they've had a taste).
But spicy or greasy food and Barkley have never seen eye to eye.
He seemed just fine until 2 am Saturday night when I had a warm snoot in my face (and not in a good way). "I gotta go! I gotta go!" I know that panting and that dance. I found clothes and shoes and headed out the garage with him. He made a beeline for the corner of the property, 92 pounds of muscle pulling me like a Nantucket sleighride through the rain and the mud.
He wasn't kidding. He didn't just have to GO. . . .
Ever see the launch of the space shuttle?
Thar She Blows!
Once emptied, he seemed OK , drank some water and just went back to sleep. Sunday morning, he ate his bland breakfast I fixed per the vet. Within the hour he had to go out again. . now please!
Remember the Darwin Award where the guy allegedly attached a JATO bottle to the back of a car and it launched him into a cliff.
There are certain circumstances when there is not much difference between a JATO assisted 1967 Chevy Impala, and a labrador retriever digestive tract.
But once again, he seemed happy again after, snuffling at the floor in the kitchen for more pupperoni as if to say "it was so worth it". But I gave him just more chicken and rice. The vet said it was likely the spicy people food he snagged, and to feed him bland for another day and bring him in Monday if he wasn't better or if there were some other symptoms that she passed on. The day progressed. He seemed much better, sleeping on the couch for hours. I had to run an errand. I'd only be gone 20 minutes, I'm sure he'll be fine in the house as it's just pouring and cold out.
Wrong. I should have left him in the garage but it wasn't Barkley proofed with reloading stuff laying about in boxes. It's only 20 minutes. Right?
I came home to a happy dog sleeping on the couch and found he'd tagged the carpeting in my bedroom with the latest in intestinal graffiti.
OK, more chicken, more rice, lots of fresh, clean water. His eyes are clear, the symptoms were exactly what I saw when a friend fed him too much bacon once. I'll take him in to the vet if he's not better by tomorrow. But he seemed better, no running outside other then lifting his leg to leave a calling card on the neighbors front shrubs just to annoy their dog.
But there I was again, in "Victoria's Secret meets Carthart", standing out in a soaking cold rain at 1:30 in the morning so he could go into into full firehose mode, as I waved at my next door neighbor, the police officer who probably thinks I need a stylist, or a new dog.
I'm getting drenched as Barkley has to sniff a half an acre of property to decide just WHICH spot to go on again. I couldn't help but have that stupid song (Chicago? Donna Summer??) in my head. . .
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Sunday nights just don't get any more glamorous.
By the time I got in and dry it was almost 2 am. By the time I got warm and back to sleep it was 4. I was up at 4:30 to go to work. But he was much perkier and even wanted to play with his favorite toy which he hadn't done all weekend. My eyes looked like Chinese flags but Mr. Barkley is OK.
I promise you we'll play a bit after Mommy has a little nap (and probably a finger of good Scotch Whiskey).
I did hide the pizza menu though, don't need him ordering a pepperoni pizza for delivery while I snooze.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
My Dad has all his financial stuff tied up in a trust. His means are modest, but he didn't want the family to have to fuss with a lot of detail when the day comes that he is not here. We hate to think about it, but he's 91. I'm the "baby", a post Air Force retirement adoption in the family. We all sat as a family and went over details, but one thing Dad said was "decide on who wants what now, so there's no arguing later."
We all wrote down our wishes and Dad would decide. I only wanted my Mom's cookbooks and a couple of pieces of ceramic things she made in art class, a little skunk she made and put in the bathroom the menfolk used, a little black horse, the rest would go to my nieces. She's been gone a long time, but my Step-Mom took good care of that which she left. Everything else of theirs I prefer to just live in my memory.
But when Dad shared the list, simple and no conflicts, there was a note from brother R., which I know was written with a big smile. "I want my Rat Fink ring back".
I'm surprised he remembered; also surprised he knew I still had it, it being tucked away in my little jewelry box in my room at Dad's house.
Rat Fink as one of the several hot rod characters created by one of the originators of Kustom Kulture, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Roth allegedly hated Mickey Mouse so much he drew the original Rat Fink, playing on an airbrushed monster shirt. The character soon came to symbolize the entire hot-rod/Kustom culture scene of the 50's and 60's. After he placed Rat Fink on an airbrushed monster shirt, the character soon came to symbolize the entire hot-rod/Kustom Kulture scene of the 1950s and 1960s. Ed didn't create the "Monster Hot Rod" art form, but he certainly made it popular.
If you're too young to remember, The Rat Fink is a green, depraved-looking mouse with bulging, bloodshot eyes, an over sized mouth with yellowed, narrow teeth, and a red T-shirt with yellow "R.F." on it.
I was pretty little but I remember it well. My brother was a big fan. One of the neighborhoods original Rat Fink Pack, I'm sure he discovered early on the added benefit the Rat Fink T-shirt had in getting you sent home from school, giving you more time to play with your model car kits. I may have been lagging behind the whole thing by a few years but it didn't stop me from joining in the fun. I swiped his ring and built my own hot rod model, entering it in a grade school model building contest, and winning. But I was later disqualified because I was a girl. My brother stuck up for me, telling them he wouldn't enter any more if I couldn't enter, and didn't ask for his Rat Fink ring back. He was my hero, the one I could always count on.
Soon he was off to school and Navy Submarine service, while I made it through High School with a very loud un-girly car with Purple Horny Headers that made my Dad cringe. I didn't have a "steady', no ring around my neck from some teenage boy. But I did have a close group of chess club/rocket club/band nerd friends who would ride around in my decidedly "un-geeky" wheels. And I had my Rat Fink ring, still in my jewelry box.
I missed him. I remember walking in the woods with Dad's old Savage and seeing an elk crash into flight from a stand of small trees, the sound curving around the whole earth it seemed. I couldn't move, frozen by the sound. I simply stood, open mouthed, gun at my side, incredulous as to how big he really was close up and all the thoughts flowing through my head, turning to follow his now invisible running. For lack of any other response to his leaving, I picked up a rock and threw it hard and deep into the forest in which he ran, the stone, glinting like a knife, disappearing into the last copper ray of sun before it dipped behind the trees.
"Why did you have to go?" was all I could say, as I stood there in the fading light, sounding very small and alone.
Once we hit adulthood, we saw each other only once a year, my brother leaving the Navy to work some serious Secret Squirrel stuff, myself squirreling away in another part of the country. I went to his wedding near the Naval base in California, wearing a lime green bridesmaid thing that I would not have worn for the Pope, The Queen of England or Marshall Dillon (though given how Miss Kitty dressed, Marshall Dillon would have liked it). But I wore it for him.
We keep in touch by email and the occasional phone call but time together has always been limited. But he remembers. As evidenced by a recent Christmas stocking. Not just ANY stocking, but the post 50's one Dad thought was lost forever, complete with my name on it in glitter.
He remembers my birthday, often late, with a funny card with a drawing of him being abducted by aliens, somehow explaining the delay.
I realize from talking with my friends that not all sibling relationships are this close. A lot of kids grow up almost strangers, with personalities and interests so divergent they wonder how they're related. They share no interests, they don't like the same anything. They get along as well as can be expected, playing politely at family gatherings, bound together only by being the children of the same people. I consider myself lucky to having siblings who I would have wanted to be pals with, even if we weren't related.
But it's hard for kids as they grow up, to keep the cohesion we had living in the same house. We are bound together by family, but often scattered by distance, dealing with our own tragedies, things much worse than a failed model contest, keeping it in and not saying much. Perhaps it's the Norwegian in us, perhaps it's the sense of protecting the clan.
The thought of the ring brought a lot of memories back, his laugh as we ran around the back yard playing cowboy and Indians. It is those small, almost forgotten mementos of family, that make us step back in time, before deadline and detail.
I remember him letting me tag along on his paper route, not being ashamed of his little sister as many of his friends would have been, but teaching me the perfect curve ball of paper onto a porch.
I remember road trips where we would playfully bicker and play with toy soldiers in the back of the car, mine in my chubby little hands, his, more grown and nimble, moving on to my side of the station wagon seat with his troops, setting camp until I yelled "MOM". And we'd be told to be quiet, for at least 15 minutes, and we'd sit, in perfect stoic silence, shooting looks back and forth to each other, as if dueling with foils, plotting, planning, waiting for the laughter to burst out because we just couldn't hold it in.
I remember him on leave from the military, teaching me how to do the perfect "cookie" in the snow in a deserted parking lot, Purple Horny headers and all. I remember junior high with "Health Class" and movies that instructed us in such sage things as "Don't let your parents down, they brought you up", and my favorite "Turn away from unclean thinking, at the first moment", which had such a tone of urgency we just couldn't WAIT to be grown up enough to have an unclean thought. And he'd call me from school and I'd tell him about the movies and my friends reactions to them and he'd just laugh. We both laughed, easily and well. We didn't worry about politics, or budgets, or deadlines or knowing that sometimes keeping your mouth shut had to be the better part of valor. We hadn't yet learned to look at everything in a critical eye of war or loss.
Thinking back on those things, I wondered to myself. If we told the stories of those times, would anyone recognize us?
We are completely different now, but we are the same, he and I. As I look around my office, a photo of he and I on a Valkyrie, at some model toys from our childhood, artifacts of childhood, I realize I still miss him.
I will be back West after the New Year. I need to get into that old jewelry box, the one with the little ballerina that danced around. The one that dances no more because I tried to see if ballerina twirling could counteract duct tape adhesion. I'll see if I can rent a little airplane and I'll give my brother a call and fly out to where he lives on Puget Sound when he's not saving the world. For I have something I wish to give him.
His letting me keep the ring all these years was a sign of trust, of his trusting me, of I, him, in the absence of words, to help me through the storms of adulthood. I think it's time I paid him a visit. Maybe we can get a six pack of beer (Health Class tip #2 Stop and Think before you Drink) and tear apart a carburetor.
The world is still full of promise and fun and a little bit of danger. A place even better when shared with a big brother.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
The whoopie pie is a dessert that is not quite cookie, not quite cake, It is made of two round mound-shaped pieces of cake (sometimes chocolate, sometimes pumpkin) with a sweet, creamy filling or frosting sandwiched between them.
Considered by many to be a Pennsylvania Amish tradition, likely made up from leftover cake batter, they are popping up all over the states, including a humble kitchen in Hoosierville, U.S.A.
The more traditional filling is laden with marshmallow fluff, making for a denser, very sweet treat. I made mine with two different cakes and two different fillings.
The first, pictured in the header, is Red Velvet with a vanilla bean whipped cream infused cream cheese filling.
The second, dark chocolate, made with some Scharffen Berger cocoa. That's a specialty deep dark chocolate cocoa that Midwest Chick makes her secret family recipe gun show brownie cookies with.
The filling for the dark chocolate pie as a very light, exceptionally creamy filling with a base of whipped cream and vanilla sugar.
As I listen to the sounds of some old jazz and blues from the 20's and 30's, I layer them carefully between sheets of waxed paper to deliver to some folks on LEO duty this weekend (with a couple saved for a friend). I've not tried one yet, but if the smell in the kitchen and the little puddle of Barkley drool on the tile is any indication, they will be good.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Going home is always different for people. Some have parents already gone, and there is no childhood home. Others have memories that are painful. I am lucky. My memories of childhood are good. Laughter and exploration wrapped in an warm blanket of sight and sound and tastes that are still on my tongue. Memories of the past are like that, often having that impossible quality of perfection we often give to materials things, a favorite book, a favorite gun, sometimes to a whole relationship we can never get back to.
If we could only get there again, have that again, shoot that again, hold them again, our life would be somehow better, as if some cold case crime was finally solved, and the events that dragged us into a dark alleyway in life, are behind bars, never to bother us again.
We've all talked about it. I have often written about it, some small trivial thing of the past that appear to contain the sublime and there's no explaining it to everyone as much as you try. Still in your minds eye it's there, and will always be. Clear and as sure as if it were yesterday. That perfect day. For me it was simply the holidays.
My family never had a Thanksgiving feast for twenty people with Martha Stewart decor. We'd gather and all help in the preparation. Turkey, perhaps from the forest, not the freezer, sweet potatoes and pie, homemade bread and green beans. Though my Mom would make this green Norwegian jello dish that can best be described as a mayonnaise-based science experiment gone bad, but it was tradition. It was HOME. At Christmas, we never partook of the great debauchery of glut that crowds a home with paper trash and moments of surprise that pass like some race car past a stand; a streak of color, a exclamation of sound. Then gone so fast, leaving only a smell of something in the air that is burnt and past saving. Our Christmas was never like that, mine still aren't. They are slow, old-fashioned and savored. Their memory always haunts the edges of a busy, busy life.
The meal at Thanksgiving was not a theatrical production, but elegant. Nothing that took one person all day, as it was a holiday for my Mom as well. Rather, a meal of shared laughter in the kitchen, everyone helping in some way. Even if it wasn't something elaborate, we rarely ate anything out of a can though. Growing up in the depression, Mom learned to make up a delicious meal out of almost nothing left in the fridge. To this day, I still prefer a meal made myself, even if it's an apple and sharp cheese and small glass of home brewed mead, to something fast food-like, believing that the only creatures that should eat something tossed at them out of a window are seagulls.
Christmas day was special. We'd start with a breakfast of Bear claws from the local Scandinavian bakery and coffee. Well the adults anyway, for them, as myself now, coffee was a food, not a drink. I always begged for some, because that wise looking man on the Christmas-y looking red Hills Brothers can, brightly colored and studded with little stars, always looked so happy and full of knowledge as he drank from the coffee bowl. The decided grown up act of the Christmas coffee consumption and the robed man with his deep drinking pleasure was likely the reason my parents lingered over the table, whispering the quiet whispers of long lovers, while we snorted and charged around them, playing soldier and spy with our new toys.
Lunch was Lefse in which was wrapped meats and cheeses with the ever present plate of cookies. Something to hold us through the afternoon of board games and music, perhaps carols I'd play on the piano. We'd have sung, but my family all bore the same family voice - all volume, no tone. So they would listen as I simply played and with the notes of that old piano resonating in us, we'd build the fire. Then, when the fire was blazing and the light outside began to fade, we would sit quietly and spend the rest of the late afternoon watching the Grinch or perhaps White Christmas and read books we'd all received, while Mom would put the dinner together. It's the dinner that I will still make, even if just for myself with some roast beast for Barkley.
Roast beef with gravy, green beans with lemon butter, mashed potatoes and a old fashioned "bun warmer" full of homemade cloverleaf rolls. The smell would lead us into the kitchen like horses from the range, my siblings and I would chomp at the bit while Mom put it all together, placated with a slice of dill pickle or an olive from the ever present relish tray.
When the meal began after a moment of Grace, words spoken for those serving far away, it was a silent flurry of roasted meat, the creamy blanket of potatoes, and perfuming us all, the deep seated comfort of garlic. The meal would last until every last morsel was taken. It seemed as if we could eat endlessly, as if we'd had some successful inoculation at lunch time and could consume not only two plates of food, but more cookies. My youngest brother and I would help my Mom clean up as they gathered around the table for one last cup of coffee
As we bustled about, washing up and blowing bubbles at each other with the dish soap, we could hear the older members of the family, the laughter, and the comfort of a family together for a holiday. As we finished, I went to pick up from the table the can of coffee with the little man and the stars. But instead, I sat down beside it, full to bursting and worn out from a day of enchantment, lay my head on the table and my eyes drifted shut. Whatever laughter there was, there was, whatever deep worries my parents may have had about life, about a family member fighting in Vietnam, were outside our door. Now it was Christmas and there was something deep and starry in the kitchen. Simply moving the can to one side, I lay my head down beside it, nestled into my folded arms, stomach full, warm, happy safe. Despite my very young age, I knew that whatever happened to my family in the coming days, I could live for the rest of my life on this measureless family security.
Today, a cup of coffee and of an acoustic guitar playing classical music brings that all back in small ways. As I sit and listen, I gather those I love near me in spirit and thought, the smell of good coffee awakening something in me .
I will not be "home for the holidays", but I will be home in spirit, with a day off to rest, with conversations with loved ones. Not family by blood, but family all the same, with that same tangible connection, silent invisible, like the draw of a bright flame that doesn't need immediate presence to warm you. Simple, loving human contact. Laughter with like minds and spirits. For the holidays are not simply about being "home" to a childhood memory, that for me and many others, does not exist any more. It's not about who or what have at your table, but what you have in your heart. It's more than the faith that you actively practice, or the faith that sits in quiet silence, waiting. It's sometime else, a connection to our friends and family, to the one who quietly but deeply loves us, to our Creator who gave us a wonderful gift. It's a visceral reminder that we are all connected, we are all worthy of love.
We can't all go home for the holidays but we can all let in a little bit of that old fashioned holiday spirit. Let in that feeling of succumbing to something that laps at the edge of your life all year long, something that will wear away the hard edges of stress, so for a moment, you can be a child again.
Today, as the light seeps into the sky, the house empty, my family changed in ways we didn't expect quite yet, a momentary longing of homesickness welled up in me and threatened to spill over. I just stopped, and for a moment my world was still. I looked at the photos around me, friends, family, Barkley. I look out onto the frost twinkling on the ground like tiny lights in the sun and breathe in deep the beautiful world around and my loneliness disappears like tears melting into snowflakes. I realize that, just as love is not a lover, being with those you love does not necessarily make it a Holiday. For the love that we expect to gather round us on these special days is there all of the time. It is a smile, a laugh, a certain special way of being alive. It is an intensification of life, a completeness, a fullness that seeps into the broken spaces in our spirit like fresh fallen snow, making us whole.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
When the day starts with homemade Pumpkin Roll, it's going to be good.
I have had several guests drop by in the last few days, a gal friend from college coming through town for a quick hello with her spouse, before heading on East, and later, my favorite engineer, also on his way through to visit family, and able to stay a bit. The Range was readied and lots of things baked.
Breakfast was intended to be dessert that night, but it just smelled too good to pass up with morning coffee before heading out.
To the Wookie Mobile!!
Roberta X had to work so we missed having her along though I did bring pie and cookies to Roseholme Cottage. Tam looked at the pie. It's a look you don't want to see if you are either a bad guy or a baked good. I said "there's enough for you and Bobbie". She looked at the pie again and said "Roberta's allergic to gluten does that have gluten? I said "it's made of glutenberries". She smiled. Fortunately, I also had a bag of freshly baked gluten free macaroons made out of ground almonds, egg whites, sugar and pixie dust.
First, a stop at the amazing Artisano's. I've used their products, especially their oils and specialty sugars and salts in many of my recipes. It's worth a drive to the city, the owner and staff being so helpful and samples of all the aged balsamic vinegars and fresh oils available to sip, including a Bourbon barrel aged 18 year old Balsamic with cherry. mmmmmmm.
I picked up a few refills I needed and some spices, salts, and sugars for Samantha, teenage daughter of Rev. Paul, as my way of saying congratulations on her new job in her journey towards a career as a chef. (Go check out the pie she just baked the family). Congratulations Sam and let me know what you do with the espresso and the black truffle salt (which was awesome in the mashed potato part of a lamb shepherds pie by the way).
Then, one more cooking supply stop before heading to the hobby store. We stopped for a model spaceship for Roberta's collection, but like kids, we soon found ourselves wandering and playing with everything while Chewie protested light rail in the train section.
I think I need to show these folks what a real potato gun is. Does this thing shoot hash browns? "Stop or I'll TOT?"
Tam: "It's the derringer of potato guns!
What else do we have in model weaponry? My friend spots a trebuchet but it's not near big enough to launch a flaming sheep at the neighbor's loud party. Look, more weapons! Wood guns of all varieties. As a little kid, I would have loved one of these.
The ammo is at the front counter. Could be worse. I hear in California high powered rubber bands are illegal and Massachusetts requires a permit.
E.: "If you give me a file I can make this fully auto. . ."
Oh Look, 4-D Bacon! (In Pig O Vision)
By the door, a collection of little toys to play with, including some really neat wooden toys of various critters. Look! It's a little OWS Magical Mystery Machine!.
Uh OH. Mr. Anaconda approaches.
Anaconda: 1 Hippies: 0.
Love and Peace meets Economics 101 and the food chain.
Playtime over and purchases made, we headed off to BD's Mongolian Grill to conquer lunch.
They removed the giant wall sized mural of the marauding hordes, which was a disappointment, but the food was really good as always. You get a bowl to fill up at the table of meat (short of Spamalope they have every kind of domestic meat you can think of) and veggies. With your filled bowl, you also fill a little bowl of your favorite sauce (from mild to hot!) to which you can add all sorts of seasonings and then take it up to be cooked in front of you (with a fresh egg if you wish). That's entertainment, in and of itself.
There's soup, salad, desserts and some pricey yuppified drinks, but we just love the basic plunder. I got off to the table with my plate to find rice and tortillas to make wraps, while Tam and E. chat with the cook who prepares their order with swords and flair. If you walk out of here hungry it's your own fault.
We'd planned a stop at one of the big outdoor ranges, as Tam's guests, but it was still raining. Not just raining, like wear a hat, but monsoon pouring, so we had to pass.
One final stop at the Wall O'Imported Beer at Kahns, and a little shop in Broad Ripple that sells homemade pasta and it was time to head back. We left Tam with glutenberry pie, cookies and a big wave.
We're already planning where Chewie will show up next!
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
A day hanging out with Tam is never ordinary. There were Mongol Hordes, guns, knives, Artisano's spices and Chewie the Purse Wookie riding shotgun in the front of the truck (if you squeeze him, he makes loud Wookie noises).
You never know WHERE he is going to turn up when I'm out with my favorite people. I have company visiting from out of town, so more pictures tomorrow, including amazing 4D bacon and the Derringer of Potato Guns.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
greg - with a tip of my coffee mug I have to say - get out your Walmart buttery spread.
A gal friend and I go to movie each month, alternating as to who gets to pick the movie. The last movie involved blowing things up and lots of weapons, so this one was her pick. It was Twilight (this critic giving it zero spikes out of four). She'd never seen the first ones OR read the books and wanted to "see what the fuss is about" (our other choices being Happy Feet 2, Jack and Jill and Puss in Boots). The audience was mostly soccer moms and 11-15 year olds. There were two men dragged into the audience with their wives, poor guys.
You've seen Mystery Science Theater? That was us, not seated by anyone, making jokes about most every scene. I've not laughed so hard at a movie in ages (and it's not a comedy). When the werewolves appeared in wolf form, their lips moving and talking in English, I couldn't help but mimic Duke from the Bush Baked Beans commercial "roll that beautiful bean footage".
And it went downhill from there.
I'm not sure what was worse, music that sounded like the bunny scene in Bambi, that played during dramatic moment, vampires with abs, or werewolves with pecs (all of whom Chuck Norris could take). Also, if your clothes are destroyed when you instantly transform into a wolf, how is it you are still in your pants and T-shirt when you reappear as human?
It was easy to tell the vampires and werewolves apart. The vampires were all overly groomed metrosexuals and society women with occassional upper crust voice inflections (what, no vampires from Minnesota?) living in giant glass houses (you know, since vampires like sunlight so much). The werewolves were of Native Indian descent, living in extremely modest homes of the working class.
We also wondered why a 108 years old was still a student at Unbelieveably Attractive High? Just saying. And of course, when our mumbling heroine becomes a vampire, somehow Sephora is involved, as glittery bronze eyeshadow and mascara emerged on her face as she lay still. But an audience that doesn't understand fluid dynamics isn't going to notice a little insta-eyeshadow.
The wedding night love scene played out to sighs and tears in the audience. (There was one women a few rows back that literally cried through most of the movie). I realize they wished to keep it PG13 in the marital bed scene, but the pair had all the passion of Fred and Doris Ziffle from Green Acres.
We had tears on our faces as well, but from laughing so hard. We found it humorous, not just due to bored looking stars who had the range of emotion of an Irish Setter, the storyline that moved in knots and the bad dialogue, but the whole romantic concept of life and death that is so unlike reality as to forever skew in some 13 year old's mind what they will expect from love and life among mere mortals.
Besides, if all your friends are vampires, who's going to help you eat post movie supper of bacon and french toast with maple bourbon butter.
I think of it as I head on out again with a deer rifle, hoping the rain will let up enough to get a hunt in that day. The woods are chilly from a passing cold front, the air violent and raw, leaves laying on the ground, having flung themselves down with one last rush of motion. The fields are littered with fallen branches and the footprints of invisible deer.
At the base of one tree, was the trunk of another, felled during a storm, where I could stop to sit and think. I've spent more than one day or night out on the ground. As kids we'd sleep in the yard on starry nights, dragging out the little pup tent and setting it up under the canopy of the apple tree. We'd lie on our backs in our sleeping bags, tracking satellites through the air and speculating on the nature of the heavens and why the plain Hershey bar was just better than the one with nuts in it. We were kids, and there were no worries, about elections or taxes or bears or the future. We'd wake, ground cold and soggy with dew, and hike back those 10 yards to the house, bleary eyed from lack of sleep yet energized with the joy of believing that we would live forever.
But we grow up, and our concept of what is lasting changes forever, I think, my shadow small against the mighty form of the tree. There is comfort in my smallness, for I am stricken by the thought of the tremendous history of this tree, mighty roots as old as this land, knitting themselves to the earth, embracing the soil with firm resolution not to be parted from it without great force.
I'm not the first person to pass here, in the ruins of an old farmhouse, the remains of a chimney, choked by plants that search out implicit ghosts. People were born here, people likely died here, only a chimney remaining, no house to warm.
Then, a few yards away from the farm house, the bones of a small animal, a raccoon it looked like. How long had it lay here? Long enough for the bones to bleach to soft white, the flesh now part of the earth, the eyes, silent spheres of history. The shape was benign as if the creature simply stopped quietly and ceased to breathe, unlike other bones one finds in the wild, the animals of the tar pits, trapped in the primordial ooze in the posture of shock. Other animals dropped while running, the bones scattered by predators til the remaining pieces are simply laid out in a question mark.
It only takes a few days for an animal to decompose during the summer months, likely when this creature took its last breath. Only a few days to return to bone, to the simplest components of life, carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur. Only bones left, pressing into the soft welcoming earth, the soil a rich bed of late summer.
Sometimes all I find are bones, laid bare to the elements, or burned clean. With the right temperature all things will burn, yet bone itself stubbornly resists all but the hottest of fires. Even when all the carbon is burned from it, bone will still retain it's shape. An insubstantial ghost of itself, it crumbles easily, the last bastion of the person's being transformed into ash. Yet in that ash remain large pieces, calcined and with the consistency of pumice, yet when held in the hand, almost seeming to posses a trace of warmth from within their core.
Life is not some paranormal landscape where the men are mysterious, live forever and would rather watch you sleep than watch football. Real women aren't physically perfect and the ones to admire don't give up their life and their self to be with a guy just because he's "hot". That's a premise for an insecure person's fantasy. We're born, we die. In between we live as hard as we can, until the day comes when our bones, as well, become part of the rough skin of the planet, as time settles into itself, as we're remembered like the smell of woodsmoke, sprinkling ash upon the cradle in which we will all sleep.
As a young woman, I read books that would be considered fantasy when compared to my life, but the heroes were cowboys or cops, and science was the only poetry, forming order out of chaos. It was a world I could only dream of at that age, but it was a world I could actually witness and one in which I would spend my life to pursue.
I pick up one of the bones from the ground , and my mind goes into it's usual thought process. For even if they have no voice, sometimes what they say proffers a clue. Who was this person? In what manner of violence was their end? It's a world few wish to visit, yet it drives me, the mystery, the puzzle, perhaps because I realize that the final mystery is ourselves.
The use of physical evidence to build a theoretical model of crime or accident involves a number of sciences, the chemistry of death, and the engineering of the body. Out of habit, I stop and survey the scene, making mental notes in my head. How long had it been laying here? Bones, especially ones that have burned, do not give up a time of death. For that you need to trace the extent of decomposition in volatile fatty acids, in muscle proteins and amino acids, all which are normally destroyed in a hot fire. Even today my brain sifts through ideas, time lines and theory based on simple white bone. I pry a bone from the soil, the blade's cold, sharp whisper drawing out that which may be hidden but is not afraid to speak.
For it can tell me a story.
I do not live in some romantic fantasy of mortality, for I walk among the dead, treading carefully on the small broken artifacts of life, part pathology, part engineering, going beyond either. For after the mechanics of motion have stopped, after human physiology has broken down, and what once was animated life, a heart that loved, a soul that dreamed, is reduced to flesh or ash, decay or dried bone, the dead will still bear witness. As sanguine angels in cold marble muse, so will I, long after that which is of the earth is returned to it.
The bones tell me no stories today that I do not know, branches above moving above like a priests hands over the cup, moving with that defining gesture of nature's absolution. What's formed of earth returns to it, amidst the dying brass, lying softly vanquished, there in the juncture of faith and death.
Leaning against the trees, drops of rain splashing off mighty stone and wood, the secret whisper of wind invisible to me and silent. Truly, would most of us wish to live on this earth immortal? Would we find the beauty in anything if we lived forever? Would the gems of thoughts and feelings and desire be so precious if we knew they would always be upon our shelf? Or would they fall to the earth, trickling through our hands like water, evaporating on the cold ground, because we thought our hold on them was eternal.
So I'll pass on the whole paranormal romance think, preferring to hold onto that which may not be forever, but which is so real and so rare, to be held close and savored in the time that remains.