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


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


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


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.