Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Buried Treasure and Other Random Ramblings

 Digging through the freezer a while back in search of something else, I came upon a bulky, foil-wrapped package. Hmm, I thought, what's this? Aha! Zucchini bread! What a lucky squirrel I am. After all, how many squirrels ever find, or even remember, where they buried their treasures? It sat on the counter, defrosting, overnight. We had it with coffee next morning, luscious, moist, dense with nuts, plump with raisins. That's what I call comfort. And who's not looking for a little comfort in these recent crazy days? My note to self said I'd made it the day before I'd flown out west in early October. Slowly it came back to me. Wanting to leave nothing that could rot in the fridge in my absence (the OC would eat rocks before it would occur to him to cook a vegetable) I'd found a couple zucchini in the vegetable drawer. I could have tossed them on the compost pile (the squirrels would have been delighted!) But, they were still good so, being a frugal soul, I made zucchini bread. And stashed it in the freezer. And flew west the next day. And forgot all about it, in the manner of squirrels everywhere. I know who plants the seeds of all those little oak saplings that keep popping up around here.

It's not only a hunger for comfort food we're feeling this year, but a hunger for things the corona virus has snatched from us. Being human, we never seem to appreciate what we've got 'til it's gone. (Sounds familiar -  sixties song? So many mindless lyrics permanently etched on my brain.) Youth, for instance. I look at pictures from decades ago and think - I was gorgeous! I didn't think so at the time, and was told that, though not beautiful, I had 'a nice' face. Yeah. Thanks for that. Damn with faint praise. And by gorgeous I don't mean Vanessa Redgrave or Ingrid Bergman gorgeous. But - the shiny hair, the smooth skin, the muscle tone, no baggy eyes, no nasty lines, no crowsfeet, no furrowed brow, boundless energy - so yes, gorgeous! At the time I thought the hips too big, the eyes too small, the eyebrows too scant, the freckles too plentiful. A little peek into the future and I'd have been slobbering in gratitude! With age comes, if not beauty, at least a small measure of wisdom. Nowadays I'll take 'nice' over 'beautiful.' Physical beauty has a shelf life, nice doesn't.

 How shallow I was, rejecting any poor sot who didn't meet my height, IQ or handsomeness requirements. As it happened, I got lucky, found someone who, though just about qualifying on the height requirement, met all the others with knobs on and, best of all, could always make me laugh. Intelligence, I believe, is a prerequisite for humor. It makes it easier to spot the absurdities of life, one of which we're living in at present. 

I know it's a serious problem. But every time we turn around the experts are telling us something different, usually contradicting the last piece of 'expert' advice. I wear a mask out in public though I think I need a defogging device to keep my glasses from clouding up and making me bump into somebody, thereby breaking the social distancing rule and incurring the wrath of fellow grocery shoppers. Alternately, here's an idea for some enterprising inventor - windshield wipers for glasses. Off you go. Let me know when they're available.

Since we first crawled out from our caves, humans have been dying. Nobody's exempt. Not even the rich and powerful. Every last one of us has an expiration date. Along with taxes, it's one of life's guarantees. We'll all die of something. With people losing their jobs, and businesses closing left and right, the possibility of starvation being what does one in is becoming very real. Not to mention the isolation, loneliness, mental illness and depression some are suffering as a result of (pardon my language) this wildly politicised pandemic sh_tshow.)

We talk regularly with friends and family, those who want to talk, and do our best to keep spirits from nosediving into the doldrums. We're blessed with a garden large enough to get lost in, if we so desire; surrounded by beautiful pine trees, home to all kinds of birds (most recently, to our delight, great horned owls) and the ever present gift of sunshine. It reminds me of a favourite quote "You are nearest to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth."

And when it rains, as it frequently does, we read, sew, practice yoga and, like the rest of the world, bake sourdough bread. And when we wake up next morning we do it all again, And again, and again. It could be so much worse, and is, for many people, so I am certainly not complaining. I think we (the human race) were in dire need of a siesta, a chance to slow down, room to breathe and reflect on what really matters.  And so the universe provided. It remains to be seen what we learn from it.

I have no more zucchini, but I do have cranberries, walnuts and raisins. I think, while the world is waiting for what comes next, I'll go make me some cranberry bread.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

No Mud.....

 In  Ireland in the fifties and sixties, when the Catholic church had a firm grip on our throats, prayer was stitched into our lives like breathing. The church had something to say about every detail of our lives; what we could and could not do; what we should and should not do; the things that would guarantee heaven and the things that would guarantee hell. And if you were in doubt you could always get down on your knees and pray. And if you sinned, well you could go to confession and all would be forgiven, as long as you promised to mend your ways. 

It's different here. No religious body has the kind of control over everyday lives in the U.S. that the Catholic church had there, and then. But life is fraught with difficulties and problems no matter where you are in the world and, though I'm no longer in Ireland, when life goes haywire, as it regularly does, I find myself back on my knees, begging for help, for courage, for acceptance, for peace. 

Take the last few weeks.

Two of our children live out west, one in California, one in Oregon, states which, in case you haven't heard, have been on fire for some time. Oregon seems to be over the worst of it, but California's still burning. I had previously thought I felt sympathy and compassion whenever I heard of disasters in far flung places, but when the disaster touched people I know and love, people I gave birth to, I realized how shallow my compassion for those other unfortunates really was. I felt the panic of a mother bear separated from her cubs, unable to save them. I've been praying a lot, storming heaven. Your Man up there is probably tired of listening to me at this stage. CA girl had to evacuate once already, along with horses, cat and boss's dog. Now that she's back, they can still see the fire in the distance, a few ridges over, and, depending on the heat and the wind, the danger is still real. Oregon boy does not live where the fires were worst so he did not have to evacuate. But work was put on hold, the air quality being for a while, the unhealthiest in the world, right along with California's. Eventually, though many would say not soon enough, the rains came to Oregon, but California is still waiting. And when it isn't raining Oregonians can see the sun once more, as it normally looks, rather than a dull red smudge in the sky glowing darkly through a haze of choking smoke. 

And, now that they are safe, I'm still storming heaven, in gratitude to God, Allah, the Buddha, the Ultimate Reality, Mother Nature - aren't they all the same at the end of the day? Especially Mother Nature as she's the one calling the shots, determining how hot it will be, or not be, and in what direction the winds will blow today. I can't help thinking this entity (I'm pretty sure it's not an old gentleman with a white beard, sitting on a cloud) must be saddened by all the hate and lack of civility humans are displaying in the cities wracked by riots and anarchy, not to mention the colossal mess we're making of this fragile, beautiful planet. 

Maybe we're supposed to learn from 2020 - to love more; to judge less; to give each other the benefit of the doubt; to be kinder to each other, and ourselves; to breathe

 Maybe even to pray. 

"No mud, no lotus," says Thich Nhat Hanh. 

We've had a lot of mud this year. I'm hoping for a bumper crop of lotuses.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

A Little Bit of Fun is Good for the Soul


Note: Warning - this is about addiction. Continue at your own risk

When not on the porch hanging out with the lizards I can usually be found at the other end of the house, sewing. The thought has crossed my mind that this whole pandemic is a plot to make me focus and finish the myriad half-done projects that lie therein.

 Because I am the center of the universe. 

A joke, I hasten to add, albeit a feeble one. I am well aware of the gravity of the corona virus situation and the tragedy it has meant for many people. That said, no matter what horror stories you may have heard about Florida, they are very likely exaggerated. That seems to be how the media operates these days. Let's tell them the sky is falling and they should cower and tremble and be very afraid. 

The news is depressing, the pandemic is depressing, the riots and protests are depressing, not being able to visit with your friends is depressing, not being able to have proper funerals is depressing, people eyeing their fellows with suspicion is depressing. I don't want to be depressed and so I go back to the comfortable chaos of my sewing room, confident that , no matter how long the current situation lasts, I have fabric and thread and ideas to keep me happy and busy indefinitely.


In just the past month have finished (love that word!) several small quilting projects that were lingering, ignored, for more than a decade. Done, dusted, happy dance time!

My sewing machine grudgingly shares space with my computer and last week I was clicking idly from one interesting thing to another when something stopped me in my tracks, my heart skipped a beat. You've undoubtedly heard of the evils of the internet? I had stumbled onto a blog - http://www.knottedcotton.com/2012/08/slow-blog.html and there was a tutorial for a very cute little bag. A Komebukuro bag that is used in Japan to carry rice to the temple. I very much doubt that I will ever, in what remains of my life, have a need for a bag to do that. But before I had finished reading Catherine's description (she's the blogger on K.C.) I was casting my eyes about the room and having a think about which fabrics I would use. Never mind that I still have plenty of UFOs to work on instead of something new. 

I needed a small break, I told myself. I deserved it, I told myself. Look at all the UFOs I'd finished since the beginning of the year!  My fingers in my ears stifled the sound of the responsible angel that sits on my right shoulder, so I could hear, loud and clear, the devil on my left.

And so I made it. Sat there, stitching and grinning while the OC held his tongue and rolled his eyes. 

I'm thinking I'll take it to Ohio Daughter whom we'll be visiting in the next few days. Surely she needs a pretty little bag to take rice to the temple? No? Well maybe she could use it for her knitting? The only problem I can foresee would be if she feels a need for a kimono to go with it. 

Then I'd be in trouble.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Talks to Lizards, Must be Crazy

Earlier this year the OC pulled out some shrubs and extended our front porch. We'd wanted to do this
for some time and now that it's done - it's my favorite place to sit, drink coffee in the morning, read and talk to lizards.

You might be fooled into believing it's peaceful and quiet out there. That it's just you, basking in the early morning sunshine, a bit of a song from the birds and the occasional muffled drone of a passing car.  And, most of the time, it is. Two small pots, one of ivy, the other of pothos, that I tossed out into the sunshine when they refused to thrive indoors, proceeded to take over the world and now, a couple of years later, have formed a lush carpet of green under the shrubs and sometimes even have to be dragged down out of the crepe myrtles. Unruly to say the least, but kind of a bonus too - more green.

There's a thriving population of lizards living in and under that green carpet. (Possibly some black racers too but them I don't engage in conversation.) The bushes, trees and ground cover are their own little universe, bursting with life and lizard activity, sometimes even violence. The lizards are calm, quiet, curious and spend a lot of time basking in the sun, unbothered by nearby humans. They will move when I come out there, but not far, positioning themselves on whatever surface is convenient - the arm of a chair, 

the edge of a flower pot,

the plant shelf, a leg of the table, or the ground. They'll fix me with their beady eyes, cock their heads, seeming to wonder what manner of creature I am and if my intentions are honorable. Assured that I mean them no harm, they continue to bask. If I lean over and say hello they look quizzical. Maybe I should learn some lizard lingo because not one, as yet, has said hello back. Sometimes they almost seem to be flirting with me. All those push-ups, all that head bobbing, and especially that display of bright orange under their throats! I'm polite. I always admire the display and tell them what handsome fellows they are. How could I fail to be impressed?

And so it's quiet. You think. Peaceful, serene. You think. But then you hear a tiny rustle in the leaves beside your chair. You glance around, expecting a bird in search of a worm - there's a nest nearby.


No bird. All you see are leafy bushes, and below, that carpet of green. You turn back to your book,
but then you hear it again.  So much for peace and serenity. Now we have violence (have they been watching human news on TV?) Two strapping males, on the trunk of the crepe myrtle, murder on their minds.   

 Meanwhile, the sun continues to shine, the birds continue to sing and the occasional car drones on by and, to the untrained eye, it seems like just another idyllic morning.

The underdog turns tail and runs but the aggrieved one gives chase - "Get back here, varmint!"

And they face off again, teeth bared (if indeed they have teeth. I've been unable to get that close), muscles tensed.

The shrubs are divided by the path to the front door. Is it possible the lizard king from the right had the temerity to trespass on king left's territory? Or maybe he dared, be still my heart, to dally with one of king left's ladies? Time to teach that punk a lesson! I keep very still, don't want to scare them off. I want to see who wins and take pictures of the battle.

The paparazzi are as annoying and intrusive in lizard land as in Hollywood. I will have my pictures.

There's a noticeable absence of other lizards, mamas and little ones, skittering around on the pavement. Probably all waiting and watching from under the leaves, holding their collective breath, as I am doing, hoping the dispute will soon be resolved and peace restored.

I think the dominant male protects all the females and juveniles in his territory. Protection, as determined by a male lizard, might have a somewhat different meaning than you or I would give it. I try not to judge the moral standards of lizards by my own, but there have been times when I thought a word in a male lizard's ear was necessary, as in "Hey Buddy, she's a little young for you, don't ya think?" He'll appear to listen, give it some thought, but then proceed with what he was intent upon anyway. "Mind your own beeswax lady, go sip your coffee!"

Meanwhile, back at the battle site, the interloper is getting his comeuppance, 

and now he's looking like a goner for sure, his head clenched in Super lizard's jaws, his pale undersides dangling, helpless and exposed.

But Super lizard makes a tactical error. He loosens his jaws to adjust his grip and in that split second our under-dog(-lizard) drops to the ground and vanishes into the ivy.

So much excitement! I've seen lizards' tails shortened from surviving similar battles. I just don't think they'd survive as well without their heads.  

And just like that we were back to peace and serenity. Mama came back out,

 a baby cavorted from leaf to leaf, 

 peacetime adult activities resumed, (gotta make more babies)

and the birds sang on regardless. I finished my coffee, bid my lizard buddies farewell and went inside to make the bed, do the laundry and get on with my day.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Year of Wonders

Ah, the blank, intimidating page, especially having been MIA for several months. I started the year with great blogging plans though God, obviously, found that amusing. And so, in late January, I was winging westward, through busy, bustling airports, on planes without one empty seat. Then, several weeks later, returning on a plane with barely thirty passengers, through airports like echo chambers to a situation I had never imagined.
I've occasionally thought it would be nice for the world to stop spinning so hectically, to step aside from all the noise and busy-ness, to have time to just sit, for the only thing on my to-do list to be to 'breathe.'

I got my wish. And all I can say about that is: be careful what you wish for.

And now we're on the set of a sci-fi movie, (or in recent days a horror movie) or maybe in the pages of an historical novel like the one I recently finished - Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a novel about the plague. Not this one but that other one way back in the 1600s. Chosen randomly from my to-be-read pile, the parallels were chilling. Social distancing? Quarantine? Horrifying numbers of deaths? Who to blame? All there in the village of Eyam in 1666.

Now we've been on lockdown, wearing masks, social distancing for what seems like forever. With distractions at a minimum, we busy ourselves with simple things - gardening - because Mother Nature is a great comforter; cooking - because we still have to eat; baking -just because, even Winnie the Pooh likes a little smackerel of something with his tea; sleeping - because the 'sleeve of care' needs constant mending; praying, because all of this is bigger than us and we're not in charge; yoga because you're only as happy and healthy as your spine, and breathing because once you stop it's all over.

As far as finishing long standing quilt projects, I'm experiencing my own Year of Wonders. No doc or dental appointments, no meetings with friends, no book discussions at the library, no walks in the park, no shopping - apart from essentials, no trips....I miss all of that. But there is a silver lining. All those quilting projects? They're getting finished now!

Since this time last year I have finished an amazing - for me - number of quilting projects - more than I can remember finishing in any other year. And it's only partially due to the lockdown - the reality of mortality has finally sunk in.

 With no where to go, time to breathe, "Sit!" and "Stay!" even an old dog can learn new tricks.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Of Crows and Plows and New Beginnings

Where are the crows this morning? Usually you can set your clock by them. Loud and boisterous, caw, caw, caw, they arrive around 8 a.m., fly around among the trees - what are they looking for? What are they shouting at? And then they're gone. But this morning? An absence of crows. Very strange.

From where I write I can see a nest high up in the leafless branches of a laurel oak - for crows perhaps? Do crows make nests? Janina would know. But don't call her that. She doesn't like it. She and I have gotten close the last few days due to me spending a lot of time in her head while reading
 "Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead." Weird title. But I'm loving it.

In spite of all the dead bodies.

Janina knows who's killing them, but her theories are dismissed as the ravings of a madwoman.
They say there's nothing original in the world. It's all been done before, thought before, written before, but, that said, I think this book is as original as it is possible to be. Spending so much time in Janina's head gets you thinking along with her about life, and how we do it, and how we find meaning in it, or not. All, well most, of the words are familiar but so ingeniously strung together that I find myself laughing out loud one minute, aching with recognition the next as she skillfully puts into words things I feel in my gut but could never articulate.

One of my favorite lines is "....I realized that sorrow is an important word for defining the world."
Amen to that. I can relate. But don't let that make you think it's a sad book. It is sad, and thoughtful, but also outlandishly funny, crazy and at once real and fairy tale-like.

I like Janina. Which may mean I'm a madwoman too, or maybe she's not mad at all but saner than those who think she is? I won't spoil the book for you but I'll be looking for more by this author whose name is both unspellable and unpronounceable. Kudos to the translator whose name is pronounceable. Being totally illiterate in Polish, my only measure of how well she did is that I am devouring the book. You could say it makes me happy. Which reminds me.....

"You really should be writing," a friend wrote to me recently. "It would make the world happier."

That was, hands down, the nicest thing anyone has said to me since the year began. Bit of an exaggeration of course but still, enough to get me going again. I'm not so arrogant as to believe that me, writing, could actually make the world happier but I do know it would make me happier.

Why have I not been writing, I ask myself. It's always been my favorite thing to do, but, like sewing, where one has to actually make that first stitch, to write, one has to sit down and write that first word. No quilt was ever made by merely thinking about it. Nor, as the Irish saying goes, did a farmer ever plough a field by turning it over in his mind.

And so she begins, first words, on the blank page, in the brand new year. It's made me happy to write them. I hope they'll make you happy too.