Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clammed Up

I've been kinda quiet, blog wise. For the past year and a half or so I've been working on carving out my own life, I have come to accept that I am a continual work in progress. While I have been trying to figure out how to live, life has gone on.
There is no such state as being "fixed" and moving forward; no guarantee that demons from the past won't resurface to challenge me again. Somehow; acknowledging that seems to take a bit of the wind from their sails.

My last blog post was a tribute to my father, on the anniversary of his birthday. I find myself thinking about him again now, on the anniversary of his death. He was a scientist in the working world; a man who died two years before Armstrong took the first steps on the moon's surface.
He would have loved it.

I have often marked the expanse of time since my father's death in terms of events he has missed....the moon landing, my senior graduation, the birth of the grandson who's middle name is his, the birth of what would have been his first great grandchild.

When my father died; my mother died as well. Not physically; but mentally. Her body still clings to this world; but she has been utterly miserable and disengaged from life for 42 years. My father would not have wanted this kind of life for her; yet that seems to make little difference in her choices. Although she has been alive for all of these events; she has rarely been able to experience the joy in them.

A friend dear to me reminds me that there is joy and magic in each day, if we but make the effort to be present to the moment and notice it. I thought I would pass that simple wisdom along.

You can live a perfectly reasonable life; clammed up; but not a particularly joyous one.

I choose, emergence.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

This is a challenging time for me.

On a daily basis, I am dealing with a heart full of polar opposites: love and loss, fear and courage, resolve and timidity.

I am in a place I never expected to be at this point in my life.

I am sometimes frightened while curious, happy one moment and moved to tears the next.

Sometimes I feel like I am a mess.

Others, I feel as though everything has the chance to be made new again if only I can keep my wits about me and keep moving forward.

If I sit quietly.... I can remember your lessons, your wisdom and I can hear the faint whisper of your voice.

You taught me to look at everything in the notice the details. I remember once, you bent to pick up a spiral shaped seed pod. It was delicate....needle sharp.... perfectly formed.
We talked about man's inventions of things mechanical....and the wonder of how nature had beat us to it. "We have only to see, to learn."

You taught me to walk quietly in places of great age and beauty. I learned this lesson in the Redwoods of Northern California, along the riverbanks of the Sierra Nevada, the deep canyons of Utah.

You taught me respect for intelligence, honesty, integrity. To question with an open mind.

(You also tried to teach me higher math.......but that lesson didn't take so well.)

The last thing you told me, was to always speak of you in the present tense. You knew you were dying but we did not confront this directly. You knew, that I knew.

"Instead of saying your dad "liked" biscuits.....say that your dad "likes" them....that way, I will always be there."

Sometimes, I actually utter the words; "My dad likes biscuits" -- and in the wondrous yet fleeting moment that is created; I, for just an instant , become again that young child that looked to her father for relief from the fears of the night. And in that moment....I am relieved.

Happy Birthday, Dad. The years we had together were a gift...the lessons, have lasted a life time.

Except for that higher math stuff.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What the HELL is he thinking?

I will admit that it has been a very long time since I have been surprised by just how badly politics can manage to mangle our lives.

It doesn't matter, for the most part, on what side of the political fence you find yourself...both are so entrenched in their bias that real dialogue ceased to exist longer ago than I even want to think about.

Through it all, there is one issue that each year, is my litmus for candidates; and that is a woman's right to own and manage her own reproductive system. The state simply has no right on this earth to hold court over my uterus.

Every election; I pay more attention to which candidates will bring which changes to the Supreme Court justices...and every year I avoid those with tendencies to support the agenda of those which fail to recognize and work to remove the right of women to make the most personal choices.

And so when I read in the Editorial section of today's San Jose Mercury the attempt by the Department of Health and Human services to re-write the definition of abortion to include the following :

"any of the various procedures - including the prescription, dispensing and administration of any drug or the performance of any procedure or any other action - that results in the termination of the life of a human being in utero between conception and natural birth, whether before or after implantation."

I was absolutely stunned.

I know of no scientific report that has suddenly concluded that viable life exists at the moment of conception.

I know plenty of religious zealots that would, and sadly the Catholic church is STILL promoting the "rhythm" method as the only acceptable means of birth control.

But beyond this issue...which would most certainly fail approval under a democratic president, beyond the sheer insanity of the proposal....what the HELL is Bush thinking? I mean, really George-- don't you have enough serious REAL problems to fiddle with without bringing out this old chestnut at the 11th hour ?

The right to choose to have an abortion is something I grimly fight for every time I step into the voting booth.

I just didn't expect to ever have to go back to fighting for access to birth control.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday's Possiblities

Saturdays are the most interesting day of the week for me.

I especially love the early morning hours on Saturday.

I am, by nature, something of an early riser. I like the quiet cool of the morning...the way the rising light brings colour to the world outside. I love waking up to email and the smell of fresh, earthy coffee ready to sip.

What I love most; are the possibilities that beckon from within Saturday.

Before that first cup of coffee is finished, in my mind I can paint the kitchen, clean the garage, make something wondrous from bits of wool , fabric scraps, bottle caps or paper. I can sail through my household chores in a fashion that would leave Martha asking ME for tips, get the oil changed, and the tomatillos roasted.

Saturday is all about the coalescence of energy, idea and action.

Now there IS a little reality check built into every Saturday musing. Today... it was just the tiniest little thing.

Today it was.... Green.

Now green and I normally get along from a respectful distance. It's not that I don't like green. Quite the contrary.... but Green is a contrary colour. And reproducing it with accuracy seems to elude me. The Granny Smith above sits on a cobalt blue tile counter.... I blame my bad photographic skills and my worse photo editing skills for not getting the hues correct. Use this as a jumping off point for your imagination. Because I want an apple green wall in my kitchen.

Yeah... you heard me.

Why ? because I really DO have cobalt blue tiles ....and snow white counter tops and boring oak cabinets and well.....because Granny Smith Apple Green has long been a favourite. And I want something different and happy and daring to greet me when I pour my first cup of coffee.

But finding it in paint is tricky. Seems to be either too yellow ...too sage....or too...Kermit. ( Sorry fella....I know it's not easy.)

I took my apple to the paint store this morning. This set in motion the collision between Possibility and Reality. I came home with paint chips....but no paint.

But Saturday isn't over yet.......and the right shade of green to be found is still within the realm of possibility.

May the possibilities of your Saturday be realized in the happiest of ways.

Monday, July 21, 2008


There were at least a dozen other containers in the nursery that day, all with a generic label that read "Italian Peppers, Green, Long"

And no other information.

No cute little picture on a plant card telling me what to indications of what kind of environment best suited this variety.

The plant itself was unremarkable.... barely more than a stick in the dirt with a couple of leaves. I passed by it several times, drawn down the rows of offerings for the garden that were blooming, scented, wonderfully colourful, climbing, spiraling -- doing all the things that make us feel like competent gardeners, at least on the drive home and for the first couple of weeks that our new wonders are in the ground. I pushed my cart around the nursery with my small bit of cash trying to decide.

"Italian Peppers, Green, Long" simply sat there...looking forlorn; like the wee Christmas tree that looses all its needles in the Peanuts special we watch every year.

Anybody that knows me well, knows that food that causes pain is not a pleasure for me. I've taken my fair share of abuse for picking out the "mild" salsa, while others wax poetic over the virtues of this concoction or that - all while breaking out in a sweat, turning red and citing the BTU ratings of their latest find. ( I think it's just an excuse to drink more beer, but that's for another blog...)

So I really had no REASON to buy "Italian Peppers, Green, Long" -- but I kept coming back to them... and by my 4th or 5th tour , I had ascribed a stoic nature to them. ( What.... YOUR garden plants don't have personalities ? -- We'll talk later...) On my 6th tour (yes... I can take nearly as long in a nursery these days as I can a bookstore), I had myself convinced that if they WERE the Peppers of Satan , I could give them to my next door neighbors that love the spicy stuff.

I liked that they stood there on their own merit.... not flashy or lush leaved..very simple plants that would be easy to miss if you aren't mindful of detail....and discounted to boot. But there they were....making the best of their situation.

I bought one container ....thinking about the time I was lucky enough to actually visit Italy--- by the time I drove the 5 miles or so to my house.... "Italian Peppers, Green, Long" and I had bonded.

And now, I am rewarded with this surprise..... this lone, red pepper....just growing....enjoying the sun, trying to be the very best pepper it can be. Some botanist or REAL gardener is going to email me and tell me its all just plant genetics and that this oddball on my pepper plant is just like their dysfunctional but lovable Uncle that shows up for Thanksgiving, kind of a fluke and a testament to the fact that once in awhile, the recessive genes win out, against all odds.

They will go on to say that "Italian Peppers, Green, Long" just do this sometimes and this is most definitely not a cosmic sign from the Universe that I should go on being exactly who I am...discovering all that means, knowing that somewhere, someone might notice this and appreciate it enough to want to spend a bit of time with someone that is a little different from all the rest.

I don't care what they say.

"Italian Peppers, Green, Long" and I ...... we're tight.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Oh, Roll Divine !

I've been getting back in touch with my inner baker.

I learned to bake bread from my mom when I was 7. I remember standing on a step stool at the kitchen counter, a hand towel tied around my waist in lieu of an apron, learning the right hand motions in punching down dough.. kneading dough...looking for just the right texture before letting dough rise. I grew up appreciating the smell of bread baking in the house; the joy of eating a warm slice dripping with honey outside on the front lawn.

Baking bread seemed to be an all day affair.... with the finished product coming out of the oven in late afternoon if we started early in the morning. Adjustments were made if the day was rainy, or humid or hot; as all of these things affected The Dough. Since those days of early apprenticeship under my mother's gaze, until the late adult hood, I had baked bread in just about every conceivable fashion: in coffee cans, in flower pots ( new ones, of course, but flower pots just the same), in dutch ovens over campfires, I even got to bake bread in a kiva one time in the gold country.

So when I stumbled upon No Knead bread recipes the first time...oh...last year sometime...I kinda turned up my nose and moved along. A dough that you didn't knead just didn't seem like real bread. It's kinda like those people ( you KNOW who you are ) that make Ambrosia out of Cool Whip and fruit cocktail. I'm sorry, but.......uh ....NO. No knead ? No Good..... Move along...nothing to see here.

Then last year I had a remarkable lunch that included a warm bread salad. And I've been wanting to re-produce that bread salad ever since... but it required a "rustic" bread. Now to be fair; my local Safeway bakery actually makes some wonderful loaves of bready goodness...but I wanted something a little more hands on....

But at the same time.... I didn't want the bread baking to be an all day thing. ( And I'm sorry, you lovers of bread machines out there; but the bread they produce just doesn't do it for me.... )

Enter again; the No Knead bread recipe phenom. Ok ...Ok.... so I decide to give it a try. And I hate to admit this...but I'm sorta..........yeah...........hooked.

Hard to believe that a soup of dough that is slopped together in a bucket and left to chill in the fridge till you are ready to mess with it can produce on demand such toothsome happiness as the roll above. The crust is properly crunchy without causing fear of dental work; the texture exactly spot on and nice enough to stand up to spreads, the taste....the taste is simply amazing... is not the soft ,white-as-angel-wings bread that I learned to make at my mother's kitchen counter....and no, this particular version is not made from sprouted grains or husks of anything's plain ole all purpose flour, yeast, kosher salt, and water.... and..... wonderful.

This particular roll ? I decided I wanted some fresh bread for a turkey sandwich an hour; I went from thought to finished product and have been munching said sandwich as I typed this today.

Interested you say ? Do a search on No Knead Bread recipes; or take the expressway to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

And smile when you walk pass by the bread aisle in your market......

Sunday, May 25, 2008

While You Were Out

Life has an interesting habit of getting us out of our own way.

Last week, the majority of my waking moments were spent thinking, worrying, and supporting my grandaughter and her parents while the Wee One underwent open heart surgery.
The surgery went just fine; was successful and our three year old sprite is back to trying to make the case for having lollipops for dinner each night.

My fledgling garden got most of the attention it needed ( I am new at this, so I never quite know if what I am doing would make a real gardener's hair stand up straight or fall out, but I muddle though)... and I even picked my first zucchini !

Yes..I know.... any idiot with dirt is supposed to be able to grow zucchini, but let me tell you... I have tried...and failed...on at least four separate occasions that I am willing to admit to.

But these snow peas were ...well.... a complete surprise to me to find the other morning. SNOW PEAS !!! >>>>>>>ME <<<<<< < I actually wondered if these little vines would produce anything but nice little green leaves, and then one day...poof! There were tiny white flowers.
I held my busy with the surgical affairs......... and the next thing I knew I had enough for a stir fry dinner.

It just was a good reminder to me that good things happen if we don't obsess about it too much...
The Universe needs a bit of space, some time and occasionally a little help to let it work its magic... I'll try to keep this present in my thoughts when the worries of the day threaten to consume my attention.

Today snow peas.......... tomorrow ?