Monday, April 28, 2014

fresh fish

I bought fish today.
Fresh fish.
At least, I think it's safe to say that they're fresh.
They are alive and that is about as fresh as fish come.
They were one of those impulse purchases you hear about.
I saw them.
I had an impulse to buy them.
I plonked down the cash.

I had been shopping at Devon Greenhouses.
They have a pond smack dab in the center of things. Water plants flourish there; inspiration for the pond owning gardener. This year, they have added goldfish to their list of temptations. Those fish were like little orange commas darting thither and yon, as frisky as Nemo. I even got to catch them myself; two orange and one black.
Into a plastic bag they went and I hastened homeward.
They were soon exploring the wild deep of my rain barrel.
A rain barrel is a poor man's pond.
It might not be big enough for waterlily's and frogs but it's big enough for gold fish.
Gold fish are humble fish. They don't insist on a certain square footage or view.
The rain barrel by my entry is the home of three magnificently large gold fish. They have grown and flourished.
They now have neighbors in the barrel at the corner of the house. They're tiny relatives now, but time may change that.
'One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.'

to please

I planned a little quilt.
I wanted it to say something about childhood and love.
And something about the fleeting nature of time.
And about story.
About what we pass on to our children and grandchildren through story and song.

A portrait of my grandchildren reading a bedtime story seemed exactly right.
Black and white like an old photo.
Timeless love.

Sounded good.
Started out as easy as you please.
I chose dark gray for shadow and added the light.
Ta da.
There was my grandson, soberly reading.
On to my granddaughter.

The children came to play.
My grandson was entranced.
"Why does it look like us from a distance, and just look like little pieces of material up close," he asked, his nose inches from the quilt.
His sister was not as impressed.
She wanted to look like her brother, she informed me seriously, only different she added by way of clarifying.
I knew what she meant.
She wanted to see herself clearly in simple shadow and light and I had created a face with mostly shadow.
I began again.
My next attempt was even worse and my visiting granddaughter felt compelled to offer me some artistic advice.
She didn't want her hair in a ponytail.
A hairband seemed important to her.
And she wanted it to look like her.
So did I.
I snipped and shaped and tweaked and squinted at photos and a pile of scap fabric soon littered the table.
My mind felt just as cluttered.
Quilters angst gripped me.
Why oh why?

Always change a loosing game.
I love those words of advice.
I could rethink the whole project.
Ahhhh, yes.
I would add the baby to the quilt as well.
She would sit between her brother and sister.
I felt better already.
I had been regretting that she hadn't been in the first draft.
Her big sister took shape, leaning in with a kiss.
I heard music.
A whole marching band.
My grandson, earnestly reading, the baby turning coyly, a big sister bent to kiss...... yes, that so captured this past year.
I didn't show the finished portrait to my grandchildren.
The little quilt has flown away to McDougall Cottage.
But when it returns in the fall like a homing pigeon I hope it meets with their approval. Grandmothers live to please.

window to heaven

The clouds are shifting this morning,
a giant gray and silver kaleidoscope.
The brilliance of the sun is caught and held,
great billows of light against the woolen sky.
Here and there, patches of violet,
windows to heaven.

Friday, April 25, 2014

still singing

We jumped up from the supper table and thundered down the stairs.
Jacket, scarf, camera.......
My sister and I raced for the beach and the setting sun.
Hooray, the tide was out.
We were surrounded by sand wet and wide.
Sand rippled like the shell of a peanut, or cantaloupe peel, or like row after row of ocean wave cast in relief under our feet.

The setting sun stayed stubbornly behind a low bank of cloud but the water reflected a molten silver light.
Gray and silver all around.
On the boardwalk, people drifted by in pairs or little groups, snatches of conversation forming strange stories.
The air was chill and fresh.

As darkness crept near, lights went on.
At first, down the beach and then closer and closer.
The long wharf lit up just as we turned our backs to it and picked our way towards the parking lot.
Soon, fairy lights twinkled in the dark branches of the trees along the street.
I hated to leave.

Warm light and laughter and music were on the evening air.
We headed for the nearest shop selling coffee to go.
Ice-cream and specialty drinks, the sign said.
Warm light and music were here too, and laughter.
The ice-cream man sang as he worked.
Little snatches of jazz.
A swirl of ice-cream and harmony.
Back and forth he danced.
Singing and serving.

We were the last ones in line.
It was only then that my eyes took in the sign on the counter.
Cash Only.
Oh oh.
I had traveled light.

'Do you live nearby he asked?'
Well, no worry, I could pay when I was back that way again, he assured me.
He made a special drink for my sister. Carefully he swirled cream atop the steaming cup.
He urged me to try extra chocolate in mine, and swirled cream atop my drink as well, and then added more chocolate.
The twinkling light, the dark night, the music and kindness...we were surrounded and warmed.
He was still singing when we left.

sinatra by the sea

He was happy.
So happy that he sang as he worked.
He was a crooning Ice-cream man.
Dean Martin with a cone in one hand.
Sinatra by the sea.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

miss it

I entered the Wee Quilt Challenge at McDougall Cottage again this year. It has become a spring tradition. A tradition is sort of like a habit isn't it? It's something you just DO because it is what you do.
This entering is such an anticipated part of my year now.
Each fall as the new theme is issued, I put it on the back burner of my mind and let it simmer.
As Christmas gives way to New Years, and January picks up steam, so do I.
I sketch and ponder.
I muse.
January is a happy blurr, a creative buzz.
In February I count the days and pick up my scissors.
I get serious.
I snip and stitch.
I mutter and pace.
I snip some more.
I stitch and bind and sigh happily.
Off goes my Wee quilt.
It's like sending a child to camp.
I know it will have a wonderful time, but I will miss it.

rise and shine

There's nothing like a sunny day to make me see the error of my ways. When the golden spring sunlight pierces the venetian blinds like a flashlight on high beam all is revealed.
All that is dusty.
Not tender little dust bunnies either.
Great jack rabbits of lint and dirt and crumb.
And the windows that have seemed such wide expanses of view on the winter world are suddenly something else entirely. Something that makes me squint and grimace.
It's not that Spring is a harsh taskmaster....Spring Clean or else.....
No, she's a long anticipated guest. She's all things fresh. The morning of a new year.
Rise and shine.
Rise and shine the windows.
And sweep out the dust.
Sweep out the tired, cloistered thoughts, the dim and the dark.
Good morning Spring.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

press one

I have a very old Air Miles card. I usually forget I have it when I arrive at last at the check out counter. I suppose that is why, twenty years on, I only have enough points to taxi down the runway.
Today I decided to seize the moment. I had shopped at Safeway and received a little card along with my receipt. One of those little cards with a magic number inside. I would likely have tossed it but my eye focused on a picture on the back.
A Pfaff sewing machine.
It was available for Air Miles Points.
Lots and lots of points.

The possibility to win 10,000 points was dangled like a carrot in front of my eyes.
I looked at the Pfaff and headed for the computer.
I clicked and clicked and clicked.
I typed in numbers and clicked again.
As is sometimes the case, a brick wall was encountered.
I didn't have a PIN for my Air Miles card.
I guess my card predates PINS.
I tried to create a new PIN, or update my PIN or change my PIN or find my forgotten PIN, but to no avail.
I clicked on HELP and repeated the previous steps.
At last I picked up the phone and called the 1-800 number.
Ah, help at last.
A recorded voice instructed me to key in my phone number, my date of birth, my card number.... but alas, my phone number has changed in twenty years and the system rejected me.
I tried again and selected the option for a call back.
Perhaps it would be a real person.
The phone rang a few minutes later but it was the same Robot Lady.
I tried pressing zero repeatedly, hopeful that a real person would recognize the pattern of desperation, not unlike a prisoner tapping on a wall.
It worked.
I was instructed to key in my phone number and date of birth and card number again. Changes were duly made.
I was instructed to enter my new PIN and follow the instructions.
There was a pause.
A recorded voice informed me crisply, that they were experiencing a higher volume of calls than usual and to call back.
The line went dead.
Amazingly, half an hour later, the phone rang, and it was Air Miles. The Robot Lady.
It was a Customer Satisfaction Survey.
I was instructed to press one which I did with a dizzying sense of disbelief.
The line went dead.
The phone rang again and I listened in disbelief to the same voice repeat the same message.
Customer Satisfaction Survey.
Press one.

I am not feeling satisfied.
I just thought I would tell someone that.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

all around me

The sky is wide and blankly gray this morning. At first glance the street seems colorless as well, but two frothy pink cherry trees stand on either side like sentries.
The blue recycle boxes are waiting, a long wavering row, ever smaller as far as eye can see.
It has started to drizzle.
A chill mist is in the air.
Have you ever noticed that the weather outside can so closely mirror your inner climate.
I woke with a very gray soul this morning.
Blankly gray.
Almost colorless.
I realize that a sense of purpose is so essential to my well being.
Meaningful work.
It's all around me though, and likely as far as eye can see.

royal decree

I nearly got to be a queen.
I heard the royal decree with my own ears.
Queen Grandma.
But my granddaughter heard it too.
It seems she had a prior claim to the throne.
I was diplomatically transformed into a Very Tall Princess.
Peace reigned.
The new Queen seemed to glow with happiness as she gazed down at the knight kneeling in abject servitude at her feet.
He looked so earnest and loyal.
A gracious Queen and her courageous Knight;
May peace mark your joyous reign.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

test of time

This is a picture taken in the 40's of my mother. Look at that hair. She looks like a Breck girl. Remember those pictures on the back of magazines; the Breck girl all misty and golden with wonderful wavy tresses?
I'm not sure why photos of that time had people gazing off into a corner. What about eye contact. Oh well. It really is a pretty picture of her even if she's staring at the crown molding.
I didn't know she had a locket.
At least, I didn't know she had a locket until I found it.
And it was in the strangest place.
The fall my mother moved in with us was turbulent. I packed up her suite in fits and starts in the early morning or late in the evenings after work. I packed and sorted and packed and sorted. I always knew it was time to stop each night when I started to say things like, "Why!??" or "You've GOT to be kidding!"
My parents kept things.
Lots of things.
I could write an entire blog on that but suffice it to say, condensing another person's possessions, especially a parent's, is harrowing work.
Late one evening, I reached the back of a cupboard and lifted down a Blue Mountain goose vase. It was filled with the ancient remnants of a dried flower bouquet. I pulled them wearily out into the black bag at my feet and shook the vase. It rattled with seed pods and bits of bark.
I suppose I could have merely emptied it over the trash and been none the wiser, but something stopped me and I dumped the contents into my hand.
There, dully glowing, was a very old, dented locket.
I stared at it.
I lifted it up dazedly and opened it.
My young father smiled out at me.
I burst into tears.
I quit packing for the night.

It seems to me now, with the safe distance of time, such a metaphor. That locket represents a young woman I never knew. A girl in love with a soldier. She kept him next to her heart. The locket served its purpose and the realities of life, of motherhood and aging followed one after the other. It takes some sorting and editing and even discarding sometimes to see what really matters. To see what really is of lasting value. Their love stood the test of time.
It still does.

truer than true

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."
Dr. Suess
I love Dr. Suess for saying that.
It is such a good reminder.
Especially in this very amazing and creative world where we may be tempted to wonder if our contribution is valuable.
There will always be room for one more book and one more painting and one more quilt and one more song.
And it is the very act of creating that has value.
Great value.
And joy.
Angst too mind you. That may seem like bad news, but it isn't really. It's good to strive and struggle and push through and try again.
It may actually be the very best part of creating.
The trying and trying and trying again.
Keep at it.
Keep doing something creative.
The joy is waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

painting spring

A trio of watercolor cards.
Painting spring.

I am not

A squirrel dropped by yesterday.
It came the back way and paused on my deck rail to rifle through the parsley in the planter.
I didn't think that was appropriate for a visitor.
You have to draw the line somewhere.
Because I don't have a dog, I was forced to leap out the door and bay at the squirrel myself.
Squirrels are very acrobatic and this one turned a complete somersault while it got its bearings.
"Arrrrrrrrrgggghjhhhhhhhh," I shrieked, looking at my tattered parsley.
The squirrel looked for an escape route even as I did a high speed rendition of YMCA accompanied by yelling, hissing and unkind remarks about squirrels in general and that one in particular.
It finally managed to squeeze through the deck railings, choosing in its panic, the very furthest, smallest space, proof positive that stress temporarily lowers your IQ.
I rushed to my parsley and replanted it with trembling fingers. Poor little plant. I watched a TV special just this past week on the language of plants. On how they communicate with each other. On how they warn each other about predators. I'm pretty sure my little parsley plant screamed in fright when that giant squirrel breathed all over it with peanut breath. Mind you, I'm pretty sure the squirrel was just as terrified when I erupted from the house with a roar.
Nature is delicately balanced.
I am not.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

how I saw them

It wasn't a long ferry ride, just across the river but we usually got out of our car anyway. Most people did and we stood in clumps at the rail, gazing upstream, the wind in our ears.
I remember noticing a biker and his companion toward the center of the boat. They hadn't moved towards the railing like everyone else. Clearly, an important conversation was taking place. The woman was doing all the talking. The man didn't seem interested. The woman seemed to be pleading. Her body language took on a desperate air. Time was running out. The man began to put on his helmet.
The ferry docked.
Cars began to exit.
The woman climbed onto the back of the motorbike and they headed up the ramp and away.
A car followed, and another.
We joined the line and my thoughts turned to home.
It was only a few blocks later that I saw them.
The biker had pulled to the side of the road and the woman had dismounted.
She was walking now.
Walking, head up and back straight.
The biker was interested now.
In fact, he was doing all of the talking.
He seemed to be pleading and his body language had taken on a desperate air.
That was how I saw them in my rear view mirror.
And I drove right past my corner.