Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mistakes

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever. 


― Neil Gaiman

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Old Dog Is Old

Ancient and Decrepit Dog has begun limping when she first wakes up. (She sleeps much of the time, so it's noticeable when she awakens and ambles around the house.)  It's the front leg with the spindle cell tumor that's giving her trouble. We've opted not to remove the tumor because it would leave her with an open wound that would be very slow to heal, and we're concerned about anesthesia for her given her age and poor reaction to tranquilizers. The tumor is not huge, but it is slowly, inexorably growing.  She's lumpy.

In addition, she's extremely arthritic in her rear end.  The end result of the arthritis and the tumor:  she slips and trips while walking; she gets stuck getting on and off furniture more often; she's having trouble getting up and down the stairs. She looks pitiful.  She is too big and crabby to be carried -- it would be dangerous both for her and for anyone who attempted to help her.  We've increased her pain meds, and can increase them once more by giving a third dose midday if needed. Hopefully, that will help a bit.

Despite it all, her tail still wags.  She can't hear us, but when she sees us, she thumps her tail on the couch where she lies.  

It is déjà vu for Herself, this sensation of knowing the end is nigh (though how nigh, she does not know). The loss of ottoman-shaped dog is still relatively fresh.  It is hard.  

Rest easy, ancient and decrepit dog.  We will do all we can to ease your days.

She rests on the couch with Offspring the Third.
Her eyes, they shine. I do not know why.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Words

Love me with your words. 

Words. They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos.... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.
 ― Tom Stoppard, The Real Thing: A Play

Words provide a voice to our deepest feelings. I tell you, words have started and stopped wars. Words have built and lost fortunes. Words have saved and taken lives. Words have won and lost great kingdoms. Even Buddha said, 'Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.' ― Camron Wright, The Rent Collector

Because even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you. ― Natsuki Takaya

Tree of the Lord's words, found at juanosborne.com

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cosmic Dance

When we are alone on a starlit night, when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children, when we know love in our own hearts; or when, like the Japanese poet, Basho, we hear an old frog land in a quiet pond with a solitary splash - at such times the awakening, the turning inside out of all values, the "newness," the emptiness and the purity of vision that make themselves evident, all these provide a glimpse of the cosmic dance. ― Thomas Merton


Friday, December 27, 2013

Sniffle

Herself, who has a cold, speaks.

When I was young and under the weather, I would be allowed (required?) to stay in my room.  Meals would be brought on a tray:  vegetable or tomato soup; toast; ginger ale.  If I were really fortunate, the tiny black-and-white television would be set up on a chair in my room.  There was not much to watch -- this was in the days long before cable or even VCRs, and certainly before remote control -- and I'd be stuck with whatever channel to which the television was first tuned, as I did not feel like getting out of the warmth of bed to go turn the knob to change the channel.  Shows like The New Zoo Revue and The Banana Splits were the standard fare. Occasionally Mom would stop by with those orange-flavored chewable aspirin, or the prescribed antibiotic pills ground up and mixed with a small amount of applesauce.  She would encourage me to go take a quick shower, and she'd change the bed linens so everything would be fresh and comfortable when I came back clean.

Despite the illness, and a bit of accompanying ennui, it was sort of a treat.

One of the hardest parts about being an adult is coming to terms with the fact that my time for receiving such care has passed. Now that I am grown up, I must forge forward despite any germs.  Pets still need care, bills still need to be paid.  Work e-mails must be answered.  Housework must be accomplished, groceries must be present.  Offspring (and sometimes spouse) need food, and periodic guidance (though, mercifully, they are primarily self-sufficient at this stage). My responsibility now is to nurture others.  Give, not receive. Thus it is.

Secretly, though, I miss the luxury of dedicating a guilt-free day or two to naught but naps and comfort food and immune system activities. Most of all, I miss being looked after.  Alas.  Such it is.

The New Zoo Revue animals were found at the Hollywood Investigator, here:  http://www.hollywoodinvestigator.com/newzoorevue.htm
Henrietta Hippo was my favorite. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

All The Little Thoughts

Herself thinks.

One: It is so refreshing to hear Offspring the First's laughter throughout the house.  Her acerbic wit and her small-talk prowess have made various family gatherings much more enjoyable than they would have been without her presence.  I am glad she is home to visit.

Two:  Beloved Husband's mother makes ornaments for her Christmas tree every year; the ornaments feature current individual pictures of each of her grandchildren.  There were two hung right at eye level that were somehow particularly poignant:  one of Offspring the Second at age 3 and a half, and another of Offspring the Third at 18 months.

In his picture, Offspring the Second is quietly smiling, his face still a bit baby-round, leaning against another person who is mostly cropped out of the photo.  I can tell, though, that I am the one in the picture.  Based on the teal sweatsuit the Offspring the Second is sporting, and the sliver of hospital gown that I wear, I know the picture was taken when he was brought to visit me in the hospital after Offspring the Third was born.  Fifteen years later, Offspring the Second is a tall, angular, quiet and reticently-smiling young man, who keeps to himself and only occasionally reveals his thoughtful, witty soul. He is essentially an adult, and  I know his needs are different from what they were so long ago. I hope I am loving him in the best way for his unique self.

In his picture, Offspring the Third stands in my in-laws' back yard.  He is wearing canvas short overalls with thin blue stripes interspersed among thick green stripes, and he has a pacifier in his mouth.  He looks pensive.  I remember how those overalls were incredibly useful because they allowed room for the marvelous cloth diapers I used then.  Over a dozen years later, toddlerhood and diapers are long, long gone.  Offspring the Third is a looming, boisterous, tender-hearted man-child, who delights in giving presents to other people and longs to be a grownup.  Fear not, my impatient young man, for the years are quick and you will soon enough have to shoulder the responsibilities that attend adulthood.

Three:  Ancient and decrepit dog is so old. She continues to be curious -- sniffing all the presents interestedly, much to the consternation of Tiny Dog -- but she is even clumsier and slow.  She got her front end stuck in a box; she put both feet into the box in order to investigate it, but then was unable to maneuver herself back out.  She slips on the stairs, and I worry that she will, one day soon, fall and irredeemably break herself.  This is likely her last Christmas.  When will she join Ottoman-shaped dog in the Beyond?

Four:  I did not think, a year ago, that it might be Ottoman-shaped Dog's last Christmas.  Yet it was.  If he were here this year, he would have been perplexed by the tree and the packages, as always, but he would have nimbly navigated around them and ignored Tiny Dog's barking.  He would have thoroughly enjoyed Christmas dinner, and sleeping in a warm blanket near me.  I miss him.  I try not to contemplate his absence; every now and then, though, it is even more abundantly clear that he is no longer here.

Five:  as usual this time of year, Beloved Husband had to make a four-hour drive to a nearby city to address some professional requirements.  He leaves at four in the morning and returns close to midnight that same day. Every time he makes this trip, I worry.  For no discernible reason -- no history, no experiences -- I have a fear of losing him in a car accident.  The fear began years and years and years ago, when I was pregnant with the Offspring.  I feared Something Unspeakable that would leave me alone to raise the children by myself.  Though now the children are nearly grown, I still to this day fear Something Unspeakable.

When he came home, mercifully safely this time, he relayed a story:  during the trip home, another driver had unexpectedly made a U-turn IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHWAY, and he had to swerve away.  I had chills.  What if he had been a minute earlier or later on the highway?  A knock at the door late at night, a phone call from an unexpected number, a media vulture roosting on the front stoop -- but for the grace of God.

The news outlets excel in recounting holiday-adjacent tragedies:  "volunteer firefighter unknowingly pulls his dying daughter from a car wreck Christmas Eve".  How I do not want ever to be part of a public feasting upon a private pain.  Nothing I can do to stay the hand of Fate, though - what will happen, will happen, whether I am afraid or not.  Sigh.

Six:  On a lighter (or perhaps, a heavier) note:  did I really need to eat *all that*?  I am spending so much time eating my feelings this winter.  I have set myself a goal of eating nutritiously and LESS, beginning on New Year's Day.  So much easier said than done, in the cold and the dark season of in-need-of-comfort. All I can do is try again, and also, try not to berate myself too much.  That's a harsh and useless behavior.  What is done is done. Better times can be ahead.  We shall see.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Noel

What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. ― Agnes M. Pharo

Seasons greetings, my beloved readers. Thank you for being a part of my world. 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Eve

I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses. - Taylor Caldwell


Monday, December 23, 2013

Punny

Offspring the Third called from the kitchen:  "Mom, the sink is clogged.  You need to come see."

Why, yes. Yes, it is.

I do love a good pun.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

1 in 216,580

Last night, Offspring the Third and Cherished Friend played a game of cribbage.  Lo and behold, Cherished Friend pulled a perfect 29-point hand.  Odds of doing so in a two-player game:  one in 216,580.  INDEED.

It was miraculous moment that we will remember for years to come.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice

There are times when I miss the New England winters of my youth.

When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night,the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night. ― Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trappings

Amidst the secular trappings of the season, the search for the Spirit of Christmas continues. We want to believe.

First of all, you have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: 'These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God's eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sharp

Oftentimes, I crave time alone.  Most of the time, I enjoy my solitude.  Every now and then, though, it is slightly less agreeable.

But even so, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness. The very water I drink, the very air I breathe, would feel like long, sharp needles. The pages of a book in my hands would take on the threatening metallic gleam of razor blades. I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o'clock in the morning.  ― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Two Things Whilst Out Shopping

First:  the bread that is a tad confused about its heritage:


And second: just the tips. Hee.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Verklempt

We sorted through the Christmas stockings, and we will admit to choking up just a tiny bit when we found the one belonging to ottoman-shaped dog.  Rest in peace, Thorbert.  You are missed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pathways

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope. ― Thomas Merton


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Now That's An Interesting Idea

Today we read about a travel company that offers people the experience of being 'castaway' on a deserted tropical island.  The options include "Comfort Mode" - private island vacations with a certain degree of luxury; and "Adventure Mode" - a trip with a guide (or no guide, if desired) and minimalist gear.

Yes.

I think that a minimalist, guide-free, solitary respite would be wondrous indeed.

Please insert your own imagined deserted island here. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fifteen

Fifteen years ago today, after a fraught labor that included a seemingly-endless night of listening to his heartbeat on the monitor and praying for miracles, Offspring the Third was safely delivered.  He has taught us so many lessons:  humility, patience, perseverance. He has graced us tremendously. Grow well and strong, my tender-hearted, thoughtful and loving young man. We are grateful for you. 

On this one long, blessed night we refused to worry, allowing only hopes and dreams for the future of the human race, held in the minuscule hands of these newborns.
― A.B. Shepherd, Lifeboat


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Call

We are reading George MacDonald -- whom C. S. Lewis felt to be his spiritual father and 'master.'  We can see how his works inspired and shaped C. S. Lewis' writings.  Fortunate indeed was C. S. Lewis, to find his muse and master. 

But words are vain; reject them all—
They utter but a feeble part:
Hear thou the depths from which they call,
The voiceless longing of my heart.

― George MacDonald, Phantastes

Picture copyright 2012, 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Toys

This morning, Beloved Husband awoke Offspring the Third before the very crack of dawn so that the two of them could go try out Beloved Husband's new acquisition - a Mosin-Nagant rifle.  Both of them have been looking forward to this tremendously.  For her own contribution to this activity, Herself got up early to make egg-and-bacon burritos for Offspring the Third and Beloved Husband (and coffee for Beloved Husband, as well), and helped Offspring the Third find appropriate winter-wear for the rather unseasonably cold weather.  Off the two Menfolk went, and Herself returned to the kitchen to wrestle a turkey, purchased on sale post-Thanksgiving, into the oven.  She foresees turkey pot pie in the future.

Last night, when Beloved Husband was setting his alarm clock for the pre-dawn hours in order to be able to clean the rifle before today's outing, Herself posed a question.  Actually, not a question -- more a commentary.  Why is it, she wondered, that Beloved Husband seeks out and purchases such "toys," whereas Herself does not?

(Side note:  we shall assume, for purposes of this conversation, that a "toy" refers to something that serves for or as if for diversion, rather than for serious practical use.  We all know that a rifle is not a "toy" as that term is used to refer to children's playthings.)

Herself and Beloved Husband thought for a bit.  Hmmm.  Perhaps, he offered, it is because Herself does not play with toys, much like her beloved ottoman-shaped dog did not.  It was an astute observation -- for while Thorbert enjoyed blankets, and walks, and above all, eating, he declined to fetch a ball or to chew on a stuffed animal or play tug-of-war as other dogs do. Could it be that some creatures, such as Thorbert or Herself, just simply do not often interact with objects solely for the pleasure of doing so?

Beloved Husband then asked:  if Herself were to select a "toy," what would it be?

That's a very difficult question indeed.

She has a few toys which she has purchased for herself:  her box of wooden farm animals, her stuffed pink bear, her miniature zen garden and some small colorful stones to arrange in it. She also recently obtained a Mastermind board game because she remembered it from her childhood and wanted to play it again.  Other toys that she has, she is fond of because they were gifts; she treasures those objects as she treasures the people who have given them to her. As far as other items that might be considered diversions, though, Herself is not particularly interested in acquiring any. She feels no need for them.

Perhaps she is indeed much like ottoman-shaped dog.  He was most content just being near his favorite people -- either out walking and exploring, or enjoying a sit and a think and quiet communion (which, if he could have spoken, would have been either lighthearted banter, or philosophical conversation, or a comfortable silence).  Those were his happiest times.  And they are Herself's happiest times, too.




Friday, December 6, 2013

One Year Later

Subtitled:  Fear and Loathing In The Dermatologist's Office

We have just passed the year anniversary of Herself's Mohs surgery for basal cell carcinoma.  She went today for a one-year follow-up and annual pelt survey.  Keeping an eye on all the little things is good.

She wasn't aware of exactly how anxious she was about the appointment until she realized, as she sat in her panties and blue medical gown, that she was sweating even though her hands were ice-cold.

The good part about visiting the dermatologist is that this physician's staff members are courteous and warm, and they don't bat an eyelash even when examining the minutest of all dermatological foibles in intimate detail. Herself is less self-conscious than she might be otherwise.  She pointed out all the little things -- "what's this? And this? And this here is new and doing something different...".  And she was reassured each time.

The two small concerning spots on her face were oddities that were not cancerous (yet), and addressable with judicious use of liquid nitrogen.  She may look a bit as though she's been poked in the face or lost a  battle with Tiny Dog for several days, but that is of no consequence compared to the relief of eliminating further issues with those areas. The rest of her dermis looks just fine, nothing remarkable other than typical freckles and age-related changes.  She need not go back for another year, unless something unusual arises.

Phew.

When addressing health issues, Herself is practical.  She remembers her routine maintenance appointments; she makes other appointments when they are unavoidable/necessary; she listens to the doctors, researches, and makes careful decisions regarding treatment and maintenance and such.  What must be done, must be done.

As she tromps patiently through her medical terrain, though, she recognizes that deep within her there's an agitated, tearful, needy creature.  A creature that panics at the medicinal smell of the offices.  A creature that is anxious at the sight of the ancient magazines that have occupied other nervous patients' attention in the waiting room.  A creature that shudders and sweats in the medical gown.  Of what is the creature so afraid?  Medically-induced vulnerability? Pain?  Yes.  That is to be expected.

Moreso, though:  the creature is also afraid of what may or may not be found.  If the body is examined closely and nothing untoward is found, she might be mocked for raising an unfounded concern:  Hypochondriac, silly girl. It's all in your head.  Or, oppositely, a problem might indeed be found, and she will be scolded: Why did you wait so long? What were you thinking? You should have spoken up right away. You've made things worse for yourself.  Or, worst of all: an error is found, and there will be cold, supercilious indifference.  Fingers will point, and mouths will jeer:  you have brought this upon yourself, and you must reap what you have sown, with your own pain, alone.  You deserve what you have wrought.  There will be no comfort for you.

We understand, Creature. We wish we could console you, and tell you:  Sometimes, things just happen.  It is not your fault.  Fret not, for we will be with you, and will hold your hand, always. It will be OK.  You will not be alone. 

One year later, the scar is nearly invisible on the outside. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Collide

Howie Day's Collide is even better when acoustic.

It reminds me a bit of Italo Calvino's The Form of Space from his book, Cosmicomics, except that Collide suggests a much more fruitful entwining -- the reaching of a heart's desire.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quiet Confusion

We wonder:  to whom was Kafka speaking? His domineering father, his reserved mother? One of his lifelong friends? One of his many lovers?  Mysterious and poignant, his words could apply to each under varying circumstances.

Or could it be from one character to another in his writings?  He painted such vivid scenarios with his words. We can easily imagine him constructing an entire dark fascinating story around such a theme.

We must get out his collected works and read them again.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

All the Gifts

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, Herself observed the holiday gathering of a very traditional, upper-middle-class New England family.  The family members sat around the Christmas tree which had been artfully decorated with white lights and golden globes tied with golden ribbon - ornately simple.  The sparse coloring of the tree contrasted with the myriad hues of reds and blues in the oriental carpet of the room. The presents had all been opened and dutifully admired, one at a time by each individual.  The matriarch looked around the room at the carefully coiffed and attired family with their pyramidal stacks of gifts and exclaimed, in reference to the abundance:  "It's practically obscene!"

-----
Obscene.  
ob·scene [uhb-seen]  adjective
1. offensive to morality or decency; indecent; depraved: obscene language.
2. causing uncontrolled sexual desire.
3. abominable; disgusting; repulsive.


What did the matriarch mean, exactly?  Was the largesse seen by the matriarch (who, most likely, was the primary if not sole purveyor of that year's gifts) as being excessive to the point of being offensive, indecent, disgusting?  It was such a peculiar choice of words.  Herself, who has always attempted to find the very best word for each occasion (which periodically yields halting conversation, much to Herself's horror), did not understand.  It did not appear to be an exclamation of "aren't we fortunate" or "such a nice Christmas" -- rather, it seemed more to be a chastisement, a reminder that money had been spent and the family members ought to take note and be appropriately grateful.  And as if commanded, the family members did indeed murmur additional appropriate words of gratitude for their bestowed bounty.  "Thank you again, so much."

-----

Man years later, Herself remembers that strange scene. And she aims for the opposite.

She does her best, as the family's Santa, to find what it is that her loved ones will enjoy.  She treasures the colored lights and the miscellaneous hand-made and crowded ornaments of her nuclear family's tree.  She is quietly pleased by the assorted and occasionally mismatched wrapping papers of the small piles of presents at its base.  The family members open their gifts as they see fit, holding things up delightedly or admiring them shyly.  Herself does not require any particular demonstrations of awareness of the value of a gift, nor does she need any particular acts of thanks.  She hopes that they enjoy the moment without feeling ashamed or guilty for having received presents.  She hopes, most of all, that regardless of the number or content of the boxes under the tree, her loved ones know that they are loved, unconditionally. 


Monday, December 2, 2013

Well Written

How well I would write if I were not here! If between the white page and the writing of words and stories that take shape and disappear without anyone's ever writing them there were not interposed that uncomfortable partition which is my person! Style, taste, individual philosophy, subjectivity, cultural background, real experience, psychology, talent, tricks of the trade: all the elements that make what I write recognizable as mine seem to me a cage that restricts my possibilities. If I were only a hand, a severed hand that grasps a pen and writes...who would move this hand? The anonymous throng? The spirit of the times? The collective unconscious? I do not know. ― Italo Calvino, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Alike, and Not

Here was a flower (the daisy reflected) strangely like itself and yet utterly unlike itself too. Such a paradox has often been the basis for the most impassioned love. ― Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

Picture copyright 2013, Mediocria Firma. Used with gratitude.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Meraki

Meraki (n):  the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work

Herself has a quiet belief that the mood in which one finds oneself while cooking imparts its quality to the food that is being prepared.  It's a slightly superstitious notion, no doubt.  Nevertheless, she therefore finds it important to place herself into an optimum frame of mind before beginning work in the kitchen.  And if an unusual item is on the menu --  a birthday cake or pie, a special dinner, a flock of muffins for a holiday gift -- extra care must to be taken to ensure that she is composed and peaceful.  

For Thanksgiving, she  made empanadas at the request of Beloved Husband.  They are his new favorite.

She let go her worries as much as possible, and put aside thoughts about the required intense social interactions of the day.  She rolled the dough carefully to ensure that the empanadas would have the requisite half-moon shape.  She stirred the filling frequently so that it would not become runny, as that would make the dough soggy.  She crimped the edges, and painted the crescents with beaten egg yolk to give them the right sheen.  She watched the empanadas carefully in the oven, lest they burn.

They turned out fairly well, and were enjoyed by the Extended Family. That was good.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spirit Animal

The elephant shrew.

Wikipedia says, inter alia:

Although mostly diurnal and very active, they are difficult to trap and very seldom seen; elephant shrews are wary, well camouflaged, and adept at dashing away from threats. Several species make a series of cleared pathways through the undergrowth and spend their day patrolling them for insect life. If disturbed, the pathway provides an obstacle-free escape route. Elephant shrews are not highly social animals, but many live in monogamous pairs.

That sounds about right.

Those eyes!  Picture found all over the interwebs.   Want to see it chew?  Look here

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Okay

A lovely gem - My Brightest Diamond's I Have Never Loved Someone.

Dedicated to those who long to be told: "You're okay."

You ARE okay.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Brrrrrr

It is unseasonably cold here.  The aloe vera is relieved to be huddling in the garage instead of bracing itself against the wind outside.  We nearly lost it in a freeze last year; we are being more protective this year.  We shall see how it fares.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Purpose

This post is dedicated to A, who is in need of a light to shine into the Void.  

Some days are good.  There are darting and captivating fishes in the blue of the ocean; there are glorious plants in the botanical gardens; there are kitties who play like large live dust bunnies in the middle of the floor; and there are people -- ordinary, wonderful people --  just waiting to be captured by your camera.  Physical pain can be ignored, for there is so much beauty in the world, that it lessens the aches.  These are the good days, indeed.

And then, there are other days.  Days when loneliness looms large and ominous -- a hunkering, foul-breathed entity -- and it seems, frighteningly, to be the sole creature aware of one's existence.

Do not be afraid.  Loneliness is not an enemy.  It is part of all of us.  

Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. ― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

It is the most sensitive souls who feel loneliness the most acutely -- they are all too aware of being "other."  When the tunneling of loneliness has opened new channels into their souls, it is tempting for them to try to find other people to fill those spaces.  Yet when these souls observe the other people, it is clear that other people are immersed in their own worlds, doing their own things at their own pace and in their own time.  The sensitive souls feel painfully disconnected.  They search for that thin silver thread of connection with the other people, and are disappointed, frustrated, and incredibly saddened when not even a flicker of sunlight reflects off the thread to show it is there.  

For these souls, it is possible to feel alone even in a room full of people. 

It's a bitter thought: being alone.  And yet,  the truth is: every one of us is alone. 

No one else has access to the world you carry around within yourself; you are its custodian and entrance. No one else can see the world the way you see it. No one else can feel your life the way you feel it. ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

You are unique.  That is awesome -- in an "inducing awe" sense -- and beautiful.  And terrifying.

What to do? Travel within yourself.  Look at the corners and hidden places.  You will find beauty there -- just as you find beauty through the lens of your camera.  

All you can ever achieve is a sense of your soul. You gain little glimpses of its light, colors, and contours. You feel the inspiration of its possibilities and the wonder of its mysteries. ― John O'Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Your possibilities and your mysteries hold the clues to your purpose here on this earth.  Finding one's purpose is the most difficult task one will ever encounter; many -- most, even -- people will not ever learn of, or understand, their exact purpose in clear terms.  The best we can do is to have faith:  faith in ourselves, and our purposes, however incomprehensible or invisible they might seem.  

Purpose is not always a Mount Kilimanjaro -- sometimes, it is a thousand anthills across a wide parched plain.  There may be minuscule happenings, such as that moment that you made quiet small talk with a fragile, yearning soul while waiting at a doctor's office or in an airport, that change the course of humanity in some small, ineffable way.  You may never be aware of the tremendous impact you have.  But that doesn't mean that the impact doesn't exist. It does. And the world is grateful for you. 

It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ― Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

I know that in the fullness of time, you will catch glimpses of what it is that helps you feel needed, purposeful, and in communion with other people. It may be enormous, or it may be tiny.  in the grand scheme of the Universe, though, size is unimportant.  It is you that is important. 

Truly. 

Photograph copyright AEP, 2013.  Used with gratitude. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Pie: A Photo Essay

Today, your birthday,
A celebratory pie
Made with care, for you.

Step 1:  prepare the squash.

 It's a lovely squash, isn't it?

It always surprises me that there are so few seeds inside.

Scooping out squash icky bits is so much easier than scooping out pumpkin icky bits.

A lovely aluminum foil bed to steam the squash for 50 minutes. 

Poke it with a fork.  All done!

Scoop and mash.  Squash innards are all ready.

Step 2:  prepare the filling.  This is not a particularly fascinating step.  It involves the mashed squash, eggs, condensed milk, spices, brown sugar, and vanilla.

The filling is a beautiful color.  Make sure it's smooth.

Step 3:  prepare the crust.  (Note:  this step occurs concurrently with the steaming of the squash.)

Ingredients: flour, a touch of salt and sugar, shortening and butter

Mix until pea-sized crumbs form.

Add a bit of ice water, until the dough just clings together.

Prep the pie pan.  It's a pi pie pan, of course.  A bit of extra flour nearby, just in case.

Roll out the dough.  ACK, this is tricky.

Transfer to the pie pan.  EGADS, the edges!

There, that's a little better.  CRUST IS DIFFICULT.

Brush with a bit of beaten egg yolk.

Bake for 15 minutes to set.

Step 4:  assemble the pie.

Make sure the filling doesn't overflow.

Step 5:  bake the pie.  Watch it carefully to make sure the edges don't burn.

Beautiful.  

Ta-daaa.  

Happy birthday, our Cherished Friend. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Into The Dark

Though normally I'd eschew a band named Death Cab for Cutie because -- well, just because, I came across this song (I Will Follow You Into The Dark) today, and it is Very Good Indeed.  Simple, sweet, poignant.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Flower

In the vast (by plant standards) plain of the front lawn, somewhat adjacent to the fascinating fungus, a tiny blossom spontaneously arises.  Thank you, minuscule flower, for your perseverance and your yellow joy.




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

To Be A Child Again

There would be so many wonderful things about being a child again.

What age would I pick?  10? 11?  Some point at which I had achieve a certain degree of physical coordination, large and small.  Sufficient to climb trees and ride a bike. Enough to hike a mountain, to whittle a stick; to ford a stream while looking for tiny fishes or quickly-disappearing frogs; to carry a bucket of water at the beach to fill the moat around a sandcastle. To 'pump' myself high on the swings of the swingset and then fling myself off into the air, aiming for the pile of carefully-raked fall leaves below.  To be able to crawl through small spaces when exploring, and yet to also be able to reach that higher branch to pull myself up.

It would be an ideal age, that time when scraped knees were interesting and bandages were essentially curative.  When glasses were unnecessary to spot that woolly-bear caterpillar or the bud of a wild strawberry, even at a distance.  When nothing hurt on a daily basis.  When I could eat as much or as little as I liked, when there were no migraine triggers or concerns about body size or shape.  A time before puberty caused inconvenient and uncomfortable changes to the physical machinery. When I could skip or run, just for the sheer pleasure of being able to do so.

Responsibilities are few at such an age.  I would have solely to do my schoolwork and my chores.  That would be all.  No need to fret about a job or bills. No need to understand the health care policy. Someone else would take care of all of the shopping and of meal preparation and laundry. Someone else would drive me where I needed to go.  Easy-peasy.

I could play with toys for hours. Color with crayons. Sit in a tree and read a book.  Pretend to fish over the front hall banister.  Wear whatever amalgam of clothing I would like in the daytime -- for fashion and brand names would be unimportant -- and sport pajamas with feet at night. Leave cookies and milk out for Santa, even though I didn't necessarily believe in Santa. Sing loudly and unabashedly.  Make snow angels.

There would be magic in finding a smooth stone or a nearly-perfectly symmetrical chestnut.

Everything could be made into an adventure.

There would be only one drawback:  the other children. Well, two drawbacks: the other children, and the adults who interacted with me and the other children.

I would have to navigate the intricacies surrounding social relationships and reciprocity (or lack thereof).  If little Kellie didn't extend an invitation to her birthday party, I would need to understand why I was told not to invite Kellie to my party, either. Why not? What did it matter, if I played with Kellie on occasion and would enjoy having Kellie there?  And why was I not allowed to play with Beth who lived next door?  She was a year or two younger than I, but we still both liked Colorforms.  And what was wrong with the fact that Mary had CCD on Mondays, other than the fact that I could not play with her after school that day? So many questions, for which there were no answers.

I would have to figure out why my classmate Eloise decided to fill my school shoes with glue while everyone was outside in their winter boots for recess.  And I would need again to learn to reject the advice of an adult who, upon learning about the glue escapades, instructed me to place prank phone calls to Eloise to say "I know what you did and I'm going to tell" and then hang up.  No.

If I set up a 'fix-it' shop in the corner of the third grade classroom with my classmate Joseph, where we would use tape or other means to mend a torn page of a book or other tiny problems, I would once more need to remain calm when looking at the triumphantly hostile face of another classmate who broke a pencil in two, with shreds of wood and yellow paint dropping to the ground, and challenged me to repair it.

I would have to figure out why the teacher always called on Nanette first, especially when Nanette sat up extra prim and proper with a sweet smile across her face, and why my attempts to do the same would never yield the same result. I would have to understand why that pack of kids threw snowballs at me because they thought I was my brother.  I would be reminded that I was being sent to speech therapy and instructed to hold a file card between my closed lips, in order to ensure that I could close my lips around my buck teeth so that my peers would not make fun of me.

Those were the hard parts of being a child.

If I were a child again, I would select the individuals around me ever so carefully. The adults would be benign, muffled voices in the background, much like the teacher in a Charlie Brown holiday special.  For my companion(s), I would pick someone like the boy whose name I've long forgotten, whom I met in summer camp when I was a tiny wee thing.  We spent hours playing in the shade of the tree near the monkey bars, pretending that we were heroic dogs who were on an outer-space mission.  We would understand one another perfectly, somehow, and there would be not an ounce of sarcasm or criticism or mind-game.  Such would be the best childhood companion - someone in front of whom I could set my imagination free without fear of being judged, and for whom I would return that kindness.  Together, we could be canine astronauts all day and into the evening, until the sun went down and the lightning-bugs began to twinkle.

That would be excellent, indeed.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Places To Go

We thought we'd introduce a new topic to address periodically:  places we'd like to go.

This topic was inspired by the Aescher Hotel in Appenzellerland, Switzerland.  Oh, to see that view, to breathe that air.  Marvelous.

This glorious photo was found in imgur here.