Friday, February 27, 2015

Blue-rayed limpet

Blue-rayed limpet sounds like a Shakespearian insult.

However scientists at Harvard and MIT this week have -- and I quote -- "examined the 3D nano-architecture of the photonic structures embedded in the limpet's translucent shell" (I won't even pretend to know what that means) to find out how these tiny, fingernail-sized North Atlantic limpets glow so gorgeously blue.

Maybe I wanted to know, and maybe I didn't. Maybe I wanted them to be lines of wish-granting electric aquamarine drawn on by some diminutive shellfish fairy. Can't a middle-aged suburban mother of two have some magic?

It has to do with the zig-zag way the shell's calcium carbonate has formed. But I was happy. "Zig-zag" appeared as an adjective in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and I have never seen that before.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Let's Be Serious

I'm so far from being a samurai poet like Mazahide (above), or his teacher, the master Bashobut last night our furnace started smoking. It filled the basement with smoke and carbon monoxide and the detectors went off at a high pitch I couldn't hear but DS, 9 could hear and he told me, and Husb. and I called the necessary numbers yelling into the phones over the sound of the barking of the alarms as they got louder and everyone could hear them and then...we scrambled around the house grabbing essentials, in case we were never to return.
Never to return. Those are poetic words, and shouldn't be used lightly as I have just done.
DS, 9, brought a Ravens dufflebag he won in a raffle, filled with Lego minifigs that he says are "exclusive." Me: iPhone and charger, wallet, and five days worth of anti-inflammatories. Husb:  iPhone, wallet, leather I'm-not-a-schlub teacher briefcase and a book about being an Earthman on Mars. DD, 7: A stuffed animal cat with magnetic nursing kittens. No one packed socks or underwear or toothbrushes.
I thought -- I don't want to die with  my essentials in a NFL-themed duffel -- and then we ran from the house into the polar wind, dressed incorrectly. Hats, scarves, mittens we'd also forgotten. For heat we could burn the Mars book? Eat the kittens? I thought about refugees from the war in Syria, and previous wars. And famines. And droughts. 
The point is, I can see the moon alright, as a result of this experience and here's what I've learned: you never know what's going to happen, when your furnace is going to smoke or the tide rise, so you should have a go-bag.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oh, Waiter, This Conversation Isn't Very Good

It had been so long (more than more than a year) since Husb. and I had had a date night that when my mother (yes, my mother) organized a date night for us my first reaction was, Oh, shit.  

My mother is always do-good-ing. I admire it when the object of quality of life improvement isn't me

The word  rusty came to my mind, closely followed by middle-aged, and doughy. And that was my wardrobe. I have a snake-print DVF knock-off wrap-dress from 1995. 

I hadn't had my roots done in awhile, these days the word "toenails" is more likely not followed by the word "polish" but "fungus" and "Did you call the dermatologist?" which is gross but, we've been married more than a decade and the fruit of my loins is not a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. 

The door to the bathroom stays open for there is no polite way to get the work of house-holding done as we yell to each other, "Did you defrost the meat, hon?" "Did you sign the permission slip, hon?" "You've been on the throne awhile...hey, asshole, are you watching House of Cards?"

Would we need a conversation menu

Thankfully not.  Like one might capture an angry badger in a flour sack I cinched the wrap-dress tight around my "waist," (success!) but with the boots I overshot. 

In trying to zip them over my cankles, I struggled with the zipper, and grew frustrated because I knew Husb. was watching me hoping against hope for a Pretty Woman tableau. I gave the zipper a final yank, grunting like a longshoreman, and I lost my balance and knocked my head against armrest of the hotel armchair real slo-mo and sexy-like. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Wine, women, and song, and cheese, and chocolate and perfume. If you don't love these things, seriously, sirs, reorient yourselves. 

My mother wore Cabochard (which is, according to perfume writer Luca Turin, a scent that can "bring him to tears") when I was a kid and thought she was a goddess, appearing from the blowdryer to talk dinner (Chef Boyardee "pizza") with the baby sitter ("Mary - something") who would arrive and teach me to play the opening notes of Jaws to get me stop staring out the window wishing my mother's leather chypre scent hadn't just dispersed into the night in suede boots (it was the mid '70s) leaving the house like an empty bottle released of its djin.

I wore it, too, for awhile. It smelled more like smoke on me, more like tabac, less sweet, which is, in fact, exactly how my personality diverges from my mother's.

Then, Gres changed the formula and the bottle (au revoir pouty smoked-glass bow) and though my mother and I were too Protestant to weep over such a trifle as the changed formula of a perfume (when the environment needed saving and the American medical system floundered) in our quiet moments we declared doubt that we would ever love another.

I bounced through some softballs -- Light Blue, for instance, and Tommy Girl -- and some heavyweights -- Coco, Aramis -- and I either smelled like lily of the valley or like the end of a party, or both (Gucci Rush, thank you very much).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Teaching My Son, 9, To Write A Valentine Poem

The title of this blog post, "Teaching My Son, 9, To Write A Valentine Poem" sounds like the title of a Sharon Olds poem. I promise I won't skeeve you out like she does and talk about my son's furred rounded cherubic rear (oh dang, I did it...) and I won't fill you with discomfort about his growing from boy-child to this shimmering in-betweeen-ness of man-child (crap, there it is again). will not use the word "centaur."

Critics have accused Olds of "the inner necessity of the mother animal" and I have it too: overshareishness.

The point is: my baby boy! Count Milkula! The being who was so small and mammalian at six months I was able to wash him in a small sink in a walk-up in Cambridge is now old enough to be making rhymed couplets AABB with the intent of woo.

His assignment at school was to write a Valentine's Poem for his Secret Friend, using  "roses are red, violets are blue" as a template.  How close are we to a big billowy Keats-shirt, friends? We're very close to that dangerous tantalizing place called Italy. 

I helped him rhyme "flowers" with "super powers." He was like, "Awesome. We're done. Now can I go watch Ninjago?"

Monday, February 9, 2015

An Open Letter to My Son, 9, Regarding The Properties of Ice

Dear Son, 

Walking the cross-country trail last weekend with you in an attempt to "bond" "outdoors" I learned that you don't understand some basics of cold weather science. 

For example that water, when it's solid (we call this -- ICE) is lighter than water when it's a liquid (WATER). Ice floats above water like a raft. A very thin flimsy raft. I can't stress this enough. The flimsiness. The does-not-support-your-weight-ness.

And if you step on it believing that in Baltimore County ice could EVER be frozen solid to a depth of some feet like a Canadian Circle ice fishing lake like in some adventure book for soft modern city boys about self-sufficent fur-trapping 18th Native American boys, you'd be oh so wrong.

Your cheap big-box-store un-beaverskin boots will fill with freezing water, and you'll stand there, ankle deep in a vernal pool totally unlike the Inuit you were trying to emulate, and crying. "Mom!" and I'll be like, "WTF, son?!" You don't just step willy nilly on nature's power.

Plus I'll be screeching at the top of my lungs that had the area you stepped in been unknown to me, but thank god it was known to me, because it was a private school cross-country trial,  it could have been very deep and dangerous and the number one thing they should teach you in school is to avoid UNKNOWN ICE and then, sure, fractions are important. 

I would have had to jump in after you with a thermos of brandy belted to my person like a St. Bernard. 

Remember, STEM rules.



Friday, February 6, 2015


Let us time machine back to the Year of our Lord 1992ish when my sister gave me a mix tape (which is back then what we called a hand-picked-to-pluck-the-heart-strings-of-the-receiver curated collection of audio files) of what would now be called grunge or early 90s alt. that included tracks from the Pixies album Surfer Rosa.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana said he wanted to sound like them. Smells Like Teen Spirit. 

They were that kind of band. A band that influenced rock gods. If I never thanked my sister properly, I'm thanking her now.

Where Is My Mind? I'll tell you when I hear that song my mind is elsewhere, in Western Massachusetts, in Northampton, in my superheated Victorian dorm room at Smith with the Gloria-Steinem-walked-here feminist superheated feeling captured by the Barbara Kruger t-shirts I chose to walk to Thornes to buy sage smudge sticks to clarify the murk that was my relationship with M -- who was my boyfriend, kinda. It was a confusing time. But the music was so good.

I was majoring in English. However, I liked better spending nights on the Cape calculating the growth rate of mussels, and in the lab, away from Chaucer, and Dustbowl American Lit., dissecting clams for Marine Invertebratology.  Those textbooks I still occasionally hover over, filled with longing for the coastal life that I have not lived.

Pixies is an emotional loud-QUIET-loud and so, I guess, is life. So hella, yes, I'm buying tickets for Boston, for my birthday, suburban riot grrl mother rocker than I was am.

See you there.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Come Back To The Sea

"Come back to the sea" was the pitch of last night's "we are all tied to the ocean" JFK voice-over for Carnival Corporation, bringer to you of cruises and gastrointestinal distress.

Now, you know I love some Massachoosetts politics (Go PATS!), and I love the ocean; for me, the spot was a bullseye. I forgot all about E. coli. I got misty over waves crashing in slow-mo against volcanic rock and I ain't too proud to tell you so.

More than the "dads and dogs" schmaltz of the beer and car commercials, or of paying for burgers with lovin'... I want better times for the sea otters, and for humanity, too.

I want to buy in again to the myth of Camelot, to the time before when I was young and the sea was vast, and I knew nothing of currents or of the deleterious effect of tanker ship noise on whales. In other words, before I became a crusty old salty dog.