Tuesday, December 30, 2014

goodnight

My niece handed me a teeny tiny tin. "Could I...Would I?"
Of course I would!

Doesn't he look startled? His eyes were just getting used to the dark I bet.

He has a little yellow pillow, honey yellow, and a fluffy white blanket with the outline of a bear on it.

He looks pretty skinny but hibernating is sort of like a diet run amok.

Bears like to sleep. Bears know how to sleep. Bears sleep. Goodnight.

summary

An oncoming bus pulled to the curb and a message scrolled above the windshield. "Sorry......not in service."
It seemed a profound summary of my state of mind.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

quite a crowd

Photographs can outlast memory.
I suppose that is why some of us have old black and white photos of complete strangers.
At least, they are strangers now.
Someone used to know who they were.
Someone used to be able to point and smile and nod.
Then time galloped by.
Lots of time.

I'm glad this photo made the cut when households were condensed and dispersed.
I'm glad it evaded the great Cull that happens when the baton of life is passed from one generation to the next.
Now I can let this lovely family wish you a Merry Christmas for me.
I'm pretty sure they're my relatives.
The photo belonged to my grandfather and is from the twenties or thirties.
I think it was taken in Norway.

Dozens of cousins.
Well, nine anyway.
I wish I knew them.
Aren't they dressed so smartly in their woolens?
And isn't the tree a wonder to behold?
Somewhere out there, the children of these nine children live and move and have their being.
And the grandchildren of these nine children too for that matter.
Could be quite a crowd.
There are probably enough of them to spell We Wish You A Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year, Good Tidings To You, Where Ever You Are, Good Tidings For Christmas And a Happy New Year. Fa la la la la, la la la la.......


Friday, December 19, 2014

good will

I had watched her spread icing on a gingerbread man so carefully,
absorbed in her work,
choosing the colored candies,
placing a halo of gumi bears round the paper plate.
The teacher called to them, her little flock of chicks, and they fluttered and scrambled obediently out of their chairs to join her at the front.
A kindergarten choir.

I blinked and tried to look away but the sweetness of their faces, of her face was so captivating.
She sang earnestly, her head bent down slightly so that she looked up with large, shining eyes.
Such eyes and I felt my own begin to fill again.
It's the contrast.
It's the contrast between dark and light, between love and hate and sweetness and all that is good...... and all that is not.

Especially at this time of year.

This precious child.
These precious children.
This precious world, filled to the brim....
It needs a Savior.
It needs peace on earth, good will toward men.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

with feathers

Birds come and go in the city.
Sparrows,
Crows,
Pigeons,
Seagulls.....
Not eagles though.
They remain lofty and austere.
Wheeling above country roads.
Gazing down from towering tree limbs,
their triumphant cry on the wind....
You don't expect to hear that cry at your elbow.
You don't expect to glance up with startled eyes, into the steady, level gaze of an eagle.

My friend was reading.
Really reading.
She was gripping the book as she tensely read.
There were monsters lurking.
And then, just at her elbow,
beyond the glass door,
with mighty talons gripping the balcony rail,
an eagle.
A Bald Eagle, monstrous and shrieking.
Fiction with feathers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

always loved art

There are just so many ways to embarrass yourself.
And aren't there so many mistakes a person can make?
Sometimes after thrashing and struggling through the swamp of life, I stagger out onto solid ground convinced that nothing I've learned so far is a transferable skill.

It seems that the math of life predestines us to trouble.
Human being + life = trouble.
I never liked math.
Maybe I should start thinking of my life as an art project.
Something unusual, but creative and if you turn your head and squint, you can see the beginnings of something lovely.
I always loved art.
P.S.
I am discovering that math has patterns and rhythms that I have been embracing all of my life, without even realizing....I love patterns and rhythms. Does that mean I love math?  

Monday, December 1, 2014

very illuminating

I dreamt my life was an Excel spreadsheet and I couldn't get the formulas to work.

We hunkered down in front of the computer.
We started by studying Word and then PowerPoint, but for some reason, when we began to work in Excel, I began to dream at night, to toss and turn and mutter in my sleep.
Click once, click twice.
Drag by the corner.
Highlight.
Enter.
Dusty corridors in my brain are seeing the light of day.
It has been very illuminating.

beckoning

Hooray!
The sky is blue.
The sun is high.
The air is crisp.
Well, crisp might be a bit optimistic.
It likely is cold, plain and simple, and my rhapsody really has very little to do with the weather.
The hooray isn't so much about looking out as it is about looking ahead.
Ahead to end of semester.
Not all endings in life are delightful, but end of semester is one of the golden few.
Finals beckon.
Beckoning is fine.
I prefer to think of my final exams as 'beckoning.'
It sounds sort of inviting that way.
Friendly even.
Far better than thinking of finals as looming, dark and brooding.

I am allowing myself a learning curve.
Strange, how at times that learning curve has felt a lot like a traffic circle. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

worth more than

I got to thinking about the Lady of Shalott this morning.
She couldn't stop weaving.
And she was all alone in a tower.
Some people think Tennyson wanted to say something about the creative process.
How those who paint or write are isolated.
And compelled.
That although life surrounds them, are separated by the very task set before them.
It has made me ponder the message of all art.
The personal message of the artist.
Seeing life only from a distance as the Lady of Shalott did, as a reflection in a mirror seems a terrible fate.
And it was for her.
Sir Lancelot for all of his bling and jingle jangle really wasn't worth floating down a river over either.

I think when the mirror cracked from side to side, she should have jumped up and cried, "Hooray, I'm off to the market," instead of seeing 'curse' written over her in black letters.
I guess that is part of my personal message.
The color of everyday life is worth more than a tower full of woven magic or a fleet of glittering knights.

then I realized

As I was driving this week,
homeward bound along a narrow country road
I realized I was feeling something...
something just beyond grasping...
What?
What was I feeling?
And then I realized it was happiness.

tooth clencher

A dinosaur with clenched teeth bars the way.
Really.
Out on the street in front of our house.

Our neighbor's work truck, topped with ladders is casting the most amazing shadow.
It fills the street.
A giant tooth clencher.
Probably a T-rex, or maybe a fearsome dragon.
The shadow just beyond is equally amazing in its appropriateness for the moment.
It looks just like the tower of a castle.
Like a turret.
Castle and dragon.
I'm pretty sure there is a princess or two and probably a knight out there.
Out in the shadow.
Does the dragon sense it?

P.S.
The angle of the setting sun made the dragon grow and grow until it crossed the street AND the sidewalk.
Then someone came and parked on the turret.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

sound of courage

My Dad loved bagpipes.
He was proud of his Scottish heritage and that pride influenced the musical climate of the home I grew up in. Ballads and anthems, pipes and drums, they swirled and eddied around the living rooms of my childhood.
When my parents came to live with us here in the city, we trekked off to hear bagpipers whenever we could,
watched them compete,
watched them march in parades.
We especially loved the Delta Police Pipe Band. 
Their evenings were always a wonder.
When it came to the place in the program where the lone piper entered the darkened auditorium, my father always gulped back tears.
He was a veteran and I know that bagpipes made him remember.
It's because bagpipes are the sound of courage.

Veterans are gathering outside businesses for the annual sale of poppies.
As I waited in line to pay for my groceries this week, I heard pipers somewhere out in the parking lot.
There is a wildness to that sound, an irresistible call.
I felt a surge of unexpected emotion and tears rising like a tide.
I felt such sorrow for the suffering here and around the world, now and ever.
The battle for freedom is waged against forces of darkness with such immense courage and sacrifice.
On that day, it seemed to me, bagpipes were the soundtrack of freedom.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

carry the torch

Is October supposed to look this fresh?
All up the street, lawns lie green as ever.
The sun is slanting down from a summer-blue sky.
Roses still bloom, a haze of pink on branch tips,
while the white anemone flutter like a dozen butterflies.

My pumpkins glowing at the edge of the garden say 'autumn' loud and clear though.
And so do the blueberry bushes.
Blueberry leaves don't just turn color, they flame.
Blueberry bushes carry the torch for Autumn.

gentler on the skin

Sometimes I feel like I'm tumbling in a clothes dryer.
I'm feeling the heat.
I don't know which way is up and which is down.
I'm getting a glimpse out the window from time to time but that's about it.
Mind you, there are lots of stories that way.
Life feels very eventful that way.
It's just that if I don't write them down, they become part of the swirling color, going round and round.
And when I finally get to them, some are kind of wrinkled.
Some have shrunk a bit.
But some shake out as fresh as the day they were new.
Better even.
Softer.
Gentler on the skin.

we did

I wanted to be early.
You know.....that psychological advantage you get from being early, from being able to take your time, to settle in, to get the lay of the land.
And to know for a certainty that you won't be LATE.
I left home in plenty of time.
I drove the fastest route.
I parked as close as I could.
I hastened straight and true to the right floor, and the right room.
Others had clearly felt as I for the room wasn't empty and continued to fill.
I turned on the computer.
I unpacked my textbooks.
I lined up my pencils and eraser.
I signed on to my student account.
I signed on to the library.
I signed on to my favourite data base.
I signed in and signed in.
There was a brief emergency whence I couldn't remember one of my user ID's. Gadzooks! Why is it always the simple ones we forget.
The room took on the hum of commiseration, common before exams.
The hand of the clock jerked ahead.
Almost time...almost time...
And then, there in the doorway, the voice of doom.
We had all been told the wrong room.
The entire class, settled and poised for action must move across the campus to a distant building and an unknown room.
And quickly.
Mid-terms are a limited time offer.
As students lept up and headed as one for the door I began to sign out.
Click, click, click click, click, argggghhhhh, click, click, click.
So much for psychological advantage.
Back into my bag went my text books and pencils.
I scooped up my purse and my jacket and my bag.
I galloped out the door with the rest of the harried horde.
As we panted down corridors and  galloped down sidewalks a growing sense of calm enveloped me.
"We're getting some oxygen to our brains," I gasped to the girl, fleeing beside me.
"We'll likely all do better on the test for this."
And I think we did.

i sat

I sat and watched the changing sky this morning.
Watched a circle of blue, wreathed by cloud.
And then in moments, it seemed,
the cloud realigned in rows, dark against light,
light against dark,
and the sky beyond was burnished silver bright.

Monday, October 20, 2014

truly home

"I'm going to go home," my mother states firmly, her face filled with emotion.
"I'm sure my mother is missing me," she adds, and then, to help me understand, she adds, "She lives three miles out of town you know."
My grandmother lived most of her adult life 'out of town' and her move to Clearwater in her 80's, into an apartment in a seniors complex was truly life altering. I'm sure there were many things about her log home surrounded by woods that she missed, but she never spoke with regret about her move. Instead, she seemed to embrace the change. Now there were next door neighbors and friends and outings and socials and visiting galore. She continued with good humor to keep her own small space, did her own cooking, took long walks daily........Her life was full of all of the things that give daily life meaning. All of the simple things, of friendship and hobby and faith and family, and in just the right amounts of each to suit the unique woman she was.
She has been gone now for more than twenty years.
It seems much longer somehow.
My mother's childhood home has been gone even longer.
My mother doesn't realize that to go home, she would need to be a time traveler.
She would need to 'break the bonds' that hold us to this time and place.
In this time and place she is an old woman.
But in that place, she is truly home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

sink or swim

Oh, for a moment last night, I thought I heard the rustle of wings, as my hopes and dreams fluttered out the window.
No?
Too melodramatic?
Well, my baby granddaughter doesn't call me Drama for nothing.
I don't have time to wallow though.
The next wave is already rolling in and I have to concentrate to keep my footing.
It's sink or swim.

Monday, October 13, 2014

plainly preferred

A positively peachy, plainly preferred pile of perfectly plump pancakes placed by papa on a pleasantly pretty plate. 

word of the day

The average house was once pretty little.
There was no place to hide back then.
Togetherness was the word of the day.
Then Rumpus Rooms came into existence.
Rumpus is a great word.
It says noise, loud and clear.
Play brought indoors.
It was a first step on a slippery slope.
Rec Rooms came next. Funny, I always thought of them as Wreck Rooms.
Same idea as rumpus, but a little more structured. The kids weren't just bouncing off the furniture anymore, they were playing table tennis on the coffee table.
Back then fathers had Dens.
Hibernation was more than implied.
It was often quite literal.
The shift to Family Rooms really spoke to a cultural shift.
So did the advent of Great Rooms.
And the idea of Open Concept.

Kind of makes me think of the expression, Children should be seen and not heard.
Of course when I was a child, we were neither seen or heard. We shot out the door first thing in the morning and rambled and roamed til dusk, only reappearing briefly to wolf down our macaroni and cheese.
By the time I had children of my own, there had been that subtle shift in culture. Children were kept a little closer, under the wing.
And it is even more so now.

Still, I wouldn't want to say we've got it right. Nor would I want to say that then was better.
Time swirls along.
Things change.
We still have families though.
And homes.
And all those words from the past can have a place.
Noise, play, space, openness, change.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

vintage woman

"That was a car from the nineties," my grandson observes, turning in the truck to look out the side window.
"From the nineties...how can you tell?" I ask.
"They just look different," he kindly explains. "They're an older style."
I do the math.
"When I was your age," I say, "an older style was a car from the fifties."
"The fifties!!" he exclaims.
"That was more than fifty years ago."
"They would be antiques now," I muse.
"Grandma, you're an antique.
Because you're more than fifty years old."
"Well," I bluster.
"Not an antique. I'm not antique. Maybe vintage..."
A vintage woman.
Sure sounds better than an antique one.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

spectator sport

It's Garbage Day today; the crows favorite spectator sport.
They arrived early to get the best seats.
They're loud and pushy already.
Down the street, the Concession is open and they are elbowing each other out of the way.
It's all about the food.

like a leaf

There was a hummingbird in my yard the other day. It zipped from the late delphinium blossoms to the top of the plum tree. My eyes were not as swift, but there it was, right at the tip of a branch like a curled leaf. A bird, like a small green leaf against the October sky.

thin air

I love how crows just step out into thin air

  and drop to the ground

    as light as a feather.

laughter

It looks like a game of tag. A mourning dove is perched on the street lamp with its back to my yard. Robins are diving recklessly out of the Juniper trees along the driveway as though rushing to their hiding place....10...9...8...7....The air is full of the laughter of birds.

lapkin

"Why are they called napkins," my grandson asks, smoothing the expanse of whiteness out over his lap. "They should be called lapkins because they go on your lap."
"Yes," I say, my eyes brightening. "That would be perfect."
"But I imagine the word napkin in very old and probably borrowed from a French word, like nappe..."
"Borrowed?" he says, puzzled.
"Lots of English words are borrowed from other languages. I'll find out."
And it turns out to be true.
Napkin is a Middle English word. So it's old.
And it was borrowed. From the Old French word 'nappe' which means tablecloth or table covering, which had been borrowed in kind, from the Latin word mappa. Then the diminutive, 'kin' for little, borrowed from the Dutch, was added for good measure. Interestingly, the Old French already had a diminutive. It was naperon from which apron later emerged. A small covering.
So 'napkin' means, a small covering as well.
I love how words change over time.
I love words.
I always loved that page at the beginning of the Readers Digest. I think it was called Testing Your Word Power or something like that. It was a multiple choice word test. The part I liked best was reading the origin or the word. Seeing the Latin. Seeing how the word was made up of bits and pieces, cobbled together.
I always wondered who the first bright soul was that coined a word.
And marveled that it caught on.
And lasted.
Like Lapkin, a little covering for your lap.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

mostly


I rifled about in a bin of my stationary odds and ends. Mostly odds.
Here for your entertainment are three cards-
  • a watercolor cat-As children, we had a cat that looked sort of like this one. We imaginatively named it Kitty.
  • a pencil sketch-based on a wonderful salt shaker
  • a paper cartoon bird-was part of a set of six I made once upon a time. Some of the others had eggshell halves included. Good for baby showers that way, or spring.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

take two

I was lost today.
Briefly.
At first I just didn't know where I was going.
But I knew where I was.
That isn't really lost but it feels so awful it may as well be.
Then, after I had hurtled past my freeway exit and the three that followed, and had pulled off the highway into a busy truck stop and had found someone local who knew the lay of the land.......
I found myself headed back from whence I had come with that dizzying feeling you get just as you slide over the cliff....
"We're going to be late," I said, hopelessly.
"Will anyone care?" my mother asked.
Well, I cared....but really, probably no one else would....
I was able to talk myself calm.
I heard once that if you are lost, just change your destination.
I've actually done that once with wonderful results. I'll tell that story another day.
I've also heard that if you are late, just change your arrival time.
I was skeptical but it actually worked.
'You aren't late,' I firmly told myself. 'You won't be late til it's past eleven.'
It was a bald faced lie but amazingly, the knot in my stomache untied and I felt myself depressurize. Yes, eleven, I could do that.
And I did.
It was later going home that I got lost.
Sort of Anguish/Take Two.
For a few brief moments, in an unfamiliar place, I not only didn't know where I was going, but I didn't know where I was.
And I had consulted a Google map that very morning too.
Sigh.
My afternoon at home had more frustration waiting in the wings.
Now why does life do that to us.
When we are teetering on the brink, it huffs and puffs us over the edge.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time falling over the cliff.
I spent way too much time picking my bruised self up off the rocks.
I've come to recognize that honesty is the best policy.

When I asked myself, kindly, that is important.... the kindly part....when I asked my self why I was feeling distressed, the answer came in a heartbeat.
I am afraid.
I am afraid that I will end up as my mother has, unable to remember all the things I need to remember, the important and unimportant things that make up a life.
I'm afraid of losing my way......

Monday, September 29, 2014

rudbekia rules



These flowers say September to me more than any other flower. I started with one little plant, but following the advice in my Lazy Gardening book: reward plants that flourish with more of the same, I now have three large clumps. I'm not sure what I love most about them.
They--
  • look like daisies 
  • have wonderful brown centers that rise out of the center into great, prickly cones
  • multiply and flourish through benign neglect
  • add a sizzle of yellow that's probably visible from space
  • age gracefully, oh so gracefully
Rudbekia rules the autumn garden.

month of wonders


Isn't a parcel in the mail a thing of delight?
Last week I received box number one from The Well Seasoned Kitchen.
Box number one with five more to go.
Each month for six months, I will be plucking a nice big package filled to the brim with kitcheny goodness from my mail box.
Winning a contest is heady stuff.

My September box contained-
1. Marich Premium Chocolates- Natural Coconut Curry Cashews
Roasted cashews coated with a blend of white chocolate, curry and coconut. Haven't opened the package yet but they look intriguing.
2. Glazed Maple Oat Scones dry mix by Sticky Fingers Bakeries. Just add water to recreate their ultra-popular scones at home.What a brilliant idea. I'm really looking forward to trying them out.
3. Sea Salt with Red Wine grinder. My sister has been enjoying salt from a grinder. She says it adds a little crunch. Just the perfect bit of crunch. I'm pretty excited about trying this too. Perhaps it will be as big a revelation as freshly cracked black pepper.
4.Garlic and Rosemary Infused Oil. I love fresh dressing for salad. Just a dash of oil and vinegar and maple syrup. That is the destiny of this lovely oil.
5. Bengali Panch Phoron by Monsoon Coast.
A blend of five seeds; cumin, black mustard, fennel,fenugreek, and nigella. I love East Indian flavours and will bravely attempt the included recipes.
6. PapaJohn Dolmadakia. Tender grape leaves wrapped around rice in a seasoned oil. Now this I opened right away. So addictive. They would be a wondrous addition to a platter of smoked meats and cheeses and pickles. They were pretty wondrous on their own.
Oh, and I got recipes and tips too.

I absolutely loved my September box.
So many new things to try.
A month of wonders.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

never does


I cropped my siblings out of this picture. Isn't that just the sort of thing a 'youngest' would do?
I must be barely four in this one. Barely four and finding life rather heavy going. Couldn't anyone see that I needed a nap for goodness sake. Or a snack. Or a hug. Sheesh. Look at that little face. Zero spark of joy.
I love that my feet barely reach the floor.
And that I am wearing leather shoes with buckles and little holes punched in a design that I could likely still draw.
And leotards.
Saggy leotards as almost all tights are at some point in the day.
They act as a sort of barometer of mood.
My plaid skirt was a nod to my Celtic last name. Might even have been the right colors.
My hair was swept to the side and clipped with a metal hair clip that looked like a bow. It seems to me that I just had the one clip from birth to grade six when I seized control of my own destiny briefly and parted my hair in the middle.
Dear little girl.
I must tell you that my sister who was sitting beside me, whom I so ruthlessly cropped out, was smiling. And not just any smile. A perfectly joyous, happy smile.
It just didn't seem right.
So now I am all alone.
But it hasn't made me any happier.
Never does.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

still like to

My grandson suddenly appeared at my elbow, his small face sober. "Great Grandma just told me I should go outside," he confided in a whisper, glancing warily towards the living room.
"Oh, let me tell you about when I was your age," I laughed.
"Great Grandma didn't like us to make noise in the house when we played. She called that 'horsing around.'

It's no surprise that I have a wheelbarrow full of memories of outside play.
Isn't it kind of funny that once upon a time, great big families lived in little tiny houses, and now little tiny families live in great big houses?
Just one of those cultural shifts.
But kids still like to horse around.

did you

'Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?'
A.A. Milne

breaks through

I write things down.
I jot random things on random scraps of paper.
Little pieces of my mind.
Things I think, or want to remember that I thought.
They tend to waft off, caught up in the swirling eddies of life in my house.
Then I come upon them some time later.
It is always an 'aha' moment.
Some time ago, I came upon a scrap of paper marking a place in a Sudoku book.
It contained one line.
A question.
Doesn't kindness break your heart?
I've thought about that ever since and have to agree that it does.
Kindness breaks the heart.
It breaks through the toughness.
It breaks through.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

reminds me

My grandson wanted to show me a science video, "Come," he said, patting the computer chair. "I want to sit on your lap." And as he got comfortable he added, "It reminds me of when I was young."

Monday, September 22, 2014

creature of habit

I am becoming a creature of habit. Every spring, I hasten to the Post, and mail a Wee Quilt off to McDougall Cottage for their annual Wee Quilt Challenge. And then, of course, every fall, I wait expectantly for my quilt to return to me like a homing pigeon.
This is the second year in a row that my little quilt has returned clutching a winners ribbon.
A nice big, satiny ribbon, all pleated and printed and purple.
Hooray!

The Challenge for 2014 was titled, Bards and Ballads and I named my Wee Quilt,
Bedtime Bards and Balladeers.
It was raw edge appliqued, and free motion quilted.

I sent along these words with my entry.

Bedtime Bards and Balladeers is a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson and his A Child's Garden of Verses. It is a celebration of the magic of rhythm and rhyme and the power of oral history and tradition that we gladly pass down to our children and grandchildren.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "Time which none can bind, while flowing fast away, leaves love behind." This portrait of my grandchildren was done in muted tones to suggest a faded photo. It reminds me that although time can't be bound, although the days of childhood are fleeting, the beauty and wonder and sweetness of love remain.



dabble away


Watercolor is perfect for quick sketches and experiments in color. And, watercolor cards are the perfect bite size.
Just pick what you love....birds, flowers, skies, trees.......and dabble away.





Saturday, September 13, 2014

shiffies

"Shiffies," my baby granddaughter shouts, over the din of departure. "Shiffies food," she adds, by way of clarifying.
Children younger than two are sort of like foreign films. They need subtitles.
At least some of the time.
My little granddaughter may say shiffie, but she means fishie.
Being lifted up to gaze down into the deep, dark water barrel at the fish is something she loves to do.
And feeding them is even better.
A little handful of food tossed on the water's surface and up they zoom like torpedoes.
Up to the surface with eyes bulging in greed, mouths open.
Gunk, smack. Gunk, splash.
Its sort of like the Orca show at the aquarium but in miniature.
Nature on stage.
And the front row is still the best place to be.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

wind

I love wind, especially the winds of Autumn. They sweep in, cool and giddily fresh after the heavy stillness of a long, hot summer. That swirling air always lifts my spirits.
Wind arrived yesterday morning out of a clear blue sky.
It howled and prowled around the corners of the house, sounding like a car trying to start. rrrr, rrrrrr, rrrRRR, rrRRRrrrRRRRR.
It blew all day and seemed to surround us with sounds; huffing and puffing, whining and wailing.
"It doesn't want to have to go around the house," my mother observed. "It wants to go through."
Sure enough, window blinds rattled and curtains blew into the room in frothy billows of lace.
Welcome Autumn. We're glad to see you again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

comfortingly

I love the man in the moon.
His face is so comfortingly unchanged by time.
Don't you think he looks like he is singing?

night sea


The moon sails the dark sea of night, silvered cloud its wake.

perfect

A perfect egg yolk moon.
Farm fresh.

almost seemed

It almost seemed like the moon was a giant balloon tonight. A great golden balloon rising slowly against the gray silken sky.

grace





Any idea what story this is?
I imagine the big fish will be a big clue although seeing the little Playmobil man swallowed whole should be a pretty big help too.
Got it?
No?
It's the story of Jonah.
It's one of my favorite stories from the days when I sat on tiny painted plywood chairs and listened with all the other fidgety four and five year olds in Sunday School. 
Back then, it was just a story about obeying. Or rather the danger of not obeying depending on where the teacher placed the emphasis.
To come to that conclusion though, the one about obedience, is to miss the amazing truth the story holds about who God is.
The truth that God will do anything He can to keep from punishing or judging us. That His love drives Him to take extreme measures, even supernatural ones at times, just to help us, His cherished creation.
A lot of people don't really think about God much.
They are in this story.
There are others that are sort of superstitious and afraid of God.
They are in this story too.
And there are some who know God, have even come to think of Him as a Father, but don't want to be like Him. Not if it means forgiving someone they think doesn't deserve to be forgiven.
That person is in this story too.
And God is in this story.
And He can't help giving away who He is in the telling of the tale either.

The story begins in the middle which is often the best place to begin.
Jonah knows that God wants him to travel to Nineveh and tell the people living there that God has seen their overwhelming wickedness. It was the sort of evil that would make the evening news and call for action from the UN if it happened today. And of course, it does happen today.
Jonah knew that God wanted him to offer them all His forgiveness.
Repent or else is kind of how I always thought the story went.
Repent is an old fashioned word, but it really just means to stop, and turn away.
To stop and change direction.
Being offered the chance to change and be forgiven is gracious.
Jonah did not share God's gracious outlook.
He bought a ticket on a ship heading in the opposite direction.
There could be no misunderstanding his intent.
He was NOT going to go to Nineveh.
And that was that.
Except it wasn't.
God had a job for Jonah to do.
He could have just asked someone else to go, but he graciously allowed Jonah to be part of the story.
The Master of the wind and waves sent a huge storm.
The ship was caught up in a terrifying gale with mountainous waves and howling winds.
The men on board could tell that this storm was not a normal storm, but had a supernatural horror about it.
They were terrified.
Jonah told the men to throw him overboard.
He figured that God was angry with him and was trying to kill him.
He figured that innocent sailors would pay with their lives too.
He figured wrong of course.
He misjudged God.
The storm wasn't sent to harm Jonah, but to get his attention.
I imagine that if Jonah had just repented, the storm would have died down and he could have gotten on the next ship heading to Nineveh....... and he could have spared himself the close encounter with nature that he experienced next.
The Bible says that God prepared a 'great fish.' And it swallowed Jonah when he was thrown into the sea.
God could just as well have provided Jonah with a nice big chunk of driftwood but I guess there is something about being swallowed whole by a 'great fish' that causes a person to reevaluate their choices in life.
Jonah did and it didn't take him long to repent.
And he really meant it.
And he was ready to listen.
And to do what God wanted him to do.
The fish burped Jonah out onto dry land and with that running start, Jonah traveled to Nineveh.
His words rang with authority when he told the people that God would not take no for an answer. His eyes likely flashed with passion as he spoke of God's power.
It doesn't surprise me at all that the entire city stopped in their tracks and listened just as Jonah had feared they would.
And they repented.
Joyously.
Grace can do that.

The story has a postscript.
Jonah was exhausted.
No surprise there.
The Bible says God provided him with shade from the desert heat.
A place of refreshment.
Ahhh, now that's more like it, you might think.
Except God wasn't finished.
Jonah's heart was not beating with the compassion of God yet.
And so, the storyteller tells us that God sent a worm to chew on the vine that sheltered Jonah from the heat and it shriveled and died.
Jonah was indignant and depressed and very, very hot.
I love how the story ends.
God Himself reasons with Jonah, like a parent with a moody child.
Nineveh was a huge city teaming with people.
The poetic language refers to the many children living there as those who couldn't yet tell their right hand from their left.
How could Jonah care more about a vine, about the fate of a plant, than the fate of an entire city of people?
How could he not feel pity for them and wish for them to experience grace?
I am guessing that Jonah came at last to understand the heart of God.
We have his story. 

When Jesus was trying to prepare his followers for His death, He spoke of the story of Jonah. He told them that just as Jonah had been in the belly of the fish for three days, so He would be in the grave for three days. His life was a story of grace. And of extreme, even supernatural measures. Remember Bethlehem?
Beginning with the story of the baby in the manger is the middle of the story, but its the best place to begin.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

yay

I want to make something perfectly clear.
If you enter a contest, and your name is drawn, you are a winner, but if your name isn't drawn, you aren't a loser.
You are a participant.
Being a participant is what makes a contest fun.
Mostly for the winner mind you.
And, of course, if almost no one participated, it would make winning even easier which would still be fun for the winner.
Hmmmmm.
At any rate, I'm a winner!!!
I'm so excited.

I was a participant first.
And then I sort of forgot about it.
That happens because participating is only exciting for a short time.
Not like winning, whence you may be excited for some time.
In my case, six months apparently.
I must fill you in on the gaps in this story.
A few weeks back, I entered a contest hosted by our local paper, the Langley Times.
It was very easy to be a participant, and the prizes seemed appealing.
I remember reading that first prize was a dinner for ten prepared in your own kitchen by a chef.
I mentally counted on my fingers and my imaginary table was filled with smiling guests.
The first prize also included a hefty sum to spend on a Maid Service in case your kitchen wasn't chef worthy and your dining room was under an avalanche of debris.
There was also a hefty sum included for a Home Stager. You know, flowers, a bowl of lemons, plumped up sofa pillows........
The value of the prize defied imagination.
There were also fifty dollar gift certificates waiting in the wings for a generous handful of happy runner-ups.
I set my sights and that was that.
And then, I got the phone call.
Congratulations, she said.
I was the lucky winner of second place.
Errrrrrr.
Second place?
I was told that I had won a six month subscription.
"Newsletter or magazine," I naively asked.
Oh goodness.
Nieither.
A six month subscription to The Missing Ingredient was much more. 
It meant that for six happy months, I would receive a big box of bounty delivered to my door.
Recipes, tips, specialty ingredients and marvelous kitchen goodness and gadgetry.
I'm a winner.
But I was a participant first.
Yay!

down by the sea

I love standing where the ocean washes ashore. I especially love standing there when boats plow past and leave a rising swell in their wake. A swell that races up the shallows and crashes around my feet.
Water pushing water.
Today I watched a leaf crossing the street. If fluttered across, just like a butterfly.
And in the wake of passing cars, dry leaves race across the pavement.
Wind pushing wind.
I never really thought of it before, this sameness of wind and water, but the words we use to describe wind are watery words. There are currents of air, the Jet Stream.....
And the words we use to describe water could describe the wind just as well;
Torrents, billows, mighty, rushing.
Even the sounds are similar.
Our home backs onto a busy street. The constant sound of cars and the wind they create sounds to me like waves rushing over a pebbled beach. Back and forth, back and forth. Even more so on a rainy day.
Makes me feel like I live beside a rocky shore.
Down by the sea.

slow starting

There's a band of light along the eastern horizon. Even though the mountains below are almost lost in moody, broody cloud, the edges of the great circle of sky are lightening and brightening like time lapse.
Out on the highway the traffic is picking up for the day.
A boy is walking a dog.
A crow scolds.
It's a slow starting September morning.

home

My mother is a time traveler. Sometimes she is here, in the now, but ever more often, she is there, her memory in a distant time.
"Are you looking for something?" I ask.
"Yes, I'm wondering how to get home to the rest of my family," she says.
I know she is not thinking of her own children, her husband and home but of an even more distant time. The home of her girlhood.
She seems comforted by my words.
This is home.
We are family.
She is loved.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

just like an apple

I'm always surprised when it rains at last at the end of a long dry spell.
For weeks, heat has been the word of the day.
The garden has dried to a crisp.
The lawn crunches.
Even the weeds have succumbed to powdery decay.
But rain will change all that.
Sweet, cool rain.
It will wash the dust from the blackberries and they'll glisten black in the September sun.
Lawns will inhale and a flush of green will creep down to the sidewalks.
The buds of dahlia and chrysanthemum will swell and burst with colors rich; wine reds, russet, melon gold and coral.
And the air will be fresh and crisply sweet.
Just like an apple.

timeless

'It's raining it's pouring, the old man is snoring....'
Now isn't that a timeless piece of writing?

Monday, September 1, 2014

the three graces

There is often a crow or two perched on the street lamp across the street. I've grown accustomed to their dark silhouette against the sky. I suppose that is why I was so startled when I looked up from my work and found myself staring at a slim, white bird.
A Mourning Dove.
I'd been hearing them call for several days but nary a sighting.
And now, wonder of wonders, one was right across the street.
Binoculars.
That's what I needed.
I sprang out of my chair and dashed for the door with one eye still fixed on the dove.
Still there.
Good.
Down the hall I dashed and into a darkened room.
I plunged my hands into a drawer, finding my binoculars by braille.
Back to the window I rushed.
Still there.
Good.
Good.
I fumbled with the lens covers.
I glanced out the window anxiously.
Still there.
I whipped the binoculars to my eyes.
Arggghhhh.
Wrong way.
I turned the binoculars around and drew a bead on.......absolutely nothing.
The dove had sailed off out of view.
I dropped limply into my chair.
"Coo, coo, coo, coo."
My eyes followed the sound to the uppermost branches of our neighbors tree. There, in a patch of golden sunlight were three Mourning Doves. One was fanning its tail and preening enthusiastically.
I trained my binoculars on high and watched them riffling through feathers and smoothing them out again.
Three birds, creamy white and slender.
The sky, high and blue.
The leaves warmly lit by slanting afternoon sunlight.
The Three Graces.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

mother of pearl

As we headed back over the crushed shell and pebbles towards the parking lot, my grandson dashed to catch up, a shell in his outstretched hand.
"Look," he called. "Holy Mother of Pearl."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

glowing

Our pumpkin plant produced three pumpkins which I think was amazingly diplomatic of it.
We had grandchildren in mind when we pressed little roots into the soft soil of early summer.
I hadn't been sure our growing season was long enough to grow pumpkins from seed and so I got a little starter plant. I thought a bit of a head start might not be a bad idea so I brought home a flimsy black pot with a healthy, hefty little toddler pumpkin plant.
It loved the spot it was planted in.
It loved the extra sunshine we've had baking down all summer.
It took off like a shot and never looked back.
It wound up and over the hydrangea, and through the corn and around the spirea. It grew and waxed great and green.
Soon there were giant peachy-orange flowers that smelled thickly of squash and pumpkin sweet.
Before long, three pumpkins 'set' and began to swell.
They were as amazing as time lapse photography to watch.
They seemed to inhale water and plumped up ever so nicely.
At first, there was just a hint of orange, but each day the brightness crept down over the pumpkins and soon they could be seen from afar, glowing orbs amongst the leaves.
Now in late August, the plant has clearly passed its Best Before Date. The leaves have yellowed and dropped away.
The pumpkins sit in the slanting afternoon sunshine and glow.
Neon orange.
They look ripe.
They look ready.
It's just that the Season of Pumpkin hasn't arrived yet.
They shouldn't really take center stage for a couple months yet.
Guess we didn't need the head start.
Pumpkin pie anyone?

anything else

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."
Emily Dickinson

dead or alive

I've wandered past my blog a few times and averted my gaze. Not writing for several days causes a mild case of mental arthritis to set in. A stiffness. A wary, cautious feeling.
It seems funny to me that my last post, days ago, was about the discovery of a rat..........a rat, and I was never heard from again.
Well, no, not really.
I'm still here.
But so is the rat.

As my grandchildren headed out the door, homeward bound, my grandson suddenly knelt down.
"There's a mouse," he exclaimed.
I stepped out into the sunshine and peered into the light.
My eyes focused.
Two beady eyes locked with mine.
"It's not a mouse," I said, ominously.
A small black rat paused just long enough to stare me down before dashing headlong into the log retaining wall several times.
Hmmmm.
Not a smart rat.
Young and frightened and....
Can a rat be cute?
This one was.
It ran in circles like a wind up toy.
For some, the wind up toy of nightmares, but I'm not afraid of that sort of thing.
Still, after consulting the government webpage on rodents, we formed a plan. It involved some skulking about the yard and perimeter of the house. it involved a garbage bag and a hose and a broom.
We will do what must be done.
It is as though we have posted signs all around the yard.
Rats Not Wanted, Dead or Alive.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

rat a tat tat

A movement at the bird feeder caught our eye.
A silhouette against the evening sky.
Our eye traced the shape and compared it to the file in our brain marked, Silhouettes Of Things That Should Be In A Bird Feeder and there was the sound of screeching brakes and screams of terror.
Well maybe not really.
But my husband and I both leapt to our feet in unison with the same word on our lip.
Rat!!!!!!
ARgggghhhhhhhhhhh.
Ten years ago, we moved to this house, here in the heart of town.
We brought our boxes and our bric a brac and even a few plants from the garden.
And we brought our bird feeding ways.
We were horrified when rats promptly arrived with napkins tucked under the stubble on their chins.
We reluctantly gave up our feeders.
The years rolled by and we settled for life without.....
Without the constant flutter of birds at the window elbowing each other out of the way for prime sunflower seeds.
Rosy house finch, sparrow, pine siskin.
We've had robins of course, they've kept the worm population terrorized.
And we've had jays. They sweep through like an unruly gang from time to time, stirring up unrest.
And of course we've had crows.
We've really missed the little birds though.
The little bright, busy, bossy birds.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast doesn't it?
A rat free decade lulled us onto the slippery slope of self deception.
My husband built a marvelous bird feeder.
He installed it on the deck railing so that we could have front row seats.
If you build it, they will come.
They did.
But I guess the word got out.
Rats.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

eager hands

We've had rain at last.
The forests have inhaled and are cool and damply green.
The paths, thickly carpeted and spongy.
My daughter suggested Campbell Valley Park.
We wandered past moss slung trees and towering fern.
Acorns, wild huckleberry, mushroom.
A flash of squirrel and bird call on the wind.
The branches rustling with chickadees.
We filled cupped hands with almond slices and raisins and held them aloft.
Like offerings.
Bright eyes watched.
A whirr of wings.
Tiny feet clutched finger tips as the chickadees came, one after another.
Chestnut-Backed, Black-Capped, Mountain.
I can still see my daughter, my grandson and granddaughter standing in the dappled light, hands aloft, faces rapt.
And chickadees dropping from the branches onto eager hands.
Chick-a-dee-dee-dee.

on the sand

Tiny pink shells like butterfly wings on the sand,
barnacle encrusted oyster,
indigo and mauve mussel,
thick cupped, heavy ridged, speckled and freckled,
and here and there, shells the color of polished horse hoof,
shades of varnished brown.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

adventurous times

A world of wonders is beneath your feet.
An entire civilization lies hidden.
When you walk a sandy stretch of beach they are all around you.
Sometimes you can hear them.
A hissing sound as you walk over the hard, wet, gray sand.
Sometimes a stream of water shoots up and marks a spot, like an x on a treasure map.
Dig here.
All you need to do is look down.
Down at your feet and as far as eye can see.
Under every hole in the sand are clams, clams, clams; Manila, Littleneck, Butter, Razor, and the giant Geoduck.
It's fun to dig for clams.
To pounce on a waterspout, and scoop up the sand until your fingers close upon the prize.
Geoducks are the most fun of all though.
Their siphons are often just at the surface.
Clam lips.
It can be a foot or more to where the giant clam lies smugly safe.
But mollusks are nobodies fool.
They feel the sand being thrust aside and retreat in a rush of water.
Sand is heavy and filled with broken fragments of shell.
Digging by hand can be perilous.
It's a sport of fools apparently.
Spurred on as I was by a reckless desire to show my grandchildren a giant clam, I plunged my hands into an ever deepening hole in the sand.
I could tell right away that the cut was deep.
By the time I pulled my hand to the surface, up through the slurry of sand, blood was everywhere.
I held my hand aloft and stared in amazement as red flowed down my finger and hand and began to drip onto the sand.
Good grief.
I was a bio-hazard.
You never have a hankie when you need one.
Have you noticed that?
I didn't have anything I could wrap around the cut, so I pressed on it with my thumb as we hastened towards shore.
It was low tide and we were at the waterline.
Of course.
A clean bottle of water was sacrificed and a kleenex pressed into service.
Then back to the beach we went.
The children and I disrupted the eco-system by feeding pretzels to the seagulls.
We gamboled and rambled and roamed and roiled.
Then raced for the truck and the parking meter.
We arrived breathless with two minutes to spare.
Adventurous times.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

into summer

There it was, its wings white against the dark wet sand.
A small butterfly.
Somehow it had fallen and now had wings heavy with water.
I bent and placed my finger against feet waving in the air.
They instantly grasped hold and the little butterfly was soon upright on my hand, opening and closing gossamer wings in the afternoon sunshine.
I do think time stands still.
Just for a moment I think it did.
I can still see those wings so delicately patterned.
Feel the grip of tiny feet.
The breeze always blows at the beach and my granddaughter's hair was being styled by the wind.
I transferred the little feet gripping my finger to my blouse to free my hands so I could corral her hair into an elastic.
When I was finished, I remembered the little butterfly but it had caught a friendly current and sailed away into summer.

fiesta

We've been taking a run at summer, my grandchildren and I.
Who will drop first?

"What should we do today?" I asked my grandchildren. "The pool? The beach? The park?
"I'd like to have a fiesta," my granddaughter stated, as quick as a wink.
"She means, siesta, Grandma," her brother explained.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

amazingly

It seems like only yesterday that they were babies and now they have flown the coop.
Really.
They have.
Our family of robins has taken the leap.
When my grandson knelt on the deck, his forehead pressed to the boards, his eyes peering into the shadows below, he confirmed what we had suspected.
A whole lifetime in robin years had flashed by.

Here is the timeline:
Amazingly beautiful eggs appear.
Mother incubates them endlessly.
This takes two weeks.
Amazingly homely babies hatch.
Mother feeds them endlessly.
This takes two weeks.
Amazingly grown up looking young leap from the nest.
Mother coaches them endlessly.
This takes two weeks.
Worm population drops dramatically in yard.
Ta da.
Full grown robins.

mixed blessing

I like sunshine.
And I like summer.
I like splashing about in water and hearing the drone of distant lawnmowers.
I like summer gardens, vegetables magically doubling in size over night.
I like wearing skirts and fluttery calico blouses.
I like it all.
All except the heat.
All except the blazing, scorching, parching, wilting heat.
A glass of something cold might save my life.
A cup, dripping with condensed refreshment.
A walk in the dappled light, down over the pebbled shore into the icy water of a creek.
Or maybe watermelon crisply cold, or blueberries.
There are plenty of chances to feel the joy of relief.

Just give me the sound of wind chimes, floating in an open window on the wings of eventide.
A scarlet sunset over silver water.
Sun drunk bees in the roses.
Summer is a mixed blessing.

poor elvis

I flicked on the radio, my eyes on the traffic light.
Elvis was in full cry.
He sang about being caught in a trap and at first, I felt kind of sorry for him. By the third chorus my sympathies had dried up like a hot August afternoon.
Suspicious Minds has a nice be-boppy rhythm that is surprising happy sounding considering the lyrics. I did consider the lyrics though, and decided that blazing heat and heavy traffic were enough all by themselves to give me a bluesy feeling without Elvis.
The miles flashed by.
The air-conditioner did what it could and I soon stumbled up the stairs of home.
A fan, a cold drink and supper fresh and summery were there.
And company blithe and bonnie.
Poor Elvis.

Monday, July 28, 2014

mortal moments

There are health hazards to watercolor painting.
Rinsing your brush in your tea is hazardous.
Sipping your rinse water is even worse.
But those pale in comparison to the hazard of proceeding with a divided mind.
My thoughts were obviously distributed equally about the globe when I sketched this little fairy to paint.
When my vision cleared, I discovered that I had drawn her on the back of the card. I decided to go ahead and paint her anyway.
She looked patient and understanding.
Just like my Auntie and that is who the card is for. I will tell her that the card is an object lesson of my week.
Of course, I painted her another just to show her that I could.
It's important to rise above these mortal moments.





Thursday, July 17, 2014

and love

Sometimes there is something about an old photo that draws me in.
As soon as I cropped this one, I knew what it was.
The light. The strong side light that is casting the faces into deep shadow. It may not seem the best light for taking a family photo but it sure is the best light for a painting.
I love strong light in paintings, especially water color paintings.
I think that because of that contrast of shadow and light, this picture would be wonderful even at a distance or in a dimly lit room. It's one of the reasons I love black and white photography. It becomes more about form and balance.
There's something else though that I can't help notice.
It's almost tangible.
The message that the body language adds.
My father is looking completely relaxed.
My sister is perched on his knee, her little hand just resting on his.
There is something so free and yet so safe about their posture.
My mother is turned slightly to face the photographer.
All the better to show off her tiny girl.
The baby is leaning forward as though yearning to stand on her own.
There is happiness in this photo, and pride.
And love.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

summer dress-up




Some summer dress-up for my grandchildren.
Pink handkerchief print for the girls.
Peasant dresses again.
I just can't get enough of sewing these.
And a tie for my grandson.
A fish tie with the days catch.

the title

Here is a picture of my sister dancing the limbo.
Or is she trying to catch her shadow?
The amazing thing to me about this photo, is that she is all alone.
No big sisters and brother.
That was apparently her big concern as well.
She didn't want to be all alone.
She wondered where her big sisters and brothers were when they flew the coop for school and play and she was left behind.
She wanted company.
I owe my very existence to her.
If she had been an independent thinker, she'd have held the title of youngest forever.
Instead, she enjoyed a brief reign as youngest, before I came and seized the title.

same summer sun


These little girls of summer are my big sisters. The oldest is happily holding an armload of carrots. She is clearly thrilled with helping. Thrilled with being photographed. Thrilled with the warm summer sunshine and the armful of surprising goodness from the damp garden soil. Isn't there just so much there to thrill a child? The attention of a parent. Pride at being allowed to help. Summer sunshine. Dirt. Something sweet to eat......
My big sisters are really just a year apart in age but because of where their birthdays fall in the year, the oldest had likely just turned three, the younger, twenty months. Soon two. Children who are Soon Two notice things. Details matter. True to form, the toddler is closely inspecting the carrot. She is probably wondering things. Things about dirt and about carrots.
When I look at this picture I am warmed by that same summer sun.  I can smell the dark, damp dirt still clinging to the carrots and feel their scratchy leaves. And summer is all around.

but by the seeds

 "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."
Robert Louis Stevenson

interrupted


Pictures of me as a child are scarce as hen's teeth. It's a hazard of being last born I guess. By then my mother had run out of time and inclination and more importantly, run out of film.
I'm guessing that this picture was taken late in 1959. I am probably almost two.
I've talked about this picture before but I cropped it this time. It makes it seem like a completely different picture.
I'm quite taken with my little dress. The layered look would actually be quite at home in 2014. I wonder if my mother or grandmother sewed it?
And the fabric in my sisters dresses.....well.....please........how perfectly lovely.
I've always been enamored with fabric prints. They are pieces of artwork.  Art walking about. 
The doll my sister's clutching is one of those wondrous toys that live at grandparents houses. Toys that have absorbed the love of a generation or two.
How diplomatic and wise of my grandmother to have two old dollies. It's hard to share babies. Even King Solomon knew that.
I seem to be counting toes on the doll in my lap.
"This little piggy went to market...."
I have obediently gazed at the photographer but as usual, I see nothing to smile about.
I've been interrupted after all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

when I remember

Do your remember Jelly Shoes and Jelly Bracelets? Neon and glitter? Huge hair bows? Big baggy sweat tops and perms gone wrong? That was the 80's. I had two little girls then and I'm sure they remember all of those things, some with a wistful sigh and some with a shudder.
I was a child in the sixties.
We wore lime green fishnet stockings, the Wet Look shoes, and pedal pushers and pop tops. Not all at the same time of course. I think pedal pushers have a fifties sound to them but then, I grew up in Blue River, that town time forgot.
I remember getting a pair of red shorts and a pop top the year I was six. The shorts had a wonderful pom pom fringe around the bottom edge and the top was printed with red tulips.  I loved that set. Of course, my mother, practically minded as she was, bought me clothes to grow into and so that first summer, the summer I was six, my pop top didn't really pop. It lapped modestly over the top of my shorts. My baggy red shorts.
The next summer, the top had crept a smidge higher and the fabric had softened nicely.
I think the top had a fringe around the bottom edge too and by the next summer, it was just brushing the waistband of my shorts.
By the next summer, my pop top was at last a genuine pop top.
I'd shot up but not out, just as my mother suspected I would.
I never grew out of that set.
I wore it out.
I imagine that's why I can remember it still.
It's what I see myself wearing when I remember summer.

team work

I came out into the bright sun and headed across the parking lot to my car.  Standing by the door, key in hand, I found myself staring in my car windows. Was it really my car? The key didn't fit.
I tried again.
Nope.
I peered at my license plate.
My car alright.
What in the world?......
I walked around to the passenger side and unlocked the door.
I reached across and unlocked the driver side.
Back I went, and into the car.
I didn't really think about the lock driving home.
I just assumed the lock had seized up.
Just needed a squirt of oil.....
When I climbed the stair at home, I mentioned the lock to my husband.
He disappeared out the door in a flash.
Moments later he appeared.
It was just as he suspected.
A broken key was jammed in the lock.
He headed for his shop bench and I headed for Google.
I've come to think of Google as The Wise Man of the Mountain.
My husband headed back out armed with a handful of lock picking sorts of things.
I hunkered down in front of the computer and watched a youtube video showing Nine Ways to Remove a Broken Key.
My husband toiled on.
When he returned to the shop for smaller tools,
I tried one of the nine ways but it just didn't work without a second set of hands.
Back he came.
Grimly he crouched by the car door and squinted at the lock as he gripped impossibly small tools with his big hands.
He didn't want my help.
He didn't want my suggestions.
He didn't want the broken key to be in our lock.
There are shifting dynamics in marriage.
I suppose it is because even though we are married to the same person for many years, even though our friendship remains constant, our inner life does not.
It shifts and changes.
There was a time when I would have resented my husband not gladly accepting my help,
not welcoming working as a team.
On that day, I just felt pity.
And, when he disappeared yet again in what I could tell from experience was getting close to being his last desperate effort, I hunkered down before the door and tried one of the Nine Ways to Remove a Broken Key again.
Just as I jiggled the broken piece of key to the edge of the lock, my eyes crossing, my husband appeared like the cavalry over the hill and plucked it out with tweezers.
Team work.

survival

I am hoping my pumpkin plants survive The Rabbit.
I can see how pumpkin plants could taste fine to a rabbit.
I am hoping my corn survives the heat.
I can see how extra heat could make a corn plant age before its time.
I am hoping my cucumber plants survive my grandson.
I can see how creating natural disasters with the garden hose and garden soil could be fun.
I am hoping my tomatoes survive not being staked.
And that my flowers survive my beauty loving granddaughter.
And that my hanging baskets survive my neglectful ways.
All things green and growing.
I am hoping there is an abundance of flourishing.
Not just survival of the fittest.

dragon breath

Summer has swooped down on us, as hot as a fire breathing dragon.
We cower in our houses.
Or scuttle into the shade,
or rush to and from our car.
As the great ball of fire rises ever higher overhead we hasten to close the window,
close the blinds,
hide away in the shadow.
We are surrounded by heat.
We breathe heat.
We are heat.
Night falls, but not the temperature.
The dragon stalks by night.

i hope

Under the leaves in my garden,
under the cool tangle of green,
down in the shadow,
hidden from all eyes,
a little rabbit has made a summer hide away.
One tiny rabbit.
A baby bunny all alone.
Where in the world did it come from?
How did it end up in my yard right in town.
My back yard is against a very busy street.
Dogs live in the yards on either side of us.
We've never had rabbits before.
But we have a bunny now.
When I water the front yard, it shoots from one hiding spot to another as the cold spray sweeps ever closer.
I can see that it is growing.
It could have rested on the palm of my hand the first time I saw it.
Now it is stretching out, sleek and sassy.
And well fed.
I can see the missing blossoms on the pumpkin vines.
Perhaps our little bunny will turn into an adventurous rabbit and seek its fortune in fields afar come fall.
I hope and so do my pumpkin plants.

Monday, July 14, 2014

so are we

There's a family living under our deck. A family at last. We thought our Robin Real Estate Listing had expired but a family has moved in and settled down.
We have a couple nests resting on the beam under our deck and this spring a blue/green egg appeared in both of them. There they were, like jewels, glowing in the shadow. A mother robin laid each egg as a practice run I guess. She didn't take to motherhood right away and as spring turned into summer, we at last removed the abandoned eggs with a sigh.
Perhaps all the activity overhead was the problem. You know what they say, location, location, location.
And then, just as we were on the verge of giving up, there they were.
Three blue/green eggs.
And all in the same nest.
And the mother was there too.
Flitting off the nest if our feet strayed too close above.
Always near, her bright eyes upon us.
And then one lovely day, the little trio of eggs hatched and three tiny naked birdlets lay panting.
"I can see their hearts beat," cried my grandson, peering between the boards.
Three infant robins.
Like any youngsters, they are never still.
And, they are always hungry.
The mother is never far away.
Her day is an endless cycle.
Find food, feed babies, find food, feed babies.
She has taken to motherhood.
She is watching babies become birds.
And so are we.

planes of time

"I think I need to let my family know I won't be getting home tonight," my mother says to me anxiously as I help her into bed.
I know she is lost in time but I say cheerily, "Well I'm your daughter. You can't get any more family than that!"
She seems comforted but minutes later, she suddenly appears in the doorway of the room I'm reading in.
"I think I need to let my Dad know I won't be home," she declares emphatically.
I always try to sooth my mother when she is confused without adding to her delusion. Just reminding her that she is a woman in her eighties has worked at times to bring her back to the present.
"How old do you think you are?" I ask gently.
"Fourteen," she says. almost like a question.
"Fourteen?" I repeat, momentarily caught off guard.
"Oh....or twelve," she says, misunderstanding my look of disbelief.

Dementia is a confusing state of mind.
My mother can still have a conversation.
Still has opinions about things.
Still makes jokes.
Still cares and is still interested in life around her.
It's just that the planes of time are gone.
She is here and there somehow at the same time.

The mother of my childhood was a woman, gentle and dependable. She was just always there.......doing the things mothers just did.
I never really thought about it.
As a teenager it occurred to me that my mother was eccentric and maybe she was.
She never marched in step with popular culture even when she was a teenager herself.
I realize, in looking back that the beginnings of her mental decline happened much earlier than any of us were aware.
She became somewhat distant and detached.
Her contributions to conversation were not always what the moment called for.
She began to loose her large and ready vocabulary.
She began to forget and just never stopped.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

all over again

Is knowing how to make playdough an essential life skill?
Probably not but plonking down a big lump of playdough turns your dining table into an artist's studio, a science lab and a pretend bakery all at the same time and that's pretty cool.
Here, for your edification and education is The Math Of Playdough.
One cup of flour+ one cup of salt + one cup of water+ one tablespoon of oil= a great lump of loveliness.
(Once mastered, you could probably add this to your resume).
Ready?

-Have the children drag chairs to the kitchen counter
-Get a large bowl.
-Add one cup flour. Be sure to divide equally in half cup increments so that each child has an exactly equal chance to sprinkle flour into the bowl, onto the counter, themselves and the floor.
-Pause while youngest child fingerpaints designs in the flour on the counter.
-Continue by adding one cup of salt.
-Make sure to divide into two equal parts.
See above for reason.
-Stir.
-Stir.
-Add one cup of water. Divided equally of course.
-Add one tablespoon of oil. Quickly chuck it in. Remember, children are resilient. Or, if you are blessed with surplus patience, carefully divide into two equal portions.
-This is the best time to add a few drops of food coloring. 
-Sometimes, due to complex factors like humidity, or predictable factors like sloshing water and wafting flour, the end result needs a smidge more flour added.
Just knead it in as though you were making a teeny tiny batch of bright pink or green bread.

The recipe can be doubled but it is WAY more fun to just start at the beginning and do it all over again.

Friday, July 11, 2014

part of the summer

Playdough has been part of the summer fun around here. My granddaughter has rolled and patted and pressed her way into a pastel playdough patisserie filled to the brim with pink (of course) and blue pies and cakes, ice-cream cones and cookies.
My grandson, following other inspiration, has rolled his playdough into cocoons and chrysalis that have hatched into butterflies and beetles. He has formed fossils too. Lots and lots of fossils.
It has reminded me of a long ago summer day.
When my oldest daughter was two, I began to make playdough for her entertainment. Just like my granddaughter, she was transformed into a miniature baker. Cookies were her specialty.
My in-laws had come for a visit.
Grandpa was reading and my little daughter proudly carried a fresh batch of playdough cookies into the living room for his approval.
He promptly took a bite.
Moments later, he appeared in the kitchen doorway with my little daughter at his side. Neither of them looked happy.
"This sure is salty cookie dough," he lamented hastening to the sink.
"Oh, you didn't EAT it did you,?" I gasped.
My little daughter solemnly nodded.

kind of danger

Do you know how to make a paper airplane?
My husband can seize a piece of paper and wrangle it into a small winged wonder that zips and soars.
Not me.
It seemed a deficit in my resume as a grandmother.
It seemed I SHOULD know how.
Martha Stewart to the rescue.
Her book of crafts for kids is an anthology of wonders and has TWO paper airplanes to master.
Of course!
I should have known I would need two.
One for distance and one for stunts.
The distance flyer soars fast and far.
Its pilot obviously thrives on danger because mid-flight usually includes a flip and the whole world is upside down.
The stunt flyer loops.
And in such a giddy, unpredictable way.
Sort of like a boom-a-rang.
It is just as likely to circle swiftly round and buzz past your ear as it is to loop to the left or right.
That's the kind of danger I thrive on.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

still

Do you remember when it seemed as though everyone was painting on something wooden? On some country plaque or wooden angel or bear? There were shops all over that sold pre-cut pine pieces. They carried every possible shade of paint in little flip top bottles, stacks of pattern books and had classes galore.
An artist, Sherry Nelson, was producing books then.
She painted birds and butterflies, rabbits and roses, and all kinds of other garden beauty.
I loved her work and painted this large plaque to hang above a door way, back in those days of wood.
It was based on a pattern found in her book, Critters In My Garden.
Even though the country look came ( and cluttered up our lives) and went (crowded out by the next inevitable style), I love this painting and it hangs on high in my entry still.





mostly wooden

I used to paint things.
Mostly wooden. 
Things like Welcome signs.
This one was for my daughter's first 'place of her own.'
It was inspired by a Cecily Mary Barker sketch in the fly of one of her books.
The sketch had no color so I just went with the two colors my daughter was decorating with then.



A fairy blithe and bold with an armful of summer.

Monday, June 30, 2014

calico cuteness


Vintage calico cuteness for the girls of summer; A pink frock for one, and a fluttery top for the other.

one size fits all

Do you remember clothes you wore when you were a teenager? Or wished you wore? Or wished you hadn't worn?
I think clothes are a pretty big deal to most teenage girls.
I remember something that I wish I had worn.
Wish I had owned.
Still do.
It was a dress sewn by my sister.
I could sketch it in an instant.
I thought of it as The Granny Gown.
It had a peasant vibe.
Soft pink calico, with a scooped gathered neckline, an empire elastic gather and floor length.
It had a nightie vibe too I guess.
But isn't there something appealing about that?
The style of the dress, so softly gathered, was almost one size fits all.
And almost an any occasion style too.
It could be worn to school, to a party, to the beach, to church, shopping or to bed.
Now that is beyond versatile.
A wardrobe in one.

logo for life

Have you ever noticed that loving someone alters how you see everything around you. You are drawn like a magnet to all that reminds you of them. That is heady stuff if they are close and constant, but if they are far away it feels a lot like grief.
I remember when my daughter was away at school for a year. Far away. I couldn't bear to watch the TV shows she had loved. I couldn't cook her favorite meals.
There just seemed to be so much that reminded me of her, or the lack of her.
She has children of her own now, and I find myself just as smitten by them.
What they love becomes dear to me for their sake.
My little granddaughter loves hearts. Almost every art project is adorned with hearts, drawn in her own distinctive backwards loopy heart-ish way.
I've never been fond of hearts. Perhaps the heart happy eighties with country hearts stamped on walls and whittled out of wood are to blame.
It is strange then that I have felt a growing affection for heart shaped things. It is like recognizing my little granddaughter's signature, her logo for life.
Her love of hearts truly says something about her nature. She loves. Generously, with all her heart.



I love wooden things (because my Grandma did) and when I saw this necklace, wooden AND heart shaped, I happily pounced on it. I am imagining it restrung with gauzy pink ribbon.( my granddaughters favorite color)