Monthly Archives: January 2012

It’s the simple things that aren’t.

I chopped green peppers; making the knife jag crossslant at the end of every cut because it is a cheap one from before our wedding registry. It was a night alone, house to myself, and I decided I would eat this curry while only listening to the television. I congratulated myself at the restraint- only listening to one thing at a time. Silly to be so busy in mind to be happy with that, perhaps wary of actual, humming silence. I stepped back a moment and tapped into the sounds that had allowed a moment’s thought to bustle to the surface; how little I often listen to myself think: rounding tumble of the sheets in the dryer (washed on hot to welcome the crisp newness of that night’s sleep), sizzle of those green peppers hitting a black-bottomed pan, and a looming white noise of nothing else. I could hear my heart beat in my ears and feel my lips move one over the other in a nervous maneuver. This level of noise, perhaps this is the level that allows the mind to wander but find itself again. It was in this level of noise that I could no longer contain it and had to come write it down. A level that lets thoughts find one another and knit together an idea; a level that welcomes a neat refrain of contented sighs settling in for a long winter’s nap.

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Miracle

“What did i do to be worthy to see one dandalion grow?”
-G.K. Chesterton

“Daffy-down-dilly came up in the cold, Through the brown mould Although the March breeze blew keen on her face, Although the white snow lay in many a place.”
Anna B. Warner (“Amy Lothrop”) Quotes

I have several bulbs of paperwhites growing in a small china blue vase. I have a very black thumb and perhaps that has something to do with it, but I can’t believe that they are growing. I know that it is what they are made to do, to root and spring and grow and then fade, but I never quite believe it will happen, and I always feel a sense of awe when it does. My father plants an impressive garden every year, and it is with wonder that I actually eat the food that came out of the ground. I expect the peppers and tomatoes and asparagus (Have you ever seen that grow?) that I place in my mouth to simply evaporate before they can be tasted- that they  perhaps alighted like apparitions of Turkish Delight in Narnia and will simply vanish once again.

But here I have watched the sleepy bulbs that I placed in rocks rouse themselves and shoot out roots, tendrils that lace and latch anything in sight, willing and willing to do what each of those bulbs has always intended, grow. A friend recently promptly identified this vase as full of alien pods, nothing real could look like that, and I agree; yet this is the most natural and basic off all that goes on here on this crazy, blessed planet. No wonder small  children believe in storks- even when I see the very process of a plant growing in front of my eyes, one day when the first flowers bloom I know that I will feel that they have been quietly and slyly delivered- it is too fanatastical that they would simply grow.

One Hour Delay

What do you do when you find yourself with a whole extra hour in the morning before you must leave for school?

(Besides a happy little dance.)

                                                                                   Do I really even need to say?

We really appreciate French toast around here.

A trip to the library…

I say library; you say… (books), or “Made a new girl of me!!” -With jazz hands this time…

On a recent trip to the library to return a movie (Northanger Abbey) and a book that did not get read, I remembered my days on the stage.

Those days would be high school; I loved musical theatre (and I love British spellings), and I was in every play our tiny little school had. Somehow I always ended up with the part of “the other woman.” You know her; she is the friend of the main character- slightly less intelligent, on the slight edge of virtue (ahem), and always in the middle of an unhealthy relationship. Anyways, on my way to the Central branch, I remembered a song of the old days from the musical She Loves Me. It is a tale of growing up and learning to be your own person, and, of course, the catalyst of this epiphany is that wonderland, the library. It is called “A Trip to the Library,” and my oh my is it quintessential musical theatre glory and schmaltz.

 

 

Next week I will tell you about the time I was in a revival of a musical version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream set during Mardi Gras, oh yes I will.

Where I live…

 

Friday night we settled in for a feast at the local restaurant Alfalfa’s. It is known for its vegetarian fare, but perhaps to be ironic, I had the meatloaf. It was luscious with a sweet, chipotle ketchup. The husband had trout; I tasted and saw that it was good, and then we shared half and half, and I was one happy lady. I was even happier when it was decided that dessert (Derby Pie) and coffee ( simple cinnamon) were necessary. The restaurant was super busy, and the staff was overwhelmed by a bigger crowd than they were prepared for, but truth be told, it made the night so much better. John and I were a quiet little bubble in  the midst of the humming hive of activity as people went to and fro, and it took a nice, long time, but we were not in a hurry, nowhere to be but together, so instead, we settled in for a long winter’s meal and just enjoyed it like the Europeans do. I contemplated dark chocolate bread pudding (an earlier dessert I can’t get out of my mind) and how to teach kids Macbeth, and John thought about taking up fly fishing, and later we took the long way home and pulled the lull of the restaurant out onto the night time sidewalk all the way home.

Chasing the Sun

Saturday we had been promised a day of sun and surreal winter warmth, and it came. I watched it break through grey skies and push out loam into clear, holy ghost blue. It was an ideal day with ideal activities. Bakery, boutiques, laughter, good food, best of all reveling in it all outside with sun on my limbs- bare arms, head tilted up to paint it over my face.

 

Today I took off for a small walk. A few minutes just to be outside, feel the air and move my legs. I am on my feet most of the day, but there is something different about walking around inside and actually donning a coat and letting the outside meet me for a few brief moments. Darkness seems to sweep in quickly when I get home. I feel like I have hours and then with the slip of an hour, night has fallen and the day seems done. Sure this and that will get done, but the day starts to leak to done, and truth be told I go with it. Today I was adamant that I would catch the sun before it set, and I set out for a few moments. A few moments out into the cold, and I realized something was setting my course. I set off in no direction in particular, I thought, but then realized I was literally chasing after the sun. I tracked shadows on the ground and spied the light slowly falling below buildings in the west. Here I was a grown woman chasing the sun; I just wanted to feel it on my face for a little bit. First I felt silly and then I felt proud. I can admit that in my life I am often doing things that literally sound naive but smack of poetry in the moment.

These old bones live to learn her wanton ways: (I measure time by how a body sways.)

Post brought to you today by poet Theodore Roethke. What a lovely way to mark time…

*Emphasis mine

Studied Beauty

Over the summer my husband and I took a lovely trip to Europe. We visited Italy and France, and there are numerous stories to tell and memories to recount, but for some reason the one that stands out to me the most today is our trip to the Uffuzi Gallery in Florence. I have been to art galleries before and seen very famous work of art, but often my awe has come more in the idea that I was standing in front of a famous thing rather than the thing itself. I am not a great student of art, but I like to think that I can appreciate it very much. But that day in the Uffuzi it was different; I was captivated by it. We spent a good half an hour in the Botticelli room, and if it hadn’t been for the crowds I would have spent the entire time in front of this lovely lady:

I think it is her colors that pull me in the most, but there is also something about that gaze. Botticelli is able to create a striking sense of innocence in such a sensuous surrounding. This is the birth of a goddess, but Botticelli’s subject matter vacillated from pagan to Christian quite easily, and to me here he has created the perfect Eve. She stands in a moment of innocent glory before the knowledge of good and evil grounds her.

We might not always have easy access to these famous works of art, but, in my experience, it is not so much the subject but the eyes that see that clearly mark the difference. I hope you find a thing of beauty to rest your gaze on today, happy studying…

My husband is a hoss…

We have this room called “the bike room.” My husband really, really likes bikes, not the Harley kind the bicycle kind. Think lycra, Live Strong, Tour de France. He biked across America after our graduation, has done some racing, and the man’s eyes gleam when he sees, talks about, or rides his bike. It is his thing.

So, we have a bike room. Not a dining room or guest room mind you. Think of it as a man cave except we have bike grease and trainers instead of stereo equipment and guns. (Is that what is traditionally in a man cave?) This room is not the most orderly and also holds duty as a pantry, off-season clothing/ decor storage, and everyday catch-all.

Tonight John was riding his rollers in the bike room while I worked on dinner. Rollers are a kind of bike trainer for those with a wild hare for adventure. You have to keep steady on these rolling bits of steal as you pedal your bike, always careful not to lose balance lest you fall of the rollers, lose control, and nastily crash.

He is really quite good at it, but I think anyone has close-calls on these things. In our old house he trained in the narrow laundry room which made it nearly impossible to actually fall. I got used to loud crashing noises followed by a chirpy, “I’m alright!” Here that is not so much the case- the room is wide open. Mid flip of my falafel for dinner, I heard a great crash, wheels spinning, and mild mumbling. Here is what there was to fall into…

Not a pretty sight I will tell you. First I worried that serious injury had occurred; when that fear had passed, the mood lightened, the falafel was flipped, and I let him continue on with a small admonition to please be careful. Later, upon inspection, I found road rash the color of cherry jam and the size of a small creature all over his shoulder. I would have screamed and cried, but there was nary a word out of his mouth- he just soldiered on, and that is why my husband it a hoss.

Snow Ghosts

 

Winter struck tonight. Winter and I do not agree; in fact, we have a hate-hate relationship that involves mild curses and distraught and dramatic proclamations of death (from frostbite you see), but in the last year or so I have tried to be better about winter. I think the growth in our relationship can be primarily attributed to the purchase of a down coat, but besides that I realized that winter and I were simply going to have to make peace.

In Sweden I have heard that children are simply bundled up and taken from place to place in the most cutting cold. There are even rumors that mere babes are parked in strollers on the balcony for naps, for the fresh air you see, and preschools are held exclusively outdoors. These things steam of urban legends to me, but the point is if the Swedes can make nice with the inevitable so should I.

And so tonight while listening in the car to the last few moments of one of those NPR stories that hook you in and won’t let you go, Winter and I had a little tete-a-tete. It started with the whispers of dry snow being blown over the road in swirls and maelstroms. I immediately thought that this type of phenomena had to have inspired budding directors with dreams of ghosts- vapors floating over the earth, looming and haunting. The wind painted with the snow on the ground, and I started to realize that now it was really coming down. In the streetlights sheets of snow hurtled dramatically. If it cliche to say that I felt like I was within a snowglobe, then instead I was on weather’s old-time sound stage. Watching the winter noir unfurl the ashes of her cigarette over the earth. It was messy, but I must admit I was impressed

* When trying to find an image to express the sentiment of “swirling snow” I tried snow ghosts. No luck with what I had in mind, but it is the name of a phenomenon in snowy, mountainous areas- the picture above showcases several.