Will I Ever Lear ing

Several dispiriting hours have passed since I first thought to blog today, and any thoughts I may have had concerning the content are long gone by now. I planned to post a video sent to me yesterday showing shot after shot of flowers in bud opening up to, finally, their full and ripe glory…….: roses, lilies, snapdragon, sunflowers, pansies. you name it , they were all here in the whole array of astonishing color. They are very beautiful. I am not sure what I expected exactly, when I proceeded to upload them to the new blog, but I did think that the process of copying and pasting would proceed at a perfectly smooth and reliable pace, following which, I would write great prose in appreciation.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know why I thought the process was going to be smooth and reliable. There was nothing in my past except for unstoppable optimism that might have suggested this, and I am embarrassed to admit that the only way I can get out of one of these messes is help from a man, a man between the ages of ten and fifty-five. There was no man who fit that profile in the house today, all day. Over and over I clicked edit and copy, edit and paste, and finally, always and always some different alignment of these directions popped up on the screen, which, as far as I know, I handled wrong. But not being the kind of wimp that gives up I kept on trying. Time continued to pass. The sun made its way around the corner of the house. Well, it was too cloudy to see the actual sun, but you get what I mean. So I got up and made myself some coffee, looked over the mail, tried again.

But isn’t it odd how often one surprise marches right up behind another. What do you think of this?

Undo                       Canadian Bishops Meeting.

Another try

Redo                        Canadian Bishops Meeting.

Why, I hardly even knew there were Canadian Bishops. Not true. Of course I knew there were Canadian Bishops, but in what way their lives or responsibilities were very much more different from any other Bishops I have no idea. Worse, I have almost no interest.  Even so I still wasn’t ready to cave. I knew what it was to be a republican at all times voting No. I did give up at last, when Fiona came home with the mail and I read an article in Popular Science about a boy genius who invented his own nuclear fusion. His mother is a yoga instructor and I’ll bet he helps her sometimes when she has computer problems.

The computer and it’s many electronic connections  have now occupied so much of our lives that I’m sure they must have changed our lives in some way. But I’m sure of something else too. The gene pool is a regular, teeming collection of different interests and talents. Just as soon as we discovered the tiniest shred of a finer understanding we were picked to do a special job. That’s how I forgive myself for my dismal performance on the computer or any of its electronic cousins.  I still dig in the garden with a spade, rake with a rake and hang the sheets on the clothesline. I’m even happy to suggest that making something with my hands gives me the most satisfying confidence in my abilities.

It would be good if children were expected to learn to do things with their hands and experience in at least a small way the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes with the conquest of a craft.  The use of ones’ hands is enough to show the course of the human destiny and help to make us question our own responsibiity in the life of the planet.

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A New Season

There is a sight snow cover today, the light is staying with us a little longer and 2012 is now making its solid (and solemn?) way across the calendar. Nancy was born on February 18, and to me the third week in February is always the beginning of spring. When we brought her home from the hospital in San Jose,  we found the first crocus greeting us with a bloom in front of the entryway. For that reason I can never be disueded from the idea that spring is right around the corner no matter what kind of trick the weather wants to play on us.

Green is my favorite color now and this year at least, there is no shortage. The weather has been so warm that the lawn has never turned  brown and such signature vegetables as asparagus and green onions are beginning to take over the place in our heads where the last few weeks have been home to thoughts of onion and cabbage, squash and beets. To my left, out the far side of the back window I can see just a corner of the vegetable garden, the part where a tall mulch barrel, a bit on the shabby looking side,  is secretly sheltering a lively biological moment. I think it would be hard to imagine the life in that barrel which began the winter with its potato peelings and apple cores, Fiona’s old toast crusts, and all the other parings and leavings of much of the winter’s cooking. This year there are three mulch piles and they are scheduled to enrich the vegetable beds–but not just enrich them, but make them so friable that you can almost pick up a handful of soil as if  it were oatmeal or some similar granular consistency.

There is an interruption here. I wouldn’t generally notice it, but it is so odd that I feel the need to share. Briefly then, as I sit facing my window admiring the tiny patches of snow that have stayed on the ground this morning. something leaps up on the screen, and that something is Killer Carl the Cat. He wants to come in, but it is almost worth leaving him there, legs all splayed out over the screen, because his catness is so blatant. He wants his own way and will not rest until he gets it.

But how about a  ridge between Ground Hog Day and true spring. Anticiparte the new season between Ground Hog Day and Easter with a salad that whispers The coming of the new season. It is found in Whole Living, Martha Stewart’s magazine, and it is called Pineapple, mango, and Meyer Lemon Salad.As follows:

1 pineapple, skin and core removed, 1/2 in. chunks.                                   1 mango, peeled. pitted, and cut into 1/2 in. pieces                                      1 Meyer lemon halve lengthwise and thinly sliced+ 1 T juice                         1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Combine first three in a bowl and top with coconut flakes

One of the charms of this salad is its bridge of monocolor:  yellow

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A New View

It’s been a dithering kind of day, thorough cloud cover for blocking out  live rays, no precipitation, no wind, and I seem to be fitting right in to the general paradigm. If Harry were only here we could be sharing a meeting of The Whither Are We Drifting Society. I seem to have some trouble slipping inside an idea and examining it closely. Maybe I don’t even want to answer that old chestnut, What Is Art, except that it was a question broached by a student of architecture with a post on mitcolab. radio who insisted that he defined himself (rather defensively) as an Artist, he didn’t care what anybody said, and I, all aquiver with ancient longings of my own, set out to answer him, only to learn that for some questions there are no walls.

It would have been  great moment for a walk, had I the capability of carrying out something so well-defined. That pleasure denied me I leaned back in my chair for a little nap and dreamed of walking (day-dreamed?) instead. I found myself walking the streets of Florence and Rome, Paris and London and Stockholm. Oh they were certainly home to the greatest art, which is architecture. Ask anybody, ask Ruskin or any of the other critics  we used to read in the long ago when the professors were still products of 19th century romanticism and they would have told us what Art was, and it wasn’t Bauhaus, it was Michelangelo. And was it really?

So I continued to wander in my mind in my chair and continued to walk down Chestnut Street as I used to do in the old days.It isn’t long before I come upon a small house with a front stoop where some neighbors were sitting. There to greet passersby were the Seven Dwarves nicely arranged in a group setting near some bushes. Further on a bed of iris bloomed along the front walk. They were just your old-fashioned purple iris, and judging by the house they led to may have been the same age, and commonplace as they were, also beautiful.  It was the same story down the block with more dwarves, jockeys, a deer, rhododendrons or rhodies as they are sometimes called by aficionados.

The people who bought our house on Richmond put up the figure of a cowboy at the side of the house, just emerging from the old spireas bush that had been there for seventy-five years.  It seemed very disrespectful to the pretty garden I had been developing there for fifty years. I even felt a little angry.  But then there I was, nodding in my chair in the third trimester of my life and I felt so dumb. Because wasn’t it true that everyone hoped her life, or his, was filled with beauty, was a cornucopia of beautiful objects that stood in such a wonderful contrast with the ugliness that afflicts our years also. We use what we have and we have only what we see. And what we see changes with the years we spend on the planet. Yesterday’s dwarves become Buddha’s tiny statue on the wall, becomes the bird bath. It changes as it grows. The iris become the hyssop and Calendula nodding at each other as summer comes to an end and I find myself smiling at the picture in my head of an old man I saw on Chestnut Street carving a bear’s head out of a tree trunk in his front yard. He confronted beauty in person and the act made him happy.

He knew what Art was.

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cheerful by choice

There’s nothing like a big smile to get you safely across the street.

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TRANSITIONS

Brandenburg Concertos 4, 5, 6 on NPR. I’m sitting on a high stool, the Oneonta Star lying open to the Obituaries on the counter in front of me, and I am transported to Married Students Housing, Berkeley, 1950. I’m listening to Doug Pledger, daylong (WQXR?) classical music disc jockey. I’m sitting cross legged on the beautiful wood floor (former Navy housing. Where did the luxurious wood come from for flooring these otherwise shack type buildings?) playing with David and his wooden puzzles that he is so good at. I am still experiencing the big change that has taken place in my life in the past two years. I used to be a school girl going out on dates in Minneapolis, going to dances and bars like Mitch’s. Then, when I went to a concert by the Minneapolis Symphony, I went to spend the intermission cruising around the balcony to see what important people I could talk to. I worked for the Minnesota Daily and got free tickets to concerts and football. And now I am listening to Bach and playing on the floor with David, my treasured baby. Pretty soon I’ll take him outdoors to climb up and down the stairs of our two story building. He climbs up, I carry him down. This lasts quite a while, longer, really, than it takes me to return to the present, since David, age 62 and a distinguished music scholar and great cook, will be coming to spend a week with us in Oneonta, and Betsy is trying to figure out what food to buy to be ready for him to cook. I need to make a list.

Betsy is making a presentation in Florida next week and she is going to take Jim and Fiona with her, and since they don’t want to leave me alone, David has chosen this time to visit. Since my wild summer of dancing at weddings my right hip has gone bad and for several weeks now I have had to be waited on. I’m not driving any longer and have gone so far as to loan Jack my car. Face it, that just about killed me. I had to have help in cooking. I had to hire a cleaning lady. I got out of breath walking a block down town. Too much.

I focus back on summer, an afternoon of fun with Anne and Betsy planning a new business. This business, soon to be underway, is slated to change the way people think.

CHEERFUL BY CHOICE

Different changes require different solutions. During my mid-life change, when we got  back from a year in Europe and Betsy was in middle school the change may have been too cheerful.  David and Charles were doing their hippy traveling, and although worrying seemed an appropriate  way to respond to their adventure it was a kind of worry you could take or leave. They hardly ever wrote unless it was asking for money. I could be proud that David formed an SDS in a German University, or that he played his guitar for money at the Rome train station. I could like to think of Charles hiking acros the Khyber Pass  with Dave smoking hashish with village elders. They were being educated with little help from their parents who had begun to do all the things they had wanted to do before they had all these children. The girls went to college. Only Betsy was left and she ran what might be called a Girl Camp from her bedroom.

So we began living our separate lives and doing what we wanted. It was all so smooth, not much dramatic ever came to pass.  One thing led to another. Walking in Europe led to walking at home. Knitting to keep hands busy while listening to my mother led to spinning, and spinning led to meditation. Questions were asked. How did they do this? What was it like to cook in a huge fireplace? to spin on a spindle the way I saw a woman in the alps tending cows in a mountain meadow. What was it like to preserve all your food, or for that matter to grow it?

The sixties were a time of change in many directions. The Beats had no sooner produced their new poetry as pioneered by Alan Ginsburg, than the Civil Rights Movement exploded, and at the same time there began a rebellion of sorts against what was called at the time, the rat race, run by men in gray flannel suits working in lock step for the huge corporations. Sons and daughters of these successful men (not many women yet) opted out of similar careers for a move back to the soil. They wanted to live in the old way, farming by hand, no electricity, thus no refrigerator, shovels  or possibly a horse with a plow, and because they needed to experiment to live in this oldfashioned way, they had to learn the old crafts, needlework, and leatherwork, growing and canning and preserving in all ways.

Rita and Judy and I had noticed Betty Russ spinning at the craft shows that had become popular. Betty said that for a price she would teach us to spin and we accepted the offer in the spirit of the time. We bought spinning wheels made in New Zealand, rather sleek and modern looking compared with the elegant monsters of the American 18th century. I’m finding it a little hard to describe the simple process of spinning. In essence it is the process of twisting fine fibers into a strong thread that will not break. A spindle was the earliest spinner. It was a ball about the size of a tennis ball with a notched  stick. You twisted a few fibers with your fingers, attached this bit of string to the notch and then spun the bulb. You learn quickly how this is done and then learn to wind the spun yarn onto the ball. The spindle was th first spinner. Gorgeous fabrics of silk and wool and linen were once constructed by yarns and threads spun on a spindle. The spinning wheel is a more practical development of the same process.

You sit at the wheel, feed fibers into the spindle which is being turned by the wheel that you are turning with your right hand. It is incredibly easy and simple. Even if you are spinning some thread that may be unusual in some way, you do not have to pay much attention, but leave most of the work up to your fingers. You can converse, watch television or meditate. All three of us took to spinning in a big way and soon found ourselves dressed in 19th century farm dresses putting on shows ourselves at the craft fairs, teaching little kids how to spin at their schools and in general spreading at least some of the ways their great grandparents lived.

That is such a tiny slice of thirty or forty years of easy living. Harry had become a great teacher, I got to be a master gardener and a good cook and wrote a family memoire. There were good friends, and still are. There are one’s own children left to carry on  whatever mysterious message your genes are passing on. I guess I just hope that they might be passing on a request to the world to stop burning carbon and ruining our atmosphere

And as for the new stuff? It’s all process and I’m ready to go in for it.

After all I’m

CHEERFUL BY CHOICE

 

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REALLY?

The air was so clear this morning, and the sun so direct, even at a slant, that I hob,  because when you see the swollen green buds, you (I don’t mean you, I mean me) hobbled outdoors for a look at the lilac bush by the back door. It has been known over the years to allow its green buds to swell on a warm December day, but I guess it’s too deep into the season for it to happen now. There is always a downside to these observations anyway, because the experiences cause you to dwell on the unpleasant  predicament of global warming.

Back in the house the air was full of light; the glass baubles hanging in the front window swung just enough for the sun to send colored lights darting about the room, just enough for Teddy to get interested in chasing them. Sometimes Teddy seems so smart, smart enough so that if he could speak English we might be able to have a chat. But then he  gets fooled by these lights and acts as if he didn’t know anything at all.

It was too perfect and I probably could have guessed that there would be more excitement for me during the day. I was alone to begin, everybody else off on their daily activities,  and I am still crippled by this badly behaved hip of mine, so that I might expect little things to take on exaggerated meanings. Sure enough, while researching lunch possibilities (a banana, a spoonful of hummous, a hard to open jar of either refried beans or chocolate,) I happened on the remains of last night’s chicken enchiladas. Betsy and Jim had both complained that the dough tortillas got slimy while I said  No, they didn’t.

Later, I thought they might be a little slimy, but I thought they were really good.

Flash forward to 12:00 today. I ate the banana and continued my refrigerator search, which, due to Betsy’s faithful cleaning was easy enough, found the plastic box that turned out to be last night’s dinner and heated it all up in the microwave. Imagine, as I chewed, that it really had turned slimy, but was still delicous. What to make of that.

So I experienced one of thos little shudders that tell you whatever experience you had it was an important one.

That’s the thing. It was delicious! It was more delicious than last night. In fact it was slimy. Until I realized what tricksters words can be.Not slimy, No. But pasta! Those enchiladas were Mexican Manicotti and I had made my own personal gut feeling plus experiment with fusion cooking. It was my own personal reinvention of the wheel.

I had an awful time keeping this to myself waiting for Betsy to come home, but as soon as she came in the door all keyed up from her day of   explained how the corn and chicken enchilada had metamorphosed into pasta manicotti the immediately protested, saying, It wasn’t pasta. tortillas are bread.

Well, I could bore you to death by continuing to report this conversation. To me it just seemed endless—-bread, no, pasta, yes for  half the afternoon.Through it all there was a sad part and a cheery part. Lest anyone forget that I spent an inordinate amount of time as a child of the 19th century under the direction of a raft of aunts and uncles themselves brought up in that milieu. Being an invalid in that way I lay on my couch and gave Teddy treats and actually pretended I was Elizabeth Barret playing with my delightful and well-mannered little dog, Flush.  I think just telling that will explain my feelings as an invalid, a perfectly rational definition of the way I was lying around the house commiserating with my hip.

I will have to insist that a flour tortilla, rolled around a few basil leaves, a little chicken, baked in tomato sauce will turn into manicotti.  I don’t want to argue about it. What a waste of time.  Just letting time pass over a rolled up dough tortilla will reveal to the taster that this is not a slimy old tortilla, but a brand new Italian dish, a triumph of fusion thought and action

All in all I have to say this was a really good day.

 

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What do you think?

Chuck called this morning with some big news; he said he had refuted the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe. He told me that if the universe was created 14 billion years ago in a Big Bang, we could tell easily, when we looked up into the Milky Way on a clear, moonless night  that we were not on the edge where we would be if we were 14 billion light years away from that explosion, but right smack in the middle of it.

At first I thought I should wait until tonight before I made my mind up as to whether he might be right or wrong, but it isn’t as if I had never looked out the window before; I can remember what the Milky Way looks like and I think, well maybe he’s right. It almost makes me laugh when I hear these scientists talking as if they knew something I didn’t, as if I didn’t have eyes in my own head, as if I couldn’t tell that there wasn’t any edge at all.

I spend quite a lot of time now just thinking. Donald Hall, the fine American poet, had a splendid piece in the New Yorker this week telling about his own aging process. He looks out of his window , too, at the expanse of the New Hampshire farm that had belonged to his grandparents. He hasn’t changed his ways much. He has always written about the past, when he was a boy, and those poems are some of the loveliest we know. He doesn’t write poems anymore because he says his language is no longer suited to poetry; that it has become the straightforward language of narrative. I don’t write much either for reasons that I think are the same as his. We aren’t inventive in the way we use words or the way we think about the ordinary events of life.

But the window I look out of doesn’t show the length and breadth of the long life I have lived. It is a constricted view, the hill and its small hard wood forest that rises from the back yard, on the sides cut off at the edges by the vegetable garden on the left and the enormous hydrangea and its neighbor the tall bush with the red fall leaves I can never remember. (The not remembering is a major element of the change in writing habits.) As one’s view narrows, so does one’s experience and it happens that with narrowing experience there is  so much more thought given to it.

A privilege of old age is plenty of time to spend on irrelevant issues. If I can’t remember a word I can wait, or roll different words around on my tongue like a cough drop.  I can’t have fun with science the way Chuck can. I’ve become a bit puritanical in the way I view information. I want truth with a capital T, but speaking generally, I just don’t know what the truth is. When Chuck says  he’s discovered Einstein to be wrong, I feel uncomfortable, as if he has gone beyond the limits of an educated person. I’m not sure where knowledge ends and fun  begins.

There are so many people today who don’t  believe that science has any answers. Those are people who laugh at the idea of human beings being responsible for global warming.In fact it’s something of a worry to know that the topic that gave Chuck and me some fun is a topic that others might well believe to be the truth. Those are the people who   believe that burning oil and gas and coal will  make the way for our continued prosperity, not understanding that the burning coal and gas and oil will be the elements that through their pollution of air and water will destroy the materials that make human life possible.

Belief is all very well, but understanding of truth and science takes a little study and some trust in the minds that are able to explain the wonders of our existence and our nature.

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