Aiming Peanuts At The Moon

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When I was 54 years old my Mother died.  She who read to me from Mother Goose, The Elves & Fairies, The Little Engine That Could, Hans Christian Andersen; she who encouraged education and reading books was gone.

The world still feels parched without her.  But my feelings about her have been and will always be confusing.  Her stubborn, Taurus nature was crazy-making.

When I summon her, the words of Dylan Thomas’ poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night surface:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
old age should burn and rave at close of day;
rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Did he know Mother personally?  Her death at age ninety-three after soldiering on in a nursing home for eight years was combative, to say the least.  She wandered into the rooms of comatose residents and unplugged television cords.  My sister had to move her to a different nursing home.

We joked that that at least Mother’s cord-pulling was not someone’s life support.

There were other incidents:  She bit a nurse trying to give her a pill.  She hurled bottles of nail polish across the room, set off Emergency Door Alarms. Once, I found her gripping her roommate’s Infant of Prague statue in her bony hand.  The roommate was blind and Mother had pocketed it.  How not to laugh at that irony?

Was the Infant of Prague caper Mother’s attempt to find spirituality?

Having lived her youth in the 1920’s Prohibition era with its gangsters and flappers, she refused to be defined by any institution or person other than herself.

Was she a narcissist?  I think so.

Prohibition did not stop her from getting sick on uncut grain alcohol one night when a shadowy man offered whiskey to her and her sister.  They had been frolicking at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1932.  Luckily, they both made it home to my grandmother’s flat in the morning, grandmother not at all happy to nurse their hangovers.

Later, in the 1960’s, her soapbox deliveries of opinions and stories not only reverberated in my echo chamber but those of the small town of Mundelein, Illinois.  She wrote a newspaper column, Brickbats and Bouquets, for the local newspaper.  Her subjects ranged from her opinions on suburban strip malls, to the divorce of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, to her praise of bird-watchers.

She encouraged me to write with her when I was a girl.  This snip still rattles in my head:

Hair in curlers, cream on face;
no resemblance, human race.

I picture her slathered in Ponds cold crème, her black hair woven into an antennae of curlers looking like a martian.

It is over a decade since her passing.  I have seen her rage against the dying of the light at an institution that tried to contain her spirit.  I have seen her rage at me and my sister.

She has shown up only a few times in my dreams, but I believe that instead of curses, she blesses me now with fierce tears.

I aim peanuts at the moon.  She would be happy to know just how unforgettable she is.

 

Clay

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Every picture tells a story.  Or does it?

 

Don’t Overthink It

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Let’s face it, anyone can overthink things. Especially when it comes to de-cluttering.

How about going with the heart instead?  Finding the things in your house that spark joy?

That’s right.  Joy.  Pull out all the stops.  Open your dresser drawers, your closets.  Pull out all your clothes.  Pile them on your bed.

You could start with t-shirts.  Does this one spark joy?   Or is it crammed in a drawer that wants to spill out like the Pillsbury Doughboy’s waistline? 

And what about the t-shirt you did not know you even had?  The one a friend gave you — I Heart NY.  Yes, a Keeper.

Can you tell that I have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Not only that.  I recently invited a young woman who is working to obtain her Marie Kondo certification over to my house.   That’s right.  A Marie Kondo certification.  Who knew?

I invited the YW to our house, and then told my husband he needed to disappear for the initial consult.

He scratched his head.  Did as he was told.  Wise man.

The YW was prompt, well-organized, neat and sparkly.  She is a former urban planner  who used to work with my niece.  Ah, family connections.  So important.

We chatted, discussed my goals.  “What are your Touchstones,” the YW asked me.

Simple — fun, blogging, writing, book club, creating vintage greeting cards, Fairy Tale Theater, travel, photography, collage.  “These are a few of my favorite things,” I said, channeling Julie Andrews.

We laughed at the vintage cards created from my family’s photographs:

Honey Do Club

The super-focused YW explained the Kondo process.   We started (and have not finished) with clothes, then move on to books, papers and sentimental items.  We agreed to meet every three weeks.

And the husband? I asked her.  

I was hoping to lock him in a closet from the get-go. 

Let me ‘splain:  I do not relish the idea of his dominating the conversation with logic and problem-solving.   I want a deep dive into the heart and intuition of the house and in my opinion women are better at this. 

Then I realized:  Whoa, sister.  We are both the hearth and home.  He is part of this too.  After twenty-five years together, you could say we both fall into the sentimental items category.

I asked the YW about her home and family.  Turns out that she and her husband have two children, six and nine years old.  And they live in a tiny coach house.

A coach house!  When I was single, I dreamed of living in one.  Forget  McMansions.  Give me the garret, the small space.

But this is a family of four and their coach house is only 750 square feet!  She and her husband roll out a Japanese-style mattress every night and pack it up in the morning.  The kids have bunk beds.

They are living the Kondo dream.  Sure hope it works.

I know that me and my sentimental  item will never attain such a spartan lifestyle.  Still, it is fun to dream about a coach house.

 

 

 

Stitch N’ Bitch

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My first hand-stitched book.

Awhile back I attended a conference on how to make hand-made books.   Focus on Book Arts  (https://focusonbookarts.org/)  offered many classes on hand-made books —  how to fold, structure, stitch, and bind, as well as exotic techniques for the more advanced attendees  (Chinese Thread Books, Pop-Up structures for miniature books, Jacob’s Ladder book structure, etc.).

FOBA was a great environment for learning and sharing skills and experience with like-minded “arteests.”  I am still in touch with a few of them.

Thanks to FOBA  (and my independent urge to try new things) I have a formidable stash of content for the inside pages of a hand-made book. My grandfather the Trainman seems to admonish me for not memorializing him yet in a bound book.  He, along with my poems and other family vintage photos that I transferred onto fabric, remain buried in shoe boxes and plastic bins.

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I feel some angst over all of this material.  Why, out of all the FOBA classes that were available to me, did I avoid learning to structure a book to incorporate these scraps from the past?  I have toyed with the idea of  rendering them in PhotoShop and Lightroom and digitizing them into a book via blurb.com.

At some point, I may try that.  But at present,  I have fancy ideas that conflict with the idea of using an on-line service to build this book.

Me and my fancy brain.

My mind wanders back to 1970 and Mrs. Kane’s Home Economics sewing class.  Ah, if it weren’t for those memories, I might have happily enrolled in FOBA’s book stitching classes and by now would have a more permanent memorial to the ancestors.

No … wait. It wasn’t Mrs. Kane’s class. It was the sewing machine that my Father won at a Knights of Columbus raffle, the machine with the bobbin from hell.  It tangled incessantly and I never finished making a basic shift dress.

Oh what a web I weave … it was Mrs. Kane and my Father.

I now have a workable Pfaff sewing machine and make things like curtain valances and pillows. But I still have a love-hate relationship with sewing.

So recently I reached out to a friend I made at FOBA, Jackie, who in my eyes is the Queen of Book Structure and Stitchery.  Jackie covers books in cloth and paper and knows accordion folds, Coptic and long stitches, and even Japanese book binding.  She is a marvel.

“Sure, come over,” she said.  “We’ll each make a long-stitch book.”

I was successful — if you consider six hours of intense neocortex work (“first you fold the paper in half, then you fold it in quarters…after that you create five signature pages…we put them in the bookbinding cradle…watch out for the thread catching in the wrong hole”) to be worth it compared to a few hours of PhotoShop,

Let me get back to you on that.

Though the feather-papered book is very pretty and I want to write poems in its pages, I envision the ancestors in more of a parchment/sepia design.

I’ll probably stitch n’ bitch till the cows come home.

 

 

Spooked

MoonCollage

Well rattle my bones and shiver my spine,
‘tis Halloween and the witches are flyin’.
They cackle and hasten to mount their brooms,
ride high over rooftops and leaning old tombs.

Ghosts haunt at night and jack o’lanterns wink,
bats fly by radar, watchful owls never blink.
Werewolves and mummies and even giraffes
trick-or-treat on doorsteps; costumed kids have laughs.

But who’s to say, when the full moon beams bright,
that vampires don’t search for a neck to bite.
So please listen up if you hear a wolf howl,
it could be Count Dracula out on the prowl.

If I’ve scared you, I’m sorry, but it’s All Hallow’s Eve,
when souls rise from graves to tug at your sleeve.
For when I was young, my basket filled with treats,
goblins clamored to grab me for a dance on their street.

Bird Whisperer

 

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Fickle, you flit from one bloom to the next,

sucking nectar
oblivious
of tomorrows or yesterdays
and I wonder who is feeding whom.

My heart is grounded in this moment by your

Morse code chirps,
sassy chatter,

and aerial displays.

What is it you whisper to the flowers?

 

 

The Scream

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Humane crows in our lovely Lincoln Park

Two crows mourn on a wire;
they caw from their perch in the sky.

They emit shrill cries —
wings beat rancor, grief
at the sight of the fallen third,
road kill left behind by squealing tires.

One wing of the dead crow points to the lost freedom of the sky.

In death, does the crow’s wing beckon its clan to remember their connection?
Logic diminishes my whimsy as cars speed by and further crush the bird.

The two mourners fly and flap from one wire to another.
Drivers, oblivious of the crow funeral, move headlong to their lives
as I, too, enter my vehicle on the way to an appointment.

The crow screams are lost, muffled as news blares from the radio:
Mass shooting At A Texas Walmart —
and I ponder humanity’s numbness towards death.

Saga of an Urban Gardener

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Our saga continues…

Day 2

Is growing a veggie garden worth it?  We have two excellent grocery stores within walking distance of our home:  Puget Consumers Co-Op (aka PCC) and Metropolitan Market.

And why add the extra step of building a cloche for protecting veggie starts when we could just throw them in the soil and forget about it?

Or pave the entire yard with cement.

Such are my rat-scratching doubts on this overcast Saturday.

I bid Blake Goth adieu and walk over to Marguerite’s house.  Marguerite is a neighbor  and master gardener who offers gardening  consultations.

Marguerite’s prize-winning fowl, Betty, is outside her chicken coop pecking at feed.  Marguerite not only raises egg-hatching chickens, she is also a bee keeper and sells honey locally.

“Do we need to bother with a cloche?” I ask her.

“Not necessarily.  I do it to keep veggies starts from getting battered by rain, keeping them warm.”  She advises me to wait until the weather is warmer to plant things and just to rotate veggies every year.

“I use a sharp, steel hoe”, she says.  “It makes all the difference in garden work.  I sharpen it with a mill bastard file.”

“A ‘lil bastard?”

Betty, her prize chicken, clucks and admonishes me.

Marguerite laughs.  “No.  A mill bastard.  To file.  To sharpen.”

I invite Marguerite over.  She surveys our back yard.  “Someone’s been busy digging up sod.”

“That would be Blake Goth.”

“Blake Goth?”

Ooops.  No one knows my husband’s pseudonym.  “Uhhh…I’m keeping a journal.  I call us Jane and Blake Goth.”

“I see.”  Marguerite squints as if she doesn’t see.   She probably thinks I’m crazy.

Before she leaves, Marguerite again advises me  to wait until it is warmer to plant what I want and to add chicken manure to the soil.

When I go inside, Blake Goth is in the kitchen unpacking groceries from PCC.  I mention my conversation with Marguerite and how we’ll need to buy chicken manure.

BG shakes his head, says Marguerite’s chickens are kinda cute and that you had to hand it to her for raising honey bees.  “But I’m sure as hell never wearing a bee suit.”

Did I ever tell him to?

Does he need to cluck at me?

The saga will continue…

 

 

Saga of An Urban Gardener

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Rat-A-Touille Anyone?

A few years ago I visualized a veggie garden for our back yard.

I imagined early girl tomatoes, garlic, strawberry fields forever.   I fancied myself as Mother Earth.  I would plant shallot bulbs, scatter arugula seeds.  Our Lady of Perpetual Garlic would not only provide bountiful salads, but ward off vampires.

We would call this our “kitchen garden,” just a short step from our culinary center.  Even better — I would keep  a journal of our experience.  I gave us the pseudonyms of Jane and Blake Goth, aging yet steadfast farmers straight out of Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

What follows are some of my journal entries:

Day 1.

Cloudy, looks like rain moving in.   Blake Goth is digging out the grass.  I just read tips on seed packets.  Some, not too promising:

Beans are subject to numerous diseases.
Beets are prone to scab.  Make sure the pH level is neutral.
Flea beetle damage reduces radish growth rate.
Beware of carrot fly maggots.  Control by covering rows with insect barrier fabric at time of planting.

We’ll nix the beans, beets, radishes, carrots.  Wonder what the insect barriers are about?

Discover in Sunset Western Garden book that insect barrier fabrics are used to make cloches.

Hmmm…I think Marguerite down the street has a cloche.

I hear Blake Goth tossing clumps of grass into yard waste bin.  He has filled up the entire  container.

The drizzle outside is turning into a downpour.  Good thing Blake Goth wears his GoreTex.

I have doubts.  Is all this work worth it?  We have excellent produce at the grocery co-op up the street.

The other day I bumped into our neighbor Pam.  She mentioned finding holes near the foundation of her house.  Thinks there are rats in the hood.

I told her it’s a good thing house foundations are cement.  The rats would have to be pretty toothsome to chew through that.

Then I told her how we are planting a veggie garden out back.  Mistake.  She said “Ewww…E-coli.”

I asked her “How So?

She went on about the rats, stray cats, raccoons.  How critters could wander into our veggie plot and poop.

Great.

Her warnings from a few days ago still loop in my head.  “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” I tell myself.   “You don’t think produce growers across the world encounter pests?” the voice or reason chimes in.

Blake Goth comes in out of the rain, done digging for the day.  “I don’t understand what you have against grass,” he says.

I don’t have the heart to tell him about E Coli and to undo his work and put the grass back in place.

The saga will continue …