Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Milestone

I'm up on the New York Times Motherlode today talking about the things I always talk about: parenting and cake, the crapshoot that is either of these complicated, multi-step endeavors. You have to both butter and flour the pan? Good god.

The buche de noel the kids and I made for Christmas is chilling in the frige, and it looks like a felled log, just as it should, and the mess we made in the kitchen is evidence of team work, and evidence of my having crossed a threshold as a parent, of not just catering to their whims and needs, and carpooling, but of introducing them to what I love.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fruitcake

Fruitcake means fruitcake, a cake with candied fruit in it, and also someone who is a little nuts. I saw a t-shirt that said, "Respect the fruitcake" and I really like that, because I do.

My grandmother on my mother's side made stollen, German fruitcake, dry as a bone, and up to its ears in chartreuse-colored bits of citron that made you think of a thin spinster aunt in a Great Plains novel, something by Willa Cather, but, when toasted, transformed into this fragrant, buxom, bitter-sweet Christmas experience. The icing pleasantly caramelized, the citron got Italian. I looked forward to it.

Now I'm candying my own pummelos. No euphemism. They're in a reducing sugar syrup in a big copper pot as I write this. It's a fruitcake thing to do, sure, but one of the joys of adulthood is knowing exactly what kind of cake you are.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Buche de Noel, But I Cannot Stop Talking About #GunControl

Translated into English as "Christmas Log Cake" a French Buche de Noel is a rolled cake, cylindrical, filled (apricot jam, marshmallow fluff, iPads, despair at our inability to control firearms, whatever you want, this is America).

And then it is frosted look like birch log in an old-country winter forest. The kind you might hunt for boars in with a semiautomatic rifle.

You can add "moss" made of spun sugar, "mushrooms" of Italian meringue, which I need no permit to eat right out of the pastry bag, because this is America.

I recommend control, when slicing what I have come to call "the Buche" because if you do it right it can look like the beautiful rings of a young sapling, or like the bullseye of a target. Your choice. Like in Westerns cowboys call guns "peacemakers," and today the private citizen fearmongers, and makes the implausible argument they need an Uzi to protect their own. 

We're banning sugary drinks before a complete ban combat-grade assault weapons. But, this year, I'm writing to in my letter to Santa that it's only thing I want.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

German Christmas Cookie, or Foul German Curse Word?*




Kipferl 

Springerle 

Weihnachtsstollen

Lebkuchen

Spritzgebäck

Pfeffernüsse

Dominosteine

Schweineohrchen

Butterplatzchen

Zimsterne





* They are all German Christmas cookies.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crow Among Swans

Crow amongst swans. Cat amongst the pigeons. Pearls before swine. To even think there is an explanation. 

Holocaust survivor and 7th generation Hasidic rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel said when he marched with Martin Luther King he felt that his feet were praying in Selma.

Non-violence and peace is nothing less than culture change. Stricter gun laws, more accessible mental health care, and do not for a minute doubt: it makes a difference, where you put your feet and especially your dollars in the cacophonic, consumerist violence of this country, down to the camo gear, and skull and crossbones footie pajamas marketed in Target for little boys.

Do something with your fear besides buying a firearm. I have a dream that people don't kill kindergarteners. "Never forget that you can still do your share to redeem the world," said Heschel, who lost his family to the Holocaust.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Meringue

I only do this once a year so bear with me as I dive into egg whites fluffed up so perfectly they form, as Julia Child would say, "soft peaks."

How lovely is that phrase, "soft peaks?"

I'm going to wax on, wax off about Italian meringue, the kind you have to boil sugar and water into a thickish syrup (the "soft ball stage" if one must be technical, and another great phrase.) The syrup you then combine with the "soft peaks" to form this glossy, sheen-y, almost beyond reason good thing.

I like to mound it into a pastry bag with a rosette tip, and then pipe it directly into my mouth, as a winter-fluffed mother bird might feed her very favorite, extremely deserving baby bird.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent

We who grew up Episcopalian but are now (                        ) are in the season of Advent, or, if you are a child, the season of Waiting Impatiently for Christmas While Poking At Every Wrapped Gift Under The Tree In Hopes Of Finding Out Information.

I remember it well, this infuriating season for seven year olds. Even the chocolate Advent calendar, one chocolate every day, like the tick tock of a very slow clock.

This morning my son, 7, told my daughter, 5, "We're finally in December's teens!" The way he said it--yelling, basically levitating in the hallway, his face elf-red with excitement --  he  could not have more enthusiastic about the passage of time.

He said into my pale, pre-coffee face, "Why are you not pumped, Mom?"

I like the carols, the lead-up to Christmas, not the taking down of the tree and the clean-up and being cast out from the twinkle of the holidays into the bleak wilderness of January and February.

"Don't you want to see the billfold I made for you in shop class!?!" he said, eager to unwrap the thing right now and show me. That I, overcome by my new billfold, would allow him to open one of his presents.

He said, "I want to know right now, if that package over there is a skateboard. When I squeeze it I feel like it has wheels and could possibly be a skateboard! Is it a skateboard? Is it? Mom? Give me, like ten hints. Is it some kind of transportation? Is it edible?" We have 12 more days of this. But who's counting?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Abandon Hope

"You could even put 'Abandon Hope' on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations.
- Pema Chodron


Abandon hope? Wha'? Didn't Emily Dickinson, the recluse of Amherst, say: 
"Hope" is the thing with feathers -/ That perches in the soul -/ And sings the tune without the words -/And never stops - at all -

My bird ain't doing so well. My bird feels more like an albatross. I'm thinking of setting myself free from hope, as one might cut the lines of a foundering boat and just let 'er sink. I imagine watching it sink down, down, fathoms down, through the clear tropical water and come to rest on the sand in azure lagoon like a pirate ship heavy with the weight of Spanish silver.

I, then, kick with my flippers and burst up into the air! And take a deep breath of hopelessness, which, if Pema Chodron means what I think she means, is freedom from wanting things to be a certain way. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Parallel Universe

If there are parallel universes, in one of them I'm pretty sure I am blond. Those are the so-called, good outcome universes.

In another I live in a slum outside Mumbai, breathing the toxic fumes as I melt down your old model cellphone for the precious metals inside.

In another, I died at eleven, from an asthma attack, instead of being saved (as I was in this one) by a neighbor who told my mother before she started CPR, "please don't sue me if this doesn't work."

In this universe I have two children. In another, perhaps ten, and we live on a farm, during the Dust Bowl, or I am an Orthodox Jew.

I'd like in one universe to be a good-looking 30 year old man, who is aware, but not arrogant about his looks.

The universe I'm really interested in is the one in which I'm not sick. I don't feel like I have the flu all the time, and muscle spasms in my face, one in which I don't feel like molasses. One in which, if I am sick, the doctors know what's wrong with me, and because this is a future universe there's an app for that. 

I'm in an alpine field, rejoicing at all the little faces of the flowers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yule Laugh, Yule Cry

As you know, I'm a lapsed Episcopalian, Pagan, with Buddhist inclinations, and inclinations toward the pastry cart when it comes around.

At Christmas -- which I call Yule -- anything goes. I have knit slippers in the shape of reindeer and the reindeer have silver bells on their knit antlers, you know what I mean? You might find me in the punch.

What I like about this season is that we're tilting toward the light, away from the darkness, all together, as a planet, without any of us working that hard. Now, usually I'm a Puritan and like hard work, and banging my head against the stocks, sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-god style, but how awesome is it not to have to singlehandedly bring back the sun, to light and heat the Earth?

It's effortless, all you have to do is wait for 3-4 months.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Salutations of Holiday Letters That I Refuse To Read



Newsflash. This just in: 

Salutations,

Sister in Christ,

Bretheren,

Prodigal,

Behold, for I bring you great tidings: 

Dear Aunt _________ (but the blank has not been filled in)

Greetings and salutations,

Salve, puer, 

All:

Friends:

Cheery Little Elves: 

All beings near and far, 

People,

Earthlings:

Yo:

VIPs: 

Fear Not! this letter won't be that long. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rock Breaking

Anybody will tell you writing is hard, especially writers will tell you that. They would tell you that and so much more than you want to know about their childhood, and broken dreams and this one time there was a cloud that was I swear to God was the spitting image of George Eliot.

So I've decided to elude the difficulty and call writing something else, I'm going to call it... oh hell, I don't know... I can't find the right word (this being the chief bitch with writing).

I'm going to call it rock breaking. There is something muscular and sweaty and neck-kerchief-y about rock breaking that the effete word "writing" doesn't capture. When I tell my kids I was writing all day they look at me like, And....what's for dinner?

But if I said to them I broke rocks with a pickaxe down in a mineshaft they'd be impressed and might offer me a cool drink of water from a ladle, like in olden days. Poor ol' Ma, they'd say. I reckon' we let her off the hook for makin' dinner. She broke rocks again today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Living in Captivity

Perhaps you've heard we got Zebra Finches? A pair of them, a nest made of woven raffia, and two dowels for them to perch on and on which they perch and look at us askance through their black, sesame-seed-sized eyes.

Because they chirp so gaily and preen, I attribute personalities to them. The male, Atticus, is a tireless Cassanova. All day long he sings of pleasures. Cheep, cheep, cheep. The female, Finchessa, is no fool; I can tell you this because she slept in the seed feeder, as you or I would nap in a creme brûlée. Wouldn't you, if you could?

Of course, they are in an untenable situation - in a cage, in my kitchen - but like so many pets before them, they are rolling with it with pluck and aplomb. In fact, they (well, Atticus) is singing a courtship song to Finchessa that is all tenor warble.

We're all living in captivity aren't we? Yet, as Oscar Wilde says, some of us are looking at the stars.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Haiku of the Perimenopausal

Plummeting Estrogen

The bread is still white
the toaster is not toasting 
throw it out the door!

The Three Stages of Man: Doctors Older Than You, Doctors The Same Age As You and Doctors Younger Than You

My fresh young doctor
can't be more than 12, winks, 
drawls, calls me ma'am.


The Wheel 

What was I crying 
about? What was I crying 
about? What was I?

Lower Your Expectations, Okay, People? 

I blame the empty
fridge f
or why I have not made 
authentic pad thai.

Deadline Approaching

Another thing that 
confounds logic; this time 
it is the printer. 

Assaulting The Toaster With A Hammer

I had my reasons.
I regret them now that I 
want some fucking toast.








Friday, November 16, 2012

Chocolate Truffles

I've come to realize it's not good for me, but I've been a baker.  For my daughter's first birthday I made individual triple-layer pink heart-shaped petits fours with the traditional layer of marzipan, but it brought me to Jesus. I was on the floor weeping, covered in powdered sugar, banging my fists against the floor boards mumbling the word fondant.

Perfectionism is behind my baking problem. There has got to be a Platonic form of croissants. I speak for myself, of course, there are many of you who whisk with abandon, and cute little aprons, and are carefree when it comes to this kind of creation. But I get bloodhound crazy in the kitchen around a preheated 350 degree oven. I want my gingerbread house to look exactly like my grandparents old boathouse on the Miles River of the Chesapeake Bay.

I have a vision of what might be possible with marzipan. I'm always so close, so close; I'm on the board, but never hit the inner circle of the bulls eye. I was all angst about the crumb of my cake, so I have given it up in favor of mental health, and another hobby which I cannot be perfectionistic about and that's making chocolate truffles. They're supposed to look like little clods of dirt and happily, this I can do with my eyes closed.






Wednesday, November 14, 2012

For The Birds

Bird brain. I don't take that as an insult. Bird brain is actually just my speed. I don't have the energy or extraversion necessary to being a dog owner (walks, other dog owners) and I don't like not being adored by cats, so birds it is. (We already have fish, but they remind me too much of myself, going around and around inside a bowl.)

Friends have a pair of zebra finches they raised from eggs, and I was smitten by their wildness (they are not "pets" to be "petted") and their sociability. Wildness, sociability and flitter, being exactly what's missing in the work-from-home habitat that I've dug for myself in the spare bedroom I call my office. It's dark and lugubrious.

I need some light-hearted pals who will pull me out of myself with their aerobic antics, and chitchat. So what if we're not the same species? I saw a PBS show about a dog who became friends with a cheetah, and a deer who became friends with a dog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Turkey

Brined, Koshered, deep-fat-fried, raised by the Amish, raised by hand, spoon-fed, whatever. I'm talking turkey. Tofurkey. Steak. Whatever is on your table. I'm talking how the sausage is made.

It's more of an event, like the New Year's ball dropping in Times Square. The tanned turkey on the table signifies something: we made it.

We're all together again, eating this thing, the board groaning with more pies than anyone can eat. What is means is overabundance. Richness. Sweet success in the sweet potatoes. The family pushed the sleeves on their workshirts up and all worked hard to get here, despite traffic, and infants' schedules, and the weather. It was complicated.

That's the deal. We are Puritans, we are grateful for the struggle, I think. It seems counterintuitive. I would rather some tropical pool of mossy ease like I experienced on vacation hiking in Hawaii several years ago, but instead my ancestral soul is temperate. There is famine in my genes.
Therefore, we mincemeat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ranges

Acceptable ranges for medical tests are based on populations, not individuals.  It's like I didn't know this before, but I'll just say it. I didn't know this. It didn't occur to me. 

The range called "healthy" has nothing whatsoever to do with me (or you), in particular, with your shades of gray, and your affection for Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. A mosquito and an opossum are both animals.  That's science. The nuance, however, is everything. And that's something medical science, with it's concern for populations, and public health, has to put hip waders on for. It's deep out there, and current-y, when it comes to individual lives and our wee sprites of individual ranges. What's more than enough calcium for you to build your shell, may be way less than I need, you know what I mean?

Of course, no argument from me, it is overwhelming to think of a population as the many souls within it. Individuals. Red heads. People who like cats. Like, actually like them. People who can have just one Thin Mint. We are so very different, and I like that about us. (How can you have only one Thin Mint. I mean, really?)

But, when it comes to my thyroid, or anything else really, like, oh, say my ovaries, do I really want the same range as a 300 lb male trucker from St. Louis? 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chop Onion, Carry Water

"Chop wood, carry water" is a Zen saying. In other words, just do what you are doing, nothing more, nothing less. 

As Yoda would say, Simple it is not.  Chopping onions, I almost chopped off the tip of my left index finger. I had to wrap my hand in a tea towel and sit down, and reconsider my entire life while the tea towel bloomed red.

Chop onion. That simple directive, the one that is in every cookbook repeated about a thousand times is actually quite complicated. Nowhere does it say, "Be careful and don't chop your finger off, dumbass."

"I'm chopping an onion," is what I say now, when I'm chopping an onion. I have to really concentrate on this. I'm. Chopping. An. Onion.  Who is this "I"? What is the action called chopping? And what is an onion? What is this appendage called a finger?

You can go kind of deep, but it's not necessary; what is necessary is half a cup.



Monday, November 5, 2012

Punchline

I was on my walk when I almost stepped on a black snake. I hadn't been paying attention to the ground I was walking on, as usual. My head was in the clouds and Shriek! Caw! I scared all the crows  with my own yelling. Holy shit! Holy shit! I almost stepped on a snake. Next thought: Good thing I don't live in the desert Southwest. Good thing I wasn't wearing flip flops.

All too often we don't notice a damn thing. I've put the eggs away in the freezer.

It's a joke, I think. The whole world outside our door like a picnic blanket, and I'm concerned about getting a grass stain out of my son's school uniform. Like, I'm really mad about it and scrubbing it with the toothbrush I have for this purpose. I'm like the monkey that gets captured because it won't let go of the coconut stuck the hole of a palm tree. If I just opened my hand I would be free.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Altar Girl

I have a non-working electric fireplace. It was working. It threw out heat, hummed electrically, had a warm orange glow and had a nifty little remote, but we broke this remote. And by we I mean is one of my kids. I could go on about that, but that's not the point.

The point is now that since it no longer serves its old purpose, I like to have a vase of fresh flowers on it. It's my home altar. A hearth. Like my favorite Greek goddess Hestia who didn't even have a seat on Olympus, but was there, tending the fire. The humble center of the circle of badasses.

Does a home altar sound goofy and Wiccan and Catholic? Bring it. I say. Bring it all. My grandmother-in-law is Costa Rican Catholic and her small place is littered with saints, mostly what I would call The Tacky Saints with hearts bleedingly exposed in their porcelain chests and crowns of gilt. On my altar, I have a very tasteful (I think) sculpture my sister brought back from India of a thin meditating Indian Buddha. This is no laughing Buddha. This is the serious shit.

Altar is so close to alter. Alter your perceptions. Tending an altar is a practice in the husbandry of memory, and attention. I have pictures of people I love, like George Eliot, and my grandmother. Things I love: scallop shells, acorns full of potential, and great signage like the wrapper from a St. Nectaire cheese, and an old fashioned garden plant identification sign that says, "Sassafras."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

To Know The Dark - NaNoWriMo


You know that line  "Do not go to the dark side, Miles.  No going to the dark side" from the movie SidewaysWell, I love that line. Do not go to the dark side. Ha ha. However.

It can be fruitful. As poet Wendell Berry says,  "to know the dark, go dark, go without sight/ and find that dark, too, blooms and sings/ and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings." I love that line too. Why did he choose feet and wings? These are the kinds of question that interest me. Why wings? Like, does he mean an owl, or, probably, some greater mystery.

I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year. Are you? I'm asking everyone I know, Are you? I huff and put my hands on my hips and with arched eyebrow say, "And why not?"

Starting writing is like being without sight. You don't know. That's the human condition, my friend. It's dark. Yes. And?  Is that the staircase to the basement?  It sure feels like it. Is there a story there? 

Finding a line, it's like being brushed by a wing in the pitch black. Like a fox, you want to follow the thing. 




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Day Of The Dead


In the midst of life in our bodies on this earth, we are in death. Under your plump crimson lips, there are teeth. 

Like zombies, we the living. Like zombies, like the caterpillar that a parasitic wasp has laid its eggs in. You are still alive; you still have carpool duty




I think about, aging, illness and death and I think about Dia de los Muertos and how much more potent it is spiritually, making a dead loved one's favorite meal and having lunch in a graveyard for hours than giving candy to cute kids wearing superhero costumes or ninjas. That's child's play. American do. We can beat this thing!  

Look at this animated meat, me tapping away at this circa 2005 keyboard, surrounded by my supplements and something like hope; it's obvious I am a nest for death. Les jeux sont fait, buddy. All you can do is dance to the horn section while you've got on the dancing shoes.






Friday, October 26, 2012

Ghost Story

I listened to @TTBOOK1's Ghost Stories about how we're all  haunted. By what who we've been. By what we've turned in to. It was the creepiest thing to walk through the mist-riven woods this morning thinking there's about a hundred of me crunching these leaves. Me at eleven was really spooked.

Look at that hawk. Maybe it's my dead Aunt E accompanying me.

Or maybe it's nothing, just the usual, sharing the same space time contiuum with raptor. Happens all the time. It would fly ahead of me, and wait on a branch until I caught up with it. And isn't that exactly what the dead do?

It's that maybe it's something, that keeps me singing "Stay Awake" in my head this time of year when  it does feel as if there is some thinning of the skin between the here and the there, that creepy lullaby from the otherwise lovable Mary Poppins. "Stay awake, don't rest your head. Don't lie down upon your bed. You're not sleepy as you seem, stay awake don't rest and dream."

My mother says she saw a ghost. A white embellishment, like embroidery at the edge of a Victorian handkerchief, hovering in the moonlight over the graveyard behind my grandparents farm house. I begged her to tell me about it again, and again, until in my mind's eye I saw it too. A little girl. Significantly, about eleven. My age. I imagined we would wave to each other and I'd say, Hey! I'd say, Hey! Do you collected model horses like I do?

But I've never really seen a ghost.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Genes

I tested positive for mutated compound heterozygosity on the MTHFR gene. The MTHFR gene, which stands for methylenetetrahydrofolatewhateverthehell will from now on be referred to as motherfucker. What it means, basically, is that you've screwed the pooch. 

You can't process stress hormones and they build up in your tissues like a Woody Allen movie. It explains so much. The pamphlet (a silly word) that accompanied the test results said this mutation causes disregulation of cortisol and haywire inflammation (my word, haywire), and increases risks for rheumatoid arthritis, neuropsychiatric disorders, heart disease, diabetes, neural tube defects, alcoholism, among others. Among others. What else? Global climate change.

Then I defy you stars! is what I shouted at the pamphlet. Quoting Shakespeare in moments of stress is, more likely than not, something we with the genetic mutation motherfucker do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hills

I'm no runner (though I've tried.) I'm a walker, and ambler. Like Thoreau! is what I tell myself.

On my ambles across the fields I encounter mostly flatness and feldspar. When I encounter a terrain that is not flat, my heart races. I could be in Colorado. Look at this thing. A hill. It's like I'm in the Rockies. A grade! An obstacle! Something to surmount! Yes! Then, I begin to pant.



Chapel Hill, by my house, in the Western Shore Upland Region/Piedmont Plateau Province, is an intrusion of some kind. Volcanic. Weirdness, among the sedimentary flatness. I like to mow my way up it, pummeling the dandelions' heads off. Pow. Pow-pow and the seeds disperse into the air.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Incident But Not Accomplishment




E.B. White said of his dog, Daisy, "Her life was full of incident but not of accomplishment." That's Zen if you ask me.

It's exactly what I'm working toward. To be less end-results-driven, and more dog-like. In the process, sniffing and nosing, and establishing the perimeters. More chasing the mailman, like my dog used to do. Every particle of her otherwise sweet soul hated the mailman. "Take it as it comes," my mother always says, of life.

I can feel the stump of my tail wanting to wag.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Water Spirit

I've had a marine turn of mind, as happens to me periodically, as you know. The octopus inspires me.  I like the sinuous way it moves and that its mouth is in the middle of its body, which is where it seems to me it should be, not like ours is, at the top of a stalk of celery.

It has no bones. I respect that it gets the job done, despite. I respect those suckers, too. How weird it must be me to suction cup around a mollusk and muscle it open. How weird to it that I use a fork. I like  these juxtapositons, an octopus at the dining table, me, under sea, these tense questions, where we meet our fellow creatures and fail to feel superior.


What with my bellyaching, and meal planning, I would make a really awful octopus. But it, I think, can get itself out of complicated mazes and makes a decent human.





Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And The Oscar Goes To...


It's Oscar Wilde's birthday today. I might wear a boutonniere to swim class. I hope people will ask me why I'm wearing a top hat and tails, too, and am filled to frothy overflow with light, bright, bubbly, wicked conversation. It is because I like to spread the Gospel of Oscar. Large swaths of The Importance of Being Earnest are lodged in the portion of my brain that houses executive function. I will pull ropes and pulleys, absolutely engineer a reason to have to say, "Cucumber sandwiches."

I think about Oscar a lot, and the craft of living, stage crafting a life as he did, even on days when it's not his birthday, like last week I was at a PTA meeting and I was wondering what he might have to say about yoga pants. "There are terrible temptations that it requires strength, strength and courage to yield to."

The Importance of Being Earnest is subtitled, "a trivial play for serious people" and I think, with a rose in my teeth, couldn't that also be the subtitle of life.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Conversation With Oscar Wilde About My Clothes


Oscar Wilde:  "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art." What are you wearing?

Me: Organic bamboo fiber yoga pants.

O.W. How laughable you moderns are with your constant need for comfortable stretchy waistbands! It's like you are infants. Listen, dear,  "a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life."

Me: I'm kind of going through a thing right now that makes that hard.

O.W. "A mask tells us more than a face."

Me: Well, I don't believe in it.

O.W. That, my dear, is deadly. One ought to have something sensational. "With an evening coat and a white tie, anybody, can gain reputation for being civilized."

Me: You think so?

O.W.: Yes. "A really well made button hole is the only link between Art and Nature."

Me: You think I should embrace artifice?

O.W.: Indeed it is the only thing that keeps us real. "If a man treats life artistically, his brain is in his heart."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

PerimenoPROUD

My FSH level is high. My estradiol is low. Meaning that I'm entering into that period of not having any periods and becoming a fire-breathing gonzo loon, which I always knew I was behind closed doors, except now I have the lab tests to back it up and can emboss "Absurd, But Friendly" on my calling card.

Now, the big question: to HRT or not to HRT? a question Hamlet never had the ovaries to pose. The bastard. HRT if you don't know (and if you didn't know I'm not sure anymore that we can be friends, or even in the same county) stands for Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Estrogen is what was making me the gimlet-eyed Little Miss Helpful that I've always been, and now that that's plummeted to the bottom of the pickle barrel, I'm salty, what I want to do is dance around a cauldron of boiling bats and turpentine, and cackle.

I'm drying herbs on my windowsill, and reading herbaria, and The Wisdom of Menopause; how quickly I'm passing from maiden, through mother, to crone where most of us -- if we're lucky -- spend the majority of our lives.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rough Old Broad

If I have a Muse she's a rough old broad. Her breath smells like candy-colored fennel seeds you scoop at the end of an Indian meal. Her wears her hair in a big bun. I like to imagine she has wings, little transparent ones, like an overweight fairy godmother.

She might have been a diner waitress, because she says things like, "Hon. You call that a sentence?" She likes to dance. I think she's no bigger than a thimble, but has a big Napoleonic complex, and suffers from delusions of grandeur when she says, "You should make that more Keats-y, hon."

No leftover apple pie is safe around her. She prefers things a la mode. When it comes to jewelry and especially to ropes of pearls the answer is always "Pourquoi non?" She loves a good time. I think she might live in a yurt. She keeps pigs. She has a cauldron. She's some esoteric form of Wiccan, and has a Celtic bent.

"A smidge" is how she refers to me. "C'mon, smidge, get crackin'" she says, and, "Stop describing me as if I were Queen Mab out of Mercutio's speech in Romeo and Juliet. I'm, like, her daddy."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Bat House

Like everyone else, I use Halloween as a chance to get my woodland nymph on. I've been a woodland nymph for 10 years in row, except in 2009 when I had swine flu, and was a sniffly feverish sunken-eyed couch nymph. That sucked.

This year I want something different - related, but different. I'm researching my unicorn options.

But, by Jove, and brownies and wee harmless tree sprites! By all things holy to me, mermaids and Ariel! Type "women's unicorn costumes" in to the Internet, and suddenly you're a sex addicted woodland freak. I've seen things. Unicorn horns of red latex, hooves that you can put on over your shoes, sparkle LED manes, and loads of prancing, prancing postures in bustieres that in no way resemble the splendid art historic unicorn tapestries located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I'm so not made to put on rainbow fur leg warmers. So screw unicorns, and woodland nymphs. What was I thinking? I'm in my 40s. I'm going as a bat house.




Thursday, October 4, 2012

Subconsciousness

I've been dabbling in Jung. Result: I have an interest in dreams. Thinking it was going to be very revealing,  I asked my kids "What did you dream last night?" What it revealed is that, in kids, there is a thin film, like just a cobweb, between the subconscious and the conscious, but for us adults there is a defensive wall of brick, like the Great Wall of China.

My son, 7, who had been pretending to be a cheetah all afternoon after school, said, "I dreamed I was a cheetah."

My daughter, 5, who had been drawing pictures of fairies said, "I was sleeping in a buttercup."

"What about you, Mom?" They asked, "What did you dream?" I didn't want to say a wolf and a madman and a faucet that was constantly dripping. So I said, "Oh, you know, sweeties,  a little of this, a little of that."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Interior Decorating Ideas

One of the first things they cheerily (oh the unanimous, anonymous, famous, cheery "they" of the medical world) tell you to do is to "keep a pain journal."

I have one that I have named Fuck This Shit. Seriously, that's how I refer to my pain journal. "Hey, has any one seen Fuck This Shit? I know I left Fuck This Shit around here somewhere. Like, maybe, under the couch?"

It is interesting to keep a log of symptoms, but is it truly healing? I have my doubts. Fuck This Shit's first few chapters were a litany of miseries. Take this, from 9/1: Feel like my face is going to fall off. Iced it. Is life worth living?  Had a cookie. Etc. It goes on. So now I don't write in it anymore. Because frankly I don't want to know how much vitriol and despair I have, and who in this modern fast world of bananas doesn't?

I want to accentuate the positive, even if it is just at the moment the size of a flea. Smaller than a flea. An amoeba in a drop of pond water. So I scratched Fuck This Shit off the cover of my journal, and markered in a new name:  Interior Decorating Ideas. Paint swatches, and pretty vases, and such.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bananas




The Platonic ideal of a banana is banana bread.

Ideal banana bread consists of butter, flour, sugar, bananas (of course) walnuts (there is division among the ranks over this, but to the naysayers I say walnuts!) and dried shredded coconut. I got the idea of dried shredded coconut from Mark Bittman, on whom I have a crush, as I do on all rounded, balding men.

Anyhoo. Banana bread. Lush land, verdant, like the bosom of the New World, this island of quick bread cooling on my counter. A slice of warm banana bread is proof that the universe is breathing. There is life worth living. And it's in my kitchen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Spirit Animals

If I have a spirit animal I think it's a small nervous rodent.

Yet years ago when I consulted psychics at the Tremont Tea Room in Boston, I was told my spirit animal is a hawk. Every card I chose, I turned it over and there was a hawk. I really was jonesing at the time for my spirit animal to be a dolphin, so I was bummed.

It's strange that my spirit animals are mortal enemies.  It's like that symbol Ouroboros, the snake eating it's own tail. Creation and destruction: hawk-like vision, and scrambling rodent-like fear. Ying and yang.

The cool thing is there is a chipmunk living in a hole under our patio, and a hawk that preens itself in the afternoons on our silver maple tree, so I get to see aspects of myself several times a day.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grasshopper

So I just got back from a woo clinic in Western Massachusetts. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, seven hours in a car is kind of like walking the Santiago de Compostela except less beautiful, although 87 through New York state is beautiful. I drove with the sun setting. Everyone who has sick has done this.

I am a pilgrim. I am late in realizing this. Typical. Late bloomer. Bonehead. Novice. I'm always looking for a guru, or a mountaintop to ascend at the the top of which there will be The Answer. Maybe it will be A Pill.  Giving Up Gluten. Trumpets. The light of illumination.

The doctor at the woo clinic was beardless, New Englandy in his khaki pants, very un-lama, half of my session he typed into his computer, sternly. At the end of this he said: There is no cure for what you have. But, he said, it's not going to kill you. You're going to have to learn how take care of yourself. 

At this I saw a cartoon tumbleweed blowing through the desert. Take care of myself? Me? In my imagination there was a cow skull like in a Georgia O'Keefe painting. I'm in no position to to that!

Then I thought, godamnit, that 70s TV show was right. I could have just stayed home. But I had to travel to find out that, Grasshopper, the mountain is within. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Song Birds

Small pleasures. In this world of transience, I knew about chocolate, coffee, cheese. The benefits thereof are  being found out by science: polyphenols and such. But producing music using one's own epiglottis and uvula? I'm convinced it's medicinal.

Holding forth like a canary or, operatically, like a lady with a helmet on, I sing to my children. Snippets, scraps from the American songbook, showtunes, specifically from my 8th grade operetta South Pacific in which I played the non-speaking role of Sailor No. 5 which I nailed. "Some Enchanted Evening."

Some Ella, the Fireside Book of Folksongs including "What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor," a cautionary tale of drink and pirates. I have no pitch and no talent save enthusiasm.

It's whistling in the dark, giving the finger to the eventual end, and I'm going to keep on doing it. Covering my ears and singing la la la, canary in the coal mine,
Oh My Darlin,' Clementine."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chronique

I wish chronic illness could be gussied up with a fine French accent, and made appealing with the addition of a petit scarf and a box of chocolat, but let's be real. I want to talk about how to parent when you're-- and I'm just going to lay out my symptoms for you, since we're being honest -- having "intestinal issues," fainting, facial muscle spasm and pain, blurred vision, panic, and generally want to crack your skull with a rock.

How does one go to a PTA meeting with an orthodontic bite plate in and fit in?

Does one read the kindergarden class Pills, or, The Surprising Things I've Learned Late Nights Researching PubMed?

There is no box on the volunteer sign up that says check here if you want to talk about a) mortality or b) the complete fucktardness of the American medical system. It's really exhausting to me to appear to be in the pink of health, as I drag myself through the carpool lane like an old female Galapagos tortoise.

Those of you who do this with grace, please, how do you do it? How honest are you with your children's teachers, other parents, your own children, yourself.



I Am Templeton, But Aspire to Be Charlotte

Charlotte’s Web: Radiant, Terrific, Some Book

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Raising Chickens for Dummies

White Rock X White Cornish

White rocks have dominated
the meat market
in fact. Almost every chicken 
you buy 
is a strain

of the previously mentioned cross. 
The advantage is they grow twice the size
quickly 
on far
less.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chicken Stream of Consciousness

When I think about chickens this is what I think about: chicken, the pejorative, cowardly, lily-livered, milquetoast, Brave Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python who "quickly turned his tail and fled."
But don't let chickens fool you. They're biological cousins to the T. rex Sue. You know, Sue, the largest hen who ever roamed the earth?

I'm working on being more assertive. Not "more assertive" hell, I'm working on being just the slightest smidgen of assert. Ever so slightly having a point and standing(ish) for something. Maybe. I'm passive-aggressive as jellyfish.

But I think of my kids, those dear little wide-eyed sponges watching me and I want to model something for them besides drifting cantankerously and becoming really really repressed. So chickens! Wandering about, pecking, expressing their world views. 

Living out loud in the yard, clucking. They can't fly. Brave. I have much to learn from them; I already have names for them: Athena, Demeter, Bad-Ass, and Take No Shit. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Comb Jellies, They Do Not Sting


Measurements are maximum
umbrella diameters. Scale varies.
in Beroe species,
measurements are maximum.
Body flattened, sac-like, see text
For individual species. See individual plates
Venus Girdle,
page 32. Leidy's
Comb Jelly. Common.
Common Northern Jelly. Northern.  Some are flattened, sac-like
Take the gooseberry -- it's oceanic. It has lobes
that are are maxi-
mally longer than its body.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Run

I've been reading about fitness and interval training as a way of anthropologically investigating how it is that other people live, the people are are fit. The people who might not only buy but also use hand weights. The people wearing Lutherville-Timonium 5K Turkey Trot t-shirts.

Channeling Margaret Meade, I decided to try out some  of this "interval training" so I went to "the track" and tied up my "running shoes" and began "to run."

Well, as the scientists say, fuck that.

Not a quarter mile in, I wanted to just absolutely die, my hip bones were crawling up into my ear canals, my calves, and Achilles tendon, the molten core of the earth. I figure the reason why is that my body is not meant to run.  I am not designed for it.

There is no shame in it, this is what Darwinism tells us: there are certain ecological niches, certain designs. My niche is smooth grassy slightly rolling surfaces - sometimes called lawns -- where I can loll -- I am designed for lolling -- in the the partial shade, eating whatever fruit is in season.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Atlantic Horseshoe Crab



Into shallow water in late spring 
adults migrate and lay greenish 

eggs in the upper intertidal zone. Sand colored.
Young move into deeper water gradually where they grow older and 

darker, horseshoe crabs can swim, but awkwardly 
and most of their time is spent rummaging
in the muck. Their main food: 
the mollusks and worms. 

They were once harvested, 
and some are still taken to be chopped up for lobster bait despite their armament of spines,

sharp tail spike, and wriggling clawed feet 
horseshoe crabs are harmless.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ode To My 70s-Yellow Dutch Oven

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness...and soup, Keats might have said. The seasons are changing, it's time to bring out my 70s-yellow Dutch oven, he might have said.

Except you can't just bring it out, the thing is heavy, it is the weight of a neutron star, and requires that I say to my husband, Piss Boy! Fetch me that Dutch oven. (I've watched Mel Brooks' History of The World altogether too many times and -- of course -- The Producers, a seminal work of art, "I'm cold, I'm wet, and I'm hysterical" is how I frequently feel.)

My 70s-yellow Dutch oven is heavy, that helps to keep me grounded. With lighter pans, like fry pans, I am want to drift away like a balloon.

My Dutch oven is heavy and filled with delicious stew. I am good at chopping things up like vegetables, and my confidence, into leeetle tiny pieces, very very small and warm vegetable stew is ancient Ayurvedic goodness, restorative for Kappa-Pitta types like moi-self, and the modern world.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kelp

Kelp

The species common to our area
riddled with holes
it's blade is oarlike, unruffled in winter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

MRI

I was in a tube last week. And no, I was not going to be mailed, or born, or mummified or sent down Ol Man River though it felt like all three. I was scanned by very fast very loud magnets spinning around my braincase and my genre foreverafter is Star Trek because I carried home films of my brain and eyeballs, and optic nerves, and they look just like stalks, good God, Captain! like the eyestalks of a lobster!

Afterwards I should have been offered a cigarette, or a mint or something like maybe at the very least a piece of pie and a moist towelette because I was reamed, bored, sliced, cored. I now have images of my brain in side view, in slices, like a loaf of bread, all blessedly normal.

It's not my brain that's toute fucke as they say in French-speaking Canada although it is fucked up to look at your brain, it's very meta, very Hamlet-esque, there's you looking at your brain, who do that voodoo? You do, darlin' I am so ready for Halloween. In life we are in death. If you know me, you know I'm making my brain MRI films into fabulous window clings.




Friday, August 31, 2012

Aunt Beast

My sister had her daughter yesterday at 3:23 am. Big themes. Nothing puts a body in mind of big themes like labor, and the very early morning. It takes a whole lot of effort. On the ward, because it was a full moon and lots of women were delivering, there was bellowing. I heard sounds that reminded me that we are all animals. I like being an animal.

Aunt Beast from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is the kind of beast I want to be and the kind of aunt. She's the fuzzy octopus who is kindly, and smells good. This seems to be an aunt's job. All my aunts smell good. I have a lean one, and a jolly one, and one who cooks really well, and another who plays the harp for the dying. Some of these overlap. It's called music thanatology. I have interesting aunts. In addition I have my mother's long time friends who I also think of as aunts. One keeps chickens, another I shit you not has a wine cave in Tasmania.

She looked into my eyes with those large martian newborn eyes that seem all deep and endless and full of wiseness of another world and I knew I would fight any comer like an elephant seal or a lion or whatever it's biological. She's the elephant calf. I'm the fragrant old matron who knows a thing or two, and has a weather eye, and thick legs.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

More Poetry from Peterson's Field Guide to the N. Atlantic


Skeleton Shrimps

Form and behavior 
often delicate. Methodical 

in movement, some are 
especially associated with sea stars
and brown or reddish to match. 

Others prefer drifting. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hot Reads, Cold Reads: Taking a Book’s Temperature

Hot Reads, Cold Reads: Taking a Book’s Temperature

John Steinbeck, warm. Steve Almond's Candyfreak, melted milk chocolate warm.

Grimm's Fairy Tales, cold. Ditto The Metamorphosis and anything by a Russian. Nabokov's Pale Fire case in point, how cold it is is right in the title for gosh's sakes. Some people find Austen cool as a wet washcloth on a fevered brow.


Zorba The Greek, dry heat. Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Florida swamp heat. Annie Dillard skates on thick Midwestern pond ice.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Atlantic Seashore Field Guide Poetry



Called simply "the clam"
in New England where it is usually fried
it is more common in our area than the Angel Wing.
On his 4th voyage Columbus was marooned,
for a year in Jamaica
which was detectable under a microscope
with careful manipulation of the substage lighting.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Horseshoe Crabs

I was going to title this blogpost Why Do Bad Things Happen? and go on as I am wont to do about my cervical vertebrae and facial muscle spasms that so contort my face my children draw portraits of me askew, but I realized the more mysterious question is not why do bad things happen, it is how is it that horseshoe crabs have been around since the Triassic?


These animals with long institutional memory are chopped up for lobster bait. Today I feel a lot like lobster bait. There is a whiff about me of low tide, and ancient memory. 

One summer at my grandparents' farm on Miles River of the Chesapeake Bay the moon and the tide must have been just right because hundreds of horseshoe crabs crawled up  from the depths into the shallows and my grandfather called us all out to watch them as they lay their eggs. We shined flashlights on them and gawked. Monsters. Dinosauric.

The next morning there were many dead. Their carapaces clicked and rubbed against each other as they had the night before, but this time it was different. If we had been smart, as smart as the Native Americans who plied this particular piece of land long before my family, we would've gathered them all up, and laid them on the fields.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Vox

Hang in with me dear reader as I reinvent myself, the arthritis has gotten worse and I've always liked invertebrates.  I can't use my hands to write anymore if I want to be able to use them for anything else, like brushing my daughter's hair.

I'm using voice recognition software and it's bumpy. I'm bumpy. My hands have been intermediaries, traders in the Khyber Pass between the warring countries of brain and page.

I'm not going to edit this, because I tell my kids all the time making mistakes is what learning something new looks like. I'm a 7-year-old learning how to read. I'm a 40-year-old picking up a new instrument. Everybody around me puts their earplugs in.

In the section about cephalopods in my Field Guide to The Atlantic Seashore, it is written, "Some of these live on or near the bottom, far out on the continental shelf or beyond; others swim suspended in the darkness above the abyss of the deep-sea."

And this, on the Paper Nautilus: "the shell is secreted by 2 modified arms of the female as the brood chamber."

Brood chamber.  I've been looking for a long time for the words to describe what this blog is.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Six Weeks At Sea

My husband is gone for six weeks to work in Boston. The kids are with me. Me and the kids for six weeks flying solo like geese in a V formation, or like 18th century Nantucket whalers, out of the sight of land, but in our case, we're still an "easy" drive to the grocery store. "O easy for Leonardo," as Dylan Thomas wrote in A Child's Christmas in Wales.

I'm the front of V, the lead goose, the v-vavoom, the engine of this little ship of three. O Captain my Captain, the kids say to me, when's lunch?

O Superbly Bleeding Heart of Mary, or suffering Christ or righteous HaShem, merciful Guan Yin, or Hera and Ceres, goddess of mothers,  or whatever higher power who oversees the moms who are ill, and working the line: the sea is so big and my boat is so small. I plan to steer for the Gulf Stream, get in that current with the gulfweed and the other little fish.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Difference Between The Lightning Bug and The Lightning

Finding the right word is the paramount concern for scribblers. Crap. Is paramount the right word? Maybe "chief" would be better?  I must refer to the best present I ever got: Rodale’s Synonym Finder.
How about "upper-most," or "cardinal?" "Cardinal" has that nice alliteration on the Cs.  Lord have mercy this is hard work, writing; why does anyone even try? It's a compulsion, the way some bakers bake, though baking too requires precision teaspoons and it's all too easy to deflate a cake.

Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning."  What I wonder is how long did he agonize over that pithy little remark?

Pascal wrote, "I made this letter so long only because I didn't have the time to make it shorter." So I guess I'll simply stop "discontinue" "leave off" "drop" and "abandon" this right here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Heart Chocolate and So Does The Heart

I'm not a scientist; I only recently learned the word "flavanoids," but instinctively, as a hedonist, I knew this: A Piece of Chocolate a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. As the devil said in Paradise Lost, "it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, n'est ce pas?" What I mean is, we're all terminal cases.

If I go down slower by eating foil wrapped mashed beans from tropical countries, mixed with milk of an ungulate, why then, why not? It sounds like science fiction.

All the books I'm reading on happiness reveal that the devil is not in the details, but in the big picture.  That'll freak a body out: the big picture. It's like that room made of monks' skulls in Italy where over the lintel it is written, "What you are we used to be; what we are now you will be..." Happy?  Happiness resides in the details, the small stuff, the sweat of the living, and those couple of ounces of dark chocolate that keep us upright in the right direction.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Toast For My Sister's Wedding

My sister is getting married today. Seems to me she was just seven?

We would play The Umbrella Game, at seven or eight, crouching in a huddle of umbrellas as the lawn sprinkler crossed over in it's lazy arc. I'm getting emotional. I wasn't so at the time, I was convulsed with laughter or "horsefeathers" our grandmother called them, as the "rain" pelted the umbrellas and we waited inside the camp, hysterical as only two sisters can be, and making our Breyer plastic horses enact some scene we'd seen on the soap opera Santa Barbara.

Okay now I'm getting really emotional. I realize we'll never do that again. I'm 40 and arthritic, and you're 36 and roundly pregnant. I can't crouch and you can't fit.

We're married women today, and come August, both of us with children. The rain is real now; the scenes from Santa Barbara, are now our lives, minus the nefarious Princess Wilhemina plot, and the evil twins, and the spirit-possessed priest, but plus inevitable piles of laundry, work, planning healthy meals around vegetables.

Mark Knopfler sings: "I can't stop the pain when it calls, I'm a man, I can't stop the rain when it falls, my darling, who can? My darling friend, my darling friend, all we've got going is love in the end. It's all that matters."

"It's all that matters." But I can say this: We've still got those umbrellas. It's just that they're metaphorical now. Punit. All of these family and friends gathered.  Parasols.


Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying, 
what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud, 
to be happy again
in a new way
on the earth! and the soft rain –
imagine! imagine! 
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Buoyant

I've been fascinated since childhood by things in the sea without spines: comb jellies, mantis shrimp, anemones. The quality of spinelessness is buoyancy to me. Drifting. In the Tao of the Humbolt Current. I like all plankton. I'm older than the kid who used to capture comb jellies in the dark to watch them sparkle. I have a spine of my own, and generalized degenerative arthritis. "The spine a 70 year old" as my rheumatologist tells me, and closing up my paper gown I feel like a specimen. Something that could be jarred in an old school museum, with a fading handwritten label: Degenerating Suburban Mother. See what having a spine gets you? is what I say to the sea squirt, when I pull up the lines that lead to the crab pots, I wish I were a sea squirt. Some kind of sponge. The water moves through them. They don't even have blood vessels, they are the vessel. It is elegantly simple. Simplify simplify, isn't that what Emerson said? Yet we have complicated, with upright posturing, opinions on New Yorker poems, bones.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

First Broken

I've never broken a bone. I have thing for bones, though, and X-rays; they reveal the secret scaffolding.

Yesterday my son broke the tip of his ring finger on his right hand. It was a lawn chair accident. Damn lawn chairs. You see them in commercials on tv with people sipping iced tea under a live oak having the relaxing time of the time of their lives, but not so! Not so! They can break the tip of the ring finger of your right hand! 

His X-ray showed perfect phalanges, except for that one little gash, a crack, zig-zaggy like lighting in a tiny world. "See?" I said pointing to it. It was less of a question and more of an imperative. Look! what happens when you try to wear a lawn chair on your head? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Full Barnyard

"Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I'm a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe." - Nikos Kazantzakis, from Zorba the Greek


Buddhist teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn recommends that we practice "full catastrophe living." And I do. Husband, children, house - well not a house, but a rented apartment - dishes, laundry, car pool, sanitary hand wipes, everything


More than a catastrophe, it is a barnyard, after a big rain. Squelch, squerch - that's me in the mud in my wellies with the mournful frog faces, yelling soueeeee, soueeee, and smacking on the tin pan with a wooden spoon. 


There are pens for the laundry, stalls for long handled wooden spoons. I milk the cow of myself, going back and forth from Trader Joe's for the slops. Out back there is a heavy midden of the crusts I have cut off the bread."You think too much," Zorba says, "That is your trouble. Clever people and grocers, they weigh everything."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sunscream

"Like applying sunscreen to a small child" is a smilie for difficulty. I could say, exasperated, my life as a suburban mother who "delivers obstetrically once, and by car forever after" is "like applying sunscreen to a small child."

I do it daily, two jigger-fuls per child as recommended by my sister's friend, a man I refer to as "the dermatologist."

The verbs are cowpoke: lassoing, wrangling, bellowing. I hear a harmonica, playing mournfully, and dust; this show is a Western. The kids are mustangs. They see Neutrogena wet skin kids, beach & pool on the label of the bottle and bolt, kicking up prairie dust. "No, Mommy, no!"

I wrestle them to the floor, and it's like that game I played at camp: the greased watermelon in a pool game. You'd think I was killing those watermelons, as I paw their nose and cheeks, preventing melanoma. I feel like a marauding bear.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Art of Losing

My son's goldfish that did not have a name other than "that goldfish" died this morning. That goldfish was his first poke in the ribs from that pointing skeletal hand called mortality. Ask not for whom the toilet flushes,  or for whom the bell tolls.  "Why do things have to end, Mom?"

I came up with the simile, "Life is like a song, son," which I knew was lame even as I was saying it."You know Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People that you like so much? It has a beginning, a middle -- some people call that the bridge -- and an end; it wouldn't be a song if it didn't have an end."

"That is so stupid."

He started to cry. I felt like crying to, the impotent parental tears that I cry when I cannot for the life of me come up with a good answer to a child under ten's brilliant questions like, why do some crabs move sideways and other crabs move forwards and backwards, or we eat shrimp but don't turn pink, but flamingos do? Why?

So I said that I didn't know, and we sat together in the garden, watching the bees in the foxgloves and after awhile he stopped crying and pulled himself together and said very solemnly, "I wish I had named that goldfish Steve."


Monday, May 14, 2012

I'm A Drag Show




"We all came into this world naked. The rest is all drag.”

 I've been watching RuPaul's Drag Race, the thinking-mom's reality show.

How often I forget the world's a stage, and moms are merely players, but RuPaul reminds me I am a character in these light-wash mom-jeans,  with my hair...oh girl, RuPaul would say of my hair.

 Being a drag means mom jeans because you're beat and boring, and perimenopausal. Being in drag means wearing mom jeans LIKE YOU MEAN IT. You're the HMFIC.

Work those mom jeans and head band.  RuPaul would again say, oh girl. Make it fierce. Call yourself LunchBoxx. Work it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Titanic

This Sunday, April 15th, is the 100th anniversary of the best story, ever, for a child. It was a come-to-life Greek myth, but real - and recent. My grandmother was born in 1912.

The story gained traction in my imagination, until I became not as bad as James Cameron, but certainly on the spectrum. As the oldest of seven cousins, I convinced them to put on plays about Titanic, we rewrote the ending and made - the night, the 'berg, the screams - all a dream. All a dream.

That's what fiction means. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: "the good end happily, and the bad unhappily. " Who at eleven could handle such a tragedy, even if the backdrop was a sheet we'd painted to look like portholes, and the setting was at the bottom of my grandparents' stairs?

I adored the words "watertight compartments." Also the words I learned later, "hubris," and, "The Gilded Age." I imagined Bob Ballard, and the submersible Alvin down there in the dark, finding the bow. It gave me shivers. Like elephants finding bones. They stand around the bones, touching them with their trunks like fingers, seeming to remember, thinking about how they might end.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Toothsome

Yesterday I had my #14 molar pulled, or, as they say, "extracted." I was upset about it. I've had that molar for more than 30 years, longer than I've known some of my closest friends, and I dined with it every night and never thought about it until it went bad. We went through a gummi bear phase together, in the 80s, and tapas, in the 90s, good old #14. Old shoe. Fit me like a glove.

The hole where it used to be is not a hole, it's a pit, basically. Something could be mined out of there. I have gigantic teeth, like all the Hawkins women. At family reunions I know from whence I came: flesh-tearers. Big smilers. Fat-ass molars. It's where we put our energy reserves, I guess.

The oral surgeon said, sure you can keep your tooth, whatever bits are left, I expect it will shatter. But it didn't, whatta pal #14, a trooper, an English peasant gal. It came out intact, thick as the pinky on an infant. Three-rooted, strong shouldered, but dead - it was nobody's fault, the oral surgeon said.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making The Bed

My grandmother taught the "hospital corner" as The Way to make the bed, a crisp fold in the sheet, everything laid flat and smooth as a mathematical plane. She implied that there was no other Way. She implied that a bed made without a "hospital corner" was not, technically, made.

But my life quickly became not linear. "The throw and forget" was what I did with the duvet.

Now it falls on me to be the teacher. I've surprised myself. I tell my children: "Make your bed. No, not like that, a nest for a rat, surrounded by old smelly blankets and Batmen." I tell them to make it smooth. Smooth, crisp, neat. I used to not care for these words either.

I watch them sulk and struggle with their comforters, and I say, "Watch." What I'm saying is soon their lives will be eagle's nests, bulky, and unclean with sticks and fishbones, and I will keep the beds made, while I can, a distraction from the wilds, and a possible route for return from them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tadpole

There is a tire-rutted road behind the barn on campus, which fills with water in the spring. The frogs think it's Plato's Retreat, New York City in the 70s.

I came across a couple, so entwined that even when I frothed the water with a stick, they just blinked.

I came back a few days later, and the pool was filled with tadpoles, like toddlers in the sandbox. I brought an empty yoghurt container, scooped some up, took them home to a makeshift aquarium and have spent the last week stupefied by their transformation before my eyes. O Nature! O captain my captain! There must also be some kind of plan for me, I hope, also to grow, and to change?

The tadpoles have gone from looking like sperm in that 70s movie The Miracle of Life, to now - when they have a noticeable spine, and are sprouting leg buds. I got a booster shot of nerdliness, spending a hour looking at them while the kids were in school with a magnifying glass, in the sunlight. I said to myself, I'm like Jane Goodall of frog spawn.

Appreciate. It's a miracle. A mundane, tire-rutted road miracle, same as we all are, but none the less.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#readingfail: Famous Novels I Never Finished

On the list of #readingfail: Famous Novels I Never Finished are The Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby, yet somehow I zinged my way through The Scarlet Letter.

One woman's embroidered letter of shame that she wears on her bosom is, I guess, another's reading pleasure.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dinnertime Yoga

Pose Of The Spatula: Lie on the couch, considering that none of your kids will eat green beans.

The What Kind of Mother Are You: When they say, "What's the green thing in the cheese sauce?" say innocently, "What green thing?"

Trikanasana or Triangle Pose: Cut the crusts off white bread, slather on peanut butter, weave broccoli into the conversation.

Pigeon: Coo. Coo. Cooo. The brownies are made with blackbeansandzucchini. Say it real fast and it sounds like "expensive single origin Dutch-processed cocoa, Mommy loves you so much."

Corpse Pose: Fish nuggets.

Pose Of The Non-Stick Pan: Slide easily to the floor, like the fried eggs that everyone said they wanted for breakfast but after you made them, nobody wanted.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Big Pharma

In college, studying post-structuralism, and the literature of unknown women writers of the Caribbean, and the concept of "birthing trees," I used herbal tinctures, roots and tubers; I fancied myself an Appalachian curandera, thinking maybe I could cut the cord with Big Pharma. I made tea bags from muslin.

When I got the flu, I made myself an elixer of garlic and cayenne, and put on a hat to "sweat it out," and maybe have a fever-dream in which Odun would appear and conjure the career path I might take after graduation. Dazed and febrile a few days later, I ended up on antibiotics. Curandera fail.

My life is increasingly brought to you by Big Pharma. It always was. Asthma as a child. (Oh, the inhalers I have had!) Arthritis and TMJ in midlife. Let me show you my pills, you show me yours. We are all here, enjoying what they call "a certain quality of life." Better living through chemistry.

If I could chew on a root and feel better you better bet I would. Except chewing hurts. There's a pill for that. Or if there isn't yet, I hope to the Caribbean, there will be. They are right now isolating compounds from the venom of the cone snail. Holy the cone snail, if it can erase suffering from the face of the earth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Clutter-Blindness

Do you think you have an extrasensory sense of the arrangement of furniture? I know when there is a coat on the sofa that belongs on a coat hook, in the closet. I know when a carpet is misaligned beneath an "entertainment center." I am aware also, of the last time the "entertainment center" was dusted.

Does no one put their backpacks and shoes away, in the spaces I have designated for backpacks and shoes? There's a banana peel on the kitchen table.

Oh look, it's my coat that's the one on the sofa. Fancy that. That trail of socks is my trail of socks. Like Gretel I am with my footwear, leading me back to the place where I came on to the scene of -- a pile of laundry that is scaleable, like an Alpen mountain. On the floor there is a squishy plastic toy, I think it is an octopus until I step on it and it squeaks in a way in which I know it is meant to be a duck.

Everyone else in the family seems to suffer from clutter blindess. Like moles my son digs through his room to find Batmen, and Spidermen. My husband is cheerful, always, singing while he shaves unknowing of the thunder his dry cleaning is making. I feel I am constantly tidying, scooping, fastening wheels to the mini-convertible car my daughter's doll drives in. It is as if I am a dam in the universal force of everything in my house wanting, like a scientific law, to be on the floor.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spring Gardening: How-To Plant and Garden Books

The cure for the winter blues is seeds, gardening books, heirloom tomato catalogues and an expensive trowel that you don't really need, so forget the trowel, let it be just a fantasy trowel, as are my beehives, and chicken coop. Spring Gardening: How-To Plant and Garden Books

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lent

The season of Lent is, in the church year (a concept I don't believe in anymore, though I did, once) the season of quietude, betterment, giving-up, taking-on. Change. You could also call it Late Winter because it means the same: things are afoot. Bulbs, for instance, are under foot. Moss. Stem extensions of narcissus. Late winter possibilities.

My Lenten/ Late Winter practice I'm calling Three Nice Things, an extension of my metta or lovingkindness practice, it does not come easily to me to be kind, but I'm taking on Three Nice Things. Ten seemed overwhelming, a single nice thing stingy.

The thing is: what the hell is a nice thing? Some appreciate a bunch of daffodils from Trader Joe's, others muffins. Still others want to talk about how they feel over coffee. I'm okay with that, sometimes. Mostly I like to drop things off on people's porches, and run away, you know, practice random acts of beauty and all that bumper sticker, and then retreat. Essentially I am a Tibetan fox in this way, but I embrace the face: slight smile, maybe trouble, narrowed eyes, living above the treeline, migrating up and down the mountain.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On The Trail

This morning I went sniffing. Literally. I came back from the perfume store smelling like a angry white blossom exploded in a crate of pears.

I feel for the bloodhounds, no one wonders why they are sad. The male moths, who can pick up a molecule of female moth, on their long hairy antennae. I wonder if they wonder if they're long enough; when I wonder that I am so glad I am not a male moth. Or going on a first date with someone wearing Oh Lola by Marc Jacobs. I'd have to duck under the tablecloth and be sick in my shoe.

Top notes of anise, no one wants you. Nor tropical wet, someone in New Jersey's idea of wet in Equador, as put through a syringe. Nor anything that might be fried and stuck with a stick and called "a pop."

When did smelling good become smelling inhumane, thin petrochemical hands reaching out from those rounded glass bottles that real tears roll off of. Plastic surgeons.

These Characters Should Be Valentines

These Characters Should Be Valentines

Monday, February 6, 2012

Spring Thaw

This Andrew Wyeth painting "Spring" reminds me of my paternal grandfather. He had a hawkish nose, he had to have some of the skin of his nose removed because of skin cancer. He received radiation for acne when he was young, that was what they did then. Radiated you. He was afraid we'd be afraid of him with his gauze on when he came back from the hospital, but we weren't, in fact I don't think we noticed it at all - his change. I was no more than 5, anyway, more interested in beetles, than grandfathers.

"Spring" the painting, is about the old giving way to the new. The old year. What gets left behind when everything melts. Old men. Old women. There are patches of snow on the ground, here, too, old snowmen with thin twig arms the kids made over the weekend. They'll be gone soon; today it's 50 degrees on the field. I saw a robin on the neighbor's lawn and thought I was seeing things, but there it was, like a trumpet, or a gong.

Bold. Spring is bold. To think that even if we live to be one hundred we will only see one hundred thaws. It seems far to few, when I consider the miracle of it, and the mundanity of how much other stuff I'll do. Load of laundry for instance. Bills paid. Orbiting the sun on a rock. The only one with any life on it, among millons.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Bingo

Token animated character
Someone famous' mom
Nostalgic classic rock song
Athlete spokesperson
Beer
Pickup Truck
A-list celebrity
Washed up celebrity
Office scenario
Beach scenario
Party/club scenario
"Dumb" men
"Sexy" women
"Go online to see more..."
Evil wife/girlfriend
Saavy old lady
Video game about using guns or stealing cars.
Snack food
Fast food
Something talking that normally can't
Supposed to be funny, but failed
Sports/ energy drink
Dancing
Having no rhythm
Can't tell what the commercial was for
Horses
Cell phone service
Creepy talking baby
Twins
Guy with a killer 'stache
Someone falling down accidentally or being hit by something, like a poorly-felled oak tree.
Underwear