Thursday, July 22, 2021

Plodding Ever Onward


 Sitting on the front porch Sunday morning, it was a treat to see blue skies again after a few grey, rain-sodden weeks. In spite of dire warnings from the weathermen, there was no hurricane, no awful flooding such as Europe has seen. And now China. Is there anyone left who still thinks climate change is not at least a partial cause of all this? We were relieved to hear that our German friends, H&D, were not affected by the flooding but it is heartbreaking to hear of all the people who were, who have lost their loved ones, their homes, everything. Here in the U.S. temperatures are heating up again out west and we're hoping like mad that we won't have a repeat of last year's fires. 

But for now, on the porch, all was peaceful. 




This tiny orchid bloomed last week. It's been with us for at least five years and has never bloomed before which goes to show you should never give up on an orchid, no matter how dead, lifeless or gone it looks. There's likely to still be life lurking deep within, just waiting to reward those with patience to wait...and wait...and wait!

A movement catches my eye. I have visitors.



(This seems to be either mama or papa. I had pics of all three but can only seem to load this one. Such is the life of the technologically challenged.)

 Three sand hill cranes, busy foraging for breakfast in the grass out front. Beyond the birds, I see our neighbor, D, standing in his driveway, watching his son, T, glumly plodding along behind a lawn mower. D recently came to the conclusion that it was foolish to be paying a landscape company to mow his lawn when he had an able-bodied, if a mite too chubby, teenager on the premises. I chuckled to see that the "Make a Man out of T" program had begun. An all round win-win situation - D gets his grass cut, T sweats a little, loses a few pounds, takes a few grudging steps towards manhood. Except I don't think T sees it quite in that light. At least not yet. Maybe in a few years.

Meanwhile, back to the birds. I watch with interest as they continue their bug search. The two adults are going at it with gusto, vigorously wresting bugs from the soil with their long beaks, unfazed by the proximity of a mere human. The third, a scrawny teenager (no red feathers on his head yet), is just standing around, looking dejected, making no effort to find food. I wonder if he is sick? Or maybe sulking because mama and papa are not feeding him but acting like he's a big boy now and should find his own breakfast? Trying to make a man out of him?

Speaking of manhood, a condition that seems to have fallen on hard times, we have a couple of grandsons on the brink of it this month, born within a few days of each other seventeen years ago. Both, unfortunately, living in other states, but we had dinner with one last week when he was here on a visit.....



..and spoke to the other by phone on his birthday. 



Sweet boys. Maybe in their lifetimes manhood will become popular again.

Where does the time go? I ask myself this so often I bore myself. And up from some recess in my head comes a quote - "For life moves not backward, nor tarries with yesterday."

And so we plod ever onward, hoping that those just on the cusp of adulthood will be equal to the job of

cleaning up the mess we seem to be leaving them.

At least those handsome boys are smiling. If we all make a concerted effort to do our bit for the environment maybe they'll have reason to continue to do so.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Dream a Little Dream

Earlier this morning:

 We were going on a trip. The kids were all packed and ready, the OC too. I was not. I said I'd follow along after them so they left for the airport and I continued packing. I was having trouble getting everything into my suitcase. The problem was made more challenging by my efforts to carefully squeeze a large pizza box in between my clothes. A pizza box, you might well ask? Yes, a pizza box containing, of all things, a fresh, still hot pizza. The challenge seemed to be to get it in there without squeezing any tomato sauce out onto the clothes I'd packed around it. 



You're probably holding your breath, on the edge of your seat, wondering if I got to the airport on time and if so, if I got to our destination on time, and if so, was the pizza still edible?

I have to disappoint you. I woke up before I even got to the airport.


Last week:

We (not sure who "we" are) were in some kind of vehicle with wheels, riding along at speed on a hard, sandy beach. The wind in our hair, the salty spray stinging our eyes, it felt exhilarating. We came around a headland and suddenly the beach was a lot more watery. The hard sand was now behind us, but still our vehicle continued skimming over the water which had a look of mottled glass, the kind people use where they need light but also privacy. There were opaque circles and blobby shapes on it surrounded by foamy bits and areas of clear water. We were still going in our original direction, parallel, more or less, with the shore. We could see an area closer to shore that had hard packed sand like we'd been on earlier. We decided we should swing around and head back towards it. Easier said than done. The current carrying us along was too swift to drastically change direction. But then we came to an area where the beach swung out towards us and we were able to guide our vehicle there and yeah! Succeeded in getting onto hard sand again. There was a street off to our left so we turned onto it and found ourselves in a picturesque Belgian village. How did I know that? The street signs were in Flemish. I have a shaky, nodding acquaintance with Flemish from the few years we lived in Belgium, though I would certainly flounder if required to speak it. I would have liked to have stayed and explored a bit but that was the point at which I woke up.

This is the only life I have, the only one I expect to have, but these crazy, irrational dreams make me feel like a stranger in my own head. If anyone has a right to know what's going on in there shouldn't it be me? But as soon as I twitch an eyelid, or move a minor muscle, the Killer of Dreams snatches them away and I'm left trying to make sense of the shattered fragments. 

Maybe it's another fallout from the pandemic. Maybe sleeping life is compensating for the ordinariness of waking life - jazzing things up a bit.

It does add a tantalizing element of anticipation to falling asleep - I never know what kind of wild and crazy adventures await as soon as I turn out the light and close my eyes. 

Of course, another possibility is that I'm just nuts

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Pusillanimity of it All


A recent post by Colette had me nodding my head. I knew what she was talking about. Nothing going on here, nothing to see, nothing to write about - but hey - wait a minute! Do I still have a pulse? Is my head constantly teeming with thoughts and words? And how does that translate into such inertia that I've "nothing to say"? That was the gist of one comment on her post. Roderick Robinson's arrow hit the mark. It pierced my inertia too. It turns out I have a lot to say but am timid about saying it. Will people fall out of their chairs with the boredom of it all? Will they fall asleep? Will my blog be cancelled? Just kidding. We're not on youtube, nobody cares. There is so much angst in the world right now, so much division, so much an attitude of "if you're not with me you're against me" in matters of huge import to humanity, it's tempting to decide that the simple routines of my days and my ordinary thoughts will just bring on the yawns.



But. 

I am, once again, reading Julia Cameron's efforts to beat those of us with writerly ambitions but lazy attitudes into the discipline of what she calls "morning pages." I've been at it a week or too, hit or miss.  I didn't exactly 'fall out of bed directly onto the page' this morning but I did hie me to the park behind us as soon as I was dressed, even remembering, in my uncaffeinated state, to take the key that would open the gate, my fence scaling days being far behind me.

And what a morning. The park so peaceful, especially as "peace comes dropping slow" these days. Nature is tending to business, unbothered by the latest political and covid outrages from the media. Already warm, the air oozing moisture, the sun wrestling its way through the haze, the lazy overhead drone of an airplane, the nearby drone of dragonflies. There's a large bird in the reeds out a ways from the dock where I'm sitting - heron? Wood stork? 



And then a smaller one shows up - a blue heron ? I wait, hoping Blue will come closer for a better shot but soon realize how impatient I am. If it happens, it'll be in his time, not mine. Half an hour later the larger bird is still standing in the reeds. Maybe this is his morning meditation time? Wisely he lets his breakfast come to him while young Blue flaps about, chasing his. 





The lake looks so calm but don't be fooled. Under the surface and that carpet of waterlilies it seethes with life: tiny fishes, bigger fishes, frogs - I hear them singing, turtles - I hear the occasional splash.

  And snakes. Like this fellow.



There have even been sightings of alligators, reason enough not to go wading out in search of a waterlily close-up! In the interests of keeping my limbs I content myself with this one, nestled up against the dock. 




And yet I know, as idyllic as the scene before me appears, tooth and claw are the order of the day. Should I weep for the fishes gobbled by those herons? Or respect the fact that here, pusillanimity has no place? 

At last, his meditation and breakfast done, the stork departs on wide, lazy wings. I could sit here all day absorbing tranquility through my pores, but my bladder, as usual, has other ideas. I unfold my bones and head for home, emboldened to mine that teeming, incoherent stream of thoughts and words that whirl dervishly through my brain and write something, anything, with more courage.

Thank you Colette, and thank you Mr. Robinson for the kick in the pants.





Monday, May 17, 2021

"Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night...."

 

Miracles happen. 




Proof? I finished this quilt, for this beautiful boy,



and this doll quilt for his big (4 yr. old) sister



 in record time. 

Started in March, finished last week. My usual modus operandi, on hearing of an imminent addition to the family tree, is somewhat more drawn out. There are many steps involved. There's the thinking, the planning, the fabric selection, the head scratching, the chin stroking, the self doubt and, always, mid-plot plan changes. And, of course, procrastination. 

All of this takes time, often running into years. The child will usually have advanced to the crawling stage, if not the wobbly walking stage, if not the enrollment in kindergarten stage (but so far not to the college application stage) before they receive their quilt. I love every stitch of it, not least for the serenity the making of it induces. But, in my hands at least, it is not a speedy process.

What prompted the speed, you might wonder, the departure from the usual MO, this time around?

It may be the deafening "Tick-Tock, Tick Tock" that gets louder each year in spite of frequent offers in the mail to "come on down" for the best hearing aid deals in town. And the pandemic, of course, has made us all painfully aware, if we were ignoring the fact previously, that - newsflash - we're all gonna die! And what will happen to all this fabric if my number's up too soon? My shade will wander, disconsolate, in the underworld, finding no rest, 'cause I didn't sew faster when I could have.

Yes. I finished the quilt. And have been in danger ever since of hurting myself, so heartily have I been slapping myself on the back. I took it to the post office a few days ago.



But aye, there's the rub. Will it ever get to London?

***

In early March I flew to Oregon. The OC dropped me off at the airport. I checked in and made my way to the gate. An uneasy feeling came over me as I waited to board. I couldn't pinpoint what was causing it until, like a missile landing in my brain, it hit me - I'd forgotten my charger. Not only that. A frantic search of my backpack confirmed I'd also forgotten my phone. Both of them safely plugged in at home so they'd be fully charged.... in time for me to swan off to the airport without them. 

Not so long ago (well, at least in my lifetime) phones were implements attached by cords to walls in our homes for the purpose of communicating with other humans. I have travelled, phoneless, many times in my life. The world would not end because of this. It would just be inconvenient.

The OC express mailed phone and charger to Oregon the next day, Saturday, with assurances from P.O. personnel that, no worries, it would reach me by Monday.

Monday came, no phone.

Tuesday came, no phone.

A week passed, no phone

Two weeks passed, no phone.

The OC was irritated. He spoke to the Post Office. They were as bewildered as we were. Assured the OC it should be there. It must be there. Except that it wasn't. And continued not to be, not to show up on any tracking for three weeks.

I was learning to live without it. After all, I had in the past. But the OC kept saying I should go buy a new one. My old phone had been just fine. I had reached a level of comfort in using it that I was sure I would not have with a new fangled device. Who knew? It might still show up, though that  possibility was fading with each passing week.

I bought a phone. At ridiculous expense, and the very next day my wandering phone showed up -

in GUAM.

 Get your head around that.

A few days later it had progressed to Hawaii. I wouldn't have minded if I'd been along for the trip. Who'd object to finding themselves suddenly in Hawaii?

 Not me. But my phone had gone on a Hawaiian vacation without me. Very inconsiderate.

Eventually, none the worse for wear, it arrived at my son's home, where it had been sent in the first place.

***

So yes, my faith in the P. O. is at a low ebb. 

Checked tracking today. It arrived in Miami. That's a good start, in the right direction. At least it won't go to Guam. But, any bets on Istanbul? 

Only time will tell.


Saturday, May 01, 2021

Death by Soda Bread



 What made so many of us turn to baking when the earth wobbled on its axis last year? Were we afraid that the only way we'd be 'given our daily bread' was if we learned to make it ourselves? Whatever the reason, it's kind of cliched by now. If you can bear it, herewith - one more tale of baking struggles.

When I was growing up, Francis the Breadman arrived o n our street, every evening, in the bakery van. My mother would send me out with money and instructions for which kind of loaf she wanted. I can still see friendly Francis in his green bakery coat, his curly head disappearing into the back of the van and reappearing as he pulled out a tray of fresh loaves. Most of all, I can still smell the heady aroma of those loaves. My favorite was the cottage loaf. I'm salivating just remembering it.

But, we didn't get bread from Francis every evening. My mother would often bake her own but never with yeast. She'd grown up on my grandmother's soda bread out on the farm, so that was her go-to recipe. Breakfast for us, on school days, was often a big bowl of porridge followed by thick slices of soda bread slathered with butter, washed down with mugs of hot, sweet, milky tea. After that, no matter what challenges the day ahead brought, we were prepared to do battle as we pedaled off to school. Sounds like a recipe for fattening children but we were lean as greyhounds.

I have had, like the rest of the world, my sourdough adventures in recent months, a steep learning curve with some good results, some not so good; a lot of good flour under the bridge to keep it fed. Still working on it. 



But, this past week I was craving soda bread. No starter, no yeast required. I have a few favorite recipes, but any recipe with the main ingredients will usually turn out fine. I found one on Google (I sometimes wonder why I keep all my cookbooks, and folders of clipped recipes, as I so often turn to Google instead!)

Flour? check. Salt? check. Sugar? check. Baking powder. check. Buttermilk? Hmm. Fingers crossed as I go to the fridge. check! There it is, lurking in the back. The sell by date is a few weeks past but the eyes and the nose detect nothing funky. Onward. Toss in a cup of juicy raisins, stir it all together, pop it in the oven, set the timer....

And wait, in confident anticipation.

But....

It was a disaster!

 Instead of rising, and doubling in size, it looked the same size as when I'd popped it in. 

"Here's a job for you, Sherlock," I thought (after I'd finished groaning.)

Sherlock ascertained that we were still well within the 'best if used by' date on the baking powder. Though it was the very dregs, as the can was almost empty. 

I let it cool. Who knew? Magic could still happen.  Wishful thinking -  another of my talents.

Sad to report, no magic happened.

What a surprise.

By and by the OC arrived home. Even though it smelled of baking, I warned him not to get his hopes up. That, even though it might seem I had made soda bread, what I had, in fact, made was a block of cement. 

"Not to worry," I said, "it won't be a total waste. I'll feed it to the birds."

But I wasn't quick enough. The birds never got it. 

Maybe the OC is an optimist. Or a
masochist? Either way, he has been chipping away at that block of cement, grimacing all the while, in spite of me protesting 

 "You don't have to eat that! It's gonna to kill you!" 

"It reminds me of hardtack in the military," he said, with a faraway look in his eyes (and a grimace.) 

Those must be good memories, though, somehow, I doubt it.

Possibly it's a test. If it doesn't kill him, will it make him stronger? 

There are only two slices left. (Maybe I'll sneak them out to the birds... but, will the bird mamas then swoop down and peck me to death for trying to kill their babies?)



 His mother, who learned the hard way in the last world war to never waste a crumb, must be looking down smiling.

  But not at me. 

This would be proof that she was right. That the chances were good that her boy would die, with me in his kitchen. Which makes me love the friends who think I can actually cook and bake, bless their innocence.  Never mind that they only see or taste my successes. The OC suffers through all my disasters. Apparently willingly, or perhaps as penance for his sins.

After fifty years though, he's still alive and kicking.


  One way or the other, I had to redeem myself so I made soda bread again today - with fresh ingredients.

(That's it at the top - I had to start with something tempting. If I'd put those cement slices first you'd never have lasted to here.) 

And this time it is delicious. 

My tiara is on straight again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

This One's for You Noreen!


 "Why are you no longer writing on your blog?"

My friend's voice had a hint of whine in it, as though I had done her wrong.

 We were working on fixing a large hole in the middle of a quilt she had made several years ago for her grandson. The quilt was faded and worn, obviously well loved and much used by her grandson, and possibly even by his dog. Maybe the dog liked how it tasted - all fabric-y and smelling of his master? I didn't ask. The repair job was not a thing of beauty but it rendered the quilt once more usable.

"But I am writing on my blog," I replied, ruefully adding, "once in the blue moon."

And why? Because it seems pointless. Who needs to read yet another tale of mask wearing, social distancing, vaccine or no vaccine, zooming - that pathetic substitute for face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball connection with other human beings. And because, not going out and mingling with other people for so long, inspiration is at a low ebb. Maybe I don't want to be boring. Better to be silent.

But still, the carnival in my head carries on regardless.

"But I love reading your blog," she protested.

And I'm as susceptible to flattery as the next person. Butter me up and I'll follow you anywhere. 

So, in the style of beating a dead horse, here are some of the thoughts and things that are saving my sanity while the world as we knew it crumbles around us.

Quilting is like therapy. Granted, I cannot quilt from a prone position on a couch, but the results are as beneficial as if I could. It calms the mind, quiets the internal chatter, promotes a feeling of virtue (I'm getting stuff done, moving one more project to the finish line -yeah!)

I even took a project to the Northwest when I went to visit youngest son in March. And even though the airline would eject you without a mask, every seat was taken on the flight there, so social distancing? Impossible. And yet we all survived. The project was a quilt for my sister's newest grandson, born just before Christmas. The pattern is simple squares from whatever children's fabrics I had on hand, brought together with sashing and borders of a green I've had around for years. So, win win. A quilt for a new baby and a reduction in my fabric stash. Now all I want to know is when is sis coming to pick it up!


I have been stitching in the ditch to quilt it. Should finish that today, then onwards to the binding, then done!

The OC walked by as I was pinning the layers. He despairs of my scattershot methods - how many projects do I have at any given time, in various states of done-ness?

Who's this one for, he asked. I told him. So how is R's quilt coming along? Smirk. Not to worry. I'll be getting to it as soon as this one's on its way. He seemed unconvinced, as is R also. She's been promised a quilt for years. I think she thought I'd be mailing it from the far side. But no. I actually have most of the fabric - Kaffe Fassett, no less, the luminous colors of which draw juice from my teeth. Had I made her a quilt sooner she'd not have gotten one so perfectly suited to her Bohemian, riotously colorful personality. Fear not, you will see it when it's done.

There are other things of course. I have spent time already this year herding cats, babysitting ducklings, reading voraciously and continuing my efforts to master sourdough - along with the rest of the world, but, for today, this, I think, is enough.

So, no more whining Noreen!



Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Uninvited Guest

 There's a lizard living in the closet of my sewing room. 

I'm not happy about it, much as I like lizards - in their place (outside). I don't think he's too happy about it either. He probably found a door open recently due to our beautiful Spring weather and decided to explore the human habitat, not thinking, silly fellow, that the door would soon close and he'd be trapped. 

I'm not a screamer but I did give a yelp and leapt backwards with surprising agility the first time I saw him. Thankfully, I  saw at once that my visitor was not a snake. I can tolerate snakes in the garden, just not slithering around indoors, disappearing into inaccessible corners with no knowing when they might re-emerge and give me a heart attack. I opened the door from my sewing room to the great outdoors to entreat him to depart, keeping a wary eye lest any of his compadres decided to join him, but he was having none of it. 

The standard lizard diet of insects, larvae, worms and the occasional small, hapless frog is not on offer in these premises. I would'nt like him to die in my sewing room. It's a creative place where new quilts are born and grow, albeit slowly, to quilt adulthood. I would'nt want it to be a portal to the lizard underworld. It was a mistake for him to let his curiosity lead him astray. We all know what curiosity did to the cat. We have found the occasional shrivelled, crispy tree frog or lizard inside before. It's not a big deal. No odor, no mess, but no life either, and it's so warm and sunny outside. 

He really ought to avail himself of that open door. But he's not convinced. He prefers the closet where I can only hope he's not dining on fabric and patterns. For one thing, I would seriously doubt their nutritional content.  I now approach my sewing machine warily as his preferred time to be out and about, visible on the light colored carpet, is when I'm not there. Soon as I approach, he scurries back to his hideout. 


Meanwhile, I've absconded to the Northwest for a visit, leaving the OC and our uninvited guest to duke it out in the hallway outside the sewing room, should Mr. Lizard tire of fabric and patterns and go in search of more appealing fare. Otherwise there'll likely be a shrivelled, crispy lizard cadaver waiting for me under the sewing table when I return.