Monday, April 27, 2015
I have the MTHFR gene mutation. Zoo-wee-mama! as Jeff Kinney says in The Diary of Wimpy Kid. Oooga. Oooga. (That's the sound of a submarine's alarm.)
It means I marinate in stress hormones like adrenaline even "at rest" "under a palm tree" with a "umbrella drink in hand." It's just how I'm wired. I'm wired to be concerned the warm breeze causing the palm fronds to undulate might be the front edge of a tsunami.
I don't have to seek out adrenaline like a junkie by swimming with sharks off Australia or kayaking in Antarctica impersonating Ernest Shackleton, adrenaline finds me drying the wet brunch dishes with a dish towel and worrying about catastrophe.
The adventure of a lifetime begins with whitewater rafting in my prefrontal cortex.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 6:21 AM
Friday, April 24, 2015
It's the season of violets in your lawn. This makes some people uncomfortable and trowel-headed as they believe violets are weeds; they rhizomically spread just to clump and irritate the perfect green blades of grass of the perfect suburban lawn's wide green oppression.
I am not Team Perfect Lawn. I am Team Let The Violets Spread (theme song, Don't Mow Your Lawn, by Ray Anderson in his late '80s button-down at Jazzwoche Burghausen).
Violets are so pretty. You can candy them, as I have of late, for my mother on Mother's Day. How well they adorn a dainty lady cupcake! They have fierce little lion-dog faces!
Ava Chin wrote, "The first time I ate a violet blossom, it reminded me of the summer rain."
e.e. cummings wrote, "nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands."
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 7:25 AM
Monday, April 20, 2015
Every year I collect tadpoles in the spring.
I say they're for the kids when I'm scooping them out of the pond if anyone asks me. Because I'm a grown-up and grown-ups don't collect tadpoles having more important things to do like revisions, and laundry, and meal-planning (or is it just me?) but really the tadpoles in a plastic screw-top are for me because I love a good metamorphosis.
I peer at them and feel like Fern with Wilbur in Charlotte's Web. Appreciative. Humble.
It is so cool; year after year it doesn't get boring or old, as I watch them sidle along the sides of the jar like little fat buoys bumping against a ship's hull.
I feed them strips of kale and they grow legs. And there is something about saying the words "Let's release the froglets!" in a few weeks that makes me feel Queen of All I Survey.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 7:24 AM
Monday, April 13, 2015
The above is J.R.R Tolkien's illustration of Smaug.
My grandfather on my father's side read me Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island when I was about DS, 10's age and into pirates, unicorns, buried treasure, and books about communicating telepathically with dragons.
I sat in the yard for hours with a paper Kroger's bag with a carrot in it, waiting to catch a rabbit from Watership Down.
In other words, I was a bucktooth nerd. I clutched to my chest a Trapper Keeper notebook with a stamping snorting stallion on the front. And even now, I'm always looking for the dragon's hoard, though the bar is set perimenopausally low.
Where once I set out with my friend Brigitta (her mother was Swiss) into Panther Hollow in Pittsburgh to find the source of the Nile, I am now content to find a bunch of wildflowers on my circumnavigation of the school's campus with the dog.
Swamp marigold! Whoo-weeee! That's a day-maker! Ain't I a treasure finder! And look yonder: there is a the hawk I've been following! Golly!
I look around to see if the cross-country track team has heard me whoop and seen me do my little jig and then think so what if they have. I'm modeling something important for them though they are too young vibrant glossy haired coltish and healthy to understand: in 20-30 years they'll be in my clogs.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 6:07 AM
Friday, April 10, 2015
Sound and vision. Kinda important (and also a great song, but a weird video).
I've neglected my vision. My hearing is still good. I can hear a pin drop, a child upstairs shivering awake during a thunderstorm, his master's voice --- how cute is that dog? But I have resisted getting glasses.
I had such good vision, such 20-20 eagle-eyed vision for so long. Without binoculars, I picked out channel buoys for my sailing dad. I pitied my friends who came out of the surf on beach vacations and immediately scrambled in the sand mole-crablike for their specs, or my grandmother and her fashion eyeglass chains from which dangled many glasses -- separate ones for sewing, or "close work," as she called it.
"Dropping estrogen levels deform your eyeballs, making them less round, and more football shaped," my young gorgeous blonde eye doctor said, as if explaining everything about middle age like a far off country.
She could have been referring to my breasts. Indeed they are deflategate.
If I am to make it to eighty as the actuarial tables say I will, wearing glasses and complex padded push-up bras with thick straps -- may they be fabulous. May they be bedecked. Bedazzled. Purple. May they -- as Jenny Joseph has said, "make up for the sobriety of my youth."
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 6:11 AM
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Like Elephant and Piggie, I am in a book. We are in a book! It is Mothering Through The Darkness: Women Open Up About The Postpartum Experience. I am so excited. Hello everyone. Hello fellow contributors. I'm not drowning as usual, flapping and wailing, but waving, the opposite of the famous poem.
I'm doing my half Stevie Nicks half Snoopy happy dance.
I love Mo Willems' Piggie. Piggy the anti-Buddhist, the striver, Piggy, the driver of action; in the case of We Are in a Book, the eager flipper of pages only to realize there are only so many pages and that all books end. Existential crisis. It happens to everybody. See here:
We're little more than stick drawings, Piggie and me, and everyone we know on this pale blue dot (Hi, Mom!) and still, despite our smallness and relative insignificance compared to geology, we are called to participate in Freytag's pyramid of dramatic structure.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 7:50 AM
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
DD, 7 gave me a ring yesterday from a yard sale, it's a pair of sunglasses that fits my middle finger.
It got me thinking about how little my hands break for fun or to laissez les bon temps rouler or for fashion sunwear. They're always in the sink amidst the dish soap, in the dirt, or rummaging in my pocketbook for a mint, or picking up one thing from one place and placing it in another. I'm a digger and a grubber. Instead of human hands I should have been given paws. I relate to moles.
Years ago I had my hands hennaed for the wedding of my boss's daughter. It forced me to spread my fingers before a very elderly female relative of the family who took her time with them and made them beautiful, even using the bumps of my knuckles to form the hubs of little red-brown suns. I was stunned by them.
I stared at them in a sort of meditative trance, Jon Kabat-Zin-like. My hands. Hands. Sentient beings. Then it faded.
Isn't that how it goes? Intuition, sense of the universe -- laundry.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 6:20 AM
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
What Husb. can do to his food is slurp it, spoon it. "No bite," said the surgeon, sounding like Jennie the Dog from Maurice Sendak's Higgledy Pigglety Pop!, the scene when Jennie is trying to get Baby to eat and Baby keeps shrieking "No Eat!"
Perhaps you remember the audio like I do from the early 70s, on a cassette player? If not, then this is for you and my sister, @dcster.
Like Jennie, I've been eating
I've made such a Victoriana of English desserts involving heavy whipping cream, gelatin and -- more cream. I've made fools, charlottes, cup custards in a water bath or -- as the French call it -- a "bain Marie," and rich vanilla pudding from Faith Durand's wonderful book Bakeless Sweets. I've eaten them all. Court-taster, that's me. Spoon holder.
It feels as though I am the male Toucan, a tropical bird who, when his lady bird is ready to lay her eggs finds a hollow tree for her, and he shuts her up inside it using daubs of mud until there is only a space for her to stick our her bill to be fed. Husb. is similarly house-bound.
I fly around in my gaudy spring wardrobe of mostly greens, shopping, Target-going, separating the recycling, picking up the children and delivering them cross-county to tap dance class and basketball, all the while in my mind devising some outrageous flan.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 7:44 AM
Monday, April 6, 2015
It's my job to dress Husb.'s wounds. That expression, "dressing" sounds dainty and tea-cakes, care for a smoking jacket, wound, dear? but it's totally World War I foxhole field nurse.
In medical parlance, "the skin graft in his leg didn't completely take." It is a color (organ meat) and a texture (mangled, weepy, shredded) that I have never seen before in my life.
I wash the area with saline and peroxide, apply ointment, and then wrap it in bandages all the while looking steadily at it for signs of infection.
The first time I was taught to do this my hearing went fuzzy. Then my vision narrowed to a point. I passed out.
I was escort-crawled out to the waiting room by good-looking surgical residents. I put my head on the gross tartan waiting room carpet and shallow-breathed while they continued to talk about how they had shaved off Husb. skin with a sharp tool called a microtome much like the skin of a carrot.
I'm a girl who grew up on character Band-Aids for tiny shallow splinters. The body is a concept, something you lug along that carries your mind. The body as blood, tissue, and bone? Please. Step aside.
The worst insult I've ever endured to my body was a second degree burn. From making crepes. I was SHOWING OFF to a boy in high school, flipping the thin French pancakes, and I put the pan down on my thigh. Sizzle.
As it healed I remember there was a certain smell. The whole house smells of it now. Baby-like, daffodil-ish, and scabby: the scent of new skin being born.
I believe now I could catch a chicken, break its neck with a deft movement of my wrist, and gut and boil its feathers off.
Posted by Elizabeth Bastos at 6:27 AM