Monday, February 06, 2017

Checks and Balances

Took Rowan to school this morning.  She politely asked if we could listen to the radio, because she hates all my cds, and lands on NPR. They were telling a story about  the travel ban and the way some judges have acted against it.  We listen in silence for four blocks, and when we turn into the drop off line, she says “checks and balances, we have checks and balances” shaking her head at the news. Her public education has given her this idea, that our form of government is set up with safeguards to protect our democracy. Now these civic ideals that she has learned about in school are being put to the test in a Brave New World of our own making.

Our children are watching this unfold, as they learn to navigate in the wider world.  What are we teaching them about the quality of the public discourse? What are we teaching them about the ideals of democracy, and how they are being tested by the current social climate?

There was a March downtown this weekend, Rowan went with Maya and her mom. I was working.  She brought home the sign she made to carry. I want to hang it on the living room wall but she won’t let me, so I’m keeping it in the laundry room where I get to look at it two or three times a day.  
the buffalo stands with the resistance

Anyway, when she got home we talked about it a little, and what I got out of the conversation was this - The friends she saw at the march, and there were many – not just teenagers but adults who have made meaningful impressions on her over the years – they made the event mean something to my kid. I know she’s scared for the future, and I could tell that participating in the march helped her address that fear.  So, WINNING.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Checking in

Oh Hai Best Beloveds.  here is a picture of a drop of water that I found clinging to the leaf of my golden pothos.  This plant came from Aldi and has been a loving and tolerant houseplant.  It doesn't have a name, this life form that hangs above my toilet and reaches for you every time you walk by. Currently it has reached a tendril to the sink, every morning it is a leeetle beet longer, leaves creep open over the course of a week.  I think after I repaint the bathroom I will let it grow up the walls.  Mighty Nameless Pothos, Heir to the Bathroom Window and Lord Chancellor of Sink Miror Wall.  
In the background you can see my newest mirror, hanging out on the wall while I try to figure out what color to paint the frame.  I am almost certain that something lives in that mirror, in a parallel universe where things really do live in mirrors.  I am going to spend some time with the mirror and see if I can suss the something out. 
Also out of focus in the upper left hand corner of the picture, you can see a bit of The Unknown Citrus - a tree in a pot that has been here for several years but I can't remember from whence it came.  Perhaps one day it will produce a fruit?  
Last but not least there are two Charlies in this picture.  Once upon a time, when I lived in the Treehouse apartment, I had a large lovely Sweedish ivy in my tower kitchen. It reminded me of Creeping Charlie which is a different plant altogether, but I began thinking of the plant as Charlie.  (There is a book called Travels with Charlie, written by John Steinbeck, that my Dad liked.  I think about it a lot, and I talked to this plant sometimes about what was going on in my life, as if I were talking to my Dad.) Charlie has faced many tragedies since I moved back in with the cats though, and every time he gets knocked over I try to salvage his broken limbs.  I think there are 6 little Charlies now.  I am trying to get one to grow in every room of my house - this is an impossible challenge due to light and cats, but I am working on it. 

I recently read this article about how trees can talk to each other.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

Rock Therapy

The initial idea for this back corner flower bed.
Now with twice as many landscape bricks.

I played with those bricks like they were giant toy blocks, reconfiguring the wall several times.

At this point the project grew in magnitude. The wall wanted to be part of a circle.

Here with just my eyeballs and instinct I begin to lay out the circle that has formed in my mind. 

After some internet research, I get down to the nitty gritty of making the whole thing level.  
This is the current state of the Fern Garden.  I think I am finished with it for now, as I get to work on the rest of this earthwork project and finish building the circle.

So far I am up to 42 bricks, which seems like a pretty good place to rest for a while as I research the next phase of the project which will be a brick or tile patio.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The end of December

Christmas Eve wading in freezing water at Hemlock Trail

The stray calico is serenely cleaning herself on my potting bench.  She is the same size as the largest pot, a black plastic number from Wal-Mart that I bought to replant the money tree.  That’s something to write down on the to-do list that I’ve been meaning to start.  I call the cat Baby Girl, or Calico, and in my myth-mind she has some of that calico cat from Sun Valley in her sometimes.  We sit together on the back porch and watch the birds.  Sometimes she makes a halfhearted attempt to catch one, but I can tell someone is feeding her well, and her hunter heart is not hungry enough.  Her contentment soothes me, even though I know we’ve been lucky with the weather so far.  It’s as if she isn’t at all afraid of the biting cold that is sure to come. I know that it might kill her if she doesn’t find adequate shelter.  She doesn’t seem to worry about it.  Maybe she thinks I will let her inside.

Now the little Jaguar has come into the yard.  I think he might belong to someone I know.  The calico ignores him, and he finds no birds, so he leaves.  Just like that, he is here, and then he is not.  A cat in my neighbor’s house cries mournfully at the window I cannot see.  There are cats everywhere.  At least one of the three inside will be waiting by the back door when I enter the kitchen in search of coffee.  I will watch my step because I heard one of them bark up some nastiness earlier, probably Jack who can’t stop gnawing on my ponytail palm.  That poor plant has survived all manner of indignities including being used as a scratching post and being abandoned on a dry corner of the porch one summer.  It is ragged and spare, but it was my father’s plant, and it means something to me that it has managed to survive in the chaos of my life.  I can’t take credit for keeping it alive, like so many things in the world that I love; sometimes it just disappears from my view as the tunnel vision of depression closes in.  

Kai cries at the refrigerator, stretching her porcelain forepaws up against the door, a furry yogi for one moment. She spends a lot of time sitting on me, balanced across my crossed legs or perched on my shoulder.  She is the smallest cat I have ever lived in a house with, and her weight is almost nothing.  I go to sleep at night, after the usual round of cat shenanigans, with her tiny head resting in the hollow of my clavicles, her body aligned with my sternum.  I read somewhere that cats purr on a frequency conductive to healing.  I don’t know if cats are aware of this power within them, although from the behavior of MY cats I would guess they are.  Even Fred, the bakery cat, jumps up on my lap and purrs for me sometimes.   They might eat me if I died and they were hungry, but right now they are trying to heal me with their purrs.

So there are many cats in my life, and also many birds.  The birds are different though, because I can’t tell one nuthatch from another.  They come and go and I watch their antics and if I can stop reading or looking at Facebook for a minute they become a spellbinding labyrinth of peace and beauty.  Nature, or God if you will, has made these creatures and I have the honor of beholding them.  These moments of bird-watching nirvana are fleeting of course, when the squeaking of a neighborhood chihuahuaua shatters the silence and then I realize my hands are cold and my cigarette has gone out and my lower back aches because of the way I was sitting so I could watch the downy woodpecker up in that tree. 

I’ve been knitting and listening to a book called Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. It is a meditation primer, a 28 day course in finding your breath.  Of course I do not stop my knitting to sit in the lotus position and close my eyes, but I do try to follow my breath while my hands continue doing their own thing.  So far I am into week two of the program, and she’s introducing the concept of Mindfulness.  Week one was pretty much about releasing judgment, and just acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without labeling them as good or bad.  It has been a helpful reminder to me as I struggle with the SAD.  The scarves grow off the needles, one row at a time, and I see with persistence I make progress.

The strange weather that rolled through last night knocked a piece of my house loose, and it banged against the siding all night.  I got up about 4am to identify the noise, peered out the bathroom window up toward the eaves, sighed heavily, and determined that there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.  Eventually the wind died and the banging ceased and sleep came back.   I woke up warm in my bed, with hot running water and a flushing toilet, happy that the only thing wrong with the house at this moment was a two inch wide piece of dangling aluminum. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Giving Myself Flours

I made my first test batch of bread yesterday.  Agonizing over the state of the levin, pretty much all summer, has contributed significantly to the state of my overall mental health. Like me, the levin fairs better when it is constantly working. This long period of inaction with intermittent spurts of activity left us both thin and listless.  It is almost time to bake bread, and so the levin and I have to get back into shape.

I read tons of stuff on the internet during the hiatus, and a couple of actual paper books, about baking bread.  52 Loaves had an impact on me. I liked the way he brought bread and religion together. I looked at the origin of American bread craft, through the lens of history.  I read a lot of bloggers and wondered at our different approaches toward the bread making process. I don't always do it like they do, and I wondered if maybe after all this time I'm not even a real baker.

Turns out it doesn't matter what I call myself, I am first and foremost a girl who loves to make bread. When I made that test batch of dough, when I pulled it with my hands and shaped it into loaves, I was visited by a peculiar feeling of joy that I had been missing.  When Danny so enthusiastically joined in, that was the icing on the cake.  In the act of making the bread, we radiated a joy that filled the room.

I laughed out loud, so delighted by the springy material under my palms.  It was the kiss of a beloved, reunited after a long separation.  Oh, THAT'S what all this has been about. I thought.  This tactile pleasure, this intimate relationship with microscopic organisms, this love of process.  I didn't feel like a real baker all summer because I wasn't baking.  But that shit is definitely changing, cause we're opening up in a week, and I'm the one who makes the bread.  This is my area of knowledge and skill, NOT deciding on accounting strategies or programming point of sale systems.  Which are the kind of things I did this summer with the boys. I helped build a business, in lieu of mixing the dough.  They were terrifying acts of courage on my part, (for christ's sake I have to talk on the phone to strangers!!!) and I'm proud of myself for how it is all turning out.

Terrified, and also excited, I am going to bake the test loaves today.  Did my changes to the levain change the composition of the starter so much that our sourdough won't taste like our sourdough anymore? Is there any possibility it might be even better than before?

Here is a scene featuring one of my favorite fictional bakers.  My life sometimes feels Stranger Than Fiction.

Sunday, August 09, 2015


This was the first birthday in a long time that I didn't go camping.  Instead Mom came up and we had lunch and ate Bonnie Bells cupcakes at the Arboretum.  We went to the mall, I got a haircut.  It wasn't even bad enough to be fun, it was just, "meh."

This morning I got up early and was sad, and nervous, and just plain unhappy.  So I went to the woods.  Cooper's Rock was not full of crowds yet, and I picked a trail I had explored once or twice before.  It took me about half an hour to find the end and make it back to my car, so I decided to go back down it and check out another branch I'd seen but not taken the first time.

I met a pair of hikers coming towards me, and we traded info.  They said they'd come from the reservoir, and I told them I'd come from the old campground/picnic loop.  We met up again about an hour later on the Roadside Trail as we headed back to our cars.

I walked to burn through all this stress I have been carrying around.  It worked a little bit.  Every little bit helps! My butt is sore, I think I covered 7 or 8 miles today! But now I am back home in this cluttered but empty house, and the creeping sadness and fear return.  I feel very lonely, very disconnected.  Just the birthday blues, I guess, on top of the struggle to figure out who I am and what I am going to do with the rest of my life.

I think I'll go to Target and buy a yoga mat with my birthday money.  I hear that practice can help.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Getting my house in order

 Before I moved in, the room was a junk room, full of crap.

 A few days later, I had carried out many trash bags and boxes for Goodwill, and I found the floor!
After Tyler and Mark helped me clean the gum, candy, oil pastel, makeup and dirt off the floor, I celebrated by sleeping in my bed.

The next day Mark and I painted the walls.

It feels so good to finally be setting up my sacred space!  A dresser so I can stop living out of laundry baskets, and a nightstand so I can have a place to set my bedtime book.

I still have to paint the door, but I have to go get more paint.